Written for Bangle-Babe's challenge on xoxLewrahxox's Bellatrix Lestrange forum. Challenge: "This one is a little different, inspired by those magnet poetry things you put on fridges and the like. Someone put one on our fridge that read "Your comfort could keep me almost delirious." I loved the phrase so much, and that's the challenge! Use that line in a piece of work." This is the first challenge I've written… Takes place just after the Dark Lord "dies" in Godric's Hollow. Exactly 800 words, excluding notes.

Rodolphus followed his trembling wife into their bedroom. She looked like she could scarcely believe it had happened. He could scarcely believe it had happened.

"The Dark Lord… fallen… Christ, I can't…"Bellatrix asked. She shrunk onto their bed, her eyes wide with terror. "What are we going to do without him?"

The part of Rodolphus that hated his wife for lying with the Dark Lord wanted him to say I can think of a thing or two, but Bellatrix looked so fragile, so afraid, that he couldn't bring himself to taunt her.

"We'll manage. We'll find a way," he murmured, stroking her hair.

She jerked away from his caress. "Don't touch me!"

Anger flashed.

"Look at me, Bellatrix!"

She raised her eyes reluctantly to meet his.

"I'm your husband," he said, very slowly. "And I don't want to hurt you, but if I need to, to keep you focused on our cause, I can, and I swear I will."

"Is that supposed make me feel better?" Suddenly she looked more like the Bellatrix he knew. "And what would you know about the cause?"

"I know that if the Dark Lord saw you like this, he wouldn't spare you the Cruciatus curse!" Rodolphus cracked her across the face, not because he wanted to hurt her, but because he wanted to make her angry, make her show something. He wanted to shatter this fragile shell that had taken over his wife, to break it so that the real Bellatrix could come out.

"Comfort isn't your strength, Rodolphus," Bellatrix muttered mutinously, putting a hand to her cheek.

"Nevertheless…"

Bellatrix held his gaze for a long second. She tried to look defiant, tried to tamp down her grief. But the more she tried, the more the emotions gripped her, until she finally broke down in tears.

"I just–" she hiccoughed, but Rodolphus silenced her.

"Let me get you a drink," he said. "It'll make you feel better."

Bellatrix nodded weakly, rubbing tears from her eyes. Rodolphus took a bottle of firewhiskey from a cabinet, and handed it to his wife. She yanked the cork from it and took a swig from it.

Rodolphus waited while his wife drank. Then he took the bottle from her gently. Bellatrix protested quietly when Rodolphus pried the bottle from her fingers.

"Let me have some," he told her, and tipped the liquid into his mouth.

"I want it–"

"You'll get drunk."

"I want to–"

He put down the bottle and put his hand over his wife's mouth. "No you don't. You don't want to get drunk."

"I do–"

"You'll be sick tomorrow."

"Don't care–"

"You don't need the drink," he told her, sitting on the bed and drawing his wife into his arms. "You don't want the drink. You want to be comforted."

"If I do?" Her dark eyes shone with fresh tears, and her words were starting to slur. "Don't you think I've earned it? Rod, he's–"

"Don't think about it. You'll start crying again."

"I'm scared…"

"I know, love." He laid her back on the bed, and smoothed his broad, blunt hands over her face. "I know. Don't think about it. You can worry in the morning."

"Just one more drink…"

Rodolphus sighed, and handed her the bottle. Her hands shook, and it splashed over her face and breast.

"Let me," he said, sponging the firewhiskey off her, and he could tell that she really was miserable because she neither slapped nor hexed him. He was even brave enough to let his hand linger on the cold swell of her breast.

She shivered, and put the bottle aside. "Don't…"

"It'll make you feel better."

"It won't."

He ignored her, undid her robes, laid her damp breast bare.

"Rodolphus…"

Much as Bellatrix wanted to wallow in her misery that the Dark Lord was fallen, she couldn't help but take comfort in her husband's embrace. She knew that their marriage's general failure was more her fault than his, and she rarely regretted it, but it was good to be held by Rodolphus. He was kind, gentle somehow.

"I love you, Bella," he whispered, pushing her legs apart.

She sighed and shut her eyes.

)O(

"Feel better?" he asked.

She glared challengingly at him from under her mess of hair. "Do you expect me to?" Her voice was thin, but the familiar spark was back in it.

"I comforted you, didn't I?" Rodolphus smoothed a broad hand over her cheek and smirked. He had won and knew it.

"Alcohol and sex is comfort?" Bellatrix scoffed.

"Don't you feel better?"

"I feel drunk and sex-addled."

"But comforted."

Bellatrix shoved him off her. "Your idea of comfort," she sneered, "could keep me almost delirious."

"Better than misery, though, isn't it, my Bella?"

"I suppose it is."