24 June 1995

Bellatrix sat on the dirty floor of her cell and leaned her head against the wall. The cold was permeating the stone, she could hear the crash of waves on the rocks. She ran her tongue over her thin lips. A rat scrabbled across the floor, near Bellatrix's feet, and she pulled her lips back over her teeth, leering at the creature.

It squeaked and tried to run away, but Bellatrix was faster, and she picked up the wriggling rodent, holding it in front of her face by its tail. She gave a low laugh as it squirmed frantically. With all her might, she hurled the rat and it smacked with a crunch against the opposite wall. Bellatrix giggled as it fell and lay very still, but for one twitching paw.

Bellatrix sat back to lose herself in her thoughts once again, chewing absently on her lower lip. She gazed at her long, bony fingers, with split knuckles and cuts, coated in dirt. It had been many years since Bellatrix had worn them, but her lack of exposure to the sun had allowed the white lines that circled her fingers, marking the location of her rings, to stay intact. Bellatrix could almost see them now—one silver and onyx, bearing the Black family crest—the other a plain golden band, from her wedding to Rodolphus.

Rodolphus—how very odd—it had been quite a while since Bellatrix had thought of him. Was he still alive? Presumably. She imagined that someone would have told her if he had died.

Bellatrix rubbed the white line on the index finger of her right hand. When she had first arrived in Azkaban, she had quickly found that she missed her crest more than her wedding band. Marriage mattered little to Bellatrix, but to lose the concrete evidence that she belonged, that she was every inch the person she knew herself to be…now that was enough to drive a person mad.

But, Bellatrix told herself, as she had constantly for fifteen years, there were marks that would not fade, ones that she could keep forever, that no one would ever take from her.

Slowly, carefully, as if she were afraid it would somehow not be there anymore, Bellatrix drew her sleeve back from her skeletal left arm. Black and sharp against her pale skin, a gaping skull stared into her eyes, a snake uncoiling from its open mouth. She had watched it become clearer and clearer in recent months. She knew what it meant. It meant that soon, she would be reunited with Him, and she would never, ever leave his side again.

Bellatrix clenched her left hand into a fist as she brushed her right thumb against it, feeling a chill steal over her, and she remembered the night that He had marked her with it, nearly twenty-five years ago. She had been young, certainly, but Bellatrix had known what was truly important.

Her family had been so proud when she had returned. Bellatrix had never seen her father smile quite like that, and her mother was stonily approving, as ever. Narcissa and Andromeda were disinterested, but Bellatrix did not care. Orion and Walburga were proud, and very obviously so.

"You see what your cousin has done to ensure the sanctity of our family name?" said Walburga, gripping both of her sons by the shoulder as they stared at Bellatrix's forearm. "It is a name that you will be expected to uphold, as well."

Bellatrix spat on the floor of her cell. She was the only Black who had done anything to live up to her name. Blood traitors, cowards, fools, every last one of them. Only Bellatrix could hold her head high and say that she had done well for the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.

But that joy—that was nothing. The true happiness came from feeling His wand press into her arm, the searing pain of the mark bonding with her skin, her being, her very soul. Bellatrix had looked into His eyes without flinching, and He had smiled at her, His expression satisfied.

And from then on, Bellatrix had done nothing more with her life than to serve Him with her whole heart. His wish was her command. There was nothing she would not do for Him—including facing fifteen years—probably more—in what a stronger woman would have called hell on earth.

Bellatrix and the Dark Lord shared a bond that no one could ever hope to understand, let alone break. He was merciful, just, and perfect in every way. He knew what mattered most—just as Bellatrix did.

She lovingly caressed her mark once again, thinking of Him, and licked her thin lips again. Just as she did so, pain exploded in her left arm, and Bellatrix saw the mark burn jet black—the snake seemed alive, the eyeless holes of the skull flickering in the grayish moonlight that poured through the tiny window of the cell.

"Ha," she whispered, her mouth opening wide. "Ahaha!"

Bellatrix began to scream with mad laughter, shrieking and cackling. She leapt to her feet and began spinning about in the tiny cell, overturning her clay bowl—it shattered on the floor—she was screaming, laughing, and crying all at once, so loud she could barely hear the sound of her own heartbeat pounding in her ears.

Bellatrix leapt at the walls, clawing at the stone with her bare fingers and feet, watching her fingernails tear and peel back, but she only screamed louder, her shrieks echoing around the room. Still laughing, Bellatrix collapsed on the floor. She pulled her bloody fingers through her matted hair and continued to laugh madly.

Lord Voldemort had risen again.

Now I'm going to go sleep with my lights on and an armed guard of at least four stuffed animals. Round 4 of the 34 Prompts Challenge: a Bellatrix/Voldemort pairing. This isn't a pairing, technically, because I understand these two characters (Voldemort, particularly) to be incapable of love. Obsession, admiration, worship, certainly (and more on Bellatrix's part than Voldemort's), but not love. If you disagree, I'm curious to hear why, but I've tried to stay as true to the book characters I know.