A/N: This story is written for several challenges and competitions on the HPFC forum:
- my own Pairing Diversity Boot Camp Challenge with the prompt: "It takes a good dose of another man to make a woman appreciate her husband."
- Owluvr's Character Diversity Boot Camp Challenge with the prompt "façade".
- HedwigBlack's Minor Character Boot Camp Challenge with the prompt "brother".
- The Hogwarts Games 2012 – women's tennis (write a fic about any member of the Black family)
Warnings: dub-con infidelity, hinting at domestic violence
"Don't you walk out on me, Cygnus!" Druella's voice was sharp and betrayed the heated argument they were in the middle of.
Cygnus slowly turned. "I don't think there's much left to say," he smirked.
"Oh yes, there is. You're not going to the races."
"Try me," he said and started walking out of the room again. Next thing he knew, he was laying face forward on the carpet from the Knockback Jinx she'd fired at him. Furious, he got up. "Who do you think you are, woman?! It's nothing to you how I spend my money!"
"It is if it's concerning our daughters!" She was pushing her luck, she knew that, and she already regretted having jinxed him. She would pay for it later, she knew that too. But things had gotten too heated already to stop now. "The debutante ball is in a week and without the proper attire no one will deem her worthy!"
"She's a Black." His face hardened.
"Yes and that will do her so much good if everybody thinks we're broke from your gambling," she sneered.
Truth was, the debutante ball was being held at her cousin Eleanor's place and Eleanor never ceased to rub the fact the she was so much wealthier than Druella in her face. And no matter how much she would hate to spend time at Eleanor's place, the debutante ball was the best possibility to find Bellatrix a husband.
"Now if only you could suck up your pride and ask your brother-in-law for help, I don't care what it takes."
His flat hand was on her cheek before she could blink. Tears welled up in her eyes from the pain.
"You've gone to far woman," he hissed. "I've let this go on for far too long, it is time you learned your place!" He raised his hand again, ready a strike a second time and she shivered. She'd gotten used to his bad temper by now and she usually avoided upsetting him.
"Mother?" Narcissa's voice called from the hallway, halted Cygnus in his action.
"I'll get back to you later, witch!" he bit and disappeared in a whirl of black smoke.
Druella sank down on the couch, trembling. She really ought to keep her mouth shut…
That's how Narcissa found her. "Mother? I can't seem to find the purple dress you bought me…"
Druella looked up at her youngest, the one that resembled her the most. "It's in your wardrobe, dear." She managed to say it in a even voice.
"Oh, I must have looked past it then. I apologise Mother."
Druella didn't reply as her daughter left the room again. Narcissa was only twelve years old, but already she was gaining male attraction. It would not be that difficult to find her a proper husband when the time came. If by that time there is any money left, she thought bitterly.
"You seem angry," Orion commented when he greeted his brother-in-law.
"Women!" Cygnus groaned through gritted teeth.
Orion raised an eyebrow. "Is she giving you a hard time? You ought to control your wife better, brother. You can't have them ordering you around; it's a disgrace to the Black family name."
Cygnus wholeheartedly agreed with him. As they both placed their money on the races – money Orion had aplenty and he actually hadn't that much of – he said: "I'd be happy if that blasted debutante ball was done with."
Orion's face grew serious. "The debutante ball is important. It defines your place in society. You have daughters. You know that that is the best opportunity to marry them off to the best party."
Cygnus face hardened. "There was a time when just the name of Black was enough to attract suitors to our daughters. But apparently, these days it's all about who has the biggest amount of money. Druella seems to think I need to manage mine better."
Orion looked shocked. "How preposterous of her! What is she thinking, sticking her nose into affairs she absolutely has nothing to do with. Your wife needs to learn her place, Cygnus. You really ought to keep her in line better."
Cygnus smirked. "She had the audacity to tell me to ask you for help, no matter what it took."
"You know I would be only too obliged to lend you the money if necessary," Orion replied. "No matter what it takes, you said? I think I'll be able to solve your money problems and your spouse problems at the same time…"
"Absolutely not!" Druella looked at her husband in shock. He could not seriously just have suggested that she…
"We need that money right? You were so kind to remind me of that fact earlier."
"Whatever it takes, that's what you said, right? Or did that only apply to me? Don't you want to help our daughters get the right marriage prospects?" His voice was bittersweet as he threw her own words back at her. "Besides, it takes a good dose of another man to make a woman appreciate her husband," he smirked and she felt a lump in her throat. The implications of his words were only too clear.
"Walburga, you can go," Orion told his wife. "Don't disturb us unless you're intent on joining."
Walburga walked past them, shooting Druella a look of pure hatred before she left the room. It's not like I'm here because I want to! Druella wanted to shout after her. It's all your brother's and your husband's fault! They've come up with this!
"So, Druella," Orion commented. "Such an…interesting agreement," he said and she shuddered as his fingers trailed over her face. She turned her head, avoiding his gaze, but he took her chin and forced her to look at him. "You know, you're actually not that bad looking, Druella. What a pity to see such a foul mouth on a beautiful woman as yourself. I think we could find a far better use for that mouth of yours…"
She felt sick in the stomach as he pushed her down, but she tried to banish the hatred out of her head. It would provide a dowry for Bellatrix…
To say that it had been a humiliation was an understatement. Orion was apparently intent on doing everything to and with her Walburga wouldn't let him do. Every part of her body ached. Orion had been careful though: the marks he'd left would not be visible when fully dressed, but she'd feel them all the better. As she Disapparated back home she cursed her husband for forcing her into this, cursed her brother-in-law for taking advantage and cursed the entirety of the House of Black for having married into it.
Three days later she stood rigid on the doorstep of Crouch Manor, a fake smile plastered on her face and maintaining the façade of the perfect Pureblood wife. She exchanged the false warm greetings that were expected of her and knew that the ones she received were just as insincere as the ones she was giving. But that was what kept society going; people pretending be amicable when face-to-face, but behind their backs it was a snake pit of lies.
All the debutantes' family members gathered in the ballroom, where tables had been set up. The debutantes themselves had vanished into the adjoining salon and would be called in one by one. Grinding her teeth in pain, Druella said down on one of the chairs. Sitting was one of the things she had not really been able to do for the last couple of days and the yellowing bruises were even worse than when they had been new. She straightened her back, careful not to let it rest against the back of the chair. If she didn't move she would be able to make it through the official part of the ball.
Bellatrix was one of the first to be called in. She walked in on the arm of her cousin Evan, who was her escort for the evening. Druella looked at her in pride. Bellatrix looked her absolute best. Her unruly hair had been smoothed down and she wore a dress the colour of autumn leaves. Even though she hated walking on high heels, they suited her well, adding to her length and giving her a confident posture.
A couple of tables ahead of her, Orion turned around and smirked at her and suddenly she felt sick. She got up from her chair.
"Excuse me," she managed and walked in the direction of the hallway. She could already imagine the whispered gossip, but she just needed to get out of there. She opened the door to the garden and inhaled the cold evening breeze. It calmed her turning stomach a bit but she could still feel the bile rise up in her throat. Was this all worth it? And then another thought forced itself into her mind. Cygnus would not stop his gambling and there were two more daughters that needed dowries in a couple of years' time. As she emptied her stomach onto the terrace, she knew one thing for sure: she needed to come up with a way to gather money for when Andromeda would come out as a debutante, because she would not let Orion touch her again.
With her jaw set and a determination on her face that had not been there earlier, she walked back in. She would find a way.