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Batch 55 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Batch 55
Andromeda reaching the afterlife and her Ted.
for Anon

Andromeda Wintringham was ninety-eight years old, and she'd thought for the last ten years that, when this day came, she'd be quite looking forward to it.

Teddy had gone away, as was proper for a young man, and he'd raised a family, as was proper for a man in the fullness of his years. She was always welcome at Marauder's Roost, and she believed her great-grandchildren had enjoyed her presence. But with her eldest great-granddaughter and her eldest great-grandson both busy with beginning their own families, it was all beginning to seem distant. She couldn't pick most of her in-laws out of a crowd. Teddy was warm as he always was, and the Weasleys and Potters had certainly taken her in as one of their own and included her in their families, but after she'd married Ellsworth in her mid-seventies, they'd made a little life of their own, and her life with the far-flung family had become less pressing. Then Ellsworth had died, and Andromeda had never been able to recapture the sense of immediacy that she'd had with her great-grandchildren before. Old Grannydromeda... less real and vibrant than the painting of young Grannydora (now a great-grandmother herself, though she'd have none of the pleasure of it, just as she'd had none of the pleasure or pain of parenting Teddy), less amusing than Uncle James, part of an ancient world, known only in their history books, where pure-bloods had some sort of ultimate power, and she'd bravely thrown it away for love, and, apparently, for the principle of progress, though she didn't really remember thinking about changing the world when she and Ted had started stealing caresses in the Forbidden Forest.

So she had withdrawn to her house, the lovely one that had belonged to Mother Tonks, who seemed more real and closer than any of her great-grandchildren. Ted was always around the corner here, or perhaps just out of sight, puttering in his garden. She didn't believe this--she'd managed to avoid the madness of the Blacks, thank God--but her nerve endings, always more primitive than her mind, were quite certain of the matter. Dora was nearby, Remus's arm comfortably around her while they talked of a future they'd never have, and Cissy was always about to drop by for tea. It was a haunted life, and since Ellsworth had left her alone in her generation, she'd been eagerly looking forward to moving on from it, to going toward whatever lay beyond, either reuniting with those she loved, or ceasing to exist or care about her separation from them. She supposed it was theoretically possible that she would end up in a place of punishment--she'd been no saint--but she didn't believe God to be that cruel. And if He was, she supposed she could look forward to an eternity of making Bellatrix pay for her crimes, which was at least useful.

But now that the time was upon her, and her body was beginning to crumble from inside, she couldn't resist fighting. The fever burned hotly, and she felt like she was drowning in the cool sheets of her bed. Teddy was there with her, and Harry, and Lily. The others came and went, but they were constant, and they held her hand and kissed her forehead, and she wanted to stay, to not hurt them or leave them. Teddy was frantic. Lily was determined. Harry was stoic. It all seemed right.

In the end, she simply couldn't hold on. The end of her life's thread was thrashing in her hand like a fish, and, with one last, mighty thrust, it leapt away from her, into whatever great sea it had come from. She felt a last breath leave her lungs, then there was a moment of panic as she realized that they weren't taking in any new air. She opened her eyes and saw Teddy's dear face, and behind him, Harry, who looked strangely like Albus Dumbledore. The world contracted into darkness, and the last thing she saw was Teddy's right eye, so like Remus's eyes, and she thought, It's all right.

Then there was nothing.

She felt disconnected and frightened, and the emptiness around her was icy cold. Something brushed her hand and whispered, "'Dromeda."

She blinked.

Light began to seep into this place, a soft, green light, filtered through the canopy of ancient leaves. The Forbidden Forest. She could smell the moss and the damp earth.

She turned slowly, knowing where she was, what she would see. She could feel that her feet were bare, and she was wearing a flowing, brightly colored robe. There was a daisy-chain wrapped around her head like a crown, one long tendril falling over her shoulder. On the boulder behind her was a boy, barefoot, in flared blue jeans and a tie-dyed shirt whose patterns he'd Charmed to dance like a kaleidoscope.

Andromeda put her hand on her heart. "Ted."

He smiled. "Andomeda Black. As beautiful as ever."

She moved her hands to her face. She could feel her chest hitching to cry, though she couldn't understand how she could feel anything in a chest that was, for all intents and purposes, not there.

"We interpret what we feel through what we know," Ted said. "You'll learn other ways to feel."

Andromeda stumbled forward and fell into his embrace. "I've missed you!"

He wrapped his arms around her and patted her hair soothingly. "Falling on my face was always my role," he said.

Andromeda took a deep, shaky breath, and pulled back. "I... I... I haven't g-got my sea legs yet." She blinked, and tears blurred all of it. "Oh, Ted, is it real? Is Dora here? I tried to take care of her, I promised, and I tried, but she slipped away and I couldn't stop her and--"

"Shh." He put his hand on her face. "Dora's all right," he said. "I'll show her to you later. I expect you'll be surprised."

"Is it real?"

"It's real enough," Ted said. He stood up and held out his hand. "I've been waiting for you," he said.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to keep you waiting. I shouldn't have married Ellsworth, I know, I'm sorry--"

Ted shook his head. "I can't say I'm fond of the bloke, but d'you think I wanted you to be old alone?"

"I wanted to be old with you."

"That's what I wanted as well," Ted said. "But we didn't get that story, I'm afraid."

Andromeda took his hand and stood up. "I was just lonely."

"I know. So was he."

"Is he... here?"

"No. He's gone on."

"Gone on? Where?"

"No idea," Ted said. "Like I said, I've been waiting for you. I'd like to find out what there is to go on to, but not alone."

"Am I allowed? How long must I stay... wherever here is?"

Ted laughed. "You always assume there's a rule to find your way around."

"No, I just--"

"People stay close when they want to watch over their loved ones. As the loved ones get more distant, we... move on. You can stay here as long as you'd like. I'll wait with you." He waved his hand, and his Scrying Bowl appeared. Andromeda understood that this wasn't a real Scrying Bowl, any more than they were in the real Forbidden Forest.

"We interpret what we see by what we know," she guessed.

He nodded. "Look."

She looked into the Bowl, and saw Teddy sitting beside her body, weeping while Victoire held him. At the same instant, she could see each of her great-grandchildren receiving the news. Carina told the portrait of Dora and Remus. They all seemed genuinely to be grieving.

"Will they be all right?" she asked.

"The future is never stable," Ted said. "But... yes. I think so." The visions seemed to split off into roads, and Andromeda could see each of them in glimpses in the future, holding babies or performing the duties of their chosen professions. There was a great, dark stormcloud hanging overhead. "Is that another bloody war?" she asked.

Ted sighed. "I don't know. And Andromeda? I don't want to see it."

She looked at it, and turned away. "Nor do I," she said.

They looked at each other and nodded, then Ted turned toward a path that led deeper into the Forest. He gave Andromeda's hand a friendly, familiar tug, and she went with him into whatever there was.

I wonder what Joe and Miriam would think of the portrait of Remus and Dora? Garveys can be included, too, if you like.
for Anon

After the war, there'd been a great deal of debate in the Wizengamot about the fate of the Muggles who'd helped wizards and witches escape.

There was a loud faction arguing that any knowledge retained was a de facto violation of the International Statute of Secrecy. "There was obviously a reason for it during the war," a woman called Edgecombe had said, "though we'll be explaining it to our allies for a long time to come. But now that the war is over, it is clearly time to start respecting our international treaties again. If we allow these Muggles, however bravely they performed in our war, and however grateful we are, to continue to participate in the Wizarding World, then we have reneged on our promise to the international wizarding community."

The response from the other side, led by Gawain Robards, had boiled down to, "Hang the international community, these are our friends."

The argument had gone on for weeks. Harry Potter, the boy whose bravery had finally brought an end to the war (though Miriam didn't understand the mechanism), hadn't taken sides. He'd simply haunted Andromeda Tonks's house and held Remus and Dora's baby. Miriam had decided not to argue her case. These people needed her help now, and she would help them. If she didn't remember doing so later, then so be it. She poured out all of Andromeda's liquor, and stayed up with her at night while she cried. She made tea for Harry while he debriefed Aurors on what he'd learned during his year of preparation to fight Voldemort. They were still frantically trying to capture several Death Eaters. Finally, Kingsley Shacklebolt, who was serving as Minister for Magic, looked up when Miriam handed him a teacup. He said, "Thank you, Mrs. Levinson." And the next day, he went before the Wizengamot and ended the debate. The vote to allow them to keep their memories and their contacts was narrow, but it passed. The Granger girl found legal precedents ("all outdated, of course, but adaptable"), and since then, the question of Obliviating the Levinsons and Garveys, or Daniel Morse (who had other reasons to know now, of course), or any of the others who'd helped, hadn't come up again. Miriam had got used to a world of ghosts and Dark creatures and Curses and talking mirrors. And she'd always been enchanted by the portraits--imagine, being able to speak to them! She'd wondered what the Mona Lisa would say, if she could talk, and wondered about the changes that might be wrought by introducing modern styles into the wizarding world. She'd enjoyed a tour of the portraits in the school, given to her by Dennis Creevey, one summer, and she'd laughed quite heartily at a little knight called Sir Cadogan.

She stared now at Remus and Dora Lupin, as they'd been when she'd first met them, in the guise of Raymond and Dora Lewis. They were dancing badly in the kitchen of Harry's house, while their friend Sirius lounged at the table behind them.

Miriam Levinson had never hated anything so much in her life. It was ghastly.

In all of her time talking to the portraits, she hadn't once thought of them has having been living people with pains and triumphs of their own. They'd been an amusing show to watch, a looped recording of stars she had no memory of. But now, here were Dora and Remus, who she'd loved as her own children, captured in this flat medium, forever trapped in a single circle of memories. She imagined that the parents of an actress who'd died young and horribly might feel this way watching her in a particularly banal television role, with a canned laugh track going on behind it.

"Gives me the shivers," Joe said, coming up behind her. "I think Andromeda feels that way, too." He looked anxiously at the painting, but it didn't appear to have heard.

"We can't say anything to Teddy."

"No, of course not. He never knew them, and this... this is a good substitute for him. He can talk to them and argue with them and have nice small talk with them. His children will be able to know something about them, and laugh with them. It's a gift for Teddy. And for Harry, I suppose. But I'll not be looking at any of those damned portraits the same way again now."

Miriam nodded. Her eye went back to the portrait, where Dora had gone to stir the cauldron. She grinned cheekily at Remus, and he blushed. Sirius had disappeared to his other portrait at some point. Miriam shuddered. "She'll never finish brewing the potion."

"At least that means he won't have to drink it," Joe suggested. "He always hated the taste of the stuff."

Miriam was surprised by a laugh. "Yes, he did, didn't he? I wonder if Teddy knows that."

"He's got the ring. I imagine he knows a good bit."

"I suppose."

They moved closer to the portrait, and watched it for a bit. Dora noticed them, and came forward. "Joe! Miriam! Wotcher... read any good books lately?"

Miriam swallowed hard. Dora had been in her book club, even that final year. They'd read a novel by Milton Steinberg called As A Driven Leaf, about the traitor Elisha ben Abuyah. Dora had been fond of the story, but thought the writing was simply awful. "I... er... not really," she said. "My eyes have been going. I haven't read much."

"Mm. Pity. I shall have to ask Teddy to read to us sometimes," Dora mused.

"Not Fifi LaFolle," Remus said fondly. "I think we should keep that between ourselves."

"I think Dean may have supplied us with a Fifi book. Check the shelf." Dora nodded over toward the storage shelves.

"Will there be anything in it?" Remus asked.

"Only one way to find out."

Miriam closed her eyes. She was relatively sure of the answer. How could a book inside this painting have anything in it? How could anything in this painting have an inside?

"Ha!" Remus said, retrieving it. "Dean called it Dora's Devotion. Look, it's the cover I drew for you! Teddy must have found it somewhere."

Miriam blinked rapidly and turned away, clinging to Joe's arm. "I can't," she said, then looked back at the portrait. "Enjoy... well... I hope your book..." She shook her head. "Goodbye, Dora."

Dora looked stunned. "Was it something I said?"

Miriam shook her head, and let Joe lead her away.

7 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 21st, 2009 08:20 am (UTC) (Link)
That first one... wow, it's hard to imagine the loneliness that must come from getting so old and watching everyone slip away. You really made me feel it.

Aw, poor Joe and Miriam. I bet it would be really heartwrenching to see a portrait like that of someone you actually cared about. I do wonder about that book, though. I remember reading the excerpt earlier. Was this mentioned in one of the stories?

- Severely Lupine
beceh From: beceh Date: February 21st, 2009 11:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I love you, Fern. Seriously, it is a privelege to be able to read your writing, you understand and write your charachters so well.

Thank you very much for sharing your writing with us all.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: February 21st, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh... at least poor Andromeda had a nice life with Teddy and his children and Ellsworth. At least she had some happiness after the horror. If there was anything that made me furious after reading DH, was her fate. Why couldn't she leave Ted alive, at least?

I am so very curious about the first days after the war- I think about them frequently. So good of Miriam to be there...

Awesome writing. Thanks, Fern.
From: amethystbeloved Date: February 21st, 2009 04:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fernwithy, you know that I'm a huge fan of yours (I'm a bit at a halt on the LJ HP fics reviews, but I'll get to them!), and I think that I mentioned that across the span of time periods that you've written about, Ted and Andromeda will always be my favorites. I was incredible excited when I saw this challenge listed, and it was probably the one that I was looking forward to the most. And it answered so many of my questions! It was wonderful to see that your Mr. Wintringham wooed her into marriage. I knew that she wasn't the biggest fan of the portraits and now see why. Her reunion with Ted was so beautiful.

If you were to ever to do another challenge call (even if it is until next Christmas), I'll be requesting for the moment that Andromeda realized that Ted was hopelessly in love with her. With your Marauders' Roost fic, you had Teddy and Victoire realize their feelings for each other at the same time. But from Of A Sort, we see that Ted was smitten from the moment he met Andi. I'm just curious to see when her feelings were reciprocated!
redlily From: redlily Date: February 21st, 2009 04:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now that's an interesting reaction to a portrait that JKR never shows us -- and it's so believable. The comparison to an actress who dies young was so accurate. Poor Miriam and Joe.
at_upton From: at_upton Date: February 21st, 2009 06:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
What a haunting description of growing old. This bit: "So she had withdrawn to her house, the lovely one that had belonged to Mother Tonks, who seemed more real and closer than any of her great-grandchildren." got me crying. I'm twenty, and I can't imagine it. I think I'm going to go call my grandmother now.

Thank you for the care, thought, and talent you put into these challenges every day. They've been brightening my morning for months.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 22nd, 2009 04:34 am (UTC) (Link)
I love what you've done with both the possibilities and limitations of the portraits. On one hand, for the people left behind, there is a semblance of the personality they loved so well - for all intents and purposes, Remus and Dora do act like Remus and Dora. On the other hand, they are so limited that for someone who actually knew them, it must be incredibly ghoulish - maybe even more so because the potraits don't understand the extent of their own limitations.

Thank you so much for answering so many of these challenge calls - I love reading them!

7 comments or Leave a comment