Chapter 16 : Intimidation
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“Andy!” shrieked Cissy from the other side of mother’s boudoir, “have you seen my blue sash?” Cissy was frantically applying powder to her already white face, as Bella was violently corseting her into her dress. “Oh Bella, that hurts!” Bella rolled her eyes before doing one last pull to tie her into her dress.
“I think it’s in Bella’s room, she was using it as a slingshot to hit birds with stones,” said Andy noncommittally as she frantically brushed her hair to try and get it to seem elegant and dignified. It was the Annual Ministerial Ball, the most important occasion on the social calendar. As her father was a high-ranking Ministry official, his daughters were meant to shine.
“Andy you look like death,” spat Bella suddenly, spinning away from her other sister to face the blood traitor, “you look like a Mudblood’s slut.” The insult stung, but Andy didn’t say anything. Pushing the thought of Ted to the back of her mind, she disregarded Bella and turned to Cissy.
“Can you pass me the rouge?” snapped Andy, abandoning her hair and trying to bring some colour back to her drained, drawn cheeks. Cissy did as she was asked, but without making eye contact with her sister. They kept up this façade so well, that the three of them were the same bickering, loving sisters they were when they were children. But only they knew it was all lies.
Suddenly not wanting to be with her snapping sisters anymore, she escaped to the dusky darkness of the corridor. She soon abandoned this for her own room, where she sat on her bed, heavily applying rouge to her cheeks. The activity seemed to dull the pain for a moment, the constant ache for the knowledge that she would never see Ted again.
Refusing to cry, she got up and straightened her royal purple dress. Her mother had foisted it on her with the statement; “Remember, like the dress you are royal.” It was the least outlandish of her sister’s dresses; Cissy wore a pale blue dress that made her a picture of tragic innocence, while Bella’s passionate red drew the eye.
“Miss Andy,” came Tansy’s small squeaky voice from the door, “I’ve brought you the lotion you asked.” Smiling at the little elf, Andy took the cream. It was for the bruises and red blotches up and down her arm that were the signs of the confrontation between her and her family, especially Bella.
“It will help you to look even more beautiful,” whispered Tansy. For a moment, Andy beamed at the compliment, but then she remembered who she was looking beautiful for. From birth she had been dressed up and decorated like a glorious present for Rabastan Lestrange, and tonight was just a continuation of that.
“Thank you Tansy,” replied Andromeda.
The Lestrange’s coach, pulled by four winged horses had pulled outside their house in resplendent glory. Rodolphus was the first to jump out the carriage, a smile on his face as he went forward, kissing each of the Black sister’s on the cheek in turn. He hesitated before moving towards Andromeda, which heightened her suspicions.
“Andromeda,” he said stiffly, suddenly cowering out of his duty to kiss her cheek. To cover his social blunder, he quickly turned to Mrs Black and made a rehearsed comment about her dress. Andy narrowed her eyes at Rodolphus for a moment; of all their friends, he was normally the most warm and easy going.
Cissy did not seem in the best of moods. Their mother had arranged her escort and it was not Lucius. Augustus Rookwood, a close friend of the Lestrange’s, blundered out of the carriage. He was tall and gangling, with an acne covered visage and greasy dark hair; the antithesis of the suave Lucius.
Last of all, Rabastan appeared from the carriage in rich blue silk dress robes, which complimented his tawny complexion. Smiling graciously at everyone, he moved from person to person with an inherent social grace; he complimented Andromeda’s mother’s shoes, Cissy’s earrings, mumbled something sinister sounding in Bella’s ear before engaging Mr Black in some lighthearted conversation about Muggle hunting. Then and only then did he turn to Andromeda.
“Andy, darling,” he purred, lifting her hand and placing a delicate kiss upon it, “you look simply ravishing.” He moved closer to her and put an arm round her shoulder, and Andy had to stop herself from recoiling in disgust. When once she had longed and dreamed of Rabastan’s touch, now it was her worst nightmare.
As they stood in the cold night air, Rabastan’s grip on her shoulder tightened, so much so that when it was time to leave he almost pushed her into the carriage. It was roomier than it looked so Andromeda headed for the window seat so she only had to deal with one person’s company.
As expected, Rabastan claimed the seat beside her, and finished the display by placing one forceful, immovable hand upon her knee. His fingers dug into her flesh and she had to use all her resolve to prevent herself from slapping him off. Through the whole journey to the Castle where the Ball was held, Rabastan did not address her once, but made perfunctory conversation with Augustus. However, his hand stayed unnervingly tight on her leg.
It comforted Andy to know that Cissy was at least having as uncomfortable time as she was. She kept shooting snooty looks at Augustus and fiddling with her hair rather than talking to him. But even her small laughs at her sister’s expense did not take away from the heavy presence of Rabastan’s hand.
When the carriage finally arrived at their destination, Bella and Rodolphus were the first out. Augustus made a grab for his date, and Cissy could not avoid the noisy kiss he planted on her cheek or his arms round her waist as he pushed her out the carriage.
“Even marrying Jason Michaels was a better idea than this!” hissed Cissy as she disappeared under Augustus’ weighty arm. Her parents next exited gracefully, followed by the Lestrange’s; then it was her turn. Without looking her in the eye, Rabastan smashed his lips against hers as they exited the coach, and she tried not to look horrified as he ran his hand down her back and to her hip.
Letting Rabastan lead her, they fell into the queue behind Mr and Mrs Lestrange. It seemed so strange now, walking up the great stairs to the ball as she did every year. In past times, she had hung on Rabastan’s every word, and had gone home crying when he did not pay the slightest bit of attention. But now, when she couldn’t stop him touching her, she wanted to run away.
As they entered the great doors, she knew there was not a long queue waiting to be announced. It was only at this moment that Rabastan let go of her waist, instead extending his arm to her so she could take it. “Pleasant holiday?” asked Rabastan, still not looking her in the eye.
“Bellatrix Black, and her escort, Rodolphus Lestrange,” cried the announcer, as Bella and Rodolphus slipped through the doors into the spectacular ballroom. Momentarily distracted by their departure, Andromeda turned to Rabastan, and to her astonishment found he was gazing at her with his large amber eyes.
Could she lie? In truth, it had been the most awful few weeks of her life. It took great strength but everyday she furiously pushed the thought of Ted from her mind. She hoped in the coming years, through her marriage to Rabastan, this dreadful, agonizing pain would dim, and maybe she could live with what she had done. “Yes, I’ve had a wonderful Christmas, what about you?”
“Narcissa Black, and her escort, Augustus Rookwood!” chimed the announcer as Rabastan tightened his grip on his date. His eyes had narrowed slightly at Andromeda’s reply, but he didn’t say anything for a moment, before interjecting; “do you know when the wedding will be?”
“Mr and Mrs Cygnus Black III and Mr and Mrs Rupert Lestrange!”
The Wedding? She spent every day shoving that thought along with Ted to the back of her mind, and she didn’t know how long she could do it for. “Summer I think. That’s what my mother said.” Rabastan smiled politely at this, just in time for him to seem elegant and graceful as the announcer shouted:
“Andromeda Black, and her escort, Rabastan Lestrange.” Beaming charmingly, Rabastan seemed to float down the stairs into the elegant ballroom, and Andromeda was carried along in the artificial glow he produced. While in public Rabastan could seem confident, kind-hearted and jovial, it was Ted that was really all those things.
“Come with me,” said Rabastan suddenly once they had finished greeting the various Ministry bigwigs they were meant to. “I need to talk to you about something.” Taken momentarily off guard, Andromeda followed Rabastan onto the large veranda outside, where other couples were flitting around merrily.
There were so many of them. Most of them were boys, dressed up in the best silks and satins money could buy, the offspring of high-ranking Ministry officials. Then they were with their partners; girls in dresses similar to Andromeda’s own, but some infinitely more expensive. But the things she noticed most of all was that they all looked content to be together.
Rabastan smiled at her, but under the grin Andromeda could see that he was like a tiger, waiting to pounce and destroy it’s easily caught prey. “I wanted to talk to you about certain things,” he began, engaging her in a consuming stare. “If we are to be married, we are to set a few things straight.”
Straight? She didn’t quite understand what there was to set in order. This marriage had been their intertwined destiny from the day they were born. Everything had been settled by their scheming mothers hoping to create the perfect next generation of purebloods.
“Like what?” said Andromeda, taking Rabastan’s hand to try to show him that she could and would be a good wife. However, Rabastan shook her hand of as if she had the plague and her face crumpled. He turned away from her to the picturesque garden backing onto the veranda.
“Like the fact that I don’t love you,” he sneered mockingly, almost impersonating her petrified tone. “Don’t you think I would like to marry someone else? We’ve been lumbered together since birth and you don’t seem to have a personality, and let’s face it, you are no beauty. You are clingy, and needy, and in the real world there would not be a hope in hell that you and I would ever be together.”
He winded her with his high-handed arrogance, and he turned back to her, without a care or thought for her feelings. “I want to say that I am going to continue to see Sally Nott, or any other woman I fancy, throughout our marriage because both you and I know that you will never be enough to satisfy me.”
Andromeda almost cried out in pain at this string of assaults against her personality and her appearance, and his lack or regard for her feelings. It was almost as if he did not even recognize her as an individual human being with a singular, independent will.
“Why would I ever concede to those terms?” she spat, careful to keep her voice lowered due to the pressure of the throngs of important people swelling around her. She was determined her dignity would remain intact. “Do you think I’m mad? I want a respectable marriage, and will not have you sleeping around like a dog on heat.”
Without a care, Rabastan laughed at her quite openly. In a snap, his mood changed and her lunged towards her, grabbing her face and turning her sharply towards him. Andromeda was reminded of Ted doing a very similar thing, on a different star-studded balcony, but he had a gentle hand, and love in his eyes.
“Because otherwise I will unmask you as the nasty little blood traitor you are to the whole of society. Then no one will ever want you, no respectable pureblood, when the knowledge spreads that you were tainted by a Mudblood. And you will never have the hope of making a decent match.”
His shocking disregard for her, this girl he had know all his life, was what stung Andromeda the most. The Rabastan she had know as a child, who she had played with, building tree houses and dens and trying childish magic, could never have been so cruel. But this Rabastan was different; he was a monster, and one day, he would enter into the Dark Lord’s service, just like Bella, and Rodolphus and so many others of her “friends”.
Andromeda couldn’t help but babble incoherently at his wounding threats and insults. “How d-d-did you know?” There were already tears rolling down her cheeks, but Rabastan had the temerity to smile at her as if she had just told a highly amusing joke.
“I wouldn’t trust your sisters if I were you Andy, especially one who talks to her boyfriend.” The years of confidence between her and Cissy had already been destroyed; Rabastan could do no more damage. “And it was obvious the way you used to drool over him, like a bitch on heat.”
Her previous insult came back to slap her in the face, but Rabastan added no more, just giving her a smirk of acknowledgement. “Goodnight my love, I hear Sally is at the Ball. And that what happens for calling me a hypocrite, darling, it get’s spat right back in your face.”
Quickly spinning on his heel, he marched way from her back into the ball and he disappeared from her vision. Watching him go, Andromeda pulled herself together as she realized what an immature, selfish little boy he was. But she had to accept him, everything that he was.
Because she finally realized she was trapped in her own life.
A/N: Hi guys, I'm sorry this chapter has been a while, I've struggled with it really. I've had a couple of niggles with the plot, but it is now sorted and I can tell you it is now going to be twenty chapters long! (This and the next chapter was originally combined with this chapter but it got a bit too long!) Please read and review! Next time...Andromeda does something out of desperation which causes huge problems for both her and Ted...
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