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Chapter 6 : Vanishing
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In the pit of Andromeda’s stomach, a sensation of outmost fear was growing steadily. It pained her every waking hour of the remaining days of the holidays, and even on the night did she feel its affection. It was her conscience gnawing at every part of her body – the knowledge that told her what terrible mistake she had made.
Narcissa did not speak of it; not to anyone, for which Andromeda was entirely grateful for. After all, it had been Andromeda who had decided to tell her, feeling that she could trust her sister. It had been an impulsive descison, but she couldn’t deny the fact that she did feel its weight vanish slightly from her shoulders. And despite everything, they were sisters.
We are sisters. I can trust her.
An unbearable silence had grown in the house. It was one that Andromeda couldn’t say she was all that familiar with. Bellatrix was never at home any longer, doing Merlin knew what, Andromeda’s father always went out for errands, her mother was probably at her Aunt’s drinking tea and gossiping. Plus, Cissy was locked up in her chamber, not speaking to Andromeda. Out of spite? Of fear? Andromeda couldn’t tell.
The holidays flew past them in a whirlwind of colors and feelings, and never before in her entire life had Andromeda longed to return to Hogwarts so fiercely. Since she had barely had the opportunity to communicate via owls, (Narcissa had developed a habit to keep an unnecessary wary eye on Ciél since the revelation), she had heard nothing from or Ted nor Alice. How she missed them! But what were they going to say when she told them of her sudden outburst and urge to share her darkest -if it could be considered to be dark- secret with Cissy?
Andromeda did not allow herself to dwell on it, since she would not have the answer till the return to Hogwarts. But in her dreams, blank and hollow eyes kept chasing her everywhere. She did not know what it meant and tried not to think of it either.
A week later, it was finally time for Andromeda to return to her second and preferable home.
“Andromeda! The train leaves in mere half an hour! You most hurry – hurry!” Druella Black kept yelling frantically from the Entrance Hall. Andromeda ignored her mother’s cries though; she was busy looking for the tiniest item she might have missed packing. Even though she knew she’d receive it by owl the following day, she did everything to not give her parents a reason to enter her dorm. Also, she did this willingly to avoid any contact at all from home as possible.
Her mother’s hysterical shouts did not disappear and continued for eight entire minutes, until Andromeda stood by Druella’s side, panting slightly. She scowled at her daughter, the once beautiful and young face now lined and worn with age. Her eyes were just the same as Andromeda’s and Bellatrix’s- heavily lidded, though big and curious, surrounded by thick, long lashes. It was the only distinguishable feature she had possessed from her mother.
“Lazy, that’s what you are,” she muttered under her breath and Andromeda instinctively ignored the urge to sigh.
Andromeda barely had noticed the presence of Cissy, who was silently putting on her emerald traveling cloak. She noticed how her sister evaded her gaze. It filled Andromeda with a feeling of sorrow; it made her heart ache.
“Well, you girls have a nice term. Cissy, hold a firm grip on Dromeda’s arm as you Apparate. Your sister knows what she’s doing, but don’t take any risks,” their mother said and enclosed her youngest daughter in a brief hug.
Amazing, thought Andromeda bemusedly, I just received a compliment.
Druella then gave both her daughters a barely affectionate peck on one cheek, and then ushered them out of the Manor. With renewed energy, Andromeda breathed in the fresh, yet chilly, January air.
“Come Cissy, we must hurry, or we’ll miss the train,” she uttered, with a smile on her lips, as the snow beneath her steps gave a crunching sound.
And together, they set along the paved way, past the fence and walked another few paces away from the gardens, and then vanished into thin air, an audible ‘POP!’ announcing their disappearance.
The crowd’s roaring laughter and chat exploded in her ears,as she appeared with her sister beside her on platform 9 ¾. The sight was heartwarming and she couldn’t believe she was there, for her next to last ride to Hogwarts. She turned to look at her sister, whose pale eyes stared into nothingness.
“Well then, I’ll be seeing you later, yes?” she said in a hopeful voice (sounding a bit pathetic in her ears, but she ignored it, desperate to reconcile with her sister). Narcissa kept staring into nothingness and just as Andromeda uttered “Cissy?” did she return to the platform with a thump.
Cissy raised her head to look Andromeda in the eye. She received a rather quizzical glance. Andromeda raised an eyebrow.
“I’ll see you later?” she tried again, her voice barely managing to reach her sister’s ears because of the sound surrounding them. Narcissa nodded absentmindedly. Then she departed, in search for her friends. With a sorrowful expression, Andromeda watched her struggle through the crowds of students and relatives alike, all the while expanding the distance between them.
All of the sudden, she was jerked awake from her deep thoughts concerning her family from a merry cry not so far away. How she ever could’ve heard it, was beyond her.
Surprised, she jumped at the cry of her name and next second, she felt her bones crush by the embrace.
“Alice,” she choked, but managed to smile despite the position she found herself in. Seconds later, she could finally breathe again as Alice let go of her dearest friend, her eyes glinting cheerfully.
“I’ve missed you, Dromeda. How was your holiday? We haven’t spoken for ages,” she stated and Andromeda peeked at her friend with big curious eyes. She noticed immediately that Alice was dying to tell her something.
“Let’s ignore the formalities, Alice, and tell me what has happened. But first...” she said, body swarming over with merriment, “let’s embark the train.”
Alice nodded as an answer, her face lit up with joy. They set off with trunks in hand toward the scarlet train, in search for an empty compartment. At long last they managed to find one in the very front of the Hogwarts Express, and as soon as they seated comfortably, Andromeda asked Alice to tell her the news she so desperately wanted to reveal. Whatever it was, Andromeda noticed, it made Alice’s face glow.
“Oh, a lot happened during Christmas, but I can fill you in with the events later. But... Oh, I’m so happy, Dromeda,” she stated the very obvious thing and Andromeda chuckled lightly. She inhaled and then continued, “Frank... He proposed!”
A genuine smile spread across Andromeda’s face, happy for her friend, but also because she knew how it felt to share such a moment. The night of her previous summer flashed before her eyes in seconds. Not being able to utter a word, she embraced Alice. A while later, did she manage to find her voice and she said, “Congrats, Al,” not helping the tears that briefly formed in her dark eyes.
They let go a while later and both stood grinning foolishly at each other, just as the train announced in the distant its departure.
“But Alice,” she began and Alice looked at her questioningly. “How did it happen? Before the holidays, you decided to take some time apart, yes?”
She nodded. “Yes, that’s true. But he flooed me one day and asked if I could meet him. We met and talked through it all, and let me tell you, surprisingly enough, that it was very easy. I dreaded that moment. And then we were together again and a week or so ago, he proposed out of the blue. And that’s the story, really,” she finished, still dazed. Andromeda chuckled once again and then stared out of the window, her thoughts landing on Ted.
“You haven’t - ” she began but just as she was to question Alice of Ted, the sound of the compartment door sliding open disturbed them and drew their attention. Andromeda’s heart stopped beating for the briefest moment as Ted’s figure stood in front of her, face serene and eyes twinkling.
“Hello there,” he said and Andromeda began to function again. She rushed forward and embraced him tightly. As he hugged her back and buried his face in her curls, warmth spread from her head to her toes. She had not known how much she had really missed him until seeing him standing there. As they pulled back, he kissed her tenderly.
“Ted, let me in to the bloody compartment! Alice is there,” the dark voice of Frank Longbottom said from somewhere behind Ted and Andromeda, both of whom blocked the entrance.
“You know Frank, I’ve always said you ought to become more patient,” said Ted, grinning familiarly. He took his seat beside Andromeda, her hand clasped in his. Frank followed suit, but walked over to Alice, who sat beaming. He kissed her briefly and then embraced her.
Andromeda loved to see Alice happy, because the thought of seeing her downcast, made her insides wrench.
For the rest of the journey, they were either engaged in a conversation or in a game of Exploding Snap, or they slept. At some points, they had visitors such as Marsden McKinnon, followed by Edgar Bones and Belwyn Vance; all of whom were friends to both Ted and Frank.
When Andromeda went to the bathroom, ten minutes before reaching the village of Hogsmeade, she ran into Edith Fawcett and Nora Etheridge, all happy about seeing each other again after the many weeks. She returned to the compartment and after hours and hours, the Express was finally slowing down.
The four of them disembarked the train and set off together through the crowded platform to find a carriage. The voices and the cheers rang clearly in Andromeda’s ears as she took a seat in the carriage drawn by invisible horses.
The beginning of term took its place as always in the Great Hall and afterwards, the days passed them lazily by, as the temperature rose steadily around the castle with its many towers. Slowly, the thick layers of snow melted, as Spring approached them. Andromeda noticed the changes around her with half a mind open, since she and her fellow seventh years had never before been so busy during their time at Hogwarts. They were, according to her, overloaded by homework and Andromeda was marveled that she hadn’t been sent to the Infirmary for stress issues.
But then again, she presumed they’d come some weeks before the exams – there were still three entire months to go. Andromeda was convinced that these months would pass as though they had been mere days.
The sun was shining brightly this particular day, promising everyone of fine weather, at least for a few days. Students filled the grounds, taking a break from the studying. Amongst them was Andromeda and Alice, who had decided that they’d studied enough to last them a lifetime.
They were playing Wizard’s Chess, the set given as a gift to Alice, who was, because of all the practice, very talented when it came to it. But luckily for Andromeda, she was as talented as Alice – she remembered well all those times when she and her father had played and how happy she had felt when he praised her for her skills, which was something he did not do otherwise.
But she really was a natural at it – she saw everything that took its place on the board. She managed to predict Alice’s every move, able to block her from attacking the King.
The sound of the rustling branches and leaves filled her ears, as the wind attacked every inch of bare skin with chill. The sun was warm, but it never really succeeded with warming her to its entirety.
After what seemed like hours of deep concentration and a whole lot of violence from the Chess-players part, Andromeda said, “Check mate,” winning their third round. Alice looked astounded at first, glancing at Andromeda and then at the board with the fallen king, repeating the motions trice.
“Where the heck did that one come from?” she asked bluntly and Andromeda shrugged, with an air of triumph. “It just appeared,” she said a bit nonchalantly.
“Well, I’m impressed,” Alice confessed and Andromeda flashed her a grin full of mock. Alice chortled.
They spent the afternoon sitting on the grass, sunbathing and being lost in a light slumber. Eventually, they left their favorite spots near the lake and the beech tree, deciding to finish their difficult Potions essay for Slughorn.
They found the library quite deserted, except for the new and vulture-like librarian, Madam Pince, who couldn’t be that much older than herself, she reasoned.
Silently, they carried on with the essay, struggling. They were working on the Polyjuice Potion and its effects, as well as to give a detailed description should one have to suffer the consequences of the potion going disarray. They scribbled fervently, both wishing to be elsewhere, but continuing and continuing, not wanting to upset their Professor and land in a detention.
But in the middle of writing a sentence, a sound that sounded similar to an explosion, erupted from below, echoing off the hollow corridors. Andromeda and Alice jumped at the sudden sound of it and then caught each others eye. Both began packing everything in their bags at the exact same time, then headed out of the peaceful library.
They descended the staircases, only to find themselves in the middle of a cool mist. Students around them spoke with panic in their voices, others questioningly; no one seemed to know what had happened.
Then, Andromeda saw from the corner of her eye, something moving, or struggling to move, letting out clinking noises. The next thing she heard was the students shrieking. The surroundings confused Andromeda and she had lost Alice. She didn’t see anything except the movements in the shadows of the mist and several pinpricks of light.
But when she turned around and caught a glimpse of whatever was there, she saw four suits of armor, standing quite still and ever so slowly, the mist that engulfed her and the other students, beginning to dissolve. She looked around herself, and the plaid faces of younger students met her eyes, some looking panic stricken and others unnerved.
“What’s going on?” thought Andromeda in bewilderment as her vision cleared.
“What has happened here?” The voice of the Head of Gryffindor House, Minerva McGonagall, demanded. Behind her, Andromeda saw, was Alice, panting. She understood that she had managed to escape the corridor, in search for a Professor. Andromeda was extremely glad she had done so.
Some younger students began recounting the events to the strict, yet impartial, Head of House and she listened intently to their story.
“Explosion... Funny noises... Smoke or an odd mist... Red eyes... Clinking monsters...” were the few words Andromeda caught. Her attention remained only with the suit of armors and she walked towards them, having the intention to investigate the place briefly. When she reached them, she scanned the motionless armors carefully. Then, out of nowhere, she heard someone snicker. She stopped dead in her motions and heard an intake of breath. Andromeda felt the tension, felt the eyes boring her.
An image flashed before her eyes, and almost soundlessly, she whispered, “Sirius?”
She received no answer.
“Students – return to your common rooms immediately – my fellow colleagues and I shall investigate this mayhem further. Away!” she added as some students began to protest timidly. Not wanting to get detentions, everybody set off, whispering curiously about the events that had just taken place.
Andromeda turned her back on the armours and caught up with Alice, not wasting a second to tell her what she heard there. As soon as she recounted her story, she demanded to know how in Merlin’s name Alice had found McGonagall.
“I just kept walking, hoping I was heading the right direction,” she said and then changed the subject once again, “but why d’you think it was your cousin?”
At this Andromeda smiled.
“Let us just say he has a talent of breaking the rules. He always has. Drives Aunt Walburga mad, I tell you.”
Andromeda was set upon talking to Sirius; she did not really know what had convinced her so badly of his involvement in the prank – besides the fact that he loved mischief. Every childhood memory with him in it, involved more or less, pranks and mayhem. He was much too creative for his own good, she concluded one afternoon.
Since the mysterious prank had taken place, she had not met him, or his friends, in the corridors. Because of this, she had asked Alice and Ted to keep an eye on him, since she was unable to. She was successful in finding him several days later though. She ran into Sirius and his three comrades, James, Remus and Peter as she rounded a deserted corridor.
Andromeda collided, not with Sirius, but with Peter, who seemed so frightened he could pee on himself. He was a lump of a boy, with big watery eyes and blonde, thin hair.
“I’m so sorry,” Andromeda apologized and offered him her hand. He let out a little whimper, but took the hand nevertheless and allowed her to help him up.
“Dromeda!” cried Sirius merrily, though faking his surprise rather apparently.
“Ah, Sirius. I’ve been searching for you everywhere these past days!” she told him as a bit of a test, and sure enough, the boy’s faces turned from polite to nervous. She resisted the temptation to laugh.
“Really?” said Sirius, trying and succeeding to keep his voice in control.
“Indeed.” Andromeda flashed him a smile, black eyes glittering.
“Boys,” she stated suddenly and rounded on James, who’s hair stood on end, Remus, who looked a bit uneasy under her gaze and Peter, who stood shaking slightly from head to toe. “Would you mind me borrowing Sirius here for a moment? Need to have a cousin-to-cousin chat with him,” and the three boys shook their heads.
“Sirius, we’ll be in the common-room waiting,” said Remus, still uneasy. Then they departed, leaving Sirius looking crestfallen. He, Andromeda noticed, also looked a bit uneasy under her stare, but she smiled mildly at him, hoping it would remind him she was not there to lecture him.
“Come, let’s take a walk, shall we?” she suggested and Sirius shrugged indifferently, the last rays of sunshine peeking through the windows.
“As long as it’s not dancing, I’m quite happy,” he said then, making her laugh.
“You were not that terrible at it, you know!” she said and he glowered at her with his grey eyes. Again, she chuckled and averted her gaze.
They walked down several corridors under silence for minutes, until at last, Andromeda decided it was time to break the silence.
“How d’you do it then?” she asked out of thin air. She was actually impressed by how they had managed to enchant the armors (it was a tricky Charm spell), impressed by the chilly mist they had conjured, as well as the explosion and all the pinpricks of red light. She assumed they had gotten their hands on some Zonko products.
“I’m pretty sure you know already,” he said and turned a pale shade of crimson.
“Yes, yes, I know. I’m very impressed. But you were there all the time, were you not? How in the name of Merlin did you make yourselves invisible?”
Making yourself invisible was magic beyond their knowledge, she was sure. It was complex and advanced magic. The Disillusionment Charm – no, too advanced.
“James owns an Invisibility Cloak,” he said amazed and realization dawned upon her face.
“Ah, of course. You know, I think you boys are much too clever for your own good,” Andromeda stated with a hint of amusement clear in her voice. Sirius only sniggered.
“You looked as if you were afraid,” he teased then and Andromeda gasped indignantly. “Did not!”
They laughed at each other and then, too soon, they realized that they stood by the corridor of the Fat Lady, who guarded the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. Andromeda hugged Sirius, who hugged back and bid goodnight.
Andromeda watched as her cousin headed down the corridor and entered the common room, all the while smiling absentmindedly. He was not so very different from the others, but yet, she saw in his grey pools something that resembled uncertainty. He knew he still was different from his housemates. But even though he didn’t see it himself, Andromeda saw them – all his Gryffindor qualities.
And after all, everything could be found in the eye of the beholder.
A/N: At long last. This was the sixth chapter of Faded Constellation. Let me hear your thoughts!
Thank you the_zerbiac for beta'ing.
Chapter title and lyrics in chapter summary by Bryan Adams!
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