At times Narcissa had believed that they would not live to see the sunlight, had believed that she would never again enfold her arms about her husband and son… At times she had believed that this night would never come to an end – eternal night, fighting that would never cease and such worry, and such endless worry for those she loved.
But dawn broke, and with dawn came silence. With dawn came silence: silence of relief, the sweet relief of a war ending, silence of mourning. Dawn broke.
The light did not take away the fear, not even from Narcissa, who still trembled hours later despite her beautiful reunion with her family and nearly collapsed against the wall with exhaustion, weak, heavily breathing, scarcely capable of processing the events of the past hours. Peace. They were at peace at last. They were safe. But at what cost?
She had seen her sister fall before her very eyes, forced to watch with growing horror as the curse had penetrated Bella’s chest, as she stumbled and lost control, as life was suddenly drained from her body. How proud she had once been, how frightening at times, unbroken even by Azkaban, and how pitiful she looked now as she lay there on the ground, never to rise again.
Narcissa had not allowed herself to shed tears, had not wept for her sister until long after but merely knelt by her side, had looked at her but not seen, not realised. How they had once loved each other… How they had once loved each other, all those years ago, in another time and another life - a life in which they had still been sisters instead of the warriors they had become, each of their own kind.
Dawn broke. Dawn broke and Narcissa turned away: away from the grotesque view of her sister’s lifeless body, away from the cold, dark eyes that were staring at her, taunting even in death. Gone. Bellatrix was gone, and she would grieve her loss in silence, far away from those who would condemn her for her mourning.
Narcissa turned away and rose, overcome by the sudden desire to leave and never to return to this forsaken place, once filled with joy and childish laughter, now shattered and empty. To leave, to return to her home and to enfold her husband and her son into her arms, to find them so close to her, dirty, perhaps, but unharmed… It felt like a miracle to her. How lucky she was, Narcissa thought, allowing her mind to drift for merely a second, how lucky indeed.
She saw her then, the girl, lying there amongst the others who had lost their lives in this night, saw her and nearly lost composure. The girl… The girl she had never spoken to, whom she had never deigned to look at… The girl whose name she had once learned and soon forgotten, too proud and perhaps too hurt to care. Her niece.
Narcissa closed her eyes, so suddenly overwhelmed, and briefly lost her balance. She would have fallen had Lucius not caught hold of her, speaking to her so quietly, in a voice so hushed that she struggled to understand his words. How dare she. How dare she allow the sight of a dead girl - a dead stranger - to unsettle her in such a way, how dare she hold her breath and tremble when her own sister’s passing had left her so calm? And yet. Yet she was so cruelly reminded of… Perhaps it was exhaustion that had come to claim her after all, or perhaps it was the realisation…
Andromeda’s daughter. The memories hit her like a hot ocean’s wave, taking hold of her with such force that she had no chance to refuse, as though someone, something had come to penetrate her mind with the only purpose to torment her further, to refuse her desperate desire for rest.
But hadn’t they once walked through these corridors together, Narcissa and Andromeda, Andy, as Bellatrix had so soon begun to detach herself from her family? Hadn’t they once sat beside each other in the Great Hall, laughing, talking, and sharing glances of such affection? Hadn’t they once loved each other, too, in a way so different to how they had loved their elder sister?
It had been so beautiful to hold her, to feel her so close against her body, and to allow her hair to gently tickle her face. It had been so beautiful to listen to Andromeda as she spun the most fantastic stories at night, to let go of any worries, any fears and to feel at home, to be free, truly, as long as they were together. Never apart… Hadn’t they made such countless promises, sworn silent oaths to never leave each other, never to be apart? What fools they had been. What damned fools.
Gone. Those times were long gone, felt like a dream to her now, a distant dream of a better life. The innocent naivety of youth had long faded and left behind nothing, nothing at all. Gone.
It all had ended so suddenly, the bond they had shared torn apart so cruelly by Andromeda’s unspeakable betrayal, torn apart by her choice to leave and never look back at those she had once claimed to love.
Bella had raged and Mother had withdrawn to her room for days, her eyes glistening with silent wrath and despair in the rare moments she chose to share her other daughters’ company, perhaps also with tears. Narcissa, however, had felt nothing at first. She had been numb, not allowing any emotion to take hold of her, and sought solace in emptiness, in darkness, as otherwise she would have perished. Otherwise she would have broken.
Andromeda. Andromeda’s daughter. Time seemed to stand still as Narcissa stood there amidst her family in the Great Hall, as she stood there and looked, stared at her niece’s lifeless body as though she had turned into stone. She had seen her fight, of course, had noticed the burning passion within her and yet never acknowledged her, truly, as she had never stood eye to eye to her, as she had never stood on their side but only struggled against them. In Death, however, they all were equals.
She had always been a rebel, her Andy, even as a girl. She had never hesitated to speak her mind, to stand up for what she believed to be her right. And hadn’t Narcissa loved her for her frankness? Hadn’t she loved her so for her singularity, and for all their differences? Only when they had held each other at night they were one; one mind, one body, one soul.
She had always been a rebel, and of course Narcissa had known about Ted Tonks – how could she not? Of course she had known about him yet refused to speak, closing her eyes to the truth in the silent hope that her sister would so soon forget about him, that she would remember her promise and come to her senses.
“What would you do if it were Lucius?” Andromeda had asked her one night, inquiringly fixing her light brown eyes upon Narcissa and nearly piercing her, the love burning within her gaze. “If it were Lucius, would you be able to turn away and forget?”
Lucius… Her Lucius… If it were him… How much she loved him, how much she adored him, but to leave her family? To leave Bella, to leave Mother… To leave Andy? To betray those she adored so beyond belief in such a terrible, unspeakable way? If it were Lucius…
“Go,” Narcissa breathed then, nearly silently as she folded her arms about her sister for one last time, unwilling to ever let go yet pushing away a mere minute after, her entire body trembling. Never again would they see each other. Never again would they hold each other, never again… Hadn’t they sworn never to be apart, and to love each other, always? Hadn’t they… It was such a torment to see her suffer. It was such a torment… And perhaps the sacrifice, perhaps to let her go was the greatest proof of love. “I will keep you safe… Go…”
Betrayal… It had not been a betrayal. It had never been a betrayal.
Andromeda’s daughter. Dead. Hadn’t she lost so much already - her husband at first, and now her daughter, too? Andromeda… Hadn’t she been tormented enough? To fear for her family with every day, every moment passing, to fear, to worry so for her husband, her child… Narcissa knew how it felt, was so familiar with the agonies of waiting, the excruciating uncertainty. She knew how it felt, nearly screamed at the imagination of finding Draco lying there on the ground, of finding Lucius or receiving word of… She nearly screamed and yet remained silent, struggling so desperately for control. How lucky she had been.
Everything. Andromeda had lost everything to the war, her sisters, her husband… And now her daughter, too. Everything.
They reached their home at nightfall, collapsing into their beds without bothering to change or to clean themselves, too weary even to speak or even to look at each other but their hands still connected. It was not until morning when Narcissa allowed her tears to flow at last, giving in to both relief and despair at once, as even her last strength seemed to fade. It was not until morning when she reached for quill and parchment and sat down by her desk to write, incapable, however, of gathering her thoughts and discarding each letter as soon as the ink had begun to stain the surface.
The girl… She still saw her before her very eyes, she still saw the girl… Dead. Lost to this world forever.
It felt nearly impossible to leave her family behind on this day, nearly impossible even to turn away from them as it still seemed so unreal, so unreal to have them both beside her, to know that nothing would be able to harm them now, to… It seemed so unreal that it was truly over. That they were safe.
It felt nearly impossible to leave her family behind - and yet as they finished dinner Narcissa rose from her seat so suddenly, as though driven by an invisible force, reaching for her wand, kissing her husband good-bye, and gently running her fingers through her son’s hair, making a silent promise that so soon she would return. If only she were capable of smiling.
The house was easy to find, nearly abandoned and all in darkness despite night having fallen, causing Narcissa to hold her breath as she stepped closer. Perhaps it was too early to come, or perhaps it was a mistake after all, a mistake to break open the past, to remind her of more loss and to bring more despair upon her… Perhaps it was a mistake to disturb Andromeda at a time like these, perhaps she wanted nothing more than to hide, to hide from the world and most of all her... Perhaps she wanted to grieve in peace, in solitude… And yet she needed to see her. Narcissa needed to see her so desperately, needed to look into her eyes, to speak out what she had been incapable of putting into words for so long… Perhaps it was a mistake.
She could scarcely keep her hands from shaking as she knocked at the door then, haltingly at first and then firmly, as she closed her eyes for no longer than a second to breathe, to compose herself. Minutes passed, seemed to pass like hours, the urge to turn away and leave rising with every moment… What a fool she was, to come here so soon after the battle, what a fool she was to assume that she would be received… What a fool she was.
But the door opened. The door opened and Narcissa nearly gasped for air, nearly stumbled as she saw her, overwhelmed by the sight, as she looked so directly into her eyes, tear-stained and swollen. Andromeda. Andy.
Andy… The years had left their marks upon her and yet she was so beautiful, so beautiful still even in mourning, her features so soft and gentle, her long, dark hair falling down her back like the silken waterfall it had always been. So beautiful… She did not seem surprised, did not speak but looked at her with such sadness… But then, so slowly, so hesitantly she reached out her hand for Narcissa’s, squeezing it briefly and yet tenderly as silently she gestured her to enter.