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Chapter 18 : According to Plan
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I know that by now you must’ve heard about what happened, and I hope you aren’t worried. The last thing I wanted to do when I ran away was upset you. I can’t explain everything in a letter, but I promise there’s a reasonable explanation for what I did. I know that if I tell you, you’ll understand. Will you let me explain it to you, please? I miss you. I need my sister. I want to visit you at Malfoy Manor and talk everything through, but I’ve been afraid that you’ll tell Mum and Dad, and I don’t want that. Please, don’t tell them where I am. Not yet. Just write back and let me know if I can visit you and Lucius. If you’re there to help me see straight, I know that we can sort things out.
All my love,
Andromeda sat staring at the piece of parchment on her lap. She had written half a dozen drafts now, and still this one did not sit well with her. It seemed so desperate, so melodramatic. She wished that she could just summon Narcissa here, into this room, and tell her everything in person. She just wanted to hug Narcissa, cry snotty, stupid tears into her shoulder, and ask for her advice. Narcissa was in love with Lucius. She knew what it was to be in love, and she wouldn’t want anything less for Andromeda. She would never insist that she marry Rabastan.
How can you expect for Cissy to sympathize with your matters of the heart when you can’t even figure them out for yourself?
“Shut up,” Andromeda whispered aloud.
She folded her letter in a tight, perfect crease and slipped it beneath her pillow, trying desperately to ignore the hollow feeling that had been worming around her all night.
You won’t marry Rabastan because he’s a cheater. Very well. But why on earth would you throw yourself at a Muggleborn? Have you really stooped that low, Andromeda?
“Stop,” she whispered louder, pressing her hands to her ears.
But it was too late. That slithery voice had dredged up the memories that Andromeda was fighting so hard to keep down.
Ted’s mouth on hers, his hand grazing down her waist, his fingers winding up in her hair—all so tender and warm and right.
No. Wrong. It was so very wrong. A mistake. She shouldn’t have let it happen. What had she been thinking? Hadn’t she decided that Ted didn’t fit into her plan? Just because Andromeda had run away from home didn’t mean she was cut off from her family, from her name, from her reputation—not forever. Just because she refused to marry Rabastan Lestrange didn’t mean that she had to go out and prove her independence by snogging a Muggleborn of all people.
“For a Muggleborn?”
“Did I not perform well enough?”
Andromeda shut her eyes, tears stinging her skin. She was so confused. She couldn’t think straight. She had stayed up all night crying, arguing with herself, and writing letter after letter to Narcissa.
Only as the first rays of dawn crept into the room did she slump onto her pillow and fall fast asleep.
She woke to the sound of shouts. Outside, a gaggle of boys and girls were conducting yet another snowball fight. The roads were cleared, but icicles clung to the branches outside her bedroom window, and Andromeda watched as passersby tread with caution on the icy sidewalks.
It was the day after Christmas. Today, families would be celebrating together and children playing with new toys and shoppers bustling in and out of stores in search of holiday sales. Today, by rights, Andromeda should have been back at Onyx House. She should have been sleeping in her own canopy bed tonight, waited on by the house elf Hettie. She should have been drinking hot cocoa and reading for pleasure or perhaps trying on one of her new Christmas dresses. She should have been anticipating Rabastan Lestrange’s proposal.
How far removed she was from that reality now—estranged from her family, dependent entirely on strangers, left to her own devices.
She was so tired of it.
She wasn’t ashamed to admit it to herself anymore: she missed the comforts of home. She wanted to be back at Onyx House.
So Andromeda had finally devised a plan.
She would have to face Ted. She would have to explain to him how last night had just been a matter of jumbled emotions and poor judgment and hormones. She would explain that she'd decided to leave for Malfoy Manor, and she would sort out her future there, with her sister’s help. There was no reason to involve Ted Tonks in any of that process. She shouldn’t have involved him in the first place. What a stupid decision that had been. It would've been better for her to go hungry in that drafty room above Obscurus Books rather than ever speak a word to George Vanderpool.
Stop holding a pity party, Andromeda. Stop acting like a scared little girl. You made an adult decision, and now you’ve got to deal with the consequences. Pull yourself together.
Andromeda opened her bedroom door. She edged around a silver tray resting on the floor, stocked with a plate of bacon, beans, toast, a half grapefruit, and a fancy fluted glass of yogurt. She knelt and brushed her knuckles against the small teapot. Cold. Florrie had probably left the tray hours ago.
Down the hall, George’s door was cracked open. Andromeda swallowed hard. She had performed some essential beauty and scent spells, but she was acutely aware that her hair still looked straggly and her eyes watery from lack of sleep. She had been wearing the same dress since the Christmas party. What had she come to in the past few days?
Andromeda creaked open the door.
George sat on the bed, hands behind his head, feet crossed atop a throw pillow. Propped on his knees was a glossy copy of Quidditch Monthly. His eyes were bloodshot, but he looked like he was in a surprisingly pleasant mood.
Andromeda glanced around the room. Where was Ted?
“Taking a shower,” George supplied, eyeing Andromeda with a knowing smirk.
“Who? Oh.” Andromeda shrugged nonchalantly. “Well, that doesn’t matter. It’s you I wanted to talk to.”
Now that Andromeda had drawn nearer to George’s massive bed, she noticed that he was dressed up. He wore a pair of nice slacks, a button-up shirt, and a yellow tie.
Once again, George anticipated her next question. “I’m going out today. Ted can’t save me from all obligations. Some big to-do at The Savoy, and Mum’s insisted that I show my face to the dreaded relatives at least once this holiday season. It’s gonna be an even bigger crowd than last night’s. Uncle Horace will be there, and apparently he’s set on leaving me a shitload of an inheritance, so I’ve gotta convince him that I’m respons—why the hell am I telling you this?”
“I’ve no idea.”
“Huh.” George made a face and returned his gaze to the centerfold of his magazine—a moving team portrait of the Kenmare Kestrals.
“I have a favor to ask,” said Andromeda, “I wondered if I might use one of your family owls?”
George turned the page of his magazine. “Is that a trick question?”
“No. I just have a letter to send.”
Andromeda crossed her arms. “I don’t see how it’s your business.”
“It’s my owl. So yeah, it’s my business.”
“Fine. It’s to my sister, Narcissa.”
“Her name is Narcissa?“
“Oh, honestly!” snapped Andromeda, grabbing the magazine from George and hurling it on the floor. “Will you let me use an owl or not?”
“Well. Since you asked so nicely….”
George motioned toward the corner of the room. A tall, brass cage sat atop a marble pedestal, and inside the cage perched the prim figure of a pure black owl. It appeared to be sleeping.
“Just warning you,” George said, "wake her at your own risk. Medusa can be persnickety.”
Andromeda rolled her eyes and crossed the room. George would name his owl Medusa. From her dress pocket, she tugged out the folded letter addressed to Narcissa. She still wasn’t happy with its contents, but the sooner she sent it, the sooner she would be able to carry out her plan.
She opened the birdcage door and tipped the very edge of her letter inside.
“Medusa,” she said in a soft, sweet alto that she reserved for her own owl back home. “Come here, sweet thing. I’ve a little errand for you.”
Medusa opened her yellow eyes. She stared at Andromeda for a long moment. Then she gave a resigned hoot and nipped the letter from Andromeda’s grasp.
Andromeda unlatched George’s bedroom window, bracing herself against the cold wind that blew in. Medusa rustled her feathers once, then swept out of her cage and through the open window. Andromeda latched the window shut and turned to George in triumph.
George was staring at her with unreserved surprise. “Uh. Yeah. Usually.”
Andromeda plucked her wand out and cast a quick levitation spell, returning George’s magazine to his lap.
“Perhaps,” she said, making her way to the door, “you just don’t know how to handle her.”
She stopped at the threshold. “Are there any wards on your house that I should be aware of?”
“I’m apparating back to Ted’s house to collect my things,” she said. “You may remember how yesterday you most unceremoniously ripped us away without giving me the chance to fetch my belongings."
George made a face. "You won’t have any trouble apparating back here, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Good,” said Andromeda. “Then you should know that once all of my things are gathered and I hear back from my sister, I intend to leave.”
“I think I’ve intruded on your family’s hospitality long enough. And you’ve made it very clear that you don’t want me here, so I thought that my departure would be agreeable.”
“Riiight.” George scratched at his nose. “Does Ted know about this?”
“Why would that matter?”
“I dunno,” George said slowly. “I just thought that your departure might not be so, uh, agreeable to him.”
“Don’t worry, it will be.” Andromeda’s voice had turned brittle.
"Wait a second." George's eyes brightened in realization. "Did you two have a fight or something? Damn. I can’t believe I missed it! I knew I shouldn’t have started drinking so early.”
Andromeda felt herself growing weak in the stomach, weak in the legs. She backed away from the door, but George called out again.
“Hey! Hey, reconsider, would you? If you leave, he’s gonna think I scared you off or something.”
“That’s not what he’ll think,” Andromeda said. “He’ll understand. He’ll be happy I’m gone.”
She splinched herself on the way there. She appeared in Ted’s bedroom with an unsteady crack!, and she felt the immediate burn of her right hand, the hot trickle of blood down her fingers. She’d managed to slice off all the flesh from her knuckles.
Andromeda staggered to the bed, clutching her hand to her stomach and fumbling for her wand.
Of course she knew better than to apparate when she was emotionally distraught. But she thought she’d had a handle on things. She had a plan, didn’t she? She had a plan, and she was seeing it through. So why was she currently a bloodied-up mess?
“Ted? Is that you?”
Ted’s door swung open, and Andromeda found herself staring up at a wide-eyed Nelson.
“Oi!” he cried. “What happened to you? Where’s Ted?”
She shook her head, trying to swallow down the pain and actually form words, but without success.
“Just sit tight,” said Nelson. “I’ll be right back.”
She heard footsteps clatter back down the hallway, heard a distant rummaging sound. She was losing blood. It seeped from her hand into the silk waist of her dress, staining the emerald fabric in a sinister blot. Andromeda’s hand trembled as she tried to regain a good grasp on her wand. But it was slick with blood, and it was her wand hand that was injured. She wouldn’t be able to fix this splinch on her own.
Nelson came clambering back into the room, carrying a small brown bottle and a handful of gauze. He took a seat next to Andromeda on the bed, and the bedframe groaned warningly under his weight.
“All right, let’s see the damage here, shall we? This might hurt, but we’ll get you all patched up.”
Despite the pain ripping through her nerves, Andromeda handed her bloodied hand over to Nelson and watched in muted fixation as he poured the rust-colored contents of the bottle over Andromeda’s knuckles, then wiped away both liquid and blood with a bunched-up piece of gauze. Then, with calm precision, he wound the remaining gauze around her knuckles, binding them so tight that Andromeda let out a pained cry.
“I’m sorry,” Nelson said. “I’m really sorry, but the worst of it’s over, see? We’ve got you all bound up and slathered in iodine. That was Dad’s sure-fire cure for all the scrapes around here.”
“Though,” Nelson said after a pause, carefully turning over her hand. “I think you’re going to need more than a Muggle cure for that to heal entirely. Nasty business, squelches. I remember Ted nicking himself all the time when he was practicing for his apparating license. Squelches. That’s what they’re called, right?”
“Splinches,” Andromeda corrected in a hoarse whisper. Then, “Thank you.”
Nelson shrugged. “Sure thing. Let me just wash up, huh? Then you can explain to me why you’re sitting on Ted’s bed bleeding and looking generally miserable.”
Andromeda nodded weakly. In the time it took Nelson to wash up, she managed to regain some of her composure. Her satchel was tucked under Ted’s bed, just where she’d left it. At least she had what she’d come here for.
When Nelson returned, he rejoined her on the edge of the bed, hands clasped, his eyes watching her intently as though she were some wild animal capable of darting away at any moment.
His eyes reminded her of someone.
Of course, you idiot. They remind you of Ted.
“So, did Vanderpool scare you away?” Nelson asked. “He can be a pill.”
"You knew it was him, then? Ted said you would."
“Of course. George kidnaps him every year. Well, every year since his brother died.”
Andromeda stiffened. "What?"
“You know he had an older brother? Went to your school. He died in some sort of freak magical accident three or four Christmases back. Apparently, the kid was the family favorite—golden boy, and all that. The family didn’t take it well. George has a rough time of it around the holidays.”
Andromeda felt cold. “I didn’t know that,” she whispered.
No wonder. No wonder George didn’t want to be alone during the holidays but also didn’t want to be around his family. Andromeda couldn’t imagine spending two weeks at home in Onyx House if she had lost someone as precious to her as Narcissa.
And you called him a terrible friend. Bravo, Andromeda.
“Don’t get me wrong,” said Nelson, “he’s still a little prick. I just give him some leeway. I think he and Ted are good for each other.”
Andromeda nodded but said nothing.
Nelson poked at the satchel in her lap. “So what, you moving out?”
“Yes,” she said, straightening up. “I’m going to stay with family for the rest of the holidays. But I can’t say how much I appreciate you letting me stay here. Really. It—it meant a good deal to me.”
A year ago, Andromeda would never have imagined herself here, in this position, sitting in a drafty bedroom and thanking a Muggle for his hospitality. And she certainly would’ve never imagined a Muggle telling her what Nelson was now.
“I hope you visit again.”
Andromeda gave him a disbelieving look. “I completely upset your entire holiday. I turned things topsy turvy and ate your food and imposed upon—“
“Doesn’t matter. That was half the fun.” Nelson smiled a warm smile.
Why did he have to look so terribly, uncannily like his brother?
Andromeda got to her feet. She slung her satchel across her shoulder. “Would you give my best to Roisin?” she said. “Brennan and William, too. They were—lovely.”
Surprisingly lovely for Muggles, she had meant to say. But before she had, she’d envisioned that look that Ted always gave her when she said something apparently offensive, and she thought better of it.
“Of course,” said Nelson. “You tell Ted not to get too wild over in Posh Town, eh?” He eyed Andromeda. “By the way, are you sure you want to just pop on out like this? I mean, that’s what got you squelched in the first place, right?”
“I’m fine,” Andromeda said. “I’m in better control now.”
And with one last parting smile, she apparated away.
She had to talk to Ted. She knew that. She had to face him for the first time since last night, look him in the eye, and tell him everything that she had planned to say:
It was a mistake. We shouldn’t have kissed. I’ve written Narcissa. When she writes back, I’ll leave.
She’d repeated the trail of words in her mind, again and again, until they were deeply rooted into her memory and could roll off of her tongue in an even, measured cadence.
But just because she could say the words didn’t mean that she wanted to. It didn’t mean that she wanted to creep down the halls of the Vanderpool House in search of Ted. He hadn’t been in George’s bedroom. Neither had George, who Andromeda assumed was currently out and about with the dreaded relatives. She’d tried the handles of other rooms in the hallway. All locked.
So she’d crept down the stairs and through the grand atrium again, keeping on the lookout for some sign of movement. Dusk was already creeping through the windows, casting strange shadows on Andromeda as she made her way down the first floor hallway. She shivered and tugged her velvet jacket closer. She buttoned the jacket up as she walked on, better sealing herself in warmth and covering the bloodstain on the stomach of her dress. She would have to cast a fierce stain spell on the fabric later, but her wand hand still wasn't in any shape to be performing proper spells.
Then she stopped walking. She heard something. It was faint, but distinguishable—the sound of music. It was coming from behind two closed doors, just past the atrium. She backtracked to their threshold, pressed her ear to the crack in the wood, and listened.
It was a melody that she did not recognize, but that did not lessen its beauty. It was soft, minor, and lilting. An oboe carried it first, buoyed up by a swell of cellos. Then mournful interlude of French horns cut through the melody, parceling it into soft echoes and variations. It made Andromeda’s chest tighten in a terrible but somehow pleasant way.
She creaked open the door. The room was a library, its walls stacked with shelf upon shelf of books. At the center of the room, the figure of a golden-headed boy stood stooped over a wooden table. On the table sat a box—a Muggle contraption of some sort, upon which a thin black disc spun around and around. That was where the music was coming from.
Andromeda leaned in closer to get a better view. Her clutch on the door handle slipped, and she stumbled forward, the hinges creaking after her. The music stopped abruptly, followed only by a thin, humming sound. Then, slowly, the boy at the table turned to face her.
This was going to be so much worse than she’d anticipated.
A long, staticky pause stretched out between the two of them. Andromeda shoved both hands into her dress pockets. If Ted couldn’t see them, then he wouldn’t know how badly they were trembling.
“I think,” she said, “that we need to talk.”
Ted wetted his lips. He turned back toward the contraption on the table and lifted a strange, black sort of lever. The humming sound stopped. Then he turned fully back around.
“I thought that you’d left.”
His voice was paper-thin. Andromeda took a few steps closer, straining her ears to hear his words.
“I thought,” he said, running a hand across his forehead, “I mean, after what George told me, I thought you’d left to see your sister and just—just—“
Andromeda frowned. “You thought I’d left without telling you?”
“Well…” Ted squinted at her. He leaned back against the table, shaking his head. “Yeah. I did.”
Something within Andromeda stung at the thought.
“You thought I wouldn’t have the decency to thank you for your hospitality? To even say goodbye? You have that low an opinion of me?”
“Can’t be as low as your opinion of me, I’m sure.”
He was looking at her all wrong—his eyes hard, his jaw set. Like she was something foreign to him. He’d never looked at her that way before, not even on that day aboard the Hogwarts Express, when he’d tried to make polite conversation with her and she’d done nothing but tell him off.
He’d always been the one to smile at her, to shrug off her insults. Did there come a time when even someone like Ted Tonks lost his forbearance? Had she tested him just one time too many?
That doesn’t matter anymore, Andromeda. He isn’t part of the plan. He can’t be. Now say what you’ve been practicing all this time. Say what you came to say.
“It was a mistake,” she whispered. “We shouldn’t have kissed.”
Ted nodded. “All right.”
That wasn’t the reply that Andromeda had been expecting.
What had she been expecting?
“All right?” she repeated. “You think it was a mistake, too?”
“Obviously. I mean, it ended in a veritable shouting match. I thought you were going to throw a vase at me or something. We shouldn’t have kissed. We’d both had a little bit to drink, and we were alone in a dark bedroom, hormones raging. It happens.”
What’s wrong with that? He agreed with you. So move on. Tell him the rest of what you planned to say.
But she was taking an uncomfortably long time to say anything at all. Ted began to look uneasy.
“For the record,” he muttered, “you kissed me first.”
Heat rushed through Andromeda.
“Only technically,” she snapped. “You were the one looking at me like that.”
“You know exactly how. Stupid—stupid bedroom eyes!”
“I was not just a tipsy girl suffering from some uncontrollable biological urge, Tonks. We’re not animals.”
Ted hesitated. “Well, technically—“
She shot him a vicious glare. “You know what I mean. It may have been a mistake, but that doesn’t mean it was some sort of primal, dirty thing to be ashamed of.”
“I never said it was primal or dirty,” said Ted. “I thought it was pretty bloody won—“
“I wrote to Narcissa,” Andromeda spat out. “The moment I hear back from her, I’ll be leaving.”
“Oh. Okay.” His voice was flat. He gave a thin-lipped smile. “So that’s that.”
“Look, Ted, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. Letting me stay at your place, feeding me, listening to me. All of that was far more than I would expect from anyone in your position.”
“Anyone in my position?” Ted made a frustrated noise. “What do you—“
“You’re not a part of the plan!”
“What are you talking about?”
“You,” Andromeda said, motioning lifelessly at Ted. “This. It isn’t part of the plan. I need to set things straight. I need my sister. I need my family. I’ve thought this through, and I can’t just live in a world without them. They’re my world, Ted. My friends, my home, my way of life—that’s all I’ve got. And I’m going to find a way to set things right again without—without—“
“Without marrying Lestrange.” Ted was looking at the floor. He gave a single, short laugh. “Right. Got it.”
“It’s been several days. I think my family will see reason if I sit down and talk to them.”
“Yeah, ‘cos that worked so well last time, what with your aunt casting an unforgiveable—“
It happened on instinct. Andromeda had him backed against the wall, his back rammed against a bookshelf, her wand pointed at his throat. It was terrifying how natural the action had been.
“You don’t ever speak of that again,” she hissed. “Not to another soul.”
Ted hadn’t so much as lost his composure. Carefully, he set his fingers on Andromeda’s trembling wand hand. He pushed it back down to her side. All the while, his eyes never left hers.
“I wouldn’t do that,” he said evenly.
Andromeda backed away. Her head was swimming.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I don’t know why I—of course you wouldn’t.”
What had possessed her to do something like that? This wasn’t how she behaved. This wasn’t her. She was acting like—
“I understand,” Ted said softly, “You want to set things right at home. And it’s selfish of me, wanting you to stick around even though I know you’re on bad terms with your family. I dunno. I just thought that if you’d run away, it meant that you—“
Andromeda’s gaze flickered back to his, but Ted didn’t finish his thought. Her eyes fell to her lowered hands, and she picked mindlessly at the gauze wrapped around her knuckles.
“So, look,” he said. “Just suppose that I’d been born a pureblood…”
“I mean it. Suppose I were a pureblood. You know, a Rosier or a Yaxley. And I wasn’t born with a wildly unattractive genetic defect. And I was filthy rich. And suppose you and I moved in the same circles, and I’d been sorted into a decent house, like Ravenclaw. Would I have been in the plan then?”
“Don’t talk like that,” Andromeda whispered. “It isn’t fair.”
“Just tell me.”
“I can’t answer something like that. It’s complete nonsense. If you’d been all those things, you wouldn’t be Ted anymore.”
“Sure I would,” said Ted. “I’d just be rich and attractive, and you’d be, you know, allowed to want me.”
”But you are poor!” Andromeda cried, exasperated. “You’re poor and you’re Muggleborn and you’re a metamorphmagus. Those are all parts of you. You wouldn’t be the Ted I wanted without them.”
No. Oh no.
Ted had gone completely still.
It was happening again: that uncomfortable phenomenon when Andromeda started inhaling a little too little and exhaling much too much.
She stumbled back over the library rug.
“I need to check George’s room,” she wheezed feebly. “His owl could be back. There could be a reply—“
“You want me?”
“I didn’t say—“
“You did.” Ted took a step forward, countering her own step back. “You said that you wanted me.”
“Why does that even matter?” Andromeda nearly shrieked. She was teetering on the edge of something—a sob or a laugh or quite possibly a panic attack. “God, Ted, you’ve the thickest skull imaginable. It doesn’t change anything. My family—“
“Doesn’t it matter that I want you back?”
Ted’s eyes had gone a strange hue, and cool dread seized Andromeda.
They were turning silver.
“That’s the real trouble of it,” he said. “I can’t stop. I’m probably certifiable. How else could I let myself fancy someone who treats me like the scum of the earth?”
“I mean, it’s terrifically unhealthy if you think about it. Do you know when I think it started? When you puked all over my fish and chips at Hog’s Head. How demented is that?”
It was happening right in front of her this time. A shoot of hair just above his ear was fading from dusty gold to silver. Still, Ted went on.
“And I told myself, ‘It’s going to hurt like hell if you let yourself do it.’ You know? In what universe does me falling for Andromeda Black end well? Who does that? I should be committed.”
“Ted, calm down,” Andromeda said, grabbing his arm. “You’re—you’re changing.”
Ted’s arm tensed under her hand. His silver eyes widened. Slowly, he touched his hand to his hair.
She nodded, trying not to look as terrified as she felt.
Please don’t have a fit. Not now.
“Are you okay?” she whispered. “Do you need to sit down?”
He shook his head, jerking away from her. “No. No, I’m fine.”
But even as he said the words, he doubled over with a sharp, pained gasp.
“Oh my god. Oh god, where’s your medicine?”
“It isn’t—“ Ted shook his head. “I didn’t bring any with—“
“What?” Andromeda glanced around frantically, then spotted a settee in the corner of the room. She grabbed Ted’s arm and dragged him toward it, then sat, tugging him down with her. “Okay. It’s okay. Just breathe, all right? Breathe.”
It was all she could think to say. He was heaving in short, erratic gasps now, and his face had blanched to a terrifying shade of white.
“It’s okay. You’re going to be okay.” She pressed her palm flat against his chest. He was ice cold, but she could feel sweat wicking through his shirt.
She was not going to choke, not like last time when she’d been paralyzed with fear. She was the top of her class at Hogwarts. Wasn’t that good for something?
A soothing spell. Cast a soothing spell, Andromeda. Calm him down.
She tugged out her wand, wincing as her bandaged knuckles brushed her skirt pocket. This would be hard, almost impossible work with her wand hand injured.
“Stay still,” she ordered Ted, meeting his eyes. They were wet and dilated, and the silver of his irises had only intensified in the past minute.
Andromeda closed her eyes. She concentrated. Then she placed the tip of her wand at Ted’s sternum and whispered a soothing spell with careful precision. When she was through, she snapped her eyes back open, searching Ted’s features for some kind of change. But nothing had changed. If anything, he looked paler.
Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Think, Andromeda. Try something else. Another plan.
“I’m going to apparate back to your place,” she said. “Okay? I’m going to apparate there and get your medicine, and I’ll bring it back.”
“No!” Ted slumped forward, his hand digging into the fabric of her jacket. “Don’t—don’t leave me alone. Dromeda. Don’t.”
He was shivering. His shoulders shook convulsively, sending tremors through Andromeda’s own body as she wrapped her arms tightly around his back. She couldn’t leave now. What if she left and, when she came back, she found him...dead?
“You need to breathe,” she said, pressing her forehead to his shoulder. “Ted, breathe. I’m right here, with you. Breathe with me. Please. Please.”
Her movements had become blurs, disjointed entirely from her thoughts. She was rubbing her hand in circles on his back, she was breathing in deep, over-large breaths, clinging to the dogged hope that he’d do the same.
He couldn’t die. Ted Tonks wasn’t going to die like this, not locked in her arms on Christmas holiday, right after he’d just told her that he was falling for her. Whatever happened next, he was not going to die.
His breaths were growing more and more ragged. He felt cold, so cold under her hands.
Then, suddenly, everything stilled. She couldn’t hear his heart. She couldn’t hear his breaths. A deathly silence flooded her ears.
It lingered for a full five seconds.
And then Ted's chest bloomed with warmth.
He choked in one long, labored gasp, as though he were surfacing from deep water. Andromeda pulled away, placing her hands on either side of Ted’s jaw. She forced his bleary eyes to meet hers. The color was returning to his cheeks.
It had passed.
The fit had passed.
“O-w-w,” rasped Ted. “That hurt.”
Andromeda burst into tears. She flung her arms back around Ted, burying her face against his chest.
“I hate you. Ted Tonks, I hate you so much. I thought—I thought—“
Ted released a hoarse, labored cough. “Y-y-eah. I kind of thought so, too.”
She pulled back again to look him in the eyes. With shaking hands, she swept back the damp tendrils of silver hair that clung his forehead.
She opened her mouth to speak. But she stopped short. Her gaze had caught sight of something behind Ted. The tall, elegant figure of a woman stood silhouetted in the library’s threshold.
“Andie,” whispered Narcissa. “What on earth are you doing here?”
Author's Note: I keep doing that cliffhanger thing. Sorry. I swear, this is the last one in a while. I think I've written more than a fair share of DRAMA(!!!) in these past few chapters, so you can expect things to get a little more muted and back-to-normal in coming installments. Relatively speaking. Maybe. As always, I love hearing your thoughts/critique/suggestions. Thanks for sticking with me this far!
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