The face of the ludicrously expensive silver watch her Mother had gifted her for her last birthday indicated she had just a few minutes left until she had to meet Ted.
“It is not 8 o clock already, is it?” Cissy asked from the dark brown leather armchair, which was perched opposite Andromeda’s one in their secluded and cosy corner of the Slytherin common room.
“I am afraid it is,” Andromeda replied nervously.
Narcissa Black laughed at her older sister as she gently put down the hideously romantic looking Christmas card she was making for Fabian Prewett.
The card appeared to depict Cissy and Fabian in some kind of Hogsmeade in the snow type setting, with Fabian wearing his trademark Gryffindor red and yellow woollen ‘F’ sweater.
The real jumper, apparently hand-knitted and gifted to him by his older sister Molly, was of course currently being worn by Cissy, who in the last few weeks since “borrowing” it had barely took the thing off. She was even rumoured by her dorm-mates to go as far as to sleep with the damn thing as a pillow.
“You are so easy to read, Drom,” Cissy said, with another mocking laugh.
“What on earth do you mean?!” Andromeda demanded, as she glared at her younger sibling.
“You must really like him if he makes you this nervous,” Cissy replied with a knowing smile. “You should not be embarrassed by it. I think it is rather cute. My heart always skips a beat a little when I know I am going to see Fabby.”
“You read too many romance novels,” Andromeda hit back at her, which came across a little more defensive than she had intended. “I am not that nervous.”
“Sure,” Narcissa said with another sly smile. “My, my, what would dear Mother and Father think if they knew that a strapping young muggle-born had their daughter in such a fluster.”
“Cissy! Shhh!” Andromeda angrily whispered. “And I am not flustered!”
“Sorry!” Narcissa mouthed in a hushed tone. “I dare say nobody would believe it even if they did hear a rumour about you and him dating. The daughter of a Black dating a mug-
“Alright, alright! Sorry!” Cissy relented with a roll of her eyes.
The hand of her watch’s clock had now darted forward a further minute. Andromeda did not want to be too early to meet Ted, as he always liked to turn up fashionably late.
He called it trying hard not to look like he was trying that hard.
She called it utter nonsense.
“I think I shall have to love you and leave you,” Andromeda said to her younger sister, as she pulled herself up and reached out to hug Narcissa.
Cissy held her close enough that Andromeda got a large waft of the lavender perfume her sister had characteristically over-applied. She coughed slightly, then felt a little bit sorry for Fabian Prewett, who no doubt had not had the courage to bring this issue up with her either. Some Gryffindor he was.
“Good luck, sis,” Narcissa said as she bid her farewell.
Andromeda walked towards the entrance of the Slytherin common room and despite her previous protests she did have to admit that her sister was right.
She was nervous.
She was flustered.
She felt awful.
This day had been coming for a while and she really was not ready for it.
It was what she had been dreading all over the summer.
It was the day where her and Ted would have the talk.
The talk that she had been dreading.
Ted had dressed it up as a romantic Christmas date, but she knew deep down that all he really wanted to talk about was them going public with their relationship.
But that could never happen.
Andromeda ran her fingers through her long flowing chestnut brown hair as she readied herself to leave the dungeon.
All of the nervous energy suddenly vacated the premises of Andromeda’s body and it was quickly replaced by an envoy of rage and fury.
As she turned around to face the slimy bastard she saw that he was not alone.
Malfoy was flanked by Corban Yaxley and Algernon Avery, both with big smirks awash their conniving, loathsome faces.
Standing a few feet behind them was the familiar sighting in these parts of the large lumps of meat, Kenneth Crabbe and Laurence Goyle. They were both not quite cool enough to be fully fledged friends of Malfoy’s, but they both seemed to relish in their roles as guard-dogs, which at least allowed them to be part of Lucius’ entourage in some capacity.
What was a bit unfamiliar and still took a little bit of getting used to was the third tag along to Malfoy’s entourage. Rabastan Lestrange, the very odd and peculiar younger brother of her eldest sister’s husband to be, was now, purely by association, considered worthy of at least some form of acknowledgement by the popular pure-blood boys.
“Andromeda!” Lucius began earnestly. “If you could spare me just one moment, my dear.”
She felt her hand drawing up into a fist at him calling her dear.
How dare he call her that?
The sheer audacity of the boy seemingly knew no bounds.
The arrogance he carried with himself would give anyone the impression that he ran the place and was a 7th year Head Boy, but he was nothing of the sort, at least not yet. His height and frame did make him look a lot older than he was, but it was his confidence and ability to simultaneously intimidate and impress the others that meant he did practically run the place, despite not even being a N.E.W.T.s student yet.
It was that confidence and false-bravado that had meant that at first, despite him not even being old enough to be in the same year as her, when he had first began to court her, Andromeda had initially fallen for his charm and posturing.
She had been very naïve.
She was not naïve anymore.
“What do you want, Lucius?” Andromeda asked in an uninterested manner.
“I want you, Andromeda Black!” he announced in slightly raised ostentatious manner, so much so that it attracted the attention of numerous nosey onlookers. Yaxley and Avery both snickered, with Rabastan Lestrange looking back and forth at Crabbe and Goyle, possibly trying to establish whether he was permitted to laugh at this himself.
“More specifically, I want you to give me the honour of accompanying you to the Slug Club Christmas party.”
Andromeda felt very embarrassed as she noticed many eyes darting over in her direction, all waiting for her to say something. Public proposals to Slug Club parties of this nature were not unheard of, especially for the big festive one, which was always the biggest, but you would never catch someone like Lucius participating in such folly.
“I am flattered, Lucius,” Andromeda began in a sarcastic tone. “But I am afraid that you are too young and lack the maturity to court a lady of my standing.”
Whatever he may have been expecting her to rebuff him with, if he had been expecting it at all, it had not been that. There were a few audible chortles and laughs throughout the room, although noticeably none came from any of Malfoy’s cronies or allies.
Lucius, quite unexpectedly, began to laugh himself, which in turn meant that Yaxley and Avery began to laugh too. Rabastan Lestrange let out a loud roar, although stopped prematurely when Kenneth Crabbe glared at him.
“Good one, Andromeda!” Lucius confidently countered to her. “I like that you are not as easily won as some of the other girls at this school. Of course, as a daughter of the noble house of Black I would expect nothing less. But the idea that I lack maturity is a quite simply preposterous notion. I stand before you as Slytherin’s youngest Quidditch captain and Seeker for a generation.”
“Lucius, I confess that I do not know too much about Quidditch,” she began, to a few snickers from Malfoy’s posse.
“Of course, my dear, as a lady you cannot be-
“But I do know enough to know one thing, Lucius,” she said loudly, interrupting his sexist intrusion. “The only reason that Xavier Shacklebolt is no longer the Seeker of our Quidditch team is because your Father’s gold bought you the captaincy.”
The Slytherin common room dungeon suddenly erupted into a mixture of audible gasps, groans and hysterical laughter. Nobody could quite believe that Andromeda Black had just said out-loud what the vast majority of the Quidditch watching school would often gossip about, but never dare say in ear-shot of Lucius, let alone directly to him.
Xavier Shacklebolt had apparently broken all kinds of records as Seeker a few years prior. The Slythern Quidditch team was always dominant, but with him at the helm there was never any doubt that they would win every match with absolute ease, whilst the general consensus with Lucius as Seeker was that they often won in spite of him rather than due to him.
At least that was what Ted had said was the general consensus of his Quidditch-watching dorm-mates. It had been Ted who had originally made that comment about the Malfoy gold being the only reason Xavier was no longer Seeker, she had not ever considered repeating it to Lucius himself, but in the moment such was her rage that she had gone full throttle without even thinking about it. And it had felt very good.
Lucius looked dumbstruck, but his surprise quickly turned to one of fury as a nasty frown appeared on his face.
“She’s got you there, Lucius!” the loud voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt bellowed across the room to much fanfare from those sitting with him. Malfoy glared over at him but said absolutely nothing to the school’s Head Boy.
Kingsley was one of very few students considered out of bounds of even Malfoy’s belittlement. Not only was he the Head Boy of the entire school, but he had won the Hogwarts Duelling Club’s prestigious annual tournament for three years in a row. There was one extremely important unwritten rule as a Slytherin, or indeed as a member of any other house in the school – Do Not Mess with Kingsley Shacklebolt.
“I can assure you, my Father’s gold did not-” Lucius began in a rage-filled voice, as his face began to turn bright red whilst he glared at her with his hate-filled eyes.
“Your father’s gold has bought you many things that you have desired in your life, Lucius,” she interrupted, much to his continued fury. “But there is one thing that I can promise it will never be able to buy. Me!”
And with that, before Lucius even had a chance to reply, she stormed out of the Dungeon in a triumphant rage, not even sticking around to hear the laughter and shock at her last victorious quip at him.
She quickly darted her way through the dimly lit dungeon corridors until she eventually made her way to the nearest staircase. Andromeda raced up the stairs to the castle’s basement, then, checking that nobody was looking, she took a sharp right towards the kitchens and knocked twice on the door, then twice again, as Ted had instructed her.
Andromeda did not quite know what it was that Ted had planned for his Christmas gift to her, all he had really said was that it would be in her best interests to forgo from eating any dinner before meeting him. She had done exactly that and whatever it was she really hoped he was planning on feeding her something substantial, as she was really rather hungry.
The door suddenly flung open and she was greeted by a small, yet boisterous looking house-elf, who looked quite fat by their usual standards of body mass and weight. The elf suspiciously peered outside the door past Andromeda to check that nobody was watching.
“Follow me, Miss,” he whispered, ushering her into the kitchen which was surprisingly empty. She had assumed it would be full of house-elves washing up after dinner.
“It’s Saturday night, Miss,” he said, perhaps having noticed her eyeing up the vacated room. “We’re all on classroom cleaning duty... the Headmaster will have my head on a spike if he finds out I’m doing this and not up in the Transfiguration suite.”
Andromeda suddenly felt very guilty that Ted had talked this poor Elf into helping arrange this little date-night for them. Before she could ask the Elf how Ted had roped him into helping them out he directed her to a narrow corridor, then towards a further door-way down the hall, which appeared to be a spare room that the Elves had within the kitchen, most probably for storage.
You would never have guessed that it was a storage room though as it had been magically decorated to look like an old-fashion muggle Italian restaurant, with a red and white table cloth dressing the table that Ted sat at. He was dressed very smartly and she could smell his aftershave mixing in with the smoke emitting from the large candle that sat at the head of their table.
Andromeda made her way towards the vacant chair that was opposite Ted, yet before she could do so he bolted up to pull out her chair for her.
It was a very odd gesture and not one that she was used to within wizarding circles, but it seemed that it was a very polite thing to do in muggle culture and she appreciated the strange quirk and seriousness with which Ted took it. She kissed him softly on the lips before sitting down and placing a napkin on her lap.
“May I int’rest you in some wine, Miss?” the podgy Elf asked politely.
“Wotcher Toby! We’ll have a bottle of your finest red please,” Ted replied jovially.
“Very good, sir… and would you like your starters now too, Mister Ted, sir?”
“Yes, yes that would be smashing, mate, cheers,” Ted said to their apparent waiter, who Andromeda noticed seem to brighten up a bit at being addressed as Ted’s mate. Toby plodded off as quickly as he could back to the main kitchen.
“How on earth did you manage to get a house elf to arrange all of-
“Good evening, Andromeda, love. It’s very nice to see you too. How have you been for the last few weeks?” Ted interrupted in a sarcastic tone.
Andromeda was very taken aback and left momentarily speechless. She assumed he was being sarcastic, but she could tell from the undertone in his voice that he was not too impressed that they had barely seen each other since the school year had returned.
“I’m only joking ‘Dromeda!” he said, as a smile returned to his face. “How’d I get Toby to sort all this out for us? Well, what can I say? We’re pals,” he said, as if there was absolutely nothing strange about a student forming a friendship with a house-elf who works in the kitchens.
“And how exactly was it that you became…pals… with him?” Andromeda enquired, perhaps not wanting to know the real answer.
Ted looked at her and seemed quite pleased that she had asked, almost as if he was relishing in having an excuse to tell her the story.
“Well, funny you should ask that actually… long story short, I caught him drinking the dregs from a couple of cans of Coke in our common room one night. Anyway, we got chattin’ and it basically turns out the little fella bloody loves himself a fizzy drink. We’ve been trading muggle fizzy drinks and kitchen snacks for some time now,” he said with a mischievous grin.
“You mean to say, he did all of this for a fizzy drink?” Andromeda asked incredulously.
“You’re having a laugh!” he cried.
“Do you know how much trouble I had to go to for this?” he whinged. “His favourite one that I’ve given him to try is Irn-Bru… and well… you can buy it in one of the shops in the village just out of Hogsmeade. So on the last Hogsmeade trip I sneaked out to the muggle village and bought a massive multi-pack of them for him… 12 cans! That set me back a few bob! I’ve told him he mustn’t drink them all in one go, I’m not sure if an Elf could overdose on Irn-Bru but I’m sure he’ll give it a good go.”
Ted then spent several minutes attempting to explain what exactly Irn-Bru was and what it tasted like, before Toby eventually appeared with a bottle of wine and two glasses. After he had finished pouring them both very generous glasses of the Hungarian merlot, the Elf then clicked his fingers and two plates of beef carpaccio, which was littered with olives, walnuts and gorgonzola, appeared onto their plates to much fanfare.
Andromeda was very impressed as it was certainly a bit more upmarket than you would usually expect from a Great Hall feast. She wondered if maybe the elves were trained to cook fancier food for specific faculty members on request.
It did not take too long for them to get through their starter and first glass of wine, after which Toby soon appeared to give them a re-fill on their merlot and with a click of his fingers took away their empty plates and replaced them with two dishes filled with Spaghetti Bolognese. The pasta was garnished with large helpings of black pepper, parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of parsley leaves.
They chatted whilst they ate about fairly innocuous and normal things, such as how their studies were going and what their plans were for Christmas when they went home to see their respective families. Ted’s main excitement hinged on his parent’s Christmas dinner, which seemingly had the best of both worlds. There was the Turkey roast with all of the typical British trimmings you would come to expect, but they would also feast on food native to his Mother’s Polish homeland, such as fried carp, pierogi and herring.
She thought it all sounded very lovely and wished that she could spend Christmas with Ted and his family.
Christmas in the Black household was usually quite a dreadful affair.
Whilst her Father and Mother’s wealth would always ensure the three Black daughters had very lavish and expensive gifts, there was not much in the way of festivity and merriment. They would often host her Aunt and Uncle, who would of course bring along their two young sons, Sirius and Regulus, which would no doubt lead to quarrelling between the two sets of parents once enough fire-whiskey had been consumed.
Her cousin Sirius was very much a wild child who seemed to live to antagonise his parents. At their last family Christmas he had disappeared alongside his younger brother for the best part of an hour, before eventually emerging having dressed poor Regulus in Cissy’s school clothes, even putting his hair up and adorning his face with her makeup. It was safe to say his Mother and Father had been absolutely furious, although Narcissa and Andromeda had certainly seen the funny side, especially given his hopeless attempt to tie a bra on.
Andromeda smiled as she recalled the bizarre sight of Regulus dressed so androgynously, then just as she was finishing up the last of her Spaghetti as graciously as one can possibly eat the cylindrical pasta, Ted commented on how they were like a real life version of Lady and The Tramp, which was apparently a muggle animated movie for children. He explained how it was about a rich, well-kept lady dog falling in love with a common street mutt. She did not approve of him referring to himself as a homeless stray dog, but the story did at least have a happy ending as the homeless stray moved in with the rich, loving family of the posh dog.
Andromeda feared that their love story would not quite have such a happy ending.
Toby eventually appeared to take away their plates again, offering them more wine, Andromeda hesitated as she was already feeling a little bit tipsy after two glasses, but Ted talked her round by arguing they may as well finish the bottle. It did make sense and she wondered if they didn’t finish it whether Toby himself might tuck into it, which was no doubt an awful idea. It was one thing getting him into fizzy drinks, but alcoholic ones would be a disaster.
The carpaccio and spaghetti had put quite a dent into her stomach and she had not anticipated the possibility of a third course, but the tubby Elf soon emerged with two small dishes of Tiramisu. Andromeda had never had any Tiramisu before, but the creamy coffee-flavoured Italian dessert filled with mascarpone, Marsala wine-soaked sponge and large dollops of cocoa was so delicious that she even asked Toby for his recipe, which almost made him faint with embarrassment.
It was not long after they had finished the last scraps of their Tiramisu that Toby nervously warned them that they only had 10 minutes left, as that would be when the rest of the Elves would return to the kitchen and begin preparing the next morning’s breakfast.
The last forty-five minutes had absolutely flown by.
Perhaps the wine had played a part in that.
Andromeda rose from her chair and felt slightly light-headed, but managed to compose herself relatively quickly. Ted stood up and they walked over to the side of the room nearest to the door.
Toby took his cue to leave them to have some privacy before they would be forced to part ways.
“I have had such a lovely time tonight, Ted. I did not know what to expect when you said you had an early Christmas present for me, but I must say you really have outdone yourself,” she said, barely noticing that she had begun nervously playing with the silver ring she wore on her ring finger.
“What can I say? I aim to please,” he replied, before smiling suggestively at her as they moved closer together, close enough that she could smell the wine on his breath.
“I hope my Christmas gift to you is as well received. I would very much like to please you,” Andromeda remarked, which raised an even bigger grin from him.
They were very close together now. So close that not only could she smell his breath, but she could also feel its warmth as it brushed against her face.
“You don’t have to get me anything, love. I prefer giving to receiving anyway,” he whispered whilst staring into her eyes and leaning in towards her.
“You should reserve your judgment on that until you have let me give you something,” she replied softly, although she was not quite sure if it was her talking or the wine.
“And what is it that you are planning on giving me exactly?” Ted asked, before winking suggestively at her.
“What is it that you most desire?” Andromeda asked, as their lips almost began to touch.
Ted raised his eyebrows very suggestively at her.
Suddenly she could not control herself anymore and took him by complete surprise by forcefully pulling him towards her and locking him into a deep embrace.
They kissed passionately as she run her fingers through his thick, blonde hair. She felt his strong hands reach behind to her back, using them to press her towards him even tighter as she tasted the merlot on his tongue inside of her mouth.
In the spur of the moment he pushed her gently, yet very enthusiastically up against the wall. She felt his hands slowly trickle down towards her bottom, he eyed her curiously to see if she would stop him, but instead she positioned herself so it was easier for him to place a powerful hand on each one of her plump arse cheeks over her dress.
He squeezed, softly at first, perhaps gauging her reaction again, but when she began to kiss him more vigorously he took his cue to squeeze a bit more firmly. She suddenly felt what must be his semi-erect penis press up against her through his trousers.
“Oh Teddd,” Andromeda involuntarily moaned under her breath, as he continued to kiss her and squeezed even harder on her buttocks. She had never before desired someone as much as she craved Ted in that moment.
With almost every fibre of her being she wished that she could take Ted back to her bedroom and they could explore each other’s naked bodies. Her mind ran wild with the thought of making furious animalistic love to him.
The more she thought about it the more raw and primal her thoughts and desires became.
In the heat of the moment she even, for a split second, considered letting him take her right there on the table which they had just ate their three course meal.
She couldn’t do that.
Andromeda Black could not give away her virginity in the Hogwarts kitchens of all places!
The wine was putting ideas in her head.
Andromeda naughtily bit his lip, which seemed to completely astonish him, but judging by the increase of the bulge in his trousers it had not been a completely unwelcome surprise.
She pulled away slightly so that they stopped kissing.
“I love you,” Ted whispered.
“I love you too,” she replied breathlessly.
“Then why can’t we have a proper relationship?” he asked, catching her off guard.
Andromeda had known this was coming and felt a lump in her throat, as he caught her breath slightly. Her heart rate had increased rapidly with her arousal, but this change in topic would no doubt put a stop to that too.
She almost wished he had taken her on the table if it had avoided them talking about this.
It had been a pleasant surprise that they had managed to dodge this topic of conversation for so much of their evening already.
“Ted,” she murmured. “I wish that things could be different…honestly I wish-
“You wish what? That I wasn’t a filthy muggle-born that-
“Ted!” Andromeda barked. “How can you say that?! You know that part of the reason I love you is because you are so different to all of the pure-blood bastards in my house!”
“You can say that all you like, but if I was a pure-blood like your little sister’s fella then we wouldn’t have to settle for kissing in a flaming kitchen storage room, would we?!”
Ted suddenly looked really annoyed now.
This argument had been brewing for months, so it was not unexpected, but still she had not braced herself for this moment as much as she should have. They had just had the most intimate and sexually charged moment of their relationship so far, why did they have to ruin it with an argument?!
“We wouldn’t? Would we?!” he repeated in a frustrated voice, but she could not bring herself to reply, all she could do was look at him with an expression of real sorrow on her face.
“You would not be safe if people knew we were dating Ted. A muggle-born dating a daughter of the Black house… you just do not understand-
“I understand well enough!” Ted snapped back. “My Mum came to this country from Poland with no family left alive… do you know why that was?” he demanded.
“Ted. Ted, please-
The alcohol seemed to have really gone to his head and she could see now that he was very visibly distressed.
“They were all killed! Thrown into concentration camps and either worked and starved to death… or the lucky ones were stuck in gas chambers and murdered on arrival! I’ve seen the way some of those lads look at people like me… if they had their way they’d do the same to us! Well they can bloody well jog on! If I have to fight a hundred of them to be with you then so be it. I’ll do it!”
“Ted, please, please promise me you will not go looking for a fight with anyone. I fear I have already riled up Lucius enough tonight already, do not give him and his cronies an excuse to have a duel with-
“What’d you mean you’ve already riled him up enough tonight?” Ted interrupted.
Andromeda sighed. She should not have even mentioned it, as no good could possibly come of telling Ted about Malfoy’s invitation to the Slug Club Christmas party.
“Well… he… he invited me to attend Professor Slughorn’s Christmas party with him-
“He did what?!” Ted fumed. “And what did you say?!”
“I said no of course!” Andromeda replied angrily, as if there was any doubt over what her answer to Lucius would have been.
“I’ll kill him!”
“Ted! You will not under any circumstances speak of this to Lucius or anybody else,” she ordered. “I can assure you that you have absolutely nothing to worry about in regards to my affection… I would have thought from our kiss just now that much would at least be obvious to you – and I dare say that following on from my rejection earlier tonight, you will not have to worry about Lucius attempting to court me again.”
“Why’s that then?” Ted asked moodily.
“Well, if you must know, we had a mild disagreement after I rejected him so publicly-
“Yes, well he asked me in-front of the whole common room. I did not have much choice. But he angered me so much that I stole your little insult about his Father having to buy him the captaincy to prevent Xavier Shacklebolt from carrying on in his position as Seeker.”
Ted looked gob-smacked.
“Wait?! So you said that… to Malfoy… in-front of your entire common room?!”
“Yes, well he was being really rather irritating and I figured that would be the insult that would hurt his pride the most… you know what boys are like with Quidditch.”
“You really are full of surprises, Miss Black,” he eventually chortled, before pulling her in for another kiss. The kiss was a welcome break from their spat, but it confused her as she was not sure if that meant that their argument was over or not.
“And that’s just given me the most brilliant idea!” he announced proudly, although Andromeda did not like the newly found crazed look in his eyes.
“What is it?” she enquired nervously.
“It’s…its perfect! The Slug Club Christmas party. That’s what you’re going to get me for Christmas. I’m going to be your date to his stupid over-rated celebration of nepotism!”
Andromeda was too dumb-struck to even respond.
Ted looked absolutely giddy.
“Oh but don’t you see, ‘Dromeda? It’s perfect. We get to announce to the world that we’re together and it will completely piss off dear old Lucius Malfoy on the biggest stage of them all. Oh, can you imagine the look on his face?!”
“Ted,” she pleaded. “Have you not been listening to anything that I have been saying to you? You cannot seriously think this would be a wise move for either of us.”
His expression briefly turned from jovial to slight anger at her reply, before an even more worrying look appeared on his face. This was not one of anger, but one of calculating deliberation and it scared Andromeda far more than any look she had seen on her secret boyfriend’s face ever before.
“You know how much I love you, Andromeda,” Ted began, as she began to nervously play with her ring again. “But these past few months… I’ve been wondering how much you really love me. Do you love me… or just the idea of me? Am I your boyfriend… or am I just a weird experimental phase that you will soon grow out of?”
“Ted, you know that I love-
“All I know is that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life kissing you in kitchen storage rooms, or having to settle with secret letters and hiding in the shadows. Are we supposed to live like this forever?” he asked, as he stared at her with a mixture of frustration and sadness in his eyes.
She really did feel awful about making him hurt like this.
“Ted, you do not understand,” she started, as she felt the first tear trickle out of her eye and fall slowly down her face. “If my parents found out about us they would make me choose… they would disown me if I chose you… I would have nowhere to live… here at school I would be treated worse than dirt… once I am of age and have left school… maybe things could be different-
Ted laughed and shook his head.
“You want me to live my life for the next couple of years and pin everything on a maybe? A maybe?!”
Andromeda cursed her luck. She really had not phrased that last part too well. Why did she have to say maybe?!
“Well maybe I’ve had enough of living like a second class citizen. Maybe it’s time that you do make your choice!”
“Ted… Ted please do not do this, I am begging you-
“We can go to Slughorn’s Christmas party together, as a couple… or… or we can go our separate ways… once and for all,” he finished, seemingly with a lump in his throat, before taking one last desperate look at her and storming off.
“Ted,” she shouted after him, hurriedly following him out of the storage room door into the kitchen as hot, heavy tears began to pour out of her eyes.
He had already managed to race out of the kitchen and into the basement corridor. She rushed out of the door, running past a confused and bewildered Toby, and saw Ted pacing about ten metres ahead of her, heading towards the corridor that would lead to the Hufflepuff common room.
Andromeda began to dart after him, she did not care if anybody saw them together in public anymore. She knew now that she loved him too much to worry about any of that.
“Ted! Ted wait I-
As she turned down the dimly lit corridor she suddenly collided with someone or something very large which took her right off her feet. It was like she had run straight into a wild mountain troll. She landed onto the hard floor right onto her back, which winded her considerably.
“Oh my, Miss Black, I am ever so sorry.”
In her slightly dazed and confused state she could not quite work out who that voice belonged to, but whoever it was they were being very apologetic.
She felt a fat hand reach down towards her own and as Andromeda was slowly helped to her feet she realised that it was not a mountain troll that she had bumped into at all, for it was in-fact the very podgy, overweight potions Professor, Horace Slughorn.
“You really must accept my profound apologies, Miss Black,” he said slightly nervously, perhaps worried she would write to her Father to complain about his role in this incident, which was of course ludicrous as at the very least she had broken curfew by being out of bed this late. She very much doubted he would have been so apologetic had he bumped into a student not from his own house, or even one from Slytherin without the highly respectable family name that she held.
“I am afraid to say that I was not particularly looking where I was going, Andromeda. You must forgive me, but on one’s way to the kitchens at this time of the evening one does not often encounter many members of the faculty or student body,” he added, perhaps politely suggesting she should not have been wandering the corridors at this time of the evening.
“Think nothing of it, sir,” she said, forcing a smile and praying that he did notice the tears she could still feel on her damp face from her argument with Ted. “It was my own fault… it is I who should apologise to you… I should not have been running… I… I just picked up a few snacks from the kitchen for my sister and I whilst we study this evening… in all of the excitement of the food I was just-
Horace Slughorn laughed merrily, loud enough that his ruckus chuckling stopped her mid-sentence.
“Nonsense, Miss Black! Dare I say, it would be just a tad hypocritical of me to chastise anybody else for getting a bit too excited about food, would it not? Especially at this time of year?” he joked.
Andromeda laughed heartily.
If there was one really positive thing you could say about Horace Slughorn, it was that he did enjoy a bit of self-depreciating humour every now and then, especially with students from his own house.
“If you must know,” he whispered in a hushed-tone. “I am sampling some dishes for my Christmas party tonight. I am awfully excited. It is quite naughty of me really, as I have given one of the Elves the night off work just to cook for myself…but, well, it is all for a good cause, is it not? I expect at my little shin-dig I shall be blessed by the company of you and your sweet sister, Narcissa? I am sure you both have lots of studying to do, but I can assure you, if you really are that excited about food you will be absolutely blown away by what I have planned!”
As he talked of his party all that she could think of was Ted and his awful ultimatum.
It was not fair.
What was she to do?
“Miss Black?” Slughorn asked, interrupting her little day-dream. “Are you sure you do not require a trip to the Hospital Wing, I could have the Matron check that you did not bang your head with that fall?”
“No… no really I am fine, I was just… I was just thinking about the lovely pudding that we had at your last Christmas party. The… the Cherry Pie, do you remember?” she managed to muster out.
“Oh yes, yes Miss Black that really was rather lovely, wasn’t it? Well if you’ve got a sweet tooth let me assure you that you will not be disappointed this year! I believe I am trying out a Tiramisu dish tonight that sounds like it will blow that Cherry Pie right out of the water!” Slughorn announced excitedly. Andromeda wished she could tell him just how right he was.
“That sounds splendid!” she replied enthusiastically. “And of course Narcissa and I will most certainly be attending. I shall not keep you any longer tonight though… I am sorry again for bumping into you,” she added, before quickly excusing herself, as her Head of House laughed off her attempt to apologise to him once more, then politely reminded her she was more than welcome to bring along a guest to his party before bidding her good-night.
Andromeda slowly made her way back to the Slytherin Common Room, carefully checking her appearance in a suit of armour to ensure there were no remnants of any tears left on her face. She was relieved to see that it did not look like there was and besides, at this time of night it would be highly unlikely she would cross paths with another soul before she reached the four-poster bed in her dormitory anyway.
As she quietly sneaked back into their Dungeon after whispering the password, she slowly made her way down the passage and in through the ancient black door.
She scoured the empty common room and as she had expected it was all but deserted, except for a handful of people sitting on the-
“Ah, Andromeda, what a pleasant surprise.”
It was just her luck.
Lucius sat comfortably on a black leather sofa with a satisfied grin on his face, as he watched her sneak back into the common room after breaking curfew.
Malfoy was not alone. He was flanked on his left side by Corban Yaxley and Algernon Avery, both grinning evilly, whilst Thorfinn Rowle sat in an armchair opposite them, reading from a dark red tattered old book.
There was a fifth member of Malfoy’s posse tonight though, sat next to him, holding his hand, wearing a dark black corset and a very satisfied smile on her face, was none other than Olivia Burke.
“Lucius,” Andromeda grumbled in acknowledgement, as she walked quite quickly, looking to get away from them to the safety of the girl’s dormitory as fast as possible.
“And where exactly is it that you have been tonight?” Malfoy asked in an arrogant tone.
“That is none of your business,” Andromeda replied through clenched teeth.
“Ah, but I am afraid, as I am sure you are no doubt aware, Miss Burke here is a prefect,” he said smugly. “If a student has breached their curfew without prior permission from a teacher, it is very much her business.”
Andromeda frowned at Olivia Burke, who looked very satisfied with herself indeed.
“Lucius is… unfortunately… quite correct, Andromeda, although I am sure you can offer us a reasonable explanation?” Burke asked in a very patronising tone.
“Well, if you must know,” Andromeda began. “I was at the library…reading,” she lied. It was not too fanciful a tale, as she did spend many of her evenings snowed under in books in the school’s library. She was very much known as a bookworm by her peers, some even commenting that she read so much it was a surprise she had not been housed in Ravenclaw instead.
“Interesting,” Lucius smiled. “As luck would have it, our friend Mr Rowle here has only just returned from the library himself. Thorfinn, dear friend, do you recall seeing Miss Black in the library at all on this fine evening?”
Rowle looked up from his book momentarily.
“No,” he replied moodily, barely even bothering to look at her, before shaking his head and returning to whatever it was that he was reading.
“Well,” Lucius began, but Andromeda had anticipated this answer and thought quickly on her feet to continue her lie.
“I expect he did not see me because I was in the restricted section,” she added confidently, but Rowle’s chuckle under his breath in response caught her off guard.
“You really think Rowle would be wasting his time in the library not in the restricted section?” Algernon Avery asked in an incredulous tone. “What do you think he’s been reading all night, Hogwarts, A History?”
Yaxley and Burke both laughed at Avery’s quip, whilst Malfoy merely smiled triumphantly.
“You may wish to borrow that book on Necromancy that Thorfinn is reading, Black, as you are dead,” Lucius added evilly, causing even greater laughter from Yaxley and Burke, with Avery himself joining the chorus of jeers in mocking her.
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