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Chapter 12 : No Place Like Home
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A note about Cygnus Black's age: I hadn't realized before doing research on the subject that there is some contention regarding the birthdates of several Black family members. According to J.K. Rowling's original Black family tree, Cygnus was born in 1938, which would've made him thirteen at the time of Bellatrix's birth. Like, dude. Whoa. Some believe that this date was an error, and revised family trees have suggested a more palatable 1929 birthdate, which is what I've chosen to use for my story. Just in case mathematics is your thing or you've been closely following the Black lineage.
Ted has a notable absence in this chapter, but I promise he'll be back with bells and whistles on. Thank you so, so much for the ongoing encouragement!
“To what shall we compare the Muggle? Their species would be far better categorized amongst the apes or arachnids than amongst rational wizardkind. Extensive and conclusive research on the topic has led the foremost wizarding scholars to agree that Muggles are of base intelligence, given wholly to animalistic impulse. Their purpose on earth is no better than that of a bovine’s: to eat, to reproduce, and to die.”
-The Silent Scourge: On the Dangers and Depravity of Muggles and Muggleborns
Andromeda woke to harsh, pale sunlight. She had forgotten to draw her curtains the night before, too distracted by her chilling exchange with Bellatrix.
What had Bella meant? She’d spoken as though their mother and Aunt Walburga had some sort of dastardly plan in store for Andromeda. But why? Surely they weren’t going to punish her for breaking things off with a cad. Rabastan was the one who had behaved badly. So why did she get the distinct impression from everyone else in this family that she was the one at fault?
Andromeda threw off her thick, velvet duvet and immediately regretted the decision. Winter chill seized at her skin and leeched down into her bones, sending a shiver of cold through her body. Kreacher had failed to light her fireplace, and Andromeda had a sneaking suspicion that he had “forgotten” due to an express order.
The uncles and aunts were probably taking bets on whether Andromeda would starve or freeze first. She didn’t intend to do either. No, this morning Andromeda had given up her scheme of locking herself inside her room for the duration of the Christmas holiday. She knew she would have to face the relatives eventually, and besides, the scent of fresh bacon wafting under the crack of her door was too much for her already flimsy resolve. Better to get it over with now in return for a hot breakfast.
She hastily slipped into one of her more casual dresses, then invested the minimal amount of time and spellwork required to make her hair and face presentable. As she was primping, she noticed the embossed book she had brought up from downstairs the night before.
The Silent Scourge. It was a Black family staple, and she had spent some of her troubled night flipping through its contents. She had meant to remind herself why she believed what she did about Muggleborns, and therefore why it was so silly to be thinking about Ted Tonks the way she had the past few days. The only trouble was that none of the book’s passages even remotely resembled the person she knew Ted Tonks to be. She eyed it now with mild distaste, slammed shut its cover, and tossed it under her bed. Then she headed out.
When she arrived in the dining room, ready to play nice with the family, she was surprised to find only one figure at the table. He was reading a copy of The Daily Prophet, but he held the paper so low that Andromeda could still recognize his features. He was dark haired and dark eyed, and his face was an exemplar of the Black patrician beauty. He was quite young for a father of three grown daughters. Any stranger would not have guessed him over the age of forty-five, and they would be right. Cygnus and Druella had married young. It was commonplace in the House of Black.
Andromeda cleared her throat, and her father looked up from his paper.
“Dromeda,” he said in his deep, clear way.
She couldn’t read his expression. He didn’t look angry, but he didn’t look particularly pleased to see her, either. She steeled herself and drew nearer, sinking into a seat across from him at the table.
“You’ve risen with the sun, I see,” he said. “I asked Kreacher to fix me a plate before I left. I have business this morning, in the city.”
Oh. It made sense now, why the dining room was so deserted. Andromeda had not checked her bedroom clock, but she realized that it must have been very early, just past dawn, and that the rest of the family had not yet woken.
Anxiety gripped hard at Andromeda’s gut, and she forced out the words before she could lose the courage:
“Are you angry with me, Father?”
Cygnus Black raised his eyebrows just a fraction of an inch. “I find that anger is a most inefficient emotion. It upsets one’s digestion, circulation, and mental health—all to no productive end. So no, I have not indulged myself in anger against you, Dromeda.”
He folded his paper in a perfect half and set it aside, next to his plate of yet untouched bacon and pumpernickel toast.
“I do not bother myself with anger,” he continued, “because I have faith that you will make the right decision. Mistakes can be righted. You will right yours, and matters will carry on as they always have done.”
Andromeda gripped hard into the armrests of her mahogany chair. “What mistake am I expected to right?”
Cygnus’ eyes narrowed. “Your public altercation with Rabastan Lestrange, of course. That was poor judgment on your part, but what is past is past. You will send him an owl this afternoon explaining the error of your ways and begging for his forgiveness. If we act quickly, I believe a real crisis can be averted. Lestranges aren’t known for having nearly as much pride as we Blacks, and that boy knows that he’s incapable of making a match better than you.”
Andromeda stared at her father in mute horror. She had not experienced them for nearly a full month now, but perhaps her nightmares were back. If so, this was the worst of her dreams by far. Andromeda pinched her wrist hard under the table. Nothing. She was horrifically awake.
“Father—“ she began, her voice weak.
“I really must be going,” Cygnus said, rising to his feet. “I fear I’ve lost my appetite. Do ring for Kreacher to take my plate away.”
“But you told me I was different!”
Andromeda’s shout drowned against the thickly papered dining room walls. Cygnus turned heel to face her.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You told me,” said Andromeda, “that I wasn’t like Bella or Cissy. That I saw things, really saw them, and that I could make something of myself. So I have. I’ve made top marks. I’m at the head of my class. Talk to any of my professors; I’m their favorite. I could find a real career with my scores—an excellent career, one at the Ministry. Isn’t that what you wanted? Perhaps it’s different for the others, but I hardly see why I need to marry Lestrange in order to support myself. I did what you asked. I worked hard. Shouldn’t that make you proud?”
Andromeda had never once mentioned the conversation that she and her father had in his study when she was only nine, never let on how deeply his words had affected her. Now she had blurted it all out in the most mangled, unceremonious way imaginable.
“Dromeda,” Cygnus began, but he stopped short and fell into a long silence. At last, he spoke again. “Your efforts at Hogwarts have not gone unnoticed. You have made good use of your natural talents. But you mustn’t delude yourself into thinking that you are an exception to this family’s expectations. Your duty to us, first and foremost, is to marry well and to carry on the bloodline. It always has been. I trust you will act accordingly.”
He left before she could answer, closing the room’s double doors behind him with a heavy clank. Even if he had lingered, Andromeda wouldn’t have been able to form an intelligible reply. She felt as though she had been physically slapped across the face. Her breathing shallowed out.
He had been the one who understood her best.
No one else in this family had realized how much Andromeda’s studies meant to her, how deeply she wanted to make something of her mind and not just her womb. She thought that her father had supported her, had known what mattered most to her. But in one reply, he had dismissed all of those hopes. She could never have imagined such a horrific holiday as this.
And that was before her mother and Aunt Walburga got her alone.
“Occasionally, a Muggle will exhibit some weak and corrupted traits resembling, to the untrained eye, the behavior of a witch or wizard. These traits are, without question, only genetic flaws, and should be promptly trampled out. Should such mutations be allowed to flourish or, far worse, to procreate, an entirely new, corrupted breed of Muggle will soon mingle amongst our people, masquerading as witches and wizards when they are, in fact, abominations deserving of the strongest contempt.”
-The Silent Scourge: On the Dangers and Depravity of Muggles and Muggleborns
“Do you see how simple Walburga and I have made it? All it requires is a simple bit of copying in your own hand. Then we can send it out and put this misstep behind us.”
Andromeda sat trapped between Walburga and Druella Black on a particularly uncomfortable sofa in Aunt Walburga’s dressing room. Upon discovering that Andromeda had voluntarily left her room that morning, the women had swooped down on her like birds of prey and dragged her upstairs. Now Andromeda held in her hands a letter, written in her mother’s own precise penmanship.
I cannot begin to express my deep regret over what passed between us yesterday afternoon. I behaved poorly, and it pains me to think of the shame I brought on both our families’ names by attempting to end our relationship in a public setting. I write to you with a distressed and remorseful heart, and I beg that you will forgive my hastily spoken words. Our love is not a bond to be so easily broken by one misunderstanding. Please, my love, forgive me. Please write that you will.
All my heart,
Despite the cold chill in her gut and the unshakeable feeling that she was still trapped inside a nightmare, Andromeda felt the urge to laugh out loud at the sheer imbecility of the letter. She felt the heavy weight of the older women’s gazes on her, awaiting a compliant response.
“For one thing,” Andromeda said crisply, “Rabastan would never believe that this letter was from me, even in my own handwriting. I’ve never seen so many silly embellishments since cousin Poppy’s debutante gown.”
“If that isn’t how you write,” sniffed Druella, “then it’s how you should write. A proper lady must be deferential.”
“For another thing,” said Andromeda, “I simply won’t write it.”
At that, Walburga made a high, particularly unpleasant sound of outrage.
“Do you hear the way she addresses you, Druella?” she cried, fixing an irate glare on her niece. “Such disrespect. Such willful disobedience. I warned you that you were too lenient raising your girls. Now see what has come of it? Of all the cheek!”
Druella turned a bright scarlet. “You’ve already made one colossal mistake,” she hissed at Andromeda. “Don’t you dare make it worse.”
“What mistake?” Andromeda shouted, rising to her feet and turning on her aunts with a vehement glare. “He’s the one in the wrong. Why can’t anyone concede that? He was cheating on me. If that is not grounds for ending a relationship, then what is?”
“Oh, don’t be so hopelessly naïve,” Walburga sneered. “Did you really expect for your future husband to be faithful?”
Andromeda stared at her aunt. “That—that is the very essence of marriage. That is why vows are exchanged, for fidelity.”
Walburga snorted. Then she burst into outright laughter. Druella had gone very pale; she looked at Andromeda with tired eyes.
“Honestly, child, you try my patience,” laughed Walburga. “Do you think my husband has been completely faithful? Do you think that I have been faithful to him? Or your own father! Do you think he’s only warmed your mother’s bed?”
“Walburga—“ Druella began in a taut, quiet voice.
“No, she’s old enough to hear it!” shouted Walburga before turning back on Andromeda with a dark, almost wild stare. “What a warped little idea of fidelity you have, child, to expect that your future husband will want your body, and yours only, for the rest of his life. Such an expectation isn’t even natural. What is natural, and what must be expected, is that you and your husband will remain married, that you will produce heirs, and that you will always, always protect each other’s honor.”
Andromeda was too horror-stricken to think properly. She sputtered out words, unable to control the direction they took.
“But—but how can there ever be honor if there isn’t—how can you say—but this isn’t my fault!”
She was sobbing now. Walburga looked on with a look of mild disgust, entirely unsympathetic.
“Copy the damn owl, Andromeda,” she said, holding out the fresh sheet of parchment and the self-inking quill that had been laid out before Andromeda on the table. “Copy it now.”
“No!” Andromeda said, backing away. “No, I won’t. I won’t apologize to him. I won’t grovel. I won’t beg him to take me back. Can’t you see how wrong that is? Why aren’t you taking my side?” Tears blinded Andromeda as she turned toward her mother. “Mummy, why aren’t you taking my side?”
“Walburga, I can’t—“
“Oh, shut up, Druella!” snapped Walburga. “It’s clear that you can’t maintain even a semblance of discipline. You’re far too soft with her, and that’s what caused this problem in the first place.”
Andromeda wiped furiously at her eyes. “What do you expect me to do? You want me to marry him? You want me to have his children while he takes mistresses to our bed? How can you want that for me, Mum? How can you?”
“You are the stupidest girl!” Walburga shouted, grabbing hold of Andromeda’s elbow. “Don’t you understand your situation? No other prospective suitor will want you after this. What man wants a wife he cannot control, who will slander him in public? More than that, you and Lestrange were as good as engaged, and there is no doubt you’ve slept together. You’re damaged goods.”
“But I haven’t—!”
Walburga’s nails pinched into Andromeda’s elbow so hard that she broke off in a cry of pain.
“You. Will. Marry. Him. You will copy that letter. You will beg for forgiveness. You will marry that man, and you will make it your highest priority to satisfy his needs. If you do a good job of it, perhaps he won’t find it so very necessary to take a mistress. Whatever the case, you will bear and raise his children, and you will be a good and obedient wife, and you will never again bring shame on this family’s name!”
Andromeda stared through her tears at her mother, who had remained so silent and still. She willed her to say anything, do anything.
“Mum, you can’t want this,” she whispered. “Why would you do this to me? Why?”
Druella did not meet her gaze. “We all have a duty to perform, Andromeda. This is yours. Do not disgrace me by refusing.”
Andromeda shook her head in slow, dizzying disbelief. She was immobile for only a moment more. Then the resolve shot through her. She shrugged violently out of her aunt’s grip.
“I won’t,” she said thickly. “You can’t make me.”
“Oh can’t I?” said Walburga, her smile eerily calm. Andromeda only realized what her aunt was doing a horrifying split second before it happened.
“In the face of the ‘modern’ and increasingly popular idea that Muggleborns or Halfbloods deserve equal treatment or rights, a true wizard will do his part to fight valiantly, in word and deed, against the corruption of the magical world and will continue to maintain a pure, untarnished bloodline. True witches, too, are invaluable to the cause of bearing and training heirs to follow in the right and proper ways of magic. Witches and wizards who fail to comply with this mandate should be regarded as traitors and cast out to live as the base Muggles themselves.”
-The Silent Scourge: On the Dangers and Depravity of Muggles and Muggleborns
She woke in a pleasant haze. Slowly, Andromeda became aware of the oaky smell of firewood and of the warm duvet wrapped about her shoulders. She yawned and pushed herself up to rest against the thick, goose down pillows on the guest bed. She hadn’t slept so well or so sweetly in ages. She knew that she had woken from a wonderful dream, but the details now escaped her. She smiled lazily and rubbed at her eyes.
And then it all came back.
No. Merlin, no. Surely, it had just been one of her terrible dreams. Aunt Walburga could be harsh, demanding, and judgmental; she could even be cruel when she wanted, but she couldn’t have done what Andromeda distinctly remembered her doing.
She couldn’t have cast an unforgivable curse.
She couldn’t have cast it upon her own niece.
Andromeda looked down at her left elbow, the one that the Aunt Walburga from her memories had gripped so relentlessly. What she saw shot ice through her veins.
Five small, greenish-brown bruises marked her skin.
“No,” Andromeda whispered out loud. “She couldn’t have. Mum wouldn’t have let her.”
She scrambled out of bed and to the bedroom door. She turned the knob, but the door remained closed. It had been locked from the outside.
“No, no, no.”
Andromeda stumbled away from the door and to her bedside table. She wrenched open the top drawer, afraid that she would find it empty. But no, it was still there; they at least hadn’t confiscated her wand. She took it up with trembling fingers and turned back toward the door. She raised the wand, ready to cast an unlocking spell.
And then she stopped herself.
That was a bad plan. Even if she did make it out of her room, what did she intend to do? Was she going to stomp into Aunt Walburga’s room and demand that she recall the owl that she had forced Andromeda to write to Rabastan? Was she going to go plead with her mother, who clearly had done nothing to prevent her own daughter from enduring an illegal curse? Was she going to try to find comfort from her father, who thought that Andromeda’s marriage status was of more importance than her general wellbeing?
Andromeda dropped the wand. She sunk to the floor with a single, agonized sob. She had learned all about the Imperius curse in DADA—its effects, its origin, and the exact date that it had been ruled unforgiveable. What she had never learned was what to do when a trusted relative used it on you and then proceeded to lock you in your bedroom.
If only Narcissa were here. Andromeda should’ve begged harder for her little sister to come to Grimmauld Place. If Narcissa had been here, none of this would have happened. Mother had always liked Cissy best. Narcissa would never have blamed Andromeda for her fight with Rabastan; she would have stood up for her, would have suggested another solution.
But Narcissa wasn’t here. She was far away from London, safe at Malfoy Manor with her beloved fiancé, like a good daughter. And Lilith was up at Hogwarts with her dishy new boyfriend, Xavier. Neither of them knew what Andromeda was going through. Neither of them might ever find out.
There was only one clear thought in Andromeda’s mind, one that pierced through all of the confusing, terrifying mess of the past 48 hours:
I have to get out.
Andromeda’s body began to move, though she had not willed it to. For one terrifying moment, she thought that she still might be under the curse, but she grew more reassured when she realized that she was packing her satchel with clothes and and with the remaining food that Sirius had brought her the night before. Surely Aunt Walburga wouldn’t be forcing Andromeda to run away from home; her muddled mind must have merely been suffering from the aftereffects of the curse itself.
I have to get out. The thought rattled in Andromeda’s mind, repeating itself over and over again. She had no plan, no set course of action, and that terrified her. She always had a plan. Now she just had an imperative.
Leave, leave, leave.
She tried the latch of her window. It opened unexpectedly, and a gust of bone-chilling wind shot through the room, sending Andromeda staggering back.
They had been so careless about locking her up. They had probably never considered that Andromeda would even think about leaving. She could just hear Aunt Walburga’s rationale in her mind:
“She’ll wake up and realize what a fool she’s been. Trust me, Druella, she will come out of that room of her own volition and thank us for showing her the error of her ways.”
That was just what Aunt Walburga would say, and everyone—her mother and father and Bellatrix included—would believe her.
How little they knew her.
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