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13 January 2008 @ 07:17 pm
Flowers Shall Grow- HP Genfic  
Title: Flowers Shall Grow
Summary:  They say that hope can be found in the darkest of places, but Andromeda isn’t so sure anymore. A conversation with Augusta Longbottom might help.
Word Count: 3645 (one shot)
Notes:  Gratitude-fic for dogstar101. A little corny, but enjoyable nonetheless, I think.
Rating: PG

Flowers Shall Grow

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one…
When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

---

They say that hope can be found in the darkest of places, but Andromeda isn’t so sure anymore.

It has taken her a week to concede that she can not do it.

She can not live in her house, their house, alone with Teddy. The house is too warm, to friendly, living in it is like being permanently hugged by her husband, his earthy scent seeping from the corners. These days, all she smells is Dora’s strawberry shampoo, all she hears is her friendly, always amused voice so much like her father’s, always accompanied by a clang or a crash. And then she checks herself, realizing that what she is hearing is the echo of her family. She hardly ever opens the windows these days, fearing the smell, the sounds, the memories might be swept away with the treacherous winds.

She cannot live here. Not in the house that they had saved for and dreamed of, two eighteen-year-olds, barely out of Hogwarts, hiding from the Dark Lord and the world in a dingy apartment in East London. Bending over their beautiful little baby, telling her of the wonderful room she would have, of the toys they would buy her, of the garden with a tire swing. They never did make a tire swing. In the end, it seemed wiser not to encourage Dora to swing on things. Maybe they should have. She would have liked it- she would have broken every bone in her body swinging on it, probably, but she would have laughed, laughed that head-throwing-back laugh that made the world stop for all that heard it; and it would have been worth it.

She cannot live here with Teddy. He is so vulnerable. He needs someone who will cuddle and coddle him, cover him in kisses and lullabies and peek-a-boos and mean it. She’s doing her best, but she is only going through the motions, and that will never do. Not when he is the only thing that she has left, the only proof that she had a baby once too, with the same tendency to turn her hair orange once her diaper is full. But Teddy is not Dora; and Dora is not… she is not. Anything. Anymore. Once or twice, as she gives her grandson his bottle and burps him, she catches herself pretending he is Dora. That the past twenty-five years have never happened, that she is still nineteen and waiting for Ted to come home from his night job, worried about money more than about Bellatrix, the Dark Lord, and treacherous death.

But she cannot pretend. She wants to be there for her grandson more than almost anything else, but she is fighting an uphill battle with her demons, when she wakes up to his crying at night and has to will herself to get out of bed.

She is terrified that one night she might not find the will inside her. That they would both lie there, crying for Dora to come home, until their cries subsided and this house is empty for good. This is the Black temper, she knows, this is the same demons that, Dora told her, Sirius never stopped fighting. She thought she had made her peace with her family, but this last, double-edged inheritance makes her hate the Blacks all over again.

She concedes defeat. Packs Teddy in his Moses-basket and apparates to the Burrow, where she knows Harry Potter is staying. The youngest Weasley girl, whom she knows Dora considered a sort of little sister, opens, and falters as she sees her gaunt, stretched, hopeless face. Harry Potter, looking scrawny with his T-shirt collar askew and so unlike a hero it makes her want to scream, plays with his girlfriend’s hand and blushes and asks her if she’s sure about this; tells her that he’s not sure this is right. She doesn’t want to beg, she’s about to take the baby back, but then the Weasley girl intervenes, and says that they will take him. “Just for a few days,” she says, kissing Teddy goodbye and hoping he will understand, hoping he will forgive her.

She refuses their offer for tea and polite conversation, and when she leaves, she can hear the two young people squabbling over who gets to hold him first, and if her heart would still be able to after this week, it would probably tear into shreads.

But where to now? To crawl into bed and never look at anyone again, put on one of Ted’s shirt and convince herself it’s him who’s hugging her? Even as she considers, she’s disgusted with herself, and for a moment, the desire to run back and pick up her grandson flares up inside her.

Out of lack of a plan, she apparates into Hogsmeade, and walks to the cemetery. After a shower earlier in the day, the earth on the new graves smells fresh and alive. There are flowers and candles everywhere, and more people than one would expect. Clearly, she is not the only one having trouble letting go of her loved ones, turned war heroes by the times they were born into.

“Mrs Tonks!” She looks up. Three teenagers, two boys and a girl, are looking up at her from a small fresh grave to her right. She recognizes one of the boys as Neville Longbottom, the other as Dean Thomas. The girl is a stranger, though something in her somber purple dress and necklace of dried prunes makes her guess that this is Xenophilius Lovegood’s girl- Luna? Dean wipes his hands clean on his jeans, than shakes hers. “Er, Good Morning, Mrs. Tonks,” he says, cautiously. They’ve met before, of course- a few days after Teddy was born, Remus had brought him over from Shell Cottage. And he’d come to the funeral service last week, of course…

“Hello, Dean,” she says with a half-forced smile, wiling her voice not to shake. “Hello, Neville,” she adds, shaking Neville’s hand. “And you must be Luna Lovegood.”

“I liked your son-in-law,” the girl says, vaguely. “He was a very good teacher. And Ginny was very fond of your daughter. I’m so sorry they died.”

“Er,” Neville frowns at Luna, then turns to her, “she’s right, you know. Profe- Remus, he was the best Defense teacher we ever had.”

“Dora babysat for you once or twice when you were small,” Andromeda tells him, wanting, more than anything, for her daughter not to be forgotten. “I don’t think you remember-“

“I do,” Neville says, smiling slightly. “I was five. She almost lit the house on fire when she was trying to make tea, and… “ his voice fades, lamely. “I remember,” he adds, apparently trying to assure.

“Well,” Andromeda says, awkwardly. “I’m- thank you.”

“Were you visiting them?” Luna Lovegood asks, as though asking about Andromeda’s social schedule.

“I- yes, I suppose-“

“We were visiting Colin,” she says, sincerely. “Well, not really, because he isn’t buried here- and even he was, I don’t suppose that’s where he’d be, would he?” She pauses thoughtfully, then says. “He’d be in a gigantic room full of different cameras, and he could take pictures of whomever and whatever he liked without bothering them. I think he’d like that.”

A horrible pause. “Yes,” Neville says, “he would.”

“He was a friend of ours. He died in the, uh- in the battle. We were making him a memorial.” Dean explains. “He’s buried at home, with his Grandparents, but we thought there should be a memorial to him, here. Because he died, well, for… for us.” He wipes his hands on his jeans lamely.

Andromeda looks more closely at what she had initially thought was a grave. Now she sees that it is only about square yard of earth, framed in white pebbles, covered in lush, green grass. Daisies are growing on it. In the middle, in the center of a circle of more white pebbles, a small green birch tree had been planted, around which they had wrapped a bright scarlet Gryffindor scarf. A camera was lying at the foot of the tree, next to a bunch of indecently yellow sunflowers. A mahogany placard reads:

Colin Creevy

August 1981- May 1998

Friend, Gryffindor, Warrior

We miss you so.

Andromeda gasps. So young, a child, with even less of life lived than her daughter had had, gone from a world that would forget him in no time. She sighs, contemplates the three young people in front of her, the unfairness of it all. “Well done,” she says, softly. “I’m sure your friend won’t be forgotten.” Hoping to make it so.

“Thank you,” Dean says, frowning. “Well, we, uh, don’t want to keep you, so…” His voice trails away.

“Give our regards to Professor Lupin,” Luna says, sincerely.

“I will,” Andromeda replies lamely. “Good Day to you all, and…” She sighs. “Make good for the world, won’t you? For them.”

The three teenagers nod solemnly, and Andromeda continues her way through the graveyard.

The sky overhead is an indecently bright blue, birds are singing joyously. It is a spring day in England, and they’ve just won a war. The sun on her face feels warm and freshly-washed, the earth is smelling irresistibly of life and green, growing things. She passes young women caressing the headstones of their beloveds, passes little sisters hating their big brothers for dying, and little brothers hating themselves for living when their big sister is gone. She passes husbands wondering how to go on now that their wife is no longer around to tell them to take out the garbage. She passes children who need parents and parents who need children, and over it all, the trees rustle and the flowers smell, birds sing and squirrels scuttle about, over all of them, the indecently bright blue sky shines.

She arrives at Ted’s grave, immediately starts picking the dirt off the headstone, mumbling a distracted Scourgify, and then imagines how much he would tease he about her obsessive need to keep his grave clean and proper looking. “Oh, Ted…” She whispers, tracing the edge of the headstone with her fingertips, picking dead flowers out of the ivy and watering the plants still left with her wand. It all looks a little shabby, she’s never had much of a way with plants, and this certainly isn’t right for him, too flimsy and half-hearted, for the most steadfast, most obstinate man she’s ever known.

And now the tears are falling, thick and fast down her cheeks and she has no reason to keep them inside. She’s not the only one crying today, she’s not the only one who’s hanging on to her sanity, her will to live, with her fingertips. The wind rustles in the tree overhead, and sounds a little like Ted’s laugh.

She just sits there, trying to get the flimsy little flowers to stand up a little straighter, glow a little brighter, tries a multiplication charm and some other things that refuse to work, and she sits there and misses him with every fiber of her being. Vaguely, and not for the first time in the past week, she feels jealous of Dora. At least she doesn’t have to feel this, at least she isn’t the one left behind this unbecomingly alive world.

She wipes her cheeks, hating herself.

“Mrs. Tonks?” She looks up. Neville Longbottom is looking at her from the path with a shrewd expression on her face, his eyes traveling from the wand in her hand to the careworn flowers on Ted’s grave.

“Oh, hello,” she says, softly.

“I forgot, before. My Gran’s been meaning to invite you to our house for tea,” he says, uncomfortably. “She seems to really want to speak to you.”

“Oh.” She frowns. Ted was friends with Frank Longbottom a million years ago, but she’s only met Augusta a couple of times- and not at all after Dora’s disastrous babysitting stint. “Well, that’s very kind of her,” she says.

“Mrs. Tonks?” The boy hesitates, then: “Would you like my help with those? I’m quite good at, you know planting and stuff.”

Andromeda smiles ruefully. “I’ve heard that’s not the only thing you’re good at.”

Neville shrugs. “Well, since there aren’t any massive snakes to kill around here, would you like me to help you with the plants?”

“I wouldn’t want to-“

“It’s all right,” he says. “I’ve got time. Honest.” He pulls out his wand and crouches down next to her, examining the sorry massive of greenery she’s literally nearly charmed the life out of.

“What do you think?” She asks, smiling despite herself. “Can you save them?”

“I could,” he shrugs. “But there’s a whole box of fresh flowers and bulbs and things we were going to use for Colin and didn’t need, we could just start again, if you-“

“That would be lovely,” she says, meaning it. “Thank you.”

---

They work in silence for an hour, and then step back to admire their handiwork. They’ve planted an apple tree, and some oxeye daisies, large and friendly. It looks alive, growing, unpretentious. Beautiful. It looks like Ted.

“Thank you so much, Neville,” she says, earnestly. “This means so much.”

He looks uncomfortable again. “Wasn’t a big deal, Mrs. Tonks. Really.”

“It was a huge deal,” she gently corrects. “For me.” She hesitates, then, “Will you tell your Grandmother I’d like to step by tomorrow, if it’s all right with her?”

“Of course,” Neville days. “But, I mean- Gran’s around anyway, you could just come with me now.”

“Thank you, dear.” She sighs. “But I’m not quite finished here yet.” Her eyes fly to a grave in the next row, a mound of dirt still covered in the wreathes and bouquets from the funeral.

“Oh,” he says, understandingly, “Well, like I said, Gran’s in Hogsmeade anyway, so we could just meet you at the gate in a bit? We have time.”

“I- Yes,” she nods. “And really, thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” He nods and walks away. She watches him weave through the paths of graves, greet fellow mourners and linger at the memorial for his friend. A girl with thick blonde hair joins him, wraps her arms around him cautiously. Andromeda’s throat burns as she turns away.

Shaking herself, she gives Ted’s graves another gentle look before turning towards the fresher mound of earth, the gravel crunching under her shoes, the sun shining like it has all day.

“Nymphadora Tonks,” she says quietly as she reaches the grave. “I am so cross with you right now, you have no idea. What were you thinking, going and getting yourself murdered? Didn’t they teach you anything at that useless Auror training your father and I paid our hard-earned money to send you to? I taught you better than this, Nymphadora!” It’s the rhetoric of a mother, and she would give anything if she could send her daughter to her room without her supper now. But she can’t. “What did you think you were doing? Leaving me all alone with Teddy, I can’t do this, I just can’t. It’s too much. He’s your child, he’s your responsibility, you can’t just leave him!” Her eyes are prickling and clouding but she ploughs on, “I hope you’re pleased with yourself, young lady.”

And then it’s too much, way too much, and she wants it to stop, the anger and the pain and the hurt, the feeling of being ten years old again and completely alone in the world, now that her older sister had murdered the one thing she’d had and loved.

They’d told her it was Bellatrix. She didn’t really have to ask, she knew, but she asked anyway, and Kingsley Shackleblolt had been decent enough to give her a straight answer.

This was, really, the last in a series of blows she couldn’t handle.

She sits down next to her daughter’s headstone. “Darling, I’m so sorry…” she whispers, tears falling again, and she thinks of Teddy, and knows that he’s safer with Harry Potter than he’ll be with her, wounded basketcase that she is.

And again she hears her name, and as she turns and wipes her eyes, she sees the venerable Mrs. Longbottom frowning down at her. “Good Day, Mrs. Tonks,” she says.

“He- hello, Mrs. Longbottom,” she almost hiccups. “I- I’m sorry if I’ve made you wait, it was so good of you to invite me to come over, you know I can just apparate over if-“

“That’s quite all right,” the old lady said, surveying the grave. “Would you take a walk with me?”

“I- of course,” Andromeda answered, getting to her feet. They walked in silence through the graveyard for a few minutes, into the oldest corner of the cemetery, where the last person had been buried a hundred years ago and no one still visited, not even today.

Finally, her companion broke the silence: “You know,” she said, rather matter-of-factly, “it’s strange how we’re in such a similar situation, and yet I can’t decide if it will be easier or harder for you.”

“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t follow.”

Mrs. Longbottom stopped and peered at her. “You find yourself in the exact same situation I was in seventeen years ago. Everyone around you is rejoycing that they’ve won the war and all you want to do is sit somewhere and feel sorry for yourself, because you’re all alone with a helpless baby, and you don’t know how to handle that. Isn’t that right?”

“I-“ Andromeda stared at the lined, strict face.

“My husband a few weeks before the first war ended, did you know that? Heart attack.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Yes, well.” Mrs. Longbottom frowned at her. “Mrs. Tonks, where is your grandson?”

“He’s with Harry Potter,” Andromeda replied, defensively. “He’s Teddy’s godfather, and I just- I just want what’s best for him and… and right now that’s not me.”

“Yes, of course.” Mrs. Longbottom pursed her lips.

“It is! I’m- I’m having- it’s difficult- I’m not sure I can take care of him-“ she spluttered, hating herself. “I know what I’m doing,” she snapped, knowing she was lying.

So did Mrs. Longbottom. “Mrs. Tonks, I realize that this is absolutely none of my business, but please, hear my out. Like I said, I was once in a very similar situation. I suppose you could argue it was more painful for me, because my son was drooling and rocking back and forth whenever I saw him, which was every single day, but that’s neither here nor there. I wanted to run away. I wanted to hide. I hated my son and daughter-in-law for what happened to them, and I even resented my grandson for surviving when his parents didn’t. But I also knew that Neville was the only thing I had left, and I needed to be there for him. I needed him just as much as he needed me, and that was enough.”

Andromeda bit her lip. Tears were running down her cheeks again. “I want to…” she said hoarsely. “I want to be there for him so badly, but I just think I can’t.”

“It has always been my belief,” Augusta Longbottom said mildly, “that in situations like these, there is no such thing as ‘can’t’.”

“But how do I-“

Act as if ye have faith, and faith shall be given to you. It’s something my grandmother used to say, and it’s both the easiest and the hardest thing in the world. Your daughter left you in charge of her child.” The old lady sighed, then repeated: “He needs you. It’s the easiest and the hardest thing in the world.” She looked around the cemetery, at the groups of people still huddled together around graves, her grandson and his girlfriend. The red head of Molly Weasley. “Everyone here today has been hurt, just like you. Everyone hear today is missing someone they love. They’ve all lost a part of them, every single one. But that is never an excuse to just drop everything and feel sorry for yourself.” She straightened up. “I did it, and I was a good deal older than you. You’ll do well for him. Good day to you, Mrs. Tonks.” She turned to leave.

“You did very well,” Andromeda called after her. She stopped, turned, her expression puzzled. “You did very well,” Andromeda repeated. “Neville’s an extraordinary young man, from all I’ve heard.”

Augusta Longbottom smiled. “Yes, he is. Thank you.”

“No,” Andromeda said meekly, “Thank you.”

She watched the old lady walk, her back straight, her green dress glowing in the sun. She wondered if she could ever be like her. She doubted it.

She followed her slowly, focusing on the sound of the gravel under her feet, the smell of the air, the wind on her face. She was alive. They were gone, but she was still here, and Mrs. Longbottom was right- nothing was more important than that.

She’d pick up Teddy from the Weasley’s first thing in the morning. Before that, she would go home, and she would redecorate Dora’s room for room for him. She’d paint and try to charm him a playpen, she’d get Dora’s old toys and books out of the attic, and get his things out of his parents’ now deserted flat.

She would pick him up first thing in the morning, and then she’d sing for him and tickle his stomach, and sooner or later, or so she could only hope, it would feel right.

The flowers on Dora and Ted’s graves shone brightly, as though they were waving to her as she walked out of the graveyard. The trees rustled, and it sounded like Ted’s laughter.

 
 
 
Christy Corr: Blue.christycorr on May 17th, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)
This was brilliant.