Disclaimer: I don't own anything of the Potterverse and also nothing of the Batman-verse.
A/N: To be honest at times I didn't think this chapter would ever be finished. It brings the story closer, but not to very conclusion. If I had to guess, I'd say 1-2 chapters more, but.. At first this was meant to be a oneshot. Anyway, I hope anyone still interested in this, finds it enjoyable and fun. Also, I did some editing on previous chapters - some simple grammar mistakes and a few phrases here and there to establish more of a continuity for the developing relationship between Bruce and Bella. Most additions were to chapter 4.
NOTE: If I had to guess, I'd tentatively predict an update in the timeframe between July-August 2016.
She hadn't been in Narcissa's room for years, and when she entered it felt almost like she was here for the first time. The ceiling was high as in all the manor, the room was spacious and with a balcony that opened up a view of the grounds leading up to the gate. There was nothing to complain of. Bellatrix didn't see anything here that was much different than in other rooms, nothing that would have incited Cissy to become who she had become – a stranger to her own family. Still Bellatrix couldn't help but wonder if this was where Narcissa got her idea of leaving completely – how long did she stare at that gate nearly a mile away fantasizing about going away until anything else but that thought became unbearable?
Bellatrix turned away from the balcony and started searching the room. There were some old clothes in the closet – from her sister's school years, but everything was pristine, washed and pressed. She started searching the drawers looking for something, anything, but all she found were old notebooks, dolls, magic toys, journals, books, nothing of value. Finally she dropped down on the puffy round stool in front of the vanity mirror and started surveying the cosmetics and perfume. It was in a tiny, elegantly carved drawer that she found a comb. Perfect!
Except the comb was almost as perfect as the day it was bought, without a single hair out of place and without a single hair of her sisters. Bellatrix dropped it angrily back in the drawer. "Nerra!" she called sharply.
"Yes, Mistress!" the house elf popped into existence beside Bellatrix and nervously tugged on her ear.
"Has anybody been touching my sister's things since she left?" Bella asked, frowning.
"Of course not, Mistress!" the elf assured. No elf in this house was a thief! "Except to clean everything and air the room! So that it is always ready for Mistress Cissy!"
Bellatrix held back a sigh. She should have expected this. And she should have expected that it wouldn't be so easy. Polyjuice was the lazy solution anyway. She dismissed the house elf and left the room, there was nothing more for her there. Except she lingered on the doorstep, suddenly wondering how did it happen – when in this room Narcissa had become such a stranger to her family? The room was still waiting for her, but years had passed and the distance between them had grown nearly unsurpassable.
"Find what you needed?" Sirius waited for her at the foot of the grand staircase.
"No," she replied.
"So, what now?"
"As we discussed," she replied, the red carpet cushioning the sound her high heels would have made against the marble staircase. "You make sure that everybody thinks it's Father who died and I'll take care of the rest."
"Trixy, I don't like this," he had spoken with Cygnus and together they agreed that there was something that Bellatrix wasn't telling them. Upon reflection she had been much more clear and open when they had discussed how to take down Voldemort.
She was a step above him on the staircase, therefore taller and glared down at him. "What don't you like?" she ground out between her teeth. The plan already had a problem not to mention that it in itself was a problem so it was a problem within a problem. She most certainly didn't need Sirius floundering with uncertainty when she needed him to be steady and confident, when she needed to be able to rely on him.
"I don't like the way you're going about this. You're not telling me anything," he replied honestly.
"I've told you what I need you to do, I'll tell you the rest when I'm sure it'll work, at the moment I have nothing therefore I have nothing to tell, how much more clear can I be?" she was annoyed, it showed.
"You can tell me what is your plan," he kept his calm and he didn't budge.
"To get my sister back and to take down Malfoy," she replied rapidly as if this was a battle. "Was there ever any doubt about that?"
"Alright," he conceded the point. "But throwing your own logic back at you – in what capacity are you working? You're not the Minister anymore. In fact, you're not an official of any kind. You're the people and it's my job to protect the people," it was strange – being the level-headed one in an escalating conversation. Becoming a Minister had made him grow to fit the position and while he didn't always manage things with calm and grace, this was too important to screw up. In contrast it seemed that with Voldemort's death and shedding her obligations as a Minister – Bellatrix in turn had gotten wilder in a way she had never been before.
Her eyes narrowed. His concern was both touching and annoying. She did not need Sirius Black as her champion. She only needed him to do as he was told. "Outside consultant," she replied nearly instantly. "I'll have my attorneys draw up a contract for the Ministry so that you're free of any liability in the unlikely event of my untimely demise. Satisfied?"
"Not nearly," but he knew when he was defeated; she had missed the point he tried to make entirely.
"It'll have to do," she pushed past him. "Now if you'll excuse me, I want to change into less bloody clothes."
Except her room was upstairs and all the clothes she had there were wizarding robes that were several inches too short for her. She crossed into the hallway Apparation point and Apparated to the penthouse in Gotham.
It was morning in Gotham. The same day she had previously left, she'd been gone just a few hours. Her first stop was kitchen, she expected that some orange juice would freshen her up.
Blood replenishing potions had fixed her flesh but not her spirit, so to speak. She was weary. Actually, very near exhaustion, but after the period of waiting, it seemed that Malfoy had finally placed his pawns and made his moves. It was her turn. And she didn't intend for there to be another round. She wanted to win. She slipped out of her shoes, taking them in hand by heel and was frankly disappointed at her own endurance as pangs of hunger made her stomach rumble.
"It's alright, Alfred, I …" Bruce started saying without looking up from where he was making a sandwich, but then he glanced up and instead of Alfred saw Bellatrix. The easy smile that appeared as a charm every time he saw or thought of her quickly fell seeing how she truly looked. "Bellatrix..."
"I'm fine," she waved away his concern before perching up on one of the bar stools before the kitchen counter. She dropped her shoes on the seat beside her. "Just pass me some juice from the fridge."
"You're all bloody," he leaned forward tentatively lifting a bloodied shred of her sleeve off her arm and breathing out, relieved, when he saw that her skin was unblemished underneath. The cream-colored blouse was now mostly dried-blood-red rather than cream.
"Just the clothes, darling," she explained absentmindedly before he could say anything else. "The juice? Now?" she pointed at the fridge.
"Is that your blood?" he frowned pointing at the general mess that she was.
"Bruce..." she sighed letting her tiredness show. She could see that he was getting worked up about something, but she could not deal with that right now. She truly hoped he could put it aside for later.
"Is that your blood?" he insisted intent on having this out now.
"Yes," she snapped a reply as she slid down the stool and went for the juice herself. "I fell into some glass, I was clumsy," she would have winced at how awkward her answer was, but instead she schooled her features into a perfect expression of annoyance.
"Nobody falls into glass like that." That's a lot of blood, is what he meant to say, but words lost their way when she turned her back to him as she went for the fridge and he saw the bloody rag that was her shirt there. It was all torn up and bloody – barely holding together. He saw her perfect, unbroken skin underneath, but he knew what magic could do. What it could fix. She had been injured terribly.
"There may have been a bit of a fight involved, but, really, I don't want to talk about it at the moment," I killed my sister. Or I would have killed her, but all I want to focus on right now is how to save her so that I don't have to kill her even though I'd love to wring her neck for being in this situation in the first place. "I just want to freshen up and I have to get back. There's a whole mess to deal with," she knew Bruce wouldn't give up easy, and she knew that all her answers were pressing all the wrong buttons, but she honestly didn't want to try to explain the whole situation to him. She barely understood it herself, and there was no way Bruce would be able to help anyway.
"Juice?" she offered as she poured some for herself.
"I'm not trying to annoy you," he said trying hard not to start an argument. "I worry."
She relented. "I know, I know and I'm not trying to be mysterious on purpose," she took a sip. "I promise I'll tell you everything. Later."
The rest of their breakfast passed in silence. Bruce wanted to ask more questions which Bellatrix obviously did not want to answer. She finished her meal quickly and went to shower to avoid any further discussions while he lingered thinking about how they had to talk about this while his track record of getting answers out of her was not terribly impressive.
He knew she had went to war. He knew as much as she had told him, but that still didn't mean that it was okay for her to come home with at least a pint of her own blood all over her. She acted as if it was nothing, and he could see that magic had wiped away nearly everything erasing all but the fact that it had happened. Bruce couldn't get over the simple truth that it meant that there had been a moment, very recently, that she had been all torn up and bleeding her life out.
And then Alfred notified him of the news broadcast. The accountant that he passingly remembered from one board meeting was on a talk show claiming that he knew who was Batman. A moment later all the pieces clicked together. Lucius had told him about this man. Bruce watched, his arms crossed on his chest, his face almost expressionless. This was already a spectacularly bad morning, but he had no sooner thought that this couldn't get any worse when – the Joker called the studio. Either Mr. Coleman dies in forty five minutes or a hospital blows up.
When Bellatrix came out of shower, dried and dressed in fresh clothes, she was in much better mood, but Bruce was already leaving. He barely glanced at her as the elevator doors closed. She frowned, turning to Alfred for answers, "Where is he going?"
Alfred was quiet for a moment and then he stepped aside, turning the TV on louder.
"Even Batman can't hope to find a bomb in one of any hospitals in Gotham in forty five minutes," she said as soon as the short recap of the newscast finished. They were airing repeats of Joker's call every few minutes for those that might be just tuning in.
"He didn't go to find the bomb," Alfred replied.
"He went to make sure that nobody kills Mister Coleman to play the Joker's game," Alfred explained softly.
"Why?" she asked before she could think about it. It wasn't that she staked the lives of people in the hospitals higher than those of that one man – even if it would be an easy statistical answer. She just plain didn't see why Bruce had to get involved in this in the first place. Logically, it seemed best if someone shot this Mister Coleman and removed a potential leak of information, therefore to do nothing would be the best course of action.
"Because that is who he is," Alfred replied as if he was surprised by her question and not as much as the question itself, but more by the fact that she had asked it. "Some men seek to sow anarchy wherever they go and some – like Master Wayne – just can't stand by and watch the world to fall to pieces."
"Even if there is nothing he can do?" she had magic. Bruce. In the end Bruce was just one man. He couldn't help Gotham and he couldn't help her. She halfheartedly wished that he would turn his attentions to something that was less of a lost cause.
"Especially then." Alfred looked her up and down. "I would have thought you'd know that by now."
"Oh, I know!" she replied resigned, "Sometimes I just can't deal with it!"
And Bruce had the gall to be annoyed with her! He! With his martyr complex! Bellatrix pursed her lips. She had to see Bruce. Truth be told, she knew perfectly well who he was, and she had resolved not to try to change him, but that didn't mean that he didn't make her angry at times. Oh! She ground her teeth. She loved him, but she would also love to smack him as unfitting a lady of her station that would be. She Apparated to his Lamborghini.
"No!" he cried seeing her, unable to stop the collision that he had already set in process. The tires screeched as he braked, but his quick, mental calculations were flawless. His car would be right in the path of collision no matter how hard he tried to stop it now. "No, Bella, get out!" it was an order and a plea all in one.
Confused, she listened and Apparated away. The panic in his voice rattled her into compliance. She appeared at the nearest street corner and saw how barely a second later his car was rammed sideways in the intersection. All traffic stopped. She didn't run, she flew to him. First she was at the driver's side door– knocking with her whole palm on the window, trying to get his attention. He was slumped sideways across the passenger seat as if he had tried to shield her with his body, except she was no longer there. She pulled hard trying to get his doors to open, but the lock was bent and jammed. Uncaring for the any chance spectators in the first seconds of the accident, she cast a notice-me-not charm and carefully Apparated to the edge of the passenger's seat, next to him, but not on him.
"Bruce..." she spoke gently, twisting at the edge of the seat to raise him softly, so that he could rest against his own recliner.
She was distracted when somebody loudly knocked on the hood. "Are you both alright? Ambulance is on it's way!" the man said loudly and with large gestures.
"We're alright," Bellatrix said, lied, hoped.
"I'll be right back," the stranger assured and disappeared with the crowd of people that had assembled. There were also those that were getting out of the van.
"I don't think I'm okay," Bruce rasped in perfect honesty. His head resting against the headrest, only his eyes followed Bellatrix.
"You are. You're gonna be," she assured him softly. Grasping his hand in hers, it was never more clear to her than in this moment – he was what she wanted. "You saved me," a gentle smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. She didn't lie. She didn't mean this moment – she meant their whole lives. She didn't want to think how different everything could have been had she never known him.
Perhaps he thought that she didn't appreciate him. That she didn't understand things the way he did, especially, when she pushed him away, and there was some truth to that, but it was the devil in the details. Because for the rest – he was the most important thing in her world. She had no idea how he had climbed his way to the top in her tiny, diamond hard heart, but he had.
In the way that she had feared she would give herself to Voldemort, she had given herself to him. If Voldemort had only known that he was won out by a muggle. Instead of a dark lord she had fallen for a dark knight – a hero and a martyr. One thing though was certain – as determined as Bruce was to sacrifice himself for what he felt was right – no less determined was Bellatrix to make sure that he always came back to her, safe and sound.
"I guess I did," he agreed, not really following her reasoning; his smile was strained, he was in pain.
She swallowed nervously. He had never seemed so fragile to her as he did now. Color was rapidly draining from his face. There were drops of blood on his lips that showed up with every exhale. She suddenly feared he might die and it strangely hurt. She didn't know how to heal him – she hadn't had the time to ask for a crash course in healing magic. And while she knew how advanced muggle medicine was – she also knew how slow it was. And how sometimes accidents and the unforeseen happened - complications. Not to mention - wasn't there a bomb in some random hospital? She couldn't take that chance with his life.
"Bruce..." she made him look at her, suddenly full of resolve. He might never forgive her should he ever find out what she was about to do. "You will be okay," she said strongly when his head lolled, his consciousness slipping. "You will be okay," she didn't notice the light tremor in her voice, she tapped his cheek to get his attention. "It's my turn to save you now," she grasped each his hand in her own, their grip interlocked and sought out his tired gaze.
She needed only a moment in which he grew weaker for her resolve to become unbreakable. Only a moment to know that for her at this time there was no other option. Her voice rose and fell with ancient words that formed a vow that sealed an unbreakable bond. In a way – this was not unlike an Unbreakable Vow. Strips of white light almost like ropes that felt cold like steel against their skin wrapped around their locked hands binding them together.
"Are you healing me?" he asked groggily.
"In a way?" she replied, more nervous than she ought to have been. Her voice dropped lower in a nearly unintelligible string of foreign words rising and falling in cadence with her breath.
"Give what is mine, no, share it with the other who is, I don't think I understand the next part.." he recited what he had heard, trying to gather his wits. His breath sounded sickly wet. There was more blood on his lips.
"You know Latin?" she paused, both surprised and startled.
"I learned it in school. Some part of me never let you go and always wanted to know more," it took him several tries to say that. He gripped her hand tighter, wanting to wipe the expresion he saw off of her beautiful face – she looked infinitely sad.
And then she finished the vow, her voice nearly breaking at the end of it. The magic that had bound their hands together faded away softly leaving them both with a warm, settled feeling. Their world for the moment was restricted to the small space inside the car, nothing else existed. She looked at him with anxiety and expectation - it wasn't ordinary magic that she had done. She expected it to work, but she had no idea if it would. If it could be done just halfway and still work.
"Etiam," he managed. "Yes," he repeated. "Anything you ever need or want. Everything."
Bellatrix inhaled sharply. She didn't think he understood what had happened, but with what he answered – it seemed that he did. His grip on her hand fell lax and her hands shook as she withdrew them. Why did he have to say anything? What was he thinking? Then the moment of frozen horror passed.
"Obliviate," she said, words nearly catching in her throat. She had never used magic against him before. But this - here wasn't how she wanted him to know. She wasn't sure she wanted him to know at all. It was all so complicated and she didn't want to deal with it now. Especially if he knew, if he understood.. It's ironic how something that would make most people happy just terrified her.
She had just wanted to save him. She kept repeating that to herself like that was an excuse and a perfectly valid reason for her actions all wrapped in one. She had just wanted to save him, and she knew woefully little of healing and too much about rituals. In any case, she justified herself in thinking that this in no way put any demands on him. He shouldn't owe her anything for having his life saved.
"What did you do?" he asked as he opened his eyes and sat up straighter. His gaze was uncharacteristically sharp as he looked at her. He felt healthier, stronger and like he would live forever. And he remembered everything.
"I saved you," she replied simply, thinking on how she was ever going to explain this back in Britain. But that was a problem at least a century away.
There was a tense moment as he debated whether to call her on her pretense or not. But then his whole body relaxed, "You always do," he grinned and patted her hand. After all, there would always be time later. A fireman reached her door and forced it open. They were being rescued.
Bellatrix sat with her back straight on her modest, wooden chair. Her feet were crossed at ankles though it hardly showed underneath the wizarding robes. Her wand was nowhere to be seen. She looked the epitome of patience and the archetype of wizarding aristocracy.
Lily on the other hand lounged on her chair, balancing on it's two back legs. Her robe was open revealing knee length skirt and dress shirt. She had thrown one leg over the other and sat, swaying lightly and swinging one foot in a rhythm to a song that only she heard. She was twirling her wand in her fingers.
They were like the black of night and a bright red dawn – two perfect opposites. They both were waiting for their prisoner to wake up.
Sirius and James were standing in another room – right beside the one were Lily and Bellatrix were about to interrogate the assassin they had captured as he had made his attack on Dumbledore. The wall was spelled to be see through from their end.
"You're one lucky man, James," Sirius gulped watching Lily.
James elbowed his friend. "Stop slobbering over my wife," he grouched with no real heat behind the words.
They both startled and quietened when they caught Bellatrix staring uncannily at them as if she could see through the wall – which from her side shouldn't be possible. To tell the truth, Bellatrix was staring at wall and thinking. This day was an epic mess and becoming even more so. She hadn't lingered in Gotham after the car crash – she hadn't gotten her chance to talk to Bruce before that, and now there was even more to talk about. She wasn't sure if she even wanted to tell him what it was that she truly had done. Much less now that she had made him forget it in the first place.
In retrospect she realized how monumentally stupid it had been to charm his memory. She had panicked and she had reacted, and it was no excuse. Like a schoolgirl she had fired out the first spell on the tip of her tongue. With no thought of consequences. She didn't relish the idea that if she confessed what she did - then they'd be back to having trust issues for Merlin knows how long, and with good reason, obviously. And if she didn't tell him, then.. Well, that thought just left a sick, rotten feeling in her mouth.
She had left as soon as it had been possible. The medics had been determined to examine her, but with Gotham General going up in flames and the whole city in a chaos they weren't in a position to pressure her to go to a hospital too much. They had taken blood samples, examined her head and tentatively pronounced her and Bruce okay. To Bella it had seemed that they were almost disappointed that there wasn't anything more to treat.
She'd exchanged her greetings with commissioner Gordon and had given a short goodbye to Bruce.
As it was, she had arrived barely in time – just as Sirius received news from Hogwarts. She withheld commentary on the fact that Sirius' informant was from his old crowd – the Order of the Phoenix. As it was – this time it had turned out for the best that they had been contacted before the Auror Division. Having killed Narcissa's impostor, Bellatrix was in dire need of one of Lucius' metamorphmages. And while Sirius was much more concerned with the fact that Dumbledore was unconscious, but undoubtedly would survive his assassination attempt, Bella was so much more interested in the assassin himself.
After all, while it would have been no trouble to transfer the prisoner from Auror Division to the care of Unspeakables – the fact that the man had tried to assassinate Albus Dumbledore would mean that the people would cry for a public trial. But as it stood now - the man hadn't been officially arrested, he could easily just disappear and Bellatrix wouldn't be bothered with need to find a doppleganger of him for a trial. All's well that ends well, she supposed.
The man shook his head as he slowly woke, and Lily stopped swinging on her chair, bringing it down with a loud clank. She and Bellatrix had talked through their strategy in this interrogation, and they meant to play on the man's prejudices and misconceptions. Lily rose, stalked over and slapped him hard in the face. That one was truly no act and sincerely from the bottom of her heart – Albus Dumbledore was like a grandfather to her, she didn't have to fake anger.
Bellatrix watched dispassionately.
The man blinked, looking around the poorly lit room. It was instantly clear to him that wherever this was – he was fully at the mercy of his captors. The room had no windows. The walls were round and solid concrete shimmering dark with some magic and he guessed, perhaps, blood. It had been centuries since blood magic had been used as a building material; this had to be an old building. And then his gaze narrowed as he saw Bellatrix.
"You left me," his voice was slightly nasal and his tone was pitched annoyingly high. He whined.
Lily glanced back at Bellatrix uncomprehending, but Bella just lightly shook her head. As the man's features changed and morphed he became someone she had known a very long time ago. Thaddeus Travers. The heir of the Travers family, one of the esteemed twenty eight truly Pureblood families left in England, and Bellatrix's contemporary. "I left everyone," she replied unfeeling and unapologetic.
"I waited for you," he keened, straining against his bonds as he angled towards her with his entire body.
"Whatever for?" the question broke out before she could point out that there were others who had waited for her return as well. Bellatrix didn't move from her seat, in fact, hardly any muscle in her face moved - she was expressionless.
Lily meanwhile had circled around the wizard and seemingly carelessly slouched against a wall just inside his peripheral vision. She hummed lightly as she twirled her wand. She didn't seem to be paying attention while in truth she was ready to cast a curse at half a second's notice.
"We are made for each other," Thaddeus replied as if that was self evident.
Sirius chuckled in his palm in the other room, and choked when he caught Bellatrix's glare. James hit on his back to help him get his breath back and tried not to laugh himself. A dark look from Lily helped him contain himself. He also made a mental note to check whether this see-through spell truly worked only one way.
"That's ridiculous," Bellatrix said harshly, but truly. Her words all the more cruel for she didn't intend to offend him, she truly did not understand.
"We love each other," he replied simply. For him no one else in the room existed.
"That is completely untrue," she was surprised and for once it showed. For her love had always been a somewhat foreign concept; it's meaning shrouded in sickeningly poetic metaphors. For the longest time she had thought she lacked the capability to love as people seemed to describe it. Her heart was just a heart - it beat as it pumped blood. But then she learned to measure her love in what she was willing to do for those that she might claim to love. That's how she knew that what she felt for her family wasn't duty or affection, but love. That's how she knew she loved Bruce. And that's how she knew that she had never loved Thaddeus.
"I was your first!" he spat out, his tone so digustingly proprietary that it made Lily want to take a shower to wash the sound of it off, and it wasn't even directed at her.
"You were not the first man I slept with," Bellatrix's tone was rather matter-of-fact as she dispelled that delusion.
"I was your first kiss. Your first date. Your first love," he pleaded his case with her.
"Well, you're right on one account," she allowed – he had been her first official date, so to speak.
"So you see?" they were made to be together, in his mind. She was Lady Black and he was Lord Travers. They were meant to be together by every decree that their society honored - they were both from the same small circle of noble purebloods, they had met in Hogwarts and were in similar ages, they went to Hogsmeade together.. He was all she could ever have dreamed of, surely. He loved her, after all, she had to accept him.
"No," she truly neither saw what he wanted her to see nor accepted. And this conversation, as odd as it was, failed to enlighten her.
"I love you. When you disappeared – I waited for you," he had been forever faithful to her.
"For ten years? Celibate?" she was almost flattered at the devotion, but then again this was a man who had joined her enemy in order to get closer to her. She very much doubted his ability to think clearly. She had no empathy for him.
Thaddeus gulped. "I waited," he affirmed.
"And?" Bellatrix prompted, long since tired of this conversation.
"And when you returned – you did not come to me," to him it was the reason why he had taken his lot up with Lord Voldemort and now Lord Malfoy. He needed her to see him as he was - an upstanding member of pureblood society, crème de la crème.
"Why would I?" she questioned. As far as she was concerned - the man was unquestionably insane. He implied that they had something when in truth - there was nothing. A very long time ago there were a few boring months that could be recounted as the period of their relationship, but it had never been anything more than convenience. For Bellatrix it had been just a suitable excuse to turn down Rodolphus Lestrange - as hotheaded as Lestrange was; he was unlikely to make a fuss when his competition was another of the esteemed families.
"Because you left me..." he enunciated it very carefully. In his mind she had abandoned him, and she owed him to come back to him.
"And you thought we'd pick up where we left off?" Bellatrix demanded harshly, her expressionless mask slipped to show that she was stupedfied by this presumptious idiocy. She turned her gaze to Lily and asked coldly, "Can anyone honestly be that dumb?"
Lily shrugged though her expression was one of sympathy. Thaddeus Travers wasn't particularly handsome or talented or even clever, but something about the desperate way he pleaded with Bellatrix made Lily's digust turn to pity. In her eyes he was a sad, sad man, and made all the more pitiable by the fact that he was a blind product of his society - unwilling and unable to see things as they truly were. For a moment she understood him perfectly - he demanded, because he believed Bellatrix to be his due, because he had been raised that way. And he was miserable, because he wasn't getting what he demanded, and he did not have the capacity to understand why; when all his life he'd probably been told he was a perfect, perfect little boy that deserved to have his every whim obeyed. It was a vicious circle.
"We never ended things," Thaddeus argued.
"There was nothing to end!" Bellatrix cried out exasperated and rose from her seat. "We sat in the Three Broomstick's for a few times and that was it."
This was not how she had expected the interrogation to go. It had turned into a trip down the memory lane with an old boyfriend, and that was plainly ridiculous. Malfoy was still at large. Narcissa was still brainwashed in his hold. She had a dozen problems and Travers' delusions did not rate on her scale of worthwhile things at all. She considered how effective it would be to just switch to torture right away. It was apparent that Travers was not going to be able to focus on anything else but her without some assistance.
"We did everything together. We studied together. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner together," saltwater shone in his eyes. To him those days were the best days of his life.
"Yes - together with the rest of the school," she replied, annoyed. To be honest, she had hardly noticed him as he tagged along her as a lost puppy.
"Why are you so thick about this?" he spat, finally angered.
"It's not me, honestly. It's you," she replied, carelessly. At last she was getting somewhere - or so she thought. Anger was a much more usable emotion than sickly sweet simpering about how he had fantasized about her. She sought to encourage that anger.
"You loved me!" he roared, nearly toppling over the chair that he was tied to.
"Never," Bellatrix replied easily. She made it an insult, the way she said it.
"You lie!" he dared her to admit it.
"Sometimes, but not right now," she replied calmly.
"You were with me because you loved me. You weren't with anyone else!"
"I was with you, because I was young and I wanted to experiment, and you were clearly taken with me. I enjoyed being adored, but you have completely mistaken my fascination with the fact that I could wrap you around my finger with me having any genuine feelings for you," she said and saw Lily wince out of the corner of her eye.
"That's cold," Sirius muttered in the observation room. James nodded in agreement. Thaddeus Travers was a Death Eater and an assasin, he was also pathetic and certainly quite a bit offputting, but something about the ice cold way Bellatrix laid him off made everyone else in the room feel a little sorry for him. Even when they logically knew that Travers' was irredeemably bad.. It was a conflict of what they knew to be right and what they felt - they should be on Bella's side, it was what they knew to be right, but she was so strong and Thaddeus was so weak, it was easier to feel sorry for him.
"It's not true," Travers argued, his voice trembled. He couldn't fathom a reason for her to lie, but it must be a lie.
"The thing I liked most about you was how you liked me," she rephrased, not unkindly. Then she turned to Lily. "He's all yours. Let him have this small mercy – I will not be the one to torture him." It was unlikely she'd get anything but more declarations of devotion out of him anyway. And they needed information - usable, useful information about Malfoy, his plans, his hideouts, his situation, anything.
Lily just looked sad. Too sad for an interrogator so Bellatrix made sure to say, "Either you get the information we need or I will return and I will not stay my hand."
"You didn't have to break his heart that way, you know," Lily said softly as she entered the break room. It was a communal room for employees in the Department of Mysteries and completely lacking any mystique. There was a jolly fireplace, a few armchairs enchanted to be comfortable - really, it looked more like a tea room in an old lady's home. It was empty but for them. The whole Department had been dismissed home for the day.
"She's right, you could have been nicer," Sirius chimed in and dove for more of the cookies. The snacks had been brought by elves on Bellatrix's order. It was a long day they were having - there was no need to starve.
"I just had him tortured for information. Don't you think that honesty is the least I could do for him?" she asked, raising her eyebrows when Sirius just shrugged - his mouth full of cookies.
Lily's interrogation had yielded little useful information, but not for her lack of trying. Bellatrix was once again impressed by how far the light witch could go to achieve what was necessary. But as it turned out - Malfoy's opinion of Thaddeus was probably worse than Bella's therefore he didn't know much. He hadn't heard anything about Narcissa or Draco. He knew only where he was supposed to report after killing Dumbledore. He hadn't even met Malfoy since Voldemort's fall - apparently his handler in the new circle of dark divas was Rodolphus Lestrange.
Lily had theorized that it was possible that any relevant memories he might have had pertaining to Malfoy and his organization might have been purposefully erased before the mission. But since there was no way to recover such memories without the right spell, phrase or ritual; it was no use exploring that avenue further. It was then that Bellatrix had suggested a different kind of ritual. James was away right now gathering the more benign tools necessary. They would begin as soon as possible.
"I think that's exactly why you should have lied," Lily replied, slumping into the nearest armchair. She was exhausted - more mentally than physically. She could hardly think about the things she had done. Her hand slightly shook as she reached for chocolate.
"You mean lie to his face and then stab him in the back?" Bellatrix offhandedly asked. "I just love the way your light morals work," she commented, genuinely amused. To be honest she hadn't considered manipulating Travers' feelings for answers for more than a few moments - she just wasn't very good at manipulating emotions. She was good at planning, threatening and fighting. But feelings? She could hardly express how she truly felt to people that actually mattered to her.
Bellatrix could see the rage building in her cousin's face as she explained the parts of the ritual that she had omitted before. She hadn't expected him to be happy, but she had somewhat hoped he would be reasonable. Hadn't his job as a Minister mellowed him a little? Taught that sometimes the goal was worth the methods that it took to get to it? Then again, she supposed that the outrage wasn't all that surprising. She had already asked and received a lot from Sirius and the Potters.
It had been clear to her from the start that there would be no trial for Thaddeus Travers. She was aware it was hypocritical to the core from her; considering that she always advocated proper procedure and judicial power. She could live with that and easily. Lily had already tortured the man for answers. She could live with killing him. To her it meant nightmares and guilt, but the alternative was more unbearable - letting this opportunity pass and endangering many more lives. For Lily it was the greater good indoctorined by Albus Dumbledore that made it bearable. For James the man had been dead the moment he took a Dark Mark, it mattered not which dark lord Travers served now. James was an Auror and he had seen too much destruction and heartlessness at Death Eater's hands to have lasting pity for any of them.
"How do you know this stuff? How, Trixy? 'Cause I don't remember it being part of the standard curriculum at Hogwarts!" Sirius exploded. To him it wasn't the question of Travers' future, but the ritual itself and what it would cost to the one undertaking it.
Lily glanced at Bellatrix, catching her gaze and Bella's eyes narrowed in understanding, "I guess she knows the same way I know."
"What?" James gasped, hardly able to believe that his wife would know anything about such dark magic. He may have seen her torture a man for answers, but she was still the purest thing he knew.
"Department of Mysteries," Bellatrix supplied.
"But..." James started to protest wanting to remind his wife that she was an Obliviator and that was a completely different department, but Lily beat him to it.
"I'm an Obliviator, James. And a Charms mistress, do you know how many wizards have my qualifications?" she bit her bottom lip. "There have been a few projects I've worked for the DoM."
"I wondered how you knew," Bellatrix spoke up referring to Malfoy's interrogation a few weeks back. She had thought she saw Lily realize the same thing she did when Malfoy's features morphed into Carrow's. "You were the only one who wasn't stunned stupid."
"I guessed," Lily admitted.
"How does Obliviation go with this... this thing?" Sirius demanded feeling oddly left out considering he was the current Minister for Magic.
"Obliviation in essence is a form of magic that erases something. It makes things go away. Memories, in this case. It's in essence related to those rituals," it was actually a spawn off the one of them, but Lily didn't want to elaborate and get lost into academics and technicalities, "because they also make something go away. Something much larger and powerful though - magic itself."
"Alright," Sirius nodded. "I get how you know," he pointed at Lily. "But the question remains - how do you know? I'm a Minister and I didn't know."
"It's not information that's passed around lightly," Bellatrix replied harshly. "For obvious reasons."
"So it's like every second Minister gets to know about it?" James meant it as a joke, but only by half. He did move closer to Lily and hugged her to his side. He could guess her thoughts - but he wasn't angry with her for keeping secrets. He supposed - he could, if he wanted, but what would be the purpose? So he didn't know all about her work - so what? There were things that happened on missions that he could not tell her about. He pressed a light kiss to her temple, and she relaxed against him.
Bellatrix glared at Sirius as if she thought him to be a complete idiot. "I asked for the information."
"How did you know what to ask for?" Sirius countered. "Why did you ask for it?"
"Do we really have to get into this now?" Lily piped up.
"Obviously, yes!" Sirius replied hotly. "She wants to perform some twisted ritual and I'm not budging until I know everything about it. Inside and out," he was like a dog with a bone. He sensed that he was threading on thin ice, but he also knew that he had to push through if he was ever going to get anywhere with Bellatrix.
"I don't need your assistance," Bellatrix said coldly. "Or your permission."
"But you wouldn't mind it, right? Otherwise you wouldn't be speaking to us at all, because you've just perfected the lone wolf routine haven't you?"
"Sirius!" James interjected. It was going too far.
"No, James, no," Sirius waved her aside. "See, you said," he turned back to Bellatrix, "you said I was part of the Family, but you're not treating me that way. Hell, you're not treating your Family any way. Do you even know what the concept means? Sure, I want to help you. Sure, I know you can probably do this all on your own - fail or succeed, but Trixy. Bellatrix." He sighed as if giving up, unsure how to convey what he wanted to say. Unsure how to explain himself. "This family thing," he motioned between them. "I just want you to tell me. I'm already on your side, just... Let me in."
Bellatrix was silent and expressionless. And for a moment Sirius feared she'd just turn and leave. Then she spoke, "I asked for the information, because at one point that is what I wanted to do to Voldemort."
"Merlin," James breathed. "That much magic it would've... It would've overwhelmed you, it would've..."
"Destroyed me," Bellatrix finished for him. "I know."
Sirius was silent for a moment. One might think he ruminated on all the possibilities that had never come to pass, but to be honest - he was just blank. He needed that moment to gather himself together. He had gotten the answers he'd asked for, but it just left him dumbfounded. In one moment he had learned more about Bellatrix than he had ever thought he knew. "Won't this overwhelm you?"
"Travers has nothing on Voldemort," Bellatrix replied confidently, though she had her doubts. But at the same time she also had a back up that she hadn't had before, she was as safe as she was ever going to be.
Bellatrix was no longer the perfect image of wizarding aristocracy. She had left her outer robe in the break room, because the length of it interfered with just about everything; her skirt had chalk stains and her shirt had blood stains. With her wand she was mixing a paste that consisted mainly of chalk and blood with a pinch of choice ingredients; it was to be used to draw the ritual runes. She had rolled her sleeves up to her elbows, but what disturbed Sirius the most was the muttering.
"Are you alright?" Sirius asked inching into the room.
"Fine," she looked up to see if he had disturbed any of the runes she had already set.
"You know," he started, finding a safe place to stand (which he judged by how hard Bellatrix glared at him when he moved in a particular direction), "you don't have to do this."
"Sirius," she sighed. "Of course, I have to do this."
"We can find another way," he replied. "And it's not my morals or squemishness or whatever-you-want-to-call-it talking," he caught her sceptical gaze. "Alright, it is part that - I am not overly comfortable with sucking the magic out of someone in a ritual. Much less when that might kill you as well as that guy. There must be a better way!"
Bellatrix stopped working. "Really? A better way?" she asked. "Malfoy killed my sister's magic. He took it away from her and my niece. Forever. In an irreversable way - how many epithets do you need to comprehend that? Meanwhile he still has another one of my sisters, and my nephew," if she hadn't been restricted to the magic circle in which she was preparing the runes, she would be in Sirius' face right now. "And in case it hadn't occured to you - he used my sister's likeness to attack our Father. That means he doesn't care if she becomes a wanted criminal, don't you see, he is cutting off any options for her that don't include him."
"What makes you think she would want to leave him?" Sirius asked gently.
"I don't doubt that she has no idea what is going on, and at the moment she's quite happy in his nest of vipers, but that is no reason to abandon her," Bellatrix surprised herself by saying that. Narcissa, had never been her favorite sister, and it would be so much easier to not do what she was about to do. And yet here she was - about to commit unspeakable acts and fighting tooth and nail to give Cissy a chance.
She remembered well the time she had told Narcissa to forget about Blacks if she wouldn't play nice. Bellatrix was painfully aware of her part in turning her sister away from the Family. At the time she had been more concerned about Andy; in a way she still was - she wanted revenge for what Malfoy had done. But she also wanted her sister back. She had never given Narcissa half the chance that she had given Andromeda. Bellatrix wanted to change that.
She didn't let him finish whatever it was that he had to say, "I perfectly understand if my personal reasons mean nothing to you," she waved him off, as he started to protest, "On an institutional level - they really shouldn't. But consider then this - Malfoy has harnessed the power of a metamorphmage and is using it to disguise assassins that have already struck hard at the community," she didn't have to remind him the names that wizarding press and wireless kept shouting for the last few days - Greengrasses, Notts, Parkinsons, Alastor Moody, Minerva McGonagall, the Hogwarts Gameskeeper. And now - Lord Cygnus Black, Headmaster Dumbledore.
"We have one of those assassins in custody. On a purely statistical scale - the life of that assassin is a price easily payable for a chance to infiltrate his organisation and take him down. And you need that kind of news or what you're hearing now on the Wireless will become a widespread hysteria. Nothing else but - we won, and it'll be like Voldemort all over again."
"But why you?" he asked, his shoulders sagging.
He knew she was right. They had to act and act fast or the Ministry would lose it's credibility. It might not be fair or reasonable, but the short memories of Wizards and their tendency for mass panic meant that unless satisfactory answers were forthcoming soon - they would be facing a disaster. Some would think Voldemort was back, some would realize it was a new dark lord - most wouldn't care at all who is to blame; they would just be scared.
"Because you can't - you're the Minister. Lily can't, because she knows how to do the ritual and I need her to do it. James can't, because he commands the Auror Corps. This is not the time at which we could afford to lose a military commander," she replied. "And if anyone can get Narcissa to turn on Malfoy - it'll be me. I still am her sister and head of Family," she was perfectly serious. But then she smiled teasingly, "Besides I did sign that consultant waiver."
"Your jokes need work," Sirius was not amused.
Bellatrix laughed. She did consider for a short moment to ask Sirius to.. find Bruce. In case something went wrong. To tell him, that.. But she quickly reconsidered. It seemed cheap - the final words thing. She truly didn't think that the ritual would fail. Not to mention that the very fact that Sirius even knew that Bruce existed seemed too much. She was determined to keep Bruce separate from her magical life; the community was too dangerous and fickle, she plainly didn't trust them with someone as important as Bruce. Especially considering that he was a Muggle.
If this was any other time - she might have considered popping back into Gotham for a short time. Just to warn that she might be gone for a longer time. Just to.. See him. But as things stood now - she wasn't in any hurry to get back. Just thinking about the mess she'd made was enough to make her wince. She hadn't acted so recklessly and irresponsibly since.. she'd been a child. And while she could justify the ritual, she couldn't excuse the memory charm. She couldn't bear to look him in the face and lie, and she had no time to explain everything.
"Well, you're right," Sirius couldn't stand the prolonged silence. "This can't be the end. There's the prophecy after all."
Bellatrix snorted. And then paused, surprised at her own utterly undignified reaction. "You think 'the Shade' mentioned there is Malfoy?"
"You know about the prophecy?" he coughed, his voice had been embarassingly shrill.
Bellatrix returned her attention to mixing the paste. "You mentioned it.."
Sirius' eyes narrowed. "Yes, but I didn't tell it to you. Not the contents. In fact, I explicitly remember telling you that I can't tell you!"
Bella started drawing a rune on the floor, on the outside of the restrictive circle she was standing in. "Well, I found it."
She grit her teeth to resist the urge to roll her eyes. "I was a Minister, Sirius," she snapped.
"Oh, no," he protested. "Not that excuse again! I told you just before the battle. Before the press conference when.. When I found you with that dude! You had no time. You resigned right after the battle! And you pretended to be dead. No way you waltzed into the Department of Mysteries!"
"You were unconscious for three days!" she replied. "It's not like the public entrance is the only one the DoM has! It's Department of Mysteries, for Merlin's sake!"
"But how did you even find it?"
"It's not like there were that many with my name on it," she shook her head lightly. It might be inadvisable to use magic in the Hall of Prophecies, but it's not like she had summoned the orb. A little navigational charm was all it took.
"Well, did you listen to it?" he asked, suddenly excited.
"Did you?" she looked at him questioningly, pausing in between drawing runes.
"Wait.. What?" Sirius was confused.
"No, I didn't listen to it. I destroyed it," she answered calmly and drew another rune.
"Why?" if there was a prophecy about him, he would have listened to it for sure. He didn't believe his cousin lacked curiosity on such an abysmal level as she now pretended to.
"Because I believe that every prophecy is a self-fullfilling one. My life is my own and I don't need a prophet to tell me how to live it," it was more than that. Hadn't her father listened to a prophecy? It had shaped her entire life. Bellatrix didn't know about could-have-been's and maybe's; she dealt with reality, and she didn't need another prophecy in her life.
"I could tell it to you, if you're curious.." he offered freely. Now it seemed ridiculous to withold it. What had once seemed so important, was no more.
"It's alright, Sirius. I truly have no interest in hearing it," two more runes and she would be done.
"As far as I know, I'm the only one left alive who has heard it in full," he mentioned. Parts of it had been known to Order of Phoenix, but only those that referred purely to the Shade. It had been assumed that Shade meant Voldemort. But they had been wrong since the prophecy still existed after Voldemort's death. Sirius had never divulged the entirety of what he had heard - even before Bellatrix returned to Wizarding world; that had been his way of protecting the Family from which he had been at that time disowned.
"And?" she didn't understand what he was hinting at with that piece of information.
"I could ask Lily to obliviate me. Then it would be gone forever like you wanted," it seemed like the right thing to do - to offer to honor his cousin's wishes. It was her prophecy after all. He had just been around when it had been first said.
"Do you want to do that?" she stalled.
"Not really. It's a good story," he shrugged.
"Then keep it," Bellatrix decided as she finished the last rune. "Be my guest, it matters not. And I'm done. We can start."
Bellatrix had used Polyjuice before, but this felt different - where a potion used a wizard or witches own power for transformation, the morphing was like an adjacent power source all on it's own. It felt like every shape she took - it was her own. She marveled how easy it would be to lose your own identity exploring this power. She took a deep breath and opened the door.
"I heard you were captured," Rodolphus growled getting up from his chair.
She surveyed the room and absentmindedly wondered why all wizarding outlaws chose such tasteless hideouts. Muggle criminals had more taste. Hadn't Lao taken a private jet to Hong Kong? Why did Death Eaters assume that magic filled every convenience? Splintering wooden floor or polished marble? There really was no contest. "Uhm, I, uh, escaped," she wheezed.
"I told you not to show up unless you did the job," Rodolphus frowned, picked up a newspaper and threw it at her. "You failed." Announcement that Dumbledore would recover was front page news.
Bellatrix never lacked for poise and persona in her own skin, but pretending to be Thaddeus Travers robbed her of her composure. Had she ever tried - she would have been a very bad spy. She had trouble taking on a personality that was not her own. "Ugh.. I had nowhere else to go.. ?"
Lestrange laughed. "You could have looked up that bitch of yours. Bet she's in town to mourn her dearly departed father."
"Right," she nodded, wondering how to get the conversation going towards Malfoy. She was astonished to realize how hard it was actually to get someone to do something in particular when she wasn't intimidating them with her own name and person. She might be able to schmooze in social gatherings like a professional, but persuassiveness was certainly something she lacked. Bellatrix hadn't realized until now how much she relied on carefully planned settings and her status. She was still surprised when Lestrange pointed a wand at her.
"You're not Travers," he hissed.
She didn't bother denying; she just sent a banishing curse his way that very same moment. Then she dropped the Travers' morph. Lestrange managed to bring up a shield to hide behind at the very last moment. Then he sent a dark, bone shredding curse in relatiation.
"You," he growled, and showed his outrage with a barrage of illegal curses.
She stepped out of the way of several curses and compromised with the strength of her shield charm to return the fire. Still that left her vulnerable and the tail end of a nasty blood boiling curse sent her crashing against the back wall. Out of breath she sent a graceless, "Reducto!" against the wall behind Rodolphus. She barely succeeded in deflecting the bone crushing curse he had managed to sent her way before the other wall collapsed on him. It was over.
Bellatrix let her forehead hit the floor with a heavy sigh. This happens far too often, she thought. Her entire back hurt. There was strange buzzing in her ears. And she was sure her right side was black and blue from where she hit the table going down. It seemed that every fight she got into lately, she ended up against a wall. "Next time I'm starting with cushioning charms," she grumbled as she first rose to her hands and knees, and then gathered enough wits to stand.
She shuffed to the pile of rubble where Rodolphus was burried. She kicked a small rock aside with her shoe, took a deep breath and banished most of the destruction away, "That's what you get for second rate safehouses," she muttered clearing away wood panelling, wool, paper and pieces of cloth that had been stuck into the walls for insulation. She summoned Rodolphus' wand and bound him, "Incarcerous," she lazily incanted.
"Now.. Do I wake you or not..," she squatted down near him and poked his face with her wand. "I think not. You run out of interesting things to say in our Third year. Legilimens," an unconscious mind was more disorganized, but it was prefferable over the droning sound of Rodolphus' voice were he awake. She was not particularly gentle as she browsed his memories looking for information on Malfoy and his plans. Considering what she saw there; she was willing to wager that there were people who'd send her a gift basket for that.
She stopped by a mirror to check her face. She was 'wearing' the appearance of Rodolphus Lestrange. She smiled and shuddered. Dear Merlin, you would have greatly benefited from a good Muggle dentist's appointment, she thought.
Her gaze strayed to the clock. If she sent the signal and coordinates to Sirius now then he'd be here with the Auror Corps within half hour. On one hand - she'd assured him that she'd notify him as soon as she was able to confirm that she had found Malfoy's residence. On the other hand - if the Aurors came in wands blazing before she got her sister and nephew out..
This could be a museum, she mused and casually swiped an antique vase off of the small table in front of the mirror. That's for my mother's china.
Most of the hallways were empty and easy to navigate. She used the same charm she had used in the Hall of Prophecies to navigate to Draco. Her plan was to portkey her nephew out and then head for her sister. Whether she managed to convince Narcissa or not - there was no reason to put the child into crosshairs of a battle that would happen either way. She saw only two other wizards in the main building and Rodolphus' scowl kept them from asking any questions.
As she neared a wing that pointed east, she changed her appearance to that of her sisters. She didn't know if movement in that part of the manor was restricted - but nobody should ask questions to Malfoy's wife. She found the nursery without incident. The door had been left ajar and the baby was lying quietly in the crib. She guessed that Narcissa had probably left only for a short while.
"Aren't you supposed to be asleep?" Bellatrix asked in her sister's melodic voice.
Draco frowned in his crib and kicked out in protest. It was adorable. Bellatrix dropped Narcissa's appearance. "So you knew I'm not her, huh?" she winked at the baby and fished in her pocket for a small bracelet that she fixed around his small, pudgy arm.
Draco gurgled in response and stuffed his other fist in his mouth.
"I'm your aunt, darling," Bellatrix let her guard drop for a second, and she let the moment stretch. "I won't let anything bad happen to you or your mom. Promise."
"And how exactly you plan on keeping that promise?" Narcissa asked appearing in the doorway.
"Narcissa!" Bellatrix nearly jumped in surprise. Of course, the one time when she wasn't paying attention someone would sneak up on her.
"Want to explain to me why you have broken into my house? Because I certainly don't remember inviting you in," the blonde's eyes narrowed, but she wasn't reaching for her wand yet. Or raising an alarm.
"Frankly? I'm here to take you and Draco away. Back home," Bellatrix wasn't very good at leading into conversations. Facts and figures were more her thing. Sensitive topics and emotions.. Not so much. If the truth was obvious to her - it followed that it must be obvious to everyone else as well. Unfortunately that was often not the case.
"This is my home," her sister replied, and raised her chin a little higher.
"Narcissa, you need to finally open your eyes and see what is really going on!" Bellatrix didn't like how her tone was dangerously close to pleading. How could her sister be so blind and not see Malfoy for what he truly was?
"And what would that be? Perhaps it's you who isn't seeing the bigger picture," Narcissa replied. She didn't know everything, but she thought that she knew enough. She knew that they were being persecuted for their views by the government itself. And their views were no different than what their parents, grandparents and last fifteen generations of their Family had believed in and adhered to. Why were they in the wrong, when they were doing everything as it had been done for hundreds of years?
And yet she didn't call for her husband. Or guards. Her sister was still her sister and the Head of Family. The very laws that Bellatrix seemed to flount and disdain were what was keeping Narcissa rooted on the spot and listening to her.
"For Merlin's sake, Narcissa..," suddenly Bella was afraid that she might not find the right words. She cut herself off and took a deep breath. "Cissy.. You do understand that Voldemort was bad, right? Following him was a crime, and.. You can't be so naive as to not know what was done on his orders? Even if none of the lives lost have any meaning - it was still pure, mindless destruction. He was not the embodiment of the values you want to protect so badly."
She paused, expecting - hoping, that Narcissa would say something, but her sister just watched her. "And Lucius was one of his top lietuenants. Merlin.. If you can excuse every crime he comitted then and since then.. There's still Andromeda," Bellatrix's voice wavered. "Cissy, he took her magic, and her baby's magic. By your laws she should be dead to me. Our little sister. You can't be so far gone for it to mean nothing at all." Bellatrix would never admit to having tears in her eyes, therefore she most definitely did not wipe them away with the back of her hand.
She took a deep breath, composing herself, "And you know what's the most disgusting part of it all? He sucked the magic out of them and he harvested the baby's Metamorphmagus ability so that he could create an army of chameleon assassins. Whatever he told you - he did it for power and greed."
"You lie," Narcissa managed. Uncalled for - Andromeda's words haunted her. Her sister had begged for her help, and she had denied. But how could she have crossed her husband? Besides - Lucius would never have done anything truly evil. He just.. She'd thought.. Nothing she had thought was comparable to what Bellatrix now revealed. That was.. The blackest of magics. To take away someone's powers was a punishment equal to Dementor's Kiss. Andromeda has our mother's eyes, Narcissa thought. Absentmindedly she wondered if her niece or nephew had the same eyes. She had no idea.
As for Voldemort.. Narcissa had never been involved with the Death Eaters. She wasn't even sure if she'd ever met one. She'd just hosted parties for her husband's friends. Lucius had carefully restricted her circle of information for years. She was clueless about most things that were happening.
"You think your husband believes in something and you feel that you have to believe it too so that you have at least something to hang on to, but all of it is lies," Bellatrix entreated.
"The only lies I hear are coming from your mouth," if she didn't hold on to the beliefs she had, then.. Then that meant that her entire life was a lie. It would mean that she had been used by the one person she had dared to trust entirely. She did not want to face that reality.
"Narcissa, Parkinsons are wiped out. Minerva McGonagall is dead. Even Dumbledore was attacked."
"Two blood traitors and .. They don't matter," her voice shook. She might not have liked Dumbledore or the Deputy Headmistress, but they were.. icons. They were part of Hogwarts and her schoolgirl years - they were the mortar between the stones in the castle.
"And our Father, Narcissa," Bellatrix swallowed hard as she forced the lie out. It was the last card she had to play; well, except for stunning her sister and hauling her unconscious body out. "A woman with your face gutted our Father in Mother's rose garden."
"What?" Narcissa sagged against the doorframe.
"What was he?" Bellatrix continued mercilessly. "A blood traitor? A muggle-lover? A bad father? What? Or perhaps it was no assassin in disguise, but you yourself. Do you hate everyone in our family?"
"But Father..." Narcissa's hold on the doorframe was white-knuckled.
Bellatrix became gentler, seeing that her words were finally, finally getting through. "Father was still a powerful man. He hindered Voldemort's rise to power. He kept me safe from the Dark Lord and undoubtedly he'd was a problem for Lucius. And there is only one way that a man like Lucius knows how to deal with problems."
"I don't believe you," every word took excruciating effort.
"Then why are you crying?" Bellatrix asked softly. She knew that she should feel worse for doing to Narcissa what she was doing to her now, but.. The only way how Bella knew to punch through defenses was to deliver the biggest blow possible. It hurt Narcissa. But Bellatrix reasoned that in the long term it would keep her alive and well.
"I don't believe you," Cissy sobbed.
"I think you do," Bella's voice was barely above the sound of a whisper.
"I don't want to," Narcissa collapsed.
"We have to run, Narcissa," Bellatrix grabbed her sisters' hand and pulled. "Come on!"
They were running down the main hall. There were flames raging all around them. The message Bellatrix had sent to Sirius had alerted everyone in the house that something was wrong. The portkey had barely managed to whisk Draco safely away - punching a hole in the wards large enough for only one small person. A new set of wards were laid over a mansion barely a second later and nobody was getting through anymore. The fire beast from the Fiendfyre spell ravaged the house turning it inside out and Narcissa stood frozen, staring at where her husband had stood just before he'd tried to kill her.
"... you hear me?" Bellatrix pressed. "RUN!"
They ran into the main building, but the flames were hot on their heels. Bellatrix pulled her sister along to the main hall, towards the front door. If they couldn't get out by any magical means - they still could try the old fashioned approach and leave through the doors. Except the doors didn't open. Bellatrix pulled and pushed, and they didn't even budge.
"Try the window, I'll try to blast the damn thing," Bella spoke quickly.
But no matter the amount of magic the sisters through at either the doors or windows - it was no use. The house was sealed. The last wards had locked it down as good as with a Fidelius charm. Given time - those wards were deciphrable. They did not have that time. The fire roared. It was a terrible sound followed by gentle sizzling as everything gave way to it.
"The main hall is going to be on fire in minutes," Narcissa breathed, thinking quickly, "There's only the basement left."
"Let's hope there's a secret entrance or something," Bellatrix laughed shortly, then coughed on the smoke. "Lead the way."
"What is that?" Bellatrix slowed down to hesitantly point her wand light at the shimmering veil in the middle of the wall.
The basement, apparently, mostly served as a wine cellar, but they had found a secret door. Unfortunately that secret door lead to a secret room and.. That's it. It was an empty room except for the decorative ark in the middle of the back wall. Bellatrix tried to clamp down on the panic crawling up her throat.
"It's an archway," Narcissa replied succintly, mostly because she was out of breath.
"Where does it lead?" Bella's tone was hard.
Nowhere. "I don't know," Narcissa admitted. "All I know is if we stay, we're dead anyway." At least her son was safe. It was a small comfort. She had wanted to see him grow. And Lucius.. She could hardly believe he had tried to murder her. She wanted revenge for that. She was the mother of his child. She was his wife. She deserved more respect than that.
"I think I've seen it before," Bellatrix tilted her head a bit to side, thinking. Suddenly all urgency fled from her body and all she felt was curiosity. It was an unnatural feeling of calm. But she was certain she had seen something similar before. She just couldn't, for the life of her, recall where and when.
"Now is not the time," Narcissa replied absent mindedly and elbowed Bellatrix to snap her out of her daze. She carefully approached the archway to examine it. When she shined more light on it, she could distinguish runes.
"Can you understand the writing?" Bellatrix asked.
"Some," Narcissa replied frowning. "I recognize some lines and fragments. Lucius used to bring such symbols for me to study. He told me it was to keep my life interesting."
Wine bottles exploded. The fire had reached the wine cellar. The roar of the fire beast was a haunting sound.
"Either way, I just don't know what it does, but if we stay..."
"We're dead anyway," Bellatrix finished reaching for her sisters' hand.
Narcissa clasped her palm gratefully. "Together?"
"Together," and they took a step forward, passing into the veil.
The fire beast followed them, but ended up just banging against unbreakable barrier.
Sirius stared at the flaming house. The whole of Auror Corps helplessly stood with him. The house was sealed. Curse breakers from Gringott's were working on breaking through the wards, but fire had already consumed everything. It had been suggested to just let it burn through - eventually the Fiendfyre would destroy the wards too before sizzling out. Sirius had punched the man that had proposed that.
He turned to Lily. "Could you do something for me?"
Lily managed a compassionate smile through tears. "Of course, Sirius. Anything," she sniffled, "What do you need me to do?"
"Obliviate me," he asked turning his gaze back at the manor.
"There's something I'd rather forget," his voice was the voice of a very, very tired man.
"Sirius, obliviation is not the answer," Lily protested gently. "Even if you don't remember her; there will be this dark, empty hurt where she was, and you won't even know why you're hurting. It would change you in ways you can't even imagine. You can't just forget somebody you knew for so long and so well and be okay. I'm sorry. I can't fix this for you."
He smiled, brokenly. "It's not her I want to forget. It's just something I never should have known in the first place."
"What do you mean?" Lily's tone was just as defeated. She tried to remind herself to take joy in the one positive thing that had happened - Cygnus Black had let them know that he had his grandson safe in his custody, but.. Here where the flames were so close, yet the wards kept them contained, so that not even heat escaped.. All Lily could think about was that the little boy that had been saved had just lost his mother.
"A prophecy," he replied. "She was right. She wasn't bound by the thing. It was just a story and one I'd rather forget now." There are no happy endings in life. "Tell the curse breakers to stop. Nothing could have survived that fire."