Bellatrix! I’m dubbing her my favorite baddie. You know what I really love about the teaching Draco scene? It’s sibling difficulties taken to the extreme. Not the simple, ‘no I think this school is better than this school, oh I read that this car is safer for this car and you want the safest to drive around soccer practices’ that I’m sure a lot of sisters have. But these aren’t normal sisters, these are two people tangled up in incredible dark things. One completely unwillingly, and the other would give her right arm to remain where she is (not the left, because her dark mark is there). So they are fighting about whether torturing Draco to help his chance at survival is better than to teach him how to close his mind from the dark wizard who will try to invade it. And then when Bella brings in the jab about Andromeda. Perfect!
That one remark Narcissa makes about not associating with mudbloods and Bella’s words about Annie’s lifestyle choice… it’s all perfect. It just makes me think of exactly what their childhood must’ve been like. Narcissa having that deep feeling of right and wrong, but her desire to fit in with her family, to live up to her darling sister Bella, stronger than the need to act on what’s right and wrong. Andromeda being a lever that Bella would pull against her other sister to get what she wants… just those few little lines show so much about how these Black sisters grew up.
And Draco still retains so much of his nativity. He’s seen what his aunt does, the fact that she organized a muggle hospital massacre to get time to slip into the manner. SHE’S CLEARLY NOT THE KIND OF PERSON YOU WANT HELPING YOU OUT. Part of him knows it can’t be good, but still the idea of his aunt performing a spell that can help him ‘concentrate’ is pretty tempting because he could use the help. He doesn’t realize that just because he’s Draco Malfoy and Bellatrix is, in blood, his aunt…. she has no qualms against hurting him. Poor lil guy. I bet he realizes it now..
The line in the second section about Bella rocking back and forth on her feet… ehhh! Chills! She’s such a loon.
The entire Death Eater scene makes me really feel bad for Draco. He’s just a child, a spoiled, arrogant child… but a child. He never deserved to be put in this situation, and I can’t imagine the kind of regret Narcissa must feel for letting her family’s lifestyle turn into this. I really liked that Draco was honest, though it showed his weakness, we know he doesn’t have what it takes to lie to the Dark Lord. This entire part just clicks so perfectly in with what we know from the beginning of HP and HBP. This is the Narcissa that fled in the dead of night to beg Severus to help, and this is the Bellatrix that tried to talk her out of it. I’m so impressed with what you’ve done, Dan. And as much as it kills me to say this, I think you’re right to end it on this note. We know Draco lives, we know what happens. This part, how he became the boy trying to kill Dumbledore.. we *didn’t* know any of that and I don’t think the blanks could have been filled in better even if JKR herself did them. This short story shows of what an insanely versatile author you are, and how well you can understand your characters regardless of who they are. And now, we move onto R and H! Yay! ♥
Author's Response: Hello, dear!
Bellatrix is amazing, isn't she? There is no better character in the entire series if you want to explore the descent of a human mind into madness. It makes her challenging and fun to write, all at once.
I spent some time pondering Narcissa's relationship to Bella while I was writing a review for one of Beeezie's stories recently and some of what I came up with really helped with writing this chapter. I think that Narcissa always viewed her insane elder sister as something that was very convenient to have, and we all know how Narcissa feels about convenience. Bella was the scary monster that baby sister Narcissa invoked to get her own way, I think. And it was doubly convenient for Narcissa while Bella was locked away in Azkaban -- she became that much more frightening, yet Narcissa never actually had to deal with her. Now, suddenly, Bella is back and she's crazier than ever. I have to imagine Narcissa is regretting a lot of decisions she made at this point.
But the manipulation definitely goes in both directions, as you observe. Bella knows what buttons to push if she wants Narcissa to do something. Andromeda is a very sore subject for both of them. For Bella, that's because she's embarrassed to have a blood traitor for a sister. For Narcissa, I'm sure that she missed Andromeda if only because she was probably a good buffer to help absorb some of Bella's insanity. I'm sure she was far kinder than Bella, too. At the moment, I'm really into exploring fics that show various takes on the two of them struggling to reconcile after the war.
Draco is still very naive. Naive enough to believe that his aunt would help him unconditionally. Oops...
The final scene brings everything full circle in a sense. Draco is face-to-face with the moment he spent 99% of his childhood dreaming about and the previous week or two desperately trying to avoid. And the Dark Lord cuts straight to the crux of the matter, doesn't he? Draco doesn't want to be a Death Eater any more than Voldemort really believes that he's capable of killing Dumbledore. It's a complete "heads I win, tails you lose" proposition for Draco. If he succeeds, the Dark Lord gets exactly what he wants and the blood is on Draco's hands. If he fails, then it's obvious to everyone that the Dark Lord sentenced him to an impossible task as punishment for his father's failure.
So where to go from here... Well, I have a couple of strong "soldier on" votes and now I have one, "this is a good spot to end it" vote. We shall see how the other reviews go.
Thank you so much for honoring me with your 450th review! I always love reading your thoughts.