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Chapter 8 : Black Eyed
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Beads of sweat formed themselves on Andromeda’s scalp and ran carelessly down her pale skin. Beneath her eyelids, her dark brown eyes were rolling agitatedly, and her face was screwed in a grimace that spoke of nothing but pain and despair. Under many quilts, her body was shaking, and she was turning from one position to another in her grand four-poster. She would throw the quilts away, because of the warmth, but then, seconds later, she would be looking for them again in her sleep.
Nightmares haunted Andromeda. Fever and anxiety were the cause of the horrid dreams that plagued her nights. Her rasping breaths disturbed the penetrating silence of her dark chamber. The full-moon’s glow gleamed through a little fissure by the curtains. The light shone across her figure, and the tears that silently poured out of her eyes glistened in the light.
Finally, she stopped shaking. Her eyes no longer rolled beneath the eyelids. Her breath was calm. It happened in less than a second; everything was silent, everything was peaceful. For the briefest of all moments, time seemed to stand still.
Andromeda lay motionless on her bed. The tears stopped trickling down her cheeks, and she no longer seemed to breathe. In order to disturb the peacefulness which existed in her dorm, it’d require a banshee to break it with her terrifying wails. But all of the sudden, Andromeda woke with a start, breathing in a mouthful of air. Her almost black eyes glazed in the darkness, her tangled brown curls framing her heart-shaped face.
She was loudly gasping for air, in and out, seemingly hyperventilating, but in time, she calmed down. Slowly and gradually. The feeling of being suffocated stayed with her for minutes that seemed to go on forever.
Her dream had been horrid, and this was reflected in the frightened expression that adorned her usually serene face. Fear was etched on her features, mingled with shock and hate.
Darkness, she thought, darkness is on its way.
She lay down on her many cushions with an exhausted sigh, and, at once, sleep overtook her senses. Soon, as though only minutes had passed, she awoke, yawning and stretching. The sun outside blazed through the red curtains, its rays touching her body.
Tiredly, she rose from her bed, slipped her feet in her morning slippers, and put on her morning gown. Then, she headed toward her attached bathroom for a quick shower, having in mind that she should at least look presentable in her own home, but more particularly, in front of her parents.
A month. A month had gone by, and they had not yet spoken to her. Well, more like they hadn’t engaged her in a real conversation. Not that they ever had. But this was different. What kept wrenching her heart was the reason they no longer spoke to her and had no longer any intention to do so.
She sighed exhaustedly. She was a ghost beneath the roof of the manor.
Andromeda had not spoken to her sisters, either. Not with Narcissa, for betraying her. Not with Bellatrix, who had revealed the secret to their parents. Andromeda was sure Bellatrix enjoyed the entire situation. Her suspicions had, after all, revealed themselves to be true. More than ever before, Andromeda despised her family. She was as furious with them as they were with her.
The days had flown lazily by, and, as never before in her entire life, she felt... chained. Every move was being observed. She was trapped within her own home.
She dressed in plain emerald robes and tied her brown hair in a ribbon. After a good look in the mirror and many more sighs, she exited her bedroom. When she arrived in the dining room, her parents were already present, as well as her two sisters. None but Narcissa took notice of her as she entered, head held high and posture dignified.
But soon, very soon, she would explode.
After a while considering it, she said politely, though a tad bit coolly, “Good morning.”
Both Cygnus and Narcissa responded with a slight nod of their heads. Andromeda swallowed the will to let out an exasperated cry, knowing perfectly well that her mother would have a tantrum. And Merlin knew that the last thing on earth she wanted to hear was that shrill voice of her mother’s echoing off the walls.
And so, with no sighs or frustrated cries, their breakfast continued in silence, with the exception of the clattering of the silverware that rang soundly in the cavernous room.
This was everything that remained from a once whole family. The bond that once kept them together had long ago shattered.
They know... and they are driving me mad. They won’t speak to me, won’t even look at me. I’m stuck in a place where no time seems to pass by, endlessly having to endure the fact that I am not welcome. I need you. There’s nothing more complicated to it. I hate to burden you with my thoughts, but I can’t turn to anyone else. I... I don’t know what to do. Tell me what to do – please, say anything to help me survive this madness.
She read through the letter, and a melodramatic feeling coursed through her. She was completely lost, and at that moment, she felt that nothing or nobody but Ted’s presence could soothe her. Her heart ached at the thought of him, of the last moment they’d shared. It felt like forever since she'd heard his deep voice. And then, amidst the swarming pictures of Ted inside her head, she inwardly cursed the both of them. Why had they not spoken about meeting or setting a date for marriage or whatever the hell couples did when they were engaged and had just graduated from school? Frustration was plainly visible on Andromeda’s face. She inhaled and exhaled, keeping her tears at bay.
“No, there’s no time for crying,” she said to herself clearly and then sealed the letter. Ciél sat neatly inside her cleaned cage, drinking her water, waiting patiently. She attached the letter to Ciél’s leg and then placed her arm so that the handsome owl could hop up on it. Andromeda walked over to the window, opened it, and then watched as her owl took flight, disappearing a bit more against the horizon every second.
At that exact moment, a knock sounded audibly across the room, and reluctantly, Andromeda closed the window and went to see who it was who’d bother to acknowledge her presence in the vast and slightly boring manor. Turning the doorknob lazily, she opened her heavy door only a fraction. Through the spring, Narcissa’s hair shone inexplicably clear, its dazzling colour almost radiating through the dark of the corridor beyond.
“Oh, such a nice surprise,” Andromeda drawled, her voice spitting with sarcasm. For once in her life, she hated looking at the seemingly innocent face of her younger sister. “Don’t you have any other place to be, dear sister?”
“I wondered if Ciél was with you. I have a very important letter to send,” she spoke evenly, avoiding eye contact.
Andromeda smirked. She had no idea what possessed her at that precise moment. She was only tired of it all. Now, of all the moments of her life, she wanted to be elsewhere.
“You just missed her. Ask Bella – if she’s at home, of course – to lend you her owl. I also had a very important letter to send off today,” she said, her tone emotionless, her face casual. Had anybody not known any better, she might have been Imperuised.
“Dromeda! I really needed Ciél – he is expecting my answer tonight! Who knows when she will return from your blood traitor or Mudblood friends?” Narcissa spat.
An unfamiliar feeling surged through Andromeda’s body, as her face contorted in anger. Narcissa instinctively took a step back.
“Fool! If I ever hear those foul words in your mouth in my presence ever again, I’ll make you want to wash it. Leave now Narcissa, before I decide to do it a bit earlier. Lucius wouldn’t want you to taste like soap, now would he?”
“How dare you-“
And before any more words of rage were uttered, Andromeda slammed the door shut and locked it with a flick of her wand. Before she even knew it, she had fallen to her knees, tears the size of diamonds pouring out of her eyes, specking her flecked skin.
After two nights and three days, Ciél stood by the window-pane on the other side of the high windows. Andromeda, having returned from yet another visit from the family library, squealed with delight and hope. She ran over to the window, opened it and watched Ciél enter the warmth of her dorm. As she approached the intelligent creature, anxiousness chilled her bones. To her horror, there was no note attached to the owl’s letter.
Andromeda sat down on the edge of her bed, feeling confused.
Why... Why wouldn’t he answer? she thought with a new kind of sorrow in her heart. It was an utter disappointment.
She shook her head, knowing there had to be a reason. Ted would never in a million years leave her without some comfort, some hope for the future. Their future. Perhaps Ciél had been intercepted along the way, but she had no reason to believe that.
Andromeda sighed. What else could she do? Hope for him to open her door and save her from the clutches of her family? Perhaps Alice had lent her one too many romance novels.
So she sat upon her bed until the last rays of sunshine vanished from the surface of the earth and the moon dominated the skies. Without changing into her nightdress, she tucked herself under the covers. Her dreams were confusing. They held Ted and Alice, her family, and sudden sea serpents that, she’d realize in her sleep, had to do with the romance novels.
Then her normal dreams turned into ones that made her sweat and feel pain in the night. When she awoke the next morning, tired after another worrisome night, her robes were plastered to her humid body. She couldn’t decipher the dreams that morning, but she admitted to herself that she didn’t really want to delve in them.
It was not in her place to see the face of evil.
After their encounter, neither Andromeda nor Narcissa put the effort in commencing small talk. Both were too to proud to admit defeat, of course. That was a strong Black family trait. Andromeda couldn’t help but feel contaminated.
So days turned into weeks, weeks into months. The days crept by slowly, while the night crept by quickly. As the summer days went to Merlin only knew where, Andromeda began to avoid direct contact with each of her family members more and more. Why bother when her presence was not wished for anyway?
She watched Narcissa from afar. Each day she was becoming the supreme pure-blooded woman she was expected to be. A Black princess. Andromeda felt slightly crestfallen as she thought of it. She had experienced the confusion that tormented her younger, and favourite, sister.
Only some months earlier, Narcissa herself had claimed that she wanted to be more like Andromeda. What, more free? Andromeda wondered. She did not know how to interpret her words. Andromeda had realized that Cissy could be more than thought possible of her. She was so much more than just a pretty face and impeccable manners. The problem was that she was not given the chance. Andromeda would never admit it to anybody, but she worried about her. It was not enough, though. At that point, salvation was beyond the veil. The final, thin string that had kept their bond intact after so many years had vanished.
Everything was gone.
And at long last, after months of waiting for something – a letter from Ted or a sign of forgiveness from her family – Andromeda had finally had enough. She had been patient in the hopes of reconciling with her family carrying her through the previous months. For what? Nothing. No signs. She was as lonely as the far-way constellation up in the early night sky.
On a night when gigantic clouds roamed the vast, velvety-black sky hiding the fire of the many stars, Andromeda packed her old and worn trunk with everything she thought was necessary. Clothes, mainly, but also tiny reminders of a past she knew she’d only hold onto dearly. Photographs, letters and diaries among many different possessions.
With steps light as feathers, she tiptoed across her floor, not wanting anybody to wonder what in Hades name she was up to. When she finally sealed the trunk, she took a good look around the chamber, taking in the white curtains, her wardrobe, and her immense mirror, which she ironically would miss the most. The desire to lie down upon her broad bed surged within her for a final time. She lay down upon it and stared up at the wooden ceiling.
A vague sound cut across the thick silence. Andromeda’s breathing stopped. She held her breath, waiting, waiting... Again. Louder this time, the sound coming from by the window. No. It couldn’t be.
“Ted?” she whispered into the darkness.
In a fraction of a second, she rose and ran over to her window. For the second time in her life, she saw Ted stand beneath her window, tiny pebbles in his hands. He looked anxious, almost angry. Andromeda remembered the disappointment when she noticed there was no letter attached to Ciél. She felt a surge of anger as well. There was no other explanation to the hole inside her chest.
She opened the window, wanting for him to run.
“Go, hide by the forest!” she mouthed, but he shook his head.
Is he mad? she wondered.
He stood resolutely, not wavering under her warning glare. When she realized it, she returned to her room, shutting the window. She turned and looked around the room in panic. The trunk was packed. Her travelling cloak lay serenely on top of her bed. She grabbed it and placed it on her shoulders. Then she flicked her wand at her heavy trunk, and immediately it floated some inches above the ground, all of the sudden being as light as air.
Then she walked over to her door, opened it, and took one final glance at the stately looking chamber. She sighed and left, her steps still inaudible. She crossed the entire corridor without being noticed, her breath stuck inside her chest. A floorboard creaked without warning at the top of the stairs, and she inwardly cursed herself for forgetting about it.
At long last, she reached the back door, which was miraculously opened and closed the door behind her with a click.
Ted approached her in the night. She hadn’t gotten used to the fact that he was really there. The entire scene felt surreal. She narrowed her eyes, but nothing seemed to unbalance him.
“What in the name of Merlin are you doing here?” she hissed and she felt that the quarrel that was about to commence, they couldn’t wait for any longer. They hadn’t seen each other for months and months. Summer was almost over, and yet there he stood.
“I haven’t heard from you in ages, Andromeda. I’ve been worried to death. Why didn’t you answer my letter?” he whispered in a worried voice.
“There was no letter. And no signs of our owl being intercepted,” she said matter-of-factly and flicked her wand in anger. The trunk landed with a soft thud on the grass.
“I sent you one in any case,” he said and then grabbed her trunk. No hug, no kiss. The bloody trunk was what he wanted at that point. And in his anger (or disappointment? worry?) he ignored the fact that he had his wand in his jeans pocket.
“We’re not safe here. Come on,” he beckoned and began the walk toward the vast forest. It was there that they reached the barriers of anti-Apparition. As soon as they approached the edge, they’d be able to Apparate wherever they wanted. She found herself thinking her parents were slightly paranoid. Why they ever put on the many safety charms around the house at night, she’d never know.
Andromeda let go of the breath she’d been holding for ages and followed Ted. She hated to admit it to herself, but his presence meant safety. She was heading toward safety. The warm night air hit pleasantly against her youthful face, and she allowed herself to take one, deep breath of fresh air. Freedom tasted incredibly sweet on her tongue.
Ted stopped in his tracks and waited for her to catch up. When she stood by his side, he looked down upon her and smiled. She melted. That was all it took for her to be swept off her feet. She smiled back, and he grabbed her hand discreetly. His flesh beneath her fingertips sent shivers down her spine. Both were so caught up in that moment, they didn’t see from the corners of their eyes a lone figure approaching them.
When Andromeda realized they weren’t alone, she turned and raised her wand. Ted did the same thing beside her and dropped the trunk, which he’d been dragging.
With glowing hair and tentative steps, Narcissa strode toward them, her wand in one hand, her skirts in the other. Andromeda glanced at Ted and simply nodded at him. He understood, and before she went to meet her sister, he kissed her. She was extremely glad he did.
When they stood face to face, Adromeda saw that Narcissa’s face was streaked with tears. Andromeda, too overwhelmed to speak, didn’t say a thing. She was about to say goodbye to her once dear sister. Narcissa realized this and simply shook her head, no words escaping her. No sobs. No sound. The only thing she could do was to put her arms around her and offer Cissy warmth. It was the only thing she knew would soothe her. No matter the unspoken words.
For a long while they stood embracing each other, Narcissa calming with every second that passed. Then, she pulled off the embrace and glanced at her older sister with remorse in her eyes.
“I’m sorry... For everything,” she whispered and her voice broke.
Andromeda just surveyed her with her dark, wide eyes.
“I’m sorry too. Take care,” she added and hoped that would be enough.
Narcissa said nothing else, but Andromeda knew that it wasn’t enough. Nothing was ever enough. But that was the way things were. No matter how bitter it is, she thought, it’s the bloody truth.
“We’ll see each other again, yes?” Narcissa asked in a small voice without looking at her. She felt so small, like her entire frame could fit in Andromeda’s palm.
Not really knowing if they ever would see each other again, Andromeda answered, “Yes.” She hoped she was right and not just making another promise she couldn’t keep.
“Good,” Cissy said and then reached Andromeda to place a kiss her upon her cheek. Then she turned, leaving her standing there confused and empty. But not alone. She knew that from that moment on, she’d never be left alone. Not even if she wanted to.
Ted reached her and clasped her hand in his. He stood silently, watching with her the retreating back of Narcissa Black. And that was it. That was goodbye.
Author's Note: Chapter title and lyrics in chapter summary by Placebo. Thanks to JLHufflepuff for beta'ing. And lastly; two chapters to go. Let me know what you think.
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