She stared for a long time at the mangled body, and then stood up, the image of calm, collected dignity. She walked back to the house, her heart beating wildly from the excitement of destroying Nagini's perfect body.

It was time to put her acting talent to work. Forcing tears into her eyes, she ran up he path and flew inside, sprinting for the Dark Lord's bedroom. She hammered at his door, and when it swung open, she threw herself into his arms.

"My Lord!" she sobbed. "Oh, my Lord, please help! Nagini and I were out– and then– the aurors– oh, please help!"

"What is it, Bella?" The Dark Lord took her head in his hands and lifted it. "Why are you all bloody?"

"Nagini and I –" Bellatrix gasped, "were out for a walk– she said she wanted to cool off after you– and then– the aurors came– she said– to go get you– oh, please help!"

"You left her alone with aurors?" His crimson eyes widened, horrified.

"She said she would be all right! She said to get help! Please, I don't know what to do!"

"Take me to her," the Dark Lord said, and Bellatrix heard a note of fear in his voice.

She led him at a run to the clearing where she had left Nagini, and when his wand light fell across her, Bellatrix screamed as though in horror at seeing her this way.

"Oh Merlin!" she wailed. "Nagini! Oh, Nagini!"

The Dar Lord was crouching over her already, Bellatrix and her distress forgotten.

"Go home, Bella," he said, and, wracked still with false sobs, she left. It was only when she was back in her bedchamber, the blood washed from her skin, and Rodolphus's comforting form lying next to her, that she let the true tears fall. Because even with a shattered face and broken neck, even covered in blood and even in death, she knew that the Dark Lord still thought Nagini more beautiful than her.

)O(

"It was all I could do," the Dark Lord whispered, staring at the snake curled on the hearth. "I couldn't save her. It was all I could do. Her soul is safe in that creature, but her body, her beautiful body…"

"You did admirably, my Lord," Bellatrix murmured, resting her head upon his shoulder. "I am relieved that her soul, at least, is still for this world"

"Yes." He stroked her hair. "Thank Merlin for that."

With that, he drew her astride him, kissed her, let tears of anger at the loss of his favored mistress fall. Bellatrix was beautiful, exquisite, and skilled, but she was not Nagini. She would never be Nagini.

He moaned, enjoying the pliable comfort that Bellatrix offered. Where Nagini had been exciting and intoxicating, Bellatrix was warm and gentle. Being in her arms was like what he imagined it would be like to be held by a mother.

Nagini, trapped in the body of the snake, raised her head and glared at Bellatrix, with the Dark Lord where she, Nagini belonged.

The Dark Lord's back arched, and he collapsed backwards, Bellatrix falling across him. He twined his arms around her, pulled her close, kissed her on the mouth.

"Beautiful Bella," he whispered in her ear. "My beautiful, sweet Bella."

She could only sigh and press kisses to his face and neck.

After a long silence, Bellatrix whispered, "My Lord?"

"Yes?"

"Has Nagini told you who did this to her?"

"No," he murmured, pressing her to him. "She won't say. She won't say."

The Dark Lord did not see the smile that twisted Bellatrix's pretty face at those words.

She had known that the unbreakable vow would be a wise precaution.

)O(

Fin

A/N: If you haven't seen it already, I've extended/rewritten this story. The rewrite is called "Rivalry". If you liked this, Rivalry is a more in-depth look at the characters, especially Nagini