Chapter 17 : Mistake
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“Honestly, princess, could you just stop talking for a half second? God, you’re, like, The Thing That Wouldn’t Shut Up.”
Andromeda glared indignantly at George Vanderpool. How on earth could someone as kind and good as Ted Tonks be friends with an uncouth, blabbering asshole?
More importantly, how could that uncouth, blabbering asshole be as unthinkably wealthy as George Vanderpool? Because he was, without a doubt, wealthy. Andromeda had been born and bred into privilege. She could smell money from miles away.
George Vanderpool’s house reeked of it.
His bedroom was on the third floor of a five-story townhouse in West Kensington—a pristine, white-columned beauty with perfectly manicured shrubberies and a freshly-polished house number. George’s bedroom may have been an unkempt disaster of discarded comic books, band posters, crumb-filled plates, and dirty clothes, but underneath the rubbish Andromeda could still tell. She noticed the expensive crown moldings, the mahogany doors, the polished silver grating around a marble fireplace. A chandelier hung over his bed, more majecstic than the chandelier that graced the dining room of Onyx House.
George Vanderpool wasn’t just rich. Andromeda had begun to suspect that he might be richer than she was.
But of course, she would never have heard the Vanderpool surname so much as whispered in her social circles. George's father was a halfblood, his mother a Muggle, and no amount of wealth could make up for that.
Andromeda watched as George propped Ted up against his bed. She had to give George credit that, unlike she'd anticipated, he was actually very capable of side-apparition. He hadn’t splinched so much as a fingernail off of her or Ted on the way to his house. She was, she supposed, willing to concede that George wasn’t as untalented of a wizard as she’d initially thought.
Still, it didn’t mean that she was happy with him for apparating a bedridden Ted.
“Ted?” she whispered, kneeling at the bedside. “How are you feeling?”
George shot her a strange look. She ignored it.
Ted blinked blearily up at her, then at George. The effort of apparating had clearly taken a toll on him. He seemed to be fighting hard against the enticing pull of sleep.
“You two have to play nice,” he said hoarsely. “I don’t want to wake up and find one of you dead.”
His eyes fluttered shut. George gave an exasperated sigh.
“It’s his own fucking fault,” he muttered. “He can be such an idiot. Come on, let’s give him some space.”
Andromeda rose from the bedside, turning on George with a vicious glare. She said nothing until they were in a tall-ceilinged, wood-paneled hallway and George had shut the bedroom door behind them.
“What kind of friend are you?” she hissed. “I still can’t believe you just whipped him out of his own house like that. He was recovering.”
“He’s fine,” said George, pushing past Andromeda and heading down the hallway. “He’s dealt with worse shit than this. And he made me a promise. Also, I don’t think you have the right to be making judgment calls about my friendship with Ted. You’ve known him, like, what, a month? You should be thanking me that I even let you come along, princess.”
“Stop calling me that.”
“What?” George stopped, turned around. “Princess?”
Andromeda glared. Seriously, how could Ted stand this guy?
The hallway had widened up into the massive landing of a spiral staircase. Just ahead was a balcony that looked down three stories into the atrium below. Begrudgingly, Andromeda had to admit to herself that it was a beautifully constructed house. She was still having a hard time believing that George—sloppily dressed and nose-pieced and lacking in all social graces—belonged in it.
“He hasn’t been eating well, has he?” George asked, starting down the stairs.
Quickly, Andromeda followed. “Well, no. He and his brother don’t seem to have much food around. Is that normal?”
George nodded, his eyes dimming. “He’s so damn stubborn. He would literally starve before asking for a little help."
In that moment, something struck Andromeda. George looked—upset. Concerned. She wondered for the first time if his little apparition stunt was as selfish as he’d made it out to be.
“But he’ll eat well while he’s staying with you, won't he?” she guessed.
George stopped, mid-step down the stairs. He turned slowly toward Andromeda.
“Yeah,” he said. “He’ll recover quicker, too. He knows that, the little twerp. He just so damn stubborn. If you’ve got loaded friends, you should juice them for what they're worth, right? Of course, he wouldn’t be Ted if he did.”
George started back down the stairs, and Andromeda was fairly certain that she heard him mutter the words "so damn stubborn" again.
“Where are we going?” she called after him.
George didn’t answer. He just kept shuffling down the winding staircase, and Andromeda had no choice but to follow.
The atrium of the house was a towering, circular room of finely wallpapered walls and checkered marble floors. Expensive vases hosted even more expensive, exotic plants. Under normal circumstances, Andromeda was at ease around luxury. Here, however, she felt in danger of knocking over something valuable if she breathed just a little too hard.
She and George had just passed out of the atrium and into another hallway when a woman's voice stopped them in their tracks.
“George, darling! You had me so worried. The snow is picking up out there, and you left without so much as a—“
The voice stopped short as Andromeda turned toward it. A woman stood at a doorway in the hallway. She was tall and tan, and she wore a long, silk dressing gown. In one hand, she held a dangling cigarette. Her hair was done up in curlers and a paisley scarf, and she clearly was not wearing a dab of makeup. Even so, she was absolutely stunning.
“Hullo, Mum.” George sounded exceedingly bored.
Mrs. Vanderpool, however, was no longer paying attention to her son. Her eyes had fixed on Andromeda, and they now bulged in surprise.
“George, who is this?” she demanded. “Is this your new girlfriend? Oh, she’s adorable.”
Andromeda stared blankly at Mrs. Vanderpool.
“I’m not—“ she stammered. “I’m not his—“
George cut in. “She’s one of Ted’s friend, Mum.”
Mrs. Vanderpool’s eyes bulged even wider. “EDWARD IS HERE?”
“Yeah, but he’s sleeping,” George said. “He’s not feeling all that peachy. You know, the condition.”
“Oh, that poor, precious child.” Mrs. Vanderpool looked close to weeping. “So then, this is Edward Tonks’ girl?"
Andromeda cheeks were scalding. “I—“
Suddenly, she found herself wrapped in Mrs. Vanderpool’s tight, silken embrace. “Don’t ever let that boy go. He is a treasure. I love him to pieces.”
Andromeda gasped for air as Mrs. Vanderpool released her and turned her attention back to her son.
“But Georgie, darling, I thought you said Edward wasn’t going to make it?”
“Yeah,” said George. “Well, I got him to change his mind.”
“Excellent,” said Mrs. Vanderpool, clapping her hands. “Yes, excellent. I’ll get Florrie to cook up something delicious for him. Have it delivered straight to bed. Oh, and how about you, dear? How do you feel about duck?”
It took Andromeda startled moment to realize that Mrs. Vanderpool was talking to her again.
“Oh! Um, yes?”
“Marvelous. George, I can’t say how happy you’ve made me. What a Christmas treat!” Mrs. Vanderpool turned confidentially to Andromeda. “Edward is my favorite. My absolute favorite. Such a doll. Face worthy of a magazine. And look at you, sweetheart. No wonder he fancies you, you little charmer.”
George looked as though he was fighting the urge to vomit.
“Mum,” he said, “this means I’ll have to miss the big family dinner tonight. You know, I’ll be busy nursing Ted back to health.”
Mrs. Vanderpool blinked. “Oh. Oh! Yes of course, dear. Of course. Anything you need to do to help our Edward get in fighting form again. Mm. Well then, I’d love to stay and chat, especially to this little peach of a girl, but Maurice is only halfway done with my facial, and I’ve a luncheon in less than an hour. It promises to be a dreadfully boring affair, but it’s for charity, so what can one do? All the same, I’ll pass along the word to Florrie before I leave, and you can expect some piping hot food with in the hour, hm?”
Then, in as flurried of a frenzy as she had appeared on the scene, Mrs. Vanderpool now disappeared, slamming her door shut with gusto.
Andromeda turned back to George, who looked as though he had just endured a waking nightmare. He dragged a hand across his poorly shaven jaw. Then he narrowed his eyes at Andromeda.
“I’m only related to her by blood.”
Andromeda's head was still reeling from Mrs. Vanderpool’s deluge of adjectives and exclamations. She had spoken in a dripping, upper class drawl that sounded perpetually lazy around the edges. Clearly, at least one of George’s parents had been born into their privileged lifestyle.
At the end of the hallway, George pushed open a set of tall French doors and stepped out onto a stone patio. Andromeda, chilled as she was by the winter wind, followed him out. Her feet sunk into crisp, packed snow. It was snowing, still, and flakes caught on her thin velvet jacket. She watched as George fumbled out a cigarette from one pocket and a lighter from the other. Leaning against one of the patio’s columns, he lit up.
Andromeda wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Wait. Did you come all the way down here just to smoke?”
George took a long drag before smirking over at her. “I didn’t ask you to follow me, did I?”
“Smoking is a nasty habit.”
“Tell that to my mother.”
Andromeda glanced back inside. “She seems rather, um, fond of Ted.”
“You mean Edward?” George said in an uncanny impersonation of his mother’s husky, melodramatic tone. “You mean, infatuated? Yeah, she’s taken him on as a charity project ever since the two of us were kids. Fancies him as our personal Oliver Twist. It’s pretty messed up, but socialites need something to keep them busy, right? And considering Ted gets me out of all unpleasant social obligations ever, I’m not complaining.”
Andromeda crossed the snow-laden patio to where George stood, calmly inhaling and exhaling his smoke.
“Christmas dinner is a ‘social obligation’?” she asked.
George snorted. “You have no idea. For some reason, she and Father think it’s an excellent idea to get both sides of the family together. Muggles and wizards and witches, all crammed together at one table. Completely different politics. Loud-mouths. Imbeciles. It’s a nightmare every year. And of course, Mum’s side keeps telling me I need to go into law like my grandfather, and Dad’s side keep ragging on me to get a good Ministry position. I swear, I’d chop a limb off before expose myself to that sort of torture again.”
“So, Ted is your out?”
George shrugged. “Maybe that does make me a terrible friend. But yeah, he is. Even if he wasn’t feeling poorly, I’d pretend he was just to avoid dinner.”
Andromeda remained quiet for a long moment. “I think,” she whispered, “that I understand. If I could have an out back home, I’d take it, too.”
George’s gaze flickered up.
“Oh yeah?” he said. “You got Daddy issues or something?”
“I ran away from home.”
It sounded so wrong, so ugly when she put it that way. But that was exactly what she had done, wasn’t it? And for some odd reason, it felt good to have confessed as much to a stranger.
George was staring at her. “Shit, princess. Seriously?”
“What, did they disown you or something?”
“I—I don’t even know,” she whispered. “I haven’t heard anything from them since. I haven’t really had much of a chance to think about it.”
I haven’t let myself think about it.
“So that’s what the whole, ‘I gotta talk to Ted, cos it’s super secret and urgent’ shit was about?”
How was it that George made everything sound more uncouth than it really was?
“Yes,” she said tightly. “That’s what it was about.”
George nodded slowly. He tossed his cigarette to the ground and squashed it under his shoe, burying it in the snow. He squinted out at the winking streetlights in the distance, beyond another row of pristine white houses.
“He must like you a whole fucking lot,” he muttered.
“What—what do you mean?”
“It’s just, Ted’s really focused, you know? On Quidditch? Getting a career and shit and helping out his brother. And then, what with his condition—I just mean, he doesn’t really do the whole romance thing. He blows off girls like they’re exhaust fumes. All nice-like, of course, ‘cos he’s Ted. But still. I’ve never seen him go weak in the knees before.”
Andromeda was having difficulty breathing. She really wasn’t dressed for this sort of weather. She backed away toward the French doors.
“What?” George called, following her back to the house. “Did I make that awkward? You know he fancies you, right?”
Andromeda choked in a staggered breath. Her chest felt tight and coiled, like something had gone all wrong beneath her ribcage. She stumbled into the warmth of the hallway. George Vanderpool was not the person she wanted to be talking to at this moment.
"He doesn't like me that way,” she said, watching in horror as George closed up the doors, close on her heels. “Why would you think that?”
George snorted. “Uhh. Well, let’s see. First, ‘cos he let you sleep over at his house, and it took him a good four years before he ever let me visit. Second, he insisted that I bring your stupid ass along today. Third, have you seen the way he looks at you?”
Andromeda bristled. “He doesn’t look at me in any particular way. He just looks at me like—like he’s Ted and—and I’m Andromeda.”
“Uh huh. Okay. And if by that you mean like he wants to rip all your clothes off and make little halfblooded spawn with you, then sure.”
“You’re absolutely disgusting. I don’t know what Ted sees in you.”
“The feeling’s mutual, princess." George took a step closer. "Just listen. It’s not my business who Ted moons over. It’s not my business if you fancy him back. But that threat of mine? It still stands. You hurt him, and I will make you rue the day you waltzed into his life. We clear on that?”
Andromeda studied George’s face. His cheeks were red from the cold, his eyes watery but intent. She didn’t know how, but she saw something there that she recognized. That she admired. George really did care about Ted.
“I don’t want to hurt him,” she said, tipping her chin up. “Just so we’re both clear.”
George took a long moment to process this. He nodded. “Right. Well, before you can insult me further, thus irking me out of my unnaturally good mood, I’m going to show you to your own bedroom and feed you, like a proper host. So try to be semi-grateful, huh?”
Andromeda couldn’t think of a reply to that. She didn’t want to be trapped in George Vanderpool’s fancy house, but she was still technically a guest here, and she wasn’t exactly observing the best etiquette by insulting her host to his face. She sighed a longsuffering sigh. Then, silently, she nodded.
George led her back upstairs.
Florrie, the Vanderpool’s cook, brought up food to Andromeda’s bedroom. Quite unlike Andromeda had expected, Florrie wasn’t a house elf, but a plump, middle-aged Muggle. She had greeted Andromeda with a warm smile and placed a silver service tray on her king-sized bed. As Mrs. Vanderpool had promised, the entrée was a roasted duck, served with scalloped potatoes and a vinaigrette salad.
Andromeda had waited patiently until Florrie had left the room. Then she had proceeded to devour the meal in what was the most unmannerly, unladylike fashion in which she had ever indulged herself. She hadn’t realized until that very moment how hungry she had been ever since she’d run away from Grimmauld Place. She had missed food—good, proper food.
Andromeda’s guest bedroom was somewhat smaller than George’s, but it was every bit as well decked and much, much cleaner. Floor-length windows looked out onto the main street. The afternoon sun was already setting outside, and the snow was falling more rapidly than ever, collecting fast on the streets below. She heard the happy shrieks of children and spied a snowball fight a few doors down.
She wondered if Ted had woken. She wondered if he felt any better or if his abrupt departure from home had set back his recovery. And though she wasn’t ungrateful that George had been considerate enough to provide a separate bedroom for the evening, she wished that she could be in George’s room now, just to check in on Ted’s current state.
Even after a full meal and, afer that, a long nap, Andromeda woke in a cold sweat. Her stomach knotted as George’s words from earlier came rushing back into her memory.
You know he fancies you, right?
Have you seen the way he looks at you?
Angrily, Andromeda tried to brush the questions from her mind. George had only been playing with her. He’d been trying to confuse her, to embarrass her, to throw her off kilter.
But last night, back at Ted’s house, when she had confessed that she’d wanted him to kiss her…. He’d been so gentle. The way he’d touched her arm, the way he’d drawn her closer to him, the way he’d said her name….
A chill passed over her. Andromeda shook her head and pushed herself off of the bed, wiping at her eyes as though the motion alone would bring her some kind of clarity.
How could she be so distracted right now, thinking of Ted and his voice and his touch and his stupid, stupid mouth? She was supposed to be planning. She was supposed to be concocting a way to stay out of her family’s control but to somehow see Narcissa again and explain everything to her. Narcissa would understand. And then she would help Andromeda to plan some possible way to say “no” to Rabastan without losing her family forever.
Ted Tonks most certainly did not fall anywhere into that plan.
Andromeda creaked open her door. The hallway was dark now, lit only by the flicker of a distant chandelier in the stairwell. George’s room was two doors down, and the door was slightly ajar. From one end of the hallway, she could hear laughing and shouting. George’s relatives must’ve been in the midst of their dreaded Christmas dinner.
She crept out of her room and padded down the hallway to George’s room. She knocked softly before pushing the door open. She didn’t know what she’d expected to see, but it certainly wasn’t Ted and George laughing in front of a roaring fireplace. Ted was sitting, legs crossed, his complexion rosy in the firelight. His hair was back to its normal golden color. Andromeda closed her eyes in relief.
“Oi! Are you in or are you out, Black? Shut the door!”
She opened her eyes on George, who was brandishing a bottle of liquor at her as though it were a dangerous weapon. Andromeda shut the door behind her and approached the boys, her eyes scanning about the fireplace for some sort of chair.
George caught on. “Too hoity toity to join the men on the floor?”
“No,” Andromeda said proudly. “Just weighing my options.”
She whipped the skirt of her dress with a flourish and took a seat on the oriental rug just across from the two of them. George leaned back and retrieved an empty glass tumbler from the fireside. He filled it a fourth full of the clear liquor in his possession and handed it over to Andromeda.
She eyed the beverage suspiciously. “What is it?”
“Vodka,” said George. “Muggle stuff. Excellent.”
“You don’t have to drink it,” Ted said softly, “if you don’t want.”
Andromeda looked up quickly. She wondered if Ted was thinking about a certain fiasco in Hogsmeade, when a little too much alcohol had led her to puke all over his fish and chips. He had been so kind to her, even then….
“I think I could rather use it, actually.”
She then proceeded to down the tumbler's contents in one go.
Her throat burned, and though Andromeda was acutely aware of the vodka making its way down her digestive tract, she only smiled pleasantly at the boys and set the glass down with a triumphant clink.
George raised his eyebrows. “Not bad, princess.”
“You’re feeling better?” Andromeda asked, turning to Ted. "You look much better."
She was blushing. Oh Merlin, no. Why was she blushing? Maybe he couldn’t tell in the firelight. Maybe he’d only attribute it to the vodka. Maybe—
“Much,” said Ted. He stretched out his leg and wiggled his barefoot in her direction, the slightest smile playing on his lip. “Just like new. George always does a good job of patching me up again.”
A thought occurred to Andromeda. “And Nelson? He won’t be worried?”
Ted’s smile only grew. “I’m sure he and Roisin are very well occupied. Even if not, he’s used to George kidnapping me at a moment’s notice. He’ll be fine.”
“Yeah,” said George. “Why you worried ‘bout Nelson? It’s Ted and me here who are the lonely bastards this cold Christmas eve-uh-ning.”
Andromeda blinked at George. Then she looked at Ted, who looked like he was laughing at some unspoken, inside joke.
“He’s—blitzed, isn’t he?” she whispered.
Ted sighed. “George gets touchy around the holidays. I just try to make sure he doesn’t break stuff in the drunken stupor."
“I am NOT gonna breaky-breaky stuff!” George cried indignantly, flailing an arm in Ted’s direction. “I’m feeling, like, really warm and fuzzy, actually.”
As though to prove his point, George proceeded to curl into the fetal position, his messy head of hair tucked against his knees. If Andromeda hadn’t known better, she would’ve thought it was a little bit adorable. As it was, she just stifled a laugh.
“Right,” said Ted. “I think that’s enough for one night, huh?”
Ted tugged out his wand from under a throw pillow. Then, with concentrated effort, he cast a levitating spell on George, lifting him up from his mound on the floor—a ball of limp limbs and drool—and onto his bed. Andromeda watched in rapt attention as Ted skirted around the bed and rearranged George’s limbs to a more comfortable position, wrapping his duvet around him to keep warm. He nudged George’s drooling mouth toward the edge of the bed, where he’d positioned an empty rubbish bin.
“Night, mate,” he said, rumpling up George’s already disastrous hair. "Take it easy, huh?"
George just made a half-hearted swat in reply and mumbled something incoherent.
It was only now that Andromeda realized how inconvenient a time she’d chosen to arrive. George was out cold, and she’d just thrown back more than two shots’ worth of some Muggle alcohol she knew nothing about. And Ted was—oh Merlin, oh Merlin—he was looking straight at her from across the room.
Was this the look that George had been talking about? She felt frozen in place. Her throat felt warm, her limbs useless.
Calm down, Andromeda. He’s just looking at you. Just a normal, completely blasé look. George has made you completely paranoid.
But last night, whispered a sibilant voice in her mind. Last night, last night, last—
“So!” Andromeda said, far louder and cheerier than she’d intended. She stumbled up to her feet. “I should probably leave you alone, then. You know. To—to undress?”
Oh heavens, what was she even saying.
Ted raised a brow.
“I mean! I mean, I mean—you know, to get to bed. Get ready for bed. And—get—to—it. Bed. That is.”
“Mm, yes. Bed.” Ted nodded. He looked amused, which only made Andromeda more flustered.
“Great,” she said, backing away from the fire and toward the bedroom door. “I—I really shouldn’t have interrupted. That is, I didn’t know you and George were—I mean, I didn’t know that he was so close to—you know, turning in for the night? And you've just recovered. You should be resting."
Ted was laughing at her. Not out loud, but she could see it in his eyes. She could see it in the slight shake of his shoulders. He was laughing at her, dammit.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” she said vehemently.
But all she could think about were stupid George’s stupid words.
Have you seen the way he looks at you?
“So, good night, then!” Andromeda flung open the door and scurried out into the hallway.
Which bedroom door was hers? Think, Andromeda. Two doors down. On the left. That’s your door. Now, just open it. Quickly.
Andromeda’s hand slipped on the door handle. When had her palms begun to sweat?
“Erm, need some help?”
Ted was peeking out from the threshold of George’s room, watching her.
He crossed the hallway, and Andromeda tried and failed to keep breathing normally.
“I fucking know how to open a door, Tonks!” she said, but her voice wavered on his name as he came to a stop only inches away from her.
His hand wound around her waist.
“W-w-what are you doing?” she asked, though it sounded more like a hiccup than anything else.
Then she realized precisely what he had been doing: opening the door. He’d just reached around her to open the door. Nothing out of the ordinary. Entirely prosaic. So why was she nearly hyperventilating?
Ted had noticed. Suddenly, the laughter disappeared from his eyes.
“Dromeda?” he said, concern thickening his voice. “Really, are you all right?"
She nodded mutely. She was staring at his mouth. Why was she staring at his mouth? Where should she be staring? At his eyes! His eyes, his—
But she wasn’t looking at his eyes. She wasn’t looking anymore. She was on her toes, and she was grabbing his shirt collar, and....
She was kissing Ted Tonks.
His mouth was soft. So surprisingly soft. But his lips remained stiil and motionless, as though they’d been turned to stone. Panic sparked in the back of Andromeda’s mind. He wasn’t kissing her back. She pulled back with a soft, embarrassing cry.
Bad move, Andromeda. Very, very bad move.
She stumbled back a pace, her back knocking against the open bedroom door. She couldn’t help herself. Despite the building terror in her gut, she lifted her eyes to Ted’s.
His pupils were wide, his cheeks drained of color. He stood very still. Then, he cleared his throat.
“Um. Did you—did you mean to do that?”
What sort of question was that? How could she have possibly meant to do anything else?
She felt like she was burning, slowly, from the inside out. Surely her whole face had to be a splotchy mess of red by now. She must’ve looked frightful. Her eyes stung suddenly, and her vision blurred.
Oh no. No. She was not going to cry in front of Ted Tonks. She should be focusing her energies elsewhere—like on planning how to murder George for ever planting the idea in her brain that Ted wanted this.
“What do you think?” she said, her voice trembling with anger. “Yes, you moronic bastard, I meant it. And if you didn’t like it, then you can just—“
Her voice stoppered up, cut off by something wholly unexpected. Ted had crossed the space she’d put between them in an instant, and, Sweet Salazar, he was kissing her. His lips, so still before, now pressed against hers with heated urgency. She didn’t know if she had wrapped her arms around his neck first, or if he been the one to first wind his arms around her waist. She didn’t know how they’d ended up tumbling deeper into her dark bedroom, or how the door had closed, or how her back had ended up pressed against it. All she knew was that they were kissing, and she didn’t want to stop, not for all the air in the world.
Hers were shaky, tentative movements at first, as though just startled into life after long disuse. Then she heard a low, hoarse sound emit from the back of Ted’s throat, and her mind was suddenly plunged into a swirling haze. Her lips were searching, pleading, though for what Andromeda hadn’t a clue.
She was vaguely aware that she was moving, but it wasn’t until her back was pressed against a cushion of pillows and quilts that she realized in what direction. Warm hands had moved away from her shoulders—one down to the waist of her dress, the other clenching into a knot of hair bunched at her neck. Her own hands had found new resting places as well, against the creased fabric of Ted's shirt.
His lips left hers, only to press down, hot and quick, along her neck. Then his nose was buried against her throat, his breathing shallow, his hands stilling in her hair and against her stomach. Andromeda shook her head, dissatisfied.
“Don’t,” she whispered. “Don’t stop.”
There was a pregnant pause. Then Ted's lips crashed against hers, this time more urgent and more familiar than before. Her fingers dug into his shirt, scraping against the hard muscles beneath the fabric. A musky, inky smell surrounded her, and all was heat and limbs and mouth on mouth. Andromeda heard herself whimper—a low, fragile sound—and then—
Air. Cold air.
She reached up, but her hands caught at nothing substantial. Her lips were left needy. Her eyes fluttered open. Ted was staring down at her, his eyes wide, anxious.
“Are you okay?” he whispered. “I mean—I mean, you want this?”
Hazily, Andromeda nodded. Why was he talking at a time like this? Didn’t he realize that what was of utmost importance right now was placing his lips back on hers, his hands back on her skin?
She hadn’t known it could be like this. She hadn’t known that she could literally ache for a touch, to feel a dull burn inside that she was certain only one person could cure. Rabastan had never made her feel this way. His kisses hadn’t always been unwelcome, but it was always Rabastan and Rabastan alone who had wanted more, who had pressed for it, asked for it, desired it.
But this, this was what the desire felt like—a thick, burning fire licking through her veins and sending her heart into a frenzied flutter, clouding her brain and pushing words heedlessly from her tongue.
“I just didn’t think—“ she shook her head, hitching in an uneven breath. “I didn’t know it could be so—so right. With a Muggleborn….“
She shook her head again, words hazing and jumbling, losing all meaning. Why couldn’t he just touch her again?
But she realized in a sudden panic that Ted wasn’t on the bed anymore. He stood stooped over by the fireplace, his back to her. Andromeda pulled in a ragged breath, pushing herself up onto her knees.
“What?” she whispered. “Ted, what’s wrong?”
“With a Muggleborn?”
She blinked in confusion, looking down at her lap. She was suddenly acutely aware of how wrinkled her dress was and how the loose fabric hung so unceremoniously along her waist, exposing her bare legs in the moonlight. Nervously, she tugged the fabric down to cover her thighs.
Ted turned around. “What, am I like—like an experiment to you?”
Andromeda still couldn’t understand. She stared at Ted, uncomprehending. Her shoulders began to shake.
“N-no,” she said. “No, of course you’re not. It’s just, everyone says that Muggleborns can’t—I mean, that they aren’t nearly as—they’re just idiotic rumors, that’s all.”
“Rumors?” Ted repeated. “What, rumors that a mutant like me couldn’t even kiss you properly? So, what, you wanted to try it out, just to see if I could?”
“No!” Andromeda shouted, cheeks reddening. She couldn’t stand the way he was looking at her. He looked so uncertain. So angry.
So unlike Ted.
“I didn’t mean anything by it. I wasn’t thinking. I just wanted you. I swear, I wasn’t thinking about your—your blood status. That doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t!”
Ted laughed. It was an awful, low, humorless laugh. He held his hand to his face, shielding his eyes from her. Andromeda felt ill watching him.
How had something so lovely gone wrong so fast?
“Merlin,” he whispered. “Well, I’m so grateful that you chose to ignore my blood status out of the goodness of your heart while we were making out. Heaven forbid we’d taken it further, right? I mean, that would’ve taken some inhuman amount of forbearance to stomach the fact that I’m—”
“Stop it!” Andromeda shouted, surprising even herself with the force of her words. “Just stop! I am so sick of you throwing that back in my face. I know I said some terrible things to you before, but—but people can change. I’m not constantly thinking about the fact that you’re poor or Muggleborn or that we’re not in the same social circles. That isn’t the only thing that runs through my brain on a daily basis, Ted Tonks.”
“Really?” Ted spat back. “Because it sounds pretty fresh in your mind right now.”
Andromeda pointed her trembling finger at the door. Her voice had gone cold, lifeless, hard. It was a tone that generations of Ladies of the House of Black had perfected before her. “Get out of this room.”
Ted shook his head in disbelief. “What, then? Is this how you dismiss all of your inferiors? Did I not perform well enough for you?"
“Get the hell out.”
She didn’t need to say it again. Ted was already gone. The bedroom door slammed behind him with a thud of finality, and the cold Black demeanor that Andromeda had held onto for this long now broke with a single anguished sob.
Author's Note: Don't hate me forever? :] As always, I love-love-love and appreciate your reads and reviews. Thank you to everyone who's been sticking with Tedromeda this far. Hiccups and drama aside, THEIR LOVE WILL PREVAIL.
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