Bellatrix should have been mine of course. The elder son of the Lestranges and the eldest Black daughter. A match made in Pureblood heaven – and if it was not quite an arranged marriage, it was one our parents (specifically our mothers) had planned since our babyhood.
But Bellatrix had her own ideas. Of course she did. It was part of what I loved – still love – about her. She preferred my brother – taller, better-looking, cleverer, more popular than I, and without the slight limp caused by an accident at birth that the fool Healers had never been able to correct. I could not even blame her. Rodolphus was my superior in everything but age.
Our parents demurred at first. And when I say "our", I mean ours – Rodolphus' and mine. The Blacks were used to giving their Bellatrix what she wanted, and raised not a murmur. My own father and mother were talked round soon enough. After all, they still had a son married into the Black family – it scarcely mattered which son it was. I believe that I might have been offered Andromeda as a sort of consolation prize, had that still been a possibility, but I would not have accepted even if she had not been sullied by contact with the Mudblood Tonks. Andromeda was never anything more than a pale imitation of her sister.
There were other suitable girls on the market; others with whom the Pureblood House of Lestrange would not have been ashamed to make an alliance. But I preferred to remain single if I could not be wed to Bellatrix, single in name at least. I had Salima, who was not the type of woman someone such as I could or would marry, but who met my needs. She even gave me children, which is more than Bellatrix did for my brother. Ludovic is a son to be proud of, even if he does not bear my name, and Elena has beauty and spirit, if little intelligence, and they will serve her well and ensure that she is never alone.
But Salima was not and could never be the centre of my world as Bellatrix was. Salima knew it, and accepted what I could give her happily enough. I was generous in material ways, and she was pleased with her children. It seemed enough for her.
Bellatrix knew it too, and openly flaunted herself at me, taunting me with what would never be mine. I should have hated her for it, but I could not. Crumbs from her table were meat and drink to me. And Rodolphus knew it, but seemed not to care. Why should he? He had won the prize – why should he care if his brother wanted it too? In an odd sort of way, our love for Bellatrix drew us closer, closer than we had ever been as mere brothers.
Rodolphus was Bellatrix' husband, the one with whom she shared her home and her bed, but he and I had one thing in common in our shared love for his wife. Bellatrix was the centre of our worlds, but my brother was scarcely closer to the centre of hers than I was. That place was reserved for one with whom we would not dare nor presume to compete: The Dark Lord.
We were his followers, and in the inner circle of those who called themselves his friends, the closest and most trusted of the Death Eaters. The Lestranges would have been there even without our alliance with the Blacks. It was our place, our right, our destiny. We scarcely had a choice but to follow him.
With Bellatrix though, it was more than ideology, more than ambition or knowledge of our rightful place in the world. With her it was love, obsession, devotion bordering on madness. She did not follow blindly, for it was not her way to do anything blindly, but once her path was chosen, she followed it single-mindedly and with absolute conviction. And we followed in her wake. It was our cause too, but for me – and I believe for my brother also – love for Bellatrix motivated me almost as much as allegiance to our Lord. She it was who orchestrated so many of our triumphs, who basked more than any in the Dark Lord's approval, who taught us how to accept his wrath when we failed – and there were failures – with resignation and renewed devotion. We followed her – and our Lord – willingly and happily, and it seemed then that our victory and a Pureblood society where our kind would rule unopposed was inevitable.
The end, when it came was more than a shock, more than unexpected. It was the end of the world as we had known it, the end of what was destined to be, what was unutterably immutably fixed. That the Dark Lord should fall was unthinkable – that he should somehow fall because of a mere child was simply beyond comprehension. There were those who believed – or who chose to believe – that he was dead, and who took the cowards' way out, claiming coercion, Imperius, blackmail – anything that the fools at the Ministry would believe and so let the offenders go free. Others were arrested, given a trial of sorts, and sent to Azkaban. Their defeat had at least the honour of courage and loyalty about it.
And others – we among them – remained free through a mixture of subterfuge, sheer luck and the terror which we still inspired in those whose star was now in the ascendant. But for us that freedom was not to be enjoyed in peaceful exile or in appearing repentance. Bellatrix – her devotion and her conviction stronger than ever somehow – would never allow it. It was our mission, she declared, to find our Lord – she would not and could not conceive that he was dead – and to restore him to his rightful place. If we were captured or killed in the attempt, no matter, it was our destiny now as much as it had ever been when his victory had seemed secure. Some argued and fought against her conviction. We were free and unfettered – surely we would do better to fight quietly for our cause from within the system and to wait in patience for our time to come again. Bellatrix' scorn for such ideas was absolute and frightening. That was not the way the Pureblood élite should think or behave.
Second only to her in the conviction that we could and must act in our Lord's cause was a young man hitherto unregarded by many of us both because of his youth and his family background. Bartimaeus Crouch Junior was Pureblooded enough, but as the son of a Ministry official, and one totally opposed to our beliefs, we naturally regarded him with suspicion. But now his determination to find and restore our Lord rivalled even Bellatrix' own. We could not be outdone by a mere boy, and his conviction strengthened our own willingness to follow Bellatrix wherever her quest would take us.
It took us, one night in late November, to the house of the Longbottom traitors. Both Aurors, and both members of the cursed Order of the Phoenix, Bellatrix was convinced that they had knowledge of our Lord's whereabouts. We scarcely cared if her belief had any reason or meaning behind it. Even now, where Bellatrix led, Rodolphus and I would follow.
We took them by surprise. The fools thought that they were safe, that there was no danger now that our Lord had fallen. The house was unwarded, the couple themselves unarmed. It was almost too easy.
But when they had finally stopped screaming, and lay whimpering and drooling on the rug before the fire, we were no nearer finding our Lord. Either they had not known, or they had been strong enough to resist our curses and give us none of the information we required. If that was the case, I could not but admire their courage, although I could not say so before Bellatrix. I had not nerve enough to face her scorn.
We barely escaped from the house before the Ministry lackeys arrived, and it would not be long before our actions led to our arrest, trial and imprisonment. Bellatrix faced it all with the cold-faced contempt for our enemies that she had always shown, and Rodolphus and I could do no less than emulate her. Only the boy Crouch broke down and begged for mercy as we faced our sentence.
But it was not his cries that sounded in my ears as we were taken away. I could hear only the cries of the baby abandoned in his cot as we tortured his parents into insanity.