Spoilers: All seven Harry Potter books. Post-Deathly Hallows.
Disclaimer: All characters involved were created by J.K. Rowling and I'm far too poor to buy them from her.
Act 1: Inhale
You bring the baby with you.
You realize it is rather distasteful and in a saner world, you would never have dreamed of doing so. But the fact of the matter is that there is no one else left to look after Teddy. He has to stay with you. You would much rather have stayed at home and taken care of your grandson, would have happily gone on ignoring the way your world was falling apart around you, but you can't.
There is no one else left to claim the bodies.
The grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have been protected from almost the moment the school was built. You understand the rational. It probably saved more than one life earlier tonight, when it prevented fools from Apparating directly into the battle and instead forced them to make the same long trek that you find yourself currently travelling. You hate the thought of following in their footsteps, you've never been one for crowds, but you can't stop yourself from thinking of them. Maybe this was inevitable after all. Yes, it does feel preordained. Walking through the cool air in the faint early morning light with a child in your arms, destiny weighs down so heavily you aren't always sure you'll be able to keep going.
You try not to shiver among your fellow pilgrims as you walk towards the school, the last stand of the Dark Lord that was now a mass grave, a final testament to his awesome power. The witches and wizards around you must have been friends and family of the other casualties of war, but you feel no kinship with them. Rather, you long to order them to leave, to demand that they remove themselves and take away the looks that attempt to convey understanding. You want to be left alone to suffer in peace. The masses have never understood you and you have moved so far beyond their realm it really seems a futile effort to try and reconnect now.
The crying around you, however muffled, is beginning to bother Teddy and you are not sure you can keep him quiet if he were to begin to wail. The others are staring at your grandson and you glare back as imperiously as you can. The result is impressive; you did have the best teachers, after all.
Even if you had a choice about bringing Teddy, the crowd should realize that just because it was the end of the world, it doesn't mean they can abandon their manners. You think it is strange that you should sound so much like the mother you despised, now that you are just as empty as she was. You have always tried to be honest with yourself and sometimes you look back and wish you had been a little less so. But it is too late for that, so you find yourself admitting that if Druella Black was ever right about anything in her life, it was in regards to the disintegrating etiquette of the world at large.
Ted had been amused by your observance of strange, outdated protocol. The thought has no relevance to your current journey and you are surprised at its arrival. You are not surprised by the lack of fondness the memory holds. Ever since the Ministry was taken over by Death Eaters and Ted was forced to flee for his life, you find yourself unable to recollect your husband tenderly. The affection should return once your ordeal is over. If there is an end.
Undisturbed by your thoughts, since nothing has managed to disturb you lately, you continue walking. Finally, the old, battered castle emerges before you. Hogwarts has been beaten and then forced to witness the most ferocious fight in the wizarding world since the fall of Grindelwald and yet it still remains. For all that the Death Eaters have tried to destroy this last light of defiance, Hogwarts still stands. You suspect that even magic will not be able to restore the castle to even a tiny remnant of its former glory.
You fight back tears and force yourself through the splinters that had once protected the Great Hall. Teddy shifts but does not wake.
Inside the castle there is pandemonium. Families are hugging, friends are crying, forgotten acquaintances are shouting across the hall. Everyone is reaffirming their own survival. You are getting a headache.
You pull the hood of your cloak down to better survey the room. It would have been amusing at how quickly the looks around you went from curious to fearful to relieved but you can only feel annoyance that even dead Bellatrix still manages to be an inconvenience. Your resemblance had never been anything other than superficial, but with paranoia running high lately you had been taken for the Death Eater almost constantly. With Teddy in your arms, at least no one has acted on that first fearful impulse.
You search through the crowd, not caring when the eyes eventually recede. It's not difficult for you to pick out those in charge. You still have enough friends in strange places to keep yourself well informed. But your eyes travel through Kingsley Shacklebolt because you are not here for the Minister for Magic.
You are here for your daughter.
The makeshift morgue is easy enough to find. Pushing your way through the crowd to arrive there is more difficult, but even in their stupor, the crowds part for you. That at least is normal. When you were young, your beauty and blood attracted attention. Later it was because of your infamy, because no one had ever suspected the Blacks capable of what you had done. You have always been some sort of oddity. This is the first time it bothers you.
You wish you could want to be one of those people crying tears of joy, held in the warm arms of those who love them. It would be easier, you suspect, and maybe Teddy would not seem to be made of stone. But you have always been Andromeda Tonks. So you move forward, pace steady, and announce yourself.
There is a flurry of activity. Minerva McGonagall is in charge. She has been at Hogwarts a long time now—she taught you Transfiguration and made you wish you were an Animagus. Ted was in your N.E.W.T. class. You pretended to need help so he could tutor you, because...it had seemed like a good idea at the time. You probably wouldn't have fallen in love half as hard if he hadn't seen right through you.
You thought McGonagall could see through desktops, but now you realize it was merely a childish fantasy. Still, you find yourself admiring her. There are corpses on the floor wrapped in vibrant red and gold flags and yet McGonagall looks you in the eyes as always. Her wrinkled face has rivets running through it, but her voice does not waver as she greets you. She is polite and you want to smile, except you've forgotten how. She gestures for you to come and you are grateful because you haven't heard a word anyone has said to you since your daughter rushed off to never come back again.
You see the werewolf first, and you almost turn around right then. His face is unmarked and he seems happy in a way you cannot ever remember seeing him in life. Maybe he simply chose not to show you his joy. You could understand that. You resent him just the same.
Sirius introduced you...how many years ago? Too long. You didn't remember meeting him right away, the second time you met. It was shameful how little you recalled ten years later, when your daughter introduced him as her husband. Back then, you had liked him. Sirius needed quiet friends. What a difference time can make! Or maybe it was your daughter who was difference. Your cousin's quiet friend is a much different proposition than your daughter's much older werewolf husband, of that you are quite sure.
It is Remus's fault. You don't dwell on the feeling, but it is there and you won't pretend it isn't. There isn't anyone to pretend for. When Teddy can understand the words you say you will pick them carefully. His father will be a noble man, brave and determined to give his son a better life. It is the truth and you are sure Teddy will appreciate the caricature. When Teddy can read your face you will no longer think that his father was a coward who used your daughter abominably and then called her to her death. But your thoughts are your own for now and you let yourself cling to them a little longer.
They have placed the werewolf's wife beside him, but you don't begrudge him that. It is what she would have wanted. She was headstrong, your girl, and perhaps a little spoiled. You like to think she wasn't. Ted may have been more lenient than you could be, but she was not the type to exploit weakness. There was nothing much of you in her. She was warm and bright like her father. Her clumsiness was almost a foreign language to you. Everything about her was new and different, everything but the need to fight, to prove. It was you who got her killed, not Ted, though it was his blood that made it necessary for everyone to fight.
She is beautiful, your daughter. Lying beside the werewolf with her serene face you know it is not bias talking. It is fact. She is lovely in death and you find yourself holding almost too tightly to poor little Teddy. You can remember when she was the size that Teddy is now, when you could hold her as you hold him, when you could whisper words into tiny ears and have laughing eyes glance back at you. She was a beautiful baby, your Nymphadora.
Nymphadora. You can call her that now that she is dead. It was a rather dreadful name—pretentious, long and requiring the syllables be stressed in strange ways. Your mother must have had an apoplectic fit when she found out her unofficial granddaughter's name. It would have been too earthy a name for the stellar Blacks. It was why you had chosen it, after all. It grew on you as it never did her. It made you smile to hear everyone call her Tonks. You had wanted to spite your family and she had managed it in a way that was even more appropriate and that made you almost ashamed. There was no vengeance in your daughter. She was a beautiful woman. She would have made a good mother.
As it is, there is only you. The skills are rusty and you were never that good to begin with. Waking Teddy up takes only moments, moments that should be filled with doubt but are not. You never could afford doubt and now you can't afford anything at all.
"This is your mother and father," you say to a babe that cannot understand. You only hope he can remember. "They were very brave people."
Teddy looks and reaches out one pudgy arm instinctively towards the body of a woman who used to hold him with love. Gently, you take his hand and kiss his brow.
You whisper but it still comes out as a command.
Awake now, Teddy begins to become more alert. You allow this, until he begins to make noise. Only then do you slip the bottle out of your robes and feed it to him. Chances are Teddy Lupin will remember nothing of his parents. But you had to try. You owed it to Nymphadora and even Remus. Teddy falls asleep on your shoulder, victim of a sleeping draught, and you turn your eyes once more on his parents.
There should be tears. It seems strange that there are none. You loved your daughter, you are quite certain, even if you cannot remember the sensation. And you did like the werewolf, if only because he almost reminded you of you. You are sorry they are dead. But there are no tears.
McGonagall doesn't say anything, but in her silence you read no judgement and once more you wish you could smile at her. The arrangements you have made pour from your lips and she nods in the appropriate places. She will see to it, she promises. You believe her. She points a place that you can rest before you leave. The way she says it doesn't bruise your ego so you relent because you have been feeling very tried lately.
You don't make it to the table undisturbed.
Harry Potter is a brave boy. Harry Potter is a good boy. You were not very polite with him, but you still admire him and wished him well every night as the world collapsed. Harry Potter is an orphaned boy. But even that would not have frozen you in place when he approached since you felt no need for company.
But he is Teddy's godfather and what's done is done. Doing right by Teddy is all you can think of doing, so you do it.
His voice is respectful, but he can't help sounding just a little bit entitled. It is only natural. He has saved the wizarding world after all. Being everyone's saviour should provide him with a few extra perks and you can indulge him this.
"I'm very sorry."
You make suitable replies to his babbling. It would not do to seem ungrateful, because that is not true. You are sure you appreciate his gesture of respect, would gladly take the hand he offers in friendship, if only you could think properly. It is a considerate sign and you would not refuse it, even if you were capable of being contrary at this time. But you can't understand most of what he is saying. You don't want to. His memories of your daughter cannot be complete and you don't want to hear any more about the werewolf.
As he walks away you admire the strength in his stride, the way he holds his head high. Harry Potter is really an amazing person. That he should want to help out with your grandson—anyway he can, please Mrs Tonks—his regard is a great honour.
The resentment bubbles before you can stop it. You hear your mother's voice, a curse you thought you were finally rid of. She is telling you of the great honours you can bring on your family. It was so ingrained in your childhood that you can no longer accept anything with grace. His intrusion, however, well-meaning, seems suddenly just like one of those invitations to tea with those horrid pureblood snobs that you received all the time when you were younger. It is a chain and you have always rebelled against that.
And just when you feel the urge to smash your head against the unbreakable stone of the Great Hall, because anything would be better than hearing your mother's voice, you see her. They have separated the bodies, so you didn't notice her at first. But now she's all you can see.
Bellatrix Lestrange. The Dark Lord's right hand. Dead at the hands of Molly Weasley. Already the story has become legend and you know you won't be able to stand hearing it much more. The Death Eater still seems to be laughing, partial smile on an emaciated face. It makes you sick.
That is how you will look when you are dead. Maybe not the expression, but the resemblance, even after all this time, really is uncanny. Her hair was always a fraction darker and yours is undoubtedly cleaner, but besides that the features really are almost identical. It is almost reassuring to see what a handsome corpse you will make.
There is no sadness, staring at this body. There was a time when Bellatrix was your relation but it is long past. It lasted a little longer than Bellatrix thought, but not by much. Everyone must know it ended the moment you found out about the Longbottoms, but really it ended when Sirius was arrested. That moment, when you thought he had chosen her over you, pride over love, when you thought she had won, the thin strand of sisterhood had finally snapped.
Now Bellatrix is dead and you feel nothing.
Maybe nothing is the wrong expression. There is a little bit of satisfaction at viewing the corpse. She killed Sirius, after all. He had just returned from the dead and you had only taken a first, small step towards reconciliation, when she killed him. He had been the only blood relation you had—great Uncle Alphard had once sent you money, but you had given it to charity because you didn't want his money without his conversation. It really had almost killed you when you thought Sirius had murdered the Potters, when you thought your blood really was cursed. No one had bothered to enlighten you otherwise. Nymphadora had let the information slip only by accident. No one understood how painful Sirius's seeming betrayal had been. You hadn't told anyone, and you had survived, but it still hurts to remember.
The time, only a few months ago, when she tortured you for information on Harry Potter hurt less. You still don't know why she didn't take the opportunity to just kill you off, though you are glad that delight was at least denied her. If someone is going to kill you, you would rather them earn the honour somehow. It's strange to think she set foot in the home of an inferior just to torture you, but didn't bother to kill you. Then again, you never really understood her.
Death would have been a small revenge for all those years of not knowing. The only regret you have is that she didn't survive the battle long enough to be Kissed. If anyone deserved to meet the Dementors, it was Bellatrix.
It is in this rare moment of familial reflection that you see her. She is sitting at one of the tables in the Great Hall. It used to be the Slytherin table, predictably enough. The blonde woman is fussing over a thin boy with a haunted look on his face. Her hands never leave the boy, whether she is fixing his robes, clutching his hand, or brushing his hair. The boy lets her. He is sitting rigidly beside a man with dead eyes. Father and son sit side-by-side, shoulders pasted together and their eyes remain on one another.
The family glues your eyes to them. They are an attractive bunch, despite the suffering splattered all over them. A complete family is a rare thing to see in this time of war and there is no doubt that it is complete family. They are united, despite or because of the way the rest of the hall stares. Father, Mother, Son...they are not leaving each other's sides. It might as well be stitched on their clothing, it is that apparent to you. The rest of the hall seems to agree—no one has dared to try and separate them yet, though Shacklebolt and the other Aurors are watching them carefully.
They are the Malfoy family. You have never met Draco Malfoy, seventeen and already infamous in the wizarding world for his completely accidental yet no less essential assist in defeating the Dark Lord. He might not even know you exist even if he is technically your nephew. He looks like a weak, inconsequential teenager and you feel no pity for him. He was presented with the same choice you were and if he wasn't strong enough to make the right decision you won't spare him much emotion.
Lucius Malfoy is his father, a strict yet doting man you have heard. Too ambitious for a talentless son. He was a few years above you in school and friends with many of your friends. The two of you were never more than acquaintances, but you were more than civil. And then you were nothing.
He went to Azkaban and you are not sorry he lived his greatest fears over and over. Perhaps because you knew the man when you agreed with what he still believes in, but you never thought his other crimes that hideous. But he put his family in danger and that you cannot forgive.
But she can. It is obvious from the way she still looks at him with those adoring eyes, Narcissa Malfoy loves her husband. She holds no grudges for his weakness, for their suffering. She only wants to go home and be with her family.
Narcissa was once your family.
It is the closest to smiling you have come to in days. Once upon a time you would have died for Mrs Malfoy. Now you watch them and can barely contain your disgust. She is simple and pathetic and ruined and it causes quite a blow to your pride to think she could have once mattered to you. It hurts worse because you had once held such hope for Narcissa, who didn't hate you like the rest. Her silence was not cold like the others and was much preferable to Bellatrix's screams. You always thought that there could be some sort of a reconciliation, or at least an attempt at being civil, somewhere in the future once the crowd of old judges had conveniently gotten themselves killed or arrested.
That fantasy had lasted much longer than you want to admit. Long after it should have. You were still dreaming of a reunion as Narcissa plotted Sirius's death. That's when you finally realized that when you died, only you Nymphadora and Ted would care.
Your vision swims as you stare at them. You are invisible as always, but you can no longer see them clearly. There are no tears. You didn't cry for Ted, you won't cry for the Malfoys. But you feel so angry you can't see. Jaw clenched, you try not to scream. It wouldn't do to frighten Teddy.
When you were a child your parents not only bred you for competition, but nurtured those feelings, turning you into a bloodthirsty challenger. Bellatrix threw tantrums when she lost and Narcissa cried dainty tears, but you turned stony and silent and sulked until you had a new triumph to boast about. It seems funny that a tiny part of you remains that spoiled Black girl that you hate.
For you have lost and Narcissa has won and you are not sure how you will survive such a crushing blow. You're not sure you want to.
The rest of the Great Hall may not see it that way. The Aurors who circle her give you wide berth. Harry Potter has personally thanked you for your sacrifice and people look at you with respect. Minerva McGonagall clasped you on the back and if that isn't a sign that you are important than you wouldn't be able to recognize the wizarding world anymore. Meanwhile, you can hear the whispers about the Malfoy family, the mutterings and the curses. No one wishes them well, even if they can't stomach doing them harm. They are disgraced. It is only a matter of time before the Ministry confiscates as much of the Malfoy fortune as it can. Narcissa is virtually a prisoner and yet she has still won.
You wonder if she realizes it. Probably, if the way she smiles at her husband is any indication. Her thoughts may not dwell on you, but you are sure she knows that she has won a great victory over many on this day.
Long ago you traded your family for a better one, one you could love without feeling guilty. Narcissa learned to live with the guilt or to ignore it all together and there she sits, surrounded by love, while you hold a sleeping child to your breast and try not to glance at the body of your daughter.
You hate Narcissa.
No longer are you emotions dulled. There is a sharpness that you have not felt in quite some time but it is not unwelcome. Something solidifies within you and somehow you find the strength to stand up. The fire is back and you refuse to burn alone any longer.
Until it happens you have no exact plan. It was likely that creating some sort of scene might have satisfied you. But by the time you make your way over, the Aurors have beaten you to it. They are talking to the Malfoys in quiet tones. You spot Harry Potter in the crowd, not saying anything, wanting to be elsewhere, but doing his duty. Teddy would do well to learn from his godfather.
The problem is easy to understand from even the fragments of conversation you overhear. The Malfoys cannot be released without supervision, not until some sort of investigation has been completed, but there is a reluctance to send them back to prison. It takes no great empath to see that Lucius would rather die than return to Azkaban. The debate could go on for hours. You know bureaucracy well.
Speaking up wasn't part of the plan, but the words please you when you hear yourself say them. There is resistance, but you know how to get what you want. You always have. It is easy to dismiss doubts now, especially since your grandson's parents the martyrs of the hour. In the end, the Aurors agree with your plan.
"I'll watch them."