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Crocus by Equinox Chick

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–He won’t be long,” said the rosy-cheeked witch. –Would you like a cup of tea? Or maybe this young wizard would like a drink?” She crouched down to Teddy. –Would you like some pumpkin juice?”

Teddy scowled and shook his head. –S’nasty.”

–Teddy!” Andromeda reproved. She grimaced at the witch. –I’m sorry; my grandson has taken a peculiar aversion to the colour orange today. I would like some tea, unless he’ll be back very soon.”

The witch smiled and tucked a strand of her wispy brown hair behind her ear. –He’s in a meeting with the Minister. Merlin knows how long that will take, but Harry does know you’re waiting.”

–Then tea would be wonderful,” she murmured, trying not to let the mention of Kingsley disturb her composure.

It was a week later and she hadn’t seen Kingsley since he’d left her house. A combination of Teddy developing a strange rash (which she couldn’t be at all sure wasn’t for attention) Rita Skeeter door-stepping her for quotes, and Kingsley’s workload which took him to Belgium for two days, had meant they’d not had a chance to speak. He’d sent some flowers with a small note repeating the offer of dinner, to which she’d responded with a hurried thank you. But she’d been unable to reply with a firm date for dinner because, despite knowing Molly would be happy to babysit, she didn’t want the questions before and after. However, an opportunity had presented itself this morning when an owl had arrived at her kitchen window. An owl that had excited Teddy into a frenzy.

Harry bowled into the room. –Aghh, Andromeda. So sorry I’m late. Kingsley summoned me for a meeting about Thicknesse’s appeal. It was apparently very important, but then he spent most of the time staring out the window.” He looked round the room. –Where’s Teddy?”

–He’s ...” Andromeda stifled a laugh, and with the minutest gesture of her head, indicated Harry’s chair behind the desk. –I have no idea, Harry. Teddy must have gone on an important mission.”

–Oh, I see,” Harry said slowly, and crept around his desk. –Then who is this hiding in my chair?”

–Hawwy!” Teddy leapt from the chair, catapulting himself into Harry’s arms with glee.

There was no mistaking the happiness on Harry’s face. His smile beamed across the room, even as Teddy reached up and knocked his glasses askew.

–Ready for our adventure?”

–Teddy’s been ready all day,” Andromeda replied. –The question is, Harry, are you?”

–Got the tent. Molly’s packed enough food to last us a week rather than the weekend, and Ron’s bought lots of Chocolate Frogs.”

–I think you’re looking forward to this more than Teddy,” Andromeda laughed.

–Yeah, well, I never had the chance when I was a kid,” he muttered.

A rotten childhood, Kingsley had said. Andromeda didn’t know the specifics, but Remus had once told her that Harry’s home was Hogwarts. She realised now that they’d shared that connection, all three of them. Remus had been ostracised from everywhere but school, Harry mistreated by those who should have cared for him, and she ... Andromeda had been a misfit, a quiet rebel, only finding happiness in her seventh year with Ted.

–We’ll take good care of him,” Harry assured her.

–I know,” she replied as she lifted Teddy from him for a cuddle. –You be a good boy. Not too much chocolate, and no playing with Harry’s wand.”

He accepted her kiss without saying yuck, then wriggled to be set free, but Andromeda wasn’t finished yet. Sitting him on Harry’s desk, she wiped his face, straightened his shirt and then ruffled his hair. It turned pink - bubblegum pink.

‘My baby!’

Struggling with tears, desperate not to show any emotion in front of Teddy, Andromeda sat back on her chair, and busied herself with tying his laces.

There was a knock on the door, the man entering before Harry answered. –Harry, I meant to ask - Oh!”

–Kingsley, can it wait?” Harry muttered. –Only, I’ve got plans with Teddy.”

–I didn’t know you had company,” Kingsley said, and gave Andromeda a small bow.

Teddy looked up at him, his mouth open and his eyes wide. Andromeda could see why. In stiff purple robes and a gold trimmed hat, Kingsley exuded majesty. –Are you nimportant like Hawwy?” he asked, awestruck.

Removing his hat, Kingsley grinned at him. –Not really. Your godfather catches baddies. I sit behind a desk and drink a lot of coffee. Harry, it was... um... a budget issue and can wait.”

–Great. Come on, Teddy. Let’s go and meet Ron.”

–Won!” Teddy exclaimed, giggling again. –Won-Won.”

Harry smirked. –Yeah, keep calling him that.”He kissed Andromeda on the cheek, grabbed Teddy’s hand and his bag, and made for the door. –See you Sunday, Andromeda.”

–Bye, Gwandma.”

She watched them leave, waving Teddy off all the way until they’d disappeared from the office and into the corridor, his pink hair now changing to black like Harry’s. Beside her, Kingsley said nothing, but she knew he was giving her sidelong glances. It was as if a veil had descended between them. The easy air of informality that had evolved after last week’s adventure had dissipated to be replaced with an uncertain mist.

–How is the hand?” she asked formally. –Any side effects?”

–None. You’ve managed Rita Skeeter well, I notice. If she has been bothering you, though, I can talk to the Editor,” he said politely.

–And get everyone talking?” She shook her head. –I told Rita I’d give her an exclusive interview when I’ve made a decision about the money, as long as she left me alone.”

–And have you?”

–Not yet. I’d like to talk it over with someone first.” She took a breath and tilted her face up to his. –With you?” she asked. –Harry has Teddy, so I’m free... for dinner, if the offer’s still open.”

No matter how discreet Fabienne’s restaurant was, the distinction between lunch with a friend and a dinner for two was a distinction both Andromeda and Kingsley knew Rita Skeeter (not to mention Molly Weasley) would exploit. Instead, Kingsley invited her round to his house at eight that evening, promising only that he wouldn’t serve cheese on toast. She agreed, because not only did she want to pick his brains regarding the idea that had been germinating in her mind, but because, she admitted to herself, she wanted to see Kingsley again. Their kiss had disrupted her thoughts, no matter how often she tried to suppress it.

–I’m too old for this!” she exclaimed, even as she smoothed out the creases in her green velvet robes.

But there was no reply. No dissenting voices, no matter how hard she listened, and no advice from moving pictures, however long she studied them. Ted laughed and Dora waved, but they were silent. She picked up a photograph on the edge of the mantelpiece. Remus gazed at her, a tentative smile because he hadn’t been used to happiness. It was the only one she had of him alone, taken from Dora’s bedroom when they’d gone. Andromeda touched his face then placed him beside Dora, whose Lumos-like smile beamed across the room.

–Ugh!” She caught sight of herself in the mirror, scrubbed off the majority of the blusher and toned down the lipstick. –Now I look like a bloody ghost!” she cried, exasperated. –And this dress is too much. It’s just dinner!”

Applying a little more blusher and a sliver of lipstick, she stared back at the woman in the mirror. Nearly fifty years old, and only a few grey strands stippled her dark hair. It wasn’t that she’d taken particular care of herself, after the Battle she’d become painfully thin, but a certain rigid pride in looking her best had never quite deserted her, even after she’d lost her world. It was ten to eight, and as much as she knew she could be fashionably late, if she hesitated much longer, she wouldn’t leave at all.

–I can’t go. What am I thinking?” she told herself. –I’ll tell Kingsley I have a headache.”

‘You have to grab your chances, Andromeda, however much they terrify you. If I hadn’t, then you wouldn’t have Teddy.’

A sharp intake of breath. She twisted around. –Remus!”

But there was no one there.


Kingsley greeted her with a smile and a slight widening of the eyes. Whether he was pleased with what he saw, or was surprised, she wasn’t sure. He was wearing - well, not old robes, but certainly nothing too smart. He looked informal, and that made her want to turn tail and Disapparate. Convinced she’d misjudged his invitation, she sorely regretted both the make up and the dress. It was too much, far too much, for a supper at home. With a friend.

–Aperitif?” he offered, taking her cloak as he ushered her into his brightly lit lounge.

–Wine, thank you,” she said.

Refusing the sofa piled with plump cushions, Andromeda perused the room on foot. There was smell in the room, like burning, but not unpleasant. It was as if he’d lit candles, then snuffed them out. Kingsley had good taste- at least the room was decorated to her taste if she could have lived alone. Minimalistic, there were no ornaments, save for a photograph of the last Order of the Phoenix. Dora and Sirius laughing together, Remus watching the pair of them, whilst Kingsley stared straight at the camera, as if aware of the momentousness of the tasks ahead.

–Dinner will be about half an hour. I’m afraid I had trouble with the paté, which is a little ... runny,” Kingsley said as he approached with a drink.

–You cooked?”

–Yes. I like cooking, I just don’t get much chance. As this was rather a last minute invitation, I’m afraid I’ve fallen back on old favourites.”

–Steak with a twist of pepper?” she teased.

–No, I decided on swordfish, which meant mussels for the first course were a bad idea.” Taking a sip of his own wine, Kingsley ushered her to the sofa. –So you wished to discuss something with me.”

Ah, we’ll do that now, then. She cleared her throat. –Yes, I had this idea, but I’m not sure how it would work in practise.”

–Fire away. I am, after all, very practical.”

–As I told you, I don’t need the money. Teddy doesn’t want for anything.” She swallowed. –Except parents. And my fear is that as much as I try to keep them alive and cherished in his mind, he is going to encounter so many horrible prejudices about his father.”

–Yes, sadly he won’t escape from that,” Kingsley murmured.

–With that in my mind, I’ve decided that the bulk of the money will go to Lycanthropy research. I want to change perceptions as well as find, if not a cure, then other ways of easing the condition.” Pausing, she took a breath, and her eyes dwelled on Kingsley’s photograph. –I was horrible to Remus, as ignorant as a troll. I judged him only on his condition and not what he actually was. Sometimes when I look at Teddy, I wonder how I can live with myself.”

–Remus understood,” Kingsley said.

–I know, but it changes nothing. Anyway, that’s just part of it,” she said, briskly changing the subject. –The thing is, I don’t want Teddy’s definition of his father to be only that he was a werewolf - however brave. I want him to have other things to remember, and revere.” She wetted her lips. –Harry tells me Remus was the best Defence teacher he ever had. It was certainly a time in his life when he was happy. So, I will need to speak to Minerva, but I’ve decided to donate some money to Hogwarts to fund a prize for the best Defence student, or most improved, perhaps. I think Remus would prefer the latter.”

Kingsley was silent. His attention wandered from her face, to the photograph, and then back to her. –I think that’s a wonderful idea.”

–Oh, good. I was worried it was mawkish, or impractical, but it also seemed fitting.”

–I will look into Ministry funding for Lycanthropic research, too,” he mused. –At the moment, we’re trying to subsidise Wolfsbane, but getting that past the Wizengamot is proving harder than I hoped. We could match your donation, though.”

There, they’d discussed the subject. Kingsley thought it was a good idea, and she would press forward with her plans. And suddenly the tension descended on them both. There was another reason he’d suggested dinner, and it wasn’t only to thank her, but because they’d kissed.

–I ...” He trailed off. –Andromeda, I didn’t invite - Merlin, this is ridiculous. I want to apologise -”

–Apologise!” Oh dear Merlin, she had got it wrong. He was regretting the kiss, the invitation, and everything that implied.

–For the flowers,” he said, tripping over his words. –They were too much. I can see that, and inappropriate. If Skeeter had seen, then I can only imagine the intrusion in yours and Teddy’s lives. I’m a high profile figure, and her constant scrutiny comes with the job. I’m used to it, but it makes me careless of others’ feelings.”

–Oh...” she gasped. –The flowers were beautiful, Kingsley. It was a lovely gesture.”

He sighed, and rubbed his temple. –It was supposed to be more than a gesture, but I realise how crass it was now. And kissing you at that time, when you were tired and vulnerable. It only makes me wonder at my actions.” He took another gulp of drink, not looking at her face.

–Was it that awful?” she said softly.

He looked up at her, shocked. –No, no, not at all. It was ... it felt right, Andromeda, but I have a feeling it was only right for me, and not-”

He stopped speaking. He stopped because Andromeda had inched closer.

You have to take chances, Remus had told her. So this was Andromeda taking a chance, prepared for a fall, because sometimes that was the only way to live.

–It felt right to me, too, Kingsley,” she whispered. –I think that’s why, as terrified as I am of getting things wrong, I’m here.”

He took her hands, raising both to his lips. –I don’t want to get it wrong, either,” he said. –I know this sounds horridly sentimental, but sometimes I think you just know, don’t you?”

She’d known with Ted. Maybe not the first time she’d clapped eyes on him, but once they’d kissed (a mismatch of lips that caused them both to giggle) she knew he was too important to lose.

Their mouths met. Her lips parted first. Ted had always been an eager kisser, his hands roving up and down her back, and she’d loved his enthusiasm. Kingsley was still as if he wanted to prolong every moment, to cherish each sensation in his head. And then, as his thumbs traced the planes of her face, his hands cupping her chin, Andromeda stopped thinking about Ted.

She’d been underground for four long years. A bulb with no prospect of ever seeing light. But Kingsley had found her, and now she could bloom again.
Chapter Endnotes: Because of the word count for the Cotillion challenge, I left out a whole chunk and two extra strand to this story. I might just write them another time. I hope you liked this. Romance between 'older' characters is so often ignored, but teenagers didn't invent romance and sex, so I wanted to redress the balance..