Author's Notes: Okay. So. I am so sorry about how slow this story gets updated. I can't promise to go any faster, but you have all been so kind with your reviews and I think I owe you something, an apology or maybe some cheesecake, because I know how frustrating it is to wait.
The truth is that I'm impatient, I'm easily frustrated, and I write the way that I do anything that I love—fiercely, frantically, and in bursts that advance and retreat. But I promise—I promise—that this story will. get. finished. I am not giving up on it, so please don't give up on me!
Druella Black's Guide To Womanhood
i hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
The morning after Bella's surprise visit, Andromeda woke smelling Amortentia. She must have dreamed of it: the third smell had been bothering her. She couldn't place it.
She complained to Ted about it on rounds that night, and he grinned. "Well, what's it smell like? Describe it."
She frowned, thinking, as she peered into one of the broom closets for out-of-bounds students looking for love. "It's sort of . . . woodsy," she decided after a beat. "I don't know what kind, I'm rubbish at Herbology. And there's this sort of . . . flowery smell, too. It's not girly, exactly, but it's . . ." she threw her hands up in frustration. "I don't know, it's complicated."
Ted had stopped walking and was staring at her. "Woodsy," he repeated slowly. "With flowers, you said?"
"Yes, are you deaf?" she snapped irritably. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
He shook his head and then laughed, the widest smile she'd ever seen spreading across his face. "No reason," he said.
That was what she liked about Ted, when she liked him. He smiled easily, and widely, with abandon. He smiled like it was his default expression. It was refreshing, in a strange, frustrating sort of way.
"So, marks back on the Arithmancy project," he said after a few minutes, looking pleased with himself. "How'd you do?" Andromeda frowned. When she didn't answer, he gave a low whistle. "That bad?"
"I don't want to talk about it," she muttered bitterly.
"Well, I could help you. Arithmancy's easy for me." As if he could already hear her saying no, he added, "You could help me with Runes. It'll be like a trade."
Andromeda hesitated. It was a bad idea — she could see that from a mile away. But no one else in her House was even bothering with Arithmancy; you didn't need it for any of the Ministry positions, and hardly anyone bothered trying to have any hand in Gringotts beyond owning shares.
She couldn't be held accountable for other peoples' choices, could she? Ted was her only option.
"All right. But we'll have to do it at night. I'm . . . very busy during the day," she finished lamely, and ignored the knowing look he sent her.
"Fine. Midnight tomorrow? There's a little study alcove right next to the restricted section that hardly anyone goes to." He winked. "So no one knows that we're friends, or anything."
She rolled her eyes, but she smiled. "We're not friends," she reminded him, and as usual, he ignored her.
There was a letter waiting when she got back:
Wonderful to see you yesterday. You look well. I worried that you would be withering away without me, but you seem to be doing fine.
No news on this front. As the wedding draws nearer Mother gets more and more crazy — the next time she tries to mention me wearing her rag of a wedding dress, I'll set the ugly thing on fire. To the devil with tradition, anyway; aren't brides supposed to be seductive on their wedding nights? Rolph would probably be sick to his stomach if he saw me wearing that thing.
I don't know how Father managed it, frankly.
Keep me up to date on the Sirius situation. The McKinnons are an all right family, though I wish they had a few less blood-traitors. I heard Walburga is starting to look into matches within the Travers or Gibbons family. Isn't there a Yaxley soon to be eligible? Of course Sirius will end up doing whatever he wants, like always. It's one of his only traits that reminds me his actually is a Black.
I had a few words with Lucius last week about Narcissa; from what I can tell, he has no particularly devious intentions toward her, though apparently he promised her a Hogsmeade visit and didn't come through. Well, I suppose it'll be good for her not to be so pampered — she has to grow up and smell the roses sometime.
There are so many things I want to tell you, Meda. This club that I mentioned — I can't wait for you to graduate from Hogwarts so I can tell you everything. It's not safe to send it through the post, but it's . . . it's so fulfilling. My Friend, he's utterly brilliant, and so powerful, I feel small and useless next to him. It's exhilarating.
You have no idea what it feels like to be part of something so big as this, something that will change the whole world. We're going to make it all so much better, Meda, so much purer and cleaner. We're the calvary in an oncoming war of sorts, the front lines of history!
And Mother said my only duty was to bear children and be a good wife. Hah!
Well, you'll understand it all soon. I'm certain you will.
All my love, darling.
She took to doing her homework in the Common Room; that way she didn't wake the other girls when she gathered her things at midnight and made her way to the library. Avoiding the other prefects was never hard; she knew all their routes by heart.
The first time, Ted was already waiting for her. It was the first time he'd been early to anything. "If I wasn't already here, you'd have run off," he laughed when she teased him, and she rolled her eyes (though he was probably right).
It was easy to learn from Ted, because his mind worked in this wonderfully illogical way that somehow made sense despite his jumps and restarts. He talked excitedly and gestured a lot, waving his hands above his head and tousling his own hair until it stuck in all directions.
Sometimes she caught herself just watching him speak without listening, and when she shook her head and pretended that it was just the material that confused her, he smiled like he knew.
Sometimes she caught a whiff of that something — that woodsy, flowery something that she had smelled in Cissy's potion — but it was always fleeting, and she never found where it came from.
Some time at the start of December, Cissy decided once and for all to discover her secret admirer. She'd received another poem, this one called c'est l'amour, and she spent the morning fascinated by the lack of capital letters throughout the whole piece.
"It's not very impressive," she noted haughtily, shaking her blonde head in a way that made it catch the light. Andromeda wondered if she did it on purpose. "He hasn't an uppercase letter through the whole thing. It seems lazy, frankly."
Andromeda laughed affectionately and shook her head, bending across the table to kiss her sister's cheek. "You have no eye for poetry, Cissy," she teased. "You're far too literal."
Cissy didn't say anything, since she clearly wasn't sure whether or not she'd been insulted, so she settled for a shrug and tucked the letter into her robes. "Well, I'll have to find out who it is and have him explain it," she said firmly, and ripped a bit of napkin off the table before scribbling a note and tying to the owl's leg.
Demetrius reached over and tugged a stray lock of Cissy's hair playfully, and she batted him away, blushing. The two of them got on perfectly; Demetrius was attentive to her, kind, and the two of them gossiped like old ladies. Cissy called him Beadle the Bard because he had so many stories, and together they called Andromeda Marvin the Mad Muggle because she was so besotted by them.
It should have pleased her; instead Andromeda felt dismayed.
"I'm not besotted," she grouched, shoving Demetrius lightly with her shoulder. "I just don't see that they're any different from us, is all."
Her sister and her boyfriend shook their heads, sighing. "You're too much of a bleeding-heart," Cissy said, straightening up as if it could make her look older.
"I think it's darling," Demetrius mused, just a little condescending, and kissed her cheek. "But you can't feed all the strays. They'll only breed."
"They're not stray animals, they're people," Andromeda snapped, standing. "For pity's sake, stop being such utter snobs, both of you!"
She wasn't one for dramatic exits, but she gathered her things and left, suddenly furious with both of them, with everyone in her House, in the school, in the world, utterly disappointed in everything outside of herself and perhaps everything inside of herself as well.
She missed Bella, fiercely, fervently, but didn't write it; for every moment that she missed her, she found herself terrifyingly grateful that she was absent, for Bella had always pulled her in, back into the world she belonged to.
Andromeda was starting to wonder if she even wanted to be there.
That night, Ted was late. He stumbled into the library with his hair windswept and his cheeks flushed; he'd snuck out to the pitch and gone for a ride.
"I like to do it when I'm stressed," he confessed with a wide smile. "It's relaxing or something, I dunno."
"You're so strange," she laughed at him, but there was no bite in it.
He was strange, a fascination. A mystery that she wanted to understand, even though it frightened her to look.
"You're strange," he shot back cheerfully, plopping himself down in the chair across from hers. "All right. So, what are we learning today?"
That was Ted for you, never prepared but always able to fake it. He reminded her of Sirius that way, but a little more carefree, a little softer than her cousin was. Sirius, like her whole family, like herself, could be cruel when he needed to be; Andromeda didn't imagine that Ted could even be sarcastic, though sometimes his honesty was disarming.
Andromeda sat back in her chair and watched him speak, furiously scribbling equations on his parchment and then waving them under her nose as if they would suddenly make more sense just because they were in his handwriting. (They did.)
She had an image of sitting in the Great Hall, just like this, Cissy watching them from behind her wrinkled nose. Where did you even find him, she would say, and Andromeda would laugh, and together they would roll their eyes and shake their heads as Ted cried good-naturedly, Where did she find me? Where did she find you?
I'll be honest, all your talk of war has me unsettled. I like peace, thanks. Of course I trust that you're keeping yourself at least out of trouble; I didn't quite imagine you'd already be at the stage where you were actually joining clubs— you abhorred them at Hogwarts, but I suppose married women— or nearly married women— have different priorities.
Everything is fine. I'm finally passing Arithmancy, thank Merlin; when my marks came back at mid-semester I think Druella almost made me drop. Of course she never cares about marks until they're bad; that's Druella for you. After all, Druella Black's Guide to Womanhood, step thirteen: If you can't do it better than everyone else, don't bother to do it at all.
Unfortunately, I was second in my class; Ted Tonks had first, but he's practically a genius when it comes to this sort of thing so I suppose he deserves it.
I'm sure you've heard by now about my spat with Demetrius. (It never ceases to amaze me how fast news gets home; Druella had penned me a nasty note by dinner.) Don't worry, it's nothing serious. Sometimes I just . . . I get frustrated, because I keep thinking about how I used to imagine marriage would be when I was younger, and it's . . . not this.
Maybe I'm overreacting. You know me; I think too much. It would all be easier if you were here.
It was wonderful to see you. I wish you could visit more often, but of course I know you're busy. I suppose our next visit will be Christmas? I can't believe you'll be getting married. It amazes me that by this time next year, you and Rolph will have been together for a full year, maybe even expecting a child. (Oh, all right. Probably not expecting a child; you'd go mad if you had to spend nine months off your feet!)
I'll likely be engaged. Isn't that absolutely mad?
I wonder what I'll do, besides being a wife. I know Druella disapproves of women having jobs, but I'd like to do it anyway, I think. I'd go mad if I had to stay inside all day and go to tea parties and gossip.
Sirius is absolutely off his rocker for the McKinnon girl. Last week he Transfigured fourteen doves into roses and had them delivered to her in class — when she touched them, they Transfigured back and flew out the window. Romantic, no? I'm both proud of and disturbed by his imagination. (And I suspect he's been reading Cissy's romance novels again, as that particular trick is straight out of Destiny du Maurier's L'embrasse.)
Speaking of Cissy, she's set on discovering who her "secret admirer" is. I feel like this can only end badly.
The second-to-last Tuesday of November, Ted met her at the door of the library and took her hand. She raised her eyebrows at him, but he merely shrugged and started walking, dragging her behind him, unable to complain because talking in the halls invited discovery.
He led her to the Quidditch Pitch, dark but for the stars and the flickering lights of the castle. There was a little blanket set up with books on the corners to keep it from flying away.
Andromeda couldn't have explained why the sight made her smile, except to say that she liked the way Ted treated magic, like a holy thing, not to be bothered with little details like charming his blanket to the grass.
"What are we doing here?" she asked, not afraid to speak now that they were in the open air, away from the castle and the roaming prefects.
"We're taking a new approach to the Theory of Squares," he announced, flopping down on the blanket. He was still holding her hand, so she tumbled down with him. "Because you're too distracted by my nice hair to learn it the normal way."
She frowned at him and rolled her eyes, straightening her robes. "If I'm distracted by your hair," she told him flatly, "it's because it's so unruly that I'm looking for any rodents that have nested in it. Oh wait." She raked her eyes up and down him and added, "I found one."
"Ha-ha," he said good-naturedly. "The Pureblood's got jokes!"
She laughed and lay back on her elbows, looking up at the stars. It used to make her uncomfortable when he made fun of her bloodline like that; she'd been taught since birth that being a Pureblood was a mark of honor, of pride, and he discarded the title like some sort of joke.
Now, it felt nice, making light. It made things seem less important: Demetrius, Bella, everything that came after Hogwarts. Like if she could take it all with humor, perhaps it wouldn't be quite so miserable.
"There I am," she said absently, pointing up. Ted lowered himself beside her and tilted his head to follow her finger. "Andromeda. The woman chained. In Greek mythology, she was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster, but she was saved by Perseus and married to him."
"Romantic," Ted said dryly. "I'll bet that was a great first date."
Andromeda laughed. "I'm sure he got points for persistence."
"Personally, I think Perseus had it easy," Ted declared after a moment. She raised her eyebrows. "No, seriously. All he had to do was kill one lousy kraken and his Andromeda was practically throwing herself at his feet. I'll bet they couldn't get to the altar quick enough. There was no wooing process whatsoever."
"Well, sure, if you discount the fact that he had to fight a kraken, I'm sure it was one great bed of roses."
Ted waved her words away distractedly. "My point is that as far as the girl was concerned, he just had to do this one thing and that was it. It was all very straightforward: kill the kraken, get married, have lots of sex. There was none of this blood purity stuff."
"Ted . . ." Andromeda shifted. "I don't . . ."
"No, no, don't do that," he interrupted, voice tight. He didn't look at her, but scooted a few inches away until they weren't touching anymore. "I'm not trying to . . . I know that we can't, that you can't, even if you wanted, which, sometimes I think, but then I'm not as sure-anyway, I know our story doesn't end in . . . where I want it to end, but I just." He blew out a breath and raked a shaky hand through his hair. "Jesus, this is intimidating."
Andromeda sat up and settled her chin on her knees, wrapping her arms around and knotting her fingers. "If I've been leading you on," she began wretchedly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, "I'm sorry. I never meant-you're a brat, Ted, but I wouldn't-I promise, I wouldn't, not on purpose."
He smiled a little. "See, I knew you liked me," he joked weakly.
"On occasion," she admitted. "Rare occasion." Then, impulsively, she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his cheek.
He startled, hand going up to the skin where her mouth had touched, and a slow smile spread across his face, so big and bright that Andromeda's heart cracked, a little.
"So it's not me, then?" he asked, almost gently. She shook her head, pressing her lips together, and prayed he wouldn't press for an answer because she wouldn't know how to give it.
Ted was . . . Ted. She didn't-she certainly didn't love him, she certainly wouldn't leave her family for him. She wasn't going to be another Annabelle Carrow for him. The necklace Bella had given her hung heavy and safe around her neck, and that was where her heart was, not the hands of the boy she sat with.
But he made her feel . . . shaken.
A few seconds of silence passed, and then Ted cleared his throat. "Right then," he said cheerily, "so, the Theory of Squares."
When she got back to the dormitory, Demetrius was sitting on the couch with Adrian. They were laughing quietly about something, and Demetrius looked relaxed and almost happy, something Andromeda was sure she had never really been able to make him.
She walked to him and Adrian excused himself wordlessly; for a moment, they looked at one another in the firelight and then she said, "I'm sorry about earlier. Sometimes I . . . it's hard, without Bellatrix."
Demetrius held open his arms and she crawled into them, nestling her head beneath his chin. When his hands closed around her it felt like both prison and protection.