Bellatrix Black, unlike either of her sisters, did not have the demurring nature of a noblewoman. Although her elder sister, who was now no longer mentioned, had been far from obedient and mouse-like, she at least possessed a certain sense of decorum around distinguished guests of the family. She, however, had failed to show this same sense of decorum in other areas of her life, for which she was disinherited from her family. Bellatrix’s younger sister, as well, had this certain air about her that suggested feminine meekness. Her complexion even accentuated this conception others had, although if they had looked deeper they would have recognized a calculating mind beneath the façade she so carefully preserved.
Bellatrix, however, was neither of her sisters. As her name suggested, she was a warrior in every sense of the word. She possessed a wild and untamed beauty that all men found attractive in their either their passionate youth or their disappointing old age. Her dark eyes flamed with a recklessness that even the least discerning muggle could detect, and her openness and unguarded frankness amongst others was an unceasing topic for gossip and speculation.
When the witch exited her room that morning, she saw neither her sister nor her former lover. Her lavish curls were uncombed and a red dressing gown barely concealed her naked form. Bellatrix, although now a respectably engaged woman, did not hold with the conventions of wizarding society. In her anxiety the night before she had turned to Lestrange because she couldn’t turn to the only man she had ever truly desired.
Lucius, the one man whom she could never again have. He had been hers for such a short time, but at least he had belonged fully to her. And now he might belong to Narcissa, her calculating little sister who was no more than a child when they had first met. Narcissa, who could never deserve him. However, Bellatrix instinctually knew he loved her sister. Although his face and movements were cold and betrayed nothing, she had seen the undeniable truth in his countenance the night before. His gaze had lingered slightly too long upon Narcissa’s angelic features and he had defended the younger witch’s claim. He had stated to her that no one had stolen his heart, merely that Bellatrix had failed to captivate it that night long ago and her innocent sister had. If Narcissa had not entered the room where she had been – she sighed.
The Malfoy heir was her first and only love. Lestrange, although amusing, was nothing compared to the silent and calculatingly brilliant Lucius. No one could be as cruel and soulless and yet so elegant and gentle at the same moment. His reverence and cunning alone was her rage’s equal. Narcissa, although disturbingly pensive, did not possess the true inclination for power or blood. Though the blonde witch saw and noted her surroundings and those around her, she had not the heart to fully use and exploit the information she had gathered.
Bellatrix was addicted to him, she always had been, ever since she had first laid eyes upon him. He was a drug, a chilling toxin that had infected her system years ago. She still craved him desperately after all of those years and no matter how much time passed and how much of an anecdote she tried to cure herself with, the desire never left her. Although it lay buried under her fire, her rage, it steadily grew and infected her heart and everything she had ever loved.
It had even poisoned her love for her sister, the sister who was now a stranger to her. Narcissa was now as good as dead to her as her other sister was. She had never cared for – she breathed in deeply, trying not to think her name. But she had loved her gentle Narcissa with a passion that rivaled even her current hatred for the young witch. She had been such a beautiful child, her blonde hair framing her hauntingly angelic features. She had a quiet imagination and innocence, which Bellatrix had cherished. The older witch would halt any activity if her sister had come into the room and had often instantly abandoned the bustling Slytherin commons, in which she thrived, for a quiet corner when a letter from Narcissa had arrived.
Those days, however, were now gone.
She crossed the landing, lost in her thoughts, and descended down the stairs toward the breakfast room. As she opened the door, she heard voices within. Perhaps Narcissa had returned, she thought disdainfully to herself. At least she knew Lestrange would always be true to her as Lucius never was.
“Has the thief returned?” she asked cruelly as she opened the door. She heard a short clink of silver as her mother placed her teacup on its saucer perhaps a little too sharply.
“Do you mean your sister, dearest?” she questioned , a tight look crossing her features.
“Whom else could I mean?” Bellatrix replied shortly as she glanced about the room and visibly started as she saw Lord Everingham regarding her with amazement.
“Bella, dear,” her mother said hastily as her “eldest” daughter stared openly at their guest. “This is Lord Everingham. My Lord, my daughter Bellatrix Black.”
Her daughter, despite the introduction, still stood agape. Recovering herself after a brief pause, a superior look graced her face. “What is he doing here at such an ungodly hour?”
Madame Black sighed. “He helped escort Narcissa home this morning.”
Bellatrix, at first, did not respond to her mother’s reply. Instead, she sat down at the table, her dressing gown revealing too much of her right leg to be considered proper. The witch, however, didn’t mind and poured herself a cup of tea. Reclining nonchalantly into her chair, she raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow and regarded the nobleman. She took a sip of her tea slowly and, putting it down upon the saucer, purred “so it was you, wasn’t it?”
Alexius looked startled and inquired haltingly, “I – I beg your pardon?”
Bellatrix, however, seemed nonplussed. “It was you, last night. Malfoy was right; but, then again, he always is.”
The wizard’s brow furrowed in confusion. Could this brazen witch possibly know that her younger sister had gone to his house for sanctuary the night before? “I am not quite certain as to what you are referring,” he lied as he took another drink of his tea. He analyzed the features of the young woman before him, but could find little resemblance to her sister – the woman he hardly knew and yet strangely loved. Yes, there was the same defined brow and each face possessed a certain delicacy. Each witch had high cheekbones, the pale skin and elongated fingers of a noblewoman. However, the future Madame Lestrange’s face was more pronounced, more lavishly beautiful. Narcissa’s features were softer and less chiseled and held a grace and beauty that her sister’s never could. Where Bellatrix’s thick hair curled ravenously, Narcissa’s only slightly hinted at the family curls. Narcissa’s beauty was evident, yet understated, Bellatrix’s more pronounced yet gaudy compared to the sister who possessed Alexius’s heart.
“Do you not?” Bellatrix asked coyly. “Tell me, Lord Everingham , how long have you cared for my younger sister? How long have you exchanged secret letters?” She paused and leaning forward, she continued while showing an ample amount of her bosom, “For how long, precisely, my Lord, have you two been lovers?”
Alexius’s face remained impassive. No, he thought, that was probably Lucius, the man Narcissa both fears and adores. The lord knew he could answer in the negative, tell the truth to the blatant witch who was questioning him. But he wanted to be the man whom Narcissa loved and cherished, yet he didn’t want her to fear him as she obviously did Lucius. What exactly had Lucius done to her? he wondered once again. He knew he could not lie and say that he was the man to whom Narcissa had obviously been writing the night before. A flick of her eyes when she heard from her sister’s lips his “confession,” would betray to him that she knew he had told an untruth.
He knew that she would loathe him for it. He would becoming more like the flippant and cool Lucius she despised and less like the man she somehow loved. However, there was another option still left open to him. He could admit the truth, deny the accusations of the eldest Miss Black, but yet reveal his cousin’s relationship with his fiancée. It would stun Bellatrix, he thought somewhat amusedly, and she deserved it for calling the woman he loved a thief. He would also be exposing a truth Lucius did not want made public at the moment.
“What about Narcissa?” his conscience asked him. “What does she want?” HIM. It was only too obvious. Yet, at the same time, she did not.
Alexius adored her, he knew that he did despite all reason. He loved her as a man loved a woman, not as Lucius loved her. The Malfoy heir thought of her as a possession, a prize to be won – for that was how he viewed every woman he ever set his sights on. Narcissa deserved better than that – better even than a man who could buy her the rarest jewels and the most ancient of magic. “But are you worthy of her?” the voice asked again.
This, though, was war.
Suppressing his misgivings, he looked Bellatrix directly in the eye. “I believe, Miss Black, you are referring to my cousin, Lucius Malfoy.”
Unbeknownst to either Alexius or Lord Everingham, Madam Black smiled at the suggestion.
Whatever reaction Lord Everingham was expecting from the eldest Miss Black in regards to his cool statement, he certainly did not expect the witch to scream at the top of her lungs and slam her fist down upon the breakfast table. Her tea cup and saucer rattled as they fell off of the table from the force of the impact and shattered on the floor. Bellatrix, however, did not seem to notice. Instead, her eyes blazed with a fire the intensity of which made Alexius’s blood run cold. He held her gaze, nonetheless, until she finally took a deep breath and yelled “Rodolphus!” as she rushed from the room.
Alexius inwardly sighed. He knew what state Miss Black would find her fiancé, and it would only increase her irrationality and anger toward her sister. Slowly, he took a sip of his morning tea and through an inquiring glance at Madame Black. The older witch seemed rattled by her daughter’s behaviour to say the least, but showed no other outward sign of disapproval or surprise.
“My eldest, Lord Everingham,” she began by way of an explanation, “has always been highly possessive, to say the least. And what with the wedding and all of the strain …” Her voice trailed off. “She and Mr Malfoy,” she began again, “were once intimate. But I suppose the differences of temper became too much of an obstacle, especially at –”
A shrill cry echoed from the entrance hall throughout the castle, and Madame Black visibly cringed at the sound. Clearly, Alexius thought as he placed his saucer on the table, Bellatrix has just found Lestrange.
Narcissa closed her eyes as she breathed in the cool Autumn air, abandoning the peaceful sight of falling leaves. Her left hand rested comfortably on her stomach, holding a slender bloom. Despite the cold weather it unfurled majestically, as if it were daring the world to tell it that it should not. Its scent hung hauntingly in the air, clashing with the sweet and familiar smell of decay. Her other hand hung listlessly by her side, nearly brushing the ground. Although the wooden bench where Narcissa lay was rough, it was familiar and comforting. She sighed in pleasure, her graceful fingers protectively grasping the flower, a tangible promise of his return.
The morning gown, which he had designed for her, clung familiarly to her from. The pale blue and golden brocade flowed over her legs and over the edge of the bench. Her unbound and curling hair formed a cushion for her resting head, though it fell over her relaxed shoulders. Narcissa was content and – dare she think it? – happy. She listened to the rustling of the wind through the dying trees and sighed with pleasure.
“Narcissa?” she heard her mother’s voice call her across the garden. The young witch merely inclined her head toward the direction of Madame Black’s voice. When she heard her name called again, she heaved a sigh and called back, “I’m in the garden, Mama.”
She heard the steps of her mother approaching and – those of a decidedly masculine companion. Briefly, her mind drifted to but a few minutes before. Lucius’ form against the dulled colours of Autumn flashed before her mind’s eye, his brow oddly calm yet his eyes calculating. She hadn’t followed him, although she had watched his retreating form as she stood in the doorway leading through the garden. He had said his good-byes simply, merely tracing the line of her jaw tenderly with his ungloved hand. He had not said his farewells to the lady of the house, he had merely left and she had stood and watched him go. But she knew he would be back. He was of one world, and she still of another – but only for now.
When she could no longer see his form, she had ventured into the garden. Her slippered feet had made little noise against the ancient slabs of stone that paved the path amongst the sleeping flowers. She had not wished to go back indoors, to where her sister and her incessant jealousy lay waiting for her. She had not even wanted to see Lord Everingham – Alexius, Lucius’ cousin – again. She found this lack of desire to see this new acquaintance puzzling. He was a charming man of wealth and consequence, and she found him charming and diverting. He could make her forget her longing and need for Lucius, though perhaps only for a little while. However, only Lucius could help her forget everything – the past, Bellatrix, Lestrange and his boorish attacks. She had smiled to herself at the thought of her “fiancé”.
But, then again, Alexius was her best friend’s brother. They could have spoken of Junia easily and pleasantly and of the upcoming wedding. More importantly, though, he was not only Junia’s brother but Lucius’s cousin. She could have sat within his presence and searched his features for any hint of the Malfoy heir. Perhaps his laugh held the same musical quality or his brow the same flippant defiance.
Narcissa, however, had only wanted solitude for company if she could not be with Lucius.
The hem of her gown had whispered as it had brushed against the falling leaves. She had held it up reverently, although she enjoyed the quiet sound it made. It reminded her of long hours in the dormitory of Hogwarts within the past year, when she and Junia in hushed voices discussed dark magic within the dead of night. As she had rounded the corner to her favourite bench, carved from dying oak, a glimmer of white had caught her eye against the dulled background of reds and yellows. A single narcissus, as if touched by magic, had glowed faintly in the early morning night. It had been fresh and new as if it had only bloomed that morning, although every other flower had been dead within the garden. She had smiled to herself as she saw it and had bent down beside it. She had then picked it and, bringing the blossom to her nose, had smelled the faint scent of spring.
“I love you, too,” she had whispered to no one but the wind.
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