Andromeda looked around her. The busy muggle station hadn't changed much since the year before. The same people in their alien muggle clothing, hurrying from platform to platform, as a crackly voice announced incoherent words over a loudspeaker. The large clock on the wall read quarter to eleven. Still plenty of time.
She hurried slightly, pushing her trolley, laden with trunk and cat basket, to catch up with her two sisters. From the back, one would never guess that the two girls were related, the taller girl with black unruly curls that reached to her waist, the smaller with a long sheet of white-blond hair, like silk. From the front it was slightly more obvious, despite the gap of four years that separated them.
Andromeda watched, almost wistfully as Narcissa laughed at some undoubtedly witty comment that Bellatrix had made, tossing her long blonde hair back in a gesture that was attractive and yet haughty at the same time, as though she owned the world. Andromeda sighed. At thirteen, Cissy was already showing signs of being as beautiful as her oldest sister, albeit in a very different way, and she knew it.
Andromeda Black had never quite fit in with her sisters. She looked like them, it was true. Her long, thick hair was a lighter shade than Bella's, a soft, reddish-brown, and her eyes were lighter too, but she had the same fine bone structure and mouth as her older sister. But she was different; it was as simple as that. Different, weird, wrong. Perhaps there had been a mix-up of some sort. She often felt that she had been born into the wrong family, a feeling that she shared with her nine-year-old cousin, Sirius. She didn't really agree with the blood-elitist principles that her family lived by, that they were better than others because their ancestors had magical blood, tracing back for centuries. As she had spent more and more years at Hogwarts, she had seen that muggle-borns, despite what her sister, and seemingly the rest of the family, could make incredibly talented witches and wizards, although she didn't dare voice this opinion in front of Bella for fear of being laughed at. Or worse.
Hogwarts had had the opposite effect on Bellatrix. As the years went by, Bella had fallen in with a group of students who had recently become interested the activities of a wizard, who called himself Lord Voldemort. He seemed a bit too anti-muggle for Andromeda's liking, and as he seemed to grow in popularity, more suspicious and dark things had been happening. Bellatrix greatly supported his views, and despised muggle-borns. She had gotten into trouble more than once at Hogwarts because of this.
Andromeda sighed. It was behaviour such as her sisters that had earned Slytherin its bad reputation. Most Slytherins were actually not that bad. She managed just fine, and felt that she had definitely been sorted into the right house. Being in Slytherin had helped her a lot. She had some good friends, who looked out for her, and she for them. So what if she didn't always agree with what people were saying in the common room? She was perfectly entitled to her own opinion, and they to theirs.
She knew she wouldn't really fit in with any of the other houses. She was fairly intelligent, but not enough to be in Ravenclaw. She was lucky enough that most subjects came easily enough to her that she could pass exams, and she knew that this attitude separated her from the Hufflepuffs. Besides, she could imagine how Bella would laugh if she had been sorted into Hufflepuff. She would probably pretend they weren't related. And as for Gryffindor, well, years of growing up with Bella as a sister had made her the shy, scared eleven-year-old that had tried on the great hat, which had whispered in her ear that Slytherin would help her become the person she had potential to be. It had told her that she could be a great witch, and had hidden ambitions. What those were, she had yet to find out.
Yet she had found a place, a home with the Slytherins. Throughout her first few years she had been overshadowed by Bella's terrifying reputation. The Slytherins had looked out for her, scared by what might happen to them if Bella had found out her sister had been mistreated. Now, although still quiet, she wasn't nearly as shy as she had once been, and was strong enough to stand on her own. She even looked out for the first years. Few wanted to argue with the infamous Bellatrix Black's sister, and she remembered how terrifying it had been, to be so small, in the rambling, confusing castle, and how worrying it could be to some that they had been sorted into the house that had the worst reputation. Some wore their Slytherin title like a crown, others were afraid of how the rest of the houses would treat them. Perhaps one of the hidden ambitions the Sorting Hat had seen was her ambition to prove that not all Slytherins were blood-elitist, power-hungry morons with a tendency towards curses. Perhaps it was because of this that this summer's owl had brought her a surprise, she was fifth year prefect for Slytherin.
She was startled from her reverie by a sharp poke in the back. She whipped around, startled. A familiar face grinned at her reaction. It was Isabelle, her best friend. She was pretty with long straight black hair and large blue eyes which sparkled with mischief.
"Earth to Dromeda? Where've you been all summer?" Isabelle laughed.
Andromeda didn't feel guilty. She had never been much of a letter-writer during the long summer holidays, and besides, Isabelle hadn't written to her either. But that didn't matter. "Oh, you know, the usual. Visiting my aunt, torturing my sister, that kind of thing. Kept pretty busy. You?" Andromeda replied as they surreptitiously walked through the barrier that separated the mechanic hustle and bustle of Kings Cross from the chattering mayhem that was Platform 9 ¾ on the first of September. All around them, families hugged and kissed goodbye, teenagers greeted much missed friends, younger siblings played, owls hooted and above all the noise, steam blew from the top of the magnificent Hogwarts Express. Andromeda and Isabelle hauled their trunks, Andromeda's cat and Isabelle's owl to a compartment near the end of the train, where they found the rest of the Slytherin fifth year girls. Andromeda stowed her trunk in the luggage rack, left her bag and her beloved cat Onyx on the seat and, amidst all the hugging of friends not seen since last term, slipped out. She searched the platform, eventually locating her mother as she hugged Narcissa goodbye.
"We'll see you at Christmas," her mother said, hugging Andromeda in a rather formal way. "Have a good term. Work hard."
"Love you," Andromeda said. Just then, the whistle blew. "Quick quick," her mother said, pushing her away slightly. "On to the train with you." Andromeda rolled her eyes and ran to the nearest door, and pulled it shut behind her. Once again her mother had weaselled out of any real sign of affection towards her middle daughter. She should have expected it really. Nevertheless, Andromeda leaned out of the window to wave to her mother as the train pulled away. She didn't know if the mass of frantically waving parents was obstructing her view, but it looked as though her mother had already left.