[ Printer Friendly Version ] [ Report Abuse ]
Chapter 33 : Curse
| ||Rating: Mature||Chapter Reviews: 7|
Background: Font color:
She knew now. She knew what a mistake this had been. But she had wanted to see her parents one last time. She had wanted to tell them her reasons. She’d wanted to take the higher road, to clear her conscience.
But she knew now, as she looked into the cold, unforgiving eyes of her family, as she watched her mother turn her face away, watched Aunt Walburga simper—she knew that she had wanted so many impossible things.
This wouldn’t end well.
“I came here to explain—”
Andromeda’s words were cut off by Walburga’s shrieking laugh.
“Oh, you’ve come to explain,” she said. “Do you hear that Druella? Cygnus? I told you that she’d been brainwashed. She thinks there’s a logical explanation to her actions.”
Druella Black still had her head turned away, her hand shielding her eyes from Andromeda. She was trembling.
“Mother,” Andromeda tried, her voice pleading as she took a step forward.
“Do not address her.”
It was her father who spoke now. He looked at Andromeda with vacant eyes, as though he were seeing through her, as though she were little more in his field of vision than a tapestry or an urn.
“You’ve put your mother through enough,” said Cygnus Black. “You have dishonored her, and you have shamed me, and we wash our hands of you.”
“Please,” Andromeda whispered. “Father, please, if you would only listen—“
But her father raised his hand in a jagged movement. “I don’t wish to hear anymore. You’ve shamed us. You're dead to us. It pains me to even hear your voice."
Andromeda had promised herself that she would not cry. She’d known that her parents would have no choice but to disown her. She'd known that, and she had prepared herself for the inevitable. So what would be the point in tears? Yet the tears came, fast and hot and silent. She stared at her parents, still willing her mother to look at her.
“Walburga has been kind enough to assume responsibility of this matter from here on out,” Cygnus continued. “She will deal with you.”
“W-what?” Andromeda shifted her gaze to Walburga.
Her aunt’s simper had turned into a scowl of annoyance.
“Well, really, Andromeda, dear,” she said. “Surely you can’t have come here intending to let loose a barrage of abuse on your poor parents. They don’t want to hear your vulgar excuses.”
“Then—then there’s nothing left to be said.” Andromeda glanced frantically back at the library doors. “I’ll just be on my way. You can burn me from your memory.”
“But that isn’t how things are settled in the House of Black,” said Walburga, folding her fingers in her lap. “You know that.”
“Mother,” Andromeda whispered again. “Father, please, you don’t have to--“
“I can’t do this. Cygnus, I can’t.”
Druella’s voice was broken, weary. Her whole body shuddered as Cygnus rose to his feet and helped her to do the same. He guided her toward the single paneled door that led from the library to his study. Not once did either of them look back at her. Neither spoke another word. Andromeda watched in a blanched stupor as her parents disappeared behind the mahogany door.
It had been as simple as that. They had cut her out of their lives forever, and they hadn't looked back.
Andromeda was left standing before Aunt Walburga—and Bellatrix. Her sister had remained conspicuously quiet until now, though Andromeda had felt her incisive eyes on her at all times. She had always known where Bellatrix’s feelings would fall on this matter. She had been prepared for that. But she hadn’t expected Bellatrix to be here at Onyx House. She hadn’t expected that she would ever see her again.
“At last,” said Walburga. “Just us girls. I do hope that you don’t mind my inviting your sister to watch, dear, but she was curious to know what the protocol was for disownment of a blood traitor.”
Andromeda took a step back toward the double doors of the library. Then another step.
“Hasn’t it already been done?” she asked. “I’ve been cast out. What more is there to it? I’ll just leave.”
She turned heel and headed for the doors, but when she reached them and tugged on their handles, they didn’t budge. She pulled out her wand, but Walburga spoke up.
“That won’t do any good, love. Not in this house. Not with me.”
It happened in an instant. Andromeda went cold. It felt as though her blood had turned to an icy sludge. Her limbs went limp, and her back slammed hard against the doors. This was no mere body bind. This was dark magic.
Walburga had risen from her chair, wand aloft, that same simper stitched across her face. She walked toward Andromeda in slow, long strides while Bellatrix looked on, eyes wide. Bella didn’t look scared, though; she looked fascinated.
“Do you know how very seriously we take treachery in this household?” Walburga came to a halt just feet from where she held Andromeda paralyzed. “Did you think that you’d be able to come in here, spew that filth at your family, and be done with us? There is a final punishment that must be exacted in cases such as these. Your parents hadn’t the heart for it, but I have no scruples about such matters.”
“You heard my father,” Andromeda whispered, straining hard to make her voice audible. “He no longer considers me a Black. So you have no right to inflict whatever sadistic familial chastisement you have in mind. Just let me go, and you'll never see me again.”
“Oh, I know I won't,” Aunt Walburga said, running her fingertips along the edge of her wand. “That’s why we’ve got to make this last meeting of ours special. Memorable. I want to give you something to remember us by, darling. Reminders you’ll carry for the rest of your life.”
Dread, pure and despairing, came over Andromeda. How, she wondered, could she have been so stupid? How could she have thought that her parents would do nothing more than cast her out? She had prepared herself for that. What she hadn’t planned on was staring down Aunt Walburga under the relentless hold of dark magic.
Aunt Walburga inhaled, and her face was suddenly overcome by disgust.
“I can smell him on you,” she hissed. “Filthy Mudblooded stench. You reek of it. You’re drenched in it.”
“Good,” Andromeda said. “Better than the stench of a pureblooded bigot.”
Aunt Walburga’s eyes narrowed. She was quiet for a long moment. Then her lips broke up in a smile. She grabbed Andromeda’s right arm, limp from the paralysis curse. She turned it over, tsking loudly.
“It’s very unfortunate,” she said, “that skin as lovely as yours should ever be tainted. But then, we must keep in mind that it has already been tainted by a Mudblood. How did he do it then, hm? How did he seduce a Lady of the House of Black? How wanton must you have been to stoop so low? Just how many Mudbloods have you whored yourself out to?”
Andromeda trembled, but she could do nothing to calm her body or to move its muscles.. All she could do was stare Walburga straight in the eye and say, with cool vehemence, “I’m not a whore. I love him.”
Walburga laughed—a short, shrill burst. “That’s as good as saying that you’re in love with a cockroach, or a common beetle.”
“You can say what you like,” said Andromeda. “I don’t believe those lies. I know better, because I know him, and he is nothing like what you taught me to believe. He’s compassionate and intelligent and talented and good—something you will never comprehend.”
“Good?” Walburga laughed again. “The definition of 'good' depends entirely on whose eyes you’re looking through. For instance, what I’m about to do might be frowned upon by certain members of magical society. But to us Blacks, it is the highest form of kindness. Remember that, Andromeda. I’m doing this for your own good.”
She set the tip of her wand to the underside of Andromeda’s forearm. Andromeda, powerless to do anything, found herself locking eyes with Bellatrix. She didn’t try to plead with Bella, try to gain her sympathy. She knew the reason Bella hadn’t said a word to her this entire time: Andromeda was already dead to her, the same as she was dead to her parents, to all the Blacks.
That’s when Andromeda thought of it—a technicality that hadn’t crossed her mind until now. Sirius. Dear Merlin, how was she ever going to explain this to Sirius? Was she even going to get the chance?
“Bellatrix,” said Walburga, shaking Andromeda from her thoughts. “Are you watching, Bella? Watch closely. This is what we do to traitors.”
Pain screamed through Andromeda's veins, white and hot.
She didn’t want to be here, on his doorstep. It was cruel to him, and crueler to herself.
But she had promised.
And she was still his cure.
And there was nowhere else for her to go.
So Andromeda found herself standing before the cheery green door of the Tonks residence, convincing herself to knock. She’d been convincing herself for five full minutes but instead just spent the time tugging on the sleeve of her right arm and telling her chest to calm down, calm down. Still, her heart kept racing, her throat kept tightening, and she had to swallow down hard to keep away the tears.
Unbidden, the memory of Aunt Walburga jolted into her brain.
“See if he wants you now, Mudblood whore.”
The green door swung open. All breath left Andromeda’s system. She stared at Ted, and he stared back. He gave her a brief once over, and then relief slackened his worried face.
“You’re okay,” he said, reaching out his arms.
But Andromeda backed away as though Ted had threatened her with a blow. She shook her head vehemently.
“Don’t touch me,” she whispered.
As though he hadn’t heard, Ted took another step forward, arms still outstretched, the worry back in his eyes.
“Dromeda, what’s wrong?”
“She 's cursed me,” Andromeda said. “Aunt Walburga, she— “
“What did she do to you?” Ted’s voice raised the hairs on Andromeda’s arms. “Merlin, Dromeda, what did she—“
“You just can’t touch me,” Andromeda whispered. “Okay? Not—not right now. Not until we sort things out. Please, just—can I please just come in?”
Ted remained still for a moment, his breathing hard. Then he shook his head, as though he had just been thrown back into the land of the living.
“Of course,” he said. “Of course you can.”
Andromeda followed him inside, and a sudden rush of calm came over her. This place. This dirty, threadbare, ill-kept place. It felt familiar. It felt safe. She closed her eyes and breathed in.
“You shouldn’t be up and about,” she said weakly. “You should be resting.”
“No one else is in,” said Ted. “Nelson had to go in to the factory. And anyway, you look like you could use far more rest than I could.”
He sunk down on the parlor couch and motioned for Andromeda to do the same. She did hesitantly, as far from him as she could manage. She wrapped her arms around her middle and bowed her head. Her right arm still stung terribly.
“They’ve disowned me,” she said. The words dropped off her tongue like heavy stones. “They cast me out, just like I thought they would. Before they let me leave, Aunt Walburga cursed me.”
“What kind of curse?” Ted reached out as thought to touch her arm, caught himself, and cursed under his breath. “What did she do to you?”
Andromeda had a strange and awful urge to burst out laughing. She found herself smiling out of the sheer lack of another proper physical way to express the jagged emotions inside.
“It’s terrifbly appropriate,” she said, staring at her folded hands. “Magnificently clever, really. She has a sick sense of humor.”
“What did she do?” Ted pressed, anger crisping the edges of his word.
“There’s an old rumor amongst purebloods, you know, that if a Muggleborn touches you, your skin will burn to the bone.”
Ted waited for a long while, eyes searching hers. Andromeda knew he expected her to go on, but when she didn’t, the realization crept into his face.
“That’s dark magic," Ted said lowly. “A curse like that is—it’s illegal, Dromeda. You have to report her. You have to—“
“No!” Tears sprang to Andromeda’s eyes. “I can’t do that. She’s my family.”
“She’s no family of yours,” spat Ted, jumping to his feet. “She doesn’t love you. She doesn’t care one jot that you’re family. She’s disowned you, hasn’t she? What loyalty do you have to any of them? We’ll march straight to the Ministry today and—“
“And what?” Andromeda asked, her voice breaking. “File a formal complaint? Then stand as a witness before the Wizengamot, under the stares of my entire family, and spout off damning evidence against my own flesh and blood? To make accusations and—and talk about personal details in front of a whole court while Cissa looks on? I won’t. You’ve no idea what you’re asking me to do.”
“So what, then?” said Ted. “That’s it? You let her win. I can never touch you again. We can never be together because of some sadistic curse. And I’m curious—just who can’t touch you? Is it anyone and everyone?”
“The curse only applies to Muggleborns,” Andromeda said. “She intended it for you.”
Ted closed his eyes. He sunk back to the couch, jaw taut and locked. He was shaking.
“I shouldn’t have let you go. What was I thinking? I shouldn’t have—I knew….”
The words broke into a low sob.
“Ted,” Andromeda whispered, but her hands lay limp in her lap, useless to comfort him. “Reporting it wouldn’t do any good. It would only hurt the family I still do care about, and—and it’s not as though anyone else can reverse the curse for me. To do so would mean using dark magic again, and the Ministry wouldn’t allow it.”
Ted had grown very still. His cheeks were red and raw, his eyes bloodshot.
“What’s the caveat, then?”
Andromeda tried to act like she didn’t understand, like she hadn’t heard him properly. But Andromeda had heard Ted clearly, and she understood exactly what he was asking.
“The caveat,” said Ted. “Every dark curse has one. It’s the only way such dark magic is allowed to take root—if there is one caveat, no matter how awful, that reverses the curse. It’s been that way time out of mind. I wrote a whole paper on it for Whitechapel’s class. You know. You proofread it for me.”
“I know,” Andromeda whispered.
“Then what is it?”
Andromeda shut her eyes. “Ted—“
“What is it?”
“That you marry me.”
Andromeda let out a phlegm-coated laugh. “That’s what will break the curse. You can only touch me again if you marry me, and if you never break that vow.”
Ted’s face was creased with confusion. “But--but that doesn’t make any sense. Isn’t that the very opposite of what your family wants?”
“My aunt is clever,” said Andromeda, “but she thinks the worst of Muggles, Ted. She thinks that I’m your whore. That you’ve used me only for my body, and that I’ve stupidly fallen in love. And she thinks that the moment you find out—“
Ted interrupted. “The moment I can’t touch you, I’ll abandon you. That’s what she thinks, isn’t it? She thinks she’s teaching you a lesson. And that the idea I’d want to marry you like a decent human is so inconceivable, so ludicrous, she made it the one cure to her curse.”
Andromeda let out another broken laugh. “Well, it is ludicrous, isn’t it?” she said. “The thought of us marrying.”
Ted blinked. “What’s ludicrous about it? I love you. And you love me, too. Isn't that the necessary qualification for getting married?”
Andromeda stared up at him. “Ted. We’re seventeen.”
“We’re seventeen,” Ted agreed, “and I’m in love with you.”
Andromeda sat up straight, incredulous. “Do you even hear yourself? We’re seventeen. We haven’t even taken our N.E.W.T.s. We haven’t found careers for ourselves; we don’t even know what we’re doing with our lives, where our money is going to come from.”
“That doesn’t matter if—“
“I don’t even want children!”
She’d spat the words out as though they were bitter liquid. An awful silence wrapped around the two of them.
It was so absolutely preposterous that they were having this conversation. Andromeda had only just admitted her feelings to Ted, and even though those feelings were overwhelming and altogether terrifying, that didn’t meant that marriage had been anywhere on her radar.
She hadn’t even thought of marriage in any context save as a pureblood institution, as the partnership she’d entered into with Rabastan Lestrange. She’d never once thought of how the fact that she didn’t want children would affect Ted Tonks, of all people.
Now that she’d let herself think of it, just for this slip of a moment, it was painfully clear:
Of course Ted Tonks would want children.
“We might love each other very much,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean we’re meant to be together. Does it?”
“You shouldn’t feel obligated,” Andromeda cut back in. “I didn’t leave my family for you. I—I mean, I did technically, but it wasn’t some big romantic gesture. It’s not as though I’m in need of saving now that I’m on my own. I’m perfectly capable. I’ve got the money from Gringotts, and I don’t need you to take pity on me or feel as though you have to do anything for—“
“Dromeda, I swear to God, if I could touch you right now, I’d be snogging you so hard.”
Andromeda beat down on the couch in frustration. “But I don’t want you to snog me! Don’t you see? I don’t want to make you do something you regret. I don’t want to marry you!”
Ted was looking at her so sharply that it frightened her.
“Well, it’s a good thing I haven’t asked you, isn’t it?”
“I—“ Andromeda shook her head, turning red. “No, of course. You’re right. You haven’t.”
“I seem to remember,” said Ted, “a certain someone telling me that I couldn’t make her decisions for her. That I couldn’t protect her from herself. That if she wanted to take a risk, it was hers to take.”
“Look, I know where you’re going with this, and I—“
“This isn’t just some teenage fling, Dromeda. You and I both know that it’s more than that. It’s something neither of us can even fully understand. You know.”
“I know,” Andromeda said lowly.
“I can’t imagine a life without you in it,” said Ted. “Not anymore. If that makes me pathetic, then I’m pathetic. But if it’s a matter of marrying you or never touching you again, of living in fear if you and I ever get too close—Dromeda, we were made to be close. We’ve got our blood in each other’s veins, for Merlin’s sake.”
“But there are other things to consider! Intimate things.”
Ted raised a brow. “Are you talking about sex?”
Andromeda’s stomach fluttered. “I—I’m talking about everything having to do with it.”
Ted sighed. He scratched at his ear. Then he scratched at his nose.
“So yeah,” he said, “one day I’d like to be a dad. I think I’d be pretty good at it, you know? But I don’t want that anytime soon, and if it’s the one thing that stands in the way of us being together, then I don’t want it at all.”
“Give me an alternative.”
Andromeda balked. “W-what?”
“If we don’t break this curse,” said Ted, “tell me what will happen.”
“I can’t say,” said Andromeda weakly.
“Your Aunt Walburga is an idiot,” said Ted. “She can’t understand altruism, can’t understand love. She can’t possibly comprehend what you and I have. Don’t you think we ought to prove her wrong?”
The resolve came on, strong and sudden. Andromeda straightened tall, her face set in hard determination.
“I don’t want you to ask me,” she said.
Ted's eyes darkened.
“Right,” he said, getting up from the couch. “Right. Well, you should be resting. I should be fetching you tea or shipping you off to St. Mungo’s to get looked over, or—“
“No, I’m fine.” Heat washed over Andromeda, and with it piping serving of shame. “You’re the one who’s still injured. You should be resting. I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine,” Ted said. He sounded angry. “Neither of us is. You’ve been cursed, and I’ve been ripped up, and all I want to do is fucking hold you, and it’s the one thing I can’t do.”
Andromeda twisted her hands together. “I wish you could hold me, too,” she whispered.
“I hate your family.”
Ted was livid—Andromeda had no doubt of it now. He was angrier than she’d ever seen him.
“I don’t mind saying it now,” Ted went on. “I despise them. They’re soulless, calloused, bigoted monsters.”
“That isn’t true!” cried Andromeda. “Whatever they’ve done, they’re still my family. And Cissa and Sirius, they’re—“
Cissa. Sirius. Would she even get the chance to see them again, back at Hogwarts?
“They’re not all monsters,” she concluded. “You don’t think I’m a monster, do you?”
“No,” said Ted quickly, turning to face her. “Of course I don’t think that.”
“Because I’ve used dark magic, too. So I suppose that doesn’t make me much different from—“
“You know it’s not like that. I didn’t mean it that way.”
“Why on earth would you want to marry into that, Ted? You’re not thinking it through. You would be—be binding yourself to that.”
“I don’t need to think it through. To me, it’s black and white. I would do anything to be with you, even if it was scary and sudden and not entirely wise.”
Andromeda said nothing in reply, but the weight of the words she’d spoken before still hung in the room, clinging to the air like stale smoke.
I don’t want you to ask.
“Madame Finley comes tomorrow morning,” said Ted. “She’ll look me over, make a prognosis. Then you can stop by the Vanderpool’s for your money and catch an afternoon train.”
“You, too,” said Andromeda. “You’re coming back to Hogwarts with me. We still have school to finish. We still have our N.E.W.T.s.”
Ted smiled grimly. A terrible suspicion crept over Andromeda.
“Ted,” she said. “You’re going back to Hogwarts, aren’t you?”
Ted toed a splintered floorboard, and Andromeda noticed for the first time just how worn and weathered his shoes were.
“I’ve received a job offer,” he said. “I got an owl a week back from Quidditch Monthly. One of the editors there came to a match. He said he’d heard about my medical problems and thought it a real shame that I wouldn’t get picked up professionally, but that he thought I’d make a good addition to their staff.”
“How would he know that?" asked Andromeda.
“Erm.” Ted dragged his hand along his neck. “I may have been sending in some pieces every so often—you know, just anonymous work, letters to the editor, that sort of thing.”
“They offered you a job?”
“Here in London,” said Ted, “which is perfect, you know. It means I can stay here with Nelson. George is all gung-ho for some Ministry job, so he’d be around, too. It doesn’t make much sense to loll around school for months when I’ve got a steady form of employment already waiting for me.”
“But your degree,” said Andromeda. “Surely that counts for something. It would be such a waste to spend seven years of study only to—“
“Look, I’m not like you, Dromeda, all right? I don’t need top marks or some fancy certificate for affirmation. I need money and I need some type of stability, and this is my best offer.”
“You could still play—“
“No, I can’t. I know myself, and I know the game. I won’t ever be playing professionally. I’m too fucked up.”
“So what?” said Andromeda. “You’re just going to stay here and take the job? That’s it? No more Hogwarts, no more classes? You’re not even going to say goodbye to your friends?”
“I don’t have any incentive to go back there,” said Ted. “The friends I care about, I’ll see again in my own time. And if I’m perfectly honest, I don’t want to go back there and burn under the eyes of everyone who’s heard about what happened in Hogsmeade. And believe me, everyone will have heard about it.”
Hogsmeade. Andromeda hadn’t even thought of what it would be like when she returned to Hogwarts. What horrible aftermath awaited her there? Would Rabastan be returning as well? Would she be allowed back into the Slytherin dormitories, blood traitor that she was? Would Narcissa even acknowledge her existence?
Suddenly, the thought of Hogwarts was no longer a warm light that Andromeda could look forward to at the end of all this pain. The ramifications of what she’d done at Hogsmeade would reach her, even there. Especially there.
“If that’s what you want,” Andromeda said softly, “then I’m very happy for you. It seems you’ve more of a future than I do.”
Ted looked at her strangely, but he said nothing.
“You should be resting,” she said. “You should be back in your room. I’ll just sleep on the sofa, if it’s quite all right with you and Nelson. What time will Madame Finley be arriving in the morning?”
“Eight o’clock, if that suits.”
“Suits just fine,” Andromeda said, busying herself with an attempt to fluff the one pillow on the couch—a ratty, limp thing that defied fluffing.
“You’re sure you’re not in any pain?” Ted asked lowly. “She didn’t do anything else to you?”
Instinctively, Andromeda felt at her right forearm, still hidden by her sleeve. The broken, puckered skin stung at her touch, but she didn’t wince, didn’t give any indication of the pain.
“No, I’m fine,” she whispered. “It’s you who’s worse off, I told you.”
Slowly, Ted nodded. He lingered by the couch, as though he were debating whether or not to say something.
Andromeda tugged her legs up to her chest, careful not to look at him.
“I’m tired,” she said. “I’d like to sleep now, if you don't mind."
Ted padded over to the staircase. Then he stopped, turned, and said the thing he must’ve been debating until now.
“I love you, Dromeda.”
Pain welled in Andromeda’s chest, sharp and acidic. She nodded mutely and could do nothing but watch as Ted walked up the stairs, the slightest limp in his step.
I love you, too.
But it’s not enough.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Other Similar Stories