Adoption wasn’t as prevalent in the wizarding world.
Or, at least, it hadn’t been historically.
Orphan rates were rising, as were the rate of children whose parents simply couldn’t take care of them anymore. While some of these children found homes with relatives and close friends, not too many people wanted one more person to worry about, or for their families to be targeted for housing the survivor of a murdered family. Perhaps if Andromeda hadn’t learned she couldn’t have any more children, she would have been just as hesitant.
Andromeda had been prompted to find out for two reasons. First were the pregnancy scares — caused by other scares that led Andromeda and Ted to be less careful. Comfort was more important. Then came Dora’s insistence that she wanted a baby brother or sister after meeting and holding Neville Longbottom.
“I want to take him home,” she’d whined as they’d left.
“He’s Alice’s baby, Dora.”
Almost a year later, the conversation had continued. And Andromeda couldn’t help but think it would be good for Dora to have a younger sibling. It would teach her responsibility. Now wasn’t the right time — Alice and Frank hadn’t planned on Neville, as much as they loved him. But what about when the war ended?
So Andromeda and Ted had gone to a Muggle OB/GYN, just to make sure a baby was a viable option — after all, Andromeda knew she should’ve already been pregnant. Although there were maternity Healers at St. Mungo’s, they didn’t have the technology to do what a Muggle doctor could.
That was where Andromeda learned that she couldn’t have them.
Apparently, it was a miracle that Dora had been born at all; even more of a miracle that there hadn’t been any major complications. Andromeda could try having children again — but it wouldn’t be safe.
Much to Andromeda’s own surprise, the news had saddened her. Ted as well.
Fortunately, there was a solution.
Pomona Sprout was leading an initiative that extended far beyond her greenhouse: the initiative to connect parents who wanted children with children who’d been left alone. Alice was helping her, having an advantage as an Auror and a member of an organization Andromeda didn’t know much about, except that she, Frank, and Sirius were all in it. Alice had promised Andromeda that they would help her.
“It might not be a war orphan,” Alice pointed out. “It might be a child from somewhere else. The initiative isn’t just for our own.”
“Of course it’s not, and that’s why I love you,” Andromeda told her with a smile. “I don’t care where he or she is from. I want another child. Not just for Dora, not just for Ted, for me.”
Normally, Andromeda didn’t let such strong emotions show, but she was close enough to Alice that she felt comfortable being completely open. Really, Alice was the sister Narcissa and Bellatrix ought to have been.
Which was why, when Alice gave her the news, she’d almost thrown up. Not that anyone could tell from the way she sat with a still and stony face.
They were at Alice and Frank’s place; Sirius was there as well, along with the Potters. Harry and Neville were in a pram together on the other side of the room.
“He’s after Harry and Neville?” Andromeda asked.
“One of them,” Lily said. Her voice was trembling. “Dumbledore says he thinks it’s Harry… but he might change his mind…”
Lily looked at Alice in a clear fit of horror, and Andromeda knew what was going through her mind. The hope that he wasn’t really after her son; hating herself for wishing the reverse on anyone else, much less a friend.
The tense silence was broken by Sirius throwing his mug down, causing it to split in half.
“No,” he said loudly. “I can’t accept it.”
“Sirius,” Andromeda hissed.
“Don’t hiss at me, Andromeda! This isn’t happening. We need a plan.”
“Dumbledore has one,” James said. “He wants us to—”
Sirius laughed over him. “You really trust Dumbledore?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Let me think about it. Dorcas… Caradoc… Gideon and Fabian…”
“How was any of it his fault? You’re being irrational.”
“Irrational? They were our friends, James. And from where I’m standing, Dumbledore’s not done a thing to keep them safe.”
“What the hell are you on about?” Alice exclaimed. “There’s a load you don’t know! If Dumbledore hadn’t established the Order years ago, the war would be so much worse!”
“Yeah, when he didn’t bother to tell anyone else there might be a war, he’s such a hero!”
“He told anyone who’d listen. That’s how the Order was born. It’s not his fault there’ve been casualties, and it’s not his fault Voldemort’s after our—”
Alice’s fingers pressed against the table. “We’re all upset. No one more than James, Lily, Frank and me. But we don’t have time to blame anyone. That’s not why we’re here.”
“We need Secret Keepers,” James explained. “Sirius, Lily and I want it to be you.”
“Me?” Sirius sounded surprised. “James…”
“Who else would we ask? Dumbledore offered, but both Lily and I know who it needs to be.”
Sirius nodded very slowly. “I would be honoured.”
“‘Dromeda…” Alice said at the same time.
“Absolutely,” Andromeda promised without hesitation.
“This isn’t a light decision. If they have any reason to suspect that you know where we are, they will come after you.”
“I know. I don’t care.”
After that, all want for a child was put aside out of fear for her friends.
The night before they went into hiding, Lily met with Alice and Andromeda. Lily's face was tight as she held her son. Andromeda thought of Dora and cringed, imagining how she’d feel in such a predicament. It was hard enough knowing Neville was in danger. Neville, who Andromeda had held when he was five hours old. Neville, who Frank had taken with him.
The women had clearly been together for some time, Andromeda realized; empty tea cups sat on either side of them. She couldn’t imagine what they were each going through; she knew that they were close friends, Alice regarding Lily as a younger sister, and had always hoped their sons would be playmates when they were older. Now here they were, wondering whose son was in danger, struggling with so many conflicted feelings.
At least, Andromeda observed, they didn’t seem to have been driven apart by this.
“I know you’ve been asked a lot, Andromeda,” Lily began, “but I have one last thing to ask of you.”
“The war’s not going to end anytime soon. I think we all know that. James and I will hide. You know we will. But if Voldemort” (Andromeda winced) “finds a way to us, we’re not going to step aside and let him hurt Harry. There’s a good chance that he’ll take both of us.”
“Don’t say that,” Andromeda said sharply.
“Anything could happen. No one is safe, not James, not me, and Sirius… if something happens to James, we both know he’ll be out for blood. He’s Harry’s godfather, he’d never let anything happen to him, but James is the only family Sirius has ever really had. He loses that, we lose him, full stop.”
Andromeda began to point out that she was his family, but stopped. While that was true, deep down, Andromeda knew James was truly a sibling to Sirius in a way she would never be. She would always be the cousin who’d been nice to him when he was a boy, the cousin with a daughter he joked around with and minded when Andromeda and Ted went out, who sometimes joined them for holiday dinners, but not always. James was Sirius’s closest family, the way Alice and Frank were Andromeda’s closest family, aside from Ted and Dora.
“That leaves our friends,” Lily was saying. “But none of them can take care of a child right now… my sister’s horrid, she’d probably just shove him in the attic.”
“You don’t really think that?” Alice gasped.
“I’ll always be a freak to Petunia, and I’m her sister. What would she do to a kid she doesn’t even know? No, I don’t trust her with Harry, not one bit.”
Lily looked at Andromeda. “But Alice told me you had considered adopting.”
“I had,” Andromeda said. Was Lily saying what she thought she was?
Lily took Andromeda’s hands. “You’re a good mother. I’ve seen you and Dora. And you’re friends with Alice and Frank, so they’d still be in Harry’s life, all our dear friends could be… and you’re related to Sirius. He’ll still have a bit of his godfather, too.”
Andromeda didn’t know what to say.
Lily put Harry into Andromeda’s lap, and she realized Lily’s hands were shaking. But then Andromeda focused on Harry.
He was a sweet boy, really; he looked up at Andromeda, and smiled back at her. Andromeda felt very comfortable holding him, and when he grabbed onto her scarf, she didn’t object.
“He likes you,” Lily said, her voice wavering.
“I like him, too,” Andromeda said.
She stood, and handed him back to Lily. “But of course, this is a conversation we needn’t have. You’re going to be fine. Sirius is going to be fine.”
“Let’s hope so. If not, however…”
“I will,” Andromeda said softly.
“However” came soon.
In reality, it wasn’t soon at all — if anything, the length of time had given Andromeda a spark of hope.
When Andromeda saw the Daily Prophet headline, she spat out her tea. For a millisecond, she felt relief when she read that You-Know-Who had been defeated; then confusion when she saw a young boy named Harry Potter had defeated him (how?); and, finally, horror as her eyes scanned the rest.
The boy’s parents, James and Lily Potter, were found deceased among the ruins.
“Ted,” Andromeda said faintly, and she showed him.
“What is it?” Dora asked as the look of joy on Ted’s face turned to frozen astonishment.
“I have to go to Alice and Frank — or Sirius, wherever he is. I don’t know who to go to first,” Andromeda finished.
“Go to Alice and Frank,” Ted said. “You’re the only one who knows where they are.”
“What’s going on?” Dora whined.
Andromeda turned to her daughter. “I’d tell you, you know I would, but I don’t know. Just… stay with your father. Don’t leave the house. Oh, drat, Ted — you’re supposed to work, aren’t you?”
“I don’t reckon anyone’s working today,” Ted said. “Dora, go to your room.”
“I just woke up!”
“Dora!” Andromeda and Ted said together; Dora rolled her eyes, but obeyed their orders nonetheless. She must have realized that this was not a time to be stubborn.
“Something’s not right,” Ted said in a quiet voice. “I’m not sure we’re going to… find Sirius.”
“You know he didn’t go into hiding,” Andromeda told him. “That’s not who he is.”
“He was their Secret Keeper, ‘Dromeda. How did You-Know-Who find them?”
Andromeda couldn’t bring herself to accept that he might be dead, for that was the only answer she could come up with. It was so terrible that she immediately removed it from consideration.
“Right now,” Andromeda said, “I just need to get to Alice and Frank so I can inform them that two of their friends are dead. In the meantime, try getting into contact with Sirius. If he comes around, do not let him leave. Use the strongest Stunning Spell you can muster. Hit him in the head with a lamp. Do whatever you have to do to keep him from doing anything stupid. And tell him I love him.”
Andromeda would only realize she’d said the last part in hindsight; she was already running out the door.
Alice cried on Frank’s shoulder; Frank didn’t look far from tears himself. Andromeda sat helplessly, wishing there were something she could do.
“But they’re safe,” Alice hiccuped at last. “Harry and Neville are safe. I’m confused… did you say Harry…?”
“I know. I thought you might know how it happened.”
Alice shook her head. “Not in the slightest. Maybe Sirius will.”
She stopped. “Have you heard from him? What happened?”
“I don’t know,” Andromeda said. “I haven’t had word.”
“Of course.” Alice stood. “I’m going to try Flooing Dumbledore. No idea what he does or doesn’t know, but he’ll have instructions for us.”
She ran off, leaving Andromeda, Frank, and a sleeping Neville. Frank had a strange look on his face.
“Has Sirius said anything to you?” Frank asked her.
“We haven’t spoken about it much.” When they had, Sirius got upset; he’d once said he wasn’t sure they’d asked the right person. But when Andromeda prompted him, he changed the subject.
“Anything at all? I’m worried…” Frank stopped.
“Nothing. Forget I said anything.”
Andromeda glared at her friend. “Don’t you dare patronise me. What’s on your mind?”
“He was their Secret Keeper. They shouldn’t have been found. This indicates to me that either he was forced to give the information away, killed, or gave it voluntarily.”
In all of the years they’d been friends, Frank had never said anything to hurt her, much less so deeply.
“Voluntarily! How can you say such a thing?!” Andromeda cried.
“We didn’t tell you about the spy,” Frank said.
“There was a spy within the Order. We’d known that for some time.” Frank heaved a sigh. “I know he’s your cousin, Andromeda, and I hope I’m wrong. But the writing on the wall…”
“No one’s written on any wall,” Andromeda retorted.
Frank didn’t say anything, instead looking back at Andromeda wearily.
“I’m very sorry for the loss of your friends,” Andromeda told him honestly. “But I would advise against blaming other people in your grief. At least not without just cause.”
“He was the only person who knew how to find them. We both know that.”
“I should go,” Andromeda said. “I’ll be in touch.”
“Andromeda,” Frank whispered miserably. Andromeda waved at him dismissively.
When she arrived home, Ted was waiting.
“Have you had word?” Andromeda asked.
Ted nodded. “Oh, ‘Dromeda. I don’t know how to tell you this. They found Sirius.”
Andromeda heard ringing in her ears. “He’s dead, isn’t he?”
“Worse. He killed at least a dozen people.”
Andromeda couldn’t rationalize this.
Twelve people. Including a wizard — that Peter Pettigrew bloke. Or was that in addition to? Had Sirius killed thirteen people? What difference did it make? It was senseless murder all the same.
There had to have been a mistake. For all of his flaws, Andromeda simply could not believe that Sirius would betrayJames and Lily or kill Peter. Not tomention the others. There was something missing, something more, something just within reach, but unable to be grasped. She was sure of it, and told Alice just as much when her friend’s head appeared in the fireplace. Alice had, it seemed, returned home already.
“This isn’t the time to discuss that,” Alice said quietly. “I will tell you that Alastor — Moody —and Frank are looking into it.”
“Frank’s already back at work? You just got home!”
“There’s too much to be done. That’s why I want you and Ted here. You always wanted to meet the Order,” Alice added wryly.
“The — the Order? Why am I coming to an Order meeting?”
“Remember what Lily said? If she and James… obviously, Sirius isn’t an option anymore. You need to be part of the conversation.”
Andromeda swallowed. “Of course. I’ll be right there. Should I bring Dora?”
“We’ll take her to Ted’s mum’s, then,” Andromeda said. “She’s used to spontaneous visits with Dora.”
The sight that met Andromeda was bleak, at best; the only happy person in the room was a man in a purple top hatwho had entered at the same time, and even he sobered after a glance at his comrades.
Alice was at the head of the table; two people were next to her on either side, a young woman with a green hat and a man with an earring. Kingsley Shacklebolt, Andromeda realised. She knew he was Alice’s trainee, but hadn’t known he was in the Order.
Next to the witch in the hat was Remus Lupin, whom Andromeda had met on several occasions. Andromeda felt a wave of guilt as she sat across from him; she must be the last person he wanted to see. To her surprise, however, he smiled, if very thinly.
“Andromeda,” he said very quietly. “Ted.”
“Hi, Remus,” Ted returned. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” Remus said.
“Why are you here?” Emmeline asked. At first Andromeda thought she was talking to Remus, which seemed odd; then she realized the question was being directed at her.
“She’s here on my invitation,” Alice said.
Emmeline sniffed. “Yes, I’m sure my best friend would’ve wanted her killer’s cousin at this meeting.”
“I had nothing to do with that,” Andromeda retorted. “And we don’t know all of the details yet!”
“What details? Seems pretty simple to me.”
Andromeda looked at Remus; his expression was blank. Perfect.
“You really don’t think there could be more to this?” she asked.
“Not now,” Alice said.
“It’s okay, Alice. I’m confused too.” Remus looked back at Andromeda. “I wish I had the answers. I wish I could believe that there was some mistake, but we also both know he tried to kill before.”
Everyone stared at Andromeda and Remus.
“He tried to killbefore?” Alice repeated.
Andromeda remembered her cousin’s “prank” well; he’d had a row with a classmate by the name of Severus Snape, who Sirius always called “Snivellus” in Andromeda’s company. Perhaps knowing telling his parents would not be a great idea, Dumbledore had instead called her to his office. It was the only time, Andromeda thought, that James and Sirius had had a real argument; while they didn’t argue in front of their families and Dumbledore, James had let out a few choice words.
At the time, Sirius’s actions had scared Andromeda, but she knew he was remorseful. Or at least, she thought that he was. He never did get on with the Snape boy after that. Had that been the beginning of something they’d all denied?
“He told Severus Snape how to find me on a full moon,” Remus said. “Yes, Andromeda, they know I’m a werewolf.”
Emmeline shook her head. “Let me guess, the classmate was Severus Snape? Sirius hated him. I never realised he went that far, though.”
“He was talking to Regulus about Death Eaters,” Andromeda said quickly. “Can you blame Sirius for losing it?” Certainly, that meant Sirius had always been against the Dark Arts and the ways of their family.
“I couldn’t at the time,” Remus said. “Now, however, I wonder. Maybe we shouldn’t have forgiven him — no; clearly, we should never have forgiven or trusted him.”
“I’m a werewolf, Andromeda. I know what happens when something bigger and darker takes hold. You don’t see people for who they were to you anymore. The darkness was always there, we both know that; I think even James knows — knew that. He just didn’t want to see it.”
Remus’s voice broke; for the first time, Emmeline’s face softened, and she put her hand on Remus’s shoulder.
“He was too good a friend,” she said.
“Where’s Harry?” Andromeda asked suddenly. Why wasn’t he here? He must be so scared and confused.
Emmeline’s face hardened again, and she quickly withdrew her hand. “Oh, right, I’d forgotten. You’ve been appointed guardian.”
“It makes the most sense,” Remus told her.
“Stop being so damn polite, Remus. It doesn’t. We’re their friends; it ought to be one of us.”
“How can either of us take care of a baby right now?”
“Who cares about the details? We’d make it work. We knew and loved them. We know and love him. She’s some random woman who’s related to—”
“Enough,” Alice interrupted. “The decision was made by Lily.”
“So where is he, then?” Emmeline demanded.
“That was my next order of business,” Alice said. “I don’t know.”
Andromeda’s heart sank, and Ted grabbed her hand; she thought she heard someone gasp.
“Sorry — not like that!” Alice said quickly. “Dumbledore has been very busy taking care of various matters. He said that he would tell me more very soon, but in the meantime, Hagrid was to collect Harry.”
“Hagrid? The Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts?” Andromeda was surprised; she remembered Hagrid as being friendly, but rather doofy. “Don’t tell me he’s in the Order, too.”
“He is, and Dumbledore trusts him.” Alice said with an air of finality. “We’re all worried about Harry, and I know you and Ted are anxious. But we have to trust Dumbledore to know what he’s doing. Besides, you’re not ready.”
“Harry’s become famous overnight. Besides needing nappies and baby food, you’re going to need to ensure charms are in place. We’re also going to need to discuss keeping him protected beyond his home.”
“I’ll work out that part,” Andromeda said. “At any rate, we already have charms in place.”
“Good. As soon as we have Harry, I’ll let you know.” Alice looked down at a piece of parchment. “Second order of business…”
For a moment, Andromeda was surprised by the abrupt change in subject; she then realised that this wasn’t her sweet, gentle friend: this was Auror Alice, who knew there was work to be done and no time to waste, who would undoubtedly be Head of Magical Law Enforcement someday.
“Dedalus,” Alice was saying, “you were on the Muggle news.”
“Was I really?”
“Well, not just you, but I know you were responsible for much of the celebration, right in the view of Muggles. Shooting stars in Kent?”
“Why, of course! There is much to celebrate!”
Andromeda covered her face with the cup of her hand.
“Yes, but the Statute of Secrecy still applies. Besides…” Alice briefly glanced in Remus and Emmeline’s direction, “we lost three of our own. It’s distasteful.”
Dedalus’s smile fell.
“Oh, never mind that,” Remus said in quick defence of the man. “James, Lily and Peter would have been thrilled by Dedalus’s celebration.”
“That they would have,” Emmaline agreed.
“Right. Still, be discreet,” Alice said.
She closed the parchment. “Right. I think… I think that’s about it for now. You’re all free to stay, if you’d like.”
“Of course we’d like to,” Emmeline said, her voice gentle again.
Andromeda realised that she probably ought to leave, and let the friends mourn alone. “I need to gather Dora. Alice, please keep me informed.”
Andromeda nodded at Ted, and they both walked to the door.
Remus had followed them at a short distance.
“I’m sorry about Emmeline, Andromeda,” Remus said. “She’s lost a lot of people in a short span of time.”
“So have you,” Andromeda observed.
Remus shrugged as though this didn’t affect him, but the pained expression on his face gave away the facade. “We all… have our coping mechanisms. Apparently, that has become hers. My point is… she didn’t mean to imply you weren’t fit, and that’s certainly not how either of us sees it.”
“I think she meant what she said, but I still understand,” Andromeda said.
“Still,” Ted added, “I hope you know that you and Emmeline will always be welcome in Harry’s life. We know what the Order was to Lily and James, and what you were before the Order. Harry should have a bit of that to take with him through his life.”
Remus nodded, and Andromeda smiled to herself. She wouldn’t have thought of extending such an offer, but Ted would always be a Hufflepuff at heart.
The next day was spent setting up a room for Harry.
He would have the cot that had been Dora’s; Dora put in her stuffed monkey, Mr. Banana. Ted assembled a few of his picture books from when he was a boy, picture books that he’d read to Dora.
Now they just needed the baby.
“I don’t have any word,” Frank told Andromeda as soon as he stepped out of the fireplace with Neville, dusting off soot. Andromeda and Ted, who’d been tidying up, both jumped. “But I need to tell you something. You’re not going to like it.”
Andromeda squeezed Ted’s hand.
“I’m really sorry,” Frank began, “but Crouch… Crouch sent Sirius to Azkaban.”
“I figured as much. When’s the trial?”
“That’s the next thing. There won’t be one. He asked for official testimony from Dumbledore… who gave it.”
“What?!” Ted exclaimed.
“They can’t do that,” Andromeda hissed.
“Crouch seems to think differently. Alice is looking at other options, and she’ll do her best. I promise.”
“He needs a trial,” Andromeda said weakly. “I don’t know why he did what he did, but we deserve the truth.”
“Even if he is just a cold-blooded killer who deceived us all, don’t you and your friends deserve to know why he did it?”
“We do. It’s horrible, Andromeda, no one’s denying that. But with Crouch at the helm, we haven’t much choice.”
“Crouch is an arrogant, no-good son of a bitch,” Andromeda spat. “How can you stand by him?”
“I don’t. Not at all. I agree with your general assessment of him, and there’s a load you don’t even know. The things he’s done… tried to make us do…”
“Frank, stop,” Alice said. She’d Floo’d in too.
“I’m trying to explain—”
“I know. It’s just that I have more bad news for Andromeda and Ted.”
There was something about the look in her eyes that bothered Andromeda.
“We’ve already had our fair share,” Ted said.
“I know. But Dumbledore and I spoke after we were done yelling at the Wizengamot. I told him that you two were set to adopt Harry.”
“Good,” Andromeda said slowly. But Alice was shaking her head, and Andromeda felt cold.
“Please tell me he’s not hurt too,” she begged.
“He’s fine. But Dumbledore already found a place for him to go.”
“Excuse me? We said we’d do it!” Ted cried. Under normal circumstances, Andromeda would have been amused that it was her husband losing his temper, for once. Twice, for that matter.
“Dumbledore insists that where Harry went is the safest place. Something about ancient magic that he thinks might have been behind saving his life.”
“I don’t care about ancient magic,” Andromeda retorted. “Where is this place, anyway? You know. I know you know.”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“Yes, you can. Where is he? Where the hell is he?” Andromeda grabbed Alice’s shoulders and shook her. “Is he with Lily’s family?”
Alice didn’t answer, and Andromeda recoiled. “No. Don’t you remember what she said about her sister?”
“People change, Andromeda. Dumbledore seems confident that time and love will do the trick.”
“What is he, a hippie? Has he been smoking Muggle calming herbs? No, time and love won’t do a thing. I know bad families. I know how it is when you’re the unwanted one in a bad family. How do you think Sirius turned out the way he did? Do you want the same for Harry?”
“Of course not,” Alice said hotly. “I want the very best for him, you know that. He’s exactly my Neville’s age, I’ve loved him as a nephew since he was born! But Dumbledore knows what he’s doing.”
“Dumbledore knows nothing. He’s just as bad as Crouch.”
“Don’t say that,” Frank said sharply.
Ted put his hand on Andromeda’s shoulder. “Andromeda.”
“You couldn’t wait to read those books to him,” Andromeda told her husband. He closed his eyes.
“I’m terribly sorry,” Alice said. “But I can assure you that Dumbledore — who truly is a wise and just man — would never be reckless with Harry’s well-being. Isn’t Harry’s safety the most important thing? Believe me, if I didn’t think Dumbledore had his reasons, I would’ve found a way to override him. He’s never been wrong, Andromeda. He was the only person Voldemort ever feared. As hard as it is, we have to trust him to know what’s best.”
Somehow, Andromeda knew her friend was right. Still, she imagined Harry’s cries somewhere in the dark… no one answering them…
“We need some time to absorb this,” Ted told Alice and Frank.
“If we thought there were anything we could do, we would,” Frank said.
“I know.” Ted pat Frank’s back weakly and kissed Alice on the cheek. “We don’t hold anything against you.”
Andromeda snorted and looked at the floor.
Harry’s room — as it was called, as it would always be called — was left intact. Andromeda shut the door and locked it so that no one could enter to make any modifications. Just in case.
Andromeda tried to focus on other things, but it was hard. The one thing that had given her comfort after Sirius… being gone was the prospect of raising a son. True, it had only been one for twenty-four hours, but that twenty-four hours had been one of hope.
It wasn’t just that, however. It was the fact that she’d made a promise to Lily. She hadn’t known Lily Evans Potter well, but what did it matter? Just like Sirius, she had been trusted. Leaving Lily and James’s son in a place where he might be unloved seemed to be a betrayal in its own right. Andromeda wanted to think that Lily’s sister would come around; certainly, that would be the right thing to do, and for all Andromeda scoffed at Dumbledore, she had to admit that love could change a person. That was how she’d befriended Alice, how she’d married Ted.
Yet Bellatrix and Narcissa had loved her once; they were her sisters, too. Had they come to her defence when she’d married Ted? No, they had not. Nor had her own mother.
Alice and Frank both reached out over the ensuing weeks; Andromeda refused to acknowledge their efforts. That was, until the day she heard Alice calling her from the other side of the door.
“Please let me in,” Alice was saying.
Andromeda immediately forgot that she was angry; she flung the door open and let Alice in.
“Good heavens, what happened?” Andromeda asked. Alice’s hair was wet from sweat.
“I thought I could handle it on my own. But I’ve seen so much… I couldn’t focus, I…”
“Shh.” Andromeda led Alice to the sofa, and put her arm around her. “It’s okay. You’re safe now. What did you think you could handle?”
“It was stupid. I should’ve taken Frank. I should have taken an ordinance so that I’d be left alone, so they’d back off. But I wanted to avoid suspicion at all costs. It worked when I was in the Order.”
“Alice, where did you go?”
“Oh, Andromeda… I heard the Bones’s children’s screams as they were dying… Alastor sobbing over Dorcas’s body… I must have got weak.”
“No,” Andromeda said loudly. “You haven’t got weak, Alice. You’ve just seen so many awful things in a short span of time, and it took you by surprise. Why did you go there alone?”
“To question Sirius.”
“Oh, Alice, Alice, Alice!” Andromeda shook her head. “You needn’t have done that for me.”
“It wasn’t just for you. Mostly for you, but I, myself, wanted to understand what had happened. He never had a trial, Andromeda. And I remember how he was that night, when we heard about the Prophecy. He seemed dead set on protecting James, Lily and Harry. I thought maybe you were right, maybe we were missing something, maybe he’d had a plan that went awry.”
“What did you find?”
“Couldn’t get a straight word out of him. I tried to bring him to the wand room, but the Dementors wouldn’t let me, and without an ordinance, I couldn’t get them to let me be. I hadn’t thought of that. If you have one, they’ll relent. Sirius was half out of it. Kept grumbling about Animagi… said he meant to kill Peter, Peter deserved it, that he slipped into the sewer; I haven’t the slightest idea what that means, we didn’t find any remains in the sewer.”
“Then he said something about being the Secret Keeper, and when I said I knew that part, he yelled that if I wasn’t going to be useful, I should just leave. So I walked away, then I heard him calling my name, screaming ‘No, Alice, wait wait wait…” but when I finally gave in and returned, he’d fainted in his cell.”
Andromeda felt faint herself now.
“I know I’ve acted as though I haven’t been upset. The truth is, I have! We weren’t just Order members, we were friends. Seeing your friend like that… even knowing what he did… it’s the worst thing in the world. The absolute worst. I can’t tell if he was mad from all of the Dementors, if he’s just mad, or a really bad liar…”
Alice began to cry again.
“I’m so tired,” she wept as Andromeda rubbed her back. “I’m so damn tired.”
“I know you are,” Andromeda said. “I know.”
Happiness had seemed impossible, but it came.
One weekend in the winter, they took a trip to a town near Hogsmeade, Apparating most of the way. They stayed at a Muggle Bed & Breakfast, and following a very hearty breakfast, went sledding for the first time in many years. Dora and Neville managed to crash into a tree; when their parents rushed to them with worry, they were both laughing hysterically. They then spent a magical afternoon in Hogsmeade. Andromeda took a turn holding Neville, and tossed him in the air to Christmas music.
As months passed, everyone seemed more relaxed. Most Death Eaters appeared to have been captured, curfews were done away with, and this spring had a smell to it like none had ever before.
But with spring comes rain.
It wasn’t even the worst rainfall; in fact, there was something pretty about the way it stained the windows. Andromeda was telling Dora as much when she heard a knock at the door.
“Stay here,” Andromeda said, and she opened it. A familiar young man stood on the porch.
“Kingsley,” Andromeda recalled. “Shacklebolt, is it?”
Kingsley nodded the way people had nodded during the war.
“Can I come in?” he asked.
“No,” Andromeda said at once. “You can’t. Andromeda Tonks isn’t home. Good day, sir.”
She tried to shut it, but Kingsley stopped her.
“I’m afraid you have to hear this,” he said.
“Come in,” a small voice said. Dora had walked over.
“Dora, go to your room,” Andromeda told her.
“No. What is it, Mr… Mr…”
Dora eyed his badge. “I want to be an Auror too someday, you know.”
“Good. I need to talk to your mum about something.”
“I’m going to listen from the stairs anyway. I always have. I’ve heard everything. That’s why I want to be an Auror. “
“Very well,” Kingsley said. “But it’s hard to… I don’t know where to…”
“Are Alice and Frank dead?” Andromeda asked. “Did Death Eaters find them?” She’d known, deep down, that it was a possibility.
“They’re not dead,” Kingsley told her, “but they were found by… by your sister and three others.”
“Bellatrix,” Andromeda said at once. Bellatrix had sworn revenge the day Alice killed her father-in-law, Sylvester Lestrange.
“But they’re alive? That’s good!” Dora said.
Kingsley hesitated. “They’re not… there. The Cruciatus Curse was used extensively. What do you know about the Cruciatus Curse, Mrs. Tonks?”
“It’s an Unforgivable. It causes excruciating pain. My Aunt Walburga used it on our house-elves all the time.”
“At a certain point, the mind can’t take it. Especially if there’s already been a lot of trauma.”
Andromeda remembered Alice crying on the sofa.
“They haven’t been themselves since it happened yesterday evening,” Kingsley was saying. “We’re trying everything. They’re with Mind Healers right now, but we’re not sure how much of them we’ll get back.”
“Right. Well, then. Can I see them?”
“Not yet. Perhaps soon.”
“With his grandmother.”
“Good. Is that all?”
“I…” Kingsley paused, and Andromeda knew he must be scared. He’d just lost two of his mentors. But she couldn’t be gentle, not now. She couldn’t feel much at all — it was as though there was a barrier between her head and her heart, keeping them from colliding in such a way that she, too, would go mad.
“I have to call my husband,” Andromeda continued. “Although he works at the Ministry, so perhaps he already knows.”
“It’s not widely known yet. Alice and Frank requested that should something happen to them, their family know first. That included you.”
The barrier was weakening, so Andromeda laughed darkly and ushered Kingsley out the door.
How many years had passed? Andromeda didn’t know.
Life had got better for a while. She hadn’t remained in Neville’s life; Augusta Longbottom had been uncomfortable with that prospect. Still, Andromeda knew that for all Augusta was unpleasant, she loved her grandson. And Algie Longbottom seemed sweet. He’d be well looked after. Maybe, Andromeda supposed, she would reach out when Neville was older, when his contact with others wasn’t limited to the permission of his grandmother. She would tell him about his mother’s determination, his father’s loyalty, how he’d crawled alongside The Boy Who Lived.
Andromeda moved on further, forming new friendships and goals, a new life undaunted by the past. Alice and Frank weren’t forgotten — she and Ted visited them every year on 1 November. They weren’t dead, after all, just different. Significantly different. But their hearts were beating, their eyes were active if not alert, and maybe someday, they’d find their way home.
The past returned, and Andromeda lost four more times. Losing Sirius again was hard; losing Ted had made her faint, and she wouldn’t talk to anyone, not even Dora, for two days; losing Dora and Remus…
Her heart was broken. But once again, there was a baby. Moreover, his godfather was none other than the boy she’d wanted to take in. Andromeda realised that had probably been one of the reasons Remus and Dora had chosen him.
Not that Andromeda fully reached out to Harry initially; she couldn’t. They met, they spoke, but Andromeda kept it brief, accepting his condolences, offering her own, and telling him that they would “speak soon.” The barrier had gone up, and the only people she let inside were her grandson and Lyall Lupin, Remus’s bereaved father.
But she knew that however much Harry resembled a man now, he was still a boy, a boy Andromeda had promised Lily she would protect. The boy Sirius would have wanted her to protect. So after a month, she told him she wanted him over.
“Bring that girl, too,” Andromeda wrote. “I believe you said her name was Ginny. The more the merrier.”
As Andromeda closed the envelope, she recalled the first time she’d met him when he was grown. He’d fallen into the garden with Hagrid… Andromeda had tended to Hagrid, not quite able to face Harry, now keenly aware of what he’d gone through, Arthur and Molly Weasley being angrily candid about it. Andromeda knew it had been Dumbledore’s decision, and understood he had very good reasons now, but that didn’t ease the insurmountable guilt.
When she’d finally approached the injured young man, Harry had cried out, “You!” For a moment, Andromeda thought he meant that it was her who left him to be unloved for so long. Then she realized he’d thought she was Bellatrix. How would he know, anyhow? She wondered if that made any real difference.
Looking at Harry, Andromeda knew he hadn’t been unloved all of his life. He’d had Sirius for a time, and it was clear the Weasleys had become an adoptive family to him. His girlfriend was holding his hand with a certain protection. He wasn’t unhinged, but he'd had people looking out for him all the same.
“Here,” Andromeda said, and she handed Teddy to Harry. His green eyes reminded Andromeda of Lily.
“I’ll warn you I’ve not much experience with babies,” Harry warned her.
“The only thing with Teddy is that he, of course, can’t control his powers yet. So don’t be alarmed if it looks like someone snatched him and put a different baby in his cot.”
Everyone laughed. Laughter sounded even better than it felt.
“I should show you his room,” Andromeda said, growing serious again.
They walked up the steps, and for the first time in nearly eighteen years, Andromeda opened the door.
Everything was still there; the cot was untouched, as were the books. Mr. Banana looked up at them with beady eyes, or so it seemed.
“Has he… been here?” Ginny asked, seeming to notice that it was unnaturally tidy for a baby’s bedroom.
“No,” Andromeda replied. “We were in hiding… since we’ve been home, I’ve kept Teddy in my room.”
Andromeda looked at Harry. “This was supposed to be yours. Before we knew where Dumbledore had sent you.”
For a minute, Harry looked confused. Then his eyes widened.
“Oh,” Harry said.
Still holding Teddy, he walked around the room. His hand touched the tiny books Ted had left… the pairs of small t-shirts and shoes… the cot… Harry looked at the set of flying broomsticks above the cot, then down at Mr. Banana.
“Oh,” Harry said again. His voice was distant.
“I’m so sorry we never got you here,” Andromeda said. “You have no idea how badly we wanted you with us, instead of that horrid place.”
“Thank you,” Harry said, which seemed like an odd way to say “it’s okay.” But they were one andthe same.
Andromeda reluctantly put her arm around him; to her surprise, and relief, he did not pull away. She thought she heard sniffling. Finally, he stepped forward and put Teddy in the cot.
“Full circle,” Ginny said quietly. “Like Mum always says.”
Andromeda smiled. “Yeah.”
Lyall Lupin came for supper, as he did many nights a week. Andromeda invited Neville as well; it didn’t surprise her to learn that he was a good friend of Harry and Ginny’s. Neville told Andromeda frankly that he knew exactly who she was, and it pleased Andromeda to know that she hadn’t been entirely cast out of his life.
It wasn’t a perfect circle; nothing could undo the past, distant or recent. Harry would never be her child — Molly was clearly something of an adoptive mother, and that suited Andromeda fine. Lyall and Andromeda wouldn’t get their children or spouses back. But Andromeda felt they might very well become a family of their own making, a family built from the ruins of something whole. Like a Phoenix. Their own Order, yet better. No traitors or secrets.