Author’s Notes and Disclaimer: All places and characters described herein belong to the magnanimous JK Rowling. The opening quote belongs to Poe from the song, “Haunted.” No copyright infringement intended. Immeasurable gratitude to Felina Black for all her work as this story’s preliminary beta and to Dr. Aicha for reminding me that things that sound great in my head sometimes don’t work so well on paper.
“I’m haunted by the lies that I have loved and actions I have hated.
I’m haunted by the lies that rule the world inside my haunted hell.”
The girl stared out the window. The rain had been falling for days. It was typical, but she still wished it would stop. She searched the horizon for a rainbow, but there was no trace of sun and she knew there wouldn’t be a rainbow without any sun. The gray sky seemed to mock her.
“Bella!” Her aunt was calling her. She would let her find her; she didn’t feel like leaving her chair by the window. This house was too big for its own good – smaller than her own, but not nearly as interesting. No hidden doors or secret passages, nothing. Just a dreary house in the middle of filthy London. The rain lashed harder against the glass.
An aged woman entered the room. The woman had been old as long as Bellatrix had been alive. She wondered if the old woman’s face had ever been beautiful.
“Bella, what are you doing in here?” The woman’s voice reminded Bellatrix of an ancient door creaking open.
“Nothing,” she said truthfully. There was nothing to do at number 12 Grimmauld Place. Bellatrix wondered if she could have gotten in trouble even if she tried. She sniffed disdainfully.
“You could go play with Sirius and Regulus if you like. They’re upstairs,” the woman suggested.
“No, thank you,” replied the girl resentfully. “I don’t think they like me anyway.”
“Oh, nonsense,” dismissed the old woman. She eyed her niece. Bellatrix stared back at her dimly before shifting her gaze to the window once more. “Well, suit yourself,” said the woman, and she walked out, pulling the door half-closed behind her.
The girl watched a man walking on the pavement below. He was struggling with a striped umbrella and an enormous black dog. She wondered how anyone could be stupid enough to take a walk in this weather. Disgusted at his obvious lack of common sense, she rose and wandered to a china cabinet in the corner of the room. Trinkets of all sizes adorned its shelves; glass boxes, silver ornaments bearing the Black family crest, and sundry books sat enticingly out of her reach. She was sure she was not allowed to open the doors. She thumped the glass with her forefinger and turned away in frustration, her long black hair rippling with the sudden movement.
She leaned against the cabinet, scanning the room for a diversion. The drawing room was not a place for children. Her sisters never stepped a foot in here unless their parents ordered them to do so, and as most adult entertainment happened here when the family came calling, the girls were rarely made to spend much time in it. Narcissa and Andromeda spent most of their time with their cousins. Bellatrix knew the boys didn’t like her, though she never dwelled much on the matter. In all honesty, Sirius and Regulus had never told her outright that they preferred her sisters’ company, nor were they ever exceptionally unsociable if their paths did happen to cross. For Bellatrix, however, simply feeling unwanted was enough to keep her at bay, and she had reluctantly grown accustomed to being left out. She edged over to a desk in the corner opposite and dared herself to open the drawer. Proper manners prohibited her from snooping in others’ desks or china cabinets, and she rued that she felt obligated to obey her parents even though they weren’t even in the room. She sighed loudly and flounced to the center of the room, throwing herself unceremoniously into a chair there and banging her tiny slippered feet rudely on the table in front of her.
She sat composedly, miserable with boredom, wishing her father would come tell her they were going home at last. A clock on the wall above the mantle counted the minutes . . . five, twenty, forty. Bellatrix kicked her feet idly, waiting for someone to come collect her, to take her away from this house. She became entranced by the delicate silk of her robes swaying rhythmically as her legs swung back and forth. The cloth shimmered gently with her every move, wine-colored waves against the intricately patterned carpet, hypnotizing her. Her eyelids were beginning to feel heavy and she sprung to her feet, struck by a sudden inspiration.
She peered cautiously at the door, listening for any footsteps in the hall. There were none; there had been none for almost an hour, when her aunt had left her there, alone. Bellatrix grinned shyly, the impenetrable smile of a person with a great secret they longed to share. She took an imaginary hand, curtseyed elegantly, and giggled. She paused once more, listening for potential intrusions. Satisfied with the silence, she began to hum. She put a hand on an invisible shoulder, then situated the other mid-air, fingers entwined with those of a hand unseen. She twirled gracefully around the room, shutting her eyes against the reality of her ennui, smiling at the spectre in her arms.
Round and round she danced, oblivious to anything that was not of her imagination. Her black hair brushed against her back as she spun; it reflected red and gold in the light from the fire, it stuck lightly to the back of her neck, its weight directed the gentle rocking of her head to and fro. She was singing, unaware of herself. Her voice was high and sweet and carried her across the room. The child’s song did not belong in the darkness surrounding it. It echoed eerily down the hall and through the house as Bellatrix whirled around the drawing room. She gained momentum. Her voice gained strength. But then she heard laughing, and she stopped, dizzy. She stared at the door, uncomfortably self-conscious and furious at herself for having been found. Her heavy-lidded eyes narrowed and her hair fell loosely over her shoulders as she stood immobile, regaining her senses. She grabbed angry fistfuls of robe and refused to let her embarrassed tears fall. She glowered at the boy in the doorway, daring him to laugh at her again.
Sirius Black jumped at the hand that had found its way to his shoulder. He turned to see Remus smiling bemusedly at him.
“What are you doing?” asked his friend.
Sirius didn’t have a ready answer. He looked back into the drawing room, squinting against the dazzling sunlight cascading through an open window. How long had he been standing there, leaning against the doorframe, absorbed in those relentlessly haunting memories from his past? He shook his head wearily and managed a halfhearted smile in return.
“Well, when you’re finished thinking, Molly has food ready in the kitchen.” Remus patted Sirius once more on the shoulder and went back downstairs.
“Yeah Moony, I’ll be right there,” Sirius murmured, not noticing his friend had gone. He gazed absentmindedly at the now empty china cabinet and long-neglected desk. His pale eyes flicked around nervously. Years had passed since he’d happened upon Bellatrix playing make-believe in this room. They couldn’t have been more than six years old when he’d laughed at her for pretending to dance with an invisible man. The look on her face was forever burned into his memory; how could he have known the girl was so fiercely protective of her imagination? He had laughed at her, and she had looked at him so scathingly that he hadn’t bothered apologizing for the intrusion. He had continued standing there in the doorway, staring at her until she finally lowered her eyes and sat dejectedly in one of the chairs near the window. She hadn’t looked at him again, and he’d left without saying a word.
He shuddered. He hated this house more than anyone could begin to understand. He turned his back on the drawing room and left to join everyone in the kitchen. They at least made all this a little more bearable. But they didn’t have to fight his demons, either. And there were many. Some, like his mother’s portrait and the family tapestry, stood everlasting tribute to the horrors of his childhood. Others were far more discreet – the shadow of a scream in a dismal hallway, faded carpet stains on ragged stairs, the ghost of a dark-haired girl playing alone in an empty room. These were demons only Sirius noticed, for only he knew them well enough to remember their origins. And as he made his way down the stone steps into the kitchen, his mind strayed once more to the spectral image of his young cousin Bellatrix, whose ethereal child’s song and ruined daydream would forever dance across his memory. The drawing room, like the rest of the house he so despised, would always reek of baseless family pride and the whirling phantoms of wasted dreams. Bellatrix would always be embroidered into the Black family tree; little Bellatrix, whom he had mocked, would never leave her place in the drawing room.
The girl refused to let on that he had upset her. She looked determinedly out the window. There was no one on the street below now. She heard her cousin leave at last and glanced over her shoulder toward the open door. When would she be allowed to go home? Nobody seemed to notice how miserable Bellatrix was whenever they decided to visit her mother’s sister’s family. Nobody cared. She recoiled slightly as the wind blew the rain sharply against the window. She wondered if the storm’s fury, so like her own, was strong enough to break the glass. If any house deserved a beating, she mused, her tiny fingers tracing odd shapes on the misty pane, this one did.