It was a game now.

Every time she had a new henna tattoo, he would find his initials hidden within it. Rodolphus hardly cared anymore: he had been eyeing another woman for a while now, and Bellatrix was considering getting a divorce. They were teasing the borders of unfaithfulness, and neither really cared. Ever since the beginning, Bellatrix had truly loved Voldemort.

The closest she had come to telling him was writing it in a tattoo. He hadn't caught it, though, too busy looking for his own name. It wasn't much-just a little tiny series of letters strung together all in a row-but somehow, it had been missed. Bellatrix had felt a little let down after that, and hadn't done another tattoo for a few months. Voldemort snidely commented on the lack of one at the first meeting without one, but when Bellatrix quietly replied that she hadn't been feeling inspired lately, Voldemort had dropped the matter altogether. After another few weeks, Bellatrix's inspiration was back, and a new tattoo showed up on her hands: both of them this time.

"Impressive, Bellatrix," Lucius sneered, seeing the new tattoo. "My lord has two sets of initials to find now, no? He's been getting here early, you know, so he has the time to waste. I can't imagine why he sees fit to delegate so much attention to you."

"Don't be jealous because you're losing favor with the dark lord," Bellatrix snarled nastily. "Your failures and my successes are the results of our individual endeavors. You should put a little more effort into yours." Lucius, a bit taken aback, didn't pursue Bellatrix as she flounced off down the lengthy hallway towards the guest bedroom. Snape, walking towards him, passed Bellatrix eyeing her like she carried some terribly infectious disease.

"What was-?"

"It's Bellatrix," Lucius growled, cutting Snape off as the greasy-haired man approached him and made an inquiry. "Leave her be, ignore her madness, and maybe it'll solve itself."

Snape just snickered, and walked away.

"Are you as worried about Bellatrix as I am?"

Lucius turned around to face Narcissa as she walked up to him, pushing her blonde hair back over her shoulder. "Not particularly," Lucius said slowly, turning back to watch Bellatrix skip down the hallway, still cackling. "She's just insane. That's not news."

Narcissa gave a soft, barely audible sigh; Lucius reached over to her and gently placed his arm around her. "She'll be fine," he assured her, a hint of exasperation in his voice. "We just can't exhaust ourselves worrying over her…she'll be fine."

"I hope," Narcissa murmured. "She's my only sister."

"Lord Voldemort favors her," Lucius grunted, gently turning Narcissa away and walking back towards the kitchen. "She's got him behind her; nothing can happen, really."

"Unless he's the problem," Narcissa murmured, pillowing her head on Lucius's shoulder. "Somehow, I can't see our dear Lord Voldemort taking very kindly to all this affection from her. And her husband-?"

"Doesn't care," Lucius said gently, finishing Narcissa's sentence for her. "Now, please, my dear, I would love to have some time with you where my mind could be clear. You're too wonderful, and so, you worry." Lucius placed a soft kiss on Narcissa's forehead, and steered her into the parlor. "Sit with me, and just relax. We have a few minutes."

OOOOOOOOO

Bellatrix bounced into the guest bedroom eagerly, knowing exactly who awaited her there. She had developed something of a connection with the dark lord as of late: she wasn't sure how, or why, but she knew when he was around, and where he was, if he was thinking about her. Call it intuition, call it superstition, call it a woman's love for her true partner, but whatever it was, Bellatrix was grinning and not surprised when she turned around from closing the door and there was a figure there that hadn't been there before.

"My lord," Bellatrix purred, smirking and sinking into a curtsey. Her eyes never left Voldemort's; that crooked smile never faded from her lips. Voldemort didn't seem to care. He merely swept closer, and held out his hand. Bellatrix, still smirking and staring into his reptilian eyes, offered both of her hands, palms down, fingers splayed, long nails clicking together. Voldemort's eyes narrowed.

"What is this?"

Bellatrix giggled, and lowered one hand. "Search, if you dare," she hummed, much like a contented cat. "But I made it very, very difficult."

A small smile came to Voldemort's thin lips. "A challenge, then," he said. "I accept."

Bellatrix was confident in herself this time. She had made the letters actually part of the design now, so it would be nigh on impossible for Voldemort to distinguish what they really were. Bellatrix had also placed several single initials in there; a T by itself; an R off to the side. Voldemort was taken in by these, she could tell. The look on his face was one of pure triumph, and his eyes calmed a bit. Then he realized what she had done, and that storm cloud rolled in again, darkening his expression. Bellatrix waited patiently, smiling softly the entire time. She was almost guaranteed to have victory.

"Other hand."

Bellatrix's smile was fading now. He had realized that the initials were on the other hand! Still, she kept her poker face, trying not to give it away. Voldemort, however, only smiled more: he had caught that err, and Bellatrix wasn't happy about it. Now resorting to a childish pout, the woman turned her hand back and forth as Voldemort went over it, searching harder and harder as the minutes ticked by.

"Bella?" Someone knocked on the door lightly, and Bellatrix hissed with annoyance.

"Just a moment!" she snapped. "I'll be along shortly. Go on, do whatever you have to, I'll find you later!"

The female on the other side of the door sighed softly, and left. Voldemort chuckled darkly, and said, "That was your sister."

"I know," Bellatrix muttered. "But she'll live."

Voldemort merely chuckled again, and said nothing.

For several more minutes, their game was played. Down to the final stretch now, Voldemort was running out of skin to search, and Bellatrix's confidence was growing again. She was starting to smirk again, and Voldemort was scowling like an old man over a newspaper. Bellatrix had never actually won this little game they played: she was beginning to taste the victory, and she was wondering what it would feel like to actually have the bragging rights.

"Here."

Bellatrix's heart plummeted at Voldemort's words; she had lost again! And so close! But, as Voldemort pointed out his initials, Bellatrix's heart flew right back up into her chest and began fluttering like a butterfly's wings. That wasn't it! He was mistaking a line connected to a flower for a T! Bellatrix allowed herself a broad grin, and shook her head.

"Not there," she said slowly, turning her hand back over. "Here." She traced the lines she had drawn with her nail, showing Voldemort where the initials really were. "The entire design down this finger is the initials. You were looking between the lines: you needed to look at the lines."

Voldemort looked properly flabbergasted. Still, he saw the initials here, much clearer than they had been where he was looking. He had lost his own game, he realized. And now, he owed Bellatrix the honor of the win. But his pride wasn't about to let him get away with that.

"Bellatrix," he hissed. Bellatrix just grinned even wider, and said,

"We had a deal."

Something about the look in her eye told Voldemort he wasn't getting out of this without a tradeoff that was at the very least even, if not greater on Bellatrix's end. He needed to give up even more if he wanted her to keep this quiet, and that was just so she wouldn't say anything. If he wanted her to lie and deny it, he had to really work. Voldemort wracked his brains for anything he could use to appeal to Bellatrix's more generous nature…if it existed.

"Admit it, my lord," Bellatrix giggled. "You've lost! I deserve to see you admit that to all the Death Eaters present, no? Seeing as how I've played fair every time I've lost, and admitted it just like you have to now, it's only fair…"

Masochist, Voldemort thought bitterly. He couldn't get out of this unless he caused her pain, and even if he did, he knew, deep down, that she would only turn around and beg for more. Sick little bitch, Voldemort thought sullenly. As the only female Death Eater, he wasn't used to dealing with-

That was it.

The only female Death Eater, and she was head over heels for him! He had a way out of this yet! It was a bit irresponsible, cruel, and certainly would damage his reputation if anyone found out. People might get the wrong impression. But they would also get the wrong impression if he had to openly admit for himself that he had been beaten at his own game. And at least this way, there was some measure of redemptive quality…

Voldemort turned his hand over, swiftly capturing Bellatrix's wrist and pulling her closer. With her body suddenly flush against his, Bellatrix suddenly blushed, and her confidence began to dwindle. "M-my lord?" she stammered, clearly confused. Voldemort wrapped his lengthy fingers around his wrist, one finger at a time, relishing the shiver that went through Bellatrix's body. She suddenly looked intoxicated, drugged, in some sort of trance: his very scent seemed to get her drunk. She was breathing deeply, rapidly, and staring up at him with a glazed look in her eyes, full lips slightly parted, and Voldemort knew right then that he had her right where he wanted her.

A shuddering breath escaped Bellatrix, and Voldemort took full advantage of the shiver that brought her closer. He slid one hand around her tapered waist, putting pressure into the small of her back. Bellatrix's dark eyes slid closed, and she arched into him with a gasp. This was fun, Voldemort decided. Playing with her heart was despicable, but he could sleep at night knowing he had. Bending his neck, Voldemort placed his lips against Bellatrix's ear, and whispered, in the most sexually appealing voice he could.

"No one needs to know," he purred, stroking the inside of her wrist with his thumb. Goosebumps arose in the wake of his fingers; Bellatrix's pulse began to pound harder under his fingers. "About any of this…any of it."

Bellatrix hastily nodded, and Voldemort moved his head down to her neck. Barely making contact, he continued, "And they won't know…unless you tell them…" Bellatrix nodded again. Good; she took his meaning. Voldemort lifted his head, aiming to pull away-

Soft, full lips met his.

He couldn't even pull away, he realized with a shock. This taste was too much of a shock, it sucked him in. Bellatrix was like cocaine: one use had you hooked for life. What kind of man turns this down? Voldemort briefly questioned, as Rodolphus sprang to mind. No. I won't let that spoil it. It's not like they were ever really married: they did it simply for pure blood. She could be mine…

Oh, wait. She is.

Bellatrix's heart was well and truly Voldemort's, and the dark lord was sure all of creation knew it. As that sly little fox pulled away, she was smirking like a little she-devil and at the same time she looked like she hadn't planned that in the slightest. Bellatrix had spoken with her lips and not her tongue, Voldemort realized: she had communicated in the weirdest ways so far, but somehow, Voldemort had understood each of her messages perfectly. And responded just the way she had set him up to do so. It wasn't his game, Voldemort suddenly realized. He had been playing by Bellatrix's rules, Bellatrix's standards, Bellatrix's expectations-he hadn't ever really been in control.

"No one has to know," Bellatrix whispered, and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Before he knew it, they were kissing again, and neither of them could help themselves.