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Chapter 36 : Dissonance & Resolve
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Andromeda stood over her trunk, tossing in clothes left and right. She didn’t have nearly the collection that Narcissa had siphoned out via the fifth year Phoebe, but it was enough to keep her occupied for several minutes. It was enough for her to tell Lilith her plans. And Lilith was, understandably, still in a state of bewilderment.
“But your N.E.W.T.s!” she cried. “Those mean everything to you. You’re just going to leave, right in the middle of exam week?”
“I thought they meant everything to me,” said Andromeda. “Then I had a revelation.” She glanced up at Lilith, well aware she must have looked wild-eyed. “And then it came to me, while I was talking to Professor McGonagall—“
“Wait! When were you talking to—“
Andromeda flapped her hands impatiently. “It’s a long story. The short of it is that I’ve been a complete and utter idiot, Lilith. I love him.” Andromeda’s wild-eyed grew wilder. “I love him.”
Lilith’s own eyes grew brighter. “So, you’re going back for him?” She began to bounce on the balls of her feet. “You’re going to, what, tell him you’re sorry?”
Andromeda nodded fervently. “I’ve been living all this while thinking I can’t have success and love, too. And I just realized. I just made sense of it all. I can do both. I can. I will. And in the end, no matter what happens, love is a success in and of itself. I mean, don’t you think so? Don’t you think it’s rather rare, finding someone like Ted? And how could I let him go?”
Lilith’s next words came out as a squeal. “This is too romantic!” Her face fell a little. “But wait. But your N.E.W.T.s, Andie. Stop getting me distracted. Your N.E.W.T.s!”
“I’ll take up make-up examinations. I’ll sort something out. McGonagall even mentioned a possible arrangement that would let me bypass them altogether. I will make it happen, because I’m determined, and I’m damn smart. I can do all those things later. But you know what I can’t do later?”
Lilith smiled maniacally. “Throw yourself onto Ted Tonks?”
“It all came to me, Lilith,” said Andromeda, haphazardly tossing in a handful of stockings and knee-highs. “It’s suddenly so clear. He said I was leaving because I was scared. He said I was leaving because I could do better than him. And I was scared, but he was so horribly wrong about the other part. When I left him, I confirmed everything he feared. And the only way I can make that right is by going back.”
Lilith had gone very quiet. Andromeda looked up from her packing and found that Lilith—strong, sharp Lilith—was crying.
“Wha—what’s wrong?” she stammered.
“Nothing,” Lilith said, dabbing furiously at her eyes. “Nothing, I’m just happy for you is all. The way you talk, it’s like—it’s like you really know what you want.”
Andromeda gripped the edge of her trunk, thoughtful. “I do,” she said quietly. “I do know what I want. For once in my life, I know it with complete certainty."
“And that means you’re going to leave me,” Lilith said. “It means you’re really going to be out of this place. Out of this circle. Out of this world.”
Andromeda began to understand. This world. The world she’d known her entire life. The world of purebloods and aristocracy and cushioned living. She’d never really thought of Lilith as part of that world. Lilith Starker had always been so independent in her thinking, so flippant when it came to typical pureblood rules. But Lilith was part of that world, and Andromeda was leaving it.
She crossed to where Lilith sat, leaned against the bedpost. She enfolded her friend in a tight hug. Lilith cried softly against her shoulder.
“Sorry,” she sniffled. “This is embarrassing.”
“I’m not leaving you,” Andromeda whispered. “You know that, right? As long as you want to, we’ll still be friends.”
“As long as I—“ Lilith yanked away, fixing Andromeda with an almighty glare. “You idiot, of course I’m going to be your friend. Always. Don’t be so absurd.”
Andromeda smiled through tears. She tried not to think of Narcissa. She tried and failed. It wasn’t so absurd, was it? To think that Lilith would fade out of her life? After all, almost everyone else she knew had cut her out as though she’d been little more than a spare piece of thread.
“How’re you going?”
“Knight Bus,” said Andromeda, wiping away a few hanging tears as she shut the trunk lid and latched it up. “As it so happens, that is that fastest way from here to London. When the express isn’t running, anyway.”
“It’ll be a long trip,” Lilith said. “You won’t show up until, what, the middle of the night?”
Andromeda bit her thumb. “Oh. Right. I hadn’t thought of that.”
“Well, don’t let that stop you,” said Lilith, grinning. “I think it’s perfect. You showing up at his doorstep in the dead of night. The only thing missing is a torrential downpour. Oh, I do hope it rains.”
It was raining.
The deluge had begun just outside the city and only increased in fervor since. Raindrops spattered against the bus roof like bullet fire, and Andromeda huddled her knees close to her chest, staring at the streets of London as they flashed outside the window, coated in distorted streetlights and the slick sheen of rain.
And then, through the sheen, a green door.
They had reached Ted’s townhouse.
Andromeda didn't bother with an umbrella as she left the bus. She didn't bother, because she didn't have one. She'd packed all of her belongings in that trunk, which she had shipped separately to George Vanderpool's address. (She reasoned that she was already imposing on the Vanderpools with her money, so she might as well with her all her other worldly possessions.) Rain quickly sopped through her hair and dress and she hurried up the stairs to the front door of the Tonks house. Before she could lose the courage, she knocked.
And then she began to doubt herself. What was she thinking, showing up here in the middle of the night? For all she knew, Nelson might open the door, not Ted. For all she knew, Ted could have had a relapse and be on bed rest, and--
The door had opened, and Ted stood staring out at her. He looked dreadfully pale, though Andromeda couldn’t be sure if it was due to the over-exertion of opening the door when he should have been sleeping, or the fact that he was startled to see her. Quite possibly, it was due to both.
He stood blinking, unmoving, unenlightened. He shook his head. “What’re you doing here? Your N.E.W.T.s….”
Ted trailed off, putting some of the pieces together. Then he seemed to realize that Andromeda was sopped and standing in a springtime downpour. He shook himself.
“Come in. You’ll drown out there.“
Andromeda had meant to say something the moment he opened the door. She’d meant to let the apologies gush out, one after the other, meant to tell him everything she’d realized in the past hours, on her way back to London.
Now the moment had come, she’d frozen up, capable of doing little else than stare into his own wildly surprised eyes.
But now he'd spoken. He’d invited her in, and now that the burning concern in his eyes was so evident—Andromeda’s resolve burst back into her veins. She didn’t speak. She moved. She stepped over the threshold, and she grabbed Ted’s bare arms with unflinching resolve.
Nothing. No pain. No unbearable anguish. No curse.
She stared up at Ted, who looked genuinely frightened.
“You were right,” she said. “About everything.”
Then, before she could lose any momentum, she stood on tiptoe and tilted his mouth down on hers.
The kiss lasted only a few startled, staticky seconds. Ted pulled away roughly, causing Andromeda to lose her balance. She staggered back.
“No,” Ted said. His voice was savage. “No, you’re not doing that.”
Andromeda stared. “Doing what?”
“I’m not letting this happen again.”
“Ted, I’m not trying to—“
“No, you do it every time. You do that. Then you leave.”
Andromeda went silent. This was not how she imagined her reunion with Ted. Contrite tears and a long embrace and penitent kisses—that was how she'd imagined this on the long bus ride here. She would tell Ted how wrong she’d been, and he would forgive her, and everything would be fine.
She hadn’t expected Ted to fight.
“That’s how you solve every problem that comes your way, isn’t it?” said Ted. “The moment things get too difficult, the moment an argument hits, you’ve got the luxury of jetting off.”
“But I came back,” Andromeda protested feebly. “I know I left, but I’m here now.”
“Yeah, and for how long?” Ted asked. He looked pale, so pale. Andromeda wanted to tell him to sit down, but she hardly thought now was the best time, considering he was in the middle of yelling at her. “I’ve got no guarantee that, come our next argument, you won’t walk out the door.”
Andromeda closed her eyes. “I know. I know you’ve got every right to think that, but I won’t this time. Ted, I promise you, I’m finally seeing things the proper way. I’m not leaving again.”
“How can I believe that? You’ve got a shit track record. Nelson's right: I let you use me. I let you walk over me. I deserve better than that.”
Andromeda’s cheeks burned.. “Nelson said that?”
She’d thought that she and Nelson got along, that he thought well of her. But then, that had been before she left Ted when he was still on his sickbed. She pressed her knuckles against her closed eyelids.
“No,” she said. “I don’t doubt he did.”
Ted cleared his throat. He ran a hand across his worn, stubbly face. He began to speak, but Andromeda cut him off, taking a cautious step forward.
“You do deserve better than me,” she said. "And I spent so much time telling you how your insecurities were bullshit that I forgot to tell you why they were bullshit.”
Ted frowned, still cautious. He said nothing, but he clearly was expecting further explanation from Andromeda. She wet her lips, took a steadying breath, and began.
“I never told you how much I admire you,” she said, unable to look anywhere but at her feet. “Even when I treated you like shit, you treated me like an equal. Merlin’s sake, you probably saved me from choking on my own vomit. And I think you’re a brilliant thinker, even if your essays needed help. I think you’re good to your friends, even when they can be insufferable pricks like George. I think you’re such a ridiculously talented Quidditch player that every time I see you on a broom, my insides break down like a drooling schoolgirl. I think you could succeed at anything you try your hand at, because you’re brilliant and you’re compassionate and you can charm anyone with that stupid smile of yours.”
With a trembling hand, Andromeda tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Her body was abuzz with nerves, and she could feel Ted’s heavy stare on her, but still she kept her gaze down.
“I like who I am with you,” Andromeda said. “I don’t have to try. I don’t have to prove anything to you. You’re the first person in my life that I didn’t have to impress or keep happy. The way you treat me is just—unconditional. I took that for granted. And I know I’m an idiot for just now realizing this, and I know I might be too late, and I know I have a shitty record, but I won’t do it this time. I won’t leave. Not if you’ll let me stay.”
The floorboards creaked. Andromeda looked up in time to find Ted closing the distance between them. His expression was unreadable. Andromeda swallowed hard.
“You know,” said Ted, stopping a foot away from her, “I was going to give you a piece of my mind. I was going to tell you off.”
“You still can,” said Andromeda. “In fact, I think you should.”
“I don’t know. I think you’ve done enough of that to yourself. And you do yourself an injustice. You forget all those times you—well, you know, saved my life. Only a slight matter, that, but still….”
“You helped me as much as I did you,” Andromeda said. “I just touched you, Ted, and nothing happened. No curse.”
“Mhm,” said Ted, eyes dark. “I noticed.”
“So that means that your theory was correct,” said Andromeda. “Your blood made me just as immune to Aunt Walburga’s curse as mine made you to your condition.”
“Possible,” said Ted. “Or perhaps Aunt Walburga’s curse was just an empty threat.”
Andromeda felt instinctively at her marked wrist. “Possibly. But I don’t think it was.”
“Merlin, Dromeda. What would you have done if it really had hurt you?”
“I don’t know. But I knew you would’ve helped me if I was hurt. And I knew it would’ve been worth it.”
Ted frowned. “Why are you doing that?”
Andromeda blinked, surprised. “What?”
“Pulling on your sleeve,” he said, pointing to her wrist. “You were doing it the last time you left, too. You’ve never been one for nervous tics before.”
Andromeda shrugged, though her nerves were suddenly ablaze with panic. “Yes, well. There’s plenty you don’t know about me.”
Ted gave her a hard look. Then, with alarming speed, he made a grab for her wrist. Andromeda was even faster. She stumbled away, whipping her hands behind her back.
“Dromeda.” Ted’s voice had gone strange, foggy. “What’re you hiding?”
“Nothing,” she said angrily, backing farther away, her waist backing into a rickety side table. “It’s none of your business.”
She had begun to cry, and there was no chance of backing farther away. Ted suddenly seemed to be everywhere all at once, a presence she wanted near but was terrified by at the same time.
He reached out again, and this time his touch came as careful handling, gently coaxing Andromeda’s wrist back into his keeping. Andromeda looked on helplessly, tears running down her cheeks, as Ted tugged up her sleeve to reveal the two ugly words carved into her skin. A sob, loud and embarrassing, cracked from her throat.
Ted went very still, his features hardening in the sharpest possible angles. He swallowed once. His hand, Andromeda noticed, had begun to shake. His eyes met hers.
“It’s still worth it,” she said weakly, stupidly. But she meant it.
Then he was kissing her. And she was pressing back into him with relief, with exhaustion, with purpose.
There was no trace of confusion about what types of kisses these were. Andromeda knew exactly where this was heading, and her bloodstream trilled with the prospect.
This, she thought. At last. Over and over again, the words strummed in her mind. This, at last. This, at long last.
If kissing Ted before had been like resolve to dissonant chords, this was resolve to every dissonance in her world, to every loose end and every uncertainty. Even if it was only temporary, it was all consuming. The comfort, the rightness of being in Ted Tonks’ arms swathed around her like a warm blanket. She felt safe here, and whole, and why hadn’t she found refuge in this place sooner?
She became vaguely aware of her feet leaving the ground as Ted drew her up in his arms and stumbled between kisses toward the staircase.
“You’re freezing,” he said against her ear, stopping on the landing to catch his breath. He gently lowered her on the step above and pushed back a damp tendril of her hair. Only then did Andromeda remember that she was still sopped through from the rain.
She grinned against Ted’s cheek. “Warm me up, then,” she suggested.
Silence hung on them for a moment. Then Ted began to laugh hoarsely.
“Warm me up, then?” he repeated. Even in the dim light of the stairwell, she could make out the amusement stretched on his face.
Andromeda bit her lip, afraid that this moment, this perfect moment had been ruined.
“I was trying to be enticing,” she pouted.
Ted shook his head, still simpering. “You don’t need to try. You had me at ‘Fuck off, Tonks.’”
Andromeda shook her head in turn. “No. You’re remembering wrong. I didn’t say ‘Tonks.’ I didn’t even know your name back then.”
Ted laughed again, in a way that made Andromeda’s chest ache with affection. “Of course you didn’t. How rude.”
Then his lips were back on hers, and the laughter faded. The perfect moment was far from ruined. Andromeda realized that this had been part of the perfect moment—the giggling relief, the banter, the reassurance. It was only natural, for them. That had to be part of it, too.
They began to move again, only this time Andromeda used her own two feet to back up the steps and down the hallway, toward Ted’s bedroom. She could hear his breaths between their kisses—thin and a little rasping. She had to keep reminding herself that even if Ted wasn’t on bed rest anymore, he still wasn’t in the best shape.
As they stumbled back through the threshold of his room, as Ted closed the door behind them, Andromeda thought about speaking up. She should ask if Ted needed to rest, if he was feeling quite all right in his current condition. She thought about these things. But her thoughts whitened out completely as Ted tugged his t-shirt over his head.
“Hmm,” she said stupidly, staring entranced by the flight of the inked linnet on his chest. And here he was, her own linnet, a realization of what she’d thought was only a shadow inside a series of bad dreams.
She knew there was a difference between being blood bound and being destined for each other. Andromeda wasn’t even sure she believed in destiny. But she believed in choices, and she believed in all crazy, misinformed, improbable choices that had led her and Ted Tonks to this place, despite their blood bond, or perhaps because of it, and despite and because of a hundred other little circumstances. Somehow, in the midst of it all, she and Ted had found each other, and there was no way now that she was going to let go.
“I love you, Dromeda,” he told her, as they grew lost in a tangle of sheets and skin, as their movements became more purposeful.
This, Andromeda thought. This, at long last.
She followed the curve of the linnet’s beak in the light of dawn, her lips tipped in an irrepressible smile that she hadn’t been able to shake since waking. With her pinky, she began to trace a delicate tendril from the inked bird above Ted’s heart. When she reached his collarbone, Ted stirred slightly. His eyes fluttered open, bleary with sleep. Andromeda smiled even wider. Ted grinned back.
“Hello,” Andromeda said, propping her chin on his chest.
Ted rubbed at his right eye, then patted at his hopelessly mussed hair.
“I was afraid for a moment,” he began, then checked the phlegm in is voice, cleared his throat, and tried again. “I was afraid I’d dreamt you up.”
“Mmm,” said Andromeda, tilting her head. “Yes, you do have a history of dreaming about me, don’t you?” She grinned wickedly, and then perked up in surprise. “Wait a moment. Are you blushing?”
For Ted’s face was, indeed, turning a pronounced shade of red.
“Merlin, Ted,” Andromeda laughed. “How can you blush after all that?”
“I told you,” he said, “I couldn’t really control those dreams.”
She nodded conciliatorily. “But you controlled last night very well, so all is well.”
Ted only turned redder. His eyes dropped to the bed sheets. “I know it wasn’t the best,” he said quietly, “but I swear, I’ll do better with—um, with practice, you know?”
Andromeda stared at him dumbly. Then she realized what he was talking about and burst into a laugh.
“Oh my god, Ted,” she said, swatting him hard on the chest. “Don’t be so absolutely ridiculous. It was marvelous. You were marvelous.” She tipped up his lowered chin and stared him down. “I don’t know where you get off being that way. I think you still have this bizarre insecurity complex around me.”
“I think that might be true,” Ted said, smiling ruefully. He pushed himself up amongst the pillows with more energy. “But I didn’t make you violently ill or grow an extra limb or anything, so that’s to my credit.”
Andromeda grinned. “We should make a list, I think, of all the awful consequences of sleeping with a Muggleborn that you haven’t yet afflicted on me. A checklist. And we can check a new affliction every time we—”
The rest of Andromeda’s proposal was swallowed up in Ted’s kiss. He dragged her back down into the sheets. Andromeda eventually broke away, shaking her head and covering her mouth with both hands.
“I have appalling breath right now,” she squeaked from behind her fingers.
“I know,” said Ted. “It’s disgusting. And your hair is a disaster. You’ve let yourself go entirely, Dromeda.” He grinned as he dragged a hand down her back. “My god, woman, you’re not even wearing any clothes.”
Andromeda snickered happily, resting her head in the crook of Ted’s shoulder.
“Scandalous,” she said. “What would Aunt Walburga say?”
Ted snorted. “What would Aunt Walburga say?" he asked, his voice growing darker. "I’m sure she wouldn’t be pleased to know that her worthless little curse drove us straight into each other’s arms.”
Andromeda closed her eyes. “I should send her a letter. Give her a bit of an update. Let her know about my love life. She’s always taken such a keen interest.”
Andromeda felt Ted’s hand wandering, this time toward her right wrist. Her insides wrenched.
“Ted,” she said softly.
He looked up, alarmed. “Does that hurt?”
She shook her head. Reassured, Ted drew her hand out of the sheets and began the careful work of pressing his mouth tenderly to the words engraved there.
“I know you didn’t appreciate when I thought of you as an invalid,” she said. “So I don’t want you giving me funny looks because of that. That’s all.”
“I’m not giving you funny looks,” Ted said, looking up. “I’m giving you admiring looks.” He grew quiet for a moment and then, in a low voice, asked, “You’re not going to report this either, are you?”
Andromeda shook her head. Ted didn’t argue, and she smiled sadly to herself. He was already beginning to realize that some battles weren’t worth fighting. He could tell she'd made up her mind.
“I feel rather honored, you know,” he said. “You’re my favorite Blood Traitor.”
And in spite of the grisliness of it all, despite everything, Andromeda smiled.
“Well, you’re my favorite Mudblood.”
“Merlin, we’re such cheeses.”
They had descended into a new round of kissing, bad breath and all, when Ted’s door flew open.
Andromeda yelped. Ted quickly tossed the bed sheet over her and turned to face Nelson with all the dignity he could muster, given the situation. For it was Nelson who stood before them, looking more irritated than shocked.
“This again,” he said, rubbing at his forehead. “Land sakes, Ted, can’t you learn to lock your door?”
“Can’t you learn to knock?” Ted said, cheerily enough.
Andromeda remembered what Ted had told her about Nelson, how he’d told him that Andromeda was using him. Then a worse thought occurred to her: had Nelson been there last night? Had he heard everything?
“Really,” said Nelson. “I come home to this. Home is supposed to be a place of refuge, not high drama and fornication.”
Andromeda’s anxieties diminished a little. Then he hadn’t been there last night. Of course. Ted would have thought of that, surely.
“Nelson, for the love of—would you close the door already?”
Nelson shrugged. “I was just going to ask if you wanted some cherry turnovers, little brother of mine. Roisin sent me back wit a whole plate of them.”
“No, I don’t want your bloody turnovers,” said Ted. “Get out already.”
“Suit yourself,” said Nelson. Then, “Hullo, Andromeda.”
“Hello,” said Andromeda, giving a weak wave to Nelson. He nodded happily, then shut the door behind him.
Andromeda turned to Ted. This time, she was the one who was red in the face.
“I'm so sorry.”
“No, really. Should’ve locked that door.”
Andromeda patted him affectionately on the head. “You had more important things on your mind.”
“I suppose the rest of the world will find out eventually.”
“Ted, darling, I’m afraid the rest of our world already knows.”
Ted said noting, but he gave Andromeda a smug little look.
“What?” she said, suddenly self-conscious.
“You called me darling.”
“Oh, good gosh. Aren’t I allowed to call my boyfriend darling?”
Ted beamed. “You called me boyfriend. Merlin’s beard, Dromeda, you feeling quite well?” He pressed his hand to her forehead. “You’re looking rather peaky.”
“I am feeling a tad hungry,” Andromeda admitted. “In fact, I could do with one of those turnovers.”
“Oh, no you don’t.”
“Oh, yes I do,” Andromeda said. “After all, much as I’d like to spend all day here with you, we do have to get up and face the real world eventually. And besides, I have bad breath.”
Ted appeared to be contemplating this. “It is rather rank,” he finally admitted with a defeated sigh.
Andromeda pecked him on the chin. “Let’s go tell reality good morning.”
It was a brave thing to do, Andromeda thought. But minutes later, as she stood in the lukewarm shower of the upstairs bathroom, reality didn’t seem quite so kind. For try as she might, now that she was out of Ted’s presence, she couldn’t keep thoughts of her N.E.W.T.s, of McGonagall’s offer, of Narcissa’s tearstained face, from creeping back into her mind.
Reality was a terrifying thing, Andromeda decided. She didn’t particularly want to face its harshest edges and toughest decisions today. But if not today, then when? She would have to confront those harsh edges soon enough. And if Ted Tonks was there at the end of it all, when all was said and done, then at least reality wasn’t nearly so terrifying as it could have been.
There was a faint knock at the bathroom door.
“Dromeda?” came Ted’s voice. “I wondered if I might brush my teeth while you’re in there? I mean, if not, that’s perfectly understandable, and I wouldn’t want to intrude in the slightest, and I don’t—“
Andromeda realized, at that moment, that this was the moment. The moment that Ted became truly and inextricably enmeshed in her world. Somehow, this request was more intimate than anything that had passed between them before.
This was the moment she would let Ted Tonks into her life for good. When leaving was no longer an option.
Let’s go tell reality good morning.
“Of course,” she called. “Come in.”
Author’s Note: Hello, hello, lovely readers! Just checking in to say again how fabulous you are and how much your reviews mean to me. It's crazy to think that I started KYD almost a full year ago! There are still a few more chapters in the works, and now that holiday break is fast approaching, I hope to have them up at a quicker pace than before. You guys rock. Tedromeda forever.
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