Author's Notes: Written for Rosa Clearwater's Staying Up All Night Competition. Incorporates Bellatrix/Voldemort and Unrequited!Bellatrix/Rodolphus (I can't tell you how much of a relief it is to be able to put that Unrequited! there). Enjoy.

)O(

Christmas eve. The house was decorated – just tastefully, with white satin curtains replacing the usual black, and a Christmas tree erected in the parlour. A fire was burning low in the fireplace. The house elves had been told to make themselves scarce. And Bellatrix was absent.

Rodolphus sat by the parlour window and waited for his wife. She should have been home hours ago, yet the house was silent and empty. The candles in the Christmas tree branches shone with faux cheer, belying the miserable pall that Rodolphus could feel settling over him.

Where was she? Bellatrix had said she would be speaking to the Dark Lord, and that it would not take long, yet Rodolphus was left entirely alone, and it was nearly midnight. He squinted out onto the narrow street, looking for some sign of his wife.

A group of carollers was passing by, and Rodolphus heard strains of "God Rest ye, Merry Gentlemen". That was Bellatrix's favourite Christmas song, she had told him as they had been preparing for the holiday. If she had been here, it might have put a smile on her face. But she wasn't here.

He reached for his wand when they passed by under his window, prepared to curse each and every one of them into oblivion should they see fit to stop at his door. The last thing he wanted was to hear a group singing his absent wife's favourite song. But they passed by, their voices fading into the distance, and somehow that angered him as well. Was he completely invisible? Did the carollers simply not see him, just as Bellatrix seemed not to see him?

Rodolphus's eyes were blurred with exhaustion, but he didn't want to go to bed without his wife, not on their first Christmas together. Couldn't she have waited for another night to stay late with the Dark Lord? What were they doing?

No, Rodolphus knew what they were doing. It would have started out as a discussion of blood purity or some similarly innocuous subject. Then, slowly, skilfully, the Dark Lord would have turned the talk to that of Bellatrix, and Rodolphus, and their marriage. Intimate details would have been disclosed, seductive words exchanged, and then…

The thought made Rodolphus ill. No, surely not. Surely Bellatrix would be home soon, surely she would not have the nerve to spend the whole night in the Dark Lord's arms. Even the many times Rodolphus suspected she had been with him before, she had always returned home eventually. But the clock ticked on, and Rodolphus heard nothing to indicate his wife's return. It struck midnight, and he winced.

He had assumed when he got married that having a wife would mean no longer spending nights alone, but clearly he was wrong. Perhaps he should pay Rabastan a visit, surely he would be glad to see his brother. But he would have to explain why Bellatrix wasn't there, and Rabastan wouldn't understand. That is, Rodolphus thought bitterly, he wouldn't understand why I'm letting her stay out. I'm her husband, I could order her to come home.

But Rodolphus didn't like ordering Bellatrix to do anything, not least because he very much doubted he could best her if it came to a fight between them. He didn't like ordering Bellatrix to do things because a part of him still hoped that if he was a good enough husband to her, she would eventually decide that she preferred him to the Dark Lord.

As if.

Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick…

She wouldn't stay with the Dark Lord all night, would she? Surely not. Soon enough, she would come in, hair dishevelled from his attentions, cheeks flushed from pleasure and the cold, showing no interest in Rodolphus at all, but at least present.

The clock struck twice, two in the morning. Bellatrix was still not home.

Rodolphus yearned to go to bed, but he wanted to see Bellatrix the second she was in the door. He wanted to go to her immediately to wish her a happy Christmas. If he went to sleep, he would not see her until the morning. So he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and continued his vigil at the window.

The clock struck three times. She was still absent.

Four times. Rodolphus had to shake himself to stop from dozing off, still staring out the window. He considered brewing a pot of tea, just to have something to do, but crossing the manor to get to the kitchens would mean that he would not be by the front door when she returned.

If she returned.

Five times. The sky was starting to lighten. Rodolphus stoked the fire, which had sank to only a few half-heartedly glowing embers. Try as he might, he couldn't get them to flare up again.

Six times. Early morning church bells were tolling now, and the streets were starting to fill with people, all wishing each other happy Christmases. And still Rodolphus was alone in the house.

Seven times. Dawn was breaking, the grey sky going lighter with each passing moment, and Bellatrix was still absent. Rodolphus felt tears prickling the corners of his eyes. She had spent the whole night with the Dark Lord. Their first Christmas, and she had seen fit to spend the whole night away from her husband.

There was no point in waiting any longer. He had wanted to spend Christmas Eve with his wife, and that chance was lost now. He rested his head against the cold glass.

"Happy Christmas, Rod," he muttered to himself, and shut his eyes.

)O(

Fin