Rating: PG perhaps
Characters: Bellatrix, other implied Blacks. Gen fic (!)
Word Count: 2709
A/N: Characters, world, etc. not mine, of course. Originally written for SH's Deathday Festival prompt about why Bellatrix became a Death Eater, but didn't get around to finishing it in time. Still unbetaed. Any volunteers?
When I was eleven years old, I begged my mother to allow me to go to Beauxbatons. Do you know what she told me? She told me that they probably wouldn't let anyone with as ugly a face as mine into such a gentle school. She never missed an opportunity to remind me that I was too tall, too muscular, too dark, too angular, and too direct.
"Besides," she said, "you'd look just ghastly in those pale blue robes." Unlike Narcissa, of course. Mama used to say that it took her three tries to get the perfect daughter.
I was the eldest of the three.
Everyone loved Narcissa, and why not? She was the one who looked like a girl was supposed to look. Of course, if the house-elves had ever spent four hours on my hair like they did on hers, I might have looked more like a girl myself, but it was just as well that they didn't. I didn't have the patience to sit still that long. Even when she was six years old, Narcissa could sit perfectly still for hours as long as someone was fussing over her.
Uncle Alphard tried to cheer me up by telling me that I'd look stunning in Slytherin Green, but I didn't. Slytherin green always made me look like I was going to be ill. Red was my color, but Mama and Papa wouldn't allow it—they said red was for Gryffindors. Red was for Gryffindors, and green made me look ill and pale blue made me look washed out and black made me look like a vampire. Mama gave up when I was twelve.
The same year she declared me unfit for any color that a decent witch or wizard would wear, she took Andromeda and Narcissa to Salem for Halloween. I'd always wanted to go to Salem, but by the time Narcissa was old enough to make the trip, I was in school and she couldn't take me out. Seems to me that she could have figured out that with five years between our ages, Narcissa and I would never both be the right ages, and she might have made two trips. That would have left poor Narcissa out of the fun, though, and who could ever leave that charming child with the silver-blonde hair out of anything? Particularly when she pouted.
I didn't hate Narcissa, though. Not really. There were times when I thought I did, but in the end, she was my sister and she needed someone to look after her. Particularly after that brat Sirius got to be old enough to put mice in her bed—I don't care if it wasn't my place, I gave his arse a good busting for that one.
No, it wasn't Narcissa that I hated.
And it wasn't Andromeda I hated either, even though that would have been easier. I came to hate her, of course, when I realized her true colors, but when we were girls, she was just the likable one. She had a scrunchy little nose, and all she ever had to do to get what she wanted was to grin. Uncle Alphard called her his little hell-cat. He called Narcissa his little princess.
He just called me Bellatrix.
I didn't hate him either.
I know you think you know the end to this story already, but you don't. I didn't hate my mother either, for the record. I didn't give enough of a damn to hate her. I wasn't the daughter she wanted, and that was fine. She got Narcissa finally, and left me and Andromeda alone. After Cissy was born, Mama and Papa started sleeping in different rooms, and one day Papa announced that he would probably never have a son so Andromeda would have to do. Sometimes I think he thought she was his son. He'd never looked twice at either of us before, and Merlin knows no one could have ever looked at Narcissa without Mama getting in the way. And I was already in school, so I wasn't usually there.
Why do you think I have to hate someone?
Most of the world isn't worth the bother of it.
Actually, it's just the opposite. There was someone I loved dearly—my grandmother. She gave me this necklace, you know. She said that I was the only one of her granddaughters who could wear such a big opal. She was right. It overpowered Narcissa, and just looked ridiculous on Andromeda, but I could wear it with a black robe, and I might not have looked pretty, but I looked powerful. I looked like a queen.
"You look like a Black," Grandmama told me, then she told me to come with her. I was sixteen that summer, and I'd been to her house before, of course. It was tradition. Christmas Eves, Easter mornings, Grandpapa's birthday, the annual reunion in June, after school had let out. I'd been there more times than I could remember, but like most of the places I grew up, I don't guess I ever really looked at it. Finally, I did.
We started in the upstairs gallery, and it startled me to realize that once, Grandmama Black had been a young woman. A young woman with black hair and black eyes, a regal way of holding her head, an opal necklace at her throat. I'd always thought Grandmama was beautiful, but for the first time, I realized that she wasn't. She was strong, and strength has more beauty than beauty has strength.
She showed me all the portraits—her sisters and brothers, her mother, her father, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, grand-nieces… They were the Blacks, and I was one of them. Narcissa and Andromeda might have had the name, but that was only because Mama married into it. It wouldn't have mattered who she married, there would have been a Narcissa and an Andromeda.
We went into the bedrooms, and she showed me the heirlooms. I wore centuries-old jewels on my hands, held wands that had belonged to wizards who had been dead for a thousand years. We went downstairs, and we looked at the tapestry that hung in the drawing room, and I traced my fingers over hundreds of names, thousands of names that reached back to the time when our family came to this country—the time of William the Conqueror.
As a matter of interest, did you know that the Blacks were not the Blacks at all when they came here? A thousand years ago, la famille Blanc came to England. La famille Blanc—aussi pur que la niege, aussi blanc que la neige. Toujours pur. I always thought that amusing. We started out as pure and white as the snow, and at least we remained pure.
It made quite an impression on me, obviously, and that's why I'm here. There aren't many true Purebloods left in the world, are there? Those of us who do have that ancient blood in our veins must do what we can to protect it. Solidify the bloodline, ensure that it does not die out with us.
We're the last of the Purebloods, you know. Narcissa and Andromeda and Sirius and Regulus and me. No other Purebloods have been born since Regulus, nowhere in Europe.
Of course, you don't say things like that in front of Lucius Malfoy—he likes to bandy the title around, but it is not his. His bloodline goes back less than four hundred years, and there you find the Muggles. I suppose four centuries is enough to cleanse most of the taint in his case, and there are perhaps a dozen families that can make the claim for as far back as two hundred years. Maybe fifty families in Europe whose children can say that all four of their grandparents were magical. Imagine calling that Pureblood. Grandmama said that a Mudblood anywhere in the line sullies the entire bloodline, and it makes sense. After all, if two Mudbloods have a child, and that child marries someone whose parents were both Mudbloods, how will there ever be anything but a Mudblood of the union? Purity cannot be created, it can only be protected.
I don't have to tell you that, though, do I?
We're very similar in some ways, you and I. In some respects. I hope I do not overstep my boundaries by saying it.
I know that the true Purebloods have come to an end, but maybe our world doesn't have to. Perhaps we can put an end to the foolishness, and start restoring some of the lost lines. Narcissa's children, for example, will truly be half pure at least, perhaps as much as three-fourths. If we restore the old ways, perhaps our world will strengthen again.
Yesterday, I was in Diagon Alley, and I saw a young wizard wearing Muggle shoes. That's the real problem, isn't it? It's not the actual blood—that's just a matter of status and familial pride—but the entire world. Every day, we give in a little further. Today we wear their shoes, we listen to the WWN, we buy tins of vegetables and biscuits, we offer classes that cultivate an interest in the Muggle world. What do we do tomorrow? Do we throw out our robes in favor of their ugly fashions? Do we stop flying on our broomsticks and take their flying machines instead? Five hundred years ago, we thought we faced extinction because they were actively hunting our numbers and trying to burn us at the stake, but nothing those peasants with torches ever did could compare to this voluntary surrender. We allow them to swallow us, and we become part of them without even noticing.
That is what is so frightening—so many don't even seem to realize what they're doing. How can we instill our values into our children when we don't know what our values are anymore? Muggles are just as good as we are, they say, those humanitarian witches and wizards.
Next will we say that werewolves are just as good as wizards? They're little more than wild animals who walk upright. Will we say that house-elves are as good as wizards? Vampires? Perhaps we oughtn't stop with the sentient beings. Perhaps we should bestow the same courtesies and rights upon the Billywigs that a wizard enjoys.
I know, I don't mean to seem bitter, but I am. This is a world that my family has helped to shape, spent hundreds of years to create and make better, and through carelessness, those well-meaning loons are going to throw it all away.
Perhaps I am a bit naïve still. A bit unrealistic. Maybe I do expect too much of the world, but I ask you—should I lower my expectations to accommodate a world that wallows in the dregs of ignorance, or should I challenge the world to live up to my standards? I think I should expect more of the world, and if I'm disappointed, it is my right to express that disappointment.
This is my world, damn it. It's my world as much as it is theirs, and more so because my family was here shaping it while theirs was living off our handouts! My ancestors were generous, gifting money to the Ministry during times of crisis, gifting money to the schools, to the arts, to build memorials. Why am I supposed to sit back and calmly allow that world to be ripped apart just because it is currently fashionable to be accepting of everyone, regardless of what they do or do not contribute?
Perhaps I am angry. Isn't it my right to be angry? If it's fashionable to wear ankle-length robes instead of floor-length ones, that's a fashion that comes and goes and no one is hurt for it, but this. This acceptance of the Muggles, and worse—much worse—acceptance of the Mudbloods. Muggles can't help what they are, and I don't care what they are so long as I don't have to take care of them, but when it starts to affect me and the world I do care about, then I have the right to be angry.
Of course they affect the world.
When Narcissa came home from her first year at Beauxbatons, she had learned more than I did in four years at Hogwarts. Why? Beauxbatons doesn't accept students who have no experience with magic. There is a basic minimum standard for admission, and if a child does not meet that standard, she is not admitted. That means that Narcissa's teachers did not have to waste time teaching their students how to hold a wand properly.
And what do we do here? We pass Decrees for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, thereby ensuring that none of our children know how to hold a wand properly. We lower the standards of an entire world to accommodate those who do not rightfully have any business in it in the first place. Why? Because it is fashionable to cater to the Mudbloods.
We're going to cater ourselves out of a culture if we're not careful about it.
And why should we have to bend? If we must allow Mudbloods to attend our schools, why can't we separate them and let them learn how to light the fire under a cauldron without setting themselves on fire in the process? Why can't we force them to meet our criteria instead of lowering our criteria for their benefit?
It's disgusting, and insulting, and I am very angry about it. I know that the bloodlines are a lost cause—it's too late to do anything about end of the Pureblood families—but we don't have to give up our entire world too.
If they want to come here, fine. Let them come. If they can learn to live in our world, I suppose I can learn to ignore them. I don't want them as neighbors, but that doesn't seem to be my choice anymore. But why must we change everything to accommodate them? Why can't they make just a few concessions to accommodate us? If we're going to teach them to use their powers, they could at least wear our clothes and live in our world.
It's one or the other—you're either a wizard or a Muggle. You can't be both.
Our world can't be both. It's either wizard or Muggle, and one will succeed, the other fail. If you and I were playing chess, one of us would win. If you won, I would lose. If I won, you would lose. It's that simple.
Stalemate? That simply means we both lose, because neither could win.
There's a lot to lose. I don't think many of my generation realize that, but there's a lot to lose. Too much to lose. I can't sit back and idly wait for things to take care of themselves.
Passionate? Yes. I suppose I am passionate.
That's what everyone keeps telling me—that I'll outgrow my passion someday. I hope not. I hope I never cease to care. Someone has to care. So what if no one listens to me. It won't stop me from talking, from protesting, from voicing my objections and my opinions. I want to live in the world I was born into. Is that so wrong? And if I'm to live in it, I must see that it survives, and if all I'm doing is complaining about it, then I'm not doing anything at all.
Yes, that's why I'm here.
I know it won't be easy. I know I'm the only woman here, and the youngest one here. Of course I know. I have eyes.
Forgive me. My mouth gets away with me sometimes.
I know it's dangerous, but should I fear the danger any more than I fear the loss of our world?
Yes, my Lord, I know I talk too much. That's why I'm here, too. I'm tired of talking, and you're the only one who seems to be doing anything.
I'll do anything you ask of me.
A/N: La famille Blanc—aussi pur que la niege, aussi blanc que la neige. Toujours pur—The Black family. As pure as the snow, as white as the snow. Always pure.