The snow crunched softly under Andromeda’s feet as she knelt down to help her grandson stick the finishing touch – a carrot nose – onto the snowman he had made. When she gently pulled his hand back, he stared at the snowman for a minute before shrieking and clapping.
“Gandma!” He pointed at the snowman. “Nose!”
She smiled. “Yes, Teddy. You gave him a whole face!” The toddler beamed, and she scooped him up and kissed his cheek. “What a good job!”
Teddy had reached that age where everything was exciting. Andromeda didn’t think that she would ever look at autumn the same way again, not after all of Teddy’s leaping into the carefully gathered leaf piles and the six pumpkins he had made them carve before he’d decided he’d had enough.
“Andromeda!” She turned, and saw Teddy’s godfather trudging through the ankle-deep snow to meet them. “I shoveled the walk,” he said, jerking his head in the direction of the front of the house. “Do you need the backyard done as well?”
She shook her head. “No, it’s really only the front that’s a problem, with those muggles across the street.”
Teddy twisted around to see who his grandmother was talking to. “Hay!” He reached his arm out, trying to grab his godfather.
Harry grinned and held out his arms, and Andromeda passed the squirming two-year old over. “Thank you,” she said.
“I’m happy to help.” Harry looked over at the snowman. “Teddy, did you make that all by yourself?”
Teddy shook his head. “Gandma helped.” Peeking out from underneath his blue knitted hat Molly had made for him were shockingly red curls; when Andromeda and Teddy had joined the Weasleys for Christmas dinner, he had been absolutely fascinated by Bill and Fleur’s infant daughter Victoire’s bright red hair. He had been mimicking it ever since.
Andromeda smiled fondly at the sight. She had not had the best initial impression of Harry, and had been slightly doubtful when Nymphadora and Remus had insisted on making a seventeen-year old on the run their child’s only godparent, but in the last two and a half years, she’d reformed her opinion tremendously. “Come inside. I’ll make some tea.”
“Yes, Teddy, if you want hot cocoa, I’ll make that, too.”
She led the way through the snow and up the back stairs. She ushered Harry, who was still carrying Teddy, inside first before stepping through the join them. Once she’d closed the door, she dead bolted it and tapped it with her wand.
Andromeda Tonks had become very concerned about personal security in the last few years.
When she turned around, Harry was studying a framed photograph on the wall. Once he saw her looking at him, however, he smiled and turned away.
She knew what picture he had been looking at, but there wasn’t anything left to say that they hadn’t said countless times before.
“Hot co!” Teddy said again, and grabbed Harry’s glasses.
Andromeda was very glad that she did not wear glasses. She had stopped wearing earrings years ago, but glasses were a bit more difficult to forego.
Harry gently stopped Teddy from pulling for long enough to take the glasses off and hand them over.
Teddy immediately tried to put them on. They were upside down and lopsided. “I Hay!”
“I can’t even tell you two apart,” Andromeda said as she led them into the kitchen. As Teddy plopped down on the floor next to his toys, she put the kettle on and pulled out a tin of biscuits. “How is Ginny?” she asked as she emptied it onto a plate. When she looked over, Harry had joined Teddy on the floor and was waving his wand, making a little witch on a broomstick zip around them.
Teddy managed to grab it out of the air and screeched with laughter.
“Good,” Harry said, looking up at her. “Everyone’s good.”
This was not the life Andromeda had envisioned when she’d first realized that she would be raising Teddy by herself, but it certainly wasn’t one she had any desire to complain about.
She had expected Harry to be the sort of godfather who showed up every few weeks with a new toy and who would take Teddy on fun, exciting trips like menageries. She certainly had not had any expectation that he’d have much to do with the day-to-day work of raising a child, but he had.
As had the entire Weasley clan. Molly in particular seemed to take it as her mission in life to offer Andromeda as much support as she was willing to accept.
And then some.
After she had poured the two of them tea and Teddy a cup of warm cocoa, she asked, “Where were you planning to go today?”
Harry looked at Teddy, who was gleefully dropping marshmallows into his cocoa. “I’m not sure. Where do you want to go, Teddy?”
Teddy looked up. “Doo!”
Andromeda sighed. “Teddy, are you sure? The zoo is outside. It’s going to be very cold, and a lot of the animals might be sleeping.”
The toddler thought about that for a moment.
Sensing his indecision, Harry said, “Teddy, why don’t we go to Molly and Arthur’s and go flying?”
Teddy’s eyes lit up. “Yes!”
Harry had gotten him a new toy broomstick for Christmas, and Teddy had not yet gotten over his excitement about it. Flying at the Weasleys’ was always especially exciting for him, because occasionally, Harry would take him up on his broomstick, which got more than a foot or two off the ground.
“We’ll do the zoo when it gets a little warmer, okay?” Harry said, and Teddy nodded.
Andromeda picked up a biscuit and bit into it. She loved her grandson dearly, but she always looked forward to these little outings, because they gave her time to herself – something that was very difficult to come by when you had a toddler in the house.
She was already debating which book she wanted to sit down with as she waved them off and closed the door behind them. There was a book she’d been given for Christmas about European witch-queens that she hadn’t had the chance to start yet but promised to be quite interesting…
After making herself some more tea, she curled up on the couch under a blanket and had just finished the chapter about Queen Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn when she heard a knock at the door.
She sighed, tossed the blanket aside, and got up to answer it. She pulled open the door to find her sister Narcissa standing on the doorstep, looking nervous and out of place.
Andromeda crossed her arms. Talking to her sister was not the very last thing she wanted to do with her time, but it was close. Seeing Narcissa just brought it all back, and it reminded her that despite everything Narcissa’s family had done during the war, Narcissa hadn’t really lost anything.
“What do you want?” she asked flatly.
Narcissa’s grasp on her handbag tightened. “Can I come in?”
“I don’t know,” Andromeda snapped. “Do you think you can bring yourself to enter a muggleborn’s home?”
Narcissa looked around, and Andromeda’s disgust deepened. Her sister probably didn’t want to be caught visiting her awful blood traitor sister. “Please, Andromeda. I just want to talk.”
Andromeda looked into her sister’s face. She did not much care about what Narcissa had to say, a fact that she thought she had made abundantly clear by burning the five notes she had received without answering them. At the same time, if Narcissa was emboldened enough to actually come here, she might keep coming if Andromeda simply closed the door in her face, as she was dying to do.
Andromeda did not actually invite her sister into the house as much as simply step back and allow her to enter. Narcissa crossed the threshold and looked around the hallway.
“In here,” Andromeda said, leading the way to the living room. She settled herself back on the couch, and Narcissa perched on the edge of a chair in front of the fireplace, still clutching her bag tightly. Andromeda would have tried to comfort most people and make them more at-ease, but Narcissa was not most people. “What do you want?”
Her sister would not meet her gaze. “I wrote. I wasn’t sure if you’d gotten the letters.”
“I did,” Andromeda said shortly. “What do you want, Narcissa?”
“I meant what I said in them.” Narcissa’s voice was barely above a whisper. “I really am sorry.”
Andromeda cast an eye around the room. “I believe you.” Narcissa smiled faintly, and Andromeda added, “I just don’t care.”
Narcissa clearly felt guilty. There was no doubt in Andromeda’s mind that that was true. However, Andromeda was simply not the kind of person who was moved to action simply because other people felt bad. That was their problem.
Why should it be her responsibility to comfort her sister because Narcissa had finally – after more than thirty years, and the death of the sister who kept the family line pure – begun to understand that she was a terrible person and had a lot to feel guilty for?
Why should it be her responsibility to cheer Narcissa up when Andromeda had spent years hoping for one of her sisters to reach out to her, to forgive her?
It wasn’t. And all she had to show for that desire was the gravestone of her daughter, who was living proof that Bellatrix cared more about blood than family.
Narcissa cared more about family than blood, judging by her actions at the end of the war. Andromeda apparently just hadn’t counted as such.
The willowy blonde cast her eye around the room, and fixated on a picture sitting on the table next to her chair. In it, a dark-haired young man was helping a toddler with bright purple hair to build a tower with wooden blocks. As Narcissa looked at it, the tower collapsed, and the child’s face broke into a smile. “Is this Teddy?” she asked.
“Yes,” Andromeda answered tightly. There were many things that she did not want to discuss with Narcissa, and Teddy was near the top of the list.
She didn’t think that Narcissa wished Teddy any specific ill will, nor did she think that her sister would actually outright harm him… but then again, she hadn’t really believed – even after Bellatrix’s deranged rant about blood purity once Andromeda had announced her intention to marry Ted, and even after Bellatrix had been arrested and found guilty of torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom – that her sister would actually go so far as to target Dora specifically.
If she’d treated Dora just like everyone else, and not singled her out, Teddy would probably still have his mother, and Andromeda’s life would be very, very different.
Andromeda had learned not to trust her family. Bellatrix had killed her daughter and her favorite cousin, and Narcissa had been complicit through it all.
Just because a snake doesn’t have a rattle on its tail doesn’t mean that it isn’t poisonous. Who knew what Narcissa was really capable of?
“Why are you here?” Andromeda asked. “If I wanted to talk to you, I would have answered your letters. I don’t.”
Narcissa heaved a great sigh. “What can I do to make it up to you?” she asked.
Andromeda laughed. It was not a pleasant sound. It had been more than two years since Ted and Dora had died, and she had adjusted to life without them. She no longer half-expected one of them to walk around the corner, and Teddy’s frequent changes to his appearance only made her smile.
But adjusting was something that she had done because she had to. She couldn’t have just spent the rest of her life in a crippling depression – she had a child to raise – but she was never going to stop missing them, and the hurt was never going to really go away.
“Go back in time. Warn me that that bitch was targeting my daughter. Tell me where Ted can go where he would actually be safe. Then I’ll forgive you.”
Narcissa pushed a few strands of hair that had escaped from her otherwise-perfect bun out of her face. “I would if I could.”
Andromeda studied her. “No, you wouldn’t,” she said. “You’d be too busy trying to keep your real family safe.”
Her sister studied the ceiling for a minute. When she looked down, her eyes were bright with tears. “Andromeda, you don’t understand. He was there, all the time. Bellatrix was there. They would have known. They would have killed my son.” Her voice was pleading.
Andromeda was having none of it. “Like they killed my daughter, you mean?” she asked. “And don’t lie to me, Narcissa. You buy into their blood purity nonsense the same as everyone else did, and if Voldemort—” Narcissa flinched “—hadn’t put your precious son in danger, you’d have been all for his takeover.” She stared at her sister. After a moment, Narcissa looked away. “Go ahead. Tell me that isn’t true.”
To her credit, Narcissa did not try to lie. She did not say anything at all for a moment, and then, so softly Andromeda barely heard her, she said, “I didn’t want him dead, Andromeda.”
Andromeda nearly jumped across the room and smacked her. “He. Had. A. Name,” she snarled.
Narcissa met her gaze. “I didn’t want Ted dead.”
As far as Andromeda knew, that was the first time Narcissa had ever spoken Ted’s name aloud.
Bellatrix had ranted and raved when Andromeda had announced that she was marrying Ted, and then never spoken to her again. Narcissa’s reaction had been quite different, but equally insidious; right up until the day Andromeda and Ted had said their vows, Narcissa had been trying to convince her to just come home, promising that all would be forgiven.
This was too little, too late. The idea that Andromeda was supposed to simply forgive and forget thirty years of silence and hostility from her family and the two gravestones she still visited at least once a month because Narcissa had finally seen the light was ludicrous.
“No, you always wanted someone else to do the dirty work, didn’t you?” Andromeda asked spitefully. “You two always were a good pair that way. You just resented people and wished they’d go away, and she was happy to make it happen.”
“You were always my favorite sister,” Narcissa said.
“Until I became a blood traitor, you mean.” Narcissa hesitated, and then nodded an acknowledgement. “Well, I’m not ready to forgive you.”
Narcissa sighed. “I understand.” She reached inside her handbag, and Andromeda instinctively reached for her wand. She let it fall back onto the side table when she realized that all Narcissa was holding was a key. “This is yours.” She held her hand out.
Andromeda stared at it. “What do you mean, that’s mine?” she asked. “I have never seen that key before in my life.”
“It’s your share of the inheritance.”
Andromeda sucked in her breath. “Don’t you mean our dear deceased sister’s share?”
No matter how over-helpful Molly Weasley could be sometimes, Andromeda would always have a soft spot in her heart for the witch who killed her sister.
Narcissa shook her head. “No. Everything from our parents went to me, and now I’m giving you your half.”
“Keep it,” Andromeda said shortly. “I don’t need their dirty money.”
“Believe it or not,” Andromeda said, talking over Narcissa, “my husband and I made a decent living even without an enormous inheritance, and I’m doing just fine.”
That was true enough, but even if it wasn’t, Andromeda would sooner move in with the Weasleys than accept so much as a knut from her sister.
Narcissa must have seen the resolve in Andromeda’s face, because she dropped the key back into her bag and rose. “If you change your mind—”
“I won’t.” Andromeda got up and headed for the door.
Narcissa followed her. “I’m sorry for coming. I’m sorry for everything,” she said softly as Andromeda put her hand on the doorknob.
Andromeda looked back. “I know you are,” she said calmly. “But it’s too late.” She pulled open the door and looked at Narcissa expectantly.
Narcissa paused with one foot out the door. “I miss you.”
Andromeda stood there resolutely, arms crossed and trying to ignore the cold, as she watched her sister walk slowly down the newly-shoveled path. Narcissa looked back once at the end before turned and disappeared down the street. She closed the door firmly and relocked it. She was about to back into the kitchen to grab some biscuits to bring into the living room – she needed them, after that – when the rush of memories and emotions overwhelmed her.
She slouched against the door. Since the first letter, which Andromeda had received right after the funerals, Narcissa had been writing every six months. They all said the same thing: that Narcissa was sorry, that she regretted her actions, that she wanted to fix what had broken between them.
But a couple years of vague efforts and pretty words could not make up for thirty years of abandonment, or the loss of her daughter and her husband.
And Narcissa was foolish to try.
Andromeda fetched her biscuits, settled back onto the couch, and opened her book again. When Harry and Teddy returned, she had just finished with the section on Elizabeth Woodville.
She laid the book aside and went to greet them. When she appeared in the doorway, Teddy’s coat and mittens were already discarded on the floor, and Harry was helping Teddy out of his snow boots.
Teddy looked up. “Gandma! We went flying!”
Andromeda smiled. Harry pulled Teddy's second boot off, and the toddler ran over to Andromeda, who knelt and caught him up in a hug. “Did you have fun?” she asked. Teddy nodded earnestly.
“Molly said to tell you that you and Teddy are invited to dinner tomorrow night,” Harry said.
“Oh, how sweet. I’ll send her back an owl tonight.”
No, Andromeda definitely did not want any part of what Narcissa had to offer. She had more than enough on her own.
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