Dinner with the Malfoys had definitely changed with the arrival of little Draco.
Bellatrix Lestrange found herself once again alone in the drawing room, sitting back on one of the leather sofas . She remained silent, sipping slowly the goblet of fire whiskey she had poured for herself, waiting for her sister and brother-in-law to get Draco settled before they come down for the meal. She just stared out the floor-length windows now, watching the storm swell in the distance. She knew the weather would at least not disappoint, with the clouds above promising a good downpour. She was always put at ease by thunderstorms, or at least she could be distracted.
As if sensing her elder sister's impatience, Narcissa Malfoy entered, her young face etched with exhaustion that she instantly tried to conceal the moment her ice-blue eyes met Bellatrix's dark brown ones.
"Dinner should be ready in just a little while, Bella," Narcissa insisted, combing her fingers through her blonde curls and pasting a smile onto her lips. "I'm sorry it's taking so long, dear."
"And will Lucius be joining us anytime soon?" Bellatrix asked, not having heard her sister's last comment.
Narcissa tensed, her nails threatening to puncture the fabric of the chair she stood behind.
"He's in council with the Dark Lord," Narcissa whispered angrily. Bellatrix looked up at the intense tone marring her sister's normally gentle voice. Narcissa was obviously upset by her husband's absence.
"Careful, sister, wouldn't want anyone to think that you were daring to question the Dark Lord's orders," Bellatrix warned.
"I could care less!" Narcissa exclaimed, throwing her arms up in the air, as she began to pace the length of the parlor, the clack of her high-heeled shoes causing Bellatrix to cringe with each of her sister's steps. "Bella, don't you understand? I'm so tired of all of this rubbish! The lives we have gotten ourselves into! None of us will ever be able to escape…" Narcissa stopped pacing, pressing her face into her palms as she tried to hold back a wave of tears.
"Cissy…" Bellatrix urged gently, setting her goblet on the side table before she opened her arms for her sister.
As if she were seven years old once more, Narcissa found herself crumpled in her elder sister's embrace. Bellatrix shushed her, stroking her sister's hair as Narcissa's tears stained the shoulder of her robes.
"Draco is going to be forced to grow up in this, Bella…" Narcissa whispered, wiping her forefinger beneath her eyes, trying to stop the tears as she leaned into Bellatrix's side. Bellatrix wrapped her arm firmly around her sister's shoulders.
"Cissy, love, you're just tired, period. You've got Draco to tend to, and the whole business with the supposed prophecy of the Dark Lord's… it's understandable. It's a lot to deal with."
"Bella, promise me something, won't you?"
"Promise me we will get out of all this one day. That we won't let the Dark Lord's power corrupt us anymore. That he won't get to Draco…" Narcissa trailed off. Bellatrix tensed, forcing herself to stifle her own tears.
"Cissy…I…" Bellatrix struggled to answer her sister's request, but it was in that moment she noticed Narcissa has stopped moving. She had fallen asleep in her embrace.
Bellatrix sat still, stroking Narcissa's hair absentmindedly as she let her fall further to sleep. Dinner could wait; she knew her sister could use the uninterrupted rest.
"Serves her right, having children," Bellatrix thought but she scolded herself in the next second. She knew she was only letting her sarcastic ways get the better of her.
Bellatrix shifted her sister over, sliding out from under Narcissa's weight before resting her back down on the cushions. She removed her travelling cloak and dropped it over Narcissa's sleeping form before pressing a light kiss to her temple. Despite her efforts, Bellatrix could not help but envision the little blonde haired girl she used to tuck into bed nearly every night.
"How I wish I could promise, darling…"
Bellatrix crept away from the drawing room, as silently as she was able, and found herself making her way to the nursery. She knew her infant nephew would be asleep, but she could not help but feel the overwhelming desire to sneak a peek at him. Carefully she twisted the silver doorknob, and pushed the door open, letting herself into the baby's room. It was obviously the room of the Malfoy heir, dark wooden baby furniture, emerald green and silver fabrics adorning everything, the huge Malfoy crest hung proudly on the wall. Bellatrix could not help but roll her eyes at was undoubtedly a designing decision of her brother in law's. Bellatrix swept across the nursery, the hem of her black dress trailing behind her as she approached the bed. She clutched the railing and exhaled lightly at the sight of him.
There he was. Draco. Her innocent little nephew. Small, pale skin and fair-haired like his mother, `he was perfection in every way. Bellatrix smiled instantly at the sight of him, unable to keep her awe from showing. She knew that if anyone were to ever see her like this, they would be in shock themselves that Bellatrix even appeared to have a heart at all.
Bellatrix found it hard to believe her sister was even old enough to have a child, let alone wrapping her mind around the idea she already had one. Bellatrix reached down, and without hesitation, pulled the infant into her arms, cradling him in the crook of her elbow, wrapping her gently in the black-and-green coverlet he had been sleeping with.
"Giving your mother a hell of a time, aren't you?" she whispered, smiling a little wider. "Auntie Bella couldn't be more proud…"
Draco did not wake, but he shifted in his slumber, raising his little fist for a fraction of a second before letting it drop, drifting back into his dreams. He snuggled deep into his aunt's embrace, and she could hear the steadiness of his breathing. She ached with love for him as she crossed the room to the rocking chair. The moonlight poured through the nearby window and spilled across the smooth floors, the only light source in the room. She stared down at the innocent child in her arms, and let out a sigh.
This poor child knew nothing of the family he had been born into, nothing of the future that awaited him, nothing of the darkness that would consume his loved ones and his destiny. He was to live with the fact his family had been tricked into the Dark Lord's ways, and were forced to do his bidding just to stay together. Would he ever be able to escape the legacy they had left him with?
Bellatrix rocked him steadily, pressing a kiss to his temple like he had done to his mother only moments before. "I am so sorry, dear one."
It was then she found herself humming softly, rocking in time to the tune she had once sung so often to Narcissa before she would fall asleep. Draco slept on, and Bellatrix doubted he even knew he knew she was there.
"I knew I would find you here," a familiar voice called through the darkness. Bellatrix looked up to see the silhouette of her husband, leaning against the doorframe, his arms crossed over his chest . She could make out the smirk on his face.
She felt her heart rate accelerate. She hadn't seen him in days. She didn't know when she was going to see him again. Here he was. If she hadn't been holding her nephew…
"Rod…" she moaned longingly. He put a finger to his lips to quiet her.
"Don't want to wake him, now, do we? I think Cissy would have our heads mounted on the wall," Rodolphus insisted, beside her in a moment. He leaned down and he took the sleeping infant from his wife.
"Careful…" Bella warned him.
"I'm not going to drop him. Give me some credit," Rodolphus replied. He cradled Draco for a moment and then set him back into his bed. The child turned over as though he had never been disturbed.
Before he could even turn around, Bellatrix threw herself into his arms, and her lips pressed against his passionately before he could even take a breath. They remained there, still and silent, enjoying their embrace for every second they were allowed.
Rodolphus was silent when they pulled away. Bellatrix's eyes shone with a happiness that had not been present there in a long time.
"Oh, Bella, my love, you are a sight for sore eyes. I've missed you so much…" Rodolphus whispered, his hand trembling slightly as he ran his fingertips the length of her jaw. Instinctively she reached up and clasped his hand in her own, obviously having mourned his touch.
"You've been gone for over a fortnight, and nothing," Bellatrix answered softly, taking in all of his features, terrified he would be taken away at any moment. "Where have you been?"
Rodolphus tensed, his hand dropping from her face but she did not realize her grip. She clutched his hand desperately.
"Rodolphus…" she urged. His eyes met hers, but this time, the look of compassion that was there had turned to one of sorrow.
"He's had us working around the clock, Bells. He is enlisting every Death Eater to help him find the Aurors who have gone into hiding, those who have information about the prophecy. He wants to know what it says, and he knows they have heard something." Rodolphus paused, looking to make they hadn't woken the sleeping child. "He's having us torture them, Bella…"
Rodolphus shook his head, forcing his eyes closed. "I never wanted this. I didn't know what I was getting into with him, Bella, honest, I didn't. I do it now only because it… keeps you from harm. When you joined, I thought it was for the best, that we would both serve and could live…" He extended his arms, wrapping them around her shoulders and pulling her into his chest. Bellatrix inhaled deeply, setting her head against his shoulder.
"We're cowards, Bella. Giving in to the Dark Lord to save our own skins when all along we never really were granted a pardon. We're in danger, too. "
"I know," Bellatrix murmured. "Cissy is in agreement with you, as I am…"
"Bella, he's going to order you to go on the hunt...within the week. I overheard him talking with Yaxley and Macnair." Rodolphus added solemnly.
Bella pulled out of his embrace, stepping back a few paces, shaking her head violently, her hands pressed to her temples.
"No, no, no…" Bellatrix hissed to herself.
"Bella, love, I didn't mean to upset you." Rodolphus insisted. "Bella, come now, Draco will wake if we talk about this much longer."
Bellatrix didn't seem to even hear him, still shaking her head forcefully. "Not after what happened with Andromeda. I couldn't do it, Rodolphus, and he almost killed you! He said…he said.." Bellatrix trailed off before sinking to the floor in despair.
Rodolphus had his wand into the air, before mumbling "Muffliato". Now their conversation would not disturb the slumbering infant.
"Don't you remember?" Bellatrix exclaimed, tears rolling down her cheeks.
The room was sinisterly dark; the only light source of light the blazing fire in the stone grate, casting its reflection on the long polished dining room table. Shadows played off the faces of the witches and wizards sitting around it, all eyes pointed cautiously to the massive wing back chair at the head of the table. The silence was painstaking. One pair of eyes were not pointing towards her master. She wrung her hands together under the table, her head bend down to hide her sallow face. She could feel her heart pounding forcefully in her chest, causing her to shake violently. No one dared to look at her.
"Bellatrix…" a high-pitched, sickeningly sweet voice cooed, accompanied by the low hiss of a snake.
"Yes, Master…?" she inquired humbly, her voice quivering.
"You've betrayed me…have you not?"
The chair at the end scraped back along the wooden floor, and a hooded figure rose, his right arm outstretched towards her.
"You heard me, Bellatrix!" Voldermort hissed angrily. "Answer me!"
"Master, I…I tried but…I just couldn't do it. Please forgive me…"
"Were you unable to perform the task I assigned you? Something got in your way? Someone? I want a straight answer…why is Andromeda Tonks still alive? She is a member of the Order of The Phoenix. I've sent all of you on missions to kill them. I want no interference when I take over the ministry. Tell me now, as I repeat- Why is she still alive?"
"Master…she is my sister. I could not kill her…" Bellatrix choked out, on the brink of tears.
"WHERE DO YOUR ALLIEGENCES LIE?" He shrieked, banging both fists on the table with such force that the remainder of the group jumped, terrified. Bellatrix watched the person sitting next to her, crumple with silent despair, and her hands had flown to her pale face. She wanted to take her sister into her arms but she knew it would only provoke Voldermort further. Bellatrix shuddered before answering.
"With you, my lord." Bellatrix murmured.
"I don't think they do. I think you are still relying on your family ties. Have I not given you a place of honor in my circle, Bellatrix? Have I not shown you praise above all others? What is it you wish me to do for you? I think I have been fair enough." He paused for a moment. "Lucius, my wand, please." Voldermort's voice was low, sickeningly sweet once more.
"My lord, please…I will do better." Bellatrix pleaded. Lucius reluctantly rose from his chair and walked to the mantle to retrieve his master's wand. He stared gravely to Bellatrix before handing it over. Narcissa inhaled but never released the breath.
"Perhaps…" Voldermort replied, his face entirely covered by the hood of his cloak and he clasped his long, bony, and pale fingers tightly around the wand.
"Master, I beg of you…" a male voice spoke from across the table from Bellatrix. "Pardon her this once…and I assure you, your bidding will be done most adequately."
"And you think your opinion on this matter is relevant, Rodolphus?" Voldemort spat. "That your wife should be pardoned for her disloyalty? Forgiven like it was nothing. Your ignorance annoys me…perhaps this will teach you a lesson! Crucio!" Voldemort's horrifying voice echoed through the room as Rodolphus fell from his chair, screaming in agony as the curse coursed through his body. Bellatrix let out a cry of misery as she watched her husband writhe in unending pain. Narcissa's cold hand clamped on her elder sister's knee, silencing her instantly.
"There…" Voldemort hissed as Rodolphus lay unconscious now on the stone floor. "Silence is golden."
"Bellatrix Lestrange…" he turned his attention back to her. "You have one more chance to redeem yourself in my sight. Fail me again and you will endure far worse than death itself. Thank your husband. Pitiful thing…love."
Voldemort stood, casting his gaze over the hall of his beloved Death Eaters and with a crack, he disapperated. The others one by one disappeared as well as Bellatrix flew from her chair to Rodolphus' side. She set her cool hand on his face, tears streaming down her cheeks. He stirred slightly before she threw herself over his chest, grasping him with both hands.
"Bella…" Rodolphus crouched down, but he didn't dare to touch her.
"Rodolphus," Bella started, her voice dropped so low he almost couldn't hear her. "It's getting to the point where when I am with the Dark Lord, it is becoming harder and harder to even remember who I am. I don't remember periods of time, memories that just disappear until I hear about it. It's like he is in control of me. It's getting harder to escape. I feel myself losing my mind. I'm being corrupted…how much longer before I can't even comprehend past the darkness anymore. Narcissa is feeling it too, but she isn't a Death Eater… she doesn't know how it feels."
"You have something the Dark Lord cannot control, Bella. You have your love." Rodolphus reached over and pulled her to her feet, clasping each of her hands in one of his. "My darling, you have to use what love you have to escape the Dark Lord's oppression. We will get through this. You just have to remember the ones you love. You have to keep coming back to the light, Bella. Keep coming back to me."
He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "I'm going to fight for you, Bella."
"I'm going to fight for you, too, Rodolphus. But, don't forget we have something else to fight for now also." Bellatrix turned and stared to the other side of the nursery.
"For their children." Rodolphus whispered, and he removed the charm with a flick of his wand. "And one day, hopefully, ours."
Bellatrix felt a twinge in her heart at his words. She knew that there was a slim chance that they would ever be able to have children of their own, but she could bear to crush what little hope he clung to. She smiled weakly as he wrapped his arms around her waist.
"One day…" she replied back with a weak smile.
"So, what does a man around here have to do for a decent meal?" Rodolphus inquired as the pair of them headed for the hallway. Bellatrix chuckled.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" she replied darkly, a smirk playing at her lips.
Rodolphus rolled his eyes. "Things never change."
Bellatrix paused as she reached for the doorknob, staring into the darkness again.
"What is it, love?"
"Nothing," she replied. "Just thinking how much the world changes when you know you are fighting for something worth while."
Rodolphus smiled. "I know exactly what you mean."