Her spine curled against the base of the tree, she watched the bird perched on a branch above her head carefully. Its bright yellow feathers seemed to glow slightly in the dark, its small beak opening and closing in endless chatter.

"Silencio," she whispered, aiming her wand at the little creature. The bird's twitters quieted, its beak parting in silence now. She needed the thing muted for the next step, the more important one, otherwise neighbors may come intrude. And that was the last thing she wanted.

"Crucio."

There was a loud rustling, a small cracking sound, and then the bird came toppling from the tree, smacking the grass with a muffled thud and writhing in pain as it did so. Bellatrix watched with fascination as the animal ticked and flapped helplessly several feet away from her, completely powerless under her spell. She was in control, total control. She gripped her wand, savoring the feeling.

Bellatrix let a few moments pass, then she lifted the curse. Nimbly rising from her crouch, she walked towards the bird to examine the effects of her spell. It was still struggling, as though expecting to get back up, the foolish thing. Curiously, she bent down and took one of the bird's wings between two long fingers. The bird shuddered violently, and made several more twitching attempts to get away. Her gray eyes glittered with satisfaction. She dropped the wing from her fingers and raised her wand, once more hissing the incantation. The bird began to jerk again, and probably would have continued to for some minutes had Bellatrix not suddenly heard a footstep crunching in the grass.

The young woman hastily muttered the counter-curse, then kicked the bird out of sight roughly with the toe of her shoe. She straightened herself up and turned, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. Andromeda was padding across the grass towards the sidewalk by the front of the house, clad in her slippers and robe. An envelope was clutched firmly in her hand, her owl sitting on her shoulder. Her eyes suddenly located Bellatrix.

"It's pretty late, Andromeda. What are you doing out here?" Bellatrix said coldly, her arms crossed across her chest defensively.

Andromeda pulled her robe tighter around her body, not slowing nor stopping her strides. "It ispretty late, Bellatrix," she agreed. "What are you doing out here?"

"Enjoying the view," she replied with icy sarcasm. "And yourself?"

"Mailing a letter," said Andromeda calmly, as she paused a short distance away from Bellatrix and began tying the aforementioned letter to her owl's leg.

"To the Mudblood." Bellatrix did not even say it like a question, there was no need.

"To Ted Tonks," said Andromeda placidly, as though she had not heard her sister, and merely continued trying to knot the letter to her owl's leg with fumbling fingers, gaze fastened steadily on her simple task.

"Mother and Father are not going to turn a blind eye to this – relationship – " she laid emphasis on the word delicately, sleekly " – forever."

"They will do as they must, as will I." Her faltering fingers finally secured the knot, and she gently guided the owl off of her shoulder and towards the sky, where he spread his great wings and took off into flight. Andromeda stared off into the sky for a moment, then turned around to go back inside. "Good-night, Bellatrix."

She stared, repulsed, at the brunette girl's retreating form. "That's it, then?"

Andromeda turned back to her sister. "What's it?"

"You. And him. You don't care what we say or do over the matter, you're just going to march down your own bloody path regardless."

"I'm still here, Bella," said Andromeda softly.

Bellatrix felt like hurling something as hard as she could at her sister's face. "No, you're not. You're not still here with us, you're not still here with our family. If you were, you wouldn't commit such betrayal by – "

"Just because I do not share the same values that everyone in this house does not mean that I have abandoned or betrayed any of you – "

"Fine, just keep telling yourself that, Andy. Just keep saying that to us all. But I know that it is a falsehood, and so do you."

"I don't want to have this fight right now," said Andromeda, whirling around. "Lord only knows how many times we have already had it."

"Walking away again is not going to make the issue disappear, Andromeda – "

"Good-night, sister."

Her fingers curling around her wand, Bellatrix irritably scuffed up a little dirt with her foot. Once the door slammed behind her sister, she checked behind the tree for the little bird she had been torturing earlier. The tiny thing was still wriggling around, though slowly and with not quite as much vigor as before. Her eyes narrowed. She trained her wand on the creature.

"Avada Kedavra."