Chapter 11 : Confrontation & Contraband
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Then, “Andromeda, have you heard a word I’ve said?”
In response, Andromeda threw a wizarding encyclopedia at her locked guestroom door. She heard her mother’s huff of exasperation on the other side, then the click-clack of heels as Druella Black made her way back downstairs to join the rest of the House of Black for supper.
Under normal circumstances, Andromeda knew that her mother would not stand for this type of behavior. She would’ve marched into that bedroom and dragged Andromeda downstairs screaming, if need be, to save face with the extended relatives. But her mother knew. Everyone in this house knew. In all likelihood, ever single passenger on the Hogwarts Express knew. It had ended in a shouting match, after all.
“Don’t ever touch me again, you bastard!”
“Andromeda, love, if you’d only let me explain—”
“What is there to explain? What other possible explanation can you give? I saw it with my own eyes.”
Rabastan burst into a frenzied laugh. “You think that I care about Georgiana Harper? That what happens between us means anything? She’s not the one I want to marry!”
Andromeda’s blood had chilled at that. “What happens between you? You mean you’ve two have done this before. You’ve been doing it.”
He reached out his hand in another failed attempt to catch her by the wrist. Andromeda shirked away, her eyes blazing.
They had attracted an audience. Georgiana Harper had slipped away the moment the first shouts had been exchanged, leaving Rabastan and Andromeda alone to argue. But not for long. The passageway soon filled with students readying to disembark and who had become distracted by the live drama playing out before their eyes. Others had opened their compartment doors to peer out with nosy interest.
“You’re overacting,” Rabastan said. “Men have physical needs, Andromeda. That doesn’t mean that I’m not completely devoted to you in my heart.”
“Shut up,” she whispered.
Andromeda gripped her hands into fists, though the rest of her body was trembling. “It’s over, Rabastan. Give your ring to some girl who’s willing to obey your commands while you whore around. I’m not.”
There had been boos and catcalls, then, from the more uncouth onlookers. Andromeda knew that the ugly stares and remarks were all directed at Rabastan, the clear wrongdoer in this scenario, but that didn’t help ease the mortification she felt rising from the pit of her stomach. She felt limp and empty. She had just broken things off with Rabastan Lestrange, and she had managed to do it in front of everyone.
Andromeda gripped her legs to her chest and rested her chin atop her knees, staring out her window at the snow-covered streets of London. From downstairs, she could hear the faint clink of silverware and the murmur of polite familial conversation.
How could she show her face down there? Bellatrix was at the table, and worse still, Rodolphus Lestrange himself. How could she look Rabastan’s own brother in the eye after she had publicly called things off?
She supposed that she would starve to death. There were worse fates….
Why had Narcissa chosen to go to Malfoy Manor this holiday, of all holidays? Now was the time that Andromeda needed her sister the most. Instead, all Narcissa has been able to offer was a startled expression and a flood of worried questions when Andromeda had returned to their train carriage sobbing. They had arrived at Platform 9 ¾ only minutes after her argument with Rabastan had ended, and she had been forced to exchange a rushed goodbye with Narcissa and Lucius.
By the time Druella had found her daughter in the crowd, she had already managed to hear the news. Scandal traveled quickly amongst a crowded train of teenagers, and it had spread even more rapidly once they had all dispersed on the platform.
Her mother hadn’t spoken a single word to Andromeda on the way to Grimmauld Place. When they had arrived, Andromeda hadn’t even bothered to greet her Aunt Walburga and Uncle Orion. She’d run up the stairs to her customary guest bedroom, cast a powerful sealing spell on the door, and had a good cry on the bed. Then, she had refused all outside contact with stalwart resolve, including her mother’s most recent attempt to entice her to supper.
No, it was decided. She would starve to death before showing her face to them. She had never been so humiliated, so ashamed in her entire life. Narcissa had snagged a wealthy, noble, and exceedingly respectable man for a husband. And Andromeda? She’d dated a cheater, and she’d broken up with him in the most public, indecorous way possible.
She had never felt so worthless in her entire life.
There was another knock.
“I said GO AWAY.” She hurled another heavy book at the door, which hit with an impressive thunk.
This time, however, it wasn’t her mother’s voice on the other side.
“Andie, it’s me.”
Sirius. In the midst of the disastrous past twelve hours, Andromeda had forgotten—Sirius was home for the holidays, too. Uncle Orion had personally come to school to fetch his son after Sirius had sent an owl threatening to stay at Hogwarts with his best mate James Potter. Andromeda could only imagine the chastisement that Sirius must have received upon his return home. If anyone in this family wouldn’t make Andromeda feel like a failure, it would be Sirius.
With a flick of her wand, she dismantled the sealing spell and swung open the door for Sirius to pass through. He entered with his hands raised.
“I come bearing peace offerings.”
With melodramatic flourish, Sirius tiptoed into the room and creaked the door shut behind him. He joined Andromeda where she sat on the edge of her king-sized bed.
Andromeda despised her customary guest room at Grimmauld Place. The walls were painted blood red, and the drapes were made of heavy, black velvet. Even on the sunniest days, there was always a heavy, oppressive grip on the room. The portraits of humorless, hollow-eyed ancestors didn’t help the mood, either. Narcissa usually shared this room with her, and the two girls would giggle together at the sour expressions of the moving portraits; but now, there was nothing to giggle about. If anything, Andromeda would have trouble sleeping tonight, knowing that all of those haughty ancestors were watching her—and judging her just as harshly as the live relatives downstairs.
Sirius’ “peace offerings” turned out to be edible. He placed a napkin’s worth of dates, almonds, and grilled pheasant on Andromeda’s lap. It was undignified, and Andromeda preferred her food not to touch, but it was far better than going hungry through the night. She gave Sirius a grateful hug.
He made a honking sort of noise and inched out of her embrace, his cheeks red.
“It’s not a big deal,” he muttered.
“How did you manage to get away?”
Sirius shrugged. “Reg and I still aren’t allowed to sit with the adults. You know, that whole ‘seen and not heard’ business. It was pretty easy to slip away without them noticing.”
“Thank you. Really, Sirius. It means a lot to me.” She primly wrapped up the contents of the napkin and set it on her nightstand. “I’ll be sure to ration it wisely.”
“Come on, don’t be like that. You can’t stay locked in here all holiday. Just because you broke up with that Lestrange bloke doesn’t mean—“
“Does everyone know?” Andromeda moaned, sinking her head into her hands. “It’s my personal love life. It’s not anyone else’s business!”
Sirius looked uncomfortable. “Uh, yeah. Look, I don’t wanna hear about your love life. All I mean to say is, if you broke up with your boyfriend, I’m sure you had a really good reason. The family can’t stay mad at you forever.” He tapped his chin. “Well, I guess technically they could….”
“They won’t understand,” Andromeda said. “Especially not Bella and Rodolphus. He’s going to take it as a personal affront to his family. I can already tell that Mum is upset. I’ve let her down. I tried so hard not to, and I still ended up fucking up everything.”
Sirius’ eyes widened, and Andromeda realized that she’d just sworn in front of her little cousin.
“Don’t repeat that word,” she said. “You didn’t hear me say it.”
But Sirius looked more awed than scandalized.
“Who needs them?” he challenged. “Any of them? They’re just being a bunch of narrow-minded bullies, that’s all. Don’t let those bastards get you down.”
It was a rare talent that Sirius possessed: the ability to make Andromeda laugh when she most felt like crying. She was tempted to hug him again but feared that she would somehow insult the poor thirteen-year-old's dignity. Instead, she just smiled appreciatively and squeezed his hand.
Sirius peeked up at her from under the fringe of his long, wispy black hair. He smiled cautiously.
“You just have to promise to put in a good word for me with Mum,” he said. “She and Dad won’t buy me a motorcycle for Christmas.”
Andromeda raised an eyebrow. “A what?”
“You know,” said Sirius. “A mo-tor-cy-cle. All the really badass Muggles drive them.”
“No, I know what one is,” she said. “But Sirius, I think you’re a little too young to—“
“UGH, that is just what Mum says.”
Andromeda pondered her next words. At last, she said, “I’m not sure why you would want a motorcycle when there are much more efficient methods of wizarding transportation—“
Here, Sirius tried to interrupt her with an impassioned rebuttal. She talked over him.
“—but, if that’s what you really want, then you should go after it. My only word of advice would be to save up and buy one yourself. If your mum and dad buy it for you, they can also take it away. But if you buy one all on your own, then it’s yours forever. Not to mention, you’ll have the satisfaction of having invested your allowance into something you really want.”
Sirius stared at Andromeda with big eyes. “Huh. I’d never thought of that. It'd take a long time to save up for, though."
“But it'd be worth it,” she said, tapping Sirius’ nose. "To have something all your own."
“I’m glad you’re here, Andie.”
“I’m glad you’re here, too. Sometimes I think that the others….”
She trailed off, but the look on Sirius’ face told her that he knew what she meant.
“Uncle Alphard is pretty okay,” he said. “He let me snuggle with his pet viper.”
Andromeda’s eyes widened. “He brought Serpens into the house?”
“Oh, so you’ve met!” Sirius smirked. “Why d’you look so scared, Andie? I thought all you Slytherins were supposed to love snakes.”
“In theory. Not exactly up close.” She sighed. “What I meant to say is that I think you and I might be the only sane ones in this family.”
“Or the only crazy ones,” Sirius suggested. “I think I like that better.”
He slipped off the bed and treaded quietly to her door. “Better get back down there,” he said, “or Reg will tattle. He’s become an insufferable goody two-shoes.”
Andromeda nodded and bid Sirius goodnight. She was filled with a surge of warm gratitude. Here she had been, moping about, and he had managed to take her mind off of herself—even if only for a few minutes.
Ted was right, she thought miserably. I really am self-centered. All I can ever think about is myself, my problems.
He had been aboard the Hogwarts Express. She hoped against hope that he hadn’t heard the gossip. What would he think of her? Making such a spectacle of herself in public, breaking up with her boyfriend of three years for the world to see in such a maudlin melodrama. She’d been so unrefined, so completely devoid of class or composure….
But Ted wouldn’t care.
The thought pierced through Andromeda’s mind, silencing all other frenzied worries.
No. Ted wouldn’t care if she’d made a spectacle of herself. He wouldn’t care if she hadn’t retained her pristine reputation, wouldn’t care what the onlookers would say behind her back. All he would’ve cared about was if she was okay.
And she wasn’t okay.
She really just wanted to escape to the south wing turret, so she could distract herself by listening to Ted ramble on energetically about Quidditch Word Cup stats and the best new broom on the market. She wanted a warm mug of cider and a box of chocolate grapes and Ted telling her stupid ghost stories and giving her the occasional lopsided smile.
He wouldn’t care that she’d just tainted the Black family name. She could imagine exactly what he’d say; he’d smile placidly at her, like nothing in the world was really that big of a deal, and say, “No one will remember it after a week.” He would be kind to her. Stupid kindness. Stupid Ted.
Andromeda groaned, sinking her face into her hands. How messed up could she get? She’d just found out her boyfriend was cheating on her, just publically broken up with a guy who was practically her fiancé, just alienated herself from her entire family, and all she could think about was a Mudblood? Could her priorities be more out of line?
She fell asleep in her clothes, and when she woke up three hours later, she winced against the flickering lights of her room, still turned on. A trail of unsightly drool had dribbled and caked on her cheek, and she hastily scrubbed it away. Her neck was sore from having slept on it funnily, but with a good deal of concerted effort, she managed to pick herself up off the bed and change out of her dirty traveling clothes.
Slowly, she creaked open her bedroom door, listening hard for any signs of life downstairs. There were no more voices coming from the parlor or the dining room. The hallway candelabras had been snuffed out. It would seem that everyone had retired for the evening. Andromeda snuck out and carefully slipped into the washroom, where she finished readying for bed.
She paused before turning back into the guestroom, her hand lingering on the bannister. Then, with a definite change of mind, she crept toward the stairs.
“Lumos,” she whispered to her outstretched wand, and a soft glow of light shone from its tip, lighting her way down the stairs and into the parlor.
This was her least favorite room in all of Grimmauld Place. The lifeless eyes of dozens upon dozens of members of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black stared down at her from all directions. It was in this room that the Blacks had hung their family tree. The tapestry was centuries old, but Aunt Walburga had kept it in pristine condition since it had come into her care.
In the corner of the room, near the door through which Andromeda had entered, there was a cluster of familiar names and face: her father, her sisters, and Andromeda herself. Her mother was a Rosier by blood and so was not pictured, but her name unfurled in careful script, attached to her father’s portrait by a spindling vine. Andromeda paused for a moment to study her sisters’ faces. Another vine already connected Bellatrix to the name of Rodolphus Lestrange. Soon, yet another vine would tie Narcissa to Lucius Malfoy. And that would leave Andromeda, middle child, ugly duckling, and—potential old maid? She sighed, turning away from the tapestry. She really did loathe this room.
But she wasn’t here to admire an ancient tapestry. She padded toward the bookshelf in the far corner, her eyes scanning the spines of each book, beginning at the top shelf and making her way down. It was here. It had to be here. She’d read it multiple times as a child, while visiting for the summer holidays. Aunt Walburga had even read it to her and her sisters many nights in place of a bedtime story.
At last, she spotted it on the second to lowest bookshelf. It was done up in green binding, and the title was embossed in gold.
The Silent Scourge: On the Dangers and Depravity of Muggles and Muggleborns.
Andromeda's forefinger had just touched the edge of the spine when a voice spoke her name.
Andromeda cried out and whipped around, raising her wand high and at the ready. The light of her Lumos spell spilled onto a sharply angled jaw, hollowed cheekbones, and bored, heavy-lidded eyes.
She emerged from the shadows of the parlor, smirking triumphantly down at Andromeda as though she had just won an argument.
“Won’t even hug your sissy hello?” Bella said in a high-pitched, mocking voice that had made Andromeda’s blood curdle since they were girls. “How very rude. I know you were raised better.”
Andromeda remained where she was. She couldn’t tell what Bellatrix’s mood was, and she didn’t want to find out the hard way. Bellatrix had been temperamental as a girl, and her sudden mood swings had resulted in more than a few bruises, cuts, and broken bones over the years.
“I wasn’t feeling well earlier,” Andromeda said cautiously. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, I can only imagine how badly you've been feeling. What an ordeal you had to endure on that train! Poor baby."
Andromeda didn’t move an inch, didn’t say a word. Bellatrix was leading up to something; she could hear it in the rising, brittle timbre of her voice.
“Rodolphus got quite a laugh out of the whole account. He says that his fool of a little brother deserves some rough handling every now and then. I’m so glad that he could find the humor in your little fiasco.”
Suddenly, Bellatrix’s wand was pressed into Andromeda’s throat, the nails of her fingers pinched tightly into her shoulder.
“But I don’t find the humor,” Bellatrix said through clenched teeth. “Was this your Christmas present to us? To draw shame on the House of Black?”
Andromeda wheezed in a raspy breath, but Bellatrix’s wand was doing a good job of prohibiting most of her access to air.
“It wasn’t my shame,” Andromeda managed. “Rabastan was the one who—“
Bellatrix stared dispassionately at Andromeda from under her drooping eyelids. She lowered her wand, and Andromeda reeled in a rasping gulp of air.
“You’re that naïve,” said Bellatrix, her blood red lips forming a slow smile of realization. “Poor ickle Andie. She still believes in true love.”
“I don’t believe in anything of the sor—“
Something coiled at the top of Andromeda's throat—a physical, cottony presence that rendered her mute. She glared at Bellatrix. This was not the first time that her older sister had used spells against her, and she was sure that it would not be the last.
“This isn’t the reunion I wanted for us,” Bellatrix pouted, “but someone has got to talk some sense into you before Aunt Walburga gets you alone. Believe me, Andie sweet, she and Mum won’t be nearly so nice as I’m being. Better for you to accept it now.”
Bellatrix stepped closer, then patted Andromeda affectionately on the cheek. “I think you already know what it is you need to do to set things right.”
With a wave of her wand, she removed the silencing charm. Andromeda’s mouth felt dry and papery, and she swallowed several times before trying to speak again.
“If anyone s-s-should be setting things right, it’s him. He’s the one who—“
Bellatrix waved her hand as though already bored with Andromeda reply. To further prove her point, she released a long yawn.
“Oh dear. I see that Mum and Auntie are going to need to have the talk with you after all. What a shame. I was trying to spare you suffering. I really was. I see now that it can’t be helped.”
Andromeda could do nothing but stare as Bellatrix slunk gracefully out of the room, her posture flawless, her chin held high.
“Nightie night, darling,” she called back in a whisper. “Ever so glad to see you again.”
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