FIC: "Chosen and Accepted" for woldy Recipient: woldy Author: ??? Title: Chosen and Accepted Rating: PG Pairings: Andromeda Tonks/Augusta Longbottom, with references to Andromeda/Ted, Augusta/Frank Snr, Augusta/Minerva Word Count: 4000 Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): * References to canon character deaths *. Summary: They meet, inauspiciously, at a funeral. Author's Notes: Many thanks to K for the beta, and to Beth for being an Awesome Mod. woldy, I hope you enjoy this. I loved the idea of this pairing, and when I came to write it I found that I could not do it without reference to their very similar life situations, left raising grandsons alone. There is therefore a considerable amount of Teddy in this fic, but I have tried, re your sign-up request, to not make it the absolute focus of the story. I hope the result works for you.
After the war, the funerals go backwards. Those who died in battle are buried first – the vivid, corporeal bodies of glorious soldiers, but it takes months for others to be counted and remembered, for their stories to come to light. Andromeda buries her daughter and son-in-law a week after the war ends, and her husband a month later. At the public funeral for the fallen Minister, Rufus Scrimgeour (they found his body, but the papers do not say where or in what state), Teddy fusses on her hip, and she bounces him up and down to keep him quiet. Some people who are assumed dead turn up alive, like Ollivander. Others, like Florean Fortescue, are neither found nor accounted for. And then there are the stories of others who fell, whose bodies were destroyed or desecrated. Long overdue memorial services are held for these people, the last of the goodbyes. Alastor Moody is one of them. Charity Burbage is another.
It is at the latter service that they meet.
Andromeda was once close friends with Charity, back when she was newly married to Ted and disowned by her family. They lost touch as their lives wore on, when they both had families of their own and Charity became a Professor at Hogwarts, but Adromeda still remembers her as someone who was there, a friendly face when she needed it most.
Adromeda has to hold Teddy throughout the service. She tried to settle him in his pram, but he protested loudly, so instead he sits in her lap, clinging to her side. He is a needy child and hates to be left alone. Andromeda knows he is too young to understand what happened to his parents, but it is clear he feels the loss. She doesn’t blame him for his separation anxiety, but it is occasionally trying. At the end of the service, in lieu of the traditional wizarding funeral pyre, the attendees are invited to light candles in memory of the deceased, and Andromeda tries to rise, tries to settle Teddy in his pram again so that she might join the mourners, but the moment she seats him in it he begins to cry. She tugs him back onto her hip, rocks him, kisses his hair.
“Please,” she whispers into it. “Please let me do this.”
She attempts to seat him again, but this time his face screws up before he even makes it into the pram.
“I can take him, if you like,” says the woman standing beside her. She is a tall, proud looking witch of around seventy. Andromeda eyes her dubiously.
“I’m not sure that will help,” she says, half thanks and half apology. “He’s very attached to me, lately.”
“Nonsense,” the woman replies. “I know what I’m about.”
Which isn’t really the point, Andromeda thinks, but she doesn’t want to offend the woman, and trying can’t hurt. Tentatively, she hands Teddy over, watching for the screwed up face or change of hair colour that means he is scared or unhappy.
But nothing happens. The woman settles Teddy onto her hip with ease, and he stays perfectly serene. His hair remains the shade of aquamarine that has come to signal contentment, and, eyes widening slightly with surprise, Andromeda takes a step back.
She joins the other mourners and lights a candle for her old friend, whispering a few words of remembrance as she kneels. When she makes her way back to where the woman is standing, Teddy is still quite content. Indeed, he is reaching up to toy with the heavy necklace that hangs against the woman’s bosom, an indulgence she allows until he gets too firm a grip. Andromeda watches as the woman nonchalantly extricates his fingers from it.
“Thank you,” Adromeda says, smiling. “I’m surprised. He barely lets me out of his sight, usually.”
“You’re Andromeda, aren’t you?” the woman asks. “One of the Black girls. You look very like your aunt.”
“I’m not a Black anymore,” Andromeda says, smiling wryly. Once a Black, always a Black, at least to everyone else. “We parted ways a long time ago. It’s Tonks.” Not that that means much now, practically. Ted was an only child, and his parents are gone. She has no one in the world but Teddy, now.
“You lost your husband during the war.” The woman says it matter-of-factly, but not unkindly. “And this one lost his parents.”
“Yes,” Andromeda says. A simple answer for the simple not-questions, but it doesn’t come without a pang.
“I’m Augusta Longbottom,” she says as she hands Teddy back. “I know the feeling.”
Augusta doesn’t know how to tell her grandson that his father will never recognise him, or how to tell her son that his father is dying. Her husband is in and out. Sometimes he hears her, speaks to her, squeezes her hand, but other times his eyes are glazed and his voice is an incoherent murmur.
She sits by the bed and she wonders if this is some kind of punishment for not loving them enough.
Augusta remembers. She remembers Hogwarts and Minerva, doing homework in the sun and reading aloud to each other as they lay in the grass. Sometimes Augusta’s head would be resting on Minerva’s stomach, sometimes Minerva’s would be on hers. She remembers Minerva laughing, the feel of abdomen shaking beneath her head, and she remembers sunsets and the way they caught in Minerva’s hair as it formed a curtain between them and the world, shielding kisses from prying eyes.
There was no sex but she does remember love, an affection so fierce it filled her up from her toes, and promise, the warm promise of summer as the end of their seventh year approached, an endless horizon of golden afternoons they could spend together.
And then summer arrived, and with it came Frank Longbottom and a courtship encouraged by Augusta’s parents. She allowed him to take her out, even enjoyed her time with him, but still she and Minerva would meet, and now that they were no longer at school, there were no prying eyes to watch when their fingers entwined and their lips touched, or when, eventually, those fingers slipped down between thighs and the lips pressed kisses against breasts. They made plans. They would both defy their families, they would become educated and live together as companions and rely on no one but each other.
But when their NEWT results came, Augusta had failed Potions, and in all other subjects she had only achieved Acceptable. Her grades were nowhere near good enough to secure her a sponsor, and her parents would never pay to have a bluestocking for a daughter. And so it was that Minerva, shining academic that she was, went to London to begin her Transfiguration Mastery, and Augusta accepted Frank Longbottom’s proposal of marriage.
She sits by the bed and kisses his hand. She loves him. Perhaps she didn’t when she agreed to marry him, but she has come to love him over the years, and she will miss him sorely when he is gone. But this is not the life she would have chosen, and as she looks at her dying husband, her mindless son and her needy grandson, she wonders if, somehow, the universe knows.
There are refreshments after the service. Andromeda and Augusta find themselves speaking again.
“Did you know Charity well?” Adromeda asks, sipping a glass of wine.
“No, not well,” Augusta replies. “But she was the colleague of friends, and I knew her in passing, so I pay my respects. I find all this,” she gestures around the room, filled with sunny flowers and upbeat music – a Muggle tradition, the celebration of a life rather than the mourning of a death, “rather surprising. But it is probably appropriate, given her interests and her family. Were you close?”
“Yes,” Andromeda says. “Not recently. Not for several years – life gets in the way, time passes quickly, but once, yes. She was a dear friend to me in a time when I most needed dear friends. A replacement sister, perhaps, when my own abandoned me. I wish we’d seen each other more while we had the chance.”
Augusta smiles sadly. “You would wish that even if you had seen each other every day.”
“Yes,” Andromeda replies, thinking of Ted, of Nymphadora.
Silence for a moment, as Andromeda sips her wine, and Augusta takes a bite of a dainty little sandwich. Something hangs in the air a moment, until Teddy punctures it with a wave of his fist and a noise like an explanation point.
Augusta smiles, looking at him, then levels her gaze at Andromeda.
“Was it terribly difficult, defying your family?”
It doesn’t take long for the shine to wear off their new rings, their new home, their new life. Oh, Andromeda loves Ted, absolutely she loves him, but that doesn’t mean she is blind. She is pregnant, he works long hours, and they have very little money to show for it at the end of each week. She realises very quickly that this is not the fairytale it seemed, back when it all began.
Andromeda wanted very badly to get away from her family, away from the endless parade of bachelors and the pureblood hatred and fear of anything or anyone who wasn’t exactly like them. And then Ted Tonks appeared, with his easy smile and his accepting nature, and sneaking out to see him was an exciting adventure. Every time she looked at him she defied her family, and it felt good to smile at him, to let his fingers close around hers, to kiss him.
Escape, he said to her. And she did. It was easy to forget her cycle, to get caught up in the moment and not use the appropriate charms, and after that there was no going back.
She hadn’t entrapped him. He’d asked her to run away with him several times, but she’d always been terrified of what it would mean. Her family, her life, everything she’d ever known would be gone or changed, and she’d needed the pregnancy to give her the courage to leave it all behind.
It was perfect, at first. They had their love and the life growing inside her. Their home was simple, but Andromeda did not miss wealth – all of those trappings were a gilded cage of obligation and hatred, and she could not have lived that way.
But a simple home is not a castle. There are pipes that leak and damp that seeps into floorboards, there are no House-Elves, and Andromeda doesn’t know how to cook or clean or make a sickle stretch. Ted has to teach her everything, and it’s hard, it’s work, and as her belly grows she feels more and more useless and out of her depth, and she has no one to turn to at all.
Until Charity. She’s an old friend of Ted’s from Hogwarts, a few years older than Andromeda and considerably wiser. She breezes in one day in a summer dress and a smile, and Andromeda falls for her – upon her – instantly. She is there while Ted is working, she teaches Andromeda how to shop, how to wash the clothes and how to live in a world that isn’t full of satin gowns and six-course society meals. Andromeda remembers that she always smelled like frangipani and sunshine, even in winter; she remembers laughter and also the times when it all overwhelmed her and there, finally, was someone she could talk to, confide in, be held and lifted up by.
She remembers realising that she loved this woman just as much as she loved her husband, if not more. She loves her husband, and she loves her daughter. This is the life she chose. She would not give it up, but sometimes she can’t help but wonder if she might not have made different choices, had she not been so young or so desperate.
“Sometimes,” Andromeda answers.
The boy is crying. Augusta’s eyes open, and her legs shift to rise before the other in the bed has woken properly.
“I’ll get it,” she whispers, hand touching hip to settle movement.
Augusta throws back the bedcovers, slides her feet into slippers and tugs a gown around her shoulders. When he wakes like this, sometimes it’s no quick thing to put him down again.
Crying for his mother, Augusta imagines.
She pads down the hall, tugging her gown closed and tying it at the waist as she moves. When she reaches the doorway of his bedroom, the dim magical night-light grows brighter as she waves a hand.
He is standing in his cot, wailing. At the sight of her he reaches up. Augusta sighs, catches him beneath the arms and tugs him onto her hip.
“Come on now,” she says, rocking him. “There’s a time for crying and there’s a time for sleep, and you’ve got it all mixed up.” She looks down at him and he looks back, all chubby features and blonde hair, just like Frank was at that age.
“And we’ll have none of that, thank you,” she snaps, and the whip-crack of her voice shocks him so much that his hair goes red.
In the Muggle world, colour-changing hair just will not do.
Two weeks after Charity’s memorial service, Andromeda is finally ready to get her life in order. She has been living in between for months now. When Ted went on the run, she moved in with Nymphadora and Remus, and has remained in the house since then. Even with Nymphadora and Remus both gone, it has been easier to stay in this place than to face the emptiness of the home she shared with Ted. But now that she has said goodbye to her last fallen friend, she feels that it is time to pick up the fragments of her life.
She can’t go home, though. Quite aside from the memories, their house is in a Muggle town, and she can’t wander among the Muggles with a grandson whose hair changes colour according to his mood. She and Ted only moved there when Nymphadora was old enough to control her appearance, and even then there had been near-misses.
So the only option she has is to sell the place. Perhaps at some point she and Teddy can move to London. Andromeda always did love visiting the city.
But not this week. No, this week Andromeda has to make an appointment with a Muggle estate agent.
It’s only after the appointment is made that Andromeda realises that she can no more take Teddy with her to the appointment than she could live there in the house with him. She finds that her regular babysitter is busy that afternoon, and Harry Potter – though he is Teddy’s godfather, and has expressed his desire to be a part of his life – is always too busy with Auror training and being the world’s saviour to have time for tasks as banal as babysitting. It doesn’t take long for Andromeda to exhaust her list of potential child-minders; everyone seems to have plans that day.
Andromeda sighs, paces the kitchen, full of an uneasy, agitated energy. Why doesn’t she just change the appointment? That would be the logical solution. Find a day that her regular babysitter is free. Only that could be a week from now, or a fortnight, and it suddenly feels so important to get this done. Like putting it off now would be a step backward. If only Teddy wasn’t so picky about the people he was left with.
Picky. Andromeda stops her pacing, remembering that remarkable Longbottom woman at Charity’s funeral and the way Teddy took to her instantly. She remembers the conversation they had later.
“I know what it’s like,” Augusta said, “doing it alone. If you ever need help with anything, send me an owl.”
At the time, Andromeda nodded and smiled and decided it was simply politeness. They’d had a pleasant conversation, but were still essentially strangers. But now she wonders. Augusta Longbottom didn’t seem like the type who would say things she didn’t mean, and even if the offer had merely been politeness, it wouldn’t be rude to owl and see if she was free, would it?
As it turns out, Augusta Longbottom doesn’t find it rude at all. She is indeed free on the day, and is happy to take Teddy for a few hours while Andromeda begins to put her affairs in order.
It’s a trying day. Andromeda is prepared for the idea of selling. She’s prepared for re-entering the house to be painful, but there are some things she doesn’t expect. Ted’s boots inside the door, for example, or his coffee mug beside his favourite chair. The recipe for the cake she’d been planning to make for Nymphadora’s birthday – she remembers that they were going to have a dinner party, before everything went to hell. By the time she’s shown the estate agent through (what a lovely Western aspect this room has, he says, or yes, this space has so much potential for a renovator, his cool, clinical gaze dissecting the rooms in which Andromeda and her family had lived and laughed and shouted at each other), she feels wiped, naked, stripped right down to the bone.
It must show on her face, when finally she returns to Augusta’s home to pick up Teddy.
“I put him down about an hour ago,” she says, “and he hasn’t woken yet. You can get him up, if you like, but how about a cup of tea first?”
After Teddy’s hair changes, his face follows, losing the roundness and taking on the heart shape he inherited from his mother along with his more unusual abilities. Augusta doesn’t know when or how it was that he learned that imitating Frank and Neville could manipulate her in certain ways, but she is determined that it will stop. He is too young to imitate photographs, so he must have learned through trial and error, and the fact that she was so susceptible to minor changes that he could complete the portrait irks her to no end.
The shock that her voice caused stops the tears, too, and with a little attention and rocking his upset is reduced to a clingy sort of silence. His hair is still red, though, so Augusta knows that putting him down would just start him up again. Instead, she pads around the room and talks to him.
“I know this is hard,” she says. “You don’t even quite know what it is you’re missing. My Neville missed them, too, even though his were still around. It’s easy to miss things, even when you don’t know what they are. Or what they would be. But it’s all right. It all works out in the end, somehow. You get things you never knew you wanted. Sometimes you even choose to do them all over again.”
Augusta stops by the window, reaches out with her free hand to tug the curtains back and look out at the night. It’s not a spectacular view, just the street, but the moon is out following some earlier rain, so it looks shining and ghostly and beautiful.
Augusta isn’t sure how she got here, seventy-three years old and rocking an infant to sleep all over again. But when she saw Andromeda at that funeral, it was like looking into a mirror at her own life, and she remembered how hard it had been to do it alone. So she offered her help, and sometime in the weeks following, Andromeda accepted.
Augusta minding Teddy becomes a regular thing, as does putting him down for a nap an hour before Andromeda is due to pick him up. He is never awake when she arrives, so they always have time for tea. Andromeda seems hungry for meaningful conversation that isn’t one-way chatter with a small child, and Augusta certainly enjoys the company (she would never admit it to him now that he is off with his hands in the dirt Mastering in Herbology, but she rather misses having Neville around). And so their acquaintance, inauspiciously begun at a funeral, quickly becomes a friendship.
“I think it’s important to have interests,” Augusta says, adding a squeeze of lemon to her tea, “so I don’t mind at all.”
“It seems indulgent,” Andromeda replies, “Working so little because of Teddy, but taking half a day for a pottery class.”
“Nonsense,” Augusta replies. “You never know when you’ll need to hit someone over the head with an urn. Perfectly practical things to have in the house.”
Andromeda laughs, a quick, hiccoughing sound that sounds almost surprised to be coming out of her mouth. Augusta wonders if it is. Wonders how long it’s been since she laughed.
“Have you done that?” Andromeda asks. “Hit someone over the head with an urn?”
Augusta smiles. “Not exactly, no. But then I never was any good at artistic things, so I never had any around. It was a crystal decanter, rather old. A wedding gift. The kind they make with unbreakable charms etched into the glass. I don’t believe in breaking things that were paid for.”
“Who did you hit?” Adromeda asks.
“An Auror by the name of Dawlish. Last year. I found out later that he’d been Imperiused, the poor man. Still, I’m sure the cracked skull helped bring him out of it.”
Andromeda laughs again, and this time it is more musical. Augusta wonders how long she can go on being amusing, just to hear the sound of it.
And so an acquaintance becomes a friendship. Sometimes they laugh, and other times they speak about the heavier things, about their curiously parallel lives and how they reached the same point despite making very different choices. There are some things they don’t speak of, some things they are guarded about, but even so, Augusta begins to see more parallels than just ‘grandmother raising grandson alone’ between them.
She doesn’t know when she first guesses that Andromeda has experienced romantic feelings for her female friends – perhaps she knew as far back as the funeral, when Andromeda spoke of Charity Burbage with such feeling. Augusta is also uncertain at what point she gives that away herself – perhaps it is talk of Minerva, because although they have remained friends throughout their lives, Minerva never attempted to renew their romantic acquaintance after Frank’s death. Augusta never felt that she could be the one to do so, either – she was the one who chose family obligation and the security of marriage over venturing into the unknown, after all. But Augusta has ever longed to explore that side of herself again, and she thinks that at some point in one of her many conversations with Andromeda, it must become apparent.
Because one afternoon they find themselves discussing the merits and pitfalls of lives chosen versus lives accepted, and Andromeda leans across the table and kisses her. Augusta sees it coming but does not pull away, even though this woman is young enough to be her daughter, even though she is a grandmother who has lost her husband and her child, and is raising a grandson alone. Perhaps she allows it because of that. Perhaps that’s why she reciprocates.
Teddy is quiet, now. His hair has turned turquoise again, and he is dozing with his head against her shoulder. Augusta looks down at him and smiles, then settles him back down in his cot.
Doing it all over again. She isn’t, really. Certainly she will rise in the middle of the night to hold him and give Andromeda a rest, and certainly she will watch this little boy grow up – to adulthood, if her will and her pureblood genes have anything to do with it – but this time there will be someone else responsible for moulding him into the man he will become, teaching him rules and manners and the hard facts of life. That it will be his grandmother and not his parents is sad but not tragic. He’ll turn out fine, just like Neville did.
And Andromeda will not be alone.
Augusta waits a moment to watch as Teddy settles into sleep, to make sure that he will not wake again. Then she dims the lights, turns around, and heads back down the hall to Andromeda. To the life she chose.