Chapter 1 : Ice to Ashes
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The graveyard is quiet in the afternoon: a bird sings, a Muggle man lays flowers on a fresh grave, tears frozen to his skin. But I know you were never quiet, nor reserved, that you are not a creature meant to rest in this place, static and lonely. My sister raised you against everything our parents abhorred, releasing in you the internal beast which fought within her tight smile, bubbling beneath the alabaster skin. You ran in mud puddles and she laughed as you splashed her, cheeky chocolate cake a feature of your face, hair changing flamboyant colours with your mood. I know you sheepishly set Ollivander's on fire when buying your wand, my sister sighing as her mudblood husband hid a grin beneath his meatlike hands, the foolish wandmaker huffing and grumbling to extinguish those childlike flames. Later, you walked down Diagon Alley proud as can be, cradling a handsome tawny owl, grinning up at my sister. She was your hero and mine.
Did she sense my presence, her ice and diamond sister, born at dawn after a skyless eve, who never fit so cleanly into the confines of light and night? Did the bonds of childhood, so neatly forged in black-papered walls and grins exchanged over ornate goblets, tug in nearness of the girl who starred in her carefully whispered bedtime tales? Or perhaps it was only you, the eleven year old who happened to glance into the coffee shop window from which I performed my vigil, and smiled at the strange, light-headed woman with the thin face who peeked so timidly from behind a cup of black coffee. We were one and the same, once. My sister has always been the gleaming light, reminding me of what I have lost, urging me to search for her like a fairy wisp in the night.
Years ago. I wept alone, cold, stifled tears when I saw my sister choose him over us, the confident set of his wide jaw as he let her take his hand, and they walked away from our family home like common Muggles, enamoured despite my father's rejection of his eldest and most loved of daughters. I waited at my window, a fanciful girl of fourteen, longer than the rest, waiting to see if she would return for me, to take me away from the life of expectations and luxury and Lucius which surely awaited me, to trust in her strong belief in happiness. But she never looked back for me, only kissed his cheek as you rounded the corner of the square, set for another life. I heard he died admirably, fighting to defend his companions until he was overpowered. Perhaps it was my husband's companions who dealt the killing blow, snuffing the life they deemed worthless from his great chest, smirking at his wandless hands.
My sister, born in the true sunshine of the height of noon, leaving me with our darkness sister, born in the melancholy night of the lunar eclipse. Perhaps she wanted me to shield her, to protect against the hateful commandments of our parents, more significant than any law. Yet in public I could say nothing, weak and meek, hating myself.
I waited for signs. Messages etched into the stone walls of Hogwarts written in that secret alphabet of our childhood. I begged for her to rescue me, from Lucius' wavering devotion, from Bella's impending madness, transforming her from the fiery girl we had both loved and lost. How could my parents be expected to love me, who had always been at Andromeda's side, the same quizzical tip of our heads? It was too painful for them, a reminder of the ghostly golden child who had first haunted the house's halls. They were too proud to mourn.
Nymphadora, you could not remember when I came to you, intimidated my way past the busy orderlies to the room where you lay beside my sister. She had been given a sleeping draught, exhausted and pale-faced, the little half-smile of sleep I recognized from the nightmare nights when I would crawl in beside her, trembling. My eyes fell on you, from my position squared in the door frame, a tiny babe only hours in this world, a being forged from the dangerous union of ancient and impure blood. You gurgled, as if you sensed me, your auntie, your small hand smacking against my cheek, and I left a small kiss on your frizz of hair which was already beginning to change it's colour in rebellion. You were feisty, even then, a new life born of love and freedom, a life destined to be felled before your thirtieth birthday. Even the beauty of my own child, conceived from duty and adored long years later, paled beneath your fire. Indeed, like your mother, you were a child of the day.
Did you remember me again, in the sandbox? She left you to play in the Muggle park, chatting a few feet away with a neighbour, and you stumbled and scraped your elbow. I was watching, examining the curves your mother had developed since childhood, the fading of the bony, prim woman whose shape mirrored my own into something else. You fell right into me, trying not to cry, brave til the last. What could I do? I healed the scrape, sent you off with an attempted smile, watched as you ran chattering back to my sister and showed her where the small scape had been, wondering at the pretty lady in the trees. Did she know, even then, that it must have been me, the aunt you would be raised to resent? You were a curious, vibrant child: perhaps I only became another figment of your pretending, the strange fairy lady of near familiarity.
Perhaps I should have stepped from the bushes, met her eyes for the first time in six years, the sickly child she adored changed into a prim young woman, unsure of everything. Yet I hid, hating myself.
Top of your class, my niece: I was at your graduation ceremony from the Auror program, accompanying my husband who was rising in the Ministry even then, hoping to find sympathetic worshippers in this next crop of Aurors. I clapped hard for you until he settled me with a firm, sceptical look. You beamed, you nearly tripped over the steps in your excitement to enter the real world where you might make something of yourself. An adult, a woman-child, a lovely little fool eager to place yourself in the paths of others, to disregard the selfish confines which urged me to protect my own. I did not see your mother that day,, yet felt her presence in the audience, her pride and excitement radiating and warming all it encountered, the same addictive pride when I earned top marks in Transfiguration, or stood up for myself in facing Bellatrix's taunting. I vanished before she could see me that day, under Lucius' stern eye. Even then, I was another liability to be shaped into a tool.
She never gave you a sister, and I never gave Draco a brother. Perhaps I recalled the absolute wholeness of siblings, the unity of beloved blood, and the physical pain when that cord was snapped, the loved completely out of reach.
And when you fell, when you departed this world as beautifully and gracelessly as you had entered it, I felt my sister's loss from a place deep inside me. I watched her in the Great Hall of the school we both adored, standing over your young body, incapable of speech, of grasping this foreign, wicked horror. Seated between the twin blond heads of my husband and son I longed to go to her, to place my cold hands in her warm ones and smooth down her hair, still dark and wild with streaks of grey. I longed to take your child to her, to show her that he was still alive and fiery the way you had once been, that though she had lost she was not alone. Yet I stayed, a foreigner in this strange world of freedom, a prisoner of my own will.
Now, I am so lonely, my son distant and frightened, my husband finally recognized as a criminal, the empty walls of my home reminding me of the horrors executed within their confines. Yet I rise each morning, tie tightly back my silver hair, hook diamond earrings through my skin. I practice my cool smile. My voice is full of money.
Nymphadora, I must hasten, in this final greeting and goodbye, for she is coming, her walk a slow lumber from the lively step she once had, your baby, her grandson, tucked up in her arms and nestled against the chill. In a mere moment she will see me, the watcher who loved her all the same, the hero of my childhood, brave and warm against the throes of death. In her I see your bravery, my girl, I see Bellatrix's passion and my mother's elegance and my father's determination, and I see something of myself as well, for she is the golden sunshine girl with the power to melt the frozen ice of human misery and let it ebb and flow again.
The dusk is approaching: soon it shall be the night, the reign of Bellatrix. Andromeda shall see me soon, and I must away. A fleeting thought, perhaps a remnant from another life, entreats me for a moment to wait, and stay. But her fire would blaze upon me, igniting my years of cowardice, the blame of a thousand deaths, of nights spent in a cold lonely bed, of a young husband and wife lying side by side on a cold stone floor beneath a frantic wartime sky. Andromeda's stare would turn me to a column of fire, leaving a pile of ashes beside the grave which contains your own. I do not deserve your mother, Nymphadora. So, she will continue see me in the frozen glass of the lake, a fleeting reflection. And I will see her in the sun, as it burns against my opened eyes.
So... this was surprising, but I enjoyed writing it all the same. I knew I'd have to try out Narcissa at some point, and I'd love to know what you thought of her. She's a little frustrating, isn't she? The line "froze ice of human misery..." is an allusion to 'Dover Beach' by Matthew Arnold. "My voice is full of money" is adopted from 'The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
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