Anyway, two years ago, I wrote a vignette about little Andromeda and even littler Sirius, in which they take a walk outside of Grimmauld Place, and I figured I'd pick up, say, ten years later, when Andromeda is eighteen or nineteen and newly married.
His little hand is warm in mine as we walk across the windy square outside Auntie’s house. He gives me a frightened look. Auntie has had five years to make him fear Muggles, but I won’t let him be afraid.
We walk together, Sirius humming Christmas carols and looking up with increasingly mischievous smiles. A little church stands at the corner. I bring us to a bench beneath a barren tree and brush away the snow.
The bells are ringing and people are leaving, laughing and wishing one another Happy Christmas. A mother and son come out, arms linked, singing a jolly song. The mother does a little dance and curtsies to her son. He claps. They do not see us. I wonder what it would be like to be a part of their world, and to go home to a cheap flat and a cheerful dance instead of to the drafty corridors of Number 12, Grimmauld Place.
They disappear around a corner and Sirius leans into me, a warm place in the cold. I kiss his head and wish him Happy Christmas, and he kisses my cheek and wishes me the same.
After a long while, we head back.
Andromeda wasn't sure whether the baby liked the pipe organ or hated it, but whatever the reason, the sound of it certainly made her (or him, she supposed) active.
"Dancing a bit, is she?" Mother Tonks asked, leaning over as the congregation sat down, apparently noticing the way Andromeda kept touching her belly. Andromeda nodded.
"You feeling all right?" Ted asked from her other side, looking nervous and solicitous, which had been his dominant expression since they'd learned she was pregnant. "Are you feeling all right?" had replaced "Wotcher" as his daily greeting. To her, at least. The baby seemed to get his more everyday babble as he lay beside her at night, going on about what great fun the world would be, and how much the baby would like it. Andromeda hoped this wasn't going to be a permanent state of affairs. He'd caught her crying about it one day, and explained that he reckoned anything bad she might be feeling was, "er, a bit my fault," and therefore he had to look after her, so she thought it was reasonable to hope that when they were back on equal footing, baby-wise, Ted would just be Ted again. Mother Tonks grinned fondly at the whole thing, and, to Andromeda's relief, continued to talk to her about other things, at least sometimes.
The parson seemed ready to go into a very long sermon after the hymn ended, and, while Andromeda didn't want to offend the man, she had discovered to her embarrassment that the baby didn't leave quite as much room for other things inside her as she was accustomed to, and she nearly always had to excuse herself in the middle of long sessions of anything. She decided it was better to slip out before he started and slip back in during the sermon than to actually slip out during the sermon and make it look like a staged disagreement of some sort. She tapped Ted's shoulder and smiled apologetically. He blushed and let her out, and she slipped out the back door of the sanctuary and down to the toilets in the basement. When she finished, she went back to the foyer and stood by the doors, waiting for what seemed in an inconspicuous moment to slip back inside.
The church was usually drafty, but it was quite crowded tonight and all of those bodies made it uncomfortably warm. The front doors had actually been cracked open to let in some air. It felt heavenly on her face, and she moved closer. A light snow had fallen--rather unexpectedly--and the scrawny trees that lined the street had a soft, puffy look to them. The lamp post had a hazy halo, and across the street, a bus stop bench looked as if it had been dipped in sugar.
I've been here before, Andromeda thought, and of course it was true--Mother Tonks came here much more regularly than Andromeda had heard of anyone going--but she thought it was a more distant memory than the six months of her life in the Not Particularly Ancient But Quite Delightful House of Tonks.
A dark figure stepped out of the shadows beyond the bench, moving nervously, flicking snow from its shoulders, shaking it from the hem of his...
It was a small, slight figure, and her first thought was that it was one of her sisters. Andromeda spread her hands protectively over her belly and took a step back from the door.
The figure stepped further into the light.
Andromeda let her hands fall to her sides, and stepped back into the doorway.
The figure stepped back, startled. "Andromeda?" it called softly. "Is that you?"
Of course. She was only four streets over from Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. She'd come this way with Sirius, long ago.
She grabbed someone's coat from the bar next to the door--she'd have run out without one last year, but had found herself considerably more cautious about such things this year--and dashed outside. "Sirius," she said, putting her arms around him. "Oh, Sirius, Happy Christmas! Why are you here?"
He was staring at her belly, blinking. "You're, er..."
"I know. It takes some getting used to."
"I remembered we came here once," he said. "I thought... Well, I didn't really think you'd be here... I just..." He blinked at her belly a bit longer. "You're... is that why you, erm... well, when I helped you out, I didn't know... Not that I wouldn't have helped, of course, but..."
She laughed. "It's a new situation since then."
"Oh. Right. When, um... well... are you... when is it?"
"Early May," Andromeda said. She hugged him again. "Oh, Sirius, I'm so happy to see you, and please stop being shocked. I am married, for heaven's sake."
"Right... Are you all right? Are you living somewhere warm?"
"Ted and I moved in with his mum. She's been perfectly lovely about it."
"Oh. I'm glad... I mean, I suppose you must want your own, but--"
"Not really. Ted goes on about it, but I'm used to a much fuller house. I don't mind it actually." They stood awkwardly for a long time. "Have you seen my sisters?"
He nodded. "They're up at the house now. Bellatrix is talking about marrying that Lestrange idiot."
"She's a copycat with horrible taste," Andromeda said, but in truth, she didn't feel like abusing her sister. "Is she well?"
"Other than being barking mad? She's fine."
"She's gone off on this pure-blood business again. She sounds like Mum. And you know how Mum is."
Andromeda nodded, not wanting to talk about her aunt. "And Narcissa?"
Sirius shrugged. "They seem all right."
"Did they mention me at all?" Sirius looked down uncomfortably, and Andromeda wished she could take the question back. Instead, she just held up her hand to stop him from saying any of the things she didn't want to hear tonight. "How's Regulus?" she asked.
"Still an annoying little git."
"I miss having someone to talk to. I'm... well, you know I'm not supposed to be talking to you, right? Someone has told you that?"
"The threat was made before I left. I guessed they'd followed through on it. You can leave if you feel you should."
"Back to the bloody asylum? No thanks." He grinned. "Like I give a rip who Mum burns--" His eyes widened and he stepped back. "Er, well, you know, says I can't talk to."
"Burns?" Andromeda said, then realized, "The family tree. I should have guessed that." She patted her belly. "I'm sorry, little one. I suppose you won't make an appearance there, either."
"Wish I was bloody off it," Sirius said suddenly. "I hate her. I hate her for burning you off."
Andromeda smiled to herself. She'd learned long ago that it was useless to point out to Sirius that his fury about the burn marks on the family tree was hardly a good indication of how much he loathed it. "Don't hate her," she said. "She's your mum, and it's Christmas Eve."
"Like she cares."
Andromeda thought about Sirius and his mother, and about her own mother accepting her aunt's decree, and she thought about the child inside of her and couldn't begin to understand either of them. She sat down on the bench, patting it to invite Sirius. When he sat down, she cuddled him as she used to when they were children, though he was getting big enough now that it felt a bit awkward. He didn't seem to mind. "You could come in with me," she said. "We were going to have a late supper after services, and I'm sure Mother Tonks wouldn't mind."
He sighed. "I'd best not. They'd find us, and I think maybe you ought to"--he glanced at her belly--"not catch their attention just now, you know. I think... I think they wouldn't be properly happy."
Andromeda swallowed back a lump in her throat, and forced a smile. "As opposed to your levels of unmitigated joy?"
He laughed softly. "I was surprised, that's all. I am happy. I mean, normally, another Black in the world wouldn't be a good thing, but I'd guess it'll be fine with you and Ted. Can it hear me?"
"I think so."
He frowned at her belly, then shook his head. "I can't think of anything to say. Well, maybe Happy Christmas." He smiled and nodded. "Right. Happy Christmas, Andromeda's baby."
"I don't think you'll get an answer," Andromeda said when she noticed that he seemed to be waiting for something to happen. "I'll tell her to say it back just as soon as she can."
He laughed, and glanced at a clock that was mounted by a bank. "I need to go back."
He stood and started to leave, but Andromeda ran after him. "Sirius, will you do something for me? It's horrible and will require all of your Gryffindor courage."
"Well, I can't very well say no if it's my Gryffindor courage on the line."
"Hug your brother. And my parents. And my sisters. Don't tell them it's from me, but... it's from me. And tell them Happy Christmas. If you're feeling especially brave, kiss your mum's cheek as well."
"There some things even a Gryffindor won't do," Sirius said, rolling his eyes. "But I'll do the rest. They'll think I've gone around the bend, but I'll do it."
They didn't say anything else. Sirius smiled at her oddly, then flipped up the collar of his cloak and disappeared toward Grimmauld Place. Andromeda went back into the church and put the stranger's coat back where she'd found it, then slipped into the sanctuary, where Ted was waiting with a dear, anxious look on his face. She sat down beside him and snuggled into his open arm, just as the world broke into song again.