>Chapter One – Of Sortings and Surprises
Bellatrix and Andromeda entered Hogwarts together. The younger twin found herself in the spotlight for the first time ever. Hers was the first name called by Professor McGonagall to be sorted. She walked towards the stool and sat down.
Andromeda was a Black. She knew exactly where she would spend the next seven years.
Slytherin House was an interesting place. Not necessarily good or bad, but always interesting. After their first meeting, the Head of Slytherin House, Professor Slughorn, didn’t pay too much attention to Andromeda, because Bellatrix had also been sorted into Slytherin.
Bella was far cleverer than Andromeda. By the time they finished their third year, she knew more than most fifth-years. Her marks were compared to those of Tom Riddle, who had been Head Boy twenty years before the twins had entered Hogwarts, and to those of Professor Dumbledore himself.
Many years later Andromeda learnt just who Tom Riddle had become. She privately thought that he and Bella were living proof that the line between genius and insanity was very thin indeed.
Four years later Narcissa joined her sisters at Hogwarts. She too was sorted into Slytherin and quickly made her mark there. Like Bella, she was very popular. Like Bella, she didn’t believe she should mix with Muggle-borns or half-bloods.
Two years after that, Sirius arrived at Hogwarts.
Andromeda leaned forward in her seat at the Slytherin table as her young cousin swaggered – there was no other word to describe it – towards the stool and sat down. The Sorting Hat had barely touched his head when …
Her first thought was perfect, followed by the realisation that this was going to cause one hell of a row in the family. A couple of seats away, Bellatrix was muttering something that sounded rather uncomplimentary to Rabastan Lestrange. There was an expression on Narcissa’s pretty face that would have soured fresh milk. The rest of Slytherin House appeared completely stunned that a Black – a Black! – could be sorted into another house.
Sirius, it appeared, was in for a very interesting time at Hogwarts.
Try as she might, Andromeda found it difficult to remember the rest of the Sorting. In later years they were names that would be inextricably linked with her cousin’s – and, by extension, with her. Evans, Lupin, Pettigrew, Potter, Snape…
She spent the feast watching Sirius laugh with a messy-haired boy wearing spectacles. Much to her relief, it wasn’t taking him long to make friends.
Once the meal was over, she hurried over to the Gryffindor table. “Sirius…”
Sirius turned and grinned at her. “Told you I wouldn’t be in stinking Slytherin, Andra.”
Andromeda tapped the Slytherin coat of arms embroidered on the front of her robes, but before she could say anything, another voice broke in.
“That’s enough, Black. For future reference, it’s never a good idea to refer to another house as ‘stinking’. If a Professor hears you, you’ll definitely lose house points, - whether it’s the first night of the year or not.” Ted Tonks gently cuffed the back of the younger boy’s head and glanced over at Andromeda as Sirius moved back to join the other first years. “Wotcher, Andromeda.”
“Hello. Did you have a pleasant summer?”
“It was very nice, thanks.” He looked behind him at the first-years – including, Andromeda noticed, Sirius – who were clearly up to no good. “I’d better get this lot settled – think we’re in for a rough year. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Andromeda smiled. “Goodnight, Ted. And behave, Sirius,” she added warningly as her cousin held a tarantula over the head of a redheaded girl. The redheaded girl, she was pleased to note, hit him.
Ted rolled his eyes. “I knew there had to be a reason why Gryffindor got a Black this year.”
She watched them leave the Hall and headed to the Slytherin common room, frowning slightly. Ted Tonks made no secret of the fact that he was interested in Andromeda, but she was unsure about how she felt. He was handsome, kind, and, as he pointed out, “A hell of a lot more mentally stable than your average Lestrange brother”. But he was Muggle-born, and for a Black, nothing could be worse than to associate with a Muggle-born.
The common room was chaotic, as was typical on the first night of the year. Professor Slughorn was there, in one of his rare visits, trying to find recruits for his Slug Club.
As usual, his eyes passed straight over Andromeda and fixed on Bellatrix. “There she is,” he crowed. “First-years, this is our Head Girl, Bellatrix Black.”
Andromeda slowly picked her way through the common room towards the winding corridor leading to the seventh-year girls’ dormitories. Bellatrix, as was the Head Girl’s right, had her own room, and the others were placed in small, two-person rooms. One of the few privileges of being in seventh year, and one she believed unique to Slytherin House.
Her trunk was already at the foot of her bed, and she looked over to see whose trunk was by the other bed. Professor Slughorn decided who roomed together, and his decisions didn’t always result in harmonious living. Andromeda breathed a sigh of relief when she noticed Alice Meadows’s slightly battered trunk there – slightly battered due to their unsuccessful attempts at Wingardium Leviosa in their first year.
She was nearly finished unpacking when the door opened and another girl came in.
“That’s a relief,” Alice Meadows said, dropping gracefully onto the bed opposite. “I was worried Slughorn’d stick me with Marianne Montague or Bella.”
“Bella’s got a room to herself.” Andromeda hung up her last set of robes and closed the trunk. “There. All done.”
“Organised witch,” Alice teased. “You know, I’m not sure how Bella got to be Head Girl. Especially when Ted Tonks is Head Boy. Alohomora.” She waved her wand towards her trunk and watched it open. “The Muggle-born and the pure-blood advocate.”
More like pure-blood obsessive, Andromeda thought, but family loyalty prevented her from saying it out loud.
"Speaking of Ted Tonks, what’s going on between you and him?”
“Nothing! Well, I suppose we’re friends…”
“You’re blushing! Besides, anyone can see he fancies you.”
Andromeda looked down at her hands. “Nothing can come of it. Not with my family.”
She was grateful that Alice dropped the subject after that.
Professor Slughorn walked around the table at breakfast the next morning handing out timetables.
Andromeda glanced at her timetable and noticed she had Transfiguration first. She shrugged and kept talking with Alice. Transfiguration wasn’t her favourite subject, but there were worse ways to start a Monday.
There was a commotion at the Gryffindor table on the other side of the Hall. Andromeda looked over to see that Sirius had received a Howler. Somehow, she wasn’t surprised to see him sitting there with a grin on his face as Aunt Walburga’s voice screamed at him. Thankfully, she was too far away to catch more than a few words. She looked at Alice and rolled her eyes. “That one’s going to be trouble.”
“Your cousin, isn’t he? Bella’s going to kill him,” Alice said.
The Great Hall emptied around them while they were talking. Finally, Alice looked at her watch. “We better hurry or we’ll be late.”
By the time they got to Professor McGonagall’s classroom, everyone else had already chosen seats. Thankfully, McGonagall hadn’t arrived yet. Alice slipped into a seat beside a Hufflepuff, leaving Andromeda to sit in the other spare seat next to Ted Tonks.
Before they could say anything to each other, Professor McGonagall entered the classroom, which instantly fell silent.
The lesson was a brief review of last year’s classes followed by a preview of what they would be expected to know for their NEWTs. After the lesson, Andromeda left the classroom feeling shell-shocked. “Eighteen inches on Animagi,” she muttered in disbelief.
“I know.” Ted Tonks fell into step beside her. “I’m heading to the library now before everyone else nicks all the books. Why don’t you come?”
Andromeda hesitated as Bellatrix walked past. “All right,” she said before she could change her mind.
They very quickly fell back into the rhythm of school life. By Saturday it was almost as if they had never been away.
Andromeda took her Ancient Runes textbooks outside and found a place in the sun. She had to finish an essay and a translation for the next lesson, but it seemed a waste not to enjoy what was probably one of the last fine days of the summer. She spread her books out under a large beech tree overlooking the lake and got to work.
“Hey, Andra.” She looked up in time to see Sirius drop gracefully onto the ground beside her.
She reached over and ruffled his hair. “Hello, trouble. How have you found your first week?”
“It’s been good.” He dodged away from her hand. “Gryffindor’s really awesome.”
Andromeda smiled. “I’m pleased that you’re enjoying it.” She nodded at the boy standing a few yards away. “Who’s your friend?”
“Oh, that’s James. James Potter. We’re in the same dormitory.” Sirius waved the boy over and introduced him to Andromeda.
“Mother sent me a Howler,” Sirius announced with more than a little pride.
“I heard,” Andromeda said dryly. “I don’t need to ask you how you feel about that. Seems that you’re proud of it.”
“I didn’t want to be in stinking Slytherin.”
“You’ve made that abundantly clear, Sirius. Just remember that there are many people who are happy in Slytherin.”
“Sorry, Andra,” James said. “He doesn’t quite understand the meaning of the word tactful.”
“I’ve noticed that about him as well.”
“Do you want me to go away so you can talk about me?” Sirius asked sounding annoyed.
James shrugged. “It’s all right; I’m quite happy to talk in front of you. Andra?”
Andromeda was slightly uncomfortable with him calling her Andra. Only family called her Andra, and James Potter was definitely not family. “It’s never worried me, to be honest.” She decided to change the subject. “What are the other first-years like?”
“We share a dormitory with two others – Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. They both seem all right,” Sirius said.
“They’re pretty quiet,” James agreed.
“Compared to you two, everyone would seem quiet,” Andromeda observed.
James shrugged. “Probably.” He looked down at the books and parchment strewn around her. “That looks nasty.”
“Ancient Runes. I’m hoping that it’s not as bad as it looks,” Andromeda answered.
"We better leave you to it,” Sirius said, standing.
“Yeah, we were going to have a look at the forest. Could be fun,” James said as he also stood up.
“The Forbidden Forest. I’m sure you know what forbidden means,” Andromeda pointed out.
Sirius’s expression was just a smidgen too innocent for her to trust him. “We’re only looking, Andra.”
She watched them go then turned back to her books. “Yeah, right.” Somehow she didn’t think it would take too long for the pair to investigate the Forest.
Not for the first time, Andromeda wondered what on earth had possessed her to continue with Ancient Runes. Currently they were studying one of the lesser Gobbledegook dialects and the eight different tenses and five genders were driving her mad.
She looked up as someone sat down beside her. “Oh, hello.”
“Such a welcome,” Ted teased. “What are you working on?”
“That Ancient Runes translation. I’ve got an absolutely ludicrous translation for the second paragraph – something about an army of Doxies heading off to raid the Spanish Main.”
“As they do. That’s perfectly reasonable behaviour for Doxies. Stay here and I’ll go get my books.”
“Post for you, Andromeda,” Alice said, one morning a couple of weeks later.
Andromeda looked up in surprise. She had received a letter from her mother only the day before.
Her parents’ owl dropped two letters in front of her. She recognised her mother’s handwriting on one, but did not recognise the writing on the other envelope. Quickly, she broke the seal on her mother’s letter and read.
“Bad news?” Alice asked leaning forward. Andromeda stared at the letter. “Andromeda? Should I get Bellatrix or Narcissa?”
Andromeda shook her head. “No – don’t.” She put down the letter and sipped her tea. “I should have expected something like this.”
“Something like what?”
“I’ll tell you later.” Andromeda stood and picked up both letters. “I’ve got to think about this.” She left the Great Hall and made her way to an unused classroom. Sitting down at the teacher’s desk, she reread her mother’s letter.
I am sure you will be pleased to learn that we have made an arrangement with the Malfoy family. You will marry Lucius next year on the twenty-first of July. Bella will be marrying Rodolphus at the same time.
Andromeda, I understand that you have had your differences with Lucius in the past, but now is the time to put those aside and grow up. Lucius will be a good husband for you; you and your children will be provided for.
“But there’s far more to life than financial security.” She had always known that her parents would select her husband, but it had never seemed so real to her.
Now it was. And in ten months, she would be marrying Lucius Malfoy.
Andromeda felt sick.
“Miss Black, are you planning to attend any classes today? Or is it only mine that you feel the need to avoid?”
She looked up to see Professor McGonagall standing beside the desk, arms folded across her chest. “Oh. I’m sorry, Professor. I must have lost track of time. I’ll come to class now.” She looked around for her bag, but was unable to find it.
“My class ended ten minutes ago, Miss Black,” Professor McGonagall pointed out. “Miss Meadows seemed to think you had received bad news.” She raised an eyebrow.
“I got a letter from my mother.” Andromeda realised she still hadn’t opened Lucius Malfoy’s letter. “It was news that I should have expected, but it wasn’t, if that makes sense.”
McGonagall nodded. “Knowing your background, Miss Black, I have a reasonable idea about what has caused you to react like this,” she said softly. “I cannot pretend to know how you’re feeling at the moment, but if you need someone to talk to, please feel free to come and see me.”
“Thank you, Professor.” Andromeda said, more than a little surprised.
She followed McGonagall out of the classroom and began making her way towards the Slytherin common room.
“There you are.” Ted intercepted her as she crossed the Entrance Hall. “What happened?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you were fine till you got a letter, then your face went white. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like that before. I thought it must’ve been bad news from home, but Bellatrix and Narcissa seem fine.”
“It doesn’t affect them – and I really don’t want to talk about this now.”
“Too bad.” Ted took hold of her arm and led her outside and over to the beech tree. “I’d like to think that we’re friends, Andromeda.”
“Of course we are,” Andromeda agreed.
“Well, in my book, friends are there to help and support each other. Something’s upsetting you, and I’m here to support you and help you, if you’ll let me.”
Andromeda looked at him, then sat down under the tree. “The letter was from my mother. She’s completed the negotiations and arranged my marriage.”
“An arranged marriage?” Ted shook his head. “I knew that the wizarding world was old-fashioned, but that’s almost mediaeval.” He sat down beside her. “So, who is it that you’re you supposed to marry?”
“He fits all the criteria – pure-blood, wealthy, respectable connections. Of course, his lineage is not as good as mine, but few families are as noble and ancient as the Blacks.” Andromeda smiled mockingly. “Toujours Pur and all that.”
“That is sick.” Ted enunciated each word distinctly. “Do you have a say in this at all?” He frowned. “What about Bellatrix?”
“Bella had the great fortune of falling in love with Rodolphus Lestrange. His lineage isn’t quite as good as ours, but it is good enough to make him an acceptable husband for her.”
“Actually, they’ll make a great couple. They’re both lunatics, after all.” He frowned. “Why don’t you write back to your parents and tell them that you’re not going to marry Malfoy?”
“I can’t do that.” She saw Bellatrix walking towards them and went to stand up.
“What is it?” Ted caught hold of her hand.
“Bella’s coming over here.”
“What are you doing out here?” Bella didn’t even glance at Ted as she wrapped her arm around her sister’s shoulders. “Lucius Malfoy, hmm? He’s a good catch, Andra, a very good catch.” She led her sister back towards the castle.
Andromeda glanced back once to see Ted, still standing by the beech tree, staring after them.
“Andra, you need to be very careful who you choose to spend your time with,” Bella said as they entered the castle. “Lucius wouldn’t be happy to know that you are being friendly with a Mud-blood.”
“Lucius doesn’t have any say over who I’m friendly with.”
“Not yet. But I do.” She gripped Andromeda’s shoulder, forcing her to stop. “Stay away from the Mud-blood, Andra, or you’ll both regret it.”
“Do you really think I’m going to obey you?”
Bella’s reply was chilling. “You’d better, little twin. I don’t make idle threats.”
“Miss Andromeda Black, may I see you at the end of class?” Professor McGonagall’s voice whipped through the classroom.
“Yes, Professor.” Andromeda kept her eyes on her desk as the lesson continued around her.
After class was over, she stayed there. She felt rather than heard Professor McGonagall approach her.
“Miss Black, look at me.”
There was absolutely no way she could – or would – disobey that voice. Andromeda slowly raised her head and looked at McGonagall.
“Normally, your Head of House would have this conversation with you.” McGonagall smiled slightly at the expression of revulsion on Andromeda’s face. “Quite – I can understand that this isn’t the type of conversation you’d want to have with Professor Slughorn.” She sat down at the next desk. “I’ve noticed that you haven’t been paying attention in my class, and I’ve heard similar complaints from your other teachers.” She sat at the next desk. “You also seem to be avoiding your friends.”
Andromeda shrugged uneasily. “Maybe.”
McGonagall raised an eyebrow. “Maybe?”
Andromeda slumped in her seat. “There’s no point, really. On the twenty-first of July next year, I will marry Lucius Malfoy. I won’t have any use for my education then, and as for my friends… well, it isn’t likely that I’ll be able to keep in touch with them.”
“Wiltshire isn’t exactly the wilds of Outer Mongolia, Miss Black. You won’t be so isolated that you will not be able to remain in contact with your friends or see them regularly.”
“My friends and his hardly frequent the same circles, Professor. Someone will have to give, and it won’t be him.”
“Have you told your friends whom you are marrying?”
“I told T-– one of my friends. Bella made sure everyone knew, though. My parents kept her informed throughout the negotiations.”
“All I can say is that you’re not at the altar yet, Miss Black. Things can change and contracts can be broken. Have courage.”
“I’m not exactly the archetype of a Gryffindor, Professor,” Andromeda pointed out.
“Although courage is a Gryffindor trait, Miss Black, it doesn’t mean that the only people to possess it are Gryffindors. Remember that.”