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When Bellatrix Black is six, she and her family move from a dark, quiet house full of old books to a slightly less grand and impressive house in the country. There's a big forest behind the house, dark as the sitting room of her old house was, and equally enigmatic.

She watches out the windows as often as she can, staring into the dark woods, eyes straining for any sign of Werewolves or other dark creatures. Even at such a young age, she's fascinated by the dark arts.

Her mother and father teach her the necessary things: dark magic is to be respected but never feared. Muggles are little better than animals. Never trust a Werewolf. Never forget who you are.

As if she needs to be told. Even at six, Bellatrix knows damn well that she's a Black. She also knows what that means. There is something very precious in her blood, and it must be maintained at all costs. They are a dying breed.

When Bellatrix is seven, her aunt Walburga beings to call her Bella. She is the first to do so, as far as Bellatrix can remember. It means beautiful, her aunt tells her, in some foreign language; Bellatrix forgets which one.

She knows the real truth of her name, though. She is named after a star, bright and cold in its distance. Another subject in which she has been thoroughly educated is astronomy. Bellatrix is the third-brightest star in the constellation Orion. Orion, like her uncle.

She knows her Latin, too, though, and she keeps those meanings for herself. Female warrior. The Amazon Star. She will smile at her uncle and her father, be polite and politic as she must, but she will keep her secrets. At seven years old, she knows this.

When Bellatrix is eight, Her mother reads her a bedtime story about a man who cut out his heart so he could never be weakened by love. She doesn't understand why such a thing should be necessary. She doesn't know if she loves anything, except maybe her aunt.

When Bellatrix is nine, her parents take her to see a play. Wizards plays aren't exactly like Muggle plays—for one thing, they involve many more special effects than would usually be considered decent in the highest quality Muggle plays. Sparks fly and old stories are played out again and again, the familiar threads criss-crossing against the backdrop of deep plum-colored curtains.

The curtains remind Bellatrix of the ones in her aunt's house.

When they leave the theatre, she listens to her mother talking about Mudbloods. It's the first time she hears the word, not because her mother was trying to protect her or use more refined language, but simply by chance. She decides to look it up when she returns home.

Her little sister Narcissa tugs on her sleeve as they get into the bewitched carriages that will carry them home. "Bella, what's a Mudblood?" Apparently Narcissa was listening, too, and she must not have missed the malice in their mother's voice.

"Don't pull on me," Bellatrix says, shoving her off. Part of her wanted to keep this knew knowledge to herself.

When Bellatrix is ten, she drops her little cousin Sirius off the short cliff behind her house. She isn't trying to hurt him exactly, but he made her angry with his incessant babbling. She gets in trouble with her mother but not with Sirius's parents.

When Bellatrix is eleven, she is sorted into Slytherin at Hogwarts. This is not shocking in any capacity, and it irks her a little. Her wishes her life were not so predictable. She's not the kind of girl who is prone to making trouble just for the hell of it, because she is not her little cousin. Instead, she decides to take her sorting as a compliment on her ambition.

When Bellatrix is twelve, she realizes that her aunt is mad. They're having dinner at her aunt and uncle's house and her aunt is talking and she realizes simply and suddenly that Walburga is mad. It explains so much: the way her eyes shine when she talks about the dark arts, the screaming fights Bellatrix has overheard, the curse-burns on Sirius's hands.

She wonders how long her aunt has been like that and how long it will be before she goes the same way.

When Bellatrix is thirteen, she loses her virginity. It's something of a Black Family Tradition, and she wouldn't want to break tradition. She sometimes loves being a Black and following their particular brand of rules more than she'd admit out loud, and she feels ready, anyway.

She isn't ready, exactly, but it's close enough. She's good at making do just short of the proper emotions and proper actions, being not-quite-enough but making it look good all the same.

It is the same year her little sister Andromeda enters Hogwarts and the Dark Lord becomes a household name in earnest. She is immediately interested in Lord Voldemort, because apart from espousing exactly the ideals she thinks are correct, he sounds like an escape from the mundanity of her life. Going through Hogwarts only to end up as some sort of glorified housewife to a pureblood man at the end of it has never seemed like her destiny.

Destiny is an infectious idea, especially for someone like Bellatrix. This is a trait she shares with her cousin Sirius, although it's never damaged her or made her afraid of her heritage like it has him.

Besides, there's a brilliant new world out there waiting to burst though, or rather, an old world that has tired of lying dormant. Bellatrix knows the history of purebloods going back thousands of years, back nearly to Salazar Slytherin, who, while he sounds like a bit of a wanker, was a true master of what was important in the wizarding world.

When Bellatrix is sixteen, Narcissa starts at Hogwarts and Bellatrix joins the Death Eaters.

The actual process of joining is simple, although not quite painless. The Mark is somewhat crude and obvious, not a design she would have chosen. It burns on her arm for a second before she drops her black sleeve over it again.

The Dark Lord shorter than she thought he'd be. He still cuts and impressive figure, though, worthy of respect and all the rest. Bellatrix resolves to tell him just this as often as possible. One never knows when people like him will be useful, and she fully intends to make her way to where she wants to be, allowing Voldemort to take the blame.

After joining, Bellatrix finds herself being more than usually reflective about her family and what exactly their bloodline means, both to the Dark Lord and to her.

Her own parents are nothing special. Her father is a Black by birth, but her aunt and uncle are both Blacks, something she imagines Sirius and Regulus must be proud of. Then again, Sirius never had his priorities straight when it comes to things like blood.

Surely the Dark Lord realizes what a prize Bellatrix is. If he does not, he should, and she'll do her damnedest to make him see what an asset she can be.

*

The years after that are a blur of change. As the Dark Lord grows more and more powerful, Bella does as well. She takes a certain quiet delight in the fact that no one has seemed to notice this fact. The Dark Lord may value Lucius and Severus and the others, but Bella knows him better than they do. More importantly, she knows herself, a skill that is still beyond all of them, the Dark Lord included.

She does a great many things in those years that should matter but do not. She cuts off contact with Andromeda when her sister marries a Muggle-born. She attends Narcissa's wedding to Lucius Malfoy and attempts not to make too many disparaging remarks.

She gets married herself, yet another tiny event that does not quite register as important.

Her marriage to Rodolphus Lestrange is one of convenience on several levels. It binds the Blacks to another influential pureblood family, but it's also personally convenient for Bellatrix. Rodolphus is large and rough and, most importantly, gone much of the time. He likes hunting—she does not care enough to ask what—and spends hours away from home every day.

Good. Bellatrix has enough to be getting on with without her husband standing in the way. This is finally her time to shine, dammit, and she won't have that taken away. Then again, she's always shone more brightly than most. It's the destiny of her name.

Destiny comes slowly, though, bogged down by other people. Her sisters have always been a sort of irritating necessity, like the men in her life. Bellatrix hates having anything to tie her down, but her entire history has been lived between the lines of Cissy, Dromeda and Sirius, Regulus, Rodolphus, Voldemort, Father. Her head swims with family names, Cygnus and Orion.and she remembers the day she learned that she was just a star in her uncle's constellation.

The only man she can even half stand in Fenrir Greyback, if he can be called a man. His ruthless brutality matches her own, and he's hungry in a way she has always been hungry. As long as he stays away from her relatives, the two of them can have an understanding. Never trust a Werewolf, she remembers. The lessons her parents taught her are still important, even though she's grown out of much of her heritage.

Even Greyback, though, is another line in her life she cannot cross. She's always hated being told no, even when she was young and not particularly spoiled, and Greyback presents an obstacle when he comes on missions with her. She constantly has to watch her back, and there are so many things she'd rather be watching.

She can wait. Her time will come.

*

When Bellatrix is thirty, the Dark Lord falls. Her world is rocked, but not shattered.

In fact, her world is suddenly blown wide open. With Voldemort gone, she has nothing to lose. She is answerable to no one any longer. Her father and uncle are both dead. Her aunt is madder. Her baby cousin is dead and one sister might as well be. The other sister is useless and the other cousin is in Azkaban. Her husband has never been an obstacle.

She can finally let loose every burning inch of herself, torturing and killing whomsoever she pleases and apologizing to no one for it.

On the night she goes to find Frank and Alice Longbottom, the Dark Lord is not foremost in her mind. Instead, she is thinking about her old house in the country and the dark forest behind it. She was never afraid of it, because Werewolves are nothing, nothing compared to her.

She is arrested shortly after as Bellatrix Lestrange, but she laughs like Bellatrix Black, claiming her aunt's name as she is locked away among the Dementors and ragged, fearful men. Her world shirks now, but it still refuses to break.

She can't see the stars in Azkaban, but she can hear Sirius's ragged chuckles from his cell. She never bothered to read anything about the dog star, but she suspects the knowledge that her star is brighter will be enough to keep her alive, if not sane.