Confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis: voca me cum benedictis.
(While the wicked are confounded, doomed to flames of woe: call me among the blessed.)
When you are seven, someone tries to kill your father.
You are all in the theatre, in the private box of the Black family, watching an opera about something or other. You are squirming in your chair, tugging at Andromeda's dress.
'I'm bored. Aren't you bored?'
She shakes her head, not looking away from the stage.
You poke her in the ribs. 'I won't believe you. And I won't believe Cissy isn't, either. You're bored, aren't you, Cissy?'
Narcissa, already a perfect miniature image of your mother, looks passively at the stage.
'Bellatrix!' Unseen by the rest of the audience, your mother slaps you on the arm. 'Be quiet. I will not allow you to embarrass us in public.'
You shut your mouth and fold your arms across your chest. Your arm hurts, but you do not cry. You never let anyone see you cry.
All of a sudden, there is someone else in the box with you.
He apologises to your mother for the intrusion.
He has his wand trained on your father.
He asks why his wife is dead.
He asks why his children are dead.
Your father says he knows nothing about it.
The man laughs, quite deranged. The sound of the opera drowns him out to all outside the box.
He says your father knows exactly what he's talking about. He says your father and his friends killed them. He says that one day the blood supremacists will get what they deserve.
Your father quickly raises his wand and stuns the man.
As the theatre guards drag him away, your parents tell them they expect St Mungo's to be called, as the man is clearly insane.
When you get home, you finally dare to ask your mother what the man at the theatre was talking about.
She turns her ice-like glare on you. 'His wife and children had died. The grief had driven him mad.'
'Did father kill them, mother?'
She slaps you hard across the face.
Later in the evening, you climb into Narcissa's bed as she brushes her hair by the mirror. She is only nine years old, yet already undeniably beautiful.
'Father killed the man at the theatre's family, didn't he?' you whisper.
Narcissa doesn't turn to face you. 'Mother says it doesn't matter.'
You bite your lip. 'Why not?'
She shrugs. 'His wife was a Mudblood.'
You relax. You are placated. Mudbloods don't matter. Mudbloods are freaks. You know that. You know that in the deepest, most instinctive part of your brain – the way you know how to write your name in the dark.
Narcissa climbs into bed with you, and the pair of you fall asleep, top and tail.
Apart from your sisters, your cousin Sirius is the only one you let into the dark realm of your mind. The pair of you sneak into the attic, making dens and plotting. You play cruel tricks on his useless little brother. He traps spiders as you roast them using a match and a magnifying glass. He offers you a leg up as the pair of you climb trees in the orchard.
'We should become blood brothers,' you say to him one day as you both lie in the summer sun.
Sirius opens one eye and looks at you lazily. 'Why?'
You lie down next to him, squeezing an arm round his chest. 'Come on – it'll be fun!'
He closes his eyes. 'There's no point. We're already family.'
'So what? Come on. I stole a knife from father's drawer.'
'I don't want to.'
'What are you – scared?'
He opens his eyes and glares at you. ''Course I'm not scared!'
And so that afternoon you both slit your arms, pressing your wounds together, swearing you'll be best friends now and forever.
You stop sleeping at eight years old. Your thoughts are too loud, and they never quieten down enough to let you sleep. And when you do manage to sleep for a fitful few hours, you have dreams so dark and so lucid that sometimes you wake up screaming, clawing at the bed sheets.
You hear the house elf telling your parents that their child never sleeps. They send the elf away, then have what they imagine is a private conversation about you. You can't catch most of it, but you get the gist. Whisper whisper. Whisper not normal. Whisper insane. Whisper.
Andromeda is the only one who understands. When you pad, barefoot in your nightdress, into your older sister's room, night after night, she'll sleepily rub her eyes and say, 'Been dreaming again, Bella?'
You will nod, shivering and wild eyed, and she will let you climb in to bed with her, holding you and stroking your hair until you fall asleep.
Andromeda's bed is the only place you can sleep in. As your sister holds you close to her, and your hair tangles together on the pillow, yours black, hers brown, your mind finally goes quiet. You fall asleep, lulled by the sound of your sister's heartbeat.
At Hogwarts, you are the three Black girls. You strut, arm in arm, through the corridors, your long hair swinging behind you. You are already legends. Narcissa for her beauty, Andromeda for her intelligence, and you for your temper.
You have other friends. Narcissa has her own gaggle of admirers – boys who want her, and girls who want to be her. Andromeda has a small study group of Ravenclaws and fellow Slytherins. And you are endlessly entertaining, delighting most of the people in your path. But at least once a day, an undefined sense will draw you together, and you will be the three enchanting Black sisters again, arms linked around each other, sharing secrets that no one else can know.
When Sirius arrives, in your second year, you sit at the Slytherin table, squirming in your seat. You've saved a place next to you for him. You had to hex a rather insistent third year to do it. But that's okay. He'll be with you soon. Any second now.
You take a swig of pumpkin juice as he mounts the dais and Professor Mcgonagall puts the hat on his head.
You jiggle your foot up and down.
'Patience, Bella,' Andomeda whispers soothingly. She smiles. You nudge her in the ribs.
Finally, the sorting hat makes its decision.
The glass you're holding smashes in your grasp.
Narcissa glides through the halls of Hogwarts. You watch the boys as they stare after her hungrily. Few of them dare to approach her, and the ones that do are dismissed by a cool, patronising roll of her ice-blue eyes.
'You'll have to learn how to do it too, one day,' she says one evening with a casual flick of a nail file.
'What?' asks Andromeda.
'Make boys love you.'
Andromeda rolls her eyes. 'You can't make someone love you.'
Narcissa smiles. 'Au contraire. I do it every day.'
'But why would you want someone to love you?' you ask.
Narcissa rounds off the tip of a nail. 'Because we'll all need to marry, one day.'
You snort with laughter. So does Andromeda. Narcissa fixes you with a look that's deeply serious.
'Laugh all you want, but you want to get away from that house as much as I do. And unless you want our parents to sell you to the highest bidder, you'll do well to learn how to get who you want.'
'Why are you friends with blood traitors?'
'It's nothing to do with you.'
'But he's a moron, Sirius!'
'You're a moron.'
'Oh, what a witty comeback.'
You relish your triumph for a moment, but then he leans in closer, dark eyes glinting.
'Psycho,' he whispers.
You fight. You slap.
When you're done, you glare at each other, nose to nose. There's a tight knot, deep down in your stomach. Your breathing is heavy. So is his.
'I really hate you, sometimes,' he murmurs.
'Not as much as I hate you,' you whisper back.
He nods and rests his forehead on yours. You curl your fingers around his neck. He sighs.
Suddenly, you brighten up. 'I stole some gin from mother's secret supply.'
He leans back, grinning. 'Wanna get trashed?'
You laugh. 'Always.'
He puts your arm around you, and the pair of you walk, hip to hip, out of the house.
The booze and cigarettes your sisters know about. The fucks they don't. The fucks are the ministry officials and high society husbands and schoolboys and morons you pick up at your parents' soirees or, more frequently, at the parties you sneak out to in the middle of the night.
It's easy to make them fall in love with you. A smile, a laugh, a sigh, a hand on the arm, and they're yours. You fuck, your body numb, in alleyways, in the back of carriages, on four poster beds. Leave immediately after, but not before you tell them how old you really are, then laugh at the looks on their faces as you leave the room, pulling your coat on as you walk home. Running your fingers through your hair and thinking: I need a bath.
Choices, choices. So many means of self destruction, so little time. At home, you drown in Russian vodka and French brandy. You drink bottles full of numbing potion, then leave wand marks burned into your arm. Night falls, and you stare at the ceiling, thoughts screaming through your head as you yearn desperately for the sleep that still eludes you.
You sneak into the garden. Your parents' guests this evening are deadly dull. Andromeda is stuck talking to the Minister's ancient uncle, and Narcissa is flirting with somebody's son who has hair even blonder than hers.
You suck deeply on your cigarette, burning your lungs and your nose.
Someone brushes past you, dragging a giggling girl by the hand. He glances back at you. Sirius.
'Pressing social engagement, is it?' you say witheringly.
He winks at you. 'Just want to show her the hedgerows.' He grins, and disappears with the girl into the night.
You stare after him for a moment, before drawing your wand and frying a butterfly that passes by your ear.
'Is the party boring you?'
You roll your eyes. Another moron. Perhaps you could fuck him, here in the garden. If Sirius can do it, then so can you.
He's smiling at you.
He's handsome. Tall. Dark Hair. Pale.
His eyes glow red in the moonlight.
He nods at the cigarette in your hand. 'Those things will kill you.'
You raise an eyebrow. 'Really? I hadn't heard.'
He breathes a laugh. It sends shivers down to your gut.
'So you are fearless then, Bellatrix?'
You don't ask how he knows your name.
'I'm not afraid of anything.'
But that's a lie. You are afraid of this man, though you will die before you admit it.
There's something about his eyes. You can't stop staring at them.
'I like fear,' he says, coming closer. 'It gets an awful lot of things done. If people fear you, they will do anything you like.'
You nod, understanding. You've seen people do your bidding at the drop of a hat, and you know it's due to fear of your admittedly ready temper.
'Yes,' you say, stubbing out your cigarette. 'It's fine to be adored, for sure. But as long as you are feared, it does not matter if you are hated. At least that's what I think.'
He smiles, and extends a hand. 'Lord Voldemort.'
You extend yours. 'Bellatrix-'
'Black.' He grasps your hand in his. His grip is colder than ice. 'I have to admit, you have me intrigued.'
You stumble, not knowing how to play this one. 'The feeling is mutual.'
'Meet me tomorrow,' he says, a cool command. 'I'll come here to collect you.' He smiles. 'I think we shall have much to discuss.'
The Dark Lord says that muggles have to be purged in revenge for their past persecution of wizards.
The Dark Lord says that dark magic is only labelled as such by those that don't understand it.
The Dark Lord says that the ministry bowing to muggles is the same as the ministry paving the streets with filth.
Andromeda frowns. 'You talk an awful lot about the Dark Lord, Bella.'
'He's a freak,' Sirius says furiously, gripping at your wrist. You'll have bruises there tomorrow. 'He's so fucked up inside it's changing how he looks – do you know just how screwed up you have to be for that to happen? And this pure-blood shit… I mean, come on! You can't look at imbeciles like Regulus and say that his blood makes him superior to someone like Lily Evans.'
'Why are you defending her?' you fire back. 'Are you fucking her, is that it? It wouldn't surprise me. Mudbloods will fuck anything that moves.'
'And you would know all about that, wouldn't you?' he spits out.
'What does that mean?'
'You know perfectly well.' He leans in, and he whispers; 'Whore.'
You lunge for him, hooking your nails into his cheek and dragging them down, drawing blood. He hisses in pain and slaps you in retaliation.
'You know nothing about the Dark Lord,' you say, when the shock of the blow has died down. 'He'll achieve things you could never dream of. With me at his side, we could rule the wizarding world. And we will one day – don't doubt it.'
He looks at you incredulously for a while, before he laughs quietly. 'I don't know why I bother to try and make you see the truth about him,' he mutters. 'It's like casting pearls before swine.'
You glare at him. 'Artificial pearls.'
He grins. 'Perhaps. But definitely real swine.'
You knew this day was coming. You'd known for two years, ever since your sister announced her engagement. You'd been waiting for this painful day with an agitated dread.
Narcissa's new husband is a moron, and you don't care for him. You watch him with contempt as he hobnobs around at the reception, ignoring his beautiful new wife and bragging to anyone who'll listen about the beautiful service, the extravagant after-party, the estate he stands to inherit, and the countless sons he and Narcissa will have.
Andromeda and Narcissa cry as they hug each other goodbye, promising to write to each other every day. You do not cry. You take her by the hand and look long and hard into your sister's face.
'We'll see you all the time, yes?'
'Yes, Bella. There's no need to look so fierce.'
'You'll come home at least once a week?'
'Twice a week. Can you-'
'And you'll bring us presents from your honeymoon?'
'Anything you like. Bella, you're hurting my hand.'
You quickly drop her hand from yours. You notice small, red indents left by your nails in her pale skin.
Andromeda laughs. 'You'll tell us all about the wedding night, won't you?'
You snort. 'I wouldn't expect too much, Cissy. He'd probably be worried he'll break a nail.'
Narcissa smiles a chilly smile, then Lucius comes over to claim your sister from you.
Later that night, you go through to Narcissa's empty bedroom, only to find Andromeda already in there, burrowed under the covers of Narcissa's bed. You climb in next to her, and the pair of you lie in silence in the darkness, relishing the smell of Narcissa that cloaks the sheets. Perfume and powder. Pressed flowers and rosewater.
'You won't marry a ponce like Lucius, will you, Andy?' you whisper.
She doesn't laugh.
Silence. You don't turn to face her.
'Is there someone you like?' you ask, jealousy stabbing you in the gut.
She clears her throat. 'There's someone. But I don't think anything will come of it.'
You nod in satisfaction, yawning. 'Who is it?'
'No-one of significance.'
'Darling!' You skip towards your cousin, folding your arms around his shoulders. 'Isn't it a beautiful evening? Let's go drinking, or dancing – no! Let's go and terrorize the muggles in the village-'
He shakes your hands away furiously and steps away from you. 'I'm sorry, but I didn't come here to entertain you.'
You frown. 'Then what are you here for?'
He takes a deep breath. 'I'm leaving home, Bella. I've had enough of my mother. I've had enough of this whole damn family.'
It hits you so hard you lose your footing. You say only: 'You could stay here-'
He laughs. 'Oh yes, I can just see your parents rolling out the red carpet. No. James says I can live with him until I find my own place.'
'Well…' you stumble onwards, 'well it doesn't matter, does it? We'll still see each other.'
He looks at the floor. 'You see, that's what I've come to tell you…' He raises his eyes to meet yours. 'I'm leaving because I hate how they are about blood, Bella. And that includes you. I can't be around people who think the way you do. It's twisted, and it's wrong. So… so I've come to say goodbye to you, too.'
It's like a blow to the head. It leaves you sick and dizzy and seeing spots.
'You're leaving me?'
'We can't be friends while you follow that sick bastard around. How can we, when he's swearing to wipe out some of my closest friends?'
'So you're choosing them over your own family?'
'It's not about family! It's about right and wrong!'
Your voices have raised to shouts, now, and you stand close together, face to spitting face.
And because you don't know what to do, you kiss him.
Or perhaps it is a kiss. You'll never know whether this furious meeting of mouths and tongues – so furious you can taste blood on your lips – is a real kiss.
But if it is, he kissed you back. And it's you that pulls away.
You stare at each other for long moments.
And then you leap forwards, and his fingers quickly close around your wrists as you spread your nails, claw like, to scratch his eyes out.
'You can't leave!' you scream as he holds your nails an inch away from his face. 'I'll kill you first!'
He throws you back from him. 'Get away from me, you fucking psychopath!'
You gasp out a dry sob as the word pierces you in the heart.
He looks at you for a long moment, as if he's never seen you before, before he turns to leave.
'I'll find you,' you hiss to his retreating back. 'I'll make you pay for leaving me alone.'
He turns to you, with a final mocking smile. 'Perhaps we will face each other in battle one day, should things come to that,' he drawls. 'But if we do, you will lose, Bella. I assure you of that.'
He slams the door on your furious, incomprehensible screams.
There appears to be a halfwit trying to talk to you.
'Bellatrix Black,' he says. 'Your reputation precedes you, but I had no idea you would be so beautiful in the flesh.'
You roll your eyes and take a large swig of champagne, but he is undeterred.
'Please allow me to introduce myself,' he says as you take a drag of your cigarette. 'Rudolphus Lestrange.'
You blow a lungful of smoke into his face. He coughs slightly.
'May I refill your glass, Miss Black?'
You raise your eyebrows, and allow him to fetch you a fresh flute from a passing house elf.
'Your mother's parties are the stuff of legend,' he says in a blunt stab at small talk.
You exhale in disbelief and look around. 'Legendary' is hardly how you would describe this evening. There is not one guest at this party you can be bothered to talk to, laugh with, or fuck, and that includes this cretin.
He's wittering on at you now, but you are not listening. Your eyes scan the party, finding your sisters by the fireplace. Andromeda rolls her eyes at you. Narcissa inclines her head towards Rudolphus, raising her eyebrows.
Earlier, Narcissa suggested to you that you might want to consider marrying sometime soon. It would at least, she reasoned, get you away from the parents you despise. And once you are married, you are your own woman. You have your own household and schedule. You would have the means to live as you pleased.
You realise Rudolphus has fallen silent. He's looking at you expectantly.
You smile a gargoyle-like smile at him, and take another drag of your cigarette.
One day, as the pair of you walk through the moonlit streets of the local village, your master puts forth a proposal.
'I want you to become my pupil, Bella.'
You almost squeal out of sheer happiness, but on the surface only raise your eyebrows. 'Oh?'
He smiles. 'I see the hunger in your eyes. There is a whole world you know nothing about. I could teach you. I could show you everything. I could make you as powerful as I am. I could make you immortal.'
You look up at the wide open sky. Millions of stars twinkle back at you. The world is bright and clear, large and unexplored.
You look back at him, smile. 'As you please, master.'
A boy begins to follow you around. Apparently he's a member of the Crouch family. His name is Barty or Barney or something similar. You forget sometimes. But he worships you and follows you around like a puppy, so you decide to keep him. You make him buy you drinks and steal you cigarettes. You reward him with smiles and silent promises. He calls you Miss Bellatrix. You call him Kid.
One day, after a night out with friends, he offers to walk you home. You talk about this and that, and in the end, as it often does, the talk turns nasty.
'Ever heard of the cruciatus curse?'
He hasn't. You tell him. He's shocked.
'Do you know how to cast it?'
You shake your head, smiling. 'Not yet.'
You cannot believe it. It is beyond and above all comprehension.
She is leaving you.
You heard the argument between her and your parents earlier, pressing your ear against the parlour door.
'I love him, mother.'
'I do not care. No daughter of mine will marry a Mudblood while I'm living.'
'Father, listen to me-'
'I will not hear it, Andromeda. Either you give him up, or you leave this household.'
'But I can't. I love him-'
'Then the pair of you can live off that love. You can eat and drink it. You can live in the poverty he will reduce you to.'
'I mean that as far as I'm concerned, we now have only two daughters. I want you out of this house by the morning.'
'You heard your father. Goodbye, Andromeda. Pack your belongings, and get out of our house.'
And so now she comes downstairs, weighed down by two suitcases, which the house elf takes outside to put into the carriage waiting for her outside.
She looks at you, pleadingly. Her face is sticky with tears.
'We'll still see each other. Every day, if you'll… if you'll let me.'
Oh, the wicked, wicked liar! How can she say that, when she knows that your master will disown you the minute he sees your sister voluntarily mixing with a Mudblood?
'What's his name?' you ask quietly.
'Ted. Ted Tonks.'
'Is he a half blood, at least?' you ask hopefully.
She shakes her head.
'That settles it then, doesn't it?' you say coldly.
'It doesn't have to.'
You laugh bitterly. She never did understand. Not really. It was just like Sirius all over again.
You want to say: Don't leave me all alone, Andy.
But you don't. You can't. You feel the words tingling on the tip of your tongue, but your pride and your disappointment force you to swallow them down.
And so you say: A Mudblood? Why not just fuck a beggar on the street if your standards are so low?
And you say: Don't you have any self respect?
And you say: I don't want to see your face again. You're dead to me.
And she says, tears shining in her eyes: Don't hate me, Bella.
You turn your back on her.
Go away, you whisper.
You hear her footsteps, the creak of the front door, then a pause.
And she says: I love you.
You ignore the knot that tightens just under your ribs.
Go away, you whisper.
A sniff, the creak of the door, and a slam.
And then she is gone.
A cold draft pulls up goose bumps on your arms.
Cold fingers trace up and down the pale flesh of your inner arm.
You shiver. The good little stomach spin you feel when you're at the top of a castle tower, during the pause when your toes curl over the edge, and with one small move you could plummet to the ground.
He flicks his eyes up to meet yours. Bottomless blood-red orbs. Eyes that contain a whole world you know so little about. But you want to know. You yearn and writhe and scream with the need to know…
As always, his voice pulls up a kick from the depths of your stomach, and you smile and squeeze your eyes shut for a second before you remember that he doesn't admire cowardice.
You open your eyes. 'Of course. Master.'
He smiles, and this pleases you. You always like to see him smile.
The tip of his wand touches your wrist, and you jump slightly. He feels this, and you curse yourself stupid stupid stupid little girl, but his smile just widens, and you're so lost in his smile that you're only jolted back to reality when-
flesh burning, ripping, pulling… acid tears-
and gouging needles, one-thousand injections…
…keep your lips pressed together, stupid weak-
pathetic little girl, get it right, don't disappoint,
ignore the burning, searing agony – claws scratching-
Nothing left of the pain. Just your blood, pulsing through your arm…
Your arm. No longer white, pure, blemish-free, virginal skin. Now a black snake writhes and wriggles and pulses on your forearm. The snake and your heartbeat pulsing as one.
Draw in a shaky breath, and look up into his eyes.
Still he smiles.
'Just so you know who you belong to, Bella.'
'Bellatrix Black, will you marry me?'
You stare at him.
What are you meant to do? Smile, cry, laugh, and then say yes, darling, of course I'll marry you?
Or bite your lip, cry, and say sorry, but you just don't envision spending the rest of your life with him?
You just stare at him, long and hard.
Last week, your master confided in you that he could never marry. His one devotion, he had said, was to the cause above all else. He could not afford to allow anything to distract him.
You understood that. After all, you don't need to marry him. You are his for life, and he knows that. He, at least, will never leave you.
Rudolphus looks up at you, pleading. The small moustache above his lips looks like misplaced pubic hair.
Your mother has told you, in a brief, emotionless conversation, that she wants you to marry this imbecile. The prestige a marriage between the houses of Lestrange and Black would be invaluable. Besides, she had hinted, the power faction it would create in the Dark Lord's service would be greatly within your interest.
What is marriage, anyway? What does it mean? You'd have to live with him, yes. But at least you'd be away from your parents and the house of your childhood that keeps painful memories locked away in it like a tomb.
He takes your hand, not wiping that soft, hated look of helpless adoration from his face. 'I could make you happy.'
What a stupid lie.
You take a deep breath. You know your answer.
Narcissa strokes her swelling belly with pride. You glare at it with suspicion.
'Have you thought of a name?' you ask, not really caring.
'Lucius likes Draco if it's a boy,' she says, smiling. 'If it's a girl, I want to call it Elladora.'
You nod, then flop down in a chair. 'I'm so bored!' you whine. 'Can't we go out, or something?'
'I'm too tired, darling, I'm sorry.'
You bite down on your tongue. It's times like this that you miss Andromeda and Sirius so much it hurts.
'You could go and see Rudolphus,' she suggests.
You actually laugh at that. She smiles.
There's a long silence.
'Andromeda wrote to me.'
You stare at her.
'She wrote? To you?'
'Why didn't she write to me?'
'I don't know. I thought perhaps she had. Maybe she was too scared. You can be a little… ferocious.'
'What did she say? Is she leaving that Mudblood at last?' you ask breathlessly.
She shakes her head. 'She asked me to talk to mother. Try and convince her to see her again.'
Narcissa shrugged. 'I don't have a death wish. I can't talk to mother about her – you know that.'
'Did you write back?'
'No. And I won't, either.'
'Good.' You spit the word out, before you stand up. 'I'm going. It's boring here.'
'Don't be harsh, Bella.'
'I'm sorry. But I'm sick of pretending that I'm interested in your fat belly, Cissy. I'll see you later.'
You walk to the door.
'She's had a baby, you know,' Narcissa says softly. 'A girl. Nymphadora.'
You pause, your hand on the door handle. 'Yet another half blood littering the streets, then,' you say with contempt.
Your master laces his fingers across your cheek. 'Are you afraid, Bella?'
You look up at him, and you lie. 'Not at all.'
He smiles. He knows. He always knows.
'How do you expect to cast it effectively if you don't know how it feels?'
You press your lips into a thin line. 'I know. Do it. Please.'
He smiles, and raises his wand. 'Crucio!'
Razor blades, slicing upwards, claws ripping into veins, nerves pulled apart by pincers, screaming, screaming, endless screaming, stop screaming! not you, too much a part of you, irons pressing down on limbs-
He's holding you to him as he lifts the curse. You hate yourself for the wet tears that soak into his robes.
'Commit to this moment, Bella,' he whispers soothingly, smoothing your hair as you press your forehead into his chest. 'Commit to the memory of the pain. You must remember it every time you cast the spell. That way, you will cause pain beyond imagining. Your belief in the spell will be absolute. You will become its master.'
Master. Not mistress. For once, you will not be the girl your parents never wanted. You will be as good as a man.
You lean back. You nod. 'I will remember it.'
He smiles, then turns, opens the cage behind him, then pulls out the kitten you've been eyeing since you first arrived. 'Good,' he says, settling the animal down in front of you. 'Now you try it.'
You stare at the low stone ceiling, allowing your gaze to run along the cracks in it.
Down below waist level, Rudolphus is fucking you. There is no other way to describe it. Rudolphus Lestrange – your new husband, the love of your life, your heart's darling, etc etc and so on and so forth – is essentially using you as a tool for masturbation.
So this was why mother wanted you to save yourself for marriage. If you had nothing to compare him with, you could not be disappointed.
-thump thump thump thump-
There is nothing to be had from this, and so you watch the ceiling and let your mind wander back to the ceremony.
You don't think about your beautiful dress, the hundreds of guests, or Rudolphus' smile as you reached him at the altar. You think only of your master, who watched you with a smile during the service, and afterwards pulled you into the garden, and kissed you on the lips, full like a lover. He said nothing, but there were a thousand promises in that kiss.
The pounding, the interminable pounding. Your new husband smells like sour hand-cream. It takes all of your self control not to push him off of you.
He moans and groans and arches his back before he rolls off of you with a contented smile on his face. You want nothing more than to slap him.
You turn away from him, curling up into the damp sheets, breathing through your mouth, saying not a word.
You have to scream. If you don't scream, your own thoughts will scare you to death. You have to drown them out somehow.
You thought it was a trick, at first. A ruse for your enemies. But when he didn't come to see you, to reassure you of his safety, you realised it must be true. He's gone. He would have come to see you, otherwise. He'd tell you before anyone else-
You scream, throwing yet another ornament crashing across the room. In the corner, Rudolphus cowers against the wall.
He's not dead. He can't be dead. He himself told me that he cannot die…
But he's left you. Like Andy, like Sirius, and he promised he would never leave you.
What are you, without him?
You scream again, yanking a mirror off the wall and pitching it across the room.
You stop for a moment, breathing heavily.
He cannot die.
If he cannot die, then he must be somewhere.
And you will not abandon him now.
You walk quickly to the doorway, pulling on your cloak and snapping your fingers at your wreck of a husband.
He raises his head. A trickle of blood rolls down from his nose. Did you hit him earlier? You can't remember.
'Get up. We have work to do.'
The cell is dark and damp. Your prisoner's uniform is full of lice. You've lost so much weight you can circle your fists around your thighs.
You wrap your arms around your knees, rocking back and forth on your bed.
It's coming. You can feel it. The room gets even colder. And the noise, the screams and wails, start to echo down the corridor, but you will not scream. You bite down so hard on your lip, but you will not scream.
-whisper not normal. whisper insane. whisper – i really hate you sometimes – you're hurting my hand – like casting pearls before swine – will you marry me – don't leave me all alone – come back, come back, so alone, nothing without you -
Your fingers pull at your hair. Strands of it come loose in your grasp.
You haven't slept in three days.
He opens his arms to you. 'My darling.'
You're across the room in two strides, pressing yourself into his chest as he folds you close to him.
'You were faithful,' he murmurs. 'I knew you would be.'
You press yourself to his shoulder. You cry. Only he can see you cry. Only he is your equal.
'I knew you would come for me.'
You've come home.
Sirius is laughing at you.
But it is no laughing matter, this time.
You race across the atrium, firing spell after spell at him as he dodges out from behind a veil that flutters in an archway.
'Come on, cousin!'
You scream back at him – scream utter nonsense.
The pair of you duel, coming closer, and closer, and suddenly you're face to face, as it always was, and he reaches out and grips at your wrist.
You both lower your wands.
He laughs softly. 'You're losing your touch,' he murmurs.
You raise an eyebrow. 'Best friends forever. Remember, my love?'
He grins. 'And so we could have been, if you hadn't sold yourself to that reptile.'
You spit in his face. 'Traitor.'
He laughs out loud and drops your hand. You'll have bruises on your wrist tomorrow.
'Darling, delightful Bella. You always did look beautiful when angry.' He's mocking you. He's got that glint in his eye.
'At least I have my pride!' you say hotly.
'Pride! Trotting around after that freak of a master of yours like a lovesick puppy – that's some pride you have there!' He shouts with laughter, but you're enjoying yourself now. Arguing with Sirius always had that effect on you – even now the anger tightens like a knot between your legs and pulses.
You throw a hex at him, which he defects. He laughs, mocking you. Always, always mocking you.
'Come on! Surely you can do better than that.'
No, no, no! He will not mock you, not anymore. You need to show him, to win, to stop that wicked, mocking grin that you loathe and adore in equal measure, and he must know how badly you mean this, he must, he must-
He smiles to the end, his body curling gracefully backwards and falling behind the dark, fluttering veil behind him.
No, not this. You didn't mean it. Not Sirius. Darling, beloved Sirius can't be dead. He's messing with you, he's only playing, mocking you again…
When he doesn't emerge and the Potter boy starts screaming you turn, and you run. You killed him. You killed his smile, and his laughter, and his cruelty.
You run, and you run, trying desperately to ignore the screaming in your head.
You sit still in your chair, clinging to the arms of it. You can hear the screams of the Death Eater in the next room.
Your master steps through the door. He looks grave. His wand is loose in his fingers.
He says several things over the next hour. You cling on to each one like a rich jewel in a sea of blood.
I don't want to do this. But I can't show you any favouritism, you know that.
That is your own fault. You shouldn't have lost me that prophecy.
I'm hurting you for your own good.
When he leaves, you graze your forehead as you bang your head against the wall.
Stupid little girl. Don't disappoint again.
She doesn't look up from her book.
Her head snaps upwards. 'Bellatrix, will you just shut up! I cannot deal with you right now.'
I know you don't want to see me. I understand that. But I want to see you, Bella. Every day I want to see you.
I know you don't approve of who I married. But you would if you met him. He's wonderful. He's warm, and funny. And he loves me. He really does.
As you may have heard, I have a daughter. She's beautiful, Bella. The most beautiful young woman in the world, even when she leaves her appearance alone (she's a metamorphmagus, something that's both a source of pride and irritation). You would love her if you knew her. Everybody does. She even looks a little like you. I see you in her when she's angry.
There's a war on, I know that. And I know that we're on different sides. If you would only see sense and leave that master of yours, we could be a family again. He's not human, Bella. And I'm sure he can't love you. From what I've heard, he can't love anyone. I know it's hard to hear, but someone needs to tell you.
I heard about Sirius. I don't understand, Bella. You two were so close. You loved him. I loved him. I know you were probably only doing what you were ordered to do, but I'm having trouble coming to terms with what you did. I miss him. He was my favourite cousin, too.
But I can forgive you. I know you're not yourself. You're wonderful when you're separate from that master of yours. I'm begging you – please leave him, and be the sister I loved again.
I haven't sent you a forwarding address, because, quite frankly, I do not trust you. But if you decide to leave him, then I will find you, I promise. I want to see you. I miss you. I even miss your temper.
You screw the letter up into a tight little ball, then throw it into the fire.
He yelps, almost dropping his wand. You laugh softly.
'It's alright,' you say soothingly. 'He isn't angry. He knew you wouldn't be able to do it when he set you the task. But the order was still undertaken. That is all that matters to him.'
Your nephew nods, his relief clear on his face.
'You couldn't do it, could you?' you whisper. 'You had your wand ready, and he was defenceless, yet you couldn't bring yourself to murder an old man. You'll have to overcome such moral quibbles, if you're going to do this family proud.'
He clears his throat. 'Mother says… mother says I must find my own way.'
'What – like she did?' You laugh. 'Your mother didn't chose her own life, and yet she would not have had it otherwise. Choice is for other people, Draco. Not for us.'
He doesn't answer. He just looks miserably at the floor. You reach out and trail a long finger down his ice-white cheek.
'My sister's little pampered prince,' you mock. 'No doubt you thought the life of a Death-Eater was nothing but fun and games. You're learning slowly, aren't you?'
Mortification writes its way across his face in red, which affects you more than it should. A short sharp sweet little stab in the ribs. Pity. Or otherwise…
Your finger trails further down his cheek, down onto his neck. He sucks in a breath. You watch the awkward bob of his adam's apple under his pale flesh, the rapid rise and fall of his chest. Young, and yet not.
You roll your eyes up to meet his face, and you see he's pale. Pale with embarrassment or panic, but of what you cannot tell, and you will not ask.
No. Fear. His dilated pupils and sweating skin would be enough on their own, but his colourless cheeks tell their own story. You've grown adept at identifying it over the years. Yes, by god, you know one or two things about fear.
Your hand drops from his face. Too close. Too young.
He lets out his breath in a rush. You recognise it. A rush of sheer relief. And so you laugh as you turn from him.
'Oh yes, Draco, you will learn.'
Narcissa sits you down by the fire.
'I have heard news about Andromeda.'
You smile incredulously. 'Has she written to you again? The woman doesn't know when to give up-'
'No.' She shakes her head. 'No. But I oveheard the Dark Lord talking to Lucius. Andromeda... her husband is dead,' she whispers. 'Our side killed our own sister's husband. He was the love of her life.'
'Is that it?' she asks.
'He was just a Mudblood,' you reply smoothly.
She raises her eyebrows, and looks away from you. 'You're unbelievable.'
'Don't call me that,' she says coldly. 'My name is Narcissa. I left Cissy behind on my wedding day. I should have left you behind that day, too.'
'What's that supposed to mean?'
She whirls around. Narcissa's rage is rare, and when it strikes, it is terrifying. 'It means that I don't know who you are anymore!' she hisses, eyes ablaze. 'You killed our cousin, Bella! You don't care about me or my family. Look what you've done to my son! I didn't want this life for him-'
'You've got your idiot husband to blame for that, not me!'
'My husband is not an idiot! And it was you who hounded Draco all of last year!' she screams. 'You tried to help the Dark Lord turn him into a murderer! Lucius doesn't want to lead this life anymore. Draco would have followed suit if you'd have left him alone for five minutes. You brought this mess down on our heads, and now you sit here, in my house, refusing to leave us alone.'
'I'm your sister!'
'Andromeda was our sister! Look how readily we gave her up.'
'She was a blood traitor. What choice did we have?'
'Oh, what does blood matter?' she yells, throwing her hands up. 'What does any of it matter anymore?'
She throws herself down into a chair.
You stare at her, breathing heavily. 'You don't mean that,' you murmur.
She turns her face away, and she says nothing at all.
You run through the old house, in a nightdress too big for you.
'Mother?' you shout. 'Mother!'
Whisper, whisper. Whisper crazy.
Andromeda's laughter. You run into her room. Empty. Her bed is strewn with mud and litter.
You turn. Narcissa sits in a chair with her back to you. You reach out and grab her shoulder. Cold. Porcelain. Just a life-size doll.
You run to the garden.
He smiles. He bleeds. You run a finger over the wound, then put your finger to your mouth, tasting blood.
He laughs. 'All your own work, my darling.'
You bolt up, shivering. You kick the bed sheets off your legs and stand. Andromeda. She'll understand. She'll hold you and make it all stop.
You stop at the door, remembering.
You fall in a heap on the floor.
It is time.
The Dark Lord has ordered you all to battle. The Potter boy has finally shown himself at Hogwarts. It will end tonight.
As you arrive, he pulls you into an alcove, away from prying eyes.
'We will win tonight, Bella.'
'I know, master.'
'The victory will be ours.'
'I am certain of it.'
He smiles, and again he is the young, handsome man you met in your parents' garden. There are a thousand promises in his smile.
He leans in, his hand on your cheek. 'You will come to my rooms this evening.' A low command.
Your heart literally stops for a moment with pure joy, and you realise you've been waiting for those words for twenty years.
You smile. 'When the battle is won.'
He kisses you, fully, pulling you to him with urgency. You give yourself in to the delicious sensation of it – the meshing of tongue and mouth that never meant anything before.
Except that time with Sirius…
He pulls back from you, and he smiles. 'And the battle will be won, Bella.'
All around you, the battle is raging. There are screams and blood and pain wherever you turn.
You feed off it. War is your food and drink. You live for war. You breathe war. It is as near and dear to you as any saving god.
You stalk into a corridor, coming across a weeping woman.
She sobs uncontrollably, gripping the corpse of a man with greying hair you recognise as Remus Lupin. Her hair is fading quickly from luminous pink to mousy brown.
She turns at the sound of your footsteps. It's the first time you've seen her. Really seen her. Here in the flesh.
She looks like Andromeda. Too much. Same eyes, same face. She looks like a Black.
And she looks now as Andromeda did when you last saw her. Face shining with tears, but with pride in her eyes.
'Aunt Bellatrix,' she says quietly.
She nods, then looks away from you, back at her husband.
'Do it,' she whispers. 'Please.'
You are almost unbelievably grateful to her for making this easy. For once, not a murder. A mercy killing.
She slumps forwards, landing with her head turned to the side.
You approach her slowly, looking down at the niece you've never known, fully aware that you've just broken your sister's heart irrevocably in two.
You turn quickly and run out of the school, towards the woods, to tell your master what you have done.
This is it. It's now or never.
The Potter boy is alive. You run through the school, killing and cursing as you go, without thought. You want to find Narcissa. You need to know why she lied. Why she chose to help the Potter brat over your master.
You find her eventually, in the middle of the hall, with her husband, screaming for their son. You take her by the arm furiously.
'Why, Cissy?' you scream. 'How could you do that to-'
'To your master?' she screams back at you, shaking your arm away. 'Or to you?'
You slap her hard across the face. She reels with shock, gripping her cheek.
'Are you with them, now?' you hiss. 'Are you going to leave me, like Andy, like Sirius?'
She shakes her head at you, pitying. 'Go away, Bella. I am finished with you.'
She turns away from you, and Lucius takes her hand, glaring at you for a second before he leads his wife away to find their son.
You don't need them. You have your master. As long as he needs you, you don't need anyone.
You are fighting, once again. Others would tire, but you keep going. Blood and screams fill the hall. You revel in it. This is what you are good at.
Three silly schoolgirls are battling you as one. One is the frizzy haired little idiot from the night you almost captured Potter. Then there's a small red head, and a blonde.
You think of your sisters. Beautiful Narcissa. Proud Andromeda. Fierce Bellatrix. United against the world.
Where are they now?
You fire a killing spell, which misses the small red head by inches.
'Not my daughter, you bitch!'
You turn around. Some harridan with red hair is charging towards you like a bull, her wand trained on you.
You throw back your head and laugh. This is going to be easy. No-one can touch you. No-one could dream of it.
You grin at your master as you deflect her first spell. He smiles back at you, and there are a thousand promises in that smile.
You are Bellatrix Black. You are not afraid of anything.