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Chapter 25 : Persuasion
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“He’s in a fragile state,” Madame Finley warned, “and Madame Bellevue informs me that you’ve a nasty habit of disturbing him.”
“That’s one way of putting it,” George snorted, appearing at Madame Finley's shoulder and causing the woman to yelp in shock.
Her wrath now fixed upon George, Madame Finley shooed the boy off, hissing that Ted could not possibly entertain more than one guest at a time and that he could wait his turn, thank him very much, the impertinent little snot.
Andromeda thought that both Healers could’ve done with a better bedside manner. But for now, at least, she had what she wanted: a place at Ted’s side. When he woke, she would convince him of the other thing that she wanted: the chance to make him better.
Andromeda hadn’t taken the time to look at Ted, really look at him, since her departure from the Vanderpool house. The night before was a blur of panic and shadowy outlines that her memory had brushed over and bleached out. She could only remember seeing a very sick person, pressing her body against that very sick person, receiving an unwelcoming look from that very sick person—and knowing vaguely through it all that the very sick person was Ted.
Now, he was much more recognizable. Color had returned to his skin, flushing out the jaundiced hue of last night to a far more natural shade. He inhaled and exhaled at a strong, steady rhythm. For long minutes, Andromeda watched his chest, and her own filled with a strange, warm comfort. She thought of the image of the linnet inked on the skin above his heart, of the black tendrils spiraling out from the fragile but persistent bird. So much of what made Ted Tonks exist lay just beneath those inked tendrils—a heart and lungs that were just as fragile and persistent. Andromeda had never known that the wellbeing of one set of lungs and a heart could cause her so much terror.
And somehow those organs and the blood pumping through them—somehow they shared a connection to Andromeda's own.
Andromeda still had difficulty believing it.
Blood bound to Ted Tonks. Blood bound to a Muggleborn she'd come to care for more than she cared about most purebloods in her life. Was it coincidence? Or was it the bond that had brought them together? She’d had the dreams of Ted before they had ever crossed paths. Was all of that only coincidence? Or was she meant to find him? Meant to uncover this unthinkable phenomenon just in time to save his life?
“Not that I can save your life,” Andromeda whispered aloud, “if you won’t let me. George was right: you’re so infuriatingly stubborn.”
In an impulsive move that carried none of the sting of her words, Andromeda leaned forward and skimmed her knuckles, just barely, against his forehead.
Andromeda yanked back her hand, suddenly awash with guilt. She felt certain that Madame Finley would come crashing in at any second, spurred by a sixth sense, aware that Andromeda had, once again, disturbed Ted. But Madame Finley did not come crashing in, despite the fact that Ted blinked opened his eyes and turned toward Andromeda in bleary confusion.
Please, please don’t look at me that way again. Like I’m nothing to you but an unwanted eyesore.
But Ted didn’t look at Andromeda in any particular way. He turned his head back up and stared at the ceiling, still blinking the sleep out of his eyes.
Andromeda stuttered, then gargled out, “H-how are you feeling?”
“There’s nothing for us to talk about.”
Ted’s voice was hoarse, but the words were clear. He stared intently at the flying buttresses overhead.
“There is something we need to talk about,” said Andromeda. “Something important. You know there is.”
“It’s my health. It’s my condition. So it’s my business, not yours.“
Andromeda gripped the arms of her chair. She stared hard at Ted’s profile. She wished she could slap him back into reality, yell at him until he acknowledged her, shake him until he looked her in the eyes. But all of those behaviors would get her promptly booted from the hospital wing. So she remained still, and her voice remained low.
“It’s about my condition, too, you know,” said Andromeda. “This is something we share, this—this bond of ours. Doesn’t that mean I get some say?”
“You have say in your own life,” said Ted, “not mine. Just because we apparently share some nonsensical medical condition doesn’t mean we’re bound to each other in any other way.”
“It isn’t nonsensical,” Andromeda insisted. “It’s confusing, yes, and heaven knows I’m still trying to make sense of it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. There’s empirical evidence: I’ve helped make you better twice now. I can keep on helping you.”
“I don’t want your help.”
“Ted, you’re dying.”
“That’s just speculation. They say my condition is worsening, but they don’t really know. It could’ve just been a bad spell these past few months. I’ve been fine for seventeen years, so I hardly think I need—“
Ted’s jaw clenched. He closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he stared harder than ever at the ceiling.
“These past few fits of yours,” said Andromeda, “they’ve had nothing to do with metamorphing or your animagus state. I know for a fact that your medicine didn’t work this last time, either. Madame Finley thinks you’ve grown immune to it. You’re getting worse. You need a change in medical attention. Why would you refuse that?”
At last, Ted jerked his head toward her. His eyes stared straight at hers in a burning, terrifying stare.
“The perfect opportunity for what, exactly? For you to condescend to a lowly Mudblood? For you to prove, once and for all, that you’re so superior to me that I can’t even go on living without your pure, refined blood from your pure, refined veins?”
Andromeda turned white. “Ted, what are you—?”
“I don’t want your condescension!”
There was a rustle of movement from the far end of the infirmary. The telltale click-clack of Madame Finley’s heels hurried toward them. She peeked her head around the corner of the partition.
Ted, with some effort, propped himself up against his pillows. He shook his head contritely in Madame Finley’s direction.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Everything’s fine.”
“Don’t exert yourself so much,” Madame Finley chided. “If I hear a raised voice again, I’ll have Miss Black dismissed.”
“Sorry,” Ted repeated, looking properly abashed.
He waited a long moment after Madame Finley had disappeared. Then he turned back toward Andromeda, his voice softer but just as angry as before.
“I’m not a problem for you to fix,” he said, “I’m not a charity case. I’m not a pathetic lowlife for you to take mercy on. I won’t be just another confirmation of your superiority complex. I won’t give you that satisfaction, and if that means dying young, then so help me, Andromeda Black, I’m going to die young.”
Silence fell. Andromeda stared at Ted. She was wordless. She was thoughtless. Then, a deluge of realization washed through her, and she realized that her hands were trembling. She didn’t make an effort to still them.
“That’s your opinion of me?” she whispered. “You think that the only reason I’m here is to feed a sick superiority complex?”
“Do you have another reason? I mean, I’ve been wracking my brain, and I can’t come up with one.”
“So it didn’t even cross your mind that I could genuinely care about you? That I could be worried sick at the thought of your life in danger? That the thought of you dying is unbearable to me?”
Ted started at the sound of Andromeda gasping for air. She was crying, and she’d given way to that inconvenient practice of not breathing properly. His expression changed, just slightly.
“You left,” he whispered.
Andromeda swallowed. More tears coursed down her cheeks. “I know I did.”
“You told me that you wanted me,” he said, “and then you left. You told me you refused to marry Lestrange. Then you got engaged. What was I supposed to think?”
“You were supposed to think horrible things about me,” she said, wiping an embarassing trail of snot from her nose, “and then you were supposed to forget all about me.”
“That’s not as easy as it sounds, you know. I thought dropping Defense Against the Dark Arts would help.”
“I never meant for you to do that.”
“I know,” he said, “and it isn’t your fault. It was my own decision. We both had to make the decisions we thought best for ourselves. I get that. I really do. I get that you have to play nice for your family and that being a Black means throwing away your life to Lestrange. I even get why you left me at George’s and never tried to contact me again. You made the decisions that were best for you. But just because I get it doesn’t mean I forgot you instantaneously. You were lodged in my mind. Merlin, in my dreams, even. And now, for you to just waltz back in, and all this business of blood bonds—“
“But George said you were fine! He said he’d never seen you so well.”
“You think that I was going to gripe about this to anyone?” Ted asked, pushing himself up further against his pillow. “I was trying to focus on anything else, everything that would get you out of my system.”
Andromeda caught hold of something she hadn’t processed before. “You had a dream about me?”
Ted heaved a long sigh. “I’ve dreamt about you for years, Andromeda.”
For the second time that morning, Andromeda’s mind went white with shock.
“Why,” she whispered, “didn’t you ever tell me that?”
Ted let out a strangled laugh. “Um. I dunno. Because that it isn’t the sort of thing you just strut up and tell a girl who thinks you’re no better than a splinter?”
“I never called you a splinter.”
“Right. Because you never talked to me. And then when you did, it was all about why I shouldn’t have been born.”
Andromeda flinched as though struck. “All right. I see why you didn’t tell me. But Madame Finley says that dreams like that are a sign of blood bonding. Didn’t you think it was odd? Having dreams about a girl you didn’t even know?”
“Not particularly. I’d seen you about school before. I just thought they were the normal types of dreams that blokes my age get.”
“What sort of normal dreams that—?” Andromeda stopped short. Her eyes widened. “Oh.”
“You mean, you dreamt about us…?” Andromeda flopped her hands vaguely, a poor attempt at elocution.
The renewed flush of Ted’s cheeks grew deeper than before.
“Look,” he said, “it’s not like I really had control over it. I didn’t even like you back then. The dreams just happened, all right?”
“Of course,” Andromeda said quickly. “No, of course. I understand. It’s not like I can control mine either.”
Ted raised an eyebrow.
“They’re not about that, though! They’re just about—about—“
“About you dying.”
“Oh.” Ted remained stoic. “I suppose I got the better end of the deal then, didn’t I?”
“Ted. Please. Please let me help. Take the transfusions.”
Andromeda shook her head fiercely. “You mean you won’t.”
“Fine,” said Ted. “I won’t. I have the right to refuse. You’re not the only one who gets to make big, important decisions for yourself. You chose your engagement. I’m choosing my peace of mind.”
“Peace of mind?” Andromeda spat back. “You’ll feel peaceful about the fact that your next fit might kill you?”
“No. About the fact that I won’t have to walk into this hospital wing every week and sit across from a girl that I’ve stupidly fallen for and can’t get over and who only thinks of me as a pity project. That instead, I’ll give myself a fighting chance to let that wound heal.”
“What,” whispered Andromeda, “w-what did you just say?”
“Right then. Clear out, you.”
Madame Bellevue ripped back the partition, wand in hand. She pushed past Andromeda, took Ted’s wrist, and began casting a flurried series of medical spells.
“I need to check the patient’s vitals,” Madame Bellevue went on, “and Finley says he’s spent far too much time already exerting his energy.”
“He’s just talking,” Andromeda said angrily, convinced that Madame Bellevue was trying to get rid of her out of spite.
“I’m sorry,” said Madame Bellevue, “but which of us has a Healer’s license, hm?”
“Andromeda,” said Ted, “just go.”
Andromeda looked helplessly between a worn Ted and a sneer-lipped Madame Bellevue. Defeated, she rose to her feet.
“I’ll be back tonight,” she said, not sure if she meant for it to sound like a promise or a threat.
“You stole my spot.”
George had caught Andromeda on her way out of the hospital wing, and he now blocked her path with a petulant pout.
“He’s my best mate. Don’t you think I was supposed to get dibs? Now Madame Bellevue is squawking on about how he’s going to die of fatigue or whatever and I can't talk to him for hours.”
“I’m sorry,” said Andromeda, and she meant it. “I didn’t think. It’s just, he’s refused the transfusions.”
“Yeah, the ladies filled me in,” said George, nodding. “Predictable. Told you, he's a stubborn little bastard. Just think what he’d do if he found out you were paying Finley.”
Andromeda narrowed her eyes. “He isn’t going to find out about that.”
“Sure.” George shrugged. “So, let me guess, he shot you down.”
“I’m going to convince him. I just have to find the right angle. When you get to talk to him, you should play the guilt card. You know, remind him how he owes it to Nelson and all his friends to get better."
“I like the way your mind works,” said George, “but he’s still going to say no. You’ve obviously never tried to convince Ted of something before. That idiot will go to his grave, guns still blazing. You won’t win.”
“Yes, well, either we win, or he dies.”
“Easy, love. It’s too early in the day to be so morbid. I haven’t even had a proper breakfast.”
Andromeda skirted around George. “Just try to convince him at least. I’ll be back tonight."
“Uh huh. If you did that thing where you, like, crawl right next to him and wrap your body around his? It might be more effective.”
On her way out, with the smallest of smirks, Andromeda cast a well-aimed itching hex at George’s backside.
Mr. Quince, the librarian, stared quizzically up at Andromeda. He was clearly unacquainted with the term she’d just given him.
“I know it’s uncommon,” Andromeda said, “but surely there has to be at least one source that contains information on the topic. Even just a few lines in a reference book?”
Mr. Quince didn’t look so hopeful. “I suppose,” he said, getting up from his chair and fetching his wand from a nearby shelf. “I’ll rummage about. There may be a book or two in the Restricted Section, but that will require a note from your professor—“
“I’m over seventeen,” Andromeda said testily. “I could jump that partition right now and look myself. But if you insist....”
She removed a slip of parchment from her pocket and handed it over. She hadn’t needed to forge Professor Whitechapel’s signature. After her visit to the hospital wing, she’d made it to the day’s DADA class and afterward briefly explained her interest in the rare phenomenon of blood bonds. There had been no need to explain the business about Ted. Professor Whitechapel, equal parts intrigued and impressed by Andromeda’s sheer curiosity, had been more than happy to write up a note for his favorite student.
Mr. Quince took the paper from Andromeda, cast an anti-forgery spell on its ink, and almost seemed disappointed by the result.
“It’s for Defense Against the Dark Arts,” said Andromeda. “And your ‘rummaging about’ may well be the difference between an Outstanding and an Exceeds Expectations on my N.E.W.T.s.”
Mr. Quince harrumphed. Then he shuffled off toward the Restricted Section.
Andromeda glanced nervously around the library and hoped that she wouldn’t run into anyone she knew. She just wanted to find a spare corner of the library to sit down with whatever resources on blood bonds she could find. And she wanted to think. She needed to think. Too much had happened over the past week, and far too quickly.
First, there was this business of the Knights of Walpurgis, of Rabastan’s and Lucius’ involvement and of Narcissa’s startlingly easy acceptance of the Dark Arts. And now this—Ted’s fit and the staggering revelation that she was, somehow, inextricably connected to a Muggleborn. All the while, Andromeda’s mind kept playing back this morning’s conversation with Ted.
He’d been the coldest she’d ever seen him. He’d been angry with her. Andromeda knew that Ted had every right to think the worst of her; she’d treated him poorly from the very beginning of their acquaintance up until now. And until now, Ted had always treated her kindly in spite of everything. He’d given her the benefit of the doubt, turned the other cheek, returned her slaps with kindness. She realized now that she’d been right in her assumption: Ted did have a breaking point, and they were now well past it. For once, he was finally treating her how she deserved.
But then, he had said that he’d fallen for her.
He said that he’d fallen for her, and he couldn’t get over her.
That meant he couldn’t hate her completely, surely. There had to be some remaining chance that he would cave, that he would accept her help.
There was the chance of something else, too, Andromeda knew, but she kept that possibility neatly locked away and far from the rest of her conscious thoughts.
She glanced up to see Mr. Quince returning to the circulation desk. He carried a single book, thin and dust-caked. It was perched delicately in his hands, as though he were afraid that by holding it too hard, he might crush its contents.
“You’re in luck,” he said, placing the book on the desk between them. “It’s an old source, mind, so you’ll need to place some protective charms on your hands in order to handle the pages. And you’ll need to keep it here, at this desk, where I can see you.”
So much for finding a quiet, hidden corner of the library. Still, Andromeda understood the need for the rules. She was just happy to have found an actual source—not just a few uninformative lines, but an entire book dedicated to the topic of blood bonds. She thanked Mr. Quince for his help, and he responded with a monosyllabic grunt of an answer. She set to work charming her hands, and when that work was complete, she pulled out fresh parchment and a self-inking quill from her satchel.
Then Andromeda read.
Some historians speculate that blood bonding traces back as far as the bond between Morgan le Fay and Merlin himself. However, blood bonds usually occur in close family circles—most commonly between siblings or cousins. The first undisputed case was between siblings Hector and Bryn of the House of Prewett in 950 A.D.
Manifestations of blood bonding vary from bond to bond. Some bound individuals experience shared dreams, others shared pain and sensory perception. In rare cases, such as the 1613 case of cousins Mathilde Burke and James Gaunt, there have been reports of bound individuals dying within a day of each other.
The blood bound exhibit no remarkable predisposition toward a healing career, nor does their blood possess any special restorative properties that affect the wizarding community at large. However, their blood can cure any malady of their bound partner. Due to this rare phenomenon, scholars once speculated that the blood bound could potentially be immortal.
Blood bonds appear to occur most frequently within pureblooded lines.
For two hours straight, Andromeda copied lines and passages. She found nothing that elaborated far beyond what Madame Finley had already told her. Blood bonds were rare. They appeared to be linked back to one’s magical core. The blood bound could heal one another. The contents didn’t satiate her curiosity, but neither did they snuff it out. Andromeda closed the book, only more vehemently convinced of what she had to do.
Only this time, she knew how to do it.
“Miss Black, you can’t just barge in here at any hour of the day! I insist that you—“
“Insist away, Bellevue. I’m going to talk to him.”
Andromeda took advantage of Madame Bellevue’s gape-mouthed shock and shoved past the indignant Healer toward the partition. Ted was awake, propped up against three layers of fluffed pillows. At Andromeda’s appearance, he dropped a copy of The Daily Prophet into his lap.
Andromeda cut him off.
“I don’t think you’re a splinter. I don’t think of you as scum. I don’t think of you as a problem to be fixed or as my inferior. You are my equal. God, Ted, you’re my superior in more ways than I can count. You are kinder than me and braver than me and better than me in every way that a human being should be.”
Andromeda didn’t give way to Ted’s attempted interruption. She pressed on, raising her voice over his.
“Do you know that I get physically ill at the thought of even associating you with the word Mudblood? I know I said unforgiveable things to you in the past. I don’t blame you for thinking the worst of me, because until I met you, you wouldn’t be wrong. I thought Muggleborns were second-rate, that they were deformed, unworthy aberrations. That’s all I knew, Ted. That’s all I knew because I didn’t know you."
“What are you doing?” Ted asked.
Andromeda had pulled out her wand and pointed it directly at Ted’s open hand. She said nothing as she cast a silent incision spell that cut open the skin of his palm, just along the stitching that ran from his wrist to his index finger.
Ted let out a soft, startled cry, but Andromeda ignored him and cast the tip of the wand at her own hand, splicing her skin and bringing a long line of blood to peak at the seam. In a quick, precise movement, she grabbed Ted’s bloody hand in hers before he could pull away. Ted’s eyes met hers in a sharp panic. Andromeda stared calmly back. She pressed their palms closer together. A few stray beads of blood dripped from their hands onto Ted’s bedsheet.
Andromeda leaned forward, her eyes never leaving his.
“There,” she said. “What purist would do that?”
Ted’s eyes remained wide and caught on hers. Andromeda’s hand trembled violently, but she kept her voice tranquil.
“Something like this,” she said, “should ruin me. According to everything I’ve ever been taught, I’m going to catch all sorts of nasty diseases from you. You're ruining me. Your blood’s contaminating mine.”
“You’re afraid,” whispered Ted. “You’re trembling.”
“Yes,” Andromeda admitted. “But I’m not letting go.”
“I’m very afraid. I’m terrified. I don’t know why you and I are blood bound, or everything that being blood bound entails. But if it means I could make you better, I want to do it. I want to because I care for you. Don’t refuse that. Please.”
There was a thick, staticky silence. Andromeda squeezed her fingers more tightly around Ted’s palm. Drops of blood trickled down their wrists now, beading to the tilted edge of their skin and dripping onto the sheets. Andromeda had no way of knowing if the blood was Ted’s or her own or both commingled.
At last, Ted spoke.
Ted nodded slowly. “All right.”
Andromeda slipped her hand from his. She set her wand to work on healing his cut first, then her own. A simple cleaning spell removed all trace of blood.
All the while, she felt Ted’s eyes on her. She had won the fight. Yet all the while, she was keenly aware of one fact: Ted wasn’t calling her Dromeda anymore.
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