The Sugar Quill
Author: Clarimonde (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Not the Cross but the Light  Chapter: Default
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Not the Cross, But the Light

Not the Cross, But the Light



(A/N: Thanks are due, as always, to the SQ workshop. Thanks to Alkari, Supreme Mugwump of All Things MWPP, for input on the Black sisters’ ages, and her ever-present insights into Sirius’ character. The title is from a motto of the actual Black family which has its origins in Scotland.)


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence

Two roads diverged in a wood

And I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost


I was not the pretty one - that was Narcissa. I was not the clever one - that was Bellatrix. I was the plain, quiet one, the little brown duck in a flock of swans. But I was the only sister who “lived happily ever after.” I, Andromeda Faustina Tonks, nee Black, otherwise known as “how in the name of Circe did Draco and Cassiopeia Black produce a child like that?” or, in my own family circle, as “Poor Andromeda,” punctuated by a heavy sigh.


There are consolations for being the family disappointment. My husband is home with me, not disgraced and imprisoned, leaving me to cope alone. That’s what happened to my older sister, Narcissa. Beautiful, charming Cissa, Father’s favorite, to whom he never, ever, said “no.” Now that Father’s dead, and Lucius is in Azkaban, what is Cissa going to do? Kick the house-elf? Drop a pile of Galleons at Gladrags? Smother her sorrows in powdered Billywig stings?


At least Cissa’s not in Azkaban herself. My younger sister, Bellatrix the brilliant, who got top marks in her year and just missed becoming Head Girl – she was in prison for years, her cleverness curdling into craziness, because she wasn’t quite smart enough to evade capture after she and her husband Rodolphus tortured two well-loved Aurors so brutally that they are in St. Mungo’s to this day. Bellatrix was very intelligent, but gambling her future on You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters was just stupid. I never could have told that to Mother, though. Bella was Mother’s favorite just as Cissa was Father’s, and Mother never would hear a word against her most gifted child, the one she hoped would bring glory to her branch of the Black family. Not like me.


 I, meanwhile, kept my nose clean, and opened an apothecary shop after I left Hogwarts, and did well if I say so myself. I never made a fortune, but enough for a nice flat and a good broom and for Nymphadora to have new clothes and school supplies. And I married a man who is not rich – he’s a photographer – and he has his faults – he’s never lifted a wand to pick up a dropped sock – but he’s kind and funny. He brings me flowers, he read our daughter bedtime stories when she was small. We have a houseful of cats because he feels sorry for every stray in Diagon Alley. Not at all like what my family said Muggle-borns were like. “Mudbloods” and “filth” were what my family called Muggle-borns, and they warned me as they did my sisters, that Muggle-borns were depraved monsters, criminal, promiscuous, immoral. Woe betide the Wizard-born girl who married one! “Remember poor Ariadne Marvolo!” my mother cautioned us. Ariadne had married a Muggle and come to a bad end. When I suggested that perhaps Ariadne was foolish for marrying a cad, not a Muggle, Mother was so furious she would have put Cruciatus on me if Father hadn’t intervened. As it was, my effrontery and daring to question the Black family motto – Toujours Pur! – had me going without supper for a week. When I married Ted, I was disowned completely – “you are no longer our daughter,” my mother told me curtly by Owl three days after our wedding. Only my cousin Sirius and eccentric uncle Alphard had attended. For Cissa and Bella, on the other hand, the weddings were lavish affairs, attended by family and friends from miles around (I was a reluctant bridesmaid at Cissa’s wedding to Lucius) and paid for by Father.


When my daughter Nymphadora was born, only Sirius and Uncle Alphard sent congratulations. I felt compelled to choose amongst my family names for her; I got some small satisfaction out of knowing that my father would have a choleric fit because I gave his mother’s noble Wizarding name to a halfblood, even if that halfblood was the first Nymphadora’s great-granddaughter. So Nymphadora Meliflua she became – she had a right to those family names. Ted wanted to name her Lisa Christine, which I thought too plain. Looking back, if I knew how much Nymphadora would hate her name maybe I should have let Ted have his way. Be that as it may, even though Nymphadora was the first grandchild, neither Mother nor Father breathed a word of acknowledgement. On the other hand, when Narcissa condescended to conceive, seven years later than I (Lucius wanted an heir, I am sure, otherwise Cissa would never have dreamt of ruining her slender figure for something as horrid as a baby), young Draco’s birth was feted. I wasn’t invited, of course, but I read the announcement in the Daily Prophet.


Well, young Draco is by all accounts a worthless, spoilt brat, with, alas, Lucius’ looks and Cissa’s brains, lucky to have a family fortune as he would not amount to anything otherwise. And my own little Nymphadora is now a Metamorphmagus and an Auror. I know she gets her clumsiness from me, her small frame and big brown eyes from Ted, but I don’t know where she gets her Metamorphmagus talent from. Metamorphmagi are very rare – Albus Dumbledore told me he only knew of one other in his very long lifetime – and there are no Metamorphmagi that I know of amongst the Blacks. I asked Ted once if he knew of any Metamorphmagi in his family tree, even though he’s Muggle-born. He laughed and said, what wouldn’t he have given for the ability to transform into a big, tough prizefighter when the neighborhood bullies were after him.


Ted was escaping his background as much as I was escaping mine; perhaps it’s ironic that we each sought refuge in the other. I remember when I first saw him. “Black, Andromeda” was one of the first to be Sorted, and that Hat put me in Gryffindor so fast that my head spun. I was both elated and horrified – elated because I never thought of mousy little me as particularly brave, daring and full of nerve, and horrified at the thought of what my mother and father were going to say. Narcissa, I knew, couldn’t wait to stick her head in the Slytherin Common Room fireplace and screech down the Floo network to my parents about what the nascent black sheep of the family had done now – sorted into Gryffindor where all the mudbloods go! So to keep my mind off the inevitable Howler that would arrive the next day, I watched the rest of the Sorting. One of the last to be sorted, “Tonks, Edward,” a short, skinny boy with wire-rimmed spectacles, was, after some deliberation, put into Ravenclaw.


And so I saw very little of Ted Tonks for the next few years at Hogwarts, sorted as we were into different Houses. Gryffindor had no classes with Ravenclaw, and Merlin knows I had enough to occupy my time without adding boys into the equation. Hogwarts was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was where I learned I was not homely, dumpy and stupid, but merely an average girl in every way, with the bad luck to have been born into a family of beauties and geniuses. So I threw myself into my studies and eventually took N.E.W.T.’s in Potions, Herbology, and Charms, all easily parlayed into my own apothecary business. Mother and Narcissa sneered at me for being “in trade” but it’s an honest living and I’ve done well for myself. If, Merlin forbid, something were to happen to Ted, I could support myself just fine, not like Cissa who is barely capable of wiping her own nose without help, with a son who cannot possibly be of much assistance.


Ted’s and my paths next crossed in our Fifth year. Both of us had been made House Prefects. Neither Father nor Mother had congratulated me, because Narcissa hadn’t been made a Prefect in her day and when she heard my good news, went into a week-long snit that she was finally coaxed out of by a shopping trip to Borgin and Burke’s courtesy of Father. Ted, seeing my glum face on the Hogwarts Express, enquired why, and when I told him that my family was not happy for me becoming Prefect, confided that his own stepfather had roared at him to get the hell out of the flat, because only Nancy boys were made Prefect and he didn’t want no sodding poofter in his house. Ted’s family, as it turned out, was fully as dreadful as mine in a different sort of way. Poor Ted, sensitive and artistic as he was, growing up with a drunken, abusive stepfather in a council flat in East London was as hellish for him as my own heartless, aristocratic family was for me. Hogwarts was our salvation.


Thrown together by our Prefecthood, bonded by having escaped from our abusive families, Ted and I began to date. What was called “dating” at Hogwarts in those days mostly involved holding hands in the hallways, studying together in the library, a Saturday strolling through Hogsmeade with a meal at the Three Broomsticks (no Madame Puddifoot’s for me, thank you; Narcissa loved the place and that was enough to put me off it for life), and a furtive snog or two wherever one could find a little privacy. Privacy was very much at a premium, what with McGonagall, who was strict and eagle-eyed, Nearly Headless Nick our House Ghost who thought his Gryffindors ought to be studying, not snogging, the loathsome caretaker Filch, and in my case, two boys by the names of Sirius Black and James Potter, who caught me and Ted kissing in an empty classroom one day and thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen in their lives. They made smooching noises at me in the Gryffindor Common Room for weeks afterward.


Sirius was Bella’s age, but early on had proclaimed me as his “very favoritest cousin in the whole world.” At family gatherings the two of us would play Exploding Snap or I would read to him. Sirius was so bright that he learned to read when he was only about four, just because I had been reading to him so much. He picked it up without being taught, just as he later got all “Exceeds Expectations” marks in his classes no matter how little he studied. Sirius was that brilliant; smarter than Bella, probably the most intelligent person our family has ever produced, except for Nymphadora of course. He was intelligent enough to forsake his family, when he was of age, and think for himself. And that is saying a lot for a child of Alcyone Black. That was Sirius’ mother, my aunt, next to whom a Dementor looked like a Puffskein. The damage she did to her older son ran deep, deeper than I suspected when he was young.


When I was young, I remember thinking that Alcyone was a very old woman, bony and sallow and wrinkled. In fact she was only a few years older than Father, but her character showed through in her face and made her look like that Muggle idea of a witch, a hideous old hag. There was no love for husband or children in Alcyone’s withered lemon of a heart. Sirius got the worst of it by far – his younger brother Regulus, neither as handsome nor as gifted, was a born bootlicker and managed to stay on his mother’s good side most of the time. But Sirius would always talk back to his mother and in turn she abused him without mercy. My father managed to save me from the Cruciatus curse that one time; Alcyone actually put Cruciatus on Sirius once, maybe twice. In theory, Cruciatus is Unforgivable, outlawed by the Ministry, and anyone caught using it is thrown into Azkaban forthwith; but in practice, who would believe that any mother from the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black would put Cruciatus on someone, let alone her own son? Noble Pureblood wizarding families could get away with quite a lot before the Ministry would sit up and take notice.


Poor Sirius. My heart breaks to think of him. What went wrong that we could all believe he was a cold-blooded betrayer and mass murderer? He and our Great-uncle Alphard stood by Ted and me when the rest of our respective families disowned us. When Nymphadora was a child, Sirius fussed over her – playing Exploding Snap with her, teaching her how to play chess, taking her out to Fortescue’s for ice cream. He would laugh when she ordered double chocolate as she always did, saying that she and his friend Remus Lupin were a pair. Sirius and his friends James, Remus and Peter were always at our flat above the apothecary shop in Diagon Alley. Sirius had all the gifts of a beneficent God – looks, brains, charm, wealth, the gift of making friends. He even got himself a girlfriend in his seventh year – Julia of the pale blonde hair and strong orange-blossom perfume, whom Ted always called “Stick Insect” behind her back, as he thought she had a figure like one – and besides, her perfume stunk up our flat. I was used to strong smells being an apothecary, and I never really noticed Julia’s figure. She was a nice young woman, very quiet, but smart. Sirius hated stupid women, he had no respect for them. Julia was his intellectual equal, and pretty too. I thought Sirius was lucky to have found her, even if Ted didn’t.


When I heard the news, that Sirius had betrayed his best friend James, his wife and their baby son to You-Know-Who, and murdered fourteen innocent people in cold blood, I lost my only family. Uncle Alphard had passed on some years before, dividing his fortune between Sirius and me. Now my favorite cousin was found guilty of “heinous crimes” and sent to Azkaban, and we all believed in his guilt, seeing the little signs strewn like pebbles along the road before – his temper and mood swings and impulsiveness, how he’d shout at mousy little Peter Pettigrew or berate Julia with no provocation. Sirius always had to be the center of attention, and he never was the most sensitive man in the world – this was probably why, on one of his last visits to our flat, he glumly informed me that Julia had thrown him for a Peruvian Quidditch player. She’d Owled him from Lima, announcing her marriage to the Peruvian Quidditch team’s star Seeker. Sirius couldn’t for the life of him understand why Julia had dumped him – wasn’t she lucky to have him? I could only shake my head and console him with the fact that he was young, and good-looking and brilliant and altogether a wonderful catch, and there were more mermaids in the sea. Ted, trying to be helpful, assured Sirius that he could do much better than a stick insect who wore stinky perfume. Then Nymphadora solemnly stated that Sirius could marry her when she grew up. That, at least, made Sirius laugh. A month later Sirius went to Azkaban and Nymphadora set her future-husband fantasies on Brendan McLaughlin, handsome red-haired Chaser for the Ballycastle Bats.


Poor Sirius. Alcyone – I’d say “may her soul rot in Hell” but she hasn’t one – did more damage than I or James Potter or Julia or anyone else who loved him could undo. Sirius was warped beyond repair. It saddens me to recall, we all believed he was capable of mass murder back in 1981. Alcyone had made Sirius a murderer just as her influence had induced Regulus to join the Death Eaters, as Regulus was desperate for just a crumb of Alcyone’s love. As it turned out, joining the Death Eaters didn’t win Regulus any more mother-love than Alcyone had given him – one can’t get blood from a stone, after all. When Regulus realized this, the poor fool tried to back out of his service to You-Know-Who, with predictable results. Ted remarked that service to You-Know-Who was like Muggle insect traps – you check in but you don’t check out. You-Know-Who tortured his faithless follower to death and Alcyone lost a son. Whether she felt sorrow for Regulus’ death is questionable. She didn’t mourn for Sirius when he went to Azkaban.


I remember when reading the headlines, that notorious mass-murderer Sirius Black had broken out of Azkaban, my first guilty thought was, “If anyone was clever and brilliant enough to do that – Sirius was.” Later, after his death, I learned some of the real story from Nymphadora, and some from the Quibbler. Was Sirius Black a villain or a victim? Sadly, he was a victim in the end, ultimately unable to escape his upbringing. A prisoner at Grimmauld Place, a prisoner in Azkaban, and then in Grimmauld Place again. He had a normal life for only a few glorious years. Why Sirius? What had he ever done to deserve it? He never got to kiss a beloved wife good-bye on his way to work, never got to hold his children in his arms, never will be an old man teaching his grandchildren how to play Exploding Snap.


My best friend at Hogwarts, Lakshmi D’Souza, was brought up to believe in what she called karma, and reincarnation. Lakshmi told me that my family, and the fact that I disappointed them so much, was “my karma” in this lifetime, a lesson I was set to learn. Lakshmi said that when people die, they live in the spirit world for a while, and then come back to another lifetime on Earth. So in the next lifetime I could come back beautiful, clever, and loved by my family. I would like to think that Lakshmi’s beliefs were true, that maybe Sirius will return to us. Maybe he’ll reincarnate as my grandson, one of the many children I hope Nymphadora will have – she’s told me that she means to name her first son Sirius. Maybe in the next incarnation, he’ll have a chance.

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