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Constellations by Unwritten Curse
Chapter 1: Constellations
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Author’s Note: This story was written for Round Two of Kevin’s (TidalDragon) “The Knockout Challenge.” It was inspired by the song “Devil Town” by Bright Eyes, which repeats the refrain I was living in a devil town / I didn’t know it was a devil town, wherein I found my inspiration for the following story.
Furthermore, the story was written in triptych fashion. A triptych is a piece of art (a painting, a story, a play, etc.) with three parts and typically the middle section is the largest of the three, with smaller “bookends” flanking it. In order to accomplish this task, I have crafted the first and third section in 300 words and the middle section in 900.
I hope you enjoy!
D E V I L S
3 june 1963
Three girls. The daughters of Cygnus and Druella Black, with their red lips and Patrician bones, bound by a pulse that carried vitality and privilege and wealth—pure blood.
Andromeda felt that pulse acutely as she twirled about the gardens with her sisters, the midday sun caught in her curls. Beside her, Bellatrix shed her dress, stepping out into the air in a green one-piece suit with ribbon tied at the apex of her budding breasts. A pair of Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses rested on her nose.
Andromeda caught herself pouting, thinking about how fabulous it must be to be twelve and to be newly home from year one at Hogwarts.
“Watch Cissy, won’t you?” Bellatrix said, flicking a lazy finger at Andromeda. “I want to sunbathe.”
“You’re not the boss,” Andromeda hissed. She snatched her arm away from Cissy’s groping fingers. Cissy huffed in response.
Bellatrix draped her willowy body against the grass and Andromeda noticed their father’s ring on Bellatrix’s right hand. “I’m the one who’s been to Hogwarts,” she replied, “and who’s been sorted into Slytherin like mum and dad. So I’m the boss.”
“What’s so great about Hogwarts?” Andromeda pressed. Jealousy surged hot and thick in her stomach.
“Not much, I suppose, with Mudbloods and the like going to all the same classes as us.”
Andromeda had heard her mum use that phrase before—Mudbloods and the like—in conversation with Sirius’s mum. Sirius had shrugged at her as they eavesdropped from the upstairs landing.
“Yeah, Mudbloods,” she replied. “Right.”
“It’s terrible,” Bellatrix continued, her voice thick with impending sleep. “Hogwarts isn’t what it used to be.”
A butterfly flitted overhead, but Andromeda was preoccupied with the gentle hiss of air leaking from her previously faultless image of Hogwarts and with keeping Cissy from eating the grass.
V A M P I R E S
3 june 1972
She could feel Ted’s eyes on her face as she gazed coldly out the window. Tomorrow, she and Ted would finish their last exam and their sixth year at Hogwarts would draw to a close. The day after that, the Hogwarts Express would arrive in a plume of steam and carry Edward Tonks out of her life until September first found their worlds colliding for perhaps the final time.
From the moment she met Ted, she dreaded the day they’d have to say goodbye. She knew immediately that she would grow to love him, with his gentle eyes that pressed against her silent anger like salve. She knew he could see her, or rather see into her, and that he had the patience to unpack all the hurt that slumbered there—the complicated attachment that kept her coming home though home had become an island, the need for acceptance even when acceptance came with a price. She also knew she’d eventually have to say goodbye, because his robes were ringed with yellow and his blood was caked in mud.
Or so Bellatrix said.
“Dromeda,” Ted whispered, bringing her back to the library, back to sitting beside him.
“Edward,” came her response.
Ted visibly stiffened. “I know you do that to push me away. And I know why you need to push me away, but… shit.” He was angry, but gentle. Even the cursing was gentle; he said it as though tucking a child in to sleep.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“I know that, too.”
Andromeda looked down at her hands, at the book cradled there: A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration, her guise for being here at the library with Ted. No one could fault her for sitting beside a Mudblood to study if all other seats were also occupied with studiers. It wasn’t as if she could study in the Slytherin Common Room, where the seventh years were having their annual wine and cheese social to celebrate graduation—a time-honored tradition that involved perhaps more wine than it had in earlier centuries, but was relatively tasteful nonetheless. And, since dinner had concluded, the Great Hall had been rearranged and decorated for tomorrow’s graduation ceremonies. There was nowhere else to go.
“Can you at least look at me?”
Andromeda’s breath hitched. She felt that pain—the one that started in her midsection and snaked up around her heart, pinching and twisting as it went—and as she looked at Ted she felt herself doing it again. Rehearsing tragedy.
“Have a good summer,” she said, looking at him as he sat there looking at her.
“You know I won’t,” he replied, “Not without you.”
“I want you to come visit me,” he said. “Dromeda, I can’t go another summer without any communication.”
She shook her head. “I’ve already told you. If I come to visit, I won’t be welcome back home.”
Ted closed his eyes, his brow furrowing. He let out a sigh. As she watched him, she was reminded of all the stolen moments—the notes they’d hidden in each other’s textbooks, getting “lost” just before curfew to be alone for five minutes—and allowed herself a brief moment to imagine visiting Ted and having private, uninterrupted time.
Then Ted’s eyes opened and he said, “Maybe you shouldn’t go back home.”
Andromeda turned away, her heart thudding in her throat. “I—I have to,” she breathed.
“No you don’t.” He was insistent. He scooted his chair closer and took the book from her, claiming her hands as she quickly scanned the room, ensuring that no one was watching them sitting so close. No one was. A gentle roar of chatter filled the room as students quizzed each other on enchantments and magical history and constellations, and Andromeda reveled in the kind of privacy that crowds afford.
Then, Ted leaned in. She could smell him—that rich, earthy scent that clung to his robes.
“Come visit me,” he echoed. “You’re of age now. You can move out, get your own place. And we could do this… us.”
Andromeda couldn’t think of another word she loved as much as that word, us, coming from Ted’s mouth.
And yet she heard herself say “I can’t” one more time and she saw Ted’s face fall.
“This is about your family, isn’t it?” he asked. She opened her mouth to respond, but Ted wasn’t finished. “You’re so much better than them, Dromeda. They’re all vampires, the lot of them, making their lives about blood. It’s what keeps them alive—worrying over blood, judging the worth of blood. That’s how they thrive.”
“But they’re family,” she said, feeling small.
“They’re vampires,” he said again. “And you don’t need them.”
Andromeda shot up. Ted’s hands fell to his sides as she grabbed her bag and slung it over her shoulder, trying her best to ignore his eyes as they lingered on her face, following the same path they always followed from her eyes to her cheeks to her lips. But she felt them. She craved them. And it pained her to leave them.
Ted was silent and she was silent and then she said, “I have to go.”
And he said, “I know.”
“Have a good summer,” she echoed, turning to leave.
She took a step, then another, before his final words came to her in a voice just above a whisper.
“I’ll wait for you.”
A N G E L S
3 june 1998
One month. Just one month ago, the Battle of Hogwarts had left her widowed and childless. Harry had reminded her that she wasn’t childless, she had Teddy, but there was a certain, sacred link forged through carrying a child that proved hard to recreate. Harry meant well, of course, but his words couldn’t stop her from hemorrhaging the lifeblood that her precious daughter, her one and only, had once provided.
She often pitted the losses against each other—warring the grief over losing a husband and a child to see which was worse—and found that she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t be. And then she’d hear Teddy’s innocent wails and she knew she had to be, for him.
She did love Teddy. She loved him with a love that she didn’t know could exist in the face of grief. Her capacity to feel that love so fully astounded her, and she thanked the universe for its little surprises.
Tonight, as she cradled Teddy, she found herself thinking of family—first the Blacks and then the Tonks. She thought of the magnetism that kept her coming back to a family that had no capacity to love her, and how it hurt—oh, how it hurt—to break that bond, to admit that family could fail you. And then she thought of Ted, how he had given her the strength to leave because through his love she had learned to love herself.
Andromeda looked out the window at the stars hovering in the inky sky and imagined Ted there, and Nymphadora, and Remus, all sitting atop their own constellations. She felt their presence so suddenly and solidly that it couldn’t be denied.
Just then, Teddy cooed. Andromeda held him close.
“You feel them too, don’t you?” she said.
And she smiled.