“You are going to be late, my dear.”
“I know! I know. I know.”
Warmenia Whimbleman, referred to by the students as “the Madam,” watched from her frame as the sole human occupant of Ravenclaw Tower rushed back and forth, almost to the door and then back up into his dormitory once again. He was a first year, a smart lad – always polite and agreeable – and she had seen him perform this ritual many a time. Generally it took place a bit earlier in the morning, but today he had apparently gotten distracted by an essay for Potions and had subsequently lost track of the time. Breakfast, it seemed, had been a secondary concern when placed beside the possibility of a low mark. Of course, the Madam had a feeling that the likelihood of Ted Tonks ever receiving less than an “E” on an assignment was utterly absurd and she had never seen the common room contain lower than an “A,” besides.
Ted was not your average Ravenclaw. In fact, not once in the fifty years that her portrait had hung over the common room mantle had the Madam seen a student quite like him. There was generally an overlap of traits amongst the houses, yes – a Gryffindor might be cunning or a Slytherin might be loyal – but it was still generally obvious which side the student truly belonged to.
With young Mister Tonks, it wasn’t so simple. There were often times when the characteristics that had led to the Sorting Hat’s final decision were completely overshadowed. Many of his housemates rolled their eyes and speculated that he might not truly be made for Ravenclaw at all. The Madam knew better, though. The Gryffindors would have expected far more daring than he preferred to show and Hufflepuffs were hard-working by nature, not by choice. Slytherin, of course, was out of the question. Dear Salazar would have rolled over in his grave at the thought.
By the time Ted was finally running out into the corridors – a last minute farewell called back over his shoulder – he had made two more trips up into the dormitory and still didn’t look terribly confident that he had everything. He did have the essay, though. Madam Whimbleman was content in knowing that, at least.
One should not run indoors. Ted had learned that lesson at age six when he had been attempting to escape his cousin Elizabeth and had ended up rounding a corner and running headlong into the back of a chair instead. Of course, he was a bit too tall these days for your average chair to give him a black eye or a bloody nose and, really, why would a chair be sitting out in the middle of the hallway?
Hogwarts, however, is full of surprises and he really shouldn’t have been running. He especially shouldn’t have been running around a corner. No matter where you happen to be, there’s always something waiting around a corner.
Like a Slytherin, perhaps.
A rather annoyed Slytherin, at that.
Immediately recognizing the girl with whom he now found himself tangled on the floor did little to raise Ted’s spirits. In fact, it just made everything that much worse when he saw the look of irritation behind fallen strands of that familiar dark brown hair and Ted had a feeling that any other person in his position would have been looking for escape routes by now. Personally, he couldn’t think well enough for that. All he could do was scramble to separate her books from his books and stammer out apologies.
“Sorry! Sorry. A bit late. Wasn’t watching where I was going. This is yours, isn’t it? I don’t think it’s mi—”
“A Ravenclaw?” She was smirking as he froze in terrified confusion. “The way you apologise, perhaps you should have been sorted into Hufflepuff.”
Ted could feel the heat rising into his cheeks. He’d heard the remark before, of course – the Hufflepuff of Ravenclaw Tower. The Prefects commented on it all the time. For some reason, though, hearing it from Andromeda Black was far more embarrassing.
“Whichever house you belong to,” she went on, “I believe your first class of the day is Potions, is it not? I’d continue running now, if I were you. It’s a good ways to the dungeons and Professor Finkly doesn’t take well to students coming in ‘a bit late’ without a proper note to excuse them.”
And then she was gone, off around that damnable corner before Ted had time to say a word.
It was an appropriately dreary day when the feeble rays of sunlight finally allowed the majestically disgruntled owl to find its way to Ted’s window. The blue sky and comforting warmth of yesterday had long been replaced by the grey clouds and miserable drizzle of a tomorrow come too soon, and the bird was less than pleased to have been sent out into such a hazy morning. Every day it made this flight and every day it met this boy and every day it enjoyed the freedom from the dusty Black owlery. Today, however, its burden felt heavier and it was almost as if the world had been shaped around the gravity of the situation.
Exhausted, the poor bird landed at the foot of Ted’s bed with an irritable hoot and ruffled its feathers in indignation when he hushed it.
“Sorry,” he muttered, glancing towards the door before he pulled his wand from a bag on the floor. “If I’d known when you’d be coming, I would have met you out on the path even with the rain.”
Ted had never really been sure why he talked to the owls as if they were people. It just felt natural, like talking to the postman. Or perhaps it was more like how his mother talked to her potted plants. Of course, unlike the plants, the owls could actually respond. Whether they understood him or not, he didn’t know, but the responsiveness at least made him feel a bit less insane.
With a quick spell to be sure that it was safe, Ted took the letter and offered the owl a treat in return. The tired creature gratefully accepted the proffered snack of course, watching absently as the boy tentatively unfolded the thick page of parchment. It all seemed like a rather elaborate process for what little came out of it, really.
It has recently come to my attention that you have been keeping correspondence with my daughter. This knowledge does not please me.
For your own safety, I would suggest that you neglect to answer any further letters that you might receive from her. I have tried to teach my daughters to live up to their name and your meddling has gone beyond a level which I might simply overlook. In the end, I promise you that it will be best for the both of you. If your feelings for my daughter are truly so strong as you have claimed, you will understand why I can not allow her to lower herself to such a level.
Cepheus A. Black
Ted blinked – once, twice – and glanced up to the owl with a sigh. “You know, Acubens, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was almost giving me a choice in the matter.”
The owl simply clicked its beak.
“Mistress Andromeda, ma’am.”
The house-elf stood nervously in the doorway, fidgeting with the hem of its pillow case as it waited for an answer that never came. It could see her there, curled into the leather arms of the high-back chair that sat within the light of the fire. She was reading something, utterly engrossed in the worn pages of a battered old book that the house-elf – who was proud to say that it was often ordered to reorganise the library – did not recognise. After a full minute of being quite thoroughly ignored, the skittish little creature cleared its throat and tried again.
“M-mistress Andromeda, ma’am. Mistress Cassiopeia would like to see you…in the Drawing Room, ma’am.”
Finally Andromeda glanced up, annoyance flashing from the silver of her eyes. Another long moment passed before she closed the book and set it aside with a sigh of resignation. If Mother wished to speak with her, then Mother would speak with her. It was safer to go to Mrs. Black than to have her come to you.
“The Drawing Room?”
“Very well. Tell her I am on my way.”
With another squeak of “yes, ma’am” the house-elf vanished into the hall and Andromeda was once again left alone. Staring into the flames that danced across the hearth, she sat there for a little while longer, stretching whatever time she might have before her mother became angry enough to call. Mrs. Black always called once before putting forth the effort it took to climb the stairs. Andromeda had dealt with the woman’s anger often enough to know the predictability of it and, while being alone was not the most enjoyable of states, it was preferable to any other situation she could easily find herself in. She kept telling herself that it was preferable, anyway. A plausible alternative to being alone or being with family had yet to come to mind.
“Mother won’t be pleased if you keep her waiting.”
The look of disgust that found its way to Andromeda’s face at the sound of her sister’s unexpected and unwanted voice wiped the mere consideration of possibilities away in a heartbeat. “You do not want to be in my bedroom right now, Narcissa. In fact, it might be safest for you if you stayed out of my sight until all of this is over.”
A short laugh answered her as she stood and turned to face the smirking blonde leaning there in her doorway. Solid anger melted into a malevolent calm, their eyes meeting, steel to steel, and slowly that smirk fell away. With nothing but silence between them the two held each other’s gaze until the younger finally looked away, arms crossed indignantly over her chest with a huff.
“It’s best this way, you know.”
Andromeda allowed herself to scowl, only her sister there to see. “Oh really?”
“You know it is.”
“I beg to differ.”
“Oh come on, Andromeda.”
Dear Narcissa, Andromeda thought in amusement as her sister attempted not to bare her polished white teeth in frustration. The youngest of three and the only one whose temper could be so short, if you simply knew how to play it right, Narcissa had always known full well that her sisters took advantage of her when she was angry, and they knew she knew. If no one else in the household would be driven to show emotion in an argument, after all, Narcissa always would. It was just another predictable part of life.
“What good does it do you to get involved with mudbloods?” Narcissa stated through carefully gritted teeth.
“What good does it do you to care who I get involved with?”
And there was no point in fighting it, really. Eventually, Andromeda would always get what she wanted.
“By Salazar!” Narcissa let her voice rise. “You’re impossible!”
“Mother and Father only want the best—”
“Mother and Father only want as much control over my life as Bellatrix gave them over hers or as much control over me as they have always had over you.”
“They want to arrange my life and mould me into a ‘proper’ Pureblood because apparently I can’t seem to shape myself in an appropriate manner.”
“Apparently you can’t!”
Narcissa repeated herself in a hiss. “You can’t!”
And finally Andromeda laughed. She couldn’t help it. Her sister’s expression of rage, the way the younger girl defended their parents and the expectations of their name. She had always known that Narcissa would remain loyal to the family before all else but this was almost ridiculous.
Some day Narcissa would marry a wizard of high standing, a man with influence whose blood would only be the purest of the pure. It was her destiny, bred into her from day one. Bellatrix and her marriage to Lestrange had started it all, had made their parents proud, and some day Narcissa would follow along that line and do the same.
Andromeda wished them well in their domestic endeavours and marital bliss.
She truly did.
But she doubted, even as she moved down the hallway, that she would be near enough to play witness.
“So Dan and I are moving out to Brighton…”
Ted looked up in surprise as he placed another plate in the sink. His cousin was smiling as she turned away from the cupboard to face him and somehow that fact brightened the room even as the rain continued to fall beyond the window. Elizabeth had always had the effect. When she smiled, it lifted your spirits. When she cried, it broke your heart. Honestly, Ted wasn’t sure which he would have preferred at the moment.
“He’s listed for a possible promotion,” she was saying, “but they want him to transfer to the Brighton office whether he gets it or not and we’ve already got a flat lined up and everything.”
She laughed a bit, leaning back against the countertop. “It’s a nice place.”
“It’s your own place.”
The silence that fell over the kitchen then was awkward to say the least, Ted lowering yet another dish into the soap suds and Elizabeth picking absently at her drying dish towel. It was always like this between them. One of them would start to bring something up but they never knew exactly what to say until they said it. Sometimes they would sit for hours without a word before actually picking up the conversation they had tried to begin. It was a familial quirk Ted had never quite been able to understand.
“Dan was wondering…” She cleared her throat. “Dan was wondering if you had found any prospects in the line of employment yet.”
Ted sighed down at the sink. “Yes, actually. I had an interview last week. That’s why we were the last ones here this summer.”
Apparently that was the perfect answer.
“Oh good! We were just a bit worried, is all. He thought he might be able to get you a job in the London office if you didn’t have anything else.”
Her smile grew as she yammered on after that, asking questions about the job and babbling on about her new home as if nothing in the world could possibly be more important. Ted was just glad that he didn’t have to be the one leading the conversation for the time being. The only things on his mind were topics he didn’t care much for sharing. It was far more comfortable this way, not actually having to say a word.
Of course, thinking that the comfort would last when he wanted it to would be rather silly. When you’re conscious of something, it’s generally far more likely to end, especially when family is involved. That’s the problem with close families, really.
“Tell me about your girlfriend.”
There’s a thin line between “close” and “nosey.”
“Your father and I have decided that you should spend this next week with Bellatrix and Rodolphus.”
Andromeda barely managed to hide her disbelief as she stood before her mother. She held her hands clasped tightly behind her back, nearly crushing her own bones as she attempted to keep her anger down. They had decided? How dare they decide anything without her? It wasn’t as if she was a child anymore. Back then they could send her away for weeks at a time, hoping that a few days with Aunt Capella would teach her something of behaving as a proper lady. Her impressionable years were over now, though. Didn’t they realise that?
“I have already spoken with your sister on the matter. Her house-elves were immediately ordered to prepare a room for you and everything shall be properly arranged by morning.”
Arranged. That was the key word. Everything would be properly arranged. Her own words to Narcissa repeated themselves over and over in her mind. They wanted control. If they could just exert their power, make one last effort to shape her and somehow succeed in that, then they had done all that they could ever wish to do. Their rogue daughter would be tamed.
“We shall Floo as a family to the Lestrange estate tomorrow at noon and we shall remain there into the evening.”
If not tamed, then chained.
“And when we leave…you shall remain.”
She would not be chained.