Author's Notes: Written for ShyD88's Miscarriage Challenge on the HPFC forum. Rated T for violence, marital infidelity, and disturbing content.
Please be aware that I have never personally experienced anything that happens to any of the characters, so the reactions are purely fictional, and if anything like this has happened to you, I am truly sorry, I do not mean to be insensitive.
Also, I own nothing.
Rodolphus woke to an empty bed.
For a moment, he thought it was merely yet another night during which his wife slipped away and chose not to return – it would hardly have been unusual. But when he opened his eyes and rolled over, he saw her, sitting in one of the straight-backed chairs at the edge of their room, one hand against her belly, and a small, almost smug smile on her face.
She looked at him, and her smile widened.
"I didn't want to wake you up," she said.
He sat up in bed, slightly alarmed. "Is something wrong?"
"Do I look like something is wrong?" She turned away from him, admiring herself in the vanity mirror.
Rodolphus shook his head, perplexed. "Then why did you wait for me?" It was rare for Bellatrix to want to exchange more than a few words with her husband, and she never took his feelings into consideration when deciding when to do it.
"I have some… rather important news," she said. "And I wouldn't want you to be half-asleep when I told you."
"What?" he asked, moving to the edge of the bed and looking intently at his wife.
Her hand was tracing absentminded circles on her lower torso, and the smug smile on her face had grown.
"I'm pregnant, Rod," she said.
Rodolphus spent the rest of the day, he knew, smiling like an idiot. This was perfect, and it couldn't have happened at a better time. He had been worried for a while that his marriage was failing; surely a baby would be just the thing to bring him and Bellatrix back together. She had always insisted that she did not want children, but if her unusually affable mood was any indication, actually having one growing inside her had changed her mind. She seemed positively sunny.
Rodolphus, for his part, indulged in fantasies of how things would be, now that there was tangible proof – in the form of their unborn child – of love between himself and Bellatrix. When she felt ill, he would be at her side to comfort her, and when she was confined to childbed, he would be with her constantly, ready and willing to do anything and everything for her. And after the child was born, he would be as good a father as he knew how.
The thought of their family as it would be carried Rodolphus through many days in happy oblivion. The effect was not lessened by time – in fact, withy each passing week, Rodolphus became happier and happier with the thought of his wife's pregnancy.
It did bother him, just a little, that Bellatrix didn't seem much more interested in him than usual. In fact, she seemed if anything more impatient with her husband than ever.
"Leave me alone," she snapped when he tried to talk to her about the child.
"For God's sake, I'm pregnant, not an invalid," she told him when he suggested that she should not participate in assignments as a Death Eater.
But Rodolphus did not dwell on the matter. As long as he did not try to stop Bellatrix from doing anything on account of her pregnancy, she was amiable, and, Rodolphus reasoned, that Bellatrix did not want to be treated any differently because she was pregnant was not unlike her. After all, she had always refused to take any less work as a Death Eater because of her gender. This was the same matter, really.
"Have you thought at all about what you might want to name the baby?" Rodolphus asked, trying to stimulate conversation.
"Cassiopeia if it's a girl, Rigel for a boy," she said shortly.
But Rodolphus refused to be discouraged by his wife's apparent disinterest in discussing anything pertaining to the baby with him. The Blacks, after all, did not name their children at random. There were processes to the naming of babies, and the Blacks did not see it as a matter that warranted much discussion between husband and wife.
Weeks faded into months, and Bellatrix's middle swelled.
She was nearly seven months pregnant when Rodolphus finally put his foot down.
"You can't keep doing work for the Death Eaters like this," he told her, indicating her waistline.
"Just try and stop me!" Bellatrix fired back.
"You might get hurt."
"That has always been a risk."
"I won't allow it!"
"The Dark Lord has not told me to stop working, and until he does, I will not allow this," she put her hand on her stomach, "to get in the way of anything."
"I will ask him to take you off duty, then!"
To Rodolphus's profound relief, the Dark Lord sided with him.
"Your husband is quite right, Bellatrix," he said, considering her rounded belly. "We would not want you to injure yourself, or your unborn child, now would we?"
Bellatrix looked mutinous. "But my Lord –"
"Rodolphus, if you would leave your wife and I for a moment." The Dark Lord indicated the door. "I believe Bellatrix would be more… receptive if we were alone."
Rodolphus nodded and exited, shutting the door behind him. It irritated him to think that his wife would listen to the Dark Lord where she would not listen to him. Of course, he knew that her devotion to him was not romantic, but still…
He paused at the top of the flight of stairs. He had intended to go downstairs to wait for his wife, but… if he just listened to what they were saying, just to satisfy himself that the only matter being discussed was why Bellatrix was not to work anymore…
Rodolphus moved back to the closed door, and leaned against it, listening at the crack between the door and the frame.
"… overly protective of the child," the Dark Lord was saying. "I never thought his faith would be so strong as that."
"Master," came Bellatrix's tense whisper, "I have not told him… I thought it would be unwise…"
Rodolphus pressed his ear harder against the crack. He must be the person they were talking about – what had Bellatrix thought it unwise to tell him?
"I see," the Dark Lord said. "You may well have been right, Bella – I doubt if he would have taken kindly to the matter…"
Rodolphus was starting to feel unwell. He thought he might have some idea what he meant, but he couldn't allow himself to even consider the notion…
"Well, of course not, what man would?" Bellatrix said.
"Very few, I should think," said the Dark Lord. "I have been lead to believe it is a common fear among husbands."
"So I would think," Bellatrix agreed.
"That said, Bellatrix, he will have to find out eventually, and, you may recall, I did order you to tell him…"
"Must I, my Lord?"
"That is the implication of 'order', Bellatrix."
"But how can I tell him, my Lord? How do I explain it? He's so very enthusiastic…"
"If you do not tell him now, he will find out when the child is born, and that is sure to be far less pleasant for all concerned.
There was a pause, and then Bellatrix said, "I almost feel sorry for him. No man should have to be told such a thing."
"Do I sense regret, Bella?"
"You have been given a great honour, Bellatrix," said the Dark Lord.
"Then go tell your husband so. Tell him what an honour it is that his wife should carry the heir of the Dark Lord."
Rodolphus reeled, stumbling back from the door. His wife, his beloved Bellatrix, wasn't carrying his child. The had the Dark Lord's spawn in her womb, and she had let him believe…
The door opened, and Bellatrix stepped out, shutting it behind her.
"Rodolphus," she said, "there's something I need to tell you–"
Rodolphus drew back his hand and slapped he across the face.
"I heard, you little slut!" he snarled, hitting her again with such force that she stumbled sideways, and barley caught onto the bannister to stop herself from falling down the stairs.
"You and the Dark Lord, eh?" He approached her, an incredible fury welling in his chest, beyond anything he could ever have imagined he could feel. "He got you pregnant, did he? Don't try to deny it, I heard everything!"
"Rod –" Bellatrix began, but he silenced her with another blow. At the force, Bellatrix lost her grip on the bannister and tumbled.
Rodolphus watched, equal parts horrified and mesmerized, as his wife fell. Only when she came to rest at last at the foot of the flight of stairs did his brain register what he had done.
"Oh, God," he whispered, stumbling down the stairs after her.
Bellatrix was lying still, and Rodolphus grasped at her wrist, feeling for a pulse.
Thanks be to God, the beat told him she was alive.
But the spreading puddle of blood spoke differently of the unborn child.