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Chapter Four - The Unexpected Guest



The instant Bellatrix entered the room, she knew something was amiss. Her mother was sat, upright and stiff, in her chair by the fire, her eyes blank. She felt Narcissa’s hand worm into her own and held it tightly. It was then that she noticed the other person in the room.

His face was vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t remember where she had seen it before. He was very tall and thin, with dark hair and cold, black eyes. He had glanced in the direction of the door when Bellatrix and Narcissa had entered, but had quickly returned to staring at Druella.

The door slammed shut, breaking the oppressive silence. Bellatrix came to her senses and stepped forward, disregarding the man as she addressed her mother, “You asked for us, mother.”

Druella jumped, turning to look at her daughters as though she had never seen them before. Recognition slowly dawned on her face and she said quietly, “Yes. Yes…Mr Riddle will explain.”

The man stepped towards Bellatrix, coughing so as to draw attention to himself. Bellatrix fixed him in her gaze, remembering to keep her face impassive. In reality, Riddle’s confident stature impressed her more than she wanted it to. She felt Narcissa release her hold on her hand and stand up taller as she, too, fixed a proud look on her face.

“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news,” Riddle began, his smile seeming slightly out of place, “I have been sent to inform you that your father has been found. Dead.”

Bellatrix felt a sudden pain in her abdomen, as though she had been punched, but she forced all emotion down in an effort to remain composed, “Who has sent you?”

“That is of no concern to you.” Riddle replied, keeping his voice respectful.

“I think you’ll find it is of great concern.” Bellatrix retorted. For a split second, she thought she saw Riddle’s eyes flash red, but it happened so quickly she was sure it was just a trick of the light.

Riddle gave her a penetrating stare, “I have come to inform you about your father’s last requests, Miss Black.”

“I refuse to speak to someone who doesn’t answer my questions.” She turned to leave.

“Then I shall speak to your mother and sister only, for it concerns them just as much as you.”

Bellatrix froze with her hand on the door handle. Turning back, she saw the pleading look on Narcissa’s face. Her sister was finding it far harder to repress the shock and sadness than she was. Sighing and hating the fact she had been beaten by Riddle, she turned back to face him.

Riddle smiled triumphantly and drew some parchment out of his pocket, opening it with a flourish, “The late Cygnus Black requests that his youngest daughter, Narcissa Black, will marry Lucius Malfoy,” Narcissa made a strange noise, halfway between a gasp and a sob, which went unnoticed by Riddle, “and that the marriage will take place a soon as possible, as Lucius Malfoy has already agreed to it. He also made a request that his estate, that is to say his house, possessions and fortune, should be left to Rodolphus Lestrange, with the intention that his eldest daughter, Bellatrix Black, will marry him and continue to live in this house.” He stopped and began to fold up the parchment again.

“Wait.” Bellatrix’s voice shook with anger, “I wish to see this document.”

Riddle froze in the middle of putting it in his pocket. Smiling disarmingly, he said nonchalantly, “I fail to see why. There is nothing I have omitted.”

“I don’t care.” Bellatrix whispered dangerously. She held out her hand. For a moment it seemed that Riddle wasn’t going to give it to her. The two of them, so alike in appearance with the same dark hair and eyes, stood at opposite ends of the room staring at each other.

Finally, Riddle held the parchment out for Bellatrix to take. She strode towards him, not breaking eye contact, until they were stood directly opposite each other. The moment Bellatrix ripped the paper from his hands, Riddle’s smile widened. She had never seen such a charming smile in all her life.

Wrenching her eyes away from his, Bellatrix stared down at the paper. It was her father’s handwriting; she recognised it immediately, although it seemed slightly shaky, as though Cygnus hadn’t been holding the quill properly. She glanced at her mother, communicating silently that their worst fears were confirmed. Her eyes then rested on Narcissa, who was doing such a good job of keeping her face emotionless. The moment their eyes met, though, Narcissa’s face crumpled and she fled from the room.

“You may leave now.” Bellatrix spoke harshly, as though she was ordering a house elf. She didn’t dare look at Riddle.

“I’m afraid I haven’t quite finished yet.” Riddle said softly. Bellatrix felt her heart sink as Riddle continued, “You see, legal ownership of the Black estate has not passed to you, Madam Black.”

Whirling around to face him, Bellatrix shook her head fiercely, “Do not say any more, Mr Riddle…” She murmured, drawing her wand.

“I’m afraid I must say more.” Riddle didn’t seem the least but concerned by her thinly veiled warning, “According to your father’s wishes, Miss Black, ownership of the estate has passed to Rodolphus Lestrange and to a lesser extent, yourself. Madam Black has no right to go on living here, or even to spend the late Cygnus Black’s money.”

Incensed, Bellatrix exclaimed, “I give her permission to live here!”

Riddle smiled, only this time it was a smile of someone who knew they had already won an argument, “I’m so sorry, Miss Black, but as the principle owner of the Black estate, Rodolphus Lestrange gets the final say in the matter.” Slowly, he began to reach once more into his pocket.

Bellatrix lowered her wand, feeling her world crash around her as she shook her head, lamely muttering, “No…no…”

“Mr Lestrange has been informed of the death of Mr Black, and his part in Mr Black’s will. He had only one request,” Riddle coughed to clear his throat, then spoke the words Bellatrix was afraid to hear, “That, as he put it, ‘Madam Druella Black vacate my property as soon as possible, owing to the fact it is to become the home of newly weds.’” Riddle’s mouth twisted nastily into a pale imitation of a smile as he turned to Druella Black, “Therefore Madam Black, I am afraid you must leave. Immediately.”

“No!” Bellatrix exclaimed, all formality and proper behaviour banished from her mind. She stared wildly from Druella to Riddle, hoping against hope that some solution could be found to the mess they had been dragged into.

“Bella, calm yourself!” Druella’s commanding voice rang through Bellatrix’s head. She reared, eyes popping madly, round on her mother. Druella Black had got to her feet and was looking at her daughter with contempt, “If I must leave, then I will leave. I do not need you to fight my battles for me, Bella. Calm yourself.

No!” Bellatrix shouted back, “Mother, there’s something wrong with this. Why has no-one from the Ministry come to inform us of father’s death? Who is he anyway?” She gestured to Riddle with her head, “Father wouldn’t request these things, mother! He wouldn’t split us up!” Her voice became more pleading, as though she was desperate for Druella to agree with her, “Father wouldn’t sell his daughters like this! And you, he would never leave you with nothing..." Her voice broke and she lowered her head, staring aimlessly at the ring on her finger.

“Bella, I am as confused and hurt as you are, but do you see me waving my wand around and threatening strangers, like a mad woman?” Druella’s voice was softer. Flashing Bellatrix a ghost of a smile she walked over to her writing desk, which was next to the door. Bending over to write something, she spoke over her shoulder, “I shall be fine, Bella. I will go to your Uncle Orion and Aunt Walburga. They have been asking me to stay a fair few times as of late, I think Sirius is proving to be a bit of a problem.”

Bellatrix laughed hollowly. Sirius Black was much more than just a ‘bit of a problem’. Druella finished writing and strode back to her daughter, pressing a bit of folded parchment into her hands, “Please give this to Narcissa.” She smiled encouragingly, stroking Bellatrix’s cheek, and whispered, “Have faith. Look after Narcissa.” Without looking at Riddle, she swept from the room, her head held high.

As soon as the door snapped behind her mother, Bellatrix felt smothered by Riddle’s presence. This uneasy feeling increased when she turned to face him and found he was staring at her with a strange smile on his face.

“I would ask that you leave, Mr Riddle.” She said coldly.

Riddle shook his head and whispered softly, “Miss Bella Black.”

The way he said her name seemed familiar, but Bellatrix couldn’t place where she had heard his voice before. It sent tingles through her body.

Riddle stepped forward, so slowly that Bellatrix was surprised to find him right in front of her.

“Do you want to know a secret, Miss Bella Black?” His voice was intoxicating. She could hardly breathe anymore. He reached out and stroked her cheek with one, long, pale finger. Suddenly realising that he’d asked her a question, Bellatrix nodded slowly, trapped in his stare.

His face split into that familiar lazy smile. Leaning forward, he pressed his cheek against hers and breathed, “It’s all because of you.”

It took Bellatrix an unnaturally long time to realise what he had said, as though his presence was dulling her senses, “What do you mean?” She murmured, unable to fully control her mouth.

“All this suffering,” he explained, pulling his head back so he could stare straight at her again, “Everything that is going to happen. It’s entirely your fault.”

“What?” The uneasy feeling at the pit of her stomach was coming back, Riddle’s eyes still held her captivated.

Riddle laughed, “Lord Voldemort is waiting for you, Miss Bella Black.”

What?” The dream like world shattered around Bellatrix. She jerked away from Riddle, suddenly on her guard, “What’s that criminal got to do with anything?”

Riddle’s face contorted, until Bellatrix wondered why she had ever thought him handsome. He seemed more snake-like than human, with slits for nostrils and horrific, red eyes flashing at her, “The Dark Lord is more than a petty criminal, Bellatrix Black!” he spat, “Your father may not have realised in time, but you will!” He smiled, baring his teeth, “Or you will see your family torn apart, all because of your stubborn will!”

She acted instinctively, ripping her wand out of her robes and shouting, “Crucio!” There was a flash of light, and Bellatrix felt the familiar feeling of absolute power seething through her body. But something was not right. There were no screams, no pleas for mercy…

Focussing her eyes, Bellatrix found herself in an empty room. Riddle had disappeared. Anger and frustration at Riddle’s words and pain at the death of her father and the loss of her mother and sisters burst out of Bellatrix, and she directed her wand at the furniture, blasting the chairs and tables to smithereens as she alternated between laughing and crying. Only when the entire room had been reduced to dust did she stop. Taking one step forward, Bellatrix felt her knees give way beneath her and gratefully fell down into unconsciousness.

~


She dreamt that she was a little girl again, playing in her room with Andromeda and Narcissa. In the corner, her mother was sat watching her children play proudly. Her father was there too, but he was watching them with an entirely different expression on his face. Bellatrix knew why he looked so severe. All he had ever wanted was a boy, but instead he had got three daughters; daughters who were only good for marrying off to wealthy pureblooded men.

Bellatrix concentrated back on the game she was playing with her sisters. Each of them was caring for their dolls, each of which had been custom made to look like its owner. Bellatrix looked down at hers but was surprised to see the doll’s face was out of focus.

She tried to focus on the face, but it continued to swim in front of her eyes. Frowning, Bellatrix got up and went to her parents, holding the doll out in front of her. First she went to her father, putting the doll on his knees and staring up into his impassive face. He didn’t react at all, and continued to watch Narcissa and Andromeda playing. Bellatrix tried to form his name on her baby tongue, but couldn’t manage it. She turned to look pleadingly at her mother, but Druella Black had the same fixed expression on her face and refused to look down at Bellatrix.

Frustrated, Bellatrix ran back to her sisters and tried to communicate with them, but only to be faced with the same reaction. She even pulled their hair and slapped their cheeks to try to get their attention, but to no avail.

Eventually, she conceded defeat and resorted to trying once more to focus on her doll’s face. It was highly disorientating to see the whole of the doll in focus, but then reach the face and see it contorting in front of her eyes. Angrily, Bellatrix threw the doll face down on the floor, folding her arms and frowning deeply.

“What have you done?!”

Bellatrix turned, shocked, to face her mother, who was looking at her with mistrust and dislike in her eyes, “Why have you condemned us, Bellatrix?” she asked forcibly.

“Why don’t you ever think about other people, Bella?” Narcissa said quietly, her huge blue eyes swimming with tears, “You could have stopped this.”

“You’ve changed, Bellatrix Black.” Andromeda said, looking frightened as Bellatrix turned to her, “The sister I knew would have sacrificed herself.”

Bellatrix found her tongue, “I…what…I don’t understand…what am I supposed to do?”

“The Dark Lord is waiting, Bellatrix.” Cygnus Black rasped, his face transforming into a grotesque skull. Bellatrix’s eyes widened in horror as her father’s body slowly rotted in front of her. She shook her head, trying to understand.

“Lord Voldemort?”

Narcissa nodded, “Lord Voldemort has chosen you, Bellatrix. Don’t you want to serve him?”

“I…no!” Bellatrix’s voice strengthened, “He’s nothing but a criminal…”

“Much more than a criminal, Bella!” Druella laughed insanely, “The Dark Lord is waiting, Bellatrix Black!”

“The Dark Lord is waiting, Bellatrix Black!” Narcissa and Andromeda began to chant, advancing slowly until they were either side of Bellatrix. She tried to shut out their horrible chanting voices, but it was all she could hear. The words bounced off her skull until it was all she could think of. Clasping her hands over her ears, Bellatrix rocked backwards and forwards, staring wildly at her doll, who was still lying on the floor. Squeezing her eyes shut, she desperately tried to wake up, to get away from this horrible nightmare…


Bellatrix opened her eyes. Struggling to shake sleep from her aching body, she slowly inched herself upright. Everything around her was destroyed, and it took her a few moments to remember what had happened. The events of the previous night crushed down upon her and she felt involuntary tears come to her eyes, which she angrily forced back. This was no time for tears.

Struggling to her feet, Bellatrix left the wrecked drawing room. She stumbled up the hall, her entire body stiff and aching from sleeping on a hard floor. Random images flashed up in her tired mind; Tom Riddle, whom she was sure she’d met before, her mother, proudly walking from the room having been banished from the home she had lived in with her now deceased husband, Narcissa trying so hard to keep her face blank as she was told the worst news she could be told…

“Bella!”

Bellatrix spun around just in time to see her sister run to her and wrap her arms around her. Narcissa’s usually beautifully curled blonde hair was ragged around her face and she was still wearing yesterday’s makeup, which was smudged down her cheeks. Bellatrix was so wrapped up in embracing her little sister that she almost didn’t notice the parchment she was holding in shaking, white hands.

Gently lifting Narcissa’s hand up, Bellatrix took the paper from her. Wiping her eyes, Narcissa muttered, “It says I’ve got to go to Malfoy Manor. Something about it being father’s request that I marry immediately…I don’t want to leave you, though…”

Bellatrix read the letter carefully, only to find that it contained exactly what Narcissa had said. She sighed, “I’ll be fine. Honestly.”

“If you say so.” Narcissa replied, sounding unconvinced, but she managed a small smile, “I’d better be going, I just don’t like the thought of leaving you on your own here…” She faltered, staring at Bellatrix with obvious concern in her eyes, “You’ll come to visit of course…”

“This isn’t right.” Bellatrix muttered distractedly, screwing up the parchment and throwing it from her in disgust, “This isn’t father…”

“Who else could it be?” Narcissa stated matter-of-factly, “You read his will, Bella, you saw his handwriting. And he did put me next to Malfoy at the dance…and you next to Lestrange.”

Bellatrix scowled. She had forgotten all about the dance. It seemed a world away now. Narcissa bustled past her towards the stairs, muttering to herself as she went, “I’ll go by Floo, I think. It’s quicker…but what if it messes up my…” She reached a hand to her lank hair and shook her head, “Well, never mind…”

Helplessly, Bellatrix watched Narcissa climb the stairs and disappear into her room to pack. Half an hour later she returned, bumping a bulging suitcase down the stairs in front of her. She had changed her clothes, and was now wearing figure hugging robes of exactly the same shade of blue as her eyes. Her hair fell gently down her back in loose curls and her face was composed.

Bellatrix summoned two house elves to carry Narcissa’s bag and travelling cloak to the dining room, which was the only room with a big enough fireplace for travelling by Floo powder.

“Write to me.” Narcissa instructed as she stepped into the fireplace. Bellatrix could manage no more than a strangled noise at the back of her throat. Narcissa smiled, a wide, genuine smile, “And don’t worry about me, please. This is what father wanted. His last wish. I wouldn’t go if I didn’t want to, I’d have thought you’d know that.” Wrinkling her nose playfully, she took a handful of Floo powder from the pot offered to her by a house elf, “At least he’s better looking than Lestrange!”

“Hey…” Bellatrix said, slowly realising what Narcissa was saying.

Narcissa just laughed, saying, “Malfoy Manor!” before throwing the Floo powder down and disappearing in violent green flames.

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