DISCLAIMER: All of the places and characters in this story belong to the genius Ms. J.K. Rowling. No profit is being made from this story. It only serves to (hopefully) entertain.
This story is rated T for mild language, implied violence, and a reference to a sensitive topic. Story does mention slash on the side (non-graphic.) For Gamma and SaM. Enjoy!
The girl was born just minutes before midnight on the thirty-first of December, 1953. The boy, however, decided to make things interesting by arriving just seconds after the clock struck twelve, resulting in him not only being born on a different day than his twin, but but being born in a different month and year as well. Even as an infant, he was defying normalcy and shaking things up in his ancient family.
Despite the different birthdays, the twins seemed to have a lot in common already. They were both rather quiet for newborns. Neither had cried when they came out of the womb; instead, they just made little whimpers and gazed around the elegant room in the Black family home. Both parents took comfort in this, especially their mother, who was still scarred from the obnoxious, loud tantrums her two-year-old daughter threw when she was a baby. Their father was especially pleased; he saw their reserved nature as a sign of obedience and honor.
He couldn't have been more wrong, of course, but he wouldn't be the wiser for several years to come.
"So we have an agreement, then?" Cygnus said with a glint of victory in his eyes.
"For now, yes," Dolohov confirmed with a nod. "Of course, it won't be official until she becomes a woman."
"Of course," Cygnus agreed. "I understand."
"Are you sure we can't have your oldest instead? My son quite fancies her."
"They are merely two years old, Dolohov. I hardly think they even know what it means to fancy someone."
"Fine. They get along. Is that better?"
"It is, but the answer is still no. Bella has already been promised to the Lestranges. She will marry their eldest son."
"Very well, then."
"Not to worry, my dear friend," Cygnus assured Dolohov as he gently bounced his five-month-old daughter in his lap. "Andromeda will be a fine match for Antonin. I'm sure of it."
"I do hope you're right," Dolohov said. "Though if the arrangement with the Lestranges falls through-"
Dolohov reluctantly nodded and stood up. "I must get home to my wife. Come, Antonin," he said to the toddler sitting patiently in the corner; he'd gone mostly unnoticed for the majority of their visit. Dolohov turned to Cygnus once more. "I suppose I'll be seeing you."
Cygnus offered a curt nod. "Until next time."
As Dolohov took his son's hand and Disapparated on the spot, Cygnus turned to his wife, who was sitting beside him with the boy in her lap.
"That went well."
"Indeed it did," Druella agreed. "Antonin is a good match for Andromeda, though I would have preferred giving her to Rabastan. We know the Lestranges much better than the Dolohovs."
"You know that wouldn't have been wise," Cygnus countered. "Bella has already been arranged with Rodolphus. There's no need to create a second tie to the house of Lestrange. The more alliances we can make, the better off we'll be."
"I supposed you're right," his wife respectfully agreed.
Cygnus eyed the baby boy in Druella's lap. "Now, what are we going to do with you?"
"Perhaps the Rowles? They're expecting a daughter. She's due in July."
"But the Notts already have a daughter."
"We're more friendly with the Rowles."
"All the more reason to create a bond with a family we need to improve our alliance with," Cygnus countered. "I mean no disrespect to the Rowles when I say this, but the Notts are much wealthier and therefore a more desirable match."
Druella nodded. "The Notts it is, then."
Cygnus placed Andromeda on the carpet. She just looked up at her father expectantly.
"Where's Bella?" he muttered.
"Upstairs, I expect," Druella said.
"Bella!" he called. "Come down here and play with your sister!"
Cygnus proceeded to take the baby boy from his wife's arms.
"I'm off to the Notts'. I should be back by sundown."
"Could you not just invite the Notts here for tea? I'd rather not be left alone with the girls. They're quite the handful."
"Don't be silly, Ella," Cygnus mocked. "You know that it's proper for the father of the son to call upon the parents of the daughter. I suspect it was my father who visited your parents the day we were arranged, and we've been rewarded with a satisfying marriage, have we not?"
"The house-elves will assist you with the children in my absence. You needn't worry."
Druella nodded obediently. "Very well. I'll see you this evening, then."
Cygnus stepped into the fireplace with his son cradled in his arms, stated his destination, and was swallowed by green flames.
Bellatrix and Narcissa excitedly bolted down the stairs of Black Manor carrying dresses, shoes, and jewelry. Andromeda was right behind them with a cluster of flowers in her hands. Though she seemed slightly less enthusiastic than her two sisters, she was smiling nonetheless.
"Where are you girls going?" Druella called from the sitting room.
"Outside!" five-year-old Narcissa exclaimed with glee.
"We're going to play wedding!" Bellatrix chimed in.
"Oh, how wonderful!" their mother said happily. "Just remember to be back inside in time for dinner."
"We will! Promise!" Andromeda called as she ran out the door of the mansion after her sisters.
Once they were in the garden, Bellatrix took charge.
"I get to be bride first," the nine-year-old said confidently, already reaching for the wedding dress in the pile of costumes.
"Oh, can I go first this time, Bella?" Narcissa whined. "You went first last time!"
"Well, Meda should go first, then," Bellatrix stated. "Then you can go first next time. We'll go in order."
"No, it's okay. Cissy can go first," Andromeda said with a smile. "I'll go last."
"Alright, then," Bellatrix agreed. She held up the white dress to her youngest sister's excited eyes. "Ready to marry Lucius, Cissy?"
Narcissa squealed in delight and eagerly stepped into the white dress. It was ridiculously too big for her, of course, but she looked like a princess nonetheless. Bellatrix placed the crown and veil on her head while Andromeda fastened a necklace of emeralds and silver around her neck. They didn't even bother putting the pretty white shoes on Narcissa's feet; she was going to have a hard enough time not tripping over the lengthy dress as it was. Once Narcissa was in her bridal outfit, Andromeda and Bellatrix also put on costumes. Andromeda put on too-big black dress robes, as she'd be playing Lucius, while Bellatrix slipped on majestic purple robes so she'd be in-character as the official performing the ceremony.
"Okay, Cissy," Bellatrix said, thrusting a bouquet of fake roses into her small hands, "go stand behind that tree for now, and we'll call you when it's time to walk."
Narcissa practically skipped over to the large willow tree. She frequently tripped over the dress as she went, but she never tumbled. The sisters played wedding often – it was their favorite game, after all - so it was likely she was getting used to walking in it.
And so their play began. Bellatrix hummed the wedding song as Narcissa walked toward "Lucius," and she recited the traditional Pureblood vows to the best of her ability.
"Do you, Lucius Malfoy, take Narcissa Black to be your wife, to love and to cherish for the rest of your days?"
"I do," Andromeda said. She and Narcissa giggled.
"What does cherish mean?" Narcissa asked.
"It means take care of," Bellatrix said quickly. "And do you, Narcissa Black, take Lucius Malfoy to be your husband, to love and to obey for the rest of your days?"
"I do!" little Narcissa proclaimed happily. "But what does obey mean?"
Even Bellatrix couldn't help but chuckle at her sister's youthful innocence.
"It means to do what you're told. Stop interrupting me. I now pronounce you husband and wife!" Bellatrix announced happily. "You may kiss the bride!"
"Can we skip this part?" Narcissa mumbled, the smile fading from her face.
"Of course. We always do," Andromeda said.
"Am I actually going to have to kiss Lucius when we get married for real?" Narcissa inquired.
"Indeed you are," Bellatrix said. "And you'll have to every day after that."
"Ew!" Narcissa shrieked. "Why?"
"That's just the way it is," Bellatrix said with a shrug. "Andromeda will have to kiss Antonin and I'll have to kiss Rodolphus. It's just part of getting married."
"But that's years away," Andromeda cut in. "Don't worry, Cissy. We're just playing for now."
"Indeed we are," Bellatrix said, undoing the button of the purple robe and letting it fall from her shoulders. "Now, hand over that dress. It's my turn."
Each of the three Black sisters had a turn being the bride, the groom, and the official. They laughed and played wedding for the better part of the next half hour until their brother emerged from the cluster of trees nearby. He had a small smirk upon his face.
"Have you been there the whole time?" Bellatrix asked, her mouth wide open in surprise.
"Of course," Perseus said matter-of-factly. "Merlin, I hope you three aren't that giggly when the time comes to really get married."
"Well then, let's see you try it without laughing at least once," Bellatrix challenged, holding up the black dress robes. "I'll even pretend to be little miss Nott for you."
"Playing wedding is for girls, Bella!"
"Aw, what's the matter? Too scared to even pretend to marry Prissy?" Bellatrix taunted.
"Shut up!" Perseus shouted at his eldest sister. He spun on his heel and walked quickly toward the thicket of trees at the edge of the Black property.
"Why do you always have to tease him, Bella?" Andromeda asked with a sigh.
"Because it's just so easy," Bellatrix said. "It's all in good fun. I didn't mean any harm by it."
"I know, but you know how much he hates Priscilla."
"Girls!" their mother called from one of the manor's many windows. "Dinner's just about ready. Get your brother and come back inside."
"Coming!" Andromeda called back. She turned to Bellatrix and Narcissa. "You two bring in the costumes. I'm going to find Perseus, alright?"
Without another word, Andromeda jogged across the perfectly manicured green lawn and into the trees. It didn't take her long to find the boy who had the same sea green eyes as her, as well as the same brown hair that was so dark it could easily be mistaken for black. He was perched upon their favorite log and throwing little pebbles at nearby tree trunks.
"Perce, dinner's ready," she said.
"I'm not hungry," was his reply.
Andromeda sighed and sat down beside him.
"You know what's wrong, Andy," he said. He was the only person in the world allowed to call her by that nickname. "I hate Priscilla."
"She's not that bad."
"Why couldn't Mother and Father have arranged me with Marcella Rowle? At least she's a laugh. Or even the Selwyns' daughter... what's her name again?"
"Yeah, her. She's sort of nice. I'd rather anyone than Prissy Nott."
Andromeda stifled a laugh.
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing," she giggled. "It just sounds weird when you say it like that. Prissy Nott."
"I actually call her Prissy Snot when no one's around."
Andromeda burst out laughing, and despite his foul mood, Perseus couldn't help but laugh, too.
"Come on," Andromeda said when their fits of giggles subsided. "We'd better get back to the house before Mother has a fit."
The pair walked in silence across the huge lawn before Perseus spoke up.
"Do you at least like Antonin?"
Andromeda shrugged. "I guess. I've only met him once or twice, but he seems okay."
"You're lucky," Perseus said with a jealous scowl. "At least your arrangement is tolerable."
"Perce, we're both years away from getting married. You may actually like her by the time we're eighteen."
"I hope you're right."
"Of course I'm right. I'm was born the year before you, and therefore, I'm a year wiser."
"Oh, come off it! You're only older than me by a few minutes."
"Not according to the calendar," Andromeda said with a happy grin.
"Shut it," Perseus mumbled, but he couldn't help but smile, too.
"I hate him," ten-year-old Andromeda whined, leaning back against the abundance of pillows on her bed. "He's gross."
"Oh, stop it, Meda," Bellatrix scowled. "You didn't seem to mind him so much a few years ago."
"That was because I didn't know how daft and foul he is."
"He's handsome and rich. You couldn't ask for a better match."
"He is not handsome!" Andromeda argued. "And why do I even need a match? What if I don't want to get married?"
"You just have to. It's part of life," her older sister said. "Do you think I like Roddy?"
"You seemed to be getting along quite well with him at dinner the other night," Narcissa chimed in.
"Because I'm supposed to, Cissy," Bella remarked, rolling her eyes. "That's how you make it in our world. Do what you're told, and you'll be rewarded with riches and honor. If I'm going to get that by fawning over Rodolphus, then I'm perfectly content with doing so."
"I don't care about riches and honor," Andromeda complained. "I'd rather be poor and living on the streets than married to Antonin."
"Wait a few years, dear sister. Wait until you're at Hogwarts and see your other options. You'll change your mind."
"Doubt it," Andromeda muttered quietly under her breath.
"Though I must admit," Bellatrix continued, "I think Cissy got the best deal of us all."
"Lucius?" Narcissa asked, completely gobsmacked. "You think Lucius Malfoy will make a good husband? You're mental."
"Again, give it time," Bellatrix said. "He'll grow on you."
"I'd rather have Rodolphus," Narcissa muttered.
"Aw, does little Cissy have a crush?" Bellatrix taunted.
"Shut up! I do not!" Narcissa cried.
"Knock it off, Bella," Andromeda said irritably, rolling her eyes.
"It's not like it'd even matter if she did. My arrangement with Rodolphus is official."
"You heard me."
"Yes," Bellatrix declared proudly. "I'm a woman now."
"What do you mean, you're a woman?" Narcissa asked, a look of confusion plastered to her face.
"You'll understand in a few years," Andromeda said hastily to her younger sister before turning to Bellatrix. "When?"
"Wow, I...er, congratulations, I guess?"
"Thank you," Bellatrix said happily. "And I'm guessing it won't be much longer for you, little sister."
"I hope you're wrong."
"Wish all you want, but it's going to happen sooner or later."
Andromeda scowled and rolled her eyes. "Could you two leave now? I just want to be alone while I attempt to figure out a way to chuck Antonin."
Bellatrix snorted. "Good luck with that. Come along, Cissy."
After her two sisters left the room, Andromeda laid back on her bed and let out a heavy sigh.
"Okay, they're gone," she called out.
The door to her wardrobe creaked as Perseus stepped out.
"I thought they'd never leave. I really hate sneaking around."
Andromeda shrugged. "How else do you suggest we talk?"
"No idea," he muttered, sitting down in his sister's desk chair. "It's stupid. Why do we have to all be in our rooms by seven in the evening?"
"Your guess is a good as mine."
"What were you and Bella talking about, anyway? What did she mean about her and Rod's arrangement becoming official? Wasn't it always official?"
"No. Arrangements aren't official until it's confirmed that the girl is fertile."
"Fertile? You mean Bella... she started ...yuck!"
"You mean you know about... that?"
Andromeda raised an eyebrow. "Father actually told you?"
"I shouldn't be surprised, I guess. We're at that age."
"He never told me that it was so important, though," Perseus continued. "So what you're saying is arrangements aren't official until the girl 'becomes a woman,' as you and Bella called it?"
"Hm. We get wands next year. I wonder if there's a spell I can use on Priscilla to stop her from doing that."
Andromeda laughed. "I doubt it, but please let me know if you find one. I'd love to use it."
"Noted," Perseus said. "I don't like Antonin, either."
"He never used to be so irritating. I wonder what happened."
"Easy. He went to Hogwarts and got cocky. Bella's the same way."
Andromeda offered him a sad smile. "You've noticed that too, haven't you?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I hope it doesn't happen to us, or to Cissy."
"Well, I can't speak for Cissy, but I know it won't happen to us. I won't let it."
Knock, knock, knock.
"Go away," Andromeda muttered.
"It's me, Andy. Open the door." More knocking.
"Go away!" she repeated more fiercely this time, though there was evidence in her voice that she'd been crying.
"Andy, what's wrong?" Perseus persisted outside her door. "Come on, it's just me out here. We've always been able to talk. Let me in."
Andromeda knew he wasn't going to back down, so she reluctantly rose from her bed to open the door for him. His face fell when he saw her puffy, red face with tear stains all over her cheeks.
"Hey, what's the matter?" he asked with concern, pulling her into a hug. "You haven't been outside all day. You love summer."
"I don't want to talk about it, alright?" she mumbled as they broke apart.
"We don't have to talk about it. Just tell me what's going on and I'll leave it alone. If I can help somehow, I will."
"You won't be able to help with this. Trust me."
"Andy, just tell me what's going on. I'm worried about you."
"But it's embarrassing, Perce. It's awful."
"You know you can tell me anything, no matter how embarrassing or awful."
Andromeda sniffled a little before gesturing to the far corner of her room. At first, Perseus didn't know what she was referring to, but then he saw the discarded pair of knickers with a couple specks of blood in them.
"Oh no," he whispered. "Andy, I...I'm so sorry..."
"It's hopeless now," she cried, sitting back down on her bed. "There's no way out of it. The arrangement is official. I'm stuck with Antonin."
"I don't know what to say..."
"You don't have to say anything. We aren't talking about it, remember?"
"Yeah, I know," he said, sitting down, too. He fiddled with his wand in his hands before speaking again. "Mine's official now, too."
"Father told me the news yesterday. Priscilla...well, our arrangement is set in stone."
"Oh, Merlin, I'm so sorry, Perce."
He shrugged. "I'll live. I won't be happy, but I'll live."
"I will, too, I guess."
"It's just so ridiculous," Perseus said, shaking his head. "We're only thirteen! We shouldn't have spouses lined up for us, and especially not ones we can't stand. It's absurd!"
"I know, but feelings don't count in Pureblood families. Mother and Father certainly don't love each other."
"But they can at least tolerate each other," he argued. "They at least get along. I can't even be in the same room as Priscilla without wanting to hex her into next week. How the hell am I supposed to be a husband to her?"
"That's years away, Perce. She might-"
"Don't even say she might grow on me, because it's not going to happen. Do you think there's even the slightest chance Antonin will grow on you?"
Andromeda sighed. "You're right. I'm sorry. I was just trying to look on the bright side."
"There isn't a bright side in this family."
"Well, I was trying to make one."
The twins sat there in silence for a few minutes, pondering how their futures would turn out. Andromeda considered what Perseus said, and she had to admit he had a point. Their parents, while not in love, did at least get along, and for what it was worth, they seemed content. Bellatrix didn't love Rodolphus by any means, but they were at least friendly with each other. Even Narcissa and Lucius were bonding well, but they were still young; anything could happen. It seemed like only her and her brother's arrangements were complete garbage. How did they end up so unlucky?
"We could just ignore the arrangements, you know," Perseus whispered after a long while.
Andromeda shifted her gaze from the floor to him. "What do you mean?"
"You don't have to marry Antonin, just like I don't have to marry Priscilla."
"Are you mental? Of course we have to."
"What are they going to do? Put us under the Imperius and make us exchange vows with people we hate? They're power-hungry people, but even they can't do that, Andy."
"I know that, but they can disown us. We'll be thrown out on the street."
"So? We're smart. After a few more years of training at Hogwarts, we could make it on our own. We may even find people we actually like, and maybe even love."
Andromeda smiled thoughtfully. "That would be nice, I admit."
Perseus smirked at the dreamy look that appeared on his sister's face. "There's already someone you fancy, isn't there?"
"That's none of your business, dear brother."
"Oh, come on. If you tell me your secret, I'll tell you mine."
"Since when do you keep secrets?"
"Since I got one that could get me into far worse trouble than anything you're probably hiding."
"Okay, fine. There's a Muggle-born boy at school I kind of fancy. Still think your secret is worse than mine?"
Perseus shrugged. "Still not as bad as mine."
"Perce, what could possibly be worse in this family than being attracted to a Muggle-born?"
"I never said it wasn't bad, Andy, but there are far worse things you could be hiding."
"Like what? It's your turn to share."
Perseus sighed. "Promise you won't tell?"
"Alright. Well..." Perseus looked away from his sister and down at his feet. "I like a boy, too. Half-blood."
"Half-blood? That's not so...wait, what? Come again?"
Perseus shrugged. "He's in the year ahead of us. Ravenclaw. We've been exchanging letters all summer."
"I'm not talking about that, Perce. I mean, you...like him?"
"I can't help what I feel, Andy..."
"I know you can't, but..." her voice trailed off as she attempted to chose her words carefully. "A boy?" When Perseus just nodded, Andromeda continued. "How long have you known?"
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"It's obvious, isn't it?" Perseus said, finally looking at her. "Father already hates the fact that I'm so vocal about my hatred for Priscilla. If he ever found out the real reason..."
"He won't," Andromeda assured him. "Does anyone else know besides me?"
"No," Perseus said. "Just you and him."
"Well, I promised I wouldn't tell, and I always keep my promises. Mother and Father won't learn of this from me."
"Thanks, Andy," he said with a sad smile. "But this is why I simply can't be with Priscilla. It's more than the fact that she's a miserable, conceited twit."
She nodded. "What are you going to do, then?"
Perseus opened his mouth to reply, but before he could say anything, the door to Andromeda's room opened and their mother stepped in.
"Is everything alright in here?" she asked. "Meda, Cissy said she heard you crying."
"It's nothing," Andromeda replied in as smooth of a tone as possible. "I'm fine. We both are."
"Well, alright," she said. "Just be sure to tell me if either of you need anything. I'll send one of the house-elves up if you do."
"Yes, Mother," Andromeda and Perseus replied in unison.
As Druella turned to leave, however, she spotted the pair of knickers in the corner and stopped dead in her tracks. She swiftly turned to Andromeda.
"Is that what I think it is?" she demanded, pointing to them.
Despite her initial urge to lie, her common sense kicked in. Lying to her mother would be a waste of time; she'd find out eventually.
"My goodness. Cygnus!" she called out. "Cygnus, comes to Meda's room right away! Cygnus!"
Within seconds, their father was at the door.
"What is it, Ella?"
"Meda... she's... she's a woman."
Cygnus glanced at his daughter. "Is this true?"
She nodded reluctantly. "Yes, Father."
"Finally!" he said. "It took you long enough, girl. Bella was a woman at twelve."
Andromeda and Perseus just glared at him. His insult was completely unnecessary; it's not as if girls dictate the start of such things on their own.
"I must alert Dolohov. He'll be so pleased that we can make this arrangement official once and for all. Two arrangements settled in one week! Only one to go!"
Cygnus's lips curled at the corners very slightly, and that was the closest Andromeda and Perseus had ever come to seeing their father smile. Once Cygnus and Druella both left the room, the twins were quiet once more until Perseus broke the silence.
"Like I said before, Andy," he whispered, "we don't have to marry them."
"I know, but we will."
He shook his head. "I'm not."
Andromeda look up at him. "How are you going to go about that?"
"Once I graduate Hogwarts, I'm leaving. The second we arrive at King's Cross, I'm going off on my own."
She smiled admiringly. "I wish I had the courage to do something like that."
"You can do it, Andy. We both can."
"You know I can't. I'd get too scared. There's a reason I wasn't sorted into Gryffindor, you know."
"I'm not a Gryffindor, either, Andy. We are, however, both in Slytherin. The house of ambition. We can be ambitious without being reckless, and there's no rule saying our ambition has to match that of our parents."
When Andromeda said nothing and instead looked thoughtfully out the window, Perseus stood up.
"Just think about it, alright? We still have five more years at Hogwarts. We have plenty of time to plan it."
Once her brother left, Andromeda laid back down on her bed and hugged a pillow tightly to her chest. What Perseus described all sounded so good, but she couldn't bring herself to do it unless there really was a better life for her outside of the House of Black. The Muggle-born boy she'd been corresponding with, Ted, was a nice bloke, but that was all. She didn't love him. Not yet, anyway.
And Perseus, well...he may not have been in love with the boy he was seeing at school, but there was no way he could marry Priscilla when he didn't even like women at all. He had every reason to leave. But did she?
Perhaps Bellatrix had been right. Maybe marrying Antonin wouldn't be so bad. She'd be taken care of, at least. She'd still be accepted by her family.
As she lay there, however, she realized the only person in her family she was concerned with having respect from was Perseus, and he'd love her no matter what. That was probably the only thing she was sure of in her life.
"Ted," Andromeda murmured softly against his mouth. "We have to get back. The curfew..."
"I know, I know," Ted muttered, removing his hands from her dark brown hair and giving her one final kiss on her lips. "The last thing we need is detention."
She smiled. "Come on, I'll walk with you to Ravenclaw."
Andromeda slipped her hand into Ted's, and the two of them began walking along the dark, candlelit corridors. Their friendship had escalated to much more at the end of their third year, and their relationship was still strong in their fourth. Antonin wasn't pleased.
"We're going to have to talk about it sometime, you know," Andromeda whispered.
Ted nodded. "Yeah, I know."
"What do you think I should do?"
"I think you should do whatever you want."
"I don't know what I want."
"Well, do you want to marry Antonin?"
"Then don't marry him."
"That's what Perce keeps saying," she sighed. "I just wish it was that simple."
"Look," Ted said, halting his steps and turning to face her. ""I don't know how these sorts of things work in your family. You do. I don't know how they'd handle you disregarding their wishes."
Andromeda shrugged. "They'd disown me for sure. I don't know what else."
"If they'd harm you in anyway, I...well, I don't want that to happen."
"So you're saying you think I should marry him."
"I'm saying I don't want to see you getting hurt."
Andromeda kissed Ted again, losing herself in his embrace. When she was with him, she didn't give a damn about her parents or her arrangement to Antonin. She didn't care that she was expected to be the perfect Pureblood daughter and wife, obedient at all times. She didn't care about blood status. To her, Ted wasn't a Muggle-born. He was a boy who cared about her and treated her like she was actually worth something. He didn't act like Antonin. He didn't think of her as a trophy or a piece of property. She loved that about him.
"Andy," he murmured, "we're doing it again..."
"I know. I'm sorry."
He grinned. "I'm not."
She giggled. "Neither am I, really. But please, don't call me Andy. Only Perce is allowed to call me that."
"I know. Sorry."
"Don't worry ab-"
Andromeda was cut off by the sound of someone rummaging through the nearby broom cupboard. The pair stared at the door.
"A couple of first years causing trouble, do you think?" Ted asked.
"No. Probably Antonin," Andromeda scowled, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. "He likes to keep an eye on me."
"Doesn't that bother you?"
"Not really. It's not like he can do anything about us," Andromeda said nonchalantly as she walked toward the broom cupboard. "The most he could do is get mad and tell me to stop seeing you."
"And if he does?"
"I'll do what I always do: tell him to bugger off and mind his own business. I know for a fact that he sees other girls, so he has no right to tell me what to do."
Andromeda grinned before yanking the door open.
"Antonin, I told you to – Perseus!"
Rather than Antonin, Andromeda found her brother and his boyfriend having a snog in the tiny cupboard. Upon hearing her shriek, the two boys pulled apart hastily and removed their hands from one another's hair. Perseus just smirked, clearly finding humor in the situation.
"Oh, hello, Andy. I'm sure you remember Lorenzo."
"Yes... yes I do. Hello there."
Lorenzo just blushed. "Hey."
"You two know it's almost curfew, right?"
"Is it that late already? Time certainly flies when you're having fun," Perseus said cheekily. "I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then."
Perseus gave Lorenzo a quick kiss on the cheek before stepping out of the broom cupboard. He had a satisfied grin on his face as he headed down the corridor, obviously not caring how awkward everyone else seemed to feel at the moment.
"Andy, you coming?" he called over his shoulder.
Andromeda sighed and turned to Ted. "I'm sorry. I said I'd walk you back..."
Ted just shook his head and smiled. "Don't worry about it. I'll see you at breakfast, okay?"
"Okay. Good night."
After a final kiss, Andromeda jogged after Perseus. He was already on the staircase, descending toward the dungeons.
"You really should be more careful, you know," she said the second she caught up with him.
"And you really shouldn't worry so much."
"I'm serious, Perce. If it had been anyone else but me, word would have gotten out. Father and Mother would have heard about it somehow."
"Which it wasn't, so it didn't, and they won't. Andy, it's not a big deal."
"Honestly, if I'm not worrying about it, then you shouldn't be, either."
"Fine, you win, alright? I'll leave it alone."
"Thank you. Incorruptus Sanguine."
At Perseus' declaration, the door to Slytherin House slowly opened, revealing the dimly lit, green common room behind it. There weren't many students there. Bellatrix was lounging in the corner with Rodolphus and Rabastan, no doubt discussing who they now all referred to as Him. Marcella and Annabelle were giggling about something, as always, but Narcissa wasn't with them like she usually was. Oddly enough, Lucius wasn't around, either, and Andromeda couldn't help but wonder if the pair went for a walk. She envied how much her little sister got along with her own match.
Andromeda did frown, however, at the sight of Antonin. He was sitting in an armchair near the fire, and he winked at her upon her arrival. She scowled in reply.
Then, of course, there was Priscilla.
"Perseus!" she screeched the second she saw him. She jumped out of her chair and bolted toward him.
"Oh, bloody hell," Andromeda heard Perseus mutter under his breath before Priscilla threw her arms around him.
"Oh, I've missed you!" she giggled happily. "Come here, I have something to show you. I got something special in Hogsmeade today!"
"Er, I'm a bit tired, actually," Perseus said hastily as he backed away from her. "I'm off to bed. 'Night."
And with that, Perseus was out of the room in a heartbeat, leaving Andromeda alone with the hyper blonde that was arranged to be her sister-in-law.
"Why does he never want to talk to me?" Priscilla asked Andromeda with a pout.
"No idea," Andromeda said quickly. "I'm off to bed, too. Good night."
Andromeda swiftly spun on her heel to head for her dormitory and, to her dismay, walked straight into Antonin.
"Good evening, darling," Antonin said. "Would you like to me to walk you up to your dormitory?"
"I can get there myself, thank you very much," Andromeda replied coolly, stepping to the side to get around him. He blocked her.
"I just want to talk, Meda. We haven't spoken in quite a while."
Andromeda sighed irritably. She just wanted to go to bed.
"Fine. What would you like to talk about?"
"I was just wondering how your little rendezvous with the Mudblood went."
"How dare you use such a foul word?" Andromeda snarled. "You're disgusting."
"I'm digusting?" he retorted. "I'm not the one gallivanting around the castle with a Mudblood on my arm. This has gone on for far too long. You've had a sufficient amount of time with this bloke, don't you think? I feel I've been very patient."
"Good. Patience is something you'll need if you're going to waste your time waiting for me to come to you. It's never going to happen!"
"That's enough, Meda!" Antonin scolded in a hushed tone, grabbing her arms. "I've given you your playtime. I've been fair. I know you don't like me, and I honestly don't like you very much right now, but we've been arranged. You're to be my wife. A wife obeys her husband, so when I tell you to stay away from the Mudblood, you stay away from him! End of discussion!"
Andromeda wiggled out of his grasp and glared at him.
"I'm not your wife yet!" she sneered. Andromeda pushed Antonin out of her way and breezed toward her dormitory. She knew she'd get an earful from Bella later for what she did, but she didn't care. Telling Antonin off felt good, and she relished in it.
"Well done," she heard a voice call from behind one of the statues in the corridor leading toward the dormitories. She allowed a smile to spread across her face when Perseus stepped out from the shadows.
"You heard the whole thing?"
"Sure did," he said, grinning. "I knew you had it in you."
"So. Fifth year starts in three weeks. Are you scared?"
"Of course not! You?"
"Looking forward to it, actually. I miss Lorenzo."
Andromeda giggled. She and Perseus were enjoying the summer evening by lounging in a small clearing between the trees near their family home. They were laying in the cool grass, gazing up at the passing clouds of sky turned orange by the sunset.
"I wonder what Ted's up to," Andromeda said thoughtfully. "I haven't heard from him since last week."
"Well, he's a Ravenclaw," Perseus said. "He's probably studying his brains out for O. W. L. s."
Andromeda laughed. "Probably. Did Lorenzo do that last year, too?"
"Of course. He's probably doing the same right now, actually. I haven't heard from him lately, either."
"Didn't you say he was going away with his parents, though?"
"Nah, that's Priscilla. And good riddance. I hope they all splinch themselves on their way back from wherever."
Andromeda and Perseus both turned their gazes from the clouds to see Narcissa standing a few feet away.
"Hey, Cissy," Perseus said. "What's going on?"
"Father sent me. He'd like to see you both in the dining room."
"He didn't say."
Andromeda glanced at Perseus, who merely shrugged at her, before looking back at Narcissa.
"Alright. We'll be right in."
As Narcissa walked back to the mansion, Andromeda looked to her brother once more.
"What do you think he wants?"
"He probably wants to lecture us about O. W. L. s," Perseus suggested. "He did the same for Bella before she entered fifth year."
The twins lazily forced themselves off the grass and sauntered back to their home. They never liked talking to their father, never mind doing so on a beautiful August evening when all they wanted to do was lay outside and wait for the stars to come out.
Cygnus was sitting at his usual place at the head of the long dining room table.
"Sit," he instructed.
Andromeda and Perseus both plopped down into chairs.
"Where's Mother?" Perseus inquired.
"I don't recall asking for questions, dear son."
"I was just wondering," Perseus mumbled under his breath, but he didn't push the issue further.
"Now," Cygnus continued, "I have you both here for a reason. It has come to my attention that you have both been disregarding your arrangements in the most unacceptable of ways."
"What has that stupid bint-" Perseus began, but Cygnus ignored him and continued talking.
"It is not out of the ordinary for boys and girls such as yourselves to engage in relationships outside of your arrangements. However, these explorations are inappropriate after a certain point. You both are fifteen years of age. You will be married three summers from now. It is time to end this nonsense of going out with other people and start becoming comfortable with your arranged spouses."
"But Father, we-"
"Silence, boy!" Cygnus snarled. "I am fully aware that neither of you are satisfied with your arrangements. You've made that fact as clear as crystal." Cygnus eyed Perseus at this part.
"If I may, Father," Andromeda said carefully, continuing only after Cygnus offered her a nod, "I think what Perseus was going to say is that three summers is a while from now. Surely we don't have to avoid anyone but our arrangements until at least our seventh year."
"This is true in most cases, dear daughter," Cygnus said. "However, the two of you have been avoiding your arrangements in the most disgusting and disrespectful of ways, haven't you?"
When Andromeda and Perseus simply stared at him, Cygnus tossed two envelopes on the table. They didn't have to ask what they were; the familiar handwriting of their lovers told them all they needed to know. Their father had been stealing their mail.
"I'm deeply disappointed in you, Meda," he said. "A Mudblood?"
"And you, boy," he continued, glaring at his only son. "How could you dishonor the house of Black in such a way? I am absolutely appalled by your behavior."
Perseus looked as if he was going to jump up and strangle him.
"Now, being the kind man that I am, I am willing to forget this ever happened. You are both to stop this nonsense at once." Both Andromeda and Perseus opened their mouths to protest, but Cygnus held up a hand to stop them. "This is not a negotiation! Andromeda, you will cease all communication with the Mudblood. Perseus, you are not to see or speak with this boy ever again. You will both mend your ties with Antonin and Priscilla. Mark my words, there will be severe repercussions if you don't! Am I clear?"
Andromeda and Perseus looked at each other, but didn't respond. Andromeda looked as if she was about to cry.
"Am I clear?" Cygnus asked sternly once more.
"Y-yes, Father," Andromeda squeaked. She wasn't worried about herself, but about Ted. She feared her father would seek him out and harm him if she continued to see him. She wouldn't risk that.
"Very well," Cygnus said with a slight gleam of victory in his eyes. "I expect Antonin will be most pleased. Perseus?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"No," Perseus repeated defiantly. "I will not stop seeing Lorenzo. I love him."
"This is absurd, Perseus!" Cygnus remarked angrily. "Boys simply don't love other boys! It's...it's..."
"It's what? Disgusting? Dishonorable? Well you know what, Father? I don't give a damn! I don't care about you or stupid Prissy Nott. I. Don't. Care."
"Perce," Andromeda whispered nervously, nudging him. "Stop!"
"You arrogant, selfish brat!" Cygnus yelled. "How dare you speak to me that way? Your mother and I have given you everything, boy! We've given you an arrangement many families would kill for! You'll be marrying the daughter of one of the wealthiest, most respected Pureblood families in Britain!"
"No! I refuse!" Perseus argued. "I don't care about wealth or honor! I don't want it, any of it! I won't marry Priscilla, and I'm not leaving Lorenzo!"
"I will not stand for this, Perseus! You will do as you're told!"
"I will not!"
Without another word, Cygnus stood from the table and marched right over to Perseus, grabbing him roughly by the collar of his shirt and yanking him from his chair.
"You're going to wish you'd never been born, boy!"
"Father, stop!" Andromeda urged, standing up and desperately trying to pull Perseus away. "Please, just stop! We can all talk about this. We can-"
Cygnus replied by grabbing her by the arm, too. He began to drag them both out of the dining room and up the stairs.
"You two have been nothing but trouble since you were born," Cygnus growled. "Didn't even have the decency to be born in the same year! You two just can't be normal, can you? Do you have any idea how difficult it was to secure two arrangements with respectable families in the same year? And this is how you repay me? Unacceptable!"
They reached Andromeda's room first. Cygnus pushed her in, and Andromeda stumbled to the ground.
"I'll deal with you later," her father snarled before slamming the door and locking it from the outside.
"NO!" she yelled, afraid for Perseus. She ran to her door and pounded on it repeatedly. What would their father do to him? "Perseus! PERSEUS!"
"I'm fine, Andy!" she heard him call, though his voice was getting quieter as Cygnus dragged him down the hall. "I'll be okay! Stay strong! Don't let them break you!"
"PERSEUS! PERSEUS!" Andromeda sobbed. She only quieted once she heard the faint slam of her brother's bedroom door.
At a loss for what to do, she laid down on her bed and wept into her pillow. She should have done something, anything, to help Perseus. She should have been stronger and stood up to their father, too. She didn't even want to know what Cygnus would do to him.
After what seemed like hours, the door to her bedroom finally opened. Cygnus' face was unreadable. There was no trace of emotion on it, not that there ever was. This time, however, was different. Something was...off.
"Where's Perseus?" Andromeda asked immediately.
"He's in his room and will remain there until morning."
"Let me talk to him."
"I will do no such thing."
"Please, Father. I need to speak with him."
"Why? So you can conspire against your family together? So you can make plans to sneak away with your Mudblood and his little boyfriend? No, you may not speak with him."
Andromeda said nothing in retaliation, knowing that arguing wouldn't get her anywhere; it certainly hadn't worked for Perseus. Instead, she stared down at her lap and waited for her reprimand. Salty tears rolled slowly down her face.
"You are to stop seeing the Mudblood at once, Andromeda," Cygnus said. He did not yell, but instead spoke in a smooth, angry tone that was far more intimidating than shouting would have been.
"Yes, Father," Andromeda sniffled, not daring to meet his eyes.
"You will also stop writing to him," he continued. "You are never to speak with him again. If I find out that you such much as share a glance with him in the corridors at Hogwarts, punishment will only be the beginning. Do you understand?"
"I understand, Father," she whispered, finally lifting her head and looking at him. "I understand."
"Good. Now, I have other things I must tend to. Good night, daughter."
Cygnus left the room without another word, leaving Andromeda with nothing to do but wait. She laid back down. She heard the distant chime of the giant grandfather clock in sitting room as it struck nine, then ten, then eleven, then midnight. Only then did she sneak out of her room and down the corridor; surely her parents were asleep by this hour.
She knocked lightly on Perseus' door.
"Perseus?" she whispered. "Perseus, it's just me. It's Andy. Let me in."
There was no answer, so she knocked again.
Again, no answer.
"I'll just be in my room, then," Andromeda said with a shaky whisper. She knew something was wrong; Perseus was a night owl and never asleep before at least two in the morning.
Maybe Father put a Silencing Charm on his room, Andromeda thought. He had to expect me to try to talk to him, right?
Content with that thought, she tiptoed back to her room, reassuring herself that everything was fine. Everything was fine.
Though her mind tried to fight it, her heart forced her thoughts to wander to Ted as she drifted off into a peaceful slumber.
The wedding was over, and guests were busy sipping champagne and munching on the hors d'oeurves continuously brought out by the house-elves. The few children in attendance played innocently in the garden while the adults mindlessly chatted amongst themselves about their wealth and superiority. Though music played, no one danced.
Even though Andromeda hated the entire premise for the marriage that had taken place that day, she couldn't deny that Bellatrix made a beautiful bride. Her ivory dress adorned with black lace and beads hugged her tall, slender body in all the right places, and her onyx jewelry complimented it well. Even Rodolphus was as handsome as a prince in his midnight black dress robes. Both he and and his new wife truly looked like the royalty they considered themselves to be, save for the fresh tattoos that had recently been branded on each of their right forearms. In Andromeda's opinion, they were hideous not just because of their appearance, but for what they represented. It was nauseating.
"Meda?" came the voice of a young boy, along with a tug on her dress. Andromeda looked down to see ten-year-old Sirius, the only family member aside from her twin she'd ever been able to tolerate.
"Hey, kiddo," she said with a smile. "Why aren't you playing with the other kids?"
"I'm avoiding Celia," he replied with a scowl. "She keeps following around like she's a lost puppy or something. I only got rid of her five minutes ago."
Andromeda nodded sympathetically. Her little cousin hated his arrangement almost as much as she hated hers.
"Where's Perseus?" he asked cautiously.
"He's not here."
"It's just... well, he's missing. Meda, he's missing from the tree. What does that mean? No one will tell me."
Andromeda swallowed hard. It had been quite some time since she visited Sirius and his family at Grimmauld Place, and it'd had been even longer since she'd been in the room with their family tree painted on the walls. She chose her words carefully before replying.
"You'll understand in a few years, okay?"
"When Regulus and I were little, Father told us that the people who're missing did bad things. But Perseus isn't bad, right?"
"That's what I thought, so I asked Mother a few weeks ago. She wouldn't tell me. She just said to never speak of it again."
Andromeda reluctantly nodded. "She's right, Sirius. It'll get you into trouble."
"You... you won't tell anyone I asked about Perseus, will you, Meda?" Sirius asked in a nervous whisper. "I'm just so confused. I hate not knowing where he went."
"Of course I won't tell," she said as steadily as she could. "Just don't bring it up again, alright? I'll be right back."
Before Sirius could utter another word, Andromeda briskly disappeared into the trees. As far as she could tell, no one noticed she'd left the party. She plopped down on the log she and Perseus always used to share when they were children. A slight breeze played with the leaves on the trees. It was a perfect summer night. Perseus would of loved it.
She let the tears fall.
Andromeda would never know exactly what happened in Perseus' room the night he denied their father's wishes and admitted he had a boyfriend. She didn't want to ask. In fact, she wasn't allowed to ask. She knew harsh words most likely were exchanged, and that perhaps a few fists had been thrown, but whether Perseus had taken his own life or fell victim to the most unforgivable of all curses at the hands of their father, she'd never know.
She and her sisters had been forbidden to speak of him after that day. The name Perseus was never again to be spoken in their household by anyone. He was to be forgotten. They were to pretend he never existed. Bellatrix had no trouble with this, and it seemed like Narcissa handled it well, too, although she may have simply following her eldest sister's lead as she always did. Andromeda, though, couldn't forget him. She followed the rules and didn't utter his name, but she thought about him all the time. She missed him. She loved him.
And in her heart, she felt like she'd failed him.
Even after what Perseus had said to her, she abided her father's strict rules. She broke off all contact with Ted, and her heart ached everyday since, especially every time he gave her a sad glance from the opposite side of a classroom or the Great Hall. That's what made it so hard: he knew why she did what she did, and though it hurt him just as much, he respected it and left her alone. Though she still avoided Antonin whenever possible, she didn't talk back to him anymore, much to both his and Cygnus' delight.
Andromeda was ashamed of herself. After how brave Perseus had been, after what he'd died for, she'd given in to her family's manic expectations and rules. His last words to her had been to stay strong, to not let them break her.
Had he known in that moment he was going to die that night? Had he known it was his last chance to speak to her? If he did, surely he chose his words because he felt they were important, yet she disregarded them anyway.
"I'm sorry," she sobbed quietly. "I'm so sorry. They broke me."
The warm tears streamed down her face as she gazed up at the clear night sky. It was all she had left. To her knowledge, Perseus had never been given a grave marker, and even if he had one, Andromeda didn't have the faintest idea where it could be. There was no way for her to visit his final resting place. All she had was the heavens above. She stared up at the cluster of stars her twin had been named for.
"I just wish I was half as strong as you."
Andromeda sat at the edge of her bed in her Slytherin dormitory, fingering the letter that had just arrived from her mother. The wedding date was set. In one month, she'd become Mrs. Antonin Dolohov.
Oddly enough, she didn't shed a tear. She was too numb to cry. Instead, she simply stared at the half-packed trunk at the foot of her bed. It was weird to think that the very next day she'd be boarding the Hogwarts Express for the final time. Her seven years at school had been anything but normal, but then again, normal was never an option in the Black family.
She rose to her feet to pack the rest of her things. She carelessly tossed books and clothes into the trunk, not bothering to put in the effort to pack them in an orderly fashion. She rummaged through her wardrobe, her desk, and beneath her bed. The last thing she went through was the tiny drawer of her bedside table. There wasn't much in there. There were a few letters from Ted, an old Potions book she'd forgotten about, and a photograph. The picture was of three girls and one boy running through a garden and laughing hysterically. They all looked incredibly happy, carefree, and innocent.
A lump grew in Andromeda's throat as she stared down at the once-happy group of siblings. Now, the eldest of them was a Death Eater. One was quietly doing what was expected of her. One was about to marry a man she hated. One was dead. How had such a happy group of children ended up with such twisted fates? They had been so spirited and full of life; what had gone wrong?
Perseus had been the only one to see it. They had been born into a family of insane, bigoted, power-hungry maniacs, and it wasn't their fault. It was, however, their own responsibility to break free. As he'd once said, ambition wasn't a bad thing. He'd fought for what he knew was right. He'd been brave enough to defy their parents, and even though he'd died doing it, somehow Andromeda knew he didn't regret it. He was free.
And Andromeda wasn't sure why, but in that moment, everything Perseus had ever told her ran through her head.
You don't have to marry Antonin.
We could make it on our own.
You can do it, Andy.
There's no rule saying our ambition has to match that of our parents.
I knew you had it in you.
Stay strong! Don't let them break you!
Perseus made his choice. Bellatrix made hers, and Narcissa had followed her lead. Andromeda was the only one left.
And she wasn't going to make the wrong one.
She bolted out of her dormitory and ran as fast as she could to the Great Hall. Dinner was almost over, and she had two people from different houses to speak with before everyone went back to their dormitories for the last night before the summer holiday. Once at her destination, she walked not to the Slytherin table, but to the Gryffindor Table.
"Sirius," she said as she approached her twelve-year-old cousin. She knelt down beside him.
"Meda!" he said happily. "Sit down and have something to eat."
She simply shook her head. "No, I don't have much time. Listen, I need to come to Grimmauld Place tomorrow night. Will you be up late?"
"I need to come in through your bedroom window."
"What? Meda, I-"
"Sirius, will you let me in or not?"
He nodded, though curiosity still lingered in his eyes. "Yes. Yes, of course."
"Thank you," Andromeda said with a smile. "Don't tell anyone I'm coming, alright? It'll be our secret."
Sirius nodded once more, and Andromeda walked to the entrance of the hall. Only two people in the whole world believed she could be more than what was expected of her. She'd already lost one of them; she couldn't let the other slip through her fingers.
She stared at the Ravenclaw table, waiting for Ted's glance to meet hers. When he finally looked up, she just jerked her head, indicating for him to meet her outside. Though he looked confused, he replied by offering her a subtle nod.
Ted met Andromeda outside the Great Hall a few minutes later, just before the House Cup ceremony was about to begin.
She cut him off by grabbing his hand and pulling him away from the hall. He didn't object and just followed her lead. She led him far away from the Great Hall and into a quiet corridor where not even the school ghosts ventured. They were completely alone.
"Okay," Ted began, "what's going on?"
"Do you love me?" She didn't waste any time.
"What? What's this ab-"
"Just answer the question. Do you love me or not?"
Ted just sighed and smiled. "You know the answer to that, Dromeda. Of course I love you. I always have."
"With all my heart."
"Marry me, then."
Ted's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open.
"Listen," Andromeda continued. "I love you, too. I'm not living this lie anymore. I'm not going to marry Antonin."
"But what will they do? Your parents..."
"I don't care anymore, Ted! I don't care about what they want or what they expect of me. Once I get off the train tomorrow, I'm taking off, and I want you to come with me."
"I'm doing this with or without you. I have to. This is something my brother and I talked about doing for years. He would have wanted me to do this. He wanted me to be free. I won't let his death be in vain!"
Ted just stared at his feet and bit his lower lip.
"I know this is a lot to take in," Andromeda said, touching the side of his face and tilting his head upward. "I know it's a lot to ask. But I love you. I'm so sorry for how messed up our situation is. I'm sorry I left you. I'm sorry I wasn't as strong as my brother. But I want that to change. I want to be with you."
Ted just smiled. "This is crazy. You know that, right?"
"I know," she said with a hint of laughter, "but nothing in my life has ever been normal. Why start now?"
Ted grabbed her hand and squeezed it gently.
"I'll go with you anywhere."
"I hate flying," Ted grumbled, tightening his grasp around Andromeda's waist.
"I'm not a fan, either," Andromeda agreed, "but it was the best I could do on short notice."
Andromeda pulled the broomstick to a halt, hovering just outside Sirius' bedroom window. She pulled a small pebble from her pocket and threw it. Sirius was at the window almost immediately.
"Hurry, get in," he mumbled quietly, pulling them both inside. "Now, what do you need to do?"
"First things first," Andromeda said. "Are your parents in bed?"
"Fell asleep a couple hours ago."
"Good. Let's go."
Without waiting for a response from Ted or Sirius, she quietly exited the room and began to tiptoe down the stairs. The boys followed her lead. She was surprised how well she navigated the house in the dark, seeing as she hadn't been there in a few years. She found the room she was looking for rather quickly. Andromeda stood there, surrounded by the faces of her ancient family. The Blacks stared back at her menacingly.
"Where's mine? Sirius, where's mine?"
Sirius pointed to the far side of the left wall. "Over there, I think."
Andromeda walked slowly along the length of the wall until she spotted who she was looking for. Her father had the same evil sneer as the rest of the Blacks on the tree, and her mother looked rather distant as she always did. Bellatrix stared at her with cold, black eyes, while little Narcissa's pools of blue looked close to friendly, but not quite there.
Then there was herself. Andromeda's picture looked warm and welcoming, clearly not belonging in this family. Beside her was a burnt circle on a branch that had once belonged to her dear twin.
"Perseus," she murmured for the first time since his death. His name felt foreign on her lips after so many months of referring to him only as Brother Black. Even that title had been received by cold glances from Bellatrix and Narcissa on the rare occasions she brought him up.
"I lied," she whispered. "They didn't break me."
With that, she held out her wand and, with a nonverbal spell, shot a controlled spark out of her wand. She watched as her own face was consumed by the flames, removing herself from the Black family tree for good. It was strange to look at both her and Perseus' empty branches. When she visited Grimmauld Place as a child, she was lead to believe that the few scattered burn marks on the tree were abominations, things to be ashamed of. Now, they were beautiful. They were liberating.
She was free. Perseus was free.
And it felt spectacular.
"Time to go, Ted," she whispered as her lips curved into a small, victorious grin.
"Wait, go where?" Sirius asked. "You... you aren't leaving?"
Andromeda turned to her younger cousin with a sad smile. "I am."
"But you're coming back, right?"
She shook her head. "I can't come back, Sirius. I'm sorry."
"Please... don't go."
"Don't leave me..."
Andromeda's heart shattered when she saw a silent tear slide down Sirius' face. She knelt down in front of him and gently placed her hands on his shoulders.
"Hey, listen," she said comfortingly, "you're going to be fine, Sirius. You're smart and brave."
"But I don't want to be like them. I want to be like you. I want to leave."
"And you can, someday. After a few years at Hogwarts, you'll be able to. You can break free, Sirius."
Sirius sniffled. "I finally found out."
Andromeda inhaled deeply, willing herself not to cry. She had to be strong for Sirius.
"What if that happens to me?" he whispered. "What if I lose my cool and lash out? Meda, I don't want to die..."
She hugged him tightly. "Listen to me, Sirius. That's not going to happen to you, do you hear me?"
"But Celia... she became a woman. Our arrangement..."
"Sirius," she said, pulling away and looking at him in the eyes, "if I can defy their wishes, you can, too. You were placed in Gryffindor for a reason."
"But where will I go? I don't think I'll make it to seventh year like you did."
"You have so many friends. You'll have a place to go."
"But if they don't let me... can... can I come stay with you?"
Andromeda gently brushed her hand against his tear-stained cheek. "Of course you can."
"Will you still write to me, even when you're gone?"
Sirius smiled. "I'll miss you, Meda."
"And I'll miss you. Follow your heart, Sirius. Be strong, like I know you are."
After a final hug, Andromeda left Grimmauld Place with Ted before she could change her mind. She desperately wanted to bring Sirius along with her right then and there, but she didn't even know where she was going yet. It wouldn't have been wise.
As Andromeda and Ted flew away into the night, she looked to the stars. She spotted Perseus instantly. The usually dim constellation shined brightly against the velvety black sky that night, and she couldn't help but wonder if it was her brother's way of smiling down at her, happy that she, too, was finally free.
Andromeda just smiled up at it. She couldn't have done it without him.
Author's (longer than usual) Note: I got the idea for Perseus from Philippa Gregory's "The Other Boleyn Girl." He is loosely based on George Boleyn, brother of Anne and Mary. (Those of you who read the book probably know why; those who haven't, I won't spoil it just in case you intend to read it. :p) I really wanted to write an HP story with a character like George, because I'm sure there were more than a few like him in Pureblood families. I'm not really sure how he turned into Andromeda's twin, but weirder things have happened in my writing, I suppose.
I probably will write a short spin-off of this from Perseus' perspective, detailing the events that happened on that night in his room. So, if you'd rather his death remain a mystery (like it is for Meda,) don't read it when it comes out. But if you're curious, keep an eye out for it!
This story is dedicated to two extremely awesome people. First, to the amazing Gamma Orionis - Queen of all things Black - who gladly helped me untangle the Black family, Pureblood lifestyles, themes in fanon, and other things that can't be found on the HP Wikia. She answered a hefty amount of questions via PM over the course of a few weeks, and I honestly can say I probably never would have finished this without her. Second, to the wonderful Someone aka Me, who not only beta-read this for me, but took an active interest in the story and its characters. She helped me get over quite a few hurdles with in-depth suggestions, gentle criticisms, and a little bit of cheerleading as well. XD Thanks so much to you both!
Written for the Canon vs. Fanon Competition on the HPFC forum. Thanks for reading! :)