Literatti: Fiction By Deslea
The Fabian Strategy
Deslea R. Judd
Word Count: 3400
Summary: When Voldemort saves Bella in the Department of Mysteries, the gossip columns assume she is his lover and consort. Teen witch fangirling, manipulative PR campaigns, and speculation about Voldemort's manhood ensue. Humour.
More Fic: On AO3 or my fic site.
Feedback: Love the stuff. On AO3 or at deslea at deslea dot com.
THE DAILY PROPHET
June 18, 1996
DARK LORD AND...LADY?
There was a jarring note of humanity from the Dark Lord yesterday evening, amid the horror of his return to our world. When confronted by Ministry officials, You-Know-Who abandoned all his followers to their richly-deserved fates - all, that is, except for Bellatrix Lestrange. According to witnesses, he paused to where she lay, felled by rubble, and spent precious seconds freeing her from her predicament. Then, with utmost care, he drew her into a fond embrace and Disapparated. It was an oddly tender footnote to a night of violence, and raises fascinating questions about our hitherto-assumed ruthless dictator. Is there, in fact, a soft spot in the armour? Has our very own resident psychopath managed to penetrate it? Is Bellatrix Lestrange, in fact, the Dark Lord's Dark Lady?
DON'T MISS OUR CENTER PAGE LIFTOUT THE RISE, FALL, AND RISE OF YOU-KNOW-WHO!
"You're enjoying this far too much, Bella."
The Dark Lord said this from behind his book, impressively titled Broom Superiority & Attrition Warfare: A Millennium of Wizard Wars of the Sky. His eggs lay forgotten at his side.
"My Lord, I don't know what you mean," Bella said, looking up from her copy of the Daily Prophet, which had been spread open at the second page for the last half hour. Over and over, the picture of them rolled, showing him gathering her close and whisking her away.
Narcissa gave a rather dry and bitter snort. It was the first sound of humour she had made since Lucius' arrest the night before.
"It was not a tender embrace," the Dark Lord said severely.
"Fond embrace," Bella corrected.
The Dark Lord lowered his book and glared at her.
"I mean, no, My Lord."
Rodolphus sat at the head of the table, where Lucius would normally have been. He had been effectively disabled early in the battle, and had Apparated out, lest he become a liability or a hostage. His kaleidoscope of injuries had apparently done nothing to harm his appetite, and his plate, at least, was empty. He glanced at Narcissa's barely-touched eggs and seemed to be on the verge of asking for them, before apparently thinking better of it and falling still.
Now, Rodolphus spoke. "My Lord, regardless of whether it was or it wasn't, you've got to admit it's a bad look. To the outside world, it looks as though you stole your first lieutenant's wife. Damage control is needed."
The Dark Lord raised an eyebrow. "I could not possibly care less about public perceptions of my -" he seemed to shudder "- love life."
Bella leaned forward eagerly, as though the mere mention of his love life were an invitation. Narcissa rolled her eyes.
"Of course not," Rodolphus soothed. "You have me to manage that. But I assure you, a fair proportion of the silent masses who favour a Pureblood society will not take kindly to this, and they will be important to maintaining order once the militant have been subdued. It has to be dealt with."
The Dark Lord sighed. "I suppose. What do you propose?"
"I'll put it about that Bella and I legally separated in Azkaban years ago. It's not that far from the truth anyway. I still have the warden under Imperius - I'll get him to go to the Leaky Cauldron and spread it under the guise of being an obnoxious drunk."
Narcissa snorted again. "He is an obnoxious drunk."
The Dark Lord wondered, "Could we not put it about that the whole story is garbage and you and Bella are very much in love?"
Three sets of eyebrows raised in unison. Rodolphus coughed delicately.
"Hmm. Yes, I suppose that is rather ridiculous."
"No offence taken," Rodolphus said with a twinkle.
"Rodolphus," the Dark Lord said severely, "I do hope you aren't joking with me. I can't abide levity."
"My Lord, I wouldn't dream of it."
"Very well, then. Proceed as you suggest."
So saying, the Dark Lord returned his attention to his weighty book.
THE DAILY PROPHET
June 21, 1996
EXPERTS DOUBT REPORTS OF DARK LORD'S AFFAIR WITH BELLATRIX LESTRANGE
A noted physician expressed doubt yesterday about reports of an affair between You-Know-Who and his soldier Bellatrix Lestrange. The physician, who wishes to remain anonymous, made particular mention of eyewitness accounts that the Dark Lord's regenerated form does not have a fully-formed nose. "Not to be indelicate, but the tissues required to physically enable an intimate relationship appear to be absent. I don't believe it's possible for You-Know-Who to have an affair with anyone."
This news is likely to be a source of heartbreak to the teenaged witches of Hogwarts, who, by all accounts of the last week, are most taken by the rumours of a dark romance. Hogwarts teachers have reportedly confiscated several pieces of creative writing of a decidedly unladylike nature, several of which make extensive reference to the tissues in question.
Experts have expressed concern that the gothic love story may lead impressionable young people to romanticise the Dark Lord's movement and attract them to his cause, and the Hogwarts Board of Governors has scheduled an ad-hoc meeting to discuss the issue. The Daily Prophet is conscious of its privileged position of influence over our young, and strongly discourages young witches from this kind of sentimentality.
DON'T MISS TOMORROW'S SPECIAL FEATURE HOW THE HEART OF A TYRANT WAS WON!
"Bellatrix, I can see you moping. Either stop, or do it elsewhere."
The Dark Lord said this from behind his copy of The Pincer Ambush: Applications for Air-Based Warfare. There was a piece of parchment with cryptic notes at his side.
Bellatrix was pushing her eggs around on her plate with a fork. "I'm not moping, my Lord. I'm merely outraged on your behalf. It's a filthy, unspeakable insinuation."
"Bellatrix, I could not possibly care less whether the Daily Prophet thinks I have a penis." The Dark Lord made another inscription on his parchment.
"But surely - we could put all of this to bed by leaking some sort of proof that you do-"
"And what do you propose?" he wondered severely, lowering his book. "A centrefold?"
Bellatrix looked momentarily hopeful, before seeming to realise the suggestion was not a serious one. She sank back in her chair, abashed.
"Much as I hate to indulge my sister's unhealthy interest in your anatomy, my Lord," Narcissa said, "you do need to do something. It's a sexist world out there, and men do not follow men they perceive to be emasculated." The Dark Lord narrowed his eyes at her, and she continued soothingly, "You cannot expect everyone to be as enlightened and rational as you. If they were, we would not need a war."
The Dark Lord pressed his lips together into a hard line for a moment, considering this, but then sighed. "True enough. Have you any thoughts?"
Bella said hopefully, "We could allow the press to catch you ravishing me against a wall."
"I was speaking to Rodolphus."
Bella sighed, and went back to playing with her eggs.
THE DAILY PROPHET
June 21, 1996
"DUMBLEDORE WILL PAY FOR MURDERING OUR SON" - DARK LORD, WIFE
A Healer was returned, shaken but unharmed to St Mungo's this morning after being abducted at wandpoint yesterday by Death Eaters. In a short statement, St Mungo's advised that the Healer was taken to the bedside of a distraught Bellatrix Lestrange, who had reportedly suffered a miscarriage. Unofficial reports suggest that the Dark Lord hovered protectively as the Healer prepared herbs to subdue her pain.
The Healer's alleged abductor was Rodolphus Lestrange, who apparently remains on good terms with both his ex-wife and the Dark Lord. Interestingly, Lestrange referred to Bellatrix as the Dark Lord's wife. (There is no record of such a marriage locally; owls to the Albanian Ministry have not been returned). The Dark Lord reportedly made repeated threats against Albus Dumbledore, who toppled the statue that crushed Bellatrix and snuffed out their child's life. Hogwarts has reportedly reinforced the wards surrounding the school in response.
Some political commentators have suggested this turn of events may improve the Dark Lord's popularity rating, currently sitting at 37% compared to the Ministry's 52%. On hearing the news, one shopper commented, "I would trust a family man before I would trust a career bureaucrat like the Minister. You can't trust a man like that to understand our concerns." Others agreed, making remarks about the Minister's lack of female companions that are too scurrilous to repeat in a respectable publication such as this one. The Daily Prophet prides itself on its contemporary focus and balance, and cannot agree with such sentiments; nonetheless, the Ministry would do well to take heed.
IN OUR FASHION SECTION: LOCAL DESIGNERS IMAGINE BELLA'S WEDDING DRESS
Bella was preening.
"What are those things in your hair?" the Dark Lord wondered, peering at her over the top of a battered copy of Interior Line Counter-Offensive Manoeuvres Explained. It was dog-eared in several places.
"Curlers," she said airily. "I'm your wife now. I must look my best. My appearance is a reflection on you, you know."
"Merlin help us," the Dark Lord muttered.
"I wouldn't discourage her, my Lord," Rodolphus said. He didn't look up from his graph paper, covered in scribbles. "These projections are interesting. I hadn't factored in sexuality bias as a variable. It changes things considerably."
"For all the things that make Fudge unsuitable to lead our world, his homosexuality isn't one of them," the Dark Lord said mildly.
"Of course not," Rodolphus agreed, "and we shouldn't suggest it. It may make it difficult to promote as you would like in the future. But we should continue to position you as a loving husband. The public seem to like it."
The Dark Lord shot a long, suspicious look at Bella. She was looking out the window, humming innocently.
"Yes, my Lord?"
"If I find out that you are assisting your wife in her efforts to seduce me, I will be most annoyed."
Bella said breathlessly, "I can assure you, my Lord, Rodolphus has never had the slightest interest in my sexual satisfaction. Ever."
Rodolphus shot her a filthy look. "My Lord, I'm entirely devoted to your interests. I am, after all, your chief political strategist. You need to trust my expertise on this one."
The Dark Lord looked dubious, but after a long moment, he nodded, and returned his attention to his book.
THE DAILY PROPHET
June 28, 1996
INTIMATE PORTRAITS OF THE DARK LORD AND LADY INSPIRE MERCHANDISING FRENZY
The discovery of intimate images of the Dark Family in a raid of Malfoy Manor have captured the public imagination. The images, taken at a family picnic, give a rare glimpse into the life of the Dark Lord. Commenting on last week's leak, Pius Thicknesse admitted today that the images have been in the possession of his office for some time. He denied that the Minister had any knowledge of the images, but political commentators believe they were suppressed because they could damage efforts to portray the Dark Lord as a tyrant detached from the lives of everyday witches and wizards.
In recent days, these images have inspired a frenzy of merchandise. Teenaged girls carry tote bags and notebooks bearing the most iconic, of the Dark Lord and Lady interrupted while leaning in for a kiss. Another image, of the Dark Lord kissing his wife's hand, appears on a line of T-shirts and sweaters. A niche line of Rodolphus Lestrange themed merchandise is popular with a subset of teenaged boys, seemingly propelled by certain rumours stemming from his good-natured acceptance of his ex-wife's remarriage.
Concern about the corruption of the young remains high, with the Hogwarts Board of Governors approving an expansion of the ban on war propaganda at the school to include merchandise featuring the Dark Lord and Lady, and the Weird Sisters' Bellatrix tribute song, Losing My Mind For You. However, increasingly, there is concern that suppression of these non-political, private moments in the life of the Dark Lord is itself an act of propaganda.
The Dark Lord's popularity has risen to 40%, a rise of three points, while the Ministry has had a more substantial fall of five points to 47%. The increased neutral score of 13% reflects those who are not supportive of the Dark Lord, but have also ceased to support the Ministry; freedom of information concerns appear to be the primary driver in this group.
PAGE 7: EXPELLED HOGWARTS STUDENT SPEAKS OUT OVER LEGAL FIGHT FOR RETURN OF CONFISCATED NOVEL, BOOK DEAL - "DARK LORD AND LADY'S LOVE STORY INSPIRES ME!"
"Withstanding bars and Dementors too
Aching and longing for You-Know-Who
She says, I don't know what I'm going to do
I'm losing my mind for you
Losing my, losing my, losing my-"
The Dark Lord thrust aside his copy of Resourcing War Through Strategic Asset Seizure. "Could someone please turn that atrocious noise off?"
Narcissa looked across the room doubtfully to where Bella was dancing, but dutifully, she did as she was directed.
It transpired that Bella was singing along. Her rendition was possibly worse than that of the Weird Sisters.
"Ugh." The Dark Lord relented. "Turn it back on."
Rodolphus spoke over the din. "My Lord, Love's Darkest Caress is number seven on the bestseller list. I think your popularity may surpass that of Fudge within the week."
"I should bloody hope so," the Dark Lord said in exasperation. "Once I do, I shall take great pleasure in hexing that wretched girl to the bowels of hell. Her filthy scenes run through Bella's mind around the clock. Where on earth does a schoolgirl get such ideas?"
Narcissa said idly, "I thought it was rather well-written, actually. Of course, no one is really that athletic, but otherwise-"
She looked up from her magazine, then stopped short. The Dark Lord was looking at her venomously.
"Never mind," she muttered.
"It's all right, Narcissa," Rodolphus soothed. "We all understand you're more susceptible to that sort of rubbish with Lucius away, don't we, my Lord?"
The Dark Lord glared at him, but said nothing.
"My Lord, I do think we need one final push to get you over the line and get Fudge out of office. May I suggest a public show of affection?"
The Dark Lord said, through gritted teeth, "A-public-show-of-affection?"
"We could hang about after a raid until the press arrive. A kiss, perhaps. Taking her hand. A fond look. Something of that nature. Satisfy the public hunger. They'll go wild."
"Rodolphus, you do recall what I said about helping your scheming wife-"
Rodolphus thrust his graphs and the Daily Prophet down the table. "You needn't trust me. Trust the numbers. Sales of Love's Darkest Caress is the best leading indicator we've got."
The Dark Lord inspected them, three times over, as though looking for flaws. His expression grew more and more disgruntled as he did so.
"The calculations are sound," he said sourly.
Rodolphus took his papers back. He said without rancour, "They are."
"Merlin knows how I will manage to appear affectionate towards the bloody woman." The Dark Lord shook his head. "She'll be unbearable to live with afterwards."
Three people looked sidelong at Bella, dancing and singing maniacally in the corner, and shuddered.
Rodolphus said, "The merest drop of Amortentia for you, to make it convincing, and Obliviate for her afterwards."
The Dark Lord's face grew even sourer. He said:
"Obliviate us both."
THE DAILY PROPHET
July 2, 1996
DIAGON ALLEY RAID: DARK LORD'S GIFT BRINGS KISSES, JOY
The Dark Lord took a moment out from his rampage of wanton destruction in Diagon Alley last night to pay tribute to his wife.
Regular readers will remember our feature a week ago, in which local designers imagined the dress the Dark Lady might have worn for their nuptials, rumoured to have occurred in Albania shortly after her escape from Azkaban. It appears that Bellatrix was so taken with the charcoal, layered lace Emanuel number that the Dark Lord decided to get it for her - which just goes to show, dear readers, that even dictators know quality journalism when they read it.
In an odd show of respect, the Emanuels' boutique was left unharmed, aside from a broken lock. We understand that the flood of orders this morning for copies of the dress have amply compensated.
Our exclusive images show clearly the loving couple's reunion at the end of the rampage, and the Dark Lady's joyful response to her Lord's gift. The couple shared a slow, passionate kiss before Apparating away, to spontaneous applause from the Ministry officials sent to apprehend them. Minister Fudge arrived on the scene, apoplectic with rage, renewing speculation that he is out of touch with his constituents.
The Minister has been formally asked by his Ministry to resign today, following the release of his approval rating this morning of 39%. The request was prompted by Rufus Scrimgeour, who passionately called on his colleagues to support the move in closed session in the early hours of this morning. His colleagues were reportedly decided on hearing that Fudge's approval rating was now lower than that of a homicidal warlord - even one with a rather endearing devotion to his wife.
CENTER PAGE SPREAD: BELLATRIX BEFORE AZKABAN - A FASHION ICON IN THE MAKING
"Circe," the Dark Lord groaned, opening his eyes.
Bellatrix, sitting up in bed beside him, did not look up from her book. "What is it, dear?"
"You're still here."
"Oh, yes," Bella said. "I'll be sleeping here with you now."
The Dark Lord blinked rapidly. "You're supposed to be Obliviated. I did it myself."
"You can't Obliviate a memory that's already been put in a Pensieve. You know that."
The Dark Lord gave a bark of laughter. "Well played. I'm almost amused. Have your memories, then. You won't be getting any further fodder for that perverted mind of yours from me."
Bella set her book aside. "Oh, but I will. I must say I was relieved to find you really did come fully-equipped."
"The Amortentia was concentrated, then? I rather wondered about that."
"Concentrated, and everlasting."
"Ever-" the Dark Lord broke off, the little colour he had draining from his face.
"Of course, with such a small dose, even concentrated, you'll behave quite normally. You'll even treat me with disdain, if the situation calls for it. But you'll be completely under my control. Which was really the point of the exercise."
Numbly, in dawning realisation, the Dark Lord reached out. Took the book from her hand. Bella allowed it, watching him indulgently.
It was The Fabian Strategy: Twelve Case Studies in Mastering Stronger Enemies by Stealth.
"You and Rodolphus...want control of the war," he said, his flesh prickling, hot and cold with horror.
A faint smile curled on Bella's face. "Oh, yes."
"But...you loved all that Dark Lady business!"
Bella's smile didn't falter. "Of course, dear. You made me your partner, in the eyes of the world. You made me your equal. In fact, my approval rating is even higher than yours. What's not to love?" She glanced down at his hips. "And of course, I really did want to ride your broomstick to heaven."
"You stage-managed Love's Darkest Caress," the Dark Lord groaned. "Circe."
"An inspired touch, don't you think? I can't take credit for that dreadful Losing My Mind For You, though. That one was real."
"I'm sure. You've never been saner in your life." There was a grudging admiration in the Dark Lord's voice.
A delighted expression spread over Bella's features. "I told Rodolphus you'd come around!" She drew back the bedsheets and straddled him, taking the book out of his hands. "See? It isn't so bad."
"It's the Amortentia," the Dark Lord said stubbornly, but there was a smirk twitching on his features. He liked this Bella much more than the one he'd rescued from Azkaban.
"Of course, dear," she said, leaning forward to kiss him.
He drew his head back, just a little. "Can I still Crucio the Weird Sisters?"
Bella leaned closer. "We'll do it together."
At this, the Dark Lord's last vestige of resistance crumbled. "Come and ride my broomstick, witch."