A little Christmas/New Year present for the faithful reviewer Bellamort500 :-)
Disclaimer: Nope, don't own Harry Potter.
Bellatrix's dress far exceeded that of any other witch that evening. She spent no less than three hundred Galleons on all the white lace and the silk and the velvet and the gold embroidery. The dress was crimson in colour, and the skirt was long and layered. Bellatrix was eager to make herself look stunning for the Dark Lord's visit. Her dark curls were not tied back into an elaborate bun like her mother, but allowed to fall about her shoulders, woven with tiny gilded blossoms. Around her neck she wore golden pearls and red rubies, and on the fourth finger of her left hand she wore a ruby ring. Her lips were the same crimson as her dress, and she wore eyeliner. She might have been mistaken for the mistress of the house, had her father not introduced them to the Dark Lord.
"My Lord," he bowed reverently. "It is a great honour to have you here in my house. May I present my wife, Druella?"
The Dark Lord inclined his head towards Druella. "A pleasure, I am sure," he said coldly, in a voice that sent a shiver of delight down Bellatrix's spine.
"And this is my youngest, Narcissa," her father, Cygnus, continued. Narcissa was paper-white with fear, but she managed to smile demurely and give a pretty little curtsy. "And my second child, Andromeda."
Andromeda's face was as impassive as stone as she curtsied.
Bellatrix was practically bouncing up and down by the time her father spoke her name.
"And my eldest, Bellatrix."
Bellatrix gave the deepest, most elegant curtsy she could possibly manage, her eyes politely lowered, her heart beating fast. She had practised curtseying in front of her bedroom mirror every day for a fortnight, until she was convinced she had it just right. As she rose and stood straight again, she noticed the Dark Lord's eyes fixed on her, and her heart beat more wildly than ever before, and she was hard put to stop herself dancing a jig in her excitement. He was looking at her! He was interested in her! He hadn't stared at her sisters as much as he now stared at her! Oh, this was wonderful! She gleefully wondered if anyone else had noticed.
"My brother, Orion," her father said, now introducing her aunt, uncle and cousins. Orion bowed, and murmured that it was an honour to meet the Dark Lord.
"And his wife, Walburga."
Walburga seemed to be trying to do an even deeper and more elegant curtsy than Bellatrix. Bellatrix smirked.
"Their youngest, Regulus," her father continued. Regulus, who was seven years old, gave a nervous bow.
The Dark Lord swept his eyes over him, and then his gaze landed on Sirius. "And this young man...?"
"My brother's eldest son, Sirius," Cygnus answered. Nine-year-old Sirius gave an abrupt bow, staring down at the floor, clearly not enjoying himself.
"And now, allow me to introduce Walburga's brother, Alphard."
Alphard, a stout and round-faced man, gave a stiff smile and a courteous bow.
Bellatrix fidgeted restlessly, desperate for the party to begin, longing to be the first to speak face-to-face with the Dark Lord. His scarlet eyes were now gazing thoughtfully at Narcissa's future husband (yes, purebloods chose their spouses very early – Narcissa was only thirteen) Lucius Malfoy. Then he was introduced to Bellatrix's future husband, Rodolphus Lestrange– oh, how she loathed that idiotic Lestrange boy – and his brother Rabastan.
Slowly but surely, everybody was introduced – the Crabbes, the Goyles, the Parkinsons, the Notts, the Rosiers, the Yaxleys, the Bulstrodes – and the Dark Lord gave permission for dinner to begin. Bellatrix wanted more than anything to sit right next to the Dark Lord, but she was not allowed. Instead, she was sat halfway down the table, between Narcissa and Andromeda. Opposite her sat Lady Goyle, an exceedingly ugly woman whose face resembled that of a horse. Bellatrix smirked again. Lady Goyle certainly wouldn't be of any interest to the Dark Lord. On Andromeda's left was Sirius, and the two were having an animated conversation. It was no secret that they were very close to each other. To the right of Narcissa sat Lucius, and he was complimenting her on how pretty she looked today. A flush of pleasure was creeping up Narcissa's cheeks.
Bellatrix sat silently, gazing up the table at the Dark Lord, who was closely examining each of the guests around the table. Orion sat on his left and Cygnus on his right. He was at the head of the table, where Cygnus usually sat. His scarlet eyes glanced swiftly at Andromeda, and then fixed upon Bellatrix. Bellatrix nearly forgot herself, only just stifling the most unladylike squeal of glee rising in her throat. He seemed very interested in her. Then he raised his hand for silence, and everybody stopped talking and eating. Bellatrix saw Andromeda take Sirius's hand in both of her own, smiling reassuringly at him.
The Dark Lord rose to his feet and began to speak about how he needed some more Death Eaters, and he now wanted to speak to all the guests and find out if they wished to join him. Bellatrix leaned forwards, drinking in every word he spoke. Her heart started thumping with excitement again. The Dark Lord walked around the table, questioning each of the guests. Bellatrix listened keenly to his questions and the replies he received. The Crabbe children were both in Slytherin, and they both wanted to join him. The Lestrange boys said the same. Lucius Malfoy and his parents swore undying loyalty to the Dark Lord. Walburga and Orion said that they agreed with the Dark Lord's ideas, but they feared that they would not be much use to him. Cygnus and Druella's replies were similar. Alphard said that he was too old to be of any use as a Death Eater, but he too swore undying loyalty. Soon, the Dark Lord was questioning Sirius (he had ignored Regulus, saying that the boy was too young to have a fixed opinion about these things).
Bellatrix glared at Sirius, willing him to be sensible and uphold the family honour instead of ruining it. If only Andromeda didn't keep telling him that Muggles were equal to wizards and that house-elves should be treated fairly and all that nonsense...
"So," the Dark Lord said, "have you started school yet, young man?"
Sirius looked down at his shoes and mumbled that he had not yet started school.
"Look up," the Dark Lord commanded. Andromeda squeezed Sirius's hand, by way of telling him that everything would be alright. He obeyed, keeping his eyes fixed on the wall tapestry just over the Dark Lord's right shoulder.
"And what say you, young Sirius Black, about joining my ranks?" the Dark Lord asked.
Sirius glanced at Andromeda, and back at the Dark Lord. "I – I don't know," he stammered.
The Dark Lord laughed humourlessly, a laugh that sent another shiver of pleasure down Bellatrix's spine. "You don't know? What is that supposed to mean?"
Sirius did not answer. Andromeda came swiftly to the rescue.
"He means, my Lord, that he thinks he is too young and inexperienced right now, but he would like to make his choice once he is in his first year at Hogwarts," she said very fast, keeping her eyes averted.
The Dark Lord stared at her, his expression unreadable. "I see...and what say you, young lady? Would you like to join my ranks? You must surely be of Hogwarts age...which of the four houses is your own?"
"I am in Slytherin, my Lord," she replied. "I would...I would very much like the honour of joining your ranks, but perhaps when I am older and have more experience of fighting."
The Dark Lord nodded, and turned to question Bellatrix, who had been on the verge of interrupting Sirius and Andromeda and answering the Dark Lord herself.
"Ah...Miss Bellatrix, I believe?" he said.
"Yes, My Lord," she said at once. "I am your most faithful servant, my Lord! Nothing can stop me from joining your ranks! I am prepared to die for you, and you alone! I am in my final year at Hogwarts, a Slytherin of course, and most accomplished at all aspects of magic – I do not boast, my Lord – you have my most humble permission to ask my esteemed father – my Lord, I would be most glad to join you! I would do anything to please you, for I have worshipped you since I first heard your name spoken – you are a truly great wizard, my Lord, and I will fight tooth and nail for a position in your ranks if it comes to that! I am not afraid, my Lord – indeed, for as long as I can remember I have dreamed of nothing but sacrificing myself for you, for fighting for your glory – mere words cannot describe my joy at your being here tonight! It is the highest honour imaginable, my Lord!"
She stopped talking, having exhausted most of her energy with that lengthy speech. He was staring at her with something like surprise in his eyes.
"You are a most enthusiastic supporter, for one so young," he said at last. The entire room was staring at Bellatrix. Walburga's eyes were narrowed. One of the Parkinson twins was glaring at her with great dislike. Uncle Alphard's eyebrows were raised.
"Yes, my Lord," Bellatrix gasped, quite breathless. "For many, many years I have supported you with unfailing loyalty and enthusiasm!"
The Dark Lord smiled – well, he managed the closest thing to a smile. Still gazing at her, he spoke again, but quietly, so that none but herself could hear him: "We will talk later."
Then he moved away to question someone else, and Bellatrix had a satisfied grin plastered across her face for the rest of the meal.
After everyone had eaten their fill, the dining table melted into the floor, one of the house-elves was sent to the grand piano, and music filled the room as everyone began to dance. Bellatrix scoured the room with her eyes, trying to find the Dark Lord, but he seemed to have vanished. Uncle Alphard, Sirius and Andromeda were talking cheerfully in a corner of the room. Narcissa and Lucius were dancing together, as were Walburga and Orion, and Druella and Cygnus. Rabastan Lestrange was singing a rather loud and crude song with his friends Crabbe and Nott. Regulus was talking shyly to Lady Goyle, whose husband seemed unwilling to dance with her. Bellatrix sat down, waiting for the Dark Lord to appear and summon her.
It was just occurring to her that perhaps the Dark Lord meant her to come and find him, when a loud voice behind her exclaimed, "Bellatrix! What might you be doing, sat here all lonely like this? Surely, with a dress as sumptuous as yours, you have tons of admirers?"
She sighed irritably. "Buzz off, Rodolphus."
For Rodolphus it was, beaming arrogantly and pulling her to her feet.
"Come dance, sweetheart," he implored her, holding her hands in his.
"No," she snapped, snatching her hands away. "Can't a lady have five minutes' peace from her thoroughly annoying suitor?"
He threw back his head and laughed, eyes twinkling, trying to grab at her hands again. "Ah, your sense of humour is as endearing as ever, my love."
"And your hands are as filthy as ever, so keep them away from me!"
He flushed, all traces of humour now gone. "Bella, you are my wife – or, at least, you will be. Wives must not speak like that to their husbands. You must learn to respect me."
"And you must learn to earn my respect," Bellatrix spat.
"I have tried, Bella! I have done everything, everything, to gain your trust and respect—"
"But what you have done is not enough! Do not irk me any further, Lestrange, or I will demand that our engagement is cancelled!"
"You would not do that," he hissed.
"Yes, I would," she snarled.
"Your parents would be furious!"
"I do not care!"
She stormed away, seething.
It was then that she saw him. In the garden. He was peering through the glass at the party. She forgot her anger at Rodolphus and smiled. He spotted her, and beckoned with one long white finger. She walked steadily towards him. It took a lot of effort to restrain herself from running at full speed across the room and into the garden where he stood.
"I have chosen my Death Eaters," he said coolly. "And one of them is you."
She stood there, stunned. He had chosen her. She was one of his Death Eaters. She was his. He was her master. Her dream had come true. She burst into tears – but these were not tears of grief. These were tears of shock and delight and joy and disbelief. "Oh, my Lord, what can I say? My Lord, I thank you, I thank your generosity, oh, my Lord, I am so happy!" she sobbed, almost flinging her arms around him. "My Lord, I am thrilled that you chose me, and I will do anything to please you!"
"Your arm, if you please," he interrupted. "Not your wand arm; your other arm."
Trembling with anticipation, she extended her left arm. He pushed up her sleeve and pointed his wand at her left forearm.
Pain shot up her arm, but she did not cry out. On the contrary, she relished it. She watched as the wand cut long black lines into her arm, tattooing a skull with a serpent slithering out of its mouth. To her, this was a glorious thing that was happening. A Dark Mark of her very own! She had seen some of her father's friends with Dark Marks. Oh, the joy!
"Oh, my Lord," she whispered. "My Lord, it is...it is beautiful! How can I ever thank you enough?"
He nodded curtly. "If you wish to call me, you must touch this Mark. I may also call you. But be warned – I will only come if it is urgent. If I require you to capture someone and bring them to me, you may call me when you have caught them. If you have important information for my ears only, you may call me. I will not tolerate being called for trivial matters, or being called as a prank, or being called when there is nothing worth my attention. Is that understood?"
"Oh, yes, my Lord, yes! I will obey you from this day forth! My most humble thanks, my Lord!"
"Good. You may go."
Bellatrix curtseyed deeply, and backed out of the garden. As soon as he had vanished out of sight, she frolicked like a little girl, all the way across the dance floor to her mother and father.
"Oh, Mother, Father! You will never guess what the Dark Lord has blessed me with!" Bellatrix squealed, most uncharacteristically, pulling up her sleeve. "The Dark Mark! Isn't it the most beautiful thing you ever saw?"
Her parents exchanged astonished glances.
"But you are so young!" her mother exclaimed. "The Dark Lord must have admired you very much, to give you the Dark Mark so soon! I must say, your little speech at dinner was rather...enlightening."
"Congratulations!" her father beamed. "Oh, I must tell Orion and Walburga..."
He ran through the dancing guests to find Orion and Walburga. Druella sniffed.
"You go and tell the good news to your sisters," she instructed. "I shall retire to my room."
Bellatrix lifted her skirts and sprinted over to the cluster of chairs upon which Andromeda, Narcissa, Sirius and Uncle Alphard sat laughing.
"Cissy! Andi! Sirius! Alphard!" she panted, her eyes shining. "The Dark Lord has rewarded me! He has given me the Dark Mark!"
"Oh," Sirius said shortly. "Wow. Well done."
Bellatrix was in too much of a good mood to glare at him. She turned,
beaming, to the others. "Well?"
Alphard sighed. "Well done, Bella. Just be careful. The life of a Death Eater isn't all sunshine and rainbows, you know."
Narcissa's eyes were wide. "Oh, Bellatrix...congratulations! You will be alright, won't you?"
Bellatrix puffed up her chest. "I am sure that, in a few years' time, I will become a favourite of the Dark Lord. His trust in me will be my protection. The only Death Eaters who have anything to worry about are the cowardly idiots who are too scared to freely admit their loyalty to the Dark Lord."
"What's all this?" Rodolphus asked, striding up behind her. "What on earth happened to make you want to go galloping across the room like a lunatic?"
Then he saw Bellatrix's exposed arm, and his eyes widened. "No..." he breathed.
"Oh yes indeed," Bellatrix cackled, smirking at him. "And I don't see any Dark Mark on your arm, Lestrange...clearly, the Dark Lord doesn't trust you enough!"
Rodolphus was jealous. She could see it in his eyes, and she enjoyed causing his jealousy.
"Just keep trying, Rodolphus...I'm sure that eventually the Dark Lord will give you a Mark of your very own. Not, of course, that it will mean very much. I was the first to be Marked, so the Dark Lord will always value me more than you."
Her taunts brought an angry flush to his face. "Bellatrix..."
Alphard cleared his throat. "Well, I'll be off. Merry Christmas."
Bellatrix turned to Andromeda. "And what do you think, Andi?"
Andromeda looked at her. "Well done," she said. "But I agree with Alphard...you must be careful. If you fall out of favour with the Dark Lord..."
"I? I, Bellatrix Black, fall out of favour with the Dark Lord?" she laughed. "Don't be silly, Andi. I shall be the most faithful Death Eater there ever was and ever will be. Merry Christmas. I'll see you later!"
She threw a last smirk at Rodolphus and pelted across the room to spread the good news.