Andromeda barely paid attention to the others gradually filtering in to the Bones’ home. Not because she was focused on Ted – though that was certainly true at the moment – but because she was fully aware of how difficult things were for people on this side of the divide. There were plenty of old, ‘true’ wizarding families that were slowly disappearing from the Pureblood social scene. The Potters, the Longbottoms, the Vances and the McKinnons, to name just a few. Anyone that openly spoke out against the disappearances and murders of Muggles was being swiftly struck from the Christmas card list of the Black Manor and Grimmauld Place. Her own cousin had been removed from the list and the Family Tree only last year. It was something Sirius seemed very proud of, and something Andromeda herself was beginning to regard as a minor consequence of the path her life was gradually taking.
Not to mention, of course, all the pictures she saw regularly on several pages of the Daily Prophet
. Initially, when this whole thing had started, the odd instance of magic being used on Muggles had only made the back pages, as if it was regarded as a mean-spirited joke gone wrong. Living amongst the elite, however – and being old enough now to be included in such conversations - , Andromeda knew it was more than that. Every morning she instructed her owl to deliver her subscription to the paper to her room privately, and every morning she found herself shocked at one article, then two, then pages, then the headline itself. The first time the smoky image of the skull with the snake protruding from its mouth had been printed on the front page, the middle child had felt, for the first time ever, truly disgusted by the actions of her peers. A whole Muggle family killed, merely because their daughter had dared to marry a wizard. She’d been rather late to breakfast that morning, and the pleasant conversation around the table had put her right off her food.
“Yes, I imagine we probably would,” she commented with a smile, glad for a break from darker thoughts for a moment. As highly unlikely as it ever was, Dromeda found the idea of taking his younger sister shopping amusing. She wondered what the young Muggle girl would make of the jewel-encrusted robes in Madame Malkin’s, in fact of her own rather extensive wardrobe. The most basic things she’d ever owned were her school robes; Black’s didn’t dress down. “Do they – and please, tell me if I’m out of line asking – do they never ask about what’s going on in ou-” No
, she quickly checked herself, not our, not anymore,
“in the magical world? Or are they just thrilled to have you back?”
It was a genuine question, and she hoped she hadn’t pushed too far in asking. The Black children were brought up with a sense of entitlement, and a pre-disposition to speak their minds and question things. Of course, they all showed that quality in different ways, but it was evident in all 5 of them somehow or another. It annoyed Andromeda slightly to think that she – and more so Sirius – was so clearly a Black child. There was no shaking those genes, that attitude, no matter how hard either of them might want to. And yet, bizarrely, she was still confusingly proud of her upbringing. Hers was a head filled with contradiction these days. She let out a laugh under her breath as he mentioned Russia being full of dragons, the reference dragging her back to the conversation once again.
“Yes, I suppose that would explain it,” she said with a distinct smirk as the following sentence slipped out uncensored by her usually very switched-on mind, “and why my mother so enjoys trips there.”
Quickly a delicate, long-fingered and manicured hand shot to cover her mouth, as if she’d just sworn in front of someone she shouldn’t have. In a way, what she had just done was worse. She’d insulted one of the most prestigious witches in Pureblood society in front of a Muggleborn, of all people. Her hushed conversations with Sirius in the hallways of the kitchens had contained many such a joke, but that had been acceptable. They hadn’t been in public, and the house elves that may have heard wouldn’t have dared repeat it, such was the power and threat of her surname. But here? Andromeda laughed behind her hand before putting them both on her hips, descending into the half-mad laughter that revealed Bellatrix’s relation. It was pure relief, to finally have actually said such a thing openly. Realising she was drawing odd looks from others already confused as to her presence on its own, she cleared her throat as she recovered herself, returning to holding herself straight and proper as she’d been taught what seemed so long ago now.
“Oh, Ted, don’t apologise,” she said with a shake of her head once she had properly recovered from her momentary lapse of sanity. “You left our world; you love your family, wanted to keep them safe. I can’t say I know how that feels, but I understand.” She smiled softly, reassuring, before sighing softly, glancing as Benjy Fenwick appeared and filed into the kitchen, but not before giving Dromeda a clearly disapproving look and muttering something that made her feel distinctly unwelcome in his presence.
“You’ve heard about Marlene McKinnon and her family by now, I presume?” She began, unable to meet his eye as she spoke for entirely different reasons than back in school, “It was awful, all over the Prophet
, everyone had heard about it the next morning. I didn’t need to wait that long. Bella and her husband – Lestrange, you remember him? A couple of years above us – came home that night, positively gleeful. They went straight to father’s study, told him all about…” she stalled, swallowed, ashamed even to be admitting to something she had nothing to do with, “She was there Ted, part of it. She was manic, thrilled even. So trust me when I say that I understand why you want nothing to do with me, with any of us anymore.”
Only now did she dare glance up to meet his eyes, her own glistening lightly with unshed tears. Dromeda could clearly remember the years before Hogwarts, even a few summers after her older sister started school, when the three Black sisters were inseparable. Ordering the house elves to stay silent, they would sneak from their rooms to play in the maze, pretending to be princesses and dragons and heroes coming to the rescue. She supposed, in her own crazed way, Bellatrix still thought herself a hero, defender of the Pureblood ideals and beliefs. Though Andromeda had never been as dedicated as her sister, Bellatrix had never truly doubted her loyalties. She wondered what her big sister would do if she saw her here now, because she certainly wouldn’t wait for an explanation.
“Sorry,” she finished, waving a hand dismissively after a moment, “you don’t need to hear about the dramas of Pureblood families right now. I’m sure you have other friends here you’d rather be catching up with than the most unpopular witch in attendance.”