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Darkness threatens to swallow me

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are we now what we’ll be? are we fixed or free?
[son lux ¦ cage of bones]

Andromeda

Narcissa's quill ran over the parchment in a smooth and curly script. Her mind blanked out after her sister's name, and her heart became heavy. The urge to continue was strong. Yet, she didn't know what she could tell Andromeda to rekindle their damaged relationship.

"Andromeda," Narcissa sighed and let the name roll over her tongue and leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes for a moment. The last time she had uttered that name, she had been a teenager. Now, nearly three decades later, it sounded strangely unfamiliar.

Unable to continue, she got up and made herself a cup of tea to calm her nerves. Slowly, she drank a few sips and then paced her study, twisting and turning the mug in her hands, trying to find the right words. This letter was harder to write than she had anticipated. She took another calming breath, sat down and started with a fresh piece of parchment.

Again, after only having written her sister's name, she had to stop. This time because tears began blurring her vision. With her free hand, she wiped them and shook her head, willing the sadness away. Eventually, she managed to write a decent letter. Albeit not completely happy with its content, she attached it to her owl and sent the animal on its way.

-§-§-§-§-§-

On the other side of the country, Andromeda Tonks was sitting outside on the small bench in her back garden. She was enjoying some fresh air when a brown owl landed on the armrest next to her. Her grandson stirred in her arms when he spotted the animal and reached out to touch it. After placing Teddy next to her on the cushion, she unknotted the parchment from the owl's leg. She didn’t notice the forest green wax seal.

'Andromeda'

A gasp escaped her lips. She'd know that handwriting anywhere. An uncomfortable weight settled on her chest, and she had to put the letter down to gather herself. For a moment, she pondered tearing the letter to pieces, unsure whether she could stomach its content. However, having always been a curious person, she couldn't let it sit for long.

I decided to leave Lucius the moment I saw you kneeling beside your beautiful daughter at Hogwarts.
Forgive me for choosing the wrong side.
Forgive me for not stopping Bellatrix.
Forgive me for not reaching out to you sooner.
NB

Tears stung her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. She hadn't spoken to Narcissa in 28 years. She read the letter thrice more, letting the words sink in before she got up to write her response.

Her hand was shaking and thus the ink from her muggle pen stained the stationary with small black splashes. Halfway through her answer, she tossed the pen aside and looked out of the window, trying to grasp what just happened.

The war had ended only half a year ago, the pain of losing her husband and daughter still burned in her chest. Nevertheless, she had toyed with the idea of reconciling with her sister, but had never dared to take the first step for fear of being shunned again.

Drawing her attention back to the letter, she invited her sister to tea. A sound decision, but where she would go from there, she did not know.

 

is there a price to pay, to bring back yesterday?
‘coz you can’t even look at me, or even share the air i’m breathing
[ivy & gold ¦ look at me]

On the day of her sister's visit, Andromeda woke up at dawn from another nightmare. In this one, the snatchers had taken Teddy. Fortunately, she had woken up without seeing any horrible scenes, but still a heaviness hung over her. She leaned her head against the wall and massaged her temple to relieve the piercing headache. When that didn't help, she summoned a glass of water and drank it in slow sips. A short time later, although she did not feel any better, she heaved herself out of bed. Since the war, getting out of bed was a daily challenge. One that she sometimes only managed because of her grandson.

Andromeda looked around the mess in the living room but was too exhausted to tidy up. Salazar, she was even too drained to care.

As she sat down in the living room, she let her thoughts wander to the imminent confrontation. The idea of looking into Narcissa's inquisitive blue eyes scared her. What if her fear and grief would stop them from making amends?

A soft knock snapped Andromeda out of her reverie. It took her a minute to steady herself before she opened the door.

"Narcissa." Her voice trembled, and she tensed up. They stood motionless in the door for a moment and stared at each other. Eventually, Andromeda invited her inside and led her into the sitting room.

While Andromeda busied herself with tea, Narcissa looked around the living room. Not all the photographs on the wall were moving. Some were old and shabby, some new. She spotted one of a smiling and waving Andromeda in her twenties, looking carefree and happy. Years later, Andromeda was still beautiful, but her grief was palpable on her face. It tugged at Narcissa's heart. Anxiously, she twisted her hands in her lap.

"Please, relax." Andromeda's gentle voice interrupted her thoughts.

The older witch set down the tea tray in front of Narcissa and gave her a small smile.

"I hope you still like chamomile. The smell always reminds me of you." Andromeda pushed a cup in Narcissa's direction.

Narcissa noticed her shaking hands and put her hand on Andromeda's to stop her from spilling the steaming liquid.

Andromeda withdrew her hands from her sister's touch as if she had been burned. She placed them on her knees, her fingertips white from the applied pressure. She drew a sharp breath that sounded like a sob and kept her eyes firmly closed.

"Andromeda, please." Narcissa moved closer to her sister but didn't dare to touch her again.

When Andromeda finally opened her eyes, a small tear escaped. Narcissa stared into her grey eyes.

"I'm so sorry you lost everything."

She reached out, cupped Andromeda's cheek with her palm and wiped away the tears with her thumb. Andromeda gave her another glance before holding her hand in front of her face to hide her tears. Narcissa grabbed her wrist and pressed her forehead against her sister's.

"Please, forgive me." Her voice was quivering and merely above a whisper. She ran her thumb over her sister's cheeks to comfort her.

Andromeda closed her eyes and leaned against Narcissa. For three decades, she had longed to hear those words and have her sister back. Now, with all the pain still fresh in her heart, they overwhelmed her. She sobbed and shook her head.

Narcissa straightened and looked at her sister for some moments, unsure what to do or say next. Luckily, Andromeda stemmed her tears and drew in a long breath. Narcissa winced slightly when the brunette put her hand on her thigh.

Andromeda met her eyes and after a moment of silence found her voice. "I accept your apology," she said in a voice that was slightly wavering, but her expression was sincere.

Carefully, Narcissa hugged her sister. She was not aware of how much she had missed being close to her.

 

when things go wrong, it's hard to see
it's not just you, but also me
[cody crump ¦ burn]

The second time Andromeda invited her sister to tea, almost a year had passed, during which they had written numerous letters to each other. She felt much better than she had then. There was still a tightness that gripped her heart, but it was no longer so bad.

Andromeda had just scooped up Teddy in her arms when the doorbell rang. She gathered herself on her way to the door. Her sister's bright smile greeted her, and her pale blue eyes shone with excitement.

"Hello, Narcissa." She stepped away from the door and let her sister enter.

"Hello," Teddy echoed and reached out his tiny hand towards Narcissa.

Narcissa smiled brightly and pinched his cheek. "Hello, dear."

The little metamorphmagus giggled and then hid his face in Andromeda's shoulder. His hair flickered through every colour of the rainbow but eventually settled for platinum blonde.

Andromeda smiled and ran her fingers over his back. "Are you a bit shy today, my love?" Softly, she placed a kiss on top of his head.

When she faced her younger sister again, Narcissa shivered. She spotted her late sister's features all over Andromeda's face. During the last months, she had lost some weight which made her cheeks hollow and her cheekbones sharper than ever before. On top of that, she obviously hadn't bothered to tame her brown curls.

Andromeda watched her with a curious expression. "You look like you've seen a ghost," she stated dryly.

"You look like a ghost," Narcissa replied without missing a beat. To Narcissa's surprise, the older witch laughed.

Andromeda knew she looked an awful lot like Bellatrix these days, but she couldn't care less about it. She focused her energy elsewhere, her grandson for example. She gently put him down so he could go back to playing.

"At least I didn't go mad," she quipped with a smirk as her eyes gleamed. "Yet," she added.

Narcissa's presence made her a little queasy, so she opted for lavender tea to soothe her nerves. As she was preparing the tea, she felt Narcissa's eyes on her.

"You seem happier than the last time I visited," the younger witch said.

Andromeda nodded but kept silent. She pointed out the location of the cups to Narcissa, who had already begun rummaging through her cupboards.

The domestic task put them at ease. Yet, both sisters dreaded the next step. To rekindle their relationship, they had to discuss their past—a thing they had successfully put off for the last eleven months.

The smell of late summer filled the room when Andromeda poured them the tea.

"Tell me about Ted."

Andromeda's eyes widened. It felt like someone had punched her in the gut. She grimaced, and Narcissa looked down to the floor. She was about to take back her question when Andromeda started talking.

"He was everything," she said. Her features became softer. The more she talked, the more she lit up. Every time her husband's name crossed her lips, she half-heartedly smiled. The love she still felt for him was palpable, and Narcissa finally understood why her sister had left everything behind to be with him.

Narcissa would never forget the events that had unfolded the night Andromeda told their parents she'd marry the Mudblood. Their father had struck Andromeda hard across the face before cursing and disowning her. Sometimes Andromeda's cries still echoed in Narcissa's ears. The blonde closed her eyes and reached for her sister's hand.

"I miss him terribly, and I still love him." Andromeda's voice trembled, and her eyes were fixed on their entwined hands.

Narcissa ran her fingers through her sister's untamed hair. Andromeda smiled sadly and looked up at Narcissa. Her eyes held so much sorrow that every lingering resemblance to Bellatrix faltered.

"It was hard leaving you, but please understand that leaving Ted would have been my death. And father… I couldn't live with him any longer." She swallowed hard.

Narcissa understood, probably better than Andromeda thought.

"The day I married Lucius, I had my first taste of freedom. Of course, that wasn't meant to last for long. At least he was never cruel to Draco," she whispered. Narcissa managed a small smile when Andromeda gave her an understanding look and cupped her cheek.

For the rest of their meeting, they talked about less painful things.

When Narcissa said goodbye, they promised each other not to let another year pass before they would meet again.

 

the thoughts of total defeat
i don't know what is happening to me
or if i'll die, 'cause i just never sleep
[iamx ¦ insomnia]

Sorrow slowly crept back into Andromeda's life. Darkness spread through her mind, and once again, her heart was caught in sadness. Tears welled up in her eyes. For a while, she had thought she had won, but then the third anniversary of her death came, and it threw her off track. The pain became unbearable again. Unable to escape the darkness, she cried and slept. Sometimes for hours.

Unable to take decent care of her grandson anymore, she regularly left him in the care of his godfather. Every time she handed him over to Harry, a weight was lifted from her shoulders, and she resented herself for it. A stab of guilt hit her heart. How could she give up the only one worth living for?

When Andromeda dropped Teddy off the following day, she left Grimmauld Place for St. Mungo's. The pitiful and empty words from her former co-workers were something she'd gladly erase from her memory. The healers ordered weekly sessions with a therapist and a dreamless sleep potion for the next month.

The potion helped her gain some sense of normalcy, but then the small calendar on the wall caught her eyes. The date approached too fast, and she didn't know if she could handle it. A sigh fell from her lips.

-§-§-§-§-§-

Her legs crossed under her and snuggled under a blanket, Narcissa was reading. She was startled when the small device next to her began to ring. Once she had the device in her hand, she was not sure how to proceed. Andromeda's name was written on the display. Hesitantly, she pressed the green button. She held the device to her ear and was surprised to hear a child crying.

"Teddy?" Her pulse raced. He didn't answer.

Narcissa's stomach dropped. With the phone still in hand, she apparated straight into her sister's living room.

"Meda?"

No one answered, but she heard a whimper upstairs. The small boy was sitting in front of his grandmother's room. Careful, not to startle him, she picked him up.

"Meda?" she tried again but received no answer, and all she felt were the wards guarding her sister's door touching her magic.

Without a second thought, she ran towards the Floo, and seconds later, she stumbled into the living room of Harry Potter.

"Ms Black!" exclaimed Ginny. The Weasley girl immediately called out to her husband and rushed towards Narcissa. The young man ran into the living room moments later.

The blonde nonchalantly pressed the toddler into her arms. "Look after him, please. Meda... She is not well. I have to take care of her."

They both looked at her with wide eyes but nodded.

Narcissa stepped into the hearth again and almost tripped over a toy when she exited it in Andromeda's house.

She found herself standing in front of Andromeda's door again. The wards tried to repel her, but she fought against them.

"Please! Let me in," Narcissa begged. Not a single sound came from the other side. The only thing she heard was the humming of the wards. Whenever she tried to grab the handle, it heated up and burned her fingers. "Bombarda," she yelled, but the wards didn't budge.

"Meda, please." Tears gathered in her eyes.

"Meda," she repeated in a weak voice. For a moment, she just sat there. Then she wiped the tears from her eyes, stood up, and faced the door handle once more. The humming increased, but when her fingertip brushed against it, it did not burn her. With a soft click, the door opened.

Her sister was lying on the bed, facing the window. Narcissa entered the room slowly, concentrating only on the slight movement of her sister's shallow breathing. With each step, Narcissa felt more uncomfortable. When she was only inches from the bed, she saw the blood. The white linen of the bedclothes and her sister's pale blue nightgown were soaked with the scarlet liquid. The room reeked of iron and dampness.

Narcissa slowly walked around the bed. Andromeda's eyes were closed. Her hands clutched tightly on the pillow, her fingers pale from the grip.

"Why are you here, Narcissa?" Her voice was quiet and raspy. The moment her sister opened her eyes, Narcissa was taken aback at how much sorrow she saw in those dark, soft pools of grey.

"Teddy called me," she whispered. Narcissa sat down on the bed next to her sister and touched her cheek.

A silent tear rolled down Andromeda's cheek. She didn't bother to wipe it away, and Narcissa watched it fall onto the pillow, forming a small wet spot. Andromeda looked so tired, drained of all life.

"What happened?"

Andromeda closed her eyes once more. "Where's Teddy now?"

"I left him with the Potters for the night."

Andromeda nodded weakly. Narcissa brushed a loose strand of dark brown hair behind her sister's ear and locked eyes with her.

"Let me help you."

Her fingers stroked her sister's cheek. So cold, her skin was so unbearably cold. Andromeda reached for Narcissa's hand and squeezed it. Slowly she turned and lay on her back. Narcissa held back a sob when she saw the amount of blood on her sister's abdomen. Andromeda closed her eyes, slowly reached for the hem of her nightgown, and pushed it up to just below her breasts.

Narcissa had to look away. "What have you done?"

With trembling fingers, Andromeda stroked the wound on her lower abdomen and winced. The cut was clean and deep. A shiver ran down Narcissa's spine, she felt sick.

After a moment of heavy silence, Andromeda cleared her throat. "Do you remember how it feels when the child inside you moves for the first time?" With slow movements, she stroked her belly.

"Like a butterfly." Narcissa's voice broke. She reached for Andromeda's bloodied hand and held it to her heart.

"I still feel that flutter, Cissy. Every time I think of her, I feel it." The brunette closed her eyes and let the tears fall. "I cut myself to make the butterflies stop."

Narcissa reached for her wand with trembling fingers as the tears began to cloud her vision. "Please, Meda, you have to let me heal you. I can't lose you. Not you too."

Andromeda removed her hand from her belly, covered her eyes with her forearm, and nodded.

A warm, golden light escaped from Narcissa's wand. Piece by piece, the cut closed. With a flick of her wand, she made the blood disappear. When she was done, Narcissa lay down beside her on the bed and placed her hand on the pink scar.

"Why today?" She asked in a soft voice.

It took a second for Andromeda to answer. "Many years ago, on this very day, I felt it for the first time. It was an overwhelming feeling. You should have seen Ted's eyes when he touched my belly. He loved her so much." Andromeda smiled and wiped away a stray tear that ran down her cheek. Narcissa caught the next one with her thumb and cupped her sister's face.

"I love you, Andromeda." Her voice was thick with tears, and she kissed her forehead. She cradled her sister in her arms and let her cry. It tore at her heart. Seeing her this devastated was agonising, and she blamed herself for a lot of her grief.

"Cissy, how can families rip each other apart like this? We loved each other once!" Andromeda took a deep breath. Her voice trembled when she spoke again. "She should have killed me. I let her down. My little girl didn't deserve to die."

Narcissa flinched. She hated Bellatrix for what she did to their sister, but a traitorous part of her still loved her. For the moment, she banished that thought to the back of her mind and traced the faint scar on Andromeda's abdomen. "How I regret never having known your Nymphadora."

Andromeda sobbed.

 

do you wanna know
what's killing her inside?
do you dare to walk
the alleys of her mind?
[röyksopp ¦ here she comes again]

Hermione visited Andromeda a few days later for her regular tea date. For weeks she had watched Andromeda lose the battle against depression a little more each day. When Andromeda opened the door, Hermione had to stifle a sob. Defeat was written all over her face. The fear of losing her friend to the illness that clung so viciously to her mind and heart made her tremble.

“Teddy’s not here.”

Andromeda tried to close the door, but Hermione quickly put her foot between the door and frame and pushed it back open.

“I’m here to see you,” she said in a firm voice.

The house was a mess. Very uncanny for Andromeda, who was well-known for her impeccable cleaning spells.

“Why don’t you sit down, Andie. I’ll make some tea.”

Andromeda sat down with a huff and leaned back. Her eyes never left the younger witch. “Why are you doing this, Hermione?”

Hermione shrugged her shoulders. “I enjoy being around you, and I know you don’t feel well.” She gave her a meaningful glance.

Andromeda slowly got up from the chair and wrapped her arm around her waist, the pain evident on her face.

Hermione was at her side in two steps and wrapped her in a tight hug. “Let us help you,” Hermione whispered against her neck. For a moment, Andromeda hugged her back, but then she turned and strode towards the stairs. 

Andromeda was halfway up the stairs when she fell to her knees. The rough wood scraped against her skin, and she sobbed.

Hermione rushed to the older woman’s side. “Andie,” she whispered in a soothing tone, hugging her from behind to hoist her to her feet. Andromeda was crying softly. Hermione felt the warm drops of salty water on her bare arms. Slowly they made their way up the stairs. Hermione decided that she would draw her a bath. Just like her mother had always done for her.

Andromeda watched from the doorway as the young witch filled the tub with warm water and added Ted’s favourite bath salt. Hermione followed her gaze and winced when she realised she must have taken Ted’s product.

“It’s all right. It’ll soothe me,” Andromeda said softly and began to undress.

Hermione excused herself, but Andromeda wouldn’t let her go. “Stay, please. Talk to me.”

Hermione looked away awkwardly as the older woman was completely undressed, but she couldn’t help but stare at Andromeda’s abdomen. The scar from the clean cut the week before was a painful reminder of how close she had come to losing her.

Andromeda followed her gaze and placed her hand there. “Please, don’t worry!”

Hermione smiled half-heartedly, worry evident in her features.

Cautiously, Andromeda let herself sink into the tub. The scent of her deceased husband threatened to overwhelm her. She took a deep breath and submerged her head under the water. When she came back up, Hermione was sitting beside the tub, her face flushed.

Andromeda noticed that the water was neither coloured nor forming foam. She eyed Hermione again, who was not as comfortable as she was.

“It’s all good, Hermione. If I was ashamed of myself, I would have thrown you out a long time ago.”

Hermione chuckled. “There she is! That’s the woman I was looking for when I came by today!”

Andromeda smiled and leaned back into the water. For a moment, they sat in comfortable silence. Then Andromeda took a deep breath and met Hermione’s gaze.

“I don’t know what’s happening to me. Every time I take a step into the light, something comes up and shoves me right back into this godforsaken darkness.” Anger was evident in her voice, and her eyes teared up again.

Hermione’s stomach tightened, and she had to swallow the lump in her throat. “I promise you, we’ll get you through this. We’re here for you.” She gently caressed the older witch’s shoulder.

“Thank you, love,” Andromeda whispered and lay her hand on top of Hermione’s.

Andromeda curled her back, hugged her legs, and rested her head on her knees. They sat like that until goosebumps formed on her arms.

“Let me pour hot water.” Hermione got up to reach for the tap, but Andromeda stopped her.

“It’s quite alright.” Andromeda stretched out her hands. “Mind helping an old woman get up?”

Hermione laughed and helped her up. “You are not old, Andie.”

Hermione couldn’t restrain herself and examined the woman’s body from head to toe. A beautiful blush crept onto her cheeks.

“I don’t mind you looking, Hermione, but could you hand me a towel?” Andromeda smiled shyly and lightly caressed Hermione’s cheek.

Hermione felt ashamed. Quickly, she handed the witch a soft towel for her body and helped her wrap her long strands of curly brown hair into a second towel.

“Thank you, dear. The bath was wonderful.” She excused herself and went to her room. The last time she had showered had been a week earlier when Narcissa had dragged her bloodied body into the tub. She shuddered, feeling so disgusted with herself. Andromeda quickly put on a pair of sweatpants and a tank top.

Hermione’s eyes widened when she saw Andromeda. “I’ve certainly never seen you looking so Muggle before!”

Andromeda chuckled. It had taken Ted years to convince her to put on Muggle clothes. Old habits die hard, she always told him. It was the first time since his death that she wore those clothes.

When she came back downstairs, Hermione had started cleaning up her mess. Andromeda was glad of the helping wand.

In between spells, she asked the younger witch, “would you like to have dinner with me?”

Hermione accepted and offered to cook. Conversation flowed easily between the two of them.

When Hermione left that evening, Andromeda felt a strange emptiness spreading in her stomach.

 

oh buttercup, take the sun with me you're the dark star in the sky
[laurel ¦ nicotine dreams]

The time after Hermione's visit felt like a fresh start. She felt more energetic than she had in a long time. Teddy played happily with his plastic blocks on the wooden floor. Andromeda was happy having him back and being able to care for him again.

Hermione had been visiting a lot lately, and it filled Andromeda with an enormous amount of joy.

Today she came by early to help her prepare for Teddy's birthday party. When the doorbell rang, she nearly ran to answer it.

"You look amazing," Hermione said.

Andromeda wrapped her arms around the young woman's waist. The fruity smell of her hair made Andromeda dizzy.

It was a warm day in April. Together they set up a tent, tables and chairs outside for the celebration. They prepared drinks and food, and when the first guests came, they sat down on the wicker chairs, feeling exhausted.

Late in the evening, the party was still in full swing, Andromeda started to feel hot. She excused herself to catch some air.

With her wine glass still in hand, she lay down onto the humid grass on the other side of the garden.

The music and the voices in the background were soothing her as she looked up to the stars. It was an exceptionally bright night. Instinctively, she roamed the sky to find her namesake. When she heard the rustling of clothes, she wasn't surprised to see Narcissa.

"How is it that you always find me in my weak moments?" Andromeda smiled, sat up and crossed her legs.

Narcissa sat down beside her and reached for her glass to take a sip. "I saw the look on your face when you left. What's going on?"

Andromeda sighed. "It's Hermione. I'm a ridiculous, foolish old woman."

Narcissa was taken aback. "What in Salazar's name are you talking about?"

Andromeda twisted her hands for a moment, then took back her wine glass. She met her sister's inquisitive gaze. "I like her, Cissy. Very much so." She downed the rest of the wine.

Narcissa put her hand on Andromeda's knee and leaned closer. "When did this happen?"

Andromeda frowned. "She comes by often. We talk a lot. She makes me laugh, and my heart ache."

"Meda," Narcissa whispered. "She's an engaged woman.

Andromeda's face fell, and she sighed. "I told you I'm a foolish witch. Besides, I would never do that to her even if she fancied me."

Narcissa gave her a sympathetic smile and squeezed her knee. Andromeda leaned her head against Narcissa's shoulder as they sat in silence.

Finally, Andromeda stood up and held out her hand to Narcissa. With their hands clasped, they returned to the party.

Back in the tent, Andromeda took her sister's hand. "Dance with me," she whispered in her ear. As Narcissa twirled Andromeda around, the older witch laughed a hearty laugh. Narcissa hugged her tightly. This was the moment she knew her sister would get through this.

All eyes were on them. When the music stopped, the sisters hugged and bowed.

Teddy ran towards her and crashed into Andromeda's knees. She lifted him up and spun him around. Then she pressed him to her heart and kissed him on the cheek.

Hermione didn't miss the lone tear running down her cheek. She walked up to Andromeda and tapped her on the shoulder. When Andromeda turned around, the smile faded, and it pained Hermione to see it.

"Meet me outside. Please, Andromeda?"

Narcissa stood close enough to hear the whispered words between them and took Teddy from her sister's arms. Andromeda reluctantly let go of him.

After all the dancing and the heat in the tent, the cold air made her shiver. She saw Hermione sitting on the porch swing. She sat down next to her and looked into her face.

Hermione met her eyes. "Do I have to marry someone just because everyone expects me to?"

Andromeda smiled gently. "I don't think I need to answer that, love. You know my story." She gently cupped the younger woman's face with her hand.

"I don't love him, Andie."

Andromeda felt the words in the pit of her stomach. "You're still so young. Wait until you find the right person."

Hermione hugged the older woman. Her scent made Andromeda dizzy once more, and she pulled back before she would lose herself in it.

Hermione looked at her with an unreadable expression. She took a few deep breaths before speaking, and when she did, she averted her eyes. "When did you know you loved Ted?"

Andromeda gasped. She ignored the sudden ache in her heart, for the answer was simple. "When it hurt more to be separated from him than from my sisters." Her face fell a little. She didn't quite manage to smile for the younger witch.

"Sorry, Andie. I didn't mean to hurt you. I just don't know what to do."

"It's alright, love. I'm sure you'll make the right decision." She looked at the young witch for a moment and rubbed her thigh. When she felt her chest tighten, she got up and walked towards the tent.

"Please, wait!"

Andromeda stopped but didn't turn around.

"What else happens when you love someone?"

"You think about them all the time." Her voice was low and shaky. There was only so much she could bear.

Hermione put a hand on her shoulder. Andromeda turned and gave her a sad smile.

"Does it hurt to love sometimes?"

"Yes," Andromeda whispered. This time she couldn't hold back the tears. As she tried to walk away, Hermione gently held her back by the arm.

"Then I know exactly how it feels to love," she whispered and locked her eyes with the older woman.

Andromeda trembled as different emotions flickered across her face. She didn't dare ask who it was she loved and instead looked down at the floor, her face shielded by her hair.

Hermione pushed a few stray curls behind her ears and then lifted her chin with her fingers. "I love you, Andromeda."

"Oh," Andromeda gasped, biting back a sob. Her knees gave way and Hermione slowly lowered her to the grass.

"Hermione, you can't. I-"

The young witch interrupted her. "You're the most wonderful person in the world. How could I not love you?"

Andromeda buried her face in her shoulder. Before she could say anything, Hermione continued.

"I want to hear your story. All of it. The good and the bad, the sweet and the bitter."

Andromeda couldn't believe her ears. When Hermione let go of her, she reached for the younger woman's cheek, pulled her close and kissed her. It was a gentle kiss, sweet and a promise of so much more.

"Look, Teddy, your nana is in love again," Narcissa whispered to the sleepy toddler in her arms. It was the moment Narcissa knew her older sister would be happy again.