Chapter 1 : How to Be a Black
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Summertime in number 12, Grimmauld Place was a spectacle, to be sure. It was also the singularly most horrid rendezvous I've ever known—packed to the brim with Blacks. Blacks around every corner, Blacks dangling from the ceiling (my great uncle Caspar, who thinks he's a bat). They're at every turn and corner—there are even about a dozen crusty old black house-elves slinking about! It's enough to drive a person mad, I tell you.
First off, there's my great aunt Melania, a funny looking woman who smells like cheese and carries her husband Arcturus's ashes around in a wine bottle. She and her two one-thousand-year-old brother-in-laws are bad enough, especially because they're always trying to poison my stash of butterbeer in the kitchen cabinet. Druella Rosier (who's my mum, I suppose) says it's just their way of loving me. There's also my uncle Ignatius, who has the shortest temper of anyone I've ever met (besides perhaps Walburga, Sirius's mum). The other day he tried to behead me with a kitchen knife, and all I did was ask where he wanted his luggage stored!
The only sane one around here is Sirius, and I think without him I'd likely have been murdered years ago. My sisters Narcissa and Bella are a help, but they're both older than me and aren't ever around (especially in the summer). Regulus used to be such a sweetheart, but ever since my sorting I've got the feeling he'd rather curse me than look at me.
That's right—without Sirius, I'd be dead. But even Sirius has his limits, and I'm wondering whether he should keep staying here. I think he hasn't given up on my account, which makes me feel like punching something. The bloke won't listen to reason!
I looked up from my giddy Cleepsweep-5000-included bed-bouncing to hear yelling coming from downstairs. Surprised, I stopped bouncing and nearly fell off my bed and onto the cold wooden floor in my scramble to get to the doorway. It was Walburga and the famous Sirius himself—I could spot their voices a mile away.
And anyways, I was used to hearing them argue.
As I threw open my door and slid on the waxed wooden floors in my Quaffle socks, rounding the corner in time to hear glass smashing against a wall somewhere beneath me. A loud thump further down the hall gave urgency to my sliding, and I arrived in time to see great uncle Caspar lying on the floor—evidently, the yelling had startled him out of his bat-esque daytime hibernation and he'd fallen off the ceiling. I hopped over him.
I finally made it to the staircase, then, without further thought, jumped up onto the banister and slid a flight down. I normally didn't do this during the summertime for fear of being beheaded, but desperate times and curiosity called for desperate measures.
When I finally discovered the drawing room as the source of the disturbance, yet another voice had been added to the battle—that of my sister's.
“Sirius, don't you dare let your filthy mouth ruin this for me!”
“Shut up boy, unless you wish yourself dead!” Walburga yet again. I winced inwardly for my cousin—having Druella Rosier for a mum was bad, but Walburga was ever worse.
I peeked slowly around the doorframe, clutching the wall protectively. It turned out to be a mistake on my part—in a flash, someone had grabbed my sadly exposed ear and dragged me into the fray. Narcissa.
“Andromeda Black! Were you eavesdropping, idiot girl? Do I have to teach you a lesson again, have you really forgotten so soon?” Walburga had rounded on my soon as Narcissa released my captive ear, and I winced at her terribly awful breath.
“No ma'am, suffice to say I'd rather you didn't.” I stared at her for a few short seconds before closing my eyes against her glare—there were some memories I'd rather forget, and Walburga's punishments were always among them. I still bore the scars from the summer after sorting.
She turned away finally, and I let out a breath. I looked around to survey my surroundings—the large amount of people who had witnessed my so-called “spying” was startlingly large. I'd have to stay away from those kitchen knives later on.
Sirius was leaning against the fireplace, and for once his dark eyes weren't dancing with amusement. And even after I'd been impudent to Walburga! What was up with him, anyways? He turned his head subtlety and looked at me, his brow creasing. I could practically read the look in his eyes—THAT WAS RATHER STUPID OF YOU, ANDROMEDA. Oh fine, so he was angry with me. I could see there were more important things than my own obedience at the moment, else I'd have been punished.
Druella Rosier was sitting on the puffy, moth-eaten couch, her legs uncrossed and feet planted firmly on the floor. That was the way with her—she couldn't yell and rant like Walburga could, she was much too reserved and timid. But she got angry like no other, and when she did she bottled it up like perfume and stored it away until the prime moment, in which she'd promptly hex every living being in sight. Thus far I haven't been caught in the firing line during such occasions, but I took in a stray dog one summer and she managed to scare him off sufficiently.
I don't know where my father Cygnus is. I don't really want to talk about it.
I sidled my way past the bottle of Arcturus's ashes sitting on the floor, careful not to gave clumsy. Then, rather obviously, I took up residence next to Sirius. Walburga had started shouting about something again, so I yawned rather fakely and lay my head down on his shoulder. He shoved me off. I shoved him back, and when he nearly fell over I was finally able to lean close enough to his ear to whisper.
“What in the world is she on about?”
He ignored me. I could see my cousin's hands clenching and unclenching, the knuckles turning white from it. I poked him hard, and he finally nodded across the room, still steadily avoiding my delightfully withering gaze.
I followed his line of sight to see none other than Lucius Malfoy, sitting rather calmly on an armchair in the midst of all the chaos. When he saw me looking at him, his eyes glinted coldly and he smirked. I folded my arms across my chest, still surprised.
“What are you doing here?” I blurted it out all too soon, and in less than a second Walburga had rounded on me.
Lucius smiled and inclined his head to me, but there was no warmth in the gesture. “Your lovely sister Narcissa—she has just agreed to betrothal.”
I stared at him, all the color draining from my face. “Whom? Whom is she betrothed to?”
At this, Lucius smiled even wider. Walburga gritted her rotting, yellow teeth. “Andromeda, apologize to your sister's fiancée immediately for taking that tone!” I grabbed hold to the mantle to support myself, the world reeling.
“No . . . NO! Cissy, you can't do this to yourself!” I tore away from my spot by the fireplace and ran over to my sister, grabbing her hands in my own.
She was a year older than I, but I could never stop looking out for her—gentle and beautiful, but easily swayed, no one could help but love her. That's why I know for a fact Druella Rosier and Walburga made her their special protegee—steady, loyal bookworm Bella had always felt the call of her blood and needed no convincing to follow the family's various traditions, and I, as a Gryffindor, was simply a lost cause.
Narcissa wouldn't look me in the eye, but only stared at the ground, her long, wavy hair falling in front of her face and concealing her from me. “Cissy,” I pleaded. “Please, Cissy.”
Great aunt Melania had had enough, and abandoned her post next to great uncle Arcturus in order to wrench my hands away from my sister's. I was still trying not to cry, and broke free of the deteriorating old woman with ease.
“NO, NO, I WON'T LET YOU TAKE CISSY. I DON'T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT BELLA—BUT NOT CISSY!”
I knew I was yelling, but I couldn't help it. And you'd understand my fears if you knew Lucius Malfoy—he was the singularly worst man for my sister of the face of the earth. He wouldn't be able to understand her, he'd hurt her and hate her and turn her gentleness into fear and loathing. I couldn't let him have Narcissa.
Suddenly, a slap rang out sharply in the room, rather quiet from the aftermath of my ranting. I stumbled backwards into a table that jabbed into the small of my back and made me cry out in pain. Bringing a hand up to my reddened face, I looked up, eyes watering.
I gaped in hurt and confusion when I saw who was standing in front of me—it wasn't Walburga, or even my mother who had struck me—it was Narcissa.
“Andromeda, you have no idea what's right for me. I chose this path, and you chose yours the day we were sorted. Don't touch me again, sister.” I stared at her, willing myself to stay calm. Had she really said what I thought she'd said? I swallowed. Her voice sounded so bland and emotionless, and I still couldn't see her face very well. The tightly drawn velvet curtains over the drawing room's dirty and neglected windows weren't helping matters—all this was scaring me.
“What are you on about?” I whispered weakly before fleeing the scene. I pushed past my great aunt and nearly shoved Lucius's chair over, running up the stairs as fast as I could and ducking under Caspar once I reached the hall. He'd someone managed to stick his feet on the ceiling again, and on another day I would have wondered just when his head would explode from blood loss.
Today was different, though, and I was in no mood to pull him down. I was too kind for my own good—I knew the man would kill himself sooner or later hanging like that, so whenever he fell asleep up there I'd recruit Sirius to help me get him down. It wasn't that I particularly liked the old man, it was just my way of making sure things got done that everyone around me seemed to overlook. Sirius was constantly teasing my attention to details, the way I was always making lists, plans and maps. (Does a certain Marauder's Map ring a bell? I didn't enchant it, but I drew and planned the whole thing. That boy's too good at begging for his own good.)
When I reached my bedroom, I finally let the tears fall, and I knelt on the cold floor in order to gain easier access to my pillow to cry on. Narcissa, Bellatrix and I shared a room—but no one in the house I talked to regularly had seen Bella for almost four days. I didn't really concern myself with the matter, but I had tried following her a fair amount of times. All I received for my efforts were extra chores, and they weren't worth it as Bella always apparated away at the end of our street. She was eighteen now, and did as she pleased.
I put my overwrought sobbing on hold for a few seconds in order to get up and lock my door, then returned to my kneeling spot in order to finish up. Everyone needs a good cry sometimes.
“Andy? Andy, I know you're in there! Open up!” Someone was pounding on my door, and that someone was Sirius.
I sat up and let out pathetic sniffle. “I'm trying to cry in here, dammit! And anyways, I'm mad at you, so you ought to go away.”
“Andy, don't be like that . . . please don't. I'm just as bloody mad as you are, and you know it.”
“I said. . . ” I stood and went over to the door and stuck my head up close. “GO AWAY!”
The door suddenly gave a great shudder, and a light shown through on all sides. A large blast, and the door was falling . . . I emitted a loud shriek and jumped to the side just as the door clattered onto the floor. Standing on the other side of the door, grinning in a very self-satisfied manner, was my cousin.
“That almost FELL on me! You know that how much that annoys me! Alohomora, idiot. ALOHOMORA!”
Apparently dense a doorknob, Sirius just laughed before giving me a rather concerned glance. He shoved me bodily further into the room, waving his already-drawn wand under my nose before setting my door back on it's hinges and shutting it tight. Then he turned to me, his eyes serious.
“Andy, are you alright?”
I blinked at him. “I'm fine . . . Sirius, Narcissa . . . I'm fine.”
He stepped closer to me, and I considered shoving him over and hexing him. But I let him touch my cheek instead, stupid as I am. I jumped away at the sudden pain—it appeared my poor cheek had been swelling up of it's own accord. “Don't-touch-that!”
“Do you want me to heal it?”
I considered that for a few seconds before steadily shaking my head. “No. I'll be okay, it'll heal.” I swallowed, trying hard to keep my tears at bay. I didn't want to cry, not in front of Sirius. He was like a brother to me and if he thought I was hurt I knew he'd do something stupid. I couldn't afford to take that risk, not for either of us.
“Are you staying, then?”
I stared, my mouth falling open rather ungracefully. “Staying?”
“Yeah . . .” He sat down on Bella's bed, deep in thought. “I was thinking of blowing this ridiculous joint in favor of Potter's, but . . . nevermind that.”
I shook my head quickly, shutting my mouth. “No, go! Please go, I think it's the best idea you've ever had!”
Sirius glared at me. “Excuse me? Are you trying to get rid of me?” He grinned teasingly and punched my shoulder, but I only shook my head again.
“This isn't a joke, Sirius. You and I both know you're dying here . . . well, I won't let them do to you what they did to my sisters. You're a million times better off anywhere else.”
Sirius threw his hands up in the air. “Dying? Me? Andy, in case you haven't noticed, I'm not the one getting hit and chased with kitchen knives on a daily basis. I can't leave you here alone!”
I stood up and crossed my arms sternly. “I can take care of myself. Anyways, YOU probably make up half of the threats to my health alone!” I grinned slightly. “At least when you leave, I won't be in danger of falling doors!”
My cousin got up too, protesting. “Not when I leave, if I leave . . .”
I opened the door and shoved him out of my room. “Get out, blood traitor!” I cried with a grin. He cracked a small smile in return, then stuck his foot out so I couldn't close the door and leaned casually against the frame. I rolled my eyes.
“Andy . . stay in touch or I WILL kill you,” he said pleasantly. I looked at him.
“I will,” I promised. He let the door go, leaving me more alone than ever before in a house full of my family. What kind of family they were, I was still trying to figure out.