The well-dressed man rose quickly from his armchair at the sound of movement in the foyer.
“Bella? Is that you?” Rodolphus called roughly. “Bella?”
A small, ratty house-elf peered around the ebony doorframe and into the drawing room, her eyes wide. A half-full bottle of firewhiskey stood on the table beside her master’s chair, and the glass in his hand was nearly empty. The house-elf eyed the glass fearfully, and prepared herself to duck should it suddenly become a projectile.
“N-no master. It is j-just me.” The creature wrung her hands as if she knew she should not speak further, but haltingly, she continued. “I have been watching the drive for her. The hour, it is… late, master. Where… where is m-mistress?”
Rodolphus’ eyes narrowed. “Shut it, Dibble. Get lost.” He snapped in reply before restlessly resuming his seat. He drew the glass once again to his lips and downed the rest of the rich, amber liquid before the house-elf was even out of sight. Rodolphus Lestrange did not like the feeling of being out of control, but ever since he had married her two years before, there had been little about Bellatrix Black that he could control. And tonight, she had taken matters into her own hands… matters that he should rightfully be dealing with for himself.
With a scowl, his gaze rested on the note beneath the bottle, written in a familiar, overly-bold script:
You need not attend tonight. Your wife is here.
Nine words written by the Dark Lord’s hand. Nine words that had instantly fired his chest with frustration, worry and anger. Had she foolishly thought she could talk the Dark Lord out of punishing Rodolphus for his failure? Or had she thought to take her husband’s punishment for him instead? He prayed that it was not the latter, for the Dark Lord’s torture had left him bedridden and wracked with pain for a week the last time he had failed a mission. This time, His fury would be immeasurable. Part of Rodolphus had even decided that the Dark Lord planned to kill him this night for allowing the Auror Derwent to escape – perhaps he would have been made an example of for all the other Death Eaters. He had stoically prepared himself for it, knowing that whatever the Dark Lord had planned, there was no escaping His will.
But now his wife had gone in his stead, without his permission nor his foreknowledge…she had walked straight into the Devil’s Den…
He felt sick.
Rodolphus poured himself another glass of liquor and stared at it, swirling the warm liquid restlessly against the fine crystal. Your wife is here… She was not supposed to be anywhere but home. Growling with frustration, he was about to take another shot when he heard Dibble’s cry.
Rodolphus was instantly on his feet. He stormed to the foyer and kicked the house-elf out of the way just as the front door clicked open.
Bella gasped, startled to find her husband standing there, almost upon her. Rodolphus’ relief to see her, apparently whole and healthy, was instantly replaced by rage. The guilty way she avoided his eyes and slunk past him, without a word or an excuse or an apology, fired him up. He thundered after her and caught up with her in the hall, gripping her arm and whirling her about so that he could glare into her very pale face.
“I told you not to go!” He roared. “I forbade you to get involved!”
“Since when do I take orders from you?” She replied coldly.
“Since this was MY problem and MY mistake to atone for and you had NO right to get involved! Dammit Bellatrix! You said you agreed with me and you promised to stay out of it! You lied to my goddamn face!”
“Yes I did.” Her tone was even, her eyes were like ice. She twisted free of his grasp and turned her back on him. A million insults and curses rang through his head, but none of them seemed terrible enough to strike back at her with. He pursued her all the way down the hall, panting with fury.
“You’re a fucking crazy bitch, you know that?” He shouted. “You could have been tortured, you could have angered Him enough to kill us BOTH!”
“Well I didn’t.”
“Then what DID you do? You seem in remarkably good shape considering what He should have rightfully done to you when you showed up instead of me! What DID you do, Bella?”
“What do you care?” She said, turning around at the entrance to the baths. “You’re off the hook.” And with that, she slammed the door in his face.
But not before he noticed that the buttons of her blouse were done up askew. He tore the door open and cornered her against the wall.
“Did you lay with Him?” Rodolphus growled.
“What do you care?” She hissed.
“I care because I am your fucking husband and you did not – you DO NOT – have sex with other men, that’s why!”
“Not even with the most powerful wizard that ever lived?” She snapped. “Who was I to tell him no? Who are YOU to tell him no?” She sneered at the look of complete shock across his face. “You’re alive aren’t you? So shut your mouth and don’t you DARE complain! I did what I had to do!”
Rodolphus raised a fist, but froze mid-swing, unable to hit her. Bella used his moment of indecision to draw her wand and to dig it into his throat. “I’m not in the mood to fuck with, Rodolphus, so get the hell out of my face!”
“You were fucked by the Dark Lord just fine it seems.” He seethed. “I never told you to go there! I never told you to… sell your body like a common, muggle WHORE for me! In fact, I told you to stay away from the whole situation, it was MY punishment to take, it was MY failure that raised His anger! How dare you disobey me, debase yourself and our marriage and-”
“WOULD YOU RATHER HE KILLED YOU?” She screamed like a madwoman.
“YES! I would rather die than… than this!” He roared. “Do you think I want my wife to WHORE for the Dark Lord? Do you think I want to be the fucking laughing-stock among the other loyal followers?”
“Well, it’s too late now, isn’t it?” She sniped, lowering her wand and ducking out of the room.
He watched her storm away from the doorway, his wife, and now, the Dark Lord’s lover. No woman, pureblood or otherwise, was allowed to speak to him that way. No woman could hurt him like this. No woman could befoul his name and get away with it - not even the woman he loved. Without even thinking, he exploded, the words roaring forth: “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY HOUSE, YOU FILTHY LITTLE SLUT!”
Bellatrix froze at the bottom of the stairs, as if stunned by the ferocity of his words. She did not turn around, but her hand was white upon the ebony banister. “F-for the record,” she said quietly, “I… didn’t enjoy it.” In the quiet that stretched out, she gripped that banister, holding it for dear life. After a long, painful breath, she whispered. “I did it for you, for Him to spare your life.” Her voice was numb, beyond sad. “I loathed it, every moment of it, but I endured His touch… His… need…” she visibly shivered, “so that you might live. Because… I love you.” She broke down with a shuddering sob, collapsing at the bottom of the stairs. Rodolphus’ heart wrenched, and he was upon her in an instant, taking her into his arms, holding her tight to his powerful chest, stroking her hair.
“It’s going to be okay.” He whispered. “No, now, don’t cry, I’m sorry, I know, I know, you did it for me, I know… I’m sorry… you don’t ever have to do that again… oh Bella…” Rodolphus gathered her in his arms and carried her upstairs, his chest full with remorse and pain for his wife. He was not sure he could ever forgive himself for this. He did not deserve this kind of love, the kind of love that would sacrifice itself just for him, for a flawed human being, a wizard unworthy of such a beautiful, powerful and proud witch. And as he carried her up the stairs, overwhelmed with love for his precious bride, Bella buried her face in her trembling hands.