( breathe me )

part one
be my friend

He's sixteen and buying an owl the first time he sees her.

She is beautiful - ink-black hair and fair skin and piercing eyes, elegant hands. She's rather small, to be honest, dainty-like, with lovely long fingers and perfect nails and spotless robes and he has never felt more out of his league or out of breath.

Her fingers are tapping a rhythm against her cheek and she almost glares around the cramped, smelly room. A slightly smaller blonde girl - also breathtakingly lovely - is standing next to her and staring intently at a snowy owl.

"Cissa," the black-haired one drawls, soft voice curled into intense dislike, "would you please take three more hours to choose a bird? I have all day, of course, to spend trapped in a claustrophobic room with a mass of screeching animals. I have no books to buy or potions ingredients to restock before school reconvenes in two days, so don't worry your head at all about time and choose a bird you like."

He thinks she is lovely and cold and untouchable. He can't take his eyes off of her.

The blonde sighs petulantly. "I want a good bird, Andy, not some pathetic thing any Mudblood could use at the school or buy at a shop."


Oh, no. The girls are those types of witches, the sort that won't have anything to do with anyone they deem unworthy. He wants to shudder, to hate the beautiful dark woman for being a Pureblood bigot, but can't find it in him. Something about her strikes a chord, whether it's the pale blue of her eyes or the way she looks so helplessly tired of her sister. He likes her, irrationally thinks that she's not so bad.

"Then buy the most expensive one," Andy hisses, "And get out of here before I spend the rest of my life reeking of owl."

"Father won't like that very much." Cissa doesn't seem bothered in the slightest. She prods a huge barn owl's wing and smirks as it fluffs up indignantly.

"I assure you, Cissa, he's used to your spending habits by now. Just buy a bird. Sometime this century."

"Hmmph." Cissa mutters, angry, "I should have brought dear Bella with me instead. You're in a positively nasty mood this morning, Andy. Whatever has happened?" Something in the girl's voice says that she knows very well and enjoys it.

"Dear Bella wouldn't have let you spend thirty seconds in here, because dear Bella doesn't understand why you can't simply use my owl. And neither do I, as a matter of fact. Calliope is perfectly capable of sending your letters as well as mine. They go to the same place, anyway."

Another bite in the tone, some other unsaid jab. Ted begins to wonder what sort of family this is.

"I want an owl of my own, thank you. And a pretty one, not your ugly screech. Hmm. I might like a snowy owl. They're beautiful, don't you think?"

"Oh, yes, lovely, and so inconspicuous. I'm sure Father would love having Muggles accost him about white owls flying around their homes. He'd be positively giddy upon our return for Christmas holidays."

"You're completely unbearable today, you know that, Andy?" Cissa suddenly whirls on her sister. "Just because of all this Malfoy business, you've gotten into your head that the entire world is against you! Well, I happen to think it's a beautiful day and I want a beautiful owl and you're going to stay with me until I find one and you're... you're going to like it, Andromeda Marie Black. I don't care what you say or think." Satisfied, the blonde takes a deep breath and turns back to her owls.

And all of a sudden, everything makes sense. So these are the Black Sisters he's heard so much about - the beautiful, arrogant, distant women of Slytherin House, every young wizard's wet dream, heart's desire, and worst fear, all rolled into one. So much as speaking to one of them is enough to garner praise from the whole of Hufflepuff House, and having them reply in more than two clipped words is unheard of.

Andromeda gives her sister a glare that could freeze the sun, and snatches her purse. "Choose an owl. Now." Cissa (whose full name he's heard but doesn't remember) seems to realize that she's gone too far and points to a lovely red-brown barn owl, one of the most expensive in the store. "Good. Now, bring a seller and get the bird."

Cissa hastily leaves. Ted gathers up all of his courage, and then some. What's the worst she can do? Turn that glare on him? Glares don't hurt, and even if his pride leaves the store in shambles, at least he can say he struck up a conversation with the infamous Andromeda Black.

"Hello," He says jovially, holding out his hand to shake. She spares him one glance, one sweep of her eyes over his body, from his messy hair (why, oh why, didn't he comb it this morning?) to his Muggle-style clothes (old, torn jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, which he thinks makes him look quite sexy, actually), passes over his face and down to his shoes. She shows no emotion whatsoever, ignores his hand, and then there's a long, awkward pause before she finally speaks -


"Andromeda, right? I heard your sister say your name, and I've heard of you at school. I'm Ted Tonks, by the way, I don't think we've been in any classes." Yes, his pride is suffering greatly for this. She isn't even looking at him, but rather at her sister's back, bored. Desperate to grab her attention, desperate in a way he never thought he'd be (had hoped he'd never have to be), he begins to say whatever comes to mind. "I'm a Hufflepuff, you know."

"I know," She says slowly, and for a moment he thinks his heart stops. She still doesn't face him. "You're the one who's always in detention with Professor Slughorn." She knows who he is! He feels completely pathetic for the way this makes his heart hammer against his chest. And then - "He hates you."

Ted chokes, and then coughs. "I'm not surprised. I did almost kill him in first year. Wasn't my fault, honest! I didn't know that Asphodel Root did that."

"How could you not?"

Ted freezes. Her voice is rich and cultured and disgusted and this cannot be happening, he cannot let the most beautiful woman in the entire world slip through his fingers. He coughs again. "I was an idiot."

A ghost of a smile touches her lips. "I would say you still are." Cissa returns with the seller and they pick up the owl. Andromeda moves to leave.

She doesn't say goodbye, and he hears her sister talking to her as they walk out the door - "Why were you talking to that? He's either a Mudblood or a Muggle-lover, and besides..."

He stops listening.

He can at least say he struck up a conversation with the infamous Andromeda Black. Yes, that's the positive in this situation. He'll be a God among insects at school, especially because she did speak with him. Even if it was only to belittle him and humiliate him and crush his pride. His housemates don't have to know that part.

(He still can't shake the feeling that he likes her, in spite of her chill.)


"You're joking." Ted leans back in the seat, basking in the glow. "You actually spoke to Andromeda Black. And she responded? No. I don't believe it."

Ted's best friend, Morgan, is gawping at him. Tucker and Wesley and Lucas won't speak to him. But, oh, this is glorious.

"You'd better believe it. She even smiled at me." Kind of. More like a really tiny smirk, but who cares? "She even knew who I was. Granted," Won't do to make them too jealous - they might make him go back and speak to her a second time and this thought terrifies him, "it was only because of my string of detentions with Slughorn. But the fact remains."

"You're lying, Tonks," Lucas spits, "You didn't speak to her. I mean - "

The door opens. All of them freeze. It's the younger Black sister, the blonde one. She stops, looks around, and then sighs. "I'm looking for my cousin. You may have seen him. His name is Sirius, and he's just starting this year." Ted glances at his friends, who are dumbstruck.


"I don't think I've seen him, sorry." Ted stutters, "If I do, I'll tell him you're looking for him. What does he look like?"

"Dark hair. I'm sorry, I think I see him." With that, she makes a hasty retreat. Ted exhales sharply.

"Lovely personality, that one."

Morgan laughs. "Yeah, well, the Blacks aren't really known for their charming attitudes. You know, now that I think I about it, I believe you about Andromeda talking to you."

"You do?"

"Yeah, she probably raked you over the coals and snickered while she was doing it. You just don't want the emasculation of admitting that you had your ass handed to you on a silver platter by the most sought-after girl in Hogwarts."

Ted opens his mouth and closes it twice before he can respond. "She did not rake me over the coals. No, she wasn't friendly, but she wasn't horrible, either. Didn't call me any names, at least."

"Not to your face."

"Well, what can I say about that?" Ted grins, trying to relax. And then the door opens again, "Merlin, we're popular, aren't we?" It's a boy, young, light hair, pudgy. He looks around.

"Um. Wrong compartment, I think. Have you seen Sirius or James or Remus? They told me to get them food, but I don't know my way around the train and I can't find the food and -"

Wesley cuts him off, "Don't worry about it. There's a trolley that comes around. It shouldn't be too much longer. Just go back to your compartment and tell them that you were told to wait."

The boy looks only a little grateful. "I thought this was my compartment," he mumbles.

"Oh," Ted says, "You're lost. Here, I'll help you." He stands, awkwardly maneuvering around his friends (Lucas is lounging on the floor, legs stretched out and arms splayed across one seat, Morgan is trying his damnedest to sit on the nonexistent windowsill, while Wesley is the only smart one who's actually sitting. Tucker has taken the part of the floor that Lucas hasn't swallowed, and is currently half-asleep, or would be if the door didn't keep hitting him in the head. And Ted? Was laying across the seat Lucas is leaning against, legs against the wall and one arm on the floor, engaged in a rather boring card game.)

(Wesley had been winning, by a long shot.)

The boy looks much happier. "You will? Oh, thanks. By the way, I'm Peter!"

"Ted Tonks," He says, with a little bow. "First year, I presume?" Peter nods and Ted winks at him. "It'll get easier. Just don't let the troll eat you." Morgan snickers.


"You don't know about that? Oh, yeah, there's a troll that lives on the grounds. Nasty little bugger, has a taste for first years. He usually gets in on the Defense Against the Dark Arts exam. If you've learned your lessons and done your homework, then you pass and keep your head attached to your body. If you slacked off, well..."

Just his little way of making sure the first years do their work, of course. And the look of absolute horror on the kid's face is just an added bonus.
(A/N: H'okay. This is a (hopefully) seven-part fic. It was originally a one-shot, but then it went out of control and somehow turned into, currently, twelve thousand words and counting, so I decided to split it into roughly 2000-word chunks. The title of the fic and the chapters comes from the song "Breathe Me" by Sia because I am dreadfully unoriginal.

And, for the record, ten thousand words have been written one night. This is a personal best. Review!)