Length: 3300 words
Summary: With her daughter in hospital, Andromeda steels herself to commit the unthinkable.
Warnings: Non-consensual abortion, arguably sacreligious use of Catholic iconography and customs
Author's note/Disclaimer: This was a fic I wrote, once again, with the hopes of at least offending someone. It turned out to be rather averagely reviewed and thus far no flaming, but w/e. Everything here is pure speculation and I make no comment or judgement about either side of the abortion debate, suffice to say I hate 'em both. JKR owns stuff. This is also probably the most serious of all my fics because nobody is throwing up or putting squirrells down their pants for purposes of gambling.
Andromeda decorated the room in pink, because she knew it was going to be a little girl. Frilly pink lace with a broderie anglaise valance, and delicate mosquito netting in the palest rose. Carpet in a warm cream, and on the dresser a little porcelain figure of Peter Rabbit, courtesy of Ted's sister. And at the back of the top drawer of the dresser, a string of rosary beads with garnet stones, courtesy of Ted's mother.
Sometimes, when Ted was asleep and she couldn't shut her mind off for the quietest of seconds, she would come in and lie on the bed prepared beside the cot, holding her belly and picking at the scabs on her hands and face, trying to avoid the lump the size of an egg on her forehead that would never completely heal.
The baby kicked sometimes, impatient and uncaring of whether she hurt her host, and sometimes Andromeda felt it was tearing her open from the inside. On those nights in the nursery, she never slept: sometimes she cried, for hours, afraid and paranoid that her sisters were outside her window, waiting to claw open her belly and snatch her baby away from her; sometimes, she read the books in the library, irritated that Ted's mother should try and push her Aesop's at her child; mostly, she lay awake, her eyes growing tired but her body staying alert, trying to think of how she'd got into this mess, a voice singing in her ear that this was all folly.
They let Andromeda see her when they said her heart rate was stable. She almost pushed them aside, running in and grabbing her daughter's hand and kissing her roughly, crying while she stroked the soft skin on her little girl's cheek and recoiling when she saw the wounds on her abdomen and arms.
She is still so small, she thought to herself, with her diminutive figure and delicate features, soft hands and velvety skin. Her big brown eyes always lent to her appearance of eternal childhood, and her little lips were thin, like her paternal grandmother's. She kissed her daughter, rocking her and trying to bite back the sobs that came from the bottom of her gut at the knowledge that the last of the kin she still loved was dead. She was so like him, her daughter: so beautifully natured and optimistic and bold: so eager to do the right thing that she would often do the wrong in the process.
There were others who'd waited outside the hospital room to see her, she knew, but unlike the last time she was in hospital with her daughter he wasn't there: nose pressed against the glass, making crude jokes with her husband while clapping him on the back and toasting him on his remarkable testicular fortitude. It was a quieter group, now, a tall black wizard holding her wand and a familiar looking older wizard in cheap old robes stalking away down the corridor, kicking at any inanimate object in his path and his face in his hands.
She was a vexing baby, the little one, always screaming and clutching her tiny fists for things that could never satisfy her. She tired Andromeda out with her colic and her insomnia and her incessant crying. Sometimes, as she looked down on her little daughter, with messed up hair and a throbbing headache, Andromeda resented the baby, not knowing why she hated the very thing that she'd fled to protect. She hated that she'd laid herself naked, in front of the world, with no sisters to hold her hand and pull the hair back from her face, only to have the reason for her exile being ripped from her body and laid in her arms, the ugly red face almost mocking her as she struggled to stay awake and console the inconsolable.
She hadn't woken up in the two days she'd been in hospital, but the healers said that they had hope for her yet. Her cousin's death had finally eaten away at Andromeda's grief so much that she didn't feel a thing, the necessities of life only barely registering to her. She could go through an entire day without thinking to get a drink of water for herself, or to say hello to her husband, who'd shared vigil over their daughter. She barely listened to a word the healer said: somewhere, she thought she could hear words like 'bleeding' and 'plasma' and 'spleen', but they filtered out through the other ear, almost. It was on the word 'baby' that her ears pricked and an icy stone sank to the bottom of her stomach.
They told her that all was fine. Unharmed. Of course, the first trimester was the most dangerous and as such they wanted to keep her several days more, just to be certain. A vice gripped her insides and squeezed the hope out of her soul, and the cynical little voice, so cruel like her sisters', rang in her ear that not for the first time, her little one was going to slip from her grasp.
She'd taken to wearing the rosary beads as a decorative necklace whenever she played dress-ups: too young to realise their significance and hardly brought up with care paid to explaining it. She'd run about the house, with her mother's high-heeled shoes and pantyhose and a frilly white dress, trying to find someone to get married to. She'd only be shamed to take the get-up off when Sirius came to see her and he would laugh at her, saying that marriage was the sort of thing that only stupid people wanted. She always left the beads on, of course, because with the removal of the pantyhose and high-heels she became an Elven princess who was being kept hostage by the magical powers of her cursed jewels.
Andromeda often pondered as to whether the sacrilege ought be stopped, but she was never one to bow to popular opinion or command.
It took a day or two to ascertain that the older man who'd waited outside her daughter's room on that first day was the father of the baby: a werewolf, no less, with no employment prospects or means of taking care of her daughter, let alone a child.
She screamed at him for hours that day, and though he pleaded that he never knew of her condition, and had never intended to harm her or place her in this predicament, she rained her insults and offences against him mercilessly, and after her anger had given way to grieving, her grieving gave way to bartering. She pleaded with him to leave her daughter be, to take whatever human decency he had left, if any, and to never see her little girl again. He protested, but in a bitter voice she hurled all sorts of accusations about his character and predilection for young victims, her mouth frothing and the veins popping out of her temples.
After she'd torn down all of his humanity he relented, struggling to maintain his dignity and composure as he walked, slowly, out of the hospital, promising to write her little girl a letter of explanation.
It was lucky that it had only been her who'd been hurt. She'd pleaded for her life then, for her baby's life, as Bella pinned her down on the floor and scratched at her eyes, and punched at her stomach and Cissy stood above and watched, cold and impassive. She promised if they let her go, she'd take care of the matter herself, humanely, under the supervision of a healer. It was Cissy who called Bella off, perhaps, in one of her rare moments of compassion. She never looked back that day, running away to Ted's house in tears, bloody and with fingernail marks down her cheek. It was Ted's mother who'd insisted they marry, her lips face pinched and sour, insisting that no matter what sort of culture she'd come from she'd do best to obey her God while she was sheltering under their roof.
She found an eager seller sooner than she'd expected: handing over what seemed to be an unreasonably high sum of money for the little vial. She pocketed it, not meeting the vendor's eyes, not knowing whether it was fear of being caught that reined in her confidence or mortification. She didn't want to remain in Knockturn Alley any longer than she had to, weaving her way quickly through the stalls and throngs of unwashed.
A part of her felt relief that she'd found a solution so quickly: that she was doing the right thing by helping her daughter all she could. Right then she wanted nothing more than to return to the hospital and shower her girl with flowers and kisses and warm reassurances that she'd be stronger and braver than ever, with nothing to hold her back: not shackled to the sickly infant of a ne'er-do-well and vicious monster.
The other part of her had died long ago.
She was never in danger of being the favourite: Narcissa's prettiness and Bella's cleverness always edged out poor little mediocre Andromeda with her plain face and average intelligence. She was just the nuisance: misbehaving in front of the family, speaking back to her elders, falling pregnant so young and running away, shaming her family by taking up with Muggle born scum.
She found out about her mother's passing a week after it happened. She wondered if it made her a bad person that she felt no remorse or sadness. Of course, even if she were invited to the funeral she wouldn't have gone, because her daughter was being difficult and prohibited her from leaving the house. It was that difficulty, perhaps, that forced her to empathise with her mother for the first time on how hard it was to love a child with patience and tolerance and unwavering compassion. But sometimes, the memories of her mother's coldness to her in comparison to the kisses and frequent gifts bestowed upon her sisters came back to her, and she shuddered to think she could be so similarly selfish a mother. She resolved, on that day, to always shower her child with an abundance of love and care so that she wouldn't grow into the emotional void she felt she was becoming herself. But her child was still so difficult, so vexing and tiring. Sometimes she tried, for hours, to set her child's mind at ease that there were no monsters under her bed, and that Sirius wouldn't break out in the night to come and hurt her, but no matter how hard she tried she couldn't soothe her daughter's soul.
It was then that Andromeda started to pray, as her mother-in-law had tried to guilt her into doing for years now.
Her daughter finally awoke, looking sickly and tired and still suffering the effects of the sleeping potions they'd pumped into her. Andromeda lay by her side, kissing her cheek and opening a glass vial with a shaky hand and an even shakier smile.
How are you my darling?
"I-- sick, need--"
She retched all over the bedsheets, tears streaming down her cheeks and her body convulsing. Andromeda pushed her back down onto the bed, wiping her face and shushing her. It's all right. I'm here for you my darling.
"Oh, Mum, I... it's all my... Sirius..."
Hush, darling, hush. Settle down. She raised the vial so her daughter could see it. You need to drink this, Nymphadora, because it will make you heal faster.
Her little girl regarded the potion with as much suspicion as her brain would allow her. "I... what's wrong..."
You need to drink it, darling. It's very important.
"But the healers told me this morning I didn't need any more, I was fine--"
Andromeda shushed her with a finger to her lips, kissing her on the cheek once more and holding her hand. Darling, you are tired and you cannot think straight. Healer Smethwyck said you must drink this, or there could be complications from the other potions you took. Please, for me?
Shh. Quiet, little baby. She gently pried her daughter's lips open, spilling the contents of the vial into her mouth. Swallow it for me darling. Swallow it and you'll be normal again, better than ever, I promise.
She did this, coughing and crying still. Her daughter closed her eyes and Andromeda held her close, clutching her small hand in her own roughened one and kissing her forehead. The mild anaesthetising properties in the potion slowed the breathing, and soon she was in a semi-conscious state, tossing and turning on the pillow.
After a few minutes, she whimpered, clutching at her stomach, and Andromeda's heart broke for her child. She whispered comfortings into her daughter's ears, but nothing seemed to take her mind off her pain as she writhed on her bed. Her heart-shaped face was screwed up in agony, and with a stab in her heart, Andromeda could hear her cry for her man, to cry for help because she felt like she was being killed inside. She couldn't bring herself, then and there, to tell her daughter of what she'd done to the man she loved, so she just lay with her until her cramps subsided and she was calm again. The girl was too fatigued to notice the blood on her sheets or her mother ripping them out from underneath her and casting a bleaching charm on them.
The next time she wore the white frilly dress, it seemed to fit her better: she'd twirled around in it about a hundred times, at least. It took Andromeda at least ten minutes to sit her down and braid the white ribbons into her hair, all the while her daughter trying to spin around and talk to anyone who'd walk into the room.
"D'you think Nan will like my dress? Will the priest think it's pretty?"
"I hardly think your dress will be the focus of his comments, Nymphadora - hold still!"
"I know exactly what I have to say, Mum. After he says what I have to do, I have to say this: 'Oh my God, I am very sorry for all my sins, because they offend you who are so good, and with your help I will not sin again'."
"I hardly think you have any sin to atone for."
Her daughter sat in the chair quietly for a minute, reflective. "I smacked Charlie Weasley while we were playing trains, Mum. Should I tell the priest that?"
"It would be a good start."
"And then," she said, swinging her legs, "I will say however many Hail Mary's he tells me to, that's what Nan says. But what if he makes me say another prayer? I don't know the Lord's Prayer very well, will I be in trouble if I forget any of it?"
Andromeda tugged at a knot in her daughter's hair. "If there's anything I've learned from your nan, Nymphadora, it's that you can always get in trouble for something."
She wondered, when her daughter appeared on her doorstep in hysterics, if she was finally meeting some form of divine retribution for her actions. Her daughter kept saying, over and over again, that she couldn't change anymore, as she tore at a crop of lank mousy hair. "It's brown, it's still brown, it can't change, I don't want it, I... Mum? What's happening to me?"
Andromeda regretted carrying out the transaction as hastily as she did, forgetting to enquire about the possible side-effects the potion would have. She held her daughter, telling her not to worry, because in the morning it would all be fine again and her powers would come back, as strong as ever.
She looked so powerless that night, frightened and uncomprehending like a child being scolded too harshly for a crime she didn't commit. Andromeda's stomach curdled at the thought that she'd hurt her own child, because she couldn't do such a thing to her. Not like her mother. No, not like her.
She led her daughter, crying, up to her old bedroom and lay her down upon the moth-eaten pink bedspread. Peter Rabbit had collected dust, and the pages of Aesop had yellowed over time, the book still open on the floor from when Andromeda used to read to her as a child. It had never occurred to her to pick up the book and treat it and its teachings with some sort of reverence, and she kicked it out of the way so she wouldn't slip over on it.
"He's left me," she said, crying. "He said... Mum, what's wrong with me, why wouldn't he love me, I--" She dissolved into tears, burying her face in the pillow.
Andromeda picked at the rosy mosquito netting, no longer hanging gracefully but sagging and greyed with dust and age. I'm so truly sorry, sweetheart. My poor darling. The bastard.
"I was... oh, God. Mum, I... I was going to have a baby. I didn't want to tell you because you never knew him and I was too young, but... and it... I must've lost it, because it hasn't grown, I don't get sick in the mornings any more, I just--" She sobbed again, clenching the frilly pillow case and her lungs heaving. "I shouldn't have fought, I shouldn't have gone there, Sirius would be here and my baby wouldn't be gone and he... he would've stayed with me, if he knew I had a baby..."
Oh, darling. I will love you no matter what, no matter--
"Please. I just... I want to be alone."
But don't you want me to stay with you--
"Leave me be, please?"
Andromeda nodded, her throat dry and painful and her eyes stinging. Of course. She gave her daughter a final kiss on the head, standing slowly and reshelving Aesop.
And as she closed her daughter's door quietly behind her, like she had a million times before, she thought back of her own flight to the Bethlehem of her mother-in-law's house and how her sisters had torn into her like harpies, trying to kill her child and rip away any evidence of her femininity.
It was different this time, she tried to tell herself. They wanted to hurt me. I only wanted to help my little girl. I've done the right thing, she kept trying to tell herself. I only want to do what's best for her. I love her. I would never hurt her, I love her.
It was that last message that took the most convincing.