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Chapter 37 : Irresistible
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It had been seven months since she’d shown up rain-sopped on Ted Tonks’ doorstep. They hadn’t been easy months. It had been the most painful year of Andromeda’s life. But for every struggle, there had been a silver lining.
Though it had been difficult to sort out a budget on the limited funds she'd extracted from the family account, Andromeda could rest easy knowing her life was now her own and no long under the thumb of her parents, of Rabastan Lestrange, of her Aunt Walburga—anyone. Though independence was terrifying, it was liberating, too.
Ted and Nelson had helped Andromeda to find a tiny flat near their own townhouse. It was a far cry from the luxury she was used to, and it was an address that would cause any family friends of the Blacks to fall into a cold faint. But the house was hers, and it was home.
She’d taken Professor McGonagall up on her offer of the Ministry job, and true to McGonagall’s word, Andromeda had been hired in a heartbeat. The work was more taxing than Andromeda anticipated, and she sometimes found herself counting down the hours for release at five o’clock. Still, it was a job she was well qualified for; it required her to use her brain, and it paid her a living wage, and that was a way of life Andromeda hadn’t even thought possible at the start of her seventh year.
Life settled into a new rhythm. Andromeda found that London could be dirty and intrusive and unforgiving, but it could be charming, too, and always full of life. She made acquaintances at work and got to better know Ted and Nelson’s circle of friends. And when Lilith and George moved to town after graduation, Andromeda found many weekends pleasantly occupied in their often scandalizing but always entertaining company.
The ache of loss didn’t ease up. It strained harder and harder against Andromeda’s heart as she began to realize that Narcissa wasn’t going to reply to her many letters, that this argument of theirs wasn’t momentary, that Narcissa had meant everything she’d said back at Hogwarts. The nights those realizations settled on her were the very worst. She spent countless evenings racked with sobs, her mind whirling with conjectures of what she could and should have done differently.
Many of those nights, Ted was there to sop her tears with his shirt and hold her close until she fell into exhausted sleep. And when she woke, headachy and bleary-eyed, Ted was there to listen to her fears, her pain, her wish for things to go back to the way they’d been.
But it was impossible to go back. Losing her identity as a member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black was the price Andromeda had to pay to reclaim herself as a new, independent witch.
And for Ted to be in her life like he was now… Never in Andromeda’s craziest dreams—even her well-worn dreams of a mysterious linnet—could she have foreseen herself in Ted’s arms, wanting him so much that her heart stung from the effort. She’d never known love could be like this.
Love was sitting by Ted’s beside with a jar of specially prescribed salve, applying the healing concoction to the scars that ran along his stomach—all Rabastan Lestrange’s doing. Love was sitting up with Ted late into the haunting hours, exchanging stories about their childhoods and early years at Hogwarts. It was waking from night terrors filled with unfriendly faces and Unforgivables and finding solace in the shelter of each other's arms.
Love was little things—squeezing hands beneath the table, exchanging scribbled sticky notes throughout the day, sharing a pint of ice cream on the hottest day of the year. Love was the thrilling exchange of touch under the sheets, as they explored every inch of each other’s bodies. It was finding Ted’s razor in her medicine cabinet and sharing tissues when they both came down with the flu. It was the mundane and the miraculous, twined tightly together over months and months.
Now, on a snowy December evening, Andromeda sat on her window seat, knees tucked beneath her chin, watching Ted unlace his dress shoes by the front door. A long grin was plastered on her face. It had been there since she first heardTed unlocking her apartment door with his own set of keys.
This was Andromeda's favorite part of the day, when she and Ted were both done with a full day of work and back in each other’s company, in the blissfully normal routine of life, when her main concern was nothing more than watching Ted move.
“I swear, Burbage is a right loon if he thinks I’m going to get those rankings in to him by the thirtieth. He’s been breathing down my neck all week, when I told him it wouldn’t be till well after the new year, and—“
Ted must have felt her gaze. He stopped up his work rant and glanced up, squinting at her through the moppy blond hair that hung in his eyes.
“All right there?”
Andromeda raised a brow. “Oh. Perfectly.”
Ted removed one dress shoe, then started on the other.
“Just admiring my chiseled figure then.”
“Mm,” said Andromeda, smiling against her knees. “Always.”
Ted undid the lace of the polished dress shoe with one last deft move. He kicked it off and straightened up, fixing Andromeda with a lazy smile. He began loosening his tie.
“Ted,” Andromeda said, sitting up straighter.
“Hm?” Ted smirked.
“Would you hold off that for just a moment? I’ve something to say, and I think it best that I’m not—distracted.”
“Oh my. I do hope it’s something deliciously important about me fixing that wonky mail slot. Or picking up my dirty socks. Or—”
Ted stopped short.
“I said, marry me.”
Ted remained motionless, wordless. Andromeda could hear her fast-beating heart in her ears. Her legs were shaking as she slipped off the window seat and walked to where he stood.
“Ted?” she said softly, placing a hand on his elbow.
Ted shook his head, bleary shock clearing from his eyes, and focused back on her.
“You said—“ He stopped. Started again. “Back in the spring, you said you didn’t want that. You said you didn’t want me to ask you.”
“I know I did. And I know that’s why you’ve never said a word about it since then.”
“I just thought, after being cornered into the engagement with Lestrange, you never wanted—“
“I know,” Andromeda interrupted. “I didn’t. But that was before. I was so disgusted with the idea of marriage then. I didn’t think—I didn’t think it could be like this.”
Ted smiled a little. “With a Muggleborn.”
Andromeda grinned back, her memories flitting, as Ted’s clearly had, to the last time she’d used those words, a full year ago. She was grateful that now they could relive those moments without any of the fear and insecurity they’d felt before.
“Yes,” said Andromeda. “With a Muggleborn. He’s so damn uncivil, but I can’t stay away.”
Ted laughed a little, but his eyes were still searching hers. “So, what are you saying?”
Andromeda reeled in a long breath before she answered.
“I’m saying, I love you in a way I didn’t think was possible. I’m saying I want to be yours entirely, and I want you to be mine entirely. I want to share a home with you. And I want your name. I mean, under normal circumstances, I’ve always found the practice of assuming the man’s surname to be incredibly presumptuous, but I under this set of circumstances, I—what? What are you laughing about?”
“You,” Ted said, his laugh still spilling out like warm liquid as he drew her into his arms. “Why on earth are you acting so damned nervous, Dromeda? You’re—yes, you are—you’re shaking.”
“I want you,” Andromeda whispered into his chest. “I want this so badly. And if I can’t have you entirely, then I just might—“
“Might what?” murmured Ted, tipping his nose against hers.
“I don’t know. Spontaneously combust?”
“Mm.” Ted’s nose had traveled behind her ear, and with it, his mouth. “We can’t have you spontaneously combusting in your parlor. Think of the mess. And we certainly can’t afford a cleaning crew.”
Andromeda gripped a hand into his shaggy hair (it really had gotten horribly unkempt over the past months).
“Say it. You have to give me a proper answer.”
Ted pulled away so that they were once more looking into each other’s eyes.
“Yes,” he said, annunciating his words with care. “Yes, Andromeda Lyra Black, I will marry you. I will share a home with you. I will happily give you my name, and I will be yours entirely. Is that a proper enough answer?”
It was more than proper enough. Andromeda’s face was burning, her body trilling with energy. And she could see the happiness in her eyes reflected in his.
“That sounds about right,” she said, then cried out happily as Ted swung her up into his arms.
Later, they sat wrapped under three layers of blankets, next to a fizzling fire. The parlor was still frigid, but Andromeda had no reason to complain. Ever since she’d first asked him, Ted had done an excellent job of warming her up. A comfortable silence had fallen on them, but Andromeda noticed the telltale crease in Ted’s forehead.
“Something’s bothering you,” she said, nudging his side.
Ted glanced down with a sheepish expression. “Look,” he said, “I know you’ll claim a ring doesn’t mean anything to you—“
Andromeda groaned. “It doesn’t. Teddy, honestly, is that what—“
“Hush up and let me finish,” Ted growled, tickling her in the most tender spot of her stomach—a place he had well memorized. Andromeda laughed despite herself and nodded begrudgingly.
“As I was saying, wedding rings might not mean anything to you, but they do to me. And at this point it’s not particularly feasible for us to afford those rings and be, um—financially responsible.”
“You mean,” said Andromeda, “we’d have gold on our fingers but be living in a hovel eating dirt. Right. Which is why they’re such an absurd idea. I don’t need an expensive token to remind me—“
“Merlin’s beard, Dromeda, let me finish.”
“So, I’ve been thinking of an alternative, and I’ve had this idea, and I want you to let me know if you think it’s too, um—uncivil.”
Andromeda raised her brows expectantly.
“Erm. So George and I have this mutual friend. Few years ahead of us at Hogwarts, works here in London now. And he’s a genius when it comes to tattoos.”
Andromeda raised her brows higher. She began to smirk.
“Well,” said Ted, looking nervous, “do you think that’s a rubbish idea? He's offered to do it as a wedding gift, no charge. And he does it magically, so it’s far less painful than the Muggle practice, and far easier to enact. That’s what I hear anyway, but if you don’t—“
“He’s the one who did this, isn’t he?” Andromeda asked, pressing her palm to his chest.
“I think,” said Andromeda, “it would be very fitting, then.”
Ted looked at first like he hadn’t heard her properly. So of course a thorough kissing was required to convince Ted his ears were working just fine.
Many times since she’d begun her life with Ted Tonks, Andromeda had experienced moments that shook her consciousness, that took her out of her present circumstances long enough for her to reflect on the strangeness of this new life. Never would the Andromeda of a year ago have imagined this. Never would she have agreed to this. But wasn’t life an odd thing? And couldn’t change be one of the most fantastic punch lines?
“Andie, keep up. I’m not going to walk any slower for you.”
Eleven-year-old Andromeda Black struggled to match her older sister’s pace. She didn’t have the courage to say that Bella’s legs were so much longer than hers it was a physical impossibility to keep in stride. And even if Andromeda did complain, Bella would only mock her, tell her she was being a baby. Andromeda may have been a first year, but she was not going to be called a baby. Not in public, at any rate.
“Who are you looking for?” Andromeda asked, trying to keep her voice above a whine as Bellatrix stopped, stared into a compartment, and once again set off down the corridor of the Hogwarts Express. “Who is it you want to sit with?”
“It’s far more a matter of who I don’t want to sit with,” Bellatrix sniffed, making a face into yet another compartment. “Ugh, this train seems particularly packed with riff-raff this year. It’s practically an infesta—Andie, keep up!”
Andromeda glowered at her sister, then stopped entirely, putting her hands on her hips.
“Oh, just go ahead!” she said, waving angrily at Bellatrix. “Go find a compartment. I’ll catch up.”
Bella rolled her eyes. “Don’t bother. Perhaps it’s best you find your own little friends. Phoebe should be here somewhere, shouldn’t she? And Lena Goyle. Go find them, hm?”
Without waiting for a reply, Bella turned heel and hurried down the corridor. Andromeda wondered if that hadn’t been her intention all along. Their mother had made Bellatrix promise to watch over Andromeda on the train ride, but now that Druella Black was no longer in sight… Well. So much for the bond of sisterly affection.
Andromeda’s heart ticked at that. Narcissa. If only Narcissa were one year older. If only she could be on this train ride! Andromeda didn’t want to find Phoebe or Lena, two pureblooded aristocratic girls who ran in the Black’s social circle and were absolute terrors. She just wanted the comfort of her sister and best friend.
No use moping about it, Andromeda told herself. You’re excited to be heading to school this year, remember? You finally have the chance to attend classes, to prove how intelligent you are. And Narcissa or no, that’s a very fine thing indeed.
Andromeda tucked her hands into fists. She breathed deeply. Then she set down the corridor, alone. She hadn’t walked five full paces when a compartment door slid open and a golden-haired boy toppled out. Andromeda saw it all a second to late. She crashed into the boy, and there came a sound like sudden, heavy rainfall.
Andromeda looked to the ground, where a rainbow of jellybeans lay scattered on the compartment floor, skittering and jolting with the train’s movement. She looked back up to the emptied Bertie Bott’s box in the shocked boy’s hand.
“Oh dear,” she said, kneeling. “Here, let me help.”
She began grabbing at the beans, collecting with one hand and storing in the other. The boy joined her.
“Thanks,” he said, beginning to pick up his own share of spilled candy. “But really, you don’t have to help.”
“It’s my fault,” said Andromeda. “I wasn’t looking where I was going.”
The boy sighed. “Bad luck, this. So much for the carton lasting me this trip.”
“Just buy a new one, then,” Andromeda said matter-of-factly, plucking up an electric blue bean.
“If I were filthy rich, perhaps I would,” the boy said, laughing. “Oh well. Just bad luck.”
Andromeda scrunched her nose but said nothing. One didn’t have to be filthy rich just to buy a new box of Bertie Bott’s, did one? Just how poor was this boy? And if he was poor, could that mean—
“You’re a first year, too, aren’t you?” said the boy. “Beg pardon if you’re not, you just look it. And if you’re looking for a compartment to sit in, you’re welcome to join me and my mates.”
Andromeda studied the boy’s earnest face. It was a nice face, not just in that it was nice to look at, but it seemed genuinely kind. Andromeda smiled slightly.
Andromeda turned to see Bellatrix coming toward her at an alarming speed.
“I’m only helping—“ Andromeda began, but Bella cut her off with a painful jerk on her shoulder.
“Get up. Get away from him.”
“Leave me alone,” Andromeda said, shrugging off Bellatrix’s attempt to get her to her feet. “It’s my fault he dropped his candy, and I’m—“
“He’s a Mudblood,” Bella spat. “Sweet Salazar, Andie, Mother was right; you do need constant watching after.”
Andromeda went stone still. Her throat thickened like water turning to ice. She stared at the boy, a look of pure horror washing over her face. Then, on instinct, she threw the collected jellybeans from her hand. They crashed back to the floor, filling the hallway with a sound like shattering glass.
For a sliver of a moment, her eyes met the boy’s. He looked confused. Hurt. Andromeda scowled. What right did he have to look hurt? He should’ve told her he was a Mudblood first thing! Their hands might’ve touched, for Merlin’s sake. Why didn’t Hogwarts require their kind to wear a warning charm around their neck, or something to protect innocent purebloods like herself? And to think she’d almost agreed to sit in a compartment with him and his friends—who were most likely an awful assortment of other Mudbloods and halfbloods.
Andromeda stumbled to her feet and clutched Bella’s proffered hand, now grateful for her sister’s intervention. One couldn’t be too careful, she realized. She was now far from the safety of Onyx House. Anything might happen away from home.
It was a small, springtime ceremony. There were no parents in attendance, no relatives at all on the bride’s side. But there was a brother. And there were friends.
Nelson and Roison stood under the powder blue awning, Nelson in his only suit and Roison in a short sundress.
“I knew it,” Roison said in a hushed voice, watching with a smug smile as Ted and Andromeda exchanged their vows. “I knew it, even before those crazy kids did.”
Nelson shushed Roison, but behind his raised finger was a smile that matched her own.
On the other side of the bride and groom stood another couple. A slight girl with jet-black hair smirked up at a redhead wearing a Hufflepuff yellow tie. The redhead leaned in close and whispered to his girlfriend, “Suckersss.”
“I know,” Lilith whispered back to George. “What sentimental losers.”
“Better them than us.”
Lilith bit down a grin and returned her attention to the happy couple just as Ted uttered the words “death do us part.”
Andromeda had forgotten to listen to what the minister was saying. Slowly, little by little, she’d been getting lost in Ted’s eyes, the rest of the world silhouetting around him. It wasn’t until Ted’s cool palm touched her wrist and he tilted his face toward hers that she realized the minister had given Ted the go-ahead to kiss the bride.
There was a wolf-whistle (George) and a loud cooing (Roison), and then a burst of claps and laughs as the miniscule wedding party made their way from the Vanderpool’s back garden into the merrily decorated dining room.
“Let’s get to the real event, eh?” called George, putting a record on a turntable, just as Nelson popped the cork of a champagne bottle to more applause and cheers.
“Right, everyone,” cried Roison. “It’s the married couple’s first dance!”
From the turntable, a crackling melody floated into the air. It was a love ballad by one of Ted’s favorite Muggle rock bands.
“Ted, darling,” Andromeda said, as they began swaying to the chipper chorus, “you’re an atrocious dancer.”
“You know it,” Ted murmured back. “Don’t act surprised.”
Andromeda arched a brow. “Is there anything about you that could surprise me now?"
Ted smiled, but said nothing.
Andromeda narrowed her eyes. “Ted.”
Ted’s smile grew. So did his silence.
More smile. More silence.
“Edward Tonks, you tell me right this second. No secrets. We agreed.”
Ted’s smile broke. He cleared his throat, then said, “There was no bet.”
Andromeda frowned. “What?”
“When you asked why I spoke to you on the train, start of seventh year, I told you it was because some mates and I made a bet. But there was no bet. I just wanted to talk to you. I wanted to see if anything might come of it.”
Andromeda blinked in silence. Then she nodded sagely, grinning. “I remember now. That was the night you told me I wasn’t irresistible.”
“Yeah, well. I was already lying through my teeth at that point. Thought I might as well keep it up.”
“So, I am irresistible?"
“This,” Ted whispered, moving his hand between the two of them as they carried on their sad excuse for a slow dance. “This is irresistible. I think it was from the start.”
“We can do this, can’t we? I mean, you don’t think we’ve just made some colossal mistake we’re going to look back on in twenty years with heaps of regret?”
“Sweet Dromeda, ever the optimist.”
“We’re irresistible, right?"
“We are an irresistible force of nature.”
“And that doesn’t happen too often, does it?”
“I’d say the chances are about as likely as having a blood bond.”
“Or premonitory dreams?”
“Mhm. So, all thing considered, I’d say we’ve got a pretty shot at this.”
“Right,” said Andromeda. “A pretty good shot. And here it goes."
Author’s Note: Little did I know when I started this chapter that it would be enough to wrap up this story once and for all! It seems rather fitting that I began KYD as a New Year’s resolution and finished it a full year later. I want to give one enormous thank you to everyone who’s followed Tedromeda’s story all this way. And a special shout out to those of you who’ve stuck out this journey from day one!
So, this is the end. But not quite! While I feel I’ve reached the natural conclusion of the story I set out to tell with Kill Your Darlings, there’s still some Tedromeda to come. :) I’m putting out a sequel of sorts, title to be determined, which will be a collection of vignettes chronicling Ted and Andie’s married life. Look for it in the coming weeks!
Lastly, now that KYD has wrapped up, I’ll soon be focusing my attention back on my Next Gen WIP, Wasting My Young Years. So if you’ve got the hankering for something new, please do follow my work there, too.
Thank you, longsuffering readers! You are fab beyond words. And as always, your reviews make my heart go pitter-patter.
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