"Are you ready to leave?" Lucius asked courtly, as Andromeda drifted back to him from the register, cradling the package she had just purchased.
"Yes," she replied, and the pair started for the door.
"Oh, damn, it's snowing," Lucius remarked, stopping several feet shy of the door as he peered with narrowed eyes out of the window. And, sure enough, white flecks were falling thick and fast to the ground, already several inches high from the pavement. When they entered the shop it had only been drizzling rain – how had the stupid stuff fallen so fast?
"Ah, wonderful," Andromeda said, and – Merlin only knew why – she looked suddenly cheerful and bright, which was much more than could usually be said of how she looked when around him. Lucius still did not fully understand it, but for some reason his future wife, even after over nine months of him courting her, still did not seem to like him. Being a decent woman, she never expressed this, but he could tell. He had gotten to know her rather well. Her words and manners were nearly always showed off the well-bred pureblood she was, but her face never lit up with pure, unmatched joy when she was with him. No, this was the joy he saw her show only when he was not related to what was going on around her.
"It rather ruins the plans we had made of enjoying the lunch your house elf had made for us outside," said Lucius.
"Don't be silly," said Andromeda, beaming as she looked over at him. "It does nothing of the sort. In fact, it's even better this way." And with that, she pushed the shop door open. A draft of cold air shoved its way inside, causing Lucius to draw his cloak tighter around him, but Andromeda did not seem bothered as she hopped down the front steps and out to the sidewalk. Lucius, seeing no other alternative, followed her.
Once both outside, they joined hands and Apparated to the Black mansion. She calmly led him to the backyard, still beaming up at the light snow draft tumbling around her. He couldn't understand what made her so happy about snow. It was cold, it was wet, it ruined clothes, it covered the ground in a blinding white, it stuck to everything in an irritable fashion, it made her look beautiful as the tiny drops landed in her hair – he shook his head slightly to clear it of that thought. Yes, Andromeda Black was gorgeous, but it would not do any good to dwell on this thought. She already only thought he only continued courting her for her beauty, money, and respectable reputation – which, granted, was all true, but there was no need to have her believe that.
The basket of food was waiting for them on a bench, covered with both lid and blanket to keep the food warm. Andromeda meandered over in its direction, but instead of picking it up, she scooped the thin layer of snow covering the basket into the palm of her hand, cupping it in her hands and watching happily as it melted slowly from her body heat. Lucius, not desiring to displease her, wanted to keep quiet as she did this strange ritual, but he was getting very cold and wet, and his need to get inside was manifesting by the minute.
"Andromeda?" he finally said. "Could we perhaps step inside?"
"Why don't you like snow?" she asked, and she sounded both genuinely incredulous and curious, her eyes wide as they met his.
"What is there to like about it?" Lucius returned, brushing at his head as he felt a particularly big snow drop land there with a wet plop.
"Everything," said Andromeda simply.
"Your eloquent ways with words are simply astounding," Lucius drawled.
"Yes, I can be quite breath-taking when I try," she replied with a small grin. She tilted her chin up and closed her eyes, allowing the white flakes to fall onto her upturned face. Then she opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue, in a very immature and silly manner – but still a manner that somehow made his heart beat faster.
"And just what exactly are you doing?" Lucius inquired.
"I'm catching snow flakes, of course."
"With your mouth?"
"Yes, that is the idea. You should try it."
"No, thank you," he said politely, desperately wishing she would ask him in already, but not wanting to be rude and suggest such a thing for a second time.
Mouth still open wide, she began spinning around in circles, the skirts of her robes lifting up and playing in the breeze as she did the simple dance. She began to laugh as she spun, easily and richly, each giggle like a burst of song in the frigid air. He merely stood by idly, watching her with his arms folded.
Andromeda kept up her spinning for several minutes, then she paused, swayed dizzily, and flopped right over on her back. Lucius was alarmed, and quickly hurried over to her, dropping down to his knees on the ground.
"Andromeda? Andromeda? Are you all right?" He placed one hand on her shoulder, ready to haul her to her feet if he had to. But she laughed again – wearily, but happily – and cracked open dazed eyes.
"I'm fine," she murmured dreamily. She gazed distantly at a spot somewhere above his head for a moment, then grinned with more focus and began dragging her arms and legs back and forth across the ground.
"Should I even ask?" said Lucius, watching as she performed yet another odd ritual.
"Snow angels," she said, as though it were obvious. "Good Merlin, Lucius, didn't you ever play in the snow at all?"
"Never wanted to catch snowflakes with your tongue?"
"Never made a snow-fort or snow-man?"
"Never had a snowball fight?"
She sighed, and stopped waving her arms and legs, still looking up at him. Her garments were becoming soaked from being pressed against the wet snow, but she didn't seem to mind. "What do you like, Lucius?" she asked finally, with true curiosity.
It was a strange question for a fiancée to ask her beau after over nine months of being engaged, but when he thought about it, they had never really discussed such things much. Suddenly uncomfortable, he shrugged lightly and muttered dryly, "Precious little."
She continued to gaze up at him as she lay on her back; the snow went on falling, catching in her hair, her robes, her eyelashes. She had never looked so beautiful, so unposed yet lovely, so naturally herself. And suddenly he found himself leaning over and pressing his mouth against hers in a brief, tender motion. Less than a second later however, he came back to himself and snapped upright, eyes wide at the realization of what he had done.
It was not as though the couple had never shared any kisses. Usually, though, the lip-locks were for show or formalities, not because of any real emotion. But this was unscripted, unnecessary: he had crossed a boundary line here, without her consent. His insides tumbled, he braced himself for the worst. These emotions he felt for her were unfamiliar to him, but whatever they were, he knew she didn't reciprocate them.
She sat up, so that they were both now seated against the snowy ground. He prepared himself, trying not to flinch, knowing that whatever was coming wasn't going to be pleasant. So Andromeda Black completely took him by surprise when, her eyes never leaving his face, she tipped her body closer and placed her lips against his once again, cupping one of his cheeks with her hand.
This time neither of them drew away for several long moments. When they did finally break apart, there was a hitch of silence as they each scrutinized the other. Lucius shattered the quiet by saying in a hushed and slightly strangled voice, "My robes are completely drenched from sitting here."
She gave a soft laugh. "Mine as well."
Another pause. Neither seemed to want to discuss the subject they were both thinking.
Andromeda cleared her throat. "Well . . ."
"Well . . ." he repeated back teasingly, mocking her. "As always, you still have quite a way with words."
"I do not see you contributing any impressive sentences at the moment," she returned.
"Touché," said Lucius with a smirk.
The silence crept upon them again.
"Should we go inside?" Andromeda suggested at last.
"Yes, please," said Lucius.
They both got to their feet and moved inside the Black mansion. They were still a bit awkward with each other the rest of the afternoon, but pure happiness radiated from his fiancée the entire rest of the day – and this time, he knew this pure, unmatched joy was because of him.
Nothing could have made him happier.