A/N: Ouch, long time no update. I'm so sorry guys! I got married, found myself a new job and have been way to busy with challenges and competitions over at the HPFC. To compensate, it's a rather long chapter, which I hope you'll enjoy. We're nearing the end, alas. There will be some familiar things in this chapter, but I've tried to not transcribe them too literally. Thanks for all the reviews and favourites so far!
While everyone was wondering where Harry Potter and his friends had gone – both on the light side and the dark side – the resistance against You-Know-Who grew. They had to keep it underground, because speaking out in the open would be suicide, but it was no longer just the Order of the Phoenix that was opposing him. Andromeda had opened up her house to a couple of Muggleborns seeking refuge, but they had left the day before yesterday. So now it was just her and Nymphadora. She still hadn't heard from Ted. She knew he wasn't owling her in order to not draw attention to himself or to her, but she was still anxious about his whereabouts. If only she knew that he was safe, she would be able to sleep again at night. People told her that if she heard nothing, it probably meant he was still alive and on the run and she wanted to believe that, needed to believe that. She had a hard time coping, but what made it even harder was having Dora around most of the time. She saw Ted in her daughter's face and every time she looked at her, a jolt of fright shot through her. For Ted, but also for her Dora, who was now in her fifth month of pregnancy. Remus had run, terrified that he might have passed on his lycanthropy to his unborn child, leaving Nymphadora practically inconsolable. The situation being as it was, Andromeda was desperately looking to find something to occupy her mind, so when the occasion arose to help out the resistance, she didn't hesitate.
When at some point during a Weasley family dinner she and Dora had been invited to, she had stated that she felt like she was not being of any use in the war, the twins had exchanged glances she had not quite understood. They had however approached her later that evening.
"Walk with us, Andromeda, if you please?" they asked quietly.
She had looked at them, not understanding what they could possibly wanted to talk to her about in private, but curiosity got the better of her and she stood up. They had taken her to the edge of the garden surrounding The Burrow and there they waited.
"What are we doing here?" she asked.
"Well, you expressed that you wanted to do something useful," Fred said.
"We discussed it and we think there is something you could help out with," George explained. "Just wait a bit, he should be here any moment."
She wanted to ask who the 'he' was they were talking about, when a pop announced someone Apparating nearby. She drew her wand without even blinking, but Fred placed his hand on her arm. "You don't need it," he said softly. "Provided he isn't followed."
"What is the very first item we tested on ourselves for the jokeshop?" Fred spoke.
"Nosebleed nougats," a deep voice responded from the dark. She had no time to think about this strange question and answer as a boy stepped forward from the shadows. At first, Andromeda barely registered him, but when he came into eyesight, she saw a black boy with thick black dreadlocks. He was all dressed in black, making it even harder to distinguish him in the darkness.
"Good to see you Lee," George said and they hugged each other comradely. He turned to Andromeda. "Andromeda, I'd like you to meet Lee Jordan. Lee, this is Andromeda Tonks."
Andromeda carefully stowed her wand and took Lee's outstretched hand. "Nice to meet you. Now, if anyone could just tell me what this is about…" she said.
"Lee here is the host of a radioprogramme called Potterwatch," Fred explained. "Basically, it tells the world the truth about Harry, the things the Wizarding Wireless Network isn't broadcasting. It's only accessible through a password; you won't be able to receive it without the password. Lee told us last week that the programme could do with some new input. And since you wanted to do something useful…"
"… we figured you might be just who we're looking for," George completed the sentence. "But you can't tell anyone. The more people who know about it, the more exposed we all are when one of us were to be captured. That includes Tonks."
Andromeda looked from the twins to Lee Jordan. "And what exactly is it I would be doing? Talking on the radio?" she asked. The idea interested her, but she couldn't really picture herself as a radio host.
"You can if you want to. We have guests all the time. But what we need the most right now is informants. People to gather the information we broadcast. It is rather difficult to stay up to date because people are scared. They are afraid to talk to known members of the Order because they fear for their lives and families if they are caught."
"But you are not that in the picture. People might be more willing to share information with you than with for example a Weasley," George said.
"We're not asking you to actively go around asking questions because that would blow up your cover," Lee took over again. "But just talk to the people. What is going on? Are there weird accidents? Which people are loyal to us? That's the kind of things we need to know."
All three of them looked expectantly up to her. She didn't need time to think. "If this is something I can do to help our cause, I'm in, definitely. But how will I contact you? I presume you're not broadcasting from a regular basis?"
"Nope, and we're not even broadcasting on a regular basis," Fred joked.
"We've been talking things over…" George said.
"…and we decided to give you one of our Galleons for now," Fred finished.
Andromeda raised an eyebrow. "And how is a coin gonna get me in touch with you? Is it turned into a Portkey?"
"No, much better," Lee grinned. "Fred, give her your coin, so she can see."
Fred dug up a tattered looking Galleon and handed it over to Andromeda. It was too dark to see so she raised her wand and illuminated it with a Lumos-spell. It looked like any other ordinary Galleon.
"That's the best thing about them," George said. "They look like ordinary Galleons, but Hermione had them bewitched two years ago when we were forming the D.A., Dumbledore's Army, a group of students who stood up against the Ministry," he explained.
"I've heard about that," she said.
"How can you have heard of it?" Lee asked, surprised.
"Molly told me. Ow don't look so astonished, you two!" she laughed at the twins. "Four of her children partook as well as two of their friends she considered as close as her children as well. You really think she didn't know?"
"Yeah, I knew she knew, but I never figured she'd tell anyone. She was ever so mad that we'd broken the rules again and that we…uhm…" Fred fidgeted his cloak.
"Took off from Hogwarts without a proper diploma?" Andromeda finished.
"She told you about that too?" George gasped.
"She's proud of you."
"No way," the twins shook their heads. "You should have seen her, she was absolutely livid when she found out that we had left Hogwarts."
"Well yes, of course she was mad, she's your mother! If Dora had done that I would have grounded her for the rest of her life! And Merlin knows she would have been capable of doing such a thing." She shuddered. "Yes, she was mad at you at first but seeing how well you're doing for yourself, she is rather proud of you for having such good business sense."
"Pff, the hypocrite," George muttered. "Giving us a hard time whilst telling others she's proud of us."
"Don't let her know I told you though," Andromeda said quickly.
"Hey guys, I don't wanna interrupt, but I really have to get going," Lee cut in. "It was great seeing you guys again and it was nice meeting you Mrs. Tonks."
"Andromeda," he repeated obligingly. "We'll stay in touch." With a pop he Disapparated. They found out why he had disappeared so quickly when Molly voice called them from much too close a distance. "What are you doing there? Was that Lee I heard? You know how I feel about that joke-shops of yours, right?" she had come closer.
"We know," the twins said simultaneously and grinned.
"I will not have anything like that going on in my own backyard. Oh hi Andromeda." She looked a bit puzzled. "I didn't see you."
"Your sons were showing me around the premises," Andromeda smiled warmly at the Weasley matriarch. "Rest assured that we have not talked about their joke shop." She let the Galleon slip in the pocket of her robe. The twins would tell her how the use it at a later time.
"Hmpf," Molly snorted and eyed the twins suspiciously. It was clear that she didn't trust them, but Andromeda's presence seemed to calm her down a bit.
Thus she became involved in a radio-show that was called Potterwatch. It actually was great to be doing something, instead of just awaiting what fate might have in store for you. She actually got herself a nickname to go with. She picked Red as opposed to her maiden name and snickered at the irony of it all. Here she was, Andromeda Tonks née Black, participating in a radio programme that could get her killed. Who'd have thought it to be possible? She wondered what Ted would say if he knew and a sad smile crept across her face. She hoped he was safe.
She would soon find that he wasn't. One day, Remus stormed in, finding both Andromeda and a now very pregnant Dora.
"What's the rush, Remus?" Dora asked. She stroked her belly absentmindedly and Andromeda smiled. She recognized so much of herself in Dora.
"I'm so sorry," he panted. He had obviously run. "I only found out just yet."
"Found out what?" Her heart cringed together. No, he couldn't possible mean…
"Andy, I'm so sorry. Ted was killed last night when he tried to fight off a troop of Snatchers. I wanted to tell you two before you heard it on Potterwatch."
Andy grasped for the couch, desperate to sit down. All air seemed to have been slammed out of her.
"You're lying!" she yelled all of a sudden. "You're a liar! HE'S NOT DEAD, you're just making it up!"
"I wouldn't make up something like that Andy…"
"It's still a lie! It just can't be true!" She clenched her fists in anger.
"Mum…" Dora walked over to her and placed one of her hands upon her mother's fists. Her face was tearstained and the sight of that hit Andromeda hard. Ted was dead. Her sweet, wonderful, funny, loving Ted. Gone. Forever.
"Nooooo!" she screamed, in a scream that pierced Remus' and Dora's ears. She sank to the floor, eyes staring into nothingness, repeating all the while: "Not my Ted, not my Ted." She could not even cry. Crying made it real and it couldn't be real. It felt like her world had just ended, right there and then.
"I hate this," Narcissa whispered softly to Lucius. They were seated in the salon, because Bellatrix had taken over the living room. "It feels like it isn't even our home anymore. You know? It is still our house, but it is not our home."
Lucius shook his head. "It isn't," he replied. There were dark rings around his eyes and there were some streaks of grey in his hair and it was the first time that Narcissa really registered that Azkaban and the war had aged Lucius. She presumed she herself didn't look like she used to anymore too.
They spent most of the time together these days, at least when the Dark Lord wasn't around. They had a feeling that he could switch his attitude towards them on a whim and that every day could be their last. Draco was turning into a perfect, obedient Death Eater, but she could see the fear in his eyes when he thought no one was watching. She knew why he did it, but every time she looked at him her heart cringed. It shouldn't be like this. Parents should be there to protect their children, not the other way around. But they were in no position to do so and the roles had been reversed. She felt like they were letting him down.
A loud, ringing bell announced that there was someone at the gate, trying to get in.
"I'll get it," she told Lucius and practically jumped from her seat. She wanted to reach the front doors before Bellatrix' foul mood was made even worse by the alarms of the wards. She heard the booming voice of the device asking what the intruders' business was. Their response was as clear as if they were standing right next to her. "We've captured Harry Potter." She raised an eyebrow. How could a bunch of Snatchers have captured him where Death Eaters had failed? She put the wards down nonetheless, because if they really had… She took a minute to compose herself before she opened the front door. Apart from her husband, she wouldn't allow anyone to see the faltered stated she was in. She awaited the troop. They dragged along four or five youngsters and she scanned the prisoners for the messy black hair that belonged to Harry Potter. She didn't find it and she frowned. They'd better have a good reason…
"What is this?" she said.
"We're here to see He Who Must Not Be Named!" one of them replied. The werewolf. Narcissa wrinkled her nose in disgust. She would not have him command her around.
"Who are you?" is what she stated.
"You know me! Fenrir Greyback."
She could hear the hint of resentment in his voice and her lips curled up the tiniest bit. Good, let him know his place. One of the others threw her the wand they had taken from the presumably Harry Potter. She raised an eyebrow. It didn't look like the description the Dark Lord had given of it. "Bring them in," she ordered.
Both she and Lucius examined the prisoners. Lucius was a little less composed. He let his excitement at the possible capture of Harry Potter take the better of him, but Narcissa looked at her son. If anyone could tell, it would be Draco… But apparently Draco wasn't too sure.
"If we are mistaken, if we summon him and it isn't…" she said, her voice hoarse. The werewolf drew her attention to the Mudblood and she narrowed her eyes. She recognised her. She had seen her in Madame Malkin's, with the Potter boy.
"And this is a Weasley!" Lucius cried triumphantly. He was right, the red hair was unmistakable.
Bellatrix stalked through the Malfoy living room, her face resembling a thunderous cloud. The Death Eaters still hadn't been able to capture the Potter boy and his friends, and somehow the Dark Lord blamed her for failing. She blamed herself for failing. She should be able to track down three teenagers! Those unfortunate enough to come across her on a day like this, still carried the scars of her torture.
The ringing of the wards irritated her, as did the voices that came up to her all of a sudden. She shook her head angrily. How dare they disturb her?! She got hold of a word, a name: Harry Potter. Her spirits lightened a bit. Could it really be? If so, then she needed to make sure she was the one to alert the Dark Lord. He would reward her greatly if she brought Him the boy…
She opened the door to the salon like she owned the place. "What's this Cissy? What's going on?" she demanded. But before Narcissa had a change to answer, her breath hitched in her throat as she recognised one of the prisoners.
"But surely," she said, struggling to keep her voice even, "this is the Mudblood girl? This is Granger?"
Lucius confirmed her suspicions. "It's Potter! Potter and his friends, caught at last!"
He seemed pretty certain of his case and she rolled up her left sleeve at once. "If you're sure, we must inform the Dark Lord at once!"
Lucius grabbed her arm to stop her and Bellatrix narrowed her eyes. The audacity…. "Take your hands off me! It's not up to you to inform the Dark Lord," she spoke menacingly. "If anyone will report them, it'll be me."
Lucius didn't let go of her arm and she glared at him. How dare he!
The leading Snatcher, Scabior, coughed. "I hope you're not forgetting who actually brought them before you? It is us who shall be claiming the gold."
She clacked her tongue irritated. "Gold! Is that really all you idiots can think about?! You can keep your gold! All I want is His… His…" her voice faltered as her eyes fell onto the sword one of the Snatchers was holding. The sword that she knew ought to be in her vault. Panic spread through her. If they had managed to steal the sword from her vault, who knew what else they had stolen. If they had taken the cup, the cup she had sworn to her master to keep safe... If they had taken the cup, it would be the end of her, she was absolutely certain of that. Her breathing quickened and she had trouble focusing. There would be no forgiveness if they had stolen the cup, His wrath would be like none before… She barely registered Lucius loosening his grip on her, but when he pulled up the sleeve of his robe, some of her senses came back. They couldn't summon Him, not now. She needed to know for sure.
"STOP!" she shrieked, scaring even herself at the panic in her voice. "If the Dark Lord comes now, we shall all perish!"
Lucius froze and she stalked over to the Snatcher holding the sword. "Give it to me!"
He refused and she stunned him, taking the sword. The others let out roars of disapproval, but she didn't care. She took them all out, one by one.
"Draco, move this scum outside," she ordered. "If you don't have the guts to take them out, leave them for me."
Narcissa stepped forward in protest, but she cut her short. "You have no idea of the grave danger we're in, Cissy!"
She ordered Greyback to take the prisoners downstairs, but not before she cut the Mudblood loose with her silver knife. She would be the easiest to get to talk.
"What else did you take?!" she yelled as she used the knife to put pressure on the Granger girl. The girl screamed but she didn't care. One thought kept racing through her mind: They can't have taken the cup, they can't have taken the cup! Master'll kill me!
"We found it, I swear, PLEASE!" the Mudblood screamed, trying to wriggle out from under her knife.
Bellatrix put more pressure on her knife and cut her. Blood began to trickle when she cut her again. And again. She made sure to cut deep, so there always would be scars. "Tell the truth!" she yelled.
"I don't know what you mean." The girl was crying, big tears rolling down her cheeks.
Such weakness. And such lies! The girl was tough, this called for more desperate measures.
The girl whimpered and writhed and her cries filled the room. Her body was convulsing, but that didn't stop Bellatrix from firing another crucio at her.
"Please, we haven't been in your vault! It's a copy!"
Bellatrix made a new cut. "Such a likely story!" she screeched.
Lucius sent Draco down to fetch the goblin, whilst Bellatrix made cut after neat cut and the Mudblood screamed. When the goblin was pushed into the room, she let go off the Mudblood, who thumped on the floor. Her knife was at the goblin's skin in the blink of an eye.
"Is this the real sword?" she asked threateningly.
"No, it's a fake," the goblin replied.
Thank Merlin, the cup was safe. She slashed his face and took a step back. She caught eye of Narcissa, who had a look of revulsion on her face. You'll never know the danger we were in, she thought. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Lucius pulling up the sleeves of his robes but she quickly pulled up hers. Lucius was not going to get the credits. Not when she had done all the work to make sure they had stolen the object he had given to her to protect with her life. She pressed her right hand down on her left arm and felt the familiar sensation of blood temporarily stolling in her veins when the Dark Lord was summoned.
There was a commotion down the stairs and before she had time to react, her wand was blasted out of her hand. She hissed furiously. It was that filthy blood traitor of a Weasley.
"Stop, or this one dies," she screeched as held up the girl and placed her knife at her throat. That seemed to have some impact. The boys dropped the wands and she ordered Draco to pick them back up again.
A grinding noise made her look up and she noticed just in time that the chandelier was coming down. She pushed the Mudblood away – who cared if she got killed by it? – and dove to the side, just in time.
But they managed to get away, with the wands, due to a stupid house elf. Bellatrix was angered and terrified, for she knew the Dark Lord was on his way. She had after all summoned him herself. He would be furious.
The Dark Lord was indeed furious. No, he was beyond furious. His wrath was terrible. Bellatrix had never seen him this mad. He was firing curses at all of the Death Eaters, for letting Harry Potter and his friends escape. Cries of terror filled the room as one after the other was hit. All around her, she saw people writhe and convulse in pain. She had been able to avoid being hit so far, but she knew that it wouldn't take long before she too was subject to her Master's rage. When she heard him commencing what sounded like a killing curse, she barely had time to think. Next to her she saw Lucius starting to Disapparate and on a whim she got hold of his sleeve just he disappeared. Seconds later, they landed safely in the hallway. Lucius shot her a look of disgust and ran up the stairs, probably towards Narcissa. Bellatrix panted and only now did she realise what she had done. She had fled. She, Bellatrix Lestrange-Black, second lieutenant and most loyal servant to the Dark Lord had fled his side. But what good would you have been to Him if you had gotten yourself killed? a tiny voice inside her head said. She knew the Dark Lord would punish her later and she would deserve whatever punishment He gave her. But for now, she was just relieved to have survived.
A/N: Sorry there wasn't a lot of Narcissa in this chapter, but she will play a big part in the next chapter, I promise!