Title: Predator in Captivity
Pairing(s): Bellatrix and Andromeda (gen)
Word Count: 1961
Summary: Bars cannot keep a predator from its prey, much as Andromeda wishes they could keep her sister from her.
Author's Notes: Written for the hp_prisonerfest on Livejournal, the purpose of which is to write about characters in prison-like situations. I actually wrote this way back in January, but since it was an anonymous exchange, I was not allowed to post it anywhere else until now… so…
Banner by RZZMG: http:/ /oi41. tinypic. com/259egds. jpg
Azkaban Prison was just as Andromeda had always imagined it.
She could see it from far away, rising out of the ocean with mists swirling around it, and as soon as it was in her line of vision, she began to regret her choice to come out here. But it was far too late to go back now.
The boat Andromeda was aboard bumped up against the rocks, the boatman holding onto them so Andromeda could get off.
"Thank you," she murmured, not meeting his eyes.
The island upon which Azkaban lay was bitterly cold, and the air wet. Icy wind whipped off the ocean, swirling around Andromeda as she stepped off the boat, and there was a chill beyond that, a feeling of death and decay and misery. Andromeda shivered, raising her head to look at the Dementors that waited for her at the doors.
Even though she had done nothing, even though she was coming to the island by choice, she felt as though she was being imprisoned. The Dementors looked as though they were waiting to escort her to her own cell, in which she would spend the rest of eternity, not like they were simply going to lead her to the place she was visiting.
The shrieks, muffled by too-thick stone walls, of inmates long since driven mad by the perpetual, inescapable misery of proximity to so many Dementors did nothing to improve her state.
She stepped forward, wrapping her cloak tightly around her and edging nervously towards the prison. "P- pardon me?" she said, wondering if Dementors were able to understand English, "I… I'm here to visit–"
The nearest Dementor raised one skeletal hand, and Andromeda closed her mouth quickly, swallowing. It beckoned her forward, and though Andromeda's every instinct was to turn and flee, run away from this vile, evil place where sadness hung palpably in the air and death was a presence akin to some sort of God, she took a deep breath and stepped forward, following the Dementor.
As soon as Andromeda set foot inside the prison doors, she wished she hadn't. The corridor was dark – lit only by a few torches in brackets – and the walls felt as though they were closing in on her. She felt physically ill, her stomach churning and her knees buckling. As though from a great distance, Andromeda could hear the jeers of prisoners who had seen her come in.
Breathe, Andi, breathe. Hold yourself tall. There are bars between you and them. They cannot hurt you.
Stars were popping at the edges of her eyes. She struggled to draw the sour, musty air into her lungs, gulping it down and trying not to retch, clinging to the wall. At last, Andromeda's vision cleared, and she was able to straighten up and look around.
Azkaban was nightmarish; there was no other word that described it. Water dripped from the ceiling and ran down the rusty bars of each cell, over the hands of the people in them, who were pressed up against the bars, staring out at her. Andromeda tried not to make eye contact with them. She looked straight ahead, towards the Dementor gliding in front of her, and picked up her skirts to follow it.
It was like going through a maze. A horrible, twisted maze. Every time Andromeda thought she was finally going to be brought to the end, to her destination, the Dementor rounded another corner and she had to follow it down another corridor of inmates. It was becoming more and more difficult to ignore them.
By the time the Dementor finally glided to a halt and turned to a cell, beckoning Andromeda with one long, gnarled finger, she was seriously regretting this decision. But she had come this far, and she was not going to turn back now.
Not without talking to her sister.
Not without assuring herself that her sister was locked away securely.
Not without assuring herself that, because her sister was locked away securely, the Dark Lord could not be rising again, despite what Albus Dumbledore was saying. For, surely, if Bellatrix was still in prison, the Dark Lord could not be gaining power. Surely, if he were, Bellatrix – and the others who had been locked away for their conviction that the Dark Lord would rise again – would be free.
The Dementor drifted away slowly, and Andromeda stood in front of the cell, looking through the bars.
The woman – Bellatrix, is that really you? – on the other side was completely unrecognizable. Andromeda's stomach churned – she had always been told that she and her elder sister were look-alikes. No longer, clearly.
Bellatrix's hair was a tangled mess, her skin milky pale, but caked with grime. Her dark eyes were bright, set in a face so thin it could have been a skull, and she had the pained, fragile look of someone who had lost a great deal of weight in a very short amount of time.
Fragile was not a word Andromeda had ever associated with her older sister.
Bellatrix raised her head to look Andromeda in the eye, and Andromeda had to cling to the bars of the cell to stop herself from collapsing.
"Come to gloat, traitor?" Bellatrix asked, and for all the changes in her appearance, her tone was just as strong and sneeringly arrogant as ever. That, at least, was a relief to Andromeda – she had been imagining her sister's voice as a gravelly snarl to match her new appearance. "Come to gloat over your sister? Come to tell her that disloyalty would have been a better choice for her?"
"N– no," Andromeda whispered.
Bellatrix laughed. "What are you here for, then? You haven't seen fit to contact me since you were seventeen. And now you come to see me? After I've spent a decade and a half in Azkaban? Get away from me. I don't want to talk to you. You disgust me."
"I disgust you?" Andromeda could not help letting her lip curl as she looked around Azkaban. "I'm not the one who's been locked up for the sake of a dead man. How dare you say I disgust you?"
Bellatrix's eyes flashed and Andromeda shrieked a little as her sister flung her body against the bars, clawing at Andromeda's face, hair and cloak. "Do not speak of him that way! The Dark Lord is not dead, he cannot die, he will return for me–"
Andromeda slapped her hands away. "Don't touch me!" She felt visceral disgust at Bellatrix, and the thought of having those hands on her was enough to turn her stomach. Coming here had been a terrible idea. Andromeda should have stayed at home, safe and comfortable in her flat with Ted and Dora, secure in the knowledge that Bellatrix was locked up. But no, she had had to come see for herself. What had she been thinking?
Bellatrix pulled back slowly, smirking as she moved back towards the opposite wall, running her tongue around her thin lips. "Scared of me?"
Of course I am.
"You should be."
Andromeda was scared – no, more than that, she was terrified. Her sister – no, not her sister any longer – was a monster, deformed beyond recognition by time and by Azkaban. She scarcely looked human, crouched there against the wall – more like some demon predator.
"I'm going," Andromeda said, telling herself more than Bellatrix. "I'm leaving."
"Go, then," Bellatrix told her, letting out a shrill laugh. "Go ahead! Run from me!"
Andromeda turned away, keeping her head up as she strode down the corridor, but she heard Bellatrix call something else, and she could not help but turn back to take one more look.
Bellatrix gripping the bars of her cell, her face pressed up against them.
"The Dark Lord is rising," she said.
Andromeda shook her head. "He isn't. The Dark Lord was killed fourteen years ago. By a child."
Andromeda had expected a wrathful outburst, but Bellatrix's voice when she said that was surprisingly calm, almost lucid.
"He wasn't killed. He only fell, and now he is rising again."
"You don't know that."
"Don't I, sister?" Bellatrix's face contorted into a terrible smile, and she thrust her arm out between the bars, tearing back the sleeve of her ragged dress.
Andromeda did not stay to look. She could feel the food in her stomach rising, bile burning her throat, and she fled, rushing through the web of corridors with no clear idea where she was going, only hoping that she would not lose herself completely in the bowels of the prison. Calls and jeers from the prisoners echoed in her ears, but she could not stay to listen to what they were saying.
Light was visible in the distance, just a speck of real light, so different from the enchanted torches that hung in the brackets on the walls, and Andromeda had never run so fast as she ran for that light, finally flinging herself out the doors and onto the beach, heaving and gulping to stop herself from vomiting.
The ocean air and the drizzle of rain felt cool and pleasant on her skin, and now that Andromeda was out of the claustrophobic building and the close proximity of the Dementors, she felt her head clearing. Shaking herself, she managed to struggle to her feet and turn around to look back at the prison.
Two Dementors stood like sentries at the door, watching Andromeda as their cloaks fluttered eerily just above the ground. She shuddered and turned away, picking her way back towards the boat, climbing in shakily and handing a galleon to the boatman.
As the boat pulled away from the beach, Andromeda could not tear her eyes away from the building. All her horror and disgust did not stop her from wondering what Bellatrix was doing now. Curling up at the back of the cell once more to nurse hopes of the Dark Lord's return? Most likely.
Andromeda tipped her head back and let rain and drops of sea spray fall on her face. The salt stung as it trickled into her eyes, and the pain gave her something to focus on.
But much as she tried to pay attention only to the stabs of itching discomfort where saltwater touched her eyes, Andromeda could not push from her mind the image of her sister's arm, stretched out between the bars.
Bellatrix was so thin, barely more than bones with a layer of papery skin clinging to them, and her skin was so pale that when she had put her arm out for Andromeda to see, it had shone like a beacon in the gloom.
Rather, it had shone like a beacon except where it was marred by that tattoo Andromeda had seen only a few times in her life.
The skull. The snake. The Dark Lord's mark.
Andromeda shuddered. She knew – she had been told – that the reason Dark Marks could not be used to identify Death Eaters was because they faded away when the Dark Lord fell, faded to almost nothing, and would only return if he began to regain power.
So if Bellatrix's mark was showing so clearly…
No. The Dark Lord is long dead.
But if he was really dead…
Andromeda trembled, feeling cold terror flood her, the same kind of cold terror that she had felt when she was close to the Dementors, though the boat was miles from Azkaban now. Perhaps the Dark Lord was rising again, or perhaps he was dead forever – she hoped desperately for the latter – but whatever the circumstances, Andromeda could not help but feel horribly trapped, as though something terrible was approaching, and when it arrived, she would not be able to escape.