A/N: Decided to continue Speak With Your Hands...and this is what came of it. One more to follow. Please read, review, subscribe, favorite, and no flames. But lots of reviews. They make me happy. :)
Caramel brown over porcelain was revealed as a crusted, dark brown paste was flaked off. Long, dirty fingernails scraped at the skin as the henna paste was removed, the last bits of it clinging to the skin. Beneath the winding lines, paisley designs, and dots and dashes, a sleeve tattoo was revealed curling up from a long-fingered hand to wrap around a slender arm and halfway up a toned bicep. Bellatrix leaned over the sink and ran her hand up and down her arm again, knocking off more of the henna.
"Bella, that's dangerous."
Bellatrix rolled her eyes and waved her sister off. "Cissy, no one needs to know."
"But he'll find out," Narcissa hissed, drawing her cloak closer around herself. "Look, I won't be home for another few hours…just keep an eye on Draco and Lucius, please? If the Dark Lord shows up, I don't want either of them getting…too…"
"Got it," Bellatrix said lazily, smiling all the same. "I'll keep them behind me at all times."
Bellatrix glanced up at the strained tone to Narcissa's voice. "What, Cissy?" she purred, voice high and almost mocking in pitch. "I promise, I'll do my best to keep Lord Voldemort's attention away from them."
"Diverting it onto yourself isn't necessarily the smartest idea, either," Narcissa hissed, leaning closer to Bellatrix. "Just promise me you won't do anything stupid?"
"Promise," Bellatrix sing-songed. She held up her arm, sighing with satisfaction, and examined the tattoo more closely. Even she was having a hard time finding the initials she herself had incorporated into the design. She was taking up Voldemort's offer: "Hide them better next time, and we'll see."
Narcissa swept out of the kitchen and right out the back door. The French doors softly latched shut behind her; the lights outside flickered on, following Narcissa at a flick of her wand. Bellatrix watched until Narcissa disappeared from sight, down the long, brick pathway, and then returned to her own activities. The sleeve had taken her hours, and she wasn't about to let her ego go unfed. Her entire arm was covered in spirals, little lines, and dots, with one particular set of initials in the midst of it all the chaos. Bellatrix carefully traced the design on her fingers, watching as the peacock feathers made their way up her hand, encompassed her wrist, and then broke into other paisley designs over her entire arm. There wasn't a bare inch of skin to speak of.
"Oh, Bellatrix, not in the kitchen!"
Bellatrix sneered as soon as she heard Lucius Malfoy's voice, and only sneered more as she heard his complaint. "It's a sink, Malfoy," she spat. "You wash it out all the same."
"We'd just like to keep the henna stains out of the place where we put our dishes!" Lucius snapped.
"Your dishes go through the wash all the same," Bellatrix growled, reaching down to her belt where she had stashed her sleeve. She had planned on lacing it back on after she had flaked off the henna, but now she was considering just unlacing the other sleeve as well and leaving both of her arms bare. The tattoo was so pretty.
"Where did my wife go?" Lucius sighed, after a long, uncomfortable silence.
"I dunno," Bellatrix snarled. "She just told me she was going out and that I should keep an eye on you so you don't call too much attention to yourselves."
"Speaking of attention, cover up that crude, unsightly thing on your arm," Lucius caustically returned. "The last thing you need right now is more attention."
"You'll find I'm doing just fine," Bellatrix bit back. Her decision was made now: if only to infuriate Lucius, she was showing off that tattoo! Bellatrix reached up to her other arm and yanked out the knot that held the laces in place. The leather strips came away cleanly, and Bellatrix slid the cloth right off. Lucius's face was priceless as he saw her intent! His upper lip curled, his eyebrows rose, and pure malice and disgust entered his eyes. Sheer hatred was reflected in his every feature, and Bellatrix outright laughed at his expression.
"You look ridiculous!" she trilled, shoving her other sleeve into her belt. "Get that nasty look off your face, you have the appearance of a man who has just smelled something awful!"
Lucius could hardly contain himself; still, he managed to restrain his fury and spin on his heel and walk away without drawing his wand. Bellatrix would give him credit for that, but she was still laughing the entire time he was within earshot.
"You might want to stop making people angry, Miss Lestrange," Rabastan snickered as he walked by. "One day it will catch up with you."
"Let karma come!" Bellatrix cackled. "I greet it with open arms and a knife behind my back!"
"Do you really now…Bellatrix?"
All laughter had suddenly been erased from Bellatrix's face. Again he had done this to her! Sneaking up on her, scaring her half to death-! But Bellatrix wouldn't dare tell Voldemort her thoughts. Instead, she swallowed hard, wiped her face of all expression, and turned to face her master.
"L-Lord Voldemort," she murmured, her mouth suddenly dry as cotton. "I-I…I-"
"Are clearly not over this entire tattoo business," Voldemort sighed. Bellatrix was surprised to hear a bit of tiredness in his voice, and a hint of exhaustion in the mighty wizard's shoulders. She said nothing, though, instead waiting on Voldemort to make the next move.
"Come here, let me see it."
Bellatrix hesitated for the barest instant, unsure if she should try to defend herself against the assumption. Then she decided that not only was it not worth it; when the assumption was true, everyone could be a little more forgiving. The Lestrange woman slowly lifted her arm, presenting it to Voldemort almost as if ashamed. Voldemort impatiently grabbed her wrist, yanking Bellatrix closer. Red eyes quickly scanned the tattoo: then, they began a more thorough search.
Curving lines, short lines, and small dots, all of them somehow came together perfectly. Voldemort has to admit, it was much harder to pick out much of anything in this design, much less any particular letter. But he was sure he could do it, regardless of how it was accomplished. Looking into Bellatrix's mind was always an option; however, Voldemort would prefer to play fair. Just for the bragging rights, if nothing else. It wasn't like Voldemort actually had qualms! Voldemort turned Bellatrix's arm back and forth several times, his eyes slowly sweeping over the entire tattoo. He would find this set of letters, and Bella wouldn't have a thing to say about it!
Bellatrix, meanwhile, was thinking about upping the stakes. Bragging rights just didn't seem like enough for such an accomplishment. There had to be some sort of recognition there, some sort of compensation for her efforts. If nothing more than a bit more of Voldemort's attention, Bellatrix wanted something from the dark lord. There had to be something she could get from this…it was almost a game at his point. Bellatrix held her breath as Voldemort searched her tattoo: would he find it? Would he be able to tell? Or would he resort to cheating? Bellatrix subtly set up a barrier for her mind to keep Voldemort from using less-than-fair methods of winning. She wanted to at least make this painful for him!
The minutes stretched by. Voldemort had given up on looking for actual letters, like last time, and was now looking for those hidden sort-of-letters. He figured that M would be the hardest to fudge, and so, he was looking for that one the most. He assumed he could then move to the left and right to find the T and the R. Bellatrix was waiting with bated breath, relishing the feel of those cold, snake-like fingers tracing the lines of the tattoo. A crowd had gathered by now: Severus Snape, Lucius Malfoy, and Rabastan Lestrange at the forefront of the group, with the rest of the Death Eaters behind them. Everyone was watching to see what became of this game.
"Good job, Bellatrix," Voldemort said slowly, hissing the end of the X. "But…not good enough!" Bellatrix's eyes widened in shock, and Voldemort turned her hand over and exposed her wrist. "T, M, R. But much better this time."
Bellatrix's heart fell at that mocking tone, but she saw the look in Voldemort's eyes, and instantly changed her mind. She saw an invitation there, a calling: he wanted her to continue this game, she realized. That taunting smile, that glitter in those snake-like pupils…he wanted to prolong this, to stretch it out. He was challenging her to see who would win. Bellatrix smiled with understanding, bowed slightly to Voldemort, and the moment passed. Still, as the snake turned away to convene with the rest of his loyal minions, Bellatrix felt like she was on cloud nine.
My lord…I accept.