“The family is out of favor. The family is out of favor. The family...promise me you’ll restore the Black family. Promise me, Belladonna.”
It was uncomfortable, the mark on her forearm. She twisted and writhed in the sweaty sheets, but each turn that was made forced an more pained chill than the last. It was late; nearly midnight, and Belladonna was exhausted; a cruel punishment for her terrifying mistakes. After moments of realizing that sleep would not be coming tonight, the girl sat up and focused her glaring eyes at the door of her room. There was a thin slice of light peeking into the darkness beneath her door, and the mere notice of it had Belladonna more on edge every second. She abandoned her bed and found herself lurching toward the curtains of a large window.
A hazard sigh escaped her lips. Her long, pale fingers grasped the curtains heavy fabric in an almost injured hold and she thrust them back to reveal the fullness of the moon. Her next sigh came shortly after, this time sounding needy and helpless. She leaned as close as possible to the glass and studied what little she could see in the remote darkness.
The moonlight slanted over her face and cast a sickly tone to her overly pale complexion. She looked evil; dreadful, in fact, and yet devastatingly blissful. A thin smile slowly spread itself over her face; haunting eyes sliding shut; fingers waning closed in a horrifying grasp around the curtain. She was lost in herself – lost in the realization of what she was – and found it rejuvenating.
Slowly, she released her grip from the dark fabric and reinstated it around her arm, just atop the mark she had been branded with only months before. She would prove that the Black family still had favor; after all, her aunts did. She would not let her filthy blood traitor mother ruin her chances as a Death Eater. Another sickly smile curled her lips upward, and her eyelids finally slipped over her dark orbs, recalling the somewhat recent words her aunt had whispered to her.
“...once you are mad, you stay as such. You can’t redress your sanity. Once you are out of favor, you will always be out of favor. Just like your filthy mother,” the voice turned crueler and crueler, now exhibiting a nasty display that chilled Belladonna to the bone, “Do not fall out of favor, girl. Don’t be stupid like my sister.”
Chapter One | Of The Nastiest Circumstances...
Harry Potter’s face stared at me. The paper in which it was branded was old and yellowing, torn at the edges from constant handling. I set my hard eyes upon his, and was unsurprised to see the blankness that radiated from him. It had been taken just after Dumbledore’s death – only a few months after, actually – and it was blatantly obvious that Harry was undergoing a sorrow that was not easily quenched.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to think of it, and focused on the background of the image to distract me. The courtyard of Hogwart’s played out behind him. Looming arches could just be detected in the corner of the right side, but other than that, no sign of the glory and might of the school was seen. There was hardly anyone I recognized around him, either. Hermione Granger wasn’t in sight, which had at first surprised me. Even his best mate Ronald Weasley was not there. The only face that looked a bit familiar was the round faced boy named Neville Longbottom, and I didn’t linger on his person for long.
I had a horrible feeling that the pain in Harry’s eyes would remain there for a long time still, and finally couldn’t bare looking at him any longer. With a flurry of anxiety, I shoved the old newspaper back into the drawer of my desk, where it would stay for weeks before being searched for again.
“You have no idea what you’re getting into, do you?” Narcissa Malfoy whispered. Her voice was near silent, and had an undertone of utter terror and disgust. Her bright eyes were staring at me, and I didn’t bother shifting under her gaze. It would be pointless, and I was not going to risk my ‘noble’ title by squirming like a child. I was a Black, not a filthy Malfoy.
Speaking of said family, they were all assembled around me, but Narcissa was the only one who looked at all concerned for my safety, which I found completely confounding. My cousin was gazing from the door – the dreaded door, which was, at this very moment, housing the very embodiment of our fear – to me, face twisted in a seemingly indifferent expression that was under laced with horror.
My voice was cold, as always, and confident. I twirled my wand around my fingers and curled my lip into a nasty snarl, “Do not suppose, for one second, that you have an inkling of what’s really going on here, Narcissa,” I spat, face contorting even more with each word, “The Malfoy family is just as tainted as the Black, if not more. There are certainly just as many traitors.”
The blonde woman didn’t seem to like that at all. Her eyes darkened with fury and she raised a hand that I was all too aware of. But, to my hidden relief, her husband cut her off.
“He is waiting.”
Lucius didn’t need to elaborate. Immediately, each of us straightened, similar thoughts and hopes passing through each of our minds. I tore my gaze from my aunt’s face and studied the large door on the other side of the room. He was behind it, with the others, and we had already wasted enough time in our little spat to make his tempter flare. It would be wise not to linger.
I was the first to make a move, and sauntered over to the doors. Before I pulled them open, I gazed behind me and smirked, paying close attention to the annoyed way Narcissa’s mouth formed a repulsed scowl. I slipped into the room without another glance and immediately everything went silent. I felt eyes on me, and I returned each look with my own, before resting my eyes briefly upon the cloaked figure at the head of the table. Just as quickly as I had searched for him, I backed away, head bowed respectfully as I addressed him.
“My Lord...” I murmured, voice soft with reverence, “Please allow me to apologize for keeping you.”
He did not respond, and I found it acceptable to glide from my bow over to the nearest chair in which he gestured.
“I see my niece has finally decided to grace us with her presence,” Bellatrix said, and her eyes narrowed dangerously in my direction, “I suppose we’re not as important as those outside?”
At the moment, the Malfoys came through the door, and I barely shed them a look before dryly responding, “...Hardly.”
I was not surprised to find that my sarcasm was ill taken. No one even cracked a smile, and I supposed I should keep quiet until absolutely needed. The Malfoys too uttered no sound. As fast as possible they took their seats, a ways down from the head of the table – and myself, as I was only about five seats from the Dark Lord. The blatant noise of their chairs scraping the mahogany floors nearly made me flinch.
I cast Draco a glance, for I appreciated him a bit more than his parents, and he returned it with an appraised look. I had to remind myself that he was nearly five years my junior and I shouldn’t let him phase me, regardless of the stupid pride he seemed to immerse himself in. I was simply confounded he was still able to carry himself so highly when he was so wounded. The mission that he had failed to do was certainly costing his family. They were already falling out of favor; any more mishaps and they’d be forever shunned.
I was so entangled in my inner ponders that I nearly missed the words that the Dark Lord spoke. I caught on just when he mentioned my name, and in no time flat realized exactly what he was speaking of.
“Yes, my Lord,” I venerated, responding silkily to his question, “I had everything planned so far. Since the Ministry has been infiltrated, things will begin to go much smoother.”
I watched in apprehension as his fingertips formed a web of long digits. He rested his pale chin upon them and didn’t lift his gaze from me as he said, “I certainly hope so. I trust, Belladonna, that you will not make any...mistakes.”
I felt a sickening quench in my stomach, and stoically inclined my head. He was referring to the Black family’s few rebels, Sirius and Regulus Black, my uncles. But I was not like them, not on the surface at least. I had a job to do; I couldn’t be completely like them right now. I was so busy worrying about my plan failing that I missed the smirks that flashed over my aunt Narcissa and her husband’s face.
That voice spoke again, and all our eyes were cast upon his dreaded features. I listened closely, but found him words suddenly boring. He was speaking now to one of the lower Death Eaters – one who helped at the Ministry. I entertained myself with studying the faces of various others sitting across from me at the long, blackened table.
There were shadows on most everyone’s faces. Eyes were cast downward in humility, seemingly venerating the presence of the Dark Lord. A sense of horror radiated from each, save perhaps the callous figure of my aunt, who was seated a few chairs down from her master and looking quite exhilarated as she listened with rapt attention. There was nothing that could be compared to the disgusted lurch that quelled my lower body at the sight, but I smartly choose not to linger. As a rule, Bellatrix Lestrange didn’t much like me, or any of the Blacks for that matter, and so I usually kept to myself when around her.
The only person that I felt any gratitude for was a certain old professor that sat at the Dark Lord’s right hand side. His face was worn – wrinkled, even – from constant worry and anxiety. He was, at the moment, staring at his pale, clasped hands. They rested on the hard wood surface, and he didn’t rise to meet my gaze, though I knew he felt it upon him. To say that my old Potions professor looked good was a downright lie. I mean, to me, he always looked healthy, in a Slytherin type of way. But then again, that was years back – four, in fact – and the years had not done him well at all. He looked older than he should have, and that worried me a little.
I didn’t keep my eyes on his features for more than a few seconds. Training them to the table, in the same fashion as every one else, I tightly clutched my hands together beneath the wood and listened carefully to the words being spoken.
“...Already took over the main part. We’re working on outing the Mudblood extension sections though. Figured they shouldn’t be needed any longer...”
He was speaking of the ‘improved’ Ministry, I surmised, and decided I needed to pay more attention. For some reason, my mind kept getting lost within itself tonight...
Yaxley spoke up then, explaining what the lower follower could not. His scratchy voice accounted the events going on in the Ministry, and how he placed an Imperius curse upon Pius Thicknesse and was apparently working on Thicknesse’s rise to Minister of Magic. There was a collective inhale of breath at that point, for it was indeed a prideful task, and many eyes flew to the Dark Lord’s figure to see his reaction.
But he merely sat there, hands still clasped in a tight, frozen spell as he gazed languidly toward Yaxley. He was not disappointed, I deduced, otherwise he would have created a one-sided brawl that would have left poor Yaxley cowering in his seat.
“Are you...are you displeased, my Lord...?” came Yaxley’s suddenly tamed, almost dismayed voice, and I found myself wishing he’d speak like that more often, for it was much less disturbing.
Voldemort finally let his grasp loosen, and his fingers lightly hit the table’s surface. He surprised us all by standing up, in a sweep of pitch black robes, and floating past the line of his loyal Death Eaters until he appeared directly behind Yaxley. I was glad that Yaxley was sitting on the other side of the table from me.
“No...I am not angry at you, Yaxley,” came his terrifying, misty voice, and I watched with hidden dread as spindly, pale fingers wrapped themselves around his servant’s shoulders, “You ought to understand that anything done in the good of my name will be praised.”
He was watching me, now, and I didn’t like it one bit. Surely I hadn’t done anything to corrupt my image lately? I mean, there were a few incidents a while back, but those were long forgotten, weren’t they? He must have just been warning me. After all, he had given me a daunting task, and if I messed it up, there would be hell – and maybe even death, God forbid – to pay. Not like I wasn’t used to hell anyway. It practically ruled my life, what with me being a Death Eater and all.
I slowly inclined my head toward my Master. Once again, I missed the smirks that flashed momentarily across each of the Malfoy’s faces.
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