Chapter 2 : Gemma & Andromeda
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The life of a pureblood heir, while decadent, is treacherous. It is an elaborate
dance of money, pedigree, and connections that was taught to children alongside
letters and arithmetic, a dance Gemma Withers knew well. Although only fifteen years
old, she had already begun assembling her empire, a spider web of connections and
blackmail that would determine her place in the pureblood court when she graduated
in two years. She had all the makings of greatness: old money, blue blood, and a
beauty and charisma that drew others to her. She viewed her classmates with cold
calculation, assessing their value to her and adjusting her behavior accordingly. She
played by the rules of the society that had spawned her, seeing it as neither good nor
evil but reality.
But despite this worldview, Gemma Withers never thought it would be her best
friend who would cause her carefully constructed world to crumble around her.
Andromeda Black was the only pureblooded girl of the same age group who
Gemma’s high-minded mother thought her social equal. In a childhood that had been
comprised of well-mannered tea parties, strategic play dates, and the beginnings of
life-long bonds, the youngest Withers and middle Black child had been thrown together
and become fast friends. To have an older friend suited the self-important Gemma and
the motherly, kind-hearted Andromeda, called Addie, had loved to have a life-sized doll
to play house with.
Although Addie was nearly two years older, now a Ravenclaw seventh year to
Gemma’s Slytherin fifth, the two remained close friends throughout their school years.
Their friendship—as many young girls’ did—ebbed and flowed. During Gemma’s first
year, she had felt so lonely and homesick that she had followed her only friend around
for an entire semester, until people thought she was a Ravenclaw instead of a
Slytherin. There was a time in second year when Gemma, full of her new Slytherin
friends and with a whole new set of underclassmen to lord over, had ignored her
boring Ravenclaw friend. The next year Addie flew into hysterics over the stress of
OWLs and the two had fought so badly that they didn’t talk for nearly six months, and
were only reunited when Gemma was publically dumped by her boyfriend (the Captain
of the Ravenclaw team who, it turned out, had only used her and was found severely
cursed the next day, which was coincidentally the same time of the friend’s reunion).
Their relationship, from the outside, could only be deemed an extreme case of
‘opposites attract.’ Gemma was the ice queen of Slytherin and Addie was the darling of
Ravenclaw. Andromeda Black was widely considered the most beautiful of the Black
sisters, with classical features and a charming smile that won hearts. Gemma Withers
was very pretty in her own right but cold eyes detracted from her beauty and as a result
she was generally viewed as the Penelope to Addie’s Helen of Troy. But the biggest
difference was their acceptance of the society that had raised them.
Addie was perfectly happy to take all the opportunities her social standing
afforded her (the money, parties, and automatic social standing that came with being a
pureblood in Hogwarts), but at the same time, she disagreed with all that pureblood
society stood for. In the court, money and affluence was king and its members were
happy to condemn all those outside their limited sphere. Addie fought for the
degeneration of the rigid cast system and rejected the increasingly violent ways of the
court while still accepting money from parents who supported the causes she
Gemma, on the other hand, felt that she owed the society—however flawed—
for an upbringing filled with all the pleasure money could buy. She accepted her place
in the system and subconsciously thought of her actions as payment for a prestigious
place in wizarding society. It made sense to her that purebloods would be superior to
half bloods and muggles. She wasn’t violent or hateful with these opinions, it was
simply a fact she had grown up with, much the same was knowing the sky was blue or
that magic was real. Because she was, by luck or fortune, a pureblood, it was her duty
to eventually take her mother’s place in society and she had never shirked this
Addie thought Gemma was heartless for dismissing the many injustices of the
Pureblood Court and Gemma thought that Addie had a double standard wherein she
criticized the court but still accepted the benefits she gets from her association with it.
But these disagreements were not the heart of their friendship, and if anything
their heated discussions solidified their bond—only the closest of friends can survive a
stalemated argument with a mutual respect. You see, despite their differences in
temperament, choice of friends, and view of the political climate, Gemma and Addie
had always described the other as their closest friend, more sister than acquaintance.
Until now. Addie had finally asked the unthinkable of Gemma: Andromeda
Black had asked her closest friend to be her maid of honor.
Andromeda had had many beaus over the years, and she was about to
graduate, so it should not have been surprising that the middle Black child would be
engaged. And Gemma wouldn’t have been surprised, if Andromeda hadn’t announced
her engagement to a muggle.
For all her past rebellion, Andromeda had always dated nice, pureblooded
boys and Gemma had been sure that, one day, Andromeda would find the right one
and settle into her place in society. But now, there was no chance.
A cold fury slipped through her emotional shield and infused her bones,
straitening her spine and hardening her eyes. After all these years of friendship, this is
how Andromeda betrayed her? They were raised together, with the same values and
standards. How could Andromeda cast off that connection so easily?
And how could she stand there, expecting Gemma to just accept this final
treachery? What’s worse, Andromeda actually looked hurt that Gemma was taking the
news badly. ‘What am I supposed to do?’ Gemma thought, derisively. ‘Celebrate
betrayal? Offer to help her twist the knife she stabbed me with?’ For her part,
Andromeda Black looked scared and miserable. Gemma saw only her friend’s
disloyalty to her people, but Andromeda was past caring about such false loyalty and
instead was broken-hearted that the only person she cared about was about to cut ties
Andromeda knew what would happen to her if she abdicated her position in the
Pureblood court, but she had hoped that her one true friend would support her. It was
the desperate wish of a drowning woman clinging to one final, irrational hope. Each
friend, lost in their own sense of betrayal, could only see the other as the Brutus to their
Caesar and was blinded to their own treason.
“Are we done?” was Gemma’s bland reply. A question to answer a question.
Both knew that if the answer was ‘Yes’ than the conversation wouldn’t be the only thing
finished—their friendship was also hanging in the balance. How could Andromeda
expect Gemma to abandon everything she had grown up with to throw in her lot with a
friend who could only be going through another stage of her ridiculous rebellion
against the society that had raised her. Why would she? It was not Gemma who was
‘in love’ with a muggle! How could Gemma be expected to dishonor her family simply
on a whim? It only reasserted Andromeda’s betrayal, that her former friend did not
consider the pain she was introducing Gemma to.
“Please Gem, I—“ began Andromeda.
“’Please Gem’ what? What could you possibly say? If he is your choice,”
Gemma sneered, “then we have nothing more to say to each other.”
“Gemma I love him!” Andromeda cried. Gemma just rolled her eyes. “I do!
You don’t understand, you can’t understand, but they are wrong! He’s human just the
same as we are! We aren’t better just because we can do magic. We can just do
different things. He’s brilliant in ways that they can’t understand. They are wrong!”
Gemma snorted. “Do you really believe that? If they are just the same, why do
they not have magic? We know that squibs are magic-less because of a mutation, a
wrongness in them. You know it! Its been proven! If it a wrongness that causes
someone to be born without magic, then what are muggles? A populations of
wrongness. How could you consider him, Andromeda? What if your children turn out
“How can you be this racist? Don’t remember Muggle Studies? They are
brilliant! The muggles have come up with a way to survive without magic. Can’t you
see they aren’t mutations—they are just people!” Andromeda knew that her friend
followed Pureblood beliefs more seriously than she herself did, but to hear that
garbage spew from the mouth of someone you consider closer than a sister, especially
about the man she loved was devastating.
Gemma’s cold gaze cut through her friend. It was remarkable how young and
unsure Andromeda felt faced with the condemnation of her closest friend and
confidant. If only Gemma would relent, just a little bit, and Andromeda would have the
strength to defy her parents and all she had grown up with—such is the power of a true
friend. As it was, it had been months since Andromeda had been able to see Ted
Tonks and her will was beginning to falter. Although Gemma thought her friend was
dismissing her family and friends on a whim, in actuality the decision was agonizing to
Andromeda. Her earlier rebellion had been heartfelt, but it was the defiance of a child
who hadn’t had the strength to make the final break from the only society she had ever
known. Once she married Ted, she would have no family, no connections, and now
that Gemma had abandoned her, no friends. But in her heart of hearts, Andromeda
knew that she could not continue to live amoung the cruelty and condemnation of the
Purebloods. She had to take a stand. She was too weak to do so on her own, but with
the love of Theodore Tonks supporting her, Andromeda found the strength to finally
renounce all that she had known and held dear.
But Gemma couldn’t understand. Middle children like Andromeda were made
to rebel, but only children like Gemma—with all the expectations of their parents
focused on them—were more rigid and couldn’t fathom that their upbringing was
flawed. And her only option, now faced with the disloyalty of a former friend, was to
leave and cut all ties with the soon to be Andromeda Tonks.
And leave Gemma did. Or at least, she tried to, before Andromeda stopped
"Gemma, you know. You have to know, what they are. What they do.” ‘They’
was the court, all the adults who were becoming more and more secretive, more and
more militant. Lately the things people said at parties were becoming more cruel and
unnerving. Sometimes Gemma worried that the jokes her friends made were not jokes,
that their actions were not juvenile foolery, but juvenile mimicry, following the more
serious brutality that the older generations—including Gemma’s parents—were
exhibiting. It was becoming less and less of a game to be a Pureblood. Lines were
being drawn that were much to harsh and inflexible. Gemma was becoming more and
more uncomfortable with the society she supported, but she couldn’t see—or entertain
—any other course of action beyond becoming what she was born to be. Andromeda,
her best friend in the world, knew she felt this way. Andromeda could see Gemma’s
uncertainty and was using it to manipulate her into changing her mind about
Andromeda’s actions. And for some reason this made Gemma all the more furious, not
only that she was being manipulated, but that she was losing the only person who she
would be able to take to and trust within the court. She was as alone as Andromeda
was going to be, but at least the latter had a fiancé. All Gemma had was a court of
changing faces and uncertain loyalties.
“Gemma, you know how they operate. They eliminate anyone who isn’t exactly
like them. How can that be right? It just can’t. And you and I both know you feel the
same. So why do you keep turning a blind eye?” Andromeda was angry now, unable
to have a calm argument now that it might be the last argument they would ever have.
Gemma just stared at Andromeda, her face composed and her eyes shuttered. “How
can you let them do to muggles and half-breeds what they did to you brother simply
because he was a—“
The resulting slap reverberated in the empty bedroom as though they were in
a long hallway, echoing in the mind of the participants for what seemed like a lifetime.
Gemma was so furious that she didn’t regret the slap or the look of horror on her former
friend’s face. She only regretted loosing her cool, and that she couldn’t do more harm
to the traitor in front of her.
“We will not speak, we will not acknowledge each other, and I refuse to be the
maid of honor to a blood traitor.” With a look of calculated fury, Gemma left Andromeda
alone in the seventh year dormitory with only her anger and a ring on her finger.
Before Gemma was down the stairs, she heard Andromeda from behind her.
“Don’t tell my parents” were the last words Andromeda Black ever spoke to Gemma