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Women at War

The Royal Border Bridge spanned the river Tweed in Northumberland, a stone and brick relic of the industrial revolution. Twenty-eight towering arches vaulted the massive railway viaduct over one hundred and fifty feet above the murky water below. Trains did not pass at such an hour, but two narrow shapes could be seen standing against the whipping wind and the driving rain. One was a dark and forlorn signalman’s booth. 

And the other, standing at the highest point of the bridge, was a woman.

Narcissa Malfoy’s tears were lost in the rain. Her silvery hair whipped across her face and her blood-red cloak flew out around her. She braced her back against a short milepost and stared at the shallow water far below, knowing that no one could survive that kind of fall. But that was okay. It was why she had come here, of all places. She was shaking, inside and out, terrified by what she was going to do. But there was no other way. She could take it no longer. It had to end. Tonight. 

A sudden crack made her head whip around. Another woman, with hair and robes so black that only her ghostly skin was visible in the darkness, had just Apparated to the bridge.

"Cissa!” Screamed the woman sighting her quarry. “Cissa!”

“Don’t come any closer!” Narcissa shouted against the wind. The dark-haired woman paid no heed, in fact, she was now running towards the crying woman. “I mean it Bella! Stay away from me!” Narcissa took a deep breath, stepped closer to the edge, and teetered there. Bella instantly froze.

“Narcissa have you lost your fucking mind?” She shrieked, drawing her wand.

“Go home Bella! This has nothing to do with you!”

“Like hell it has nothing to do with me! You’re my sister! I can’t let you do this!”

“It’s not up to you!” Narcissa edged closer to the precipice. She seemed unnaturally balanced, as if she was being held up by providence alone.

Bella edged closer to her sister, her wand trained upon her drenched body. “If you jump I’ll just levitate you back!” 

Narcissa stared at her sister, a numb and haunted look on her face. “Don’t you dare! Please Bella! Understand!”

“I do understand. It’s hard Cissa! War is hard!” She took two more steps towards her sister.

Narcissa startled and slipped. One of her high-heeled shoes was wedged off of her foot and it went over the edge. It fell forever. They didn’t even hear the splash of it hitting the water. Bellatrix stared down in horror, as if realizing for the first time how high up they were. 

When she spoke her voice was pleading. “Please, Cissa, let’s just talk about this!”

“Put down the goddamn wand Bella!” Shouted the blonde woman, shaking with the force of her sobs. “There’s nothing to talk about until you show me that I can trust you!”

“Fine!” Bellatrix yelled, looking left and right, and then laying her wand gently upon the tracks. “See? Now can we frigging talk?”

Narcissa looked at Bellatrix uncertainly. After a long while she nodded. Bellatrix closed the distance between them and when she was a few meters away, Narcissa raised her hands. “That’s close enough.”

“Okay.” The dark haired woman was now able to speak without having to shout. She looked down nervously and pulled her cloak tigher against the cold. It was a futile attempt as she too was already soaked through. “Narcissa, why? Why are you doing this?”

“You know why. There’s nothing left for me. Draco has joined the Death Eaters and run off, and Lucius is locked up forever in Azkaban. I’ve lost my entire family, and my entire reason for living. What would you do?”

"I would be happy that I could sacrifice so much for the Dark Lord." Bella looked pointedly at her sister. "He will reward you Cissa. And after tonight, he will be certain of your loyalty. We will be honored above all others. Think! There will be nothing he wouldn’t grant you!”

Narcissa's eyes were fixed on the river below. “Will he return my son to me?”

“You cannot ask him to surrender a loyal servant!" Bella hissed. "But I do know that once we attack their headquarters, there won’t be a single Order member left to hunt Draco! That’s why you’re the only one I told about Grimmauld Place! Once I tortured it’s location out of the girl, I kept silent, even unto the Dark Lord himself. And I did it so that we, you and I, could perform the ambush together in his name!” Bella’s eyes were wild with excitement. “We’ll level that house to the ground while they’re all asleep in their comfy beds, and we alone will take the credit for winning this war! Cissa, I need you to have courage!”

Narcissa’s eyes were squeezed shut, and Bellatrix took a quick step closer. The blonde woman did not seem to have noticed.

“I don’t know what to do anymore Bella. I hurt.” She clutched at her chest. “I hurt so much. I worry about and night.”

"I know you do. But that’s war. It may be the men who fight, but it’s the women who bleed. Women at war must make terrible sacrifices to assure a better world for their children. Surely you know this? Surely you know how important you are to the cause?”

Narcissa shook her head. Bellatrix angrily wiped the rainwater away from her face.

"Dammit Narcissa! Don't you see? It doesn't matter what the generals do or what happens on the battlefield with the boys and their fucking pissing contests! Women are the ones who turn the tide - it has always been this way! Women are the ones who win wars! Strong, cunning women, like you and I. This is our moment!"

“I know.” Cissa sobbed. "I know. But my family..." Bellatrix inched closer, her eyes wary on the dangerous edge.

“Don't you ever forget that your family is my family.” Bella said. “That’s why I convinced the Dark Lord to let Draco join, though he was so young. That’s why I encouraged Lucius to take the Dark Mark when you were engaged. You are the mother of a generation of warriors fighting for what we believe in! Are you not proud?”

“Y-yes.” Narcissa whispered. She stood a little taller. She seemed to be strengthened by her sister’s words. Bellatrix inched closer still.

“And tonight, we can have blood for the pain Dumbledore’s Phoenix lot has caused us. Will you not be sated to know that you and I killed each and every one of them? That they died like cowards, asleep in their beds?”

Narcissa sniffled and nodded. 

“I promise you, it will all feel better once the air rings with their pathetic, final screams. Narcissa.” Bellatrix stepped closer. She was now close enough to touch her sister. “You will be cleansed of this pain once you have your revenge.” 

“You’re right.” Narcissa whispered, wiping away her tears. She turned to look at her beloved sister. “Bella, thank you. You’ve made this all so much easier.”

Narcissa suddenly lashed out and grabbed her sister’s arm, twisting and pulling it down so that the older woman shrieked and lost her balance. Bellatrix gripped her sister as she went over the edge. For a split second their eyes met: Narcissa’s were steely and cold, and Bella's, wide with shock. And when Bella’s grip slipped from her sister's drenched arm, she fell. Past the delicate curve of the arch, past the the crumbling red brick, past the black-stained support boulders. She screamed the whole one hundred and fifty feet down. There was a distant splash when her body hit the shallow water, and then there was nothing but the sound of the wind.

Narcissa drew her wand and tapped the invisible ropes that tied her to the milepost. She carefully pulled her heel back against the edge, removing her foot from her remaing shoe and letting it fall. The crimson pump tumbled over and over as if in slow motion, to join its mate, and her sister, in their murky grave. Then, in icy, stocking feet, she walked over to Bella’s wand, and snapped the ebony wood in two. 

She was frozen, staring at the two broken pieces in her lovely, manicured hands as a slim figure emerged from the darkened signalman’s booth near the head of the bridge. The person made her way down the tracks, her booted feet moving carefully over the slippery ties. Cissa did not look up when the woman tentatively approached.

“Are you okay?” Tonks asked. Her expression was soft and sympathetic, and her hair hung in drowned lengths around her heart-shaped face.

“I will be.” Narcissa said with a trembling voice.

The younger woman was silent for a long time, taking in the blonde woman's  drenched skin and shaking hands. Tonks drew her wand and conjured a warm, woolen blanket, and laid it gently across Narcissa's shoulders. She let her hands rest upon those shivering shoulders for a moment, and then spoke with great calm. "You did the right thing.” 

“I know.”  Narcissa whispered.

“You saved countless lives.”

“I know.”

“We’ll get Draco out of there alive if it’s the last thing we do.  I swear to you, Narcissa.”

“I know.” Narcissa slipped the wand pieces deep into her cloak, and took Tonks' arm, letting the younger woman guide her away from the terrible scene. As the two women walked off together in the driving rain, Narcissa knew that Bella, for all her faults, had been right about one thing. It was the women, strong and cunning women, who turned the tide in war. It had always been that way. As it was tonight.

And she could still hear her sister’s words screaming in the wind. 

Women at war must make terrible sacrifices to assure a better world for their children.

Reviews welcome. 
I also suggest you look up a picture of the Royal Border Bridge. I loved the look of it for this story.

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