The killings begin to gain publicity in the Wizarding world when Sirius is in his fifth year; the lines have been drawn and Sirius wants answers.
Although he has been forbidden to visit his cousin after she ran off with Ted Tonks, he does in any case, whenever he can get away and not be missed.
He seeks her out now because he knows that she will give him the full truth, mostly uncolored by any bias. He is home for the winter holidays, and under the pretense of visiting Rabastan Lestrange – something that, if his parents knew him at all, they would easily deduce to be a lie – he hurries to Andromeda's house, hiring someone to take him there through Side-Along Apparition.
"Hey, Andy," he says, taking a seat before waiting for an invitation. She rolls her eyes affectionately as he reaches for a biscuit out of the tin lying on the table. "These are awful, incidentally," he declares, grinning.
"Shut up," she says, but she smiles, happy to have him there. "Ted usually makes these, but he's away on business," she offers as an explanation upon observing the amount of time it takes him to chew them. "Anyway, how are you? How are things at Hogwarts? Your friends?" It is a familiar routine with them, the barrage of questions, and Sirius likes it, enjoys that someone takes interest in the things and people that he is proud of, but today he is here for something else.
"All good," he says dismissively. "Listen, Andy – about the killings…what's going on?"
Her smile fades. "It's a movement begun by pure-bloods," she begins, after a moment's deliberation. She makes it clear by the way she spits out the word "pure-bloods" that she does not mean the mild, compromising, and in Sirius's opinion, sane pure-bloods that still accept Andromeda even though she has been disowned. Andromeda is talking about pure-bloods like Bellatrix and Rodolphus Lestrange. "There's a man leading them – the Dark Lord. I met him once." The bitterness in her voice – the bitterness that she usually hides so well – disturbs him somewhat.
"Bella introduced me," Andromeda says quietly. Sirius has noticed that she always speaks in a quiet voice about her past and her sisters, and he knows better than to pry. He would like to know more, but he lets it drop, permitting her to continue. "For a while, he's been dormant, mostly," Andromeda continues, her voice back to its normal volume. "Gathering followers, appearing mostly reasonable. I think, to those who were very devoted, he might have divulged his real plans." Sirius knows without a doubt that she means Bella; the stricken way she speaks the words and the refusal to meet his eyes are the only indicators he needs.
"Did you know?" Sirius asks, before he can stop himself.
Andromeda fixes her gaze on him. "Are you accusing me of supporting the Dark Lord?" she asks, playfully, but there is a serious undertone to her words, and also, if he's not mistaken, a layer of hurt. For them, any indication that they are like their family is a wound, words that hurt them more than any conventional insult.
"Of course not," he says quickly, in his most reconciliatory voice.
She nods. "I did, from bits and pieces that Bella told me," she admits, her voice quiet again. Clearing her throat to subtly indicate she is done talking about her own personal involvement, she continues. "Now that he has enough loyal support, who will follow him no matter what, he has come into the open with his true plans. He's not some gentle reformer, who wants to change the world through legislature. He's going to use violence, Sirius."
Sirius feels a thrill of excitement, despite himself. He has always known that there has been tension building two factions; all of his life he has felt it, beginning with the way his parents would criticize Muggle-born-friendly laws. Now, it seems, it is finally going to become something.
"This is a war," Andromeda says. Sirius wonders how she knows it will be so serious, but says nothing. He believes her; she spent quite a bit of her time with Bellatrix previously, and from what he has guessed, Bellatrix is in Lord Voldemort's inner circle. It's easy to imagine, when he thinks about it. He can clearly see his proud, powerful cousin trying to seize control of the world to put her stamp on it. In a way, he'd always known that she would never be content to let life pass her by. It had always been that way for him, as well.
Brushing off that disturbing thought, Sirius smiles at her, trying to alleviate the mood for both of them. "I'll have to decide which side I'm on," he tells her, though he already knows. His political views align themselves with his friends' far more than his family's, and it is plain to almost everyone.
It doesn't help, for she turns to him with a grim smile. "I think the whole world will be picking sides soon," she predicts.
"Sirius, what the hell have you done?"
"Picked a side, Andromeda. Just like you did."
Andromeda exhales. "It's not the same, Sirius. I ran away because I had someone to run towards – I had a plan. What do you have?"
He smiles at her. "Good, plain luck."
She can't help but smile.
Usually, after someone graduates from Hogwarts, their older friends and family will greet them at King's Cross after they step off the train for the last time, arms laden with presents. When Sirius and the rest of his year walk onto the platform, there is somberness in the occasion. Andromeda, standing on the platform, can see that that the old boundaries have become even more severe; the Slytherins hardly look at the other houses and vice-versa. Andromeda wonders where she fits in – a Slytherin, but not with the traditional pure-blood frame of mind. She hopes that somewhere, amidst all the green and silver of the newly graduated students of her house, there are people like her, and that they will have the courage to stand up to their fellows and not mindlessly accept what they've been told.
She walks over to Sirius as soon as she spots him, giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Congratulations," she whispered into his ear. "I still remember your Sorting, you were so young then…" She feels, irritatingly, that she is filling in for all of his other family members who are not present, and she doesn't like it, so instead of saying more in this vein, she laughs. "Quit making me feel so old, Sirius."
He laughs too, glad that she has stopped with the nostalgia. It isn't befitting for either of them to wax poetic about time long past when the future is right in front of them. "Thanks for coming, Andy." He glances around; no one else from his family is there, though several of his older friends are waiting for him. With another look around, to make sure that no one is listening, he adds, "You know that I don't really go for that sentimental shit – but I'm glad that I do have some family left." It is taxing for him to say, she can tell, as he possesses the same difficulty with expressing pure emotion that so many action-based people have, so she appreciates it all the more.
Andromeda gives him another hug, and watches him wander over to James, Remus, and Peter, and sees them greet their friends who graduated a year or two previously. She sees them laughing, and as always, finds it incredibly touching that even in the midst of war, family and friends can celebrate and forget about the killings happening around them, even for a moment.
Sirius comes to Andromeda and Ted's house every week for dinner, on Saturday nights, occasionally bringing James or Peter or Remus. Andromeda doesn't mind; she's grateful that Sirius trusts her enough to introduce her, a member of his much-reviled family, to his friends. It always strikes her as sad that a word with such warm connotations of joy and love has become so bitter in both of their mouths.
This evening, Ted and Nymphadora are shopping in Diagon Alley and it is just Sirius and herself.
"Any job opportunities yet?" she asks casually, wincing at the taste of her bitter soup. It is obvious how much the cuisine suffers when Ted isn't here, she notices. Sirius, she sees, has subtly pushed his bowl away, as if unable even to look at it.
He shakes his head, but a smile alights his face, illuminating his patrician features. With the setting shadows on his face from the light in the window, she can see the boundaries of brightness and shadow. "Something better, though," he says, trying and failing to suppress his ecstatic tone, and she wonders how hard it's been for him to hold this in the length of dinner.
"What is it?" she asks, genuinely curious, but somewhat frightened as well. Sirius's exciting ideas usually turn out to be dangerous to himself, his friends, or, on occasion, her, when he tries to perform them in front of her.
"I'm joining the Order of the Phoenix. Dumbledore asked me to, actually, which is really an honor-"
"What?" Andromeda asks, setting down her fork. The shiver that runs through her is irrepressible.
Sirius raises his eyebrow, as if annoyed at her ignorance. "The Order of the Phoenix is a group that-"
Andromeda cuts him off again, this time impatiently. "I know what the Order of the Phoenix is," she says. "But it's dangerous, Sirius, I don't think you really realize…"
"Of course I realize!" he says defensively. "I mean, I know what I'm doing. But this is right, Andromeda. James is joining too-"
"Are you just joining because of James? Because that's just silly." Andromeda knows that she's being illogical and unnecessarily argumentative, and realizes that what Sirius is doing is a good thing – but fear is gripping her, refusing to let her go. She doesn't think that she can handle losing another family member, not now or ever. She has an irrational hope of letting the war pass them by, with no crippling losses. After all, she thinks, hasn't she lost enough?
"Stop trying to be my fucking mother," Sirius snarls at her, his quick temper rising rapidly to the surface at the questioning of his motives. "Don't you remember how that worked out?"
Andromeda remains still, pulling herself up tall. This line of attack is foreign to her; Sirius has never truly insulted her, besides playful taunts now and then. She doesn't particularly know how to respond. She and Sirius were always connected by circumstance, afraid to alienate one another because they simply couldn't handle not having any family whatsoever. She had thought there was a tacit agreement between them that they wouldn't attack each other, especially not in this devastating way.
"I thought you were different from the rest of them," he says snidely, just to drive the point further in. Andromeda thinks that maybe it's him that's not so different from the rest of them: pushing a point further and further in, with the sole intention to wound. She doesn't say so, though, because she isn't like him. She isn't like them, she tells herself, as the desire to hurt him pulses through her, and she clenches her fists, trying to ignore it. Her nails dig deep into her palms.
"Get the fuck out of my house, Sirius," she says, in as calm a voice as she can muster. Her self-control gone, her hand is on her wand, and if he doesn't leave soon she will be sure to curse him. "Get the fuck out!" she repeats, this time in a powerful growl that reminds them both uncomfortably of Bellatrix.
He gives her a look of rage, but, eying her wand, he does as she asks.
"Sirius, I'm…I'm sorry, okay?"
He won't look at her. His anger has worn off, and has been replaced by disappointment. Just like he was disappointed in Regulus, in Narcissa. She supposes that that's a step: he doesn't despise her the way he detests Bellatrix. Not right now, anyway. There's still hope, she tells herself.
James had let her into their flat, and then hurried off, ignorant to the recent situation. Sirius had cast him a look of malevolence, probably for leaving him alone with a member of his family that Sirius had begun to categorize with all the rest, together a mixture of mud and grit comprising all the sins of the world. Andromeda is thankful that James, apparently, still thinks well of her.
"I know what you're doing is the right thing." She offers it as a truce, a peace offering. It's true; she's still scared for him, but she thinks that by disapproving and trying to convince him out of joining the Order, she'll lose him for good, and that is the last thing that she wants. Sirius is smart, and he has luck on his side, she has reminded herself. He'll take care of himself. He's not a child anymore; he's just as much an adult as she is, and it's time that she recognized it.
He shakes his head, finally relenting. She takes an inward sigh of relief as she sees his icy barrier begin to melt, then flood. "Andromeda, I know it's dangerous. I do. But in these times, where kids are getting killed and their parents are being tortured before their eyes, we have to make a stand. And this way…"
"What?" she asks, after he is silent for a moment. It isn't prying, nor is it curious. It is only encouraging. After all, it's rhetoric that she's heard continually from her friends who are involved in the campaign against the Dark Lord, but she can tell that he really believes it. For him, it's a way to know who he is, apart from all the mania espoused by his parents which he has rejected.
He hesitates, before finally sighing and hoping that she understands. "This way, I know that I'm not like them."
And she does, understands it better than anyone, and she respects it. She nods. "Then I wish you success," she says. She knows how paramount it is to be different from the rest of them, and to make sure others know it. She understands what it's like to have others look at her and think Black before they think Andromeda. She begins to leave the flat, but he calls back to her.
"Why don't you join the Order, Andy?" he says. She isn't sure if it's genuine curiosity or condemnation. She sighs.
"I'm not like you, Sirius. I want to protect my family, and if it comes down to killing someone who directly threatens me, I will. I won't actively seek out Death Eaters, though; I won't leave Nymphadora without a mother." The vehemence in the last clause, she hopes, will persuade him not to question her further, not to try to instill guilt within her that can too easily be dragged to the surface.
"Even if you're making this place better for her?" he says. He can be very persuasive, but Andromeda is set on the issue.
"I can't, Sirius. I'm sorry." She looks at Sirius, and hopes that he can see in her eyes the other reason, that she cannot say: that she, at least, can only run so far from her family and what she's been taught before her legs get tired. She isn't like him, or like Bella; she doesn't gravitate towards the extremes. She has found her place in the world, and doesn't want another upheaval.
She can see that he understands; she cannot tell whether he is disappointed in her or whether he accepts it. She receives her answer in his next words.
"Your place, next Saturday, the usual time?" he asks tentatively, almost shyly. She remembers, in an oddly surreal epiphany, that he really is an eighteen year old boy.
She knows that it is his way of apologizing, and she accepts.
"Don't be late," she says, but she turns back and grins at him.
"Someday," he says, reclining back on her nicest, most comfortable and well-cushioned chair, "this war will be over." He, Andromeda, and Ted all have had their fair share of wine; Ted has gone to bed early, leaving Sirius and Andromeda lazily relaxing in the sitting room.
Sirius spreads his legs across the chair next to his; Andromeda laughs. "That chair is going to stink," she warns him, but without much force behind her words. The truth is, she loves him when he's being light-hearted, because she doesn't want to think of the possibility of him being consumed by the genetic darkness that looms over both of them.
He fixes her with a charming smile. "Of course it won't," he reassures her.
"I think I know what my chair will do." She hesitates, attempting to think over her words and to perhaps rephrase them more logically, but he's already responded, and she decides to let it go.
"Well, even if they do, I won't be the one dealing with a smelly chair," he points out.
She rolls her eyes. "I suppose that in the midst of all this war, a smelly chair is the least thing to worry about," she muses.
This brings him back to his original point; Sirius beams at her for unintentionally reminding him of it. "A party," he says.
"What?" she asks, unsure of what he is saying. Sirius, especially when drunk, talks the way he acts – without reason or any kind of sequential order. He simply expects everyone else to keep up with the mania of his thought process.
"A party. For celebrating, after the war."
"Ah." It's such a ridiculous concept that she doesn't know what else to say, but she decides to humor him. It's an incongruous idea, balancing it with the realities of war. She thinks that after this is over, she might want to lie in her bed and look out the window without fear, but his idea holds a certain appeal. It's a kind of defensive, rebellious action that shows the world that they are still young and powerful and no one can take those traits away from them, no amount of horrors will scar them. She wants to believe it.
He grins, a dreamy smile spreading across his face, unaware that his audience is not quite as enthusiastic about the idea as he. "There'll be alcohol of all kinds-"
"Key to any celebration," she agrees.
"And music and Muggle bands and Chocolate Frogs and dancing and balloons and fireworks and strippers."
Andromeda rolls her eyes, caught up in his vision in spite of herself. Thinking of a celebration is easier than thinking about war, anyway. "I think I'll have to bail on the last one," she says.
Sirius gives a mock gasp. "But Andy, that's the best part!"
She laughs, as always amused by him. He laughs too, that easy, rich laugh that always lightens the mood of a room. She loves it when he laughs; it can almost make her forget that there is a war waging outside of this idyll.
Eventually their laughter dies away as they run out of outlandish suggestions to throw at the other (hot air balloons that could take them to Asia and back, flowers that will grow all the way up to the sky in minutes, new breeds of animals created just for the occasion). The new tone isn't not somber, exactly, but it's slightly more serious. "Really, though, Andy," Sirius says, "we'll celebrate as soon as we've won this damn thing."
She grins at him. "Deal."
"Andy, I think that there's a spy."
Her attention immediately caught, she sits completely still and waits for more. Although neither she nor Ted are in the Order, she is aware of the danger this poses to her cousin.
"Why do you think that?" she asks quietly.
Sirius sighs, running his hand through his hair. "Ambushes, and a lot of them. It's no coincidence; we were willing to overlook it the first two times. Distrust isn't something that we want to foster, or even consider – we're all friends, and it's just tough to believe someone would do that." Andromeda can still detect a trace of disbelief in his voice, as if because of his own loyalty it is impossible anyone else can have a personality more apt to betraying the Order for personal gain.
"What are you going to do?" Andromeda asks.
He shrugs. "Not much we can do, until we figure out who it is. James and Dumbledore are against using any kind of trap to figure it out; they say that the moment we start being suspicious of our own is the moment that we've lost the war. So I don't really know."
Andromeda has to stop herself from scoffing. The very fact that there is a war means that desperate actions need to be taken, but she doesn't want to put Sirius on the defensive, as he will feel obligated to be if she attacks the beliefs of his best friend and leader of the Order. Instead, she attempts to state her opinion non-aggressively, while still conveying its importance. "It's a war, though," she says, priding herself on her diplomacy. "I understand where they're coming from, but if there is a spy, there are already going to be suspicions."
Sirius nods, and she breathes a sigh of relief inside, glad at her tact. "Exactly. James thinks that I'm being overly rash, or something like that, but I don't care. I don't want to lose everything because we're hanging on to some moral code that's completely useless in a war." There is harshness in his voice, mixed with fear. Treachery from the inside is much more frightening to him than an open, outside threat.
Andromeda thinks of Sirius's unrelenting loyalty to his friends, a loyalty and conviction that caused him to leave behind his family and his own beliefs. "I'm sorry that you have to go through this," she says gently.
He looks down at the table, fixing his gaze on his hands. "Yeah, I am too."
The last night before the turning point, it is a Saturday and he is over for dinner, as usual. He makes Nymphadora laugh with his tales of his antics at Hogwarts, and Andromeda is, as always, grateful that he can make their daughter laugh so easily. That was one of the things they were afraid of, raising a child in the middle of the war – that Dora would grow up battle-scarred by no fault of her own. They are glad to see, through her happy manner and character, that it is not the case.
Sirius laughs and jokes and acts like himself, even though it looks like he hasn't slept for days and his voice is throaty from lack of sleep. When Andromeda asks him about it, he says that he's been on Order business; Andromeda sometimes wonders what he'll do when the war is over and he doesn't have his cause anymore. She supposes that he will help to rebuild, but what after? She worries about him, sometimes, the same way she used to worry about Bella. Bella, she thinks, is now irredeemable, but she believes that Sirius can be more than just a soldier in this war.
She hugs him that night, and tells him that she'll see him next week and to take care of himself.
It is the morning after; the war ends and Andromeda thinks it is terribly unfair that Sirius isn't here to celebrate with her, the way they had planned with such gusto.
Then she remembers, thinks of all of that evidence against him that no one can push away or ignore however much they want to, and hates herself for continuing to think of him that way.
Years pass and Andromeda tries to forget about him. It's not altogether successful, though she tries to delude herself by not mentioning his name, and eventually the rest of the Wizarding world ceases to do so as well. He is a statistic for the research of the effects on Dementor presence on inmates, at worst a name that erupts in the papers every now and then, a story told by pure-blood parents of what happens when you betray your family: you get fed on by Dementors for the rest of your life. They conveniently forget about the other pure-bloods who also end up in Azkaban who did everything right, according to their parents.
But small things remind her of her lost cousin: any time Azkaban is mentioned, her mind immediately jolts to images of him rotting away in a cell, of decay and rats biting at his toes and graying hair. She can practically see him grow thinner and paler and duller before her eyes, and for a moment, her heart will always go out to him, before she tells herself that he deserves it, that he's a murderer and a traitor of the worst kind.
A traitor that she still loves, that she still, somehow, regards as family, the same way she was never able to completely condemn Bella.
And just like she feels about Bella, in a way she mourns him as if he were dead, as if he died that night along with Lily and James Potter and the Dark Lord. The cousin that she knew died that night, and she has no desire to acquaint herself with the stranger in his place.
In Azkaban, Sirius doesn't let himself look forward to visitors, but occasionally he allows himself to think about who could visit him. And in the beginning, he really, truly thinks that she won't believe what they've told her about him. He wants her to believe in him, thinks that she knows him well enough to know that it's all a lie.
He thinks that she will visit him here and ask him what really happened, and he will tell her and they both might cry and she'll do everything she can to get him out of here. It's his only hope, that he tries to cherish before the Dementors and the elapsing of time take it away from him as they destroy him, unforgivably and unstoppably.
Eventually he loses all hope, realizing in despair that she has abandoned him. At first he tries to make himself angry, but he has lost the energy for rage. He can hardly blame her; if he had heard she had betrayed her closest friends and turned to the side of the Dark Lord, he wouldn't visit her either. But the idea was so foreign, completely something that Andromeda would never do. He had hoped, maybe foolishly, that the accusations against him would ring so false to Andromeda that she might trust instinct over what looked to be reliable evidence.
Years pass, and she never comes to visit.
When she looks at the newspaper and sees that he has escaped Azkaban, her hand begins to shake so much that her too-full cup of coffee spills some of its contents on the table, staining it. Absently she takes a napkin to wipe it off, mostly unsuccessfully. Her hand, too, is burnt by the hot liquid, and she presses her mouth to it to clean it.
Ted comes down a minute or so later, and as soon as he sees the headline he is beside her, his arm around her waist in a characteristic gesture of support that she craves right now, and she loves him for providing it. "It'll be all right, Andy," he promises, though he doesn't even know her feelings on it yet – and truth be told, they are so mixed that she couldn't explain them even if she tried.
"No," she says quietly. "It won't be." It isn't all right, because there was a small rush of happiness, once the news sunk in, that her cousin – who so loved being free – is no longer caged. It is something that she berates herself for thinking. Whether he is free or sent back to Azkaban, she will never be completely happy.
Not for the first time, she wishes that she had noticed a sign of his future treachery and talked to him about it all those years ago, prevented this before it happened. She wishes for it fiercely now. She thinks of all the lost possibilities, the moments where she could have changed things, with a kind of furious helplessness, so she just leans into Ted closer and tries to be thankful for the choices she has made which have given her all that she has now.
There is tension building, just as it built before. Andromeda has seen it all play out years ago, and she knows how this will go as well. The repetition is eerie, as is the feeling of déjà vu, and she hopes fervently that the same number of deaths, the same amount of misery, will not follow.
She hears the claims of the Boy Who Lived, and she believes him. She supposes that it isn't so much of a shock; there was never an air of finality to the after-war celebrations, though she previously attributed it to celebrating the victory without Sirius, the way she had planned to. The parties all seemed as if they were celebrating winning a battle, not the war itself.
What did come as a shock was Nymphadora telling her that Sirius was, in fact, innocent, explaining to her the true story in her overdramatic way, but Andromeda scarcely listens to the manner in which it is told, desperate for the information itself. It is entirely consistent with what Sirius had gleaned about the spy, something Andromeda previously assumed he had concocted to ward suspicion off of himself.
Andromeda remembers the jumble of mixed emotions she felt when Sirius escaped; how she feels now is even more complicated, but the predominant emotion is guilt. Guilt that she believed Sirius could ever betray his friends, that she thought so poorly of his ability to resist the family pull towards darkness. Guilt that she never once went to visit him in Azkaban, to hear his story and guilt over the lost years that they could have had together, where he must have believed that she despised him. Listening to her daughter tell his tragic saga, Andromeda knows she would have believed it. Anything would have been more plausible than believing him of murder.
She resists the urge to see him for weeks, then months, afraid of some kind of confrontation and of facing her guilt. Eventually, urged on by Ted and Nymphadora's rather unsubtle suggestions, it is March when she raises the courage to see him. She takes great care with her appearance, wanting to make a good impression, then abandons the effort as she thinks of how he must look.
He is a shell of a man; she thinks that he embodies all the forgotten havoc that the First War wreaked, the destruction that could not be repaired. There are familiar features there, but he's so unmistakably different that she could understand a friend from his Hogwarts years not recognizing him. It is as if he has collapsed in on himself sometime during those years of isolation, and she wishes she had been there to prevent it. It's like the worst kind of Greek tragedy, she thinks, one where fate is simply against the protagonists.
For a moment, he stares at her and she sees emptiness and tragedy in his gray eyes. It's too much for her to bear, and it makes her feel even more ashamed that he has had to carry this burden alone.
"I am so sorry, Sirius," she whispers brokenly as she crosses the room and hugs him, abandoning words in favor of actions.
To her surprise, he immediately hugs her back. Perhaps years of solitude have reduced his pride; why wouldn't they have? Nevertheless, she is more grateful than she can say for the easy forgiveness.
"Dora told me what really happened," she says. "Sirius, I'm sorry-" She wants to make things right, to remove all doubt, to clear away all the wrongs of the past and start new. To prune this situation the way she prunes the weeds in her garden, cut away all the bitterness and tragedy in her life. She doesn't want to consider the possibility that it can't be done.
"Don't apologize," he says, cutting her off. "I'm just glad that you're here now."
She comes back every Saturday evening to his house after receiving permission from Albus Dumbledore, in a bizarre reversal of roles. She invites Ted to come with her sometimes, just the way he used to bring his friends to see her.
"You know," she says, one dinner, when it is just the two of them, "we never got to have our celebration." She hopes that it will raise his spirits rather than lower them; these days she is never too sure of what the effect of a reminiscent statement will be. Being in this house, she thinks, is not helping him at all; she's not sure if he could continue with his life after thirteen years in Azkaban, but this house ensures that he will not. It was a cage for him back when he was fifteen, and age has not changed the house, nor his own feelings toward it.
Thankfully, she sees a smile cross his face. "I remember, mostly," he says. "But remind me?" It's a plea that she can answer, and she takes up the challenge with a kind of desperate enthusiasm.
"Well," she says, "there were going to be fireworks, and balloons, and…"
"Strippers, right?" he asks. His smile widens infinitesimally, and she can see the whisper of the young man he once was.
She laughs, mostly out of relief. "Yes."
His face falls as he returns to the present that he so clearly does not want to be in. "I guess we'll never get to have it," he says glumly. This sentiment scares her; Sirius never used to give up, not on anything he believed might turn out for the best. All he ever gave up on were Bella, and Reg, and Narcissa, and it worries her that now he places this cause – his cause – on the same level.
She takes his hand in hers. "This war will end soon too, and you'll be revealed as innocent," she promises him. "And then we'll have our celebration, just like we planned it. You'll see."
She can see that he wants to believe her, so badly that it breaks her heart a thousand times. "Just picture it," she says, needing him to believe it. "Fireworks all over…"
"The Weasley twins make really good ones, they were telling me," Sirius adds, after a moment during which she feels her whole life hangs in the balance. She is so grateful that she could hug him and never let him go.
"We'll have to get some of them then, won't we," she says.
After eating dinner one Saturday night, Andromeda prepares to leave and return to her house. She kisses Sirius on the cheek and promises that she'll be back next week.
Before she turns the knob, he stops her, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Wait," he says.
"What is it?"
He bites his lip. "It means…so much to me that you've been coming to visit me," he mumbles, clearly uncomfortable, but truly wanting her to see that he is grateful.
She shifts her weight from foot to foot. "Well. I had a lot of time to make up for," she says ruefully, unable to ignore her own guilt when reminded of his gratitude.
"Don't. I wouldn't have believed me either, if I was in your position. You're wonderful, Andy, and I'm lucky to have you as a cousin."
This sounds too much like a good-bye, a too-purposeful clearing of the air, and Andromeda is getting worried. "Sirius. Are you okay?"
He nods. There's almost a wild glint in his eyes as he surveys her. "Can you keep a secret?" He knows that she can, and before she even answers, he continues. His excitement makes him sound a bit like his old self, and that cheers her up and worries her at the same time. "I'm leaving here," he confesses. The words burst out of him, as if a dam has just burst. He flexes his fingers, as if even the thought of leaving renders him unable to be still. "I'm leaving," he repeats, a little louder, the words hanging between them as he clings to the possibility like it is deliverance.
She gapes at him. "To go where?" she finally asks. "When? But Dumbledore…"
"I don't know. Maybe I can do some fighting, or some guard duty. I don't know, just something. And I don't know when I'd leave…I don't really want to do it before Harry gets safely to his aunt and uncle's house, since I might not be getting the news if I'm out in the wild…but I don't know if I can stand much more of this. Even if I don't get permission, I'm going. I have to."
"So…" The gravity of the situation begins to sink in on her as she realizes that this could cause his death, but then she thinks it might also let him live again. "This might be the last time I see you?" She could fight him, plead with him, but she thinks that it's a gamble that for him, is worth taking, and he could never turn down such a tempting hand in a game of cards. She knows him too well to talk him out of it.
"Yeah." He looks sad, but the excitement is still evident. He struggles with the phrasing of his next sentiment. "And Andy…you've shown me that, well…there must have been something in the family blood, yeah? To make someone like you."
"And you," she responds, though she thinks again, privately, that in both cases, they are more similar to the rest of the family than either would like to admit.
She hugs him again, resting her head on his shoulder. "Sirius, promise me that you'll be careful. When this is over…I don't want to celebrate without you. I don't want to lose you again. Promise?"
It isn't evident whether he truly means it, but he tells her what she needs to hear. "Promise. And I'll try to write, keep in touch." He gives her a crooked grin. "I'm looking forward to the party."
"Me too. I love you," she tells him before she leaves. "Good luck."
It's the last time she sees him.
In the end, he's just another casualty of war, all his plans of escape and starting a new life just dust now.
Andromeda puts down the Daily Prophet, with its article declaring him to be innocent, in disgust. She knows on some level that it's hypocritical to judge them for it, since she too believed that he was guilty until recently, but the fact that they will only admit it after his death astounds her and makes her quiver with rage.
The second war officially begins when the Daily Prophet acknowledges that the Dark Lord has returned, and Andromeda actively seeks out Albus Dumbledore.
"I'd like to join the Order of the Phoenix," she tells him. "I'd like to help in whatever way I can." She doesn't know how to put into words her reasons: that Sirius poured his life into the Order's work, all of that passion and energy and enthusiasm, and that if she joins the Order and helps then she'll feel closer to him. It's still hard to believe that he's gone, and she wants to feel him around her, like she imagines she would if she were fighting for his cause, and eventually bringing about the goal that he so longed for – the defeat of the Dark Lord. She doesn't think she'll ever be ready to put in as much effort as Dora does, but she would like to help.
More than anything, she doesn't want his life's work to be in vain.
Albus Dumbledore looks at her and nods, and she sees that he knows exactly why she is joining – and that he recognizes that she will not be deterred. For some reason, she reminds herself of Sirius. She decides that it is a positive thing, at least in this regard.
She helps the Order move their things from Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, to the Burrow. Once that is done, she stands in front of the empty table where she last saw Sirius.
"I'm sure that wherever you are, you'll have a celebration that'll be far better than anything we could plan here," she whispers. She isn't sure she believes in an afterlife, but for his sake, she has to. He was cheated out of so many years of his life where he should have been happy, dying a broken and disappointed man, his promising life becoming a tragedy…she has to believe that there will be something waiting for him that will make up for it.
She doesn't fight often with the Order, but when she does, she carries a picture of her cousin – back when he was young, ecstatic, and had all the potential in the world, wearing his Gryffindor robes and with his gray eyes crinkled in laughter – in the pocket of her robes.