Chapter 1 : Whispers of Madness
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At first she had withdrawn from the others, grumbling in anger and screaming at her captors; her comrades had nodded their heads, telling each other it was to be expected, not a one suspecting what the events they thought they understood really entailed. Then, when she had emerged from her shrouds of pain quieter and more controlled, but with a countenance that promised everyone she was still on top, they simply assumed that this change in her was simply a product of her experience. It was to be expected, they reasoned, that after everything she would be changed thus. She was a powerful woman and no one thought to question her when she assured them she was fine and that this was not the end. No one looked closely enough in those days when her deceit was not as practiced and perfected, when it could have been discovered. For her lies were of the nature that no one would ever think to examine what she exuded.
Dark skies, shadows, secrets, lies and doomed fate. Blood red fields, betrayal and icy fingers grasping for any warmth to steal and hold, draining the source until they too are an empty shell of existence. Light is gone, stolen by the ever seeking shadows. Eaten away by everything that used to lend hope to those that needed it, those strong enough to still seek it. Empty. Everything is empty. There’s no use to looking for a bit of warmth, a shred of hope, a light ahead. They’re all gone. The end will come, that is the only certainty left. Salvation is not a useful endeavor, no one can be saved. No one can escape, no one can run. For where would they run? Gone. Everything is gone. The end is coming. All there is to do is sit in the wet, cold, misery and wait. Wait. Wait for feeling to pass away, for numbness to become nothingness. She sees it, she hides it. Who is there to tell? They cannot see it coming. They cannot see the desolation that even now nips at their toes and ensnares every step they take. They are losing a battle they don’t know to fight.
They run to her for reassurance when the cold touches them, unsure of what they feel. She knows, she sees it creeping after. All she can do is offer the words they expect. Her guarded eyes don’t let on that there is a shadow they cannot get away from. It follows even in darkness, when the shadows light casts have receded and pure darkness reigns. The shadow that is grappling for a hold and gaining it. Slowly, surely, and without fail it is gaining the control that it will wield with iron force in the future. She sees it coming. The end, the darkness, the fear, the doubts and the screams. She can see it, she can feel it. It taunts her with its presence, a presence she cannot reveal. Who would listen? Who would stop to pay attention to the fear of the one who is held together and composed? All they see is perfection, all they hear is wisdom. The warnings go unheeded, the caution is ignored. The end is coming and there is nothing she can do. Her mask has hidden the guilt so effectively that even she cannot see past it now.
During the night she can hear them, the screams of tortured breath and the loss of happiness. Beyond her door she sees their tormentors slipping past, their silent movement never warning their victims when they approach, the only clue is the hopelessness that flows around them. They are preceded by coldness and hunger and they leave emptiness and brokenness behind them. She hears them, she hears their breath that drains the air of any shred of warmth and frosts any surface it lands upon. The cloth of their tattered robes as it slips past the walls and over the floor, the stench of death and doom that they reek of. Those around her have lost all sense and wait for the end they won’t be given. They will waste away until the only end they meet is the cliffs and the water, after the young are hoary headed and the fresh faces are haggard and grey. There is no old age in this place, only the appearance of it.
There is that one time every day, when they see each other. When they can speak and see one another, and draw comfort from what warmth, or rather what memory of warmth, is left. Memory is a tricky thing. After you are in this place long enough one can never be sure what is real and what only wishful dreams you can’t quite grasp is. In her sleep, she catches glimpses of laughter and smiles. If they were ever real, they were from a childhood she can scarce recall, when she had sisters and parents and cousins. When there were parties and school and holidays full of happiness. Sometimes, when she has been left alone long enough, she can almost remember. All she has, though, really, is a vague feeling of those faces that dance just behind her eyelids. One, so pale and beautiful, is one she knows she must have once loved. The girl, sister, has pointed features, aristocratic and fine, and cold. The other face is wider and smiles. Auburn tresses frame an open and friendly face. She looks so warm and delightful, but the woman knows she cannot be trusted. She’s not sure why, this girl looks so loving and inviting. At the back of her clouded mind, she can almost remember hugs and comfort. Now, she is unsure why, but now she must hate her. Betrayal. The sting of betrayal cannot be taken away when all memory is nearly erased and warmth of feeling is gone.
Neither is here, though. There is that man, he is here. He once was tall and imposing with shaggy brown hair and haughty black eyes. A sharp nose and thin mouth and the unmistakable air of being better than those around him still lingers. Once, she knows, he captured her attention. He drew her eyes and her favor. Husband. That is the title he carries to her, but he does not have her love. Never that. Even after all reason has fled and she is left here with nothing but regrets and loneliness and hate, she knows he never did, and never will, have that.
Past all of the dread and the cold a bout of anguish assails her. No manner of torture could make her forget the one man that ever engaged her love. Not her father, not her uncles nor any in her family. This man was tall, once handsome, but always powerful. Until now. Now he was a shadow that most believed gone forever. She knew better though. He would come for her, and the others left here because of him. For him. Her loyalty did not waver, though it had left her empty and dejected. To all around her, after she had come back to herself, before this living plague afflicted them, she had reassured everyone of that. Now, that was the guilt that took hold of her. She knew, more than she knew that there was no way to escape, she knew that he was not coming and there was no way out of this. Until the madness gripped her, until the desperation killed her, she would be here.
Noise. There was a shuffling nearby that caught her attention. Perhaps another of her comrades had been taken, that could be the only reason for sound. Other than the screams, that is. After months in here, she knew already what to expect. This prison was systematic. Someone was put here, they slowly lost their mind, and then they died. She had already smelled the death and seen the madness. Here was another victim of the world of cold and despair. A remnant of curiosity prompted her weak neck to support her head so that she could see.
“Here now! Here, in there, yes, that’s it. Hold him! Hold him! Dawlish you idiot! There, there we are. Moody, if you could, yes there we are.” A clang of bars sounded and then soft laughter. A chill, not associated with the usual, shivered down her spine. She had heard madness, she had felt the emptiness in those who had been here longer. Emptiness that spelled out lost hope and longing for the fresh air that only just escaped them. This was not that. It was colder, more sinister, and it terrified those whose backs she could see. She knew, because she saw them stiffen and take just a tiny step backward.
Some hidden reserve of strength had her standing and shuffling over to the bars that stood between her and the black-clad men. The grey haired one, Moody, her mind supplied, was speaking.
“Mad already, he is. Laughed when we caught him, laughed when Crouch sentenced him.”
“Sentenced!” The man laughed again. “That was no trial Mad-Eye. Dead clever he was, getting me sent here.” He trailed off into muttering at the end of these, the dark sound of his voice belying the anger that boiled beneath the surface.
“He hardly got you sent here, did it yourself, you heartless traitor.”
“Heartless? I rather think it’s having had a heart in the first place that drives madness. You have to have something to lose.” A choked sort of sound had the one called Dawlish laughing shortly and hitting the bars.
“Regretting his demise are you?” They shifted just as he finished saying this and she could see him. Black eyes glittered with malevolence and a shimmer of sorrow reflected there as well.
“I miss him terribly already.”
A wave of shock crashed over her as he said it and looked right at her. She knew, as those men before him did not, that he spoke of someone other than they thought. She knew that man, knew that those eyes weren’t always black. Knew that they were not soulless, but lost. She knew that he had lost something so dear she could never fathom it. Looking at her, he grinned. It was not the smile that returning memories recognized, this one was empty and hateful.
“Hello cousin. How’s your stay been?” Then she knew for sure. The end was coming. The end will come, that is the only certainty left. Salvation is not a useful endeavor, no one can be saved. No one can escape, no one can run. For where would they run? Gone. Everything is gone. The end is coming. All there is to do is sit in the wet, cold, misery and wait.
The three men spared her a glance then left. Coldness swarmed about again and across the hall, she heard the beginning of madness. She knew there was nothing he could do to escape, knew there was nothing anyone could do. It could not touch her now, though, she knew that with certainty. There was nothing left to take. The only one she had ever loved, had worshipped, was really gone. This new neighbor was proof of it. The only innocent here and he confirmed every fear anyone had ever voiced.
Putting on her mask of indifference and the strength her comrades expected, she smiled at him maliciously. “How’s Wormy these days cousin?” It drew the desired response. He glared at her and turned away. Going back to where she had been sitting, cowering, she looked up at the small window high above her head and began to wait. Her cousin would follow the same path of everyone else. He would grieve, he would go mad, and he would die. Not her. She had nothing left to lose.
I have never explored the character of Bellatrix Lestrange before, yet she fascinated me. Evil and just plain mean, but with a cold madness that caught my attention. I attempted here to delve into the beginning of the madness in the books. Please review!