Warnings: if any part of femdom, eroticized torture, or the corruption of youth is troubling to you, here's your chance to run.

Albania, 1965.

Bellatrix stepped out of the fireplace and brushed the soot off her robes, taking in the change of scene. She'd been here before once, a long time ago. Summer vacation in a gentler time. Her family owned property all over Europe, old Wizarding castles that had once been full of life, bustling with servants, and now stood empty and rotting as their line dwindled. She shivered a little. Despite being much further to the south, and it being summer, the Black castle was high in the mountains, as far from Albania's sunny coast as it was from prying eyes. Even so close to the fire, the castle seemed made to hold a chill.

Her eyes were drawn to the man seated at the end of the great hall, on a chair that could almost be considered a throne. He sat slumped against the side, seemingly lost in thought, though she felt sure her entrance had not gone unnoticed. She thought of asking, "Excuse me, sir, but might you be Lord Voldemort?" but the closer she drew to him, the less doubt she felt. No one else could emanate such power.

He didn't look quite how she'd expected. She'd pictured him older, grander, maybe. She knew he had to be around the same age as her parents, and while he didn't look young exactly, she couldn't quite classify him as old, either. It was like at some point he'd simply stopped, and then he'd started aging in another way, like a thing instead of a man, perhaps, in that you could feel the weight of all its years while in its presence, but its original lines remained untouched. Yes…time had altered him, she was sure, but not in the normal sorts of ways.

The other thing was that she'd imagined him physically strong, from all the descriptions she'd heard of his strength, and this seemed to be the opposite of true. The man seated in front of her looked harrowed, gaunt, and pale, nearly at death's door. It seemed as though some force had hollowed out his human shell, but through it, she could see the will burning in him like a flame in a lantern, and that was strong. That would not allow his body to die, no matter how the dark arts he courted whittled it away.

There was a reddish glow about his eyes, as though there he had scraped his body too thin and the light within shone through his blood. It was faint enough to not be apparent in full light, but when he sank into shadow she saw it. The Dark Lord's red eyes, that she'd heard so much about.

"Bellatrix Black," he said. She immediately liked his voice. It had power in it, yes, but not a crude, forceful sort of power. It was mellifluous, even gentle.

"Yes, my Lord," she said, bowing.

He appraised her, much as she'd been appraising him. "Your parents have spoken highly of your talents," Voldemort said. "I may decide to train you myself."

Bellatrix bowed again. "It would be an honor, my Lord."

"You will be entering your fourth year in Hogwarts soon, is that right?"

"Yes, my Lord."

"And how are your studies in the Dark Arts?"

Bellatrix hesitated. "I have picked some up, here and there. It isn't an official course in Hogwarts, so I haven't had formal training."

"No…of course not," Voldemort conceded. He rose to his feet. His emaciation was all the more apparent that way, with his full height for comparison, and his finely embroidered robes seemed to just hang off his bones. She also realized how long his hair was—nearly as long as hers, and at least as black. By the bone structure of his face, Bellatrix thought he must once have been traditionally handsome. But now…now he was beautiful.

"Have you ever performed any of the Unforgivable Curses?" Voldemort asked.

"Yes…sort of. The Cruciatus Curse. But only on insects and other vermin. Once a bird."

Voldemort smiled. Somehow, she had never imagined that the Dark Lord could smile. "Would you like to demonstrate it?"

Bellatrix nodded, and drew her wand. She glanced around for a target, but saw not so much as a spider around them. "On what, my Lord?"

"On me, of course."

Bellatrix's eyes opened wide in shock. Was this a test of loyalty? "My Lord, I couldn't possibly…. Couldn't we find some Muggle to try it on?"

"That's no good to me," Voldemort said. "Any animal will twist about in pain under the Cruciatus Curse, and any Muggle will scream, regardless of the strength of the caster. It's the Cruciatus Curse, of course it will hurt. I need to know how powerful you really are, Bellatrix. I need to know if your heart is in it. For that, I need to feel it for myself."

"But…I couldn't subject you to that."

"Your concern for me is touching, but quite unnecessary. Do you think I don't know what I'm asking, Bellatrix? Do you think I am unfamiliar with pain?"

Bellatrix's eyes ran along that gaunt, tortured body. "No," she answered.

"Then cast. Show me your strength."

She pointed her wand at him, trying not to shake, hoping desperately she wasn't failing some test or falling into a trap. "C-Crucio," she said.

Nothing happened.

"Don't be afraid of your wand, dear Bellatrix," he said.

"I'm not afraid of the wand, my Lord," Bellatrix said, feeling the sting of humiliation. "Crucio." This time a red bolt shot from the tip of her wand and struck Voldemort in the chest, though he did not flinch.

"Impressive…if I had asked for fireworks," he said, and Bellatrix felt her ears burn.

"How am I to hurt you, my Lord? I…I respect you far too much. I have been raised to serve you. It feels like an act of treason."

Voldemort smiled again, and this smile was not as nice. "Did you know who you were serving?"

"This is our first time meeting, my Lord, but I was told of you."

"Did they tell you I'm a half-blood?"

"I…I don't understand." Was this about some blemish in his heritage, generations ago? Everyone probably had a Muggle-born ancestor somewhere if you went back hundreds of years.

"It's really quite simple. My father was a Muggle. Not a Muggle-born wizard, a plain, ordinary Muggle."

"But you…you are the heir of Slytherin!"

"On my mother's side." Another smile, this one bitter. "But she didn't raise me. I didn't even know the Wizarding world existed until I was eleven years old. I was raised by the commonest of common Muggles, beneath even their notice and care." He laughed, seeing her shocked expression. "And look at you all now, you high and mighty purebloods, with your lineages going back to the Flood, taking orders from me. Not only accepted, but taken as your leader! Sworn to follow me into war! Prepared to spill your pure blood for me. It's something of a joke, isn't it? And your family is the punchline."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"To anger you. To test your loyalty. To see the scandalized look on your face."

"So it's a lie."

"No, I'm afraid it's quite true."

"What makes you so sure I won't tell anyone?"

"I think you will find you are quite incapable of it," Voldemort said, smirking. "I am in control of my secrets. Those I tell can know them, and no one else." He spread his arms wide. "So. You wanted to torture a Muggle. Will the son of a Muggle do?"

"Crucio!" No light this time, but she felt something, and Voldemort staggered backward slightly.

"Is that all? The insects you torture, do they laugh?"

"Crucio!" Again, a stagger. He even staggered gracefully. She'd held him slightly longer this time, but he came up laughing.

"You have to hate me, Bellatrix. You have to hate everything. You have to be beyond all other feeling. Let it consume you."

"I…I cannot hate you, my Lord."

"Not even knowing of my tainted blood?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Doesn't matter?" he echoed. "Blood always matters."

"It's a lot of stupid posturing," Bellatrix said. "My ancestors this, my blood that. It's all…meaningless. Rotting pedigrees and great men who have been eaten by worms."

"If blood does not matter, then what does?"

"Power," Bellatrix said, without hesitation. "There is only power. People use their bloodlines as a claim to power, but it's false, it's weak. They're like buzzards picking the power off the bones of their forefathers, squabbling with one another over scraps of power that were never theirs. What you have, my Lord, is true power."

She didn't know how to classify the look on the Dark Lord's face, but if it were anyone else, she would have thought he was touched. He brushed her cheek with the ends of his fingers. "Then show me," he said. "You, who value power above blood, show me your strength, that I might admire it."

Bellatrix pressed the tip of her wand right up to his sternum, feeling it clearly through his robes. "Crucio."

This time, he fell to his knees. He looked up at her, the shadow of pain mixed with satisfaction. "Good. More," he said.


"And whatever else you see fit. You may do anything you like with my body, provided it is not lethal or likely to cause lasting physical harm beyond the repair of magic. You will stop when you are sure your work is done, or I ask you to." He fixed his gaze on her, the red in his black eyes glowing more intensely.

Voldemort started getting to his feet. "Crucio," Bellatrix said again, sending him back down on his hands and knees. When he looked up at her, she saw that he had begun to sweat, but she sustained the spell. Five seconds, ten seconds, fifteen…the bird had died before then, but he endured it with little more than a furrow between his eyebrows and a tightening at the mouth. "You are more beautiful on your knees," she said, keeping him there, and a strained laugh escaped his lips.

"You think that's amusing?" she asked, her concentration breaking.

"No," he gasped, "I like your style." An unexpected thrill ran through her at the difficulty he seemed to have speaking. Grinning fiercely, pointed her wand at him again, not bothering with an incantation this time. She'd practiced incantationless magic only a little, but somehow this felt stronger for not being voiced, closer to the heart. It wasn't a word, it was a thought, an intention, a will made incarnate. Her will was to see him suffer, and she realized, no part of that was born of hate.

He was in pain in earnest now, his breath coming in ragged hitches, his eyes staring off into the distance, unable to focus on her. Instead of being something that left her body through the wand and went into him like an arrow, Bellatrix felt the magic passing around and through her, like resonant waves of sound, something that surrounded them, something to be drowned in. It no longer took an effort of will to sustain, it was as though she had opened the floodgates—for her, power, for him, agony. It throbbed through the air, and she watched his bony frame writhe on the floor. His eyes were shining bright red now, as though she had lit a fire in his very soul and was burning him from within.

The stone she stood on began to crack, with an awful, grinding sound. She remembered that the Cruciatus Curse had a somewhat different effect on things which could not feel pain, and knew that fragile things like glass might shatter. What must she be doing to him, then, if her power could crack stone? She knelt over him, drinking in every part of his pain. The hitches in his breath had started to take on a bit of a keen around the edges. She felt no pity for him, but rather excitement. And…something else. She looked at him, so beautiful in his agony, and something swelled in her heart. She loved him, and she loved his pain, and the two loves were one.

Bellatrix put her wand down, realizing that it was only in the way, that the force of her magic was too large to pass through so small a conduit. She felt it thrumming through her, like the pounding of blood in her head, and his pain seemed to double. He was twisted by it, engulfed. She began unfastening the front of his robes, revealing his bare chest. His breath came faster, not in increased pain, but seemingly in surprise. He had not expected that, but he had given her permission to do as she liked with his body, and he did not tell her to stop. As she pulled the robes away, she saw scars on his back, very old scars that looked like they came from many floggings. So the Muggles had beaten him as a child. She felt a rush of rage and protectiveness. No one but her was allowed to see her Lord in pain like this. She hoped he had not killed them. She would like to pay them a visit, and practice what she had learned today.

Voldemort looked over his shoulder at her, and she saw shame on his face mixed with his suffering. He wasn't proud of his body, then, of his gaunt frame or his scars of humiliating origin. She traced the path of one of the scars over the ridges of rib and vertebrae, dragging pain in its wake, then held her hand along the side of his face, willing him to understand that she loved his body, and loved his scars. She knew her hand was pulsing with the Cruciatus Curse, that the touch of it on his face must have felt like she was melting it off, yet he leaned into it as though it had been a gentle touch. She saw tears glistening at the corners of his eyes, drawn by the intensity of the pain rather than emotion, she had no doubt, but still, more precious than the tears of a phoenix or unicorn. She leaned forward to taste them, and at the touch of her tongue on his eyelids, sending the pain directly into his skull, he finally began to cry out in earnest.

It was all the sweeter for how long he had held it back, and it was the most raw cry she had ever heard, and the most beautiful she would ever hear. She knew somehow that she was the first person to hear Lord Voldemort scream.

She drew back slightly, holding her hands on either side of his ribs. The curse resonated with his bones, and he struggled valiantly to breathe, each fragmented breath he took clearly costing him. "Do you want me to continue?" she asked.

He fought for enough breath to answer her, shaking and arching his back and at first managing only a choking sound at the back of his throat. She leaned over him again. "I cannot hear you, my Lord."

"Y-yes," he struggled to say, clearly taking all his strength to do so. He tried to say something else, which might have been please, but never got enough breath for it to be voiced.

Quite pleased with his answer, she kissed him. She wondered how many people had been able to do that, and decided the list must be very short indeed, and perhaps she was the only one. She let the pain flow through the contact into his mouth, through his teeth, through his tongue, through his skull to the nerves behind his eyes, and this time when he tried to scream it was muffled.

She continued like that for some time, letting the pain ebb and flow, giving him chances to breathe then taking them away again, sometimes letting him do nothing but scream, dragging the pain lazily down his spine, kissing him, letting his eyes run freely with tears. He was exquisite in his agony, and he was hers, completely.

When his body finally went limp, and the red light in his eyes died out, Bellatrix had a moment of panic. But she could see he was breathing, just unconscious from the sustained torture. She stroked his face, the effects of the spell dissipated. Exhaustion was set deeply in his features, but he seemed peaceful, even somehow content.

Bellatrix pulled his robe up under him, so he wouldn't lie on the cold stone, surprised at how light his body felt, even lighter than she would expect in his physical condition, as though he really was hollowed out inside. She kissed him, the first kiss she'd given him that was gentle, and lay down beside him, resting her head on his shoulder, her arm draped over his chest. She felt the breath rise and fall in his fragile body, felt the great power sleeping inside him, and she loved him.

She fell asleep like that, the two of them lying like spent lovers, her heart beating against his. She had no more fear of him. Anything he did would be beautiful to her.

Bellatrix woke when she felt him stir. Night had fallen, and the only light came from the fire. In the heavy shadows, she saw awareness slowly come into his features, testing his body, remembering only pain.

"Good evening, my Lord," Bellatrix said.

He smiled. "You may call me by my name."

"Voldemort," Bellatrix said, tasting out the word. She knew he'd been called by another name, once, but as far as she was concerned, Voldemort had always been his true name.

He sat up, and began refastening his robe. "That was…quite excellent," he said. "I've experienced greater pain before, but never at the hands of a person."

She didn't ask what had caused him even greater pain than that, but she could guess. He'd been through a number of magical transformations, and in some ways, his body could be considered something other than human. Whatever he had endured for that, it must have been unimaginable.

"You are a good teacher," Bellatrix said. "But you were wrong when you said I had to hate you."

Voldemort looked at her very hard, his luminous eyes boring into her. "No, that wasn't hate, was it," he said softly. "I believe you have mastered an art so dark it has eluded even me." He stroked her face tenderly. "Love is the darkest art there is, you know. There is no well of power greater, or more cruel. Or with greater cost to its user. Be careful, Bellatrix."

"For what I saw today, I would pay any price," Bellatrix said without hesitation.

"That's what I'm worried about," Voldemort said. "You're too good to be wasted. In all my years, I have never found a witch or wizard like you. One able to cast the Cruciatus Curse from love itself…no, you are a treasure, Bellatrix."

Bellatrix thought she would burst with joy. "Then you would continue my training in this fashion?"

"Oh yes," Voldemort said. "You're good, mind, plenty of power, but even you could benefit from greater control. As you saw, I eventually lost consciousness. With more judicious application, I could be sustained in that state…indefinitely."

Shivers of pleasure ran down Bellatrix's spine. "Is that a promise?"

"I think you will not find anyone else with…stamina like mine," he said. "Of course, you will need to practice your control on others as well. If you're too accustomed to my particular tolerance, you won't be able to hold anyone else for any length of time."

"I don't mind," Bellatrix said. "Will you watch me?"

"Of course. I am your teacher," Voldemort said humbly.

"And I yours," Bellatrix said. He didn't object to that. After all, she had effortlessly discovered the art so dark even he could not reach it. But he would feel it, through her. She felt sure now that no one before her had ever loved him. His flesh cried out for her love like parched earth for the rain. And she would give it to him, again and again. He would scream for her.