Chapter 19 : Liberation
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Two days passed in rigid silence. It was as if Andromeda was being locked in her room by her mother’s cold stares, her father’s angry mutterings, Cissy’s guilty expression and Bella’s violent curses. Andromeda felt that if she held herself together just long enough to cover the engagement party, they would start to forget the repressive cloud that Ted Tonks had drawn over the House of Black and she would finally be forgiven for her crime.
Before the engagement party, she was yet again brushing her hair and putting on her make-up. Cissy was squealing with nervous excitement; trying to curl Andy’s hair with a spell. In the corner of her eye, she saw Bella hovering over by the door, twirling her wand in her hand, her eyes fixated angrily on her untrustworthy sister.
“You are going to look beautiful!” giggled Cissy as she helped Andromeda put in a large, diamond earring. For once, Andromeda had to agree. Gazing at herself in the looking glass Cissy had provided, she saw her sister’s makeover had indeed worked. She looked radiant, like a brunette Venus di Milo, with pearls round her neck and her hair elegant rolling down her back. Once again she was being dressed up for Rabastan Lestrange.
Cissy stepped back to admire her handiwork, using her overenthusiasm to cover the threatening tension. “All the boys are going to love you tonight! Your last night as a single woman in society before your wedding!” That statement made Andromeda feel physically sick. The next big party would be the reception after her wedding, followed by the awful, degrading first night ritual.
“Not all the boys,” spat Bella, “Rabastan is going to love her.” With one skulking, furious look she marched across the room and slammed the looking glass down on the dressing table. “And that’s all you should think of, Rabastan, your future husband!” Andromeda suddenly wanted to yell that it was Cissy who brought up the other boys, but yet again she kept quiet.
“Rabastan is your destiny, just like Rodolphus is mine,” growled Bella, and for a moment, Andy thought Bella was thinking of her own reluctance to marry Rodolphus, “not some filthy, stinking Mudblood.”
Andy turned round incredulously to face her elder sister. She could not believe that Bella had brought up Ted today of all days. Bella’s eyes looked so dark and angry that Andromeda looked away, letting Cissy finish off the last bits of her hair.
Cissy smiled. “You’ll light up the room, for anyone who sees you.” Andromeda though Cissy was overemphasizing the compliments to make up for the series of betrayals that littered their recent relationship; but Andromeda tried to smile as prettily as possible.
“Thank you Cissy, after all, I only want to look beautiful for Rabastan.”
On arrival in the Ministry, Andromeda found herself thinking of Ted more than ever. The Ministry, with its beautiful, classically designed architecture, was miles away from Ted and everything he stood for. In her minds eye, she could see his sunshine coloured hair, unassuming smile and refined delicate features. Where once he had been unnoticeable, his unbelievable warmth and compassion had drawn her to him like a moth to a flame.
Her father kept his bony hand on her shoulder as he marched her into the Imperial Ballroom for the party, as if she was suddenly going to flee. But the small piece of rebellion within her was subdued as she entered the room and there was a cheer of celebration from the gathered guests.
Purebloods, every last one of them.
Rabastan was there to greet her, and he instantly took her arm and led her over to the head table, which was littered with family friends. They all raised their glasses in acknowledgement of her arrival, before Rabastan placed a noisy, theatrical kiss on her cheek as she sat down.
Her whole family were there grinning inanely at her. Only her cousin Sirius was looking at her with concern, and gave her a little smile of mutual misery. He clearly understood what it was like to be part of a family with whom you did not belong.
Rabastan soon got bored of her, and turned to his brother Rodolphus, so Andromeda was free to gaze round the room. Looking at the odd collection of people, she realized that none of them where her friends. They were purebloods of the oldest sort, and she could not see a friendly face among them.
She began to panic, colour rising in her cheeks as it often did when she was in large groups of people. It seemed everyone she had something to say to was out of reach, but suddenly, her eyes alighted on someone.
Lucius Malfoy was hovering by the drinks table, a glass of wine at his lips, and his grey eyes locked on Narcissa across the room. She was once again forced to accompany Augustus Rookwood, and was sitting awkwardly at the table that Andromeda had just abandoned, desperately trying to ward off his intrusive hands.
Andromeda picked up a drink before she walked beside Lucius, and it seemed to startle him. “I’m sorry,” she said for no particularly reason, “I interrupted you staring at Narcissa.” There was a long absent laugh on her lips, but she could not draw a similar humour from Lucius.
“I trust your recent discretion has been dealt with,” he spat coldly, trying to hide his own desperate vulnerability. That was the way of people of her class; they would rip apart their opposition’s self-esteem for a brief moment of triumph.
Andromeda narrowed her eyes at him. “Of course, but I am more worried about you and Narcissa. What are you going to do?” The last thing she wanted to do was think about Ted in public; she might burst into tears. Lucius and Narcissa were a safe topic, and she was sure that Lucius would engage with her for a brief moment.
Flaring his nostrils, he drowned the remaining wine before fixing her with an angry stare. “I can’t stand it! He slobbers over her all the time and she can’t do anything about it, and neither can I! Our parents disapprove, and I’ve tried talking to my father, but he is as implacable as ever!”
For the first time, Andromeda actually recognized the signs in Lucius of a distressed human being who was hopelessly in love with a person he wasn’t strictly allowed to have. In a moment of hidden solidarity, Andromeda placed one hand on his shoulder, in what she hoped was a comforting gesture.
Unlike Rabastan, he did not slap her away, and for the briefest moment she thought she saw a smile tug at Lucius’ lips. “I have to do something I know,” he whispered, “I will have to talk to your father, make him see sense, and Narcissa can talk to mine. We can’t just let this all slip away without at least trying to get what we want.”
Andromeda nodded sadly. She wished she could do something as brave as Lucius was planning to. “I mean,” he continued, his resolve becoming stronger as he put down his glass and staring harder at Cissy, “what’s the point in life if you don’t fight for the things you love? I’m going to ask her to dance.”
And with that, Lucius marched straight up to the table and butted straight into Augustus’ heavy-handed attempts at wooing. Giving his dazzling smile, he took Narcissa’s hand and led her onto the dance floor. When close together they both smiled endearingly at each other, and Cissy was reddening with happiness.
Watching them, Andy could feel the warmth radiating from them. She knew that Cissy would never be happy with anyone else, and the same for Lucius. Hungrily staring at them, Andromeda could not help but feel that pang of longing for Ted, and the love that they had shared, the love her family were trying to brutally extinguish.
Feeling slightly dizzy as she watched them, she heard Lucius’ words reverberating round her head. They were making her breathe quicker as her life was suddenly coming into sharper focus; she could see things clearer than she had for years.
“What’s the point in life if you don’t fight for the things you love?”
And who did she love? The answer came quicker than even she was expecting.
More than her parents who had never wanted happiness for their daughter, only society’s blessing, more than her friends who had never done anything but ridicule and hurt her. More than Bella who thought her disgusting, and Rabastan who saw her as property, and even more than Cissy who was the closest person she could call a true friend.
To her, Ted Tonks mattered to her more than all these people; more than dresses, parties, ambition and dreams. What would her life without Ted be? She could barely think to contemplate it. All she knew was that she had to be stupid to give up the boy who loved her, and cared for her, and never tried to hurt her or make her cry in exchange for the people she called her family.
Drifting back to her table, she sat down, suddenly forgetting where she was. Rabastan was beside her, and in his usual act of domination and control, slapped one heavy hand commandingly on her knee before pulling her into a rough kiss. His teeth snagged on her lip and a little blood was drawn.
Not noticing, he turned back to Rodolphus, keeping his hand infuriatingly on Andromeda’s knee. Wanting to say something, wanting to stop him, Ted’s words to her from so long ago came back in a flash.
“I think if you really wanted to, you would have the strength to beat your family and be with me, whatever they thought. But the thing is, you don’t want to, and you never will. Because you are afraid, and you are more scared of them than you love me.”
And in a moment of utmost realization she knew that wasn’t true. Her next move was so impulsive that she surprised herself with it. Lifting her arm, she brought it down with such an almighty smack onto Rabastan’s hand that he moved it away hastily, a look of shock and pain on his cruel face.
“What do you think you are doing?” hissed Rabastan, trying to keep his voice low. But Andromeda had no interest in whispering anymore. She no longer wished to be that coward who would stoop and bend to anyone who challenged her. People who lived in fear never got what they wanted; she had to stand up and be counted, not just for her, but for Ted.
She could not help but laugh. “I’m telling you to get off me Rabastan!” she growled, “I don’t want you to touch me ever again! Because I despise you and I will not marry you!” Lifting herself from her chair, she grabbed her clutch bag, which contained her wand.
Rabastan stood up and grabbed her wrist forcefully, as he had done so many times before. “Sit down Andromeda, and stop thinking yourself more important than you are!” Rabastan’s eyes flashed around the room and suddenly Andromeda recognized the fear in his eyes. He was scared of what society thought of him, and she used this to twist the knife.
“I am important Rabastan, and if you loved me you would think that too.” Yanking her arm from him, she raised her voice and began to shout just so everyone could hear Rabastan’s humiliation, “Ted thinks that. He loves me, so I’m going to be with him. For the first time in my life, I’m going to choose what I want. It’s not you, Rabastan, you’ve don’t have control over me. I love Ted, and I choose him; you’ve lost.”
Rabastan stood, staring at her, dumbfounded, but did not do anything for a moment. It was Bella, sitting near them on the table, who reacted first. Fixing Andromeda with a terrifying look, she lifted her wand. “Shut up you disgusting…”
Andromeda made sure Bella got no further. Clicking her bag open, soon her wand was in her hand and she shouted, “Expelliarmus!” Bella’s wand flew into the air and Andromeda lifted her hand and caught it. It gave her a sense of power she had never known before; she felt she could run miles, or do anything she wished.
“Give me back my wand you dirty little blood traitor!” shrieked Bella. People were beginning to turn round now, and this made Andromeda even more resolved to fight for Ted. She had realized she was not being selfish or indulgent by choosing Ted; he loved her, and she loved him, and that was all that mattered. Andromeda realized that she was not ashamed, and she did not care if society knew that she loved a Mudblood. She loved Ted; the most wonderful human being she had ever met.
Cissy and Lucius had stopped dancing, and he had gone white as a sheet. Andromeda did not care; taking Bella’s wand in both hands she snapped it cleanly in half. “You have no control over me anymore Bella!” she said, trying to prevent herself laughing at Bella’s gob smacked face, “I am a free woman. I’m not scared of you.”
Silence was slowly descending across the room as people turned towards her. For once she was centre of attention; for the first time in her life she could stand up and say what she thought and people would be forced to listen. Little Andromeda Black, stopping the world for one minute. Now was her moment of destiny.
Her father had not raised his voice, or deigned to give her eye contact. Balling his fist up and clenching his jaw, he made no further movement. “You are embarrassing your family. This is your last chance; otherwise you can no longer call yourself one of us. If you walk out this door, you turn your back on the House of Black. It’s the family name that lives on once we are gone, nothing else.”
Extending his fingers across the table, he intertwined them with his wife’s hand. Druella Rosier did not look up for one split second. But then she lifted her dark eyes and fixed her daughter with a look that said a thousand things. When Andromeda gazed at her mother, she knew Druella was thinking of Tom and why she had never been brave enough to do this.
For the first time in her life, Andromeda saw her father looked scared. He had recognized that his daughter was beyond his control and now had issued his final, ultimate threat. Chose your lover or your father, your paramour or your sisters, Ted Tonks or the Noble House of Black.
But Andromeda didn’t care for anymore of his threats. She wanted Ted and her family meant nothing to her anymore. Families should be built on love, and hers never was. She would find her own family, her own path in the world away from Cygnus Black III and his heirs.
“Fine,” she said, her voice low, “I choose Ted.” The whole room was so silent that a pin could drop, and she turned her back on them, the whole lot of them. She wanted nothing from them ever again. All she could hear as she crossed the room was the steady click of her heels on the marble floor. But then the silence broke with a shattering scream.
Bella had pulled Rodolphus’ wand from his hand and cast the curse with such violent focus that it was clear she intended to kill her sister. Andromeda span out of the way as the fury channeled through her. She thought of her duel with Ted, so long ago now, and why she lost. Then she had only been fighting to protect her dignity; now it was her love and her life.
The spell shot towards Bella, but Rodolphus had extended his arm, as if to protect her. He went clattering to the ground, perfectly unconscious as Andromeda went charging towards the door. She had wanted them to let her go willingly, but now it was a fight to the death.
Her father had now shot a spell at his middle daughter, in spite of his wife’s pleading looks and attempts to pull him back into his seat. Cygnus Black looked like an animal, his mouth curled into a snarl and his sinewy body tensed and prepared from a bloody, aggressive attack.
Her father’s attempt at injuring her had taken Andromeda’s mind off Bella, who still looked as violent and deranged as ever. “Immobulus!” bellowed Bella as she stalked towards Andromeda, a triumphant, cackling grin on her face. All Andromeda knew was that she had to fight harder than ever for Ted. He had tried to free her, but she knew now that only she could liberate herself.
“Stupefy!” she thundered, pointing her wand straight at Bella. Her sister had giving herself over to her gloating cackle, so had no time to avoid the spell that Andromeda had thrown at her. In one split second her face changed from triumph to shock as she plunged to the floor, unconscious.
“Bella!” cried their father, in a moment of sudden, unexpected familial feeling, “you’ll pay for that! You aren’t even one of us!” Once upon a time Andromeda would have been scared, but there was no time for fear now. It was win or lose, Ted or Rabastan, live or die, and she couldn’t do it anymore.
Her father had shown an inherent weakness as he had side stepped towards Bella’s prostrate figure, leaving his body open for attack. The whole atmosphere changed as Andromeda suddenly realized she had won her freedom. The whole room looked at her aghast as her father’s humiliation became apparent.
But that wasn’t the last of it. Rabastan had got to his feet, all six foot of tight, bunched muscles, perfectly styled hair and shining white teeth. But for all his aesthetic perfection, she could not stand the sight of him anymore. In his usual arrogant way he said, “Andromeda, don’t you dare think that you can just…”
“Oh, shut up Rabastan, I don’t care what you think! Petrificus Totalus!” Rabastan was clearly so shocked at her reaction that he had no time to say or do anything more except fall to the floor with an almighty crash, as rigid as a plank of wood.
All she could hear were the nervous breaths of the purebloods in the room. Every pair of eyes in the room was on her; this quiet girl who had won the victory of her life. “Entertainment’s over, the engagement is off!” Looking down at her hand, she pulled off the outlandish diamond ring that Rabastan had given her and threw it to the floor. It clanked several times as it bounced across the marble, and it heightened the volume of the silence all the more.
“I’m leaving now,” said Andromeda happily, “I’m going to tell Ted Tonks I love him, and there is nothing you can do to stop me!”
A/N: I'm sorry this chapter has been a little slow. I wanted to get it just right. I hope you enjoyed the way that Andromeda made her decision. I have just wanted her to tell Rabastan to shut up this whole story, so I had to put it in! Please leave me a lovely review telling me what you thought!
Also I can't believe I'm only three chapters away from the end. From being a one-shot to now, I'm so glad this worked! Next time...Ted turns to ice cream to get over his break-up, but an unexpected visitor arrives to see him...
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