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Chapter 32 : Confession
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I know you must be hearing all sorts of things. Don’t believe them, please. I can explain everything. Just wait until we can talk. I’ll be back at Hogwarts in a week’s time. Please let me explain then.
There was no good way to phrase it, no clear path, no clean answer. She wanted more than anything to be in the dormitory with Narcissa, tucked under the covers and giggling away her fears—a reverently observed ritual that she and her sister had observed since they were little girls. If she could just talk to Narcissa, surely she could make her understand. Lilith had understood. Narcissa would, too.
But even if she understood, what was to be done about it? Andromeda knew full well what she had done the day before, in the hospital. She had committed an irrevocable crime against her family: she had chosen the welfare of a Mudblood over the good of her own kin. There could be no forgiveness, no redemption for that. She was going to be cut off. It was only a matter of how and when.
Andromeda meant to take control of the when. The next day, at sunrise, she would arrive at the doorstep of Onyx House. She would request an audience with her parents. She wasn’t even sure if they would grant it to her.
But until then, she had to focus on the tasks at hand, the tasks she had set for herself. She had to send an owl to Narcissa, and after that, she had to make a visit to Gringotts Bank. After the irreversible decisions she’d made at Hogsmeade and then at St. Mungo’s, she knew that she didn’t have much time before her family got wind of things. She had to act quickly.
Spring wind tugged on Andromeda’s long hair as she walked down the cobblestone street. She’d paid a visit to the public owlery first and, before she could lose the nerve, she'd ordered an express owl to deliver her letter straight to Hogwarts. Then she blocked the thought of Narcissa from her mind. If she let her mind dwell there any longer, she felt sure that tears would stop her in her tracks and she would turn to hot, melting wax, right there in the middle of Diagon Alley. And she couldn’t afford to have a breakdown right now. She had to be calm, controlled, cunning—a true lady of the House of Black.
By the time she stepped through the imposing doors of Gringotts Bank, she was a picture of confidence. She strode down the marble atrium with brisk, calculated steps. Her posture was perfect, her chin tilted up, lips pulled back in mild disdain at those who brushed too close. It all came to her as naturally as breathing. After all, this was who she was raised to be; it was in her blood. Her body hummed with the electricity that came with this type of power—the power to not just be in command of herself, but of an entire room, should she choose.
Andromeda would need all the command she could muster at a time like this. Her charm might work on slobbering, hormonally charged Slytherin boys, but she would be dealing with goblins here, who paid little heed to beauty or niceties.
She came to a stop at the first of the tellers—a particularly wizened goblin with a shock of white hair and a nose that seemed to be broken in several places.
“Andromeda Lyra Black,” she announced, her consonants crisp, her vowels lush and round. “Of the House of Black. But of course you knew that.”
She did not smile. She did not preen. Goblins valued business, commerce, above all else. The best approach, Andromeda knew, was to be straight and to the point.
“I’m here to withdraw a rather significant sum from my account,” she said.
The goblin raised one of his thick, white brows. “Yes, Miss Black. Let me just take a look at our records.”
“Very good,” Andromeda said, sounding slightly bored and entirely condescending. “Do make quick work of it. I have an appointment in a half hour’s time.”
The goblin only grunted and shuffled off to retrieve a dusty tome from the shelf behind him. As he opened the book and began his search, Andromeda allowed herself a furtive glance around the room. No one that she recognized, no one who would recognize her. She could only hope that it would remain that way.
The goblin returned to counter, his brow creased and his raisiny lips bunched up.
“You are aware, Miss Black, that your fund is inaccessible until your twenty-first birthday?”
“Oh, I’m well aware,” Andromeda said, beating down the squall of panic in her stomach. “But this is a special fund that my mother set aside for my wedding to Rabastan Lestrange. Surely that is in your records?”
The goblin scowled and adjusted his glasses. He looked back in the book, using his yellow-nailed forefinger as a guide across the paper.
“Ah,” he said. “Yes. I do see that addendum now. An allotment in the amount of two thousand galleons, yes?”
Andromeda kept all expression from her face. She nodded stiffly. “Yes, yes, of course. I’m withdrawing it. All of it.”
“Very good,” said the goblin, without so much as looking up. “I’ll just need your wand as confirmation.”
As directed, Andromeda placed her brittle yew wand upon the counter. The goblin picked it up, inspecting it carefully. Then he scribbled away its specifications in a ledger.
“Do you care to visit the vault yourself?” asked the goblin.
“No, thank you. I’ll wait here.”
“Very good, ma’am. I’ll return shortly.”
Andromeda watched the goblin leave for the vaults, and she allowed herself the smallest of slouches and the shallowest of breaths. She was nearly done. She’d almost pulled it off.
Two thousand galleons. Comparative to the fortune she knew her parents had set aside for her, the money with nothing—mere pennies. It wasn’t much to live on long-term, but it could set Andromeda up as she found a way to support herself on her own. That was all she needed.
When the goblin finally returned, he had a rickety cart in tow. Atop it sat two heavy bronze chests, filled to the brim with two thousand galleon coins.
“Excellent,” said Andromeda. “I’d like these delivered to this address.”
Andromeda slid the sheet of parchment across the counter and into the goblin’s keeping. It was the home address of none other than George Vanderpool. Narcissa's hadn't been the only letter Andromeda sent off earlier. She'd written George, too.
“You’re to place this message inside the first of the chests,” she added, sliding over yet another piece of parchment—this one folded and sealed.
It was a message for Mrs. Vanderpool, explaining Andromeda’s predicament and request for temporary storage. She only hoped that George’s mother was as trustworthy as she was enthusiastic. Andromeda had been forced to her wits' end trying to find a way to send so much money without leaving a trail that would lead directly to Ted. This was the best plan that she'd been able to come up with.
“Will that be all, Miss Black?” asked the goblin, taking both pieces of parchment into his keeping and then proceeding to scribble some more in his ledger.
Andromeda hesitated, just for the briefest of moments. She hadn’t realized it would be so—easy. She’d expected an inquisition, hostility, potential catastrophe. But now her work here was done. She’d carried out her plan, and without a hitch. She felt like weeping with relief. Instead, she only straightened up taller and tilted her chin higher.
“Yes, yes,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. “That’s all. I expect the trunks to be delivered by ten o’clock this evening at the latest. Understood?”
She did not wait for the goblin’s response. She strode off regally, down the atrium and back out into the bustle of Diagon Alley. The sun had begun to set, and gas lights were flickering on. People bustled in the fast-falling shadows, eager to get back to home and family and supper. Andromeda had none of those things to come home to. Still, she’d done what she’d set out to do, and her heart was pounding giddily from the thrill of it.
Her blood was still thrumming with adrenaline when she opened the door of her inn room and nearly cried out from shock. There, sitting stooped on her bed, was Ted—his hair a solid shade of silver.
He looked up immediately, eyes wide and face pale. Andromeda noticed that his irises weren’t silver; they were their normal shade of brown. And Ted didn’t seem to be short of breath, or in much pain at all. Aside from the pallor of his skin and the sheen of his hair, he looked well.
Which Andromeda knew couldn’t be possible. When she’d left Ted the day before, he had been bedridden, convalescing. What sort of shape could he possible be in now?
She slammed the door shut behind her and nearly threw herself on him, sitting down hard on the bed. Her hands landed on his chest, as though to prove to herself that he was there.
“Ted, what were you thinking? How did you even get here?”
“You left,” he said, his voice little more than a whisper. The look in his eyes sent Andromeda’s body into a cold alarm.
“I transformed,” he interrupted, ducking his head down in a sheepish shrug. “And you can yell at me all you want, but considering I haven’t indulged even a sliver of metamorphosing since my treatment began, you can hardly blame me.”
“You mean you flew here?” Andromeda asked. “As a linnet? Ted. You’re recovering from severe injuries as it is!”
“No, no, but I’m getting better,” Ted said with a sudden vehemence. “I’m healing quickly. And even after transforming, I didn’t have so much as an attack. I’m getting better because of you, Dromeda. I think it’s because of the transfusions.”
“But your hair—“ she began, ghosting her fingers just above his ear. Even as she did, she saw that the silvery color was fading back into Ted’s usual blond.
“See?” he said, excitement glinting his eyes. “I’m getting better. I can get better on my own, with your blood in my veins. That’s good news, isn’t it?”
“But you didn’t know that when you metamorphosed. You could’ve been—“ she shook her head, not willing to follow that train of thought “—why are you even here?”
Ted studied his hands. “When Nelson told me you were gone, I thought you’d left for good. I thought you’d given up on me.”
“You were high on pain potion,” Andromeda said, a wry tremor at the corner of her lips. Then, turning more serious, she leaned in. “I would never do that again. I made a promise to you.”
“I was afraid I’d lost you.”
“I told Nelson that I was just an owl away.”
“I don’t mean like that.”
Cautiously, Andromeda placed her hand on the crook of Ted’s arm. She studied the worn, lint-pocked fabric of his shirt. She turned over words in her head, trying to decide how to voice them. But before she could, Ted spoke up again.
“Do you remember the first time we met?”
“I—“ Andromeda frowned. “I told you to fuck off, didn’t I?”
A smile tinged Ted’s lips, but he shook his head. “No, I don’t mean last year. I mean when we first met. When we were first years. You probably don’t even remember, do you?”
Guilt stabbed at Andromeda. “No,” she admitted.
“We were on the Hogwarts Express, and you were walking, just walking down the corridors. I came out of my compartment and ran into you, and I dropped my carton of Bertie Bott’s. You knelt down right there in the corridor and helped me pick them up. And then Bellatrix came up just behind you and told you to quit helping a Mudblood. You must’ve not known before, because the way you reacted…. You threw the candies back to the floor like they’d burned you. And the look you gave me?“ Ted let out a low laugh, shaking his head. “God. It was pure hatred.”
“Ted,” Andromeda whispered. “Ted, I didn’t—“
“You didn’t know any better,” he interrupted, lifting his eyes to hers. “No, I know that now. We were only eleven. But it stayed with me all the same. I thought of you as a girl filled with hate. Beautiful, intelligent, yes, but positively hateful. And so it didn’t faze me when we met again and you treated me like shit. I just thought to myself, ‘Well, no surprise there, that’s just how she is.’ It’s only when you started to change that I—I had difficulty adjusting. I’d thought of you as some bigoted aristo for so long that I found I couldn’t shake it. I assumed the worst about you, always.”
“Ted. There’s no need for you to—“
“There’s plenty need,” Ted said heatedly. “You were right: I haven’t had any faith in you. I haven’t been willing to accept that you’ve changed. And I realize now how monumentally awful I must’ve been making you feel—throwing what you said back in your face all the time. It’s been petty and condescending and wrong.”
Andromeda had begun to cry. She pressed the backs of her hands to her eyes and dragged in a steadying breath.
“I didn’t think you’d ever change your mind,” Ted whispered. “I didn’t think it was possible.”
“You changed my mind,” Andromeda said. “I’m irreparably damaged because of you.”
Ted looked on the verge of a reply, but Andromeda cut him off.
“And no, that doesn’t mean I regret meeting you, or knowing you, or anything about you. You have to stop thinking that way, Ted, in that self-deprecating way. I’m the one who chooses what I regret and whom I resent, and that isn’t you. It could never be you.”
Stiltedly, Ted nodded. “All right.”
“Do you believe me?” Andromeda pressed. “You still don’t believe me, do you?”
Ted breathed out a jagged puff. Andromeda nudged her knee gently against his and studied him, waiting for a reply.
“You say that now,” he said, “but later, you’ll—“
Andromeda gripped her fingers hard into his arm. Startled, Ted looked up.
“You aren’t going to lose me,” she said. “I love you.”
She felt his arm tense under her touch. She heard his breathing take a pause.
There. It was done now.
“Are you—“ Ted’s voice went foggy, distorted. He began again. “Do you mean that?”
She stared straight at him, unblinking. “I love you, Ted Tonks. I’m not going to change my mind.”
He kissed her. And for the first time, there was no confusion, no uncertainty. It was simple kiss, and it was honest, and it filled Andromeda with a rush of calm.
When Ted pulled away, he rested his forehead against hers.
“I love you so much it terrifies me," he said.
Andromeda smiled. “That’s a comfort to know. I think we’ve been circling around the matter for some time now.”
Ted let out a hoarse laugh. “We’re idiots.”
“I didn’t know how to tell you,” Andromeda admitted lowly. “I didn’t know it was even happening until I was too deep in it anyway, and I’ve made such of mess of things in the meantime. I botched it all up.”
“We’ve both been fumbling around,” he said. “It’s my fault as much as yours. Yesterday—“
“We should’ve talked things through,” Andromeda finished.
Ted pushed back the loose strands of hair hanging in her eyes. He leaned in and placed a kiss on her forehead.
“So we’ll talk them through,” he said.
Andromeda curled against his side in exhausted relief, careful to steer clear of his healing ribs. She slipped an arm around his back as he slipped one around her shoulder. Nestled close, their backs to the wall, they talked.
Andromeda told Ted her plans. She told him about the trip to Gringotts and the delivery of the galleons to the Vanderpool house. She told him about the letter to Narcissa and about her intention to travel to Onyx House in the morning.
“I’m scared,” she admitted. “I used to think that my family wanted only the best for me, even if their definition of ‘best’ didn’t always match mine. But now, after what Aunt Walburga did to me, after all of this—I don’t trust them.”
“Don’t go.” Ted whispered against her neck. “Dromeda, please don’t. I have a horrible feeling about it. You don’t know that they won’t hurt you. You don’t know if they’ll curse you or coerce you. Why can’t you just tell them the way things are in a letter?”
She looked at him for a long moment. “If you'd had the say goodbye to your Mum and your Dad in person, would you have taken it?”
Ted didn’t answer, but the look was written on his face.
“They’re still my family,” she said. “They’ve been everything to me, my whole world. I’m not going to write that off with a letter. They deserve to hear my reasons to their faces. And I want to be the one to initiate that, to set the record straight. Even if they despise me, even if they threaten me, even if they burn my name from every record book—they deserve to know the truth.”
“What is the truth?”
She released a long sigh. “That I’m not the Andromeda that they raised anymore. That I refuse to be trapped in a loveless marriage. That I refuse for my academic goals to be dismissed. That I want my own future. That someone taught me how inane my purist ideas were, and that I fell in love with that someone.”
Ted’s soft smile was short-lived. He shook his head, an awful thought clouding his features. “If they hurt you, Dromeda, I swear to God—“
“I’ll be fine,” Andromeda said, rubbing her hand soothingly along his spine. “And when it’s all over, I’ll come back to you. I promise.”
They fell asleep that way, dressed in their day clothes, arms wrapped around each other, slumped against the wall. When dawn woke her, Andromeda slipped off the bed, trying not to rouse Ted, but that had proved impossible.
He watched her intently as she readied to leave.
“You’ll be back tonight?” he asked. “At the latest?”
Andromeda laughed softly. “Merlin, Ted. You sound so anxious.”
“I am,” he said, and Andromeda began to laugh again, but when she looked back up, she realized that he was completely serious.
“I just need to know,” he said, “when I should start to worry.”
“I don’t want you to worry at all,” Andromeda said.
“I’m afraid that’s an inevitable side effect of being desperately in love with you.”
Andromeda placed the flat of her palm to his cheek. Gingerly, she brushed her thumb across his skin, just under the outline of his blackened eye. She felt suddenly shy, exposed. Ted had never looked at her this way before, as though she were more precious than the two thousand galleons she’d shipped off to the Vanderpool’s.
“You need to get back home,” she murmured. “Nelson is probably worried sick.”
“I charmed my bedroom to snore,” Ted said, “and I left a note for when he finally got savvy.”
“Go home,” Andromeda instructed. “I'll meet you there tonight."
Ted nodded, but just as Andromeda was turning away, he tugged her back in to a kiss, long and deep. She pulled away grinning, he pulled away somber.
“Stop that,” she said, brushing his nose. “Everything’s going to be fine.”
And with that, she apparated away to Onyx House.
Vivi, the house elf, opened the door—and that was when Andromeda should have known that something was off. It wasn’t that Vivi didn’t normally open the door for guests, but when Andromeda was the guest, Vivi was invariably full of happy squeals and giggles. Andromeda was Vivi’s favorite of the masters at Onyx House, which may have had something to do with the fact that she snuck the little house elf candies and soda pops when no one else was watching.
But today, Vivi’s usual cheer was replaced by a startled, jittery demeanor.
“Oh, Mistress Black,” she squeaked, her eyes watery and wide as she opened the door. “D-d-do come in.”
Andromeda followed Vivi inside the dim entryway, rubbing her hands across her arms against the chill. There was no fire burning in the atrium fireplace, which was highly unusual. The Blacks spared no expense in keeping their estate warm during long winters and cold spring mornings like this one.
“Are my parents in?” Andromeda asked, her eyes slipping about the room in search of movement.
“Yes, mistress,” Vivi replied, her voice tremulous. “Oh yes, they have both been waiting for Mistress Andromeda to arrive.”
“I see,” Andromeda said, trying to ignore the fear rising in her gut.
Vivi led her down the dim hallway and through two gilded gold doors, into the library. There, a fire had been lit, and around it sat four figures known very well to Andromeda. Her mother and father sat on one side of the flames, Bellatrix and Aunt Walburga on the other.
“Mistress Andromeda,” rasped Vivi, before giving a hurried curtsey and fleeing the room. As she left, the door swung behind her in a slam, then locked shut with a definitive click.
Aunt Walburga put away her wand with a simper, her eyes fixed on Andromeda.
“Well, my dear girl,” she said. “What to do with you?"
Author's Note: Hi all! Thank you, thank you for your patience as I continue Tedromeda's story. It's been a hectic summer, but I've been eager to finish and upload this chapter for a while now! Many thanks for the ongoing, encouraging reviews, and I hope you continue to enjoy the read. :]
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