Marlene McKinnon's funeral was possibly the most difficult day of Bellatrix's life.
Lily had been on the verge of tears since the article on Marlene's death had been in the paper.
"I just can't believe someone would do this," she kept saying. "Who would do something like this?"
Every time Lily asked that, Bellatrix would just shake her head and say she didn't know.
She went to the funeral, not because Lily wanted to go and said she needed Bellatrix there to make sure she didn't fall apart, but because she wanted to convince herself that Marlene McKinnon really was dead. She wanted to see the coffin lowered into the ground and the earth heaped on it, so that she knew beyond the shadow of any doubt that she was gone.
Bellatrix and Lily sat at the back of the church, Bellatrix craning her neck to keep an eye on the coffin every minute, and Lily sobbing into her wife's shoulder. Bellatrix tried to summon tears, but her eyes were stubbornly dry.
Bellatrix was shocked, when the service was over, to see Tom Riddle going over to the McKinnons to offer condolences. Leaving Lily momentarily, she dragged him aside.
"What do you think you're playing at?" she hissed. "Why are you here?"
"I make a practice of coming to funerals. It is rarely unappreciated," he said, raising his eyebrows at her vehemence.
"You caused her death!" Bellatrix whispered, glancing around to make sure no one was watching them.
"I think you'll find that it was you who caused her death, Bella," Tom said, the amusement obvious in his voice.
"At your request!"
"Quite. Has it been bothering you, Bellatrix?"
"Of course!" Bellatrix said, more loudly than she had intended. Several people glanced their way and she lowered her voice to a whisper again. "I killed her, of course it's bothering me!"
"But it isn't bothering you that she's dead," said Tom, mildly. "What's bothering you is that you enjoyed it."
"I didn't enjoy it!"
"I know you did," he told her, putting a hand on her shoulder and turning her slightly so that she was shielded from the prying eyes of the funeral goers. "You don't have to lie to me, Bellatrix. If anyone understands what a beautiful thing it is to inflict death, it's me."
Bellatrix's heart was fluttering erratically. The memory of Marlene's screaming, her incredible pain, the near-euphoric satisfaction that Bellatrix had felt when she drove her wand through the woman's eye socket, and of Tom, of them together in his flat above Borgin and Burkes, all mixed together in her mind, until she couldn't tell which had given her pleasure and which pain.
"You're crying, Bella," he commented. Bellatrix raised a hand to her cheek, and was surprised to find it wet.
"It will be easier next time, my Bella," he told her. "The first one is always the hardest."
"Oh yes, my Bella, there will most certainly be a next time. Even if didn't have other people who needed to be killed, I know you would find some. Murder isn't something you can commit just once."
Bellatrix bit her lips.
"There's no point in saying otherwise, is there?" she asked.
"None whatsoever. I know you would kill anyone to help me, wouldn't you?"
She nodded. There was no reason to lie, he knew exactly what she thought.
"Even someone you never thought you could kill," he said. "You could do anything, for me."
Tom looked over his shoulder, then, satisfied that no one important was watching, drew Bellatrix into an embrace. She rested her head on his shoulder, and he whispered into her ear,
"I already have your next… assignment."
"Bella, we need to go," Lily said, coming up to them and touching Bellatrix's shoulder.
"Well, speak of the devil," he whispered, then broke away from her, tilted his head to Lily, and strolled off.
Speak of the devil…
Bellatrix looked from Tom's retreating back to her wife, standing at her side with an expression of concern.