Chapter 1 : The Dark Lord likes his Eggs Over Easy
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But the deepest scar of all was from a loss that she had experienced years before; her closest friend, her confidante. Just looking at her arm was likely to bring back memories suppressed for ages to the forefront of her mind. Four vertical scars running diagonally across her forearm, almost up to her wrist. It wasn’t that it hurt her physically – the wound had healed long ago, its impression faded over time to be almost imperceptible to the naked eye. It’s what the scars represented, that someone she had loved like herself, who she had been bound to since she could remember – that someone was gone forever, eaten alive by the fires of grief and hatred, fueled by a silver tongue and cunning machinations. On the day Bellatrix was branded, seared with the Dark Mark by Lord Voldermort himself, on that day whatever remnant still existed of the real Bellatrix Lestrange shriveled up and was consumed, as she hollowed out her soul to make room for the poison that was to inhabit her from that day forth. On that day, part of Andromeda died as well.
As she rolled out of bed, something resembling an orange blur rocketed out from under a table leg, pouncing on something that made a noise not unlike a chew toy, but much more… real. Andromeda chuckled, thinking of how shy Chester was when she had first picked her up as a kitten. She had always had fun visiting Ron, Hermione and the kids – their family dynamic tended to play out as some sort of black comedy, with Ron’s stubbornness and need for approval (probably from growing up in such a large family and being lost in the shuffle,) Hermione’s exactitude bordering on the obsessive, Hugo’s practical jokes (He takes after his uncles,) and Rose… well, Rose was semi-normal, so in a family with her dysfunctions she could play the ‘straight man’ to their wild antics. On this particular Tuesday, (Tuesdays were always the worst, as were Mondays and… well most days) Crookshanks had a litter of kittens with a fellow half-kneazle partner. Ron already detested Crookshanks, at first for terrorizing his pet rat, Scabbers, but when Scabbers turned out to be a terrorist himself, he couldn’t very well hate him for that, so he hated him just to be consistent. Hermione actually had a pre-nuptial agreement made for the express purpose of Ron not being able to commit any unforgiveable curses on the cat. Now that hatred continued, unabated and undiminished, for Crookshanks’ offspring. 8 cats, varying in size, color, and breed, were mewing constantly under the staircase. It wasn’t as much mewing as it was wailing, an unearthly sound that cause conflicting emotions in anyone who hears them. Ron, delighted at finally being able to exercise his right to be mean to animals, as Hermione had forgotten to include a stipulation about offspring, declared that whatever wasn’t given away by Wednesday (the worst day) would be kicked to the curb with nothing but the fur on its back and a lump on its head. Needless to say, Andromeda had been quick to offer her services, offering to adopt the last one, the one that no one wanted; curiously enough, it was the one that most resembled Crookshanks. She had named him Chester, and would chuckle to herself softly when she thought why.
Bellatrix had always been pretty pushy with her, asking when she would start dating.
“Andy, (she would always call her Andy), you need a man!” She would re-iterate, time after time, until it became a sort of mantra. One day Andromeda was fed up with the nagging (although she knew Bella was just looking out for her best interests); so she replied that she did in fact have a man.
“Really?! Who?” asked Bella incredulously, eager for some gossip from her normally prudish sister.
“I have a man… and his name is Chester,” she replied, picking out the first thing that came to her head. She later realized that it was probably in her head because she had been watching Manchester United on Sirius’s smuggled Muggle TV. She made up a whole persona for this imaginary Chester, slaking Bella’s thirst for every sordid detail of the dramatic tryst. He had hair that always looked windswept, chestnut colored, with a winning smile and a daring, devil-may-care way about him. But the juiciest detail off all was that he was a Muggle.
“What?!” Bella had gasped upon hearing this, “Andy, you know how scandalized our parents would be if they found out? We’re one of the only purebred families left!”
“I don’t care what they think Bella, what do you think?” Andy asked, caught up in the hypothetical story almost as much as she.
“Well,” Bella shifted uncomfortably, as if doing some critical thinking for the first time in her life, “I don’t think I’d ever be able to do it myself, to go against our parents… I’m not as strong as you and Sirius… but if that’s what you want, and that’s what makes you happy, who am I to deny you happiness based on some archaic prejudice?”
“Thanks,” Andy replied, touched by Bella’s candor and genuine care. “But you won’t get to meet him for awhile, we’re taking things slow…”
As she washed her face, Andromeda reminisced. She had been in a real bind with Bella, as she became more and more interested to meet her mysterious beau. Where would she find a dashing, debonair Muggle to show off to Bella – especially one who wasn’t taken! Maybe she could make a Golem, like the great Wizard Judah Lowe did in Prague in the middle ages, making someone indistinguishable from humans but for a lack of soul... but that took such a high proficiency in transfiguration, even Professor Dumbledore, Professor of transfiguration at Hogwarts, might not be able to do it. Andy puzzled over this until one summer day, while helping Narcissa pick out a dress (they snuck out to a Muggle shop,) Narcissa was in a dressing room changing laboriously into a particularly garish dress, when Andy saw Chester. Or she saw someone who looked exactly as she had described her imaginary boyfriend Chester that is. He was with a group of friends, as is to be expected of someone who is obviously so popular. Before she could think, Andy had sidled right up to him, until she was so close she could see that he was really much more than just the average popular boy. But before she even pondered how she could get a guy who was handsome, popular, and… modest? She had steered him away from his gaggle of goof-offs to a quiet corner of the shop, where she proceeded to hurriedly lay out her predicament to him before Narcissa came out.
“So…” He intoned slowly, after hearing a litany recited in under a minute. It was clear he was still processing. “You want me to pretend to be your boyfriend.”
“Yes,” Andy assured him “but only pretend, it won’t be real or anything. I’m not ready for a boyfriend yet,” she allayed his fears of being similarly committed.
“Oh good, because I’m not really in the place for a girlfriend either,” he responded a little too quickly, as he rubbed his temples as if some genie would come out of his head and just magic her problem away. “So, shall we go, my love?” He winked at her as they linked arms to go meet Bella. Bella called thought Ted Tonks’ nickname was Chester for a full two years before Andy told her the truth, but by that time they truly were boyfriend and girlfriend, and Andromeda found herself enamored with someone in a way she never thought she could be. And, she thought, as she walked down the stairs with Chester in tow, she never would have had the strength to tell her parents she was dating a Muggle if it weren’t for Bellas unwavering support.
Andromeda descended the stairs at a much slower pace than she used to. Her joints seemed to creak more than the stairs as of late. She padded into the kitchen and promptly went to the coffee maker, as she was alert as a tiger before her morning coffee. Or a tiger that’d been drugged, stuffed in a sack and shipped thousands of miles overseas for the amusement of others that is. Someone was cooking eggs at the stove, over-easy by the smell of them. That’s how you know you’re a grandmother, when you can discern the way something is being cooked based only on your nose and a feeling in your increasingly osteoporosis-ridden bones. She sat at the table, stained with the memory of a thousand attempts at cooking gone horribly wrong by well-meaning but fine-motor challenged children. Nymphadora had concocted a particularly vile brew called the “blinner” at age six, convinced that she wouldn’t have to stop playing and come to the table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if she just blended them together into one big meal – a blinner. When Andromeda had come down that Tuesday morning, (it really was the worst,) it was to see particles of bacon and eggs, tuna fish and white bread, chicken, peas, green beans and orange juice flecked all around the kitchen with a randomness that would make Jackson Pollack proud. The little bit that was left in the blender was more rancid looking than a polyjuice potion, while Nymphadora sat in the middle with a mischievous Cheshire cat grin, totally unscathed by the carnage strewn all around her. Needless to say, her genius idea was met with little enthusiasm by her parents. Great artists are never truly appreciated in their time.
Andromeda took a sip of her coffee and was instantly perked up. Sometimes you don’t need magic, a little caffeine is all you need. She turned to her left and everything came into focus, and she screamed. Voldermort was at her kitchen table, and he was eating his eggs over-easy.
“Tedford Remus Lupin!” Andromeda bellowed, with a roar that belied her diminutive stature, “how dare you… do you know how offensive – how scary those times were, the people that died… your parents, my… daughter,” now Andromeda trailed off, as if reliving the most hellish days ever visited upon her family. Teddy quailed in front of her onslaught, not expecting a reaction this visceral. “The lack of sensitivity… its just…” now she sank, weak at the knees, into an oversized armchair with a bowed head and a furrowed brow.
Teddy, a metamorphmagus like his late mother, could change his appearance at will, often reflecting his mood. This ability is hereditary and rare. The level to which Teddy could overhaul his appearance was unique. On this particular morning, he fancied himself wicked, and thought it would be a gas to take on the form of the most feared wizard ever to perform magic, Lord Voldermort. While he had been vanquished years before, the terror he inspired was fresh in many wizard and witches minds, most of all those who had lost those dear to them to the terror of Voldermort and his death eaters.
“Teddy,” she started again, in a voice quivering with emotion, but much softer now. You don’t remember how frightful those times were, and… I would expect better from the son of two of the bravest wizards ever to live.” Disappointment always worked better than anger with Teddy, and today was no exception. It was clear that he was truly sorry. He Hung his head and scuffed the floor with a foot.
“I’m real sorry Gran, you know sometimes I get in moods, and… there’s no excuse.” Andromeda’s mood softened, but only slightly. She could never stay angry with him for long. He could be reckless sometimes, and on occasion displayed the sensitivity of a rock, but he was also incredibly sweet. Him looking up from his plate of eggs with that goofy grin wasn’t so unlike Nymphadora’s grin all those years ago at blinner in this very same kitchen.
“Get ready. The train will be leaving from King’s Cross in a little over an hour. It would be a shame if the Head Boy didn’t make the train.” She had dropped the subject, but Teddy could see she was still thoroughly shaken.
“Listen, Gran, I promise something like this will never happen again. Everybody knows that Voldermort was more of an omelet guy anyways.” He scampered up the stairs before Andromeda could think of a comeback. “Cheer up Gran, everything’s great, we don’t have to live with a shadow cast over our shoulders anymore! Live a little!”
“Sometimes,” Andromeda mused at her grandson’s retreating figure, “that shadow let us know when the evil will return.” She looked down at Teddy’s plate. He had made two eggs and a slice of bacon into a smiley face. To be young and naïve again...