*Breathes deep* Notes here to avoid breaking the story up too much:

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Bellatrix sank gingerly onto the edge of the Dark Lord's bed, biting her tongue and clenching her hands into fists to stop from shaking. Her nails drove into her skin, recalling to her the feeling of the thorns, and calming her, at least slightly.

It's all right. Everything is all right now. The Dark Lord has saved you.

She told herself that over and over, letting it echo through her mind as a hollow refrain. Everything's all right. You're safe. Everything's all right.

She did not entirely believe it.

The Dark Lord looked furious, and it was difficult for Bellatrix to believe that it was not at all at her. He left her in his room, and she trembled like a leaf caught in a heavy wind.

Please don't let them hurt me anymore, please…

"Stay," he ordered her, before he slammed the door shut.

She trembled, twisting her hands together in her lap and bending her head, staring down at her fingers. Blood stained and spotted them, and they were marked with red dots that hurt more now than they had when she drove the thorns into herself.

The room felt uncomfortably cold. Bellatrix shivered, and contemplated curling up in his bed, but no, no, she couldn't do that, not ever again. Even now that she had her Master to protect her, she would never do that again…

It seemed like an eternity before the door opened again. She had been eagerly anticipating it, thinking that she would be glad to have the Dark Lord back, but when he returned, she shrunk away from the men he brought with him.

Lucius. Rabastan. Dolohov. Avery. Nott. And there, at the back, being dragged along by an invisible rope and looking terribly confused and even more terribly afraid, Rodolphus.

"These are the ones that hurt you, Bellatrix?" the Dark Lord demanded.

She nodded. "Y- Yes, Master, them," she whispered.

"I never laid a hand on her, my Lord!" Rodolphus protested, but the Dark Lord cut him off with a sharp hiss.

"You are accountable for what your brother did to her on your behalf."

"Rab, what did you do?" Rodolphus demanded, turning upon his brother with a look of dawning horror, but Rabastan kept his eyes straight ahead, not allowing so much as a flicker of emotion into his expression.

"Your brother has not told you, Rodolphus?" The Dark Lord's voice rose a note, and his tone hovered somewhere between mocking and dangerous. "He has not told you the way in which he saw fit to punish your wife?"

Bellatrix could see the blood draining from her husband's face, and he lurched forward, catching Rabastan's arm. "Dear God, Rab… you didn't…"

"I did what was necessary to make her pay," Rabastan said calmly, still absolutely expressionless. "I would have thought that you would be grateful, as I did it for you. You were the one who wanted her hurt, if I recall."

"Not like that!" Rodolphus cried. "I didn't want you to…"

"Then you should have said so, shouldn't you?" Rabastan told him, not even looking at him. His eyes were fixed upon the Dark Lord. "Whatever punishment you see fit for us, Master, is worth taking. The other men…" He cast a disparaging look at Lucius, Avery, Dolohov and Nott, "might have regrets, but Bellatrix received exactly what she deserved."

"I am unsurprised that you should think that way, Rabastan," the Dark Lord told him, barely sparing him a glance. "I presume it was your idea to… punish… Bellatrix in the manner that you chose?"

"Yes, Master," said Rabastan, drawing himself up proudly. Bellatrix hissed at him, her lip curling and her eyes flashing in anger, drawing back when he looked at her with a lazy, superior stare.

"Then you shall be the first to suffer."

The Dark Lord drew his wand, and in one fluid motion, it was on Rodolphus. "Crucio!"

Rodolphus crumpled, his body writhing and twitching, and Bellatrix felt a wave of derisive pleasure at the sight of her husband – the cause of all of this – in such pain. But it was nothing compared to the joy she felt when she saw Rabastan's face go white.

"It is not my brother's fault, my Lord!" Rabastan cried. "I said that it was my idea!"

"Ahh…" The Dark Lord raised his wand slowly, and waited a moment as Rodolphus trembled and sobbed brokenly. Rabastan fell to his knees beside his brother, then yelped and was jerked back up again by a spell.

"The Cruciatus curse is such a… superficial way of causing pain…" the Dark Lord continued. "Oh, it is painful… but only in a simple… physical sort of way…" He stepped forward, and Bellatrix was as enthralled as the men by the dangerous gleam in his eye, the calm, slow way in which he moved… "As anyone knows… the only true way to hurt someone, the only way that cuts them straight to their core… is to harm something that they care about."

Rodolphus let out a quiet whimper.

"And so, for you…" The Dark Lord was all but purring, and Rabastan shrunk back from him, shaking, "watching your dear brother in pain… why, that's quite a bit worse than if I'd simply cast the spell on you, now, isn't it?"

Rabastan squared his jaw, and spoke between his teeth. "Whatever punishment you see fit, my Lord–"


Once more the room was filled with Rodolphus's screaming, and Bellatrix fancied that she saw a tear on the inside corner of Rabastan's eye. He did not speak, but he looked at his brother in such a way that Bellatrix could very nearly imagine herself feeling sorry for him.

Or, rather, she could very nearly imagine that until she remembered…

The Dark Lord turned on Lucius next, and he shrieked with agony as he too was brought to the ground by a Cruciatus curse. Bellatrix could not restrain the tiniest of giggles when he tore at his hair, wrenching clumps of his long, pale locks out of his scalp, but the laugh was cold and almost mad.

Rabastan's face went paler with every man tortured, every man who collapsed near his feet in agony, but the Dark Lord did not turn on him again until Lucius, Avery and Nott were all sobbing messes.

Rabastan stood between them, looking like the lone survivor of some terrible battle, his face ashen and his hands shaking. If it had been any other person, Bellatrix did not doubt that he would not have hesitated to draw his wand and cast the killing curse, but as it was, he stood petrified and waited.

The Dark Lord flicked his wand lazily at Rodolphus, not even bothering to speak, and Rabastan winced, twitching back as his brother convulsed upon the ground. Then his master's wand was aimed at him.

"Crucio," purred the Dark Lord, almost tenderly.

Bellatrix felt a great surge of delight as Rabastan fell, and she drowned out his screams with a cry of happiness. To see him like that, in such pain, was more satisfying than anything else ever could have been.

The Dark Lord lowered his wand and turned back on her.

"Did that please you, Bellatrix," he breathed. "Was that… revenge… suitable?"

"Oh, yes, Master, I thank you…" Her voice choked with emotion, and she was overcome, pressing one hand against her mouth to silence sobs. "Master, you- you have done so very much for me…"

"So I have," he said calmly, stroking his wand gently between his fingers and turning away from the men upon the ground.

"I am- I am in your debt, my Lord," Bellatrix whispered, her voice thick with emotion. She clutched his hand in both of hers, squeezing it and pressing her lips to the back, and he did not push her away. "How may I ever repay you?"

"You may repay me with your service," he said calmly, no more impassioned or emotional than if he had brushed a fly away instead of punishing his Death Eaters for her sake. "It is how debts to me are always repaid."

"I- I will, my Lord." She fell to her knees before him and clasped her hands at her breast like a woman in prayer. "What shall I do, Master?" Then, with some trepidation, "Master… will you… will you continue to desire me in your bed."

"Yes," he said simply. Bellatrix's stomach lurched, but he went on, "but not yet. You will be of no use to me in this state… when what the men did to you is no longer fresh in your mind, then you shall continue to serve me. See that you do not take too long," he added, and Bellatrix nodded.

"I… I thank you so, my Lord… I shall not take too long," she promised. "It… it is a great help to have seen…" She indicated the Death Eaters who lay fallen so near at hand – Rodolphus shaking and trembling still, Rabastan clinging to him, Lucius trying with shaking hands to wipe blood from his hair.

The Dark Lord cast them a cursory glance, then looked away once more, gazing out the window that overlooked the gardens.

"And you shall be faithful to me," he told her, more a statement than an order or request. "You shall do as I wish of you… always."

"Yes, Master," Bellatrix whispered. "I am honoured to serve you… and I thank you… and I shall be faithful," she swore and then echoed, in a quiet, reverent voice,

"I shall be faithful to you, my Lord. Always."