Chapter beta: Dani
Chapter translator: Aivy
I sat in my salon as usual and ruffled Duke's amazingly soft fur. I liked my Wolfhounds; they radiated such a deep, inner peace, and yes, I enjoyed it to the fullest that Severus hated them as he hated everything!
It was always wonderfully amusing to wind him up with my pets. I will never forget his face when I showed him that the peacocks had laid eggs for the very first time and since that day their population on my land had increased exorbitantly.
He had only growled that, should he now grill one, at least I would still have enough. It had been very, very funny, for me, of course. Severus had looked more like he had consumed something inedible.
What had made me think of that?
Well, Severus had just hurried out of that door with his most closed off and sullen expression, as only he could, and that very expression had reminded me of earlier times. He was not at all happy about the development, I just did not understand why.
Very satisfied for my part, I now looked into the blazing red, golden yellow flames and heard their crackling. A log collapsed noisily, bursting into orange-red sparks and the woody smell of the burning logs spread throughout the room. While the play of colours captivated me and I thought of the night and the following day, I could not see what had caused him to become so obstinate again, but Severus had always been like that.
He was certainly not a simple man, but he was brilliant, a valuable unique specimen, just like me, only in a different way. We complemented each other splendidly.
He was not only my kinsman, no, he was my brother in spirit. Many would be horrified if they knew how close we really were.
I would have done so much, if not everything, for Severus. For the first time, I had proved it when I wiped his father, that inferior scum, from the face of the earth and let us say, it had not been a clean or quiet goodbye that had befallen Tobias Snape. No one did, to any member of my family, what that Muggle had presumed and dared to do to Eileen and Severus.
I had only waited until all who could have stopped me from taking revenge were dead and I knew Severus was grateful, happy and simply glad never to see that man again. He had also never asked, had only accepted that I had settled the matter to everyone's complete satisfaction.
And that brought me back to my starting point, because a part of my life had also found a spontaneous end yesterday. I was free as I had not been since I was nineteen years old.
Narcissa was dead!
I got rid of that nagging, evil woman once and for all! I was very pleased. Why had I not eliminated her earlier? Or had her eliminated by someone else?
Good question, but this woman I hated, or rather, had not cared for, had been Draco's mother. I had respected her in that role and over the years the ignorance had moved in as well. It was a well-coordinated arrangement that I could live with, but thanks to my newest family member I had regained an unimagined freedom that was frightening in its extent.
Yes, Hermione Granger, a Mudblood, had freed me from my proper, pure-blooded wife, and if Draco had not claimed her so vehemently, she would have been MY by now!
I gritted my teeth and squeezed the silver snake that formed the head of my cane until it cut painfully into the palm of my hand.
There was something about that woman that I was desperate to possess. Severus and Draco would be amazed if they knew how much I wanted her by now. I was glad Draco had accepted her into the family. If I had got my hands on her, I would have made the mistake, the unforgivable mistake, and not taken that step. That would have been the first mistake, but also the biggest in my life; I was willing to admit that with a heavy heart. Groaning angrily, I still looked into the flames while I admitted to myself that all this would not be easy. But nothing was impossible, nothing at all!
This woman, this Muggleborn, was something special, not only because she had developed into a very attractive woman, not to say a little beauty. What else made her so special?
That was the question.
Her abilities, too, made her special. Her aura, her charisma were stunning, but where did that come from? Where the magic and the will that made her so extraordinary came from, I could not say. Only this much: this woman possessed power, intelligence and an indomitable strength. Only where did it come from?
In itself, her ancestry was perfectly common, but I knew that true power usually came by leaps and bounds. For instance, I knew from Abraxas, my father, that the Dark Lord himself was a Halfblood, which was a well-kept secret, and I would be careful not to share my knowledge with anyone. Like I said, he was not pureblood. Though he was a direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin, he was tainted with the blood of a Muggle and yet he was extremely powerful and strong!
And there were plenty of these extreme examples. Potter's mother, this Evans woman whom Severus had always raved to me about so annoyingly in his school days, had also been a mere Mudblood, but as I had learned, very gifted and strong in magic and you can see what her son was capable of.
Severus himself was also a good example. He, who was the only one who could compete with me in my genius and brilliance, was also only half-blood and one of the most dangerous, formidable men I knew!
Yes, it was fascinating to think this over and I tried to be honest. Since SHE, or as I now call her in my thoughts, thanks to Severus, THE MINX, was here at the Manor, she surprised me day after day anew. Most recently by demanding Narcissa's death so coldly and then carrying out her murder so calculatingly, and then even engaging in a bloody battle with the Aurors. Afterwards, she appeared so controlled and indifferent, as if everything was going according to a plan she had worked out!
That was intriguing!
Her demand that she now wanted to go away for a week was also audacious, although she made good arguments. The fact that she was looking for adventure in such a way was extraordinary and that she mastered all this so confidently... Yes, I liked this woman and it would be unforgivable if she was not in my family!
She was an asset, not only because she had freed me from Narcissa without me having to get my hands dirty! Oh, she had not only taken revenge for herself in a blind fury, no, to my astonishment she had acted deliberately and eliminated my wife in such a way that I would be able to derive the greatest benefit for myself, but also for the family. So much foresight and prudence had to be rewarded. I was simply delighted with her!
I was so grateful that she had got Narcissa off my back. This woman had been a constant, incalculable danger to me and my interests, and also to Draco's interests, ever since the Dark Lord had returned, and because of her close family relation to Bella, who had simply let her nimble eyes wander in my home far too often. For one thing was clear to me, my cunning and devious son was planning something. Something big, for sure, and I waited with great anticipation to find out what. No one should say that I was not patient.
Hermione, when she vehemently demanded and insisted on Narcissa's death, had received my approval, even though her resolute cold-bloodedness had amazed me deeply. But I, of all people, could understand such a thirst for revenge and her desire for a game without rules was a reasonable and fair demand. Why should I not have given my consent?
That is just who we are. Had I been surprised that Draco agreed to it immediately?
Yes, perhaps a little. I would never have guessed that he despised his mother so much, but he seemed to loathe her from the bottom of his heart. Perhaps he held the years of contempt and disregard for his person and her sadistic streak more strongly against her than I had assumed. He had seen her how many times in one year?
Two or three times, and she always had something to criticize about him, or bullied and hurt him with disciplinary spells, until I rigorously forbade her to cast hexes on Draco. I had not wanted to see any magic used on my son that would only punish and torture him, without him learning anything or being able to defend himself!
These Blacks were truly all degenerates, but Narcissa had brought a considerable dowry into the marriage and at that time it had been of great benefit to many of my ventures to be able to draw on Narcissa's money which had passed into my possession through marriage. This enabled me to begin to realize my dreams under my father's skeptical, observant eyes.
With my own money, I had managed to create an empire of which I was proud. Filled with satisfaction from these memories, I rolled my cane between my fingers.
Well, Draco did not seem to mind being motherless. I was pleased that I had managed to raise him to be able to tell the difference and to base his decisions on cool, strategic thinking, and then make them well-calculated and without fickle feelings.
Now I remembered last night when I looked at my son with joy as the three of us made our way to Dark Manor in our long, dark robes, the secluded seat of the Dark Lord known only to the Inner Circle. It truly deserved its name, being situated in an inhospitable, barren landscape, not unlike Azkaban, on a stormy, rough island in the north of Scotland.
During his first term, the Dark Lord had built this dark and gloomy mansion as his residence. There was nothing here, absolutely nothing, except water and stone. He loved and appreciated the seclusion very much, for he hated nothing more than too many people in one place and their stupid, useless talk and chatter.
He wanted his rest, it was sacred to him. He left us to deal with the idiots in everyday business, I thought cynically and laughed coldly and dryly then I took a sip from my crystal glass.
He had received a lot of money, not only from his followers in the form of generous donations, but also through robbery and theft, from which he acquired and expanded this old medieval structure. When he chose this and made it his permanent residence, he had probably paid attention to his mental state, as it was always stormy here, so, as one could also describe his temperament, it came to my mind very sarcastically.
We had arrived in the vast, exposed courtyard of the old, plain fortress built of huge squares made from dark grey slate, and swiftly walked as a single unit towards the large, double-winged entrance portals made of black metal, which, as we approached hidden under our iron masks, swung up silently and let us in.
As always, as the gates closed on their own, it was as if life was locked out. The raging and howling wind was excluded just as rigorously as all other noises. The mansion was large, very large, but also very lonely, gloomy and dreary. Almost nothing could be heard, only a leaden, oppressive and heavy silence, while we hurried along the endlessly long, cold, dark, unadorned corridors, on the walls of which torches in their black metal brackets gave only moderate light, extinguishing shortly after we passed them.
Our steps echoed loudly in this unnatural silence and the rustling of our robes was unnaturally loud in my ears.
The Dark Lord had laid so many spells on his dark home that no one was able to tell where the bloody manor was located. For his loyal Inner Circle followers who had access, he had linked it to their Dark Mark. Only I, Severus, the three Lestranges, Avery, Macnair, Nott, Crabbe, and Goyle could come here. Pettigrew was a prisoner here who could not and would not be allowed to leave and who had the dubious honor of being the personal servant of the lord.
All other Death Eaters had only seen these sacred, dark halls when the Lord explicitly asked for one and then Crabbe or Goyle usually had to go and get them, but this happened very rarely.
The only thing you could hear on the way from time to time was a disturbing hissing whisper that occasionally broke the eerie silence, because the Lord preferred to leave the supervision and control of the building to his snakes. Nagini led this small army, which moved from room to room in a meandering fashion. One often saw larger, writhing clusters when the snakes flocked together.
How good that we were all Slytherins and had an affinity for these animals. Let Pettigrew turn into his rat animagus, then we would finally be rid of this vermin! A malicious smile spread across my face, well hidden under my gold and silver mask, as I gleefully imagined his end as snake food.
Even of those of us who had access to the manor, only Severus and I were allowed to actually disturb the master in his seclusion; the others should dare to do so. They had to wait in the drafty, cold corridor to be heard by one of the snakes and if it suited it to tell Nagini and she eventually passed it on to the lord, they were possibly let in.
It was too wonderful to see Bellatrix breathing fire and brimstone every time I opened the doors so nonchalantly before her eyes and stepped inside; the same was true for Severus. It was too beautiful to show her where her rightful place was, for even though she was five years older than me and nine years older than Severus, I had taken the place next to Abraxas from day one and he had brought me up to take his place at the side of the Dark Lord.
I had done the same with Severus and now I would do the same with Draco. It still scratched at Bella's fanatical pride that she had never managed to become as valuable and respected by our Lord and master as we were regarded every day.
We stepped deeper and deeper into the unreal manor, which was very straight, minimalistic and in its unadorned austerity showed simple, medieval features. No paintings decorated the corridors; unlike at home in Malfoy Manor, there were no frills of any kind. It would also not have really fitted to the personality of the Dark Lord.
I walked in the middle and my heavy robes billowed around my legs as I strode forwards, flanked by Severus and Draco. We held ourselves ramrod straight and acted very confidently, after all we were the first row and everyone had to submit to us.
Draco himself had only been here twice. He had only come through the wards because I had taken him with me. Once he carried the Dark Mark, he would be able to come here, too, since he was immediately accepted into the Inner Circle, as I had hoped and wished for.
As we approached the audience hall, the large heavy wooden double door appeared before us. Severus hurried towards it, opened it for us with a flourish and after Draco and I had passed through it, it closed silently behind us. Immediately, we heard loud, reverberating screams and cries that echoed from the high ceilings and hurt our ears terribly.
Thanks to the excellent acoustics in this room her screams echoed twice as loud. Was Bellatrix mad?
There was nothing he hated so much as such impossible behaviour, and that was especially true here in his sacred halls, where silence and tranquillity were of such great importance.
The noble and rare black and white veined marble of this huge hall was called Nero Marquina and came from Spain. The room was completely lined with it. The marble wall panels were bordered by black onyx stones, which made this spacious, impressively designed manorial room appear very dark and gloomy.
The raging madwoman paced up and down on the black marble floor, her steps clicking loudly and her arms flailing wildly. Her robes whirled exaggeratedly behind her; her dark eyes shone out of her face, which was twisted into an angry grimace, framed by her long, tangled curls. She paced up and down in front of the elevated, unadorned platform where the Dark Lord deigned to take his seat.
On it stood a simple throne, made of dark ebony, and in it sat a Dark Lord visibly ill-humored by this fuss.
As always, he wore his sweeping, flowing, black wizard's robe. His bare, naked skull stood out all the more blatantly in the darkness of the room, and his red glittering, piercing eyes looked up in delight as he saw us coming towards him, as we would free him from Bella. Sometimes, but only sometimes, he was easy to read.
The powerful presence of the Lord filled the room. It alone seemed to condense the atmosphere. His outward appearance, no longer human, contributed to the fact that people thought twice about incurring his wrath.
A snake-like smile spread over his rigid facial expression as he imagined how Bella would react the moment she noticed us. Yes, that she had already told him about her loss, I could vividly imagine!
He knew how close my wife had been to me, and even though Bella had made it into the Inner Circle, he had never liked the fact that the narcissistic Narcissa could not bring herself to become a marked follower of him. Bella, who like Narcissa was a beautiful woman, had always embodied the opposite of Narcissa.
Where one sister was fair, the other was dark as night! Where the one was fanatical, the other was indifferent. But both had been very attractive women. Even now, despite her imprisonment in Azkaban, Bella was still the radiant beauty she once was.
When I had come to Hogwarts, Bella had been the chief of the House of Slytherin and, true to the Malfoy family motto, I had begun to claim this office in my second year. Thanks to my father's excellent and far-sighted upbringing, Bella had already been no match for me both magically and strategically, as I had been pleased to discover.
Even though she did not make it easy for me to disempower her and it took me almost half a year to overthrow her through clever tactical and insidious measures, I then took my rightful place uncontested and knew how to defend it confidently against each of her ill-considered attacks!
It had been very humiliating for her. In itself, it had been a great achievement as a witch to become the acknowledged leader at Hogwarts and the chief of the Slytherins. She had done something really extraordinary and great and if I had not come, she would have probably managed to defend her position until the end of her school days. But, please, who could keep up with me? And she had learned that the hard way.
When our parents came up with the idea to engage me to my classmate Narcissa in my last school year, it had been over and Bella had been about to freak out. Well, the older Black sister had been out of school for a while by that time and married to Rodolphus Lestrange herself. All pure-blooded girls were usually married within one or two years after Hogwarts and so was Bellatrix.
She had made a great fuss that I, her hated competitor in everything, would now be closely related to her. She had had a choleric fit not unlike the one she had today.
But it could also be that she had been once again plagued by jealousy that Narcissa was marrying into my noble and highly respected family. Bella had not been unlucky with the Lestranges in terms of reputation, wealth and influence, but still the Lestranges could not be compared to us, the Malfoys.
Her little sister, the youngest, had achieved the step up that she had not taken. In addition, since the sixth grade, I had always accompanied Father during the holidays to the Death Eater meetings as a silent observer to learn, which the Lord in his infinite kindness allowed.
Bella had not yet been admitted to the Inner Circle at that time, and so she had been on the verge of spitting blood when she saw me parading past her, following my father, immediately succeeding in attracting the Lord's benevolent attention and completing the feat of quickly solidifying my reputation in his eyes.
Bella had eventually succeeded in attracting the desired attention through her cruelty and unpredictability during the Death Eater raids. Together with Macnair, she had quickly become the executioner of the Death Eaters. She enjoyed it when she could live out her sadistic streak by murdering and raving.
Not that I minded, Morgana forbid! But personally, I rather enjoyed pursuing my inclinations in private. What was the point of a dungeon? Exactly, to take your time. I always enjoyed it far too much to want to end it quickly. That's why Narcissa's slow passing had amused me a lot, as the minx had demonstrated that she too was very vindictive and cruel, and apparently appreciated taking her time.
Bella was not one to enjoy herself, but rather one of those impatient, impetuous people who rushed forward; it showed right now. Instead of thinking and calmly and thoughtfully expressing her concerns, she acted like the mad fury she was.
At the outer corners of the room, I could see the Lestrange men whispering excitedly with Nott and Macnair. The latter two had been quick to bring me news of the battle at Knockturn Alley and, after I had given Nott the high command, they had gone out successfully to gather our people, thus giving the Aurors no chance of taking prisoners from our ranks.
As soon as the first more detailed pieces of information had reached me at the Manor that Aurors and some Death Eaters, for whatever reason, were engaged in a battle in Knockturn Alley, I had immediately given instructions. I had not even known about Narcissa then.
When a ministry official called with an urgent message while Draco and I were in my study efficiently trying to come up with the best strategy and understand what was going on, we asked him to join us with feigned boredom and he brought us the news that Narcissa had been attacked on the street and was now lying in St. Mungos. At that moment, Severus rushed in the door and gave us more specific information. I dismissed the curious strange man and we hurried to Draco's suite to check on Hermione. I thought of that now and saw her sitting on the armchair in this enticing white lace dress and looking innocently at us.
Now the four men, who were clearly deliberately keeping themselves in the background so as not to make the Dark Lord aware that they were still there, fell silent and bowed. They bent their upper bodies in our direction when they became aware of the three of us and I and Severus swung our wands at the same time to get rid of our masks so that they dissolved into black smoke in a dramatic gesture. Yes, we snakes have always been good at effective displays, I thought ironically, enjoying feeling air on my skin again.
Bella finally noticed us and stormed towards us like a berserker.
"Lucius, who did it? My Cissy is dead! I demand the murderer," she shrieked defiantly, promoting me to stare at her indignantly, coldly. Azkaban had not been good for her self-control. The contempt spoke from my eyes about her irascible nature.
"What you want, Bella, is relatively irrelevant to me, since my Lord and master is now waiting for me and he deserves the honour of being the first to be greeted by me," came my sharp and arrogant rebuke. With that, I dismissed her and instead continued to walk towards the Dark Lord, who had watched all this amusedly and had refrained from intervening until now.
All three of us then bowed our heads before him, our Lord. Exactly, we only bowed our heads. We did not bow properly or threw ourselves before his feet. Why should we?
We were the exception to the rule. We were his deputies; we were his most important advisers, his most capable men. We had to respect him, but at the same time we were entitled to respect as well, and thus this status had been established for us! With a sigh, we allowed ourselves to look up again as he addressed us.
"You are late," was all he said with that disembodied, almost non-human voice that could be so abysmally malicious and cruel, but now sounded only curious.
"'I tell you that, my lord, it was him, only HIM," Bella screeched. Severus, Draco, and I grimaced, tormented by the shrill voice and even the Dark Lord was tempted to do so.
"BELLATRIX, if you do not learn to control your voice immediately, you will soon have none left," he hissed so dangerously softly that - if I allowed myself such feelings - it would give me goosebumps. It caused her to close her mouth, but now she glared vengefully at us from her angry, dark eyes.
"My Lord! I am regretful, but my wife passed away only two hours ago, after a long struggle. To my chagrin, it was not possible for us to reach you sooner. The Ministry was very eager... my Lord," I said, laying my hand on my heart, but showing my customary, stony face as I stood upright and proud before the throne.
"Lucius, we are shocked at the passing of your faithful wife. You must be devastated! And then an affront like that... in the middle of Diagon Alley," the narrow-lipped mouth of the Lord uttered without emotion and I bowed my head slightly.
"Too kind, my Lord. Yes, it came as a surprise! But it turns out that ... as unhappy and tragic as the cruel act against my family was, it also has its positive sides," I was about to start listing the points, when I heard a howl behind me and then a loud, angry growl.
"Lucius, you maggot... how dare you find something positive in Cissy's death-" Bella, who was almost cross-eyed with pent-up anger, did not get any further before I gave her a cold look over my shoulder. Then I only saw how a non-verbal spell in a rich purple hit her directly in the chest and visibly pressed the air out of her lungs.
She gasped painfully and her body rose like a feather into the air before she turned around her own axis and her back slammed into the polished, cold marble with a loud thud. It served her right.
The Dark Lord was so displeased with her interruption that he now threw more curses at her and, like small, glowing lightning bolts, they ruthlessly pierced into and struck her body that was twitching on the shiny black marble. Sluggishly and softly whimpering, she dragged herself on all fours towards the exit. Macnair and Nott had to stifle their laughter.
The curses tore the fabric of her clothes, which soon hung from her body in tatters, and the swelling of the reddening skin underneath became more pronounced the more she was hit. It seemed as if this was a curse that worked like a whip and with every unerring hit her body flinched violently.
She seemed to have bitten her lip or her tongue when she crashed into the ground, because she was bleeding quite heavily from her mouth while she tried to escape as fast as she could under the pain of the striking curses, crawling more or less silently across the floor. Not a single noise of significant volume came over her bloody lips, because if she had complained about her pain now, the Lord would probably have become much more inventive in the selection of his curses than he was just now.
Her husband and her brother-in-law stood motionlessly to the side in the corner and watched the spectacle completely emotionlessly, and we too just stood there, watching uninvolved while the Dark Lord sent one curse after the other non-verbally and with a terribly bored look after Bella and cursed her. After the door had fallen firmly into the lock, he simply stated succinctly:
"Well, there was a time when she was faster." One was tempted to laugh at the casual tone, but we all stubbornly resisted every impulse. "Do you think, Lucius, she will learn someday?" our lord asked, lost in thought.
"My Lord, Bellatrix has never been any different in my opinion, but she is happy for any attention you may give her," I flattered him and saw how amusement flashed in his eyes. He knew, in a perfidious way, I was right.
"Well... but she was never important... Where were we?" he asked impatiently in a cold, clinking voice. He did not like to be distracted by anything. Bella had never learned that either...
Something like that had happened to her repeatedly during his first reign, too. One had to wonder why there was no learning effect. But well, she was a Black, what did I expect? Alright, I too had lost the thread of the conversation. The sight of a suffering Bella was simply too edifying and so I just shrugged my shoulders, but what did I have Severus for?
Are you interested in Severus’ childhood and adolescence that formed him into the man he is today in WHF? Want to know more about some personal history between Sev and Luc that is mentioned in this chapter? Then look out for the Special to WHF from Severus’ POV that will go online during the next few days.