Written for Season 4 of the QLFC, Round 7.

Title: Dancing in the Dark

Team: Wigtown Wanderers

Position: Chaser 2

Ship: Andromeda/Hermione

Optional Prompts:

1. (word) bond

4. (poem) 'A Late Walk' by Robert Frost

10. (creature) Boggart

Word Count: 2,980

Beta(s): CrazyRopeDragon, Dolby Digital (Thank you!)

The first thing Hermione noticed was the tangle of sheets trapping her feet. She pretended it didn't bother her, even though there was only herself to fool. Four nights in a row she had woken up like this. Eyes eventually opening when her crimson quilt wouldn't allow her to toss and turn anymore.

Terrible things happen to those who meddle with time. She sighed, and pressed her face further into her pillow. Surely she would fall back asleep.

Circulation was cut off from her foot, and she gave up. She reached for her wand under her pillow.

"Relashio," she whispered, the bed released her, she climbed to her feet. She took her wand, and crept out into the peace of the warmly lit hall. She pressed her cheek to the dormitory door as she closed it, taking comfort in the worn wood.

What the school had allowed her to do in her third year was wrong. They may as well have given her cocaine, so that she could have the energy to take some extra classes. It was a catastrophe waiting to happen. It wasn't until two years on that she had really started to experience the trauma.

She had travelled in time to save Sirius Black, but he'd still died. It was as though all that she had accomplished using the Time Turner had tipped a scale, and the world was going to right itself. It filled her with dread, and when she thought of Sirius, guilt. It felt like a debt that she wracked up, but she wasn't the one paying it.

She pushed away from the door, and took another step into the corridor. There was a white candle flickering cheerfully in a bracket on the wall across from her. It sputtered, and was blown out as if by an invisible wind. The shadows deepened. Hermione narrowed her eyes accusingly at the smoking wick, and flinched at a creaking in the gloom.

"Aparecium," she said, pointing her wand in the direction of the disturbance. There was a clunk, as though something had fallen off of a table.

"Lumos." Her wand flooded the hall with light, and revealed a drawer blown out from a teetering stand. A streak of colour burst forth from the drawer, and a girl emerged. A bushy-haired thirteen year old Hermione Granger. Her older, pajama-clad counterpart hesitated at the sight of her worn-out past-self. The doppelganger walked briskly over to her.

The younger girl pulled a fine gold chain from under her jumper, and Hermione's gut clenched with fear. The sight of the girl may have been a shock, but the object she was now brandishing encouraged Hermione to hold her wand at the ready.

There had to be an explanation for this. Hermione stumbled back as the distance closed between them. She wanted to call out, but what if her younger self had somehow travelled forward in time? What if she was standing in the corridor for a reason? These thoughts were pushed to the back of her mind when the other Hermione lifted the Time Turner over her head, and lunged forward.

"Stop!" Hermione said, as the other tried to lasso her with the chain. She was increasingly aware of her heart in her chest, the weary state of her mind made the strange moment stranger. Suddenly, despite the fear and the exhaustion, Hermione realised what was going on. She lifted her wand:

"Riddikulus!" Hermione aimed squarely for the Boggart's chest, just as the creature managed to wrangle her with the chain. The creature flinched, and shifted so that a gaunt Sirius Black stood before her, dressed as a prisoner once more.

The illusion was horribly convincing; she could smell the gunk matted into his hair. The Boggart was so much taller than her now it had no trouble pushing the Time Turner down completely over head. The other Sirius then lifted the small charm, and flicked it. Hermione's mouth fell open, the hourglass span rapidly. She shook her head, and pushed the dead man off of her. She tried to pull the Time Turner off but the room was spinning, this couldn't work, could it?

Andromeda stirred her soup robotically. Five years she had been attending Hogwarts, and only last week did she spot the love of her life, and it was a bloody woman. She'd avoided seeking her out since the night in the library. She'd resisted for three days, but she'd seen her again in the Astronomy Tower that morning, and she'd felt like she was in a trance ever since.

She scanned the Hufflepuff table with all the subtlety she could, but being sly wasn't her strong suit. If she was in Slytherin for any reason it wasn't because of her sneakiness, it was her drive. Her determination. She only wished that she could want someone appropriate, instead of this… this mess.

"You're going to need a house elf to shove your eyes back into your skull." Sirius had made his way over to her.

"And you're going to need a dozen to remove your head from your arse." Sirius smiled warmly at her harsh remark, and nudged her with his elbow.

"Woah, tetchy."

"Should you really be over here?" she asked.

"At the Ravenclaw table? No, I suppose not." Andromeda raised her eyebrows.

"I'm not— oh Merlin." Andromeda looked around, and met the eyes of a puzzled looking boy in blue across the table. Sirius shrugged at him. She was about to melt into a pile of mortified goop, when she walked into the hall.

"I came over to check if you'd been confunded." Sirius waved a hand in front of her face, Andromeda grabbed his hand, and dragged it out of her line of vision to see the bushy-haired dream girl.

"Maybe I have." Sirius snorted, and joined her in observing the Hufflepuff miracle.

"That's that Hufflepuff that was caught wandering around the girls dormitory in the middle of the night last week."

"Hardly odd, considering she's a girl."

"Something you've clearly come to appreciate," Sirius said, lowering his voice.

"Shut up." The girl in question was walking hesitantly over to the Hufflepuff table, as if she were expecting an ambush. "Do you know her?"

"Her name's Jean, I think. Anyway, it was strange because it was the girls dormitory in Gryffindor tower. The boys reckon she was up there for more than makeup tips, if you know what I mean." He nudged her again.

"It wouldn't be the first time I heard a rumour like that." Her cousin narrowed his eyes, and then grinned.

"Oi, Jean!" he shouted across the hall, and the girl froze halfway into her chair. She stood up straight, and turned slowly. She looked very nervous, and very beautiful.

"Hi?" she asked, her voice was quiet, but it carried. Despite the dark colour of her skin, it was clear that she was flushed with colour. It seemed as though she was searching for the source of the voice at the Gryffindor table.

"Over here!" She found them then, and her eyes widened. She spotted Sirius, and then found Andromeda, no doubt painted sixty shades of pink. Damnitall. Sirius gestured at Jean to come over. She didn't: she smiled politely, turned her back, and sat down. Her eyes had been dark, and fierce.

"She seems a bit shy to be creeping into bed with Marlene McKinnon in the middle of the night."

"McKinnon?" Jean didn't seem so shy.

"What's it to you?"

"You're such a gossip."

"If I really wanted to know how you felt about her, I'm sure I could persuade dear Aunt Druella to loan us her Aphrodite necklace," Sirius remarked, pulling at the collar of Andromeda's jumper. "Or do you have it on you? Early inheritance."

She batted his hand away. "Get off, Sirius! No self-respecting Rosier would allow a teenager to wear Aphrodite's Tear. Even if it is authentic it can only recover a lost love once, you know? And a teenager, see: you, would only use it!"

Sirius glanced toward his friends at the Gryffindor table, "Maybe so cousin, any self-respecting Black would."

"Because you're horny buggers?"

"Because we're horny buggers," Sirius agreed happily.

The Ravenclaws were starting to glare, but Sirius seemed completely unaffected.

The bathroom on the second floor was deserted as usual, one nice addition being that even Myrtle seemed to have abandoned it for the evening. Hermione almost cried with relief at the extent of the solitude. She had been speaking with Dumbledore again, the only person she had allowed herself to reveal anything to. She moved over to the window, and scowled out over the lake.

She had to get back before she made a horrible mistake, or any sort of mistake. She had been down this road before, but at least then she had had a purpose, or instructions from Dumbledore. Even with those things the results of what she had done had filled her with regret. She hadn't done enough, she'd failed. When she saw everyone here, knowing what she knew was torture. The temptation was too much to take, God help her, she just wanted to give in.

The Headmaster refused to say it, but it was obvious that he would welcome some information from her. He knew better, but he clearly hungered for it. They both did, the exchange of knowledge, the prevention of bloodshed. Harry. She was so lonely.

This was why she needed to be alone, and remain alone. Dumbledore had given her access to any relevant books he could find, and was reasonable enough to do some research on her behalf. They would get her home; if she had to find that Boggart, and personally strangle it, she'd get home.

She thought maybe she could end all of this, if she could just let go of her fear. Wherever that creature was, she was still bonded to it. She needed joy to break away. If she could only laugh she might stop feeding it, but all that she felt when she looked at the people here was helplessness, and dread. When they smiled at her, she froze. It was a cage of thought, if she could only think her way out.

Do something that would force the penny to drop. She was so scared to fail again, and there was nothing about it that amused her.

The Slytherin common room was packed to the gills, and everyone was in high spirits as they chatted about the upcoming match. Andromeda was not in the mood for any of it. Truthfully, she was a bit miserable. She wandered out of the dungeon, and made her way up to the library.

The library was empty aside from bloody Jean, who had her gorgeous head buried in a bloody book. Andromeda hesitated in the door of the library, like a racing Hippogriff waiting for the hatch to open.

She could not go over there.

She could not pursue a woman.

She had to marry a Zabini or a Malfoy, and give birth to his heir and a spare.

There was no room for feelings like these. For mistakes.

She shouldn't be fixing her long, dark hair, she shouldn't be biting the red back into her lips, she shouldn't be trying to read the title of the girl's book from a distance, so that she could think of something clever to say. She knew better.

She walked over, tugging at the hem of her skirt, and then paused, and pretended to be looking at a book discarded on a desk nearby.

Jean looked at her then. She seemed startled at the interruption, but she didn't shy away. Andromeda knew she shouldn't. She was already in enough trouble with her parents for trying her best. Salazar forbid she should allow herself to do her worst.

She decided the library was off limits for the night. Andromeda knew herself, she was too impulsive to be left alone with Jean. She balled her hands into fists, and left.

Hermione eyed the girl from a well concealed corner in the entrance hall, where she sat reading about Time Turners and their uncommon uses. This girl was the reason she wasn't nestled away in the library. When Hermione had seen her earlier in the week, she had been sure it was Bellatrix Black, but looking at her now she felt a rush of relief. She had been mistaken.

It wouldn't do for her to have caught Bellatrix's attention. Hermione smiled softly as the Slytherin girl stood, and contemplated the bannister. After a quick glance around she hopped onto it, and slid down at top speed. She didn't cry-out, instead she gasped softly, before clattering to the bottom. She managed to stay on her feet, but only just. Hermione was surprised when her smile widened. She was very glad to discover this wasn't Bellatrix.

The Slytherin girl bit the tip of her tongue, as she plaited her dark hair at the bottom of the stairs. Hermione felt a rush of nostalgia when she remembered that Sirius shared the habit, and Tonks as well. Tonks, of course!

"Andromeda!" Hermione exclaimed to herself, but the hall was nearly empty, and the name practically ricocheted around them. Andromeda's eyes found her instantly, her heavy lids made her expression sultry even in confusion.

"Jean?" she asked, as if she couldn't believe it. Hermione gaped like a fish, and then for some reason said:

"I'm fine." Andromeda's hands fell away from her hair. Something passed between them. Hermione imagined this is what it felt like to stare into the eyes of a bull: inevitable.

Andromeda smiled widely, looking every bit like she was about to throw caution to the wind. As though she intended to close the space between them, and ask 'Jean' about that rumour going around that she liked girls.

"Okay," Andromeda said, and the spell broke. When Andromeda abruptly turned, and walked out the castle doors, Hermione immediately wished that she'd done something, and then thanked God that she hadn't.

Andromeda was following her. Hermione had tested it a few times. First Andromeda would spot her, and smile, and say:

"Jean." Like it was a bad word, like she had her own rules about this, and she was breaking them too. Then Hermione would nod, and take a pointless route that led them both back to where they'd met. Andromeda would always be there, and the spell would be cast, and then she'd leave, and it would break.

Hermione tried to tell herself that it was annoying, that the only reason she didn't confront the girl was because it was dangerous, but a part of her knew that this little game of cat-and-mouse was keeping her going.

She was so isolated, and even though these almost interactions were dangerous for both of them, Andromeda was starting to feel like a friend. A strange, predatory friend who was unwittingly putting the future of the wizarding world in jeopardy, but also someone who, well, looked at her.

Hermione knew she should be scared, but Andromeda was exciting, and oddly flirtatious. So Hermione did the unthinkable: she smiled back, she waited out in the open to be found, and she tried to lead Andromeda, whether she could admit it or not.

Andromeda stood in the Owlery, quill and parchment in hand, at a total loss. Andromeda's Mother had sent a letter about a holiday she was planning with Andromeda's Aunt Walburga. They were going to Paris and wanted to see how she was doing and if she wanted anything. It was one of the nicer letters Andromeda had received from home, and she should've been able to take pleasure in it, but it instead it just filled her with guilt. She rubbed impatiently at her eyes which burned a little. She wanted to respond in kind, write something that would encourage her Mother's affection for her but she was so ashamed she couldn't shape a thought.

She felt a bizarre desire to confess, to seek comfort or advice. Maybe even just to have the sense jinxed into her and get it over with. But truthfully, the path she was headed down now would take more than a stinging hex to fix. What was she doing?

Worst of all she felt pressure to respond quickly, because even though she knew it shouldn't be a factor it was coming up to the time she usually went to meet Jean and she hadn't seen her kind eyes all day. Andromeda should be focusing on her duty to her family, not following a girl who was almost certainly muggleborn like some kind of stray dog. A girl who was clearly determined to keep her distance.

"Oh, uhm." Speak of the devil.

"Jean," Andromeda said, putting the quill down on the ledge and smiling. It amused Andromeda every time, it was thrilling and ridiculous how they were carrying on together. How Jean would make the first move over and over, like rereading the first chapter of a book.

Jean nodded as if to acknowledge her like any other passerby, and turned to leave as if seeing Andromeda wasn't all she came to do. Andromeda was about to throw her stuff in her bag so they walk alone.. together, when Jean paused in the door frame. This was different.

"Are you alright?" Jean asked without turning back to face her, and Andromeda's eyes just about bugged out of her head.

"Oh Jean, first you're breaking their rules, and now ours?" Andromeda teased, flirting aloud for the first time among the owl droppings. At least they were alone.

"Our rules?" Jean shrugged. "They're just an extension of everyone else's."

"Do I look awful or something?" Andromeda asked, smoothing her hair which admittedly was a little windswept from the stairs on the way up.

"You know how you look," Jean said, turning it seemed just to roll her eyes. Then the Hufflepuff was looking at Andromeda for the second time in a row which didn't happen often, and she was looking closely. "You've heard something from home?" She asked after a beat, getting to the heart of the issue in a moments scrutiny. Andromeda blanched, unused to speaking openly with people outside of her house or family.

"Yes, just normal family news, nothing bad. What was it you were saying about me being good looking?" Andromeda tried to play it off, not wanting to discuss her family now that she and Jean were actually talking.

"I didn't— They've upset you," Jean stated, stepping toward Andromeda for a change. Andromeda momentarily felt an absurd desire to step back, as if her ancestors had tied an invisible rope around her and were trying to drag her back on course. Jean paused at arms length and glanced rather obviously at the blank parchment between them on the ledge.

"No. Not really, nosy," Andromeda said, reaching out and pulling the unwritten letter toward as if it was some private important document. She immediately regretted the bite in her tone. Jean lifted her chin sternly.

"You're not upset?" She asked, almost business like and Andromeda rubbed at her eye self-consciously.

"No," Andromeda insisted, sounding upset.

"So, you haven't been crying?" Jean pressed, her voice softer.

"I wasn't actually," Andromeda said, looking away, so confused and mortified at the thought that she might actually start crying now, in front of Jean. "I was just welling up a bit."

"What did they say to you?!" Jean asked, with some urgency, her hand finding it's way onto the flare of her hip and Andromeda's eye following it.

"My Mother said she'd pick me up something from Paris," Andromeda said, crossing her arms over her chest blank parchment in hand. "And they sent their love," she whispered to the ground, and Merlin help her, her voice caught and her eyelids were hot with tears as she closed her eye against them. It was in the same breath that Jean was on her, pulling her so close and tight it felt like being hugged by someone much bigger. Someone big enough to keep her safe, and that thought alone was enough to break down what was left of Andromeda's reserve because it felt so good to be held by her. So right, and that didn't stop it from being wrong. She didn't want to face how wrong it was. She didn't want to turn away from the safety of Jean's coy dance to face it. "I just miss them," she mumbled into Jean's jumper.

Jean nodded, but there must've been something in her that couldn't accept this explanation, because while Andromeda tried and failed to pull herself together Jean said: "Is that all?" In a tight voice that sounded like it was trying to stop the words forming even as they were spoken.

"I really like you," Andromeda blurted, still hidden in her shoulder. In that moment the desire to get her feelings out over road her desire to keep them in and she felt more confused then ever as she was rushed with relief and excitement and embarrassment. "Sorry," she choked.

"No, I— Thanks," Jean replied, and a tentative hand touched the back of Andromeda's head. Gently, Jean carded her fingers through Andromeda's hair.

"I can't stop myself liking you, but I'm not a— I can't like you."

"I understand," Jean muttered, but Andromeda felt the need to explain anyway.

"It's just that things are going well with my family right now, and it's probably just because Bella's finished school and she's living at home." Miraculously Andromeda managed to pull away then, leaning back against the ledge and taking a deep breath. Jean sat beside her, and after a moments hesitation reached out to rub her arm.

"Bella's your sister?" Jean asked and Andromeda sighed.

"Yes, and she's like this perfect, loyal daughter. She never fucks up, this would never happen to her. She's so powerful, she makes Cissy and me look like a pair of Squibs so usually they don't write to me. But all of the things that make Bella their golden girl can't change the fact that she's completely unbearable to live with."

Then for the first time Andromeda heard Jean laugh, and it seemed to make the ground shake. It was all Andromeda wanted to hear her laugh again. "Sorry," she said, grinning ruefully, and restraining herself. "She sounds like a pain, I guess you feel bad about uhm... well, making friends with someone your family might not approve of when things are going well."

"Right," Andromeda said, blowing out a shaky breath. "My Mother would never usually get me a gift for no reason, you know? I just... I feel like I'm letting her down, and then I hate myself for feeling that way Jean, because your fantastic and it's them. They have a problem, not you. I'm letting myself down just for thinking that way."

"But they're your family."

Andromeda hid her face in her hands, and shook her head. She was going to say it, but she couldn't get the words out. That if her family knew her, really knew her, they wouldn't love her. It was true they were her family, but for how long?

After that Hermione tried to stay away. She felt foolish for underestimating how much turmoil being involved with a woman, in however tame a sense, could cause for someone in Andromeda's position. Plus Hermione knew Andromeda's daughter, Andromeda was destined to have a family of her own, and eventually escape the fanaticism of her upbringing without Jean having any part in it.

But with all of that in mind, it had only been three days and Hermione had missed their walks desperately. Missed her desperately. She should have more sense than this, she lay in bed and stared at the ceiling, pleading with herself not to let her emotions get the best of her. She wished she hadn't stopped to talk to her, her husky voice whispering into her hair. Pale eyes searching.

It was chance the next time they met, and it was with some frost in her tone that Andromeda greeted her. She probably didn't take to being avoided as Hermione had been camping out in the Hufflepuff common room.

"Jean," she said, like a dismissal. Hermione, of course, nodded and walked on. For some strange reason she actually believed for a moment that Andromeda wouldn't follow her, but of course, didn't she always?

Hermione led her out to the freshly reaped pumpkin patch, eventually stopping in the middle. Breaking their rules for the second time, Hermione stood among the freshly cut stems. Andromeda stood on the other end of Hermione's trodden path. She had stopped at the gate, and was partially concealed by a naked tree.

"You're following me." Andromeda stepped out into what was left of the evening light. The wind rustled her hair, and she was smiling like she was keeping a wonderful secret.

"You don't go to any classes," she said, instead of responding to the accusation.

"Not with you."

"Not at all."

"Are you going to tell on me?"

"Jean." This time, when she said her 'name', it was like a confession. "It's like you don't know me at all."

"I don't know you at all." Andromeda bent, and plucked a wilting flower from the base of the tree. She twirled it at the stem between her fingers.

"But I know you." She took a step forward. "You're like me, trying to follow the rules, and break them at the same time. Dancing around it. Around this."

"This?" The spell was cast. Inevitable, Andromeda was doing it; walking toward her, fussing with her glossy hair. Flirting like her life depended on it.

"Us, or is there something else that you're afraid of? I wonder what's stopping you though, it's obvious what's stopping me. Look at me." Hermione did. She had stopped a foot away. Hermione made a show of measuring her up. She reached out, and ran one hand over the edge of Andromeda's cloak, as if to straighten it. Her hand shook. This was madness.

"Like we discussed, pretty, white Purebloods have... duties," Hermione said.

"Is that why you've been avoiding me? You think I want that?" Andromeda asked, reaching up to hold Hermione's hand on her label.

"I know you don't want that, but it doesn't matter what we want. It doesn't change anything." For some reason Hermione didn't pull her hand away.


"I... these are just feelings, alright? There bigger things going on in the world right now than our feelings." Andromeda tapped her nose with the flower.

"Our feelings?" She quizzed, raising an eyebrow and grinning wickedly.

"Shut your mouth," Hermione warned.

"Or what? You'll shut it for me?" Andromeda was very close to her now, she seemed to be transforming into that bull before Hermione's very eyes, all of the doubt of the last few days paling in the face of her tenacity. It shouldn't have been so alluring.

"You said yourself you can't like me, we can't—"

"Agreed, I think to myself: smart, sexy, mysterious, thinks I'm pretty. Who would give up the chance to be a part of a three hundred year old cycle of inbreeding, and violence, just for that?" Hermione laughed despite herself, and the sensation was so unfamiliar it shocked her. It was almost dizzying.

"We should stop," she protested, smiling. Andromeda held Hermione's hand over her heart, and passed her the blue flower. Hermione took it, and admired it's papery petals.

"I don't care if there's a big clock over our heads Jean. I just wanted a moment with you." Andromeda leaned a little closer, and despite the utter bravado of the come on, Hermione's breath caught.

"That doesn't sound so frightening," Hermione sighed, drinking up the space between them as it disappeared and feeling it cloud her mind like an opiate.

"Speak for yourself," Andromeda laughed right against her lips. "I'm terrified."

When Andromeda kissed her, she was amazed that it still felt so unexpected. She moved almost like she'd been startled, but when she felt the satin of Andromeda's skin under her fingers she remembered how this kiss was a foregone conclusion. Hermione melted that bit closer, and just let everything go as she clung to her. She should've known she couldn't outrun Andromeda, she should've admitted sooner that she didn't want to.

After a moment Andromeda pulled away, it seemed, just to grin at her. Hermione felt the odd desire to hide her blushing face. A small pleased noise found it's way out of her throat, and before she knew it she was giggling for nerves, and relief, and she's kissing me, she's kissing me, she's kissing me.

Then Andromeda was kissing her cheeks, and her nose, and her eyelids, and her mouth again, and Hermione couldn't stop laughing. She had her.

"Jean!" Andromeda said, and she spoke as if to remind her that there wasn't a frightening thing in the world, and Hermione believed her. She couldn't stop smiling, after so many weeks of wallowing. They laughed, and kissed, until Hermione thought she would burst.

The stars began to peek out in the still pale night sky, and Hermione wasn't afraid, not even when the pumpkin patch started spinning. In fact she hardly noticed, until she stood alone in the dead of night. Holding the last blue aster flower of an Autumn which had faded twenty years before.