Author's Notes: This was my entry in the first week of Last Drabble Writer Standing, the Mirror of Erised Challenge.
There is a sort of pallor to the castle -- an air of lividity, which, like an infection, seems to have seeped into the glass, into the timbers, into the very masonry. The castle has taken hard the removal of all things good and brave, like paintings that move and talk, protect and warn; friendly, flickering ghosties; and stalwart, roaring Gryffindors. Funny, that; though Dumbledore always said Hogwarts was more a live creature than a building.
Snape, for one, finds the alterations rather pleasant.
He, himself, has hardly changed at all. Even now, he strides through the dungeons, robes fluttering behind him, as though intent on pouncing on an errant student. The posturing, though unconscious, is also unnecessary; Snape’s quarry is significantly less evasive than even the least cunning of Hufflepuffs. Always in the same place, never moving, ever steady, it is exactly where it last was.
The mirror also has not changed; it stands tall, gold-gilted and shining, even in the castle’s depths. It seems to wink at Snape, as though to say, “Don’t we have a secret together, you and I?”
The woman on her knees in front of it, however, has. Rawboned and greasy, she is slumped so far forward that the backs of her hands rest upon the dirt floor. Snape stands at her side, avoiding the reflective surface of the mirror.
“The Dark Lord wonders where you have taken yourself to, Bellatrix.”
If Bellatrix hears his words, she gives no indication of it. She is slack-jawed, her face just inches from the smooth pane. Her garments are torn. Rended in grief, Snape wonders? Or in a futile attempt to break free from the mirror’s siren song?
“They say men have gone mad before the mirror. The wanting, the longing – even the strongest can find themselves irrevocably entranced. But you were never the strongest, were you, Bellatrix?” Snape smiles at that. “Were you, favorite child? Most-trusted minion. Loyalist to the very core.”
Snape searches for any sign that she has heard him -- that she knows he is there. Her lids flutter, but never truly close, over eyes gone cloudy and dry from constant wakefulness; there is dried spittle coating her chin; rats have gnawed her arms bloody; she is fetid with her own waste.
“You know, Bellatrix,” Snape says, at last, “I do believe I prefer you this way.”
He leaves her to the mirror.
Snape cannot see the blackness that licks the room like tongues of flame do a hearth. They are her fantasy and hers alone. For Bellatrix, it is as though there is a slow leak from the mirror -- meandering threads of oily smoke, dark as ink from the squid, disemboguing, winding around her until she is swaddled. The mirror, which has shown the power of armies, the wealth of kings, and the glory of gods, reflects back to her only fathomless darkness and heavy, drowning silence.
It is the sweet exorcism of nothing at all.