Bellatrix walked into the library, as today's meeting was being held there. She wondered if that was because he couldn't be bothered to come downstairs to meet everyone instead. Voldemort looked up at her, looking her briefly up and down before he returned to his book. Then Bellatrix noticed Lucius was sat on an armchair quite far away from Voldemort. As she approached him, she suddenly realised how rough he was looking, in a way she had never seen before. His hair was dirty and unkempt, his eyes bloodshot and his face unshaven. Apparently Azkaban had not agreed with Lucius, and she snorted a little at that thought. She was looking pretty good compared to him, and she had fourteen years under her belt.
A couple of others entered. Rabastan, Antonin, Rookwood and Yaxley. As soon as Antonin had sat down next to her, Voldemort slammed his book shut and looked up. Bellatrix jumped, swallowing down her nervous cough.
"Yaxley and Malfoy, you have both been found innocent of being a Death Eater," Voldemort said coldly, with no preamble. "You were both under the Imperius Curse." His eyes narrowed as he scanned both men. "So you'd better both get to work."
Bellatrix was watching Lucius and she could see his eyes darken slightly. Voldemort was watching him too.
"Lucius!" he snapped, standing up suddenly. "Your thoughts are with your family! Why is this?"
Lucius bowed his head. "My apologies, my Lord," he said, his voice hoarse.
"You have had months in Azkaban to think about them and nothing else," Voldemort continued, his voice icy. "It is time to work now."
Bellatrix looked down to her lap. That was unfair, of course it was, but she wasn't going to say anything. He was unfair.
Slowly, too slowly, Voldemort turned around and sat back in his chair. Bellatrix could see the fury in his red eyes. "You both must help me to form a circle around the new minister. The new head of the Auror office, Robard, is a man of action and not of thought. He is useless to me." He paused, twirling his wand around for a few moments. "However, the new head of the department of Magical Law Enforcement…" Voldemort paused. "Thicknesse. He is of use. Yaxley, you will find a way put him under your control."
Yaxley nodded his head curtly. "I will, my Lord," he responded, his voice smooth.
"The rest of you need to start letting the world know that I am back and that I are as powerful now as I was fifteen years ago." For the first time, a small smirk appeared on his features. "We will cause damage and destruction both in our world and in the world of those inferior to us… You will be the leaders. I expect you to assemble a team and be out on a daily basis."
Bellatrix could see that Antonin looked fairly excited about the prospect of that, she guessed that he had probably been very bored recently.
Voldemort had a dangerous glint in his eyes now, Bellatrix was used to seeing this look more and more often. "In a few weeks we shall conduct a larger meeting at the Malfoy manor," he said, his voice softer and cooler now.
Shifting her gaze to Lucius, she could see how frightened the blond looked, although he kept his head down and tried not to let his face change too badly. She looked back to Voldemort, and she could see how amused was. Apparently tormenting Malfoy was his new favourite pastime. He picked up his book again. "You may leave," he said, his voice icy and hard.
Glancing at Antonin as they stood up, Bellatrix rolled her eyes. Antonin smirked back. "Lunch?" he mumbled as they got closer. Bellatrix nodded.
"Bellatrix, stay," she heard being said behind her, the voice still cold. Antonin was frowning when she next looked at him and as she turned around she could see he was still reading.
"Maybe tomorrow," she said softly to Antonin, smiling slightly although she felt nervous about what he wanted. When the door shut and they were alone, Voldemort finally put his book down and looked up at her.
"I do not wish for you to go out with the others," he said softly.
"For lunch?" Bellatrix asked, feeling confused about what he meant.
His eyes narrowed in annoyance. "Not for lunch," he hissed. "To cause trouble, Bellatrix."
"Oh," Bellatrix said, nodding. "I see."
"You are not well enough. What happened in the Department of Mysteries tells me you should not leave my side." He was staring at her, his eyes not so cold.
Bellatrix bowed her head. "If that is what you want," she replied, feeling a bit miserable about it though. Everyone else would be out, and she would be left not doing anything still.
"You have yet to go to teach Malfoy occlumency?" he asked, although Bellatrix knew he wasn't really asking. He knew that she hadn't.
"Yes," she mumbled. Truthfully, she didn't want to go and face Draco looking and feeling like this.
"He will be back at Hogwarts soon… Is it your wish for Dumbledore to learn of the whole plan just by looking at him?" Voldemort continued coolly.
"No, my Lord," she said, shaking her head. "It's just… I am not the… the best teacher… I wondered if perhaps… you…"
Voldemort laughed mockingly. "I?" he inquired.
Bellatrix nodded, trying to hide her nervousness. "He should be taught by the best," she said, keeping her voice firm.
Voldemort reached forward and grabbed a handful of her robes, pulling her closer to him. "He will be taught by you," he hissed, his voice threatening. "And soon. Otherwise you will face my intense displeasure." He reached up and patted the side of her face before letting go of her robes. "You remember what that's like, don't you?" he asked, laughing at her again.
"How could I forget," she murmured, pulling back from him. "Was there anything else you needed, my Lord?" she asked after a moment of trying to steady the rhythm of her heart. He'd already gone back to his book and was waving her away dismissively.
Staring at him for a moment, Bellatrix really could not believe how much he had changed. She didn't think that there would be a happy ending for her now. Biting her lip, she turned and left the room. Her eyes were flooded with prickly tears and she didn't notice Antonin stood just outside of the room until she bumped into him. Seeing her face, he put his arm around her and led her away from the room.
"Thought I'd wait for you…" she heard him saying. Smiling slightly, Bellatrix rested her head on his shoulder. "Are you hungry?"
Bellatrix couldn't really be bothered to eat, but she knew that would irritate Voldemort when he would surely ask later. She wasn't going to bother trying to lie to him. For someone who was so horrible to her, he sure got angry when he found out she wasn't taking care of herself. It was so confusing.
"Yes," she said, feeling very glad she had someone to call a friend. She wasn't sure where she would be without Antonin.
There was a very awkward silence around the dinner table at Malfoy manor. Narcissa was not eating, the plate of food in front of her was untouched. By looking at her, Bellatrix didn't think Narcissa had been eating for a while. She was a funny shade of pale – almost yellow – and the bags under her eyes had aged her considerably. She kept staring at Bellatrix coldly.
Lucius was pushing his food around his plate, occasionally lifting a mouthful to his mouth on his fork and swallowing, barely chewing. He hadn't shaved and his hair looked dirty. The anxiety they felt for their son was ruining both of them.
Draco sat quietly, quickly eating his food, his eyes darting between his parents and his aunt between mouthfuls.
"Why are you here, Bellatrix?" Narcissa finally asked, her voice slightly hoarse. "Are you here to spy on us?"
Bellatrix almost choked with laughter. Spy? For whom? "Why would you think that, sister?" she asked a moment later.
"You know why I think it," Narcissa bit back, glancing to Draco for a moment. Apparently they had not told their son about his uncle.
"I'm not exactly in favour either," Bellatrix said, taking a mouthful of wine. "Ask Lucius."
Lucius jumped slightly at the mentioning of his name, looking up. "I didn't notice," he said softly.
"The only person that the Dark Lord speaks to at the moment is Snape," Bellatrix snapped. She noticed Draco's head lift up at the mention of Snape's name. "Which is a grave mistake."
There was silence. Narcissa's gaze was less cold. "I haven't seen you since-" Her chest heaved with emotion and her voice broke. She couldn't speak.
"The Dark Lord has asked me to teach Draco occlumency," Bellatrix said quietly after a while.
Narcissa looked over at Lucius sharply. "Can't you stop this madness?" she all but shouted at him.
Lucius raised his hand calmly at her. "Draco has been given a chance to prove himself," he said, his voice firm. "There are worse tasks he could be given."
"Worse tasks?" Narcissa hissed. "What could be worse than murder?"
Bellatrix shook her head. "You know nothing," she said, glancing to Lucius with raised eyebrows. There were plenty of things worse that murder that Draco could be subjected to. Lucius nodded shortly at her.
"Bellatrix is right," he said. "There are things you do not know, Narcissa…"
"He is sixteen!" Narcissa shouted back.
"Lucius and I did worse at that age," Bellatrix said softly.
"I never… never wanted that for my son," Narcissa said, her voice broken as if she was near to tears. "I must protect him…"
"Allowing me to teach him will help to protect him," Bellatrix replied, glancing over to Draco who was watching her in interest. "Please, Narcissa…" She couldn't bring herself to say what would happen to her if she didn't teach Draco occlumency soon. She looked back over to Lucius. "Please."
Lucius nodded understandingly. "Of course you can," he said. "Thank you."
Bellatrix looked back to Narcissa, who nodded slowly, tears dripping down her face now. Biting her lip, Bellatrix looked across to Draco. "What do you say, Draco?" she asked softly.
"It would be an honour, Aunt Bellatrix," he said, bowing his head to her slightly. "Perhaps we might use the library, mother," he added, taking Narcissa's hand and squeezing it. Narcissa nodded tearfully.
Standing, Bellatrix followed Draco from the room. "I'm afraid your mother is not taking your assignment very well," she remarked lightly.
"No," Draco replied, holding the library door open for her then shutting it as they entered. "Things have been difficult for her."
"Of course," Bellatrix replied, nodding, not wanting to say much. She sat down. "And how do you feel about it?"
Draco shrugged, sitting down. "I don't know," he said after a while. "Dumbledore is the Dark Lord's greatest enemy, besides Potter… He has to be killed."
"How do you plan on getting everyone into Hogwarts?" Bellatrix asked, curious now.
Draco smiled weakly. "I do have an idea," he said, nodding. "I'm not sure it will work. I need to test it." He stopped smiling after a while. "I am worried about… the pressure… of other… you know, followers, watching me do it. I'm scared that the spell…"
Bellatrix nodded. "I know that feeling."
"When did you… first… kill, Aunt Bellatrix?" Draco asked, looking at her in interest.
Bellatrix looked down at her lap. "I was eighteen," she said, her voice soft. "Like yours will be, it was in front of other people and I was just as scared as you that the spell simply would not come from my wand." She paused, thinking back. The memory wasn't necessarily a good one, so it came to her easily. "It was a young child, I think he was about five."
"Was the Dark Lord there?" Draco asked curiously.
"Yes," Bellatrix said, grinning at him. "At least you won't have that sort of pressure."
Draco smirked at her, and Bellatrix was instantly reminded of Lucius. "Did he go out on raids often back then?"
Bellatrix nodded. "More than he does now but as I became better trained he generally left it to me… It depended on who it was as well."
"He trained you?" Draco blurted out, his guard down and surprised.
Bellatrix nodded. "Just me," she said, feeling quite proud of that accomplishment. "I'll tell you a secret."
"I won't tell anyone," Draco said, shifting closer to her.
"I shouldn't tell you," Bellatrix said, wondering why she was about to tell him this. She felt like she needed to gain his trust before teaching him Occlumency and seeing into his mind. "The Dark Lord and I are married, Draco."
Draco stared at her for a long while, his eyes narrowed. "Married?"
"This does make him your uncle," Bellatrix continued.
Draco sat back in his seat, shaking his head. "I don't understand…" He looked back to her, his eyes wide. "He is so…"
"When you were a baby…" She took a deep breath, trying to keep herself together. "Before he disappeared… He held you. Your mother insisted on throwing you a party every month until you were god knows how old – I didn't see much of you after you were one – and we came a few times. I caught him giving you a cuddle."
Draco snorted with laughter. "I can't believe it. Why didn't my parents tell me this?"
Bellatrix shrugged. "Protective, I suppose." She sat forwards. "How long before you go back to school?"
"So… Can I come a few times a week? For you to practice?" Bellatrix was relieved that he seemed very interested in her. She supposed not many young men had aunts like her.
"Yes," Draco said, his voice firm. "Will the Dark Lord want to see my progress?"
Bellatrix remembered when her husband had taught her Occlumency. He had gone easy on her, but the power of him looking through her mind was pretty painful. She didn't think he would be kind to Draco. "No, Draco." She took hold of his shoulder lightly. "You must never block your mind before him… He will delve deeper if you do and…" She didn't know how to finish that sentence. "It will hurt."
Draco looked nervous, his eyes wide as he looked over at her.
"Trust me," Bellatrix said softly. "I've been on the receiving end."
"You are married!" Draco exclaimed in surprise.
"Yes," Bellatrix said, nodding. "It was a game to us back then." She grinned. Looking back, she realised how much she missed the games that they played with each other, a constant battle for dominance that she loved letting him win in the end. "Right, shall we?" she asked, standing up, trying to shake of the nostalgic feeling. It didn't help, she knew that much from experience.
Nodding, Draco stood up, his face pale. "How do I do it?"
"Empty your mind," Bellatrix answered after a moment, thinking back to when she was first learning. "Try and push me out." She raised her wand, feeling for a moment like she really didn't want to do this to him. She swallowed deeply, staring into his eyes. It was like looking at Lucius.
"Aunt Bellatrix?" Draco asked softly, a few moments later, evidently confused at her hesitation.
She lowered her wand. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "I want to do this as much as you do, you know… I'm not…" She stopped, shaking her head. "I'm not like he is… Nor am I a particularly skilled Legilimens."
"I know that you aren't like him," Draco replied, stepping toward her. "But I want to learn this."
Bellatrix looked up at him. "You do?"
"You and my father…" Draco stopped himself. "I mean, that you don't get along."
Bellatrix snorted. "We are allies at best," she said, rolling her eyes. "Why, what has he been saying?"
Draco smirked at her. "You'd better try and find out yourself."
Bellatrix snorted quietly. "Maybe there is a bit of Black in there, after all," she said, smiling at him.
"Slytherin," Draco replied, smiling back.
Raising her wand once more, Bellatrix could see he didn't mind and wanted to learn this. She raised her wand. "Legilimens!"
Straight away, she could see what Draco meant. The memory was fresh, and it was Lucius explaining to Draco how mad she was. A few moments later, she found that before she could view the memory properly that she had been expelled from his mind.
She blinked in surprise at him. "Very good," she said, nodding at him. "There are some people who are unable to do that. Your father is one of them, I believe."
Draco smirked at her. Bellatrix smiled back, feeling very grateful that Draco was not treating her like a mad old hag. She was glad to be away from the Dark Lord, she hadn't coughed once since being in the library with him and she suddenly realised she was going to miss him when he went back to Hogwarts. She vowed that she would help him to the best of her abilities with what the Dark Lord was asking for. He needed to succeed.
"Let's go again."
"Where have you been?" Voldemort hissed at her as soon as she walked into their sitting room later that night.
"Training Draco," she responded, unsure if she was happy or sad about this apparent missing her. "Like you asked me to."
"Enough," he snapped back at her. "You will let me know that you are leaving next time."
Bellatrix sighed lightly, but she nodded at him anyway, preparing to walk past him and get into bed.
"No!" he said loudly. Bellatrix stopped dead, jumping slightly. "The boy can come here. My wife will not degrade herself to going to him."
"Oh, so I am your wife, am I?" she asked, unable to help herself. When it suited him.
He was glaring at her, she realised as she turned back to look at him. Her stomach flipped as she looked at him, she couldn't help but love him. Knowing that talking to him in the way he talked to her didn't help, she moved closer to him.
"I understand what you mean," she said, and for a moment he looked surprised. "But we have made staggering progress already and I really think being in an environment that he knows will help him."
"He has it in him, then?" Voldemort asked her, his eyes narrowed. "Lucius never did."
Bellatrix smiled at that. "He isn't all Malfoy, my Lord."
Voldemort laughed, but it wasn't a cold or nasty laugh, it was genuine. "Sit with me," he said, patting the sofa next to him.
Really wanting to go to bed, Bellatrix nodded reluctantly and sat down next to him. He put his arm around her, drawing her closer. "I knew you would be a good teacher."
"Still not as good as you," Bellatrix replied, smiling as she inhaled his scent. He really didn't smell that different now. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see him smiling. She looked up at him. It was strange to see such a genuine smile on that face, it didn't look right.
"Draco is responding well to his task?" he asked after a moment, and she could suddenly feel him stroking her hair. It felt amazing.
"He is," she said, nodding. "He has some sort of plan in his head and seems… positive."
"Good," he responded shortly. "Dolohov did excellent work today."
"Oh?" Bellatrix replied, tensing up slightly.
"He is having fun destroying muggle London." His hand moved around to her cheek and he tilted her face up to look directly at his own. Bellatrix swallowed, reluctant to make eye contact with him but not having much choice. She was taken aback when he gently kissed her on the lips. She recoiled slightly from him. "What is wrong?" he asked, his voice soft as he continued to stroke her hair.
"It's just… Well, you've pick the wrong moment for this," she said flatly. "It's my time of the month."
His eyes became round as he stared at her, and then they narrowed. "I didn't think…" He said, before trailing off. "With your health being so bad, I thought it impossible." He kissed her again.
Bellatrix didn't say anything. She didn't dare. But inside… She understood a lot more suddenly. He still wanted his heir and he didn't think she could give it to him. So part of him wanted to get rid of her, but the rest of him couldn't.
"I'm not that ill," she snapped, feeling defensive. "Or that old, either, if that's what you meant."
"A couple of weeks ago, I thought you were going to die." He shook his head. "And now…"
Irritated now, Bellatrix stood up. "I'm going to bed."
"Let me come with you," he replied, standing up and taking her hand.
"No!" Bellatrix snapped at him, wrenching her hand away. "You may come to bed with me when you are invited, when I can trust that you aren't going to treat me like to have been. I have something that you want now."
She could see the anger ignite in his eyes for a couple of seconds, and she thought he was about to explode before suddenly he softened again. "Of course," he said. He reached for her hand once more, before gently bringing it to his lips and kissing it. "I hope that you will consent soon. Goodnight, Bella."
Bellatrix almost felt her resolve crumble as he kissed her hand, but she stood firm. "Goodnight, my Lord," she replied, nodding to him before turning and shutting herself into their bedroom.
As she climbed into bed, she realised that for some reason, tonight had been a victory for her. She hoped it would continue for a long time yet.