Torture. Oh, she had known torture. She knew well what it felt like, she knew even better what it meant to dish it out. Indiscriminately. It was a lifetime ago, or so it seemed, since she had last used the Cruciatus Curse on another out of sheer malice. Out of the desire to cause pain. For a cause she not quite too late realized was lost. She had almost forgotten what it felt like to stand over a victim – or straddle them as she had always preferred to get up close and personal; to watch the terror in their eyes bleed into torment – and hold such sway over their bodies. Bodies that writhed and convulsed, mouths that stretched wide and cried out in agony, begged for the pain to end. It had given her pleasure though, at the time. So much of it had passed – time – that she no longer experienced the urge to return to the torturer she once was. But she remembered what it felt like to be on the receiving end. It wasn't something one could readily forget.
A guttural, anguished scream, disembodied, rent the air and her heart gave a nasty lurch beneath the cage of her ribs. Her stomach dropped, churned with nausea. Her hands clenched into fists at her sides, the edges of her nails a hairsbreadth from breaking skin. She felt powerless. She felt defeated. She felt as if she would say anything, do anything, be anything just to make the haunting reverberations of that scream cease their ravage upon her eardrums.
Yes, this was definitely torture.
Bellatrix paced. The heels of her boots clicking sharply against the wooden floor. It was hard to breathe, she could barely think. Had there been a mirror, she was quite sure her reflection would resemble that of one who had been sentenced to die by Dementor's Kiss without the luxury of a trial or extended stay in the hell hole that was Azkaban prison. Pale. Wide, wild eyed. Lips flush with blood, the thin skin on the cusp of splitting against the force of teeth that bit down, hungry for the metallic tang. In that moment she realized she would face such a fate gladly. She would face all of her demons, stand before her former Lord and Master, take the harshest dose of torture His wand could afflict. Rot a thousand years in her old cell, a place her dreams frequently returned her to and even her waking thoughts did sometimes whenever a cold wind made a sudden shift, whenever rain pelted frosted window panes and thunder rumbled in the distance. She would bear it with a grin that lacked the madness people had accused her of for years. If only. If only to put an end to her lover's suffering.
And it was all her fault. Her Hermione's. She had wanted this. She had cried the prettiest tears for it despite Bellatrix's reluctance. She had begged for this. How sweetly she had cajoled, tried to persuade. Painting vivid pictures, with only her words, of a child that represented both the light and the dark. A child that would be the perfect example of how love was a healing draught of equal parts forgiveness, acceptance, and trust and could transcend all things. A child with midnight curls and liquid amber eyes and an impish smile that was all Slytherin who possessed a Gryffindor's courage .
Bellatrix would admit, she had been intrigued. When she had been very young she had, like most Pureblooded daughters, imagined bearing heirs and heiresses for a husband, for the cause. But as she aged, she had no longer desired that. Her ambitions had gripped like a noose, her aspirations for power and prestige overriding something so innate as wanting to see her own eyes looking up at her from the face of an infant, a hardening heart lulled, thoughts molded by a wizard whose tongue was far more silver than her lover's. It hadn't been enough to convince her. Not when she had found all she'd ever wanted. Not when her little lioness – who truly wasn't so little anymore after the war – was more than enough, more than she could have ever hoped for. And she could not quite express that. For as wild and unyielding, passionate and demanding an individual Bellatrix was, she had never had the gift of gab. When that hadn't been enough to sway her stalwart unwillingness, said not so little lioness had resorted to threats.
Though in her defense, Hermione had never threatened to leave. Still, one does not simply pack an enchanted beaded bag and Apparate to parts unknown in the middle of the night like a thief. One mentally leaves before they do so physically. And because the idea of being without that which she had defected from her former reason for being had been a terrifying one, eventually Bellatrix had relented. She had brewed the conception potion herself, adding the drop of her blood, the lock of her hair that had been required. Had made passionate love to her wife the same night, had held her exhausted, pleasure ridden body close to hers in their bed as if she would never let her go. Because she never would. She had dreamed of a child's laughter that night instead of crumbling brick and rain and rattling chains.
Maybe it wasn't Hermione's fault at all. Not entirely.
Salazar's balls. She could not take those sounds of pain. She could not bear to hear them. When once she had relished in such sounds, coming from the mouth of her beloved they made the air in the room disappear, leaving her gasping. Dark eyes couldn't help but dart to the closed door that separated her from what was happening behind it as she knifed her fingers roughly through her hair, fighting the urge to tug at the tortile tresses until her scalp burned.
She supposed she should have a cigar in hand. A glass of champagne in the other. A horde of Pureblood wizards congratulating her, patting her on the back She remembered the fuss that had been made in Malfoy Manor after Cissy had given birth to Draco. Lucius preening like a peacock as he announced the name of his first born son and heir for all to toast to.Tradition. After all the child, their child, would be the newest addition to the Noble House of Black. It would be befitting. But she had not wanted any fanfare. She would curse anyone who so much as offered her well wishes in this moment. There was no one else in the house but her, her laboring wife, and the two old midwitches who had been summoned hours ago when the first contraction had woken them both from their sleep. And their House Elf, paid servant who stayed out of loyalty rather than any familial obligation, donning an idiotic ensemble that consisted of a crookedly knitted cap, mittens and booties. Who kept foolishly risking its life by asking if she required anything.
Yes. She needed the screaming to stop. But there was nothing the Elf could do about that, was there? It wasn't its child determined to make his or her way into the world by ripping apart the body of the witch she loved now, was it?
And what the bloody fuck was she to do with a child, Bellatrix wondered. What could she possibly teach a child? What could she pass down besides the surname, that meant enough to her that her wife had decided to take it, despite everything? Pureblood ideologies meant nothing to her any longer. She was not a Death Eater, not since that fateful day she'd driven a Basilisk fang through the Horcrux her former Lord had given to her to protect. In a dank chamber surrounded by water with the aid of a bushy haired teenager who whispered supportive, gentle encouraging words in her ears as she sobbed like she hadn't since she'd been a child herself. The tears had been dried by a fervent kiss but her heart hadn't stopped skipping beats yet even years later and matrimonial vows had been exchanged. But how could she be a mother? What would she say when the child learned of her past? How could she ever look a child, her child, in the eye and explain the wickedness that existed in this world and that she had been one of the wickedest?
Hermione's scream pierced the stagnant air once more and it made Bellatrix halt in her furious stride. This scream was different than the others, pitched high and achingly familiar. In an instant she was propelled back in time when the walls were those of her youngest sister's home, darkened by the presence of her former Lord. The drawing room, her thighs resting on either side of a small, writhing, piteously sobbing girl. A knife in one hand, curved walnut wand in the either. The edge of a silver blade pressed against plump unmarked flesh. Her sickening, gleeful laughter that rang out as she carved the word 'Mudblood' therein. She wanted to vomit. She wanted to kill something. Trapped between the past and the present, all Bellatrix could dwell on was that the screams were the same. Sharp, shrill. Tortured.
With a growl, her footsteps changed direction and she pushed the squealing House Elf aside, all but breaking down the wooden door with her bare fists in her haste to get to the source of that scream. Her wife. Laid out on their marriage bed.
She was at her side in an instant, ignoring the hag like midwitches that were clucking like hens about propriety and such, on her knees upon the bed, her hands clutching at every part of Hermione she could reach with a mere ten fingers. Good fucking Merlin. It was worse than any bloodbath she had witnessed or taken part in. Tears rolled down flushed, peach colored cheeks, perspiration beading on her blotched face and bared chest. The lioness looked so tired, conquered. So miserable. And her body was heaving, her swollen stomach shot with ugly blue veins that stood out boldly against her skin in the candlelight.
“Take the Relief of Pain potion, pet. I cannot bear this.” The words sounded weak even to her own ears, hoarse and broken, and it did not help at all that her vision was blurred by tears. Her hand sought out its shaking counterpart and she was almost surprised to find that hers was trembling as well. “Please. Please. Please.” The words left her lips like a prayer, whisper soft and watery. For the second time that night she found herself pitched into the past, a past that saw her abased at the feet of a wizard who had stopped being a wizard once his soul began to split, begging not to be punished, pleading not for pain but praise. The tears were falling, dripping onto a sweat dampened forehead as her grip tightened.
“Muggle women and witches have been doing this for centur -” she almost sounded like her normal, know it all self, quoting something from some dusty book but was choked by a deep groan that slowly grew in volume, that made Bellatrix's teeth clench and her eyes burn for the duration the grotesque seizure like spasm attacked the brunette's body.
“If you even think of spouting smarts to me right now, I'll - “ but the threat was an empty one. What could she threaten to do? Hurt her? She was already hurting. Kill her? For Salazar's sake, she would die too. From the heartache alone or by her own hand, whichever happened first. Drowning in an ocean of helplessness, a dark head shook back and forth as moisture continued to pool in even darker eyes, a pathetic sound escaping her throat against her own volition. To mask it, she pressed a kiss to a salty tasting temple, trying to ignore the way her mouth quivered.
“It's okay. Bella. You know,” the words were strained and breathless, sieved through gritted teeth, enforced by a counter grip that made Bellatrix hiss as bones shifted beneath her skin, “I won't break.”
But she was breaking. And was too much of a sodding Gryffindor to accept it. She was pale enough to rival death, her hair robbed of its luster, sticking to her face and cheeks and neck. The midwitches were frantic, uttering things like 'feet first'. The energy in the room thrummed, heavy and angst filled. It reminded Bellatrix of wartime. Broken bodies, splayed out unnaturally as her wife was now upon their bed, limbs bent and stiff, thighs blood stained and shaking, gasping for breath as if each pull of oxygen could very well be her last. It made the dark witch's all but forgotten lust for violence surface. All she could think was 'end this now', 'make it stop'. Her free hand that was not being crushed -- blessedly so because the sharpness somehow grounded her, helped to clear her head from the maelstrom it had been trapped in while she paced, helped to clear her lungs from the suffocation that had threatened to seal them -- reached for her wand that sat on the bedside table beside one crafted from vine.
“Give it to me, then. I want to feel it too, all of it. Let me in.”
She was no longer crying. Now her onyx eyes blazed with determination and fire. The same fire that blazed whenever she dueled, when she fought, when she had tortured, when she had killed for a cause she once believed in with her whole heart. This was startlingly no different. Back then she had taken what she wanted, exacted pounds of flesh for Him, done his bidding. And now she was going to take this from Her. Not as a servant, not as a first lieutenant. But as a wife who, despite everything she had given up, everything she had torn apart, everything she had destroyed, wanted nothing more than to take the hurt out of her Muggleborn lover's glassy gaze. Wanted nothing more than to help bring this Halfblooded child into the world just to be certain that love very well did transcend all things. The child she had reluctantly helped to create but now desperately wanted to lay eyes on. If only because of the havoc she or he was wrecking. She almost felt a surge of pride for the evident Slytherin snakeling that was fighting itself out of her wife's womb.
Bellatrix did not wait for a response. The 'no' would not have stayed the spell that left her lips regardless.
The pain hit her with the force of an incredibly powerful curse. Her body fell nearly atop that of her beloved's, crumpling in on itself, yet she still had the mind to brace her weight so she did not completely crush Hermione. Her wand fell from her grasp and a sound so raw and primal rose above the room, she could not recognize it as her own voice, howling out an agony that crippled. Oh. Fuck. Fuck, it hurt. It burned and it broke, split and severed. She couldn't help but wonder when the word 'Crucio' had been uttered as she desperately sought purchase against the onslaught, her free hand clawing blindly at the bedlinens. Because it had to be some tampered version of the Cruciatus Curse aimed at her midsection and loins that were spreading, separating, making room for something that logic shrieked could not fit. And then she felt rough lips against the skin of her cheek, her neck. Soft whimpers that ended in sobs, still rife with discomfort. The spell had not entirely rid Hermione of her pain. A variant of Legilimency, it merely divided it between the two. Cut it in half. For one, it was a small relief, for the other an epiphany. The midwitches were hurried in their movements now, their hands bloodied up to the elbows as if they had butchered a Hippogriff, working to extract the baby, Bellatrix could see through the haze. Nimble fingers tangled themselves in her hair as she panted like an animal, her mind fighting her body's urge to flee from the phantom sensations ravaging it. Somewhere through it all, she could hear the words 'I love you, Bella' and even though her tongue felt as if it weighed a ton and her throat burned, vocal chords shredded by screams from both her and her wife, she heard herself murmur thickly, stilted, “Love you too, pet. And her.”
A cry cut the room into silence, angry and not afraid to revel in its wrath. Still attached to her blue cord of flesh, their daughter made her presence be known with balled fists, kicking legs, red face, and eyes squeezed shut. She was utterly perfect. And as Bellatrix's eyes filled once more, it wasn't from the hurt of seeing her other half in the throes of agony or from experiencing half of it herself. These tears, she realized with a rapidly swelling heart, were born from the idea that at some point in her life she had believed the world somehow would continue to spin on its axis without the existence of the baby girl she had helped bring forth.
The midwitches had finally departed what felt like hours later. The child was healthy, unharmed by her difficult birth. She now slept in the crook of her Gryffindor mother's left arm, her belly full from suckling. On Hermione's right side, Bellatrix lay, her wild curls spread out around the three as she stroked her daughter's cheek. She was such a small thing with nothing but a patch of chestnut hair on the very top of her head. At least it was something. From the evidence of old moving photographs she knew she and her sisters had been bald as newborns
“Midnight curls, indeed,” Bellatrix rasped drolly, her voice strained but the lightness of tone gave away laughter , “That's the last time I fall for your pretty verses, pet. She looks just like you.”
The eyes were unique however. Different from any the former Death Eater had ever encountered. One black as pitch, the other honey brown. Darkness embracing the light, or the other way around.
She was still nameless and that simply would not do for the newest heiress of the Wizarding world, famous before she could even yet hold up her head. It was Hermione though who asked, “What are we going to call her?”
“Hermione.” Bellatrix's answer was immediate and thoroughly sincere. After all, had it not been for her wife's insistence, the pain she had endured for her, the pain she would have gladly continued to endure until it was siphoned away, the child would not be here. And besides, it was a pretty sounding name. Even if it went rarely used in their house where diminutives such as 'pet' were far more common.
The brunette laughed, the sound rough and grated though still managing to ring out, joyous with utter amusement as she shook her head without jostling their daughter from her slumber, “Merlin no. I thought maybe,” her tone turned shy then, hushed, almost embarrassed and she cast her wife a sidelong glance from beneath moistened eyelashes, “a Black name? Something from the stars. I want you to choose. You gave me everything I wanted. It's the least - “
Bellatrix thought back to a time, long enough ago to have been almost forgotten, when she had imagined lying in a four poster bed similar to the one she laid in now, cradling a Pureblooded infant the same way Hermione cradled their Halfblooded daughter -- who was far more perfect and desirable than any Pureblood baby could ever be -- and the names she had often indolently penned by quill upon spare bits of parchment. She remembered too her favorite and a wry smirk sat to rest on her lips as she muttered, “Lyra Delphini.”
She could hear the smile that spread across Hermione's face, brightening its still rather pale complexion, even if the angle was not quite right enough to see it. She liked it. Loved it, judging by the way she murmured it over and over again in sweetly soft tones as her finger traced the ridge of a tiny nose.
“Jean Black,” Bellatrix added suddenly as if on impulse. But impulsiveness, no matter how the Wizarding world painted her back when she had been their top villain and even now that she was married to one third of the famed Golden Trio, praised for defecting from the darkest wizard to date, had never been in her nature. Everything she did had a plan, a purpose. And she felt her wife nod, bushy chestnut hair brushing against her shoulder, their daughter stirring, awakening, and fixing them both with a blurry, odd-eyed gaze.
Lyra Delphini Jean Black. To think torture could ever be so beautiful.