Dedication: For the adorable Maisie Malfoy, who requested TedAndromeda with the prompt: "the good die young but the wicked get forever." Somehow this morphed into a royalty au? I have no idea, sorry my darling, I haven't slept in days. Just try to enjoy this.

Written for:

Hogwarts Dueling Lessons: Write about 'killing someone with kindness.'

Gobstones Club: Purple stone. Prompts: (emotion) depression, (word) signs, (word) comply

Showtime Challenge: "I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not marrying my cousin."

Book Club: Wyatt Conley: (word) selfish, (action) killing, (character) Rodolphus Lestrange

Easy PiƱata: Muggle!au

x.X.x

When the Black family is young, creatures developed from fallen Stardust, a girl with a haughty smile and sharp eyes tells her father, "I want to marry the best and nobody less."

She gets what she wants because she is a Black and she is no less formidable than the gods themselves.

x.X.x

The thing is, he may be a dirt-poor son of a farmer, but he's not stupid. He knows the stories and he sees the signs.

Bellatrix, the oldest sibling, has pledged her life to a man who wants royal blood to remain as pure as the water that runs through the kingdom. She will not be a queen.

Narcissa, wide-eyed but far from naive, has already been betrothed from birth. She is the exchange to a kingdom further north, a wife to a man whose eyes are just as cold as the winter chill.

Regulus is weak, far from the kind of person who can take a throne. Unless he can win over Andromeda, he will rule no kingdom.

Nobody talks about Sirius anymore.

(And then there was one)

x.X.x

When the most promising heir to the kingdom turns sixteen, there is a battle for their heart, a vicious one with blood and deceiving and mind games.

Last one standing marries a Black and rules till they get killed too.

x.X.x

Theodore Tonks first sees Andromeda Black when she sits on a throne beside her parents and siblings.

She looks around in a way that would seem careless if he couldn't see the careful calculation behind every action. He's always been too observant for his own good.

"Bow down," his mother hisses, pressing her sharp nails into his back until he copies her posture, kneeling for royalty that does not care for his well-being.

Perhaps the noise travels or she's just as observant as the people whisper, but she looks at him and his mother dead on, and raises an eyebrow.

It's stupid. Idiotic even. The worst decision he's made in years. In his entire life, perhaps.

He raises his eyebrow back and their gazes hold until the ceremony ends.

x.X.x

"I'm going to enter the games," Theodore tells his mother when he is seventeen and too old for her to hold him back.

His mother doesn't want it, hates the idea, but they haven't had enough money to put food on the table for months and she has no other choice.

"I expect you to win," his mother says and he nods because it's not a teary goodbye but it's her way of saying she cares.

"I will," he says and waits for his father to come home so he can repeat the conversation.

x.X.x

They're all fools, if you ask Andromeda. But nobody ever does, because a Black must marry the best, even if that means having a competition where people fight for her heart.

It's not that her heart is frozen. Bellatrix tried that and she fell into madness. Narcissa tried that and she fell in love.

Andromeda knows better. Her heart is there and beating, but she will not give it away just because a man won a contest.

In the courtyards, men train with swords to slay each other. Andromeda can think of better things to do with that amount of blood.

x.X.x

Killing people to become king, Theodore has decided, is complete and utter bullshit.

There's no way he can win. The signs are clear: it's a rigged game he stands no chance in. As a farmer's son, he may be strong, but he has nothing on the years of tutoring and lessons that the other men do.

Rodolphus Lestrange eyes the competition like they are all scum below his feet. Theodore knows he's already won this competition once for Bellatrix's hand before she disappeared. It's personal for him.

Rabastan Lestrange is easier to qualify. He wants to be beside Andromeda because according to him, they're friends.

(Andromeda isn't the kind to have friends and you'd have to be a fool not to realize that)

There are forty in general but only two others that catch Theodore's eye: Barty Crouch Jr, son of the royal advisor, and Regulus Black, second son of the former king.

He can see it in their touches that linger for far too long, in the way their gazes never really leave each other's faces.

Neither of them wants Andromeda. They want each other but either they both die in the games or they die from a broken heart.

(And isn't that the tragedy of it all? Nobody ever really wins these games.)

x.X.x

There are other ways to win the games, few of them legal. Legality matters rarely to Ted, but he'd rather not get caught this early. That rarely is a good sign.

Still, if he can't win by killing the competition, then he needs to find another way. Most of the contestants have sponsors, people who have things to gain on their victory.

Ted has a headache and a problem with doing what he's told to do. Maybe that's why he's insane enough to break into Andromeda Black's room.

After all, no amount of sponsors can surpass the princess's own support- if he can get her on his side, all he needs is a weapon and then? Then, he can win.

x.X.x

It takes Andromeda about six seconds to realize something is wrong inside her room. In those six seconds, she says goodbye to her guard, shuts the door behind her, and takes the clip out of her hair.

Then, she speaks.

"You know, sneaking into the room of a princess, especially the future queen, is punishable with death for treason," she says conversationally, tucking a stray black curl behind her ear.

There is no answer, not even a creak of the floorboard, and then- "I'll die anyway. Not much to lose."

Only a select group of people is set for dying, and Andromeda has to admit she hasn't expected this. The men competing for her heart are either set with their sponsors and going to die anyway, no questions asked. The last thing she expected from one of them would be to sneak into her room, especially knowing she can't help them. It's a fight to the death, for heaven's sake!

"Well then, I must say I am curious to hear your reasoning for why I shouldn't just scream now. I have a guard just outside my door, you know."

Ted steps out of the shadows and Andromeda raises a delicate eyebrow at him. "Well?"

"You don't have a lot of better options this year, my Queen," Ted says, equally relaxed. "Most are useless, Rodolphus would kill you as soon as he was king, I sincerely hope you would never put Rabastan and your cousin on the throne, especially considering the former is an idiot and the latter has a boyfriend."

Shocked and a little annoyed, Andromeda resists the urge to move, whether away and towards him, she doesn't know. The problem is, he's right. The other problem is that she doesn't even know who he is.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not marrying my cousin. Now, who are you?" Andromeda demands instead.

Ted smiles, easy and calm despite the high probability of him dying in the next five minutes. "Ted Tonks. Your future husband."

Andromeda wants to laugh and rage at his insolence. She wants to kill him and she wants to kiss that smile off his face.

Instead, she leans towards. "Well then, future husband, do tell me your plan."

x.X.x

It's the wildest games ever achieved, mostly due to the rapidly rising death count. Poison kills most of the men within days, an easy death that no one sees quiet. It doesn't smooth the bloodthirsty faces in the watching crowds, but it puts them on the edge of their seats.

"It's too simple, too kind," Andromeda complains to Ted, glaring at him. "The games should be entertaining at the least."

Ted shrugs, but Andromeda has learned by now that the gesture is calculated.

"I prefer killing with kindness," is all Ted says in return.

x.X.x

Rabastan Lestrange dies from his own stupidity, tripping off a tower drunkenly during a royal ball. The entire court watches him fall, faces pressed to their mouths in horror.

"He was a fool," Andromeda says, daintily tucking her feet into her sofa. Ted raises an eyebrow. "What? He was! He spent his life thinking we were friends. It's not less than he deserves."

Ted doesn't say anything but it's only because he doesn't want to admit that he agrees.

x.X.x

Rodolphus's death is bloody. His head is on a spike when the people wake up, blood scattered around for miles.

Someone screams. A person faints. It's a scandal and they never forget his name.

"Isn't it me who's supposed to be doing the killing?" Ted asks in amusement as he and Andromeda sit side-by-side at night.

Andromeda's hand flies to her mouth, her eyelashes fluttering in sarcastic shock. "Whoops."

x.X.x

Regulus and Barty don't die. At night, when they are fast asleep in each other's arms, a shadowy figure shakes them asleep and leads them outside silently, where the Queen awaits for them.

"Andy?" Regulus asks, shaking his head to clear the confusion. It doesn't work. "What are you doing here? And who's he?"

Andromeda smiles, vengeful and proud. "That's your future king, dearest Reg. I assume this is your husband? Don't worry, I won't be telling."

Barty grabs Regulus's hand unconsciously, staring the Queen down suspiciously. "Yes, he's my husband and we love each other. We aren't here for you and you can kill me, but he's mine."

Andromeda rolls her eyes. "Oh goodness, you're still under the impression I care. No, you two are living as long as you leave the kingdom. My king here cares far more than I do, so you two get your happily-ever-after. Take your new identities and bye."

"Really?" Regulus breathes, his eyes fervent. "Thank you, my King and Queen. I don't know how I can repay you!"

Ted smiles under his cloak and Andromeda smirks. "Don't worry, cousin. I'll think of something."

x.X.x

"You're too soft," Andromeda accuses Ted as they watch Barty and Regulus sneak out of the Kingdom gates from her window.

Ted smiles, kissing his soon to be wife's cheek. "Fear only lasts a lifetime. Kindness creates empires."

x.X.x

Theodore Tonks is crowned king on a bright, sunny afternoon, with the sun shining brightly and the birds chirping.

Andromeda stands beside him, her smile bland. There is no hint that she has spent the last months being his partner in crime as they eliminated the competition so they can rule.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow people of Black Kingdom gathered here today, I pronounce Theodore Tonks and Andromeda Black husband and wife, destined to rule."

The crowd cheers, adoring and foolish. Theodore remembers himself standing there long ago, raising an eyebrow at a princess who is now his queen.

"Ready to rule, my king?" Andromeda breathes, hot against his ear.

Ted smirks. He was born ready. "Of course, my queen. With you by my side-"

"We'll be unstoppable," Andromeda says and smiles.

x.X.x

This story is not a happily-ever-after. This is a story of a Queen who's smile is as poisonous as the apples people offer. This is a story of a King who saw a kingdom and remade it in his image.

This is an ode to the most vicious and successful couple to ever rule. This is a reminder: the good die young but the wicked get forever.