Literatti: Fiction By Deslea
Two of a Kind: A Yuletide Interlude
Deslea R. Judd
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters/Keywords: Andromeda Tonks, Narcissa Malfoy, Lucius/Tonks, Lucius/Narcissa
Rating: PG for a couple of naughty words.
Spoilers/Timeframe: Spoilers for the novella Two Of A Kind (you don't have to have read it). The universe is mostly canon compliant, but goes AU mid-battle.
Summary: Missing scenes. Christmas 1998 sees the Malfoy-Tonks clan sharing their first Christmas since Narcissa and Remus were killed in the Battle of Hogwarts. Andromeda, a reluctant guest, is appalled by Lucius and Tonks' evident feelings for one another, and must make peace with her own flight from her family of origin if she is to maintain her troubled relationship with her daughter.
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|
Dora was fussing.
"Let's go see what Mum's up to, shall we, Big Ted?" Andromeda said in her most grandmotherly voice, carrying him on her hip as she entered Dora's bedroom.
There were a lot of things she and Dora didn't talk about these days, and Teddy was a convenient means of maintaining social decorum. The reason Andromeda needed such a device was virtually everything she really wanted to say would result in either a fight or a truthful answer, and she wasn't quite sure which of those two options she disliked the most.
They'd never gotten along all that well to start with, though not for want of affection. They were just both stubborn and hot-headed, nothing more complicated than that. Add the fact that they were both recently widowed, grieving in completely different ways, forced into daily contact for the sake of a fatherless baby, and the situation got a whole lot more dysfunctional. Add Dora's baffling...attachment...to Lucius Malfoy, and you had a powder keg. A powder keg she was not keen to ignite.
As she rounded the door, she saw that Dora had finally finished playing about with her hair (uncharacteristic, that, but Andromeda wasn't even touching that one). She hadn't moved from her cheap little dresser. She was sitting there on the stool, facing the mirror. Not acknowledging her presence, or Teddy's, though she could hardly have failed to notice their arrival.
She was staring down at her wedding ring, holding it carefully between the fingers of both hands. Like something terribly fragile. (Andromeda thought rather uncharitably that fragile was one of the kinder words for Dora's marriage to Remus). And oh, that hair. That fucking white-blonde hair. From here, she could be Narcissa, who had styled her hair with at least some blonde in it from the day she and Lucius were betrothed until the day she died.
But that wasn't what really bothered her about it, was it? It was because Andromeda was no longer certain the hair was for Remus. She had a horrible, horrible feeling that somewhere along the line, that hair stopped being about what happened to Remus and started being about Lucius. Andromeda had worked very hard to separate herself from her family of origin, thank you very much, and she'd just as soon it stayed that way.
She cleared her throat. Said gently, "We should go." Pretended not to have noticed her playing with the ring.
Dora slipped it back on her finger and pretended she didn't know Andromeda had seen. "Yeah." She rose, and she followed her mother out of the bedroom, down the stairs, to the fireplace in the tiny sitting room. Their Yule gifts were there, Transfigured into small charms on a bracelet, and Dora paused to fasten the bracelet to her wrist.
They stood there, holding gazes, two generations of inscrutable Black women, like millennia of secretive, powerful, conflicted women before them. Andromeda wondered, just for a moment, whether they were doomed to the same. She had broken so many long-unchallenged rules in the course of setting herself free - could she break one more? Could she?
Dora tossed the Floo powder into the fireplace, and they were drawn into the vortex of Lucius' world with the question left unanswered.
She had consented, reluctantly, to contact with Lucius as a counterpart to contact with Draco. Narcissa would have wanted it, and with Bellatrix gone, there was no longer a defensible reason not to do so.
It had taken seeing Bella's body with her own eyes for her to believe - really believe - that the insane and dangerous presence that had coloured her whole existence was really gone. But see her Andromeda had. She had burned Bella, turned her to ash. She couldn't have buried her. Couldn't have ever completely believed she was gone while she lay whole and sleeping in a tomb. And so both the Black sisters had burned, Narcissa at the hands of a husband who faced Azkaban and could see to her decently in no other way, and Bella at the hands of a sister who looked on her with fear and horror even in death.
So she was reluctantly joined to Lucius, by that, and by Draco. Increasingly, though, Lucius was becoming a counterpart to contact with her own daughter and grandson, as well - a fact that appalled her more, rather than less, with each passing day. Merlin knew, she had hoped that in time, Dora would find herself a quite different man to Remus, someone stronger, but she had never dreamed she would be drawn to someone so completely opposite - so perfectly awful - as Lucius Malfoy. For all Remus' faults, he had not despised the very core of Dora's being, her blood. At worst, he had despised his own, and Dora had been collateral damage along the way.
So however reluctantly, however messily entwined Andromeda and Lucius had become, she had never gotten past her instinctive revulsion at the sight of him, or her horror of the social convention of air-kissing him hello. Her whole body went stiff and didn't let go until they were a good couple of feet apart.
She knew, intellectually, that Lucius was not cut from the same cloth as Bellatrix. He was odious, certainly, and probably guilty of more awful deeds than had ever been prosecuted. However, he was not insane. He genuinely believed, on some sort of rational basis (flawed rational basis), in the superiority of Purebloods. In its own way, Andromeda thought that was worse, but it was still quite different to Bella.
Bellatrix, by contrast, had been psychotic and dangerous before she could walk, a source of terror to the household from the time Andromeda was born. In fact, it had been Andromeda's birth that had been the catalyst for Bella's first murder, an owl who brought a congratulatory toy for Dromeda and nothing for her.
In the end, Andromeda had pushed everyone away, because she could see no other way of ridding herself of Bella. She had pushed away her mother, her younger sister, and half a dozen Pureblood suitors, and carved out a home for herself with a Muggle-born, thus cementing the estrangement. Her stomach still rolled lazily, luxuriating in a slow-building, quiet horror at how completely she had been drawn back into that world.
So it was with almost overwhelming relief that she stepped away from Lucius and turned her attentions to Draco. Draco was a good boy, she thought; he had the best of Narcissa lurking under just a very thin veneer of Lucius. Draco had surprised her especially with how good he was with Teddy. She supposed there were few smiles for Draco in this brave new post-war world, and Teddy had smiles for everyone.
Now, Draco took Teddy from her arms and brushed a tiny smudge of soot off his nose before taking him up the stairs, to put him down in his own old nursery. It amused Andromeda. It only took a quick Scourgify to get rid of soot from the chimney, but Lucius - and Draco, until recently - preferred to Apparate anyway. Soot was an alien presence in the Malfoy home, and so was Dora, all dust and clumsiness, a discordant note in a superficially perfect world. And yet somehow - Andromeda didn't understand for the life of her how - she had slotted in as though she belonged here.
Not that Dora was fitting in now.
Andromeda was suddenly conscious of Dora, standing awkwardly a couple of feet away from Lucius, her arms folded stiffly across her body. Lucius was just as awkward, his shoulders hunched, hands behind his back as they muttered greetings. Their eyes were locked on one another, but every other part of them was held stiff and hesitant.
Oh God, she went and did it, Andromeda thought with a chill. "It" was a vague concept, covering any number of possibilities on the spectrum from kissing him to sleeping with him, or, most dangerous of all, falling for him. She had a horrible feeling it was the third.
Nightmare possibilities washed over her. Dora marrying him. Teddy growing up in this house. She'd worked so hard, given up so much to keep them all free of the shackles of Pureblood society, and it was dissolving before her eyes.
Andromeda felt ill.
Lucius dragged his gaze hastily from Dora, and he must have seen her pallor. "Andromeda," he said, "you look unwell. Come and sit down." He bade her sit down on the Chesterfield.
"I'm fine," she demurred. "I just haven't eaten today."
Dora said from behind them, "I'll get Leonie," and Andromeda realised with fresh horror that Dora knew what to do, knew how to run Lucius' house.
Lucius shook his head. "Thank you, Nymphadora, but I'll go. The elves are busy with Yule lunch. Eggnog all right, Andromeda?"
Andromeda nodded. Not trusting herself to speak as Lucius left the room.
Dora said, "I'll go check on Teddy. Draco's putting him down for a nap, but he doesn't always sleep for him. I'll only be a minute."
"Don't worry about me," Andromeda called acidly, but Dora was already gone.
Andromeda sat there alone for a minute or two, steadying her breathing. Pulling herself together. Stared into the fire meditatively, letting it still her mind.
A voice broke the silence. "You're worried about Nymphadora."
Andromeda flinched, then swore, looking up at the portrait over the fireplace. "Cissy. You scared the life out of me."
"That's not a very tactful thing to say to someone who's dead," Narcissa's portrait sniffed.
Andromeda shot her a reproachful look, but didn't return the volley. Instead, she said in resignation, "I suppose you can't tell me anything."
"Lucius has extracted no promises from me. Naturally, though, I would not act against his interests."
Andromeda said dryly, "Naturally."
"Nor do I listen in on their private conversations," Narcissa added with just a shade of reproof, as though Andromeda had cast a blight on her honour by suggesting so. "However, I don't think there's any harm in me saying that he's fond of her."
"Fond?" she echoed.
"He means her no harm," Narcissa elaborated. "He's not like Bella, Dromeda. I wouldn't have married him if he was."
Andromeda shot her a look. Surprised at the completeness of her understanding and trying not to let it show. "Meaning?"
"Meaning we all had our own means of escaping her. I was fortunate enough to have my escape pre-arranged. I've wondered of late whether I was promised to Lucius for that very reason. I've wondered whether Mother feared losing another daughter, and took...took pre-emptive steps."
Andromeda wondered fleetingly if the vow between Cissy and Severus Snape had been the catalyst for that particular insight, but didn't ask. She said only, "But you didn't escape her."
"No," Narcissa said reflectively. "The Dark Lord saw to that. But within these walls, I found shelter. Right up to the end."
"This was his stronghold by the end."
"There were places even here that he couldn't touch," Narcissa said. "Lucius was my safe place, Dromeda, however hard it may be for you to believe it." Her expression softened. "Nymphadora has lost a lot. She could do worse. Lucius is strong, and committed to family - almost to the point of obsession."
"I'm so glad they have your blessing," Andromeda said ironically.
"It's simpler than that. She's good for Lucius and Draco, so I want her to stay. I have no personal opinion of her to speak of. Although," she added, unbending a little, "I will admit that you've raised her well."
"Thank you, I think."
"It was meant as a compliment. Neither of us had good role models for raising children. The way I remember it, you raised me, and the elves raised you."
Andromeda snorted. "When they weren't trying to stop Bellatrix from strangling them or the Familiars, yes. It's a pity we weren't raised Muggles, Cissy. The Muggle world has a much better understanding of mental illness than ours. She might have gotten the help she needed."
Narcissa spread her hands out expansively before her. "As far as I understand it, even Muggle mental health care can only help when the person wants to be helped. Bella didn't want help. She revelled in her...her situation. She found completeness in the Dark Lord." Her eyes were faraway. "She didn't suffer. We did that for her."
Andromeda was intrigued by Narcissa's apparent familiarity with Muggle psychiatry, but didn't say so. "I saw to her body," she said instead. Her mouth settled into a grim line. "She died smiling."
Narcissa nodded. "That's for the best. After all, what would have been gained from her suffering? It wouldn't have changed anything. She could never have been well. Perhaps her ignorance was...a mercy."
Andromeda nodded, but she was frowning. It was difficult for her to see Bellatrix as a pitiful figure, as Narcissa obviously did. For Andromeda, she had only ever been a figure of fear. But then, she had only ever been a girl with Bella. Narcissa had stayed close, had come to terms with Bella as an adult.
"Please give Lucius and Draco a chance, Dromeda. Just a chance. Will you do that?"
Andromeda looked away. "I promise to try. That's all I can do, Cissy."
Just then, Lucius bustled in, eggnog in hand. He glanced up at Narcissa's portrait.
"Everything all right, Andromeda?"
Andromeda nodded. "Just fine."
Narcissa sat down in her painted high-backed chair and pointedly began to snore. Lucius looked unconvinced, but he nodded, and let the matter drop.
It seemed to come from nowhere.
A log had fallen from the fire onto the hearth. Dora and Draco were playing with Teddy in the snow, and neither she nor Lucius had a wand close by. (Teddy had a habit of absconding with hers, and for all she knew, possibly Lucius' as well). So she hurried to the hall cupboard, looking for a poker, while Lucius tried rather stupidly to put it back with his bare hands. She couldn't quite suppress a smirk as he yelped in pain.
The smirk fell away as she opened the cupboard door. Just for a moment, she saw the nothingness of the boggart, the empty void before it took on its form from her fears. And then it was Lucius, Dora on one arm, Teddy in the other, his face melting into a Death Eater mask, and then into Bella's maniacal, hideously delighted leer. The scream escaped her before she could stop it.
Lucius came at a run, rounded the corner, and just for a moment, he saw her boggart before it melded into his own. It flickered back and forth, first Voldemort standing victorious over Narcissa's and Draco's broken bodies, then Dora. Dora, her expression one of great reproach, saying something Andromeda couldn't make out.
"Riddikulus," Lucius said, and the boggart turned into Dora at her most playful, making her nose and mouth into a duck's beak, before withdrawing into the cupboard. Lucius still didn't have his wand, Andromeda realised; he locked the cupboard by hand.
He leaned his head against the cupboard for a long moment, then turned to face her. His face was dead-white and ashen.
"Andromeda," he said, "I think we need to talk."
They sat there, Firewhisky in hand, watching the others playing in the snow. Draco had turned the Chesterfield around to face the French doors, so they had the full view of the grounds.
"You don't think very highly of me, do you?" Lucius mused. There was something soft in his expression as he watched Dora raising Teddy up to put a carrot nose on the snowman's face.
"Let me tell you about the last time I saw you before the war, Lucius," Andromeda said. "It was at the Quidditch World Cup, and you were sitting around with your Death Eater buddies. Not half an hour later, you'd disappeared and some Death Eater hoons were Muggle-baiting. You can talk all you like about how you were scared for your family and so you did the Dark Lord's will, but Voldemort wasn't there that night. That was just - just sport."
"That was a prank," he said sourly. "It went too far."
"A prank?" she exploded. "You're a grown man!"
"I'd had more than a bottle of Firewhisky. We could all feel the Dark Mark getting stronger. We were scared half out of our wits."
Andromeda snorted. "Well, I can see how that would put Nott and Goyle at a deficit, but what's your excuse?"
"It isn't an excuse," Lucius said mildly, still watching Dora. "Hate me for what I am, Andromeda, by all means. There's plenty of grounds. But do not hate me for what you imagine me to be."
"And what do I imagine you to be?"
"Someone who would hurt Nymphadora," he snapped, turning to look at her. "I wouldn't do that. She's-"
He broke off, but it was too late. In that one word, his face had broken out into something naked and raw.
Oh, God, he loves her. Or he thinks he does. It was worse than she'd thought.
His face closed up again. His voice was very stilted and correct as he said, "Draco and I are - really quite fond of her."
"Dora is a half-blood," Andromeda said with a note of warning in her voice. "You may be able to gloss over that most of the time, Lucius, enough for her to be your friend or your niece or your wife-in-waiting or whatever the hell you consider her place here to be. You can do that, I suppose, because her Muggle-born father is conveniently out of the picture. But if you think I will ever let her, or you, forget that she is Ted's daughter, you have another think coming. She may be a Black, but she is also a Tonks. And the Tonks were more our family than the Blacks ever were."
"I know that," he said quietly. "You forget, Andromeda, that Narcissa took refuge in my family just as you did with him."
"Don't act like we're the same, Lucius. You embraced the monster. I turned my back on it."
"The fact that you were on the right side of the war is a function only of your terror of your sister. It was never any more philosophical than that. I may have learned my lessons the hard way, but our values are the same. Would you reject me for that?"
"Our values are not the same. Not at all."
"Aren't they? You rejected Xeno Lovegood. And why? Because you abhorred Pure blood. You associated it with weakness - the strain of weakness of your dangerously ill sister. And Narcissa and I associated her illness with disability, so we abhorred others with disabilities - the werewolves and the Squibs - and the tainted blood that we believed at the time to be the cause of it. You forget, Andromeda, that Muggle psychiatry has come a long way since then, so we understand Bella's illness better now, even if St Mungo's is too short-sighted to draw on that knowledge."
Andromeda blinked in astonishment. Lucius had been driven to seek and accept knowledge from the Muggle world?
He seemed to guess what she was thinking. He said wryly, "You're surprised. You shouldn't be. By the time she'd dragged us into the war, we were desperate enough to try anything. Even Muggle medicine." He said it the way Ted would have said even a quack. He went on, "We were all young, we were all coping with living with a sick girl, and we were all wrong."
The possibility that Lucius might be right was too big, too awful to consider. So she said instead, "So what? Now you like Muggle-borns? It's that easy for you, after a lifetime of looking down your nose at them?"
"You misunderstand me, Andromeda. I like people who are powerful. I like survivors. I like strength. You may despise me for my callousness in saying so, but the war weeded out the weak on both sides. And yes," he added as she opened her mouth in outrage, "some who should have survived as well. Your husband included."
She was only slightly mollified. "You didn't know my husband."
"No, but Nymphadora speaks highly of him, not only as a father, but a person. And she is not prone to false sentiment. Not even about family."
Andromeda wondered fleetingly what Dora had said about her.
Lucius went on, "So yes, it is that easy for me. Because most of the Muggle-borns who survived, survived because they were strong." He inclined his head a little, looking towards Dora and Teddy once more. "You should have seen her that day, Andromeda. She was incredible."
She felt unwilling warmth. Said curtly, "She is." Her gaze drifted to Teddy. "And what of my grandson?"
"What about him?"
"They come as a package deal."
Lucius nodded a little. Frowning. Abruptly, he snapped his fingers. An elderly elf appeared before them with a crack.
"Leonie, please take Madam Tonks to the nursery."
Andromeda inclined her head. "You're not coming?"
Lucius was still watching Dora and Teddy and Draco with that soft look on his face. "No," he said, offering no explanation. Lucius was not one to explain himself; in truth, she was surprised she had gotten as much from him as she already had.
The elf took her hand, and they Apparated upstairs.
She came to herself in a room with cream-coloured walls and cobalt-blue picture rails and mouldings.
She wasn't sure what she had expected. Grey and gothic, perhaps? Whatever she had expected, it wasn't something light and warm. But then, Narcissa had said she had found safety here.
The room still spoke very much of Draco, with an illuminated painting of his name and framed pictures of a baby Draco with Lucius and Narcissa. (Andromeda paused at these, touching her finger to Narcissa's laughing image with an unexpected wave of nostalgia).
But there were signs of Teddy here, too. A mobile with blue-haired wizards and wolves that were somehow benign. A picture of herself, Dora, Remus, and Teddy, one of only very few taken before Remus died. Another, of Draco, smiling broadly, the usual shadows under his eyes absent, playing Peek-A-Boo into the camera.
And, oh Merlin, there it was. Lucius, holding Teddy, Dora at his side, Draco with his arm around Dora's shoulder. All that was missing was the slogan Family Picture.
"Are you all right, Madam Tonks?" Leonie asked.
Leonie spoke in formal English, rather than the pidgin mix of English words and elvish grammar common among most of her kind. She wore a neatly pressed black pillowcase, carefully altered and fashioned into a tunic, in the style of a Muggle maid-servant. Andromeda knew without being told that she was from a lineage of house-elves peculiar to Wiltshire, reportedly dating back to the extinct House of Boleyn. Her dress and manner was heavily influenced by the Muggle kingdom that had been the Boleyns' downfall.
"I'm fine, Leonie, thank you," Andromeda said, sinking down into the rocking chair. There was a footstool opposite, too far away to have been used as one. An image rose in her head, Dora rocking Teddy, Lucius sitting opposite as they talked about their day. It should have been a charming image. It chilled her.
"I can get the Mistress." It took Andromeda a second to realise Leonie meant Dora.
"No, thank you." She asked, "When did the nursery get to be like this?"
"Get to be like what, Ma'am?"
She searched for some way of explaining what she meant. "Teddy's," she said at last.
"Well, I suppose it just happened over time, Ma'am. One day, the Mistress wanted to stay on past Master Ted's naptime, so he slept here. Then...I suppose it got to be normal. And then the Master wanted him to be comfortable, so they put in a picture, and then a toy, and then more pictures and more toys. It just...happened. Does it matter how it happened? So long as he's happy, I mean?"
Reluctantly, Andromeda gave a sound of concession. "No, Leonie. I suppose it doesn't."
"If you hurt her, I'll hunt you down," Andromeda said without preamble as she rejoined Lucius on the Chesterfield.
Lucius said dryly, "I'm sure she'll get to me first, but I appreciate the candour."
She poured herself some more Firewhisky from the decanter on the table beside her. "As long as we're being frank, what on earth does she see in you?"
Lucius raised his glass to her in mock salute. "Damned if I know. You might have noticed that my boggart was asking exactly the same thing."
She hadn't, but she didn't say so. Instead, she said thoughtfully, "So what now?"
Lucius nodded his head towards Dora, Teddy, and Draco, who were making their way up the steps. "Now, we open presents."
Dora stopped at the doorway, and charmed their clothes dry. Stepping over the threshold, she said, "Hullo. What have you two been talking about?" If there was a shade of suspicion in her tone, it was masked by the winning smile she shone at Lucius.
"Families," Andromeda said neutrally. Then, just a little caustically, "Yours, mine, and ours."
Dora looked like she was about to ask which was which, but she thought better of it. Instead, she said, "Well, this family has gifts to open. Who's in?"
As it happened, they all were.
Most of the gifts were standard Yule fare. Foodstuffs, trinkets, and gag gifts dominated.
Lucius did give Dora one thoughtful gift, a necklace set with a pink diamond, noteworthy both for its rarity and because it followed her aesthetic preferences rather than his own. Andromeda was unwillingly impressed. She had assumed any jewellery from him would be silver, emerald, or both.
To her surprise, Dora gave Lucius a book of Muggle poetry, with several pages marked. Andromeda wondered what on earth she was thinking (Muggle poetry? For Lucius Malfoy?) but to her surprise, when Lucius opened to the first marked page, he drew in his breath. He mastered himself quickly, but not so quickly that she didn't see his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed hard.
"Yeats," he said softly. "I didn't know who wrote it."
Dora nodded. "I looked it up on the internet. It's a Muggle communication system," she added, apparently for the benefit of Draco, whose quizzical expression cleared.
"Thank you, Nymphadora," Lucius said in a low voice.
"Look at the others," Dora prompted. She had moved from her vantage point on her knees by the pile of gifts to kneel at his side.
He opened to the second marked page. "Dream of a Blessed Spirit," he murmured after a moment.
"I thought - it sounded like Narcissa," she said gently.
He shot her a look. Andromeda couldn't see it over Teddy's head, but she could see Dora's expression soften with indescribable compassion.
Lucius turned back to the book, head bowed a little, and opened to the third marked page. He read the poem fully, frowning. Said cryptically, "And which is it, Nymphadora? Dream or truth?"
"Truth," she said, just as cryptically.
He leaned forward and kissed her cheek, lingering there a moment. Their faces turned to one another as they wrenched apart, their mouths almost meeting along the way, so that Andromeda felt that she had seen something much more intimate than a thank-you gesture. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat as Lucius rose.
"I need some air," he said abruptly, raking his hands through his hair. Made his way to the French doors, out into the snow, without another word.
Dora started to rise, then, shooting Andromeda a look, was still.
"Go," Andromeda said. Just that. Tolerance, rather than blessing.
He sensed, rather than saw her approach.
She was only just in his field of vision, and she wasn't blessed with stealth at the best of times, but he felt her before that. He was beginning to realise that he always had.
He said presently, "We're giving your mother a coronary."
"I guess the secret's out," Nymphadora agreed, taking her place beside him on the verandah, looking out over the grounds.
"Fairly impressive, considering we've never properly articulated it ourselves," he said dryly, looking at her sidelong.
She leaned away from him, against the pillar beside her. Shrugged. "Consider it articulated."
His mouth twitched. "Hardly a lover-like declaration." It wasn't, but somehow it was exactly right. Matter-of-fact and cryptic was manageable. Passion was not. Not yet.
"Don't be idiotic," she said impatiently.
"I thought that was one of the things you lov-"
She cut him off. "Fuck, Lucius, don't." She turned to face him, leaning back against the pillar. "You're not ready and I'm not ready, so just don't fucking go there."
He turned too. "Sod it all, Nymphadora, you're the one who gave me love poetry."
"Men Improve With The Years? That poem was about your journey, not about us."
He said quietly, "I don't have a journey that isn't about us."
She drew in her breath with a low, ragged sound. Everything about her seemed to go soft. Like all her defences had fallen away. "Lucius," she whispered. Moved towards him a little, then faltered. Hands twitching, like she wanted to reach out and touch him but didn't know where or whether or how.
He reached out and took her hand. "You know," he said slowly, "in my world, when a man kisses a woman's hand, it means something."
Her voice was solemn. "I know what it means."
"I'm not a free agent," he said quietly. "I come with a son, and a sullied name, and a past, and not a very honourable one, either. I'm obnoxious and irritating and I have opinions you'd find perfectly reprehensible if you weren't blinded by your inexplicable affection for me. On top of all that, I need time, even though I know I might lose you for it."
Her eyes were gleaming, but she only nodded gravely.
"If you can accept all of that, then yes, I want to state my intentions," he said. "That is, if you don't find Pureblood customs archaic and repugnant."
She smirked. "It's amazing, the archaic and repugnant things I find inexplicably charming when I'm with you, Lucius." The humour fell from her voice. "I'm not going to ask if you're sure, because I'm not sure and I can hardly ask it of you. But I like the way you go about things. The period of intent is a period of discernment, correct?"
He nodded. "Often reduced to a formality, but yes. It's about becoming a fit and proper person to enter into a relationship, and assessing the capacity of the other to do the same. It's not about commitment, although that's often the outcome, and it's not about courtship rituals, although those may happen too. It's about readiness."
"Very fitting, in the circumstances," she said. "Very well, Lucius. I accept." She lifted her hand to his lips.
He kissed it. Met her gaze just for a moment, then released her fingers. Stepped away very formally. By unspoken agreement, they re-took their places side by side, a few feet apart.
Presently, Nymphadora said:
"Now she'll have a coronary."
Their laughter drifted away on the wind.
Andromeda shifted Teddy in her lap and picked up the book, where Lucius had left it, forgotten. She opened it with interest.
The third marked poem was called Men Improve With The Years. It read in part:
I am worn out with dreams;
A weather-worn, marble triton
Among the streams;
And all day long I look
Upon this lady's beauty
As though I had found in a book
A pictured beauty,
Pleased to have filled the eyes
Or the discerning ears,
Delighted to be but wise,
For men improve with the years;
And yet, and yet,
Is this my dream, or the truth?
And Dora had declared it was truth. Her truth, at least, and Andromeda did not believe she would be swayed from it. Not, at least, by her.
She looked up at the two, standing there, talking. Just talking. At one point, Lucius took her hand and kissed it, in the formal way of Pureblood courtship. Dora accepted the gesture, just as formally, as though she had been born to it.
Andromeda felt sudden, unexpectedly strong nostalgia. Xenophilius Lovegood had kissed her hand in just that way. That was a good memory, not like Evan Rosier. Xen had been...sweet. Sweet and genuine. And she had rejected him. He had left her, bewildered and saddened, more genuinely affected than any of the others. She'd never forgotten it. Had always wondered if he'd been the one she'd have married, if she had remained in that world at all.
What had she wondered that morning? Whether she could challenge the remaining rules of her world? She had done it before, but she had put new rules in their stead. Rules like Purebloods aren't like us, and Purebloods are separate from us, and Purebloods are dangerous, and those rules made sense while Bellatrix lived and served the Dark Lord.
But the world was different now. Bellatrix was dead. The Dark Lord was dead. Lucius' worst fear concerning Voldemort was not his own death at the Dark Lord's hands, but Narcissa's and Draco's, just as Dora had always claimed. Lucius was more like her than she cared to admit - frightened of Bellatrix, frightened for his family, dangerous when cornered, but otherwise, seemingly, a rational human being. Loving, even, on a selective basis.
Was that enough to make him a desirable addition to her family? No. Definitely not.
But was it tolerable? Perhaps, she thought. Perhaps.
And Dora - Dora was well on the road to being part of that world, of bridging the separation Andromeda had worked so hard to build. Andromeda could fight it, but if she fought it, she might lose Dora altogether.
Does it matter how it happened, so long as she's happy?
"No," she murmured against Teddy's hair, "I suppose it doesn't."
Draco looked up from his study of his gifts. Said, "What was that, Dromeda?"
Andromeda shook her head. "It doesn't matter, dear. Why don't you show me what you can do with that new broomstick?"
So they went outside, and joined Lucius and Dora, and they stayed there, the five of them, a reluctant family in the winter Yuletide sun.
The first Yeats poem was The Second Coming. In the Two Of A Kind universe, it was quoted in an article in the Daily Prophet in 1997 (probably written, Lucius said, by a Muggle-born). Lucius mentioned it in the Battle of Hogwarts when explaining to Dora why he believed Voldemort would lose, specifically the line, "Things fall apart; the centre does not hold."