Author's Notes: Written for Stiricide's Letters from the Dead Competition on the HPFC forum.
It's worth noting that J. K. Rowling doesn't tell us what happened to Rodolphus during the Battle of Hogwarts, so for the purposes of this, I'm assuming he escaped alive.
Dear Lord, it's another Bellatrix/Rodolphus. And practically requited this time. I'm slipping. Send help.
It was hard to believe she was dead.
To Rodolphus, Bellatrix had always seemed invincible. She was unmovable, she was impenetrable – in more ways than one – and she was undefeatable. Yet the battle had ended, and Bellatrix was dead.
Rodolphus had seen his wife fall. He had done nothing. He hadn't helped her fight, nor had he tried to avenge her. He had let her fall, had let her killer go, and he had run. Coward. He hadn't even screamed.
And now, Rodolphus was in the bedroom they had shared, going through Bellatrix's possessions. He hadn't intended to do so, but he had found himself there, numbly opening drawers and taking out things she owned and holding them. Everything was a part of her, and he cradled and caressed each object the way he wished he had done to her.
Rodolphus lifted the lid of her jewellery box, and felt a new wave of misery wash over him. In the early days of their marriage, he had gifted Bellatrix with jewellery of all sorts, and each and every item he'd given her, every necklace and bracelet and ring lay here, tossed carelessly into the box, unworn since the days she had received them. Rodolphus couldn't help noticing that the pendant the Dark Lord had given Bellatrix as a reward for her service was absent. Of course, she had been wearing it at the battle.
He sifted slowly through the contents, stroking each item with reverence. Bellatrix might never have worn them, but they were still hers, and that was enough. He removed each piece, held it and caressed it, and then set it on the table, and moved on to the next one.
The box was nearly empty when Rodolphus saw the envelope at the bottom.
It had been buried beneath the heaps of jewels, but the ink was fresh, not the least bit faded, and Rodolphus's name was written on the front in Bellatrix's familiar hand.
His heart sped. All logic forgotten, Rodolphus was instantly sure that Bellatrix had written him this letter as a final farewell, to make sure her last words to him were those of affection. The thought that Bellatrix would never have done such a thing was pushed from his mind, and he fumbled it open, hands shaking as he pulled out the letter and unfolded it.
If you're reading this, it means I'm dead, because if I live through the battle, I'll be throwing this in the fire. I thought it would be a good idea for me to write it out, just in case I don't make it. I wanted you to have something to remember me by, something good. So I decided to write you a letter reminding you of the happiest moments of our marriage.
Then I realized there weren't any.
So this letter isn't quite turning out the way I'd planned.
I suppose I'm supposed to apologize now. But I'm not quite sure what I should be apologizing for. I'm not going to say "I'm sorry I loved another man", because that would be a lie. I'm not the least bit sorry. I wouldn't trade that love for anything in the world. The nights spent with the Dark Lord were the happiest moments of my life, no matter how much you might wish otherwise.
So, if I'm not sorry for loving him, maybe I ought to say I'm sorry I married you? That's a little closer to the mark. I should have given you the chance to find someone who you could love with the same passion and intensity that I love the Dark Lord. Only, you wanted to marry me. I could have turned you down, I suppose, but I think it would have amounted to much the same thing. But then, if you'd gotten married, and still kept pining after me, there would have been some other girl made miserable. So it's not really right to apologize for that either, is it?
I don't know, Rod, and I don't have much time left for writing. I've spent ages on this letter already, and I don't think there's anything more I can really say. It feels like there was something else, but I can't think of it.
Rodolphus stared at the paper for a long time. A drop of water landed on the parchment, smearing Bellatrix's signature, and Rodolphus raised his hand to his cheek, surprised to find there were tears there. He couldn't remember the last time he had cried.
He tipped his head back, and squeezed his eyes shut. Trust Bellatrix to try to write a post-mortem letter to her husband in which she managed to bring back every bad memory he had of their marriage. He would have far rather not read the letter and been able to go on thinking that some little part of his wife felt affection for him. It was a delusion he allowed himself.
But no, she had gone out of her way to make sure that he knew that her very last words to him would have been that she didn't love him, she was unrepentant, and she didn't want to waste any more time on the matter.
Rodolphus crumpled the letter in his hand, pulled back his arm to lob it into the fireplace.
He couldn't do it.
The anger he felt at Bellatrix doubled. It had always been this way, with Bellatrix treating him as she pleased, and Rodolphus unable to make himself hate her. It infuriated him that even after Bellatrix's death, even though her last words to him had amounted to her saying she still preferred the Dark Lord, he couldn't bring himself to throw the letter away. It was a piece of her, after all.
At least he had been important enough for her to bother writing a letter.
Rodolphus set the piece of parchment back down on the desk, smoothing it out so he could gaze at it. Through the tears blurring his eyes, he couldn't make out her words, and that was good. He could imagine that she had written him something lovely.
He stared at the letter for a long time, then picked it up, intending to put it in his shirt pocket to be always close to his heart or some such. It was only as he folded it that he caught sight of some words, hastily scribbled in a corner of the back.
There was no chance that they were anything but more insults. But Rodolphus rubbed the tears from his eyes anyway, and squinted to read them.
I remembered what I wanted to write.
I love you.