Chapter 2 : M is for Missing
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“… and, on Thursday, Kingsley Shacklebolt will officially welcome Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, along with Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnegan, Mandy Brocklehurst, Lavender Brown and Katie Bell as the newest additions to the Auror squadrons. The ceremony is expected to be held in the Ministry’s Grogan Stump Hall, as usual,” the voice drawls from the radio, crackling gently. “In other news, the Ministry’s Christmas Ball - a tradition reinstated this year by the Minister himself - will be attended by many -”
Andromeda sighs, one hand resting on the knob she’d turned it off with. She didn’t know why she’d chosen to listen to the radio - Merlin knows there was nothing on it these days, only the odd Weird Sisters hit and the never-ending chatter about the latest Ministerial policies. It’s just habit, she supposes, another thing left over from the war. So many things were just left over - waiting to be thrown out, in their own turn. Her eyes flicker over Ted’s favourite armchair, still sitting in the same place as always. Tears prick gently at the back of her eyes and she feels old, terribly, terribly old.
The doorbell rings and, immediately, glad of the relief from the sudden crush of memories, she bustles off to go and see her visitor.
“Hello, Mrs Tonks,” Harry Potter smiles nervously - he has always been nervous around her, something which makes amusement sparkle in her dark eyes. “How’s Teddy?”
Stepping to one side even as she returns his greeting, she lets him come inside and leads him through to the living room, where Teddy is playing with a set of muggle building blocks in the playpen. His hair is bright green today, making him look almost radioactive (she doesn’t really understand what this means, but Ted had talked about it often enough that she knows it’s bright, fluorescent green) and clashing wonderfully with his pale blue jumpsuit.
“He’s been fine - he said ‘mama’ again the other day,” Andromeda tells him, a weak smile lifting the corners of her mouth. While she’s incredibly proud of Teddy for talking, she can’t help but feel that she shouldn’t be the one hearing his first words and watching his first steps.
“Remus and Tonks would be so proud,” Harry smiles at her, far less nervous than he had been before, and she knows he understands.
“Right,” she takes in a deep breath, drawing her wand and giving it a quick flick. A blue rucksack flies into the room, already packed and zipped up. “Everything you’ll need is in here - changes of clothes, nappies, his wolf toy and Padfoot. You’ll want to take the building blocks with you, as well, Merlin knows he’s been obsessed with them recently.”
Harry nods, heaving the bag on one shoulder. It’s not particularly heavy, being stuffed mainly with cuddly toy (‘Padfoot’ is a huge, black panther toy that looks enough like the former Animagus to merit the name) and nappies, but it takes him a couple of minutes to adjust it on his shoulder comfortably.
Once he’s settled, Andromeda goes over to the playpen, lifting little Teddy out of it, ignoring the protest of his waving hands. Cradling him, she passes him over to Harry, watching with a smile as Teddy glances up at the Boy-Who-Lived, his little nose wrinkling, eyes squinting, and, sure enough, his hair and eyes are grass-green and jet black.
“Mrs Weasley wanted to know if you’re coming over for dinner on Sunday,” Harry informs her, adjusting the baby in his arms slightly. “She was quite insistent.”
For a moment, she hesitates. She can’t ever argue that she and Molly Weasley (then Prewett) got on particularly well in school or even afterwards, but the two are finding that they have much more in common than they originally thought. It’s a relief, she must admit, to have the Weasleys as support. After all, she has no family left of her own.
“I’ll be there,” Andromeda nods. “Besides, I’m sure Teddy would like to see Victoire again.” Victoire, being seven months old now, was fascinated by Teddy, especially the changing colours of his hair.
Teddy merely blinks innocently up at them, oblivious to the fact that they were talking about him, wriggling slowly and Harry winces as a cotton-covered foot kicks his arm.
“Well, I’d best be off,” Harry comments. “Ginny will be bringing Teddy back tomorrow evening - I have to be at the Ministry.”
“Yes, I heard about your promotion,” Andromeda smiles. “Congratulations, you really did earn it.”
“Thanks,” Harry grins broadly. “I didn’t think it would happen - I mean, I’d only been in training for less than a year, and I don’t have any NEWTs.”
“You fought directly against Voldemort,” Andromeda points out quietly. “I think that’s enough training.”
There’s a tense silence as both of them are left with their own thoughts, their own memories and wishes and regrets, and then Teddy tugs sharply on the strap of the rucksack, snapping both of them out of their reverie. Both of them lean down to pull the strap out of his hand and it’s Andromeda who eventually manages to prise his little fingers off the rough plastic.
“I’ll see you on Sunday, then,” Andromeda tells him, showing him to the door, his black Ford parked on the drive, spotless as usual, the windows tinted.
“Yeah, see you then,” Harry smiles, carrying Teddy outside carefully.
She watches them, silently, as Harry straps Teddy into the baby seat in the car and then climbs into the driver’s seat, giving her a wave as usual. Like always, she waves back, closing the door as the back wheels of his car move off the drive.
There are things to be done.
The photo is mocking her.
She can feel its presence out of the corner of her eye - she can feel the gazes of her sisters and her younger self, her photo-self, on her. Accusatory. Judgemental. Angry. In her mind’s eye, she can see the picture, every detail of it with perfect clarity: the soft pink of Narcissa’s pinafore, the cream summer dress Bellatrix had grudgingly put on at their mother’s request and the burnt orange she herself had yanked out of her cupboard whilst racing to be ready first. The white paint of Narcissa’s childhood bed seems to gleam and, in her mind, photo-Bella wears a small, proud smile as she sleeps.
Eventually, she can no longer put it off and so she advances towards the mantelpiece, feather duster in hand. She manages to keep herself from looking at it when she dusts the silver frame, her eyes boring holes into the metal with their force, but, once she’s finished her gaze wavers. Just for an instance; but that’s all it takes.
It’s changed. Hardly unsurprising, seeing as she’s known wizarding pictures and portraits her entire life; but it takes her a few moments to work out what has changed.
Photo-Bella is missing.
Photo-her and photo-Narcissa are still curled on the pink bed, the latter’s thumb in her mouth, the former nestled close to her younger sister.
Photo-Bella, on the other hand, is nowhere to be seen.
She stops moving and just looks at it. People can’t actually leave photographs, she knows, unlike portraits and paintings - hence why portraiture is still a valued profession in the wizarding world - or talk, but they still contain the essence of the person who they show and they can, if they wish to, hide in one of the sides. The idea of picking the photo up and shaking it lightly to see if she can find Photo-Bella is tempting, but she’s absolutely sure it won’t work. Besides, she would look and feel completely barmy - shaking a photograph trying to find a photo-self of her dead sister.
Rolling her eyes at herself, she turns away, plumping the cushions on the sofas briefly, before leaving the room freshly cleaned and moving into the kitchen. It’s much smaller than the lounge, big enough to squeeze in a table that seats six and a u-shaped kitchen unit but that’s about it. Anything else would have to hover on the ceiling.
There’s nothing in here, either: no paintings, no pictures, no photographs. Just nothing. The walls are a gentle cream, complimenting the brown wood of the kitchen units and borders and she likes it that way. She should do, she supposes, given that she chose it all herself shortly after she and Ted got married.
Humming the tune of a Weird Sisters song she doesn’t know the name of, Andromeda begins cleaning and clearing things away in the kitchen. It’s not really that much of a mess: a few dishes and cups stacked neatly to one side of the sink and dishwasher, the fruit bowl isn’t quite in the right place on the table (it really needs filling up, she thinks to herself, but she doesn’t feel like going to the shops just yet) and the blue-patterned china (a wedding present from Ted’s grandmother) needs dusting. There’s not much to do but she takes her time over it, obsessively dusting each china plate and mug individually.
As she works, she can’t forget the empty space in the photo. The image preys on her mind continuously, whispering and taunting her. Making a concentrated effort, she tries to recall the picture as it was before - before photo-Bella left.
She can’t do it.
It causes her to frown, pausing in her work, momentarily forgetting what she was doing. Once again, she focuses and tries. Every last detail, every last drop of photo-reactive ink bursts into her mind, but photo-Bella is still missing. Instead, the sheets of Narcissa’s fairytale bed are rumpled and creased, a clear reminder that someone had been there, once upon a time.
She can’t recall the last time she failed to remember a picture perfectly.
Hurriedly, she finishes dusting and moves upstairs into the master bedroom, picking a book off her shelves without looking at what she’s choosing. When she looks down at it, prepared to open the cover and start reading, she sees it’s The Three Musketeers, her favourite Dumas novel and a birthday present from Ted in days long gone by. Lifting up the cover, she eagerly devours the first few paragraphs, immersing herself in the novel.
Thankfully, the distraction works well and she reads avidly, her eyes barely pausing between scanning impatiently from page to page, line after line of printed type being eaten up just as the daylight vanishes outside her window.
Andromeda squints into the darkness, trying in vain to read the faded, blurring words before she gives up with a sigh, knowing it’s useless to read without some kind of light but loath to turn the lights on. Putting The Three Musketeers to one side, she leaves the story of d’Artagnan and his companions at the siege of La Rochelle. Determined to keep herself busy and occupied, she is soon ready to go to bed and sleep, and, habit returning to the fore, crosses the room in order to reach her side of the bed.
Or, what used to be her side of the bed. Now it’s all hers.
When she finally closes her eyes and relaxes, sleep doesn’t come easily.
When it does, it brings with it flashes of colour, sensations, feelings. One minute she’s laughing; the next she’s falling to the ground, sobs wrenching at her chest; another she’s soaring through the air, free and unlimited as a bird. Memories zip through her mind, unrestrained: Ted, on their first date; Nymphadora, leaving for her first year; an inconsequential dinner with her family; hearing whispers about the Dark Lord; seeing the Dark Mark engraved on her sister’s arm.
Her thoughts turn darker, deeper, as she falls further into her dreams.
She sees Tonks, lying serenely on the ground, her hands clasped with her husbands’; she remembers with absolute accuracy the sequence of emotions that darting through her, one after another, as she was told, by a grave Kingsley Shacklebolt, that her own sister killed her daughter. Ted’s death announcement, read in a sombre young voice, replays itself in her head.
After it all, the photo fills her mind. In it, photo-Bella is sitting up, looking straight at her. Her eyes are bright and wide, shimmering like liquid silver.
“Will you play with me?” she asks, giving an innocent smile - a child’s smile, untainted and unspoiled. Without waiting for an answer, she flits away, darting out of the door, leaving a chiming giggle behind her. The dream follows her, the cream of her dress standing out against the growing dark of the house.
Despite all her knowledge, despite this only being a dream, Andromeda shivers, turning over in her sleep.
Everywhere shadows are lengthening, stretching out across the corridor. It’s getting harder and harder to see in front of her; still, she can see her sister, eight years old and running merrily about, seemingly oblivious to the changes around her.
When everything goes dark in her mind, it’s only for a second. A bright green burst fills her mind, sending the Dark Mark blazing across the sky. Beneath it, her house is on fire. Teddy’s screaming, but the flames are white-hot and she can’t get to him. A hand clamps down on her shoulder - she nearly screams, drawing blood from her lip in her efforts not to - and it’s her father.
“Don’t worry, you’re not in any danger,” he tells her with his slight, comforting smile. His grip on her hand increases just as the screams from the house change, becoming stronger, more frantic and seemingly familiar.
She barely has time to think before she’s whisked away, reappearing in a dining room she recognises well.
At the head of the table, a man smiles down at her.
“Ah, Andromeda, how nice of you to join us. Please, take a seat,” Lord Voldemort gestures slowly to the seat on his right-hand side. “May I commend you on your excellent disposal of those in your family who did not share our ideals?”
There is a newspaper in front of her. The black-and-white picture shows a burnt-out house she recognises as her childhood home. She feels sick. Hot. Feverish.
At twelve past four in the morning, Andromeda wakes up.
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