Author's Notes: Written for Lady Phoenix Fire Rose's Pairing One Hour Challenge/Hardest Challenge Ever with Bellatrix/Rodolphus/Narcissa and the prompt "Nothing to her".
Also for Weekly Quick Fic #5 on writerverse on LiveJournal with the prompt "comforting".
When Rodolphus had, one evening in late autumn before the winter that he would be married to Bellatrix, slipped into Narcissa's bedroom and told her that his betrothal to her sister had been finalized, she had been hysterical.
"You can't marry her!" she cried. Her voice was tearful and Rodolphus actually felt a twinge of guilt – he hadn't meant to upset her when he gave her the news. He had only wanted to tell her as soon as the engagement was finalized so that he would not be accused later of keeping secrets from her.
"I have to marry her, Cissa," he told her, struggling to keep his voice low, calm and soothing. It was no easy feat – being soothing was not in his nature. "I don't want to, don't you see? My parents and your parents–"
"You could defy them if you wanted to!" Narcissa insisted. She grabbed the front of Rodolphus's shirt and shook him, though she was nowhere near strong enough to be able to hurt him. "You could tell them that you are in love! And what would they care – you would still be marrying a Black! What would it matter which Black it was?"
"It matters," Rodolphus said, struggling to keep his voice steady, for he wanted to raise it and to tell her that she was being a stupid, stupid girl if she thought that he had any say in this at all, "because Rabastan and Andromeda are to be married and I have to be married before they are and she has to be married before you are and–"
"Those traditions are stupid!" cried Narcissa, stamping her foot angrily. "They could be broken if anyone simply told Mother and Father that–"
"No, Narcissa, they couldn't be," he interrupted. He didn't want to be impatient with her – he hated the state she got into when she thought that he was angry – but she was being infuriating. "Traditions like that cannot be broken and if I thought that they could, I would be the first one trying. I don't want to marry Bellatrix, you know."
"And rightly so!" she said with a sharp, harsh laugh. "You shouldn't want to marry her! She hates you! You are nothing to her, do you realize that? She's in love with another man and would marry him in a heartbeat if he were only interested–"
"I know that." Something about Narcissa's tone irritated him. She sounded as though she were imparting new gossip that would change his mind, instead of what she was really doing, which was reminding him of how miserable he already knew he was going to be with Bellatrix. "I know that she is in love with the…" He lowered his voice to a whisper, for though he didn't expect anyone to overhear, he knew the trouble that he would be in if someone did, "in love with the Dark Lord. I know that I am nothing to her. I know that she doesn't want to marry me – and I don't want to marry her either, Narcissa. Why won't you understand that?"
"Because I don't believe you!" she told him, raising her chin defiantly. "I don't believe for a moment that you don't want to marry her! All the men want her, you know – they all think that she's so beautiful and so exciting that she'd be the perfect wife–"
"Damn right, I'm jealous!" Narcissa stamped her foot, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I'm jealous that the man I love is marrying my sister – wouldn't you feel the same way if you were in my situation?"
"I might," he told her sharply. "But I would not behave in the same way. You are disgraceful, Narcissa, and this behaviour reflects terribly upon you–"
"I don't care!" she shrieked. "I don't care how this reflects upon me! I don't care about anything except you finding some way to break off the Goddamned engagement!"
"You're such a child, Cissa!" he told her derisively. This display was disgusting, a tantrum that he would not have expected from a child of six, much less a lady of marriageable age like Narcissa. "You won't listen to me! I don't want to be married to Bellatrix!"
"And the feeling is quite mutual."
Both Narcissa and Rodolphus whirled around and Rodolphus's eyes widened guiltily when he saw Bellatrix leaning against the frame of Narcissa's door. Her arms were crossed over her chest and she was scowling at both of them.
"If you won't believe him, Cissy, let me tell you," she continued, "that I most certainly do not want to be married to him. I would gladly give you two my blessing if you were the ones to be married."
"Oh, don't make me laugh!" Narcissa's voice was shaking with emotion and Rodolphus wished that he had the fortitude to comfort her, but all he wanted to do was slap her. "You want him to yourself–"
"I can assure you that I do not," Bellatrix told her sharply. "I have no interest in Rodolphus – as you both already so charmingly pointed out, there is another man who I would far rather marry."
"Why have you not told that to Mother and Father, then?" Narcissa asked, a little shakily. Bellatrix snorted with laughter.
"Do you think I have not? Do you think that I have not told Mother and Father that I would sooner be the Dark Lord's wife?"
"He would never take you as a wife," Rodolphus told her.
"His whore, then." Bellatrix seemed not at all bothered by the vulgarity of the word. "I would sooner be his whore than your wife."
Rodolphus felt a twinge of resentment. The Dark Lord had taken so little interest in Bellatrix for so long that it stung that she would still prefer to go to bed with him than be married to Rodolphus, but he bit back the urge to respond sharply.
"The fact remains," Bellatrix continued, "that, Narcissa, it will do you no good to resent me or Rodolphus. Reset our parents all you please. It is their fault that this has happened, not ours. No one but them is pleased by this arrangement, as you would understand if you weren't such a foolish, oblivious little girl…"
"Don't insult me!" Narcissa snarled. She took a step towards her sister and Rodolphus put his arms around her to hold her back.
"Don't," he murmured in her ear, glaring at Bellatrix. "She's not worth–"
"I'm not worth it, am I, Rodolphus?" Bellatrix taunted. Her lip curled. "That's right. You're the one with your head on straight right now, aren't you, Rod? You understand that I'd rather that none of this had happened… that you're nothing to me…" She ran her tongue slowly around her lips, considering them. "And, you know, I don't see why you're so angry, Cissy…"
Narcissa, apparently overcome, let out a small sob and buried her face in Rodolphus's shoulder. "You wouldn't understand! The man that you love isn't running off with some other woman–"
"That's true," Bellatrix interrupted coolly. "He isn't. But Rodolphus is hardly running off with me."
"No," she said, and now her voice was icy and sharp and Rodolphus could not help being slightly afraid. The way she spoke was intimidating. "No, he isn't. For him to be running off with me, one of us would actually have to want to be together. I certainly don't and Rodolphus doesn't either – as he's said."
"Listen to me, Cissy!" she interrupted. "And try to actually pay attention to what I say instead of just being upset that I'm marrying the man you're in love with. You two- you two can do whatever you want once Rodolphus and I are married. I don't care."
There was a beat of silence, and then Narcissa whispered, "What?"
Rodolphus couldn't even find words to express the confusion he was feeling.
"You two," Bellatrix repeated, "can do whatever you want once Rodolphus and I are married. You two can carry on your little affair. I'm not going to stop you. I don't give a damn what you're getting up to. I don't want Rodolphus, so why should I care if he's sleeping with my sister once we're married."
That stung Rodolphus badly.
To think that Bellatrix disliked him so much that she wasn't even going to protest the fact that he was sleeping with her sister… for all his insistence that her opinion didn't matter, that he wanted nothing to do with her, it did hurt a little to think that he was really so unimportant to her…
"Do you mean that?" Narcissa asked. Her voice quivered a little. She sounded so hopeful, and Bellatrix actually smiled at her.
"Of course I do, Cissy," she said, rather more gently and comfortingly than Rodolphus was used to hearing her speak. "I meant it when I said that he's nothing to me."