Chapter 2 : Lesson One: Honor Thy Name
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Pictures of people she’d never seen lined the walls, thrown about without much reason. Even to her ten year old eyes the house hardly looked impressive. The table placed against a wall wasn’t an ornate one, and the rug under her feet felt sparse and thin. She was accustomed to her father visiting people of their class, like the Malfoys and Rosiers. Why they were standing in the home of a man she thought must’ve been not a step above middle-class was lost on her, but she remained patient regardless. At least she’d been permitted to accompany her father, which was an incredibly rare occurrence in itself.
Her feet became sore as the minutes ticked by. The small heel of her boot caused an ache from the uncomfortable incline, but still she didn’t move. After her eyes had exhausted their surroundings and glanced over every picture and painting, she began paying more attention to the sounds around her. A click click click coming occasionally from upstairs told her that there was someone walking around that floor. It couldn’t have been a house-elf considering the creatures weren’t permitted to wear any sort of shoe. She supposed it may be the man’s wife, though she found it odd the woman wouldn’t have greeted them at the door as well.
After what felt like ages of standing as still as a statue, Bella caught sight of her father and the man making their way toward the entrance hall. Despite the relief she felt, she didn’t allow it to show on her face. She kept her exterior calm and patient just as she’d always been instructed. She listened as the man exchanged a farewell with her father then lowered her head to him, offering only the most basic form of goodbye. If he’d have been a member of her family’s circle, of the usual adults she was presented to, Bellatrix would have curtseyed. But her father had not made it known that he was a person whose class deserved that honor, so she was certain that it wasn’t needed.
They walked back out into the evening air and made their way down the cobblestone, all the while Bellatrix had to remind herself to hold her tongue. The desire to ask her father who the man was and why she’d joined Mr. Black on the journey was burning in her mind, but she knew it would result in her being punished. Speaking out of turn, especially to question her father’s reasons, would not be appreciated. Instead, she walked alongside Cygnus at the same exact speed and kept her lips closed tightly.
Once they’d moved down the street from the house, Cygnus held out his arm and Bellatrix took hold of it. She assumed they’d be journeying back to the Black Manor, and concentrated on the feeling of her stomach being churned and her body compressed. However, when her midnight colored eyes popped back open, it wasn’t the entrance hall of her home like she’d expected but the front of a wizading restaurant. It was an elite one, and her family often joked that it cost more to eat one meal there than most families had sitting in their Gringotts vault.
She followed Cygnus inside and was barely through the door when a woman began speaking to them. “Good evening,” she said in a cheerful voice. Bellatrix wanted to sneer at the lady. What could she possibly have to be cheerful about? She was little more than a servant and Bellatrix could only assume such a lowly position had come from not being properly bred and tutored.
“Is it just the two of you this evening?”
“No,” her father answered sharply. “We will be joining an associate of mine.” Bellatrix felt her heart sink. She’d hoped she would be dining alone with her father. “And I am under the impression that he has a table reserved. Avery is the surname.”
Bellatrix felt a spark of excitement. They were meeting Mr. Avery? The kind of discussions that went on between her father and Mr. Avery were often done behind the locked doors of Father’s study where Bellatrix was unable to catch even a word.
The woman led them to a table that was set apart from the others in its own little nook, completely secluded, then pulled Bella’s chair out for her. The girl was careful not to look the waitress in the eye as she sat. Her parents had taught her the importance of treating servants as just that at a young age, and as she glanced up she caught sight of a glimmer of pride in her father’s eyes. She smiled inwardly, pleased that she’d done the correct thing by not acknowledging the woman.
Once they were left to themselves Cygnus cleared his throat. “Bellatrix, did you recognize the man that we descended upon this afternoon?” Bellatrix shook her head and remained silent. “I thought not. That wizard is an employee of the Ministry of Magic. He works closely with Nobby Leach, the man attempting to run against the current Minster of Magic. Do you know what would be so terrible about Mr. Leach taking office, Bellatrix?” The young girl shook her head again. She knew she’d heard the name, but these sort of things were often not talked of in front of her and her sisters.
“The reason we can’t allow this person, this filth, the position,” Cygnus continued, and Bellatrix stared intently at him as his dark eyes grew hot, “is because he’s a Mudblood. He wishes to step into our Ministry and rule our world. He believes we are in need of change, that we should start accepting Mudbloods and Muggles as equals.”
“But father,” Bellatrix began, shocked at what she was hearing. “Why would Mr. Leach think that? Why would he want those... those kinds of people as equals?” She couldn’t understand why anyone would want to consider them what they weren’t. They didn’t have magic! They weren’t born to pure and clean bloodlines! Why would they be treated as equals when they simply weren’t?
Cygnus was silent a moment as he swirled a glass of water around, the ice hitting the sides of the cup and making a soft clinking sound. After what felt like hours, he began speaking. “Do you remember the stories your mother and I have told you and your sisters about the things that used to happen to wizards and witches like us? Before stricter regulations were created to give us our own villages and to keep the filthy Muggles from us?”
Bellatrix could only nod. Of course she remembered. All the terrible things her parents had told her that used to happen... Muggles hunting witches and wizards, even Bella’s own ancestors. Of course they rarely ever succeeded in capturing one, at least that’s what her mother said. But that wasn’t the point. What mattered was the fact that it was them, the purest ones, that Muggles sought after. Mother told her it was because they were afraid. They knew they were weak and could never stand against the superiors, so they attempted to kill anyone that they believed could be a witch or wizard. Bellatrix had learned that all they’d really done was kill off more of their own kind, which was that much better for the magical families. A group of them, of the Muggles, had even tried to set fire to her great-grandfather’s home, but great granddad had killed the creatures before they even knew what happened.
“Well,” Cygnus continued, “despite Muggles proving over and over that they are nothing but barbaric creatures, there are still some witches and wizards that believe they should be looked kindly upon. Respected for their own intelligence, even authorize them to see the secrets of our world if they’ve somehow ended up with a magical branch in their family tree. They want to permit the parents of a Mudblood to walk around Diagon Alley, to attend Quidditch matches, even to work in wizarding establishments.”
“Father!” Bellatrix couldn’t control her tone of indignation, but the glare from Mr. Black was a clear reminder to lower her voice. “Father! They can’t do that! It’s not right!”
“You’re correct, Bellatrix. It isn’t right. It’s one of the most disgraceful things that could happen to our world. And they can’t do it; we won’t allow it. The reason I tell you all of this, that I demanded you accompany me on my business today, is because you’re only a few days away from your first year of Hogwarts. There will be people like this at that school. Students that think just because they posses a wand they’re as good as you... as good as the few amount of pure-blood families we have left. These Mudbloods will walk the same corridors as you. Even I had to share a castle with them, despite all the years our ancestors spent trying to keep that school sacred.”
The thought of it churned Bella’s stomach. She knew Mudbloods were allowed at Hogwarts, but she’d never really thought much about what it meant before that evening.
“It is your duty as the eldest of the Black daughters to set an example. You must honor your status and act accordingly. You are to speak to no student whose blood status you aren’t familiar with. Anyone who is not a pure-blood, you will act as if they don’t exist. Understood?”
“Of course, father. But what about the man who we visited today? And Mr. Leach!” Bellatrix knew she shouldn’t have asked, but she had to know. What would be done about the people that tried to infect her world, the world her father was so proud of, with filth?
Cygnus didn’t seem angered by her question, and Bellatrix was thankful for it. “I have done my part concerning the man we visited today. My colleagues will take over. As for Nobby Leach, that depends on where he chooses to go from here. Don’t worry, Bellatrix darling. Father will always make sure you grow up in a world that doesn’t allow the pathetic ideas of a Muggle lover to touch you. You’re from a pure and powerful line, and that is always to be honored above all else.”
Just as Bellatrix was about to assure her father that she would do as she was told, Mr. Avery stepped into the walled off area. She rushed to stand from her chair and offered a smooth curtsey. After acknowledging her with a nod, Mr. Avery shook hands with Cygnus then seated himself at the table. She was not addressed for the remainder of the meal, therefore not permitted to speak, but she didn’t mind. She found listening to be just as fascinating.
They talked of the man her and her father had visited, of the other happenings in her parents circle of friends, and they spoke about another wizard that Mr. Avery wished her father to meet. Bellatrix grew curious at this, never having heard the man’s name. But her father seemed far less curious than her, saying that he would not attend the meeting that Mr. Avery requested, but would continue using his position in the Ministry wherever possible to aid the friend or Mr. Avery’s as well as offer any funding necessary. Her father’s friend seemed satisfied by that and conversation turned to Cygnus’s work, but Bellatrix found that much more difficult to pay attention to. She still didn’t really understand what her father did for the Ministry, just that people were frightened of angering him.
Bella let her mind wander and began thinking of what the next few days would bring. Soon she would be a first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A proud member of the Slytherin House - she didn’t so much as question that she’d be sorted as a snake - and a respected daughter of Cygnus and Druella Black. The eldest of the Black daughters. The one to set an example. This was her chance to please her father by living up to her surname. She would do just that.
Dinner ended and despite the hour not being much past eight, Bellatrix still felt exhausted. She supposed it had a lot to do with all that she’d learned that day; she couldn’t wait to tell her sister’s that she’d gotten to attend a business dinner with Father. They bid Mr. Avery goodbye and Cygnus led the young girl to restaurant’s fireplace, grabbing a handful of Floo powder then directing her forward. After both father and daughter were back in the Black Manor, Bellatrix was about to wish her father a pleasant evening when he placed his hand on her shoulder, stopping her from moving forward.
“You held yourself well today, Bellatrix,” he said, brushing a stray piece of ash from her shoulder. “You made me very proud.”
Bellatrix couldn’t believe her ears. She stood, practically immobile, even after her father left the room. Of course she’d always understood her father cared for her. She was his daughter, after all. But she’d never heard him offer a compliment like the one he’d just given to her. He was proud. Her father was proud of her. Of Bellatrix. The feeling was such a foreign one that she felt unsure of how to react. After a few more breathless seconds she decided to make a promise to herself, a silent swear that she would do whatever it took to uphold the Black family values, whatever she could to keep making her father proud of her.
Bella went to bed with an out of character smile and one of the books that the tutor had assigned her to read. The book was long forgotten, wide open on her night table as sleep stole her away merely breaths after her black curls rested against the pillow.
When she woke the following morning, she had yet to lose the sense of accomplishment she’d fallen asleep with. She bathed and dressed quickly, the sun barely breaking through the night as she tiptoed down the stairs. Father left early for work and she wanted to see him before he departed.
As she neared the dining room and Cygnus’s voice became recognizable, excitement fluttering in her. Her hand pushed the heavy door open and she went and took her place at the table, but Father didn’t greet her. Still she waited patiently, nibbling at the breakfast laid out as Cygnus and Druella talked of this and that.
A few minutes later Bellatrix’s father stood to leave for work, never once exchanging a world with his daughter. She tried to control the disappointment rushing through her as she heard him walking father down the corridor, but couldn’t rid herself of the feeling that a heavy brick had been dropped in her stomach. Had she already done something to upset him? Was she not meeting some sort of expectation that this new pride he felt demanded?
She was about to go back upstairs, a mixture of anger and sorrow filling her, when she caught the headline of the Daily Prophet out of the corner of her eyes.
Charles Rochester, his wife, and their infant daughter were killed when their home caught fire early Saturday morning, just hours ago. Aurors report that a discarded cigar is the most probable cause but will continue their investigation throughout the next few days. Mr. Rochester is a well known member of the community, most recently acknowledged for his support in Nobby Leach’s campaign....
So what did you guys think of this second chapter? I know I mentioned that I'll be attempting to update every other Saturday, but I've decided to throw that idea out the window and leave Before They Fall as the only story I update on a planned, regular basis. I really wanted to take Bellatrix back to her childhood before throwing her into the middle of her role as crazy lady Death Eater. Did you guys like this or were you hoping that we started off with a more current version of Bellatrix?
Thanks so much for reading!