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Crocus by Equinox Chick

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Kingsley knew a restaurant away from the hurly-burly of Diagon Alley. Called The Copper Cauldron, it was small, homely, and run by a buxom, dark- haired witch, who greeted him enthusiastically with a kiss on each cheek, before showing them to a table in the corner.

–Fabienne is an old friend,” he informed Andromeda as he pulled out a chair for her.

–She looks familiar,” Andromeda replied, watching as Fabienne meandered through the tables, smiling at all her patrons, refilling glasses, and taking orders.

Kingsley didn’t elaborate, instead pointing out certain things on the menu that were good. –I’m not drinking, but would you like a glass of wine?” he asked.

Looking up from the menu, Andromeda shook her head, saying she’d prefer a Gillywater. Kingsley nodded, and raised his hand towards Fabienne. She bustled across, all smiles and purpose, and took their order. It was whilst Kingsley was talking to her, that Andromeda allowed herself to look at him properly. He hadn’t changed that much since their last meeting a year ... no ... nearly two years ago, but he looked far more relaxed now. The gold hoop earring that he’d discarded when he’d first become Minister, had made its way back and glinted in his ear. Of course, she’d last seen him at the Memorial, which was hardly a casual occasion, and she’d still been in the very depths of grief, barely able to talk to a soul. But Kingsley, despite his relative informality, still exuded authority and calm.

–A Knut for your thoughts,” Kingsley murmured.

–Oh.” She laughed a little. –Not worth that much, I’m afraid.” A pause. –Can you tell me what you expect from Lestrange’s vault?”

He raised one eyebrow, but looked unsurprised at her directness. –We know Bellatrix and Rodolphus protected their vault with Geminio and Flagrante curses. Rabastan has probably done the same.” He shrugged. –An experienced Curse-Breaker can deal with them easily enough, but a blood charm would be harder to dismantle.” He stopped speaking as Fabienne approached with their drinks, picking up only when she’d gone. –This is where we need you. Hermione believes that, as you were never disinherited from the Rosier line your blood will be enough to get us into the vault. You would still need your wand, but a Curse-Breaker will be on hand to deal with any other jinxes.”

–Who do you have in mind?” she asked, sipping her Gillywater.

He pressed his lips together. –I wanted to ask Bill. He does have the most experience of any Gringotts Curse-Breaker, plus we can trust him. However, he is currently in Egypt and as Lestrange is unlikely to last much longer, we won’t be able to get hold of him in time.” Leaning across the table, Kingsley whispered, –My fear is that if we leave it too long and Narcissa or Draco enter the vault, then nothing of value will remain.”

–But if I’m the equal heir, then they can’t -”

–Would you really trust Narcissa not to cheat you, Andromeda? You said yourself that you no longer have a sister.”

She leant back in her chair, taking a deep breath as she considered her options. Kingsley’s dark eyes, full of sincerity and compassion, bored into her. She didn’t want compassion, or pity, and feeling suddenly irritated, she snapped out her reply.

–I don’t want his money, Minister. I have enough, and even if I didn’t, I’d rather starve than live off Lestrange’s spoils of war.”

–I phrased that badly,” he replied calmly, and then licked his lips. –Perhaps I should have said ... Would you really want Narcissa to win?”

Despite herself, she felt her lips curve into a smile, and he grinned back. A deliciously wide smile, displaying very white, even teeth.

‘Merlin, Dromeda, what did you see in an old snaggletooth like me?’

–Anyway,” Kingsley continued. –As Bill is unavailable, then I shall volunteer my services.”

–You!” She blinked, then realised her astonishment must sound rude.

‘Ha ha. Don’t sound so surprised, Mum!’

He appeared not to be offended. –Before training to be an Auror, I was a Curse-Breaker.”

–Oh... what made you change? I would have thought being a Curse-Breaker was possibly the most glamorous profession you could have had at that time,” she said. –I believe Bill Weasley has done very well out of it.”

Taking a slow sip of his drink, Kingsley prevaricated with his reply. –It was after the First War. I never quite believed the story that Voldemort had gone, or that so many of his followers had been under the Imperius Curse.”

–Dora never wanted to be anything else,” Andromeda murmured. –I tried so hard to dissuade her because I knew our - my - name would go against her. I was even pleased when she failed that set of exams and prayed another year would bring her to her senses, and she’d decide I was right, but ...” Her throat constricted, but seeing her glass was empty, she instead took a heaving gulp of air. –But it was the only thing she wanted to do with her life. So, how could I stand in the way of all that purpose?”

‘You couldn’t.’

His hand was on hers, his long fingers curling over her palm. –She was wonderful, Andromeda. A credit to you and Ted. I’d never met someone so determined, and I still haven’t.”

–Not even Harry?” she asked.

–He’s an amateur compared with Nymphadora.”

–She’d have hexed you for calling her that,” Andromeda reprimanded. And then she began to laugh, a small bubbling sound from her belly, releasing the strictures in her throat as she recalled her little firebrand of a girl spitting fury at her hated name. Kingsley released her hand and sat back in his chair, an amused glint in his eyes.

–Sea bass with blackened butter and capers,” Fabienne announced, placing the dish before Andromeda. –And steak for you, Kingsley. Well done, just as you like it, with a little twist of pepper.”

–I come here a lot,” Kingsley explained, –but am unadventurous with my food. Fabienne despairs of me.”

Swallowing a sliver of the fish and savouring its moist flavour, Andromeda nodded. –I can see why you come here. The food is very good.”

–Mmm.” Kingsley cut into his steak. –She’s discreet as well”

–You have need for discretion?” Andromeda queried. Then she blushed. For a moment, she’d forgotten she was with the Minister of Magic, treating him merely as an old friend with whom she could reminisce.

–I don’t want the world and The Prophet to know exactly how unadventurous I am,” he replied, adding after a while, –Although having lunch with a beautiful woman would improve my standing no end.”

She snorted at the line and looked away.

‘Why can’t you ever take a compliment, Dromeda?’

Kingsley cleared his throat. –So, back to the vault. I can accompany you, if that’s agreeable. But ... please, Andromeda, I don’t want you to feel ambushed, or browbeaten or at all pressured into thinking that you have to do this. Yes, it would help the Death Eaters’ victims, but -”

–Florean Fortescue!” she said suddenly. He jumped and she turned to stare at Fabienne. –That’s his wife, isn’t it?”

–Yes.” He met her gaze. –I won’t lie. This is the other reason I brought you here. Rabastan dragged Florean away, and very probably murdered him. Many of the Fortescues’ possessions were stolen and haven’t been recovered.”

She fell silent, thoughtful as she picked the fish off its bone and mopped up the rest of the butter sauce. Kingsley didn’t speak, but continued to cut up his steak, although she noticed he didn’t eat much more, instead pushing it around the plate.

–I didn’t intend to deceive you,” he said at last.

–You have a job to do,” she replied, and clenched her hand into a ball to stop it trembling.

–You’re angry.”

‘Mum, come on, he’s a good bloke!’

She drained her glass and set it carefully back on its coaster. –I’ll need to sort out childcare for Teddy, but as soon as you need me, let me know.”


–He’s sleeping,” Molly said as she showed Andromeda into the lounge. –Would you like a cuppa?”

–Yes, thank you.” She sat down on one of the armchairs and waited for Molly to reappear, no doubt with a tray of cakes and biscuits as well as the tea. –How did you manage to get him to take a nap?”

–Arthur’s been teaching them how to de-gnome the garden,” Molly called from the kitchen, and popped her head back through the door. –We have Victoire as well. Bless her, not quite two but keen to do anything Teddy can.” She bustled into the lounge and set a tray down on a small table by Andromeda’s side. –I didn’t expect you back so soon.”

Andromeda sipped her tea. It wasn’t that lunch had finished abruptly. After she’d agreed to help, Kingsley had ordered them coffee, and asked if she’d like a dessert. But as tempting as Fabienne’s iced sorbets were, she’d refused. Coffee consumed, Kingsley had settled the bill, and then offered to escort her back to the Ministry to answer any further questions she might have. She’d declined the offer, declaring herself satisfied with the plan and reiterating her intention to help.

–It’s good of you to help,” Molly said, when Andromeda had told the story. –Those cursed vaults can be dangerous, so Bill’s told me.”

–Oh come on, it’s the very least I could do,” she replied. –Besides Kingsley will be there.”

–Really?” Molly stirred a spoonful of sugar into her tea. –And he took you to lunch, you say?”

–To talk me through the procedures for opening the vault, yes,” Andromeda replied, knowing exactly what Molly was hinting at. –It was lunchtime. He had to eat, and as I’d practically fainted in that Gamp woman’s office.”

Molly pressed her lips together, as if she were smothering a giggle, and cut Andromeda a generous slice of lemon cake. –Hermione could have bought you a sandwich.”

Shooting her a look, which she hoped would stop Molly’s speculation, Andromeda said nothing more, but bit into the cake. It was still warm, and crumbled slightly in her mouth. –This is delicious, Molly.”

–You didn’t have dessert then?” Molly inquired innocently.

–Sea bass followed by coffee,” she rapped. –He had steak, well done and with a twist of pepper. We both drank Gillywater. I listened to what he said and agreed to help. And then the Minister had to get back to work.”

Taking the hint, Molly changed the subject, filling Andromeda in on the latest news, which mainly concerned Ron and Hermione’s engagement, and her daughter-in-law, Audrey’s second pregnancy. Andromeda listened with one ear (a skill she’d acquired growing up in the Black household) but allowed her thoughts to drift.

In the natural order of things, she wouldn’t have been friends with Molly Weasley. She’d known of her at Hogwarts (everyone knew the brash Prewett girl), and she’d met her a few times over the years, largely because Dora had struck up a friendship with Charlie. But they’d never been on taking tea together terms. She’d barely thought of Molly, except to wonder how on earth she coped with seven children.

All that had changed in the aftermath of the Battle. Dora’s death, following hard on Ted’s, had left Andromeda so deeply wounded that it had been a miracle she’d been able to function. A miracle in the form of Molly Weasley’s persistent digging, which had forced Andromeda to the surface. Both women were grieving for a child, and that stark fact cemented their bond.

–It will be all right if I bring Teddy over, won’t it?” Andromeda asked when there was a lull in Molly’s chatter. –It might be in the middle of the night.”

–Mmm, but why not leave him here?”Molly replied. –Victoire’s staying while Bill’s in Egypt and they get on so well together.”

–Molly, if I didn’t know any better, I would swear you’re matchmaking the pair of them.”

Molly finished her tea, and tried to assume a dignified expression, but couldn’t stop a glimmer of a smile. –Nonsense! They are far too young,” she said.

–It was lunch,” Andromeda insisted, through pinched lips.

–With a man who barely has time for a sandwich at his desk, but drinks gallons of coffee instead, so Percy’s always telling us,” Molly replied and frowned. –Not that that’s a good example to set. A man needs a good square meal in the middle of the day.”

‘I used to like your pack lunches, Dromeda. You even cut off the crusts for me’.

–Lunch because he needed to talk to me.”

–Pfft.” Molly waved her hand in the air. –Just don’t be surprised if he asks you again.”

Trying not to snap back, Andromeda inhaled slowly, and then when she felt calm enough, replied, –I’m too old for him.”

–Five years, it’s nothing. Arthur’s younger than me.”

This time she did snap, barking out her response. –Well, I’m too old. Full stop. And I have Ted - I mean Teddy to think of.”

Before Molly could reply - and she’d opened her mouth to give her opinion - Arthur wandered in from the garden. Wearing old patched robes, with mud encrusted on the sleeves, it was clear he’d been gardening.

–Afternoon, Andromeda. Have you come to pick up the scamp already?”

–Teddy’s going to stay overnight, –Molly said, eyeing him with some disapproval. –Arthur, you’re tramping mud all over the carpet. Take your shoes off and wash your hands!”

–Rightio,” he replied cheerfully and backed out the room. –Make sure you save me some of that cake.”

Once he couldn’t see, Molly’s frown disappeared to be replaced with an indulgent smile. She cut a slice of cake, and poured him a cup of tea, then shifted up the couch to leave room for him.

Were we like that? Andromeda wondered.

‘Wasn’t our style, my love.’


There seemed very little point in getting ready for bed, not when she might be heading to Gringotts in a matter of hours. Instead, Andromeda changed out of the robes she’d been wearing and into an older, more comfortable set. A headache was brewing, so she untied her hair from its bun and sipped a glass of water. And then, because she couldn’t concentrate on her book and didn’t want the noise from the radio, she set about dusting her living room.

She’d never been one for knick-knacks and ornaments. There’d been only two photographs on her mantelpiece before that last year: one of her and Ted, just after they’d eloped, and the other of Dora when she’d qualified as an Auror. These days, there were far more photographs, for Teddy’s sake, she told herself, because she didn’t need pictures to jog her memory.

–Andromeda! Are you there?”

She blinked. Someone was knocking on her door. Not someone - Kingsley. Hurrying to let him in, she stopped only to Banish the duster she was holding in her hand.

–Is he dead?”

If he was surprised at the question with no preliminaries, Kingsley didn’t show it. –Yes. I came straight away to give you time to make arrangements for Teddy.”

–Oh, he’s with Molly,” she replied, then smoothed down her robes. –Shall we go?”

–Er...” He paused, and placed his hand on her arm. –Andromeda, I’ve reconsidered. You don’t have to do this. There’s no telling what will be in Rabastan’s vault, and I’m not prepared to put you at any risk simply to enhance the Ministry’s reputation.”

–Is that what this is for?”

He stepped over the threshold, deftly closing the door behind them. –It certainly won’t do us any harm if Muggle-borns are seen to have attained some form of justice.”

–Kingsley, what’s happened? Why have you changed your mind?”

–I should have known I couldn’t fool you, Andromeda.” He glanced towards the living room. –May I sit?”

–Mmm, of course,” she replied, and led him through. –Would you like a drink?”

Kingsley hesitated before choosing the sofa to sit on and not the large armchair by the fire. –I don’t really have time. I still intend going to Gringotts because I believe Narcissa will be there soon.”

–So why don’t you want me there?” she asked. –What’s changed?”

–The Daily Prophet,” he said succinctly. –They know Rabastan’s dead and are already writing their headlines. Skeeter’s contacted me to ask what I intend to do with the contents of his vault. She plans to run a poll in the paper asking the readers to vote on various options, and asked me to contribute some ideas.”

–What did you tell her?”

–’No comment’,” Kingsley replied, wryly. –Sadly my position as Minister often restricts my vocabulary. Andromeda, they’ll have someone stationed at Gringotts, and Narcissa will know by now. You loathe publicity, and a Black family reunion would be just the story they’d love to splash on the front page, so I’m releasing you from any obligation you may have felt to help.”

He was wearing the same robes he’d worn at lunch. She could see a small smear of lipstick on his cheek where Fabienne had greeted him. Fabienne Fortescue, who had started all over again, without her husband and nothing of value except her own determination.

‘Up to you, love.’

–Accio Cloak!”


–Come on, Minister, we have a vault to open. I’m not letting Rita Skeeter or Madam Malfoy get in the way of that!”

With a grin and a glint in his eyes, Kingsley pulled out a silver inkpot, and muttered, –Portus!”

She grasped it the same time as he did, gave him a conspiratorial wink, and then the pair of them whooshed away in the night.