A/N: Written for QLFC Round 13 by Chaser 1 of Pride of Portree.
Prompt: S2R12 / Fairytale Dabbling - Thumbelina (Think Disney round this season)
Optional prompts: (word) passion, (song) Mad World - Gary Jules, (word) stranger
Thank you to my wonderful teammates for betaing this.
Word count: 2998 on Google Docs
Santorini, July 1969
Andromeda stared out of her bedroom window, watching as the sun set over the horizon, bathing the beach in soft pinks and purples. The view from the holiday villa was awe-inspiring, almost like a real life oasis—at least, it should have been. Once upon a time, the sight would have taken her breath away. Now, however, she was so used to beautiful things that she observed it without any real feeling. The beach wasn't anything; it just was.
Her gaze focused on the waves as they crashed towards the shore before sweeping back out again. It was as if they were prisoners, struggling to escape the confines of the ocean only to be yanked back just as they felt the first tastes of freedom.
It was as if they were like her.
She knew she should feel grateful for the life she had been born into; she and her sisters led a life of luxury and were positioned to continue doing so for the rest of their lives. But knowing something and feeling it were two entirely different things. Their life might look like a feast, but, to her, it tasted like ash.
It was as if pureblood society were some kind of twisted circus. They spun their webs of deception with mastered ease, all the while covering their treachery with smiles and laughter. And as soon as one evening came to a close, they did the whole thing all over again. People were willing to pay to visit the old manors and ancestral homes, yet, behind their veneer of respectability, they were one-trick ponies, going around and around in worn-out circles.
And she was the odd one out—the one who hadn't yet created her own act and, worse still, didn't want to. While her parents and her sisters and all of her friends performed, she was the girl trying to shrink into the corner in the hope that, one day, she would disappear.
All I want is to meet someone like me; someone who understands how pointless all of this pomp and circumstance really is, she lamented.
Hogwarts, September 1969
Andromeda fiddled with her dark green scarf as she leant against the stone wall, waiting for the other prefect to arrive for patrol. She had reached the starting point ten minutes early, figuring that she might as well live up to her new role, but she was already regretting that decision. The Head students had decided to pair people from different houses and years together to foster a sense of camaraderie, and it looked like the older Hufflepuff wasn't as concerned with making an impression as she was. He didn't need to anymore, she supposed.
Just before the designated meeting time, a figure rounded the corner, heading straight for her.
"Andromeda Black?" he inquired, even though they lived in a boarding school where everyone knew everyone else.
She nodded and, deciding to humour him, replied, "Edward Tonks?"
He grimaced. "I prefer Ted."
Andromeda shrugged, not really caring. He was rather attractive, with blond hair and a pleasant voice, but he was still a Muggle-born. She had read enough to know that the 'facts' her parents spewed out about Muggles were complete hogwash, but their worlds were still vastly different. She didn't anticipate ever calling Tonks by his first name, let alone a nickname. "We all have our preferences," she said, her voice prim and clipped. "Mine is to do our duties and be done with it. Do we really need to chat along the way?"
He flinched as if he had been slapped. "Wow. And here I had been told you were the nice, unprejudiced sister."
"Excuse me?" she snapped, anger flaring within her. She might dislike the banality of pureblood life, but she wasn't going to sit around while someone disrespected her family. "How dare you insult my sisters? They're more honourable than you will ever be."
"It's rather easy, actually, since your family wants mine dead. Unless I'm very much mistaken, homicidal tendencies aren't exactly an honourable thing to have."
She hesitated, unable to argue with his logic. Besides, she had been rude. Tonks had just been introducing himself; she could have waited until they had planned things out before distancing herself from the conversation. "Sorry," she said, her stomach twisting with embarrassment. "I shouldn't have snapped at you; I'm just feeling irritable today."
He scrutinised her for a moment before giving her a good-natured smile. "It's fine. It happens to the best of us."
"And no," she added, her voice much quieter, "you're not mistaken."
They stood there for a few seconds, eyeing one another in quiet contemplation, before Andromeda spoke again. "How is this going to work?"
"Usually, prefects have the option of sticking together or splitting up, but since it's your first patrol…"
"Together it is, then."
"Can I ask you a question?" Tonks asked as, hours later, they returned to the place they had started. The night had been uneventful for the most part. While he had proven himself to be as talkative as she had feared, the conversation had been engaging—to her surprise, she found herself wishing they had a few more floors to trek.
"People only say that when they know the other person isn't going to like the question," she pointed out, "but, since I'm curious now, go ahead."
"How come you never smile?"
Her good mood fled like a ghost into the night. Disappointment rushed through her, and she narrowed her eyes at him. "Don't tell me you're one of those sexist prats who think women have an obligation to be pleasant at all times."
To her surprise, he laughed. "Not at all. Still, I think someone has to be going through some tough things if they never smile. And when I'm going through tough things, I like to talk."
"And when I'm going through tough things, I like to be left alone," Andromeda replied, but her voice didn't have any of the sting it had held at the beginning of the night. When he nodded and fell silent, she felt strangely bereft. She sighed. "I feel like I don't belong anywhere. My family is important to me, but I don't fit in with them—with anyone."
"You seem to belong with me," he said, then his eyes widened and a blush spread across his face. "I didn't mean that the way it sounded. What I meant to say was that I've enjoyed talking to you and—"
"I understood what you meant," she cut in, a smile toying with her lips even as she felt her cheeks grow warm. "Thank you."
"I should let you get to bed, but would you like to hang out sometime? Study together, maybe?"
She nodded. "I'd like that very much."
It was only when they parted that she realised something that had been niggling at the back of her mind for a while. For some reason, whether it was him in particular or just because he was so unlike everyone she usually spent time with, being around him had made her feel for the first time in a long time.
Hogsmeade, January 1972
As the people around her exchanged pleasantries, Andromeda fiddled with the charm bracelet Ted had given her for Valentine's Day the year before. She wore it everywhere, much to her sisters' astonishment. It was beautiful, but, in their mind, nowhere near expensive enough to warrant her attachment to it. Andromeda could only imagine how much worse it would be if they knew who had given it to her.
As much as sneaking around pained her, she and Ted had decided to keep their relationship a secret until she was old enough to escape her family's grasp. That way, they couldn't force her to stay away from him. The problem was that, now that he had graduated, their time together was restricted to secret meetings and letters.
She loved it—and him—anyway.
She grinned at the thought. Ted had introduced her to a world in which she didn't have to navigate through conversations like a trapeze artist, and the effects had bled back into her 'normal' life as well. It was much easier to put up with the balancing act of pureblood life now that she knew that it was only temporary.
An elbow dug into her side, and her gaze darted up to meet Bellatrix's. "Do you like him?" her sister whispered.
Andromeda's face paled. Bella didn't know about Ted—she couldn't.
"Rabastan," Bellatrix prompted.
Andromeda groaned as she remembered the reason for the outing: to convince her to agree to a courtship with Rabastan Lestrange. He hadn't been her parents' first choice—they were already connected to his family through Bellatrix—but they were growing desperate.
Ever since Bellatrix had married, people had started focusing on her. Everywhere she turned, there seemed to be a wealthy pureblood leaving hints about how advantageous a match between Andromeda and their son would be. One particularly pushy witch had even reacted to her polite rebuttal by Apparating them both to Gretna Green. Fortunately, Andromeda had quickly escaped her clutches and returned home. Still, it stunned her to think that so many people were willing to have their children marry a complete stranger.
She didn't deceive herself into thinking it was about her. Her relationship with Ted was about real feelings and passion, but the others were only interested in the prestige that would come from an alliance with the Blacks.
But the more she refused, the further afield her parents searched.
"Not particularly," Andromeda admitted.
Bellatrix sighed. "Mother and Father are considering signing a marriage contract with the Crouches if you don't choose somebody soon. It will be far easier for you if you cooperate with them."
"But marriage contracts went out of fashion decades ago! They can't—I mean, they can, but—"
"Who gave you that bracelet?"
"Pardon?" Andromeda frowned, trying to make sense of the abrupt change of subject.
"If you were telling the truth when you said the person who gave it to you was just a friend, you would have told us who they were. It's clear that you have some kind of agreement with someone. Since you don't want anyone to know about it, they must not be appropriate company."
"He is just a friend," Andromeda insisted.
"He had better be." Bellatrix's eyes flashed with something dangerous. She had always been the fiercest of the three sisters, but, for the first time, Andromeda caught sight of the witch she was rumoured to be on her way to becoming: sadistic, ruthless and lethal.
Andromeda let that rest, knowing that further protest would only make Bellatrix even more suspicious. "I should go to talk to Lestrange," she said, loathing the idea but desperate to leave before her sister could needle her for information about Ted. She wouldn't go as far as to agree to a courtship, but showing some interest in marriage might stay her father's hand.
Diagon Alley, June 1972
Ted beamed as he bought a single orange rose from his local florist. It was the morning after Andromeda's last NEWT exam, which meant that it wouldn't be long until she came home from Hogwarts for the last time. He sniffed the delicate flower, enjoying its sweet fragrance. Hoping that she would understand the symbolism behind the gift, he made his way out of the shop, eager to return home so he could send it to her.
As he rounded the corner, he skidded to a stop. A woman wearing long, navy blue robes stood under the shade of an oak tree at the other end of the street. He could only just make out her face, but it was startlingly familiar.
His wishes had come true. She was there; she had come home early and she was there.
Black House, July 1972
As soon as her owl fluttered into her bedroom, Andromeda leapt from her bed and hurried over to her. Ted hadn't been replying to her letters lately. Given the current political climate, the lack of contact was terrifying. She gave Terentia a treat before ripping the letter open and skimming through the contents.
There wasn't much to skim.
Our time together at school was special to me, but that was all it ever was. I am sorry for giving you the wrong impression. I must ask that you do not attempt to contact me again.
Chaos erupted in her mind. She couldn't believe it was true. It wasn't him; it couldn't be him. She had to go and confront him, to get things straightened out.
But what if it was? If so, didn't she owe it to him to respect the request?
She took a deep breath, fighting back tears.
I'll ask him to meet me in person—once—just so I can make sure it's from him, she decided.
Andromeda sighed as she returned home from the meeting with Ted. It had been him, alright. He had been terse and standoffish but was physically unharmed. In fact, the only thing that seemed to be hurting him was her; when she had told him she loved him, a tear had escaped the corner of his eye as he replied that he didn't love her anymore.
She had even contacted his parents to confirm that they weren't being held hostage. When they had replied that he was acting normal apart from his desire not to speak about her, she'd had to resign herself to the fact that she wasn't as important to him as she had thought she was. It hurt, but fighting it would just bring them both more pain.
"Andie?" a soft voice called out.
Andromeda turned around, smiling wearily as she came face to face with her younger sister. "Hello, Cissy."
"It didn't go well, did it?"
She frowned, feigning ignorance. "What do you mean?"
Narcissa shot her an exasperated look. "Have I ever given you the impression that I'm stupid?"
"Of course not."
"Then why did you think you would be able to sneak around with Edward Tonks without me noticing?"
Andromeda tilted her head in acknowledgement. Narcissa might be the most compliant of the three sisters, but she was still keenly observant. "Why didn't you say anything earlier?"
"Mudbloods might be disgusting, but you're still my sister." Narcissa smiled gently before sobering again. "Just make sure Bellatrix never finds out; you know how she gets."
"Thank you," Andromeda replied, touched by her loyalty, "but it doesn't matter anymore."
"What doesn't matter anymore?" Bellatrix asked as she strode into the room, gripping her left forearm as if it pained her.
"My DADA exam," Andromeda lied. "I misread the last question. But it doesn't matter anymore because I've decided to tell Father that I want to marry Bartemius Crouch after all."
Bellatrix's expression turned triumphant. "Excellent. He's much better than the scum who gave you that bracelet. I should go—I'm just here to use the library—but let me know if you need any new connections. Now that you've rid yourself of that snivelling Mudblood, your options are opening up again."
She exited the room as quickly as she had come, leaving a shell-shocked Andromeda behind her.
"Did she just…"
"I didn't think she knew," Narcissa whispered, her eyes wide. "She's been so busy with the Dark Lord—and she's been out of school for so long—"
"You don't suppose she did something to him?" Andromeda asked, hoping that her sister would deny her fears.
"How was he acting when you saw him last?"
Andromeda closed her eyes as defeat rushed through her. "You're willing to help me?"
Narcissa smiled. "Of course."
"If we succeed, Ted and I are going to have to run," Andromeda warned her. "We won't be able to risk Bellatrix finding him again. And you..."
"I'll have to pretend I hate you." Narcissa's mouth twisted into a devious smirk. "That's alright; lying is one of my specialties."
Ted groaned and tugged at his hair. It was killing him to hurt Andromeda, but every time he tried to contact her, that voice sprung into his head again. Break up with Andromeda. Let her go and make her stay gone.
That day outside the florist shop, it hadn't been Andromeda he'd run towards—it had been Bellatrix. By the time he'd gotten close enough to recognise her, it was too late. One word later, he had fallen under the thrall of the Imperius Curse, enslaved to the whims of her will.
Fortunately, her desperation to drive Andromeda away from Muggles had been stronger than her desire to kill him. Unfortunately, that meant he'd had to break Dromeda's heart.
He strode towards the door, determined to break out of Bellatrix's hold.
Let her go and make her stay gone.
His feet faltered, and he turned to return to his armchair. But as he did so, the door blast open. Andromeda stormed into the room, looking like a warrior on a mission.
Let her go and make her stay gone.
"I told you to leave me alone. No amount of begging is going to change my mind; it just makes you look even more pathetic," he said, hating himself even as the words fell from his lips like acid rain.
She winced but continued forward. "I know what happened, and I think I know how to fix it."
Let her go and make her stay gone.
He stood up to his full height. "Get out."
But she didn't. Instead, she crashed into him, her lips finding his with practised ease. He stumbled backwards, but his arms reached up to encircle her waist, pulling her closer to him. Her mouth smiled against his, and he was struck anew by how happy they had been together. The world around them faded away until all he knew was her.
Let her go and make her stay gone. This time, however, the voice sounded desperate—as if it could feel its hold slipping.
And then, he broke through the haze.