Trapped inside these walls for years on end, with nothing to cling to but herself. That was all she could do, and that was all she had done. The cold stone walls blocked out her contact with others, the barriers holding her, suffocating her. The only thing they did not shield her from was the screams, the high, scratchy screams that periodically emitted from the other cells nearby. She could not see them, but she could hear them. Sometimes she wondered who it was that was screaming; other times she did not care in the least, the screams in her mind so much worse.

Her desolate cell consisted only of only a stiff cot with a thin wool blanket and a rusted bucket for her waste. There was a heavy wood door with many locks (that locked from the other side, naturally) against one wall. One of the guards would sometimes come in through there and give her a slice of stale bread and a cup of murky water. He would only arrive on occasion though, and Bellatrix had not quite figured out the pattern to his visits (whenever he remembered, or whenever he decided she was about to starve were the two most likely ones. Or perhaps a combination, it was hard to gauge).

There was a small, barred window positioned over the bed. From this the one thing Bellatrix could see was the rising and setting of the sun. The only evidence that time was still moving on. Otherwise she would sometimes had a hard time believing it was, would be convinced that she was stuck in the same endless time loop, and could only be released from this period where no time passed if she was out of here, out of Azkaban…

She held fast to her belief in her lord, her faith in him. He would come rescue her; she did not know how or when, but she knew that eventually he would…and until he did, she would remain steadfast, she would remain devoted. Her Lord would save her someday. Someday he would come for her…someday…someday…someday…so for now she would wait for him.

Holed up inside herself, some days it was all she could do to remain sane. She would fasten to her memories, memories of service under the Dark Lord. Every moment from her initiation into becoming a Death Eater, to the countless victims she had tortured and killed…she could still hear their shrieks reverberate off the walls, sending delighted chills down her back…

She would recall other times as well to distract herself from the intense, endless cold…times with her sisters, when they had all gotten along…and times from her days at Hogwarts, from her classes to her socializing…as well as minutes with her husband, Rodolphus…she would relive each instant vividly, treasuring them once again, as though through a second life.

But lately…lately she had not needed to make herself quite as oblivious to her surroundings. The agonizing pain that normally seemed to be constantly tearing away at her insides…had been fading. She did not know how, or why, but it was true. The hurt had lessened, the cold had lifted some.

She was probably just getting used to it, was all. After Merlin only knew how many years in prison, you were bound to get used to the conditions of the dementors eventually, right?

Perched on the rigid cot, the thin blanket covering her legs, she leaned the upper half of her body against the back wall, peering out through her barred window. Her fingers twiddled the fraying edge of the material, blank gray orbs staring listlessly out at the dark sky. She was not sure how long she did this. Time appeared to cease in this cell. So she sat vacantly, thinking about little other than how the cold air tonight seemed more external than internal.

Her door abruptly gave a slight shudder, and there was some quiet rattling from the other side. Bellatrix's eyes drifted over carelessly towards it. The guard was unlocking the door. It must be feeding time for her. For his chicken, as she had come to think of it, as she was little more to the man than something to check up on every now and again. Time to feed one of his many chickens. How kind of him.

The rattling continued for several extended moments – hers was a high security vault, and needed many locks, after all – before the door swung open. In stepped a man, but it wasn't the usual bulky guard, it was – but no, she must be hallucinating –


He swung towards her, quickly pulling her off the bed and engulfing her in a tight hug.

"Rodolphus," she gasped, clutching his disheveled robes in her hands, confirming to herself that he was indeed there, in her arms. "What – I – "

"The dementors," Rodolphus offered, pulling away to look into her face but keeping his grasp firm around her waist. "Our Lord has recruited them onto our side, offering them many opportunities, much better than what they can attain here. In return, Death Eaters are being released from here."

Her head was reeling from this information, but several of his words had hooked into her brain: …Death Eaters are being released…she was being released. She was going to break out. She was going to be free. Her lord had rescued her, just like she had known he would.

"Come," said Rodolphus, letting go of her sides and grabbing her hand instead. "We've got to do this fairly quickly – in case anyone decides to drop in and give us an inconvenient visit – "

"Yes, yes," she agreed, and he speedily guided her out the door down the long hallway, careening through several twists and turns. His hand was not exactly warm in hers – it was winter, and they were all freezing due to the prison's poor conditions – but it was comforting, a rare sense for Bellatrix Lestrange. She would not say she loved Rodolphus; it had been an arranged marriage and little more. But during the brief period between the time that she was wed to him and thrown into Azkaban, they had developed a relationship of sorts. Toleration, mostly, but also a bit of respect and caring.

The couple burst through the doors, the chilling winter night air slashing their bodies. Bellatrix's decrepit robes rippled and rolled around her. Staying close to the extensive walls of Azkaban, they moved towards the edge of the cliff the prison stood on.

"Obviously, there are heavy Anti-Disapparation charms placed around this building," Rodolphus explained to her over the roar of the wind. She was having difficulty seeing him (and everything else) in such darkness, but could hear him talking close to her right ear. "MacNair told me that there is a spot the visitors and guards use to Apparate close to the edge of the cliff. He said to go to there and look for him and some others."

The sky that night was a fathomless black as they traveled under it, great clouds of torrenting smoke filling it, obscuring the stars.

When she had been younger, she had enjoyed lying down on her back in the grass, gazing up at the night sky. She would always try to locate the star she had been named after. First she would pin-point Orion, the constellation it was contained in. From there she would be able to find the star. It had ceased to become merely a star in her young mind, it had become the star, her star. To her child self, it was the most beautiful thing she knew of; bright and big and glittering eternally in the sky, always there, always glittering. As she had gotten older, she had stopped her star gazing. Not that she still didn't appreciate being named after such a considerable star, but she had many other ways to spend her time. She did not need to twiddle away the hours looking at the sky, for God's sake. She now glanced up furtively at the sky, but it was too hazy and fogged to see much of anything.

"There they are," Rodolphus murmured in her ear, and sure enough she could see up ahead a group of dark figures huddled together. They joined them quickly.

"Good, you're here," said Dolohov gruffly. He scanned his eyes in a clandestine manner across the Azkaban's grounds. "Is that everyone?"

There were several collective mumbles of "yes" and "I think so" between the Death Eaters. MacNair did a silent head count. "Ten. Yeah, that's all of us."

Bellatrix had the fleeting notion that she was back in school and her teacher was counting the empty seats to see if everyone was present, and had the strange urge to smile. But she threw the thought over her shoulder and said brusquely, "Then let's be on our way. To our lord's chamber, perhaps?"

"Aye, he's probably there," a rough male voice agreed; she could not tell whom in the dark. "Very well. One, two, three – "

Ten simultaneous pops rang in the air, and in the next moment the escaped prisoners were clustered together in a hall. The walls were constructed of large gray stone slabs that tunneled down a short way before veering two opposite directions. Lighting the bare hallway were several torches, flickering and dancing, casting daring shadows upon the room's occupants. Under its light Bellatrix observed her fellow Death Eaters. They all looked thinner than they had upon entering Azkaban. Their faces had become hollowed, their cheeks sunken, complexions paled. She lightly brushed her fingers across one cheek. Was that what she had changed into as well?

With the others, she journeyed down the hall. The ten servants of the Dark Lord turned down the left passageway and into the large stone room, where she knew a high, grand chair sat, a chair her lord usually would sit on.

"My lord?" Rabastan called as they entered, his voice echoing slightly off the walls; my lord, my lord, my lord…. "We are here, my lord. We have arrived."

There were a few moments of silence, all she could hear was the gentle hammer of her heart against her chest. Then suddenly a figure appeared silently before them. The Death Eaters fell to their knees.

"My faithful," the Dark Lord hissed above them, his voice floating over her head like nothing more than a soft whisper in a breeze; yet she was so elated to hear his voice again every word was like a loud, wonderful burst of music. "My servants…you have returned to me. I cannot begin to express the delight I feel in having you back here once more. Please, rise."

The Death Eaters slipped to their feet. The great Lord Voldemort smiled at them. "Welcome back."

"Thank you, my lord," the Death Eaters murmured as one.

His red eyes lingered over each of them in turn. When the red gaze turned to Bellatrix, she felt her whole body tingle with some strange feeling, swell with a lovely notion. His eyes moved beyond her, and she felt herself steady again. She admired him so, she always felt so privileged when he looked at her…

"You may leave now," he said quietly, after he finished the contemplation of his Death Eaters. "I shall inform you of when I have work for you, which will most likely be quite soon." They were the ones who had been dismissed, yet their Lord turned around before they had left and began walking away. Bellatrix watched the talented man exit, her heart surging with pride and reverence.

And then, though the untrained ear would not have heard it, the Dark Lord began to laugh. It was very quiet, barely traceable, but still there. And then the laugh began to grow louder, swelling in volume, as her Lord basked in the fact that some of his most loyal were back at his side; a bursting, almost maniacal laugher erupting from his throat…

And just then, many miles away, a teenage boy felt a enormous pain explode in his head, calls of wild laughter ringing in his ears…