The Sugar Quill
Author: Falkesbane  Story: Rain on the Window  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.


It’s so exciting – my first accepted story on the Quill! Many thanks to Thrennish, my very nice beta, and whoever it was who decided to accept me in the first place.

All things belong to JKR.

Rain on the Window
Falkesbane

……………

Andromeda Black didn’t know when the corner table with the yellow flowered cloth over it had become their table. She didn’t know when the frizzy-haired waitress had got to know their tastes so much that when Andromeda walked in, she brought a cup of orange tea without so much as a word. She couldn’t count how many times she’d sat in the same red plastic chair, how many times she’d waited for him with bated breath. It had to be nearly a hundred times by now, she knew – a hundred quiet encounters, a hundred miniature joys.

The little bell over the door chimed, and Ted Tonks walked in. The two old Muggles at the counter didn’t bother to look up, nor did the waitress, and, apart from them, the rest of the place was abandoned. Andromeda watched him carefully as he came toward her; he was looking every inch the ordinary Muggle, dressed in jeans and the sort of garish shirt he usually preferred – this one was blue-green and covered in sweetly exotic patterns, the sort of thing that made her think of the Mediterranean. His sandy hair was longish – she hoped he would not remember to have it cut – and damp from the rain. She gave a little wave; he smiled grimly.

She’d never been quite as good at dressing like a Muggle. He had a history she lacked; he knew what he was doing. She fingered the scruffy collar of the camel-coloured shirt she wore, suspecting it was at least ten years out of fashion, but she had to hide the few pieces of Muggle clothing she owned and did not dare to hide more. They were all tucked under a false bottom she’d conjured up in one of her dresser drawers, but even still she worried – Narcissa could be nosy if it so struck her. One discovery and that would be it.

Ted slid into the seat across from her. “Have you run away from them, then?”

It was a ritual between the two of them, a sort of morbid game. He always asked it, every time they met, even though they both knew what the answer was.

“No, I’m not a child,” she said dully, looking at the rain on the window, which was gathering into little runnelling droplets, sliding down the dirty glass. It was far too grey a day; she wished it could always be bright when she saw him. “I’m too old for running away.”

Usually he waggled his eyebrow at her whenever he asked, usually he shot her a wide, rakish grin, and usually she just laughed and shook her head, but this time was different.

She remembered their first meeting in the restaurant like it had just happened. It had been in the summer before their sixth year, after Bellatrix had left school. They had been friends at Hogwarts – close friends – but she wasn’t quite why she had chosen to confide in Ted Tonks, the goofy, messy Muggle-born, over any of the girls she’d known. Whatever it was, she had found herself sneaking out of her majestic home one hot summer evening and finding the London address he’d sent her, finding the dirty little restaurant, sitting down at the table with the yellow cover, surreptitiously learning how to use Muggle money to order tea and sandwiches – Ted’s calm hands over her frantic fumbling ones – and telling Ted Tonks of all the bloody people about how her elder sister had fanatically devoted herself to the Dark Lord.

He had listened with uncharacteristic quiet, his hands knotted together beneath his chin, his eyes simultaneously confused – he didn’t know as much as she did about the wizarding world and the emphasis on the pure-blooded – and sympathetic. Then he’d asked it, for the first time.

Have you run away from them, then?

She’d been taken aback – how bold it had seemed, the simple act of running away!

After that, their clandestine meetings in the restaurant had become something of a republic of secrets, just between the two of them. She would owl him to come meet her and tell him of what happened to him, of how she hated being placed next to Lucius Malfoy at dinner parties, how she hated his icy gimlet eyes appraising her and finding her wanting, of how she hated her mother and father emphasizing the necessity of a pure-blooded marriage, and what a nice traditional young man Malfoy was. Traditional was the kind way of saying that he was from old blood, and old money. She told of how she feared for Bellatrix and Narcissa, how she loved them and hated them all in the same breath.

In turn, he would owl her to come meet him whenever he had trouble, whether it was with his family or otherwise. More often than not, it had been otherwise – she remembered one incident, the year before, when he had been hexed for being a Muggle-born – by an irate co-worker at the Ministry, no less! – and they had spent the night talking about it, and she had discovered so much about him, how he felt, how much he loved Hogwarts and magic, and how much he loved the things of the Muggle world as well.

She didn’t know when, exactly, she had fallen in love with him – and it was a terrifying and wonderful thing. What would her family think if she told them? It was an exciting prospect. She often lay in bed and concocted scenarios in her mind – her telling them and there being screaming and wailing and her being cast out on the front steps, possibly cursed or hexed, her wandering through the rain to his Muggle flat, him greeting her and kissing her, her life abruptly changed, and for the better.

Or else the dream would be Ted coming to her front door, standing on her steps in a furious storm – the weather was always violent in her fantasies – and shouting her name, his arms up in the air, a supplicant not caring who heard, and she would run to her window and shout to him and scurry down the stairs and run off with him, both of them soaked and electrified, with her family in futile pursuit behind.

But she never did it. The answer was always no. She wondered if she was a coward.

It had been him who had owled her this time – nearly four years since that first meeting and countless precious meetings spaced in between since then. His note had been mysteriously curt, but she knew what he wanted to see her for. “What was the news, then?”

The waitress came; both of them were silent as she plunked down his customary cup of coffee. “I don’t know just how to word this, Andromeda—”

Ted never called her anything but Andromeda, when people at school had nicknamed her Andie, and when her family had always called her by her relation to them, daughter or sister or cousin. Whenever he said her name it was as though he were savouring it, drawing it out as long as possible. An-drom-ed-a. She secretly gloried in it. She was afraid to tell him how much it meant. “Don’t mince words, Ted. I wanted to get the news about her from you and not from my family for a reason.”

“It was Bellatrix. She was spotted at one of their meetings; we’ve got her on the wanted list now.”

Up until now, even though she knew Bellatrix had become loyal to You-Know-Who, she had hoped against hope that her sister would change her mind before anyone made an enemy of her, before she was found out by the Ministry, before she had to do such terrible no-going-back things like killing people. But she knew her sister – proud and furious, and the sort of person who didn’t go back on her decisions.

She let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. “I hope they catch her.”

“Do you love her still, your sister?”

Andromeda nodded. She knew herself well; she was the sort of person who couldn’t stop loving someone once she’d started, no matter what happened. She loved well and she loved persistently. It was one of the many follies of her too-big heart. She knew it was what Bellatrix wanted, but she could not help the hollow ache in her stomach. Being a Death Eater was an odd thing in her family; it was at once a point of wondrous pride and something to be kept secret. Like Ted for me, she thought, and shivered.

“Then why do you wish her caught?”

“Just because I love her yet doesn’t mean I don’t believe in justice,” she said derisively.

He smiled at that. She watched him, loving the expression on his face. What would he do if she reached over and touched him? Nothing too personal, only a finger over the lips, or a curled hand grazing a cheek – surely that would be acceptable, surely it wouldn’t give her away. She wished she could do it.

“You always were a reasonable woman,” he said with admiration. “I’ve got to get back to the Ministry – I just wanted to tell you.”

“I appreciate it.”

“D’you want to meet later? Here?”

“Of course here,” Andromeda said with a small smile. It was always the same place; it was their own personal country, so much more than aging tablecloths and ugly chairs and surly waitresses. It was like a place out of time, a no man’s land. Or, she thought with a small smile, a no wizard’s land.

“See you then, Andromeda.” Again with her name, long and lovely. And he leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, then flipped some Muggle money down for their drinks and went out the door, the little bell swinging.

She sat there alone, stirring her orange tea, gazing moodily out the window so she could watch him walk away through the filmy filter of rain. She tried not to reach her hand up to where he had kissed her, but failed. Someday when you ask me, Ted, she thought, I’m going to say yes.

//
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