Brightness


Narcissa went alone.

Her husband was busy dealing with the Ministry; still bargaining for their freedom, insisting that they didn't mean any harm, explaining how once you got swept up into something it was very hard to escape it. She was vaguely reminded of the First War, though she supposed this time they meant it, or at least most of it. Narcissa wanted to believe they weren't bad people, but reflecting, they weren't exactly good, either.

She excused Draco from it. She knew he had no desire to go, knew her son wanted to remain in the solitude he had since the end of the war. Draco had attended enough funerals. He'd said enough good byes. He had enough to think about, they all did; she pitied the way her boy looked so drawn, so old. He didn't need another burial.

Rodolphus, the only other who would have had any reason to be there, was imprisoned yet again, his mind deteriorating even further. She wasn't sure he understood that his wife was dead. When he was informed he just looked off and gave a shrug. The Bellatrix he had learned to love had died a long time ago. The creature she had become was more beast than woman; blood thirsty, irrational, unsympathetic, and fiercely loyal to her master.

So Narcissa attended the funeral alone. There was of course no preacher. Narcissa cut out the hole in the ground herself, a lone grave in the middle of nowhere, a place for Bellatrix to rest in the solitude. Narcissa had decided not to bury Bellatrix with the rest of the Blacks. In a way Narcissa blamed them, the now extinct family, for what had become of her sister. She wouldn't be among them. Bellatrix deserved a place to herself. She needed the freedom. Two men did come with the body, tucked away in a simple black casket, but soon left the woman to attend to the rest at her insistence. She wanted to be alone with her sister. She wanted to reflect and yearn and cry with no one there to watch.

Part of her, buried and stomped out and smothered, had hoped that maybe one other would come. But it was in vain, Narcissa knew that; everything related to her elder, living sister was in vain. Andromeda was disowned, Narcissa's young self had seen to that, and she wasn't ever coming back no matter how much Narcissa longed for her or wished to take back what had happened that night so many years ago.

And so Narcissa buried and cried for the sisters she had lost, racked with sobs as she realized they'd both been lost long ago.

xx

It was Harry's time with Teddy, and so Andromeda returned to the little house. She had decided she didn't mind the Potter boy, even if he did hesitate when handing Teddy to her, eyes darting over her features before remembering that this wasn't the woman who murdered his godfather. The resemblance seemed to scar their relationship before it had begun. Andromeda had gotten over her selfishness when it came to Teddy, and even at times looked forward to days when the boy would be out of her care. She trusted Molly Weasley's watchful eye even if she was wary of Harry; she knew in her company her grandson would be fine.

At times the young man would insist on extra time with Teddy, as if trying to over compensate for something, as if dreading the little boys company with the sister of Bellatrix Black. She'd flick her eyes to his and cock her head to the side, and perhaps something in her mannerism would remind him of Nymphadora, and maybe a feeling of trust would take him again, and he'd return the little boy to her care. Of course, the Weasley girl constantly at his side might have helped. Her whispers of reassurance hadn't escaped Andromeda. During those times, she'd resent Harry, but for all she knew, they might be able to find mutual ground with Teddy one day, so she always gave him another chance, if not for her grandson's sake, then for the memory of her daughter.

And so Andromeda wrapped herself in the solitude of the little house yet again. The wrapping at the door was unwelcome when it came, and Andromeda was tempted to remain in bed and wait for the visitor to leave, but then a hope she'd tried to rid herself of arose and she went to the door. Her sister looked both awkward and uncomfortable on the door step.

"Oh." was all Andromeda managed.

"Hello, Andromeda." A strained smile on Narcissa's part. "I was…I wanted to come see you."

"How did you find me?" She couldn't help the rudeness. She hadn't seen her sister in over a decade. A chance meeting at Diagon Alley, a baby boy in her arms and a young Nymphadora at her own side.

"Well, I…" She blushed and Andromeda understood. Her location wasn't a secret to the Death Eaters.

"Never mind." she said quickly. "Um…why don't you come in?" She stepped aside and gave a motion for her to enter. Narcissa was very stiff as she stepped in, perhaps more so as she took in her sister's home.

"How very…quaint." She immediately regretted the comment. Narcissa had hoped not to get kicked out.

"Well…thank you…" Andromeda cleared her throat. "I usually don't stay here now. I've got an apartment in London."

"Lovely." Narcissa glanced around the living room, eying photos of Andromeda's dead family. Her eyes did fall on one baby boy, though, and it reminded her. "Where's your grandson?"

"He's with Harry Potter now. Nymphadora and Remus made him godfather." She watched Narcissa closely as she said the names. The guilt was evident and it satisfied her. "Why don't you go out on the patio while I prepare some tea? It's quite lovely out there." Did you know our sister tortured my husband and I out there? Did you know it caused him to leave? Did you know it caused him to die?

Narcissa left her, looking over her yard. The swing hanging from the tree seemed incredibly ridiculous for a witch to have in her back yard. The flowers were nice, she supposed. Andromeda watched her for a moment before pulling a kettle out. Her hands shook as she worked; not with anger exactly, though it was there, but something else. Nervousness, maybe. She was incredibly anxious.

"Let's sit." She motioned to the two chairs and set the tea down on the table. She passed a cup to Narcissa who seemed to be grateful to have something to busy her hands with. Andromeda took a sip before turning to her. "So. What is it you want?"

Their gaze locked for a long time as Narcissa tried to pick out the right words to start. But her mind went blank and she suddenly blurted out, "I buried Bellatrix the other day."

Andromeda nodded. "Good riddance." She couldn't help it. Narcissa's look of shock inspired no guilt within her.

"Did you hate her that much?" Andromeda could have laughed.

"I never hated Bellatrix." She held Narcissa's gaze. "Oh, but she hated me. You know that, of course. Did you know that she's the one who killed Nymphadora? I hear she sought her out specifically. Wanted to hurt me as much as she could. I'm sure if she was still alive she wouldn't be able to rest easy until Teddy was dead, too. And then after that, maybe then she'd kill me. After she'd taken everything she could have from me." She glared at the cemented patio, the exact spot she cleaned Ted's blood off months ago. "Maybe…maybe now I do. But only because she made me."

They were silent for a long time, both women considering Andromeda's words. They shook Narcissa to the core.

"Have I…" Narcissa hesitated, looking away from her sister now to the wooden swing, swaying slightly in the breeze. "Have I made you hate me, too?" She asked quietly.

Andromeda's gaze was suddenly soft as she stared at her younger sister. She'd grown very beautiful, as the Black sisters were expected to. The war had left lines in her face, though, making her look much older than she actually was. Suddenly, images from that night ran through her mind. Narcissa begging her to feel something she couldn't. The flash of blonde hair as she rounded the corner to her parents. Standing shell-shocked in the door way of the tapestry room, eyes lingering on the black mark that erased her sister's image.

"You betrayed me to our parents." Andromeda said simply. "How long ago? I was seventeen. I lost my family at seventeen. I could blame you, easily I could blame you." She watched Narcissa, whose face twisted until she was suddenly on her feet, finger in Andromeda's face.

"You betrayed us!" It was almost like that night all over again. "You said-!"

"That I wouldn't ever fall in love with a Muggle-born." Andromeda took her tea, taking another sip. "Sit down, Narcissa." The woman obeyed, taking her own tea, trying to find comfort in its warmth and taste. Andromeda waited for her breathing to slow.

"Narcissa, you love Lucius, don't you?" Andromeda didn't look at Narcissa, staring off at the horizon, cradling her tea in her lap.

Narcissa stiffened, her grip suddenly firm around the fragile porcelain. "Of course I do."

Andromeda gave a little nod. "You're happy to be married to him, even though what and who he is has brought you trouble and pain?" She chose her words carefully, a slight pause between each.

The younger woman's frown deepened. "Of course I am." She said curtly.

"And years ago," now Andromeda turned to her sister, who paled as their eyes met. "If mother and father had told you that Lucius was unacceptable, that you couldn't marry him, would you have, anyway? Did you love him enough?"

Now Narcissa faltered, looking away from her sister, shoulders sagging as if in defeat. "I…" She struggled to find the right words. "I don't…"

And now Andromeda smiled, a small one, as she watched her sister's reaction. "I didn't know, either. But, I think I knew, in a way, that in time I would be willing to throw everything away for Ted. Maybe. I loved him very much." She paused, eyes looking off again, her smile slowly fading. "But, I never got to that point. I never had to make that decision. It was made for me. I didn't throw anything away, rather it was ripped from me." She turned her gaze to Narcissa again.

A heavy silence fell over the sisters as they considered one another. They were now basking in the gentle brightness of the setting sun, the orange light warming their hair and complexions, exaggerating the lines in their faces. Their tea had long since gone cold.

"But I think," Andromeda started, that same small smile touching her face again, staring off. "I wouldn't have it any other way. I broke free from that horrible, oppressive family, or rather, I was cut free." She looked again at Narcissa, her eyes gentle. "Not that I didn't miss you terribly. It was…very hard, of course, but in a way, I suppose it was the only way it would have worked out. The only way I would have been happy." The woman chuckled. "Incredibly selfish, I know, but I suppose at this point I'm allowed to be selfish. Mother and father would have never accepted Ted, and I never would have accepted anyone other than Ted." A lump formed in her throat. "I just wish you all had been able to understand. Mother and father wouldn't have, of course. They had been raised to reject the idea of marriage for love, at least with love being the top priority. Blood purity, that was all there was. I knew Bellatrix had long since bought into that, too. But you…You were such a romantic, Narcissa. I thought you might be able to understand." Her eyes were teeming with tears now, as were Narcissa's. "But, I suppose, you didn't. Or it was too hard for you to grapple with it. You love Lucius, I know you do. But I wonder, if he wasn't pure-blood, how would you feel?" Narcissa opened her mouth to object. "No. No I think you would have still loved him." Andromeda's smile broke her sister. Tears slid down her face and she quickly made to wipe them away.

"So to answer your question: No. No, I don't hate you." She let out a chuckle, wiping her own tears away. "In a way I suppose your actions led to the rest of my life. My marriage to Ted, Nymphadora…And I don't think I would trade my time with them, no matter how short, for anything."

After this, there were no words left to say between the two, at least not now. The two sat in a serene silence, both getting their emotions in check before Narcissa finally stood to leave. She took her older sister's hand and squeezed it, all the affection she could share with this woman who was practically a stranger.

As Andromeda stood in her doorway, watching Narcissa's retreating figure before there was a loud snap and she was gone, she couldn't help the small smile that touched her lips. Perhaps she and Narcissa had reconciled. Perhaps her sister would become her sister again. Perhaps, yet again, after losing a family, she would gain another. She still had Teddy. She had weaved herself into the lives of the Weasley's and one boy who lived. And now, maybe, she'd find family in the Malfoys, or at least Narcissa.

She wrung her hands, staring out in the beckoning darkness, the same one that had drawn Ted into hiding, if only for a short time. The same one that Nymphadora had marched bravely into to bring an end to the war. And, for once, Andromeda didn't look upon it with fear or hatred. This darkness that had swept her loved ones from her seemed to tug at her, but it was a temptation she refused. She still had brightness in her life, enough to chase away the black that had settled itself around her.

And so Andromeda closed the door to her tiny cottage, once so full of life, and climbed into bed, and dreamed of boys with dancing grey eyes and girls with hair like gem stones.


The end.

-Reels