Chapter 1 : The Right Choice
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She nodded slowly with a cold stare and turned back to the other girl beside her. This girl was shorter and visibly younger than her companion. She had dark brown hair that reached below her shoulders and deep grey irises that were set in her almond shaped eyes. Her companion, the one who had stared coldly at the librarian, was a lot thinner but also a lot more pointed in the face with sharp features. Though more beautiful, her defined cheekbones and set jaw line gave her a harsher appearance but it was her thin, heavy lidded eyes that reflected true nobility and self-absorption.
“Mother’s been worried,” Bellatrix, the harsh one, hissed to her younger sister. “You haven’t been replying to her owls.”
“I’ve been busy, Bella,” the younger Andromeda said defensively. “The O.W.Ls are only four months away and there’s a lot of studying to do!”
“Cissy’s been busy too,” Bella shot back. “And she’s found time to respond. Don’t be lazy, Andromeda.”
“I talked to Cissy yesterday and she told me she only gets one letter a week, I get two… sometimes three!”
Most of the other kids had left the library to go to class and Bellatrix pulled Andromeda behind a large stack of old potion books to keep out of the librarian’s view. “Mother’s worried about you,” she said callously. “We all are.”
“There’s nothing to be worried about,” she replied angrily. “I’m alright, as you can plain well see.”
“You’ve been quite unresponsive to Damien’s presents and we all remember that night at Christmas when you flat out refused to dance with him.”
“I didn’t want to.”
“The Bancrofts are a wealthy family; you would do well to associate yourself with the heir to their fortunes. And, they are on the right side.” A cruel smile formed over her pale lips. “The winning side.”
“That’s not all there is.”
“For you, yes it is. Dromeda, listen to me,” Bellatrix said, her voice becoming lower and darker. “There are certain expectations of you, me, Cissy… all of us.”
“I understand,” Andromeda replied reluctantly, avoiding her older sister’s eyes.
“Good,” Bellatrix replied flatly and turned on her heel, marching out of the library. As she passed a group of seventh year boys, their heads turned in awe at her graceful strides and alluring appearance.
Andromeda sighed and turned towards a darker corner in the library, it would be silent there. She made her way to an aisle full of thick books about Wizarding History that nobody cared about and sat herself against the bottom two shelves, leaning her head against her knees. Nothing was going as she had hoped… as everyone had hoped.
Damien Bancroft was the son of the extremely wealthy and influential Cyrus Bancroft, Head of the Department of Foreign Affairs. His inheritance was land that spanned over at least half of the rural cities by the Thames River, including a huge mansion by the countryside and a sizeable Gringotts vault. He wasn’t that bad looking either. He didn’t have a muscular build which was remedied by his gold hair, dark blue eyes and defined features.
The Christmas lights around Malfoy Manor were sullen and dull, though they didn’t manage to diminish the beauty of the eight foot tall tree that the Malfoys has conjured in their magnificent ballroom. The lights had been dimmed slightly, replaced with a silver moonlit glow making everyone seem darker and colder. There was a band, of course, playing the most elegant music England could offer while the many beautiful guests in the room made small talk while eyeing each other suspiciously.
In the middle of the room, Bellatrix glided gracefully along the dance floor in the arms of Rodolphus Lestrange, the tall, greasy haired son of another powerful Ministry official whose family had moved here four generations ago from France. The two made a dazzling couple as they effortlessly moved in synchronized fluid movements that left even the smuggest guests staring in awe. Bellatrix was wearing a set of dark emerald dress robes that had been custom made for her – mother had insisted that all the girls looks their best tonight – while Rodolphus was wearing the traditional black set of dress robes with a diamond broche encrusted with the Lestrange family crest pinned against his chest.
Through another set of people, Andromeda saw her younger sister, Narcissa, beside their father as he spoke to the hosts of the night, the Malfoys. She looked like a doll in her pink and white robes and her long blonde hair which was pinned back halfway in order to let a few tresses fall against her cheek. Her blue eyes seemed to sparkle with ambition as she smiled at the Mafloys’ only son, Lucius. Though he was in his fourth year, a year old than Narcissa, he too had a crooked grin on his lips as he let his hand out and took her onto the dance floor where they began to sway mechanically to the music.
Andromeda stood like a lone prisoner at the edge of the hall, watching her perfectly emotionless sisters take on the fate that had been so carefully planned out by her parents. Naturally, as she was unaccompanied by a young man, her mother had insisted on standing by her side. Andromeda was wearing a deep blue set of dress robes with silver beading that matched the little jewels her mother had put in her dark hair. She knew that within a few moments her mother would usher over some extremely wealthy woman she’d never met before and introduce her to the woman’s son. Then while her father came over and talked to the boy’s father, the young man would so casually extend his hand and ask to dance.
It didn’t take as long as she had expected.
“Estelle!” her mother called out affectionately to a red haired woman in yellow dress silk robes. “This must be your son Damien!”
Damien was two years older than Andromeda and was in his seventh year at Hogwarts. He had often smiled at her which gave her a suspicious hint that he was already told about the inevitable courtship he was supposed to engage in.
“Andromeda, you must know Damien from school,” her mother said, nudging her shoulder gently.
“We’ve seen each other,” Damien said, flashing his white teeth in a smile. “It’s nice to meet you, Andromeda.”
Andromeda looked up at her mother who nodded icily. That meant she was to extend her hand out and allow Damien to kiss it. She did so without question and felt a twisted feeling in her stomach as he pressed his cold lips against her skin.
“What a lovely girl she is, Druella!” Mrs. Bancroft announced happily. Clearly, she was pleased. “And she’s quite the bookworm, I’ve heard.”
The smile on Mrs. Black’s face shrunk very slightly at the mention of her daughter’s intellect. “Yes, that too,” she said, waving the idea by quickly.
Andromeda huffed angrily but the sound of the music drowned it out. She had topped her class for three years in a row, earning special mention in one of the most scholarly Transfiguration journals in the world and her mother had the nerve to dismiss that with three words? Anger management was never her strong point and neither was hiding her emotions.
“You look red,” Damien commented sourly. It appeared he didn’t like his future wife looking anything but perfect.
Mrs. Black turned immediately around and glared at her daughter. “It’s the heat,” she said quickly. Andromeda raised her eyebrow as she tried not to state the obvious – they were in a cold Manor which was buried in two feet of snow in the middle of winter, it wasn’t the heat.
The music had died down and a few couples had exited the dance floor, including Bella and Rodolphus who were now walking around charmingly, nodding at other people. Narcissa and Lucius still danced and as the band began its new song, Mrs. Bancroft gave Damien a stern nod to which he responded by flashing her a crude smile.
“Andromeda, may I have this dance?” he asked politely, bending his head in a gentleman’s fashion but keeping his eyes fixed on her.
Her father was looking over at her with a pleased expression on his face, clearly relieved that his Transfiguration obsessed daughter had put the Black family’s astonishing good looks and influence to better use. Her mother was now throwing her a very fake smile and her impatience could be seen wandering edgily in her eyes.
She twisted her lips into a grin and bowed back to Damien. “I’m going to sit this one out,” she said coldly and turned on her heel towards the other side of the ballroom, feigning interest in an ancient tapestry on the wall. As she made her brave journey, she had seen Bellatrix, who was in close proximity, flash a dark look while her mother’s horrified expression called to attention any guests that were standing nearby.
She saw neither Damien’s reaction, nor his mother’s but she bet it would have been just as amusing. She had spent the next two days locked in a cellar in her huge house and when she had been let out, she was instructed never to leave her room unless called upon. Before her return to school, her mother had sternly informed her of the many hours of flattery and heaps of expensive gifts that they had sent to the Bancrofts in order to be forgiven for her outlandish behaviour. She also instructed –more like threatened- her that any and every present offered by Damien was to accepted with nothing less than a full smile and all his invitations were to be regarded with the utmost priority.
Her head was still buried between her knees when she heard a group of students giggling as they entered the library. She looked up and realized that here was about twenty minutes left before her next class began: advanced Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall, a class she took with students in their seventh year. She had missed most of potions but didn’t really care; she had already read way past where the rest of the class was and she could get the homework from someone else.
She grabbed her bag, throwing it over her shoulder and darted out of the history section, making her way past the potions books, finally reaching the doorway.
By the time she rushed back to the Slytherin common room and grabbed her huge textbook and thick notebook, and jogged back to the second floor, the seventh years had already begun to pile in to the stuffy room.
She glanced around and saw Bellatrix in the back row looking bored as ever, though her eyes sharpened as Andromeda caught her glance. Damien was three rows in front of her with a seat open right next to him, which, as his subtle smile indicated, had been saved for her – like every other day. She sighed and took her place beside him. Angry or not, she was not one to disrespect her mothers orders especially with both Bella and Narcissa acting as spies on her behalf. “One toe out of line,” her mother had warned her, “and no more Hogwarts for you.”
“Not today, Ms. Black,” McGonagall said, looking over at Andromeda as she sat down. “We’re practicing material from chapter 17 and mind you, it’s difficult. I need you to help the group of students up here.” She ushered to a bunch of awkward seventh years in the front row who looked at her with a confused expression.
“Professor, I must prot-” Damien began, creasing his perfectly pale forehead.
“Mr. Bancroft, I am sure you will be fine,” McGonagall snapped. “Ms. Black’s assistance is required up here today.”
Damien turned to Andromeda with an irritable expression to which she just shrugged mindlessly and made her way to the front of the class, silently thanking McGongall. She sat down beside a tall, dark haired boy who glanced at her and smiled. She felt a little lurch in her throat when she realized that this was probably the first sincere smile she’d had in a long time.
“Chapter 17, if you please!” McGongall called out. “I will be walking around to see how things are going.” She made her way to the back of the room where she began to talk to students.
“Do you actually plan on working?” Andromeda asked the boy beside her suddenly.
He looked confused but then shook his head. “Not really.”
“Good,” she said with relief. “Then, do you mind if I do my defence against the dark arts homework? It’s due in two hours and I don’t get it.”
“Go for it,” the boy said, looking at her curiously.
She grabbed her back from the bottom of her chair and pulled out a thin notebook with doodles on every page – DADA was not her favourite or best subject. She checked around and saw McGonagall still circling the back of the room which gave her enough time to attempt her homework at least. She began scrawling things on the thin parchment until she came to a question she couldn’t answer and grunted angrily.
“The answer’s Hinkypink,” a voice came from behind. She turned instantly and saw the same boy looking over her shoulder with a bored expression on his face.
“Oh,” she said slowly.
“I take defence against the dark arts as a N.E.W.T. course,” he said, shrugging. “It’s not that hard.”
She nodded. “Thanks,” she said, writing down the answer carefully. “If only I was as good in this kind of dark arts stuff.”
“Well, I stink at Transfiguration,” he said helplessly. “If that’s any consolation.”
Andromeda let out a slight laugh and smiled. “I do feel better,” she agreed.
“I’m Theodore Tonks, by the way,” he said, raising his hand to shake hers. She had been so used to being kissed on the hand that his gesture took her by surprise. “But no one really calls me that. You can call me Ted.”
“Andromeda Black,” he finished her sentence. “Yeah, you’re Bellatrix’s sister, right?”
“Yeah,” she replied. “Sort of.”
He raised his eyebrow and she could see that his interest had been peaked. “Sort of?”
“We’re not that similar,” Andromeda said, wondering why she was saying this to a boy she’d met only a few minutes ago. “I know it sounds weird,” she added quickly.
“Do you mind me saying something?” Ted said slowly, as if debating whether to really say it.
“No, why would I mind?”
“It doesn’t sound weird,” he said. “If anything, I’m glad you aren’t like her. I tried talking to her once and she almost bit my head off.”
She couldn’t help but laugh as she imagined a terrified Ted escaping her sister’s death glare. “She’s a little intimidating.”
He nodded slightly and she stared at him for a moment before speaking again. “You’re a muggle born, aren’t you?” she asked. Being raised in a family of pure bloods, she had been trained to recognize one of “dirty blood” instantly.
“How’d you know?” he asked, impressed.
“I’m good at this stuff,” she said truthfully.
By the end of class, she had learnt that Ted was in Ravenclaw, he was an obsessive Quidditch fan and despised anyone who supported Ireland over Bulgaria. His favourite colour was green, though he hated to admit it because everyone related green to Slytherin. His parents were both teachers at muggle schools and he had a cousin who had been invited to Durmstrang. And finally, she had learnt that he knew more about dark creatures than anyone else at Hogwarts probably and that he had the most beautiful eyes she’d ever seen.
They weren’t blue or green or grey… no, they weren’t any “mystical” colours. They were actually quite brown. But she had seen in them for the first time such sincerity and interest while she was talking that she couldn’t help but stare at them. He had asked her follow up questions when she described a hobby or quirk and always knew the perfect time to interrupt with a laugh or smile.
“Your sister seems angry at me,” Ted said suddenly, looking over his shoulder. Andromeda froze. “Her nostrils are flared and her eyes are really… intense.”
Andromeda got up suddenly from her seat and began to put her books in her bag. “I should go,” she said swiftly.
“Why?” Ted said, astonished and clearly, disappointed.
“I have to send an owl to my mother,” she said, blurting out the first excuse that came into her mind. “Bye.”
“Wait, Andromeda!” he said, trotting after her while she went into the hallway. McGonagall had been distracted with a few students who had turned each other into hamsters to notice the two of them leave. As they entered the empty corridor in front of the classroom, Ted grabbed Andromeda’s bag and held her back.
“I’m sorry if I said anything to offend you,” he said quickly. “I mean, I know I said your sister was scary but she isn’t th-”
“It’s not that!” Andromeda replied. “You’ve got the wrong idea. I’m not angry at you or anything; it’s just that I really have to go.”
“Oh,” he said, though it was clear from his expression that he didn’t believe her completely. “So you’re not upset with me?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Then, would it bother you if I asked you out?” he asked, his face eager with hope.
Andromeda pursed her lips. What had she done? “Ted, I-”
“Nothing fancy or stupid… just a trip to Hogsmeade on Saturday. We can a walk around and talk and get something to eat…”
“I’m sorry,” she said, avoiding his eyes. “I don’t think that would be the right thing to do.”
“Bye,” she muttered, turning on her heel and marching down past the huge paintings and tapestries that decorated the stone walls. Her mind wandered aimlessly over her sudden disposition this past hour. Clearly, Bellatrix would inform her mother of what was happening – Andromeda had been smiling and laughing in the company of some filthy mudblood right in front of Damien, she would write. Andromeda imagined her mother’s piercing gaze and pursed lips; this wasn’t a toe out of line, this was a shoe, a foot, a leg… the whole body… out of line.
“Andromeda,” a suave voice called out from behind her.
She knew it instantly and that familiar twisted feeling began to manifest in her stomach. “Hello, Damien,” she said, with a difficult smile, trying to do some quick damage control.
“You look like you’re in a hurry,” he said casually, walking up close to her.
“I have class,” she replied.
“I see,” he said, he did not care. “Why don’t I walk you?”
Before she could reply, he had thrust his hand into hers and walked past all the groups of students with unnatural speed. They made their way down the stairs, past the library and below to the dungeons.
“I don’t have potions,” Andromeda corrected him. “I have Defence again-”
“I don’t care,” his icy voice said harshly. “I though a little heart to heart might be appropriate.”
She looked on both sides of the dungeons, realizing that there was no one else there. Her hands began to tremble in fear while her lips twitched nervously into a smile… she had to play along.
“That would be alright,” she said, hoping she had managed that same cold expression that Bella could do. “What would you like to talk about?”
“Nothing,” he retorted. He pinned her up against the wall and placed his arms on the wall on either side of her, leaning in slightly. “I need some convincing.”
Her breath began to increase. “What… why?”
‘I am a wealthy boy, Andromeda,” he said with a cruel smile on his face. “My family owns half of rural London, my father can make ministry officials tremble in their robes, our Gringott’s vault is one of the most secured vaults and I just spent the last hour listening to my girlfriend chatting it up and laughing with a filthy mudblood with not so much as a glance toward me.”
His defined features and icy blue eyes had now been contorted into an expression of carnage and anger. His face was only a few inches from hers and she could feel the twisted feeling in her stomach becoming more pronounced than ever.
“I had no choice,” she whispered fearfully, unable to make a full sound. “It was just a friendly conversation, that’s all.”
“I saw the way he looked at you and smiled and the way you responded to him… every bloody student in the class did!” His voice echoed through the dark stone walls and she felt her knees weakening.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “It won’t happen again.”
“Oh you can be sure of that,” he hissed furiously. He moved in closer to her and placed his freezing lips on her pale ones and kissed her angrily. She made no move to push him off but tears were welling in her eyes as she felt his arms squeeze her wrists with extreme pain.
“Stop,” she pleaded, gasping for air. Her unresponsiveness irritated him and his kiss grew more impatient and harsher until she felt his teeth sink into her lower lip and bite her.
Her cry resounded wildly in the dungeons as he moved off of her and stood back, watching her body weaken. She fell to the floor and placed her fingers over her bleeding lip, seeing the sticky red substance on her pale hands.
“Now,” he began with a livid fire brewing in his eyes, “you will remember your place.”
Her soft sobs were muffled as she curled up her knees to her chest and buried her face in them. She didn’t look up but within a few seconds, she heard Damien’s fading footsteps as he left the dungeon. Her head still remained locked at her knees as she felt two drops of blood fall from her lip onto her leg.
When she finally did muster the strength to make it out of the dungeon, she skipped all her afternoon classes and ran straight back to her dormitory. As she entered the Slytherin common room, she wasn’t surprised to find Bellatrix sitting there with a few other Slytherins who were talking. Bella turned to look at her the moment she came in with a furious expression but suddenly stopped when she saw the bloody lip. To Andromeda’s horror, her lips curled into a very subtle smile as face relaxed in satisfaction.
She took a deep breath and without saying a word, made her way into her own dormitory and lay down silently in her bed. She didn’t bother changing out of her school robes as she curled up underneath her thick black blanket and closed her eyes while the throbbing pain in her lip began to fade.
The anger in her was immeasurable. Not only did Damien have the nerve to touch her but her own sister had been pleased that she had been taught a lesson. She felt disgusted at the thought of her family and how her parents had planned everything out so meticulously – without giving her a choice. She would have her choice and no one could take that away from her.
As Andromeda walked to Transfiguration the next day, she felt her heart skip a beat when she saw Ted standing with a group of seventh years. He caught her eye and immediately looked away. She couldn’t blame him for avoiding her and felt even worse knowing that it was her fault he was hurt.
She saw Damien standing by the doorway with a plastered smile on his face, ushering her over beside him. She looked at him with a cold expression and made her choice, walking slowly and carefully towards the classroom.
“Hi Ted,” she said, turning her back to Damien. He seemed just as surprised that she was speaking to him.
“Hi,” he said, smiling kindly but still a little reserved.
“I really need to apologize for my behaviour yesterday,” she said softly. “It was rude of me.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, waving his hand. “I’ve had worse.”
He laughed and with it, she felt herself smiling as well. It wasn’t until a few minutes later when a cold hand grabbed her wrist that her smile faltered.
“Excuse us a second,” Damien’s harsh voice came as he spoke to Ted. “Andromeda, a word, please.”
Ted looked at her with a puzzled expression and then back at Damien. Andromeda had known this would come and she was prepared. “We’ll just be a minute,” she told Ted. “Save a seat for me.”
Ted watched with astonishment as Damien dragged her by the wrist to a corner by the other side of the hallway and sunk his fingers deep into her skin.
“What are you trying to prove?” he spat angrily. The only illumination in this part of the castle was a series of faint candles that emphasized the hollowness in Damien’s face.
“Nothing,” she replied coldly.
He placed an ice cold finger on her lip and pushed her wound slightly, causing her to cringe from the pain. “I would have thought you had learnt your lesson.”
“Get off me,” she said slowly, enunciating every word as if talking to someone stupid. “And get your filthy fingers off of me!”
She brushed his hand roughly off of her face. “A fighter, eh?” he said, the familiar smile forming on his lips. “Maybe a harder lesson needs to be taught.”
He pushed her against the wall and ripped the side of her robe off, exposing her bare shoulder. “Stay away from me!” she cried. “You sick freak!”
The abuse only seemed to egg him on as he sunk his nails into her arm, causing her to wail in pain. “I thought you knew better than to fight the winning side,” he said, looking into her eyes and she saw the insane expression in his.
“It’s not worth being on the winning side if I have to live like this,” she spat, kneeing him in the stomach, reaching frantically around for her wand. He fell off of her for a second but then pushed himself against her – harder this time.
He locked her against the wall, pinning her limbs down and she couldn’t fight anymore. She began to cry as her mind tried to think of anyway to get away. She closed her eyes, not wanting to see his sick face and felt her knees buckling under her. Within a few seconds, she fell to the floor and heard a piercing scream.
At first, she thought it was her voice that had screamed but as she opened her eyes, she saw a terrified Damien being punched in the face by an equally livid Ted Tonks. She felt the pressure lift off of herself as she saw the dark haired boy toss aside the scrawny demon who had had his hands around her a few minutes ago.
Damien lay on the floor, writhing in pain as he grasped his bloody jaw. “Let’s go,” Ted said, taking Andromeda’s soft hands and lifting her up effortlessly. She stood up and leaned into him for support since her legs hadn’t quite recovered from before.
She looked at his eyes with a fearful expression and saw the anger that had inhabited them fade away slowly. The same kind eyes had reappeared once again as Ted took his hands and placed them on the sides of her face. “You’re alright?” he asked.
She nodded, enjoying the touch of warm skin against her face. “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it,” he said, placing one hand on her waist and the other on her shoulder. “Can you walk?”
She nodded again and this time took a few steps forward to check her balance. When she saw sure she wouldn’t fall, she looked back up at Ted, wrapping her arms around herself. He reached over his shoulder and removed his cloak, putting it over her bare arms to hide the scabs and scratches.
“How did you know to come after me?” she asked.
“I never liked that Damien jerk in the first place,” Ted said. “But then I heard your sister say something like ‘I guess a fat lip wasn’t enough to teach her’.”
Andromeda’s expression darkened at the mention of Bellatrix but she didn’t look away from him. Something about his gentle eyes made her feel comfortable. “Then, I knew something was really wrong so I looked around for the two of you and I heard you crying.”
Andromeda leaned her head against Ted’s chest and closed her eyes as they stood quietly beside each other. “Ted,” she said softly, after a while.
“I would love to go to Hogsmeade with you on Saturday,” she said gently, watching a huge boyish smile form on his face.
She had made her choice.
In life, one was only faced with two options: accept things as they are or accept the responsibility for changing them. As she walked down the hallway with the sweetest man she’d ever met, she knew she had made her decision and it was the right one. Harsh consequences would be inevitable in the future but today… today, she felt something she had never felt before in her life.
Freedom. She had made her choice.
The last quote, “In life, one was only faced with two options: accept things as they are or accept the responsibility for changing them” is by Denis Waitley
A/N:I hope you guys enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it! Thanks for reading!
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