Author : hereticalvision
Rating : PG-13
Word Count : 2k
Characters : Black sisters and their partners
Summary : The question of who murdered the Black sisters is a matter of perspective.
Disclaimer : All characters depicted herein are owned by JKR et al. This was written for pleasure, not profit. No infringement intended.
Authors Note : Based on the following prompts.
Everybody knows the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
‘Everybody Knows’, Leonard Cohen (56)
until an awful hunger and your wrong
in slaughtering my sisters has compelled
your jaws to gnaw as food your very tables.
- Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 3, lines 333-5 (20)
The last thing Bella ever said to Andromeda was, “That Mudblood scum murdered my sister.” Andromeda had looked into Bella’s eyes and tried to think of years and years of love and childhood and dreams but what she saw was Voldemort and madness and death.
Sirius used to say that Andromeda was stronger than her sisters, because she was the one who’d made up her own mind about things. Andromeda doesn’t see it that way.
She didn’t really want that much. She would have settled into the pureblood marriage her parents were preparing for her, but she wanted something else first. Just a taste of the danger, the forbidden. Not like Bella, never like Bella. Bella wanted to carve things up and burn the world down. In the summers when they were confined to their parents’ house, the two of them and Narcissa down the hall, Andromeda would sometimes hear noises coming from Bella’s room. Rodolphus Lestrange sneaking in and out of her bedroom window, Bella casting spells Andromeda didn’t know, and always afterward when Bella summoned her to torment or to reconcile according to her whim the air in the room would taste like blood.
Andromeda’s forbidden desire was warmth. Parents who loved rather than expecting. Partners who worshipped rather than doing their duty. Andromeda had no desire to sharpen the already almost unbearable edge to her life. She craved an emotional comfort that she could sink into like the perfect velvet pillows on her bed.
Ted Tonks had no idea of ambition or pureblood pride or anything beyond telling this pretty girl how she made him feel. It made him irresistible.
When Andromeda was five Bella would rock her to sleep sometimes when she was scared.
When Andromeda was seven Bella told her not to be such a baby, but held her anyway.
When Andromeda was nine she found a cat with a broken leg. She wanted to heal it. She found it dead a day later. Bella looked guilty for a week afterward. Andromeda never asked.
When Andromeda was thirteen Bella had come home one night in the summer with her robe torn and magic crackling all around her body, and kissed Andromeda in a way that made her pull away and feel a little sick.
When Andromeda was fifteen she saw Bella curse a boy in the hallway, not the first time to be sure, but the first time he wouldn’t stop screaming, the first time she didn’t pull away, the first time Andromeda saw her sister draw blood and couldn’t pretend the idea was strange to her.
When Andromeda was seventeen, Bella tried to kill her.
Ted Tonks had his heart in his hand and his feelings bled out of him every time he looked at her. At school every day she saw him and she wondered what it would be like, just for a moment, to have something spontaneous, something that could be gentle.
“Well look at the little Mudblood with a crush,” said Narcissa with malicious humour.
“It’s disgusting,” snapped Bella, who looked simultaneously furious and nauseated.
Andromeda lowered her eyes, and kept them down whenever she was with her sisters, but when she was alone she raised her head and she saw him.
Mother used to say that Andromeda should look after little Narcissa, because she was the smallest and Bella was too wild.
Mother had the measure of Bella right enough, but she’d somehow missed the core of absolute steel that existed within Narcissa. Narcissa had wanted to marry Lucius Malfoy and she had, despite his preferences in that regard and his endless dalliances. She got him to love her and she got him to marry her.
When Cissy had first let slip her crush on Lucius at the age of fourteen, Bella had howled with laughter and spitefully offered to brew her a love potion. Cissy, with a poise that Andromeda would never achieve no matter how old or self-confident she became, said simply: “That will not be necessary.”
And really, who could resist a charming, beautiful woman with an obligingly blind eye and no ambition beyond helping her husband achieve all of his? Her one, utterly unforeseeable failure had been her inability to produce more than one heir, but then none of the Black sisters had proved good breeders. Andromeda could practically hear Father’s sneer as she thought on this.
So Lucius had fallen for Narcissa, and then their parents announced that they were arranging his marriage to Andromeda.
Ted found her crying one day. He held her, the first time he'd touched her, and she imagined the impossibility of telling him about the crushing weight of being a Black and a pureblood, with hundreds of years of tradition to uphold. Instead she let herself enjoy the feel of his arms, let him kiss her, let herself go boneless and let him tell her all the things she'd been longing to hear.
It never felt like a decision at all.
Narcissa said, "Will you marry Lucius, then?"
Andromeda said, "What else can I do?"
Narcissa looked away, trying to mask the flash of pain in her expression.
"You know Father won't change his mind. Can't Lucius…"
"Abraxas Malfoy is harder to handle even than Father," said Narcissa with a sneer.
Andromeda sighed. "Why wasn't it Bella?"
Narcissa's lip curled. "Everyone knows she's been with Rodolphus Lestrange. Father's working on having him marry her; no one else will now."
Andromeda took Narcissa's hand. "Cissy, I don't want this."
Narcissa nodded. "I know."
When Andromeda was four, she was the only one who could make Narcissa stop crying.
When Andromeda was six, she and Bella used to enjoy playing with Narcissa’s brilliant blonde hair.
When Andromeda was eleven, Narcissa wept as her two big sisters left for school.
When Andromeda was thirteen Narcissa was already getting a reputation as the prettiest of the Black sisters, and her weepy demeanour wa a thing of the past.
When Andromeda was sixteen and going to marry Lucius, Narcissa behaved as though she’d never wept in all her life.
When Andromeda was seventeen, Narcissa found out about her and Ted.
Narcissa had said, "I know." It didn't occur to Andromeda until much, much later that Cissy might despise her for failing to value what she herself would give anything to have.
"The Mudblood, Andy?" hissed Narcissa, quiet in the common room after everyone else was asleep.
Andromeda opened her mouth to form a denial automatically.
"I saw you, don't bother."
Andromeda said, "Please, you can't tell anyone."
"What kind of fool do you take me for?" Narcissa spat.
Narcissa wouldn't look at her. "You're lucky it was me, not Bella," she said finally before walking away.
In Ted's arms Andromeda could always blot out everything else. She whispered to him once that she was engaged, she was going to have to marry and his arms tightened around her. He swore his love and honourable intentions right there, and Andromeda loved hearing it and didn't trust it for a moment. That habit she would eventually manage to break, but then she trusted only her sisters and the tradition of her family.
Andromeda met Ted on the Astronomy Tower, in the Prefect's bathroom, anywhere they could find to snatch an hour or so for lips and fingertips and tenderness. Andromeda firmly believed she would be able to get enough, and then she would walk back into her pureblood world unchanged.
Then Narcissa brought Lucius to catch her with Ted.
The four of them stood looking at each other a long moment. Narcissa's face was curled in triumph. Lucius' expression revealed shock and anger, and if there was a measure of relief there Andromeda knew it wouldn't save her.
"Well," said Lucius. "My fiancée and a Mudblood. How interesting."
There was no denying what they had been doing. Both their robes were askew, both their faces flushed.
Andromeda began, "Lucius-"
Narcissa cut her off, "You can't sleep with a Mudblood and then bear Malfoy heirs, Andy, what are you thinking?"
Ted tried to speak, but was cut off by "Petrificus Totalis!" from Lucius' wand.
Lucius smirked at her. "I will be writing to your parents to inform them that I am breaking our engagement, and of the reason why. I suggest you plan accordingly. Good-bye, Andromeda. Come, my dear," he said, offering Narcissa his arm. She took it and they left without another glance.
Sirius thought that Narcissa had never challenged anything a day in her life, that she done her duty with Lucius and ignored his dalliances and indifference in the hope that he would come to love her in the end.
Sirius thought Narcissa weak and Andromeda strong, but then Sirius couldn't even see that Remus loved him. Sirius could see nothing at all in the people he supposedly knew and that's why Sirius, strong, bold Sirius died.
Andromeda wasn’t the type to accept sacrifice lightly. She’d tried for months to work out a way to keep Ted in her life without losing her sisters, without losing her position as a Black. She was Slytherin after all – and it was her ambition to have everything she wanted, all at once.
But there was no way to fight everything at once and when Narcissa betrayed her and Bella threatened her and Ted told her he'd do anything to be with her she settled for that half-life and found to her relief that being with Ted really was worth it after all.
She consoled herself with the idea that betrayal had made her happy.
Andromeda wasn’t the type to accept the need to sacrifice and she hated that she had managed to surround herself by people who did.
Ted left her and died to save her. Remus went to his death so Nymphadora wouldn’t have to. Nymphadora charged after him because she had her own damn battles to fight. Not one Slytherin in the pack, not one who could think of how to keep it all. And she herself was a Slytherin barely worthy of the name; she couldn’t even work out how to keep her family together, not at seventeen and not at forty-five. And so they all left her and little Teddy alone.
Narcissa was a Slytherin who had kept both of the people she loved alive and with her. Anyone who ever thought Narcissa weak had clearly failed to pay attention.
Three sisters. So many murders.
To Bella, Ted Tonks murdered her sister.
To Narcissa, Molly Weasley murdered her sister.
To Andromeda, Narcissa murdered both her sisters and Bella the rest of her family.
Andromeda doesn't know why she went to Bella's funeral. Her sister had counted her as dead for years. Andromeda wondered, when Bella killed little Dora, if she did it because she could see Ted in her, or because she saw her own rebellious sister and the promise of that rebellion come to fruition. Had it been pure hatred or perhaps some latent jealousy? Bella would never have understood Andromeda's need for something comfortable, never did understand that she had found it. Oh, Bella. Is there more hope of redemption now that she's dead?
"Molly Weasley came," said a sudden, familiar voice Andromeda should have known to expect. She turned; Narcissa wasn't looking at her. "It was her killed Bella you know."
Andromeda's voice was thick when she said, "Bella killed my daughter."
Narcissa nodded, and met her eyes. "I know."
Andromeda chuckled without mirth. "Everyone who fought is a murderer."
Narcissa nodded again. "But why she felt the need to come…"
"Because some people feel bad about these things," Andromeda snapped.
Narcissa fell silent. Andromeda felt the weight of withheld absolution between them, and wondered if she too should expect a visit from Molly. She wouldn't know what to say to her then any more than she knew what to say to Narcissa now.
Andromeda looked behind her to where Draco and Lucius stood, blond and elegant and exactly as she had pictured them. Lucius and Narcissa are still the most handsome couple in any given room. Andromeda has not aged quite so well; she had become plump but worry has thinned her, turned her hair grey, drawn new lines on her face all in the space of a year. "You didn't fight?"
Narcissa caught her gaze again and said, "I fought, in the end. I didn't want to but I did."
Andromeda nearly choked on the way she had never, ever wanted to fight and had in the end had a cast-iron three-month-old reason not to and hated that she'd counted on it.
"Did you forgive me?" said Narcissa, and there's a catch in her voice like the answer might mean something.
"No," Andromeda told her without emotion. "But I was happy. So it didn’t matter. For a while anyway."
Narcissa looked away blindly.
It’s always the weak who survive, thinks Andromeda, unbearably tired, with a child to look after and no one to look after her. Among the good, anyway – because the good among the strong always fight. Good people sacrifice themselves, good people lose. And that’s why the war happens again and again and again.