Chapter 1 : 1. Misgivings of the Middle Child
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The Slytherin common room was quiet and for the most part deserted, save for two students by the fireplace. They were huddled over the hearth, crouched down on their hands and knees in their bedclothes, listening intently to the disembodied voice coming from the coals.
“He's magnificent,” it told it's listeners reverently. The voice was female and kept low, as though whoever it belonged to were trying not to be heard. The two listeners leaned forward, inclining their ears to the fireplace. “Stunning. Brilliant. He's what we've waited for,” the voice continued in a whisper.
Beside each other, the listeners could not have looked more opposite. The younger girl's blonde hair fell in a thick curtain past her shoulder blades. Her pale face was home to blue eyes, a pointed nose and a red mouth. Her expression showed no trace of interest in the current conversation. She thought, instead, about a recent date to Hogsmeade. Her lips curled into a faint smile.
Beside her, the elder of the pair frowned at the coals. Her dark brown curls loosely braid back and down her shoulder. Her face was pale as her sister's, though her brown eyes were too deep set, and her nose too prominent, to be of the same beauty. Her mouth was partially ajar, turning over the speaker's words. While her companion daydreamed, she narrowed her eyes in concentration.
“What we've waited for...” she echoed faintly to herself.
“Yes! Of course Andromeda!” the voice replied impatiently. “He's said it himself! He wants to stamp them out! Finally, we'll be rid of those filthy mudbloods.” Andromeda knit her brow.
“Bellatrix, where are you?” she demanded, her voice hard now. She glanced around behind them to make sure no one else was present. The last thing she wanted was for some idiot first year to catch them using the floo network illegally.
“What does that matter?” Bellatrix snapped. The blond beside her shifted and shot Andromeda a bored look. The older girl didn't notice, as her eyes were still trained on the coals.
“Bellatrix, what do you think you're doing?” Her voice was edged with exasperation. She had the air of having had similar conversations far too often for her liking. The indignant harrumph that sent a puff of ash and hot air from the coals confirmed it.
“What I'm supposed to be doing, Andromeda,” Bellatrix told her emphatically. “You and Narcissa ought to be proud.” Andromeda glanced at the blond, Narcissa, who was examining a chip in her dark red nail polish.
“You've out of your depth, Bellatrix,” she hissed, turning her gaze back to the coals. They glowed brighter and crackled.
“Are you not hearing me? This is out time, Andromeda! We must rally and rise up over the mdubloods!” Bellatrix's voice rose passionately.
Narcissa, who had so far been silent, finished inspecting her nails and faced Andromeda. “He is rather powerful,” she drawled.
“Powerful doesn't do him justice,” Bellatrix whispered with the deference of an ardent lover. Her tone sent a shiver down Andromeda's spine. “He is going to be immortal,” Bellatrix continued, “so that he may carry on our crusade long after we've perished.” Another shiver rippled down her spine, but Andromeda's expression remained disdainful.
“Well if he's so powerful, why doesn't he just make us all immortal?” she asked derisively.
“Don't be ridiculous, Andromeda,” Bellatrix snapped.
“You're going to get yourself killed,” Andromeda crossed her arms, and for a moment, thought the following silence meant she had won. She should have known better.
“If I die fighting for the dignity of my family and my race, it will be more than worth it,” Bellatrix whispered feverishly. Andromeda glanced heavenward, looking weary.
“Bella, please... go home,” she said, her voice quavering despite her best effort to keep it steady.
“Go home?!” was the outraged reply. “What? Crawl back to mother and father? Cower in fear like a worm? Like you?” The last words dripped with accusation and venom. Narcissa perked up, looking interestedly between the coals and Andromeda.
Andromeda glowered, her arms slowly falling to her sides. “I'm not hiding,” she said flatly. Bellatrix gave a harsh laugh that sounded nothing like her speaking voice.
“There's a war coming, Andromeda. A war to end all wars. Were I you, I would get on the winning side before it's too late.” A gust of air rushed down the chimney and coals were extinguished. Bellatrix's voice was heard no more and the two girls were left alone in the silent common room.
Somewhere, a clock chimed that it was half past one in the morning. Narcissa yawned.
“We should be in bed,” she remarked airily. Andromeda nodded, still staring at the ashes in the fireplace. She glanced up after a moment. Narcissa was watching her, her face placid and eerily pale in the dim green light that always lit the common room.
“Right,” she replied, looking back at the ashes. She felt Narcissa scrutinizing her, distantly, but not coldly.
“Bella's passionate... thoughtless... but passionate,” she said softly. “She wants what's best for all of us.” Andromeda tilted her head to the side, her turn to scrutinize. Andromeda glanced up at her sister's words, and tilted her head to the side.
“Yes... you're right,” Andromeda replied, trying to sounding certain than she felt. Narcissa reached out a hand and Andromeda took it.
“She loves you, Andromeda,” the younger assured her. Her eyes downcast, Andromeda nodded dutifully. Narcissa's grip tightened on her hand, and Andromeda met her eyes again. She seemed to have caught her aloof younger sister in a rare moment of softness.
“I know,” she said, smiling slightly and taking heart from the small pale hand in her own ink-stained one. With a smile to match, Narcissa released her hand and her resumed her cool demeanor. She turned and made her way to the fifth year girls' dormitory, leaving Andromeda staring after her.
The seventeen-year-old remained rooted to the spot for a short while after she left. It was late, and she should have been asleep, but it seemed to her that her feet were stuck to the stones beneath them.
“I have class at eight,” she told no one in particular. She crossed her arms over her flannel pajamas and shuffled off towards her dormitory.
The seventh year girls' dormitory was nearly pitch black, dimly lit by only the brazier in the corner beside the door. The sounds of sleeping drifted from each of the four occupied beds. Quietly, so as not to disturb her roommates, Andromeda crept across the room to the fifth. She slipped in, pulling the dark green bed-hangings as she did.
She nestled herself snugly in the blankets, pulling them up to her chin. It was the middle of December, and since her dormitory was in the dungeons, there was always a draft. She didn't mind; the cold helped her sleep. She relaxed into the soft down mattress, breathing in the relief and scent of her own bed. Here, in the dark silence, she could more thoroughly consider her talk with Bellatrix.
Andromeda Black came from a family whose name was as infamous as it was ancient. The pride of the Black clan lay in their purity of blood; Tujours Pur, were the words emblazoned on the scrolls beneath their family crest. To sully the blood of the house of Black by mixing with the mudbloods – those without purely magical heritage - was an unforgivable transgression for family members. Those who did were excommunicated entirely, and consequently were blasted off the family tree, a living tapestry that occupied an entire room in her Aunt Walburga's house. 'Blood traitors', they were called, in polite company anyways. She had often heard her father say worse of them in private.
It wasn't enough to just avoid and dismiss the mudbloods. A true Black wanted to eradicate them entirely. They fought an endless battle to stamp out and destroy the infection that had been inflicted upon actual wizards for centuries. Being the leaders of the battle, it was essential for all those bearing the name Black to uphold their family name by displaying and acting on their distaste for all muggles, even those deemed witches and wizards by the recent standards.
Bellatrix, her eldest sister, was a perfect daughter in that aspect. Her distaste for muggles and muggle-borns had gotten her into a fair bit of trouble more than once. Fortunately, with her family being venerated and rich as it was, it was never anything she couldn't be gotten out of. Her parents were unabashedly proud of their eldest daughters behavior; their father doted upon Bellatrix, rewarding her for her crimes with gifts and his unflinching support. Her abject hatred of muggles and mudbloods was a source of great happiness for both of her parents.
Narcissa, as well, garnered their approval. While not as vocal as her sibling, she was the ideal Black daughter. She flaunted her privilege and wealth with charm. She held the correct opinions and expressed them at the correct times, in the appropriate manner. Her diction, her carriage, and her natural beauty assured her an advantageous marriage. She would be the perfect branch; a connection to yet another old pure blood family.
Andromeda supposed she must have been a bit of a disappointment to them. No, she knew; she could see it in the way her father looked at her whenever he graced them with her presence. Andromeda had not been born with the natural fanaticism of her father and Bellatrix, nor the radiance and cunning of her mother and Narcissa. Facts and figures were what she concerned herself with. While Bellatrix fought the war and Narcissa prepared herself for marriage, she studied the stars and traced the history of the wizarding world. She was not attractive enough to be married off as an alliance between families, nor was she fiery enough to be a revolutionary. A middle child all around.
A sigh escaped her lips involuntarily. She held her breath for a moment, hoping she hadn't woken anyone. The room remained silent, and after a moment, she shifted quietly onto her side. The clock in the common room was just loud enough for her to know it was now two in the morning. She sighed again, more quietly. She had Charms in the morning, followed by Arithmancy and then Transfiguraton after lunch. It was her favorite day of the week for classes, her three best subjects one after the other, and she was going to be exhausted for it.
She wished that Bellatrix had never heard of this Voldemort character. From the moment his name had slipped into conversation at dinner, he had become their obsession. Talk of his movements, his ideas, his plans dominated the conversations over decadent meals in their high-ceilings dining room at home. In no time, Bellatrix had disappeared from her post in the office of Magical Law Enforcement to find him, without a word of disapproval from either her parents or her superiors. Since, the pressure for Andromeda to demonstrate her own dedication had mounted in constant tension at home, so that when holiday ended in September it had been a relief to get back to school. But the weekly letters from her mother were laced with expectation and disappointment, and her talks with Bellatrix grew more and more confrontational. It was growing difficult for Andromeda not to resent her entirely.
Yet, she knew she could not blame her sister for this. Her parents were connected and informed, and with the sensation Voldemort was becoming, they would have heard about his movements regardless. Bellatrix would have joined him just the same, impassioned, hot-headed and reckless. Bellatrix couldn't help her nature.
Andromeda rolled over onto her back, imploring the darkness to answer the worst question. What if it wasn't all just conjecture and hope; what if there was a war coming?
Her hand curled around the corner of her pillow. She clenched her fist and squeezed her eyes shut. Her family was powerful to the point invulnerability no matter which side won, but she couldn't shake the feeling of foreboding she got whenever she thought of Voldemort. He was radical, and he was mobilizing faster than anyone before him. While she felt nothing but contempt for the traitors and imposters he aimed to destroy, she couldn't find it within herself to throw her faith and support behind him. Unfortunately, remaining neutral wouldn't be an option, at least not in her father's opinion.
Her mind drifted for a moment to one of the many summer evenings she had spent in the dining room with him, stifled by the hot air and his calculating stare across the table. While they spoke next to never, she knew without asking that she didn't meet his expectations. The subject of Voldemort had come up in conversation, as it often did, and Bellatrix had first mentioned her plan to go find him. Her mother had laughed it off, as if neither she nor their father knew that Bellatrix would most certainly do as she said. But what stuck in Andromeda's mind was the way her father's eyes had drifted immediately to her. Under his expectant gaze, she had said and done nothing. Her misgivings were obvious.
Andromeda shuddered involuntarily. She thought of the room in her Aunt Walburga's house, with the four black smudges that stood in for excommunicated family members. Blasted from the tree, for mixing in with the blood traitors and he filth. The thought overrode all reason and logic she had and made her eyes water. Gripping her pillow and squeezing her eyes shut again, she tried to shake the image of her own face marred by the same black smudge.
She thrashed around for a moment, before remembering her roommates. She was still, listening; beside her, Alba Bole sighed. Edith Nott muttered something blearily, but then all was silent again. Get a hold of yourself, for Circe's sake, she told herself, gritting her teeth.
It was no use, pondering these heady matters so late. It was only losing her precious sleep. She thought unhappily of how tired she would be tomorrow. With one last sigh, she closed her eyes and began to drift off, thoughts of her family and Voldemort still weighing heavily on her mind.
A/N: Here I am! Again! I edited this a few weeks later, thus the minor alterations. I'm staring to find Andromeda's voice again, so chapter two should be up soon (hopefully anyways...) ANY feedback would be lovely. I hope to hear from you, dear readers! - Elle :D
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