Author's Notes: Written for CeliaEquus's Disappointment Challenge on the HPFC forum.


Bellatrix knelt before her Master, not daring to look up, only listening to the sound of his footsteps as he paced the hall. She had failed utterly. She had lost the prophecy that the Dark Lord so desired – lost it to a group of teenagers, no less! That the teenagers had been joined by many members of the Order of the Phoenix was no comfort – she should have been able to overpower the children long before they were joined. That she had not been alone, so the blame should not rest solely on her was no comfort – she was the Dark Lord's most faithful, most powerful, and she should have been able to procure the prophecy, no matter what the rest of them did.

He had saved her, of course – that was a bit of comfort. He could have left her to the mercy of the aurors, and the chance of yet more time spent in Azkaban. But he had grabbed her, had saved her. Surely that was something?

No. He only wanted her saved so he would have someone upon whom to vent his rage, she was sure.

"My Lord," Bellatrix breathed at last, the tense silence no longer bearable, "I deserve punishment. I have failed you."

"So you have," he said coldly, continuing to pace.

Bellatrix raised her head. She had her hands clasped in front of her, and tears of shame at her terrible transgression streamed down her cheeks. "Punish me in whatever manner you see fit, my Lord. I deserve only the worst." Just do it, get it over with, I cannot stand the waiting…

"Very true," he said, not looking at her.

She let out a wild sob, and threw herself forward, clutching his robes. "Please, Master! Torture me, kill me if you wish, but do it now, I beg of you!"

He twitched his robes out of her hands. "Get up Bella."

She let go of him immediately and drew back, regaining her earlier position – kneeling, with her hands clasped at her heart and her head lowered.

The Dark Lord was still for several painfully long minutes, then he caught Bellatrix's chin in his long, cool fingers and tilted her face up so she was looking straight into his crimson eyes. Bellatrix flinched. She was still not used to her Master's new appearance, and his piercing gaze frightened her, though she dared not admit it.

"Master," she whispered, forcing herself to keep her eyes steady, stay looking at him. "I apologize, I apologize, I beg your mercy."

He said nothing as he stared at her. Then he leaned in, and whispered, "I'm very disappointed in you, Bella."

Then he released her, and disapparated, leaving her alone in the hall, hands shaking and tears running down her face. As soon as she was alone, Bellatrix burst into a fit of sobbing. She buried her face in her hands and rocked back and forth, hearing his words play over and over in her mind.

Very disappointed… very disappointed… very disappointed…

She knew she should be grateful he had made the decision not to torture or kill her, but knowing he was "very disappointed" in her hurt far more than any spell could.

Very disappointed.

Bellatrix could not help but read into his words, and the more she thought, the more upset she became. Disappointed – he had lost faith in her. Disappointed – she was no longer his most favoured. Disappointed…

She knelt there and cried until she could no longer breathe, nor squeeze another drop of water from her eyes. Then she dragged herself to a corner of the room and curled in the corner, hugging herself and breathing raggedly.

His disappointment was the worst punishment she had ever received.