Cygnus finds Druella in her dressing room by the window. Her deep charcoal grey dress looks almost black even in the grey light of the cloudy, late afternoon. She stands motionless, hands folded before her, the knuckles just barely touching the windowsill. He takes a moment to trace the lines of her face and the ringlets of her hair – such a pure blonde that it would be hard to pick out any stray grey hairs.
“It’s time we went, love,” he says, his voice sounding too loud in the quiet of the room. “I think I heard the girls go down and Orion will be here soon with Walburga and the boys.”
“Must they all come? To witness my shame.”
“The shame is not yours anymore than mine or anyone else’s. And yes, they must.” Cygnus crosses the room and gently places one hand on Druella’s shoulder, the other wrapping around her waist. He does not add that, at least, her maiden family will not be present and she will not have to face the disappointment of her parents.
He understands how she feels. This is not a funeral. The less people the better.
Druella will not even allow herself to wear mourning, not even today. Cygnus does not understand why she blames herself so much. If this tragedy is anyone’s fault, it is his. He is the father, the head of this family. If his daughters do not obey him, why would they obey their mother? Or anyone else?
“Do you remember the day she was born, Cygnus? How big her eyes were? It took us forever to choose her name; not like Bella and Cissy.”
Cygnus nods and does not say anything. He will not remind Druella it is because he had named Bellatrix himself – a name he had always imagined a daughter of his having – and by the time Cissy was born they were wiser and had both a girl’s name picked out as well as a boy’s.
He also won’t tell Druella that what he remembers the most about that day is not the relief when Druella’s labor finally ended and the squalling of a babe echoed through the house, nor the face of his newborn daughter, or the joy of seeing little Bellatrix cautiously poke at her baby sister’s button nose with an expression of wonder. What he remembers the most is pulling his wand on his lady mother and shouting, If you ever speak that way about my wife again, Merlin help me, Maman! And the shame of lifting a hand to his mother and not being able to give the family what they wanted. And the fear that Druella would stop loving him if they did not succeed at bearing the boy whom everyone expected of them and whom, Cygnus knew, she desperately wanted.
“Where did I go wrong, Cygnus? Did I not teach her all the things that a girl ought to know? Did she not receive the same amount of love that Bella and Cissy have?”
“Did I miss a cry for help?”
Cygnus pulls Druella closer, his arm tightening around her. He runs his hand from her shoulder up her neck, teasing at the base of her skull and the wispy short hairs there. He wishes she would not blame herself like this. “It is nothing you did, my love. Andromeda…was always difficult. She has Cissy’s heart and Bella’s spirit. She was away at Hogwarts for most of the year and her sisters were too young themselves to keep a proper eye on her. The wrong people took advantage. And Meddy…was not strong enough to resist their lies. She is gone from us, but it is nothing you did.”
“Your mother would certainly think otherwise. So would your sister.” The razor edge that slips into Druella’s tone is clear to Cygnus. He sighs. His mother. And Walburga. The women of this family were always far more vicious than the men it seems.
He gently turns Druella around so that she is facing him. She looks up into his face and for a second he does not see a woman of nearly middling age but a girl of eighteen – trusting and just a little unsure of herself and of the world. Her eyes are wide open and her lips are slightly parted. She is still as beautiful now as she was on our wedding day, Cygnus thinks, even after all this. “Dee, do you remember our wedding day?”
Something flickers across her face and, for a moment, Cygnus thinks she will rebuke him, tell him this is not the time to talk of such matters. Not the time to stain happy memories with their present grief and shame. “Just so,” she murmurs finally. “But it is all very strange, you know. Almost like a dream. I can remember the silliest little things in vivid detail and then everything else is but a blur.”
“Well I remember it well. You in your wedding gown. How you smiled when you walked down the aisle to me. The white roses in your hair—I remember everything. And I remember thinking, I will love this woman until the day I die. No matter what happens.”
Druella shakes her head. “Why are you saying this now?”
“Because, Dee, you worry so much about my mother and my sister. You think what the family thinks will affect how I feel about you. I know you do. But it’s folly because we have faced down their scorn together before and we can do it again. Andromeda was our daughter and we have every right to mourn her. We did our best – you did your best – to raise her well. We cannot help whet Merlin had a hand in.”
She smiles faintly, the corners of her mouth curving up. “You could always be so reasonable, Cygnus.”
“One of us has to be.”
She swats at him playfully with her handkerchief, but without a smile. They have little to smile about presently. “We should go then. Before everyone is kept waiting for too long. And our two daughters need us now.”
Cygnus takes her hand and holds it tightly as they walk down to the ceremonial chamber where the rest of the Black family has gathered for Andromeda’s Disownment ceremony.