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Kill Your Darlings by LavenderBlue
Chapter 26 : Blizzard
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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“Winifred? Would you come out?”

Andromeda had been in the south wing turret for a good fifteen minutes, hugging her mink stole close to her chilled collarbone. February had been unseasonably frigid, and a blizzard had begun to blow in from the north that evening.

Achilles Yaxley had been right: there would be no visit to Hogsmeade this weekend. Even the surrounding school grounds were off limits for fear that students would go traipsing off into the snow, only to be found days later as human popsicles.

The entirety of the school population was trapped inside the castle, and a nervous energy jittered through its corridors. As a consolation prize for the canceled Hogsmeade trip, the Great Hall was filled with hot cocoa, cider, and freshly baked cookies. The fireplaces roared with enchanted fires, and friends shared blankets and giggles and warmth.

Andromeda had excused herself from the festivities early. Narcissa had been asleep, her nose snuggled into the crook of Lucius’ shoulder. Lilith had been busy trying to appease two prospective suitors at the far end of the Slytherin table. Rabastan had been talking Quidditch with his usual gang—a gang that Andromeda now knew dabbled in more than just sports statistics.

Unable to shake the disquiet at watching Rabastan laughing loudly with his pearly-teethed, well-bred friends, Andromeda had slipped out of the Great Hall, her departure unnoticed.

Now, shivering against a snowy draft, Andromeda again called for the ghost who haunted this dark part of the castle.

“I just want to talk to you. Please, Winifred? I know you’re there.”

“Now that’s just a cruel sense of humor.”

Andromeda shrieked in fright. There was a cold presence at her back, and she turned to find Winifred floating in a slow circle, a dull expression on her face.

“Everyone knows that a ghost can’t leave the place of her death,” Winifred went on. “Of course I’m here. That doesn’t make me your slave.”

“I didn’t mean any disrespect,” Andromeda said cautiously, afraid to upset Winifred further. There was something she needed from the ghostly girl, and it wouldn’t do to go insulting her or scaring her off.

“You most certainly did,” retorted Winifred. “No one respects ghosts. It’s prejudice, that’s what it is.”

Andromeda didn’t exactly know how to respond to that. She just smiled tentatively and took a step closer to Winifred’s insubstantial frame.

Winifred sniffed. “What do you want?”

“Have they met here again?”

“Who?”

“The Knights of Walpurgis,” said Andromeda. “My fiancé and his friends. Have they met here since we spoke last?”

Winifred blinked. Then she laughed. It was a cackling, ear stabbing laugh. Andromeda tried not to wince. She was, after all, still trying to stay on Winifred’s good side.

When Winifred had finally finished her bout of laughter, she drew her mouth into a simper and said, “What, am I your spy?”

“No! No, I just wondered if you’d seen them around here. If you’d heard what they were talking about, perhaps?”

Winifred fluttered down to a seat on one of the snow-covered benches. She arranged her skirt primly around her knees.

“For your information, I do have more important things to do than just lollygag about all day, eavesdropping on anyone who comes up into the turret.”

Andromeda had a difficult time believing this. What else was there for a ghost to do up here? Did she spend it all talking to Reginald and staring into his ghostly eyes?

“By the way,” said Winifred. “Reginald doesn’t like you coming up here. It makes him uncomfortable. He’s a very shy person, you know.”

“Um. Well, I’m sorry to intrude on Reginald’s territory.”

“No, you’re not. The living never respect the dead’s personal space. Anyway, if you’re so curious about your fiancé’s little club, why don’t you ask him yourself?”

“I can’t just talk to Rabastan about it," said Andromeda. "He and I aren’t—well, we aren’t like you and Reginald. We don’t love each other. We don’t talk about things that matter. Not things like that.”

Winifred grew very quiet. Her eyes began to water with shadowy tears.

“But that’s terrible,” she whispered. “If you don’t love each other, why on earth are you marrying him?”

“It’s complicated,” Andromeda said, her gut turning stony. This was not the sort of conversation she had intended to have with Winifred.

“No, it isn’t,” said Winifred. “If you don’t love someone, you don’t promise to spend the rest of your life with them. That isn’t the least bit complicated.”

Andromeda had played nice, all for the sake of finding out just what it was that Rabastan and his friends were planning—if they were planning anything at all. She had been doing so well. But now, Winifred’s words had twisted something fragile and deep set within her.

“It isn’t complicated for you,” she said. “You and your fucking undead boyfriend have it made, don’t you? You don’t have parents to please or a reputation to keep spotless or a legacy to uphold. You killed yourself for your love, no looking back. Well, that’s bloody marvelous, isn’t it? Fucking three cheers for Winifred and Reginald! But don’t you dare lecture me on my love life. Don’t act like you have the moral high ground, just because you ended up with a fairy tale ending.”

Winifred, quite unaffected by Andromeda’s rabid speech, simply laughed as she had before. She shook her head at Andromeda like she would at a poorly trained puppy.

“I fell in love with a ghost,” she said. “I had to kill myself to be together with my Reggie. How is that a fairy tale ending?”

“But you ended up with the one you wanted, didn’t you?” Andromeda countered. “You had that choice.”

Winifred smiled in a knowing way that made Andromeda want to punch her in the face. She really might have, if the effort would have done any good.

“Who do you really love then, hmm?” Winifred coaxed. “Why can’t you be with Ted? It’s clear he’s crazy for you, so it isn’t a matter of unrequited desperation. What’s keeping you apart?”

Andromeda backed away from the ghost with a hollow laugh. “No. No, I am not doing this.”

“Doing what?”

“Taking relational advice from a bloody ghost.”

Winifred harrumphed. “Clearly you’re not taking my advice, because you’re still engaged to that creep-o and not making sweet, sweet love to Ted Tonks.”

Andromeda stomped toward the staircase, her face a painfully burning scarlet. This had been a mistake. Why did she think she could trust a ghost?

She had just reached the bottom of the stairs when a grayish wisp of a ghost appeared before her, blocking the corridor doorway. It wasn’t Winifred. It was the form of a tall, lithe boy with too-wide eyes and perpetual dimples.

“Er. Reginald?”

“Winnie can be a little bit intrusive,” the boy said in a sibilant whisper, “but she means well.”

“Says the ghost blinded with love,” Andromeda sighed. “Now, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to leave, and I’d rather not cause either of us a spell of unpleasantness by reaching through your lower intestine.”

“I’ll move,” Reginald said calmly. “But before I do, I thought you should know: I did hear the group of blokes last time they were up here. Foul-minded, the lot of them.”

Andromeda tensed with interest. “And?”

“They’ve got plans,” said Reginald, “for the upcoming Hogsmeade visit. That is, the rescheduled visit, what with this nasty blizzard that’s blown in. Seems they’re carrying out orders for the leader of their little band.”

Andromeda frowned. “Who’s the leader?”

Reginald shook his head. “Dunno. Not a student here at Hogwarts. Someone older, someone talented. They all seem to be deathly afraid of him. In any event, this leader ordered that they begin practicing their dark magic on, erm, subjects. So, once they’re in Hogsmeade and out from the watchful eyes of the professors, they’re supposed to nab a couple of unsuspecting students and—well, practice.”

Reginald did not need to elaborate. Andromeda knew precisely the sort of dark magic that required a subject for practicing. Simple hexes and curses could be developed and perfected without a second party present.

“They’re going to cast Unforgivables,” she whispered.

“I thought you should know,” said Reginald. “Winnie isn’t aware just how serious a matter it is.”

Andromeda felt weak. Her mind flipped frantically through a catalogue of possible refutations.

“What about the Trace?” she said. “It’s placed back on students when they leave for Hogsmeade. Surely the Ministry would know that they’re performing dark magic.”

“You don’t have the Trace, do you?” said Reginald. “You’re seventeen. Like all the other members of their charming club.”

“But what's to prevent those students from telling afterward? They'll remember what happened and who did it to them. It's not like the boys will cast killing curses on them." 

Reginald stayed quiet.

“They wouldn't dare,” Andromeda said, this time with conviction. “Merlin knows I don’t have a high opinion of Rabastan, but he and Lucius and the rest of their lot aren’t going to murder innocent students."

Reginald shrugged. “Perhaps not,” he said, “but you should hear the stories they tell. I’m not sure they’re above anything. Anyway, you’re not thinking properly. Don’t you think they’d obliviate whatever ‘innocent victims’ they used? They won’t get caught unless someone catches them in the act. That’s why I’m telling you. If you’re not smart, at least be grateful.”

“I’m plenty smart, thank you very much," Andromeda said heatedly. "And you’re plenty rude.”

“I’ve been nothing but helpful,” said Reginald with an offended sniff. “You’re the rude one, intruding on me and Winifred in such a presumptuous way.”

Andromeda bit back the urge to hurl another scathing retort. It wouldn’t do to get into two separate arguments with two separate ghosts, all in one day. Reginald had been helpful, and he didn’t deserve Andromeda's ire just because he’d given her disturbing news.

“I won’t bother the two of you anymore,” she said. “And I am grateful for the information. I just don’t know what to do with it yet.”

“If it makes you feel better,” said Reginald, “you’ve got one significant advantage when it comes to formulating a solution.”

“What’s that?”

“You’re alive.”



Andromeda arrived at the hospital wing promptly at eight o’clock that Sunday evening. Her alibi was airtight. Should Narcissa or Lilith or any other acquaintances inquire, she would tell them that she’d been in the hospital wing, undergoing a long-term sleep study with Madame Bellevue in an attempt to discover the source of her nightmares.

It was a half-truth, and half-truths were far safer than outright lies.

“Remember what I told both of you,” said Madame Finley, fixing a stony stare on Ted, then Andromeda, then Ted again. “No big or jerky movements, or you’ll both be in for excruciating pain. This is a slow and delicate process. I’m a Healer, not a Miracle Worker. This first transfusion will take no more than an hour.”

Andromeda ventured a glance at Ted, who sat in the straight-back wooden chair across from her. Madame Finley had set up the two of them in the far corner of the hospital wing, beneath a particularly dirty pane of glass and behind the same cloth partition that had shielded Ted’s sickbed earlier that week.

“It’s an unsightly procedure,” Madame Bellevue had explained, “and I don’t want any other patients to be distressed by the sight of it.”

Andromeda was grateful, at least, for the fireplace in this corner of the room. Madame Finley had lit the log earlier with a single flick of her wand, and a comforting orange glow now danced on Ted’s face, dipping shadows into odd crooks of his nose and ears, and the dip of his lip.

“Something wrong?”

Andromeda started, suddenly aware that what had begun as a mere glance had turned into an open stare. A blush exploded beneath her cheeks, and she turned her head down into the shadows cast by the fire.

“Why would something be wrong?”

She winced at her tone. She sounded annoyed, impatient. She wasn’t. She was just scared.

“You’re about to trade in a pint of your blood for a pint of mine,” Ted said, his own voice as warm and steady as it usually was. “If you’re having second thoughts, then—“

“I’m not a coward.”

“I didn’t say you were.”

“I’m not having second thoughts.”

“Okay. Just checking.”

“Right. Well, you’ve checked.”

“So I have.”

“Fine.”

“Fine.”

“AHEM.”

Ted and Andromeda both jumped at the sound of Madame Finley’s throat clearing. She stared between the two of them with mild disgust, hands fisted against her waist in irritation.

“This is a serious procedure,” she said. “If the two of you cannot exhibit more decorum than a couple of first years, then I can expend my much-coveted energies elsewhere.”

“No!” Andromeda half-rose from her chair. Then, checking herself, she lowered her voice and sat back down. “I mean, no, please, Madame Finley. We’re perfectly capable of behaving ourselves. We won’t impede the procedure any further.”

Madame Finley looked doubtful, but after a stretch of silence, she lifted her wand.

“Assume the posture,” she instructed.

As she’d been taught just minutes earlier, Andromeda rested her left wrist, veins upward, on the arm of her chair. Ted did the same, but with his right arm. Madame Finley cleared her throat one more time. Then, with a flourish of movement and words that Andromeda could not follow, she set the transfusion spell in place.

Madame Finley had explained to both of them how the procedure would work: she would create a seamless blood exchange between Ted and Andromeda. Ted would receive Andromeda’s blood, and with it the healing properties attributed to their blood bond. Meanwhile, Ted’s own blood would circle back into Andromeda’s veins. It was not diseased blood, after all, only a surplus that would replenish Andromeda’s system and prevent the typical lightheadedness associated with such a large donation as Andromeda was giving.

What Madame Finley had not properly explained to Andromeda was just how badly the procedure would hurt. The pain was too sharp, too sudden a jolt for her to hold in an instinctual scream.

She cried out again, a poor attempt at catharsis, as she watched a stream of blood prick from her arm and float into midair, then shoot downward again to Ted’s exposed vein. A stream of his own blood rose and shot into her upturned arm. Together, their blood formed a strange, encircled flow in the air—a figure eight between their two bodies.

It would be an oddly beautiful sight, Andromeda thought, if the pain wasn’t so acute. It was only a few moments in that she realized Ted was staring at her, wide-eyed with concern. Ted hadn’t screamed. He didn’t even look the least bit affected by the spell.

“What’s wrong with her?” Ted asked Madame Finley, who appeared utterly unruffled by Andromeda’s anguish. “Why is it hurting her?”

“The procedure affects witches and wizards in different ways,” she said. “Some studies hypothesize that purebloods have a rougher time of it, but those reports are inconclusive.”

Andromeda swallowed her next urge to cry out. Instead, tears pricked her eyes and began coursing down her face.

“I don’t care about hypotheses, dammit,” Ted said. “If she’s in pain, we should stop.”

“Well, Miss Black?” Madame Finley said. “Is the pain too much for you? Should we terminate the procedure?”

Vehemently, Andromeda shook her head. A moment later, she found her voice. It was strained and shaky, but it was usable.

“Don’t stop. I’ll be f-f-fine.” With some effort, she turned to Ted, who looked entirely unconvinced. “I’m fine. Don’t stop.”

“Very well,” said Madame Finley, shrugging. “So long as there is consent from both patients, I see nothing wrong with continuing as planned. Now then, I’ll give you two some privacy and be back once you’ve reached the allotted time. Should you need me, call for me. I’ll be looking over some documents at Madame Bellevue’s desk.”

With that, Madame Finley disappeared behind the cloth partition, and Ted and Andromeda were left alone—an uncomfortable tableaux of firelight and tears and blood.

Andromeda closed her eyes against the pain searing through her arm. It felt as though a pair of sewing shears had been lodged beneath her skin and were now cutting their way out with harsh, unforgiving slashes.

“Are you really all right?”

She forced her eyes back open, her vision blurring and then refocusing on Ted. He was sitting remarkably still in his chair, as Madame Finley had instructed, but his brown eyes were wide with—with what? Distress? Worry? Compassion? Andromeda couldn’t place the emotion, but she felt gratification at the sight of it. And immediately after, she felt guilt for feeling gratification. She was making Ted worry. That was nothing to be pleased about.

But it meant that Ted was worried. That he still cared about her, no matter how harsh or hardheaded he’d been over the past few days.

She nodded in response to his question, gasping in a strengthening breath. The pain hadn’t gone away, but it had lessened in its intensity, enough so that Andromeda could muster words again.

“Distract me?”

Ted nodded. “All right. Though I’m confined to this chair, you know, so I can’t do a tap dance or acrobatics or a dramatic recitation of Shakespeare. That severely limits my options, I’m afraid.”

Despite herself, despite everything, Andromeda laughed. Immediately afterward, she wished she hadn’t. A new stinging sensation coursed through her body, and she inhaled sharply, gritting her teeth against the pain.

“Oh god,” said Ted. “Bad idea. Sorry. Sorry! I won’t make you laugh. Um. Shit. I’m abysmal at this.”

Andromeda shook her head. “You’re better at it than I am, at least. Every time I’ve tried to make you better has been a disaster.”

She expected Ted to snicker at that. Instead, she saw that he was looking at her in an odd, quiet way.

“I wouldn’t call it a disaster,” he said. “You saved my life all those times, didn’t you?”

“I suppose. I dunno. I’m sure you would’ve pulled through without me interfering.”

“George told me,” said Ted, his eyes drifting toward the twined, slow moving swirls of blood connecting their arms. “About what you did the other night. About what you said.”

Andromeda’s mouth went dry. George, that little prat. She’d been hoping that Ted wouldn’t remember a thing about that night.

“You know George,” she said uneasily. “Melodramatic. Always trying to get a rise of you. I’m sure whatever he said was a gross exaggeration of what really happened.”

“Oh.” Ted nodded stiffly. “So you didn’t climb into bed with me and tell me that I had to keep living?”

“Well... Yes. I did do that.”

“Then I’m sorry,” Ted said. “I’m sure it was the last thing you wanted to do.”

His eyes dropped from their airborne blood to Andromeda upturned arm. But not her arm, really. More like her hand. The hand on which she wore Rabastan’s gaudy, over-large diamond ring.

“So,” said Ted, “I’m not sure I ever offered you congratulations on your engagement. I suppose you’ll be married by graduation and producing a male heir a year from now.”

Andromeda made a strangled noise. She shook her head.

“I’m not having children,” she said.

“Oh.” Ted nodded.

Andromeda shot him a glare. “Oh, what?”

“Nothing.”

“Fuck it, Ted, why are you looking at me like that?”

“It’s just—you do know where babies come from, don’t you?”

“Oh my god. We’re not having this conversation.”

“Okay.”

“Why would you even bring that up?”

“I thought we weren’t having this conversation.”

“There are plenty of ways to prevent a pregnancy from happening, you know. Spells. Potions.”

“Absolutely.”

“He’s very well-built, in case you weren't aware. And handsome, too. Handsomer than you.”

Ted smiled. “Oh, hands down.”

“It’s not like it’ll be an unpleasant experience, if that’s what you’re insinuating. I’m sure he’s very skilled.”

“Undoubtedly. He’s had lots of practice.”

Andromeda’s face burned. “I don’t care if he wants heirs. I don’t, and I have the upper hand in our relationship. Or at least I do until we get married, and after that—“

Andromeda stopped short. Her heart seemed to stop alongside her words.

She hadn’t thought that far.

Oh Merlin, she hadn’t thought that far.

Ted was watching her, his features completely placid, brown eyes calm and attentive.

She hated him.

“Rabastan doesn’t have to know what p-potions I take,” Andromeda faltered, tipping her chin back up. “So it isn’t an issue. There won’t be children. And I don’t want to have this conversation.”

“Me neither.”

“Birth control potions are ninety-eight percent effective. And, I mean, considering it should only happen, what, once a month? It’s an absolutely miniscule chance. Miniscule.”

Ted said nothing, but his face was a sight to behold. It looked like the most unpleasant mixture between amusement and horror.

“What?” Andromeda demanded.

“Once a month? You honestly think Rabastan—“

“Yes,” she interrupted haughtily. “My mother told me, once a month. Or are you the one who doesn’t know about the birds and the bees?”

Ted had dipped his head into his hand. He was muttering something under his breath that Andromeda couldn’t decipher.

“I’m not a child,” she said angrily. “I know what’s to be expected of me as a wife. I know what I’m getting myself into.”

When Ted lifted his head back up, the amusement had bled away from his expression, leaving only horror is its wake.

“I really, really don’t want to have this conversation,” he said hoarsely.

Andromeda nodded curtly. Then she looked straight ahead at the partition, wondering how much of an hour had passed. Why had things turned so awkward so quickly? It was stupid Ted's fault for prolonging the conversation. Now she would be stuck with him for long, excruciating minutes more, without any hope of escape.

The only solution was to attempt to diffuse the weird, unidentifiable tension that had settled between them.

“How is Quidditch?” she asked. “I’m sure the team has missed you.”

“I’ve made George captain in my stead,” Ted said. “One of our reserves is in as chaser. Madame Finley tells me that I won’t be well enough to play for another two months at least.”

Andromeda frowned. “But you can practice, can’t you? You have to. The Slytherin game is in April.”

Ted smiled without feeling.

“You’re going to get to play, aren’t you?” Andromeda pressed. “You told me, Quidditch is what you want to do. All the talent agents will be there. You have to play that game.”

“Doesn’t look hopeful.”

“So, what, you’re just going to give up on going professional? That isn’t like you.”

“And how the hell you know what’s like me and what isn’t?" Ted snapped. "What makes you think you know what I’m like?”

Andromeda shrank back at the bitter edge of Ted’s question.

He closed his eyes. Opened them. Sighed.

“I’m sorry," he muttered. "That was uncalled for.”

“No,” Andromeda said. “You’re right. I don’t know you that well. Just because you let me stay at your house over the holidays doesn’t mean I know you. Just because I tutored you doesn’t mean that I know what you’re like. I shouldn’t presume that I understand you just because you held back my hair while I was puking my guts out at Hog’s Head.”

“I didn’t think you remembered that,” he said softly.

“I remember every good thing you did for me, Ted. Just because I act like a bitch doesn’t mean I have a faulty memory. It doesn’t mean I’m incapable of seeing what a decent human being you are.”

Ted looked away, toward the snowstorm that was still flurrying outside the hospital wing windows.

“Why don’t you call me Dromeda anymore?”

Ted blinked. “What?”

“You haven't since I left you in London. It’s like you’re punishing me.”

“Right. So, as usual, this is about you.”

“Well, if it wasn’t intentional, then call me Dromeda now.”

“Excuse me?”

“Call me Dromeda. If it’s not about me, you won’t mind. Surely.”

“That’s ridiculous. I’m not following your orders. Get over yourself.”

“Then it is about me.”

Ted didn’t reply. He didn’t speak again for a full half hour, and neither did Andromeda, who felt as though she had somehow both won and lost the last argument. Neither of them so much as looked at each other until another excruciating jab of pain shot through Andromeda’s arm, and the blood flowing between them swirled in a final flourish and broke off entirely.

Madame Finley arrived just in time to wrap a tight wad of gauze around each of their arms.

“That concludes the first transfusion,” she announced, click-clacking to the fire, where she doused the flames. “Mr. Tonks, you know to come in tomorrow morning for tests. Miss Black, expect to arrive next week for the second round. Same time and location. Any questions? No? Then be on your way.”

Madame Finley shooed them both out into the hallway, even though Andromeda was still biting back tears from the most recent wash of pain. She even felt a little dizzy, though she knew she shouldn’t have been. But then, she reasoned, it wasn’t exactly natural to be swapping out blood with another person. It would be more alarming if she didn’t feel a little off after the transfusion.

Ted didn’t linger outside the hospital wing. He shouldered on a jacket, shoved his hands into the pockets, and turned to Andromeda without looking at her.

“I’ll see you next Sunday, then.”

Andromeda watched, open-mouthed, as he hurried past her.

“So, what? Not even a ‘thank you’?”

Ted stopped. He turned back around. “What? Am I supposed to kneel and kiss your feet, conveying my sincerest gratitude? I thought you didn’t want that.”

“I don’t. It’s not about that. It’s about whatever the fuck is wrong with you. You’re egging me on moment and then giving me the silent treatment the next. I know this is a hard time for you, but you can’t behave that way. If this is going to work in the future, we need to come to some sort of understanding."

"Fine," said Ted. "Why don't we come to the understanding that I'm not a decent human being?"

"What—what's that supposed to mean?" 

“You keep calling me that. Decent. Better. As though I’m some sort of superhuman. But I’m not a decent human being, Andromeda. I’m petty and selfish and jealous, same as the next seventeen-year-old. I’m angry with you for leaving me at George’s. I’m angry that you chose Lestrange because it makes your family happy and not because it’s what you want. And I can’t stand to hear you talk about your future like it’s an inevitable drudgery and nothing more. I can’t stand you making polite conversation with me inside those doors when I know you won’t even acknowledge my presence outside them. I know I’m playing a game I’ve already lost, and the moment I make up my mind to walk away, you speak. You say something, and I’m lost again, and I hate myself for it, and it’s self-destructive, and it has to stop. So here's a solution. One: You accept the fact that I'm a fucked up person that you don't really understand. Two: In the future, we don't talk during these things." 

Andromed stared stupidly at the lettering on Ted's shirt: Hufflepuff Quidditch, '68.

"I didn't realize," she whispered.

"Now you do," said Ted. "And it isn't to say that I'm not bloody grateful to you. You're probably saving my life, and I know I won't be able to pay you back for that. But when I said yes to this, I didn't say yes to making small talk. And I certainly didn't say yes to you putting me into a box and lecturing on what is and isn't like me. You don't know me."

"No," said Andromeda. "No, I don't. You're right. But if we don't talk, how am I supposed to get to know you?"

Ted shook his head limply. "You and I both know that's not something you want."

"And how do you know what I want?" Andromeda demanded.

Ted seemed about to say something. He reconsidered, shook his head.

"I don't."

"Very well," said Andromeda. "I won't put you in a box, and you won't put me in a box. Agreed. But we still talk. I'm not going to sit in that stale infirmary for one painful hour, just watching our blood switch places."

"Then we'll talk. Deal."

He didn't wait for her response. He turned and strode down the corridor at an impressive pace. A moment later, a pair of giggling Ravenclaw girls turned the corner.

The laughter of one girl stopped up at the sight of Andromeda. She cast a nervous glance over at her friend, and both girls lowered their voices, hurrying past Andromeda with quick, twin steps.

Andromeda was used to the reaction. The entirety of the school could identify her as one of the infamous Black Sisters. Fair or not, Bellatrix had left a reputation in her wake, and any out-of-housers knew not cross the path of Bella’s younger sisters. Before, Andromeda had always taken a certain quiet pleasure and comfort in that thought. Now, for the first time, the idea saddened her.

She waited until the girls were out of earshot before she followed them toward the main corridor. Her heart was beating so loudly that Andromeda felt sure the sound was echoing against the stone walls, a sure betrayal of the agreement she’d made just minutes before.

Outside, the wind howled, and the blizzard raged on.


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