Author's Notes: Written for the Start and Stop Challenge on the HPFC forum. Feel free to translate the Latin if you want – it's not completely necessary to the story, but if you want to get an ever further feel for the Black's idea of religion (which is basically what this is about), it can help.
Challenge: "I have a list of fifty words and phrases. What you need to do is pick a number between 1-50. The word or phrase that you receive must be used in both your first and last sentence, but you cannot repeat the same sentence twice. The first and last sentence must be different."
My word: Fire
Warnings: Blasphemy, in a way.
Andromeda stared into the fire. Her woollen cloak was pulled tight around her shoulders, and her teeth chattered against the cold.
"Dromeda, aren't you ready to come to bed yet?" Ted asked. He put his hand on her arm, tried to pull her away from the fireplace.
Andromeda didn't answer. She was hypnotized by the flickering light, so absolutely beautiful that she wished she could touch it. Her eyes were focussed on that, and her mind was floating through the last month. The month in which she had finally screwed up the courage to leave her family, the Blacks.
That fire… she had forgotten the fire… the candles…
"Dromeda, wake up." Ted shook her gently, and Andromeda started.
"What?" she said, blinking at him.
"It's past midnight," he said. "And you look so tired…"
Andromeda chewed on her lips. "I think… there's something I have to do first."
"One last…" her voice broke, but she steadied it, "family obligation."
It would be fair to say that it was his wife's absence that woke up Rodolphus Lestrange. He had been on the edge of sleep for some time, and now that Bellatrix was gone from the bed, he woke completely, eyes flying open and scanning their darkened bedchamber.
Bellatrix, who had been only half a step from the door, started violently, clutched at her wand, then relaxed when she realized it was only her husband that had spoken. She pressed a finger to her lips to indicate silence.
"Be quiet," she breathed. "I don't want Father to know I'm awake."
Rodolphus sat up in bed, curious now as to what his wife was doing, dressed and cloaked in the dead of night.
"Are you going somewhere, Bella?" he asked in a whisper. She nodded, put her hand on the doorknob to open it.
"To put out the bloodtraitor's candle, what else?" Bellatrix hissed, pulling the door open.
"So soon? She might still come back–"
"It's been a month. We can't wait any longer, it would go against tradition."
"I'll come with you–"
"No you bloody well won't," she whispered vehemently. "You stay here and go back to sleep. I'll be back soon."
"I have to do this alone," she hissed, and was out before Rodolphus could say another word.
Andromeda made her quiet way to the Chapel, the small building that the Blacks used for their own brand of religious worship – a twisted offshoot of Christianity, coupled with belief in the powers of blood and of the Blacks themselves. The Chapel was an outbuilding of Black Manor, tucked away in a far corner of the estate, with only the tombs of Blacks long since dead to keep it company.
She shuddered when she stepped across the threshold. She didn't believe that any of the Blacks were around to haunt the Chapel, but there was something about the building that seemed to warn Andromeda away. You are no longer a Black. You are not welcome.
For a building owned by the Blacks, the Chapel was sparsely furnished. Two rows of hard wooden benches along the back wall, an alter with a massive Bible and equally massive book of genealogy, two simple plaster statues of women illuminated by their own twin sets of Roman candles – one of the Madonna, the other of the Magdalene – and a large, painfully rendered painting of Christ on the cross were the only furnishings. It was as though the Blacks were trying to prove that they could relinquish their material possessions when the need arose, that they could be just as holy and selfless as anyone else.
Then there were the candles.
The Chapel had a whole wall full of candles, one for each and every Black, going back to Morgana. The bottom shelf had five candles on it, each in their tiny glass jar, flickering quietly for each of the five Black heirs.
White for Sirius.
Green for Regulus.
Blue for Narcissa.
Violet for Andromeda.
Red for Bellatrix.
Andromeda approached the shelf. Yes, her violet candle was still burning. She could take it, she could bring it back to her home, her real home, her real family, keep it burning the way it should–
She was startled by the sound of footsteps outside, and the scrape of the door. In a frenzy of panic, Andromeda rushed across the Chapel and dove behind the alter.
The Magdalene statue seemed to be watching her with its white eyes, looking at her instead of forward, where she was supposed to be facing. The hint of a wicked smile on her plaster lips put Andromeda in mind of Bellatrix, and she looked to the Madonna for imagined help. It was facing forward, blissfully unaware of the Magdalene, or of Andromeda.
The door shut, and footsteps tapped across the stone floor. Andromeda held her breath. The footsteps stopped, and Andromeda waited, her heart beating so hard she feared that whoever had come into the Chapel would hear it.
The Magdalene dared Andromeda to look.
Petrified, yet too curious not to, Andromeda peered around the corner of the alter.
Andromeda's elder sister was kneeling before the wall of candles, looking like a painting of the Magdalene herself, steeped in sin yet somehow pure beyond belief. Andromeda, equal parts terrified and enthralled, watched as Bellatrix crossed herself, bowed to the wall of candle flames like they were gods, and murmured the prayer the Blacks were taught from their birth.
"Ave misericors Dominus. Ave Deum, qui creavit Blacks. Deus misereatur animae meae. Deus misertus omnium peccatorum. Miserere, precor, ipse meae."
Andromeda swallowed. There was something wrong about hearing Bellatrix's melodious, throaty voice, speaking those familiar phrases, and not joining in.
Bellatrix crossed herself again, then reached for Andromeda's candle.
Andromeda's heart skipped a beat. Bellatrix was going to do it.
"Deus misereatur animae meae," Bellatrix whispered again. Her hand hovered inches from the glass container, full of violet wax. Then she murmured, not the familiar prayer, but something that Andromeda had heard her eldest sister say many times before, without ever knowing its meaning herself, "Deus Miserere sororis animam. Item nescit quid faciebat."
Bellatrix took the candle in her hand, holding it carefully, as though it might shatter.
"Deus, Miserere nobis omnibus."
It was barely a whisper, so soft Andromeda could scarcely hear it herself. Bellatrix's hand twitched, but she steadied it, and cupped it around the flame.
"No…" Andromeda breathed.
Bellatrix leaned in close to the candle, pursed her crimson lips…
A tear trickled out of Andromeda's eye as she watched her point of fire go out.