The Grass Is Always Greener

Chapter 24

The next month passed with an awful tension. Adie tried so hard to appear pleased by the engagement when with Reg – he seemed relieved and fairly happy with the decision. Adrianna knew she should feel the same but, in reality, she couldn’t feel anything other than apathetic.

She’d sort of given up now. It would probably all work out, she and Regulus would have a good life, but Adie could already feel her characteristic passion for life slowly disappearing.

However, there was a small silver-lining to this very dark cloud. Sirius had stayed true to his word and was being miraculously supportive of Adie. Remus, James, Lily, Peter, and Em had all been horrified to hear her news – other than them though, no one in Hogwarts had heard word of the engagement – but Sirius had defended Adrianna’s decision to stay with Reg. This unlikely show of solidarity from him had persuaded the others that this was the right decision for Adie.

Narcissa had written to Adrianna in the weeks following the news; she had seemed glad that she would be reunited with her friend. The note from Cissy had lightened Adie’s spirits somewhat – it was another pro to add to the list. She wouldn’t be alone; instead she would be able to spend her days with one of her closest friends. The more Adie thought about the more she could slowly begin to accept, and even warm to, the idea of marrying Reg. They both knew there was no love involved really but they would both have their two best friends. Regulus, Narcissa, and Adrianna would never have to break the system of support and solidarity that they had formed over the years.

The beginning of April signalled a week’s holiday at Hogwarts. Almost every student stayed at school during this break, even the Greengrass siblings never usually ventured home. This year was a departure from tradition – Adie had been told to return to the family mansion at Easter to “discuss” future plans. As she boarded the Hogwarts Express with just three other students, Adie was wise enough realise that there would be no discussion involved. Her parents would dictate to her what her future would entail and she’d shut up and listen. Although she’d grown to accept their decisions, she couldn’t help feeling quite resentful towards her parents. Their seemingly insatiable need for control and the way in which they went about dealing with their daughter riled Adie.

When the train pulled into King’s Cross, Adrianna was unsurprised to see Dave waiting for her; as if her parents would deign to pick up Adie themselves. She greeted her childhood friend, the closest thing she had to a parent-figure in her life, warmly though a hint of sadness marred the reunion. Dave evidently knew about the engagement.

“I’m sorry, princess,” he murmured as they broke their embrace.

She shrugged, not wanting to meet her chauffeur’s eye; his disappointment in her hurt more than anyone else’s reaction, “It’s fine, its Reg, and we’re friends.”

He didn’t seem convinced. They tactically avoided the subject throughout the car journey back to the Greengrass family home, choosing to chat instead about the more positive parts of Adie’s life. Dave loved to hear about Lily and Em, and Adie’s new friends too. But all this talk only served to remind them both what Adie would be leaving behind soon.

When they pulled up to the house, Adie felt a small sigh escape her lips; it annoyed her that she was being forced to spend a week being lectured by her parents when she could be spending her precious time with her friends. Dave left Adie to enter the front door of the manor, to use the far less grand servants’ entrance to the house. She’d only bought a small bag of belongings; she had no trunk for Dave to help her with. As she pushed open the heavy, ebony wood doors, Adrianna was surprised to see her mother waiting for her.

Lucille Greengrass was sitting, resplendent as ever, by the grand piano in the corner of the hall. Her whit blonde hair was piled into perfectly styled up-do, fastened by a subtle diamond hair pin. A white silk shirt shimmered against her skin, a modest black skirt cinching tightly at her miniscule waist. Adie always felt inferior next to her mother, the exemplar pure-blood trophy wife, but even more so now as Adrianna herself was soon to learn her mother’s craft too.

“Darling,” Lucille’s voice was always so languid and uninterested. “It’s so lovely to see you back home. You and I shall lunch together first, then this afternoon your father and I will go over details of the engagement with you.”

She gestured to the dining hall and Adie followed, as she always did, saying nothing. It was incredible how quickly things fell back into place. Adie would go from her bubbly, smiley, and confident self at Hogwarts to this silent follower in the presence of her parents. The splendour of the house and her irrepressible desire for her family’s love seemed to steal her voice away.

Her mother chatted airily throughout the meal, filling Adie in on the social events of the pure-blood world. Who had been at which dinners, and who had made which fashion faux-pas; she never usually discussed such matters with Adrianna, preferring to talk to Callie, who actually showed interest in her mother’s world. Adie assumed it was to introduce her to this foreign social environment which she would soon be thrust into. She only really began to listen when Narcissa’s name was mentioned – however, all Lucile had to say was that the blouse she’d worn to the Yaxley dinner had been beautiful.

Despite what Lucille thought, Adie did find some of her mother’s talk of interest. She was fascinated by the way her mum’s world revolved around silly lunches and chatter about fashion, how the women never discussed their husband’s business or anything of real importance. Yet they did it all to improve his contacts and links. Did Lucille even know what her husband did for a living? Because Adie could not work out exactly what his business did, or sold. She knew it was reputable – her father could not risk his standing in society by committing illegal acts. It just seemed such an antiquated way of life that the pure-bloods lived.

The talk that afternoon, with both her parents, was horrible – absolutely awful, Adie thought. They had arranged everything with Walburga and Orion, the dowry and so on. They had also come to the conclusion that it would be best for Adrianna to “refine herself” a little before undertaking the serious business of being a wife, and a member of such a prominent wizarding family. Her father had no qualms in spelling out that Walburga didn’t find Adrianna an ideal match for her son; however both families felt it to be a necessary partnership.

The Blacks worried that their second son might follow his big brother’s example and desert his family; Regulus had always idolised Sirius, so Walburga and Orion had been very worried about losing both their heirs. Perhaps marrying him off to a girl that he actually quite liked, although she might not advance him much socially, would settle him down and preventing him following in Sirius’ footsteps.

The Greengrasses thought Adrianna might do something similar to Sirius, they were also concerned that she’d never marry, or that she’d run off with some Muggle like Andromeda. They had been immensely relieved and eager to accept Walburga’s proposal.

Adie tuned out as her father spoke of her year with Walburga; she knew what it would consist of. She would sit and learn how to drink tea correctly, and how to cook a five-course meal, how to correctly socialise with the wives of Regulus’ business associates. Adie realised that her life consisted of a lot of sitting, and not an awful lot of doing.

She looked up as her father finished speaking, to find both her parents looking at her expectantly.

“Um, sorry, what?” she asked dazedly. Lucille and Ethan exchanged an exasperated look, disappointed as ever.

Ethan pushed his chair back and stood up, staring at his daughter severely. “We want you to promise, Adrianna, promise to try and make this work. This is an incredible opportunity.”

Adie resisted the urge to sigh, or roll her eyes. Instead she simply answered with the truth, “I will, father; I never do anything but try.”

After this, Lucille and Adie were curtly dismissed by Ethan, who returned to his work, satisfied with Adrianna’s response. Her mother was less certain and continued to impress upon her daughter the importance of this match. How imperative it was that Adrianna be on best behaviour during her year with Walburga; that she stop zoning out; that she pays attention, and try, really truly tries to learn how to be a good wife, and pure-blood.

Her daughter just kept returning to the same thought: she’d been attempting to live up to her parent’s expectations of her all of her life. Why would things change now? How could she possibly begin to be successful, finally fulfil her role as a Greengrass girl now? Adie could try no harder.

Well, she thought, I could. Adie knew she was lying to herself – of course she could succeed in her endeavours and become, or rather appear like, a perfect pure-blood girl. She could throw aside her friends and immerse herself into the Slytherin social circle, with Callie. Adrianna could learn how to wear that mask, just like Narcissa and hide her true self away, never let this Adie see the light again. She’d done it before; Adie remembered how she had cowered behind a façade during her fight on the Quidditch pitch with Sirius. And how much less miserable her life would be if she could cut him out of her life right now – Adie had never wanted to be that girl moping after a guy she could never have.

Yet she also remembered just how that mask had made her feel: nauseous, false, an icy chill had spread though her bones and made her feel like a stranger to herself.

You can’t have everything, Adrianna, she said to herself, you can’t. If life had taught her anything thus far, it was that. Today was the inevitable day she had been dreading for years. Today Adie would have to say goodbye to all her luxuries that she’d clung on to for years, that she’d endured slaps and cruel remarks for, which had cost her the respect of her family. Well, it was too high a price to pay. No more hanging out with Gryffindors, no more avoiding Slytherin social events, no more denying what you are, or what you will be soon enough.

Time to accept herself for what she had to be.

Adie turned from her spot in the sitting room, where she had been thinking and made her way to the hall, taking the stairs up to her room two at a time. She needed some sort of closure; the ever-polite, ever-loving part of Adie was not ready to disappear yet. She could not face returning to school and ignoring Lily, Em, and Remus with no explanation. She’d tried that in First Year and it had not worked. To start with, however, she had to write to Sirius.

She had to thank him so much for supporting her, despite everything. Adrianna knew he’d accept her decision, he’d probably seen it coming. What else could she do now? She need one last point of contact though, a final goodbye, and a heartfelt show of gratitude. He’d never really know how much he’d helped her.

The girl reached her bedroom and pulled out a sheet of parchment. Adie sat for a moment, simply thinking about what to say and how best to phrase her feelings. She would say nothing of her romantic inclinations towards Sirius – nothing could ever come of that, so there was no point bringing it up. They’d fade soon enough, they were probably only born of hero-worship to start with. All she really wanted to convey was her thanks for his bravery, and in turn his support of her decisions. An appreciation of him recognising that her needs, her choice, could be drastically different from his but could still be right.

Having ordered her thoughts, Adie reached for her quill. Instinctively, she went to dip the nib into her inkpot, only realising halfway through the action that she hadn’t bought one with her. She hadn’t thought that she’d need any for her week’s stay at home – all her ink remained at school. Instead, Adie reached into her desk draw, but there were no inkpots to be found there either. She huffed out a sight – she’d have forgotten her eloquent speech for Sirius by the time she had located the essential writing tools!

After searching through both drawing rooms, her sister’s room, and her mother’s parlour, Adie had still not come across any form of ink.

“Does no one in this household write?” Adrianna murmured to herself, starting to climb the stairs once more. Then it occurred to her – her father’s study would definitely have ink. She could picture clearly the ornate inkwell, carved into his mahogany desk that she had so frequently admired as a child.

At the door to his office, she paused, trying to discern whether or not her father was still working. Adie could hear no movement and it was quite late – perhaps he’d gone to bed? She smiled wryly at the fact that she had no idea what any of the members of the household were doing, or where they were, and most of all, how that was not unusual. This house was far too big.

So Adie knocked once and still there was no movement from within the room. She pushed the door ajar and saw the darkness of room – her father had evidently finished his work. Adie walked into the study anyway, she’d just grab some ink and leave. After searching so hard for it, she wasn’t going to leave empty-handed; Adie was determined to get this letter written.

However, Adie didn’t dare to take anything directly from her father’s desk – he’d probably need it tomorrow and be angry if was missing (especially seeing how hard it was to find ink in this house, Adie smiled to herself). Adrianna went instead to the cupboard in the corner of the room and opened that.

In the pitch black she could barely find the door handle, let alone a pot of ink. She felt around blindly, along the shelves of the cupboard. Her hands grasped at a piece of cloth, instead of the plastic she was expecting. Adie pulled the lengths of material, hoping to uncover the elusive ink. But she stopped as she looked down at the garment in her hands.

Yes, from the light filtering in from the hallway, she could now see it was a robe of some sort – a black robe with some sort of hood. Adie held the cloth away from her, letting it fall to the ground so she could see it better.

Her heart stopped. Breathing slowly, trying to calm herself down before jumping to conclusions, Adie’s hand crept towards the light switch. The sudden burst of illumination hurt the back of her eyes, but she didn’t care. The robe now crumpled in her fist looked awfully, heart-wrenchingly familiar. She had seen that pointed hood before, the sinister masked face.

Her father was a Death Eater.

Adrianna had honestly never believed for a second that he would be one of those pure-bloods. A rich, arrogant, slightly prejudiced man, yes. Too preoccupied by his status and the way others thought of him to care for, or get to know his daughters – guilty as charged. But an outright racist, who deliberately hurt and ruined the lives of completely innocent people? Adie could not believe it. Her mind flashed to an article she’d read in the Prophet last week, about a Muggle killing in Shropshire – her father could have been involved in that. He was potentially a murderer.

Adie had been wrong all along. How could she want to be like that? Why had she ever wanted to gain the approval of a monster? All the ideas that she had so blithely believed all her life, this concept that her parents were merely snobby, a little elitist, now seemed so blatantly fake that it made Adrianna sick to realise that she’d fallen for it all.

She had been able to sympathise with their somewhat cruel actions all her life, believing that it was her fault and that she deserved such treatment. Now Adie realised she was as innocent a victim as those Muggles, albeit a whole lot more foolish.

She would partake in it no more.

The desire in her, that had always lain dormant and a minority, was now so strong that she could only run – dropping her father’s robe of shame and leaving the light on – to her room. The desire to get the hell away from this house, and these people was overwhelming. Adie realised in that moment how Sirius had felt, and how he had been able to leave his family. Blood is thicker than water, but that doesn’t stop your family being evil and wrong. And it does not allow you to condone their actions.

If she agreed to marry Reg, then where would it stop? She would have to agree to let him join the Death Eaters too (he’d hardly be able to stand up to Walburga), she’d agree to cover for their torturing and murder, she’d bear sons that would go on to serve the so-called “Dark Lord”.

Not anymore. Adrianna was on her knees, hurling her belongings into bags, leaving behind the stiff family photos that she had once treasured. It ended now, her blind faith in her family. She would break off all ties with them and prevent herself from ever, ever becoming like them. She zipped up the bag and stumbled to her door, throwing it open and setting off down the hallway. Adie didn’t care who heard her exit.

No one seemed to be stirring; Adie made her way down the grand staircase and then the more rickety servant stairs, tucked round a corner out of sight. Dave slept in a box room near the kitchens, not even afforded his own suite in the attic of the mansion. Gillie was reduced to residing in a cupboard off the pantry. Adie rapped quietly on the door of Dave’s room and her knocking was quickly answered.

He was naturally very surprised to see Adie there, as she hadn’t visited him in the servants’ quarters since she was much younger and could get away with such activities.

“What’s up, princess?” he asked, noticing the heavy bag in her hand.

Adie took a deep breath, “I’m leaving for good. Would it be possible for you to drive me to London? I’ll stay at the Leaky Cauldron for a few days. The Hogwarts Express leaves on Saturday. I won’t ever be coming back here, Dave, I’ve had enough.”

The driver did not stop to ask what had prompted her decision; he was only overjoyed that she had finally made it. Dave had fretted for so long that she would not manage to escape the life set out for her – he’d always imagined her to be turned into a carbon-copy of her mother. He was so glad she’d proved him wrong. The sunny little girl he’d known had grown into a woman stronger than anyone had imagined.

He left the room with Adie, not bothering to pick up his uniform hat or jacket. Together they made their way back upstairs and the girl could not resist turning round to grin at her childhood friend. It still seemed like a dream – everything was finally so clear to her, yet she still couldn’t believe it was all happening.

Yes, Adrianna realised as she saw her father standing in the hall, it was too good to be true. Ethan’s face was contorted with a rage that Adie had never believed possible. She’d never really seen her father convey much emotion at all; he looked like the sort of man who could be a Death Eater in that moment. Adie had never realised that her father was bottling up so much hatred. Upon seeing his daughter, bag in hand, and the servant, Ethan lunged forward almost involuntarily. Adie braced herself, unsure whether he was going to hit her or Dave.

Instead Ethan halted himself, a metre away from the pair. Dave inched a little closer to Adie, ready to help her out if her father struck. Now was the true test of her strength – could she stick with her decision, face-to-face with her father?

“What on Earth do you think you’re doing, Adrianna?” Ethan’s voice was filled with a quiet but white-hot anger. Adie, however, held his fierce gaze.

“I’m leaving, father, and please don’t try to stop me. I can’t be a part of this family – everyone knows that, even I do now. It’ll probably cause you less shame, if you just let me go quietly now.” Adie knew that was what was upsetting him – the thought of what everyone would say if she ran away. The fact that he might never see his eldest daughter again was less of a problem.

He shook his head, almost too enraged to speak. “You will not leave this house, I will not have you quitting this family, and gallivanting with the likes of that delinquent Black!”

Adie knew he was not referring the Regulus here. And for the first time, she wondered what Sirius’ reaction to this would be…

“You will stay here, and you will not return to Hogwarts. I don’t know what sort of liberal bullshit that school’s been teaching you because you certainly didn’t learn these sorts of attitudes here,” Ethan gestured to Dave as he said this.

These words riled Adie. “What attitudes – the right ones? I can’t believe that you honestly think that your way of life is moral or right. I know what you are and what you do. How can you expect me to be a part of it all? I refuse to – I do have a choice, you know. I will not allow myself to be complicit in what you do; not wanting to torture Muggles, kill people, not being racist isn’t a “stupid, liberal attitude”, it’s just right. It’s being a normal human being.”

As Adie finished her speech, her father seemed to start towards her again. Dave grabbed the girl by the wrist before her father could reach her, and pulled her towards the front door. Adie sprinted with him, away from the Greengrasses. She slammed the door behind her, diving towards the car, but her father had not chased her.

As she shut the passenger door, Adie heard her father’s last command to her, “You will return to this family and make us proud, Adrianna.”

Dave pressed down on the gas pedal and drove Adie away from the mansion; she looked back at the house, at her mother and sister’s faces peering from the windows, and she hoped that she’d never have to return there again.

A strange emotion began to seep through Adie’s body, a light sensation that came with an irrepressible smile. She realised happily, it was freedom at last.

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