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Chapter 29 : Hurt
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She ran toward Rabastan, wrenching her wand out of her coat pocket.
Rabastan’s wand flew from his hand and clattered to the ground several yards away. He regarded Andromeda with genuine shock. The surprise flitted across his face for only a moment. Then, it was gone, replaced by a hardened expression. He turned to the sixth year boy with him.
“Gregor, keep him where he is.”
Andromeda realized now that Gregor had been the one responsible for pinning Ted to the wall. She turned her wand on him instead.
Gregor didn’t even register the spell in time to attempt a block. His body went slack from insensibility, and he slumped, first to his knees, then face first on the ground. Ted, too, fell from where he’d been hoisted against the wall, leaving an awful trail of blood behind him.
Andromeda ran to him.
“Ted.” She reached his crumpled form and propped his back against the wall, her hands bloodying from the effort. “What did he do to you? What spells did he use? Where’s your wand?”
Ted was still conscious. He choked out something incoherent, then shook his head frantically and pointed past Andromeda. She whipped around just in time to see that Rabastan had reclaimed his wand and was aiming it at her. Andromeda began conjuring a shield charm, but her wand had gone slack in her hand from the blood, and she lost her grip.
Silently, Rabastan cast a spell on her. The breath rushed out of Andromeda’s lungs, and her arms and legs seized up, freezing her into a full body bind.
“I didn’t want you to be here, Andromeda,” Rabastan said, approaching her and Ted. His voice was remarkably calm. “This isn’t something you should have to witness.”
He flicked his wand. Another silent hex. Andromeda felt her senses return to her limbs, but no sooner was she capable of movement than another switch of Rabastan’s wand jetted out a harsh blue light. Her wrists bound behind her back with a sudden, irresistible force, and her body was thrown back against the wall.
“Rennervate,” Rabastan said, casting his wand at Gregor.
The Slytherin boy became sensible again and struggled to his feet.
“Change of plans,” Rabastan informed him. “I want you to keep the girl in one place while I tend to him.”
Gregor nodded like an automaton. He cast his wand at Andromeda, taking over for Rabastan, and kept her jolted back to the wall.
“Darling," said Rabastan, "it really would’ve been better if you hadn’t interfered. I had the situation nicely in hand.”
“Don’t hurt him,” Andromeda choked out. “He’s done nothing to you.”
“I played by your rules,” said Rabastan. “I kept up the façade. I gave you a ring. I didn’t touch you until you let me touch you. And the reward I get for all that is to hear you say his name in my bed?”
“That still isn’t his fault!” Andromeda cried.
“I’ll admit,” Rabastan said, ignoring her, “that is was painful to hear at first. But then I realized something: this Ted is nothing more than a distraction in your life. A memory. He doesn’t belong in our future together. It’s my job to be sure he never troubles you again.”
Andromeda allowed herself to look, really look, at Ted. He was breathing in shallow, ragged breaths, and his head was tilted back, his eyes squeezed shut in pain. A trickle of blood ran from the corner of his mouth.
“You’ve hurt him enough, Rabastan,” she whispered. “He isn’t a part of my life anymore. Just let him go.”
“He isn’t part of your life?” Rabastan smiled humorlessly. “Is that why you’ve run to his rescue?”
Ted opened his eyes. His gaze shifted weakly over to Andromeda.
“Don’t look at her!” Rabastan barked, stepping between their sightline.
“You don’t own her.” As weak as Ted’s voice was, it was still steeped in anger.
Rabastan’s face was hidden from Andromeda, but she heard an angered hiss. He rammed his wand against Ted’s chest.
Red light burst from Rabastan’s wand, making contact with Ted’s skin, and Andromeda watched in horror as his body convulsed, limbs contorting in jerky, unnatural movements. It was his scream that was the worst—an ear-splitting, agonized, inhuman cry.
“STOP!” Andromeda screamed. “Rabastan, stop it!”
Rabastan whirled around, as though surprised to find that Andromeda was still there.
“I told you that you shouldn’t have showed up,” he said. “I don’t want to have to obliviate you. But there can’t be any witnesses, you see, when they find Tonks out here in pieces.”
With his eyes still fixed on Andromeda’s, Rabastan pointed his wand back to Ted.
“Crucio,” he said, this time coolly, smugly.
Ted writhed in a renewed round of pain, his screams becoming hoarse and fractured with agony.
Andromeda’s stomach turned over a dozen times as she saw Ted’s hair begin to flicker with the beginnings of a new color: silver.
“Rabastan,” she whispered. “Rabastan, please stop. I’ll do anything you ask. Just stop hurting him.”
“Anything?” Rabastan seemed to consider this. With a casual flick of his wand, he released Andromeda from her bind. “Very well. Gregor, let her down.”
Gregor did as he was told, and Andromeda fell to the ground. Rabastan wrenched her back to her feet by the wrist, his fingers pinching hard into her flesh. He dragged Andromeda closer to Ted. The metallic scent of blood filled her nostrils. Ted’s eyes met hers again. His irises were a sheeny silver.
“I think we need to make it clear to this Mudblood,” said Rabastan, “where your priorities lie. It wouldn’t do to get it in his head that he somehow had precedent over me.”
Rabastan shoved Andromeda back down to her knees, so that she was on level with Ted. The stench of blood was overwhelming here—abrasive and heady. She noticed for the first time the slick, glaring white object sticking out of Ted’s t-shirt. Bone. A rib. The realization clenched Andromeda’s body with nausea. Rabastan must have indulged himself in an assortment of sadistic physical hexes before she arrived on the scene.
“He’s losing blood, Rabastan,” she whispered, trying to beat back the panic in her chest, trying desperately to kick her mind back into gear, to form some kind of plan. “He’s going die.”
“Perhaps he won’t,” said Rabastan, “if you play your cards right.”
He placed something thin and hard into Andromeda’s hand. Her wand.
“Before you get any bright ideas,” he warned, “remember that I have Gregor trained on you. Now, here’s how we’re going to show Tonks his place: you’re going to cruciate him yourself. If you don’t, I’ll dispose of him on the spot.”
Andromeda’s blood went frigid. She stared up at Rabastan as though he’d lost his mind. And she realized, with a new terror and a sudden vivid memory of Rodolphus and Bella during family dinners, that maybe Rabastan really had lost his mind. Maybe he was no better than his older brother.
“You know how this game works,” he said. “It’s all about who has the upper hand. And right now, I do.”
“The cruciatus doesn’t work that way,” Andromeda argued. “It’s not just a matter of talent or spellwork. You have to genuinely wish to cause the victim pain. You have to be a sadist.”
Andromeda knew immediately that she’d chosen the wrong words.
Rabastan kneeled beside her. He tipped his wand under her chin.
“And don’t you wish to cause this Mudblood pain? For coming between us? Between our engagement? Doesn’t he deserve to suffer? I thought he didn’t mean anything to you. If he doesn’t mean a thing, then why can’t you do it? Why can’t you cruciate him?”
Andromeda didn’t cry. She was beyond crying. She looked again at Ted, who had shut his eyes against the pain and inhaled sharply. A new trickle of blood coursed down his face, its source somewhere beneath his matted, silvery hair.
This couldn’t happen. Not one of his fits. Not here, in the midst of everything else he’d endured. Ted couldn’t possibly survive it.
Without another thought, Andromeda cast an incision spell on Ted’s arm, then a sloppy and painful one on her palm. She grabbed Ted’s open wound with her own and squeezed hard. She willed for her blood to reach him, to restore him somehow.
“What are you doing?” Rabastan asked with disgust. “I told you to cruciate him, not dissect him.”
“And I told you I can’t!” Andromeda yelled raggedly.
“Do it,” Rabastan ordered. “Do it, or I swear I’ll kill him right here. I’m no coward. The Dark Lord would be pleased at a kill from one of his youngest followers. Don’t think I’m afraid to do it.”
“I can’t!” Andromeda shrieked. “I won’t. And you won’t either. You’re not him, Rabastan. You’re not your brother. You’re not a psychotic monster.”
Rabastan’s lips pulled back in a disdainful sneer. He held his wand aloft, though his hand was shaking violently.
Red light shot out from Andromeda’s wand and knocked Rabastan back in an explosive blast. He fell to his back with a sickening crack and writhed, his shrieks echoing against the deserted station walls.
Andromeda staggered to her feet, her wand now trained on Gregor, who was staring at Rabastan’s convulsing body, frozen in shock.
Gregor’s wand flew from his hand.
“D-d-don’t do anything to me,” he stammered. “I didn’t want to come out here anyway!”
Andromeda didn’t stop walking toward the unarmed boy until she was only a foot from him. She raised her wand to his head. He cowered. She concentrated hard. For all her research, including an entire term paper on the topic, she'd never actually cast the spell before.
Instantly, a glazed look came over Gregor’s eyes. He stumbled back, his balance unsteady, and shook his head. When he blinked his eyes open again, he looked up at Andromeda in utter confusion.
“You’re just outside Hogsmeade,” she told him. “Run left out of here, into town, to the old bookshop. Get Professor Whitechapel, get any capable adult, and tell them to come out here immediately.”
“I don’t—“ Gregor began.
Andromeda rammed her wand against his chest. “Do it now. There’s at least one life dependent upon you, do you understand? Someone could die.”
Gregor nodded doggedly. Andromeda released him, and he went running down the platform steps, casting fearful glances behind him all the way.
Andromeda turned back to find Rabastan weakly dragging himself to the notch of stone where his wand had fallen. Andromeda beat him to it. She trapped the wand under the toe of her boot. Then, with vehemence, she sent it scattering off the platform and onto the train tracks.
Rabastan stared up at her with wide, fearful eyes.
“Please,” he whispered, “don’t—“
“Crucio,” Andromeda said, casting the spell straight at his chest and watching with unflinching attention.
She cast it again. And again. Blind hatred stung her eyes and filled her mind with nothing but white anger. The torture spell emanated from her body as though a natural outpouring, each casting stronger and more vicious than the last. All the while, she tuned out Rabastan’s screams for her to stop.
Then there was another voice altogether—one so weak that she wondered how she’d heard it over the ruckus that Rabastan was making.
“Dromeda. Dromeda, stop.”
Ted. How could she have forgotten him, even for a moment? Inflicting pain on Rabastan had been her only, all-consuming thought, as though she herself had been under some spell. She shook her head, clearing her mind, and turned back to Rabastan, casting him into a full body bind. Then she rushed back to Ted’s side.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m so, so sorry. Tell me where you’re hurt the worst. We’ll start there. I’ve sent for help. Are you well enough to move?”
Ted shook his head, gasping in for air. His mouth was coated with blood.
“Ted,” Andromeda said, panicked, “Ted, stay with me.”
She cut again into her palm, deeper than before, causing a renewed gush of blood to pour out, and she placed her hand back against the incision on Ted’s arm.
“I’ll make you better,” she whispered. “Just stay with me.”
She drew closer to him, her jacket soaking through with blood from his arm and from his chest. She pressed her lips against Ted’s cheek, against his forehead. She pushed back his hair, now returned to its golden brown color, and tried to find the source of blood. She discovered a cut just above his temple. Fumbling with her wand, she shakily placed it on the wound and cast a feeble healing spell.
“I—I don’t know where to start,” she said, trembling. “I don’t know how to start making you better. You have to tell me where you hurt the most.”
She could feel herself going frantic. She was shaking hard now, her mind speeding, her fears surfacing one after the other. What if Gregor didn’t fetch anyone? What if no one was coming? She would have to move Ted somehow. But there was so much blood, and she had no idea how much he’d already lost.
A hand wrapped around her wand wrist. Andromeda looked down at Ted’s knuckles, bloodied and cracked.
“Dromeda,” he said, eyes shut, head thrown back against the wall for support. “I love you.”
“Dammit, Ted!” she cried. “Don’t you dare tell me that. You are not going to die this time out of all times.”
Ted flinched against some unseen pain, and Andromeda set back to searching his body for other wounds. She knew that his broken rib was bad, but she didn’t have anywhere near the kind of healing knowledge necessary to fix it.
“There. There! That’s them. Come on, George. You are the most fucking slow runner. How the hell did you make Quid—oh my god, Andie?”
Andromeda turned to see George and Lilith running toward her, Professor Whitechapel close behind.
“What happened?” George demanded, sliding to his knees by Ted’s side. “Why is there so much blood? Andromeda, what happened?”
She pointed shakily over at Rabastan. “I tried to stop him. We need to get Ted to hospital. Now."
Professor Whitechapel reached them, his wand at the ready.
“Clear away from him,” he said. “Let me get a good look. We need to staunch any lacerations before moving him. This is going to require St. Mungo’s attention.”
“But none of us are that good at appara—“ Lilith cut off. “Oh. Well, I suppose you are, professor, aren’t you?”
Professor Whitechapel grimly acknowledged the comment as he cast quick, silent spellwork on Ted. He noted the protruding rib without so much as flinching, then cast a sealant spell on his skin, stopping the flow of blood.
“And you, Miss Black?” he asked, turning to look Andromeda over. “Are you hurt?”
Andromeda shook her head. “I’m perfectly fine. Just get Ted better.”
“All the same, I think it best that a Healer look you over.“ Professor Whitechapel cast a glance back at Rabastan. “And Mr. Lestrange, as well.”
Anger burned in Andromeda’s veins. “But he’s the one who—”
“I understand that you’re distressed right now, Miss Black," Professor Whitechapel cut in. "But even if Mr. Lestrange perpetrated this crime, I cannot show preference to one boy over the other. I will apparate them both with me. I expect you, Mr. Vanderpool, and Miss Starker to remain where you are until arrangements can be made.”
“What arrangements?” Andromeda asked.
“I’ll give word to the Emergency Mediwizards to apparate you to St. Mungo’s,” he said. “Even if you’re in perfectly good health, I'll still need statements from all three of you on today's disturbance."
With no small amount of difficulty, Professor Whitechapel hoisted a barely conscious Ted to his feet. He walked him over toward Rabastan’s limp form and, stooping to place a firm grip on both boy’s shoulders, he apparated away, wrenching all three of bodies out of sight with a sharp crack.
Lilith ran to Andromeda and threw her arms around her friend’s neck.
“Are you suicidal?!” she snuffled. “How could you just run off like that, knowing that I was freaking out as it was?”
George was shaking his head, his face a pasty white. “She saved Ted,” he croaked. “She’s always saving Ted.” He looked at Andromeda. “How did you know that Rabastan would be messing with him?”
“It—it was just a sixth sense,” she said. “Rabastan has never liked Ted very much. Not since the start of this year.”
“I have to see him,” said George. “How serious were his injuries? Did you see? How bad is it? Be honest.”
“I don’t know,” Andromeda whispered, sinking to a rotting bench, her heart pounding in her chest. “But I should be there. We’re blood bound. He might need me, need a transfusion. He might—“
“What’s she talking about?” Lilith asked George. “What does she mean, ‘blood bound’?”
“Long story," said George. "I don't even understand half of it."
A crack echoed in the station, followed by another soon after. Two Mediwizards, a woman and a man, neither of whom looked much older than Andromeda, approached them.
“You two, come with me,” said the woman, grabbing Lilith by the arm and pulling Andromeda up to her feet. “Hold tight, and keep still.”
The last thing Andromeda saw was the male Healer grabbing hold of a contemptuous George’s elbow.
“Oi, mate,” he yelped. “Easy on the—“
And then everything cracked out of sight. Andromeda felt a piercing sensation deep in her navel, as though she were being tugged out like taffy. Then, suddenly, the world materialized around her again, and she was standing in a high-ceilinged room with sterile white walls and marble floor.
A tall counter lined one of the walls, and behind it a row of seven receptionists were scribbling with quills and releasing fluttering interhosptial notes.
The woman who had apparated Andromeda and Lilith kept a firm hold on their elbows and marched them over to one of the receptionists, a middle-age man with a graying beard.
He held up a hand to signify that the he was busy finishing a piece of paperwork. Then he set down his quill, adjusted his spectacles, and peered over the edge of the counter.
“Name and affliction?”
“They were involved in the Hogsmeade incident, Paul.”
Paul seemed very put out by this. He heaved a long sigh and rubbed at the tip of his nose.
“How many more are there? This is absolutely preposterous. Wait ‘til the Prophet gets its hands on—“
“The Prophet isn’t going to get its hands on anything,” said the woman. “Hogwarts has a prestigious history of covering up incidents like this. All I need from you, Paul, is for you to take down these girls’ names and direct us to an open examination room. They don’t appear to have sustained any injuries, but we’ll need to run some diagnostic spell to be sure there’s no other magically-induced damage.”
Paul’s head bobbed in acknowledgement of the woman’s request. “Very well, very well. Names?”
“Lilith Vale Starker,” said Lilith, without missing a beat. “And I’m fine.”
Her eyes were scanning the room, and they suddenly lighted on something of intense interest.
“Be right back,” she said, slipping from the woman Healer’s grip.
Andromeda watched as she hurried over to George and his Healer companion and began waving her hands animatedly.
“Your name, miss?”
Andromeda returned her attention to the receptionist. “Andromeda Lyra Black,” she said. “I need to see Edward Tonks immediately. If he’s in critical condition, I can be of help. We’re blood bound.”
The Healer laughed. “Blood bound?” she said. “Don’t be silly. No one’s been blood bound since the eighteenth century. Do you even know what the term means? For one thing, you must be related to the other party by blood.”
Andromeda glared angrily at the woman. “Clearly you’ve been misinformed. Where’s Madame Finley? She works here. She’ll confirm it. Honestly, why on earth would I make up something like that?”
“Madame Prudence Finley is on holiday, I’m afraid,” said Paul.
“Listen, dear,” said the Healer, which only further irked Andromeda. She couldn’t be past her mid-twenties, and she had no right to call Andromeda dear. “I realize that you might fancy this fellow, but making up a ridiculous story isn’t going to get you to him any sooner. The only parties allowed to see him are family.”
“Nelson,” Andromeda whispered out loud, the realization sweeping over her. “He has an older brother, Nelson. Has he been notified?”
“I’m sure he has, if he’s listed as an emergency contact,” said the Healer, her patience clearly fraying. “Now where on earth has that other girl gone off—“
She stalked off toward Lilith, who was still talking to George and casting glances down the medical hallway off to the side, as though contemplating making a run for it.
Andromeda whipped back around to Paul the receptionist. “Please,” she begged. “Please, can’t you just tell me where he is?”
But Paul had returned to scribbling away at a piece of parchment.
Andromeda slammed her hand down on the counter. “Please.”
Paul’s quill splattered ink on the page, ruining his line of text. He looked up at Andromeda in irritation.
“If you want to see the boy that badly, you’ll just have to conjure up a relationship to him out of thin air. And if you can’t, I suggest you leave me to my very important work.”
“I’m engaged to him,” Andromeda blurted out. “Is that good enough for you?”
She shoved her left hand across the table, displaying Rabastan’s gargantuan ring. This Paul fellow clearly wasn’t a pureblood of note; she knew all of those types, and none of them would be consigned to the demanding job of receptionist. So she bet on her chances that a man like this would have no concept of her high profile engagement to Rabastan Lestrange.
Paul stared at the ring. He stared back at Andromeda. He gave another long-suffering sigh.
“Mara!” he shouted across the lobby.
The woman Healer, who’d been in the process of dragging Lilith off, now turned around.
“She’s his bloody fiancée,” he called. “You'd best take her back.”
Even from where she stood, Andromeda saw the looks of confusion flit across Lilith’s and George’s face. Then George started smiling goofily.
Mara looked disgusted by this recent turn in events.
“Very well,” she shouted back, motioning to Andromeda. “Both of you, come with me.”
This time, Lilith obliged, though not before saying something out of earshot to George. He snickered at whatever it was she’d shared, and began to follow the male Healer lead toward the reception counter for his own check-in. As he passed by Andromeda, though, a wicked glint touched his eye, and he murmured, “Well played, princess.”
“I don’t know why you didn’t just mentioned that before,” Mara said, dragging her and Lilith relentlessly toward the hallway. “It’s very possible that you still might not be able to see him. If they’re in the middle of the procedure, or—“
“Just tell me where he is,” Andromeda cut in sharply.
“Here,” Mara said, grinding to a halt outside a green door marked 1J on a frosted panel of glass. “I’ve had enough of surprise apparating trips and babysitting for one day. Be someone else’s problem.”
Mara rapped on the door and stuck her nose in.
“Lennox? Is he stable?”
An indecipherable voice spoke from inside.
“I’ve got a girl out here from the scene. She’s claiming to be his fiancée? Andromeda?” Mara cast an impatient glance at Andromeda. “That’s your name, isn’t it?”
The door opened further, and a red-cheeked man with a shock of white hair appeared. Andromeda nearly leapt forward, straining to get a look inside, desperate for any sign of Ted.
“There, there, child,” said the man, closing the door behind him and standing in the threshold. “There are some things that I’d best discuss with you beforehand.”
“I’ll take that as my cue,” said Mara, hauling Lilith after her.
Lilith cast a glance back at Andromeda.
“Meet back in the lobby?” she called.
“Doubtful,” said Mara. “Once we’re through with your examinations, we’ve been instructed to send you off to the Hogwarts professor for questioning.”
Andromeda felt her attention tear in two directions as Lilith disappeared down a turn in the hallway, and the wizened Healer stood towering over her.
She chose to direct her attention back to the older man.
“I’m Healer Lennox,” he said, “and I’m terribly sorry we’re not meeting under better conditions.”
“What is it that you have to tell me?” Andromeda asked. “What do I have to know before I see him? Please, just go ahead and tell me.”
“The boy is in a fragile condition,” Healer Lennox said. “We’ve managed to tend to his bodily injuries, but it seems that Mr. Tonks also possesses metamorphmagus qualities that are rather—erratic.”
“Yes, yes, I know,” Andromeda nearly shouted. “I know all about his condition. Madame Finley has been working with us for over a month now. Ted and I are blood bound, and we’ve been doing transfusions to help stabilize him and prevent further fits.”
Healer Lennox’s eyes widened. “Good heavens. That didn’t show anywhere in his paperwork.”
“I heard that Madame Finley is on holiday,” said Andromeda, “but isn’t there anything you can do? Can’t you fetch her back?”
“I’ll need to speak an authority that’s higher up than myself,” said Healer Lennox, more to himself than Andromeda. “Good gracious, this is an entirely unanticipated development. Well, where was I?”
“He’s in a fragile condition,” Andromeda said. “I understand. I’ll be very quiet and I won’t upset him, only please just let me see him.”
Healer Lennox nodded distractedly. “I’ll station one of my undermedics outside, should you need any assistance whatsoever. Meantime, I must bring up this new information to my superiors. You’ll excuse me, won’t you?”
Andromeda was only too happy to watch Healer Lennox step out of the path between her and Ted’s door, though she did stop for just a moment to watch him go, wondering who on earth could be the superior of a Healer who was already so old himself.
Shaking the thought from her mind, Andromeda pushed open the door. She found Ted lying in a wide hospital cot, far more cushioned and equipped than any of those from the hospital wing at Hogwarts. A blue haze emanated from his right hand and ran a stringy path of equally blue light to a silver-stringed apparatus floating in midair, near the bed. Andromeda didn’t know the use of the equipment. She didn’t care. She could only stare at Ted, who was, contrary to her expectations, wide awake and staring straight back at her.
He moved his lips. He was trying to speak, but no words came. Andromeda shook her head rapidly, hurrying up to his bedside.
“It’s all right,” she whispered. “Don’t try to speak. It’s all right.”
She sunk into the hard wooden chair by his bedside and grabbed his hand—the one that wasn’t hooked up to the odd blue-stringed contraption.
“It’s the soothing spell,” she said. “I heard that it sometimes momentarily impairs your ability to speak.”
Ted tried to move his lips again, let out a frustrated groan, and nodded.
“Ted,” Andromeda said, and her voice broke. “I’ve been worried out of my mind. But they’ve patched you up, haven’t they? I’ll be here as long as you need me. Whatever they deem necessary to make you all better: more blood, or—or just my touch. Anything. I’m not leaving, I promise. Not until you’re well again.”
Ted tried to speak again. A single tear formed in his eyes and wound down his cheek.
“You don’t have to talk.” She squeezed his hand. “Don’t put yourself out. You’re not to overexert yourself. Just rest. I’ll be here until Professor Whitechapel forcibly extracts me for questioning.”
She smiled, trying to make a joke of it. Another tear trickled down Ted’s face. And another. This time, when he moved his lips, words came out—though threadbare and only just audible.
“You shouldn’t be here.”
“This is exactly where I should be,” she said firmly.
“Your family,” Ted wheezed. “Rabastan. You can’t be seen with me here.”
“I’m not leaving,” Andromeda insisted, her throat going tight and prickly. “As for Rabastan, I won’t look on his face again. I refuse. When you’re well enough to tell the proper authorities what he did to you, you mustn’t leave out a single detail. I want them to try him as an adult.”
“Andromeda.” Ted closed his eyes and took in a long breath. The thin blue cord of light attached to his arm quivered. His voice was coming back to its normal timbre, slowly but surely. “I can’t tell them about the unforgivables.”
“Why not?” Andromeda demanded. “What he did to you was unforgiveable. He’s a monster. He deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law.”
Ted shook his head weakly. “But you performed an unforgiveable, too.”
Andromeda went deathly still. Her blood seemed to stop in its place and congeal, ice cold, in her veins.
Ted had seen. He remembered. The memory now came flooding back to Andromeda in all its grisly detail.
She had placed the cruciatus on Rabastan, not once, but four separate times, each more vicious than the time before. And she’d enjoyed it. She had wanted to cause Rabastan pain, excruciating pain, and she wouldn’t have stopped causing him pain if it weren’t for Ted.
Ted, who now looked at her with a solemn face and wide eyes.
She had called Rabastan a monster. Didn’t that make her a monster, too?
She had committed a crime that sent grown men and women to Azkaban.
She had enjoyed it.
She had told Rabastan that only a sadist could cast the cruciatus curse.
Didn’t that make her a sadist, too?
Rabastan had proved himself to be just as sick a Lestrange as his older brother.
And she—how was she any better than Bellatrix?
She shared the same blood as her sister. She shared her looks. Why wouldn’t she also share in her cruelty?
Andromeda dropped her head into her hands.
“So you think I’m disgusting,” she said flatly. “You think I’m a monster, too.”
“What?” said Ted. “Merlin, no, Dromeda. That’s not what I meant.”
“But it logically follows, doesn’t it?” Andromeda said, her voice trembling. “You saw what I was capable of. Only a truly dark witch could do what I did to him. Someone twisted inside.”
“You were angry. You were afraid. Rabastan was about to murder me, Andromeda. He would’ve, too, if you didn’t knock him off his feet with the cruciatus.”
“Yes, but I kept doing it.” Andromeda released his hand. She stood, unable to remain still any longer. “I kept hurting him, and I liked hurting him.”
Ted remained quiet.
After a long while, he whispered, “You’re not a monster.”
“But I could be so easily. I see them inside of me. Little flashes of Bellatrix. Of my Aunt Walburga. Sometimes only glimmers. But they’re there. I could be just like them.”
“Capacity is different from action. It’s completely different. The only reason I even brought it up was because I can’t possibly tell the authorities about Rabastan’s unforgivables. Do you remember, just a few years back, when everyone was certain the Muggles would blow each other off the face of the earth with their weapons?”
Andromeda nodded. Even in her pureblooded circles, she’d been well aware of the nuclear tensions in the Muggle world. It was just another example of the supreme folly of Muggles left to their own devices.
“Mutually assured destruction,” said Ted. “That’s why they say neither side has fired so much as a whistle of a bomb. Because both sides know they’re capable of destroying each other, should one side make the first move.”
“So, what, you won’t expose Rabastan because of some idiotic Muggle philosophy?”
“I won’t expose him,” he said evenly, “because doing so would expose you. Rabastan knows that if he utters a word about your unforgivables, I’ll testify to his own. But the opposite is also true.”
Andromeda sunk back into the chair. “He was going to kill you.”
“But he didn’t,” Ted said. “You were there. And now that you’ve seen for yourself that I’m well, you should go.”
“I told you, I’m not leaving.”
“If you stay,” Ted said, “your family will find out.”
“They’re already going to find out,” she said. “Rabastan will never marry me after this.”
“Is that why you’re telling the Mediwizards that his ring is mine?”
Andromeda stilled. On instinct, she looked to her left hand. She blushed deeply.
“It was the only way they’d let me see you.”
“Well, I’m not your fiancé,” said Ted. “You’re not beholden to me in any way. I think you should leave before you do any further damage to your reputation.”
“I don’t think you understand, Ted,” she whispered. “I’m not leaving you. Not this time. Not like I did back in London. I know what it means to stay, and I’m staying right here until you order me away.”
Ted looked at her, through a blackened eye and over a swollen cheek. Just looked.
“Well?” Andromeda tried and failed to hide the nervous tremor in her voice. “Are you ordering me away?”
Ted kept looking. Slowly, he shook his head.
“No. No, I’m not.”
Author's Note: Lovely people! I can't say how overjoyed I've been to read each and every review of these past few chapters. Thank you so much for the encouraging words. They've definitely fished me out of some writer's block and serious plot quandaries. And thanks for bearing with me as I update unfairly cliffhanged chapters. :)
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