“No.” Her voice was firm. “I won’t.”
Minister Shacklebolt carried a baby in his arms, one that was slightly larger than the one in her own. “Madam Tonks, we wouldn’t ask you unless we had no choice.”
She flinched at her last name. Ted is dead. The weight sank down on her, as it always did once she is reminded by her mind. “You have so many other choices. Madam Malfoy, for one. The Weasleys-- they’d do it, no one would notice another squalling thing. The Parkinsons, the Prewetts, the Rowles, the Notts--”
“All Death Eater families! Or nearly all of them, and from them it could be known. ” The young Auror was frantic. “Madam Tonks, you are the only one who could.”
“There are hundreds of others you could shove this thing off on.” Her gaze was ice; she’s learned from the best, after all. “She killed my daughter , and you expect me to raise her spawn!”
The young Auror shifted from foot to foot. “Madam Tonks-- it’s no secret how your--”
“Don’t you dare call her that!” She burst out. “She killed my daughter, you understand? My cousin, perhaps even my husband-- led my other cousin to his death, and you call her my--”
“You look like her, you’ve had a child, and no one knows what you’ve been up to for the past year!” The young Auror was cowed, and still didn’t run. She nearly laughed in his face, nearly slammed the door.
Teddy was up then, and he started wailing. Were she alone and in this mood, she might have shot a Silencing charm at him, and left him to cry. She was half-tempted to do it then, to show she would be awful at taking care of this thing Shacklebolt’s holding.
“You know of her. . . obsession with He-Who-Must-not-Be-Named.” As delicately put as Shacklebolt could do.
Her eyes flew to the unmoving bundle in the man’s hands. Stunned, most likely. “Hecate’s tits, no.” Her voice was precise enough to cut through Teddy’s cries as she bounced him.
“It’s unlikely,” Shacklebolt admitted. “I don’t see the Lestranges taking her in if--”
Her. A dagger was in her belly, white-hot, serrated, and twisting. She had a daughter, and the Lestrange woman took her. Now, there is another little girl, and she belongs to the Lestrange woman. “No! Do you hear me? Medea, Circe, and Semiramis-- get out, get out now!” She wriggled out her wand, supported her grandson with one arm, pointed her wand at the young Auror. She’ll kill it, kill him, before she has to--
“What better revenge,” the young Auror says, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he nervously swallowed, “than to take her child and make her your own?” It is Shacklebolt’s line, she knows it, but--
She can see it, that was the awful thing. To raise her-- with the same amount of care her distant mother showed her, raising the child to abhor her mother, see the blood traitor as her mother, think of herself as a half-blood. Bellatrix would be rolling in her grave.
But no-- this thing cannot be a replacement for her Nymphadora. But Teddy stopped his crying, reached for the other baby, perhaps finally noticing there was one there. She took a step back, but Kingsley took a step forward. A lockstep, a draw-- she won’t win, not this way.
“Give it to someone else,” she said. “Send it to an orphanage.”
“If we do,” Shackebolt responded, “she could very well be taken and raised as a weapon. This is the child of his most talented lieutenant, who was rumored to be his lover. We need her in our hands, or they’ll raise her to be evil.”
“The Weasleys, then. They’re also cousins of a sort, isn’t that lovely?” No. Not her. Anyone but her.
“The Weasleys have a tendency to red hair. She isn’t, and concealment charms can only go so far. No. She needs someone who could--”
“--Pass.” The word was bitter in her throat. Yes, she can see that-- no one else but her can successfully pass for the thing’s mother. Madame Malfoy and her husband were too blonde if the thing’s hair darkens (not to mention too morally questionable), and there were no convenient cousins of the right sides on the Black family tree with the appropriate looks. She could do this as none other could-- after all, she and Bella were twins and extremely close to looking identical. Whatever looks this child had-- the aristocratic Black, the rugged Lestrange, or whatever the Dark Lord looked like-- she could claim enough and pass the other off on Ted’s. Should the child’s hair darken to black, she’d have to stop bleaching her hair. Should she be blonde-- her mother was Rosier as well, and Ted has-- had, had, had darker blonde hair. Whatever looks it had from any of it’s parent, it would look like her.
“Please, Madam Tonks.” A pause. “We need this. The world needs this.”
She is forty-six, and she is tired. She is a widowed vilomah, a once-upon-a-time girl who made a choice and ran off with a handsome man she loved and had a daughter, and they both died. She has done nothing to influence anything, anyone, not for twenty-six years now. And now, a young man and a man her murdered daughter respected says she needs to do her part to help the world. Why should she? It has not helped her.
And yet. . . revenge. Lestrange would spit to see this, roll over in her grave. She thinks of the fury, and nearly smiles, the first she’s done since the Battle.
"Wenlock’s empty bed-- how do you not know her age?" she demanded. "Have you no children of your own, have you never seen them grow? There's a marketed difference between a relative newborn and a one year old babe."
Kingsley shifted. "She. . . .the child has experienced a combination of severe neglect and several experimental and illegal potions to bolster growth and maturity. They make it difficult to tell where the child is, so that's the most recent hypothesis."
"Of course," she responded, disgusted and unsurprised. "A child is weak and vulnerable. No doubt this was done out of convenience."
Teddy's eyes opened, and he pressed tighter into her.
"Does Potter know?" It was wisest not to ask, but if they wanted her to raise the child of the woman who murdered her daughter and husband, she was entitled to ask those uncomfortable questions.
The other Auror spoke up. "He is aware. And he expressed the desire not to be informed who would take charge, as long as it received better care than it was."
“Potter’s seen me,” she said, voice cold and cutting. “When he sees my grandson, he will know the other child.”
“He saw you near a year ago. You might have been several months pregnant, and not been showing,” Kingsley responded. “Or Harry might not have noticed. He was unconscious for most of his visit, and barely saw you.”
She gave a laugh. “I was tortured by the carrier of this thing, if you don’t remember. To give up Potter’s whereabouts, if you would be so kind to remember. The Cruciatus, flung from an angry wand is not kind.” She felt her fingers shake, almost in memory. “I could not keep a child in my belly.”
“You were a Healer!” The younger wizard insisted. “Or-- you might’ve struck a deal of some sort-- I mean, clearly you had already because you’re still--”
“Auror Fenwick.” The Minister’s voice was calm and level. “Control yourself, and don’t make baseless assumptions.”
“Perhaps I adopted a war orphan,” she said, almost desperately. “That’s the truth, isn’t it?”
“Who are the parents?” Kinsgley raised elegant, carved brows. He’d always had prettier brows than she had, even as a child in Hogwarts. “There are only so many documents that can be falsified. A missing birth certificate would be explainable, but adoption papers? How can we sure the couple did not have have family?” A pause. “I am sure you were aware of this, Madam Tonks.”
“Of course,” she responded. Whether or not she’d thought of it, the important part was that she agreed, that she gave him the upper hand. An agreement, once made, put the person who had suggested it on top. This was a bargain. Druella Rosier had schooled her children to whirl around them effortlessly, spinning it to their advantages. Are you quite sure I’m the best, Minister? If her eyes turn red, folk might start to wonder what the disgraced Black sister has. Or with a humble gaze and lowered lashes: Would you owe me a boon, then? Such a large thing you’re asking of me, it would not be right that my name is not respected as I do your bidding. Yet. . .
She remembered being a child, hand in hand with the murderer of her daughter, chanting nonsense songs, braiding her hair, trying to mother Madam Malfoy with her when Cygnus and Druella came to arguments. During thunderstorms she went to the bed of her future husband’s butcher. The killer of her cousin nursed her through her secret abortion and kept it hidden, cared for her during a rather nasty hangover. They copied notes off the other, practiced dueling and making speeches, practiced dancing and . . .
And killing, how to wipe off the scum with nary a backwards glance, as befitted pureblooded maidens. Using the blood status of a parent, cousin, or a sibling’s spouse against a student, tearing them down to tears and laughing gleefully about it afterwards. Cold smirks and cold hard hands, hot hearts and hot heads, curls tugged around pale fingers, blood-stained teeth and red hands, subduing and conquering emotions, the smell of burnt flesh trapped in wild tresses, combed out by shaking fingers.
She remembered the first time she’d tried Firewhiskey, under an already-intoxicated Bella’s watchful eye. It had burned down her throat, and then she’d nearly heaved, acid climbing up. She’d refused to have anymore, paralyzed by a sudden fear of her mother’s disapproval, even teenage fury not able to overpower trepidation.
She knew what Druella would say. She’d have her cast-off daughter stand straighter, have a common objective, make up her mind, and play the game against these Ministry officials. She’d done it thrice before, and was no stranger to having watched it. But she wasn’t Druella’s daughter, and had not been for over twenty years now.
“I’ll do it.” she said at last.
Kingsley gave a nod, his mouth breaking into a smile. “We cannot thank--”
“Give it to me,” she interrupted crossly. “You knew I’d give in, that’s why you chose me. Now-- what’s the name it has?”
“Her given name is Delphini. As for surname, it’s. . .previously Black, Lestrange, and was very nearly Rowle.”
“Delphini.” She tasted the name, curled it ‘round her tongue as if tasting a sweet. “Her name will be Delphina, then. Delphina . . .” Nymphadora she had named for her gift, for her assassin, for the fox in the sky. What best to taunt her, then? She’d have a Muggle surname already, and Teddy was named for his grandfather and father, and this child would have been born before the death of her purported sister. “Delphina Molly,” she said quickly. “No-- Delphina Siria Tonks.”
Delphina was an eerie child, which made it almost easy to neglect her.
She’d been silent, refusing to wail or practice babbling, as Teddy joyfully did. When Andromeda had attempted to give her some of Nymphadora’s milk, the infant had refused to drink it, preferring formula or cow’s milk.
Delphina’s curious development continued, her eyes more focused than a child of six months, and her understanding of object permanence was more developed than a toddler’s. Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t put a closer estimate than the one she’d been given as to her new child’s age.
She’d called Delphina eight months old, born in October. It gave her a sense of giddy satisfaction to make her birthdate Halloween, for when the Dark Lord first fell. She’d been tempted to make it the date the Lestranges had been sentenced to Azkaban, but she had enough understanding that that date was Augusta Longbottom’s. A few of her acquaintances had raised eyebrows at the sudden emergence of a child, but had brushed it off to contact being lost in the War. Even Potter and his friends had not seemed too suspicious at the emergence of a girl-child with a growing resemblance to Mrs. Lestrange, brushing it off as family resemblance. Madam Malfoy might look askance, if she was aware of Delphini’s birth, but Andromeda kept her distance from the fallen aristocrat.
“Ma!” Teddy had shrieked his first word at the proper time, and before Andromeda could weep with sorrow, Delphina had glanced at her almost disdainfully, and said her own first word, seemingly calculated to pierce Andromeda’s heart: “Mother.”
When Teddy took his first toddling steps, Delphina gave him a glance, pulled herself up, and walked in a straight line to the table. Teddy fell on his bottom, wailed, flashed his hair a truly abhorrent shade of lime green, and his cousin responded with a glare, perturbed that there was one skill Teddy had that she could not master before him. Andromeda soothed her grandson, and turned to her adopted daughter.
The tilt of lip had been Madam Malfoy’s, and Nymphadora’s, and Andromeda merely raised an eyebrow in response. “I’m immune to that,” she informed the child, aware that she wouldn’t be understood. “Your sister made sure I had enough practice with it. He was born like that, received those from his mother.” She’d never adjusted her speech for children, assuming they would learn faster. Ted had always said it made her come off cold. “Fina, you take his every shining moment. Let him have this.” She offered her hands in response, pulling the girl up. “If, however, you want that repulsive color in your hair, I see no reason why I can’t give you it.”
She flicked her wand, changing her daughter’s ringlets to a similar shade as Teddy’s, then turned around to face the mirror. “See? You’re the same.” She picked up Teddy, holding the two of them together.
The toddler gave a wide grin, the first one Andromeda saw on her. “Why, you monster,” she said, touched. “You’ve been holding out that on me.”