After my trip to Diagon Alley something changed. My anticipation for my life at Hogwarts didn’t lessen at all, it was merely joined with another and quite different type of emotion: fear.
My little excursion had instilled a deep and consuming doubt within me. I had gotten through the day alright and had managed to do all that needed to be done, but I felt wounded deep inside. I was still myself, my small and weak self, and the girl who I had so hoped would appear remained hidden. It was possible that the proper time simply had not come yet, but having faced disappointment once, I started to wonder what would happen if I was again let down.
Questions began to plague my mind. When would this girl, my mysterious other self, appear? Where was she supposed to come from? How would I know that she was there? What if she never came? What if she didn’t exist? So many things that had seemed extremely straightforward before were beginning to lose their clarity.
But I still held on to hope. It was not too late yet, so I still dreamt and wished and fantasized all that I could dare. Even if things did not turn out as I liked I was still going some place new and exciting and better, wasn’t I?
It was quite a mix of emotions, but by the time that we arrived at Kings Cross station on September 1st I was so caught up in the moment that I forgot all except for my fascination with all the excitement that surrounded me.
I again walked in the shadow of Bellatrix, who was due to start her third year of Hogwarts, but this time Father had decided to accompany us. I knew that it wasn’t in order to see me off. He had very little regard for me, and it would be unlike him to even try to show the supposed affection that fathers are supposed to have for their little girls.
“Stop gaping. Do you want people to think that we are nothing more than lowly blood filth?”
Bellatrix laughed, “If anybody were to make them think that, it would be Andromeda, wouldn’t it?” She turned on me sharply, “Well, don’t you agree? Generations of nobility runs through your veins and you would be the one to squander it all. Isn’t that right?”
I frowned and concentrated on my feet as they passed over the lines and cracks of the cemented ground. Bellatrix didn’t make me answer, but let out her own delighted laugh of personal triumph and walked a little quicker, pushing herself ahead of her sister and father.
So was this why he had come, was it – to get in a few last spiteful words against me? It was bad enough that he was so cold towards me, but why must it also set my sister against me and leave me feeling ashamed of myself? That wasn’t fair at all, was it?
Not long afterwards, I was able to part company with him over very stiff farewells and, Bellatrix already having vanished into the crowd, was left by myself on the platform.
I felt very alone for a moment as I stood on my own in the midst of so many people hustling about and calling out to each other, none of whom I knew. However, I took a deep steadying breath and forced myself to bury the feeling as I stepped onto the noisy train, struggling to pull my loaded trunk along with me.
I had never been on a train before, let alone a train loaded to the brim with ecstatic teenagers, all of whom knew each other far too well. Kids were laughing, kids were joking, kids were yelling, kids were everywhere. Would life at Hogwarts be as wildly chaotic as this? I had never been in a place with so many people my own age, a place where laughter seemed to radiate out of every corner, at once both contagious and isolating.
I quickly found myself a compartment that looked empty enough, although upon entry I discovered that another student had left their belongings on the rack, reserving their seat for the journey.
I was suddenly attacked by anxiety. I didn’t know who this person was. Perhaps they would be civil enough, but what if not? It could be some mean boy who wanted to bully me, or some older student who thought that I was just a joke. Was it safe to choose this compartment? Anything could happen, and it just might be the thing to ruin my journey to my amazing new school.
However, I realized that there was limited time and surely all of the other compartments were full by now, and perhaps with worse company than the closed trunk of my mystery travel companion.
I sighed and, with a great effort, heaved my trunk up into the rack above my seat and settled myself beside the window, twiddling my thumbs a little to distract myself as I tried to pass the time.
I had begun to drift into a daze of my own private thoughts when the compartment door slid open and a figure appeared, “Oh… Hello there,” she said.
I looked up in surprise, temporarily caught off guard. I had known that she had been sure to return, but I simply hadn’t expected her at that moment. “Uh… Hi.” I said, not sure how best to greet a perfect stranger with whom I would be spending the rest of my journey with.
“Might I sit down?” she asked me.
“Oh…” I said, slightly taken aback by her question, “Well, it’s your compartment, isn’t it?”
She flashed a nervous smile and turned to sit herself down across from me. For a moment I examined her as she busied herself in getting settled. She didn’t look very old at all, and could easily be my own age. She had sleek dark hair that was half tied back with a tidy little ribbon, and on her neck she wore a glinting sapphire necklace. She was very tiny, and hardly seemed to take up any space at all, yet she had a certain glow to her smile that seemed to fill more space than any person could.
All settled in, she looked up at me expectantly, “You’re a first year as well, aren’t you?” she asked.
“Oh… Yes, I am.” I said, “How did you know?”
“You’re staring.” She pointed out quiet simply. “But don’t worry; I feel the same as well. There is so much to see, isn’t there?”
“Yea, there sure is, uh…” I trailed off, finding myself at a loss for her name.
“Oh yes, of course,” she said, remembering herself, “I’m Adriana – Adriana Brown, that is. And you are…?”
“Andromeda. Andromeda Black.”
“Well isn’t that funny? Our names are kind of similar, aren’t they?” She said with a twinkle, “Except that I am Brown and you are Black. I suppose you are just a darker shade of me then, aren’t you?"
I nodded simply, but quite honestly did not find much interest in the matter. It was my ambition to find my identity and significance as it pertained to myself, not as it did to others, and I was quite sure that there was no connection between the two.
Temporary silence fell between the pair of us at my lack of enthusiasm for her observation, and we fell to jointly staring out the window and watching the scenery stream by. Apparently the train had begun its journey during our brief exchange and we had been too preoccupied to take notice. As the train had begun to leave the station of my old life and enter into the wild landscape of my new, I had let myself get distracted. I had not noticed at all.
When I grew tired of watching the scenes of fields and small woods fly past the windows, I turned my attention instead to my partner. She seemed to be a nice enough girl and a part of me wanted to get to know her better, although another part of me found the anxiety of attempting to befriend somebody too much for the present moment. She was very polite and had a strange sort of carefully composed crispness to her manner which I wasn’t yet sure if I liked or not.
Finally I felt pressed to break the silence, though I did not quite know what to say, “Do you…” I began uncertainly, “Are you excited to be going to Hogwarts?”
Adriana beamed, “Oh yes, I am so pleased. There is so much to learn and experience. I can’t imagine how thrilling it must be! And just to think, this will practically be our home for seven whole years! I have never really been away from home, so it is a little scary for me, but I know that I will enjoy it so much. What about you?”
I nearly replied with rivaling eagerness but had to swallow my own words, almost involuntarily, “Uh, yea… It’ll be cool – I guess.”
Why did I say that? Surely I was just as excited as she was, if not more so, and had every right to say so. I knew she would not look upon me with scorn as Bellatrix or father would have done, but I still felt that I had to suppress any foolish displays of enthusiasm.
Despite my silence, Adriana seemed to understand my true feelings and smiled warmly at me, “You know what? I like you. I wasn’t sure if I would have any friends here, but I think that you are very nice.”
“Oh… Thank you,” I said, surprised at the sudden compliment. “Yea, I think I like you too."
After that, somehow it all clicked into place between us. I was still a little uneasy about talking to somebody who I did not know well at all, but she had a certain charm about her that made me feel much more comfortable. And just knowing that she liked me… well, that made all the difference.
We began by exchanging the polite small talk of two people who are curious to know more about each other without wanting to appear nosy. Then, as the day went on and the sun rose higher overhead, we sat together and ate our lunches from the snack trolley and laughed as we freely exchanged stories.
Adriana wanted to know all about Hogwarts. She must not have had any older siblings like I did, because there was a lot that she did not understand. I did not mind her endless questions though, and told her all that I knew. It was nice to have an eager listener for once.
Together we fantasized a little more about what life at Hogwarts would be like, so engaged with each other that we hardly noticed as the sun set and darkness fell around the train. We each knew that much was coming for each of us, but for the moment only one thing mattered: we were friends.
After what seemed like a fairly brief journey, though I knew a full day must have passed, we pulled into the Hogsmeade station. It was very difficult to maneuver out of the train and onto the very crowded station through all of the other students and I had to crane my neck considerably to find Adriana, who was attempting to follow from a little way behind me.
We were soon reunited, and not long afterwards overwhelmed by a large, booming voice, “Firs’ years, firs’ years, over here! Get outta here, you… Firs’ years, this way!”
I caught Adriana’s eye and nodded significantly. I had already told her all that I knew about this very abnormal gamekeeper, and that it was best to keep a safe distance and not get tangled with him. She seemed taken aback by his sheer size, and quickly followed behind me.
The first years were all led to the castle by way of small boats, crossing the dark lake that spread over the grounds of Hogwarts School. Adriana seemed to think that this was magnificent and kept staring up at the approaching castle in awe, but I had my gaze fixed on the Gamekeeper. Surely someone of his kind should not be trusted, especially with first years who couldn’t even protect themselves properly. I was convinced it would only be a matter of minutes before he leapt out on us all as a terrifying beast.
But we made it to the castle quite safely, and when we reached the underground harbor and got out of our boats, we were all lead up the dark stone passage way into the castle intact.
The atmosphere of mingled excitement and fear that shrouded the group of first years was so absolute that I don’t think a single one of us was breathing properly. There was a sense in every one of us that seemed to say, “We are finally here. This is it.”
As for me, I actually felt quite numb. I believe that the excitement vibe inside me must not have been functioning properly, because when I usually would have been dizzy with excitement, I was standing stock still, hardly able to so much as breath or move a muscle.
But I could not stand there like a frozen statue forever. Soon enough the huge double doors of the Great Hall were thrown open and we were sent marching down the center of the vast banquet hall.
I had always thought that the rooms at home were large, but this was bigger than anything that I had ever seen. The ceiling seemed to go on forever, and it amazingly transfigured itself into the night sky, making it impossible to judge just where it ended.
As enthralled as I was at the moment, I wasn’t quite as spellbound as some of the other kids, who evidently had very little knowledge of the school at all. I felt a slight sense of satisfaction upon seeing this, the old Black family pride kicking in to tell me how much more significant than them I clearly naturally was.
After walking the length of the Hall, which felt as if it would never end, we all fell still. As our small footsteps stopped echoing around the room and I was suddenly aware that all of the faces in the room were fixed upon us.
For a brief moment I wondered if Bellatrix was out there someplace, watching me. I turned and craned my neck to see, but too many figures and faces lined the tables for me to hope to pick out the eminent face of my sister.
By the time that I turned back to face forward with the rest of the first years a teacher had come forward and stood holding a scroll of paper. A stool sat nearby, on which the oldest hat I have ever seen sat perched.
With another slight rise in my spirits I realized that many of my neighbors were staring blankly, unsure of what was expected of us. I, on the other hand, knew exactly what the frayed old hat was and the role that it was to play in the deciding of who I really was. While those around me were looking around uncertainly, I was beginning to lean forward out of eagerness for what was to come.
And then it began. The song was sung, the first name was called, the first small boy climbed up towards the stool, put the hat on, and then the first student was sorted. Applause rang throughout the hall for the boy that I tried to join in with, but I found that I could only do so half-heartedly. What if my name was the next to be called?
But it wasn’t. I watched several of my peers be sorted into all four of the different houses, and each time I was left itching to be in their place. I could hardly contain myself any longer and each moment I wondered when my time would come.
I held my breath, and for a moment I almost thought that I heard my own name, but instead it turned out to be my friend from the train; “Brown, Adriana!”
I gave her a quick and rather weak grin of good luck as she departed from my side, and watched as she sat herself down on the stool and had the tattered old hat lowered over her neat hair. I wondered from my own knowledge of her where I would put her if I were in charge of it instead of some silly old hat. Just before I could come to a decision, the moth-eaten brim of the hat opened and bellowed:
I clapped for her enthusiastically, but all the while dying to be sorted myself, to be able to sit right at home at one of the four long tables.
My patience was tested a short while longer in which I felt that I might explode, but then after only a few names more, there it was:
The moment I had been waiting for had finally come, but now that it was here, I was not sure if I could muster up the strength to move a single limb in all of my body. I glanced around uncertainly, and met eyes with Adriana, who gave me an encouraging nod from her seat among the blue-clad Ravenclaws. It was this that gave me the strength to move on. I stepped forward, taking comfort in the fact that although I was shaking all over, I was moving.
Before I had time to wonder how I had gotten there, I was sitting on the small stool and the hat was being lowered over my eyes.
Although I had known it was coming, nothing could have prepared me for this.
The hat, in its strange intrusive voice, whispered in my ear. It said strange things that made me feel very uncomfortable. I knew that its job was to put me where I belonged, but it was most unnerving how much it knew. Some of the things that it said made me simply want to squeeze my eyes shut and forget completely, while others made me frown and want to consider their meaning.
I knew that I surely could have only sat there for a few moments, but to me it felt as if I was trapped within the hold of the hat for an eternity. And then, quite suddenly, it opened its wide brim and shouted out my destiny: