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Andromeda wrung her hands together in anticipation as she came upon the front step of the grand mansion. The building was large, to say the least, and all made of the same expensive-looking gray stone, making it seem a formidable opponent. She placed her foot hesitantly on the first step and drew a long breath. The grounds and mansion seemed to be surrounded by darkness; none of lights inside were able to completely penetrate it, so the atmosphere was grim.

All around her the guests were arriving; clutching white invitations, they appeared along the lane, strode confidently from the marble fireplace, or materialized in the courtyard. They gathered in the front hall, but Andromeda watched from the same first step, willing herself to continue up toward her destination. She had not come to see them. She knew them, and they were all the same.

The thought of her purpose in attending the awful affair spurred her forward and she took on the second step. As she reached the doors at the top of the stairs, some of the guests noticed her presence. They did not speak to her; she did not expect them to. They stared without letting the wonder in their minds reach their eyes and betray their curiosity. She froze under their collective gaze, their eyes prying beneath her skin. One guest made her way forward from the back of the crowd to stare Andromeda down herself. The woman's long, curly, black hair fell in an untidy manner over her shoulders and her pale skin glowed in the thick darkness. Andromeda turned and was halfway up another flight of stairs before her new opponent could speak.

She reached the top of the flight as fast as she could, her breath coming in short, sharp intakes. The hall before her was lined on both sides with identical doors, the decor stark and colorless. The only bright light in the house filtered from underneath the door closest to the stairs. Andromeda approached it, regaining her breath, closing her eyes, and reaching for the handle. When she opened them, her eyes were assaulted by a light vastly different from the muffled lamps of the front hall, and she blinked to adjust to the bright room. As her vision began to recover focus and the previously blurred room came into sharp relief, the light's source became apparent. The woman standing in front of the long mirror on the opposite side of the bedroom was radiant in her pure white dress. The smooth fabric clung to her thin torso and flowed away from her hips, sweeping downward to almost touch the stone floor. She clutched a thin white veil in one hand as she ran her fingers through her gold hair.

Andromeda could stay silent no longer.
"All alone, Cissy? Did no one come to help you dress?"

Narcissa did not flinch, did not blink, but ran her fingers through her hair once more.
"I knew you would come. Lucius said it would be scandalous to invite you, but I knew we wouldn't have to."

Andromeda walked in and shut the door behind her. The sound lingered, rebounding off the walls and filling the silence between the sisters.
"You can't just hand yourself over like this, Cissy." Her tone did not match the words in demand, but was soft and pleading.

"You don't know what you’re talking about. He's going to make everything better." Narcissa's voice came out monotone, devoid of any strong emotion.

Andromeda stared at her sister in the mirror, her face betraying both sadness and confusion.
"What needs to be better, Cissy? I don't know why you need him to do whatever it is for you. I can help you..." She trailed off, looking for any sign that she was breaking down the wall between the women, but Narcissa's face showed only her new found stoicism. Andromeda swallowed and went on. "Do you remember, Cissy, when we were little, in the garden? Bella used to crush those ladybugs that sat in your favorite flowers. You would sit on the garden bench and cry, until I came along. I'd tell Bella to stop, and I'd save the smallest of the ladybugs for you. You'd let it crawl around in your hands and you'd giggle when the bug's little legs would tickle your palms. You and I, we were always so alike, more alike than you and Bella. I've always been here whenever you needed me, so why must you marry him? How could he love you more than I do?" She looked away from Narcissa's reflection, no longer able to watch.

"You're going to lose, Andy. There are just not enough of you. He will win this war, and you know what will come next." Narcissa spoke with less power than she’d intended, her facade momentarily weakened.

"So you marry because you have no faith in us? We do not fight because we expect to win, Cissy! We fight because it is the right thing to do!" Andromeda shouted, exhibiting anger more powerful than her sorrow.

Narcissa did not reply immediately, but lifted her veil and placed it on her head, draping the thin fabric over her face.
"Then you will die a hero." She finally turned from the mirror to face her kin, her features hidden behind her pure white veil. "I have to go now; the ceremony is about to start. We've run out of time."

Andromeda watched Narcissa as she opened the door and vanished down the staircase, her mind racing. Pictures of their childhood ran through Andromeda's head, each with its own story. She could still hear her sister’s footsteps on the stairs.

"Cissy!" She cried out, rushing out onto the landing. "There's still time!" Her voice echoed through the corridor and down the stairway.

"No, Andy, we're out of time," came the response, floating up the stairs without the reappearance of its originator.

"Cissy!" Andromeda bellowed again, "You're breaking my heart!" She tried to scream, but her voice couldn't take it and the words came out weak and cracked. For a moment the clicking of Narcissa's heels seemed to cease, but in another moment the sound had begun again. Andromeda clutched her chest and steadied herself on the wall beside her as she began to cry, not steadily, but instantly. Her mind was filled with questions, things she had never asked Cissy, things she had asked Cissy but still could not fully comprehend the answers to. There was one question, though, which dominated her mind. She craved this answer, the real answer, more than she could express.

"Why?" she asked into the darkness that had enveloped her as Narcissa's light had faded. Andromeda felt her pocket twitch and plunged her hand into it to find a small, folded piece of paper. As she slowly unfolded it, she recognized the impeccable handwriting.


From the inside, I will make sure they never hurt you. I will protect you in this way, as you have always protected me.


Somewhere in the back garden, a large host of witches and wizards clapped quietly for the union of two of their own.

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