Chapter One: The Train Station
was icy and everyone shivered a little as they slid off the train. King’s Cross
seemed full, as a hundred or more students cried and laughed and caught
snowflakes on their tongues. They wished each other a happy Christmas, even if
the wish was as futile for them as it was for Sirius Black.
It was the
sixth time that Sirius had departed Hogwarts to spend another horrid holiday
with his family, and that did not make it any easier to leave all his friends
behind. James and Peter assured him that they would send emergency sweets, as
they always did, (Remus wasn’t there; the lucky boy had to stay at Hogwarts
where it was safer to transform) and told increasingly ridiculous plans of how
he would escape, as they always did, until their families came and
whisked them off to winter camps in France or warm fires in London. Sirius was
part wasn’t really all that bad; it delayed the inevitable ride home. Andromeda
had come to pick him up, but she and Narcissa were
currently busy chatting with the old school chums and had gotten lost in the
fun, as she always did. Bellatrix was there as well,
keeping to the corners with two others. The trio was made up of a boy (his name
was unknown, as Bellatrix didn’t talk about her
friends much—not that Sirius wanted to talk) and a young man—Rudolph or Rolf or
something like that—who had come to pick Kerr up.
Sirius let his cousins continue on; it was best to let them enjoy the
friendship he would be deprived of for the week to come.
Bellatrix, of course, could not let that happen. The little
group disbanded; she yelled at Andromeda to stop fondling Tonks
and get a move on before the Portkey left without
them. Andromeda extricated herself from the boy she had been saying good-bye to
and whispered something into his ear. She fled back to Bellatrix’s
side before he could react. Andromeda herself was keeping her head down so no
one could see her face.
The Blacks walked out of the
station in a still silence. Bellatrix was, in a
complete reversal of roles, the “cheery” one, if she could ever be compared at
all to her normally glowing sister. She held a two-way mirror in her hands and
whispered to it almost reverentially, but the dark, glossy screen of her hair
created a shield around the face of her companion and muffled their
conspiracies. If her hair wasn’t so thick and her relatives paying attention,
they might have noticed how her heavily painted eyes crinkled up in an honestly
friendly, joyful expression, quite unlike her usually dour face.
Sirius would have announced that
she looked psychotic and Andromeda would have been pleased with her progress in
making her little sister a little less crazy and unsociable. But all
four of the Blacks were caught up in their own personal demons or angels at the
moment, and could not notice the silence except for their own frenzied thoughts
about the events of the train station.
Meliflua, the family spinster, was at the back alley to
greet them with two Portkeys in the shape of beautiful
white Muggle boots. She quickly stopped examining the
buttons and heels and blushed.
leaving at seven sharp, dears,” she said, almost whispering.
Miss Meliflua,” Andromeda said, in a far louder
voice. She smiled truly for the first time, examining the shoes. If there was
one thing the Black sisters had in common, they could appreciate beauty. Of
course, Narcissa and Bellatrix
wouldn’t be caught dead admiring any Muggle creation
less than the works of Michelangelo, but Andromeda was friends with muggle-borns and Arthur Weasley, and they has given her an
obsession with Muggle culture, especially fashion and
was rarely talked about, as not refusing to marry had almost gotten her burned
off the family tree. But everyone was invited to the Black Annual
Pre-Christmas Dinner. It was an Event, and the entire family—everyone from
Uncle Alphard to Half-Cousin Jyll—somehow
managed to show up and fit into Grimmauld
Place. The wine flowed like the gossip; the food
came from the “best, most expensive and respected caterer” to exist since the
last party; to put it simply, fun was had by all.
including people who despised the rest of the Blacks, naturally.