Andromeda and Ted were pretty much old news by the time they were ready to go back to Hogwarts. It surprised even Bellatrix, though, that she began to see Frank in a whole new light. Maybe it was because she started to appreciate Andromeda’s decision once she knew the reasoning behind it and maybe it was for some other reason, but regardless, it didn’t make her skin curl when he came to King’s Cross Station with them to see them off. She even offered him a small smile as she followed Narcissa onto the train.

When the three of them found an empty compartment, they immediately dragged all of their things in and sat down.

“You know what I think we need to do?” Narcissa asked happily, as if she hadn’t had a near-death experience only days before. “Next Hogsmeade weekend, Lucius and I, Bella and Rodolphus, and Meda and Frank need to get together and just hang out. Because the guys in our lives really need to get used to each other. They’re pretty much stuck together.”

“Sure, I’m in,” Andromeda shrugged.

Bellatrix smiled, remembering the last time they’d tried that. That day was the best day of her life, the worst day of her life, and everything in between. “Definitely. Just as long as we make sure to plan it on a day that the Dark Lord doesn’t really feel the need to put me under that power-giving spell.”

“Okay,” Narcissa said with a small giggle. She leaned back in her seat and pulled Persephone out of her cat carrier and held her in her lap. “This is really nice,” she said. “I mean, this really has been a hell of a year, and now we’re on the last leg of it. Bella on the last leg of her entire schooling career.” She stopped talking for a moment. “Hogwarts just isn’t going to be the same without you, Bella,” she said slowly. “Seriously. What are we going to do?”

“You guys will still have each other,” Bellatrix said. “And besides, you know I’ll hang out with you guys every Hogsmeade weekend you have.”

“What are you going to do?” Andromeda asked. “After you graduate, I mean. Are you going to get a job, or just spend all of your time with the Dark Lord, or what?”

“I don’t know, really. If Rodolphus keeps his promise and I finally get my proposal then I’m going to get married. And I will have a lot more time to do whatever for the Dark Lord. I’m going to suddenly have a lot more time to spend with you guys, though.”

Narcissa suddenly got a horrified look on her face. “Meda, are you coming back next year? I mean, you’re getting married this summer.”

“I know,” Andromeda said. “I’ve been trying not to think about it. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“Man, this really sucks,” Narcissa mused. “I mean, this really is like the end of our lives together.”

“No it’s not,” Bellatrix insisted. “We can still make time for each other. We will make time for each other.”

“I hate that you guys are so much older than I am,” Narcissa pouted. “I mean, Meda, you’re seventeen. And Bella’s eighteen. And what am I? Stinking fourteen? I’m still a kid next to you guys.”

“Cissa, what’s really wrong?” Andromeda asked concernedly. “Why are you so down in the dumps?”

“Yeah, you’re usually not like that,” Bellatrix added.

Narcissa exhaled loudly. “My life is awful,” she said.

“What’s wrong with it?” Andromeda asked.

“I’ve just been thinking a lot for the last couple days about my father. I wish I would’ve been able to get to know him more.”

Bellatrix let her head fall into her open hands. Was Narcissa ever going to let her forget that? She couldn’t exactly blame her; after all, Bellatrix knew that she wouldn’t be able to just forget it if something like that had happened to her. But she still hated being reminded of that.

“Oh, come on, Bella,” Narcissa said sarcastically. “Admit it. You’re not even sorry.”

Bellatrix looked up at Narcissa and said, “I’m sorry that you’re so upset about it, but I’d do it again in an instant.”

Narcissa gasped in disbelief, and neither one of them noticed Andromeda leave the compartment.

“No, Cissa, you don’t get it,” Bellatrix quickly backtracked. “I know this and Meda agreed with me, but the only thing that went wrong was the timing. Do you really want to hear the whole story of the thinking behind the plan?”

“Okay, fine.” Narcissa did not sound like she had the highest expectations.

“Okay. He told the Dark Lord that he wasn’t going to contact you at all until you were fifteen, so the Dark Lord thought that we had months and months before we had to worry about it at all. Then something happened that made him want to do it earlier. I don’t know what it was. But the Dark Lord and I were both thinking the same thing, which was that if we were going to do this then it had to be before you even knew that your real father even existed. But I was really just doing it to protect you. The timing just got screwed up. But if I would’ve done it before you got the letter, everything would’ve worked out beautifully.”

Narcissa shook her head. She did look a little better, but the words that came out of her mouth led Bellatrix to believe that she wasn’t feeling as forgiving as her face looked. “Bella, do you realize that every fight we’ve had this year has been one hundred percent your fault? Even when Meda and I argue, it’s still your fault.”

“When did you and Meda argue?” Bellatrix asked.

Narcissa shrugged. “I dunno. Sometime. Mostly about how she doesn’t like how unconditionally I’m supporting your whole thing with the Dark Lord. In the back of her mind, she thinks it’s a bad idea. She would never admit it to you because rationally she knows that it’s a good thing, but there’s something in her subconscious that thinks otherwise.”

The corner of Bellatrix’s mouth turned upward in the world’s smallest smile. “Meda’s subconscious seems to be getting her into more and more trouble.”

“God. Bella, do you think anything is going to happen with her and Ted Tonks? I mean, if something went wrong with her marriage to Frank.”

Bellatrix shook her head. “I don’t know. I’ve known Meda for her whole life, and I know that she’s going to do everything she can to avoid the whole thing. That was why she planned this whole thing with Frank in the first place. That’s just the way Meda is. No matter what, she’s always going to do things sensibly. So I think it’s a possibility, but not a very good one.”

“Speaking of Meda, where did she go?” Narcissa asked.

Bellatrix shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe she just had to go to the bathroom or something.” But in the back of her mind, she wasn’t so sure. Where was Meda?

*

Andromeda did come back just a few minutes later, claiming that she just had something to do. Whether they truly respected her privacy or just really didn’t want to know, neither Bellatrix nor Narcissa questioned her. By the time they got back to Hogwarts, everything was back to normal. Narcissa didn’t say another word about her father for the rest of the afternoon, although Bellatrix couldn’t honestly say that that was what she really wanted. She almost sort of wished that they could just talk it out just to clear the air between them, but it felt so wrong for her to be the one to bring it up, and she knew that Narcissa wouldn’t.

Unlike when they arrived at Hogwarts at the beginning of the year, there was no grand feast waiting for them. They just went back up to their common rooms. As soon as they stepped off of the train, Rodolphus just sort of appeared out of nowhere and walked up next to Bellatrix.

“Hey, Bella,” he said conversationally.

“Hey,” she replied half-heartedly.

“What’s wrong?” Rodolphus asked immediately.

“I’ll tell you later,” Bellatrix said dismissively. It just didn’t seem right that Rodolphus didn’t know about what happened with Narcissa. In his defense, there was absolutely no way that he could know, but Bellatrix wasn’t really in the mood to tell the story.

“Okay, fine,” Rodolphus said. “Come here, though. I want to show you something.”

“Er, okay,” Bellatrix agreed hesitantly. She turned back to her sisters. “I’ll see you guys in the common room.”

Narcissa nodded. “Okay.”

Bellatrix followed Rodolphus up to the castle, her curiosity growing more and more. He led her up to the fourth floor, and Bellatrix immediately knew where he was headed. That room. The room. The room where she had so many good and bad memories. The room. That room. And sure enough, that was the room he led her inside.

“What are you going to show me?” Bellatrix asked.

Rodolphus chuckled a little. “You’re so single minded. Come here.” He took her hand and led her farther and farther into the room, until they were pretty much in the exact center. Then he grabbed both of her hands in his own and kissed her.

Bellatrix smiled. “What was that for?”

“I just love you,” Rodolphus said unconvincingly.

“Okay,” Bellatrix said with a small shrug.

Rodolphus kissed her again, this time more passionately, and then Bellatrix pretty much figured out that there was really something else going on. It couldn’t be…that, though. It just didn‘t make sense; it didn’t fit. “You know, I never thought that I would say this, but I’m really glad that I haven’t seen you since you left for Easter holidays. Because I know that if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to help myself.”

“With what?”

Rodolphus kissed her again, but now Bellatrix was too excited-slash-curious to really enjoy it.

“Rodolphus, just tell me what you’re thinking.”

“That you’re the most amazing, beautiful woman in the world and…well…here.” He reached into the pocket of his robes and pulled something out, though he didn’t open his hand, so Bellatrix couldn’t see what it was. She pretty much knew at that point, though. “Okay, Bella, close your eyes,” Rodolphus said.

Bellatrix obediently shut her eyes, and with his other hand, Rodolphus lifted Bellatrix’s and gently placed a ring on her palm.

“It only seemed right,” Rodolphus said. Bellatrix opened her eyes, and even though she knew what she would see, a huge grin still spread across her face. “I mean, that I do this here. That was the only thing that stopped me from just showing up at your place in the middle of the night while you were gone. But this is sort of where we started, and we’ve had so many memories in here since then that…Bella, can you please just put the damn thing on? You’re making me nervous.”

Bellatrix laughed and slid the ring on her finger. She thought about what had just taken place, and really, she felt great about it. Somehow she just knew that this was the right decision. And in a way, it was because of Andromeda. Bellatrix knew that she and Rodolphus were really young, but Andromeda was younger and she was doing it. And Bellatrix knew that she didn’t even really love Frank as much as she liked to pretend. But Bellatrix couldn’t look ahead into her future and see herself with anybody but Rodolphus. He got it. He got her; he knew what was important to her like no other guy ever could.

Bellatrix ran her fingers through Rodolphus’s raven-black hair fondly and pressed her lips against his. “I love you,” she whispered softly.

“Bella, I need to tell you something really important,” Rodolphus said, his voice completely serious.

“What is it?” Bellatrix asked.

Then the worst thing that could’ve possibly happened, did in fact happen. Bellatrix felt the familiar searing pain of her Dark Mark burning. It must’ve shown on her face, because Rodolphus said, “Why are you still here? Go. We’ll talk later.”

Bellatrix nodded. “Sorry,” she mouthed. She hated that about the Dark Mark. After it burned for a second, she was in such agonizing pain that she couldn’t talk anymore. She could barely walk, but she did. She went through that passageway again, then Apparated to the Dark Lord’s side. He was waiting for her in his own way, in the sense that he had already started walking, clearly wanting her to follow.

“What is it, My Lord?” Bellatrix asked breathlessly as she practically ran to catch up with him.

“I’ve been doing some thinking over the past few days,” the Dark Lord said. “How badly do you want to not go back to Hogwarts?”

“Are you serious?” Bellatrix breathed. She smiled. “I’d do anything.”

“Then plead your case,” the Dark Lord said.

“If I wasn’t at Hogwarts, then I would be free to serve you no matter what the situation. No matter what. Like, right now I only happened to be a few seconds away from the Hogsmeade passageway, but you know how big Hogwarts is. But if I was at home and didn’t have to worry about anti-Apparating barriers, then I could be at your side in an instant--the way that it should be.”

“That’s the best you can do?”

“Well, no. Being at Hogwarts itself is kind of a drag because all any of the teachers feel like doing is just piling more and more homework on us, and I know that I’m never going to need to know any of this, so…” Bellatrix took a deep breath. “Is that good enough?”

“I’m not sure,” the Dark Lord said. “I’m going to be honest, Bella. I know as well as you do that you belong right here. But it’s important to me that you do actually graduate. But now I’m thinking that there may be a reasonable argument for you doing this.”

“What is it?”

“That’s what I’m not sure about. So I was hoping that you could tell me. It was just a thought I had. So think about it and let me know, okay? You can go back to Hogwarts now.”

Bellatrix just sighed and nodded. The only thought that her mind seemed to be able to form was a single word: why? That little three-letter word summed up so much of what she was feeling, the good and the bad. So, why?

*

A/N-Wow. I can't believe this story is actually starting to draw to a close. I'm sure going to miss it when it's finished. I'm giving it a window of about 5 more chapters, depending on how much or how little I end up writing. Trust me, though, I have a really great ending planned.

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