Chapter 1 : Mirage
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CHAPTER ONE - MIRAGE
She had always loved her home. Ever since she was a young girl, she could think of no better place to live. Her home, with the ample gardens, decadent furniture, tall fireplaces and house-elves to tend to your every need and desire. It was an oasis. The place where she always sought refuge.
Now, it was gone.
Her heels clicked on the marble floors as she walked around, portraits of her ancestors following her every movement with their undead eyes. The silence was eerie now. Mother had been crying for days. So had Narcissa. Father was locked in his study and wasn’t emerging even for meals. And that left her.
She supposed that she should have been crying as well, but what Andromeda had done didn’t make her want to cry. No. Andromeda had always been her closest confident, her best friend and what she had done brought steaming waves of white, hot rage in her throat. But no tears. She was Bellatrix Black, the daughter of the Noble House of Black. No Muggle-born would make her spill tears.
Since the night they had discovered Andromeda’s flight, Bellatrix had analyzed everything in her head for hours on end. What could possibly be so wrong with the husband Mother and Father had chosen? It was only right, that they approve of the man marrying into the blood-line. It had been done for centuries. It was how they remained strong and united, keeping the blood clean. She just had to look at her own suitor. Rodolphus was perfectly pleasant, albeit a little too eager to please.
But that wasn’t a bad quality. Not necessarily. Bellatrix’s mood ever since her sister eloped with the Muggle-born, Theodore Tonks, had been fowl and so Rodolphus, the careful suitor he was, had taken it upon himself to cheer her up. Thus, she had agreed, at his insistence, to attend a meeting with him. He had gone to many of these meetings, “political meetings” he called them. While Bellatrix herself had no particular interest in politics and found them quite boring, she decided that joining her sister in moping around the house would be far more unpleasant.
As the clock echoed around the empty hallway, a house elf Apparated by her side and with a deep bow, informed her that master Lestrange was waiting. He was always so punctual, Rodolphus. Stopping in front of a mirror, she arranged her thick, dark curls around her face and pinched her cheeks for a little color. Placing the most charming smile she could muster on her face, she descended the large staircase at a slow and steady pace. He should be kept waiting. It was only proper.
Rodolphus was waiting, his dark cloak impeccable, hat in hand. Bellatrix extended her right hand to him as she reached the bottom of the stairs and he placed a soft kiss on it, giving her a grateful smile.
“Good evening, Bellatrix. You’re looking as lovely as ever.”
“Thank you, Rodolphus.” she replied and took the traveling cloak the house-elf had brought and extended it to the man in front of her. Rodolphus immediately stepped forward and helped her get dressed.
“I hope you will enjoy yourself tonight.” he offered as he extended his arm and she placed her soft, white hand on it.
“Anything is better than staying around here, listening to Cissy think of plans to convince her to come back.” Bellatrix replied and shot a glare at the upstairs landing where Narcissa was at that exact moment. “As if we would want her to come back. Aunt Walburga already removed her from the family tree and I am eager to put this nasty business behind us.”
“Of course. What a shameful behavior on her part. But do not worry, my dear. I am sure that you will find friends with an understanding of your current… predicament, where we’re going.” said Rodolphus as the two of them exited the manor and walked towards the apparition point.
“I do not need anybody’s understanding.” she finally retorted after a long silence and shook her head in annoyance. “I am perfectly capable of living my life as if she was never a part of the family.”
“Of course. You were always the strongest and the wisest…” his words of compliment rolled right off her. She knew that she was all that and so much more. It was in her blood and in her upbringing. It was why he had sought permission to court her for years before she agreed. Making it a point to ignore him, she grabbed hold of his arm with more force as she felt him turn on the spot and the familiar sensation of Apparating took over. In a few seconds they were in front of a large country home and by taking in her surroundings, Bellatrix realized they were miles away from London.
“Where have you taken me?” she demanded and looked at Rodolphus with a cocked eyebrow.
“It’s a town called Little Hangleton. That over there, on the hill, is the family home of the man we’ve come to meet. His name is Tom Riddle but he prefers to be called Lord Voldemort.”
“Lord Voldemort? That’s a strange name.” Bellatrix observed, allowing Rodolphus to escort her up the path to the house anyway. Once they reached the door, Rodolphus knocked three times and the door flew open, crashing against the wall.
“No house-elf?” Bellatrix asked again. “How does this man live?” she wondered out loud, looking around the entrance hallway. It was old and dusty. It seemed nobody had bothered to clean it up in years.
“You’ll see in a moment, my dear. He does not need servants. Many people are willing to do things for him.”
“So he keeps people as servants? How very Muggle.” Bellatrix noted with distaste, clicking her tongue and scrunching her nose at the carpet that she was now walking on. It stretched across a narrow hall and muffled her heals, little bits of dust flying up with each step they took.
Rodolphus let out a small chuckle. “There is nothing Muggle about Lord Voldemort, Bella. You’ll see for yourself in a moment.” he told her as the door to their right opened and inside Bellatrix could see a crowd of people spread around a very long, very sturdy mahogany table.
“Ah, Rodolphus, my friend. I see you have brought a guest.” a voice said from behind a tall armchair at one end of the table. The man’s voice was smooth, silky but his tone betrayed neither friendship nor kindness. It was commanding, superior.
“Yes, my Lord. I have brought the eldest daughter of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Bellatrix Black.” Rodolphus replied and placed a hand on the small of her back. In any other company, Bellatrix might have commented on his sudden daring approach, but here it made her feel somewhat safe.
“Ah, Bellatrix. Such a powerful name. But is it suitable for the owner? Are you as powerful as your name?” the voice asked and Bellatrix found herself looking at the back of the armchair with raised eyebrows.
“I’m sure I do not understand your question, Mr. Riddle.” she replied and the audience turned to look at her, shocked looks plastered across their faces. She managed to get a good look at them, something she had not done when entering the room. They were young men and women, close to her age. Some she even recognized from her school years.
“My friends, please allow me a moment alone with Miss Black.” the voice requested, in the same silky tone, which wanted to be sincere but somehow managed to sound threatening. On queue, the room cleared and left her all alone, Rodolphus closing the door behind them.
“You will soon learn, Miss Black, that I prefer to be addressed by my chosen name, rather than my given one.” the voice spoke and as the armchair turned to face her with a sickening slow screech on the polished floor.
Whatever she was expecting looked nothing like the man standing up from the armchair. She suspected him to be old, judging by his voice, but the one in front of her appeared to be no older than thirty. He had black hair and piercing eyes, which complimented his smooth features, high cheeks and full lips. Bellatrix unconsciously licked her own as her eyes lingered on his face.
“And what would your chosen name be?” she replied after a second.
“I am Lord Voldemort.” the man said and rose from his chair, approaching her. As he drew nearer, Bellatrix was suddenly unsure of her footing. Something made her weak in the knees and she struggled to control her breathing.
“Bellatrix Black. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.” she said and bit her lip, forcing herself to look into his eyes.
“Oh no, the pleasure is all mine.” Voldemort said with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
The moment their eyes connected, Bellatrix felt like she had been ripped apart from inside and had been bared in front of the man to be examined. She saw her life flashing in front of her: moments with her sisters, the kiss she had let Rodolphus steal, finding Andromeda’s farewell note. The man was looking into her mind and into her heart.
When he finally retreated, Bellatrix found it hard to not gasp for breath, but clenched her fists and focused on the man’s face. She was a Black; she would not humiliate herself by showing him weakness.
“What an interesting mind you have.” he commented and looked her up and down. She didn’t like this. Not one bit. What is it with this man and why would Rodolphus leave her here to be examined like she was cattle?
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.” she replied and kept her gaze steady on him.
“But I think you do. I think you know what I just did. I think you liked it.” he whispered and brought a hand to her face, caressing her cheek. Bellatrix’s entire being shuddered when he touched her, the feeling spreading inside her body like wildfire. The warmth and something else she hadn’t felt before. A desire to touch him as well.
“I think you liked me looking inside of you. Seeing what nobody else must see. Feeling what is only for you to feel.” He had moved around her now, his palm not never leaving her cheek. His arm was draped across her neck and he was whispering in her ear. “Tell me, Bellatrix. Do you want to give your family justice for the acts of that Mudblood?”
“I… I don’t …” she struggled to reply but he was so close, his breaths making her skin crawl, his scent intoxicating her that it made her wonder how she could still keep her thoughts straight.
“Do not lie to me, Bella.” he whispered, his other hand circling her waist and pinning her against his own body. “I know. I always know.”
She had started shivering, trembling ever so slightly and her breath was coming out uneven now, in raspy bursts as her chest rose and fell beneath her silky corset. There was no point in pretending. This man knew her. Perhaps better than she knew herself.
“Yes. I want him to pay for the shame he brought on my family.” she admitted and her words were filled with pride.
“Very well. And what about the others?” he asked again, releasing her waist and grabbing her arm, forcing her to turn around and face him.
“What others?” came her confused reply. There was only one Muggle-born that had married into her family.
“The others, Mudbloods and blood traitors that will hide him from you. That will think it is wrong for you to seek your vengeance. To take back the pride and the power of your family.”
“I want them dead.” she said and her eyes widened as the words left her mouth. Never before had she wished death upon somebody, not even physical harm. But it felt strangely liberating.
“Very well, my dear. I can teach you. I can show you magic more powerful than anything you have ever dreamed of. You will be able to do things that will make them all kneel before you and beg for their useless and pathetic lives. And what will you do when that happens?”
His mouth was inches away from hers and she wet her lips on instinct. She didn’t break the eye contact. She couldn’t, even if she wanted to and was only vaguely aware of the pain his grip was causing her.
“I will kill them.”
Images flashed before her eyes again, different images this time. Images of moments that had not yet come to pass. Images of her, killing all those who stand between her and her goal. Of her, standing over the Mudblood’s body while her sister begged to return home. Of her, by Voldemort’s side, a central piece in this new world order.
“Will you do it then? Take my mark? Join my army? You have seen what will happen if you do. Do you want to embrace this? Carry on the revolution?”
How glorious it will be, when those who are left are only those worthy. How proud her parents would feel when she would be one of those to restore order to their world.
“Will you do as I ask, without questioning or disobeying? Can I have faith in you, Bella?” The finality of his tone was not lost to her and she exhaled. She wanted this. This was her purpose.
The cruel smile once again adorned the handsome face as the man took a step back and extended his arms, causing the doors to open and the other men and women crowded in the doorway.
“We are done for tonight, Miss Black. I shall summon you when it is time for us to meet again.”
Bellatrix nodded and left the room, brushing past Voldemort, her traveling cloak wrapped tightly around her. Once outside, she inhaled the fresh air and as she did so, she became aware that Rodolphus had followed her.
“Are you going to return?” he asked, concern plain on his face even in the dim moon light. Maybe he was not expecting her to be so taken with Lord Voldemort. Or for him to be so taken with her.
When minutes passed without her reply, he finally extended his hand to her, waiting for a reaction.
“Yes, I will return.” she said and reluctantly took his hand. She had been so lost in her own thoughts, that she barely acknowledged the man’s presence.
As they reached the bottom of the hill and he prepared to Apparate them home, she glanced over her shoulder back to the house. In the only lit window, she could’ve sworn she saw him looking at her. Smiling his cruel smile and waiting. He wouldn’t wait for long. The next time he called for her, Bellatrix would never leave.