Title: Summer Solstice
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters: Andromeda Black Tonks and Narcissa Black Malfoy, with mention of others.
Warnings: Character death mentioned.
Summary: Summer Solstice is the longest day of all, and with each passing year, it becomes longer and harder to bear. Set after the end of the war, the last survivors of the once-glorious Black clan meetbut what are they? Enemies, sisters, friends... nothing is simple any more. After everyone else is gone, neither are sure what roles are left for them to play.
A/N: I wrote this for a friend of mine when she was having a bad day. It's a one-shot vignette, and YES, this means that THERE WILL BE NO ADDITIONAL CHAPTERS. Time frame would be after the 7th book, and the end of the war.
Disclaimer: This really should be obvious.
It was the summer solstice twenty-five years ago that the first break occurred, and a woman-child not yet eighteen with tears in her slate-blue eyes and a bastard child in her womb turned away from the world she had always known. To this day, Andromeda remembers the betrayed look on Bellatrix's face when the older sister who had always protected her demanded to know if the rumours were true after all. She recalls Narcissa's pallor and her father's fury, the tears in her mother's eyes. That had been the start, like a Black domino falling, pushing the rest down, and irrationally, Andromeda wondered if it were her fault.
Because two years after the first break, on the summer solstice, Sirius moved out for good, leaving behind in an almost-contemptuous manner a charmed rose for both the remaining girlsblood-red and frost-white. Regulus did not need any consolation presents when he received the inheritance and everything that came with it, and it would have been easier for poor, naive Regulus to think the simple thing and believe that his hero-worshipped brother hated him.
Sirius had passed by her flat that night, blithely unconcerned about his appearance or his future, Black motorcycle and Black hair outlined in sharp relief against the backdrop of approaching darkness and setting sun. She had almost fainted in surprise, and Ted had been well into the lecture about being seen by Muggles when her impetuous younger cousin had impertinently declared that he HAD remembered to cast an illusion charm, Andi, and between you and Lily I'm going to be nagged to my unglorious death.
Four summers after that, Regulus died, the youngest of them all, still barely past boyhood and oblivious to the end to the storms brewing around him. It was midnight when the Muggle police, of all the people to discover the body of a wizarding plutocrat, phoned their flat with the information that the young princeling was face-down in a lonely alley, blood and bile gushing from his lips, an unrecognizable poison coursing through his body.
She'd left little Nymphodora with the elderly lady next door and spent a day with the law enforcement of both worlds, trying to make sense of the shadow that had befallen them.
Two years after that, the forceful, brilliant older sister who had always been her support and protector stared with venomous hate through the bland gray parchment and rusty bars. Visiting Bellatrix was out of the question, and now... Bella had shut her away, with the same fiery finality that had characterized everything she did.
Four years ago, when the news of Sirius' demise reached her on the summer solstice, she could no longer be surprised. Her daughter came home, and without any disguises, she looked like a younger, softer version of the murderess, and Andromeda held the young woman to her chest as both of them wept.
And now, it is June again, the night balmy and the sky only half-dark. It is a night of celebration and heat and glory for everyone else, because the war is over and in a private hospital room, Harry Potter lies unconsciousbadly wounded but very much alive, and very victorious. The terror that was Lord Voldemort was gone forever, his name no longer a word that instilled fear. The pieces would be picked up as the days grew warmer and the sun smiled upon the world.
Andromeda arrives at the Black family graveyard, Black linen and pale skin, Black hair now peppered with gray, because nothing is so Black-and-white simple any more.
Bellatrix's grave is pristine white, so opposite her life. Marble is soft and smooth and creamy and cool, and Bellatrix was flame and harshness and untamed spirit, hard like diamond and hot like the distant star for which she was named. Andromeda knows that Rodolphus lies in this grave as well, because when her sister died, he went with her, the two gone down in a blaze of dark glory and finality. It had not been possible to part their embrace, and when she had seen them, she had almost seen a hint of the love that her fallen sister used to give.
She stoops to lay a red rose against the headstone, and at that moment, so does another. White hand, manicured fingernails and an ice-cold diamond and platinum ring. Both of them recoil, and Andromeda knows who it is even before she raises her head and stares into identical dark blue eyes.
The blonde hears the hesitation in her sister's voicethe hint of disuse and rustiness. Andromeda must not have mentioned her name in years, and she's not sure if she feels hurt. Certainly, she has returned that favour twice over.
She settles for the carefully cultivated coldness, because around the people she can't fool, it is the easiest course. "What are you doing here?"
Her sharp eyes catch Andromeda's almost imperceptible wince at her tone, but her sister is proudno less a Black than she despite everything that had happened, and Andromeda's voice is steady when she replies.
"She was my sister, too."
"You turned your back on us," Narcissa accuses, white-lipped. It is stunning how similar they look in features and stature, both Black-clad and trembling, tall and rigidly regal. But in Narcissa's coldly beautiful eyes, there is just a hint of hurtof a day when she returned home still a schoolgirl and not believing that a sister of her heart was never to come back. And in Andromeda's proudly lifted chin there is just a bit of a tremble. Twenty-five years ago, they faced each other, and back then, there were so many others around.
"Everyone is gone now."
Narcissa barely catches that statement from her sister's thinned lips, but she flinches at the truth of it. Thirty years ago, when Sirius still stood up for her to that nasty Potter boy and Bellatrix still sheltered both Andromeda and her from father's wrath, it had been a simpler, happier world.
Sirius had run away to escape and be happy, but everything had doomed him anyway. Regulus had died before he could experience his life. And Bella... Bella had died fighting for what she believed was right, wasting her life in hell for one tantalizing, skewed vision of heaven.
Narcissa stops herself before she can go into the what-ifs and the speculations, because everything is tied together no matter how they all try to escape it. Perhaps if Andromeda had not run away, Bellatrix would not have become the most fanatical of the Death Eaters and gone down a spiral to hell. Perhaps if she had not spoken with Kreacher, Sirius would still be alive. Perhaps if Regulus had not balked at the idea of pursuing the Pottershis hero's best friendshe would still be alive and he would have found salvation. There are too many possibilities, and all of them make her head hurt.
She doesn't even realize that she's crying until she raises her face away from the Black soil and the twin red roses, and the breeze blurs her vision and stings her eyes. "These things aren't supposed to happen to us," she hears herself saying in a choked voice. "We were the best of the best."
And then Andromeda lurches forward, and Black hair blends with blonde as they hold each other, and this way, they can pretend that it's just like before, and that the others are only gone for the moment. The tears come now, and they're not just hers.
When Narcissa looks up at her older sister's face, she sees that Andromeda's tears look just like hers, trailing down in the same paths, even if their lives have branched farther and farther away. Like thirty years ago when they were still children, Andromeda extracts a delicate silk handkerchief from her pocket and carefully wipes away her tears, even reaching out a hand to stroke her hair.
The sluggish, relentless sun finally sets in the distance, and darkness falls. The two women move stiffly apart, and the curtain of cold politeness is back in place now that the doomed day is over. But it has waveredno longer quite so inexorable and permanent. They are mortal, after all, even if they are Blacks.
And they are the only Blacks.
Narcissa inclines her head towards the grave of her eldest sister one last time, and blows a kiss, and she is not surprised to see Andromeda doing the same.
"Have you dined yet?" Andromeda asks her, all politeness, as though it was still the debutante practices they used to have with mother and Aunt Medea. Narcissa shakes her head and replies to the negative.
"Do you... do you want to dine together?" Andromeda poses her question in a voice that is almost perfectly neutral except for the slight stutter at the beginning, and Narcissa considers it a bit, glancing uneasily about the white graves of fallen Blacks surrounding the two of them.
"Very well," she finally replies, in as steady a voice as she can manage. Her real smile, about as rusty as Andromeda's usage of her name, appears on her face. "Thank you for the company, sister."
"Any time you wish."
They are both in earnest, cool and polite but sincere, and overhead, almost wistfully, the stars of the dog and the hunter and the king twinkle as the night falls to end the summer solstice.