Author's Notes: Written for Sabrina Weasley-Potter's "To Be or Not To Be" Competition on the HPFC forum.
As some of you may know, Shakespeare's "To Be or Not To Be" takes place when Hamlet is thinking about taking his life. For this competition, write a one-shot (preferably less than 2,000 words) about a character thinking about committing suicide and how someone else convinced them not to. Pick two numbers from 1-60 for your characters and up to three from 1-100 for prompts. The pairing does not have to be a romantic one! They can simply be friends or acquaintances or family! The sentence "to be or not to be" should be mentioned at some point.
My characters were Lucius and Bellatrix.
Also for the March 22nd Prompt of the Day on Hogwarts Online II – "You're not my father, or my brother, so why do you care so much about me?"
Warning: Themes of suicide
Malfoy Manor was silent. Draco was at school, Narcissa had gone out to tea with someone from the Ministry, and freshly escaped prisoners from Azkaban – all except for Bellatrix – were now being kept at some location even Lucius did not know. The Dark Lord was being very secretive about it, and reasonably so, and Bellatrix was only staying at Malfoy Manor because Narcissa had begged the Dark Lord to be able to have her sister living with them.
Come to that, Lucius thought, where was Bellatrix?
When he had come home before, she had always been near the doors, waiting warily to be sure that the sounds of his footsteps were not those of some Auror – or the Dark Lord. But he had been home for very nearly half an hour and had still not seen her.
"Bellatrix?" he called. "Where are you?"
Lucius felt a creeping sense of dread in his stomach. "Bellatrix?"
Still no reply. His heart was thumping now, and he swallowed hard, listening carefully for any sound. For once in his life, he loathed the sheer size of the manor – she might have been screaming her lungs out across the house and he would not have heard her.
He started up the stairs at a brisk pace, intending to search the manor for her – Narcissa would never forgive me if anything happened to her sister – but he had scarcely gone two steps when he heard a quiet sob from the parlour.
Lucius yanked the door open, and stopped dead in his tracks, staring in horror. Bellatrix was crouched on the floor at the back of the room, a razor blade in her hand, which was shaking violently as she lowered it to her wrist.
Lucius practically leapt forward. Bellatrix shrieked and lashed out, still clutching the razor. "Stop! Leave me alone!"
"Bellatrix," Lucius said, trying to pull the razor from her hands, "you're not thinking straight. Everything's going to be all right. Just calm down."
"No!" she screamed, flailing and kicking at him. "No, no, no! Nothing's all right! Everything's– get your hands off of me! Don't touch me!"
Lucius leapt back automatically, raising his hands in surrender.
"I… can't stand…" Bellatrix pulled her knees up to her chest and started rocking slowly back and forth. "I can't stand it… I love them… no one… he doesn't… and they…"
"Calm down, calm down…" Lucius told her, slowly reaching out again and resting his hand on her shoulder. "Tell me what's wrong… and put down the blade, Bellatrix."
She shook her head wildly. "I can't! I can't tell!"
"Yes, you can." He reached down with one hand and slowly eased the blade from between her fingers. "You can tell me. I won't tell anyone else. Just take deep breaths and tell…"
"Shut your mouth!" Bellatrix screamed, slapping him across the face. "Stop talking as though you know anything! You're worthless! I hate you!"
Lucius reeled, but before he could say anything, Bellatrix had crumpled once again. "I hate it! I hate it! I love him, and he doesn't…"
"Who?" Lucius asked quietly, though he was quite sure he already knew the answer.
Bellatrix looked up at him with narrowed eyes, a derisive sneer curling across her face. "You think I'm going to tell you that, Malfoy? I've not even told my sister– why should I…"
"If it's the Dark Lord…"
Her eyes widened in panic and she scrambled away from him warily. "I would not dare– the Dark Lord is– I don't love him!" she insisted, sounding frighteningly childish. "Don't say that!"
"I don't especially care, you know," Lucius told her. "If you want to pine after him, you can… it doesn't affect me either way. Just go ahead and think you love him…"
"Think?" Bellatrix demanded, looking outraged. "I don't think I love him! I know! As if you could ever understand what it's like to be in love, you pathetic little prat! You don't know anything!"
"All right," Lucius said evenly. "If you love him, then surely that's something worth living for, and you ought not to be sitting here with a razor across your wrist. I have been told," he added, lip curling, "that love is something worth living for…"
"You have…" Bellatrix buried her face in her hands. "You have no idea… you don't know…"
"Don't I?" Lucius asked quietly, but he did not expect Bellatrix to answer, and she did not. She rocked back and forth slowly, and Lucius knelt in front of her, and both of them were silent for a long time.
"You're not my father…" Bellatrix said at last, her voice very quiet. She looked up at Lucius. Her dark eyes were wide and tear-filled, and her lip trembled. "Or my brother… so why do you care so much about me?"
"Merlin, Bellatrix… because you're my sister-in-law, and my friend, and it would destroy Narcissa and Rodolphus if you were dead."
"Narcissa and Rodolphus!" Bellatrix looked disgusted. "It wouldn't destroy them! They wouldn't care! They'd just cry in each other's arms then fuck all night long, just like they do now!"
Lucius shook his head. "That isn't true, Bellatrix. Rodolphus is faithful. He's mad about you…"
"So he thinks about me while he's fucking her. That's not a comfort." But Bellatrix's voice had quieted, and the hand holding the razor blade had dropped to her side, much to Lucius's relief.
"I hate you…" she said quietly, the bitterness clear in her voice. "I hate this."
"Hate that your husband's unfaithful? Hate that your sister's sleeping with her?"
"Shouldn't you be upset?" Bellatrix hissed, voice lethal. "She's your wife. Doesn't it bother you that she's unfaithful?"
"Hardly," Lucius said, a slight sneer appearing on his face at the mere thought of being upset at his wife's infidelity. "I have… others… far superior to Narcissa… to occupy my interests."
Bellatrix sniffed. "You would."
"Charming as always, Bellatrix."
"You see, this is why…" She gestured towards the razor blade, but did not pick it up. "People like you, Lucius, are why I think death… wouldn't be so bad. I can't stand living… with someone like you…"
Lucius narrowed his eyes. "I am insulted."
"As though I care."
"Merlin…" he said, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. "Bellatrix. Much though I would be honoured to think you were committing suicide on my account, we both know that this is all… ridiculous. It's ridiculous. You wouldn't be thinking this way if you weren't fresh out of Azkaban in any case."
"Wouldn't I?" Bellatrix leaned back against the wall. "Do you know what I was waiting for when I was in there? I was waiting for the Dark Lord to come for me because I knew he would…"
"Love you?" Lucius asked bitterly. "If that's what you thought…"
"No! I never thought that! But I thought… there would be some kind of honour… and yet, here I am…" She waved her hand vaguely around the room, indicating Malfoy Manor.
"Something wrong with this place, Bellatrix?" Lucius asked peevishly.
"I don't deserve this place," Bellatrix muttered. "I've done so much… I deserve better." She sighed. "Can't you see why I'd wonder whether it's better to be or not to be? To live or not to live?"
"No," said Lucius. His voice was firm. "I do not think that an unfaithful husband, an unrequited love and unsatisfactory living quarters are cause for suicide. Now get up, wash your face, and wait for Narcissa to come home."
His briskness seemed to catch Bellatrix off guard. She swallowed, then slowly lifted herself to her feet, leaning on Lucius to get her balance. Her legs were shaking, but she managed to gain control, and then started for the door. Lucius followed, keeping a close eye on her.
She had just reached the door when she turned back, looking at Lucius with wide, still slightly watery eyes.
"I suppose I should thank you," she said grudgingly.
"Oh, no need for thanks…" said Lucius, sarcasm dripping from his every word. "It isn't as though I saved your life or any such thing. Really. Don't even mention it – it was nothing."
"Shut up, Lucius," Bellatrix told him, but there was a bit of the venom he expected in her voice, and that was enough to convince him that she'd gotten control of herself.
Thank God for that.