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Chapter 4: Gravitational Pull
Disclaimer: Except for OCs, the characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
“You asked for me?” inquired Andromeda.
Severus peered at her carefully. She didn't seem to be any better rested than she had been that morning, but he wasn't the best judge. He looked again. If he guessed, he would say she had spent several hours crying. Well, he reflected, she had plenty to cry about. He cleared his throat.
“Yes, I wanted to ask your advice.”
“I'm not sure of its value, but I'm a Black—enough to enjoy giving my opinion.”
They both laughed a bit at that, bringing a little sparkle back to her eyes. He looked at her and wished for a different world. He shook it off. “It's this,” he said, placing a vial filled with a smoky gray substance on the table. “These are the memories I gave Potter. I can't decide whether to replace them.”
“Do you remember them at all?”
“Just vaguely; I recall what they're about insofar as they intersect with other memories.”
“Why wouldn't you want them?”
“I think I'm happier without them. I'm pretty sure one of them involved one of my worst moments ever.”
“So then why would you want them back?”
“I honestly don't know. Miss Granger encouraged me to just let them go.”
“Has she seen them?”
“No, but Potter told her what's in them.”
“So young Mr. Potter has seen them?”
“Therein lies the crux of the problem. Do I want James Potter's son to have a better memory of my past than I have?”
“There's another consideration.” He looked at her expectantly. “Those memories, for better or for worse, are of events that helped make you the person you are now. They put yourself in context, so to speak.”
“That's the answer.” He smiled at her.
She stood to go. “I'll leave you to it, then.”
She patted his hand. Quick as a flash, he seized her hand and brought it to his lips. Then he brought both of their hands back to the table near the vial. They looked from their clasped hands to each other's faces in stunned silence.
Rather, she was stunned. She quickly told herself that she needn't be. If he felt affection for her, it was due to their relationship over the past month or two. He had recovered from a life-threatening injury in her house, after all. When he was well, he would go on to his life and she would...
There was no value in following that train of thought. She cleared her throat, and he finally spoke. “I'd like it if you stayed.”
“What would you like me to do?”
“If you wouldn't mind, I would like you to just sit there, in case I need someone. I might want to talk about my memories as they settle back in.”
“Shall I sit over by the fire, then, to give you some privacy?”
“No, I want you here, within a hand's reach.” They both looked at the table, and she realized that her hand was still firmly within his grasp.
She nodded. “All right. Is there anything else you need?”
She waved at a corner of the room. “It's over on top of that wardrobe. Why don't you try to summon it?”
He had not used magic since his injury. There was just the slightest doubt about it, but her face was confident. He said the spell and then smiled when the wand slid into his hand as though it had never left.
He opened the vial and tapped it while saying a charm that would allow the oldest to be extracted first. It siphoned into his wand, which he held to his temple as he digested the past event.
“Pretty harmless,” he noted. “It's one of my early memories of Lily Evans.”
“A lovely girl, if a bit overly impressed by her own intelligence and moral correctness.”
He looked at her in surprise. “You knew her?”
“Oh, yes. Sirius brought all his friends around at one time or another. I met Lily, not long after she and James married.”
“You didn't like her?”
“Oh, I didn't mean that. I just got a little tired of the whole Gryffindor 'we're morally superior' attitude. She would have grown out of her arrogance. They all would have, if they'd been left alone to finish growing up.”
He looked at her for a moment, and she blushed. “I'm sorry,” she said, “I told you that I'm opinionated. I should have stayed quiet.”
“No,” he answered. “I appreciate your honesty.”
He extracted the next several memories without much comment, but soon reached one that upset him greatly. He started to describe being pulled upside down by James and Sirius, but stopped when she shook her head.
“Those vile boys,” she said. “They were still laughing about it when they visited me over the summer. I know that Aunt Walburga and Uncle Orion were essentially ignoring Sirius by then, but I have no idea what the Potters were thinking to let their boy become such a brute. I gave them the scolding no one else would, but Sirius just laughed it off as house loyalty. He made some nasty remark about Slytherins slinking together, and then he and James had a laugh at my expense. I sent them away without the dinner they expected.”
By now it was late in the evening, and Severus looked at the vial with trepidation. “I think it only gets worse from here.”
“You don't have to if you'd rather not.”
“I think I need to.”
“All right, then.”
He placed the wand near his head again and again. Each time, he became a bit agitated, but after a few minutes he tapped the vial for the next memory. After a few such memories, he reached for Andromeda's hand. “Lily's dead,” he whispered. Tears ran down his face as he relived the death of the only friend he ever wanted.
Without realizing it, he was clasped to a soft form. A soothing voice in his ear said, “I'm so sorry for your loss.”
He pulled back enough to look into her eyes. They were filled with tears of sympathy and perhaps her own pain. “I'm sorry for yours,” he responded.
“Should we stop here for tonight?”
He smiled at her pronoun. Out of the Blacks—out of all the people he knew, rather—only Andromeda would share his troubles. He looked in the vial. “There aren't that many left. Do you mind?”
She shook her head. “No, of course not.” She rose from the bed, embarrassed by her impulse, but he held her hand.
“Stay... please. I don't know exactly what's left, but I think I need you near.”
The next memories increased the intensity of his distress, but didn't add new distress until the very last one. “He made me do it,” he mourned. “He made me do it.”
He buried his face in her neck. He breathed the soothing essences of her still room that lingered in the tendrils of her hair touching his face. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“Anyone would have done this,” she answered.
“Not as you did it.” He lifted his head and looked at her. “I don't think anyone does anything the way you do it.” He lowered his face toward hers.
She realized what was about to happen and placed her hand over his lips. “Let's not. It wouldn't be right to do this now.”
Hope gleamed in his eyes. “Another time, then?”
“That's not what I meant.”
“But perhaps?” He pulled her close. “I'm smitten by you, Andromeda. I've been smitten since the time I taught you the Wolfsbane Potion.”
“You're recovering from an injury, and I'm almost the only person you've seen for weeks.”
“It's not like that.”
“It would be wrong.”
“It was wrong a year ago, but I hope you would consider me as an appropriate suitor now.”
“Of course you'd be appropriate... but you're supposed to...” She was dazed, and suddenly she needed to leave that room. She shook her head and pulled away. “Surely you have other interests. I should see how Teddy is doing with his Uncle Tim.”
“You'll come back won't you? I don't want to be alone right now.”
She paused, not sure how to proceed. She finally nodded. “I'll be back in just a few minutes.”
He held her hand as she walked away from his bed, until she had to tug to get free. “I'll be waiting,” he said.
She went through the house and ended in the nursery. Tim was half asleep in the rocking chair with a sleeping Teddy sprawled across his chest. The mother and grandmother smiled. “I should take a picture of you right now. It would seal the deal with your Sophy.”
“I don't know if she's that kind of girl.”
“If she isn't, she's the wrong kind for you.”
“Mum! Muggle women don't want to be thought of as breeding mares these days.”
“Ah, but I bet they're still looking for men who will be good fathers. The right girl for you will appreciate your open heart and your way with your nephew.”
She leaned down and lifted Teddy. She whispered, “How are you, my little man? Uncle Tim has taken care of your nappy and your evening bottle? I trust I can put you in bed, then.” She did just that and summoned the house-elf. “Birdie, would you mind staying close to Teddy tonight?”
“Oh, yes, Mistress, Birdie stays with Little Master while Mistress watches over sick Master.”
“Thank you, Birdie.” She turned to her son. “Have you seen your cousin anywhere?”
“He mumbled something about there being too many Muggle-borns and Squibs around the house and went to bed early.”
Andromeda sighed. “Maybe he'll help me with the garden tomorrow.”
“It's too much, Mum. You're overworking yourself. You should rest more.”
“So I can spend hours at a time doing nothing but cry over the people I've lost?”
“When you use that expression to refer to me, please remember that it's a one syllable word. You can go home now.” Her voice softened as she pulled him into a hug. “Thank you very much for your help today.”
“Mum, I need to ask you about this Snape and his position in the house. I don't trust him.”
She let him go and moved toward the door to the hallway. “He's a very sick man, Tim. His position is 'patient,' and right now what matters is that he trusts me.”
“What happens when he's not so sick? Mum, I can tell he's quite dependent upon you... and maybe something else, too. What if he tries something?”
She waved it off. “He's just dependent upon the witch who's nursing him back to health. He has a future and other interests.”
“He was miffed that you didn't serve his tea this afternoon.”
“He's used to me serving his tea, and he was crotchety about the change. People recovering from illness can be like that. For that matter, I'm fairly miffed that I spent all afternoon in my bedroom unable to do anything but cry over your father and sister. Neither one would want me to waste so much time when there's work to do.”
“Neither would they want you to get taken in by a sad story. Somehow I think he plans to sponge off you.”
Andromeda turned and looked sternly at her son. At seeing the face so familiar to the beloved one and recalling that she had so few members of her family left, her own face softened. “Your dad was the most generous man I knew, often to his own detriment, including the day he died. And I believe you once accused your sister of being taken in by a sad story as well. It made her happy to marry Remus, and now we have Teddy, who's a consolation. Severus is a very clever wizard, but he's too sick and run down to plot anything.”
She smiled sadly and patted his cheek. “Look at you, trying to find an angle to all this. You would have made a very good Slytherin, dear. Now, you run along home and I'll be fine here.”
She finally sent her son away and returned to the sick room with draughts of two potions. She found Severus trying to get out of bed. “Oh, Severus! You mustn't!”
“I needed to find you,” he said petulantly.
“I told you I would be right back. How could you doubt me?”
“Everything aches, and my head hurts.”
“Of course it does,” she said soothingly. She placed a cool hand on his forehead. He pulled her toward the bed.
“Severus...” she said warningly.
“Please, I just want comfort.”
“This is better for you. One will soothe your mind, and the other will ease your aches.” She gave him the potions and then sat primly in the chair and held his hand. His deep breathing told her when he was finally asleep. She smoothed his sheets and made her way into her own room.
When she got into her bed, Ted greeted her, as he did every night. “Ah, Dromeda, you're as pretty as ever but too sad. Let it go...”
“Ted, I've missed you so much.”
“Come, my dove.” He pulled her close and started to kiss her.
Where had that name come from? It didn't matter. His lips were divine. She kissed him hungrily as Ted faded and a dream lover took his place.
She sat up, gulping for air. She remembered back to a day when, in his delirium, Severus had called her “my dove.” Later, she had asked why, and he recalled to her the Patronus she cast. She remembered laughing and asking if he didn't know a pigeon when he saw one. It used to be a dove, before Ted had to leave. Recalling that conversation now, she was haunted by the sudden realization that the dream lover had slipped into her dreams over several weeks. She shouldn't have dreams—those kind of dreams—about anyone other than Ted.
You didn't do it on purpose, said Ted's voice in her head. Some day you will, and it will be right. When you're ready, you'll let me go.
“I don't want to let go,” she whispered. It would be like saying she hadn't been happy with Ted.
She fell back into another uneasy sleep. Ted returned to her dreams, kissing her properly and loving her as only he could do. As she dreamed of his arms holding her, the dream lover returned and started kissing her again. She didn't notice as the two became mixed up in her mind.
Andromeda was a bit headachy the next morning when she and her nephew started working in the garden. She trimmed up the flower bushes and weeded around the borders as she directed Draco in harvesting some herbs.
“I don't appreciate being treated like a house-elf,” he groused.
“Draco, that comment is beneath you. A little work with our hands now and then helps to ground us, to give us perspective, and round us out.”
“I wouldn't mind less ground on my hands.”
She chuckled at that. “It will wash off, and think what you're learning. Look at how nice the lavender and thyme look now that you've harvested them and trimmed them up. Why don't you take some pride in a job well done?”
He looked at his handiwork and shrugged, but he couldn't resist a grin. Watching him look at the garden with a new light in his eyes, Andromeda felt the strain behind her own eyes start to ease. He was starting to be like a different person, even if he complained about it constantly. Well, that was the age, she supposed. Some moments with Nymphadora at the same age were difficult, too.
A/N: Thank you, dear readers and reviewers, for your comments.
I would like to acknowledge that part of this chapter has been heavily influenced by Liberty Elyot's "The Man with the Missing Past."
Trickie Woo has beta read this.