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03 December 2012 @ 06:28 am
Fic: Undertow for magic_knickers  
Title: Undertow
Author: ???
Rating: PG
Length: 1427 words
Characters: Narcissa Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange, Andromeda Tonks
Summary: It's hard to remember if you have to fight the current or swim with it to stay alive. Set during Deathly Hallows.
Author's Notes: Merry Christmas, magic_knickers! Your prompts were all great, and I hope Black sister angst fits the bill.


The foamy wavelets curled up to her white feet, and coiled like serpents about her ankles.
She walked out. The water was chill, but she walked on.

(Kate Chopin, The Awakening)


***


i. the voice of the sea is seductive

"Do you remember when we went to the beach at Cornwall?" she asked Bellatrix, one week after her sister had crashed unceremoniously back into her neatly ordered life. Maybe, Narcissa thought, she could draw out the Bella-That-Was from the haunted, cruel shell of the woman sitting in front of her.

Bellatrix's gaze softened, and her clenched fists opened to slowly stroke the velvet of the sofa. The fire flickered across her hollow face.

"I think so," she finally replied. "I remember mother telling us the merpeople would snatch us if we went out too far. And didn't you almost drown?"

"I was pretending to be Ophelia," Narcissa said quickly. "And besides, that's not the point of the story."

Her sister's face twisted into a sneer and her eyes took on their customary wild look. "Your stories never have a point, Cissy."

(But there was a point, even if Narcissa couldn't explain it. The precariously balanced sandcastle. The jewel-like gleam of sun on water. Andromeda, everywhere, laughing and splashing. Three sisters stargazing, sandy ankles intertwined.)

*


The night Lucius was captured at the Ministry, she had the old nightmare about drowning. Heartbroken Ophelia, pushed under the waves and tossed like a rag doll by the current. She woke up at the moment the air ran out, gasping for breath and fighting with the blankets. A moment later, an elf arrived to tell her that the Aurors were outside.

The real terror, she realized later, was not the roar of the waves or the burning in her chest. The real terror was how she had been seconds away from giving up. If you stop fighting for a moment, she knew, the water wraps soft arms around you. Then it becomes hard to remember why you were fighting to begin with.

*


"Do you remember the beach?" Bellatrix asked herself. She said the words out loud; even now she was not sure what words were in her head and what words weren't. Her voice still felt scratchy and raw. She coughed.

"Yes," she told herself hoarsely, "You do." There had been weeks of seagulls and postcards and salty air. There had been shells. A big blue sky. But when she closed her eyes and tried to remember it, to see it again, there was only blackness. The room Narcissa had given her was covered in dark, claustrophobic purple velvet. She couldn't breathe. Her hand had been relaxed and it curled again into a fist. Today, she could feel the nails digging into her palm (sometimes, she couldn't even feel that). She exhaled.

Narcissa was silly. There was no point to the story. There was no story. Azkaban had taken everything, but he would give it back.

*


The night the Dark Lord returned, torrential rain had nearly flooded Azkaban. Curled up in a corner, she had felt the Mark burn, glow again, a moment of bright heat in the dampness. She could suddenly remember him clearly. She could remember why she was fighting. He would set them free soon. It wasn't happy, exactly, but it was certain, and they couldn't take certainty away.

The waves parted; she emerged, lungs filled with air.

*


"I have to go," Ted told her, and Andromeda held on to him until he pried her stiff fingers from his shoulders and gently shut the door. He didn't look back, and she pressed her wet, salty face against the window, straining to see him. It will be safer for both of us, he had said. They won't come after you at all, and I can manage in the woods. It's only for a little while. If she had been braver or cleverer or better, she would have found a way to stop him.

There was a collection of seashells and driftwood on the mantle; Dora was always finding and adding things every time they went to the beach. And Ted, the packrat, couldn't bear to throw any of it away. But as Andromeda looked at them now, she thought instead of when she had gone to the beach with her sisters. Narcissa had almost drowned, and she still remembered the plunging feeling in her stomach as she had watched the waves push her little sister in.

Narcissa had been fine, of course, but the point of the story was that you couldn't save everyone.

*


The night Ted was killed, Andromeda slept well. She dreamed about weeks of salty air and postcards from far away and a flock of seagulls in flight. She woke up, refreshed and hopeful, and walked downstairs in the dim light to make a cup of tea, humming.

Kinglsey's patronus was waiting in the kitchen, and she almost forgot how to breathe.

***


ii. the touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace

"Do you remember when we went to the beach at Cornwall?" she asked Bellatrix. The dim light and cold drafts of the Forbidden Forest surrounded them. Bella-That-Was had vanished, she knew, but it was a game Narcissa played sometimes. If you were lucky, you could see a spark of her in the new Bellatrix. (Most times, you weren't lucky.)

"You almost drowned," Bellatrix said cruelly. "You've always been weak. In need of rescuing, like your worthless husband, like your son. I thought at least Draco showed promise, but I was wrong." There were no signs that the woman across from her had once been her best friend.

Narcissa said nothing as they watched Harry Potter fall. She placed her hand on his chest and felt a heartbeat, strong and rapid against her fingers. What a miracle to not drown, she thought, when the waves were all around you.

"He is dead," Narcissa announced, and this time she did the rescuing and pulled them back to shore.

*


Molly Weasley was an idiot, Bellatrix thought as she rolled over to dodge a hex. A shabby little housewife, trying to take down the best duellist who ever lived? (Had she been the best? Sometimes, she wasn't sure. When she tried to remember people telling her that, there was just blackness.)

Her words echoed around the cavernous room, and she suddenly felt alive and clear, just like when the Mark had burned. There was a point to the story. There was a story, and this was it. She was exhilarated.

She was laughing as the spell hit her squarely in the chest. She fell backwards into the water and sank gracefully down.

*


Andromeda held on to Dora's cold hand until Minerva gently pried her stiff fingers away. What do you still have when you've lost everything? A slow and painful life. A slow and painful death. This is what drowning feels like, she thought. Your air runs out slowly and the pinpricks of pain form in your chest. You fight each second to live, but then you die, and life is laughing at you.

They had always told her that she would regret the decision to leave with Ted, to keep the baby, and she had laughed. You laugh at life, and life laughs back at you. But she had never thought it would come to this. Pieces of her were missing; she could feel the holes in her heart.

Andromeda lay on the stone floor and sobbed, but she wasn't the only one. The clamoring noise of people in the Great Hall sounded like seagulls. Their screeches sounded like a baby--a baby, she realized. She wiped her eyes and clutched onto the thought of her grandson like a raft.

***


iii. the voice of the sea speaks to the soul

Forgiveness trickled in.

Andromeda wouldn't set foot in Malfoy Manor, so they sat at the scrubbed wooden table in her white kitchen. Teddy slept. Some visits they talked, and others, like today, they sat in silence, trying to ease back into each other's lives after twenty years.

"Do you remember when we went to the beach at Cornwall?" Narcissa asked, as Andromeda stood up to make tea. "We were playing a game and I almost drowned."

"I remember it. But you didn't drown," Andromeda replied. "You held on. That's the point of the story, isn't it? You didn't drown."

(There might have been more to it, Narcissa thought, but she couldn't remember now. A precariously balanced sandcastle. The gleam of sun on water. Bellatrix, everywhere, laughing and splashing. Three sisters stargazing, sandy ankles intertwined. It was so long ago.)

"That's the point," Narcissa agreed. They sat together for a long time, and when she finally sipped her tea, it was cold and salty.
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minervas_eule: MHiU: hat patminervas_eule on December 3rd, 2012 10:35 am (UTC)
So very well done!! The repetition with its small important changes... building up to the "that is the point of the story" at the end.
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 6th, 2013 11:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
#!/usr/bin/girl: weeping angeldelphipsmith on December 3rd, 2012 01:18 pm (UTC)
Oh my, this is so beautifully crafted! The way you work and rework the imagery, playing with it in so many different ways, is remarkable and very effective. The real terror, she realized later, was not the roar of the waves or the burning in her chest. The real terror was how she had been seconds away from giving up. If you stop fighting for a moment, she knew, the water wraps soft arms around you. Then it becomes hard to remember why you were fighting to begin with. rather took my breath away. Well done!
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 6th, 2013 11:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much--I'm glad you enjoyed it :)
primeideal.dreamwidth.orgprimeideal.dreamwidth.org on December 3rd, 2012 06:19 pm (UTC)
"The night Ted was killed, Andromeda slept well." Nice detail with the contrast and pacing in this part.
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 6th, 2013 11:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Lucie: Slytherinlucie_p on December 3rd, 2012 08:15 pm (UTC)
That was lovely. Sad of course, but lovely.
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 6th, 2013 11:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
Oh! Mayari.: bookso_mayari on December 3rd, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
This is gorgeous. It's very elegant and subtle and painful, which seems perfect for these three. I love the repetition of the memory, a little detail that slots perfectly into canon and that you use to flesh all three sisters out until they feel very human. Wonderful.
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 7th, 2013 12:04 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad the repetition worked out :)
mama_pyjamamama_pyjama on December 3rd, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
This is a beautiful, poetic piece of writing. The leitmotif of the beach, the transference of the narration, the pacing, it all comes together to make one of the lovilest bits of work I have read this year. Thank you.
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 7th, 2013 12:05 am (UTC)
Thank you so much. I'm so glad you liked it!
author_by_night: Friends by Joyfulsongauthor_by_night on December 4th, 2012 01:13 am (UTC)
What a brilliantly written story. I absolutely love how you tie in the sea - in so many different ways.

(I also like to think the spot was where Shell Cottage would be one day.)
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 7th, 2013 12:07 am (UTC)
Thank you! The sea is a fun theme to play with--and ooh, I never thought about it, but love the Shell Cottage idea :)
Selena: Library - Kathyhselenak on December 4th, 2012 11:50 am (UTC)
Beautiful, sharp and poetic. I've hardly seen the effect the years with Dementors must have had on Beatrix taken into account so well (and all without excusing her!), and Narcissa & Andromeda were heartbreaking in the best way.
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 7th, 2013 12:08 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! Bellatrix was the hardest to write exactly for that reason--I didn't want to excuse her terribleness. So glad you enjoyed it :)
mollywheezy: Slytherin--greenmollywheezy on December 4th, 2012 02:23 pm (UTC)
Beautiful! I loved your use of the beach imagery and the hopeful ending.
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 7th, 2013 12:08 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it :) thanks!
i've got potential: there's a light in my brain!mintyfreshsocks on December 4th, 2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. The repetition, the imagery (Bellatrix, everywhere, laughing and splashing), and especially Andromeda's sleeping well the night that Ted dies. How beautiful.

Edited at 2012-12-04 05:19 pm (UTC)
Elle Blessingway: HP: Narcissa Malfoyelle_blessing on December 5th, 2012 05:59 am (UTC)
It was a little choppy in places and took a beat or two for me to pick up where we were at sometimes, but other than that this was absolutely lovely. The prose was fantastic, and I love the theme (water, and how it's life-giving and life-taking). I love, loved the peek into Bella's struggle to remember anything at all -- it put a different spin on her madness, made her more sympathetic. And I like villains that are more grey than black. Lastly, loved how the last section echoed the first section, and served to show how everything had come full circle.

Thanks for sharing!
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 7th, 2013 12:08 am (UTC)
Thank you!
alley_skywalkeralley_skywalker on December 5th, 2012 08:56 am (UTC)
Wow. This is gorgeous.
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 7th, 2013 12:04 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D
Meghan: stock: pinkmagic_knickers on December 5th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
OH, I LOVE IT ♥ ♥ The tie to the sea, that beautifully recycled phrase - A precariously balanced sandcastle. The gleam of sun on water... - was all sorts of perfect. Very pretty writing!
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 7th, 2013 12:14 am (UTC)
Thank you! ♥ ♥
DoraeAzure: Shinydoraeazure on December 6th, 2012 12:58 am (UTC)
Oh, this is gorgeous. Dark and difficult, with some hope threaded through. I love the contrast between Narcissa and Bellatrix in particular, with one thinking she's found the light only to die, and one feeling so hopeless but coming out alright in the end. Just lovely.
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 7th, 2013 12:17 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it--the contrast you described was exactly what I was going for.
pitry: Microwavepitry on December 7th, 2012 05:57 am (UTC)
Simply heartbreaking. And absolutely beautiful.
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on January 7th, 2013 12:20 am (UTC)
Thank you so much ♥