It is the silences she has come to hate more than anything, insidious pauses with slim probing fingers that slip between the cracks of a conversation and pull and tug at it until the world slows and the air dies. The silences are grey, cold, bleak, and inevitable, because outside, in the world, there is one war, and inside she is fighting her own; arranging flowers next to the windowsill, bright colours elegantly framing the indistinct blur of the horizon; arranging and sorting and hiding the photographs of the dead; carefully Bowdlerising, in the night, stories, so that there are no glorious armies and no overlords and only blandly colourless arrangements of words. And still the silences stretch, and linger like the drawn-out notes of a violin, and the memories refuse to fade away. There they pass; dignified, invisible; dignified, parents and sisters like haughty dark swans. But oh, how they look, eyes hidden in shadow.
She has banished the memories to the corners of her mind, to the dark places to gather dust and cobwebs, but when she reads a newspaper in the morning there is always something, a name or a place or a familiar face, and they return. See. Here we are. We had never really left, and she knows they never really will. Her past has been banished, but tenderly, carefully, brittle and undamaged.
The silences, she thinks, are pulling the world apart.
Sirius is standing by her doorstep when she returns from a walk in the morning, looking cold and uncomfortable, a sodden figure forlorn in the empty grey street, wearing an over-long black coat and feeling, he tells her, 'a bit like an old parcel someone's forgotten to post', although when she asks he doesn't tell her what he means, or why. His trousers are thin, a little threadbare at the knees, ragged hems trailing the floor; he laughs, a hollow sound, and says that he likes them that way.
When they are inside, he shrugs off his jacket, brushing away the quick-melting flakes of snow, and rolls up his shirt-sleeves to swing Nymphadora in slow circles around the living-room, grinning, and when Andromeda offers him lunch he sits at the table dangling a spoon from his nose to make her daughter smile, and Andromeda thinks oh, sweet, sweet fools.
It is almost an hour later, his face lit oddly in a sudden shower of light from a window, when he tells her that his brother is dead.
Sirius, she thinks, laughs like that because he can't, or won't, cry.
On November the second, 1981, she reads the paper, mouth settling into an expression that could be a grimace or a frown or a humourless smile. She writes a long letter which will never be sent or received or read, and she thinks, bitterly, you should have cried.
She has kept the letters, neatly folded parchment pressed between the sheets of old books of poetry (Eliot, mostly, who she loves and Ted has no patience for), fading lines of black ink, in Narcissa's handwriting, undulating waves of indistinguishable letters leaning sharply forwards in eddies relieved only by the elaborate capitals, or Bella's, large and bold, rising upwards across the page.
There have been other letters since these, threats and coercions and warnings, and she has flung them into the fire, but these are filled with childish hopes and girlish dreams, and a little bit of laughter; these are sacred things, and they remain, tucked gently into the books where Ted will never find them.
She only has one photograph of her family left; she tried to destroy it on her wedding-night, and sat by the flames to watch it curl, glowing gold, and shrivel up into ash and dust, but when the corners began to blacken she fished it out again. There are, she thought, darker things than these. And it is only a photograph.
But she has buried it in a dark corner to gather dust and cobwebs, and she swears to herself that she will never look at it again. And there memory lies; taunting, hidden, invisible.
In the evening, just for a moment, she pulls her hair into a tumbling elegant knot, and wears silk, and looks into the mirror as though it is the first time she has seen her own reflection. And she thinks about family, and about not remembering things past, and she looks into the mirror as though after a while she will see someone else looking back.
She remembers that she had never expected to like Ted Tonks, with his untidy brown hair and crooked grin and awkward way of standing and the ridiculously loud football shirt he wore on weekends, and the way he talked.
The world, she thinks, works strangely, as do matters of the heart.
Ted comes home just as the shadows are deepening, shaking and stamping the snow and mud out of his boots and shrugging off his too-large coat before pulling her into a hug and quickly-snatched kiss. And the world, suddenly, feels so much better.
They end up sitting on the steps together, Ted's left arm around Andromeda's shoulders and Dora in his lap, watching the transient beauty of twilight in the snow-covered city. Ted picks up an old camera and frames the evening, the grey-black figure of a snow-bent tree against the grey-white blur of the rest of the city beyond (later, he scrawls on the back, snow, december 1979, and that is how the year ends), and Andromeda, listening to the shutter whirr, thinks that she can almost hear the streets echoing back.
Quick note: 'Bowdlerise': Removal/censorship of material thought to be unacceptable to the intended audience, after Thomas Bowdler, famous for publishing an edited version of Shakespeare's works in which "those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family".
Just in case anyone was wondering about that one.