[ Printer Friendly Version ] [ Report Abuse ]
Chapter 30 : Aftermath
| ||Rating: Mature||Chapter Reviews: 11|
Background: Font color:
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” he whispered, “but—oh, fuck it, I did mean to wake you.”
“Nelson.” Relief burned through Andromeda’s veins. She got to her feet, despite the fact that her muscles were screaming, and wrapped Nelson in a hug.
It wasn’t until they were mid-embrace that Andromeda realized how instinctual the motion had been, how she hadn’t even hesitated to touch a Muggle in so intimate a way. She would never have dreamed of doing something as preposterous as this a year ago. But now? Now, it was the only way.
Only when she pulled back did Andromeda notice that Nelson’s face was tearstained.
“It’s all right,” she said. “He’s fine now. Just recovering.”
“Yeah,” said Nelson. “Yeah, I know. The doctors told me everything. But I needed to see him. I just—“
Nelson’s voice pitched and tapered. He looked away, one hand pressed to his forehead. Andromeda saw a fresh tear roll down his cheek.
“He’s all I have,” he whispered. “When I got the hospital owl, I thought—“
Nelson didn’t finish the sentence. He shook his head violently.
“Here,” said Andromeda. “Take my seat. Please.”
She glanced back at Ted’s sleeping form. He looked younger with his eyes closed and his features slack. He looked peaceful, too. There was the slightest tinge of pink cresting his cheekbones. Andromeda’s stomach gave an incoherent lurch at the sight.
Nelson took the seat by Ted’s bedside and looked questioningly over at the Healer, who until now had remained silent and efficient.
“Am I allowed to wake him?” he asked.
The Healer gave a slight shake of her head. “I would highly discourage it. The best thing for the patient right now is rest and recovery. Healer Lennox recommended that we let the patient establish his own sleep patterns. He should wake on his own, without interference from us.”
Nelson swore lowly, clearly not happy with the answer. Both he and Andromeda watched the Healer finish her work and leave the room. Though Nelson obeyed the Healer’s orders, he still took hold of his brother’s hand, rubbing a slow circle across Ted’s knuckles.
“So,” said Nelson, after a long and thick silence, “I was informed by the good folks up front that you’re ickle Edward’s fiancée.” Here, he shifted in his seat and squinted up at Andromeda. “What’s that about, eh?”
Heat seared Andromeda’s face. She swallowed with difficulty.
“I lied,” she said, studying the stone floor. “It was the only way they would let me see him.”
“You’re wearing a ring,” Nelson said, nodding to the grotesquely large diamond attached to her left hand.
“It isn’t Ted’s.”
“Damn straight it isn't.” Nelson snorted. “I’d wager that piece of hardware is worth more than our flat.”
Andromeda didn’t know what to say to that. She felt Nelson’s eyes remain on her.
“I know it isn’t any of my business,” he said, “all the complicated happenings going on here. But I’m just wondering what it is that you’ve got going on with my brother. First you come to our house, all desperate-like and completely incapable of cooking for yourself. Then you splinch yourself coming back for your belongings, all in a tizzy about something. And then the next thing I know, you’ve abandoned my brother in London with his worst attack yet, which sends him into a fit of melancholia. I don’t mind telling you, Andromeda, I don’t have the best opinion of you at the moment.”
Nelson’s face was tight and creased as he looked at her. Andromeda shrunk under his stare.
“You shouldn’t have the best opinion of me,” she whispered. “Not even a half-decent one.”
“What I’m confused about,” said Nelson, “is why the hell you’re suddenly here, sleeping at his bedside and claiming to be his fiancée. Beg pardon, but something doesn’t add up.”
“No, I realize that. I know it all seems highly irrational.”
Andromeda shrugged helplessly, her voice coming out in a panicked burst. “I suppose love can be a highly irrational thing, that’s all!”
The creases in Nelson’s face creased more.
“What, then?” he said slowly. “You telling me you love my little brother?”
Andromeda passed her hand over her face. She was, she realized, trembling quite badly.
“I’ve never felt for anyone what I feel for Ted,” she whispered. “Not even close.”
“Well, damn,” said Nelson, and he whistled lowly. “I thought you weren’t allowed to do that.”
Andromeda faltered. “What do you mean?”
“Wasn’t that the reason you ditched him over winter holiday? Why you tore him all up? Something about bloodlines or familial obligations or some other complicated wizarding poppycock?"
Ted had told Nelson, then, about what happened in London. Of course he had. Andromeda should have expected that.
“He was torn up?" she asked. "In December?”
“Bloody catastrophe,” Nelson amended, "that’s what he was. You really did a number on him. George came over more than a few times to sort him out, and you know it’s bad when George Vanderpool has to be called upon to sober you up.”
A sharp and spindly guilt expanded within Andromeda. She’d told herself in December that she had no choice but to leave Ted in the Vanderpool house and go back home with Narcissa. She’d told herself there was no other option. But there had always been another option.
“That isn’t going to happen again,” she said. “The reasons I hurt him before—they aren’t reasons anymore.”
Nelson’s lip tilted in a grim smile. “Well. You’re here with my brother when he most needs you, and I suppose that’s what counts.”
“It must be a family trait then,” she said softly.
“Forgiving others. Not expecting a thing from them. Giving them the benefit of the doubt.”
“That would be entirely from Mum’s side of the family,” Nelson said, his smile widening.
“Your parents sound like they were lovely people.”
“Oh, they had faults enough,” said Nelson. “It’s just that everyone gets glamorized post-mortem. They would’ve had a field day with you, I’m sure. Dad would’ve hated you at first. Called you a pretentious little posh. But I think he would’ve warmed up to you eventually. Mum, too.”
“You were very welcoming,” said Andromeda, “from the start, and at a time when I needed it. I don’t think I ever thanked you properly for that.”
Nelson chortled. “None of that. It was common human decency. Ted told me that you had nowhere else to go. Well, that and he had a wildly impossible crush on you.”
Andromeda started, surprised. “He told you that?”
But she reminded herself that she shouldn’t have been surprised. Ted had told her once that he’d first begun falling for her the day she’d vomited all over his fish and chips. Andromeda hadn’t quite taken him seriously before, but now—now.
At the train station, he had called her Dromeda. He had told her that he loved her. But maybe it had only been a panicked delirium. Perhaps it had only been because he thought he was dying.
The screech of a door echoed in the room. Andromeda turned to find the bent-back Healer Lennox entering. He smiled thinly at Andromeda.
“Hello, my dear,” he said. “Still keeping vigil, I see.”
“This is Ted’s brother,” Andromeda said, introducing the older man to Nelson.
Healer Lennox nodded. “Yes. We've already met. I explained Ted’s condition thoroughly, including this remarkable phenomenon between you and the boy.”
Andromeda blinked stupidly. “W-what phenomenon?”
Healer Lennox raised his eyebrows. “Why, the blood bond of course, my dear. There hasn’t been another recorded case of a blood bond since 1913. I had heard rumors of it, of course, from Madame Finley’s department, but I must admit I had my doubts.”
Andromeda, who felt unaccountably warm and somewhat stupid, nodded quickly.
“Yes, of course,” she said. “The blood bond. Well, I can certainly testify to its validity.”
“I’m afraid,” said Healer Lennox, “that you’ll have to testify to far more than that. I’ve been sent to retrieve you—that is, if you’re feeling up to it. Some members of the Hogwarts faculty are here at St. Mungo’s. They’re conducting a thorough questioning concerning the events at Hogsmeade, and you are, as I’m sure you realize, a key witness.”
Andromeda’s limbs went cold and weak. She managed to nod.
“Yes,” she said. “Yes, of course.”
Better to get it over with, she told herself. She would face whatever questions they gave her and answer them truthfully—to a certain extent, at least. But she had promised both Lilith and George that she wouldn’t get their names mixed up in outing the Death Eaters. She would have to be careful about how she worded her story. She would have to lie, at least a little.
“They’re conducting the interviews in one of our consulting rooms,” said Healer Lennox, showing Andromeda to the door and pointing her out. “Just down this hallway. Take your first left. The room is on the right. Number 13.”
Andromeda nodded. She murmured a soft goodbye to Nelson, then to the Healer, who shut the door after her. The last sight she saw was Ted’s limp figure, still sleeping peacefully on the hospital bed.
She reached a black wooden door. The number 13 was painted across its frosted glass pane in dull golden paint. Behind the murky glass, she could see faceless, blurry figures moving about. She imagined that George and Lilith would be inside. She prayed that Rabastan wouldn’t. Surely he was still in too poor shape to be right side up and giving a testimony. Surely he was too injured for that.
Injured by wounds that you inflicted.
Andromeda rapped sharply on the door. There was a dull commotion inside before a silhouette approached the frosted pane, and the door opened.
Professor Whitechapel stood in the threshold. Deep purple crescents hung beneath his eyes, and he looked far older and far more somber than Andromeda remembered him from the classroom.
“Miss Black,” he said. He motioned her inside the room.
The room, like all the others of St. Mungo’s, was stone walled and stone floored, and this one in particular was well lit by hanging metal lamps. At a cherry wood table sat a tall, trim, elegantly featured witch that Andromeda recognized immediately as Professor Minerva McGonagall. Professor McGonagall taught Transfiguration and was one of Andromeda’s favorite teachers; Andromeda, in turn, was of course one of McGonagall’s prized star students.
Andromeda gave the woman a cautious smile. Professor McGonagall nodded grimly in reply. Her hands were folded over a thick stack of papers, and she wasn’t looking quite at Andromeda but at two figures that sat across the table from her.
“George,” said Andromeda. “Lilith.”
Both turned at the sounds of their names. George looked worn. Lilith looked antsy.
“Please, Miss Black,” said Professor McGonagall, “take a seat. Though we’ve been at the questioning for some time now, I’m afraid that Professor Whitechapel and I are not much the wiser. Perhaps you are more equipped to tell us what happened in Hogsmeade than your friends. It would seem that they’ve been affected with a peculiar case of amnesia.”
“Now see here,” George piped up, “that isn’t fair in the slightest. I think Lilith and I have been most forthcoming with you. I told you, you can pump us with veritaserum if you’d like. Go right ahead. We shan’t even flinch. We’re telling the truth, and I can’t bloody well help it if it isn’t what you want to hear.”
“Enough, Vanderpool,” said Professor Whitechapel, rounding the table to take a seat beside Professor McGonagall. “We’re going to listen to Miss Black’s side of things now, and with no assistance from either you or Miss Starker.”
Andromeda glanced quickly over at George and Lilith as she took her seat. She realized now what was going on: Professors Whitechapel and McGonagall were testing her, to see if her story matched up with that of the others. She would have to choose her words carefully if she meant to maintain credibility but not implicate either of her friends in the days’ happenings.
“Miss Black,” said McGonagall, leaning forward. Her Scottish accent was crisp and hard around the consonants. “Please recount to us precisely what happened earlier today, at Hogsmeade. Do not leave out a single detail.”
Andromeda glanced nervously over at Professor Whitechapel, who held a quill at the ready, prepared to jot down every word that fell from her lips. She gripped her nails into the wooden armrests of her chair. She didn’t allow herself to look at George and Lilith again, though she felt their stares on her.
“I had a suspicion,” she said slowly, “before the day began. Well, no, not a suspicion, but a feeling. You see, I’m engaged to Rabastan Lestrange, and I could tell that he was acting a bit off.”
“How do you mean, a bit off?” Professor McGonagall pressed. Her eyes were hard and inquisitive.
“Well, it’s just the sort of thing that a girlfriend notices,” Andromeda said, wincing at the girlish timbre of her voice. “He seemed distracted, distant. He was spending more and more time with his mates. And he confided in me before that they were planning on doing something at the Hogsmeade visit. That there was some sort of plan. He never elaborated on what. I thought it might be nothing more than a silly prank. But all the same, it left me feeling uneasy.”
“If you were so uneasy,” said McGonagall, “then why didn’t you report your concerns to one of the professors?”
“But what would I report?” Andromeda said, trying not to sound defensive. “A hunch? It was just an off feeling, that’s all. Well, and so I resolved to keep an eye on Rabastan throughout the day, just to be sure that he and his mates wouldn’t get into any real trouble. I spent the early afternoon at the Three Broomsticks with Rabastan. Then, when he left to join his mates, I secretly followed him, just to see what they were up to. When I arrived at the old bookshop and saw what was happening, I was naturally very upset. I was too afraid to try to intervene on my own, but I saw Lilith and George passing separately. I knew them both, so I called to them and begged them to find a professor immediately and tell them what was happening.”
“And why didn’t you attempt to fetch a professor yourself?” asked McGonagall, the candlelight flashing and shadowing over her sharp nose.
“Because,” said Andromeda, “of something I overheard while I was peering into the bookshop. The boys said that Rabastan was going out to the old train station to teach Ted Tonks a lesson. I followed him out there to stop him. But by the time I caught up, he had already gravely injured Ted.”
“Miss Black,” said Professor McGonagall, “if you were too afraid to intervene at the bookshop, what gave you the courage to attempt an intervention at the train station? Wouldn’t it have been wiser to fetch a professor for that predicament, too?”
“Perhaps,” said Andromeda, keeping her eyes fixed on the table. “Yes, I imagine it would’ve been. But I wasn’t thinking properly, you see. I had a rather personal interested vested into the—situation.”
“You mean,” said McGonagall, “because Mr. Lestrange is your betrothed.”
“Well, yes. But also—“ Andromeda hesitated. She raised her eyes to meet the older woman’s.
“But—but also because I’m in love with the boy he meant to hurt.”
The room went thick and muggy with silence. Andromeda felt all eyes in the room driving deep into her skin. She had only confessed her love for Ted once before, to Lilith, one of her very closest friends. More than anything, she didn’t want to say anything about it now, to her professers of all people, in a cold consultation room at St. Mungo’s. But Andromeda had thought this through. She knew that she had to leak out some semblance of truth—something big enough to cover up all the omissions in her story.
For the first time in all the years she’d had Professor McGonagall as a teacher, Andromeda saw that the usually austere witch was genuinely unsettled.
“You mean," she said, "with Ted Tonks?”
“You mean to say, you are in love with Ted Tonks?”
“Yes,” Andromeda whispered, “I am.”
“Oh, good god,” said George, breaking into a strange, jagged sort of laugh.
“Is something amusing, Mr. Vanderpool?” Professor Whitechapel snapped.
“No,” said George, though his body was still shaking with laughter. “No, sir. It’s all terrifically fucking serious.”
Professor Whitechapel narrowed his eyes. “One more word out of you, and I will—“
“Understood,” said George, looking properly chastised. “Yes sir. Yep. Understood.”
“Miss Black,” McGonagall continued, unperturbed by George’s behavior, “let me see if I have understood quite correctly. You are engaged to be married to Rabastan Lestrange, yet you are in love with Ted Tonks.”
“Yes, professor,” Andromeda said evenly.
“And may I safely assume that the two gentlemen in question knew about the part that the other played in your life?”
“Only very recently,” Andromeda said. “That is, Rabastan only knew very recently about my feelings toward Ted.”
“And for this reason,” said McGonagall, “you ran after them both, anticipating something like a—well, like a lovers’ duel?”
“Yes, professor,” whispered Andromeda. “That exactly.”
“Good heavens,” said Professor McGonagall, touching her forehead, “this is most extraordinary. Like something out of a penny dreadful.”
Andromeda winced internally, not at all fond of the way Professor McGonagall was talking—as though she and Ted Tonks were characters from some sordid romance novel. And yet, this was just what Andromeda had hoped for: that both professors would become so distracted by Andromeda’s illicit behavior that they would pay less attention to the greater matters at hand.
“When I arrived,” she said, quick to finish her story, “I found that Ted and Rabastan were already in the throes of a duel. Ted had just managed to knock down Rabastan with a stunning spell, but as you know, they were both in very poor condition—Ted worst of all. I went to his aid immediately, worried that his wounds might be fatal. Only a little after that, George and Lilith appeared with you, Professor Whitechapel. I had told Lilith where I was headed earlier, and I can only assume that she was worried about me.”
“Indeed,” Professor Whitechapel said. “That is precisely what Miss Starker told me. And Mr. Vanderpool, too.”
Andromeda stared between both professors, her heart tight within her chest. Their story, it would seem, checked out.
“So then,” said Andromeda, “you see, Miss Starker and Mr. Vanderpool were absolutely innocent bystanders, and I feel quite horrid for having involved them in any of this when all they were doing was helping a friend. I would so hate for them to be mixed up in any more of this, or for anyone to think that they’d intentionally conspired against those Slytherin boys, which is, of course, ridiculous.”
Andromeda realized, the moment that deluge of words was out of her mouth, that she might have taken it too far. But if she had, the professors made not outward sign of suspicion.
“I see,” said Professor Whitechapel, scratching his chin. “You are concerned that these boys—these Death Eaters as they call themselves—might seek some sort of petty vengeance on your friends here.”
Slowly, Andromeda nodded. “Which is ridiculous, because they’re not at fault. They’re not the snitches. If anyone is to be the object of petty vengeance, it’s me.”
“Good gracious, child,” said Professor McGonagall, “it is our hope that no one will be the object of petty vengeance. We intend to deal swiftly with this issue. Headmaster Dumbledore has already expelled both Mr. Goyle and Mr. Yaxley from the school.”
Andromeda frowned slightly. “Why only Goyle and Yaxley?”
“We performed charms on each of these so-called Death Eaters’ wands to assess the last spells used,” said Professor Whitechapel. “Those were the only two boys who had used illegal curses at the time of their apprehension."
Andromeda hitched in a relieved breath. Lucius hadn’t been convicted, then. She could not and did not want to imagine what state Narcissa would’ve been in if he had.
“Misguided boys,” said Professor McGonagall, shaking her head. “Led on by who knows what kind of corrupted delusion. Goyle and Yaxley will both stand trial, but as they are sixteen and underage, they will do so in a juvenile court. Still, it shan’t be an easy road for either boy. The Dark Arts carries with it severe consequences, which I am afraid they have discovered the hard way. It is the entire faculty’s hope that this punishment will serve as a deterrent to any other student who attempts to follow in such dangerous footsteps.”
“In addition,” said Professor Whitechapel, “the remaining Slytherin boys have received a full month of detention and severe demerits on their record. I hope that all three of you are well aware how low a tolerance Hogwarts has for the practice of the Dark Arts.”
Andromeda nodded stiffly. Professor Whitechapel had turned to look at her alone.
“Miss Black,” he said, “there is one last piece of information that we must ask of you. When you arrived on the scene at the train station, did you witness the use of any illegal or dark activity?”
This was it. This was her chance to tell Professor Whitechapel everything about Rabastan’s sadistic behavior, about the cruciatus, about the attempted killing curse. Unlike Yaxley and Goyle, Rabastan was a legal adult and could be tried as one. He could be sent to Azkaban for the pain he’d inflicted on Ted. Andromeda could still report it all. Even if Rabastan did claim that Andromeda had tortured him, whom would Professor Whitechapel and the rest of the faculty believe: a bigoted, violent boy, or their favorite star student?
But Ted’s words still rang in Andromeda’s mind: Mutually assured destruction. Could she be sure that she herself would not be convicted of the same crimes as Rabastan? Could she risk it?
“No, sir,” she whispered. “No, I didn’t witness any illegal activity.”
Slowly, Professor Whitechapel nodded. He finished a frantic scribble on the parchment and looked over to Professor McGonagall, who was shaking her head as though mystified.
“Positively extraordinary,” she whispered. “The entire matter.”
“But it’s true,” Andromeda pressed.
“Yes,” said Professor McGonagall. “I daresay it is, dear. Why on earth would you wish to fabricate a tale like that?”
Andromeda couldn’t pretend that she didn’t understand McGonagall. It was no secret that the Family Black married purebloods and only purebloods. It was no secret that Ted Tonks was most certainly not a pureblood and that Andromeda had as good as admitted infidelity with a Muggleborn. Strangely, the thought barely bothered her. If the news got out this way, then so be it. She had told Ted earlier, her reputation was already ruined beyond repair.
“That will be all for now,” said Professor Whitechapel. “Thank you all for your cooperation. At this time, we’ll ask that you accompany us back to Hogwarts, where you will be returned to your dormitories and Professor McGonagall and I will consult with Headmaster Dumbledore about any further required action. We may require any one of you to give us additional information or clarification over the course of the next few weeks.”
Andromeda’s chest spasmed at that, but what more could she do? She had spun her tale as best she could and to the benefit of everyone she cared about—everyone, that is, but Ted. Rabastan deserved so much more for what he’d done to Ted than a mere rap on the knuckles. The Hogwarts faculty could kid themselves all they wanted that people like Rabastan Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy would be deterred by a few detentions and demerits, but Andromeda knew better. The boys who called themselves Death Eaters were under direct orders from someone far more powerful, and those orders were not going to let up because of a little disciplinary action.
Everyone in the room rose to their feet, including Andromeda, but she was in the midst of formulating a plan.
“Professor Whitechapel,” she said, “if you please, I really can’t go back to Hogwarts at the moment. I think it’s absolutely necessary that I stay here with Ted. We’re blood bound, you see, and I think that the Healers may need me once they decide on a course of action for Ted's medical treatment.”
Professor Whitechapel stared dumbly at Andromeda for a moment. Then a light of realization crossed his eyes.
“Blood bonds,” he said. “All those weeks ago, when you came to my office asking for a library permission slip. I assumed you were only curious, not that—“
“I didn’t know what to think back then,” said Andromeda. “But it’s very sure and certain now. Ted and I are blood bound, and it’s only fitting that I stay here while he recovers. I’m sure Healer Lennox would agree with me.”
Actually, Andromeda wasn’t at all sure that Healer Lennox would agree with her, but she had a feeling that Professor Whitechapel wouldn’t call her bluff.
“Well,” he said, “this is a delicate situation…”
“We can grant you permission to stay, Miss Black,” cut in Professor McGonagall, “and since you are of age, you need no parent or guardian’s consent to do so. However, it is school policy to inform your family as to the reason why have departed the school’s premises.”
“I understand,” said Andromeda.
Professor McGonagall fixed her with a dark, incisive look. “Do you, my dear? Fully?”
“I understand,” Andromeda repeated, this time with no room for questioning. “I understand exactly what I’m doing, Professor McGonagall. I thank you for your concern.”
A hand caught around Andromeda’s wrist. It was Lilith; her brown eyes were large with worry.
“Darling,” she whispered, “there are better ways to do this. Don’t you think you should come back to school with us and sort things out there?”
Andromeda shook her head. “This is the only way to do it. I’m sorry, dear.”
Tears pricked Lilith’s eyes. Suddenly, she threw herself on Andromeda, wrapping her arms around her in a suffocating hug.
George, who had been watching the whole exchange, now caught eyes with Andromeda. He gave her the slightest of nods.
“Don’t let Ted misbehave too badly,” he said.
There was nothing left to do after that. The professors herded them out of the consultation room and down the hallway. Four of them headed in one direction, toward the lobby of St. Mungo’s, and Andromeda headed in the other, toward Ted’s room.
She glanced back, and then again—a double-take to confirm a sight that she hadn’t expected in the slightest. As George and Lilith walked into the growing darkness of the corridor, their hands touched, joined together at the index finger, one wrapped tightly around the other.
Author's Note: MAH LOVELY READERS. I hope that you will accept this humble offering as penance for the rather unprecedent delay. Now that summer has rolled around, these chapters might be coming out at a more sluggish pace, but rest assured that they are still being written with tender, loving care. Thank you so much for your ongoing reads & reviews!
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Other Similar Stories