The house was silent, and to thwart the uncomfortable emptiness, the wireless radio in the sitting room blared. But Alanna soon tired of the afternoon program—it was the same every day. She switched it off and listened to the clock on the mantle tick. But after a while, even that became tedious, so to occupy the time, Alanna began to wonder if she could remember why his house was so silent, and how she came to be alone in it.
Rabastan Lestrange and his older brother Rodolphus had looked to be of the ordinary pureblood sort. They were dark-haired with aristocratic features and a regal air. Both showed the haughty disdain of generations in their manner. Anyone else would say that the likes of Rabastan Lestrange were absolutely predictable.
But there was something in his eyes that simply fascinated Alanna. She had never once in her life met another person who seemed to embody the state of her own scattered soul in their own, but in Rabastan’s face there lay a dark and incomprehensible chaos that, unknown to others, had been familiar to her for years. From her first sight of him, she had known, and she longed for him to recognize himself in her as she had in him.
This feeling had all at once been an impediment and a point of pride in her early childhood years. Alanna had never liked school—no, she had despised it. Surrounded by the most mediocre breed, the most impressionable, simpering girls, there was nothing in them that kept her interest for long. Her independence was being completely smothered, but even as she pushed blame for it upon others, her own flammable temper and unstable mood swings alienated her from the rest of her peers. Girls who were more prone to banding together, who thrived as a group, wanted nothing to do with her eccentricity.
She regarded academia as another long string of dismal failures, as large a waste of time as socializing. Her concentration splayed about so that others could never depend on her to remember anything. Patience was something that she had never had. And though she was a witch—she had been granted acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry—she had seemingly no aptitude for anything magical. Her lack of focus made it impossible.
Nobody would venture near this explosive girl. It seemed she harbored an inexplicable darkness that destroyed her concentration and carried her moods on the winds—made her nearly inhuman, in fact. But if anyone had looked closely enough, they would have seen that it was her psyche which swung dangerously to and fro, her heart suspended on a pendulum. She went from extreme to perilous extreme across that arc and never stayed in the same place for long. The arc itself, the range in which she wavered back and forth, seemed to grow over time, until it came to a point when her heart could soar in the sky and crash on the rocks within the same instant. And in her mind there was nobody to command control. So simply she had none.
It was neither wholly despair nor indecision that created such a feeling, and nobody knew exactly what went on inside Alanna’s scrambled mind. She had yet to understand it herself. But the darkness in Rabastan Lestrange’s countenance, and the identical swinging of their hearts’ pendulums, connected him to her.
After discovering this strange restlessness in another, for the first time in her life, Alanna felt as though she were not whole; she was certain that she and Rabastan were two fragments that would only heal when they were united. And the draw she felt towards him was far less selfish—and far more substantial—than that of irrevocable love; it was proven inevitable that they were already bonded by fate.
The interest in life that had dimmed within her during her early years of discontent was to be sparked anew by the discovery of Rabastan Lestrange, but in a different manner. Never again would she assume the carefree happiness of a child, for even when the matter was completely unrelated, her mind automatically deferred to him. She knew that even as her heart’s pendulum swung, there was now somebody to command control. Her life had been adamantly fused with his, and bucked and wavered with his every move. It could have been only a product of her psyche’s instability, but it could have just as easily been the catalyst that spurred her to new heights.
Alanna Lancaster had never been of the impressionable sort. But when it came to Rabastan, Alanna was as impressionable as she needed to be.
Strong as her convictions were, it took nearly six years for him to deign to glance her way. He was a fleeting sort of partner, jumping from girl to girl and losing interest quickly. It wasn’t because he set out to hurt them; quite the opposite, he was often consumed with confused guilt after his latest flight. Alanna, upon examination, could see the visible unquiet in him after these episodes. He simply could not help himself.
Again, this only served to confirm to her that they were one and the same. Rabastan’s dating conquests had never hurt Alanna, because she knew and understood that they meant nothing to him.
She could understand, because it was exactly the way she had been with everyone who had ever shown her affection. Once the pendulum began to swing back in the other direction, Alanna was gone to them, maybe for a week, maybe forever. For seventeen years she had waited to be understood. Now she wandered, dissatisfied, because she knew that there was only one person in the world whose company she needed—and she was impatient to cast aside all else in deference to that bond.
Nobody she knew could tolerate this treatment from her, for friendship or for romance, and Rabastan was the only other who doled it out. It was undeniable that they were meant for each other.
But for the first five years at Hogwarts, Alanna had watched him mainly from afar. They belonged to the same House, Slytherin, but he was a year older than her, and became a prefect in his fifth year. Because they virtually never crossed paths, she could only satisfy herself with covert glances while in the Slytherin common room or the Great Hall during meals. She was both desperate and terrified to speak to him, and though the chance never arose, she agonized over it as if it had. What could one say to the man whose fate was bound to yours?
The arc of her heart’s pendulum swung increasingly wider as her mood began to depend solely on his. With his smile, her heart would soar. She could survive for days on a single glance of his face.
But there were inevitably times when he frowned, and if she caught sight of it, her heart would crash. They were one and the same, so what made him unhappy could surely break her as well. She would lie in bed for days after these episodes, her mind simultaneously empty and racing.
Even so, the strangest, most unpredictable way in which Rabastan affected her was when he laughed. The deep chuckle that sounded from his throat made Alanna want to vomit with grief, for it was identical to the one which haunted her only memory of her father. It wrenched open a door to thoughts that Alanna had enclosed for a reason. And yet, because such a horrid sound emitted from a heavenly being, she had endured it, and in time even came to treasure it. Like every smile that she had ever spotted on his face, she hoarded his laughs like personal tokens.
Despite her eager affection, she could not say for sure exactly when he had started to notice her. It was sixth year, the abandoned time between the crushing OWL exams and the ominous NEWTs. It seemed that he spent less time studying than he should have, as a seventh year. Instead he consulted his pureblood friends constantly, their conversations hidden in a corner of the common room behind serious expressions. But once in a while he looked up to see her watching them curiously. After several such instances, he began to give her a small smile every time he saw her in passing. It was like they shared a secret, though Alanna really knew nothing.
And after that, their relationship had progressed faster than she had thought possible. He began to catch her nightly in front of the girls’ staircase. Propriety thrown aside, he recognized at once the advantage he had over her. Whatever he asked of her, she acquiesced. With each passing day, Alanna surrendered more to him than she had ever known she owned. In less than a fortnight, she had given herself up to him wholly.
At the time she had attributed this new attention to his long-overdue recognition of the bond between them, but in reality it had been something of a mix between an attraction to her beauty and a need to subdue her curiosity for the sake of his friends.
To Alanna, his obscurity seemed to her a small price to pay for his affection, and the following year passed in a blur of rare happiness and content. What she had given up—all of herself—had been worth it. The pendulum ceased to swing. It seemed that she had been right all along, that only the safety of Rabastan’s embrace could bring the peace she had so coveted in her chaotic mind for years. And thankfully, blissfully, when the pendulum ceased to swing, she also ceased to think.
In fact, the one and only thing Alanna could recall from those days with absolute clarity was the day he finally admitted what he and his friends had been up to.
He was eighteen, graduated and long-gone from Hogwarts. Alanna suffered through only a month of school without him before, caught in a raging need, she stole a broomstick from the Quidditch stores and disappeared for good. The Headmaster, knowing her orphan state and also her relationship with the younger Lestrange brother, regretfully sent her belongings to Rabastan’s house when it appeared that Alanna was never going to return.
When these packages arrived at his door, Rabastan knew with some chagrin that Alanna intended to stay with him permanently, and resolved to truly confide in her. Not because he wanted her to know, but because it was the easiest way: it would be too difficult to lie to her when she lived under the same roof. And by then he had figured out her dependence on him as well. He knew she would possibly die before betraying him.
“Rodolphus and I are part of a, erm, secret society,” he had begun. “It is headed by an old graduate of Hogwarts by the name of Tom Riddle.”
“Oh, is he an Auror? An Unspeakable?” Alanna asked.
Rabastan looked uncomfortable. “No, he isn’t. He’s an innovative wizard with some—er—ideas for social reform. It involves…purifying the Wizarding race to raise our potential for achieving greatness.”
“It sounds wonderful,” Alanna pronounced, and there had been no further questions asked. It came as no surprise to her that such underground anti-Ministry policy organizations existed. After all, it was the 70s, a time of radical social upheaval and the rise of the most opinionated young generation ever raised by the Wizarding world. Even when Rabastan was on a task for his association and came home late, or did not come home to spend the night at all, she overlooked it without suspicion. His outings had grown longer and more frequent of late, but she had spent the last seventeen years of her life alone and waiting for Rabastan, so this was no different.
Now there was nothing much in that quiet house to do. When Rabastan was gone, nobody came and went, and the pendulum swung a wider arc than ever. Alanna woke up every morning full of hope, and every night returned to an empty bed in a fit of despair. Some days she neglected to get out of bed at all.
There were times when she regretted ever leaving Hogwarts. Sometime between their permanent establishment as a couple and Rabastan’s increasing involvement with his organization, Alanna realized that she had hemmed herself in completely. Without a complete education, she had no aspirations for the future, save to one day hold the title of Mrs. Rabastan Lestrange. But even as this realization cast a hopeless pallor on her lonely days, Alanna knew without a doubt that she could not bear to leave. Without him, she was broken and confused. With him, the pendulum ceased to swing.
She had taken to listening to the wireless in the sitting room to drown out the silence of the house, sometimes laughing, sometimes weeping, and mostly painfully indifferent. It was on those days that her psyche had halted momentarily of its own accord in a middle zone, and she could bring herself to care about nothing, because the man who completed her was not there. Her mind could wander as it would, but in the end it always returned to Rabastan. And every time he entered the door, weary but exhilarated, unfailingly Alanna would leap up from her seat and fling her arms around his neck in an embrace that made up for all she had felt in his absence.
It was a cycle, an unstoppable continuity in which both of them seemed unsatisfied, but also unwilling to contribute more. Alanna was afraid that any stress, a single shift, would fracture their delicate balance and Rabastan would be gone to her forever.
Rabastan only feared that if he dismissed her, and hurt her enough, she would go to the Ministry about his underground society. And he would then be finished.
In all truth, he felt a certain endearment towards the woman who looked to him with such unyielding adoration. He didn’t wish to hurt her; she was like a relic that held no real interest, but which he could not yet afford to throw away. She kept his household and left him free to pursue other interests. Therefore, it was to his advantage to reserve a small part of his love for her.
And so in this way these two lived for long years. It was neither a miserable nor happy existence, but they could not hope to expect anything more from one another.
Sometime during her recollections, the ticking of the clock on the mantle had lulled her to sleep. Now the grandfather clock in the next room chimed five, and Alanna’s head jerked up from the back of the stiff couch with a start. The silence in the house was deafening. Looking around almost guiltily, Alanna reached over and switched the wireless radio back on and proceeded to listen as if nothing had happened.
A/N: Edited: 11/27/08. Thanks to Ilia for her wonderful suggestions.
SwissMiss@TDA is the artistic mastermind behind the gorgeous chapter image.