by Maidenjedi

I'd gladly lose me to find you
I'd gladly give up all I had to find you
I'd suffer anything and be glad
- "Bargain" - The Who

Nymphadora was not at Fortescue's.

Nor was she at the Leaky Cauldron.

She wasn't at the Ministry.

No trace of her at Ollivander's.

The taste of panic, it seemed, was actually quite plain. It had no sour sting or bitter bite. Andromeda wasn't really surprised. None of the terrible emotions were ever felt right away; they were usually drowned out by fear or anger.

Sometimes, they were simply masked by shock. Disbelief.


Nymphadora was not missing. She had not run away.

She was playing a game.

Yes, yes. Playing a game.

Andromeda checked Knockturn Alley twice, intending to scold her daughter if she was wandering down there. The hag selling "real vampire's teeth, mum" swore she hadn't seen any young witches in the Alley, and under her breath she might have said something about eating one if she did.

Andromeda didn't ask, she just swished her wand and gave the hag an itch in a most unfortunate place.

Nymphadora had always been precocious, but she was generally obedient in public. Andromeda fretted because her daughter was unlike other little girls, and this was no time to be different from anyone.

Not in the wizarding world, she thought, shuddering as she passed a wanted sign offering three hundred galleons for "information leading to the arrest of known Death-Eater Bellatrix..."

Black, finished Andromeda silently.

Her daughter was a Black, but that wouldn't matter if Bellatrix got ahold of her. Nymphadora was of mixed heritage. Ted Tonks was Muggleborn.

Mudblood, whispered the part of Andromeda that was never, ever allowed to speak.

She fought it down with the rising taste of bile in her throat.

She would have taken out a photograph of Nymphadora and start asking passers-by for help, but her daughter was a special case. She was a Metamorphmagus, and she could be anywhere. Anyone.

She peered into the faces of every child she encountered, trying not to arouse any sort of suspicion or disturb people. None of the children had that look Andromeda associated with her daughter, that haughty, almost adult look of defiance.

Andromeda did not stop to consider that she would not recognize Nymphadora if she saw her. She had an arrogance where her daughter was concerned. She'd borne this baby girl, so of course she would know her.

Of course, she thought, looking into the eyes of a pretty little girl eating from a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. The girl smiled at Andromeda, and for a second it might have been the right little girl. Until she picked a green bean out of the box and ate it with no hesitation.

Nymphadora hated the color green, green food, and especially green Bertie Bott's.

Night fell and Andromeda's panic began to take over. She was ill from the adrenaline and couldn't keep walking much longer.

Denial was a weak ally.

She was tempted to look in Muggle London. But she had no place to store her daughter's school things (the robes and the wand and half the books she would need on her first day at Hogwarts, whispered the more pleasant voice in Andromeda's mind), and she was so tired that she didn't trust herself with many spells.

She sat down heavily on one of the ornate iron chairs outside Fortescue's. She must have walked past this place twenty times since this morning. Florean Fortescue himself came over to her, inquiring gently as to what was troubling her.

My daughter, she thought.

Gone missing.

She found she could not say the words and simply burst into tears.

Fortescue was a kind man, and a wise one. He knew Andromeda, as so many in Diagon Alley and elsewhere in the wizarding world would. He was not one of them and was instead inclined to work against the rising tide of evil. Andromeda laughed mirthlessly at these thoughts as Fortescue ran to try and reach Ted via Floo Powder - she had an image of Fortescue fending off Lord Voldemort with a scoop full of chocolate-covered cherry cordial ice cream, aimed right at Voldemort's nose.

Ted would be there in mere moments, Fortescue was quick to tell her.

And it would all be a dream, she thought.

Extra, extra! Special edition of the Daily Prophet! Muggles attacked in broad daylight! Several kidnappings reported at the scene! Death Eaters suspected! Extra, extra!

Andromeda felt her toes curl, her stomach clench. She drew up her knees and hugged her legs. When the eager newsboy came closer, shouting his message like a Muggle tickertape gone haywire, she turned her head, shutting her eyes and wishing she could shut her ears, as well.

Bellatrix would have been there. Andromeda knew it, she could almost sense it. Bellatrix would have been laughing, that evil, mad cackle that she'd developed when they were still young. That laugh she directed at Ted when he'd fallen from his broom during a Slytherin/Hufflepuff match and nearly broken his neck.

The laugh she used when Andromeda had been turned out of the house, and her name was burnt off the family tree.

Had Nymphadora heard that laugh today? Would it be the last laugh she ever heard?

A hand on Andromeda's head scared her, jolted her in the other direction like a live wire. She bit down on a scream and tasted blood. She waited, not knowing it, for Bellatrix's laugh.

Andromeda, it's me. It's only me.


He knelt down beside her and when she opened her eyes, she felt a crazy laugh well up and beg to be let out. Except for the sharp look of panic that floated just around his eyes, Ted looked for all the world like a man about to propose.

The laugh was not a laugh at all, though, and the fresh tears that dropped felt enormous.

Dora will turn up, we'll find her, don't worry luv.

Ted's hands pulling her close. Andromeda felt the weight lift a little. Ted would help. Ted would share it with her.

She could breathe.

If Death Eaters had taken her daughter, Andromeda would fight. She would not give in to demands or to her sister's petty laughter. She would fight and she would win.

Ted took her hand and pulled her to her feet.

The next laugh Andromeda would hear would be Nymphadora's.

Mommy, look! I can make a face like a frog!


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