He’d been her everything. Yet he had left her alone, incapable of coping with what she had seen, with what she had been forced to experience. He’d left her, left her alone, sentenced to live a life without him by her side: the life of a widow.
The potions made her forget, forget about everything. How did they cope, she asked herself over and over again, helplessly surrendering to her thoughts; how did other people cope, those who had lost everything, just like her?
Quickly Narcissa reached out her hands for the last phial on her drawer and led it to her lips, eagerly swallowing the dark blue liquid until no drop was left in the small jar. She was losing herself, had lost herself months ago, just as if time had taken from her all the strength and will to go on. What should she still go on for? Why should she still remain strong? It was over. It was all over.
The potions made her forget: forget about what had been burnt into her mind forever; forget about the things impossible to forget. The potions allowed her tor rest. The potions gave her peace.
“Narcissa,” a quiet voice said all of a sudden, causing her to wince and gasp for breath with surprise. Quickly Narcissa turned around, found herself looking into bright brown eyes that were resting on her, their expression full of sadness and worry. How familiar they were to her!
“Andromeda,” she whispered, reaching out her hand to touch her sister’s arm, as if she wanted to make sure that her imagination wasn’t fooling her like so many times before. “Merlin, I don’t - What are you doing here?”
“I got your owl,” Andromeda replied, eyes narrowed. How sad she looked, Narcissa thought, how worried. She was only twenty-six years old, yet sorrow had made her age within a short period of time. “Are you all right? I heard you scream through the entire property but when I entered the room you seemed fast asleep!”
Slowly Narcissa got up from her bed, still looking at her sister, still barely able to believe her eyes. She gave a quiet sigh, nodded as a reply to her sister's question. Why had she come here, she asked herself, absently playing with the wedding ring on her finger; she had never stopped wearing it, never dared to even spend a thought on taking it off.
“I never sent you an owl,” she said quietly, turning her head away from Andromeda to again look out of the window. “Andy, why should I have asked you to come in the middle of the night? You still live here, after all.”
Her sister audibly gasped for breath, rose as well and took a few steps forward, carefully touching her shoulder. “Narcissa,” she whispered, her voice trembling as if she were afraid to speak. “Cissy, what are you talking about? We haven’t seen each other for eight years! Don't you remember? I married-”
She wouldn’t finish her sentence. Silence followed, silence that seemed to crush and suffocate them both, silence that neither of them knew how to break. Narcissa closed her eyes for a moment, unable to speak, unable even to breathe. Eight years… She almost started to laugh, a cold, desperate laugh; she quickly glanced at her drawer, at the countless glass phials that were spread on its surface, all of them empty. She knew that Andromeda too had spotted the tiny jars, in the second the grip around her shoulder fastened.
Slowly, Narcissa turned around, found her sister only a step away from her, looking, staring at her, tears streaming down her face. Andromeda seemed like she had fallen into a trance as she reached out her arms, pulling her into a fast yet gentle embrace.
“I’m here now, Cissy,” she whispered against her ear, her body shaking as if she were trying to suppress a sob. “And I will protect you. I promise, I will…”
How many times had she wished to have fallen too; how many times had she found herself longing for death, longing to be reunited with her husband? Why had she survived? Why hadn’t she been killed too; why was she here, forced to live while she wanted nothing more than to die? She had fallen, fallen into the abyss of despair, and nothing would be able to save her; not even her sister.
Andromeda had kept her promise, had always been there for her: to calm her down, to brew her another potion when she felt incapable of doing so herself, or to just sit at her bedside, watching over her sleep as if she were still a child.
“I barely recognise you any more, Cissy,” she’d whispered to her more than once, gently stroking her cheek. Narcissa had only looked at her, looking deeply into her eyes and smiling at her, a sad, desperate smile. How right she was, she thought, leaning forward to kiss her, gently yet passionately, like she had only kissed her husband before.
She had even forgotten about Andromeda’s fate, about whom she’d married, about how she had refused to talk to her, to even write to her for longer than eight years, constantly denying their sisterhood. But she had changed, everything had changed; the war had broken them both, had taken everything from them. Everything.
Until the present day, Andromeda found herself incapable of remembering why she had chosen to follow her owl and make her way to her sister’s property in the middle of the night. Had it been foolishness? Or rather a presentiment of the state in which she’d find her, of how much she needed her? She’d never forget how Narcissa’s eyes had widened with fright as she’d seen her in her room, would never forget the words she’d spoken to her in confusion, completely beside herself. Never had she seen her like this before, her usually so strong, composed sister, distraught and full of grief; never had she been more determined to stay with her, to protect her, to save her.
Andromeda had not refused when her sister had first kissed her, wouldn’t refuse now. She, too, had lost her husband in the war; she too needed Narcissa like Narcissa needed her; loved her more than anything else. Gently she stroked over her cheek, let her fingers slide down to her chest, her belly; then placed a kiss on her lips, followed by another. Then a third one, long, soft, before she pulled her closely into her arms, never wanting to letting her go again. How much she loved her, how much she needed her. Narcissa was all she had, her little sister, her everything.
It broke Andromeda’s heart to see her sister in a state like this, broken, desperate, only a shadow of the woman she had once been, so strong, so incredibly strong! It broke her heart to be woken by her screams in the middle of the night, to find herself unable to help, to calm her down. Only the potions would help, would make her forget for a while, but how could they be a solution for all her problems? How could they have become Narcissa’s constant companion, how could they-
She couldn’t even finish her thought. How many times had Andromeda asked Narcissa to stop, how many times had she begged her to listen to her! But of course she found herself brewing another potion night by night, of course she found Narcissa’s body weakening with every day. How thin she had become, how pale.
Narcissa’s soul had died long ago already, but now even her body would slowly and painfully perish by what she had once believed would help her to stay alive.
What if she remembered? Andromeda had asked herself, over and over again, despising herself for her own thoughts. What if, discontinuing the potions, Narcissa began to remember what had happened between them; what if she began to remember that, for nearly a decade, they had been strangers to one another? Would her sister still be unable to accept the choice she’d made so many years ago? Would she lose her once more? What, if they found their relationship impossible to mend, impossible to even talk about? Even the mere thought made her gasp for breath and seemed to suffocate her.
How dared she! How dared she be so selfish, how dared she watch Narcissa go to her certain death! Her little sister, who needed her so much, whom she needed, more than anything else!
She was all she had.
Andromeda felt how her sister’s body began to uncontrollably shake right next to her, quickly wrapped her arms around her and holding her, whispering things into her ear in desperate attempts to calm her down. She’d dreamed again. Like nearly every night before, she’d dreamed again; had slept and yet wasn’t allowed to get to rest.
“Andy…” Narcissa whispered, her voice hoarse, trembling just like her entire body. “Don’t leave me. Please, don’t leave me alone! I need you… I need you so much…”
Of course she wouldn’t. Andromeda would never leave her again, never! But even looking at her seemed to tear her heart into a thousand pieces; she’d never be able to forgive herself if she lost her, never! How much had she wanted to save her, how desperate had she been to save her sister from falling apart! And now? Now she was falling, too.
There was no choice.
Andromeda still held Narcissa in her arms, long after she had calmed down, felt a single tear roll down her cheek, moistening both their lips as she kissed her one last time, never wanting this moment to end. Never…
“I love you,” she breathed against her ear. “I love you so much, Cissy…”
There was no other choice!
Slowly Andromeda reached out her arm, taking her wand from her bedside locker, still looking into her sister’s eyes, her beautiful bright blue eyes, wet with tears just like Andromeda's own. Narcissa nodded, her lips formed barely noticeable smile, as if she knew.
Tears were now blurring her sight. She could hardly breathe as she pointed her wand at her sister, wanted nothing more than to throw it away, to throw it far away and enfold her sister into her arms again, never letting her go. But there was no other choice! She didn’t have another choice, couldn’t watch her die, too! Andromeda was unable to suppress her sobs any longer, unable to retain control over herself. She was all she had…