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Author's Note I am truly humbled each and every time I receive a review, and I've been fortunate enough to have received absolutely jaw-droppingly humbling reviews in the past few days. Thank you, all of you, for stopping by and letting me know what you think. I really have no idea what else I can say, but thank you.

In addition, this is the shortest section I have written thus far of the story (which is weighing in at just under sixteen thousand for the moment). The rest should range between 700 and 2000 words, if I remember correctly.

Enjoy, my lovelies! :)






THE ENDS OF THE EARTH





The ring was brighter than anything Bellatrix had ever seen. It was not like the sun, unpredictable and moody in its radiance, nor was it the moon, who stole the sun’s brilliance. It was a small star, young and bright and concentrated in its power. The diamond sparkled like snow in sunlight, the platinum band shone like its own little satellite. Her colour balance was thrown off, having it now rest on her finger. Everything seemed a little greyer, a little dirtier in its presence.

Cissa stared at it hungrily, in yearning and jealousy and girlish excitement. “Lucky,” she grumbled without malice. “So, so lucky.”

“Don’t get drool on the diamond, Cissy,” Sirius snickered. He drank deeply from his bottle of cola (Bellatrix didn’t know where he had gotten it and wasn’t sure she wanted to) and shoved it to his brother. Regulus whimpered a little bit at the lack of cola left, but downed it dutifully. “Not very sisterly of you.”

“Oh, she likes it,” Dromeda chimed in. Her drink of choice was lemonade with too much sugar. Bellatrix could see the enamel wearing away from her teeth after just one sip. “You see, boys, that is what all girls aspire to have.”

“You too?” Regulus asked.

The other girls watched her answer very carefully.

Dromeda shrugged. “Someday, I guess. Can’t really imagine anyone proposing to me.”

“Good,” said the youngest child. “I wouldn’t like you going away and leaving me.”

No complaint had been made when Bellatrix first broke the news. No one lamented the imminent loss that came with a betrothal. Sirius had barely batted his discerning eye. He probably welcomed her coming departure. If it were Dromeda who was leaving, Dromeda who was graced with this gemstone, they would put up a fight and kick and scream and vow to disown her. They would follow her to the ends of the earth. In a way, she supposed, they already had.

“Dromeda isn’t going anywhere for a long, long time,” giggled Cissa.

“Good,” Regulus repeated. He spoke a little softer this time, and sipped the last drops of cola.

“And Cissa?” Dromeda grinned. “She’ll be gone before Bella.”

“Oh, really?” She blushed furiously. The older sisters pretended not to notice, but they did. They were part of the game now, and it was their moral duty to notice.

“Malfoy,” the older brother suggested. “They’re perfect for each other. Blond and rich.”

Cissa’s face scrunched up unattractively. She made that face a lot when she was little. At the dinner table, at other peoples’ dinner tables, on Christmas and her birthday. Distaste. “You don’t believe that, do you?” she squeaked unhappily. “Have you met that man?”

“Once. A long time ago. He asked me if I’d ever tried firewhiskey.”

“And?” Regulus was paying attention, as well. He had been there for all of his brother’s life, minus an uneventful year, and he usually knew all of his stories. Not this one.

“I lied.” His grin was wide. It resembled that of a tyrant who had come this close to burning a dissenter. Bellatrix was impressed. He was clever. But then she remembered all of that nonsense with the swan, and felt her goodwill towards her cousin subside.

Despite everyone’s prodding, Dromeda’s included, he never elaborated. Still, Bellatrix was proud.

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