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07 December 2013 @ 12:34 am
Fic: Held by the Thorns for hikarievandar  
Apologies for the late posting today. Enjoy the weekend - next fic will post on Monday.

Title: Held by the Thorns
Author: thornyrose42
Written for: hikarievandar
Rating: PG
Length: 3526
Character(s): Andromeda Tonks, Narcissa Malfoy, Harry Potter, Teddy Lupin
Warnings: (if applicable)



Once upon a time, in a castle surrounded by thorns, a woman slept and then, between one breath and the next, she died. Outside, on the edge between the forest and the briars, a young fox froze as the thorns contracted, plaiting themselves into a denser wall before him. For a moment all was still, then the fox padded cautiously forwards and gave the newly impenetrable barrier an exploratory sniff. It was probably just the clumsiness of adolescence that caused him to prick his nose on one of the thorns; either that or the dark spikes were actually growing towards him. In the dingy light of the briar hedge, the fox's blood glimmered briefly, as if lit by moonlight, then it was absorbed into the thorn it had hung on.

The fox yelped in pain and jumped back, just far enough that the spiny branch, descending from the shrubbery above, missed him by two inches. At this fresh terror, the fox turned tail and dashed for the protection of his mother's den. Behind him, barbed tendrils unfurled slowly from the barricade, paused as if scenting the air and then slithered along the ground in the direction the fox had escaped.

Back in the castle, the briars had also reached in through the window of the room where Evelyn Rosier had died. Now they twined around the posters of her bed and crept up her covers until a bower of thorns surrounded her with a protective mesh. A couple of wispy stems reached from the main thicket towards her and quickly encircled her wrists. Their soft green spines abruptly hardened and pierced into Evelyn's dead flesh. The rustle of growing vines abruptly ceased, only to be replaced by a slurping noise as the thorns collected the last of the pure Rosier blood.

***

The sky above Square de la Folie was slate grey and the wind tussled the trees with playful abandon. Despite the chill, a gaggle of children had gathered together piles of bright leaves and were now undertaking the serious business of jumping into those heaps and seeing who could shove the most leaves down someone else’s robes. Wood nymphs clustered on the branches above, answering the wind with their breathy song. Some of the younger ones, made bold by familiarity, appeared to have joined in the game. One had even gained a sickly yellow bobble hat that clashed horribly with its sapling green skin.

Andromeda watched from the window of the closest pâtisserie and laughed as Teddy carefully tipped another armful of leaves onto a prone Harry. Sometimes it still surprised her just how much energy the two of them had; after a day of being dragged around what seemed like every Muggle and magical tourist trap in Paris she felt in need of several Pepper Up Potions or at least a strong coffee, but they just didn't stop. Perhaps it was for the best that she wouldn't be joining them tomorrow...

As if summoned towards it, Andromeda's eyes dropped down to the paper at her elbow.

GREEN Terror!
French request help with thorny problem

It has emerged that, what bungling French Aurors initially identified as a bizarre spate of vampire attacks, was actually the result of an age old defence system gone wrong. The Briar Barrier was popular among Continental families during the witch hunts of the fifteenth century but the invention of the simpler Muggle-Repelling Charm resulted in it falling out of favour with most people. The Rosiers, of course, were not most people.


Andromeda suppressed a sigh and skipped over the rather fanciful description of the Rosier family's exploits during the two Wizarding Wars.


Despite the delay in contacting Britain, Head of the French Auror Division, Clotilde Makasi (56), insists that national pride had not been a factor. 'Our first priority is to protect the people of Fontainebleau. Ever since my team figured out the source of the attacks we have been working closely with Gringotts Cursebreakers in order to shut this thing down'.

The services of the cursebreakers are of course notoriously expensive, (particularly since the International Confederation of Wizards instituted Percy Weasley’s controversial International Banking Regulation Bill), and one cannot help but wonder if Mme. Makasi's unusual request that Narcissa Malfoy (47) be brought over the Channel to help is the result of penny pinching by the French government.

Mme. Fleur Delacour-Weasley (27), speaking for Gringotts, airily dismisses these accusations in her strong French accent: 'The fuss is simply ridiculous! Any first year at Beauxbatons knows that heirloom defence systems, having been subject to generations of tinkering, are often far more dangerous than a hundred Egyptian tombs. Madam Malfoy's mother was a Rosier, she visited the site as a child; she may be able to grant us access without having to risk any more lives... other than hers of course.'



Andromeda had met Fleur a couple of times in the past year. Harry appeared to be on some sort of mission to involve her in Weasley family activities - how that boy managed to capture any Dark wizards when he had the covertness of a firework was beyond her - and Fleur had appreciated talking to another interloper. They had got on rather well; Andromeda had even given Fleur some of Teddy's old toddler clothes for her daughter.

Andromeda couldn't understand why she suddenly felt the urge to send a Howler to the poor woman.

***
The next day was equally as cold, but the headline was, if possible, even worse.

Narcissa Malfoy: Should she stay or should she go?
Public Outrage at all expenses paid trip for death eater wife

Underneath was a photo of Cis - Narcissa, getting on to the Trans-Continental train, flanked and nearly obscured by two Hit Wizards. A mob of protesters waved contradictory placards and shouted unheard slogans. In the background a man waving one of the old 'Death to the Death Eaters' banners was being repeatedly battered around the head by a woman's sign. On the upswing Andromeda could just make out the words: 'She Saved Harry'.

Harry himself walked into the breakfast room of the hotel with Teddy just as she set the whole paper on fire.

'See, that's why I only read the Quidditch scores. They only sometimes lie about those.'

Andromeda forced a smile and they both set about trying to convince Teddy that trying orange juice wouldn't kill him.

It had always been impossible to get Nymph to eat anything she didn't like and Teddy was no different. When he was younger, he'd developed the annoying habit of morphing his mouth away at the merest sight of fruit. Their current tactic was straight up bribery, so Harry babbled about all of the wonderful places that little boys with orange juice in their tummies could get into while Andromeda slathered chocolate onto a croissant.

'Are you sure you don't want to come with us?’ Harry asked as Teddy finally took a couple of dubious sips from his glass, 'We'll get an owl if they need you.'

'I'd rather just be there,' Andromeda replied shortly, 'I mean... I might be able to remember something helpful. Its been a long time but we did used to go there for Christmas every other year.'

'Well, in that case, I guess we'll see you tonight.' He paused then, apropos of nothing, added. 'You know, we didn't force her to help, she offered, I mean, after we explained everything.'

'Harry, my dear Gryffindor, of course she offered. However bad the headlines are now, imagine what they would have been if she'd turned her back?'

'Who're you talking about?' Teddy asked.

'No one important love.' Andromeda lied.

***

Walking through Forêt de Fontainebleau once again was an incredibly surreal experience. Every so often - when Andromeda spotted a once favourite nook or cranny - nostalgia threatened to overwhelm her; she could almost believe that Bella and Evan were up ahead, plotting an ambush, or that Cissy and Evey were just about to grab her hands and pull her along to examine the toadstools they'd found.

It was helpful to focus on what had changed. For instance, the last time she had been in this forest it hadn't been littered with warning signs and protection spells that swept through her body like silk.

'What story have you fed the Muggles?' She asked, the French she'd learnt as a girl was halting, but more than enough to hold up her end of a conversation. Particularly since Perig Goff, the young Auror they'd sent to meet her, seemed to combat nerves by talking.

'Several I think, the campers, the ones that died, that was just a case of Memory Charms all round. What else can you do when there are four people just completely drained of blood? Otherwise... we've gone with dangerous flooding warnings and a whole lot of Muggle Repelling Charms. Of course it helps that this whole area is basically Unplottable, no expense spared for the Rosiers eh?'

Andromeda caught his eye and Perig abruptly turned his laugh into a choking cough.

'But we don't think the Muggles are in too much danger now. Rozenn, our cursebreaker, thinks that it is learning how to scent people out and it doesn't want Muggles anymore. That's why it is strictly Muggleborns and half-breeds on this case. We aren't tasty enough!' Again, the half choked laugh. Maybe, Andromeda thought, it wasn't so much a reaction to her as it was his own normal laugh and, now she had looked a bit closer, his skin was just a shade too translucent to be simply the result of staying in doors a lot.

'I never thought there was much advantage to the whole half-vampire thing... I mean, particularly in France, garlic in everything! But I guess, for once, no one is out for my blood!'

Andromeda let him natter on until they reached the Auror outpost.

The briar hedge, grown taller even than it had seemed from her childish perspective, dominated the clearing that the Aurors had made. There was a full team holding the perimeter; every so often branches, thick with thorns like nails, whipped out of the dark mass before the guards and crashed against the Shield Charms. The main attack seemed to be focused towards the tents in the centre of the glade. It might have been Andromeda's imagination, but the assault seemed to intensify as she joined the little group in front of the camp.

Perig introduced Head Auror Makasi and the cursebreaker from the French branch of Gringotts, Mademoiselle Rozenn le Goff, before joining the defence team. Madame Makasi had the dead eyed look of someone who hadn't slept properly for days and Rozenn le Goff jumped every time the vines hit the Shield Charms. Neither was in any mood to exchange pleasantries. Instead, le Goff asked Andromeda to run through her memories of the defences again ('See if there is anything else you can dredge up for us?').

The trouble was that there wasn't a lot to recall. As a child she hadn't given two thoughts to the protections around her grandparent's house, well, castle. It was just there. Of course, like all of the other cousins, she had been formally included in the protections before she went to Hogwarts. That memory was clear if only because it had hurt such a lot....

Something half tugged at the back of Andromeda's mind, something about that huge fight... It had split the family in two and they hadn't gone back to France until... well, possibly her parents and sister had returned after her own elopement.

Andromeda was doing some quick maths in her head when Narcissa emerged from the tent.

She looked better than the last time Andromeda had seen her, but that had been almost directly after the battle and, well, nobody had looked their best then. Narcissa's face had filled out somewhat, but she still looked stretched out and her mouth was set, although whether it was curled in disgust, determination or fear, Andromeda couldn't tell.

Narcissa walked forward, without even glancing towards Andromeda, until she was at the edge of the shielded area. The vines were frantic now.

Madame Makasi raised her wand. 'On my mark, drop the defences.'

'No!'

A couple of the Aurors flinched and the warding lights flickered. Narcissa remained fixed even as a vine slashed out at her.

'Keep it steady!' Makasi yelled, 'This had better be very important Madame Tonks.'

'I'll go first.' Andromeda's voice was much steadier than she thought it would be. 'It wouldn't be safe for Madame Malfoy, not alone. I just worked out the dates you see, I've been bound to the defences but she wouldn't have been because we didn't come here the year she left for Hogwarts. It might recognise the Rosier blood, but we're only half Rosier; it would be safer to try with someone it knows, as it were.'

Madame Makasi shot an enquiring look at le Goff who shrugged and said: 'It makes sense, although its not a sure thing, the poor thing is just so tangled up'.

Madame Makasi frowned, 'Rozenn, I will thank you not to refer to the vicious blood sucking plant as "the poor thing", but yes, if you are willing, we are game Madame Tonks. You are absolutely sure?'

There were a thousand reasons why she wasn't and they were all Teddy.

Which was ridiculous. She was surrounded by scores of Aurors and Hit Wizards, even if it did go a bit wrong she would be safe as Hogwarts... well, safe as anyone could be. She wasn't Nymph, running off with no thought for... No, Andromeda thought, carefully unclenching her hands: that wasn't the Pensive trip to make.

'I'm glad to help.'

Besides, the thought flickered through Andromeda's mind as her shoulder brushed past her sister's, she'd bet half of Harry's gold that the responses of these fine Aurors's will be that much quicker when it isn't the life of some Death Eater's wife on the line.

It might have been her imagination but she could still feel Narcissa's presence at her shoulder as the wards came down and then reformed behind her.

The thorny vines wrapped around her wrists, biting in even as Andromeda began to speak: 'I, Andromeda T-Black, request entrance through birthright and blood right.'

The briar tangles stilled in front of her. Well, she thought shakily, that got its attention.

The pain at her wrists changed to a dull aching thud with just a hint of suction. It was almost, Andromeda reflected, as if the briar couldn't quite believe that it had found her. She watched as the vines absorbed her blood and took on a silvery hue. Smaller tendrils reached out towards her, the vines at her wrists tugged her forward and she took a step almost involuntarily. Her head felt quite woolly.

'Hang on,' her Healer's brain, the detached little voice at the back of her head thought, 'exactly how much blood have you lost now?'

Too much, was the answer and Andromeda knew, with quiet certainty, that it hadn't worked. There just wasn't enough Rosier blood in her veins - not enough of the right blood - hah, if only Bella had been here. Just to see her sisters face as Bella realised that she wasn't up to the standards of a plant.

There were more silvery grey tendrils twining up her arms now. It must look, Andromeda mused, as if it is going quite well, from the outside.

'Oh Teddy, my own Teddy, I've failed you too...'

It felt as if the blackness on the edge of her vision embraced her all at once and then there was a halo of bright white - no - blonde; blonde hair was streaming around Andromeda's face and Cissy's hands were linked into her sisters.

***

Later, much later, after the Healers had wrapped them in blankets and poured what seemed like gallons of Blood Replenishing Potion down their throats; Andromeda sat next to her sister in the old veranda and looked out over the landscape of their memories.

'Do you remember hunting Lethifolds in that patch of heather?'

'I remember Evan almost smothering me with his cloak. What about when Dragon had the foal?'

'I think I tried to sleep in the stables that night. Mama must have found me and brought me back to bed.'

'No... that was me, I didn't want you to get in trouble.'

'You were always trying to protect me.' Cissy's voice wavered, 'I wish -'

'Don't. Please, just don't.'

The ground in front of them was a sunset of autumn leaves. Andromeda stared at it and felt as if she was in a bubble that was about to burst. And, because she had thought about it, the bubble was already gone.

The problem was that there would always be three of them: three sisters, two dark bookends with the light child between them, continually tugged back and forth. Of course, this was the first time in a long while that Andromeda felt that she had a chance in hell of winning that particular battle.

'You stopped coming for tea.' It was ridiculous really, that that still rankled, after everything else. It wasn't even that they had been particularly pleasant meetings; there was always too much to skirt around, too many points of contention...

From the look on Cissy's face it certainly wasn't the accusation she had been expecting either. 'I... I wanted to protect you; I thought it best if I didn't draw attention to you. Bella was watching me.'

'You could have got out if you wanted to. I know you, you could have got out.' Andromeda hated the note of pleading in her voice, pleading for a past that never was.

'Not without my family. Not without all of my family. Lucius was still in Askaban, Bella would have killed him if the Dark - You-Know-Who hadn't.

'And there it is, the insurmountable truth.' Andromeda found herself almost smiling at her sister. 'You can talk about sisterly love as much as you want but at the end of the day we all chose men over each other.'

'You left us first.' Her sister's voice had that edge of petulance that she remembered so well.

'No, Cissy,' Andromeda found that her voice was almost gentle, 'Bella left first'.

There was silence for a while. Andromeda watched a couple of Aurors wrestling with the remains of the briars. It was weak now. Andromeda spotted a couple of vines casually draping themselves over an oak branch, a wood sprite chattered at it in annoyance.

'Did... did I ever mention that I told them where Bella was hiding, after the first war?' Cissy asked, almost casually, 'Everything was already so difficult and she was being so trying. She wouldn't let it lie. I suppose... I suppose you think I was too late then as well?'

She looked towards Andromeda, as if searching for something, but Andromeda felt as if she'd been hit by a Freezing Charm.

'We've donated so much to St. Mungo's over the years.... I know... I know it doesn't change anything. I know I can't change what happened to your family. And, and I'm so sorry 'Meda, but I can't say that I would do things differently, not completely differently, because...'

'Because your family survived... the family you chose survived.' The words came out of Andromeda's mouth, but they seemed to come from an awfully long way away.

'I chose you today.' Cissy places a tentative hand over Andromeda's own one; it is still healing, it will probably scar.

Andromeda carefully pulled her hand out from under her sister's. No point in tearing the skin anymore.

'But if Draco had been here?' Lucius? Or is he being too trying these days?' Cissy pulled back as if slapped, but Andromeda forced herself to continue. 'Can you honestly say that you would have chosen me, if your son had been beside me? Just as tangled up. Dying just as fast. Who would you have saved? Because, Cissy, if it had been Nymph, if it had been my beautiful girl, I would have chosen her, without a thought for you.'

Andromeda rose slowly to her feet. 'I have to get back to my grandson. He will have lots to tell me about.'

She was a few feet along to path before her sister called after her.

'Andromeda... I can chose you both now, I want to choose you both.' Andromeda could hear the tears in the back of Cissy's throat. 'Please, please 'Meda can you let me do that?'

Despite everything, Andromeda almost turns back. Later she will justify it as a moment of sentimentality brought on by the blood loss and her surroundings. Then, for the first time, she will tell Teddy a bedtime story about her baby sister and a fledgling Hippogriff in a castle surrounded by a hedge of thorns.

But that is later, that is all to come.

'Not now Cissy.'

'Not ever?'

'... Not yet.'
 
 
 
lyras: Molesworth the Hufflepufflyras on December 7th, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this! Such an original take on a postwar world, with Andromeda and Narcissa really having no idea how to approach one another. Lovely, assured writing, too.

The problem was that there would always be three of them: three sisters, two dark bookends with the light child between them, continually tugged back and forth. Of course, this was the first time in a long while that Andromeda felt that she had a chance in hell of winning that particular battle.

I love this. It really feels like a turning point, and the rest of their conversation is lovely - tentatively hopeful, without every quite resovling things that can't be resolved.
evandar: White Assassinhikarievandar on December 8th, 2013 04:35 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. Thank you so much. This was absolutely fantastic. I loved the flow of it and how both Andromeda and Narcissa don't seem to know how - or if - they can get past what happened but still love each other so much. The line There just wasn't enough Rosier blood in her veins - not enough of the right blood - hah, if only Bella had been here. Just to see her sister's face as Bella realised that she wasn't up to the standards of a plant really stood out for me.

I loved the fairytale idea of the briar boundary spell as well. It was a brilliant way of tying Rowling's Wizarding world to the more traditional stories we have about witches and magic.

This was a fascinating insight into magic and family drama. Thank you!
author_by_night: zoetrain by hobbitseekerauthor_by_night on December 12th, 2013 02:23 am (UTC)
I love it, especially the end, and the tie-in with the beginning. I loved the imagery as well. :)
sassy_cat: pinksassy_cat on December 17th, 2013 04:34 am (UTC)
Very intriguing! I love how you used Andromeda and Narcissa's ties to the Rosier family to expand upon post-war politics. Choosing an international setting was a brilliant touch.

'No one important love.' Andromeda lied. The relationship between them... the genuine love, disappointment and betrayal from both perspectives is so honest, and the ending with that hint of hope that could only be realized with repeated effort and lots of time. Really well done.
#!/usr/bin/girl: belladelphipsmith on December 28th, 2013 09:47 pm (UTC)
A really fascinating take on the Black sisters' relationship -- "three sisters, two dark bookends with the light child between them, continually tugged back and forth," beautiful. The end of their conversation, with the interlocking complexities of love for a sister, a husband, a child ("Who would you have saved? Because, Cissy, if it had been Nymph, if it had been my beautiful girl, I would have chosen her, without a thought for you.") was beautifully crafted, as is the hint of hope in the last line: "Not yet."

And of course the thorn barrier makes me reconsider everything I thought I knew about Sleeping Beauty :)
mollywheezy: Dark Sidemollywheezy on January 2nd, 2014 11:31 pm (UTC)
I loved the originality of the Rosier's defense system gone wrong as the premise for the story. The tension between Narcissa and Andromeda was very well-done, leading up to the hopeful ending. I LOLed at "how that boy managed to capture any Dark wizards when he had the covertness of a firework was beyond her". ;) I loved the humor of Teddy and Harry interspersed with the more serious aspects of the story. Excellently written! :)