Months later, when Andromeda and Ted returned to England, Andromeda slipped away, and into the gardens of Black Manor. She didn't know what she hoped to see, except perhaps Bellatrix, so they might reconcile – she didn't want her parting to be on such bad terms.
Bellatrix was there all right. She was sitting on a garden bench, toying with a red rose. Andromeda drew close, and saw her fingers were stippled with pricks from the thorns.
Bellatrix raised her head to look at Andromeda, and she was stunned by the sheer hatred in her eyes.
"Decided to come back?" Bellatrix asked in a low voice, which shook with anger. "Little blood-traitor, wanted to come back home and make amends, did you?"
Andromeda stepped backwards. This wasn't the Bellatrix she knew. This wasn't the sister who Andromeda had loved. This wasn't even the woman who had told Andromeda to get out, she didn't ever want to see her again. This… this person was…
Bellatrix drew her wand and aimed it at Andromeda's heart, and Andromeda took several more steps backwards. "Bella-"
"It's far too late for you to come back here." Slowly, slowly, Bellatrix got up, advanced on Andromeda with wand raised and something indefinable and wild in her eyes. "You lost that chance months ago."
"You don't know what you've done to us." Bellatrix's voice was a low, intense hiss. "You don't know what you've done to me."
She slashed her wand through the air, and Andromeda barely managed to dodge a spell that hit the green briar behind her, causing it to burst into flames.
"I as good as died for you, you ungrateful little brat!" Bellatrix shrieked. "I gave up my life to stop myself missing you, do you understand that?"
Andromeda shook her head wildly, stumbling backwards. "No, I don't understand-"
Bellatrix grabbed the sleeve of her dress, and yanked it back, showing Andromeda the symbol inscribed on her forearm. Andromeda cried out in fear and horror, and turned, fleeing the gardens, and the Manor, and the demon that had taken over her sister.
Only when she was far out on the fields, out of sight of the Manor, and Bellatrix having shown no sign of pursuing her, did Andromeda stop to catch her breath. She had recognized the mark on Bellatrix's arm as the Dark Mark, the sign Lord Voldemort used to mark his followers. Surely Bellatrix hadn't…
I as good as died for you.
Did she mean that she had sold her soul – or, something of that sort – to the Dark Lord, for Andromeda? To stop from missing Andromeda, that was what she said. Andromeda felt an incredible wave of guilt. Oh God, had she really driven Bellatrix to join the Death Eaters? Why? How could that have happened? She didn't understand how events could have spiralled so completely out of her control.
That night, Andromeda had a dream. She dreamed that Bellatrix was lying abed, pale as a ghost and so thin that her skin stretched over bones. Narcissa was there too, on the other side of Bellatrix's deathbed, though she did not acknowledge Andromeda.
Dream-Bellatrix reached out for Andromeda, her eyes glassy and unfocussed, but her arm steady as she grasped Andromeda's wrist.
"I think you're dying," Andromeda heard herself say. Dream-Bellatrix sank back on the pillows, and a death bell tolled, echoing through the dream.
"No," Andromeda said.
Bellatrix shook her head. "You told me I was dying."
"You're not dead, not yet."
"But you told me."
"I was wrong."
Dream-Bellatrix grinned, and the effect was grotesque, turning her face into a skull. "Your fault." She shut her dull eyes, and lay still.
Narcissa pulled the sheet over Bellatrix's head, shrouding her. She looked at Andromeda reproachfully before speaking.