Yes, I’m back! Thank you so much to Zsenya for helping me return, and of
course to my wonderful new Beta Genesse! And I send out massive
appreciation, as always, to my brilliant, constructive and loyal Queens of
Chapter Four: Official
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
The student Andromeda Black (House:
Slytherin, Year: 3)_ is hereby permitted to
switch from __Arithmancy__ to __Muggle Studies_ at the
beginning of the winter term. He/She understands that he/she will have to make
up all the course work he/ she has missed independently and at his/ her own
Jane Vector Prof. Louisa Pelleyken Prof.
(current teacher) (future
teacher) (head of house)
I -Andromeda Black- am,
without a doubt, the most excited third-year at Hogwarts. I’m also in deep
trouble. In my bag, hidden under the sweets and tissues and unfinished
Transfiguration homework, I am carrying a treasure. Treasure, you ask? Oh yes.
I have an almost filled-out form allowing me to switch classes. No more
excruciating hours of agony with Professor Vector, who is very friendly, but
can’t make up for the fact that I don’t have a clue about numbers. I can barely
add things in my head, that’s how bad I am at maths. But, I hear you
saying, why on earth did you sign up for Arithmancy then?
I didn’t. I turned in my form last spring to Professor
Slughorn, just like everyone else, with my name on it, my house, and my chosen
subjects: Care of Magical Creatures and Muggle Studies. I’ve always wanted to
do Muggle Studies, ever since Sirius, Cissy and me got lost in Muggle London
accidentally. Kind of a long story- we sort of wandered out of St Mungo’s on
the day Great Uncle Dorian died and walked around London for about ten minutes,
and ever since, I’ve thought Muggles are fascinating-did you know they
were the ones who came up with the wireless? Celestina Bloody Warble-ick
wouldn’t even exist without them. Which is not so much in their favor, if you
think about it.
Anyway, so somehow –I still don’t know how- Bella got wind
of the subjects I’d picked, got her hands on my form, and changed it around.
She put me into Arithmancy, of all subjects, of course, without breathing a
word of all this to me all summer, until the morning of the first day. I was
about to go to breakfast, and she cornered me in the Common Room, and started
lecturing me about what I owed to my fathers, and did I have no proper
pride…and I was just thinking Now what have I done? Because I get these
lectures once a fortnight when we’re at Hogwarts, because Bella feels she has
to improve her mediocre, undeserving sister (me) since no-one else will do it.
I hate it. From the moment I was sorted into Slytherin, I realized my life was
going to be hell, because Bella is always around, and whatever I do, she
finds about. Including taking up Muggle Studies. Once I realized what she’d
done, I was ready to strangle her with my bare hands (as I have been every day
of my life since a particular Christmas five years ago, come to think of that).
But the truth is, I’m still too afraid of her. I know, better than anyone else,
I think, what Bella is capable of. She’s a prefect now, too- she has every
means of making my life hell. And, no, I’m not exaggerating. She has vanished
my homework too often for me to remember, and by now she’s put really nasty
jinxes and things on all of my school supplies so that I mess up in class, or
get hurt. She’s told the whole house, no, the whole school, horrible
lies about me, she’s gotten me into trouble with Mother and Father-and that’s
without all the curses and hexes she puts on me when I’m not looking.
She’s not my sister. Not really. But I’m still terrified
of what she might to do me. I shouldn’t let her hurt me like this, but I can’t
help it- she knows me. She knows where it’s going to hurt, and that’s where she
strikes, and then she watches me, and she likes it. I can tell by those eyes,
those cold blue eyes- I’ve got the same eyes, and Cissy, too. But while mine
are round and sky-colored, and Cissy’s are sparkly, and a bit watery; Bella’s
look like those blue flames we use in Potions sometimes. Cold and hot and deadly.
I don’t know what
she’ll do once she finds out. But whatever it is, it won’t be good for me, this
I do know. And she’s going to try to bully me out of it, and she just might be
successful. Because the truth is, I’m not very brave. I just want to be left
alone. And honestly, Ancient Runes might be an interesting subject…except,
well, I don’t want to do Runes, I want to do Muggle Studies. Which is why I’m
sitting here, shoveling food down my throat at top-speed, so I can get out of
this hall and have Slughorn sign his form today. If I run into Bella now, or on
the way, and she finds out…let’s just say whatever she does might be very
persuasive. I want to avoid that sort of encounter at all costs, and that means
eating very quickly.
Without thinking, I swallow a spoonful of boiling hot
stew, and immediately start coughing as it burns my throat. Gasping for breath,
eyes streaming, I reach for a glass of water. I spill most of it, but manage to
take a gulp and blink, opening my eyes to unpleasant laughter behind me. Helen
Carrow and Electra Pucey are snorting into their rolls and barely concealing
their pointing fingers. They glare at me when they notice I’m looking, and
hastily turn to each other, conversing in rapid, fake whispers. They’re my
dormmates, but they never talk to me. They think I’m some kind of freak, and
they’re actually terrified of being friends with me, lest Bella or their
parents find out. It’s like I’ve got some sort of disease they’ll catch from
me- Bloodtraitoritis or something. Just because I haven’t stopped speaking to
Sirius, just because I I‘m not in awe of people because of their family name,
just because I don’t dress up in all green for Quidditch matches and join the
ranks of girls wanting to “celebrate” or “comfort” the team afterwards, just
because I talk to people from other houses –even Gryffindor!- and would rather
go to the Charms or Homespells Education club meetings than the stupid AAPA.
That’s the Association for the Appreciation of Pureblood Ancestry, in case
you’re wondering. And, no, however much I wish it, I can assure you I am not
making this up. Bella founded the AAPA two or so years ago, and I think it’s
the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard of- a bunch of Slytherin’s sitting
in a circle talking about how great their families are and how much gold
they’ve got. Also, they teach each other curses we don’t learn in class and
complain about Mudbloods. Catalina Malfoy, another girl from my dormitory, goes
every week and from what she tells me (she’s the only one to actually talk to
me- she’s quite decent, actually) it sounds just like Family Teas at Auntie’s,
except without the good food.
No wonder I’d rather be meeting people from other houses,
and I have, and made some friends: Wynne and Mafalda Hopkirk, twins in
Ravenclaw, Alice Macmillan, from Hufflepuff, and even a Gryffindor- Fabian
Prewett, he’s their prefect and a bit older than me, but very nice. They all
are. Of course, they’re all Purebloods- just because I talk to people from
other houses doesn’t mean I go around befriending Muggleborns. They’re so weird,
they are. They don’t know anything about anything, and they act strangely- like
they don’t have manners or something. There’s this boy in my year, Chris
something-or-other, in Hufflepuff and he just talks to everyone, even Seventh
Year Slytherins in that loud, confident voice of his- it’s so irritating.
Honestly, I’m not like Bella that I have to hate all the Muggleborns on
principle, and actual Muggles are sort of cool, but I’d rather have wizard
I quickly eat the rest of my lunch and walk over to the
Gryffindor table to chat with Sirius for a moment. He’s doing great, I’ve never
seen him so happy- he’s got great friends, friends that aren’t related to him,
and he loves it. There they are, heads together, talking about bogies and
Quidditch as first-year-boys might, but the minute they spot me coming closer,
they stop talking. They do that all the time, and I’ve asked Sirius about it,
but he just said “You’re a girl” in that voice of his, as though it
explained everything. They’re all very nice boys- James Potter is such a
charmer, even for a first year, and I saw Peter Pettigrew defend a couple of second
year girls against that bullying beast Crabbe from my year- isn’t that
They all smile at me, and Remus Lupin says “How do you do,
Andromeda?” in that polite, formal voice of his, which makes James sigh and
Sirius roll his eyes behind Remus’ back. Boys, honestly. We chat for awhile,
and I remind Sirius to write to Regulus, the only one still left at home.
Suddenly, I see Bella coming into the Hall from the other end.
“I’ve got to go…“ Ducking behind students, I hurry out of
the Great Hall, to Slughorn’s office. He was prepared to love all three of us
when arrived, because we’re Blacks, which is good, because he doesn’t care so
much I’m not great shakes at Potions and only come to the Slug Club meetings
when I’ve run out excuses or can’t stand staying in my dormitory any longer. I
think I might be losing my touch though, now that Cissy’s here and turns out
she’s actually quite good at Potions. But she is a first-year, and I know a lot
more than she does. It’s funny how having no real friends in your entire house
will leave you to learning all your school books by heart.
I knock on Slughorn’s office door, checking around to make
sure the corridor is devoid of any of my sisters.
“Ah, Miss Black!” Slughorn is beaming down at me.
“Hello, Professor Slughorn,” I flash my most winning
Wholesome Pureblood Smile at him and continue, “Professor, I’d like to switch
electives after Christmas- I’m having a lot of trouble with Arithmancy, it’s
too hard for me. I’d need you to sign the form, please.”
Slughorn pats me on the arm genially. “Of course, Miss
Black, of course. I understand, numbers can be a tricky thing, and it’s no good
sticking with something you’re not good at, I understand perfectly…now, if
you’d give me that form…”
I rummage around in my bag, and produce my treasure-
slightly creased and wrinkled, with an ink smudge in the corner, but nothing
worse. Slughorn sighs at the state of the form, and looks it over, his eyes
widening in surprise. “Muggle Studies! My, Miss Black, that’s certainly
rather…unusual for someone of your background, that is to say, with your
family…most interesting, Miss Black, most individual. Well, I’m sure you will
do a wonderful job at the subject…Here, I’ll take the form and take care of
everything else. You will receive a new schedule after Christmas. And Miss
Black, should you develop a keen interest in Muggles, why, I would be delighted
to set up a few meetings for you to explore career possibilities…most
interesting, Miss Black, most unusual…”
“Thank you, professor.” I smile. “That’s very kind of you.
I’ll think about it.”
“Do, Miss Black. Well, see you in class!”
“Good-bye, Professor. And thank you.” I close the door
behind me, feeling a small wave of elation pass through me. I’ve done it, I’ve
really done it. No more Arithmancy, and there’s absolutely nothing Bella can
do. I turn to walk towards Charms, so excited, so happy, so-
No. No, not now, not at this moment, not Bella, striding
towards me, her footsteps echoing in the corridor just like my conversation
with Slughorn must have, so that she could hear every word.
“Andromeda Carys Black, come here, right now!” And there’s
her voice, icy with anger, and it’s like it’s making my legs freeze, making me
slow down. Where elation was just seconds ago, all I can fear is naked panic.
“Andromeda, come here.”
No, I think. I’m not coming, and you can’t make
me. Naturally, I don’t say it aloud. You don’t say things like that to
Bella, not if you value your health, you don’t. In fact, you shouldn’t even
think them, because she can tell. She can tell, and she can tell right now, as
my footsteps are getting slower and I’m starting to shake, because, no matter
how blasé I pretend to be, I’m terrified of her. But I can’t stop, can’t let
her win, so I just walk on as fast as I can with my legs freeing, pretending I
can’t hear her. The trick, I’ve worked it out fairly well in the past three
years, is to go as fast as you can without actually running, and to think so
loudly you can block out her voice, and how afraid you really are.
“Andromeda, I am not answering for this. You are an
embarrassment to our family- and I know you can here me, there’s no need to
run, you pathetic, cowardly excuse of a witch!”
Ignore her. You can hardly hear her, she’s hardly even
here. I’m trying, I swear I’m trying to drown out those words, hard and
cold like great big daggers slashing my skin. Back, through the Entrance Hall,
head down, hoping I might be able to reach that tapestry, that secret corridor
she doesn’t know about, where I’ve managed to escape to before. But the truth
is, I know I’m not going to escape today. She let me off before now, but what
I’ve done today, she won’t stand for. I know, she’s going to get me, and now my
legs are so heavy I can’t even move to crouch behind a few fifth years’ large
backs, and sneak into the hidden door. Something hot gashes my cheek, pain
explodes for a second. I freeze, gasping, reaching up a hand to gingerly touch
my face. It stings, and my fingers are covered in blood. She’s done it, she’s
got me, and it’s this split-second of horror that matters. Within seconds,
Bella is upon me, like a cat upon the mouse, pushing me roughly into the
tapestry, the passage beyond.
“Does it hurt?” My sister demands, staring intently at me,
searching, I know, for a sign of weakness. And she’s right to search, already I
feel weak, but I’m not going to show her that. I push up my chin and stare back
defiantly, willing my eyes to remain dry, my countenance not to twitch. I can’t
not cry. That would be the worst. It occurs to me, suddenly, mind-beguilingly,
that it is Bella who has taught me this, not to cry, to stick up my chin and
stare, with those blue Black eyes we both have.
“Good,” Bella said coldly. “Now listen, Andromeda, and
listen well, because I’m not going to say this again. You’re a daughter of the
Blacks, and you’re going to behave that way. I don’t care what goes on in that
empty space you call a brain, I don’t own what you feel in that pathetic little
heart of yours, but when you act, you will act as a daughter of your family.
You will consider who we are and what we are. And if you do not, you will pay.
I’ve had enough of this. You’ve been making fools of me and Cissy and the
family for your entire life, but it’s going to stop, today. Understood?”
I don’t say anything. Each of her words is like a swift,
well-placed swipe at me, each over pronounced consonant hurt like another
spell, but I can’t say anything, because somewhere in me a courage is growing I
never knew I had, and I know, somehow, that if I give in now, I’m going to have
to throw myself off the Astronomy Tower because I won’t be able to stand
being…me. And I shake my head. Staring up at Bella, without crying, the way she
taught me to when I was four and she was six, I defiantly shake my head.
She slaps me. In an almost graceful movement, her hand,
ice-cold and callous, slaps my cheek where her spell made contact only seconds
before. “I said do you understand me?” she hisses, her voice as cold and
hurtful as her hand, now covered in my blood. She draws her wand and holds it
in my face, looking me straight in the eye, staring me down.
And again, I shake my head. My cheek is bleeding and
burning with pain, my legs still feel frozen, and I feel very, very small
against my sister, with those blazing, cold eyes, but I’m not scared anymore.
For the first time in my life, I’m not terrified of Bella, and what she might
to do me. I’m angry, angry of the way she hurts and controls me, and has been
trying, all my life, to turn me into someone I’m never going to be, someone I
couldn’t ever be. I’m so furious. I can’t feel anything else, no fear, can’t
think a single, rational thought. All I can do is reach for my wand. Bella’s
still pointing hers into my face, and she’s still staring right into my eyes,
and I never look back as I grasp my wand and yell “EXPELLIARMUS!”
She gasps, her wand flies out of her hands but I just
stare, can’t catch it, let it fall behind me, down the secret staircase. And
now I know I’m in trouble, and I’m shaking so badly and all the fear I wasn’t
feeling before is crashing over me, and all I want to do is run. I want to run,
out of this corridor, out of this castle, into the forest and live with the
unicorns Cissy used to draw for me, before Bella took her away from me, and now
my little sister doesn’t even talk to me anymore. Bella who, staring at me with
a mixture of esteem and repulsion, whispers “You are going to regret this.”
I run. My legs aren’t frozen anymore, and I can run, push
myself past her astonished body and run as fast as I can, her cold hands,
stained with my blood, grasping for me, but only snatching thin air and the
hood of my robes. I can hear material rip, and I can run, through the corridor
suddenly full of people on their way to class. She’s behind me, hitting curses
at my feet, I can hear steps through the crowed as I stumble past them, round
two corners and into an empty classroom, locking the door with my wand.
I sink down on a table. I’m shaking so badly I can barely
look straight. The cuts on my cheek are burning so badly they’re making me a
little dizzy, and then I realize my socks are bloody under my robes, she must
have gotten my ankles, too. Carefully, I move to the window, studying my hazy
reflection in the glass, staring at my own face. Pale skin, flyaway hair
somewhere between Bella’s black and Cissy’s blonde, a deep gash over my left
cheek, and those eyes, those blue Black eyes. Suddenly, I feel dizzy, not just
from the pain. Am I looking back at me, or is it Bella? Were those my eyes,
looking at Whiz’s dead body with icy satisfaction, were those my eyes, staring
at Sirius full of hatred and malice?
But no. It was her, it was always her, haunting me,
torturing me. But this girl in the window, that’s me. Andromeda Black. A
person all to herself.
“Miss Black?” Oh, dear. It’s Professor McGonagall, walking
into the classroom from her study, staring at me. “Gracious, Miss Black, what
happened to you?”
“You need the hospital wing. Go. I shall write a note to
your teacher- that would be Professor Flitwick, yes?” I nod, unable to speak.
The bell rings. Professor McGonagall gives me a rare smile. She seems to
understand, about Bella and about how I can’t possibly go out there alone right
now. She unlocks the classroom door, students flock in. It’s fifth year
Gryffindor, I realize.
“Mr. Prewett,” Professor McGonagall calls out, and Fabian
turns. He stares at me, looking so shocked and so worried, like he actually
cares whether my cut hurts or not. I can’t remember the last time someone
looked at me like that. “Could you please escort Miss Black to the hospital
He nods. “Come along, Andromeda.” I follow him out of the
door. Like Professor McGonagall, he doesn’t ask any questions. He tries to
cheer me up by telling me about Quidditch, and by the time we’ve reached the
hospital wing, I can almost smile again. It might work out okay. I’ll just stay
out of Bella’s way as much as I can and maybe stay at school for Christmas.
Mother and Father just might let me.
Madam Pomfrey looks me over and clicks her tongue
disapprovingly. “Curse wounds! Merlin, this is quite a bad one, too…well,
this’ll need Murtlap bandages and some spell treatment as well. God knows what
you kids get up to these days, honestly…now, dear, why don’t you sit down on
that bed and make yourself comfortable? This may take awhile. I’ll need to keep
you for the night at least.” I thank Fabian for bringing me here- he ruffles my
hair affectionately and I clamber onto one of the Hospital Wing beds. The boy
in the bed next to me has both arms and his neck in a cast, but he’s grinning
at me all the same.
“Blimey,” he says, “What’ve you been up to?”
“I…got into an argument with someone. You?”
“Quidditch. Bludger hit me and I crashed into the stands.
I’ve got a complicated fracture in one arm and a splinter in the other, so she
can’t mend it by magic,” he says, as though proud of this achievement. “I’m
Ted, by the way.”
“Andromeda,” I reply, smiling at him. “Nice to meet you,