Author's Notes: Written for 10_whores on LiveJournal – a challenge in which you pair one character with ten others.
Also for Lady Phoenix Fire Rose's Pairing One Hour Challenge/Hardest Challenge Ever on the HPFC forum with the pairing Bellatrix/Regulus and the prompt "dance".
Belle Époque/The Golden Era
There was nothing wrong with dancing with his cousin.
Regulus told himself that, over and over, while Bellatrix twirled him easily around the ballroom floor. She was leading – she was always leading – and he felt a little limp and numb, too enthralled with watching her to really be able to feel anything.
Perhaps it was the little smirk that Bellatrix kept giving him, but Regulus felt just a little bit as though there was something wrong about this. It was a feeling that he couldn't shake, no matter how hard he tried.
It's not wrong. She's your cousin and it's just a dance. It's a familial sort of thing.
"Aren't you enjoying the dance, Regulus, love?" she murmured, drawing him close against her body. "You seem a little unwell."
"I'm fine." It was hard for him to gather the breath to answer her question when he was pressed so tightly against her breasts. They heaved slightly against him with every breath she took, straining against the tight confines of her corset.
"Lucky you…" She drew back a little and laid one hand over her heart. "I think that I'm going to faint," she said, with a small laugh in her voice. "My heart's going to give out right here, in the middle of the dance floor – it's going to get tired of fighting against this stupid corset that Mother makes me wear."
Regulus didn't know what to say to that. She was smiling, but he felt a bit guilty. Did she mean that she had had enough of dancing with him? If she did mean that, did she want him to leave?
"I'm… sorry," he mumbled at last, dropping her hands and stepping back. "I'll just–"
"Oh, I hope you didn't get the wrong idea of what I meant…" Bellatrix tossed her hair and ran her fingers through it. "I didn't mean that you ought not to dance with me anymore – really, I just… I think I need to step out for a moment."
"Would you come with me?" She extended a hand towards him and the corner of her lip twitched up. "I'd enjoy having a little company while I try to… catch my breath."
"If… if you'd like." Why was it so very hard to talk to his cousin? Bellatrix was hardly someone that he needed to impress…
"Come on, then." She caught his hand in hers and gave his gloved fingers a light squeeze, then led him out of the ballroom, nodding to the richly dressed couples they went past. Regulus could not take his eyes off of her.
She seemed so at ease in the beautiful, golden world of Pureblood society. She commanded attention with such ease, commanded even the attention of those who usually paid no attention to anything in the world except themselves. She was beautiful in a way that all those well-dressed ladies with their falsely curled and glossed hair, their powdered faces and wide skirts that swished with their every step could never have hoped to be.
He sighed a little. He, no matter how his parents dressed him up and tried to parade him about like the little jewel of an heir to the Black family, was nothing in comparison to his cousin. If she had been a man, she would have easily been the family's pride.
The moment they were out of the ballroom and alone in one of the corridors, Bellatrix doubled over, clutching her stomach. Regulus wasn't sure whether she was in pain, whether she couldn't breathe, whether he ought to call for help, and when he stepped forward, she held up one hand to stop him.
"No- just a moment…"
She straightened up a little and reached behind herself, grabbing at the buttons that ran down the back of her dress. Her face was flushed – rather prettily, Regulus thought.
She managed to get the bodice of her dress open and Regulus's face went bright red. The dress pooled around her ankles, leaving her only in her corset and petticoat.
"Unlace me, would you, Regulus?" she panted, turning around and bracing her hands against one wood-panelled wall.
Regulus stared in absolute shock at her, at her cinched waist and her back, with the corset laces running down it…
"Wh- what?" he asked quietly.
"Unlace the corset. Just loosen it a little so that I can get a damned breath in," she said, turning her head and looking over her shoulder at him. A black curl had escaped the knot that she had drawn up onto the top of her head and a saucy smile played upon her lips. "You can do that, can't you?"
"Of- course- I can…" he stammered. He reached forward and fumbled with the strings and Bellatrix let out a soft moan as he managed to get the knot undone. The corset practically sprang undone and he stepped back quickly.
She turned around, her eyes glittering. Her breasts spilled over the top of the corset and she was clutching it to keep herself covered.
"Thank you, darling," she breathed. "I feel… so much better now."
Regulus couldn't speak. He could only hope that, in the candlelight, Bellatrix was noticing neither the way that his cheeks were flushing while he looked at her, nor the bulge that formed in the crotch of his trousers as he tried to avert his eyes from her breasts.