Chapter 1 : Stand by the Fire
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None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free.
The shadows ate away at her features. They gouged out her eyes and carved grooves into her gaunt face. Half hidden in darkness… this was where Bellatrix Lestrange preferred to stay. She’d lived half of her life in darkness. It had become a part of her soul, a part of her identity. Like her name, it classified her as the sadistic Death Eater she was. And she wouldn’t want it any other way.
The pale woman reached out a skeletal hand. It emerged from the shadows like a snake, slithering through the air. The light hit her dirt-encrusted fingernails and she scowled.
The dirt transformed before her eyes. It grew eyes, a nose, and a mouth. The mouth opened and let out a high-pitched shriek, its yellowed teeth bared menacingly. Bellatrix yanked her hand back into the shadows. The face vanished as soon as the last bit of light had released its grip on her hand. The dirt was once again nothing more than dirt.
Still scowling, Bellatrix adjusted her prison robes, covering her long, fragile legs. In the absence of light, her legs were nothing but skin and bone. And when her knees collided, she swore she heard the sound of bones grinding together. For this reason, she took extreme care in keeping her robes between her knees. It was the only way to keep that terrible sound from pushing her sanity closer and closer to the edge of that deep, black hole.
Little did she know, her sanity had fallen into that deep crevice long before she had come to Azkaban. And truth be told, Bellatrix loved it there without even knowing where ‘there’ was.
But the one thing she loved more than her own insanity was her master, the Dark Lord. She loved him with a ferocity and passion that was more intense than a thousand blazing fires. Not even the heat of the sun would be enough to express her love.
Words, in this case, were useless, dull. They couldn’t possibly illuminate the feelings in her mangled heart.
She often sat in that hidden corner of her cell, hoping for a day in which she would be freed of her chains. For if she was free, she could crash back into his intoxicating power. She could breath his air, inhale his vigor, digest his wickedness. To hold his gaze for a glittering instant would be enough.
Even now, she could hear his voice pounding through her mind. She could feel the explosion of excitement rip through her at the sound of her name leaving his lips. Bella, Bella, Bella…
The Death Eater lifted her head in alarm. For a moment, she had actually heard a deep pounding sound and felt an explosion. Had her deranged yearnings become reality at last? Had she finally lost all reasoning, or --
No, it had been real. There had been an explosion, and she was now staring straight through an opening that should have been a wall. But it had been torn off, ripped out, and all that was left was a black, gaping hole.
An enormous splash followed. The stone wall had been plunged into the tumultuous ocean – its final resting place.
With a startling burst of energy, Bellatrix threw herself from the shadows and into the dying light of evening. She could smell the ocean air. She could see the swirling storm clouds. She could taste the salty mist. The world was an open book of lavish sensations. It was almost too much to take in all at once.
Bellatrix fell to her knees and cried out with all the vehemence she could muster.
She was free.
Her feet carried her slowly down the hallway. They were sluggish from lack of use, but she would not stop. Her desire was pulling her forward, as though on a string, closer and closer to the door at the end of the hall.
Dust encircled her body, coating her in a cloud of filth. Fatigue ate at her muscles, kindling a burning pain within her bones. Hunger gnawed away at her remaining strength, leaving her weak and cold. But she pressed on.
Halfway down the hall, she began to hear things. Voices. They permeated the wooden door – the door at the end of the hall.
She could hear the beating of her heart in her ears. Her blood pumped with fervent vigor. She was almost there.
Then, like a dream turned reality, it was before her. The door, the entranceway back to the man she had dreamt of every time she had closed her eyes, was within reach. Yet for some reason, she couldn’t bring herself to turn the knob.
Instead, she pressed her ear against the door and listened.
“You have failed me, Lucius.”
His voice. It sent shivers down her spine, igniting her senses with warmth.
“Please, Master. It was not I who failed you,” came Lucius’ shaky voice.
Bellatrix smiled maniacally from her position behind the door. Silly, ignorant man.
“Who was it, then?” The Dark Lord’s voice was shrouded with a subtle anger.
A momentary silence followed. Bellatrix pressed her body against the door and ran her hand against the smooth wood. Her master was just beyond that door. She could taste his power.
“It was Severus,” the weak man finally answered.
“Severus?” The Dark Lord sounded amused. “He has never given me reason to distrust him. I don’t believe he would betray me.”
“But he has,” Lucius responded. His desperation was obvious.
“I think not.”
Bellatrix knew what was coming next: the screaming, the pleading, the pain. She’d been in Lucius’ place. She’d been tortured by the Dark Lord. But she knew deep down that she had deserved every ounce of pain and suffering that his punishments had entailed. Failing the Dark Lord was simply inexcusable.
Lucius’ yells sent waves of joy crashing atop Bellatrix’s head. With each shout of pain that rang in the air, she felt herself falling deeper and deeper into her master’s oceanic power.
Before she knew what was happening, a glowing sort of numbness had taken her over, and she pried open the door and thrust herself into the room, flinging herself at her master’s feet. With shaking lips, she kissed the hem of his robes.
Lucius’ screams ceased immediately, and time seemed to stand still for a moment. All went quiet.
Then, a firm foot swung out and collided with her jaw, sending her across the room. She hit the wall and felt a warm ooze of blood seep out through a fresh cut on the back of her head.
Looking up into her master’s face with moist eyes, Bellatrix could see a whisper of regret traced onto the man’s features.
And just like that, it was gone.
“Leave now, Lucius.”
The whimpering man had backed himself into a corner and was shaking profusely, like a pathetic little animal. At his master’s command, he Disapparated, a look of absolute relief on his pale face. But his relief would be short-lived. The Dark Lord would be knocking at his doorstep before the night was out, and Lucius would pay for his blunder.
Now, it was just her and the Dark Lord. Alone at last.
The cloaked wizard turned away from Bellatrix. She watched him as he gazed out the window, snake-like fingers grasping onto the sill as though it was his sole source of balance.
“I did not know it was you, Bella.”
His words, although detached, possessed an apologetic resonance that caused Bellatrix’s heart to leap.
“Was it you who freed me?” she asked, rising to her feet. Her head throbbed, but she welcomed the pain. It had been brought on by her Master, and she would wear the scar like a badge, even if it would be hidden beneath her ratty locks.
“Yes,” came his reply. “I have control over half of the dementors at Azkaban prison. On my command, they freed my most loyal minions.”
The Dark Lord turned once again to face her. With all the strength she could muster, Bellatrix held her Master’s crimson gaze, unblinkingly.
With several long, graceful strides, the Dark Lord was before her. It was all she could do to restrain herself from reaching a hand out to caress his face.
“You are the first to return to me.”
Bellatrix nodded. She felt her legs begin to quiver, under the sway of his spell.
“I came straight to you, my Lord,” she answered.
“As I knew you would.”
His hot breath was on her face. Her eyelids fluttered closed.
“Give me your arm, Bella.”
Opening her eyes as quickly as though she had been slapped, Bellatrix extended a gangly arm towards her Master. The Dark Lord gazed at her arm indifferently. But as she stood there, waiting for the man to make his move, she noticed that his gaze lingered just a second longer than it should have.
The man pressed his wand against the Dark Mark that was burned upon her arm. Bellatrix prepared herself for the pain.
It did not come.
His long fingers brushed against the bare skin of her forearm and ran downwards, towards her wrist. They left a burning sensation in their wake. Bellatrix bit her lip to hold back a moan.
The Dark Lord’s wand fell from his hand as he stepped closer to his minion. Bellatrix heard a distant scratching noise as it collided with the wood floor, disturbing the dust that was scattered across the floorboards. She was almost choking on the sheer ecstasy of this moment, the moment.
Over a decade in Azkaban, and she was finally back where she belonged. Over a decade without him, and she was finally living the moment that had taunted her in her every dream.
“What would I do without you, Bella?”
It was not a question of which the Dark Lord required an answer. Bellatrix remained obediently silent, staring up into his eyes with all the passion she possessed.
And for once in his cursed life, the Dark Lord knew what it was to be afraid. Because at that very moment, for one second in time, he feared the hold that he had over this woman.
Bellatrix saw the change in his eyes. She watched them grow cold as his arm returned to his side, stiff and uncaring.
With a scowl, he thrust his palm downwards, and his wand came flying upwards to meet it. With a wave of that very wand, Bellatrix was thrown back against the wall.
She felt the force of the impact with every inch of her frail body. It seemed to break her apart. Her vision was swimming before her as she scrambled to collect herself, gripping to the wall with dirty fingers, tearing the already peeling wallpaper.
“Master?” she asked in a small voice, her eyes finally tearing from his crimson gaze.
The man shook his head and took a deep breath to calm himself.
“Now, give me your arm.”
The request was obeyed, once again, without hesitation. Yet it felt different the second time around. An unspoken tension hung in the air; both knew what had almost happened, and that if it had, all would be lost.
It was imperative that the Dark Lord did not love.
Love was a weakness, even to the seemingly invincible warrior of legend. Love would hold him back, and, inevitably, lead to his destruction. As much as he wanted to give in to the temptation that was Bellatrix Lestrange, he could not.
Yet Bellatrix never stopped hoping.
This time, when the Dark Lord pressed his wand against the mark on her arm, the pain did come. It felt like a thousand piercing knives carving into her skin, but she did not flinch. Her face remained emotionless, like stone. It was only her eyes that reflected the pain she felt.
And then, when the task was complete, they waited.
But for a fleeting moment, before the arrival of the summoned Death Eaters, the Dark Lord allowed her to place her hand against his chest, so that she could feel his heart beating. He was colder than she had imagined, but when his hand gripped her arm, a warmth like none other she had ever felt shot under her skin like a drug. All she knew for that one moment was incandescent ecstasy.
She was free.
Author’s Note: Well… This was difficult to write, I must say. Props to Wildheart for creating such a challenging challenge, haha. It really made me think. Reviews are greatly appreciated, as always.