11 August - Well met by moonlight Who: Andromeda Tonks and Narcissa Malfoy What: Information, warnings, family issues When: Evening of 11 August Where: Swinside stone circle Warnings: Talk of Death Eater deeds, homicide, horcruxes, etc.
Narcissa and Lucius had removed all the glass splinters from their person and tended their injuries, but the faintest marks still remained on Narcissa's person by the time her arranged meeting with Andromeda had arrived. Because they were both certain of Swinside, it seemed like the logical place. Still, there was some concern on Narcissa's part that Sirius and his remaining friends were lying in wait, so she arrived early enough that she could thoroughly check and ward the place for safety, including the muggle-repelling spells she'd used at Brighton. They would not be disturbed.
"Well met by moonlight," she called out as Andromeda approached.
Hearing from Narcissa again so quickly either boded very well, or terribly ill, and Andromeda fretted over the difference as she weighed the invitation. The likelihood that blind acceptance might lead right into a trap lingered, and yet. Andromeda wanted very badly to believe the best of her sister. She wanted to set aside the paranoia that one successful meeting might be a good way to wear down her guard, and tempting her to another might be leaving an opening too wide to ignore.
She didn’t mention it to Sirius this time. Foolhardy or not, she’d chosen only to warn her husband and give him parameters for response in case this all went very poorly. Ted had long ago given up on trying to dissuade Andromeda of the things she desired, no matter how risky.
He was one of those things, after all; first and greatest, above all others in her heart.
“Better than the alternative,” she replied, pushing back the hood on her coat. Dark eyes flickered across Narcissa’s face, searching, and narrowed in concern. “Trouble with the gardens, ‘Cissa? You look as if you’ve been very careless with the roses.”
"Trouble, yes, but not in the gardens per se. We're all up and about and our objective was achieved, and--Draco wasn't involved in any of it, so don't worry about him--all in all, I feel quite well given the situation, thank you. And how are you and--" a catch in Narcissa's voice "--Ted and Dora? All is well? No one has bothered you more than usual?" She let the concern leak into her tone as she doffed one of her gloves.
It surprised Narcissa that a deadly war was going on in the shadows, yet the only trace of it that had emerged to the wizarding world at large was the disappearance of Charles Avery. And the conclusion about him seemed to be that he'd been eaten by his own pet snake, much to the chagrin of his wife and son. Not that they were entirely wrong. It was just that soon enough there would be no way for anyone to prove anything about either the snake or the man.
It was the first time Andromeda could recall hearing her sister use his name, and her immediate reward was a bright, sunny smile; the sort that crinkled Andromeda’s eyes and chased away some of the worry that was clouding her face. “They’re well,” she answered, schooling her expression again. It wouldn’t do to keep grinning like an imbecile, no matter how pleased she was. “Dora’s been spending enough time with Ted’s parents that I might never be able to undo how they’ve spoiled her.”
She didn’t mind. With Ted’s parents, Dora was safe. They were so far removed from everything that it felt like a different planet entirely. No whisper of any war ever reached them, and they had no idea that their house had been warded to the absolute gills to satisfy Andromeda’s paranoia.
"It's good for children to be spoiled by their grandparents." Narcissa's tone was faintly dry; it wasn't hard for Andromeda to guess exactly how their own mother was treating Draco, the male child that Druella herself had never been able to bear. "And I'm glad he's safe. I have some good news on that front, or possibly not so good for others. I have been told that an agent--the agent, so far as I know--that was recruited from among Sirius' friends has disappeared. Do you know who I mean?"
Andromeda’s head tilted, something closing off in her expression. This was such a delicate dance, trying to share information without really sharing it at all. She was no spy, clever at double-talk, and she didn’t want to undermine Sirius’ confidence even as she desperately wanted to be able to speak openly with her sister again. “I do,” she said, slowly. “You haven’t seen him again, I trust?”
She hadn’t been involved in that decision, or really any of the big ones. Andromeda was on the periphery by choice, where it was safe enough to claim plausible deniability and still be helpful where she could.
Narcissa shook her head. "I wasn't involved in any of that. I only heard at a remove. And not from Lucius either. What I hear now is that Rodolphus is focused on the former spy, which has both good and bad points. In any case he's no longer spilling information, which should be some relief to you, if not to Sirius.
"I think Rodolphus has gone quite mad," Narcissa added, her expression shifting. "I think the old men were trying to put the Dark Lord into his body, and I'm not sure how much of what he does now is himself and how much is the other influence." She shook her head slowly.
That was quite a lot to take in at once. Andromeda’s eyes widened a fraction in alarm. “So you’re saying they’ve had some degree of success in that,” she finally settled on, thoroughly uneasy with the idea. The kind of magic that could displace someone in their own head was already quite dark. This was worse. “You’re keeping your distance as much as you can?”
With Bellatrix gone, it would be easier for Narcissa to avoid her brother-in-law. The social circles remained, of course, but she might yet be able to avoid personal invitations. Andromeda hadn’t been at risk of a visit from any of them in so long, she couldn’t picture seeing them on her doorstep.
If they turned up, likely something was very wrong and no one would be stepping inside for tea, that much was certain.
"I know Rodolphus is behaving in ways that make no sense for him. I am given to understand that he--" Narcissa debated what she could say that wouldn't give it away and settled on "--tortured his brother. In a way that suggested--that the person describing it thought was characteristic of the Dark Lord." Which probably suggested to Andromeda that she'd had it from Lucius and not Rabastan himself. Her expression hardened. "I am fond of Rodolphus and I am fond of Rabastan, but if Rodolphus shows up to do harm to me and mine, I will show no mercy."
She could say this with certainty because she'd killed Charles Avery.
"I know it will be the same if they come for Ted or Dora," Narcissa told Andromeda. "I--I wonder, though, if Bellatrix didn't have a hand in this. Somehow. If she didn't--choose--" she trailed off there. "Our sister has become a monster."
Andromeda could not confidently say that she was terribly fond of any of her in-laws, so to speak. They had all grown up with one another, but it had been some time since she’d been welcome in those social circles, and frankly Andromeda thought she was better off for the departure. Look where they’d all ended up; fighting one another for scraps of power, some driven half-mad, some fled to unknown parts of the globe…
She’d take being disowned any day.
“You think,” she began, aghast, one hand sliding up to cover her mouth. She wasn’t sure what she was trying to do. Force the words back, maybe, as if she could stop herself from thinking them now that Narcissa had put the idea out there. Andromeda swallowed, forcing her hand down again. “You think she wanted her lord back that badly.”
To willingly sacrifice her husband like that was unthinkable. Then again, Andromeda couldn’t say what her sister might be capable of, these days. She was no one Andromeda recognised any longer.
Bellatrix was hardly anyone Narcissa recognised any longer, and she'd always known more of their sister's interest in not just politics and purity, but specifically in Death Eating. Narcissa nodded slowly. "I think she would. She has no direction without the Dark Lord. She has become an attack dog, but now she has no master to guide her."
“You don’t think she’ll come back,” Andromeda tested, and it wasn’t quite a question. If Bellatrix wanted her lord rather than her husband, would she come back for him? Or was she waiting for him to gain control enough to come to her? The implications were horrifying. If she were slightly less self-possessed, Andromeda might shudder to think.
"She might not," Narcissa allowed. Her thoughts had been running along the same lines as Andromeda's. "I know you have little love for Rodolphus but I think we can all agree that the alternative in this case is--" she hesitated "--extremely undesirable. Rodolphus may be terrible but his ambitions don't run to the scale of splitting his soul repeatedly by murdering people in search of immortality."
Granted, Rodolphus was not Andromeda’s favourite person, but he was hardly the worst option out there. He was by far preferable to another Dark Lord, or… in this case, the same one but with a borrowed body, however that worked. Just thinking about it made her skin crawl. “So that’s a problem I take it you’re as interested as solving as we are,” she said, finally. It had been a long, long time since she felt like she and Narcissa had been in agreement on anything.
Narcissa clarified: "It's a problem I've already taken action toward solving. But not all of the pieces of the puzzle are accessible to me."
“Is there anything I can do to help?” That was what it came down to, didn’t it? For once, they could share a goal. Andromeda wasn’t sure she would be remotely useful in this, but the gesture mattered. She hoped, anyway.
"Make sure Sirius and his friends are solving the same problem," Narcissa finally said. "They won't take my help. But if they need something, something I can give, I will find a way to do what I can. With money or magic. Because if the Dark Lord returns, he will destroy my family. And I will not allow that to happen. I don't know what you'll need to find the rest of them, but one has been destroyed and I'm waiting for the correct moment to destroy another. And if He does return, and finds out what I've done--he'll kill me.
"And so will our sister, if she finds out what I've done." Narcissa met Andromeda's eyes. Her smile was grim. "Let us all hope she stays abroad. And--I suspect the best we can hope for Rodolphus is a long stay in St Mungo's."
Andromeda wondered how she might even make that offer without piquing Sirius’ considerable ire. Nothing immediately leapt to mind, but she could think on it… perhaps approach Remus instead. He usually had the cooler head.
Or she might keep the source of the offer to herself. Lying was not her preferred way to approach a problem, but sometimes needs must. If it meant protecting Narcissa, well. Andromeda was out of practice, but she’d spent the first half of her life with that goal in mind, and it wasn’t such a stretch to get back to it now.
“I’ll see what can be done,” she agreed, solemn. “I know it’s a project underway on multiple fronts. Someone might be open to assistance.” She paused, tacking on a rueful, “I certainly am. I don’t intend to lose you now that you’re speaking to me again. You have yet to meet your niece.”
"We'll do that after the Dark Lord has been thoroughly defeated and there's no chance of his return." Narcissa did not speak of their other sister; she assumed she didn't have to. "And you will meet your nephew."
No, safe to say that Bellatrix was never going to be invited to family events ever again. Andromeda might’ve mourned that, but she’d gotten it out of her system years ago. Hard to keep being wounded by the same separation over and over again. “I look forward to it,” she agreed, expression softening. “And I’ll let you know if your assistance is needed, provided you do the same.”