*many thanks to my wonderful Beta Reader, Lone Astronomer, who was not
scary at all like I expected! Your comments are welcome, and (once again) this
is not my world, these are not my characters, they belong to a wonderful lady
who lives in Scotland and I just like to play with them!
The Black in Me
Nymphadora rolled over under her thin hospital sheets. I
held my breath for a few seconds, then exploded with a sigh. She was still out.
Ted wrapped an arm around my shoulder and squeezed tightly.
“She’ll be alright,” he said gruffly, “just
I grinned weakly. Of course I knew she
would be fine, but knowing meant nothing right now. I had to see her sit up and
shout, “Wotcher, Mum!” for myself before I could
truly believe it.
There was a shuffling sound on my right as Ted
got up, probably to get us some more tea. We’d been living on that low-grade
hospital tea for three nights, now. You’d think they’d have the sense to
provide a more decent brand for distraught parents visiting their only
There I go again. The Black in me certainly
pops in at the worst moments.
In this relaxed state, Nymphadora’s
hair was back to the way it was when she was born; the same mousey brown as
Ted. It was so strange to see it like that; I had almost forgotten how she
looked naturally. She changed daily, and to the most outrageous styles and hues
that would have made any muggle rock-star jealous! I
always marveled at how very different from me that was. Had I
been a metamorphmagus at her age, I would have made
myself look like a veela! Anything to turn my
sisters green with envy. Oh, it puts a smile on my face to picture the look on Narcissa’s face if she saw me like that, and Bella. . .
. . . Bellatrix...how dare she do this to my baby, to my
little Nymph...had she even known it was her own niece? Her own flesh and
blood, that she had tried to use the Avada Kedavra on? It probably wouldn’t have mattered if she did:
it certainly didn’t stop her from killing our cousin.
Nymphadora is nothing like me and my sisters. No ounce of
pettiness, no bit of inflated vanity can be found in her. From day one she
would try to make herself look as weird and shocking as possible. She would
show off in front of company and everything, just to mortify me! Ted was no
help either, always asking her be a hag or a troll, and all for laughs. They
are truly two of a kind.
Again, the Black side takes over. Is a child having fun really such a problem?
No one knows how hard I have to repress those
thoughts. Every instinct I have says, “act proper, act respectful.” Those
Blacks truly did a number on me, beating that mantra into my skull. I know it
must have been trying for someone as free as my daughter to have an up tight
mother like me. It certainly was a chore trying to raise her at times. But
then, over the past year she had grown more forgiving of my nagging, more
compliant. She even wore her hair blond and curly one day, like a normal
person, just to make me happy– all though, now that I think about, she was probably
too sleepy that day to argue with me about it. Still, it was as if she finally
understood where I was coming from. Looking back, she probably was
coming to understand, spending all of her time at Grimmauld Place.
I wish I had known. I wish I had known all of
it. I could have stopped her from joining the Order of the Phoenix, or if that had failed I could have at least
given her help and advice. Being faced with the legacy of Grimmauld Place, the Black family Mecca, for the first time would be disturbing for
anyone, let alone for someone who was related to those monsters. I should know;
I was there almost once a week as a child.
I grew up in the lap of luxury, one of three
catty, spoiled princesses who never had to lift a finger. My only duties were
to look attractive, act proper, and bring home wealthy, pureblood boyfriends.
Producing trophy brides was a Black family trademark! It’s a miracle I ever
survived in the real world. True, it was never in my nature to be as
narrow-minded and hateful as my family; I was born questioning their
values. I was, however, just as lazy and selfish as any of them.
But not my daughter! She never went
through that brain wahsing. She would have balked at
being told how to act, anyway. Nymphadora is so
unlike any of my family, it’s delightful! I so dearly wish my parents could
have met her before they died! She would have horrified them; would have
served them right, too. She was their first grandchild, and their
only granddaughter. Part of their inheritance should have gone to her,
rather than all of it going to Narcissa’s obnoxious
little boy. From what I hear, he is exactly like his mother; so pampered he
can’t even wipe himself.
I used to entertain the idea of parading into Grimmauld Place – while dear old Mum and Auntie Vega were
at tea– with my little Nymphadora in tow, all gangly
and knobbly kneed, dressed in her favorite dungarees
and trainers, tangerine haired, and trying to make her ears grow big enough for
flying (for years she was convinced she could do this)! Oh to have seen
the look on their faces!
I never did it, though. I could never subject
my daughter to their stares and insults. I wonder what it must have been like
this year, visiting Grimmauld Place and all its horrors on a regular basis; I
imagine it must have been a total culture shock for her. Life with me and Ted
had certainly been different from that.
For one, Ted brings mess and disorder where ever
he goes. The house is always in shambles, no matter how much I clean. And in
the hospital, he left empty paper cups all over the floor; didn’t he think to
pick them up?
What’s more, nothing gets beneath Ted’s skin.
At school they would call him the worst things, but it all rolled off of him
like water. The Slytherins saw this as a sign of
sub-standard intelligence, but I knew it was admirable. In my family, as cool
and distant a facade they put on, the slightest of insults could incur the
deepest of grudges.
Is it any wonder Ted is my breath of fresh air?
He is so down-to-earth, so calm, and yet so silly. He is one of the biggest,
toughest men I’ve ever seen, yet he tries to dance the fox-trot with me around
the room when his favorite song is on the wireless! He could make Nymphadora squeal with laughter. She definitely has
his slapstick humor.
I’m not trying to paint the picture that life
was always perfect after we married. I remember how I used to be so resentful;
here I was, having never learned to cook or clean in my life, trying to control
the chaos caused by my rambunctious husband and daughter. I had to get a job
and work for the first time in my life, too: we could have lived just fine on
what Ted earns, but I was used to a certain standard of luxury. As his mother
put it to me once, just because a man loves you doesn’t mean he’s going to give
you everything you want. If I wanted certain material comforts, I would have to
get them myself. For years this was the subject of many fights (most, I’m
afraid to say, I started).
I am ashamed to admit this now, but I was also
monumentally rude to Ted’s parents when we first met (old habits die hard).
They were terrified of me! I’m not sure what he told them, but they seemed to
think I was royalty, and compared to them I thought I was! It took me arriving
at their house in tears, after hours of frustration, because I had no idea how
to give my baby a bath, before we could start understanding one another. I’m
glad they were in Nymphadora’s life. They couldn’t
buy her jewels and toys on a whim as shallow tokens of affection (like mine),
but they were always glad to have her stay for the weekend, to bake her cookies
and all sorts of sweets that made her more all the more hyper, and tell her
scary stories that would give her nightmares.
Yes, there were times when I felt very, very
resentful. Still, I can’t say that I regret any of it one bit. I wish I could
have grown up like Nymphadora, I might have turned
out a little bit better. We might all have turned out a little bit
better! I am not a believer that people are born evil, just with the potential
to be. That potential was nurtured in me, in Narcissa,
and in my cousins...
But not Bellatrix. She came into this world evil, I’m sure of it.
There was always something about her, some power that simmered beneath the
surface. And now, this...I would make her pay if I could! If only I were
a stronger witch, I would ger her for what she tried
to do to my daughter! If only I had an ounce of the strength that my cousin
Sirius. . .
Nymphadora rolled over again and opened her mouth, just
as Ted returned with the tea. He looked at me anxiously, and I shook my head.
It struck me as so sweet that such a big, gruff man can be so scared when his
little girl is hurt. I took his hand when he sat down, shifting a crumpled
piece of newspaper from one fist to the other
I glanced down at it– it was a newspaper
article about Sirius– and I continued thinking. . .
He was innocent this whole time. Here, in London,
hiding, and innocent. I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to scream at Nymphadora for not telling me! Could I have handled the
Sirius, bless him, was my strongest ally. He
was the only person in the family who could match Bella’s strength and talent
ounce-per-ounce. His mother just couldn’t stand him, this unstoppable force of
nature that challenged the very existence of her comfortable, pureblood world!
Ted and I never understood why Sirius went to
Azkaban. We could see him capable of those crimes; he was always so
brilliant, I never once doubted he could master a curse strong enough to kill
thirteen people. And it did not surprise me one bit that he could find a way to
escape the Dementors! We just couldn’t, however,
understand how my cousin, my fellow rebel and outcast, could turn around become
the perfect, respectable heir to the Blacks. Hadn’t he and I always been in the
same boat? Questioning our parents’ beliefs, and being saved from that path by
our friends and love ones? I couldn’t understand that part.
We used to get along famously, Sirius and I.,
even though I was several years older. I remember that his penchant for prank
playing began with tormenting my sisters and even his brother, and I (a
vindictive little brat) was a more than eager participant. After years of
having to pick maggots and mud out of their hair, I’m sure they all rejoiced
when we left the fold.
We didn’t see much of each other over the years,
what with me being disinherited and him running away. But, right up until the
day the Potters died, we wrote each other regularly, even sent gifts for the
holidays. He had a knack for finding exactly the right presents for Nymphadora. Child-sized racing brooms, toy dragons that
breathed fire, and muggle things called stilts (which
I swear she broke her arm, leg, and collarbone on) just to name a few.
I’d sometimes have to ask him to buy her gifts
in my name. My presents– princess dolls, pretty gowns and the like– would
always wind up at the very bottom of her closet. I swear, sometimes I find
myself at a loss when it comes to my daughter.
And now Sirius is back...well, technically
gone...Merlin’s beard, I don’t know what to think! I did not mourn the death of
my parents. I did not mourn the death of his parents or his brother. I did not
even mourn my sister going to prison. In fact, I found it annoying! In the
weeks leading up to and after her arrest, people would stop and stare at me in
the streets, sometimes doubling to make sure that what they were seeing was
real. I used to look an awful lot like Bellatrix back
then. People thought it was me they had seen in all the papers.
But did I mourn Sirius? I swore to myself I
wouldn’t. I thought he had become one of them. At last, all these years
later, I learned the truth after it was too late to save him. Why didn’t he
come to me? I would have helped, would have believed his stories. When it was
finally safe to mourn him, I felt more anger than sorrow.
All I really cared about, anyway, was my gangly
little girl, lying on that bed.
I sat up straight as a horrible thought came to
“Ted,” I whispered, “she was knocked out before
Sirius was killed. . .”
He didn’t say anything, which irritated me.
Nothing? No advice? No reassuring “It’ll be fine?” He felt like me, then. We
didn’t want to be the ones to break the news. Her horrible, soulless aunt
killed her cousin– my cousin! My most beloved cousin at that! And just
as she was getting to know him.
opened one eye and rubbed it groggily. My heart caught in my throat and I gave
a dry sob. Thank God! Thank God, she’ll be alright! I couldn’t even imagine how
much she ached. She wasn’t able to see clearly, either, for she stared at us
for several moments. It was several moments before a look of realization dawned
on her face, and she split into a weak grin.