A/N: So, first, thanks to Zoffoli for making me get off my butt and work on this one. I can't remember what was second, so let's hop on it.
Tacita was surprised when on the day before Christmas Eve a visitor came to their front door. They never got visitors, ever. Even the standard issues door to door salesmen that had plagued her muggle friend's homes never came to her house. Sometimes she wondered how her muggle friends were doing. She'd seen some of them having a snowball fight from her window, but she didn't go out to greet them. She didn't know how to lie well enough to be able to talk to them. What would she do if the yasked about her schooling?
She was feeling particularly lonely when there came a sudden rapping on the door. She jumped up, grabbing her wand and running down the stairs. She heard her aunt's voice as she got near the last steps, though she couldn't quiet see who it was.
"What do you want, filthy blood traitor," her Aunt Vega snarled.
"I came to speak to you," came the surprisingly imposing voice of the woman Tacita had met at the pub. Andromeda Tonks, the aunt Tacita didn't know she had and instantly forgot about once she'd gone back to Diagon Alley. "Ah, Tacita, it's good to see you again," the woman said, making Tacita jump. She hadn't expected the woman to push her way into their home.
"I didn't invite you in," Aunt Vega hissed.
"I know, but what I have to say isn't really a conversation to have outside, not in this weather anyway," Andromeda said politely.
Aunt Vega scowled, casting a glance at Tacita who was still frozen four steps from the bottom. She seemed to be considering her options. In reality she was wondering how likely her niece would be to get hurt if she tried to force Andromeda out. "Fine," Aunt Vega finally snapped. "Say what you want and then get out."
Andromeda smiled. "Why don't we all sit down," she said. She walked into the living room as if expecting the other two to follow. Both the Lestrange women felt uncomfortable at this. Tacita didn't like anyone disrespecting her aunt in such a manner. Vega had momentarily been struck by the similarity between Bellatrix and Andromeda, remembering how her beloved sister in law would have done something so similar, though there would have been no discussion on the front step.
Tacita and her aunt walked into the living room and sat down. Aunt Vega found her favorite chair. Tacita picked a chair that was much closer to her aunt than she would normally sit. "So, what's so important to get you out here?" Vega demanded.
"Well," Andromeda said thoughtfully, as if she still wasn't sure that she had decided to say what she planned to. "Teddy and I have been invited to spend Christmas Eve at the Potters, but we'll have Christmas day and evening to ourselves. Teddy's the oldest of all of the children, and I thought it might be nice if we had family over."
"Family?" Vega hissed.
"Teddy?" Tacita asked.
Andromeda ignored Vega's tight lipped anger. "Ted Remus Lupin, my grandson, and your cousin."
"Cousin," Tacita said, considering a word that had never meant anything to her before. She'd only seen the Malfoys in the paper, especially when her only living cousin, Draco, had the birth of his son announced there.
"What makes you think that we're going to want to spend any time with filthy blood traitors like you?" Aunt Vega asked through gritted teeth.
Andromeda looked at Vega coldly, making her look almost exactly like the pictures Tacita had seen of her mother. "Maybe we should discuss this privately.
"Tacita. Go. Now." Aunt Vega said. Tacita didn't argue, she just went, thought she didn't go far. She slipped into the kitchen, waiting by the door to try and hear what was being said.
"Vega," Andromeda's voice carried from the living room. "I'm not doing this for you. Merlin knows we couldn't hate each other more. I didn't even want to come after what my… sister did to Dora. But no, this isn't about me or you, it's about Teddy and Tacita."
"How did you even find out about her?" Vega snapped.
"I just found out the other day. I met her accidentally at Diagon Alley."
"She's never going unsupervised again."
"Oh, do grow up," Andromeda said, an eye roll in her very tone.
"It doesn't matter, you've wasted a trip," Vega said snippily.
"I don't think so," Andromeda said in a low tone that was very reminiscent of her sister when she was about to pounce on something she wanted.
"Why is that?" Vega spat, more out of fear (for reasons Tacita didn't understand) than actual anger this time.
"Vega, dear, can you tell me honestly that you can afford to give your niece a Christmas Dinner as good as what I can offer?"
There was no reply. Tacita knew there wouldn't be and she hated it. She felt a deep feeling of mixed guilt anger and shame. Why should what her Aunt would provide be seen as less than what a rich woman could provide?
"You can both come by at 8:30 on the 24th and stay the evening, and go home on the morning of the 26th," Andromeda said in a kind voice that Tacita hated even more than the cold voice from earlier. She waited to hear her Aunt's response, though the silence stretched on for what seemed like forever.
"Alright," Vega finally said.
They arrived promptly at 8:30. Tacita had a bag slung over her shoulder that had two changes off clothes and two sets of pajamas, as well as the gift she'd bought her Aunt Vega. Vega didn't bother carrying a bag. Pipsy, who would be coming to help Andromeda with Christmas dinner and to help set up once the children were asleep, would bring her mistress's things later.
Tacita arrived by floo network before her Aunt apperated to the Tonks house. The girl's first sight was that of Andromeda Tonks and a nine year old boy with bright teal hair and large brown eyes. She thought that she'd never seen anyone so strange looking in her life and couldn't help but staring, even when her Aunt popped into the room next to her and told her to stop staring.
"Tacita, this is Teddy. Teddy, this is Tacita," Andromeda introduced.
"Hello Tacita," Teddy said, offering his previously unknown cousin a huge smile. He walked over at hugged the older girl who in panic looked to her Aunt for help.
"Teddy, you're making Tacita uncomfortable," Andromeda said gently. Teddy let Tacita go, pouting and going back to his grandmother, hugging her legs. "Tacita?" she asked.
"Hello," Tacita said. That seemed like enough.
Andromeda smiled down at her grandson. He was such a happy lad, normally his charms worked on everyone. She wanted to sigh. Of course his charms wouldn't work on a Lestrange child.
"Okay Teddy, did you brush your teeth?" she asked.
"Yep!" Teddy said. Normally he wouldn't be so good about his teeth, but it was Christmas.
"Then you should go get in bed. Santa will come faster the sooner you get to bed," she said and laughed when he took off running up to his room.
"What's a Santa?" Tacita asked once Teddy was gone. Whatever it was, she didn't want to admit to the overly eager boy that she didn't know. That would be more embarrassment than she could bare.
"Santa is a man who brings toys to children, all the children of the world on Christmas," Andromeda said. She wasn't surprised, she'd had Santa explained to her by her husband after all.
"No he doesn't," Tacita said.
"But he does," Andromeda said, trying to get her niece to play along.
"Then he must skip our house," she said. She didn't notice that both women suddenly sucked in their breath. "Is there some place I'll be sleeping?" she asked.
"Yes, this way," Andromeda said, guiding her up to one of the guest rooms… well, not a guest room. It had been Dora's room. She hadn't been able to bear the thought of Vega Lestrange sleeping in her daughter's room. It had been painful enough letting Tacita stay there for two nights.
"Thank you," Tacita said, going into the room and shutting the door.
Andromeda sighed heavily, as she did whenever Teddy and everyone else was out of sight or hearing range, when she was actually alone and could remember what she'd lost. Then she headed down the stairs. "Yes?" she asked Vega, who was still standing by the fire place.
" Santa?" she asked with a smirk.
"It was important to Ted, and it was important to Dora," Andromeda said defensively.
"Whatever," Vega said. "Pipsy!" she called and the elf appeared. "Let's get to work." The two women had something of a peace treaty. They would be kind to each other for only 36 hours, just enough time to create Christmas for their children. The second the 36 hours were up everything would go back to how it had been before.
"Tacita! Wake up! Presents!" Teddy Shouted, banging on Tacita's door loudly before ripping down the stairs.
Tacita said nothing and made no sound as she got up. She changed into her clothes for the day, wondering just how early it was. The sun hadn't risen yet, that was certain, but then that didn't mean much that time of year. She went and brushed her teeth and headed down, surprised to see the annoyed and anxious younger cousin she'd just gained tapping his slippered feet at the foot of the stairs.
"Come on!" he said, grabbing her hand and dragging her down the last three stairs. "We can't start opening presents until everyone's here," he said, doing a pretty good imitation of his aunt.
She let the smaller boy drag her into the room, and even she had to admit that the room looked amazing, with lots of decorations and colors and the tree just like what Tacita had seen from school with electric lights. Andromeda's house was very muggle, even the presents, which had garishly muggle wrapping paper that Tacita and her little girl heart found delightful.
Teddy plopped down near the tree. "Can I now, Grandma?" he asked, clearly so excited he was practically shaking.
"Let Tacita sit down and then you can," Andromeda said, leaning back in her chair and trying to stifle a yawn.
Teddy looked at Tacita expectantly and she stood still for as long she could before sitting down, just to see how antsy her young cousin could get. The second her buttocks touched the floor, teddy had grabbed onto a box and started ripping it open.
Tacita had never seen anyone rip into presents so quickly. It seemed like Teddy had at least a dozen presents: toy broom sticks, sweaters, chess sets, books, mostly things that Tacita couldn't imagine even wanting. She'd never had so many presents in her life. She'd get one gift on her birthday and one on Christmas.
"Aren't you going to open you gifts, Tasi?" Teddy asked, finally noticing that his cousin wasn't touching any of the gifts.
Tacita winced a bit, hearing the boy use the nickname Granville had previously had to fight so hard to be able to call her. "These aren't all for you?" Did she feel jealous? Yes, some, but she refused to allow herself to acknowledge those feelings. Her Aunt Vega did the best for her that she could. It felt like a betrayal to want more than she had.
Teddy looked at her funny. "No, some of them are for Grandma, and you've got some presents too," he said. He crawled under the tree and pushed out two rather large presents, larger than anything Aunt Vega could afford.
Tacita reached out with shaking hands, taking the top package. It was neither light nor heavy. It was wrapped in the shining gold and silver muggle wrapping paper. She started opening it slowly, carefully lifting the tape and unfolding the paper, carefully untying the ribbon and setting it aside. It seemed a waste to destroy something so pretty just because it was meant to be destroyed.
She didn't notice how the others were watching her. Teddy was quiet but annoyed at how long she was taking. In his house they took turns opening gifts, and Tacita was taking forever. He wanted to open more gifts, but he didn't dare to say a word lest his Grandmother fuss at him. Andromeda, from her place on the sofa wondered about the type of life a girl would have lived if she seemed to treasure even relatively inexpensive wrapping paper and ribbon. Vega, though annoyed by her nieces interest in muggle things, couldn't fault her for the way she carefully opened the gift. Tacita was patient, just as patient as Rudolphus had always been.
Finally Tacita got into the gift. It was a set of brushes, combs, ribbons, and hair ornaments from one of the witchely beauty shops. "Thank you," Tacita said, looking over at Andromeda. Who else could it be from? This was a very nice gift, nicer than anything Aunt Vega could have bought.
"You can call me Aunt Andromeda… or just Dromeda if that makes you feel more comfortable," she said, seeing the girl stiffen a bit as calling Andromeda Aunt… like the woman who'd raised her.
"Thank you," Tacita said again in a quiet voice. She didn't call the woman anything. Her hand ran over the box and she felt that deep uncomfortable mix of guilt, shame, and anger. What was she supposed to do and say? She liked it, she really did, but Aunt Vega who gave her everything wouldn't be able to buy her such a thing. It would hurt her Aunt if she showed how much she liked it. She felt guilty for liking a gift that came from a woman that Aunt Vega hated so much.
She set the box down near her, but still touching her knee, as she reached over and took the neck package. It was huge and heavy, and obviously a book. She started unwrapping this one with the same meticulous slowness she'd done with her first gift. She was right, it was a book, an older one. She glanced at the cover before flipping it open. Her eyes were drawn instantly to the scrawled cursive writing of a name: "Ted Tonks".
"It was my husband's… he got… got it from his father. The complete works of William Shakespeare," Andromeda said, her voice quavering a bit. Tacita looked at her, understanding that there were things she didn't understand. Giving this book away was hard for Andromeda Tonks, harder than just giving away the book of a dead husband. There was a meaning that Tacita didn't understand.
"Thank you… Dromeda," she finally said, smiling some. "We… talked about Shakespeare at school, but I was too young to read his work. Thank you," she said. She knew her Aunt Vega was scowling, but she didn't care. It was a very thoughtful gift.
"My turn!" Teddy said, not understanding the atmosphere at all. He jumped into the pile of gifts still left for him, starting to shred into them again. Tacita found herself wanting to look through the book, but instead she set it aside, taking the wrapping paper and carefully folding it up so she could use it again, and setting the ribbons on top of her little pile of gifts.
Teddy ripped through his gifts for another minute before he turned to his grandmother, having her open some of gifts. They were much more practical than his: a small bottle of perfume, a pair of gloves, a new cloak, and a…. something that Teddy made for her that seemed like a rather gaudy necklace. Andromeda wore it proudly. As soon as Andromeda finished opening her gifts Teddy was about to grab his last gift when his grandmother stopped him.
"Teddy, no, Tacita still has one left," she said.
As if by magic, Tacita felt her eyes drawn to the one gift not wrapped in muggle wrapping paper. She scrambled over to get it, knowing exactly who it was from. She didn't bother to save this wrapping paper. Her hands were shaking too bad to do more than shred it anyway. She gasped when she saw what it was.
As a little girl Tacita had always admired a necklace her aunt had, a Lestrange family heirloom. It was a silver snake went around the neck, it's head biting onto part of its tail as a front clasp. The eyes were two, small emeralds. Tacita had always loved it, always wanted to wear it, but she hadn't seen it in over a year and she'd assumed her aunt had sold it for food. She didn't say anything. Her hands shook too much to put it on, though that was all she wanted to do.
"Come here, let's put it on," Aunt Vega sad, walking over and kneeling next to her niece. With gentle hands she slipped it around the girl's neck and closed the clasp. The second she pulled away Tacita had jumped into her arms and hugged her.
"Thank you! Thank you!" she gasped, squeezing her guardian. She didn't often show so much joy in front of her aunt, but then this was something different.
"It's okay," Aunt Vega said, a genuine smile coming to her lips as she hugged her niece. The moment didn't last long as Aunt Vega became stiff and pulled away.
"Hold on," Tacita said, hoping up and running up to her room. She came back down a few second later with the gift she'd bought her aunt. "Here," she said, presenting it to her. They looked at each other for a moment, but said nothing of the fact that the money Tacita spent on this should have been spent for school… sometimes it was better to break the rules.
"Thank you," Aunt Vega said before opening the gift. When she did open it she said nothing. It was necklace as well. It was pretty, but not expensive. Vega would never be able to sell it for food… which meant that she would always have it, the pretty little trinket. She glanced back at her niece, the child who understood too much about poverty. Without a word she simply slipped the chain around her neck.
Teddy, tired of waiting, finally opened his final gift, and Christmas morning ended.
Tacita spent every day until returning to school thinking about Christmas. She'd not gotten a gift from Granville or Grimwold, not even so much as a letter. It became easier to think of the huge dinner she'd had at the Tonks house, and the massive amount of food that Andromeda Tonks sent home with them, which served to be leftovers for days. It allowed Aunt Vega to serve for New Years dinner what she would have served for Christmas.
She thought about her cousin, who after calming down off his gift-high, started on Tacita with endless questions about Hogwarts. He was two years away from being able to go, and so anxious that it was actually like of funny.
"Tasi, what's Hogwarts like? What's your favorite class? What's your teacher's like? What house are you in?"
"It's very big. My favorite class is potions. All the teachers are different. I'm in Hufflepuff."
"Tasi, what's your favorite teacher like? What's your least favorite teacher like? What's the food like? How did they put you in your house? Do you like your house?"
"My favorite teacher is Professor Slughorn. He's fairly nice; he's letting me study ahead. I don't like Professor Binns. He's dead and dead boring. The food's okay. They sorted us with a magic talking hat. My house is okay."
"I don't believe you, how do they really sort you? Is the castle really big, do you always get lost? Is it true there are ghosts around?"
"That's really how they sort you. The castle is really big. I only got lost at first. Yes, there are ghosts."
She wasn't sure how many questions she answered, everything from classes and subjects to food and Quidditch, all the way to her friends. She'd spoken even more tersely about her friend, singular. A friend who wouldn't tell his parents about her and wouldn't send her a gift on Christmas… and, well Grimwold wasn't her friend… he only spoke to her because of Granville. She was very glad when Teddy stopped asking questions about them.
She sighed, looking back out the window of the train. She had her new book sitting open in her lap, mostly unread. She'd never thought that reading English would be so hard, and it was hard to concentrate when she was wondering if Granville was coming to sit with her at all. She didn't even know if he was getting on the train or if he was back in Hogmeade with his family.
Tacita felt a quiet tension build in her gut while she waited. Her hand went up absently to the necklace her Aunt had given her. "I would have given it to you when you got into Slytherin, if you'd gotten in," He aunt had said over and over. Tacita felt like there was a lie in her Aunt's words, though she couldn't figure out why.
Her head shot up when the door opened and she hoped against hope that it would be Granville, but it was Virginia Stumps. Tacita scowled and looked back at her book. There was no point in saying anything. If Stumps felt like something needed to be said, then she would say it.
"Oh, it's the nutcase," Stumps said, sniffing as if she'd just smelled something fowl. "I'm surprised they let you back at all, though I suppose it makes sense. They're too afraid to let a dark witch like you out on her own. What? Are you mute?" She snapped. She was obviously trying to impress her friends, but Tacita wasn't even looking up from her book.
"Hmph, what are you reading a dark spell book? Trying to figure out how to curse me again and not get in trouble?" she snapped, stepping into the empty compartment and resting her hand on the book as if to grab it away. "Ouch!" Tacita had slammed the book down on her hand, even only half of the weight was heavy. Tacita smirked and opened the book back up to the play she'd been trying to read.
"You crazy little brat," Stumps hissed, drawing her wand. She opened her mouth to say a spell when Tacita glanced up at her. Her hand too was on her wand, though it was sitting on the seat next to her, and she'd simply applied enough pressure to it to have it pointed up at Stumps. It wasn't her hand on the wand that made Virginia Stumps hesitate, it was the look in her eye, the look she'd had right before Tacita had attacked her in the potions room.
"Hey!" came a sharp, older voice. "You lot want to clear out."
Tacita didn't break eye contact, neither did Virginia. She wasn't about to look away from the Lestrange girl and give her an advantage.
"Hey!" the voice said, reaching out and grabbing Virginia Stumps' wand. Tacita relaxed instantly. Leave it to Grimwold to clear up the fight before it even started. "Clear out," he said coldly before dropping into the seat next to Tacita, making her move her wand, and hand, before he sat on them.
"This isn't over," Stumps said, stomping out.
"Grimwold," Tacita said, smiling brighter than she normally did. She was just so happy to see him. She felt her heart doing little flips when he turned to look at her and smiled. She'd missed him.
"Hey," he said. "Granville's coming. Mum's grilling him a bit more on what friend he had who could send him such expensive presents," he said.
Tacita drooped a bit at that. "He still hasn't told?" she asked.
"Nah, he's scared. Mum's a bit… forceful," Granville said before standing and loading his trunk into the overhead bin. It made her wonder why he even bothered to sit down in the first place. "Hey, thanks for the gifts by the way. Sorry we couldn't send you something sooner. There's one owl in the family and Mum was busy sending letters to her new pen-pal in the States. Besides, we didn't have pocket money until after Christmas," he added.
"Is that true?" Tacita asked.
"Yeah, unfortunately. We get more money for Christmas then presents, and our parents won't let us have and advance of anything. I've got to deliver all of my gifts when we get back to school. It's so embarrassing doing this every year. I don't even have a lot of money left for Hogsmeade," he said with a heavy sigh. "Here, you better like this," he said, dropping a book that was almost as heavy as her Shakespeare book into her lap.
"Hey! Careful!" she snapped, moving the book to check and see if it had bent any of the pages when it had been dropped on top of the Shakespeare book that still sat in her lap. She carefully shut the book and set it aside before looking at what Grimwold had dropped into her lap. She gasped with delight.
"Hey! You started giving gifts before I got here?" Granville asked. He dragged his trunk in and kicked it open, pulling two books off the top and handing them to Tacita before he shut his trunk and got his brother to help him load it into the bin. Before the lid was shut, Tacita caught sight of the two books that she'd bought Granville for Christmas.
"Hello Granville," Tacita said, looking at the books that now sat in her lap. "Have we just decided to get each other muggle books?"
"Yeah, I wish," Grimwold said, dragging the compartment door shut. "Thanks for those pulp books by the way, I think I ended up buying about ten more on my own. Now my dad thinks I'm crazy. Mum too, until I told her they were to help me with my muggle studies class."
"If she finds out you're reading about people killing each other, she's not going to be happy," Granville said. Grimwold rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, I know. Anyway, Stumphead told me that you were interested in muggle stuff, but that you didn't know what a lot of the words were," he said. Tacita looked down at the large book sitting on her knees. A science dictionary… Granville had probably told Grimwold more than that. "So, we decided that he'd get you a few things. Had to split gift of that big thing. It was very expensive."
"Tacita, thank you for the books. How did you meet Ginny and Harry Potter, you have to tell me?" Granville asked, interjecting.
Tacita smiled. Maybe had hadn't said more than that. Maybe he'd just picked out the books he'd known she'd want. "I met them in the Leaky Cauldron when I was getting your gifts. Did you know that Professor Longbottom's married?" she asked.
"What, really?" Granville asked.
"No," Grimwold said.
"It's true, she works at the Leaky Cauldron. She gave me free juice. Professor Longbottom's friends are… strange," she said.
"How many people did you meet?" Granville asked.
"I met the Potters, and Ron and Hemione Weasley, and Dromeda," she said.
"You met Andromeda Tonks?" Granville asked, sounding worried. "Was she nice to you?"
"Nice? She had me and Aunt Vega over for Christmas… why wouldn't she be nice?" Tacita asked.
"Your mother was her sister," Grimwold said.
"I know that," Tacita said with exasperation.
"Tasi…" Granville said hesitantly. "Your mother killed her only daughter," he said.
"Oh," Tacita said. She sat still for a moment before her hand found the cover of the Shakespeare book that Andromeda had given her. She understood it now, the hesitation… the hesitation to invite them for Christmas… the hesitation to give the daughter of her daughter's murderer a gift that meant so much.
"Tacita?" Granville asked when she hadn't said anything for a long time.
"No, Granville, she was very nice. Cousin Teddy was very nice too. He reminds me of you, won't stop asking questions," she said. Grimwold snorted. Granvile scowled. Tacita smirked. After they turned away from that particular topic the trip became easier. Grimwold read his pulps, and Granville and Tacita talked about winter homework and helped each other finish what they still needed to get done. It was as if they hadn't been separated at all.
That night Tacita went to her room early before the other girls had even gone up. She wasn't sure how to write the letter she felt compelled to write. She sat staring at the parchment until the girls came in and she had to close her drapes and find the flashlight she'd bought new batteries for over Christmas break. She stared at the parchment until everyone was asleep and curfew had started. Finally she picked up her pen and started to write.
"Dromeda," She hesitated. "Aunt AnDromeda," she squeezed in. "I'm very sorry for what happened to your daughter. I know I can't make it any better, but I wish my mom hadn't been like that for once. Thank you for having Aunt Vega and I over for Christmas. Thank you very much for the book. I like it very much, I know that it must have been hard for you to give it to me. I really like it. Thank you very much. Sincerely, Tacita" She hesitated again. "PS: please tell Teddy about the sorting hat so he won't ask me about it again."
She stared at her letter for the longest time. She knew it wasn't very good, but she also knew that she couldn't do any better. She blew on the ink to let it dry before she folded up it up and put it in an envelope. She laid her letter by her bedside and went to sleep. In the morning she'd have a school owl deliver it. She hoped it would be okay.
A/N: Yeah! I finished! Great time of year to start a new fanfic chapter: when everything in the world is due! Ugh!