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Two of a Kind
Deslea R. Judd
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters/Keywords: Lucius/Tonks (primary), Lucius/Narcissa, Remus/Tonks
Spoilers/Timeframe: War and postwar, goes alt-universe mid-battle.
Summary: The four stages of grief are shock, anger, denial and acceptance. Or: After the war, two unlikely widows find a way to keep standing. Novella length (35,000).
Disclaimer: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
More fic: http://fiction.deslea.com
Feedback: Please. deslea at deslea dot com.
|SHOCK| |ANGER| |DENIAL: LUCIUS| |DENIAL: TONKS| |ACCEPTANCE| |YULETIDE INTERLUDE|
[ANGER - LUCIUS]
His triumph was short-lived.
He was in the Wizengamot Secretariat, standing over the Registrar's desk, looking over the papers authorising his release. Nymphadora had departed his mind entirely. This was the serious business of freedom, and no intriguingly-sneaky steampunk halfblood not-niece could distract him from that.
Kingsley Shacklebolt, however, was a different story.
He was standing too, quill poised over the papers, when he said casually, "So, Lucius, when do you think you'll be returning to work?"
The world seemed to stop rotating for a moment. Lucius looked up at him, slowly. He could almost feel the shackles tightening around his wrists all over again. "You're not serious."
"I'm very serious, Lucius. This whole situation with you. Divided loyalties. Imprisonment then acquittal. It's messy. I don't like mess. The Ministry doesn't like mess. Not to mention that it's a little embarrassing that a known Death Eater worked for the Ministry in a senior capacity throughout the period between the wars. If anyone ever bought the Imperius story about the First War before, they certainly don't now."
"And you think the solution is for me to work for you again?" he queried. Arched an eyebrow and peered at the Minister like he was peering at a rather strange specimen. And come to think of it...
Kingsley's mouth broadened into a smile. It was mirthful, genuine, but there was something steely about it, too, all white straight teeth against dusky skin. "Certainly I do. At least, if you were to do so in a way that ended all doubt about your redemption."
There was nothing good that could come from that, Lucius thought. "I'm quite sure you have something in mind. Something to do with telling you where the proverbial bodies are buried, perhaps?"
"Oh, nothing as gauche as that, Lucius. Something with a bit more class. At this point, it's probably better for the bodies to stay buried, in any event. I was thinking you could head up something to do with Muggle relations. Not the whole unit - no one would accept that - but a special project. Family reunions. Perhaps you could begin close to home, with Auror Tonks. That would be very good PR, I think."
"And if I decline?"
Kingsley looked down at the release papers. "You know, I don't think this quill works properly."
Lucius groaned. "Oh, Merlin, Azkaban is looking more attractive by the minute. Fine." He watched as Kinsgley signed the papers with a satisfied grin. It was a symbolic gesture, of course; Kingsley could make those papers disappear if he really wanted to, and at this point, Lucius wouldn't put it past him. He had the uncomfortable feeling he'd underestimated Kingsley - either that, or Kingsley had learned a lot about politics during his tour of the Muggle Ministry. "So did you manipulate Nymphadora, or did the two of you cook it up together?"
Kingsley looked mildly surprised. "Oh, I played her, of course." His smile softened, and Lucius realised that Kingsley admired her. "But you underestimate her if you think she didn't play me just as much. Merlin knows what she saw there in your memories, Lucius, but she wanted you free. It was a win-win."
"For you two, perhaps," he said with ill-grace. He had benefitted too, of course, but right now he didn't feel like it.
Kingsley laughed. "I didn't say win-win-win."
He was still laughing when Lucius left.
Nymphadora's voice travelled down the hall, echoing off the black tiles of Remembrance Plaza.
Despite his somewhat reluctant inclination to warmth towards her, Lucius gritted his teeth as she approached. He disliked informality, and public familiarity, and gracelessness. Nymphadora, tripping over her own bloody feet, was currently demonstrating all three.
"Good morning, Nymphadora," he said pointedly.
"Tonks," she corrected, just as pointedly.
"Miss Tonks, then. Or Madam Tonks. Or do you prefer Auror?" He had no idea what the protocol was for titles and widowed women; he had a vague idea that technically she was a Dowager, but the idea of Dowager and Nymphadora Tonks in the same sentence was absurd.
"Just Tonks. Call me Tonks."
Lucius snorted. "I will do nothing of the sort. It would be improper. I will call you Nymphadora, or Miss or Madam or Auror Tonks, or Madam Lupin. You choose."
"Dora, then," she countered. "Normally only in the family, but for your sensibilities, I will make an exception." Her smirk made it clear what she thought of his sensibilities.
He refrained from pointing out that they were family, at least so far the law was concerned. "Dora is sensible and boring, which you are not. Nymphadora is unconventional and charming and altogether more suitable."
"Well, of course, Lucius, your assessment trumps twenty-five years of personal preference. Why didn't I see that sooner?" There was mischief in her voice.
"Oh, good," he said silkily, "I'm so glad we got that settled. Nymphadora."
She choked a little. "Arrogant bastard."
Having won a round with her, he was inclined to be forgiving. "Quite," he said. "Now, I believe we have some business to attend to. Will you walk with me?"
Her brow puckered in confusion. "Sure. What business?"
They boarded the elevator; it was empty. "Dinner, for one thing. I believe that was the deal?"
Nymphadora reddened; she might be informal and familiar, but she was clearly not outright rude. "Lucius, I didn't mean that. I wouldn't invite myself like that. And anyway, I didn't honestly think I'd get you acquitted at all."
"I realise that. However, I am under orders, as I'm sure you are, to begin my work on family reunions in my own backyard. And I am, in fact, in your debt." A fact that didn't thrill him, but it could be worse. It could be Kingsley.
"Oh, rubbish," she said briskly. "We've just been in a war. Just about everyone is in someone's debt. If we all get hung up on who saved who, no-one will ever get anything done. Harry alone has about fifty life debts, and he's carrying every one of them on his shoulders."
They arrived outside Lucius' office, and he alighted. "Be that as it may, I would like you to come to dinner. Besides, it would be good for Draco. His experience of extended family to date has been rather toxic, and he misses his mother." He said it like she was on a shopping trip in Diagon Alley and not dead and scattered to the four winds; he had found it was the only way he could refer to it without tripping and stammering all over the words. And he wouldn't do that. Not here. Not around people who thought badly of her.
Nymphadora hesitated. Indecision was clear on her face. "Lucius," she said, "that house. Awful things happened there." The elevator started to wobble in protest at the delay, and she stepped out.
"Yes, they did," he said gravely. "How did you know that?"
"Greyback's trial," she said softly. "He was...quite talkative."
He supposed that made sense. Greyback had always struck him as perilously close to insane, although the viciousness that was endemic to his personality made it hard to be sure.
Nymphadora was still looking up at him. She was rattled, and he knew even on short acquaintance that it took a fair bit to rattle her. Had it been Greyback's vicious strain of lycanthropy, as much as his testimony?
He said finally, "Well, as you say, Nymphadora, we've just been in a war. Awful things happened everywhere. Malfoy Manor has been in my family for generations, and I will not be driven from it. It was a place of happiness for me for many years, and I believe it can be again. I would be pleased if you will come, but I will understand if you won't." This last was said only as a matter of form. He believed she was stronger than that, and would have been disappointed to be found wrong.
She shook back her hair, dead white and straight like a unicorn's mane. (Like Narcissa's, his mind had begun to remark, but he'd cut that thought off and replaced it. Everything reminded him of her, given half a chance; twenty-six years together would do that). That defiant tilt of the chin was back. Almost as though she had sensed the unspoken challenge.
"Of course I'll come," she said. "Besides - Lucius Malfoy hosting a halfblood? This I've got to see."
Twice in one day? he thought, looking up from his work. "Wotcher," he mimicked mirthlessly, making the word sound like an obscenity. Nymphadora was leaning against his doorframe, slouching like an awkward little girl.
If she was offended, she didn't show it. "Come down to the dining room with me for lunch," she said without preamble.
"I will not. The dining room is a grubby, unpleasant place to dine. If you insist on eating with me - and I've no idea why, I have it on good authority that I'm proud and a bit pretentious, among other sins - then it will have to be here."
She smirked. "You can't hold what someone says under Veritaserum against them, Lucius. It's quite rude. And surely if you can bring yourself to dine with someone as disreputable as me, the rest of the Ministry isn't much more of a stretch." That interested him; surely among them, he was the disreputable one. Her smile faded, and she went on sourly, "Besides. It will be good PR."
"Ah. So Kingsley put you up to it."
"Well, of course. Not that I object to lunch with you, necessarily, but do you think I like the dining room either?"
He put down his quill, now giving her his undivided attention. "Don't you?" he said with interest. He motioned towards the chair.
She sat. "Of course I bloody don't. Half of them think I'm perverted. Remus was officially classified as a beast. Marrying him was only one step removed from shagging a dog, as far as they're concerned. But they'll still simper about 'Oh, what a pity, dear,' and 'If there's anything I can do.'" He flashed her a grim smile; the mimicry was good. "Half of them want to be your friend, so they can tell their real friends how they're valiantly standing by poor dear Dora. They're parasites, the lot of them."
Lucius leaned forward. Intrigued. He liked this take-no-prisoners Nymphadora. "I don't think you're perverted." Amended, "Well, not for that, anyway. I'm reserving judgment about your clothing choices."
"Very funny. On what grounds?"
He said seriously, "You mean apart from the fact that any thinking person knows lycanthropy is a disability, not a species? Really, Nymphadora, my politics might not be yours, but do you honestly think me stupid?"
She sobered. "No, I never thought that, Lucius." Her anger had fallen away. She looked bereft. "Look, we don't have to do lunch. Not today, anyway. I don't think I'm very hungry."
"You shouldn't skip meals," he reproved. "You're still nursing, I presume?" He remembered that she had a young child; if memory served, it was a boy. Voldemort had been lyrical in his disdain.
She looked up. Said sharply, "What the hell would you know about it? I thought the old families wet-nursed. From elves, no less. And I'm supposed to be the bestial one."
"Most do," he agreed. "We didn't. Narcissa nursed. We had to ward the door from her mother. She'd have been appalled."
Nymphadora arched an eyebrow, but said nothing. He'd surprised her, he thought with satisfaction.
He offered, "I can't stand them, either. I've only been back a week and I'm either too well-groomed or I'm not taking care of myself. If I smile, I'm a cold-blooded bastard. If I don't, I'm brooding. It's intolerable."
Her eyebrow arched higher. Soon it would be in her hair, he thought with amusement. "Lucius Malfoy, caring what random people think?"
"Of course I don't care, but I've still got to get them back on task, otherwise I'd never get anything done. It's exhausting."
She said abruptly, "I do like talking to you. I can say what I think."
"I wouldn't have thought that would be a problem for you," he said dryly.
"Well, no. But you can take it. Most people can't. They need to think everything's right with the world, and they'll try to convince you you're being too sensitive or something. And it's not to make you feel better at all. It's for them."
Lucius thought that was a fair assessment. He concurred, "Not everything is right with the world. Not even now."
"No," she agreed. Held his gaze steadily.
"Fuck it," he said. Got to his feet. "You didn't do anything wrong, and neither did I." That second part was not entirely true, but that wasn't the point for his current purpose. "We're going down to the dining room with our heads held high. Agreed?"
"I thought it was grubby and unpleasant," she smirked up at him. There was unwilling warmth in her voice.
"Be that as it may, the fact that we're not wanted there is a damn good reason to go. Are you coming?"
Remembrance Plaza, as the Atrium had been lately re-christened, had never been so populated.
The Magic Is Might statue was gone. The Fountain Of Magical Brethren was also gone, replaced by a large monument. The monument transfigured regularly, into a bust or statue of one person, then another. On the plinth below, a brief biography and note about the circumstances of their death would appear. The names of the war-dead were etched into the black tiles throughout the plaza. There were a lot of them; it made Lucius feel rather ill.
The ceremony marking the official unveiling of the new-look Plaza was on track to be a tearful and sentimental affair. Many people were already hugging and weeping, and the formalities hadn't even begun. He was already regretting bringing Draco, but Narcissa was on the wall somewhere. He could hardly keep the boy away.
"There," Draco whispered, pointing up at a tile set into one of the Floos.
Lucius nodded his head, but gave only a cursory look. Narcissa would have hated this. She despised overt sentimentality. They had spent their lives consciously dismissing what others thought of them, supremely confident in themselves and each other, and to be held up as some kind of a martyr now was incongruous and hypocritical. On both sides.
But it was important to Draco, important that her sacrifice was acknowledged, so he squeezed the boy's shoulder. Made an effort to do it gently. Narcissa had always been the comforting parent, part of their clear division of labour, and now that she was gone he realised he'd never learned to comfort the boy himself.
They stood there stiffly, not saying anything as people milled around. Awkward and silent. He looked around for something - anything - to break the moment. Spotted Nymphadora and figured she was as good as anything for the purpose.
"Nymphadora," he called. She was only a few feet away, but there were two or three layers of people between them, and she looked around her for the source of his voice. He held up a hand so she could see. She made her way over, awkwardly, bumping people and apologising and weaving her way through.
He experienced a brief moment of horror when he noticed the woman following her. It only took a second for the realisation to dawn that the woman was not Bellatrix, but Nymphadora's mother, Andromeda Tonks, but it seemed much longer. A moment of adrenaline and fear and itching for a wand.
Not that Andromeda looked too happy to see him, either. Presumably, not being on the payroll of the Ministry, she was under no instruction to be on good terms.
"Lucius," Nymphadora said with disquieting warmth. Caught up with him and gave him a wink and a quick kiss on the cheek, taking him by surprise. He noted Andromeda's scowl. Realised with amusement that she'd done it to annoy her mother. It occurred to him that her strain of mischief was not unlike his own. It was a comforting buffer. Especially today.
"Nymphadora, dear," he said, going along with it, "I'm so glad to see you. Even on this saddest of days. Draco, you remember Nymphadora? And this must be your aunt Andromeda." Andromeda's scowl deepened.
"Wotcher, Draco," Nymphadora said more kindly. "How're you holding up there, old thing?"
"It's been awful," Draco said. More blunt than Lucius had ever heard him.
Lucius watched with interest as her hand closed momentarily around the boy's, there and gone too quickly for him to stiffen and shy away. "Yeah, it has," she said, already withdrawing and giving him his space.
The weight seemed to lift off Draco's shoulders, just a little, and Lucius knew a moment of self-doubt. That was all he'd needed? Listening and agreeing? No motivating words, no deep philosophy? Merlin. No wonder Draco was sinking into a depression, if Lucius couldn't manage something as simple as that.
"Where's your mum, Draco? My dad's on the end wall, up high near the monument."
Draco beamed a sad little smile, like he'd been asked to show off his favourite toy. "Up there," he said, nodding his head. There was just a trace of pride in his voice. Something flickered over Andromeda's face, and she peered up, looking for her sister's name.
Lucius gritted his teeth; he knew what he should do. What Narcissa would have wanted. It wasn't something he did well. But he stood alongside her and said quietly, "Narcissa spoke of you warmly, Andromeda. She regretted your estrangement."
Andromeda cocked an eyebrow and looked at him sidelong. "You don't really expect me to believe she approved of my marriage to a Muggle-born."
"She didn't, but she would not, of her own accord, have disowned you for it. I'm sure you can imagine the pressure placed on her to go along with her sister and mother." He went on by way of explanation, "For Malfoys, at least, family trumps everything, even blood status. And Narcissa was more of a Malfoy than a Black."
Andromeda nodded slowly. "Well. Thank you, I suppose," she said awkwardly, giving no hint of her thoughts on the subject of Narcissa. "I should also thank you for my daughter. I understand you were...kind...to her the day we lost Remus."
Oh, that hurt - Lucius could see it in the fix of her jaw. He knew that look. It was common to all three Black sisters, and Nymphadora as well. He murmured a casual acknowledgement. Let the concession pass without fanfare.
"Well," he said, "they'll be starting soon. I imagine you and Nymphadora would like to have your privacy."
At this, Nymphadora's head snapped up. She grasped for his hand, startling him. "Don't go," she whispered. Andromeda stared at her.
Lucius stared at her, too. Realised that she was suddenly pale and drawn. Just barely hanging on to her composure. Everyone was on edge today, that was true, but this was different somehow. Not grief, or not just grief. Her expression was unreadable - except that something wasn't right.
"There's something you haven't told me," he said in a low voice, inching a little closer so she could hear. "Talk to me."
At this, Nymphadora's face flooded with colour, suddenly pink and furious. Eyes damp, but not spilling over. Bitterness tinged her voice. "Remus isn't here. They said he wasn't a wizard, but there are Muggles here. They meant he wasn't a man."
Shit. Lucius felt real anger. These were meant to be the good guys? "Fuck, Dora."
He supposed he should have said something more erudite, but she seemed to understand. "Tell me about it."
Those tears were beginning to streak down her cheeks, and he grabbed her by the shoulders. "Stop it," he said roughly. "Don't you ever let them see they got to you. Ever."
She dragged in her breath like a little child, dragging back tears and hitching breaths. Gulped and nodded. It seemed to take everything she had, but she swallowed and stilled her trembling chin and lifted it high like the Black that she was.
At last, she nodded. Swallowed once more, barely perceptible. He let his hands soften on her, then let her go.
"Lucius," Andromeda said in a strangled voice.
Lucius turned. He had quite forgotten about her.
She was looking at him, intensely curious, and Draco too, back and forth from one to the other. She said, hesitantly, "I should get to know Draco. He is, after all, my nephew. That is, if we can agree to disagree on our politics."
Lucius gave a grim smile. "If there's one thing this war has taught us all, Andromeda, it is that slavish adherence to politics is a dangerous thing."
She gave a curt little nod, and they left it at that.
Contrary to what she obviously thought, Nymphadora was not the first halfblood welcomed into the Malfoy parlour.
"It was probably Severus," he said in response to her query, "but my father may have hosted Voldemort before that. Two of the most powerful wizards in living memory, and both halfbloods." Warming to his theme, he went on, "What people overlook, with all that sentimental Lily Potter fated love affair business, is that Severus was every bit as powerful as the Dark Lord. You name it, he could do it. Fuck, the bastard could fly. No one else could do that, except Voldemort. Amazing."
Nymphadora was amused. "So you'll make an exception for powerful halfbloods." There was no rancour in her voice.
"You assume the consideration of blood status comes first and power second. It's less complicated than that. I don't care about wealth and I don't care about social standing and I don't even care about blood. Not in themselves, at least. Those are just the trappings."
She sat forward, elbows on the arm of the Chesterfield. Her chin resting on her hands. Openly intrigued.
He sat back in his matching chair and went on, "I'm a pragmatist. I like power. I admire it. The rest of it is just what happens when a powerful person goes about their business. And most halfbloods and Muggle-borns don't have it." At her raised eyebrow, he went on, "It's true, and you know it. For every Voldemort or Snape or Granger - or you, for that matter - there are a hundred unbelievably average halfblooded witches and wizards running shops and apocetharies. It's a waste."
"Purebloods can be weak, too," she pointed out.
"Oh, of course they can, but it's rarer. Arthur Weasley!" he marvelled. "It's an abomination that Molly Prewett ended up with him. Seven children, and only one shows any sign of the Prewett strength at all."
"We'll have to agree to differ on that one. I think there are more ways of being strong than just magic."
"I don't disagree with you, necessarily, but in my experience, the kind of strength you mean is even rarer than strong magic."
She smirked at him. "I think you've just been hanging out with the wrong people."
"That," he said scathingly, "is undeniable."
Dinner was just as animated. They toned down the politics, by unspoken agreement. Draco was younger and would likely take it as a personal criticism. But there was plenty of other fodder for discussion.
She was openly intrigued by the elderly elf who served dinner, for one thing. Leonie had been in the family for generations, had saved their lives more than once. Lucius held forth on his pet theory, that wizarding attitudes to elves were largely an outgrowth of domestic privacy issues. After all, no one worried about shagging in front of their owl, and if an elf was viewed on the same level as a Familiar, the problem was solved.
He was astonished to learn that his former house-elf Dobby had been a topic of discussion among Nymphadora's friends. He was even more astonished to learn that he had been considered a loyal and trustworthy ally of the Order. Lucius' own experience of Dobby had been of chronic disloyalty, and in their situation, trust had been crucial. He'd spent a good deal of his time angry and anxious about the wretched creature, and once the dust had settled, he'd realised that losing Dobby was a relief. Where Leonie was a presence to him, Dobby had only ever been a problem.
It dawned on him that Dobby's disloyalty had been political more than personal - a realisation that hit him right between the eyes.
It was at that point that Draco excused himself from the dining room with a haunted look. Too late, Lucius remembered that Dobby had been here the day Draco covered for Potter. Bellatrix had been at her worst that day, torturing the Granger girl, throwing her dagger at Potter. Come to think of it, that had been how Dobby died.
"Fuck," he said. "Fuck, fuck, fuck." He hung his head, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes like an exhausted child.
Nymphadora apologised, "I'm sorry. It seemed like a safe subject."
Lucius stared up at her. Said hollowly, "Is there any such thing anymore? Is there anything that monster didn't manage to touch?" Wondered if she would reproach him. After all, Voldemort had been his monster.
She just sat quietly. Watching him with grave eyes.
He said abruptly, "Do you remember the House competitions? At Hogwarts?"
"Of course. But it was more of a Gryffindor and Slytherin thing. I was a Hufflepuff. We didn't pay much mind."
Lucius said, "Draco's second year, I was determined to help get Slytherin back on top. I bought the whole of his Quidditch team new brooms." He smiled at the memory. "I dare say it sounds very childish to you, but I wanted him to be able to be proud of something." His gaze followed Draco's path up the stairs. "There's nothing like that for him anymore. The Malfoy name is mud. Slytherins are like second class citizens, even though they were innocent children mostly. No one will hire him." His voice sounded dull and listless, but he became aware of something else beneath the surface, a lazily bubbling feeling that he identified as anger. "Even Narcissa - what she did - is always qualified by the fact that she was a Malfoy. And she died for people who were no better than us. Like those assholes who kept Remus off the wall."
Nymphadora's voice was gentle. "I know."
"Sometimes I hate her for saving Potter," he said in a low voice. He was ashamed of it, but he didn't look away from her gaze. "How fucked up is that? Sometimes I could kill her for doing this to us. And then I remember someone already did."
She reached out across the dining table. Took his hand in hers. "It's all right to be angry with her. By all accounts, she could take it."
He looked away. Said colourlessly, "I suppose." He squeezed her hand a moment, more for her benefit than his, then let go. It wasn't her fault he was a moody old bastard, after all. "Shit, Dora, I don't do this very well. Let's talk about something else. You were a Hufflepuff? I'd have thought you were a Slytherin."
"Sure." Nymphadora withdrew her hand, following his lead. "Why would you think I was Slytherin?" she asked with interest.
"You're mischievous and sly and an utter sneak, that's why. The way you played the Wizengamot, for one thing," he said. "How did you do it?"
"How did I do what?" she echoed.
He gave a sound of irritation. "How did you trick the Veritaserum? Not that I mind."
A smile played around her lips. A wan smile, to be sure, but a smile nonetheless. "How like you to assume deception," she smirked into her Firewhisky, sitting back in Narcissa's high-backed dining chair.
"Nymphadora, you said - and I quote - 'Lucius Malfoy was with us that night.' You know perfectly well that isn't true. I never defected to the Order, only away from the Dark Lord. My only allegiance was my family."
She said, "Lucius, have you ever read the Muggle bible?" He cocked an eyebrow at her, and she shook her head abruptly. "Stupid question. Of course you haven't. Anyway, there's a line in there spoken by Jesus, about enemies and allies." She added, "He's a Muggle religious figure - saviour or prophet, depending on the religion."
He said witheringly, "I know who Jesus is. He's the one they sing about at Yule. The one in the Christmas carols."
She laughed then. It was a discordant sound. He didn't think anyone had laughed here in years. Just for a moment, he remembered Professor Burbage's body lying on the table, just about where she was sitting. "Yes, Lucius," she said, amused, "the one in the Christmas carols. I wouldn't have thought they sing them at your sort of Yule."
He said primly, "Well, I prefer an unadulterated Solstice, but I haven't been living under a rock, contrary to popular belief."
She grinned again, more widely this time. "Anyway. This thing that Jesus said, it gets translated two ways, and each way means the opposite of the other. Some translate it as, 'Whoever isn't with us, is against us.' Others translate it as, 'Whoever isn't against us, is with us.' Personally, I subscribe to the latter."
"So your choice of words to the Wizengamot? That we were with you that night?"
"Was quite deliberate," she agreed. "And in my mind, entirely true. Veritaserum allows for nuances, when administered to a skilled witch or wizard. All the Aurors are trained to manage being interrogated that way. You can't lie, and you can't use technicalities exactly, but you can limit what you say, and you can give an interpretive response, as long as you genuinely believe it. And I do."
He nodded slowly. Frowning. Trying to figure out what to make of this.
She said, "I puzzle you, don't I, Lucius? You thought you had me figured out when you thought I tricked the Wizengamot. You thought I had an angle. And now..."
He shrugged. "I'll figure you out one day, don't you worry." She just laughed.
"Lucius, I would expect nothing less."
[ANGER - TONKS]
Lucius and Draco were waiting for her when she came down for breakfast.
Her mother was there, too, making tea one-handed, Teddy on one hip. He was nine months old now, old enough to try to grasp at things, and she was absent-mindedly extracting spoons and teabags from his little hands without really realising she was doing it.
"Andromeda, let me," Lucius was saying, holding his hands out to Teddy. Andromeda looked at him doubtfully, but handed him over with a wary look.
Tonks stood there leaning against the doorframe for a moment, watching them fondly. Lucius had surprised her with how comfortable he was with Teddy, but then, he was a parent himself. Clearly, her mother hadn't adjusted as well as she had to Lucius Malfoy, Blood Purist With The Patented Better-Than-You Stare, playing babysitter to her halfblooded son-of-a-werewolf Metamorphagis child. She had learned that if you were a Malfoy, it was all right to do something nice, preferably grudgingly so, but to be seen as doing so was intolerable.
She became aware that her mother was watching her, with a troubled look on her face. She cleared her throat, officially declaring her presence.
"Nymphadora," Lucius said, turning, "I hope you don't mind us stopping in." He had never been here before; she always went to the Manor. No particular reason; it had just happened that way. She wondered if he had ever been in a house so small and shabby as the one she had shared with Remus. Oh well, she shrugged mentally, his house was big and grand, but so far as she knew, hers had never been the scene of the Avada Kedavra.
"Of course not," she said. "I set the wards to let you in weeks ago. You can Apparate straight in." Andromeda shot her an accusing look. Tonks ignored her.
The look that flashed over Lucius' expression was oddly gratified. She supposed trust was a rare thing in his world. Without coming right out and saying so, most people had managed to make perfectly clear what they thought of Lucius and his so-called rehabilitation; Special Projects was the place where Ministry careers went to die. The Family Reunions effort was token at best, and not through any recalcitrance on his part, either.
"We wanted to tell you the good news," Lucius was saying over Teddy's head. Gently extracting his hair from the baby's chubby little fingers, she noted with fresh warmth.
Draco spoke. "I got a job at the Ministry." There was shy pride in his voice.
She and Lucius exchanged watchful glances, and she knew what he was thinking. The Ministry was a poisonous place to work, especially for a Malfoy. But Draco had been morose and paralysed for six months now, and he didn't have a lot of other options. It was the lesser of all possible evils.
She went to him and gave him a little peck on the cheek. He was happy and relaxed enough that he allowed it without stiffening first. He didn't always. "Congratulations, Draco. I'm really pleased."
"Yes, Draco, congratulations," Andromeda echoed with genuine warmth. Her mistrust did not extend to Draco anymore, if it ever had.
"Thanks, Dromeda. It's only a stepping stone." Draco hastened to explain. "Frankly, my promotion prospects there are small. But I can start to rebuild my reputation, at least. In a year or two I can figure out what I really want to do."
It broke her heart a little, the way he casually accepted his place at the bottom of the heap. It was such an un-Malfoy thing to do. Behind him, Lucius' expression was hot with fury and hurt and shame, and it hurt her to watch.
"It's a good first step," Tonks said kindly. "It'll be good for you. Besides, Astoria Greengrass works there. That's something." She winked at him.
Draco coloured, but didn't reply.
"Well," Lucius said, "we should get moving. We don't want to be late on his first day."
Tonks nodded. "I'll be along later. I need to feed Teddy before I go." She went to him and took the baby from his arms.
He took his time handing him over. Lingered close to her, nodding to Draco, waiting by the door. Said in a low voice, "He'll be on your floor. Will you watch over him?"
She looked up at him. Locked her gaze on his. "You know I will." She gave his hand a companionable squeeze, trying to put all the tangled hurt and compassion she felt for him into it. The tendon on his neck flickered, but he only nodded and pulled away.
She watched them go, frowning, and not only out of worry for Draco. She was conscious of her mother's eyes on her. She waited.
"You let him call you Nymphadora."
Well, there it was. The hippogriff in the room. She was surprised it hadn't come up sooner, but her mother had worked very hard over the last six months not to talk about Lucius.
"It seemed easier," Tonks said mildly. "Have you ever tried to make Lucius Malfoy do anything he didn't want to do?"
Andromeda arched an eyebrow. "My daughter, beaten in a battle of wills?"
"I'd say we're equals in the strong-willed stakes. I gave way on my own terms." Her mother made a choking sound, and Tonks said, "Oh, Mum, you're positively purple. Go on, sputter out whatever it is you're dying to say."
Andromeda only said again, "You let him call you Nymphadora," and refused to be drawn on it further.
Lucius had wormed his way into her life, little by little, or maybe it was that she had wormed her way into his.
Their dinners were already weekly ones, and soon became more often than that. It wasn't always Lucius; sometimes Draco would turn up in her little kitchen for breakfast, munching away on toast as he lovingly schemed his pursuit of Astoria Greengrass.
Other changes were incremental. Lucius filed a request with the Floo Network Authority to directly link their homes. The same day, Tonks filed Form C412 (Conflict of Interest), and removed herself from the team of Aurors responsible for precautionary surveillance of former Death Eaters. She described the conflict of interest as "familial affection." It was an awkward, clunky way of describing the indescribable. Lucius was a snarky, irrepressible bastard, even now, but he was her bastard, dammit.
There was talk - she knew that. Hilariously, it was divided between linking her to Lucius and Draco. In a weird way, it made sense; she was slightly closer in age to Draco, and Draco was open about his enthusiasm about Tonks, who was, after all, a distinct improvement on the late-but-not-lamented Bellatrix.
The Ministry had a surprisingly sophisticated betting pool, headed up by an enterprising young clerk on the inside and Mundungus Fletcher on the outside. The bookmakers slightly favoured Lucius, pointing to her past marriage to an older man. Tonks could not resist stirring the pot; she placed a series of bets in both directions, watching the odds zigzag in response. Lucius was not amused, but he was a keen businessman, so he placed a number of bets of his own through third parties and profited handsomely by selling them on the secondary market. They felt no qualms about profiteering; it was bloody tasteless for there to be a pool at all with their spouses only six months in the ground. Finally, Mundungus reset the odds and barred them both from further bets.
They talked long into the night, staring into the fire at his house or hers. It was their confessional, place to know and be known. He told her about his struggle to make a career at the Ministry after the First War, about his obsession with accumulating wealth, so that if the Dark Lord returned, Narcissa and Draco could just disappear. About how Narcissa had finally sat him down and told him he was destroying their marriage, and anyway, they were never going to leave him, so he might as well just get used to it.
She told him about the way she and Remus had married, hurried little wartime wedding, Handfasted by Mad-Eye in their everyday clothes, and she never dreamed of a fairytale wedding but she hated the hole-and-corner feel about it. She'd put a brave face on it, told Remus she was happy just to be married, but really, it was important to her to be loved publicly, to be acknowledged, and she couldn't explain why. She told him that she hated the way Remus was Apparated Side-A-Long to the cemetery in Hogsmeade for a hasty burial alongside hundreds of others, because there were too many bodies and too many people desperate to reunite with kin and the Floo network couldn't cope. It reminded her of their wedding, quick and hole-and-corner and she hated it.
He told her how Narcissa was every bit as imperial and arrogant as he was, and he loved her that way, because as far as he was concerned she was the best fucking person in the whole damn world. People who didn't think that were fools who didn't love enough, but if you scratched the surface hard enough, almost everyone was an arrogant asshole who thought the world revolved around them. The only difference was, he and Narcissa were supremely confident and happy with their own company and each other's, their best and only shelter from a hard old world, so they didn't give a damn who knew it or despised them for it.
They were a strange little family, she thought, and not at all the kind Kingsley had once had in mind. Kingsley admired her, she believed, but he had never really understood the stigma she lived with. He had never realised that they would bond over their outsider status.
She and Lucius were a disastrous experiment, long since abandoned.
She kind of liked it that way.
It was, she supposed, quite inevitable.
It happened one day as she moved to leave his office. He followed her to tell her something or other, some afterthought. His hair was a bit rumpled and she loved him like that, a bit disreputable and untamed. His hand was on the wall beside her head, and it was one of those moments out of a Muggle movie, eyes locking, casually close proximity suddenly not so casual. Curiosity and heat passing between them on the air.
He looked startled, like it had honestly never occurred to him. Perhaps it hadn't. He'd never really courted as such; his marriage was arranged. His only adult relationship had happened around him, a happy imposition accepted without protest.
It had occurred to her. Intellectually, at least, she had wondered.
She dropped her gaze. Turned to the door and put her hand on the doorknob.
"Talk to me," he said, his voice ragged.
She turned back to him. Looked up at him reluctantly. His gaze was penetrating, insistent.
She admitted in a low voice, "I love that you're making me forget him. And I hate that you're making me forget him."
He looked at her intently. Graver than she'd ever seen him. Deep creases above his eyebrows. "I'm not ready to forget either."
"Lucius," she whispered. Bruised and hurting, breath hitching on his name. She slid her arms up around his shoulders, tender, loose and undemanding. Her eyes shut tight as he held her too.
She felt the shift, felt the change from long to too-long, felt their bodies shift and fit together. He pulled away like he'd been burned.
"Go," he rasped. "Please go."
Their happily simpatico existence became brittle after that.
Oh, they still ate together, still exchanged confidences long into the night (although possibly sitting just a little further apart, possibly drinking just a little less). Still shielded each other from a hard old world. Still ribbed and teased each other. He about her Muggle clothes and her clumsiness, she about his insufferable attitudes to...well...everything.
But something about their confidences changed, too. Lucius challenged her, where once he had just listened. Tonks reproved him for his various compromises over the years, although she had the tact, at least, not to reproach Narcissa. They were rubbing against each other, raw surfaces causing friction, and she didn't mean to do it but she didn't know how to stop it. She thought it was like grinding against each other through their clothes, enough to get raw and sore, but not enough for any kind of release.
She told him that Remus was a good man, and she'd loved him for that. Lucius said impatiently that that was rubbish; lots of good people were thoroughly unlikeable, and lots of perfectly vile people loved their kin, and good had nothing to do with it. He demanded to know why she'd really loved Remus.
And she didn't have an answer.
That was what did it, what made something snap inside her. She was on her feet, standing over him in front of his goddamned Chesterfield. Face blistering hot with angry tears. Suddenly ranting. Searching for ways to hurt and to wound.
"It's your fault that he's gone," she flared, and she saw real hurt flit across his face, knew she was being mean and hard and unfair, but she couldn't seem to stop herself. "All you bloody Death Eaters. Good people died, children too, and for what? So you could prove that you were better than everyone else? How fucking messed up is that?"
She was towering over him, and abruptly, he got to his feet, standing in her space. "Nymphadora," he began, but she stayed him with a scornful sound.
"Just save it, Lucius. It may come as a great shock to you, but you rut and shit and piss and all the rest of it just like all of us common folk. And you know what's even more obscene? That it isn't about magic at all. You hated Arthur Weasley before he ever helped Muggles. He's pureblood as far back as anyone can remember, but he's poor, so you look down your nose at him."
Lucius was angry, she could tell. It was tightly controlled, but it was there. He said coldly, "Yes, I damn well do. He's an able-bodied man who could advance himself, support his family decently, and he doesn't. But he was quite happy for Molly to pump out seven children and raise them without help. One of the strongest witches of her generation, a Prewett, and slaving in that house! She deserved better."
"Remus and I were poor, too," she snapped. "I suppose you have some choice words about that, as well. As I recall, you contributed substantially to his unemployment."
"Remus was different, and yes, I did. I didn't want a werewolf around my son. Gods, woman, Remus very nearly infected Severus when they were boys, so you'll have to forgive me if I didn't put much stock in Dumbledore's precautions. That doesn't mean I didn't understand his plight. He wasn't able-bodied - don't get your damn hackles up, he wasn't - and you knew that going in and you had a career of your own. That's quite different to Arthur and Molly."
She gave a sound of frustration. "You've got an answer for everything, don't you?" she marvelled.
"No," he retorted furiously, "just a point of view. But you didn't think I had one of those, did you? You thought I was just an ugly bigot who had never given a thought to what I believed. Don't you think, somewhere around the hundredth atrocity committed at Voldemort's hand, that maybe I took a good hard look at myself? Don't you think that all those beliefs of mine that you so thoroughly despise might actually have reasons, good reasons even, despite not being yours?"
"Well, if that's so, then you didn't look hard enough," she snapped. Staring up at him, close and looming over her. Making her feel things, anger and guilt and other things she didn't want to admit to.
Something dark flitted over his features then. "Nymphadora," he said, his voice full of warning. "Stop this. Now. I care for you, but I will not be your punching bag."
It was his caring that did it, so unsentimental and real and utterly Lucius, and it pushed her too hard towards things she didn't want to face, and she had to lash out before she pulled him close. Her hand connected with his face with an ugly sound, and he caught her wrist in his hand before she could do it again. Held her with eyes that were steely blue, flashing anger and worry in turns.
It was like a splash of cold water over her. She felt the blood drain from her face. Horrified. Brought her free hand to her mouth. Gave a ragged, hitching sound, like a little child choking back shuddering sobs.
At this, he released her wrist, and, shaking, she raised her hand to his cheek. Touched him with trembling fingertips. There was no mark, but he was warm under her fingers.
"Oh, Lucius," she said, the words skittering out on jagged breaths. It was less the slap that undid her; more the ugly accusations thrown helter-skelter at the best thing in her life. "What have I become?"
Apparently judging that the ugly moment had passed, Lucius softened. Still watchful, but the fury was gone from his eyes as quickly as it had come. "You're angry," he said, not unkindly. "But you're still you."
Her fingers lingered on his cheek, and, impulsively, she leaned in and kissed him there tenderly. "I'm sorry," she whispered, her lips brushing against him. "I'm so sorry."
She felt his cheek turn against hers. Felt the infinitesimal shift, for her and for him, from the known to the unknown. She was suddenly aware of him, his flesh gold in the firelight and filling her vision, warm and electric under her lips. He drew in his breath, then let it go, warm on her neck, rippling against her in a shaking sigh.
They both paused for a long moment, faces still, cheekbones touching, intimate, not moving. Waiting to see if either would pull away. And she did pull back, just a little, but only enough to graze her cheek along his jaw, towards his mouth. She was drowning in him. Didn't want it to stop. Didn't want the gossamer threads holding them together to break.
Finally, she was close enough to his mouth that his ragged breaths mixed with hers. Their eyes locked on one another. Hesitantly, he weaved his hand into her hair. His fingers danced there, then tightened on her neck, just a fraction. A question.
She gave a tiny nod. Wondered if her expression was as wary, as curious, as nakedly hungry as his.
He leaned in. Kissed her so slowly that it was like crumbling parchment under her lips. She opened up for him, her mouth soft and pliant. Something about surrender, about letting go completely. Not with anyone, but with him, because he was strong and solid and he was always there.
He broke the kiss, but didn't draw away. "Nymphadora. You know I love you," he whispered against her lips. He said it like something that cost him, and she supposed in a way it did. For both of them. It was bartered with grief and guilt.
"Same," she said. Somehow managed to put more into that single word than she ever had in three.
He lifted his gaze to look at her. "You're sure about this?"
She wasn't, but she would always wonder, if she didn't. She would wonder what it was to be with someone who was as strong and fearless as she. She would wonder about that voice and those eyes and the way he didn't flinch from the worst of her and the way he made her meet him halfway.
She nodded, and he took her hand, the one she'd lifted to touch his cheek. Kissed the heel of her palm, his gaze never leaving hers. Then her wrist, so slowly and reverently that it was like he was inside her. With a tiny moan, low sound of longing, she sank down onto the couch, staring at him as he sank to the floor between her knees and tugged her up against him, so that she looked down on his upturned face and held it between her hands. His mouth was slow and questing. Like he was filing away every part of her in his memory.
This was a different kind of intimacy, one she'd never had. One that he'd learned, she thought, from twenty-six years of unquestioned love and unwavering commitment.
This is what it's like to be with someone who stays, she thought, awful faithless words shunted quickly aside.
"Make love to me, Lucius," she said, and she'd never used those words in her life, but they were the right words. Making love with Lucius wouldn't be girlish and romantic. It would be total self-abandonment to someone who would do the same, and it exhilarated and terrified her in turns.
He drew her closer, one hand slipping under her jacket, around her waist, as his lips claimed hers. This kiss was surer, insistent, and she tugged her arms free of the jacket and worked the pair of buttons at his neck free. Moved down to the brooch at the base of his neck, holding his dress shirt together.
His hand found hers, and stayed her. "Let me," he said in a low voice. Then, "It was - a gift."
From Narcissa, she thought. She let go. Watched him a moment, then fumbled with her necklace. Stared at it for a long moment, then, slowly, took off her wedding ring and slipped it onto the chain. Put it on the side table next to his brooch. Her fingers lingered a long moment before she finally let it go.
"You don't have to," he said, but she shook her head, looking back up at him.
"I won't do this looking over my shoulder for him." Her eyes were suddenly wet, but she smiled and nodded, too. "I want this."
He nodded. Understanding perfectly. Of course he did. He gathered her up against him, tender once more, covering her mouth and her jaw and her neck in tiny kisses. Filling her world with him until the shadows between them had lifted and she wanted him all over again, until she drew herself up to kiss him hard and thread possessive hands through his hair.
He tugged her down to straddle him on the floor, firmer and surer. Managed to work her shirt free and drag it over her head, leaving just jeans and a pink bra, and she didn't think from the look on his face that he'd say a bad word about Muggle clothes ever again. He'd taken his dress shirt off with the brooch, and she slid her hands over his crisp white undershirt. Tugged it out of his trousers and managed to get his buttons free. Pushed linen folds apart to run questing fingertips over his chest. He drew her in closer, flesh to flesh, and kissed her, hard. Suddenly demanding and intense. She gasped, pulling back then darting forward, shocked then hungry.
This was the real Lucius, she thought, lurking there under the hesitation and the warmth, just waiting for her to catch up. His love could be tender, but beneath it was steel, and it rocked her but she wanted it, all of it, wanted something uncompromising, a bedrock, a cornerstone. It unlocked a hunger in her that she'd never even known about, and she was shivering, kissing him urgently, unfastening the snap at the top of her jeans. He was helping her, fingers brushing as she got the zip open for him, and sliding down, his thumb finding her warm and slick. She rested her forehead against his and stared down between them, her breaths ragged, his name skittering along her lips in staccato as she rocked against him with exquisite need.
"Come for me," he coaxed in that low silky voice. "I want to see you let go."
He didn't know, couldn't know how impossible that was. She'd always been the strong one. Come for him, yes. Let go, lose control? She didn't know how.
Something of this must have shown in her face, because he used his free hand to pull her into a kiss. "Like this," he said.
Somehow it was explanation enough, and she found herself gripping his shoulders, kissing him hard and deep, whispering into his mouth all the things she could never bring herself to say aloud, things about surrender and belonging and owning and being owned. She was shivering and clutching and falling against him, falling into him, and somehow he was there to catch her.
He lowered her down on the floor as the shudders faded away, never releasing her lips. Seeming to understand that she needed to stay connected. They wrestled her jeans and knickers off together, and she reached for him, tugging him down on top of her, barely giving him time to unfasten his trousers. Choked out his name in need as he pressed against her, as her body made way for him, cautious at first after nine months untouched, then opening, eager, waiting, longing. Shifted against him as he sank deep into her, as their hips fitted just right, and arched beneath him, crying out, her arm hooked up around his neck, his hair falling, brushing her over-sensitive flesh. He was demanding, the way he held her and moved with her, his hand splayed out between her shoulderblades, insistent. Uncompromisingly hers and demanding the same. When he came, he came with shuddering gasps and shaking fingers in her hair; she followed, led there by his tumbling sounds as much as the sureness of their bodies together.
When it was over, they held each other. It was a survivors' hug, long and hard and desperate, bodies wrapped up in one another, clinging to connection and to life. She clutched at his shoulders and kissed his cheek and she swallowed down tears. There were doors opening up before her, but some were closing too, and she knew it had to be that way but it hurt like hell as well.
Finally, they released one another, just a little. Lucius tasted of salt when she kissed him, but he was smiling at her, too.
When they were dressed again, he took her by the hand and led her back to the Chesterfield. Drew her down into the crook of his arm.
"Do you think they'd mind?" she wondered. She didn't say who they were. She didn't need to.
He shook his head. "No. Narcissa wouldn't, anyway. She was eminently sensible. She would expect me to grieve a while, then dust myself off and find myself a good woman." He gave a smile, very definitely a nostalgic one, as though remembering her saying exactly that. He went on dryly, "I suppose Remus would be appalled that it was me."
"Probably," she agreed, "although he was probably the most understanding in the Order about shades of grey. He was the nicest of all of us to Severus, and Severus didn't always deserve it." That was a pleasing memory, simple and warm, and her voice was fond. She went on, the warmth falling out of her voice, "But then, Remus seemed to spend more of his time trying to push me away than holding me close. He seemed to think that just about any other man would do, up to and including a Death Eater, as long as he was whole." She spat the word like an obscenity.
Lucius' hold on her tightened, and he kissed her hair, long and fiercely tender. She heard him take a breath, like he was going to say something, but in the end he said nothing.
They stayed that way a while. He said presently, "I've missed this. Loving someone, I mean."
She nodded. It occurred to her that they had slipped into love-words so easily, maybe too easily. But then, what other words were there? They'd been to hell and back.
"Do you?" she asked thoughtfully. It wasn't a bid for reassurance. She was intensely curious. Struck by the matter-of-fact way he seemed to approach it.
He seemed to understand what she was asking. "You're younger, Nymphadora. Your generation hangs on to love, like it's some sort of earth-shattering secret to be dragged out of you as an admission." She smiled a little; she loved him like this, thoughtful and introspective. He went on, "It isn't. It's just a fact, and actually quite a useless one in itself. If you don't do something with it, you might as not love at all. It's at least fifty percent an act of will." It was an interesting perspective, one that shed an interesting sidelight on his marriage to Narcissa, and she filed it away in the place in her mind reserved for things she loved about Lucius.
He was wrong about how it applied to her, though. He'd assumed the source of her curiosity was generational, but loving Remus had been a similarly uphill battle. It had been two steps forward and two steps back all the way. If love was an act of will, Remus' will had been imprisoned with a good part of the man she knew he could have been.
"And if I didn't love you?" she wondered. Hastened to add, "I do, of course, but what would you have done if I hadn't?"
"I would pick myself up, dust myself off, and go on, naturally," he said briskly. "Love isn't a business for the weak."
She thought now, more than ever, that was absolutely true.
"I need to tell you something."
Tonks was fidgeting like a child, running her finger over the rim of her teacup. Steam rose and lingered, then blew away.
"No, you don't," Andromeda said matter-of-factly. "I think I saw it coming before you did." Tonks shot her a look. "Besides, your hair is pink," she added dryly. "All that's missing is a neon sign saying 'I got laid.'"
Tonks took a lock of it between her fingers and inspected it. Gave a little sound of surprise; she hadn't felt the change - she didn't always - and Lucius hadn't mentioned it, possibly hadn't even noticed in the firelight. And they'd had, perhaps, other things on their minds, like how to please each other and how their bodies fit together and what rhythm was just right, what made them meld into a single accord.
Now, she met her mother's gaze. A little afraid of what she would find there. "Do you think I'm awful? It hasn't even been a year."
Andromeda shook her head. "You forget, Dora, I'm rather well placed to understand. I seem to remember nine months as being about the time that I was ready. At least to think about it."
"You never said anything," she said curiously.
"I didn't want to upset you," her mother said, staring down into her cup. "Ted was your father, and you'd lost your husband more recently than that. It was complicated. I didn't know if you'd understand."
Tonks stared at her. Realisation dawning. "Wait - you're seeing someone? Merlin! Who?"
Andromeda shifted uncomfortably. Rose and took her cup to the kitchen. Deliberately busying herself at the sink, she said, "Xenophilius Lovegood."
Tonks tried to put the two of them together in her mind; the image wouldn't form. She didn't believe she'd ever seen them together. "But - I haven't seen him here, or anything!"
"No, and deliberately so. It wasn't like you and Lucius. Xen pursued me when I was a girl. I rejected him because he was a pureblood - which I suppose Lucius would say makes me no better than him. I loved your father, but I admit I always wondered. So when I was...ready...I owled him."
Tonks nearly fell off her chair. "You asked him?"
"Well, you're not the only one who can be charming and unconventional," Andromeda said with a sly smile. "But we hadn't really passed more than a few words in nearly thirty years. I didn't know if it would lead anywhere, and why upset you if it didn't?"
Tonks arched a brow. "Well, as fascinating as this is, I think I'd like to turn back to my own revelation, if that's all right." Andromeda gave a sound of amusement, and she went on. "Do you mind? About Lucius, I mean?"
"Whether I do or I don't, it isn't as though you'll pay any heed to me," Andromeda said without rancour. "I just hope you don't think he's some sort of misunderstood nice guy, that's all. I realise that he's somewhat less one-dimensional than we'd all once thought, but there's still a lot about him that's obnoxious and objectionable."
She dismissed this with a wave of her hand. "Oh, I dare say I'd find him completely insufferable if I didn't love him. But he loves me, and he's unwavering and loyal to people he loves."
Andromeda's brow puckered. "Yes, he is. I can see how that would be attractive to you," she said thoughtfully. "Especially after Remus." She lifted her gaze to Dora's meaningfully.
She felt ugly, hurtful things rise up in her, and she slammed them down. "You take that back," she flared. "Remus was a good man."
Andromeda pointed to the front door and retorted, "A man who left you weeping on our doorstep!"
She felt horrible, hateful tears rising up in her face. "He was scared!"
"And you were pregnant."
Dora got to her feet. "And this conversation is over."
GO TO PART 3: DENIAL - LUCIUS