Title: An Unbinding Exhalation
Characters: Andromeda Black, Lucius Malfoy
Word Count: 1300
Summary: Andromeda slays a dragon.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers, including, but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Written for hpqfac's February 2007 event.
Andromeda, who had always been able to cast spells in smoke, rose from the false comfort of her bed and conjured a cup of tea. She called forth ephedra so that she could breathe easily enough to draw smoke into her lungs, and knelt before the warded window of her bedchamber. The insects that lived just over the sill weren't quiet, and neither was she.
The flash of her "Incendius!" startled her, but she didn't fear it. Andromeda had never feared fire.
Inhaling, she waited for the smoke to collect in the air, and from the ephemeral fumes of what should have been death spiraled the shape of her would-be beloved's face. Its lips curved in an invitation, promising much, but Andromeda sipped her tea, wearing a practiced expression of interest, rather than lean into the semblance of a kiss.
She knew she shouldn't be calling to her betrothed on the night before their wedding; her mother would never approve, but Lucius had asked for her to open her window to him, and she was too well-bred to have mistaken his words for a request. He thought she was clever to be able to communicate with him through the smoke of an unbound fire, which only displayed how foolish he truly was.
The paper binding the tobacco in my hand is hearth enough.
Endearments tumbled out of the smoke that wafted gently from around the proud curlings of Lucius' nose. They nestled against her neck as whispered offerings. Indifferent, Andromeda tapped the collecting ash over the sill, and listened more closely to the sounds coming from the world beyond her window. She hadn't seen much of that world, and what had been shown to her had come from a forbidden source.
"What do Muggleborns know of our ways?" her mother had said often. "They are destroyers of everything good in our world."
Andromeda would never have said so, but she knew her mother was a liar who only deceived herself. That was neither here nor there, however, because dawn would bring a new life.
Mother's pet dragon will, she thought, indulging herself in the fanciful language for which she was so often disciplined, with flashing scales, bristle eternal vows to me before our ancestors, our families, and our friends.
And in the nights to follow that of her wedding, she wouldn't have to summon Lucius with a fag; he would ever be by her side, bravely glittering, watching the world for her, watching to see that she didn't stray too far from her own kind.
As have my parents all my sodding, sheltered life!
Disturbed, and furious with herself, Andromeda watched an insect crawling on her sill, free to fly away at the slightest threat.
Looking past the beetle, she wondered, What would it be like to consort with a true dragon, a man not bound by the Old Ways but free to think and feel and love as he chose?
Lucius' visage coiled jealously about her, distracting Andromeda from her thoughts of Ted.
"Nothing will disturb our happiness," he whispered, serpent–like, against her hair. "Not even your apparent bridal nerves, my dear."
Andromeda did her best not to recoil as a sound of skittering broke through Lucius' hissing to remind her that she had yet a voice of her own, albeit one she'd never raised in her own defense. The insect was singing, and, although its song had no words, she understood it to be happy.
The simple joy of chasing smoke seems appropriate for a beetle, she thought, as she lit another path for it to follow.
Her trail had been engraved, black letters in white cotton, family names and a given place and time. The border of jeweled flowers had been an extravagance, but Lucius' dragon of a mother had found Andromeda's suggestion charming. Mrs. Malfoy had not been as pleased to learn of Andromeda's own writings, the recorded results of her experimental incantations and potion-works, which flowed from her quill and bubbled over from her cauldron to fill her soon-to-be neglected private laboratory with a smoky magic of their own. There was so much to explore that Andromeda knew she would never be permitted upon becoming Lucius' wife. It wasn't done: no daughter of the Blacks had ever worked outside the home.
I'll never be an Unspeakable or an Auror or anything other than property now, will I?
Thinking this, her hold over the spell producing Lucius' arrogant expression wafted apart somewhat, and Andromeda sighed.
Ted doesn't mind my explorations. He finds them fascinating. He even encourages "those little stories" of mine that Lucius laughed at when I tried to share them with him.
Lucius wasn't what one would call a reader; Andromeda wasn't certain what to call him.
In the book Ted gave me, the dragon is the earth. It makes no demands and promises nothing, Andromeda thought, inhaling and tapping her ashes into the dregs of her tea.
She had expected the rain, and so wasn't frightened when it began to fall, causing the earth beneath her window to emanate the rich scents of life and hope. She saw how her mother's flowers welcomed the droplets, straining upward to collect the blessed moisture, and the beetle, which belonged to no one, flew away. Andromeda envied its boldness.
Ted says I'm not a coward. He says I'm worthy of more than being used as a bridge between houses. But if that's true, why didn't I protest when Mother and Father promised me to the Malfoys? Why have I never protested anything they wanted for me that I hated? Ted's too good for me, Andromeda told herself, half-believing it as the end of her fag glowed brightly, causing trails to appear in the air as she moved it from her cup to her lips and stared out her window.
Again, Lucius collected in front of her face, his affronted expression at her now obvious disinterest a reminder of her own enforced promises.
"Such beauty as yours, Andromeda, should be treasured," he told her.
His attempt at flattery sounded almost desperate, and Andromeda looked at her pale, bare arm. Her skin shone like a beetle's carapace under the moonlight; it was pure—as pure as she was supposed to yet be—and the memory of Ted's soft hands caressing her freed something within her as she exhaled.
She realized now that it had been something other than her dragon to which she had awoken, something of greater power.
Something I was about to foolishly cast aside before ever truly experiencing it. "I don't love you, Lucius," she said then, her breath dispersing his countenance and breaking her spell as she turned her gaze upon the moon and listened to the song of the beetles.
Listening to their inspired chirping, listening to herself at long last, Andromeda found things clear.
Without a magically binding marital contract, my parents can't force me to wed Lucius.
The Malfoys had been unwilling to bind themselves as they would have had their son's bride and family bound, which meant that her engagement was a weak one, indeed.
I do have a choice, don't I? Andromeda asked herself, as she made the first real decision of her life. I won't marry Lucius Malfoy.
An exhilaration owing nothing to the tobacco she had been smoking rushed through her, and Andromeda began to plan. At dawn, she would rinse from her cup the ashes of her mother's ruined dream for her and inform her parents that she had slain the hopes of the great dragon that was their Lucius Malfoy.
But now, now I'll give Ted his answer, Andromeda decided, moving to sit at her desk and taking up her quill to write:
"You were right. I'm worthy of something more. I'm worthy of you. . . . ."