George Weasley met Andromeda Tonks over the course of three funerals.
The first one, George was in no state to speak to anyone, much less a known stranger, but they saw each other. He almost drew his wand on her, actually, she looked so much like her late sister when dressed all in black and wearing a veil. He’d thought Bellatrix Lestrange had come back from the dead to take revenge on what was left of his family, before Bill put a hand on his shoulder and calmly pointed out how big little Teddy in his grandmother’s arms had gotten.
George blinked the fury and fear out of his eyes, then… once the anger drained out of him, once he’d gone back to feeling empty and disappointed and hopelessly lost, he promptly ignored her and forgot about her. Tonks had clearly taken after her father in looks, he'd thought before turning to focus on the speech he was giving later.
To this day, he’s not sure why Andromeda Tonks was at that funeral.
The second one, her presence was a given, as it was for her daughter. This time it was Andromeda who was in no real state to speak to a known stranger, not that George was really in the mood to go around starting conversation, and this was proven by how she had even handed Teddy off to Harry for the duration of the funeral. Despite looking sickly and clearly distressed, however, Andromeda had still gotten up to speak to those that had gathered to remember Nymphadora Tonks, and afterwards George couldn’t manage to reconcile this woman with her sisters. The most and almost distressingly apt way he can put it is that she seemed to be as much related to her sisters as Sirius had seemed to be related to the horrid portrait of his mother.
Andromeda Tonks had stepped up, squared her shoulders, and set her chin, and then she’d cracked a just-this-side-of-inappropriate joke: “I told my daughter at least once after she got married that I wanted grandchildren. I feel now that I really should have specified that didn’t mean: ‘Hand me the grandchild and then kick the bucket so you don’t have to get up at four in the morning to feed the crying baby.’”
In the awkward silence where people couldn’t decide whether to be horrified or choke on their laughter, during which Andromeda Tonks held her head high and wore a shakily smug look, George Weasley decided that he liked her very much. He’d said as much to Fleur, beside him, who had looked rather concerned about whether or not the horrific monster that was the English language had suddenly stopped working. The rest of Andromeda Tonks’ speech continued in a similar vein, occasionally pausing to be devastatingly heartbreaking in between all the slightly morbid hilariousness and the loving childhood memories, and George’s good opinion of her was reaffirmed magnificently then and has only improved since.
He’s not entirely sure, but he thinks Andromeda Tonks was the first person to make him laugh after the war. Like, genuinely laugh without the echo of stinging pain and urge to cry. Because she clearly got it on a level most couldn’t, perhaps not the same sort as George, but there was something extremely familiar about how she danced around the topic of who exactly killed Nymphadora Tonks.
The third one was where Andromeda Tonks and George Weasley finally spoke to one another, just a day later than the last, and that was the funeral for Remus Lupin.
Andromeda was dressed all in black yet again, but she looked less sickly and was chatting with people and had been holding a curious and wide-awake Teddy, the day was sunny and warm, and George had the peculiar thought that she wore the Black Family’s handsome, regal features scandalously. Andromeda Tonks, defiantly enduring and humorous, healthy and happy and cooing at her grandchild, made it seem like the late Bellatrix Lestrange had been wearing her own face the wrong way all along.
It was Andromeda who approached George, after all the speeches had been given and people were drifting away to rest and recover in time for the next funerals on their lists. He was glad that she decided to introduce herself to him, because while he’d been curious about her and very much wanted to meet little Teddy, George wouldn’t have made the first move. Andromeda still looked very much like her sister and the only opening line coming to George’s mind at the time was: “So! My mum totally killed your evil, murderous sister. That happened.”
Andromeda had a far better opening line, which was: “You must be George. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
George turned around from where he’d been contemplating whether or not to speak to Harry about Harry’s speech and whether or not to try and reminisce together. Behind him stood Andromeda Tonks, a sleeping baby drooling on the shoulder of her nice black dress, her light brown hair curling out of a loose bun at the back of her head, threaded through with grey. She was a tall woman, so George didn’t have to look too far down, and now that he was seeing her up close, face to face, her resemblance to her sister became much less pronounced. She was plumper, her thick make-up done in brighter and warmer colors, and she had wider and infinitely kinder eyes.
“Oh?” George said, forcefully calming himself.
Andromeda smiled and said very politely, “Only the worst things, I assure you.”
And after a beat, George laughed.
“It’s true,” he said dramatically, putting one hand to his chest and the other to his head. “I’m a disgrace. I just haven’t been the same since I lost my better half.” And that said, he points to the place where his ear used to be, other hand touching as far as his cheekbone before miming wiping away a tear in memory.
Andromeda Tonks’ bright red lipstick smile widened.
“Sometimes I can still hear… if I turn my head,” George said sadly.
Andromeda giggled, and snorted, and she sounded so much like her daughter that George almost expected to see a pig’s nose. It shouldn’t have been surprising that Nymphadora Tonks got her laugh from somewhere, but somehow, George was taken aback for a moment before he recovered himself.
“So, who was saying terrible things about me? I’m asking for a perfectly innocent reason that has absolutely nothing to do with sweet, sweet revenge.”
This time, Andromeda’s smile dipped, then she answered, “Remus.”
And George’s heart dipped a little too.
“I don’t know if he ever got the chance to tell you boys, but he was so incredibly proud of you,” Andromeda continued, keeping up a sad and gentle smile. “I know that he hated having people speak for him, but he told me once that he never had a greater regret than leaving the important things unsaid. So I don’t think he’d mind.”
George’s voice was caught in his throat for a long moment. Long enough for Andromeda’s smile to nearly fade away from her face entirely.
“I know,” George managed finally. “He told us… just before the battle.”
“…I’m glad,” Andromeda said, so genuinely that it made George’s heart dip a little further.
“Have you told Harry?” George asked.
Because if anyone needed to hear that, it was probably Harry. George could see Harry now, behind Andromeda, still standing between Ron and Hermione in front of the grave. He was probably saying some last few goodbyes. Harry has seemed okay, for most of these affairs, but no one yet had meant as much to Harry before now, and the Weasleys couldn’t quite fill in for all his lost family. Especially not lately.
“I did,” Andromeda said, “but I think he already knew too.”
“I don’t think it hurts to hear it again,” George answered, a little awkwardly. “Thank you for making sure.”
“It’s the least I could do,” Andromeda demurred.
There was a long pause between them, as the conversation ended and tied itself off. George and Andromeda stood at the edge of an ending funeral, and Andromeda looked away and George followed her gaze out towards the rest of the cemetery. There were lots of trees and a few well-tended flower beds, and in the distance there was a park, and it wasn’t a bad place to be on a late May morning, even if the sky was turning grey and the breeze a bit cool. George hadn’t thought they’d be burying Remus and Tonks in Wales, next to Remus’ mother, but… it wasn’t bad.
Not bad at all.
He was pretty sure there’d been a joke yesterday by Andromeda about how she couldn’t bear to have buried her daughter with the rest of the Blacks. She had said, and George could quote: “They’d all be spinning in their graves at having a bloodtraitor buried next to them, and how can I tell my daughter to rest in peace with that sort of hideous racket going on next to her?”
“I’m sorry if this is a rude question,” George said, when he couldn’t bear the silence any longer and his curiosity was itching bad enough for him to scratch his other ear off. He didn’t really want to ask the question, but at the same time, he had to know what sort of woman was looking after Remus and Tonks’ son. “But I was under the impression that you didn’t approve of Remus much.”
Andromeda’s gaze snapped back to George, and there was a sharpness to them now. Not a cruel or hateful sort of sharpness, but a deeply considering sort that left her face smooth and emotionless. It was a startling transformation, almost as startling and different as if a pig’s nose had suddenly appeared on her face.
George nevertheless met her eyes unwaveringly, and he waited.
“I didn’t,” Andromeda said finally.
“But that changed.”
“Alright,” George said, looking away. He felt a bit ashamed; her voice had been so sharp that he thought he could feel a cut on his cheek from its fierceness. “Sorry for asking.”
“No, thank you for making sure.”
George looked back to Andromeda, who was smiling shakily at him. She looked slightly pale again, and she was trembling slightly, but she held her chin high and kept her gaze steady even so.
“I’m sorry if this is a burdensome question,” she said, “but would you mind hearing me out?”
There was some part of George that wondered if he could really take another weight, but at the same time, he was itching with curiosity and there was something so very sad and so very strained about Andromeda Tonks. Like she was bursting at the edges of herself, hidden behind soft smiles and loosely tied hair. And there was something appealing about an interaction where neither of them had spoken before, but they both knew enough to understand.
“I can lend you an ear… but I’ll need it back, you know, because I’ve only got the one.”
“I’ll be careful with it,” Andromeda promised, smiling at him with relief.
George and Andromeda walked over to a bench on the far edges of the cemetery, next to some of the flower beds and with an excellent view of the dwindling crowd. They sat, and George waited while Andromeda adjusted Teddy in her arms and sighed.
“You’re right in that I didn’t approve of Remus at first,” Andromeda said. “I outright told Nymphadora not to marry him. I told her marrying him would be the worst decision she could ever make.”
That was… not what George had been expecting.
“This is going to sound terrible at first, but because he was a werewolf.”
George just barely caught himself from stiffening or giving some other sort of telling reaction. So it’s like that, he thought, reasonably unsurprised.
Prejudice against werewolves was distressingly common, even among muggleborns and bloodtraitors and the magically disabled community. George himself had to unlearn a lot of fear and assumptions and other prejudices against werewolves, as he grew up and realized the false stereotypes and irrational fears he’d accepted without thinking about it, not at all immune to the prejudice threaded through society for the chronically cursed. His family might be bloodtraitors, but they were hardly perfect, especially in regards to magical disabilities and non-humans – enlightened in one way, but ignorant in another, it seemed. Besides, their society wasn’t exactly set up to help werewolves or educate people on a sickness that was far too easy to view as beastly monstrosity.
He couldn’t judge Andromeda for needing to unlearn that bad lesson too, and said as much.
“Most people need to unlearn a few bad lessons on werewolves. I did.”
Andromeda made an agreeable sound, and said, “The thing was I thought I already had. So I was as stubborn and senseless as a double-headed donkey without a sense of direction, and wasn’t hearing a word Dora said when she told me I was being a prejudiced old bint and a complete hypocrite.”
“A double-headed donkey without a sense of direction,” George repeated. “I haven’t heard that one before.”
“Well, now you have. You’re welcome.”
“Thanks very much. I’m still a little confused, though. What was it about werewolves?”
Andromeda took a deep breath and said, “It wasn’t so much him as it was me. You see, I came from a very Dark and very prejudiced pureblood family. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you’re familiar with the Blacks’ reputation and met my ‘dear’ elder sister at least once.”
George had never in his life before heard the word dear said so very frostily before.
“At least once still would have been one time too many,” he answered. “Yeah, I’m familiar.”
“Well said. And you were friends with Sirius, too, I heard?”
“Are you familiar with my dear family’s reaction to those who didn’t embody the family motto?”
“Yeah. There’s a portrait of Sirius’ mum in Grimmauld Place. They didn’t get along.”
“Someone should really just burn that whole place down,” Andromeda said darkly, before she sighed again. “Toujours pur. And they meant it, by any means. Just disownment was if you were lucky. More than a few of the family thought it was best to kill off any bloodtraitors than let them shame the family by mingling with Muggles and Muggleborns, or worse: pervert the pure blood of Black in any form.
“When I eloped with Ted, I was genuinely scared for our lives. I never told Dora this, of course, but there was a very real chance that my family might hunt us down and try to kill us. I’m not sure I can explain the sheer fury they felt at me marrying a Muggleborn, at me daring to taint the purity of the Black bloodline and turn my back on everything they stood for. If I had simply distanced myself from the family, they might have disgustedly tolerated me, but no, I loved Ted, and it made them so mad. So incredibly, ridiculously, irrationally angry. Something about me loving a Muggleborn man made their ‘pure’ blood boil. They couldn’t stand it. Not at all. Better I die than marry him. Better my own ‘dear’ mother kill me than knowingly let me go.
“We were lucky at the time, however. I was only one of three sisters, and the other two went on to marry 'respectable purebloods' of the ‘highest caliber’, and Sirius and Regulus were there as heir and spare. They could afford to lose me, and so I suppose I was more of a ‘kill if you have the chance but don’t go too out of your way’ concern to just immediately disown and despise. I really can’t imagine the sort of bravery it must have taken Sirius to later run away at sixteen. …I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Reggie to be stuck in that house.”
“I’m sorry,” George said. “But who’s ‘Reggie’?”
Andromeda looked at him, then sighed and said, “Sirius’ little brother. He was before your time, and he’s another story. I’m getting a little off topic. The point I’m trying to make is that my family was fanatical about keeping the blood line pure. Just… completely unreasonable about it. Ted never really understood and, if I’d ever tried to explain it to Dora, I’m not sure she would have either.”
George thought of the screaming portrait in Grimmauld Place. He thought of the Battle of Hogwarts and seeing the bodies of children laid out like soldiers, under Voldemort’s complete lack of mercy. He thought he understood the level of fanaticism Andromeda was talking about, but he couldn’t imagine having a family like that.
“I hadn’t met Remus yet, when she told us she loved him, but I’d heard about him in passing through Sirius and others. That he was a half-blood and a friend of Sirius’ was dangerous, but only about as dangerous as Dora choosing to be an Auror and just being her. What I couldn’t articulate to Dora was how angry my family and their friends would be at her for marrying a werewolf – I didn't care that he was a werewolf, but I cared that they cared. So I did care, really.
“In their twisted vision, a half-blood is a disgrace, but still human and still redeemable. But a werewolf is a filthy beast to them and they wouldn’t be able to forgive a ‘creature’ being introduced to the Black bloodline. They’d be so mad at her, I knew, even more so than they were at me. Unreasonably, ridiculously, murderously furious! They would actively hunt her down for it and try their damnedest to kill her and Remus, I knew, and so I told Dora that marrying a man like Remus Lupin would be akin to painting a target on her face. I wouldn’t allow her to do it.”
Andromeda gave a wet sort of laugh and said, “And do you know what she did?”
“What?” George said.
“She made a giant target appear on her forehead without missing a beat, and looked me right in the eye, and said, ‘Mom, no one allows me to live my life. Not even you. I’m already a bloodtraitor Auror, and I’m going to marry the man I love, who happens to be a werewolf. You didn’t raise me like you’re acting now.’ And then she left, that target still on her forehead, and the next thing I know: she’s eloped.”
That’s… that was one of the coolest things that George had ever heard, actually. He didn’t say as much, because Andromeda Tonks looked on the verge of tears, but… actually, he changed his mind.
“That’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard,” George said.
And Andromeda laughed, watering eyes bright with more than tears. “I know! I was speechless! And Ted was so mad at me afterwards. I tried to explain myself to him, but in the end, I realized exactly what I was really scared of and what a mistake I’d made with Dora. I apologized the moment I saw her again, but I didn’t quite manage to muster a good first impression for Remus. I could tell he thought I didn’t like him.
“I did like him, as I came to know him. He was a good man. But I didn’t know how to explain that I was mad at myself rather than mad at him! I looked at him and I wanted to think: You’re going to get my daughter killed. But when I looked at him, what I was really thinking was: I’ve raised such a good woman. I’ve as good as gotten my daughter killed. It was never him, not really. It was me. It was always me.
“And I was right in the end,” Andromeda said, looking out towards the few stragglers still by the graves.
Then she lowered her voice and muttered very wetly, “I hate being right.”
“…I’m sorry,” George said.
It didn’t feel like enough, but he said it anyway.
“Thank you,” Andromeda said, several tears running down her cheeks.
George pulled his wand and conjured a handkerchief for her, which she accepted with another bit of thanks and delicately wiped at her eyes with. She cleared her eyes of tears one-handedly, little Teddy still sleeping in her other arm, and none of her thick make-up was smudged or even stained the conjured handkerchief.
“Thank you for lending me your ear,” Andromeda said finally. “I’ve been… waiting a while to explain myself. Even when she accepted my apology, even after we began to grow closer, I never managed to explain myself to Dora or Remus. My… mistake… stayed between us. I never managed to muster the courage to fix things in what little time we had, and I didn’t… I didn’t quite get to let her know how proud I was.”
“…I think she already knew,” George said.
Andromeda paused in wiping away a few more stray tears.
“She was smart,” George continued, “and so was Remus. I’m sure they knew.”
“They were, weren’t they?” Andromeda mused. “I hope they did.”
George reached out and placed a gentle hand on Andromeda arm for a few seconds. “They were probably just waiting for you to catch up with them,” he said, feeling a faint watery sting in his own eyes. “Maybe they never got a confirmation spoken directly, but they were my friends, and I know they loved you.”
George could not reconcile this teary grandmother with her clever daughter and son-in-law not knowing she loved them. He hadn’t seen as much of Remus and Tonks in the past year as he would have liked, but he saw them not infrequently and he would like to think he was decent at listening to what his friends did and didn’t say. He was sure Remus had known, at the very least, and if Remus had known, then there was no way Tonks hadn’t.
Andromeda smiled at him, pale and shaky, and George’s good opinion of her reaffirmed itself once more.
They all had to know how much they meant.
“You’re a good man, George,” Andromeda said. “Thank you for listening to me talk in circles like this. Thank you for asking. Dora and Remus were very lucky to have a friend like you.”
“It was a pleasure,” George said, and he didn’t know which part of it all he was talking about.
All of it, he thought, even though it had been very painful at the same time.
“If I can ever repay the favour, I would love to have you over for tea sometime.”
“And even if I can’t return the favour, I insist on having you over for tea anyway. I have some old journals and such that belonged to Remus and Sirius, old school projects and such like that ridiculous motorcycle, and I think they would have liked for you to have them.”
“I couldn’t,” George said, throat dry.
“You could and I think you should,” Andromeda said evenly. “I insist.”
“They belong to Teddy.”
“And they can belong to Teddy when you’re done with them.”
“Give them to Harry. They should be Harry’s.”
Andromeda Tonks just looked amused at all of George’s protests.
“I’m sure,” she said, eyes red-rimmed but stare steady, “that by your age, you understand the idea of sharing.”
George’s voice caught in his throat, as her sentence hit him like a hex. She didn’t mean it that way. He knew that she didn’t mean it that way and couldn’t mean it that way, but he couldn’t help but hear it that way.
“If they spend any longer sitting in a box in my attic, they’re going to break my heart,” Andromeda went on. “And by this point, I’m not sure I have a significantly touching amount of heart left to break. Any more and it’s going to become a bit old, which would be convenient but sad. Somebody ought to do something good with them. Remus was right; I’m tired of unsaid things.”
George opened his mouth to speak and no sound came out.
“George, are you… alright?” Andromeda said, peering at him with that sharp look again. “If you don’t want the journals, of course you don’t have to take them. They can sit in my attic a while longer, it’s quite cozy up there if the bats have anything to say about it.”
“No, it’s… I’d be happy to take them,” George said finally. He raised a hand and waved it around his missing ear. “It’s the ear, I just… hear things a bit funny now. I’ll be alright in a moment.”
But his joke excuse was too flimsy, and Andromeda was too sharp. He could almost see the thoughts flying past her eyes, and the realization as she realized what it was she had said that might have been upsetting. Her wide eyes became wider, the kind look of them even kinder with teary sympathy.
“Was it the sharing remark?” Andromeda said quietly.
George could hardly nod. He didn’t even really want to nod, but he did, because lying about this felt somehow wrong after Andromeda’s story.
“Oh, George, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s fine… I know you didn’t… It’s fine.”
“No, it’s really not,” Andromeda said firmly. “If you think for a moment that after everything I told you, I’m not going to take responsibility for this unthoughtful thing I’ve said to you, you need to get yourself another ear.”
George laughed, mostly from surprise.
“I meant it entirely when I said I would like for you to come over for tea,” Andromeda said. “And I meant it entirely when I said I’d like to repay the favour someday. So, I’m sorry if this is a rude question, but what was he like?”
“…Remus?” George asked, knowingly.
“No,” Andromeda said.
George took a deep breath, then… another.
“Sorry for asking.”
“No, thanks for asking,” George said. “I… just… not today. I can’t today.”
Too many people had tried to get George to talk about the person-shaped space that followed him wherever he went, either long before he was ready or without any sort of understanding or compassion. Most of them were well-meaning, but it was hard enough getting up in the morning at all, much more to come to these affairs. He’d already spoken enough at that first funeral, where he’d seen Andromeda Tonks for the first time, even though he’d barely managed to speak at all and had all but broken down anyway.
They sat in a comfortable silence, as the last few stragglers starting Disapparating away. The only people left seemed to be Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who were looking over towards Andromeda now but clearly leery of approaching her and George, and Lee talking to a man who looked to be in his late sixties. Lee was probably just making conversation while he was waiting for George, but George wondered who the stranger was. There was something very familiar about the old man, something that George would have to ask Lee about later.
“We should probably be going,” George said. “I think they’re waiting on us.”
Andromeda made an agreeable humming sound. “Will you meet me for tea sometime next week?”
“That depends, do you insist?”
“Well then, it looks like I don’t have much choice.”
“You always do,” Andromeda said, genuinely enough to make George’s heart dip a little again. “There’s no need for you to humour me if you need to look after yourself, you know.”
George thought about it for a moment. He thought about whether or not he had found this conversation truly burdensome, as Andromeda had said at the beginning, or if it had lifted his heart quite a bit to remember friends and family with someone who really got it. He thought about whether or not he wanted to do this and answering Andromeda’s question and found… that he did, actually. He’d like that.
No one else had asked that particular question, and George wanted very much to answer it someday.
He turned to look Andromeda Tonks in the eyes, to meet her steady gaze with his own, and to answer her shaky smile with a wide and reassuring grin of his own.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard, with those confusing two ears of yours,” he began, “but humouring people is sort of what I do. I’d love to have tea sometime.” Then, smiling even wider, to show her that he really did want this. “I mean, someone’s going to show little Teddy what it means to be up to no good.”
Andromeda giggled again, snorting again, and looked a little surprised at herself. Then, a second later, a sharp look entered her eyes again and an almost sly look crossed her face.
“George Weasley,” she admonished. “Where exactly do you think Dora got it from?”
George laughed, a little surprised himself, then countered, “I don’t know. But what does tripping over umbrella stands have to do with anything?”
Andromeda gasped, looking delightedly outraged. “Those are duelling words, sir!”
“I can’t exactly make a target appear on my forehead right now without a spell, but bring it, ma’am.”
“You will regret making that challenge of me, sir,” Andromeda promised, pointing a finger at him as she got to her feet. “Beware yourself next week at tea. Wednesday at two o’clock. I’ll send you the directions.”
“I’m shaking in my shoes,” George said.
“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Andromeda replied. “Goodbye, George.”
“Goodbye, Mrs. Tonks.”
Andromeda paused in walking back towards Harry and company, and turned around.
“Andy,” she said. “Friends call me Andy.”
George smiled at her. “Alright.”
Andromeda smiled back, leaned forward in a conspiring manner, and said, “My fool of a mother named me Andromeda.”
Then she winked.
And after a beat, by which time she was already walking away, George laughed.