Teddy’s hair twitched from jet black to light blonde as Andromeda held the milk-bottle to his mouth.
“Teddy. Teddy open your mouth for Grandma. Come on Teddy, be a good boy,” she pleaded, but he wasn’t interested.
It had been a struggle to get anything down him in the last twenty-four hours.
He cried a lot more in the days just following a full moon, she was sure of it, or maybe she was just imagining it in her paranoid mind. She struggled to sleep those nights out of fear of what might happen with him, but so far he had shown no signs of transforming.
Andromeda pressed the bottle to his tiny little lips once more and after a bit more prodding he eventually relented, suckling on it whilst she rubbed his little belly through his pyjamas.
The moving images of the discarded Witch Weekly magazine on the oak coffee table caught her eye, with the back-page dominated by the wanted posters of her dead sister’s husband and his younger brother.
Gaius Lestrange had not been a regular fixture at the Black family’s opulent manor-house in the Bedfordshire countryside for very long, but Andromeda had already grown quite tired of his presence. His persistent brown-nosing of her father over the summer months had been nauseating at best – at worst, even somewhat concerning considering her eldest sister would, at some point in the next 12 months, wed his eldest son and officially join their families together in the process.
Bellatrix had been looking forward to her 17th birthday with baited breath for months, as she would finally be considered a fully-grown adult-witch, thus, not just capable, but also legally able to make her own life choices.
Or at least that was what she had thought.
In hindsight this train of thought had been nothing short of abject naivety on her part, as the mere idea that she would not still be behest to her Father’s will whilst she still lived in his house was nothing more than a pipe dream.
The subject of finding a suitable wizard to marry her off to was not something that had been readily discussed by their Mother and Father in recent times, in-fact - more or less any subject involving Bellatrix had been off limits following the abortion incident.
Andromeda guessed that Bellatrix had thought after that scandal that she would’ve avoided the long-held tradition of pure-blood arranged marriage. It was something that Andromeda and Cissy had pondered themselves, after all, whilst the Black family name was practically royalty, what self-respecting, rich, pure-blood wizard would wish to marry one of their sons off to Bellatrix after all of that?
That had probably been something that her Father had also been rather concerned about. He had always been bitterly disappointed that he had never been birthed a male heir, but he always had the consolation prize of being able to marry off his darling daughters to the cream of the crop in pure-blood bachelors.
He was very good friends with the obscenely wealthy Abraxas Malfoy and if the rumours were to be believed - they had once discussed the possibility of marrying off their first born children together, with that philanderer Lucius even briefly courting Bellatrix at one point in time.
Of course that was undoubtedly off of the cards completely now, with Abraxas loathe to marry off his prized asset to such a disgraced young witch. Lucius would no doubt end up marrying one of the other less discredited pure-blood girls he liked to pursue at school. It could be Danielle Avery, Amara Greengrass or maybe even that bitch Olivia Burke – but definitely not Bellatrix.
Bellatrix was damaged goods and not even the prospect of their family name, reputation and wealth could paper over the cracks she had created. As her father had discovered - there was not a single self-respecting, rich, pureblood wizard who would considering marrying off their son to such a witch.
However, luckily for him, whilst there were no self-respecting, rich, pureblood wizards who would consider it – there was at least one rich, pureblood wizard that would consider it.
This was where Gaius Lestrange had come into the picture.
He was not self-respecting in the slightest, instead, he was utterly shameless in his lust for power, respect and social climbing. Whilst many other noble men with names like Malfoy, Crouch, Yaxley and Nott had pride and reputation to lose by entering their sons into such a bargain with Bellatrix – Gaius Lestrange was from a family that had not yet managed to carve out such pride or reputation into their name.
From what Andromeda had gathered from her Mother the vast majority of the Lestrange family had still been based in France at the turn of the 20th century, but following Grindelwald’s rise to power in Europe, a lot of the men had moved their wives and children to the comparative safety of Britain.
The patriarchs of the family did not do this to avoid Grindelwald’s war, on the contrary, the vast majority were actively following him into battle - and thus, they feared possible reprisals from a French Ministry that was keen to crack down on the dark wizard’s most loyal supporters by any means necessary.
Gaius Lestrange was still a teenager bogged down in his studies at Hogwarts when Grindelwald fell, with his Father subsequently locked up for life in the same prison that housed the man he had followed until the bitter end.
The Lestrange family had quite a few prosperous business ventures scattered across France, but they were soon purged following their owner’s demise and Gaius and his Mother were left with nothing but the cramped little cottage that housed them in Nottingham. Andromeda’s Mother had not expanded on how exactly Gaius Lestrange had managed to acquire the comparative riches that he held today, but she did not have any reason to believe it had come about entirely from legitimate business practices. All that she knew was that at some point Gaius, after befriending many other like-minded pure-blood wizards at Hogwarts, had eventually married the misshapen looking Edith Bulstrode and popped out two sons – one of which was now lucky enough to have Bellatrix as his prospective bride.
Rodolphus Lestrange could indeed consider himself lucky to have Bellatrix as his bride, as the lanky, dark-haired boy was not someone that Bellatrix, or indeed any of the other Slytherin girls seemed to show any romantic interest in.
Bellatrix liked to flirt and fornicate with the most powerful, ambitious and talented boys, not quiet, timid lackeys like her prospective fiancé. Rodolphus was not particularly gifted in any of his classes, nor did he possess enough talent on a broom to warrant a place on the dominant Slytherin quidditch side. He was a follower, not a leader, with the only person he seemed to have any influence over being his younger brother, Rabastan, who was even shyer and stranger than his sibling.
Andromeda doubted that Rodolphus would be able to tame her sister, in-fact, she figured Bellatrix would probably chew him up and spit him straight back out. In many ways she thought that made Gaius Lestrange’s eldest son the ideal man for Bellatrix, but if her repeated tantrums were anything to go by, it did not seem likely that she saw it that way herself.
“Andromeda, my dear, you have not eaten much of your steak,” her Mother said suddenly, interrupting her day-dreaming at the dining room table.
“Did Rudy not cook it how you like it? I will summon him at once, he can cook you another one.”
“No, Mother, this one is fine,” she quickly replied before her Mother could have a go at their house elf.
She was not lying – the food that Rudy had prepared her was no less nice than it always was, but she just had too much on her mind to be hungry enough to eat it.
Even if he had over-cooked it she would not have complained about it. She hated to see him chastised by her Mother, or worse, when he would punish himself for the slightest of errors or mistakes in his cooking or cleaning.
Bellatrix had for many years taken a great sadistic pleasure in fabricating problems with the meals he prepared for her, not because she had any particular hatred of him, but purely because she enjoyed watching her Mother berate and punish him. There were even a few occasions that he had broken down in tears, which had brought great amusement to her triumphant sister, who seemed to enjoy watching others getting publicly humiliated, especially if they were people or creatures that she considered beneath her.
“This is not the first time you have not finished your dinner this week, Andromeda. I do hope you are not taking part in that silly dieting trend that seems to have become popular with young witches. The Prophet said it originates from the Mud-
“I am not dieting!” she snapped before her Mother could say the word.
Druella Black did not take too kindly to any of her children raising their voices at her, but ever since Bellatrix’s fall from grace she had been a lot more lenient with her two younger girls.
“Andromeda Black!” her mother muttered in a stern voice.
“I am sorry Mother,” Andromeda lied, which caused the angry expression on Druella’s face to fade away slightly. “I should not have raised my voice at you… it is just lately I… I am feeling so…
“Yes?” her Mother replied eagerly. “What is it, dear? I have sensed something has not been quite right with you lately, please, do tell me what it is and we can resolve it.”
Andromeda had to think of something fast.
She could not tell her Mother what it was that was really stressing her out. That her Father selling off her sister to the highest bidder like an antique ornament had hit her with the stark realisation that this could one day soon be her fate too.
It wasn’t so bad for Cissy.
Fabian Prewett might be a flamboyant, rebellious Gryffindor, but he was still a pure-blood from a wealthy wizarding family. Her little sister still liked to keep their budding romance a secret, but there was no reason to believe that their Father wouldn’t greenlight a marriage between them if it one day got that serious.
Andromeda would not be so lucky.
Ted was a muggle-born and she would probably be disowned by her Father if he even knew she was dating him, let alone if she asked for his blessing to one day marry him.
“I am absolutely dreading going back to school, Mother,” she mustered up. “We start studying for our N.E.W.T.S and I just… I do not think I can hack it!” Andromeda blurted out, as she unexpectedly burst into tears.
Her Mother did not reach out to comfort her instantly, as she had spent many years training herself and her daughters to avoid showing such extreme emotion, but after a few moments she came closer and began to run her fingers through Andromeda’s dark brown hair.
“Oh, my dearest daughter, you are such a silly girl sometimes,” she whispered softly in a slightly patronising tone.
The reason that Andromeda had burst into tears was indeed due to her dreading the return to Hogwarts, yet it was not her N.E.W.T.S that kept her up at night, but her relationship with Ted.
Her courtship of him had initially began as an exciting act of defiance and rebellion.
Their first date in Hogsmeade had been somewhat, if not entirely, influenced by her desire to rebound from Lucius Malfoy. She had thought that if the Slytherin seeker had found out she had been on a date with another boy, a muggle-born no less, that he would first get extremely jealous- and then come to his senses and realise what a mistake he had made by casting her aside for Olivia.
As luck would have it that Hogsmeade trip had seen an incredible torrent of rain, which had put off most students from even bothering to venture out of the castle. Andromeda had headed there primarily to get the books that she wanted, not imagining that the muggle-boy with the silly haircut and the nice cheek-bones would bother braving the rain to meet her – but to her surprise when she had entered Tomes and Scrolls there he had been, browsing a book-shelf on the other side of the room.
They had gone on that date to Madam Pudifoot’s and save for the waitress had not seen a single soul from school the entire afternoon. In hindsight it was damn good fortune that they hadn’t. If anyone from Slytherin had spotted them together then their fledging relationship would have been over before it had even begun.
For the next three months they had primarily communicated by owl-post, with Andromeda frantically studying for her O.W.L.S she at least had a feasible excuse not to want to be too distracted by becoming Ted’s girlfriend. Then in July when most of her exams were over, they had met up again by the Great Lake in “their” spot, when the very last of the year’s Quidditch matches were taking place.
Much like their first meeting they could talk by the trees with very little chance of anyone stumbling upon them. That was when Ted had first raised his suspicions of the real reason why Andromeda had been somewhat pushing him away – that she did not want to be seen in public with him, that she could not be with him because he was a muggle-born.
She had tried to explain to him that it wasn’t that simple – and that he didn’t understand how her parents would react if they learned she was dating a muggle-born. He had at first been crestfallen, then he had furiously issued her an ultimatum, stating that if she was never willing to openly be his girlfriend then they were both just wasting their time.
He had begun to walk away from her when she desperately called out for him to stop, then as he had turned back to look at her she had ran towards him and flung herself into his un-expecting arms, before surprising him even further by passionately pressing her lips against his. It had been their first kiss – and before the sun had set that evening, she was pretty sure they had also had their one hundred and first kiss too.
Over the summer they had met up at least twice a week – and Ted being a muggle-born meant he would always take her places that no witch or wizard would ever see them. It was perfect. It was lovely – and now it was going to be ruined by them going back to Hogwarts.
There were no secret rooms in the castle they could meet up away from the prying eyes of the pure-blood contingency.
Andromeda knew that Ted would not be willing to settle for months of letters and the occasional secret meet-up when there was a Quidditch match on – and he should not have to settle for that, he deserved to be with someone that loved him enough to publicly be his girlfriend.
But how could Andromeda do that?
And she knew sooner or later that Ted would break up with her and find someone else who would.
He would probably get with a pretty muggle-born or half-blood girl that didn’t act like a fish out of water whenever meeting up with his non-wizard friends and family. Andromeda would then have to watch Ted and this girl holding hands as they strolled around the castle grounds, or maybe when a Quidditch match was on she would stumble upon them kissing in “their” spot by the Great Lake.
Andromeda felt the hot tears continue to run down her face as her Mother carried on stroking her hair.
“Now, now, Andromeda… you are being so silly. There is nothing for you to worry about. Whatever happens your Father and I will be so very proud of you. Do you hear me?” she said, as Andromeda wiped her wet eye-lids and saw her Mother’s best attempt at a reassuring smile.
“But what if I… what if I-
She briefly considered confiding in her Mother.
It was only for a split-second.
She thought that maybe she would understand.
Maybe she would let her fall in love with whoever she wanted after all.
“Even if you do fail your exams… and Andromeda, dear, you will not, but even if you do… you are a beautiful young pure-blood woman. You will be sixteen in a few weeks. It will not be long before your Father begins to search for a suitable husband for you… and I mean a truly suitable husband, not the… not the riff-raff that your sister has had to make do with… and then Andromeda it will not truly matter how good or bad your grades are. After all, as your Father quite rightfully points out… the only real reason a pure-blood girl needs to go to school is to advertise.”
“To advertise… to advertise what?” Andromeda mumbled amid her post-cry sniffles.
“To advertise themselves to the best young pure-blood men of course. It seems your sister was a bit over-eager in that department – I blame myself partially, although I did do my utmost to prevent her from doing anything too stupid. Oh but I did fail her… I did… oh Andromeda it is all my fault!”
It was not long before her Mother too had begun to cry – and in what was a very un-Black like event, they held each other for a good long while whilst they both bawled their eyes out.
Her mother, crying because she thought that she had not done right by Bellatrix – and Andromeda, crying because she knew now that when the time came, she would not do right by her either.
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