When: Night of December 5th
Where: Bella's Manor
Why: A visit between an Aunt and her nephew.
Bellatrix found herself pacing the sitting room of her manor on the evening that Draco had said he would be by to visit. Rodolphus had gone out for the evening with his brother, and after a few well placed hexes, the house elves were out of sight, once they had left a tray of tea and biscuits, of course. She hadn't seen the boy since he had left with Snape and she was concerned that her nephew might be easily swayed by the traitor. The thought was unsettling, to say the least.
After slipping out from the cottage, completely unnoticed by Severus, Draco Apparted to Toujours Pur Manor, the home of his aunt and uncle. Self-consciously, he straightened his robe and smoothed his hair down while staring at the snake shaped door knocker. For some reason Aunt Bella always put him on edge. Perhaps it was because he had only met her and Uncle Dolph a mere few years ago due to their long stay in Azkaban, but it was more likely her unwavering loyalty to the Dark Lord. Taking a deep breath, he finally got up the courage to knock on the door and held himself stiff as he waited for it to be answered.
Bellatrix made her way to the door. The house elves never answered it these days. Despite the rather elaborate wards that were in place, one could never be too sure, and the bloody elves were useless against Aurors. She was not about to be taken prisoner again from her own home.
In one swift, well-rehearsed move, she swung the door open and had her wand between the eyes of the knocker... who rather thankfully turned out to be her nephew. She grinned and lowered her wand, as if nothing had just happened. "Draco, it's been far too long, do come in." Her voice was sugar coated.
Draco started a bit at having a wand whipping towards his face as the door opened. He almost reached for his own wand, but it was lowered before he could. He cautiously followed her inside the house and greeted her back in even tones. “Hello Aunt Bella. It is good to see you as well.”
Bellatrix led them down the front corridor and into the sitting room, after replacing the locks and charms on the door. She gestured him towards a straight-backed chair across from hers and she sat down. "There's tea and biscuits, if you care for any."
In the light of the sitting room, she could see for the first time how much worse he looked than the last time she had seen him. He looked starved and sick. "Or I could have the house elves get you something more substantial. Honestly, are you eating?" There was a touch of irritation in her tone.
Draco politely took only one biscuit along with a napkin and began munching on it daintily. He surreptitiously eyeballed the rest with longing, wondering how many he could consume without being obvious. He paused in the middle of a bite when Bella made her pronouncement. “Yes, Aunt Bella, I am eating. I just skipped dinner tonight to come out here,” he lied, meeting her gaze.
: Bella narrowed her eyes at him. "I highly doubt you would undergo such a change in appearance after one missed meal. Do you think I can be lied to, Draco?" She held eye contact with him pointedly. "You mother is worried sick, and here you are refusing a meal."
“No, Aunt Bella, I do not think you can be lied to. I am sorry to have done so,” Draco replied quietly, averting his eyes. “I will take the meal if the offer is still on the table.” He thrust his hands into his pockets and began twisting them into the lining of his robe. “Please tell my mother that she has nothing to worry about,” he added.
"Hatsya!" she called, as she watched Draco's hands in his pockets. Within a few moments a tiny house elf scurried into the room and bowed, nose touching the floor. "Get Draco what he wants." It looked at her fearfully for a moment, as if it though it would be punished for following orders, and then turned is enormous eyes to Draco. "You mother has every reason in the world to be concerned," she added as an afterthought.
"Hatsya is getting what Draco is wanting, master Draco," the little elf said to him.
Draco quickly ordered a simple meal from the elf and waited until it scurried away to fill his order before responding. “I would like to see her. How is she, other than concerned for me? The last owl I received from her was while I was still at Hogwarts and the last time I saw her was before I left for my sixth year.”
A mirthless grin crept across Bella's face. "She's a wreck. Understandably so, with you gone and your father in Azkaban. I'm afraid your mother is quite used to having things her way, and, unlike the rest of us, did not have to deal with such hardship during the first war." Her chest swelled proudly, although her brow furrowed. "I suppose she is a bit lost now that there doesn't seem to be any way of rectifying the situation to her liking anytime soon."
Draco hid his frown at his mother being spoke about with such disdain. He knew his mother was a rather fragile woman, and without Father being around, she felt herself floundering. “It must be hard for her right now. I should be home with her,” he commented.
"You chose your path, and it was an honorable one." Bella's tone was low and warning; he would not renounce that choice in her presence. "However, I would agree that I would much rather you be here with her than out there with him." Her lip curled into a small sneer. "For both her benefit and your own." The tiny elf scurried back into the room with a plate for him, and then made its way out again, walking backwards and bowing repeatedly.
“Severus is not so bad,” Draco said as he picked up his fork and knife and began cutting his meal into small pieces. He took a bite and closed his eyes. The meat melted in his mouth and once more he felt the dull throb in his stomach that he had long ignored. It had been a very long time since he had something substantial to eat and it tasted wonderful. He was, however, careful to keep his mask firmly in place.
"Snape," Bella enunciated the name (Draco should not be addressing him in such a familiar way as to use his first name, even if they were living together, she thought. That implied friendship), "is a half-blood and a traitor. What has he been telling you?" The words were out of Bella's mouth much faster than she had intended.
“Nothing. He has been telling me nothing,” Draco said, shaking his head. “He’s as loyal to the cause as you are...and I am,” he added at the last minute. “He’s my godfather, Aunt Bella,” he reminded her.
Her eyes narrowed slightly. Something in the way he had said that seemed... off, but she couldn't figure out why. "I am well aware of that, Draco," she said quickly. Truthfully, she tried to forget that Severus was Draco's godfather. That decision had been made while she was in prison. Had she been free, she would have tried to talk some sense into her sister and Lucius.
"Appearances are not always what they seem Draco. Severus may appear on the surface to be a champion of our cause, but eventually all traitors are sniffed out." She grinned at him, eyes gleaming with the thought of being the one to do so.
“He is loyal to our Lord,” Draco repeated. And as far as Draco knew, he really was. “Aunt Bella, what makes you think otherwise?” The question was in a polite, while still arrogant tone, but the curiosity within him was bursting.
"A hundred reasons, far too many to list." Bellatrix did not want to list everything, as Snape had always had a clever way of twisting things in his favor. Surely Draco had heard all of his excuses, and, from the sound of it, Draco probably believed them... just like everyone else. "However, as far as his most recent victory for our master goes, that was hardly loyalty he was displaying."
Draco dropped his eyes in what looked like embarrassment. Secretly, he was glad he did not have to kill anyone, but it would do no good for Aunt Bella to know that. “He was trying to protect me.”
"He was trying to protect himself," Bella snapped as soon, as the words left his mouth. "Although your show was regrettable." He was her nephew and she did care for him, but that was probably the only reason she did not dismiss him completely, after what she heard of his failure.
“Yes, I am regretful that I could not complete the task our Lord set for me. I did want to prove myself to Him. To you all,” he answered in a quiet voice, his arrogance long forgotten.
Bellatrix eyed him for a moment. At least the boy was properly ashamed for failing at his task. "You may still prove yourself. You're still alive after all, by the Dark Lord's grace."
“And I am thankful for that, Aunt,” Draco replied, his head still bowed, not even having to think twice about ‘proving’ himself.
A grin slowly turned the edges of her lips, pleased with that response. "Eat," she said finally , glancing at his partially eaten meal. "So what brings me the pleasure of my nephews company tonight?" She shifted forward in her seat and propped her head in the palm of her hand, watching him.
Draco did as he was bide and ate so more of the meal presented to him. He wiped the corner of his mouth delicately with a napkin before responding. “You had mentioned at the last meeting that we had not spent some quality time together for a while, so I figured I would visit for a little while with you.” He tilted his head to the side in uncertainty. “It was alright that I stopped by tonight, yes?”
"Do you think I would have allowed it had it not been?" Her grin grew. She had been hoping to use him to gain information on Snape considering their close quarters, but it seemed from the way their conversation had went he would be of no use to her where Snape was concerned. Still, as far as spending 'quality time' with someone, she could think of many worse he could be with right now.
He rewarded her with a small smile. “Of course not. You could have easily chucked me out on my ear before I entered the foyer,” he replied rather cheekily, before taking another small bite of food. “The manor is quiet tonight,” he observed.
She chuckled. "You got lucky this time." She relaxed back into her seat. "Your uncle went out with Bast," she said with a shrug, her grin fading, because it was faster and less complicated than saying that she had threatened to hurt him badly if he didn't leave after the row they had that afternoon. She stood and made her way to the drinks cabinet and poured herself a scotch. "Drink?"
“Yes, please,” he answered. Yes, scotch definitely sounded like a good idea. “Are they out on a mission?”
A mission to protect Rodolphus' bollocks, yes. She smirked to herself and poured a second glass. "They're probably off getting pissed." She passed the glass across the table to him and sat, wondering how loose Draco's lips might get with a glass of scotch on a mostly empty stomach.
Draco took a hesitant sip allowing his throat to remember the burning that coated it. He set his glass down to eat a little bit more of his meal. He twirled his fork a little, thinking of something to say to his aunt in response to it. “Well, I suppose they would call that a mission of sorts,” he finally came out with, along with a small smirk.
"Of sorts, yes." Bella swirled her glass and took a long sip. "When you bear the weight of being among the Dark Lord's most loyal, you must learn to let loose once in a while for your own sanity." She smirked, remembering one of the many times she had 'let loose.' "Or else you end up like Snape." She laughed flatly and took another sip.
Draco frowned at the backhanded insult of his godfather. He set down his glass. “What exactly is it about Severus that you don’t like? You say he is a traitor, but why do you say that?”
"He lived in Dumbledore's back pocket for far too long to be loyal." Well, that was the shorthand version anyway. There were too many reasons to count in all actuality. Bella sipped her drink again and sat back.
“I see,” Draco replied slowly. Actually he didn’t as Severus had explained his spy role and apparently it had been enough for the Dark Lord. Why wasn’t it for Bella? “The Dark Lord trusts him,” he commented offhandedly.
Bella sighed and rested her glass on the arm of her chair. "Of that I am aware," she said flatly, fixing him with an even gaze. "Sometimes it is difficult to see what is right in front of your eyes." She had slipped in the past and said outright she thought the Dark Lord was mistaken and that had ended badly.
Draco nodded as though he understood what she was saying. He set down his utensils and after taking one last sip from his glass, he rose and stretched. “It’s getting late. I should probably get back before Severus knows I am gone.”
"Alright," Bella said slowly, replaying parts of their conversation over in her head. She stood, placed her glass on the table, and moved past him toward the door. "I'm glad you came by. Your mother will be glad to know you're still in one piece." She paused in the door, placing her hand on the handle and waiting for him to catch up.
“Yes, please tell her I am well when you see her,” he politely requested, even though he was already all set to visit her in a few hours before he left for good. “Good night, Aunt Bella.”
Bella turned the handle, but left the door closed. "Watch yourself, Draco. You're a Malfoy and a Black and it would be a pity for you to be lead astray." She looked him over once more. "And remember you can always trust me." With that she opened the door to let him out. "Good night."
Inwardly, Draco snorted about the trusting his Aunt bit, but he nodded to her and stepped out into the fresh night air. The night was young, but he still had lots to do before sunrise.