When you look at the roll of dishonor regarding Voldemort's top lieutenants in the Harry Potter series, none can really compare to Bellatrix Lestrange. She represents the very worst of what the Death Eaters are capable of, and in both the books and films (where she is played by Helena Bonham Carter) she is one of the nastiest characters that J.K. Rowling ever created. It's hard to beat Delores Umbridge in this area, but Bellatrix probably manages it. Maybe. They're both awful.
Where did Bellatrix come from, and what is the Lestrange family all about? Their history, as we currently know it, is very befitting of their last name — it is highly strange. We're set to meet a new (old) member of this family in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, as Zoe Kravitz will enter Potter lore playing Leta Lestrange, an old friend of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). With a brand new Lestrange on the horizon, let's take a closer look at this wizarding family. Were they always horrible, or is Bellatrix an exception? Let's find out.
The first thing that sticks out about them is that they are a very old family — not just old, but ancient. They are one of the "Sacred Twenty Eight," which is the moniker given to the very purest of pureblood families. That list also includes the families of Black, Malfoy, and Rosier; these 28 families tend to marry within each other often, attempting to keep the bloodlines pure. Marrying cousins is not off of the table; in fact it's almost encouraged. Lestrange? More like Le-incest, am I right? Okay.
The House of Lestrange has a long history of practicing the dark arts, and very much believed in pure-blood supremacy. They managed to get one member of their family in the record books as Minister for Magic in the 1800s — Radolphus Lestrange somehow attained the position, and unsuccessfully tried to shut down the Department of Mysteries. He lasted in the position for six years and did nothing of any value or significance.
Leta Lestrange attended Hogwarts in 1910, at the same time as Newt Scamander. We don't know much about their time there, but we do know that Leta was involved with some kind of illegal experimentation. When one of these experiments went wrong, Newt took the blame for her. As a result, he was possibly expelled from the school; Albus Dumbledore stood up for him, and at the very least, Newt was allowed to keep his wand and continue to practice magic.
In the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we learned that Newt still has a framed photo of Leta Lestrange in his magical case of wonders. Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) questions him about this, and remarks to him that she was a "taker," and that Newt needs a "giver." The extent of their friendship is uncertain, but Newt does say that their bond was forged because neither of them fit in.
At the end of the film, Newt assures Tina (Katherine Waterston) that they aren't close anymore. After she asks him if "Leta Lestrange likes to read…" Newt makes it clear that any affections he may have had for her have now shifted... to Tina. Because Newt and Tina are soulmates.
In the new film, Newt is set to reunite with Leta in 1927, where she is now engaged to Newt's brother, Theseus (Callum Turner). The trailers don't make her look like the embodiment of evil, so we don't really know what the expect from her yet. We do know that she gets one killer line. "You've never met a monster you couldn't love…" is a great one, and it says a lot about both Newt and Leta.
In terms of the Lestrange family in general during this period, it is likely that one (or more) characters that we have already met are related to them in some way. They don't tolerate Squibs (children born of magical families who have no magical abilities) and would likely never tolerate an Obscurial (a witch/wizard who suppresses their magical abilities), so who knows what children of theirs have been left out in the wind. We're bound to learn more about all of this, but I'm fairly certain that if this film is about people and families choosing sides, then the Lestranges will keep sucking just like their future ancestors and join Team Grindelwald. Good luck, Theseus!
We catch up with the family again when young Tom Riddle attended Hogwarts, as one of them (mentioned by surname only) is a member of Horace Slughorn's "Slug Club." All mentions of this Lestrange family member (which boil down to him being late with an essay, really) can be found in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
This unfortunately brings us back to Bellatrix, who was born to Cygnus and Druella Black in 1951. She had two younger sisters, Andromeda and Narcissa. While Narcissa followed the company line and married into the pureblood Malfoy family (wedding Lucius and mothering Draco), Andromeda broke with tradition and married the muggle-born Ted Tonks. She was burned off of the family tree as a result.
Bellatrix Black became a Death Eater almost immediately upon graduating from Hogwarts and married the pure-blood Rodolphus Lestrange. The two of them did all kinds of horrible things during the First Wizarding War (the worst being the torture-beyond-measure of Frank and Alice Longbottom) and were locked up in Azkaban after Voldemort's first defeat. They were always loyal to Voldemort and never backed down from that — Voldemort himself notes this after his rebirth in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
They escaped during the mass breakout of 1996 (in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) and quickly resumed ruining things for everyone. Though we read about (and see) plenty of horrors from Bellatrix (including the murder of her cousin, Sirius Black) we never hear anything about Rodolphus. He is barely mentioned in the books, and is never seen in the films. Supposedly he was present at the Battle of Hogwarts, and survived— he was chucked in Azkaban following Voldemort's defeat.
Rodolphus probably wasn't on the scene between 1996 and 1998, and if he was, things were even grosser than they were already. I'm talking about one highly disgusting plot point that is brought up in the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
SPOILER ALERT: There is a massive spoiler ahead for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I'd love to spare you the details and "keep the secrets," but if we're talking about all things Lestrange, this cannot be left out. If you want to remain unspoiled, hop the first broom out of here. Bellatrix is horrible, you get it. Go see the new movie.
At some point during 1996 and 1998, Bellatrix gave birth to a daughter named Delphini. The father was not Rodolphus Lestrange— it was, gag, Lord Voldemort. This is where the continuity gets a little murky— Delphini could have been born towards the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as Bellatrix is not present at Hogwarts during the end of that book. In the film, however, she is very much there, and she doesn't look pregnant at all when she coldly walks out of that vanishing cabinet. Perhaps she gave birth and someone magically made her ready for battle again, who knows. There's probably a spell for that.
Whatever the deal was, Bellatrix was a driving force of evil in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We realized how much Voldemort trusted her (not just in sexual matters, it seems, gag again) when Harry discovered one of his Horcruxes was hidden in the Lestrange family vault at Gringotts. She tortured Hermione Granger, killed Dobby, and then made the mistake of attacking Ginny Weasley during the Battle of Hogwarts. This earned her the instant wrath of Molly Weasley, who, after delivering the greatest line in the canon ("NOT MY DAUGHTER YOU B**CH!"), snuffs Bellatrix for good. It is so very satisfying that one of the greatest characters (and mothers) in the series takes down one of the worst — Molly's magic ain't just for cooking.
Bellatrix was known for great skills in magic, and for having no conscience or compassion to speak of. She was missed by absolutely no one.
I wish I could say that the Lestrange line ended right there, but there's still the matter of Delphini, who survived long enough to mess with Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy during the events of the play. She doesn't succeed, though she does survive. She's tossed in Azkaban at the end of the play, and thus (unfortunately) the Lestrange bloodline (and the last direct line to Salazar Slytherin) still exists. I'm sure nothing bad will happen...I mean, when does anyone ever break out of Azkaban? It only happens once every all the time.
Many more le-secrets of the Lestranges will come to light when Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald comes out on November 15. Here's hoping that Leta is nothing like Bellatrix— if she is, then everyone is royally screwed.