AN: I own nothing.
In the center of the vast chamber sat a throne, ornately decorated with glittering emeralds, but conspicuously empty. In front of the chair, a dark woman rested on her knees. Her posture did not suggest prayer. Rather, her head was upright, her hands grasping the black fabric of her robes tersely, and her eyes were ablaze, reflecting the silent activity of her mind. Her pride was unmistakable, and yet – there was an undeniable element of defeat in her demeanor. Her shoulders hunched; her face depicted weariness.
Behind her, an equally dark man approached.
"Bella," he called commandingly. "You must leave with me, now. It is not safe here."
The woman did not turn. "I am not going."
She could sense Severus's frustration, even a note of desperation, though his face showed neither.
"If you stay…" he paused, calculating his phrases with care. "If you stay… you will have no chance. The Dark Lord is defeated. The secrecy of our organization has been greatly compromised this last hour. They are targeting this hall. Lingering here is as foolish as brandishing one's Mark to the Auror Squad! This means Azkaban, Bellatrix."
Only now did the woman's head fall downwards towards her chest. "Azkaban," she repeated softly. "The horrors of life after this moment will easily outweigh any torture of a prison cell."
"There are ways around such horrors!" Severus growled. "You are sullied in reputation, but not devoid of recourse. Your life can be salvaged if you take the right steps. You – we – have connections in this world, Bellatrix. Even without Him."
"There is no world without Him!" She cried, finally whipping around to face him. "Don't you see? I have lost everything, everything."
"Everything? No, as of now, you have lost very little, Bellatrix, but you must act quickly. You still have a chance to escape a dark fate. You still have your husband!"
At this, she threw back her head and laughed. It was mirthless, chilling. She suddenly stood to her feet and approached him with alarming speed. She stopped just inside an arm's length of her fellow Death Eater.
"Rodolphus?" She cackled mockingly. "What do I care for Rodolphus? A marriage to ensure a pureblood family's longevity. A marriage I did not ask for, or even acquiesce to, until I was… coerced… into seeing its usefulness." Her lip curled disapprovingly. "I was never courted. I was never loved by him, nor did I feel love for him. My opinions on the matter were never even considered. What do I owe such a union?"
She turned and slowly re-approached the throne. Hesitatingly, she reached out a single finger and stroked the metal of the arm.
"This is all I have left, Severus. This is the only place I ever felt any real love."
Severus's eyes narrowed slightly, but his features remained impassive. "Bellatrix," he began quietly, "you can't mean…"
"You never knew?" She half-shrieked, jerking her head back in his direction. Something maniacal flitted across her dark eyes. "You never guessed?"
She could see him struggling slightly to find words. "I… was not aware… of the extent of your… admiration."
"I cared for Him more than any other follower," she said haughtily. "I stood alongside Him for years. I was the only female in His inner circle – I have been privy to His greatest secrets. He knew truth. He envisioned a beautiful way of life. I alone saw past admiration. I was closer. I saw Him."
"You speak of nothing," Severus chided harshly, "nothing, except what we all saw in him – an incredible power, knowledge beyond our own. You desired to be a part of something bigger than yourself. If you truly believe yourself to have known the Dark Lord, then you are unforgivably naïve. You have misunderstood one of the greatest principles of His order. "
"No!" She screamed, and this time, the spark of frenzy did not leave her features. She strode to him, wand at the ready, until she was close enough to poke his chest with it. "You know me not, Snape! I am not a school girl with a silly crush – and I am not foolish enough to mistake admiration for yearning! Do not cheapen my love for the Dark Lord!" Her exterior crumbled slightly. He could see the tears in her eyes.
"Tell me it isn't true," she whispered. "Tell me he isn't dead."
Severus appraised her carefully. "Life and death are very black-and-white. Death is… a very final concept." He sighed. "He had a quest for immortality. We may never know what steps he took in accomplishing that goal."
She smiled sadly. He extracted himself quickly from underneath her wand and grasped her wrist.
"I do not say this to give you hope, Bellatrix!" He yelled. "I say this because it is the truth, and because I hope you will see the necessity of leaving this place uncaptured! We must bide our time in hiding, wait for word of either hope or despair to reach our ears. But it is not safe here!"
She struggled to free herself from his iron-clad grip. "I – am – not – LEAVING!" She wrenched herself away and fell backwards from the force.
"Flee!" She whispered fiercely. "Flee, if you must. But I will not betray my loyalty! I will not stake false claims in His trickery! I am a loyal member of this organization, Snape, and I will not risk my good standing with Him for the cowardly hope of freedom from duty!"
"You are foolish," he sneered. "And they are coming." She said nothing, just stood and approached the throne once more.
"Have it your way," he called after her. "And may your long years in Azkaban give you time to reshape your ill-formed conceptions."
With a swish of his cloak, he strode quickly from the great hall, leaving the dark woman to mourn her love in her final moments of peaceful solitude.