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Chapter 6 : Slug Club
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“I’ll be sure to mention that to him,” Andromeda said, spritzing her neck and wrists in amber perfume, then checking her makeup once more in the mirror.
“Why do you have to be so fancy?” Narcissa drawled from the bed, where she lay on her back, devouring her latest romance novel. “Not that I disapprove, of course. Every day is a new chance to overdress.”
“It’s his annual Christmas party. He always holds it in November, before things get too crazy in December. Most of us are academics or athletes, and he doesn't want to interfere with any big pre-holiday exams."
“Slug Club,” snorted Lilith. “What a stupid name.”
“It wouldn’t be stupid if you were part of it,” pointed out Narcissa, who was still throwing the occasional barb at Lilith, even though their spat had officially ended a few days ago. “Then again, Lucius says the meetings can get rather tedious.”
“I don’t think so,” Andromeda said, smoothing out the lines of her satin emerald dress. “Slughorn may be a bit nepotistic, but he’s plenty interesting, and so are the other members. The ones that aren’t too conceited to see past their own noses, that is.”
Narcissa scooted to the edge of the bed, eyes sparkling as she looked over Andromeda. “You look pretty, Andie. The color really suits your eyes.”
Andromeda blushed. “Think so?”
Narcissa nodded earnestly, and Lilith just gave a depreciating snort.
“Better watch yourself,” she said. “Those highly talented club boys will be salivating all over you, and then there’ll be a duel involving Lestrange.”
“Don’t go too wild,” Narcissa warned, rolling back onto the cover and returning to the steamy pages of Rodmilla’s Forbidden Secret. “Wouldn’t do to lose your propriety again.”
Lilith rolled her eyes. “Don’t listen to her. Have fun for the two of us with your fancy friends, hm?”
Andromeda just gave Lilith a wink and slipped out of their bedroom. She was running a little behind, but she was sure that Professor Slughorn wouldn't mind. Even though Potions wasn’t her best subject—she’d only earned an Exceed Expectations on her O.W.L.s—Slughorn was well aware of Andromeda’s academic prowess. She’d been a member of the club since her fourth year. Lucius, too, was an esteemed member, as were a handful of Slytherins, Ravenclaws, Gryffindors, and a solitary Hufflepuff with important parents who worked in the Ministry.
Most of those members had already gathered in Slughorn’s office by the time Andromeda arrived. A warm, cinnamon scent wafted around her as she entered the warm room. A few of the club members turned their heads and gave her delicate nods. Lucius caught her eyes from the corner of the room, where he was chatting with two fellow Slytherins, and gave her a polite smile. In another corner, standing by himself, was a very young boy with oily black hair and a sallow complexion. He couldn’t be past his third year, thought Andromeda, which must’ve meant that Slughorn saw exceptional talent in him. Well, that was nothing too surprising. There were always new additions to the Slug Club.
“Ah! Andromeda, dear! There you are. I was beginning to despair. I thought you might have had better plans.”
Professor Slughorn came barreling toward Andromeda with hands outstretched from his expensive velvet robes. He beamed proudly at her over his spectacles. Though he still had a full head of straw blonde hair, it had begun to thin and streak through with white. Andromeda smiled affectionately back at him, taking his outstretched hands in hers.
“What better plans could I possibly have?” she said cheerily. “You know it’s always an honor, professor.”
Professor Slughorn laughed appreciatively; this was clearly just the answer he’d anticipated.
“You may notice that we have some new additions to our little party,” he said, nodding first to the small black-haired boy in the corner that Andromeda had noted earlier. “Over there is Severus Snape. Positively brilliant knack for potions. A veritable prodigy! And then, of course, you may be familiar with the chap there, by the fireplace. In your year.”
Andromeda’s eyes followed Slughorn’s pointed finger toward the fireplace. She instantly wished she hadn’t. Their eyes locked, and Andromeda felt as though she’d been run through with any icy blade. It was like some sort of cruel cosmic joke. Would he keep showing up in every single crevice of her life?
Ted Tonks ripped his eyes away first, turning them instead to the punch in his hand. He murmured a monosyllabic reply to his conversation partner—a pretty Ravenclaw named Georgiana Harper who was rumored to be a complete minx. And she was living up to her reputation, chatting up Ted as though it were her profession.
Slag, Andromeda thought angrily, not entirely sure of where the anger had come from. What did she care if some floozy was flirting with Ted Tonks? More importantly, why was Ted Tonks even here?
As though he could hear her thoughts, Slughorn supplied the answer.
“Phenomenal Quidditch player, that one. I hear he’s received offers from some of the best professional teams out there, including the Kenmare Kestrals. Offers so early in his seventh year! I’ve been hankering after an exceptional athlete. I only regret it took me this long to discover the lad.”
Andromeda nodded distractedly. “Mm, of course.”
“My, my. You look positively famished, my dear! Why not help yourself to some punch and hors d’oeuvres? Only the best the house elves had to offer. We’ll just be mingling about. Make yourself at home.”
With that, Slughorn moved on to greet Jacob Nash, a third cousin to the Minister of Magic. Andromeda could think of no more reasonable course of action than to make her way to the refreshments table and load up a silver plate with finger foods. Lucius met up with her by the punch bowl, offering to pour her a cup. Andromeda gratefully accepted the offer, her eyes drifting back again toward the fireplace, where a pretty raven-haired Gryffindor had joined the conversation with Georgiana and Ted. "Conversation" was a very polite word for it. They were practically throwing themselves on him. And why? He wasn’t well shaven, his hair looked like it had been blown back by a typhoon before he showed up, and his dress robes were clearly cheap and wrinkled.
Because he’s still damned gorgeous underneath the muss. Admit it. Andromeda gulped, her hand shaking as Lucius gave her a punch cup. Observant, he turned to see the cause for Andromeda’s distraction.
“Foul, isn’t it?” he said in his low, upper-class drawl. “It’s clear that Slughorn prioritizes certain qualities over blood status, but I hardly think that the ability to hit a ball through the air should be one of them.”
Andromeda nodded, and from a distant place she felt herself hoarsely repeat, “Foul.”
“I’m only glad it’s a mingling party,” he said, “and not a roundtable dinner. Merlin forbid if we’d been sat next to the scum. Look at the fellow. Doesn’t even know how to properly dress himself. I wager his parents are peasants. Grind rocks for living, no doubt.”
Andromeda downed her punch in one go. She really wished it were spiked.
“Cissy says she may go home with you for the holidays,” Andromeda said, grappling for a subject change. “I’m terribly jealous, you know. You can’t take her away like that when you’ll have her for the rest of your life.”
Andromeda spoke with a light, joking lilt to her voice, but she was completely earnest. She was jealous of Lucius. Soon, Narcissa would love him more than she loved her. It was a plain but painful fact. Perhaps it had already happened. Narcissa was, after all, intent on spending Christmas with him.
Lucius studied his punch. “Is it too much of a crime to want the rest of my life to start now?”
“Of course it’s not,” she said softly. “It’s very sweet. It’s just that I miss her company when she’s not at Onyx House. I—I sleep better when she’s around.”
That was something of a dirty move, but it was true.
“Are you still having the bad dreams?” Lucius asked in surprise. “I thought my potions had helped.”
“They have,” Andromeda said quickly. “A little, anyway. But I still get the nightmares at least once a week.”
Lucius’ brow furrowed. “Perhaps Narcissa is right: it could be some sort of curse.”
“No. No, it isn’t that. Believe me, Lucius, I know the Dark Arts well. I would be able to tell if it was a curse.”
“Then it’s the stress.”
“Must be. Except…”
Andromeda thought better of it. She shook her head.
Except that the dreams are the same. Except that a most curious golden-tufted linnet bird makes an appearance in every one of them.
Lucius grunted in reply. Then he waved at another Slytherin seventh year across the room.
“Would you excuse me?” he said, though he didn’t wait for Andromeda to respond. He was halfway across the room before she could open her mouth.
Andromeda’s gaze drifted around the room. All other members were engaged in conversation, twittering and laughing and swapping stories. She could join any one of them if she wanted, she supposed, but she’d suddenly lost the stomach for it. She eyed Slughorn’s balcony, where a gentle snowfall had begun to tap against the window. She eyed the room one last time before slipping behind a tapestry of a dancing faun and opening the balcony door.
Cold wind rushed about her, but Andromeda didn’t mind the cold. She preferred winter to summer, chill to warmth. Her mother had told her once that this trait came from the Rosier side of the family, along with the heavy-lidded eyes passed down to Bellatrix but, luckily, not to her. Goose flesh pricked up Andromeda’s arms as she slid the balcony door shut and crossed to the stone railing.
Stars shone bright overhead, allowed their full radiance during the new moon. Andromeda had always found comfort in looking overhead at night. To her, the Black Family seemed inextricably tied to the heavens. The Blacks had always paid special reverence to the stars and constellations when naming their descendants. As for Andromeda, she’d been named after an entire galaxy. Her father had told her long ago, when she’d been a very small girl, that Blacks long dead and gone now lived up amongst those constellations, looking down on them. Andromeda wasn’t silly enough to believe that anymore, but it didn’t mean she didn't still find comfort in looking heavenward on moonless nights like this one.
Suddenly, the thick silence that had settled over Andromeda was rudely interrupted. The balcony door swung open, and the tall silhouette of a man appeared. The door slammed behind him. Andromeda squinted to make out his features, but it was clear that he’d made out hers first.
“Shit. Of course it’s you.” Ted ran his hand back through his impossibly messy hair. “Right. Before you hex my ass into oblivion or whatever, just calm down. I’ll leave.”
And just as he said he would, Ted turned back around.
His hand stilled on the door handle, and Ted glanced back over his shoulder. Andromeda could still barely make out his face in the darkness. She didn’t know why she was suddenly feeling in such a generous mood.
“You don’t have to leave,” she said. “It isn’t like I own the balcony.”
“You sure about that?” Ted turned to face her fully. “I hear that the Blacks own Hogwarts.”
Andromeda flushed. “I’m not a complete bitch, you know.”
Ted scratched at his cheek, and Andromeda noted with mortification that it was the same one she had slapped only a few days ago.
“Or maybe I am,” she muttered, sinking down to the solitary stone bench on the balcony. “Not that it matters around you.”
“Mmm. Yes. I don’t count.”
Andromeda studied Ted’s dark features carefully. “What were you coming out here for, anyway?”
“Escape.” Ted puffed out a long breath. “I feel a little violated. It’s impressive how those two girls have mastered the art of eye shagging.”
Andromeda felt herself smiling, quite against her will. “I noticed. Found yourself a date for tonight, then?”
Ted crossed to the railing and leaned his forearms across it in a lazy sort of way. “Not my type.”
Andromeda had never thought of Muggleborns having types before. Didn’t they just have to accept what came at them? The leftovers that no one else wanted?
A long silence passed between them, minute turning into minute. Andromeda studied the rings on her fingers—one jade, one emerald, both heirlooms from her great-grandmother. She knew she should go back inside. The others would begin to wonder where she’d been. But everything within her rebelled against subjecting herself to small talk tonight, even if her company out here was none other than the odious Ted Tonks.
“Little underdressed, aren’t you?”
Andromeda glanced down at her thin-strapped dress and her bare shoulders. She shrugged.
“I like the cold.”
“I bet you do.”
It was back in his voice—that laughing undertone. Ted straightened back up and backed away toward the door.
“Well, it’s been a pleasure as always, but as I’m sure you’d prefer I plummet to my death below to remaining out here with you, I’ll make my exit.”
Ted froze. “Yeah?”
“I—I think I’m sorry.”
“You think you’re sorry?” Ted folded his arms, still standing on the threshold. “For what?”
“For slapping you.”
What are you doing, Andromeda? screamed a tightly coiled part of her brain. He doesn’t deserve an apology. He’s nothing but filth, scum, a dirty Mudbl—
Andromeda shut the voice up.
“Yes,” she said, with more certainty. “I’m sorry that I slapped you. It was very unladylike of me and completely unprovoked. I should have behaved with more decorum.”
“Uh. All right. Cheers.”
Ted made for the door again, but Andromeda let out an impatient, squeaking sort of sound. Ted stopped, this time with an impatient sigh.
“What exactly do you want, Black? I forgive you for your psycho outburst, okay? Does that assuage your guilty conscience?”
Andromeda bit her lip, frustrated. What was wrong with her? Why didn’t she want Ted to leave? Didn’t she want to be alone? Didn’t she want to never set eyes on the stupid boy again?
“Then what do you want? Do you want me to give you a reason to slap me?”
“I don’t know,” Andromeda said, rising to her feet. “Perhaps I do.”
She hadn’t known what she’d meant when she said it. Or maybe she had. Maybe she’d known deep down what she meant by those words. Maybe she’d known that they were an invitation. Just maybe…
It happened in an instant. One moment, she was standing by the bench and he at the door. The next, he was crossing the balcony in long strides until there was quite suddenly an alarming lack of air between the two of them. And then his hands were on her bare shoulders, and she could smell the scent of fresh ink and of musk.
Andromeda was having trouble breathing. Probably just because idiotic Ted Tonks was sucking in all the surrounding oxygen supply.
“So, something like this? Is that enough to warrant a slap?” Ted inched his pinky across a portion of her cold-puckered shoulder, sending a tremor through Andromeda’s arm. Though really, of course, it was only the cold that had made her tremor...
“I hear nasty things happen when Muggleborns touch purebloods,” Ted went on. “Allergic reactions. Rashes. Fits. In extreme cases, sudden death. I’m exposing you to the most acute danger right now.”
Andromeda gritted her teeth. “You’re mocking me.”
“How forbearing you are to even remain in the same vicinity! I’m surprised that you and your friends haven’t started a little club to have all of us Muggleborns rounded up and thrown in the dungeons. Or would you like for us to work alongside the house elves? No, probably not even the kitchens would be good enough for us. Wouldn’t want to risk food contamination.”
“Don’t be so utterly ridiculous,” said Andromeda. “I’m not afraid of you touching me. The only real danger comes from—“
Ted’s gaze probed hers—deep brown and curious. Despite the chill, his hands were warm on her shoulders, just as they had been that night at the Hog’s Head Inn. They were rough, too, no doubt from handling a broom for years on end. Narcissa and Bellatrix would be traumatized if they saw Andromeda like this, so close to a boy like him. So why wasn’t she moving?
“From what? If you say from snogging, Andromeda Black, I’m going to laugh for an hour straight.”
Anger flashed through Andromeda. “You think it’s all a big joke, don’t you? That’s your problem, Tonks. You’ve no reverence for tradition, for bloodlines, for a right or proper way of doing things. Don’t you see it? The fundamental difference between you and me? Or are you just willfully arrogant?”
The wind picked up, swirling up flecks of fresh snow. Ted smiled the smallest of smiles. He brushed a forefinger just above Andromeda’s eye.
“Snowflake,” he explained, “in your eyelash. And please, explain to me this fundamental difference. I’m afraid I’ve never been up close and personal enough to a purist to hear a proper dissertation on the subject.”
“I was born a witch.” The words came easily to Andromeda, as natural as a recitation of her full name or the mailing address of Onyx House. They were just as practiced, and just as factual. “Generations of witches and wizards preceded me, and their blood runs through my veins. But you’re a mutation. Only a genetic fluke. You’ve no history, no valor, no nobility to claim for you own. Really, you’re just a mistake.”
“So,” Ted said softly, “you think it’d be better if I’d never existed.”
Andromeda rolled her eyes. “It sounds crude when you put it that way, but yes. Yes, I suppose it would have been better had you not been born.”
Ted stepped back, away from her, and a sudden cold rushed over Andromeda. She hadn’t realized how warm his hands had been keeping her shoulders until now.
“It’s just pure and simple fact,” Andromeda said. “I don’t say it to hurt you. I daresay I’m not so bad as you think I am.”
“No,” said Ted. “You really do believe it. I can see that now.”
“Of course I believe it,” said Andromeda. “I’m not a sophist. I wouldn’t support ideals that I didn’t believe. Though there are some difficulties…”
Ted arched a brow. “Difficulties?”
“Well, you, for one. I’ve always understood that Muggleborns had subpar levels of intelligence, but I’ve seen your work. You’re smart. And I know that Muggleborns should have inferior ability to perform magic, but I’ve seen you ride a broom at Quidditch matches. No one else on the pitch can control a broom like you can. It can be…difficult to reconcile those facts with what I know to be true.”
“How difficult, indeed.” Ted was smiling at her in a very particular way. Unlike most of his smiles, this one had no humor in it. “Meanwhile, you’re your own little paradox. You’re just as bigoted as you are brilliant.”
Andromeda started. “You—you think I’m brilliant?”
No one Andromeda’s own age had ever called her brilliant. Narcissa called her a silly workaholic and Lilith warned her that one should always choose looks over books. And once, the year before, Rabastan had informed Andromeda that intelligence was not an attractive quality in a female. They had quarreled over the remark, and though they had later made amends, Andromeda knew that Rabastan had not changed his opinion.
“Brilliant, egotistical, gorgeous, prejudiced, independent,” Ted counted the adjectives off, finger by finger. “I think all apply.”
Andromeda didn’t know how to respond. She wanted to slap Ted a couple more times for calling her egotistical. But gorgeous? No one called her that either. Narcissa was the gorgeous one, all flowing blonde locks and porcelain skin and stark blue eyes. Bellatrix was sensually beautiful—thick black hair and bedroom eyes and a perpetual sultry smile. Andromeda had always been the passably pretty one. Just like her sisters, she’d inherited a patrician profile, all aristocratic swoops and angles. But her face never seemed to swoop and angle quite enough to qualify as beautiful, let alone gorgeous.
Suddenly, something occurred to Andromeda.
“You’re flirting with me.”
Ted smiled serenely. “That’s a definite possibility.”
Ted squinted. “I think I just did.”
“No. You simply can’t.”
“Why can’t I? It isn’t like Lestrange owns you.”
“Of course he doesn’t! But even if he and I weren’t perfectly happy, you still couldn’t talk to me that way. It’s so utterly preposterous…”
Andromeda broke into a strangled laugh. Then she realized in a sudden grip of panic that she sounded just like Bellatrix in one of her moods—those times when something sad or bad or simply wrong, like a wounded puppy hobbling outside, would send her into a peal of giggles.
“I like preposterous,” Ted said. “Preposterous is fun.”
Andromeda could feel herself going scarlet. “No, it isn’t. I don’t know why I’m even still talking to you.”
Ted shrugged. “I don’t know why either. Perhaps you think it’s fun, too.”
“God, you’re impossible,” Andromeda groaned. “I’m going back inside.”
That was when reality hit her again, like an unforgiving slab of iron. Why hadn’t she thought of it before? There was no possible way that she and Ted could walk back inside now without raising suspicions. It had been just the two of them on the balcony. People would talk. How could she have been so stupid as to let him stay out here with her this long?
“No,” Andromeda groaned. “Oh, no, no, no. Oh fuck.”
Ted stared uncomfortably at her, scratching behind his ear with his wand. “Something wrong?”
Andromeda touched her fingers to the eyelid Ted had brushed just moments earlier. She grimaced, as though she’d just ingested a frog whole.
Ted shifted his weight, looking more uncomfortable than ever. “Um. I don’t have any communicable Mudblood diseases, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
He laughed a short laugh, but it was unsteady and frayed. Was it possible? He sounded—nervous. He even sounded sad.
“I’m screwed,” Andromeda moaned, pounding her fist to her forehead. “I am so screwed. Don’t you get it?”
She gestured helplessly toward the doors. “We’ve been gone for, like, hours! They’re bound to have noticed.”
“Oh. The reputation thing. You think someone will notice we were out here.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Together.”
“Of course that’s what I think. That’s what everyone will think!”
“For fifteen minutes.”
“We haven’t been out here for more than fifteen minutes. What kind of damage will people think we’ve done in a quarter of an hour?”
Andromeda flushed. “Plenty of damage! Ten minutes is enough for anything to happen. Enough to snog, enough to—shag even!”
Ted made a face. “Merlin, what an uncomfortable place to shag.”
Andromeda fumed. How could he be so utterly unconcerned? He wasn’t doing anything to help the situation. He was just fiddling with his wand.
“What’re you doing?” she growled. “Haven’t you been listening to me? This is a real problem!”
“Look,” said Ted. “I doubt much of anyone was paying attention when either of us left. People can assume I left the party for good. You, meanwhile, have been out on the balcony for some stargazing. Alone.”
Andromeda felt something hard and narrow in her hand, and she realized that Ted handing over his wand.
“The only catch is that you return this to me tonight, after the party’s over. Meet me outside Hufflepuff common room?”
“My clothes I can transform, my belongings I can’t. Idiotic rules, but I don’t make them.”
“W-w-what rules?” Andromeda sputtered.
Ted just smiled at her. Then he was gone.
He had just vanished. He couldn’t have apparated. It was impossible to apparate on school property. Had he drunk an invisibility potion? No. No, that was impossible, too. She’d been watching him the whole time.
Andromeda staggered back as the balcony doors flew open, and Professor Slughorn emerged with a handful of students behind him.
“Heavens!” Slughorn cried, clutching at his necktie. “That was a ghastly shriek. Are you quite alright? Or is Peeves playing tricks again? He’s particularly rowdy around the holidays.”
Andromeda shook her head. “N-n-no.” Then she thought better of it. How else was she going to explain the shriek? “I mean yes. Yes, it was just Peeves. He gave me a terrible fright, but I’m perfectly fine now.”
Lucius stepped out from behind Slughorn, offering Andromeda his arm. She accepted it distractedly; her mind was still a whirl, wondering how Ted Tonks could’ve possibly vanished into thin air. It wasn’t humanly possible. It wasn’t wizardly possible. Then again, she wouldn’t have thought it would be possible that she, Andromeda Black of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black, would ever let a no-name Mudblood brush a snowflake from her eyelash. Impossible things did happen.
“Surprisingly keen second year, Severus Snape, once you get past the surplus of grease. Did you have a chance to speak to him?”
Andromeda had attempted to finish out Slughorn’s party with as carefree an attitude as she could muster, which even Andromeda knew wasn’t particularly convincing. She had never had a knack for theatrics like her older sister Bellatrix. Whenever something had gone missing or broken at Onyx House, Andromeda had nearly always taken the blame. It wasn’t that Andromeda was a saint or had any moral scruples against lying. She would’ve told as convincing lies as Bella and Narcissa if she could. But the reality was that Andromeda simply wasn’t a good actress or a good liar.
She was grateful when, even before the last of the students left Slughorn’s office, Lucius offered to escort her back to the Slytherin common room. She had an excuse to bid farewell to Slughorn without appearing too rude. And now, Lucius was drawling on about the night’s events, while Andromeda nodded and smiled occasionally and supplied answers when they were absolutely necessary. It was moments like these that she wished Narcissa were around so that Lucius could dote on her instead. Right now, the attention felt stifling. She didn’t want to talk about a second year potions prodigy; she wanted to dive under the covers of her four-poster and try to sort out just exactly what had passed between her and Ted Tonks tonight and how on earth he had vanished before her eyes.
Andromeda looked up to find that they were inside the Slytherin common room, though she had no memory of how they had arrived. Lucius looked slightly irritated.
“Sorry,” she said. “I’m afraid I simply haven’t been all there tonight. A lot on my mind.”
Lucius nodded, but considering he already looked bored with Andromeda’s apology, she didn’t take the trouble of elaborating.
“I’ll let Cissy know you’re back,” she said before disappearing down the tapestry-lined hallway that led to the girls’ bedchambers.
“Lucius is waiting for you.”
Narcissa leapt off her bed the moment Andromeda made the announcement, casting her romance novel aside as though it were little more than scrap parchment. She gave Andromeda a brief peck on the cheek before flying out the door and down the hall. Lilith chortled and returned to filing her nails.
“Have fun with the slugs?” she asked in a singsong voice.
“Ever so much,” Andromeda muttered. “I’m tired. Going to bed early.”
Within ten minutes, she had settled under the covers of her bed and drawn the bed curtains shut so that she could better think. Ted had asked her to meet him after the party, in front of the Hufflepuff common room. Too bad. She wasn’t about to be caught dead near that place. In fact, though it was rumored to be near the kitchens, she wasn’t even entirely sure of the Hufflepuff common room’s precise location. That would be the excuse she gave Ted tomorrow in DADA: she simply couldn’t find it. She wouldn’t add that she really couldn’t care less about whether or not he got his wand back overnight. He could do without. What she couldn’t do without was sorting through what precisely had transpired on the balcony.
Ted Tonks had called her gorgeous. He had called her brilliant, independent. He had called her all those things even after she’d vomited right in front of him, after he’d held back her hair in a toilet stall, after she’d chewed him out and threatened him with hexes on multiple occasions. Warmth flooded through Andromeda at the remembrance of the way he’d said the words….
…in that atrociously uncouth accent. He hadn’t had an upper class upbringing, whoever his Muggle parents were. It was clear that he was from somewhere northern—Yorkshire, most likely, by the sounds of it. His vowels were rough around the edges, not rounded and well-formed like a proper aristocrat’s. The way he had said “independent” made it sound so commonplace, so prosaic, so—
Andromeda shot up in bed, her long, thick hair straggling into her eyes. She brushed it back impatiently, shaking her head as though mere force could rid her head of the word it had just formed.
Whatever he was, Ted Tonks was not sexy.
Oh, come off it, Andie, said the taunting voice in her head. You can at least grant him that. Pretending you didn’t notice how well built his arms are, or the way his abs peeked through his stupidly unbuttoned shirt, back in that DADA class in September. What about the tattoo of his? You wonder what the rest of it looks like. You wonder how many more he has covering his body, in all the places you’re not allowed to look. You won’t even admit that his eyes are the color of cocoa. You know how much you love cocoa…
“No,” Andromeda hissed. “His eyes are the color of dirt!”
“Talking in your sleep, Andie, sweet?” called Lilith.
“Mind your own business,” Andromeda snapped, falling back against her pillow, wiping fiercely at her eyes.
What was wrong with her? How could a stupid boy like Ted Tonks affect her so much? He’d probably just been toying with her for fun, and here she was, obsessing over him like a schoolgirl when she had a boyfriend.
Yes. Yes! Rabastan, think about him. Remember him? Your boyfriend of three years? The one you’re going to marry? The one that’s already bought a ring?
The one who’s taking ages to propose? The one who doesn’t want me to have a future outside of his country estate? Who thinks my brains are my least attractive feature?
She really had to stop thinking like this. What she needed to do was spend more time with Rabastan. Yes, that was the solution. She needed to remind herself why she was very happy with Rabastan, and why Ted Tonks was some weird, temporary hormonal fixation. She would return him his wand in class tomorrow, Rabastan would propose soon, and that would be the end of it.
Thoughts finally sorted, Andromeda let out a sigh of determination and closed her eyes. That night, for the first time in a full a week, the nightmares returned.
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