Bellatrix counts the candlesticks on the mantelpiece at Malfoy Manor again. She has, so far, counted them sixteen times, and there are still eight. Eight silver candlesticks in the shape of Slytherin serpents, branded with the Malfoy family crest.
Bellatrix thinks eight is really one too many, because seven is perfect and magical and one more is unnecessary. When Narcissa isn't looking, she throws one out of the window and watches as it hits the lawn two stories below with a satisfying clunk.
Bellatrix stares at the candlestick on the lawn until Narcissa finds her and asks her what she's doing. When she sees the candlestick, Narcissa begins to shout and Bellatrix can hear the words, but she's not listening. Bellatrix turns away from Narcissa whilst she's still in mid-sentence, and ignores it when Narcissa shrieks for her to come back.
She teaches Draco Occlumency in the drawing room, and is quite amused that he is terrified of her. When she smiles at him, she shows all her teeth, and Draco turns a paler shade of pale and sits up a little straighter.
Narcissa is in the background, spying on her under the pretence of cleaning. Bellatrix knows her sister would never deign to clean.
Once the lesson is finished, Bellatrix runs her fingers through Draco's hair and purrs that he is a good boy. She can feel her nails scrape against his scalp. Narcissa, who is still lurking, clucks that she should have had children herself, and Bellatrix smirks and knits her fingers over her abdomen.
The womb that lays there is void.
She knows Rodolphus blames her for destroying her womb herself, and she knows that when they'd married, he had envisioned baby Lestranges with wild, grey eyes like her own. Bellatrix thinks that he is delusional and blinded. She, at least, can see that it was a worthy sacrifice to the cause.
At night in bed, Rodolphus lies next to her, but never touches her. She thinks that maybe, once, she felt passion and desire and even love for this man.
She doesn't remember what that was like.
It is the middle of the night, and Bellatrix is stood, naked, in the lake at Malfoy Manor. The water is up to her waist and she can feel the mud ooze between her toes and at one point thinks that she might feel a fish wind itself quickly around her ankle, before darting away again.
Her teeth graze along her bottom lip, and her eyes reflect the cold moon.
She seems to be stood in the water for eternity, and when she walks back to the house, she leaves wet footprints and water droplets all over the scarlet carpet. They look like dried blood in the dark. In the morning, Narcissa will ask why, and Bellatrix will not be able to answer.
She finds a room that is not Rodolphus' and her own, and gets into the bed. She lies in the middle, spread-eagled on top of the covers. She can still feel the water lapping up, over her legs and onto her stomach, like the caress of a lover.
Bellatrix sleeps alone in her new bed every night that week. On the last night, she wakes suddenly to the sound of a dog barking, and her cousin Sirius is stood at the foot of her bed.
He doesn't say anything, and doesn't look at her with anything other than detachment, but she still slips silently under the covers for the first time, as if they can save her from the dead man in her mind.
The following night, she returns to Rodolphus' side, and neither of them says anything.
The night sky, Bellatrix thinks, is a mirror of the past. She can find Sirius and Regulus and Andromeda as easily as she could in her childhood, although all of them are lost to her now. Their stars only shine on in silence; she wonders how many of them have already burnt out whilst their light travels towards the Earth.
When she notices Bellatrix is with them, up there as well, she laughs and laughs and laughs.