I'm supposed to be writing an article on financial planning. No, seriously, I am. Instead, I wrote a one-shot.
Just a Word
It was not surprising that to a four-and-a-half-year-old (and heaven help the person who forgot to mention the half), Sirius Black was possibly the most exciting person in the world. After all, not everyone had a flying motorbike of dubious origin. Andromeda understood that, and yet she had been reluctant to let Sirius take her daughter out to Diagon Alley when he showed up and offered to take Dora off her hands for a few hours. She knew her cousin would never put Dora in danger intentionally, but he was not known for being responsible…indeed, the concept that actions might have consequences had always been something Sirius had trouble grasping. And yet Andromeda sometimes felt like having one Dora was like having five normal children, and a few hours of peace would be a blessing. She wavered, and Sirius sensed that and insisted he was very responsible now that he had graduated.
She had finally agreed to it, and when they returned, unharmed and cheerful, she had to admit she had been wrong, and by way of apology said he ought to stay for dinner. He looked skeptical.
"Don't give me that look; I'm getting quite good at cooking."
"Andy, I've seen you burn tea."
"That wasn't my fault!" she insisted. "Narcissa distracted me. In any case, I'm getting much better. Ted and Dora haven't starved yet."
He looked dubious, but then agreed. Not because he believed she could actually cook now, but simply out of desperation. He admitted to her that while sharing a place with mates was great when you wanted to play extreme indoor quidditch (she didn't want to ask what made it extreme), Remus was the only one who knew how to turn on the stove, and he was working so many hours he wasn't cooking much. Apparently, without his assistance, they were existing on takeaway.
While she got dinner, she asked Dora about the day in Diagon Alley. In a trait that was obviously from Ted, Dora could talk incessantly and for hours without interruption, and Andromeda often let her do so. Her own parents had never bothered to show any interest in the lives of their daughters, and she was determined Dora know that her parents were interested in everything, even the small details of a child's daily routine. As far as Dora was concerned, the day had been anything but routine.
"We went to the Owl Emporium, and there were so many owls Mummy, like maybe a hundred I think. And we had ice cream and I had a sundae with chocolate and strawberry and color-changing sprinkles. Then we went to the Quidditch supply and we saw Mr. Potter, and he said I should call him James even though you said I should call him Mr. Potter, and he said if I was going to call him Mr. Potter then he was going to call me Miss Tonks. He did. And then we went to Magical Menagerie and they have all sort of animals Mummy, and Sirius said was should get a puffskein for me to take care of, but I was afraid that Jake and Louie might eat it or something," Dora finally had to pause to take a breath, and Andromeda gave Sirius a smile. Despite her doubts, Dora had obviously had a wonderful day. "And then…" she went on cheerfully, "we picked up girls."
She turned slowly from the sink, an eyebrow raised at Sirius. "You did what?"
"Dora, um, Mummy's not interested…" Sirius began, but she cut him off.
"No Sweetie, Mummy is very interested to hear about that."
Dora went on happily, oblivious to Sirius desperately shaking his head. "There was this lady Sirius thought was pretty. I didn't think she was that pretty, but we hit on her…"
"Sirius Black…you used my daughter to pick up women?"
"I didn't mean to Andromeda, she's just so cute women just flock to her…" he insisted.
"Especially when I do this," Dora piped up, and then scrunched up her nose and squeezed her eyes shut, and changed so that she looked like a cherub in a muggle painting- big blond curls, wide blue eyes, and round, rosy, dimpled cheeks. She blinked a few times so that big fat tears formed in her eyes, and her chin started to tremble. "I'm lost…"
Apparently Dora was an actress. She went back to her normal appearance, which Andromeda liked much better than the cherub, and went on merrily while Sirius cringed. "And then Sirius came up and acted all worried that I was lost, and said "Dora, Dora, are you all right?" even though he knew where I was the whole time, and then asked the lady if she wanted to go out with him on Friday…"
Sirius knew very well the particular look of a Black woman about to lose her temper, and tried to calm her.
"Now Andy, really, it wasn't…that was just…Dora, tell your Mum about the bookshop," he said quickly, trying to appease her.
Dora launched into another tale happily. "We went to the book shop too. Look Mummy, I got a comic book that Sirius and his brother used to read when they were little boys he said," she announced, and Andromeda was surprised that Sirius would mention Regulus, even in passing, to her little girl. She looked at him curiously, while he avoided her gaze, and Dora went on.
"And there was a lady there Sirius thought was pretty too, but she didn't like little girls as much I guess. And we went to the Leaky Cauldron, but only to take the floo back because there was a man there who said Sirius should stay and have a drink but he said you would hex him into next year if he did that-"
"-and he was right-" she said coolly, turning back to the stove with one more glare at Sirius.
"-and so we only went to take the floo, but there were lots of interesting people there. But they were mostly talking about grown-up things about the war, and it didn't sound very interesting, and really the war is just because mudbloods were getting big ideas-"
Sirius blanched, and for a moment the only sound in the kitchen was the shattering of the plate Andromeda dropped.
"What did you say Nymphadora?" she whispered, and Dora bit her lip and shook her head, not enough of a fool to say it again when her Mummy looked like that. Andromeda whirled around to Sirius. "I swear if you…"
He cut her off vehemently. "Andy, I would never say that, especially in front of her, you know that…"
Andromeda turned back to Dora, whose chin was trembling for real now, and softened her voice, leaning down. "Dora, where did you learn that word- mudblood?"
Dora raised tear-filled eyes, her real eyes, the storm-cloud grey of the family. "The man at the Leaky Cauldron said it when we were waiting for the floo to come home."
Andromeda knelt down to her level. "Dora, I want you to listen to me. That's not a nice word. It's a very, very mean thing to say, and I don't want to ever hear you say that again. Never. Do you understand?"
She nodded. "I didn't know it was a bad word Mummy, I didn't…"
"I know Sweetie, I know. I'm not mad at you, I'm sorry if I seemed mad," she said gently, kissing Dora's forehead.
"What does it mean?" she asked, assured she wasn't in trouble.
"Well," she glanced at Sirius, but he still looked horrified, and she knew this particular explanation had to come from her. "You know we talked about how some people are muggles?"
Dora nodded knowingly. "And we're not supposed to talk about magic around them, except Granny and Uncle Mike and Aunt Jessie, but except them we're not supposed to talk about magic because they don't know about it, but they're just like us except for they don't know about magic."
She nodded, a little amusement showing. "That's right, Sweetie. You know Granny and Uncle Mike and Aunt Jessie are muggles. That word that you said is a very mean word for people whose families are muggles, like Daddy's…"
Dora frowned, obviously confused. "Why is there a mean word for that?"
"There are mean words for a lot of silly things," she said, knowing that only too soon Dora was going to learn some of the nastier terms for shapeshifters. "Why don't you go wash your hands for dinner? Daddy will be home soon and he'll want to hear about what you did in Diagon Alley…"
Dora nodded and ran off up the stairs, and Andromeda leaned against the table for a second.
"Andy, I had no idea she heard that…"
"I'm sorry I jumped on you. I know you wouldn't say that," she said quietly, and then straightened up and smiled at him. "But about your using my only child as your personal matchmaking service..."
"Your daughter learned a new word today," she said to Ted, after Dora had gone to bed and Sirius left.
He glanced at her over the newspaper, warily. "What did she do?"
"Why do you ask like that?"
"Because when she does something brilliant, she's our daughter. When you have to come up with an explanation for why their neighbor's cat is pink, she's my daughter."
"Well, she didn't do anything, but she came home from Diagon Alley and informed me that the war was really just because mudbloods were getting big ideas..."
He merely raised an eyebrow, and sighed. "Well, I'm surprised it's taken her this long to hear something like that, given the political climate. How did you react to that?"
"Broke a plate...very nearly laid into her, but...I just told her not to say it again. I just wasn't expecting it. She's too little to say ugly things like that..."
"She won't say it again, if you told her not to."
She sat down and put her feet in his lap. "Mhm..."
"So why is it still bothering you?"
"She just tossed it out so easily, so naturally. It was like...like..."
"Like you used to?"
She nodded, remembering childish voices-
Are there really mudbloods at Hogwarts, Bella?
We say mudblood because that's what they are, Sirius.
Of course I don't associate with mudbloods, just a pity they allow them in school at all.
"Andy?" he pulled her out of those thoughts. "It's just a word, love."
"No, it's a whole...a whole attitude. The way we tossed it around. I called people that, I called you that."
"I remember. It didn't bother me then, and it doesn't now. You didn't know any more than Dora did that it was supposed to hurt. It's just a word, Andy."
"I know, I just...I'm sorry..."
"No, no...Andy, you don't have to apologize to me, not for that." He leaned over and kissed her lightly. "Although if you really want to apologize for calling me names, you might apologize for what you called me last week when I let Dora fingerpaint the dining room wall..."
"No, I stand by that."