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Just Like Us

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Everything was going wrong, Andromeda thought, thirteen and standing in front of her bedroom mirror. Beyond the door she could hear Cissy chattering away at Bella. She hoped they wouldn't come in. It wasn't often that Andromeda did this sort of thing, and she didn't want people to call her  vain.  People called Cissy  vain  all the time, and Andromeda saw how much it hurt her little sister, though Cissy would never admit it.

Andromeda stood in front of the mirror, clad in glittering dress robes — they were from Madame Malkins' new collection, and the most expensive one in the shop. Mother had gotten them for Andromeda's first attendance at the Malfoy Ball that weekend, and they were just as beautiful as the ones Bella wore. Andromeda had nearly cried with joy when she had seen the precious thing.

But something wasn't right. The frock was stunning, of course, but Andromeda was not; people always said she looked just like Bella, but she didn't see it. Looking away from the mirror, she fumbled with the buttons.

The door opened, and Andromeda jumped. Bella looked in, Cissy behind her.

Cissy squealed. "Oh, you look wonderful!" She turned to Bella. "Don't you think she looks wonderful?"

"Shut up, Cissy," Andromeda bit out. "I don't. I look ridiculous."

"You're being ridiculous." Bella walked towards her. She surveyed Andromeda up and down, and ran a hand through her younger sister's brown hair. "You look— wait."

She moved to the dresser and took a pin in her mouth, moving to stand behind Andromeda and beginning to twist her hair. Cissy leaned against a wardrobe and watched, looking delighted. Finally, Bella stepped back. "There," she said, meeting Andromeda's gaze through the mirror. "You look refined — delicate. Like a flower."

Andromeda felt happiness explode inside her. Bella thought she looked pretty. She looked at herself again in the mirror. The same pale skin she'd always had, same regal nose — slightly upturned at the end — same brown eyes. But she could also see someone else, someone older and decidedly beautiful. Someone who bore striking resemblance to the girl whose lips were now slightly curved with pride.

She watched Bella leave the room, and then Cissy rushed to Andromeda's side. "You look just like Bella," she whispered before following their sister out the door.

In the mirror, Andromeda smiled.

"So he's a Muggle-born," Mother said coldly. By the fire, Father seemed to be a pillar of stone, expression stormy.

Andromeda grit her teeth and crossed her arms in front of her. "Yes, Mother."

"And you want to… marry this fool."

"He's not a fool," Andromeda said. "He got the highest N.E.W.T.s of the school last year—and he's..." She hesitated. "He's a good man." And I love him.

The silence stretched out until Andromeda could hear her own words ringing in the walls of the house. She knew Bella and Cissy were eavesdropping outside the door. Suddenly Father moved, turning towards her, and the look in his eyes was chilling.

"I struggle," he began coldly, his tone harsh, "to understand why a woman of your position, of your rank, of your refinement — why my daughter, a member of this Noble House — would ever stoop so low as to waste a glance of a Mudblood, a Hufflepuff, and a man of his complexion."

Andromeda inhaled sharply. She had expected the other insults, but the last had taken her by surprise. She knew, of course, that her parents had declined to marry their daughters to Zabinis, and that there was some resistance to mingling with the Shafiq family, but she had never expected their prejudice to reach such extents; in fact, she had never even thought it worth mentioning to Ted.

Mother was holding up the photograph Andromeda had given her. It was one Andromeda particularly liked, with Ted standing in front of the gate to Hogsmeade and grinning widely, hands in his pockets. The grin was meant for her — she had been taking the picture. Her mother wrinkled her nose.

"I find him repulsive. Such a face — I shudder to imagine one of his kind, tarnishing our bloodline! And you dared offer him this option!" Her eyes fixed on Andromeda, dark with disappointment and anger. "Do you think I raised a daughter as beautiful and skilled as you only to send her off to breed with a mongrel?"

Andromeda was trembling. It took her a moment to regain her breath, but when she did she stepped forwards and snatched the photograph out of her mother's hands, eyes flashing.

Without another word, she exited the room. As she jerked the door open, Bella and Cissy stepped back. Bella was smiling smugly; Cissy looked affronted. They both probably thought Andromeda was storming up to her room to pout.

They didn't know Andromeda had already packed.

On the wall in the hallway hung a large portrait of the three of them, and Andromeda paused to stare at herself. In the painting, the similarities between herself and her sisters were markedly evident; the shining long hair, dark eyes, slender nose, pale skin—features which had been of the House for centuries.

She tore away and strode towards the entrance hall. Her trunk was already by the door.

"Mum, mum!"

Andromeda looked up from her book in alarm, and quickly relaxed once she realized that it wasn't an emergency. Nymphadora had just run into the room, and her hair was bright orange. "Yes, Nymphadora?"

"Look, it's my hair!" her seven-year-old daughter cried excitedly, pointing at her head. "I can control it now! I thought 'orange', and now it's orange!"

"That's wonderful!" Andromeda said, smiling widely. Maybe now they could finally be done with the glares of other parents, who assumed she and Ted had charmed their daughter's hair wild colors on purpose. Even the Muggles stared — and that was even harder to explain. "What else can you do?"

Nymphadora scrunched up her eyes, body tensing, and as Andromeda watched her nose grew until it was long and disproportionate with her face. Then her eyes snapped open, and she grinned widely just like Ted always did. "Look!"

"Merlin, it looks absolutely frightful!" Andromeda exclaimed, but laughed. "Well done! But please put it back—if you want to make changes, do make them more subtle than growing an elephant's nose."

With a laugh, Nymphadora bounded over to the sofa, sitting on its arm beside Andromeda, and then sliding off it onto the seat at a look from her mother. "Like what, then?"

Andromeda hummed thoughtfully, putting her book on the coffee table and examining her daughter's face. "Can you change your eye color?"

Even as she finished saying it, Nymphadora's eyes went a terrifying red. Andromeda started. "Not red! Make them—make them like mine."

In a second, Nymphadora's eyes changed from Ted's to Andromeda's. It seemed her skill only grew the more she practiced. Soon her hair had gone from bright orange to Andromeda's brown. Her nose thinned and turned up at the tip, and her skin paled rapidly, until Andromeda found herself staring at a small version of herself mingled with Ted's rounded face and his wide, beautiful grin.

Something clutched at her heart, and she found herself unable to speak as she reached out to stroke her daughter's cheek. It had been years since she had seen those delicate features, the refined upward tone of a nose, anywhere other than in the mirror.

"You look beautiful," she murmured.

Ted was humming to himself in the shower, and Andromeda finished pinning up her hair before taking the package wrapped in brown paper from the dresser and walking down the corridor to Nymphadora's bedroom. She knocked quickly before entering.

"I thought I'd bring you this," she said with a small smile, holding the package in her hands. "They're from Madame Malkins' new collection, and the most fashionable dress robes I've seen in a long time. They'll look wonderful."

Nymphadora looked up from where she sat on the bed, fastening her boots — an ugly pair of leather, studded things that Andromeda shuddered to imagine being on her daughter's feet as Amelia Bones handed her a shining Auror's badge. It had been three years of hard work on Nymphadora's part, and an even longer period of anxiety on Andromeda's — she had lived through the war against the Dark Lord, after all, and she knew exactly what sort of duties her daughter might be called upon to carry out. And the thought of her ever coming anywhere close to meeting a Death Eater, one of her relatives, Bella

"Thanks, Mum, but you know I don't wear that sort of thing."

Andromeda pulled herself out of her thoughts and sighed. Nymphadora was staring at the robes she had just pulled out of the package, eyeing them critically. She had never enjoyed wearing elegant robes. In fact, she often preferred Muggle clothes. It was Ted's influence, no doubt. "But they would look wonderful on you, and this is an important occasion! You worked very hard to become an Auror. Surely the Minister doesn't want to see you in a oversized T-shirt and pink hair."

"It's a dress, Mum, not a T-shirt." Nymphadora stood up. She was wearing electric blue stockings under the dress. "And the hair is nice. It's like my signature at this point."

"But your real hair is so much nicer."

There was a moment of silence, and their eyes met. There was something in Nymphadora's eyes that suddenly made Andromeda feel terribly guilty. "My real hair?"

Andromeda looked at the heart-shaped face, the small, upturned nose and the light brown eyes that stared back at her. The lips weren't smiling, and she couldn't see Ted in them — and the skin was pale, as fair as Andromeda's own. "It's—"

"You do remember that this isn't even my real face, don't you?"

"It's not that different." Andromeda sounded unconvincing even to her own ears. "And you look lovely."

"Delicate, refined," Tonks said wryly, and suddenly Andromeda was aware of a strange trembling in her daughter's lips and a glistening of her eyes. And when she spoke again, her voice was low and it shook — with doubt, with fear. "You don't want me to look like him at all, do you?"

Andromeda inhaled slowly. She did wonder, sometimes, if Ted noticed, or if he minded at all that his daughter no longer shared his skin tone, or his eyes, or his nose. And a selfish, jealous part of her mind told her that it didn't matter — because Ted had his brothers, and his parents, who all looked like him, and Andromeda…

And in a dark, secret part of herself, she sometimes couldn't help repeating the very same words her parents had told her when she had decided to marry him, when she had shown them the picture of his different face, of his sweet, wide smile.

Her breath hitched and she reached out to put a hand on her daughter's arm, hoping to quell some of the frightening emotions she was seeing. She hadn't meant— "I think you look lovely anyway, Nymphadora."

"Don't—" She bit back her usual protests at the name, closing her eyes momentarily, and Andromeda felt the guilt grow. "Then why did you never say so? Why wasn't it okay for me to look — you know, like I do? Like Dad?"

And Andromeda looked into her daughter's desperate eyes and wondered how long she had been keeping those words silent. How long had she kept her real face hidden out of fear of rejection? It had been so many years, now. With a low gasp, Andromeda shook her head and tried to stop the tears that welled at her eyes. "I just— I just wanted you to look like me. Just a little. But—" She reached out and pulled her daughter to her, hugging her tightly. She could feel Nymphadora's tears against her shoulder and her heart broke at the thought of what she had done. "Of course it's okay for you to look the way you do. I didn't know— Merlin, I didn't think— I love you no matter who you look like, you must know that." She pulled away slightly and looked at Nymphadora's reddened eyes. "I'm so, so sorry. Go on."

"Go on?"

"Go on and look the way you want to look."

Nymphadora swallowed, and then her face began to change. It no longer took great effort as it had when she was a child; now it was effortless and almost instant. Her skin color changed, and Andromeda's eyes and nose disappeared, but her smile was Ted's, and when she wiped the tears at the corner of her eyes, Andromeda saw that something of herself that was still there.

They held each other's gaze, and then Ted's voice called out for Andromeda. He had probably lost his shoes again. Andromeda smiled fondly and tried to clear the mist from her eyes. "I'll let you get ready."

She left the room, and after finding Ted's shoes for him and directing him towards the gate, where there were no anti-Apparition wards, she hurried back to her daughter's door.

"Are you ready?"

"Almost!"

Andromeda sighed and leaned against the doorway, her shoulder against the closed door. It had been many years since Bella had been taken to face the Dementors in Azkaban, and even more since she had last seen Cissy. The only reminders she had of their faces were the occasional pictures in the newspapers, which seemed like a mockery of the dreams she had once had — dreams where they would continue to love each other, dreams where looking just like your sister was still something to be proud of.

"I was scared," she said.

She heard Nymphadora stop in her preparations, and knew she was listening. "Mum?"

"I was scared. Scared of being alone. Scared that people wouldn't know that my family did create something that was good, someone who would do good things." She swallowed, blinking back tears. "I was scared that they wouldn't know I was your mother."

There was a moment of silence, and then the door swung open and Nymphadora stood in front of her. She no longer wore the face Andromeda had grown used to, but somehow she looked more familiar now than ever before. And she had changed into the dress robes her mother had bought her, though her her blue stockings were peeping out from underneath.

"Well, now they know," Tonks said simply, taking her mother's arm as they made their way out of the house and towards the Ministry of Magic. Her hair was pink in the sunlight.