Author's Notes: Written for Round Three of Lady Phoenix Fire Rose's Scenery Competition.

Also for my OTP Boot Camp Challenge with the prompt "Acrid".

)O(

Music flowed through the room, carrying the dancers in a graceful waltz. The music almost appeared to be visible. When they spun around, it felt as though it was spinning with them. When the men tossed their lady partners into the air, it seemed it jump up with them. Everyone in the room felt a deep need to join into the dance. Few were able to resist for long.

Bellatrix was one of the exceptions.

She hovered at the edge of the party with a wine glass clutched in her hand and a frown on her lips as she stared out over the party.

"Come on, Bella," Narcissa said, wandering over to her. She was sweaty and giggly from dancing and pushed a lock of her hair back behind her ear before smiling up sweetly at Bellatrix. "You ought to dance. It's fun."

"For you, perhaps," Bellatrix said, sounding deeply bored. "Not for me. I prefer to stay here… and drink." As though to demonstrate, she gulped down most of the remains of her wine and then drew her wand to refill it.

"You're going to get drunk."

"And?"

"And Mother will be upset."

"Oh, poor Mother," Bellatrix said. Her voice dripped with venom and sarcasm and it was enough to make Narcissa cringe a bit. "Well, we just couldn't have her be upset, could we? No, no, everything in my life simply must revolve around making her happy…"

Narcissa rolled her eyes, drifting away from her sister as she continued to mutter mutinously under her breath. Bellatrix had been in this state – a state of constant sulking anger – for days now, ever since her betrothal to Rodolphus Lestrange had been finalized, which had caused one of the greatest fights that Narcissa had ever borne witness to. Bellatrix had barely spoken to anyone since, least of all her sisters or parents.

Bellatrix's vision was beginning to go fuzzy around the edges, and she considered sitting down, but couldn't see a chair that wasn't occupied. She pressed one palm over her eyes, her drink trembling in her other hand, then lifted it and took another sip.

Perhaps she'd had just a little too much…

The wine tasted sour and acrid on her tongue and she would have spit it out if she had dared, but no, that would have gotten her into a terrible fight and she didn't think she could stand that…

But it was becoming much harder to see.

She swallowed down the sip of wine she had taken, but then the glass slipped from her sweaty fingers and crashed to the ground, a dark red puddle spreading like blood across the white marble, and Bellatrix's stomach heaved.

She rushed from the ballroom, one hand on her breast, which was so tightly corseted that she could feel her heartbeat straining it, and the other clutching her skirts up, trying not to trip over them until she was out of the manor and went stumbling down the garden path, falling to her knees and heaving the contents of her stomach up into a thatch of roses.

The world was swimming in front of her eyes, but she felt better with her stomach emptied and was able to lean back, gasping softly for air. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she dashed them away hurriedly.

"Miss Black, is it not?"

Bellatrix jumped at the sound of a male voice just behind her, and she whirled around, brushing dirt from her dress. Her cheeks flamed crimson.

"Y- yes…"

The man standing over her looked to be close to her father's age, though she thought from a glance that he was much better looking than her father could ever have been considered. He was wearing a hood that threw his face into some shadow, but she could make out sharp features, a very straight nose and a small, serious frown upon his lips.

He offered one hand quite formally and Bellatrix took it and stood, not meeting his eyes. Only when she was upright again, and had brushed off her grimy hands, did she dare look up at him again, and it was only then that she recognized him.

"My Lord!" Her face burned with mortification and she dropped her gaze, letting her hair fall and shield her from his piercing stare.

"Miss Black."

"I'm terribly sorry…" she murmured, and though she didn't believe that she had ever been quite so mortified – caught vomiting in the gardens by the Dark Lord, of all people – she couldn't quite shake a pleasant, trembling feeling in the pit of her stomach. He had offered to help…

"Don't be," he told her simply, stating it like an order instead of attempting to comfort her. "If it had been a bother, I would not have helped you."

"Oh- then… thank you, my Lord," Bellatrix murmured. She glanced up rather sweetly through her lashes at him again before immediately reproving herself. Don't you dare try to flirt with the Dark Lord!

"The dance did not interest you, I take it?" he asked her.

"No… not very much."

"Likewise." He glanced towards the manor, then back at her, shaking his head very slightly. "But attending such social events is important, as you will someday learn."

"Important for what?"

"A… variety of things," he said vaguely. "Making connections… learning things about people…"

"I already know all I care to about everyone in there," said Bellatrix, a bit more snappishly than she had intended.

"Do you."

"Yes!" she told him. "I know who's marrying who and who wants to get a job in the Ministry of Magic and who got caught in bed with their brother and who got women pregnant out of wedlock and any other gossip that you can even imagine about any of them…"

He was silent a moment, considering her, and Bellatrix trailed off, wondering whether she might have offended him somehow.

"My Lord?"

"There is at least one person here who you don't know," he told her, and Bellatrix's heart leapt.

"Y- you, my Lord?"

"Yes," he told her simply. "And if dancing with people who you know about bores you and I am the only person you don't know much about…"

Bellatrix all but swooned. The Dark Lord offered her his arm and led her back inside. He barely looked at her, barely touched her as they entered the ballroom together, but she could feel every eye upon them and a satisfied smirk crept across her face.

The other people at the party might enjoy it, but none of them were dancing with the Dark Lord.

)O(

Fin