Chapter 4 : M is for Mourning
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Typically, the day she goes to visit Bella is the day it rains. The days before were hot and sunny, the days after are predicted to be hot and sunny, but for this one day it pours relentlessly down.
She leaves her umbrella at home, sitting in the stand by the side of the door. Teddy is with Molly, so she knows he’s safe, and she’s been invited to dinner if she wants to go. Despite her ever-growing friendship with Molly, she hasn’t told her where she’s going, only that she’ll be out of the house and she doesn’t know when she’ll get back. It was a brief conversation, but tense: she didn’t know what to say or how to act, not after the realisation that her sister’s dead. Not when the reason her sister’s dead is the person she’s talking to. Luckily Molly said nothing about it, didn’t comment at all, and she’s grateful for that. A confrontation today wouldn’t end well for either of them.
Taking a deep breath, she stands outside the Burrow, observing the overcast sky and dark green fields spread out before her, rolling gently, flocks of birds chasing each other across the sky. It’s beautiful, but she can’t stay - no matter how much she wants to. She needs this visit, and, perhaps, she owes it to her sister.
Andromeda turns on her heel, focusing her determination, and vanishes with a sharp crack, re-appearing in a cemetery. Unlike the churchyard where Nymphadora, Remus and Ted were buried, this one is large and spacious, trees and plants interspersed amongst the tombstones.
Passing a weeping angel, she skirts around an ostentatious black marble tomb, ducking under the arm of a huge cross. There, in front of her, underneath a tree, drenched in shadows, is her sister’s grave. Her brother-in-law’s lies next to it, but she merely glances over his before turning her gaze back to Bella.
Her first thought, her immediate response, is that Bellatrix would have hated it. She would never have wanted a simple, arched headstone, the engraving plain and common, the words simple and deliberately secretive.
She reads the inscription slowly, wondering who chose it. Not Narcissa, she guesses - Narcissa would have known Bella would have hated it. Narcissa would never have allowed her sister, her favourite and her last ‘proper’ family member to be buried like this.
It’s odd, she reflects, kneeling down opposite the headstone, to think that she’s sitting here opposite her sister’s tomb. The last funeral she had gone to - before Nymphadora’s and Ted’s and Remus’, before this wretched war - had been their grandfather Rosier’s. She had been so young then, so unassuming, so concentrated on the present, barely thinking of the future.
Bella had been like that too.
She gazed solemnly down as the coffin was lowered into the grave, scrapping dirt off the walls as it sank further and further away. The flowers on top wavered, wobbling slightly as their grandmother’s arm shook slightly, the knuckles of her hand white as she held her wand tightly. Peeking up from underneath her eyelids, she glanced about her at the people gathered around the grave.
Her cousin, Evan, stood to one side with his parents. His father, stoic as ever, had a hand on his shoulder, his face a careful mask; his mother dabbed at her eyes with a black handkerchief. Opposite Evan and uncle and aunt were her parents. Unlike her brother, Druella Rosier-Black was sobbing freely into her husband’s shoulder, the latter looking… mildly uncomfortable with the situation, even as he patted her back gently. Father didn’t cry. Father never cried. Next to her, Bella stood there, watching the coffin descend with a curious look on her face. Not fear, or sorrow, or even anger - just curiosity, and a blank sort of fascination. Cissy, of course, was crying, gripping tightly onto Bellatrix’s waist. She hadn’t even met their grandfather properly - at least, not that she could remember.
She and Bella had, though. She could remember Grandfather Rosier quite well: the stern expression he always wore, his habit of smoking his pipe indoors regardless of the weather or people present, the way he barked out orders like she always imagined the military sergeants to do in the books she read.
Andromeda looked back at the grave, the earth piled on either side now being poured into the hole with a hiss, burying grandfather forever. If someone asked her how she felt, she wouldn’t be able to describe it, although she would have dutifully replied ‘sad’. It was what was expected, after all. She supposed it would be different if you were burying someone you loved - a parent, a best friend, a sister, a husband - but burying someone so distant, someone you’d hardly ever known, seemed almost easy. Simple.
Of course, when she’d first been told she’d cried. They’d all cried - even Bella. It was the first time she’d ever seen her older sister cry, and it had terrified her. Bella wasn’t made to cry, Bella was made to tease and smirk and laugh. Now, though, she didn’t even blink as she turned away from the grave, gently prising Cissy’s arms from around her waist and took Andromeda’s hand.
“Let’s go,” she whispered softly. Andromeda didn’t ask where - didn’t need to ask where - and just let Bella lead them both over to a secluded corner of the graveyard, leaving the adults crowded around the grave.
Once they were alone, Narcissa swallowed, her eyes red and puffy from tears, her cheeks glistening in the sunlight. On impulse, Andromeda pulled the little lace handkerchief that mother had given her to bring out of her pocket and handed it to her, watching as Cissy wiped away evidence of her tears.
“It’s weird to think,” Cissy began hesitantly, hiccupping half-way through, the black material still dabbing at her eyes in a manner that reminded Andromeda of their aunt at the graveside. “That he’s never… that he’s never coming back.” she promptly dissolved into a fresh bout of tears, burying her face into the handkerchief.
Over her head, Andromeda and Bellatrix exchanged glances. Stepping forwards, Bella gently pulled Cissy into a hug, the latter’s thin arms wrapping themselves firmly around her waist.
“He was old, Cissy,” she explained softly. “Old and ill and tired. Father said he was in a lot of pain, so it’s probably best that he’s gone.”
Cissy, her eyes closed, nodded dutifully. Andromeda understood better than Narcissa - or, at least, she thought she did - and wondered if father would say that when everyone died, that it was ‘probably best’ they were gone.
“You won’t go, will you, Bella?” Narcissa asked softly, glancing up. “You’re not going to leave?”
“Don’t be silly,” Andromeda told her before Bellatrix could even open her mouth. “Bella’s not going to go anywhere. She’ll always be here, and so will I.”
“Forever?” Cissy wanted to know, looking between them. “Both of you?”
“Forever and ever,” Andromeda assured her with a slight, watery smile.
“We promise,” Bellatrix nodded seriously, and she looked like she meant it too, for once.
She feels something drip down her cheek, making a slow, steady descent. She doesn’t reach up to wipe away the tear, simply letting it fall. She’s never carried around handkerchiefs or tissues, and, she thinks, it wouldn’t be right.
Reaching out a hand, she absently runs her fingers over the stone. It’s coarse and hard; a fine layer of grey dust comes away on her fingertips. She blows it off lightly, rubbing the residue between her fingers and her palm.
As she sits there, enveloped in glorious sunshine, shadowed by the oak tree nearby, the only sounds the twittering of a few nearby birds (one of them is a blackbird; she recognises the tune well from when she was young), Andromeda remembers.
It’s not like remembering before - when all she could think about was the argument she’d had with Bella before she’d left, the fights they’d been in - how imperious and demanding and arrogant her sister had been. Instead, she remembers the other things. The way Bella always allowed her to crawl into her bed when she was scared of the thunder and lightening when they were little, the way Bella protected her from anyone who even dared through an odd look her way, the way Bella helped her with anything she found difficult and made sure she had friends and had fun and talked to her about everything from the weather to boys and ribbons to legislation and business.
That’s why, with her long navy skirt undoubtedly getting covered in grass stains, she cries - uncontrollable, unstoppable sobs tearing out of her throat. She will never again be able to sit on the window seat in their family home and giggle with Bella and Cissy while they watch the boys playing Quidditch outside, or argue over exactly how stupid Lucius Malfoy’s new haircut is, or debate the Ministry’s new financial policy.
She’ll never be able to have a sister again, and that - that sudden, heart-stopping, cold realisation - is what hurts the most.
Even when Bellatrix was locked away in Azkaban, screaming blue murder at the top of her lungs, vowing revenge on everyone who had wronged her and swearing blind the Dark Lord would return, she still retained some tiny shred of hope that her sister’s mind would reform itself, that they would be able to be the three Black sisters, like they had been before. A foolish hope, a stupid hope, but one that had nevertheless stayed. It was, after all, why she had continued to send photos of her and Nymphadora and Ted at Christmas, birthdays and other important occasions to Narcissa and Bellatrix. Even after Bellatrix sent hers back cursed so they crumbled to ashes in front of her eyes, she had still made three copies of each photo. One for her, one for Narcissa and one for Bellatrix. Ted had never understood why she had bothered, but he had learned to stop asking over the years and would just smile sadly at her each time she returned from the printers. The spare copies were locked in a box, tucked safely under her bed.
Andromeda keeps crying. She hasn’t cried like this in weeks - not since she heard the news about Ted on the radio, not since she was told about Nymphadora and Remus. It’s strange, though, how the smallest thing can spark a huge reaction. The simple idea that she’ll never be able to see her sister again - even through the grill in the visitor’s section of Azkaban - or hear her speak or send her a photo only to have it returned as a little cloud of ash renders her absolutely hopeless.
She doesn’t know how long she spends there, in a heap in front of her sister’s grave, but when she looks up, the scene around her has changed. The clouds, more numerous now, have moved on, the birds have fluttered away and the wind is picking up, stirring the leaves on the tree gently.
Raising a hand slowly, she carefully dries her eyes with a finger. Her cheeks feel stiff and dirty, but she can’t bring herself to care at this present time. At the back of her mind, thoughts of Nymphadora and Ted, memories of the crimes Bellatrix committed, whisper malevolently in her ear, but she pushes them away. There will be time to regret and hate Bellatrix for what she did, but this is not that time.
Slowly, Andromeda rises to her feet. Her eyes linger on the grave, taking in the brief inscription and the horrible, dusty stone once more. It is wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. None of it fits Bella at all - in any state you choose to think of her.
A plan forming in her mind, the idea springing to life like a lightbulb turning on, she manages a tiny smile. She couldn’t do anything now, but in time, she would.
She draws her wand, slowly, the wood feeling unusually heavy in her hand. Giving it a twirl, she skilfully conjures a wreath - simple, plain red carnations intermixed with holly. Not the most traditional of things, but carnations had always been Bella’s favourites. They’d been the only ones she’d watered when it had been her turn to look after the small garden the three sisters had once had.
Taking a deep breath, she takes a step back from the grave. She isn’t sure she is entirely ready to leave yet, but she needs to go and collect Teddy from Molly. Smoothing down her dress, forcing herself away from thinking about anything to do with Bellatrix or Nymphadora or Ted, she turns on her heel and vanishes.
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