Chapter 5 : Chapter Five: Reflection
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Chapter Five: Reflection
In my cousin, I find a second self. ~ Isabel Norton
Regulus was in Malfoy Manor once again.
This time he stood in front of a large oaken door at the opposite end of the long hallway he had walked down before, on the night of his initiation. The Mark on his arm almost tingled, as if from near proximity to its birthplace, though Regulus knew that was nonsense – it was all in his mind. This side of the hall had the air of being used often, comfortably, perhaps by the owners of the house rather than the Dark Lord or whatever of his followers decided to set up there overnight. Bellatrix had ordered him to come here, though he did not understand why. Was he to meet with the Dark Lord? Or perhaps Lucius Malfoy . . . ? Regulus straightened his cloak and flattened his hair somewhat nervously before lifting up a fist and knocking three times on the polished surface of the door.
It swung open immediately, and he was rather dismayed to find his cousin Bellatrix smiling broadly at him on the other side of the threshold. There was a mixture of deep respect and understanding for his cousin inside of him, but there was also fear and uncertainty – Regulus didn’t feel that he could completely trust her. Regulus felt – foolishly, he was sure – as if there was something dark inside of her, something volatile and almost unstable, so much so that he had to be careful of every second that he was around her. It was as though, instead of finding the Black ally he had so wanted throughout his Hogwarts years, he had found himself aligned with the very person he would have put his faith in least, if he had had the choice. Her help and guidance was not so much that, as it was an attempt to make him uncomfortable, an attempt to control and dominate him, he felt.
"Cousin! Come in, come in!" she turned her back on him and swept back into the room. Regulus was able to discern a high-vaulted bedchamber with a massive bed and many intricately carved pieces of furniture scattered about the room, with Bellatrix out of the way. The bed was a four-poster surrounded by thick emerald green hangings; the bed sheets matched and looked almost wastefully expensive, and some of the pillows seemed to be inlaid with what appeared to be seed pearls and, in the fashion of the rug in the hall, unicorn hair. At the end of the bed there sat a long rosewood chest, and Regulus recognized the Black crest on it immediately. He looked away from the bed and saw Bellatrix standing behind a beautiful blonde woman perched on a stool in front of a mirrored desk; cosmetics, a brush, potions, and a wand were scattered about the surface. The woman turned and surveyed him with minimal interest as he entered the room.
"Close the door behind you!" Bellatrix ordered sharply, and then her voice softened as she spoke to her sister. "You see? Isn’t he handsome, Cissy? We’re going to have to find him a nice match, somebody pretty, so that the Black line can go on being so magnificently good looking."
She rested her chin on the blonde woman’s shoulder as she said this, and the faces of the two women stared back at Regulus from the mirror, undeniably beautiful and most obviously high-born; they were Blacks, through and through, and Regulus felt a hot rush of pride sweep through him as he looked at his two cousins. Such a display of Black supremacy you just couldn’t find – who was better than a Black woman?
Regulus closed the door as he was commanded, wondering why Bellatrix had ordered him to come today, in the close company of a cousin he had not spoken to since before her marriage to Lucius Malfoy. He noted that she looked just as he had always saw her to look – cool, collected, poised. Her hair was shining and sleek, and though she wore no cosmetics on her face there was still a freshness about her that made her lucent, much like the moon was. The grey robe she donned was silk and fell about her shoulders like water would flow over a cliff side – naturally, flowing, as if God and nature both had predestined it to fit just that way.
Narcissa did not seem to be making any such observations about her Regulus, who stood unsurely in front of her, still near the door through which he had entered. She looked positively bored, and turned her attention away from him without concern, surveying herself in the mirror in front of her. Her looks were exactly the opposite of the sister that stood behind her – she was pale and blonde, with finer features and a more delicate air than Bellatrix had; perhaps it was just because of their personalities. Bellatrix was forceful and ambitious while Narcissa had always been coldly disinterested and submissive.
"I suppose he’s handsome," she said stiffly. Bellatrix smiled as if she understood her sister’s frigid reaction, and Regulus bristled – he was good looking! There was not a Black in this generation who was not good looking.
"Regulus here has recently joined our ranks."
Narcissa looked up, her face no longer passive but interested, skeptical. Her blue eyes examined him acutely, as if she was doubtful of what her sister had told her. Regulus was vaguely surprised that Lucius Malfoy had not informed her, seeing as though he had been in the room during Regulus’s initiation – but then, it probably would not be wise to disclose the Dark Lord’s private information to your wife. Especially not if the Dark Lord himself was sleeping down the hall.
"You have joined the Death Eaters?" Narcissa asked, her eyebrows raised slightly and her eyes disbelieving.
"Yes," Regulus replied defiantly, pulling himself up to his full height and glaring at her. Bellatrix smirked at him.
"Isn’t he cute? Just as I told you. Eager to prove himself. I have high hopes for him," Bellatrix said lightly, running her long fingers through her sister’s pale blond hair in an almost tender manner. For a moment Regulus had the urge to take a step back and survey his dark-haired cousin with narrowed eyes – he was distinctly unaccustomed to a show of affection from Bellatrix where the Dark Lord was not concerned, and even then it was more passionate rapture than the fondness she exhibited now. He hadn’t particularly known Bellatrix to be capable of such softness. He wanted to tell her that perhaps it would be beneficial for her to speak to everyone the way she spoke to her little sister, but he held his tongue – he didn’t like to think of what she would do to him if he spoke a criticism against her.
"Why did you ask me here, Bellatrix?" Regulus interrupted the speculation somewhat tersely. He didn’t quite like being called ‘cute.’ He was a Death Eater, after all – he was supposed to be getting more respect, not being treated like a child by his cousins. Narcissa cocked one thin blonde eyebrow and her eyes examined the planes of his face; there was a wrinkle of dislike around her small nose that told Regulus that when she looked at him, she saw his brother. A small flip of his stomach was all that he allowed his body to express as the unbidden thought raced through his mind. Bellatrix’s eyes flashed and Regulus knew that she understood. She fingered a dangling emerald earring that was hanging from the pale earlobe of Narcissa.
"We’re Blacks, Regulus. We must stick together," Bellatrix responded, smiling at him in a way that was far warmer than was believable. Regulus felt his body stiffen; he felt like she was mocking him.
"The real reason?" Regulus asked bristly. Bellatrix smirked and Narcissa looked as though she was taken aback by his snappishness.
"The Dark Lord has ordered me to take you on a mission tonight, baby Regulus. Your first ever mission as a Death Eater. Now isn’t that exciting?" Bellatrix crooned. Narcissa’s brow creased with what appeared to be apprehension.
"Will Lucius be going?" she asked, twisting her upper body so that she could look up at the face of her sister. Bellatrix’s black eyes held the closest semblance to warmth that Regulus had ever seen in them, looking down at her youngest sister.
"No, no. Just Regulus and myself," Bellatrix said, her voice taking on the tone of softness once again. Had Regulus been less occupied in selfish matters, he might have noticed the way Narcissa’s dignified countenance crumpled like a fine, thin piece of parchment when the possibility of harm coming to her husband was laid out in front of her. The flash of relief that glittered in her eyes; the second-long slump in her posture before she straightened herself up once more – had he paid attention, Regulus might have noticed.
As it was, at that space and time Regulus cared nothing for the actions of such a cold relation as Narcissa – she was a second thought, enchanting background music that somehow left you wanting more, and yet unable to pinpoint exactly what it was about the haunting melody that was lacking. At that time Regulus cared only for what Bellatrix had just told him.
"What is the mission? Where are we going?" Regulus asked, feeling impatient. He hadn’t come all the way to Malfoy Manner to listen to his cousins discuss the safety of their husbands – he wanted to know his mission and prove himself to the Dark Lord. He felt nervous, jittery – in his mind he imagined kneeling at the feet of the Dark Lord after some act of heroism that resulted in the complete victory of the Dark Lord’s cause, and receiving the praise and admonition that he had dreamt of ever since he was in his fifth year at Hogwarts. This mission, this first mission, would mean everything – if he completed it easily, exceptionally, then the Dark Lord could not help but take notice of him, could not help but recognize that he had chosen well in accepting Regulus into his ranks.
"He asks too many questions, Bella," Narcissa said, shooting a condemning look in Regulus’s direction. Her blue eyes were like slices of ice, glinting at him in the dim light of the room; he couldn’t help but note, almost interestingly, that her haughty disdain was nearly as effective in making a man feel inadequate as Bellatrix’s contemptuous sneer was. "I hope he doesn’t do that in the presence of the Dark Lord . . . ?"
"Of course not! He’s only such an impertinent fool when he’s in the presence of his family." Bellatrix leaned closer to her sister, so that her lips were right next to her ear. She acted as though she was going to whisper a secret into Narcissa’s ear, but when she spoke her words were audible and deliberate; she wanted Regulus to hear her and hear her well. "He of all people should know that the family cares nothing for those who disgrace us in front of the Dark Lord. Even he can be discarded easily. We Blacks are used to shunning our flesh and blood by now, aren’t we, Cissy?"
She smiled and Narcissa sat very still; the only indication there was that Narcissa had heard what Bellatrix had said – as she undoubtedly had to have done – was the slight twitch of her pinky finger as her smooth, pale hand reached out and hovered over the dresser in front of her. The palm of her hand was reflected in the shining surface of the wood, and for a moment Regulus felt as though the reflection of that long-fingered hand held all the truth of Narcissa’s character – as if her physical hand, hovering over a vial of potion, was merely a glove, a cover to hide the nervous twitch of the littlest of fingers.
"Yes," Narcissa said flatly, and her hand snatched up a potion vial and retracted so that the reflection disappeared. "Undoubtedly, we are."
Regulus watched Narcissa with curiosity as she uncorked the vial and pressed it to her lips; a slight tremor went through her body as she swallowed, indicating either an unpleasant taste, or that the potion itself chilled her insides.
"Are you ill, Narcissa?" Regulus ventured to ask, and almost instantly regretted it. Narcissa’s eyes narrowed as she looked at him, her hand still grasping the empty potion vial. She didn’t seem to appreciate Regulus prying into her affairs. He wondered if she thought that he would gossip to the other Death Eaters. She needn’t have bothered, if that was the case, because Regulus, as of yet, knew only two of his Death Eater companions, and one of them happened to be Narcissa’s own husband.
Bellatrix seemed oblivious to Narcissa’s obvious want for privacy, and she placed a kiss on the top of Narcissa’s head as she said, "Fertility potion, baby Regulus! Narcissa is trying to give us a strapping pure-blood Malfoy to carry on the name." Bellatrix’s eyes glittered as she looked at him, and her grin was wide as she said, "Of course, we Black women have only you to count on to pass our maiden name down."
Regulus said nothing, an unpleasant sensation filling him as he thought of the two women in front of him choosing a wife for him; the thought of being a father himself nearly made his head spin, and he fought to keep his emotions from showing on his face.
"Of course," Bellatrix sneered, "we could still count that filthy blood traitor brother of yours as passing down the name – but what good will it be when it’s carried by half-Muggle bastards?"
"Ouch!" Narcissa snapped, pulling her head away from her sister after an unintentionally sharp tug at one of the blonde locks. Bellatrix’s soft expression had turned sharp and angular in an instant, and she seemed swept away in her disgust.
"And our own sister," at which Narcissa’s whole body went suddenly very still and rigid, "running off with a Mudblood . . . what a waste of good blood!"
Her eyes flashed, and she turned to Regulus, who said nothing; the slightly manic tilt to her smile told him reminded him of the few moments she had spoken of murder, at his home.
"Lets not speak of this," Narcissa said tightly. Bellatrix ignored her.
"Do you know what would be fun, Regulus, darling?" Bellatrix asked. Regulus shook his head; he wanted to step back from the feverish light in her eyes, as if to shield himself from something that could harm him if he stepped too close to his eldest cousin, if he became too absorbed in her coal-black eyes – he felt the desire to back away, to cower underneath the white-hot spark of her gaze, but he overcame it and stood stationary.
"You and I should spend a day together, just us Blacks," Bellatrix began, and Narcissa’s eyes met Regulus’s in the mirror – her reflection was once again flawed, unable to keep completely stoic and still, and there was a silent desperation in the deep blue of her eyes that Regulus felt related very distinctly to the own feeling that was currently writhing in his gut, as Bellatrix continued. "You could go hunt down your filthy brother, and I my filthy sister, and then we could kill them both – how neat it would be! We could be like your dear mother, except instead of merely crossing them off of that silly family tree, we would blast them out of the blood-line forever!"
Bellatrix danced over to Regulus and gripped his hands; her palms were hot against his own, which only then did he realize were strangely cold and clammy. Her smile faltered when she looked into his eyes, level with her own, and saw nothing but carefully controlled disinterest – inside, Regulus was blanching, his mind swimming with the sickening sight of Sirius’s face, covered in blood. He had known the feeling of being responsible for such a thing, but to actually raise his hand and do it himself – to turn his wand on his brother and say the two words that would forever extinguish the defiant glint in his eyes . . . Bella, Bella, a murderer . . . the differences between himself and his eldest cousin were never more clearly defined than in that single instant, as their eyes met, black to grey. She would murder her sister without thought, without care, and he . . . . was he weak because the thought of doing the same to his brother made him feel like running and hiding, as a small child would?
And then his eyes slipped past the burning glare of Bellatrix, and he looked into the reflection of his youngest cousin. Blue to grey, and he realized then that the woman in the mirror would not contemplate what the woman in front of him was contemplating, though they spoke of the same disgrace, the same sister. The woman in the mirror could not, would not, did not have it in her.
But the woman on the stool feigned carelessness as she said, coldly, sharply, as disinterested as if they were speaking of the weather, "Leave the boy alone, Bella. Surely you should have him kill others less important before discussing the murder of a family member?"
The feverous look faded from Bellatrix’s face, melted off like the quick dripping of candle wax down a candelabra. She released Regulus’s hands and he joined them behind his back, one enfolded in the other as he hid the nervous twitching of the littlest of his fingers. Bellatrix reached out and patted Regulus on the cheek and murmured, "Ah, you’re right, Cissy . . . Regulus is far too weak, yet; he would, no doubt, make a mess of it all."
"When speaking of such things," Narcissa said, her expression blank, "it is best to leave the job up to somebody more –"
"– experienced, than our dear Regulus is."
A/N: So I hope that you've come out of the chapter with something more than just a casual conversation between three Black cousins. I meant for it to be deeper. Tell me what you got out of the chapter? I'd love to know what it conveyed for those people who weren't, you know, me, writing it! Tell me how I did in a review!
P.S ~ Next chapter will have a LOT more action. Regulus goes on his first mission for the Dark Lord, and there will be torture, death, and a whole lot of that crazy gal Bellatrix!
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