Title: Should Have Been
Characters: Andromeda Tonks, mention of Remus, Nymphadora and Teddy Lupin, and Ted Tonks
Genre: Family, Angst, Tragedy
Notes: Out of all the characters in the Harry Potter universe, I think Andromeda has it about the worst. She loses her husband, she watches her daughter lose her job and watches her become an outcast simply because she found love, and then she loses not only her daughter, but her son-in-law, too, and it falls to her to raise her grandson.
She lost both of her babies in the second Great War.
Now you should never have to watch as your only children are lowered in the ground,
Never have to bury your own baby.
-"Gravedigger" Dave Matthews
Nymphadora is dead.
Remus is dead.
They died for a good cause, someone says, and Andromeda wants to wrap her long, thin aristocratic fingers around their neck, because no cause is good enough for this, no cause is going to make her accept that her daughter and son-in-law are dead.
They were instrumental in securing victory, someone else tries to say. They held off so many, saved the lives of a few students, too. But it is of little comfort. Bravery and victory are small words in the face of death; they don't feel as if they belong together at all. There is no victory in death.
She sees the bodies and knows that's all they are, but it still hurts to see them.
"It was supposed to be me," she says to no one in particular.
And she wonders where she went wrong. Could she have talked Remus into staying? If he had stayed, Nymphadora would never have gone after him, and they would both be alive. Would they have both stayed home if she'd fought, if she'd come in their place?
She's a Black, as good with a wand as anyone else, certainly as good as Molly Weasley—Molly, who killed Bellatrix, who took revenge for Sirius and Nymphadora and countless others.
It should have been me, she thinks.
Her own sister had been the one to kill Nymphadora. Had almost killed her once before, she recalls with a pang. Bella, little Bella; she hadn't always been so cruel. A long time ago she had been a pretty little girl.
She sees the way her daughter's fingers are just barely touching her husband's, and when they move to take the bodies away she shudders because it hurts, even if they are just bodies. Her voice is a low, strangled rasping as she repeats into the wet folds of her handkerchief, "It was supposed to be me."
It's all she can do to keep herself from screaming louder than the baby in her arms. Had she been raised as anything other than a Black, she would give into the urge to cry and shout, to beat her fists into her living room carpet, to drown in her own grief and despair.
But a baby needs her—her grandson, her darling little Teddy who snores like his father, is named after his grandfather, who acts like his mother—and so she pushes her sorrow and her guilt to the back of her mind and changes his diaper, rocks him, sings to him—
Until he falls asleep in his little bed and she remembers that the song she's singing is one she has used before, and she goes to the photograph drawer and pulls out a time-worn picture of another baby, one who had been temperamental and picky, who'd refused to sleep without the sound of her voice in the air.
Her tears splash onto the picture, and she tries to wipe them away. She can't ruin the photograph, because it's all she has left, now, memories, fragile and so easily forgotten.
She moves Teddy's crib into her bedroom; the sound of his light snoring comforts her. She remembers how it felt to be a new mother, worried every moment that her daughter would stop breathing in the night. But this is different, somehow; the fear is still there, but his presence is soothing, a constant reminder that her memories, however painful, are real.
He is tangible proof of what love can do; love brought him into the world, and it's love that keeps her grounded. She knows if she had to sit alone in her dark, silent house, she would simply stop caring.
A full year passes before she can make herself pack away the possessions that once belonged to Nymphadora and Remus, and even then, it still squeezes at her chest to sit in the small, old bedroom they had shared to pack away her daughter's old work boots, her son-in-law's patched cloak, the few things they'd kept when they'd come begging for a place to live because they'd taken a risk with love and it hadn't treated them kindly.
She's never been the type to keep unnecessary things, and she thinks Ted would laugh to see her now, saving silly mementos like her daughter's holey neon green socks with pandas on them—she had always nagged him to throw useless rubbish like that away—but she just can't bear to discard them.
She can't even bear the thought of waving her wand to pack it all up.
So she sits in the bedroom Nymphadora grew up in while Teddy's godfather watches him downstairs, and she slowly sorts things through by hand, tears lingering on her cheeks in much the same way her fingertips linger on the silly, sentimental possessions that had once belonged to her daughter and the man whom she had started to think of as a son.
A few more years pass before she can bear to leave the photographs out on the table in the sitting room.
Seeing them still hurts, but at least she doesn't cry at the sight of a frozen moment in time. She bends down and scoops up the photo of her daughter: eleven years old at King's Cross Station, about to board the train for her first year at Hogwarts. Her breath catches in her throat.
Her little girl.
Memories flood back—of hearing about Ted's death, of seeing Nymphadora and Remus lying so still and silent in death—and she blinks back tears and picks up the single photograph of Nymphadora and Remus on their wedding day.
"I want to go first," she'd said jokingly to Ted on her own wedding day, but he'd had the privilege of going on, of not having to deal with the memories.
She traces the outline of her daughter's smile, and marvels at how the lines in Remus's face seem to disappear when his arms wrap around his new wife, and she sets the photograph down and turns away with a quiet, unheard whisper: "It should have been me."