Author's Notes: The first 10K of this fic were originally written for queer_bigbang on LiveJournal, but it has continued and will undoubtably continue to continue.
Warnings: Contains incest of many varieties (including explicit sibling, non-explicit mother/son and off-screen father/daughter), sexual assault (female on male, male on female, and male on male, with varying degrees of non-explicitness), arranged marriages, fantastic racism, violence against people and animals, and a good deal of other things that will probably warrant a trip to the Confessional just for reading about them.
Additional disclaimer: Opinions expressed by characters within this story are those of the characters expressing them and are not indicative of my own opinions or beliefs.
Dress robes did not suit Rabastan.
Rodolphus wore the requisite flowing velvet well, tall and hearty enough not to be overwhelmed, but Rabastan's identical robes – which he was forced into any time there was a formal event – overpowered him entirely, making his small, frail frame look even smaller and frailer.
"I don't want to go to the party," he told Rodolphus as he stared at himself in the mirror. At sixteen years old, he thought he not only looked particularly weak and overwhelmed in the robes, but also incredibly silly. They might have at least been cute on a child, and could pass for handsome on an adult, but for a skinny, awkward teenager…
Though he supposed he was lucky that the Lestranges were more minimalist in their choices for dress than the Malfoys, at least. Poor Lucius, being perpetually forced into those frilled silver silk monstrosities… at least it was possible for a boy to look decent in dark velvet.
"No one wants to go to the party," Rodolphus said.
"Mother and Father do."
"No, they don't," Rodolphus told him, with an air of great wisdom. "They just pretend they want to because there are other Purebloods there and if the Lestranges don't turn up to the parties with all the best Purebloods, we won't be respected."
"Boys!" their mother called in a fluttery, high-pitched voice. "It's time to go! Come down, darlings!"
Rabastan scowled. "Is she going to talk like that all evening?"
"You mean will she call us 'darlings'? Yes." Rodolphus opened the door and led Rabastan down the sweeping marble staircase of Lestrange Manor. "Now, remember to be polite. And as long as Mother and Father are watching, don't talk to anyone if they don't talk to you first."
"What about Lucius? And Andromeda?"
"Even Lucius and Andromeda."
"But they're our friends."
"Not tonight." Rodolphus stopped and looked his brother straight in the eye. "Listen," he said, "nothing that happens at this party has anything to do with us. It's just about Mother and Father and the other adults. All we're supposed to do is sit there and look all nice and neat and presentable when they see us. Like dolls. Which is why we have to wear dress robes," Rodolphus added, smirking a little at their clothes. "Once they go off with their friends and stop paying attention to us, we can probably do whatever we want."
"Rodolphus, Rabastan, come out right now!" Their father's voice was a good deal louder and stronger than their mother's. "We'll be late if we don't go soon! Do you two want the Blacks to think that we do not appreciate their invitation?"
"Come on," Rodolphus muttered, and the two boys hurried down the stairs, standing before their parents for inspection.
"Don't they look lovely, dear?" crooned their mother.
Maria Lestrange was soft and petite – quite a bit shorter than Rodolphus, though still taller than Rabastan. Her deep red hair was set in delicate curls and pulled into a knot, with just a few perfect ringlets hanging down to frame her face. Her large, sea-green eyes flitted between her sons and she had a small, slightly forced smile on her lips. She bent down to smooth Rabastan's hair and he only just managed to stop himself wrinkling his nose – the scent of her perfume was overwhelming.
Joseph took his wife's arm, pulling he upright. "They look fine," he said curtly, barely glancing at them. This did not surprise Rabastan in the least – his father was not the sort to lavish attention or compliments on his sons – or anyone, for that matter, barring Maria herself. He was a tall, stern, rather heavyset man, and Rabastan didn't think he had ever seen him smile. Not that he had seen him enough, really, to judge this…
Maria took her husband's arm, fluttering her eyelashes, then reached out to touch Rodolphus's hand. Rodolphus gripped her wrist firmly, and wrapped his arm around Rabastan's shoulders, and the four of them disapparated in a swoosh of air.
Much as Rabastan preferred to keep his distance from people at parties – especially those thrown by the Blacks – he did rather like Black Manor. The ballroom – which was always the centre of activity, it seemed – was lavishly decorated, with gilt moulding on the walls and a huge crystal chandelier hanging from the high ceiling.
Most of the other families seemed to have already arrived and everyone was either milling around, talking seriously, or dancing. They twirled around the ballroom floor to the sound of violins playing Beethoven of their own accord.
Rabastan and Rodolphus looked up simultaneously to see Druella Black hurrying over to them. She had her usual too-sweet smile plastered on her face as she and Maria exchanged kisses on the cheeks, then she turned to look at Rodolphus and Rabastan.
Rabastan shrank back against his brother. He disliked Druella – she was far too sweet and simpering to be interesting, but the way she said things, he could never quite tell whether her words were a subtle jab. Besides, he thought, she treated them like they were about six.
"Rodolphus Lestrange, how you've grown since I last saw you!" she crooned. "Why, how old are you now? Fifteen?"
"Nineteen," Rodolphus said flatly.
Druella let out another simpering giggle. "Nineteen years old! Why, you don't look it! You must be looking for a bride, then?"
"Not particularly," Rodolphus muttered, but only Rabastan heard him because Druella had already moved on to fawning over him. Rabastan gripped his brother's hand as hard as he could and tried not to inhale too much of the floral scent that hung around Druella even more strongly than Maria's perfume did around her.
He noticed Druella frown a little for just a moment, her eyes flicking down to where Rodolphus and Rabastan's hands entwined, but then she hitched her saccharine smile back onto her face.
"So, if Rodolphus is nineteen, you must be… sixteen?" she guessed. "No, that can't be right, you don't look nearly old enough to be sixteen. Twelve?"
"No. Sixteen," Rabastan told her. I do not look that young, he thought furiously, but said nothing.
"Oh, that's right…" Druella seemed to have lost interest now that the guessing game of ages was over, for she straightened and took Maria's arm. "Maria, darling,all us girls are up in the parlour, you must come join us."
"Go on," Joseph told his wife. He had already spotted Cygnus Black and Abraxas Malfoy deep in discussion on the other side of the room and seemed eager to join in. Maria followed Druella off up the stairs, and Joseph made his way across the room to the other men, leaving Rodolphus and Rabastan to almost get trampled by a dancing couple.
"Come on," Rodolphus muttered, taking his brother's hand and leading him towards the chairs on the side of the room where the other sons and daughters who had been dragged to the party were sitting, all looking intensely bored.
Andromeda and Narcissa Black, in starched lacy dresses identical except that Narcissa's was white and Andromeda's green, were talking quietly, and Andromeda looked up when Rodolphus and Rabastan approached, a little grin on her lips.
"Good," she said. "Cissy and I were just saying we wondered when you'd get here."
"Why?" Rodolphus asked warily.
"Because I said we should play a game, since there's no one here worth dancing with who isn't already taken…" She looked over her shoulder to where Bellatrix Black was swirling around the dance floor with some man.
"What sort of game?" Rabastan asked warily. Andromeda wasn't quite as wicked in her tastes as Bellatrix, perhaps, but she would still be quite capable of coming up with horrendously twisted games if she put her mind to it, he was sure. He didn't much fancy the game ending with some sort of punishment…
"Cissy was thinking of hide-and-go-seek…"
"Aren't we a little old for that?" Rodolphus asked impatiently, echoing Rabastan's thoughts.
"Not the way we play it. You boys might want to go in teams…"
"Is 'the way you play it' a way that Bellatrix thought up?" Rabastan asked.
Andromeda smirked a little. "Maybe. But it's our house, so you have to do what we want. Whoever gets caught last… wins a prize." Rabastan could swear she was looking at him as she said that. "You four have five minutes to hide anywhere in the house."
"This is stupid," Lucius grumbled, but he stood up anyway, and started for the door, Narcissa on his heels. Andromeda turned away to watch the clock. "Four minutes and fifty seconds!"
"Come on," Rodolphus said, taking Rabastan's hand and pulling him quickly towards the door. "Let's go."
"She patronizes us more than her mother does," Rabastan muttered, but he made for the door too.
He and Rodolphus started upstairs, trying to get away from the crush of the party before their time was up. Rodolphus had just practically dragged Rabastan up the fourth flight of stairs when they heard voices. They were far away from the ballroom that it couldn't possibly be any noise of the party. Rodolphus stood still, listening, then turned to Rabastan and whispered, "It's Mum."
Rabastan assumed that was the end of it and started down the corridor again, but Rodolphus yanked him back, indicating a slightly open door. "Let's listen."
The two of them crept silently towards the doorway, Rodolphus obviously curious about what was being discussed, and Rabastan following his brother's lead.
Druella was the one speaking now, and for once, her voice did not sound sickeningly sugary. There was a strange, stern undertone to it that Rabastan would not have thought possible of oh-so-sweet Druella.
"It is unseemly," she was saying, "for any two young people to spend so much time in each others' company."
"That is utter nonsense, Druella." Maria's voice was high and shrill as she let out a very forced laugh. "They are brothers, and so young! There is nothing unseemly about such young boys spending time in each others' presence…"
"I seem to recall, Maria," Elisabeth Malfoy put in, in the maddeningly superior voice that seemed to come naturally to all the Malfoys, "that you have made no small number of comments about the 'unseemly' behaviour of Druella's own daughters. Surely if you can say that it is inappropriate for Bellatrix and Andromeda to be… close, Druella can say the same of Rodolphus and Rabastan."
Rabastan looked, confused, at his brother, who was watching the group of women with great intensity.
"It is not the same thing," Maria said, her cheeks flooding with colour.
"Yes, I rather believe it is the same thing," Druella snapped. "So unless you can come up with a very good argument as to why the behaviour of my daughters should be called inappropriate and that of your sons should not…"
"Everyone knows that Bellatrix and Andromeda are–"
"Oh, stop this," said Walburga, apparently losing patience with the gossip and chatter. "This fighting is ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with either pair, I can assure you. They are just children. If this behaviour were among adults, I would wholeheartedly support correcting it, but when the youngest is only fifteen years old, I fail to see anything bothersome. I've no doubt that both pairs will grow into proper young gentlemen and ladies before long, and there shall be no more talk of unseemly behaviour."
"I think we can fight our own battles, Walburga," Maria said sharply. "This is not your place to intervene. Nor yours, for that matter, Elisabeth. No one is accusing your children of–"
"Of what, exactly, Maria?" Druella cooed. "You do seem awfully eager to convince us that your boys are not…"
"Maria," Walburga said abruptly, "do go see if the men are still discussing politics, and try to get them to stop before there's a fight downstairs as well, won't you?"
Rodolphus grabbed Rabastan's arm and pulled him away, running down the corridor and turning the corner before their mother could catch sight of them, and running straight into Andromeda.
Andromeda's face fell. "You two weren't even trying!" she accused.
"Oh, shut up, Andi, you've still got to find Narcissa and Lucius," Rodolphus told her, looking worriedly at Rabastan, who was clutching his side, winded by even the short run.
Andromeda rolled her eyes and turned away, stamping back down the stairs. Rabastan resolved to worry later about why she was so annoyed.
"What- were they talking about?" he panted. "What did they mean- 'unseemly'?"
"That means they think we're not behaving properly," said Rodolphus
"I know what 'unseemly' means," Rabastan informed him. "But why? We didn't do anything wrong."
"I know," Rodolphus said. "They just think we're…"
Rodolphus was silent for a long time, then let out a sigh. "They think that we spend too much time together. They think that we should spend more time with the other children."
"We do. We're playing a game with Narcissa and Andromeda and Lucius right now. I don't want to spend any more time with them."
"Neither do I," Rodolphus said patiently. "But that's why they think that we're being unseemly. They think that it's not proper for any two people to only want to spend time with each other."
"Why?" Rabastan asked.
There was another long moment in which Rodolphus was silent, then he sighed again, shrugging his shoulders as best he could within the confines of his dress robes.
"I don't know," he said.
Rabastan did not press the matter, though he was sure from the expression on Rodolphus's face – even more grim than usual – that his brother had some very good idea of why their parents thought their behaviour unseemly.
Rodolphus seemed to close off from Rabastan after that, losing himself in thought. This was not unusual, but Rabastan was rather insulted. Rodolphus drifted off into the party, and a while later, Rabastan caught sight of him dancing with Bellatrix, which did nothing to improve his mood.
He, Rabastan, took a seat, watching his brother weave in and out of the other couples on the dance floor, talking to Bellatrix with an expression of intense seriousness on his face. Rabastan amused himself briefly by trying to guess what they could be discussing, but quickly lost interest and lost himself in his own thoughts.
Unseemly behaviour… something that the women believed he and Rodolphus did that Bellatrix and Andromeda also did…
A few years ago, Rabastan would have assumed from Walburga's insistence that it would be more serious a problem if they were older that the women were referring to some less-than-dignified behaviour – running, dancing, playing games – but Bellatrix was the very picture of dignity these days, and Rodolphus rarely behaved like a child. There was Andromeda's ill-fated idea of hide-and-go-seek, but surely they couldn't have known about that…
And so Rabastan sat and stewed and ignored offers to dance until finally the clock struck midnight and people began to filter out.
He did not look at his mother as the four Lestranges made their exit, and though he tried to catch Rodolphus's eye, Rodolphus kept his head turned resolutely away and disappeared to his bedroom when they arrived home without saying a single word to Rabastan.