Chapter 2 : Strangers With Cigarettes
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Nearly a week had passed since the Pettigrew incident. Andromeda was still a little nervous about Rabastan and the others finding out that she was involved in freeing him. He had been so angry the day after when he’d come down to breakfast, threatening that he’d break the Cruciatus Curse on anyone who had helped him down. Rabastan definitely had a temper, which was another reason why Andromeda didn’t want to marry him. The bruise on her arm was finally beginning to fade, and it had been a hassle hiding it from her friends in their dormitory. She’d been a bit distant since school had started, which was another reason why the three of them came storming at her while she was eating breakfast in the Great Hall.
“Andromeda Black!” came the voice that made her internally groan.
Marcy Cartier was the most temperamental woman Andromeda had ever met, besides her sister Bellatrix, of course. With her deep black hair and piercing grey eyes, she could petrify anyone who struck her way.
“Where have you been all-this-time?” she continued with a shrill, standing across the table with folded arms. “I mean not telling us about the party last week was one thing but avoiding us in the mornings?”
Andromeda held up her hand, her mouth still full from the bite she had just taken.
“Don’t hold your bloody hand out at me Andromeda Black,” Marcy warned with a finger.
“I don’t think she’s holding her bloody hand out at you Marcy,” Xia panted, finally catching up to her. Her amber colored hair was tied up in a tight ponytail, showing off her green, emerald eyes. “She’s just chewing her food.”
“I don’t care if she’s chewing her food or choking on it,” Marcy shouted at Xia, throwing her hands in the air. She’d been more angry than usual since school had started.
“Who’s choking?” Pru panted, running down the Great Hall after Xia, her short heels clicking against the floor.
“No one is choking Pru,” Xia rolled her eyes at the brunette beauty whose hair had fallen out of its gracious bun and around her shoulders. “Marcy here is accusing Andromeda of holding her hand out to her when she’s clearly just asking for a few seconds to swallow her food.”
“So she’s not choking?” Pru frowned.
“No!” Marcy and Xia both shouted at the same time, making Pru step back.
“But she might as well be,” Marcy sat down, staring straight into Andromeda’s eyes. “It’s been weeks. You’ve been avoiding us, and now you’re attending Slytherin parties without us?”
“I didn’t want to go to that party,” Andromeda explained, finally swallowing her food. “Rabastan made me go.”
“So now Rabastan tells you what to do?” Marcy narrowed her eyes at her.
“No!” Andromeda nearly yelled, frustrated. “I unwillingly accompanied him and left before it was over anyway.”
“Are you alright darling?” Xia asked, sitting down next to Marcy, followed by Pru. “You’ve been a bit distant.”
“I’m fine,” Andromeda smiled at them. “I’ve just been stressed out with N.E.W.T.S. and…family stuff.”
“This is exactly what I’m talking about,” Marcy threw her hands in the air again. “Family stuff.”
“You can talk to us you know,” Pru gently placed her hand on Andromeda’s. “We’re your best friends.”
Andromeda stared at her friends longingly. She loved and trusted them, but what was she supposed to say? Hey guys, I’ve started seeing a therapist because I think my mental stability is at stake. No, definitely not.
“You know how my family is. They’re anti anything that’s not Pure-blood and they’re pressuring me to…” Andromeda trailed off.
“Pressuring you to what?” Xia asked kindly, her disposition far from what a Slytherin would expect it to be.
“Get married,” she sighed, letting it out. “And that’s not the worst part.”
“They’ve arranged a marriage for you?” Pru guessed.
“They’re shipping you off to France to find a husband?” she guessed again.
“No,” Andromeda frowned.
“For goodness sake Pru let the woman talk!” Marcy shouted, still hot tempered.
Andromeda faintly smiled at their banter before leaning in close and whispering, “Rabastan proposed.”
“What?!” Pru clasped her mouth, her brown eyes wide as they blinked vigorously.
“Isn’t your sister married to his brother?” Marcy asked, her tone incredulous.
“Yes!” Andromeda exclaimed, still whispering. “He thinks we’re all going to be one big happy family.”
“Well I’m not surprised honestly,” Xia said with a know-it-all tone. “He’s an eligible bachelor and we all know he’s had his eyes on you for a while.”
Not just his eyes, Andromeda thought to herself, touching her arm, which still hurt.
“Bloody hell,” she said, sitting up. “Here he comes. Not a word.”
“If you don’t want me to say a word, then no more shutting us out,” Marcy warned, holding her finger up again.
“Fine,” Andromeda shushed her, stuffing her mouth again as Rabastan approached the table.
“Well well well,” he said with a sneer, “looks like all the ladies have left the dormitory, no doubt to fill their morning with the most recent gossip.”
He sat down and draped an arm over Andromeda’s shoulder, her eyes widening as she slowly chewed her food. She turned to him, gave him an awkward closed mouth smile, and turned back to her cereal.
“So, what’s new in the industry?” Rabastan asked with sarcasm, turning to Pru. “Have you decided to change your name for the twentieth time?”
“Shutup Lestrange,” Pru mocked at him, rolling her eyes as she poured herself a glass of orange juice.
Rabastan snickered at his own joke while the rest of the girls remained silent. Pru’s real name was Imperia, which she had changed their second year, claiming that no parent in their right mind named their child after an Unforgivable Curse, even if it were a letter off. She had changed her name to Deja, legally of course, through the Ministry of Magic, and hand changed it again during their sixth year to Pru. She had stuck with it so far, but the girls all knew that in any moment, she might impetuously petition to have it changed again.
“Look at him,” Rabastan sneered across the hall. Andromeda followed his gaze only to find it resting on Peter Pettigrew, who sat next to Sirius at the Gryffindor table. “Just wait till I run into him one day alone, without his bodyguards around to babysit him. Mind you, I could take them too if I wanted.”
Andromeda internally rolled her eyes as he continued to express his egotistical demeanor to the entire Slytherin table. She let her thoughts trail off, losing herself in his words. She had trained herself over the years to numb out people when she didn’t want to listen to them. It was an ability she was quite adept at. It was no surprise she had attained that quality, what with all the useless blood status banter that went on in her house. Not just that, but banter in general.
She caught Sirius’s eyes across the hall and smiled at him, admiration burning in her chest for her cousin. She should learn from him.
She snapped out of her thoughts as a figure blocked her view from Sirius. She looked up at him, her smile fading when she met his eyes. It was him. It was the boy she had run into last week when she’d rushed out of the shrink’s office. She was sure of it. He stood tall, at least over six feet, his brown eyes locked onto hers, his fair messy hair hanging about. She hadn’t even realized that she’d dropped her spoon, or that he’d stopped in his tracks. She just let him hold her gaze.
For the second time that morning, she snapped out of her head, turning to Rabastan. How many times had he called her name? Five, maybe six times?
“What were you playing at?” he asked, staring across the hall.
“I wasn’t,” she quickly assured him, stuffing her mouth again. “I didn’t sleep very well last night and I’ve been falling in and out of dazes all morning. Don’t mind me.”
“Well I was just asking if you want to go to Hogsmeade with me on the next trip,” he asked, his question sounding more like a statement, or a fact, she should say.
She looked over the table at her friends, who were all giving her awkward stares. They were loads of help.
“Sure,” she finally squeaked, turning away from him before stuffing more cereal in her mouth.
“Looks like you’re all here already,” Rowle announced, making his presence clear. Crabbe and Goyle followed behind him, plopping down on the benches as the table rattled.
Pru sat up, running a hand through her hair as Rowle sat down beside Rabastan. He eyed her down, his eyes lingering on her chest for a few moments before turning to Rabastan.
“We’re having a meeting tonight in the dungeons. Let the others know when you see them,” he said in his husky voice that made Pru’s face turn red.
She had admitted at the end of their sixth year that she heavily fancied Rowle. According to her, he was the three B’s: big, burly, and bad. Not to mention she’d been lusting after him for the past three years. He turned his gaze to her again, holding it for a few moments before stacking a few loaves of toast onto his plate.
Andromeda was too shocked to acknowledge what was happening around her. She still couldn’t believe that she had seen the boy from last week. She honestly thought she’d never see him again. Slowly and naturally, she glanced over at the Gryffindor table, only to find him looking at her while four Gryffindors, three boys and a girl, went on chattering about around him.
What if he approached her, inquiring about why she’d been talking to the school counselor? Then they would all know. Everybody would think she’d gone mad. She had to get out of there.
“Excuse me,” she said abruptly, setting down her goblet as she stood up.
“Where are you going?” Marcy asked.
“I don’t feel good,” she tried to act faint. “I’m going back to the dormitory.”
“Well we’ll come with you,” Marcy said, standing up with Xia and Pru.
“Will I see you later tonight?” Rabastan asked, staring at her intently.
“Maybe,” she smiled, trying not to choke. She looked across the hall again and met the boy’s eyes for what felt like the fifth time. “If I’m feeling better.”
She turned and headed down the hallway, the girls following behind her.
“What was all that about?” Marcy stopped her when they reached the entrance to the dungeons. “You were asleep at nine o’clock last night so don’t give me the ‘I didn’t sleep well’ squabble.”
“I just don’t want to be around Rabastan right now,” Andromeda went with her instinct. “I mean, did you see how he draped his arm around me, like he owned me?”
It was true. He really had been audacious, assuming a relationship with her without her consent. She just left out the part about the boy across the hall who was staring at her because he recognized her from a therapy session. She sighed, internally babbling again.
“Why don’t you just tell him you’re not interested?” Marcy shrugged, crossing her arms. “I mean, you’re a Black. You don’t have to be with him if you don’t want to.”
“I know, I know,” Andromeda bit her lip. “But you know I’ve always been bad at saying no.”
“Well then, let’s practice,” Marcy cleared her throat. “Andromeda, will you accompany me to Hogsmeade on the next trip?”
Andromeda stifled a laugh at her friend’s attempt to impersonate Rabastan.
“Seriously Andromeda,” Marcy said, trying to keep her face straight.
“Okay, okay,” Andromeda shook it off. “No, Rabastan, I don’t.”
“Because, I’m not interested in you.”
“But my sister is married to your brother-”
“Okay Marcy it’s not going to work like this. It’s different when it’s him. He has a way of convincing people to do what he wants. Besides, I don’t have to worry about any of that tonight. Isn’t he going to a meeting or something?”
“Yeah, with Rowle,” Pru finally joined the conversation.
“Yeah,” Xia eyed her up and down, now imitating Rowle’s actions earlier. “I noticed that.”
“I think the entire bloody world noticed that,” Marcy rolled her eyes.
“Oh he wants me you guys,” she whined, leaning against the wall and lifting her right foot against it. “I mean, did you see the way he was looking at me? And the way he stared at my breasts? Oh god I can taste his lips on them already.”
“Pru!” Andromeda exclaimed, her eyes wide. “Have some self-respect. If anything he wants to shag you!”
“Then by all means,” she smiled pervertedly, running her hands excitedly through her hair.
“Be a lady,” Xia reprimanded her.
“I am being a lady,” Pru retorted angrily. “I’m embracing my womanliness. I’m going to seduce him.”
“Seduce him!” Marcy laughed. “And how are you going to do that?”
“I will…somehow,” she looked around indecisively. “It’ll be spontaneous. Just you watch. All of you.”
She stomped off into the dungeons, obviously nettled by them ridiculing her. Pru was the baby of the group, and they let her know it. They shrugged it off, knowing she’d come around later.
“Don’t you worry Andromeda,” Xia comforted her. “You don’t have to marry anyone you don’t want to.”
“You don’t know my family,” Andromeda laughed, slumping down against the wall. “What meeting are Rabastan and Rowle going to anyway?”
“What do you think?” Marcy raised a brow.
“Is it a Death Eater meeting?”
“No, it’s a cupcake party,” Marcy muttered sarcastically. “Of course it’s a Death Eater meeting! And there’s probably going to be an after party in the dungeons. I saw Crabbe loading up boxes of Firewhiskey this morning.”
“Well,” Andromeda started. “Let’s hope Peter Pettigrew stays as far away as possible tonight. We don’t want them hanging him upside down in a troll cage.”
A few hours later, Andromeda was standing outside Miss Faye’s office, leaning against the door. In five minutes, it would have been an exact week since she’d spoken to her. Miss Faye had asked her to come back again in a week, but Andromeda thought that was ridiculous. Then why had she been standing outside her door for an hour? One more minute now. This was it. She shook her head. She had obviously come for a reason. She decided to follow her instincts and knock on the door three times.
Within seconds, the door was opened and Miss Faye stood in its place, a smile lighting her face upon seeing Andromeda.
“Andromeda,” she smiled, welcoming her into her office. “I’m so glad you came.”
Andromeda smiled back, making her way over to the same sofa she’d sat on last week, with the silly gold fringes that had entertained her fingers.
“I wrote your name in my planner,” she explained, sitting down across from her and removing her spectacles. “I have to be honest though, I wasn’t sure you were coming.”
“Well, I came,” Andromeda smiled unsettlingly. “I wasn’t going to though.”
“What made you change your mind?” she asked, crossing her legs.
“I-I don’t know. I just needed to talk to someone I guess. Not that I don’t have people to talk to, but there are certain things I don’t like to talk about with people.”
“Do you feel comfortable talking about those things with me?”
“I’m not sure yet,” Andromeda bit her lip. “I honestly don’t know why I came.”
“Well why don’t we start off with you telling me how the past week has been for you,” Miss Faye leaned forward.
“It’s been fine I guess,” she shrugged. “Not unlike any other week.”
“Would you say you’ve been sad most of the time?”
Andromeda frowned. “I’m not depressed if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Why do you think I implied that?”
“Because you asked me if I were sad.”
“You can be sad without being depressed Andromeda,” Miss Faye explained.
“Fine,” she said, frustrated with all her questions. “I’ve been sad, but I’ve also been happy.”
“What sort of things have made you sad?” Miss Faye asked. “Can you think back to specific moments for me?”
Andromeda shut her eyes, trying to think hard. “Well, I was sad when I found out that my sister was interested in a Slytherin brute. I was sad when-” she stopped herself. She couldn’t tell her about the Pettigrew incident. No matter how confidential these sessions were, she would report them if there was any sort of abuse involved. “I’m always sad when I’m surrounded by Slytherins, except for my friends.”
“And why is that?”
“Slytherins are…cruel. Their day to day vocabulary consist of the two words Pure-blood and Mudblood. There’s nothing else. No in between or balance, just black and white.”
“You talk about Slytherins as if you’re not one of them,” Miss Faye nodded her head. “Do you consider yourself apart from them?”
“I don’t know. My entire family has been in Slytherin for centuries. It only seems right that I am too. Besides, my family would kill me if it were otherwise. Sirius is the first who’s broken the tradition.”
“Sirius Black. My cousin. He’s a fourth year,” Andromeda explained.
“How did your family react to that?”
“I think my aunt Walburga threatened to disown him,” Andromeda tried not to laugh. “Sirius told me she cried in her room for an entire week.”
“I note a hint of laughter,” Miss Faye smiled, shifting the position of her legs.
“Sirius and I always joke about our families. I feel at ease with him,” Andromeda grinned genuinely, missing her cousin.
“Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if you were perhaps in Gryffindor as well?”
Andromeda’s eyes widened. “That would have been terrible. I mean, my sister Bellatrix would have…oh god, she would have forced the school to switch me into Slytherin. I don’t think I would have stood a chance.”
“I’m not asking about your sister or any of your family, for that matter. I’m asking about you. Just close your eyes and picture having been sorted into Gryffindor, or Ravenclaw, or even Hufflepuff. No one’s opinion matters, no one can get to you. How does it make you feel?”
How did she feel? If she were in Gryffindor, she would be surrounded by Pure-bloods, Half-bloods, and Muggle-borns. No one in the other Houses cared, no one would judge her. She could say what she wanted, speak to who she wanted, act the way she wanted, and nobody would tell her she was humiliating her family or degrading her blood status.
“I feel…I feel…it would be easier to be myself. Nobody cares about that stuff in the other houses. I don’t take it seriously the way they do. I mean, I do take it seriously, but it’s not a matter of life and death for me.”
“Blood status. It’s always been so serious, but for the past two or three years it’s become like law. I just don’t understand. They’re people too, you know?”
“Life or death?” Miss Faye asked, her legs no longer crossed. She was actually sitting up very straight, her chin tilted up.
“I’m sorry,” Andromeda stammered, now realizing that she’d let slip a little more than she’d hoped. She had just been so focused on releasing everything that she hadn’t exercised any control over her words. “I think I said too much.”
The door suddenly opened, and Andromeda froze. There he was again, the same boy. He stood there, tall, one hand in his pocket and the other hanging about loosely. He was wearing a black sweater with his black school slacks, his body lean.
Andromeda stood up and headed toward the door, glancing at him for only a moment before lowering her head and walking out of the office. She could feel his eyes on her as she turned into the hallway.
“Andromeda,” she heard Miss Faye call out. “Next week…”
Her voice faded as Andromeda’s footsteps grew louder. What had she been thinking, being so open? She wasn’t supposed to let anyone get that close. It was dangerous, not only for her but for whoever she let in. And it didn’t help that this tall messy haired boy kept showing up out of nowhere. She groaned. She was sure he knew who she was by now.
By the time she stopped walking, thirty minutes had passed. She kneeled down, placing her hands on her knees, panting as everything finally hit her. After a few moments, she stood up and entered the dungeons, stopping beside a door when she heard voices.
“…has given his orders. We leave Saturday the next at midnight, through the Vanishing Cabinets. We slip out and we slip back in. It’s as simple as that.”
She recognized Rowle’s voice, peeking through the crack of the door, sure enough seeing him sitting at the head of the table.
“And what is this mission exactly?” Crabbe’s voice came this time, dry and dull.
“There have been some families standing against the Dark Lord. He has a list of names. Every month he chooses one family, and our job is to wipe them out.”
“You mean kill them?” Crabbe asked. He might as well be drooling with that voice.
“No Crabbe, bloody cuddle with them in your dormitory. Of course kill them you bloody brute,” Rabastan spat out this time. “The Dark Lord recently killed a family of five who had been actively protesting against The Cause: a Mother, a Father, and three children. We’re going to face situations similar to this ourselves when we begin these missions. We might come across children and feel pity and want to spare them. What we have to remember is that they will grow up to follow in their parent’s footsteps.”
Andromeda fell back against the wall, her hand covering her mouth. She shook her head in denial. Her eyes were slowly filling with tears as the sensation of shock began to wear off. She couldn’t stay here anymore. If they came out and saw her standing next to the door they’d know she’d been listening. She needed to be alone before she broke down. She left the dungeons and made her way up to the only place she could be alone, reaching the Astronomy Tower. She pushed the door open and made her way onto the tower, letting her sobs fill the air.
Children. They were going to kill children. Rabastan, the man who wanted to marry her, was ordering them to kill children. How could he then have children of his own? Her own father and sister, she was sure, would be a part of these missions. They would be killing children. How could her father look in her eyes, in the eyes of his own child, and not see every child he mercilessly killed?
She walked over to the edge of the tower, staring down. She closed her eyes. She would never kill herself, but just for a moment, she imagined falling off, flying through the wind, free from everything. Free from pain, sadness, desperation…free from it all. How nice it would be, to not be a part of this sick world anymore, not be surrounded by these sick people with their sick, twisted thoughts.
She opened her eyes, wiping them, standing straight. But it was who she was. She didn’t have a choice. Her family, her friends…she was one of them.
“Would you like a cigarette?”
She spun around, coming face to face with him. It was him. Again.
“Are you following me?” she snapped at him, her temper rising.
He laughed, looking sideways as he took another drag from his lit cigarette. He let out the smoke, sighing before turning back to her.
“I was up here first,” he finally said, looking her in the eye.
“I think I would have seen you if you were up here first,” she narrowed her eyes at him, crossing her arms defensively.
“I was standing in that corner over there,” he pointed with his cigarette. “You ran out here sobbing and were about to jump off the edge.”
She could feel her face getting hot. “I was not going to jump off the edge.”
“That’s not what it looked like,” he shook his head.
“Well everything isn’t always as it seems. I don’t owe you an explanation.”
“I never asked for one.”
“Good,” she said firmly, walking over to the edge of the tower again. She placed her arms on the ledge and looked outwards at the sky. He approached her, standing beside her as he pulled something out of his pocket.
“Would you like a cigarette?” he offered again.
“What’s a cigarette?”
“You’ve never heard of a cigarette?” he chuckled.
“Well if I had I wouldn’t be asking, now would I?” she said through gritted teeth.
He took another drag before answering, “It’s what Muggles use to smoke. I’m not a fan of pipes.”
“Are you Muggle-born?” she asked slowly, still not looking at him.
“Yeah I am. It’s what you Slytherins call Mudblood, isn’t it?”
She looked at him again with narrowed eyes as he chuckled, beckoning a cigarette at her.
“I don’t smoke,” she said, looking away into the night.
“Of course you don’t,” he smiled to himself. “A lovely Slytherin lady like yourself would never touch a cigarette. It’s probably beneath you.”
She felt her jaw tighten at those words. ‘A lovely Slytherin lady.’ Who did he think he was?
“Give me that,” she snatched it out of his hand, sticking it in her mouth.
“It’s the other way actually. The white tip sticks out,” he chuckled again.
She flipped the stick and tapped her foot impatiently. “Well, why won’t it light?”
Shaking his head, he pulled out a small rectangular item and flipped a switch, causing a flame to erupt on the tip. He brought it close to her face, staring stonily into her eyes as the cigarette lit.
She sucked in too fast, bursting into a fit of coughs as she dropped the cigarette.
“What…the bloody…hell…is the matter...with you?” she gasped in between coughs. “Are you trying to kill me?”
He picked it up off the floor. “You’re supposed to take your time with it,” he jeered at her. “I guess it’s a Muggle thing.”
She snatched it out of his hand again and stuck it back in her mouth, slowly letting it fill her lungs before letting it back out into the air. It was an interesting experience, smoking a cigarette. She could understand what was so appealing about it. It was soothing, the way the smoke settled inside. If it weren’t for the smell…
She turned to see him watching her as he exhaled smoke.
“Not bad for your first time,” he snickered, leaning over the ledge next to her.
“Well I intend for it to be my last,” she replied dryly. Her parents would kill her if they knew what she was doing right now, no less with a Muggle-born.
“It’s a nasty habit, I admit.”
She stared at him beside her. “What are you doing up here anyway?”
“I should ask you the same question.”
“You probably were following me,” she sneered sarcastically, placing the cigarette against her lips.
“You really are a Slytherin,” he sneered back. “You’re all known for being self-centered.”
“I am not self-centered,” she said, facing him. “You don’t know the first thing about me you M-”
She stopped herself. She had almost said it.
He smiled at her, a dark smile, one that had I-was-right-about-you written all over it.
“Mudblood, right? Isn’t that what you were going to call me?” he scoffed, not offended at the slightest.
He flicked the rest of his cigarette over the edge of the tower, walking over to the door. He opened it, turning towards her one last time.
“It’s Ted, by the way. My name.”
She didn’t look at him. She continued staring over the ledge until she heard the door shut. Her name hung in her throat. Andromeda, she wanted to say. My name is Andromeda. But she couldn’t.
She took one last drag of the cigarette he had given her before throwing it over the edge, watching it as it fell down and faded into the darkness.
A/N: I hope you enjoy reading this chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it. I was super nervous about Ted and Andromeda meeting for the first time. It felt like I was meeting my soulmate or something, I'm so lame hahaha! I can't wait to write the next chapter! Review guys review review review!
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