"Why would she do it?"
Rodolphus had taken Rabastan home, and now the two of them were sitting in the parlour, waiting. Waiting for something to happen. For Bellatrix to come home and explain what was happening. For Andromeda to appear and beg forgiveness – forgiveness that Rabastan would never in a thousand years give her, not after what she'd done, but that he'd like to hear her beg for nonetheless.
But neither of them appeared, and so Rodolphus and Rabastan were left in painful silence, broken only every so often, when Rodolphus repeated his question.
"I don't know," Rabastan said dully. "I never would have guessed she would."
"I always thought we got on all right..."
Rabastan nodded numbly. He'd thought so too. Andromeda hated their father, for good reason, and him, for reasons he was still not entirely sure of, but Maria had done little to her, and Rodolphus had done nothing at all, so why were they the ones who had suffered the most when she had decided to tell people's secrets?
Rodolphus stood and paced the room listlessly. He fetched a bottle of wine from a cabinet, but then only set it on the table, and did not drink it. Rabastan sat huddled on the corner of a couch, feeling weak and dazed and exhausted from hunger as well as shock. His eyes followed Rodolphus back and forth across the room, but all he was really seeing was the malformed baby. The image would not leave his mind.
When Bellatrix burst in at last, Rodolphus sank onto the couch, with movements so slow and heavy that he might have been swimming through molasses.
"She's gone," Bellatrix announced, in a voice that held the familiar tones of repressed tears. "Andromeda's run away. She's not coming back."
It took a moment for that to sink in. Rodolphus didn't react at all, just gazed dully up at Bellatrix, and Rabastan sat still, turning the information over and over in his mind for a long time, before he asked rather tentatively, "How do you know?"
"She told me she was going to leave." Bellatrix pressed her lips together and sank onto the edge of the sofa, beside Rodolphus. He made no move, either towards or away from her. "The day that she beat you, she told me that she was going to run away." Outwardly, everything about her voice and poise was cold and callous, as if she didn't care – as if, indeed, she was disgusted by the whole matter – but Rabastan could see through that thin veneer of harshness. "And now she's gone."
"Where would she go?" Rabastan didn't really care about the answer, but he was hoping that if he kept Bellatrix talking, she would take his mind off the dead baby.
"She told me–" Bellatrix paused and clenched her fists. Colour rose in her cheeks. "She told me that she was going to marry the man you attacked."
Rabastan blinked blankly at her, and Rodolphus looked at both of them with faint confusion. "The man Rabastan attacked? What man Rabastan attacked?"
"It seems like Rabastan got it into his head that it would be exciting to go out and torture the first person he came across," Bellatrix said derisively. "Stupid, wasn't it? What did you expect to happen, Rabastan – even if Andromeda hadn't known him, if he hadn't survived, do you think she would have taken kindly to some corpse lying about?"
Rabastan clenched his jaw and said nothing, and Bellatrix continued, her voice becoming ever more shrill, "And then, your stupid brother was surprised when Andromeda went and attacked him." She turned to Rabastan, and there was a look of utter disgust on her face. "I won't defend her attacking you on behalf of a Muggle, but really, Rabastan, you ought to have seen that coming! Did you really think she wasn't going to react at all to having someone killed on her property?"
Rodolphus looked to Rabastan, and his expression was hurt, afraid, and most of all, accusing.
"You never told me that you'd tried to kill someone."
When Rodolphus said it, it sounded so much worse. He said it as if Rabastan was some sort of monster.
"He's done a bit more than just try to kill someone," Bellatrix put in, and her eyes narrowed. "Didn't you know, Rodolphus? I thought you two told each other everything."
"What's she talking about, Rab?" Rodolphus's voice was shaky. "What does she mean, you've done more?"
"Go on and tell him," said Bellatrix. "You're not ashamed of what you did, are you, Rab? The Dark Lord tells me you enjoyed it."
Blood was rushing in Rabastan's ears. He clapped his hands over them and rubbed his temples so hard that tears came to his eyes, but still he could hear their voices, Bellatrix taunting him and Rodolphus questioning – begging to be told something that he should never have to know.
The words burst from Rabastan's lips, and try as he might to snatch them back, he could not.
"I tortured and killed a man with the Dark Lord." Then, in haste, "He made me do it!"
"The way he told it, it didn't sound like he made you do it," Bellatrix sneered. Rabastan didn't look at her, though he was burning with anger that she of all people was trying to condemn his behaviour.
"What do you mean, he made you do it, Rab?" Rodolphus asked. He pulled himself slowly out of his slumped position. "Did he threaten you? Hurt you?"
There was a painful lump in Rabastan's throat. Rodolphus had no responsibility to ask such questions – indeed, he shouldn't ask them. He was the one who had suffered tonight, and if Rabastan were any sort of decent brother, he would be the one rising up to protect him. If Rabastan were any sort of decent brother, he would be offering – nay, promising – to hunt down Andromeda and make her pay. But no, instead, it was Rodolphus who was preparing to fight for Rabastan's sake, because he thought that he had been hurt or threatened by the Dark Lord. The shame of it all was unbearable.
"He didn't do any such thing," Bellatrix snorted. "He didn't have to. You have an unreasonably high opinion of your brother's morality, Rodolphus. It's as if you don't know him at all."
"Rab," Rodolphus repeated, without sparing Bellatrix a glance. "Did he? Did he hurt you?"
"No," Rabastan whispered. "No, he didn't."
"Did he use the Imperius Curse?"
"Then what did he do? How did he make you do it, Rab?"
Rabastan covered his face with his hands. He couldn't stand it.
"He didn't make him do anything."
"Shut up!" Rabastan shouted, and his voice cracked. "Just shut up! It's nothing to do with anything, it's not my fault what she did!"
"You almost killed her lover!" Bellatrix screamed back. "You tried to kill him, you idiot! And then you just left him in the gardens, she said! She said she was going to run away because she wouldn't live in the same house as a murderer!"
"If she considered killing Mudbloods and Muggles murder–"
"That isn't the point!" She sounded positively hysterical by now. "I'm not blaming you for trying to kill a Mudblood, I'm blaming you for trying to kill a Mudblood and not for a second thinking about the consequences! You can't really have thought that he just happened to wander to the manor! Didn't it ever occur to you that he might have known Andromeda? Didn't it occur to you that she might not take kindly to you killing someone she knew? Didn't you think through what would happen? Didn't it even occur to you to try to hide what you did out of some basic semblance of respectability? And!" she added, red in the face from screaming, "how is it, Rabastan, that you managed to pay so little attention to your own wife that some Mudblood was able to find her and snap her up without you ever suspecting?"
Rabastan expected Rodolphus to defend him, but Rodolphus just sat there, as silent and vacant as if he hadn't heard a word, and that made anger boil in Rabastan. All these years in which Rodolphus had sworn that he would do anything to protect his little brother, and now he didn't bother to say even one word to shield him from Bellatrix's unjustified anger?
"What did you expect me to do?" he demanded. "She never had any interest in talking to me about who she was taking as a lover – and why should she? And why would I think that he was her lover, when he's a man?"
"You shouldn't have to talk about it to notice that she was fuckingsomeone else! You should have noticed that, at least!"
"This is rich coming from you!" Rabastan interrupted, and his voice rose to a scream. "You didn't ever notice that Rodolphus was fucking our mother!"
Bellatrix looked shocked – not offended or scandalized, simply stunned that he had said it. The rage drained from her face, replaced by pure surprise. Rodolphus leaned forward and buried his face in his hands.
It was only then that Rabastan really heard what he had just said.
"I..." he stammered. "Oh, no, Rod, I didn't mean–"
"Go to Hell," whispered Rodolphus, in a voice so low that Rabastan barely heard him.
"But Rod, I–"
"Shut up." His voice was flat, dull, and still terribly quiet. "Get out."
Rabastan didn't argue. He was ashamed. He was ashamed that he had upset his brother with such a stupid, terrible, thoughtless statement, and the shame made him angry at himself, and at Rodolphus for making him feel so terrible. He stood – his legs weak as jelly – and left the room without another word.
He didn't go up to the bed that he had shared with Rodolphus since he had been brought to the manor. Instead, he walked up and down darkened corridors until he found a closet filled with clothes that looked as if they hadn't been touched in fifty years, and he curled up in the bottom of the closet and closed the door behind him.
He buried his face in an old coat made of some sort of rough fur and breathed in the smell of dust and mothballs. It made him cough, and coughing made his chest hurt, but that suited him perfectly well. Maybe he would asphyxiate in the dust, and that would put all of this to an end.
The closet was nearly pitch-black. The corridor outside was lit only by faint moonlight, which issued in only in the thin cracks around the edges of the door. In the darkness, Rabastan could barely see his own hands, trembling and clenching with the effort it was taking for him not to burst into tears of self-hatred.
And with every movement of his hands, he saw the Dark Mark, burned on his arm, grinning up at him.
The Dark Mark was the closest thing to a comfort he had that night.