Andromeda Black is nothing like her sisters, and everyone knows it. She isn't delicate and pale like Narcissa or dark and stormy like Bellatrix. At the dinner table, she never says the right thing; at parties, she lurks by the punchbowl with a book in her hand. Bella would know how to make her isolation look haughty, but Andromeda just looks awkward.
"Do you hate it?" Narcissa asks. "How no one looks at you?"
Bella would have spat in her face. Andromeda probably should have.
"Sometimes," she says. She picks up her book and wanders away.
Narcissa wonders what sometimes not feels like.
When Narcissa was a little girl, she used to pull Andromeda's curls and shout, "BOING!" Her mum had known that she would be a witch -- not that there was ever really any doubt -- when she started moving them with magic instead. Sometimes Narcissa wishes it was still alright to touch her sister's hair.
Narcissa's hair is curly too, but it's a secret nobody knows. She pushes Sleek Eazy's through it with a comb after her shower every morning. It takes more than an hour, but it'll go faster when she gets a wand.
Andromeda's dyed her hair blond again. It makes her skin look pale, but not in a good way. Stop trying to change it, Narcissa wants to say. You're pretty the way you are. But she knows that the Black women aren't meant to have mousy brown hair, even if she doesn't quite know why.
She says, "Blond hair doesn't suit you, sister," and tries not to feel proud when Bella grins at her from the opposite end of the table.
She'll never tell anyone that yesterday, she tried leaving her hair curly, but she was too afraid to come outside.
At Hogwarts, Bella fucks every man in the Slytherin house, and then she's on to the Gryffindors. Narcissa thinks the word fuck is indecorous, but there's no other word for what Bella does except maybe preys, like a lioness or a hungry spider.
She and Bella and Andromeda always get the best chairs by the fire. People move aside when they see Bella coming. One day, Narcissa swears, people will step aside for her too.
Bella lowers her voice when she talks about who she fucks, but only because she isn't supposed to lower herself to sleep with Gryffindors. Andromeda hangs onto every word and giggles where she's supposed to. Narcissa makes a show of indifference.
"I'm waiting for my wedding night," she says. Mother says it's prudent, but Narcissa thinks it's romantic. Not that she'll ever tell.
"Get your nose out of the air and listen, little sister," Bella says. "You'll have to know this if you don't want your husband in someone else's bed."
Narcissa thinks there's more than one way to keep a man faithful. Auntie Walburga's got an interesting book of charms, and she says Narcissa can have it when she's older. But she listens to Bella anyway, just in case.
Narcissa never does anything by accident. She wants to sometimes, but she never could, not with Bella watching.
Andromeda has accidents all the time. Her knees are skinned; her shins are bruised. It was how she had made friends with Molly Prewett, Andromeda knows.
"Why were you talking to that Gryffindor bitch in the library?" Bella asks.
"I ran into her. Our books got mixed up. You fuck however many Gryffindors you please, and I'll talk to however many I please, alright?"
Narcissa's never seen Andromeda look even a little bit defiant before. Bella only smiles and slinks away to her dorm.
"I'd be careful who's company you keep, sister," she drawls as she climbs the stairs.
Narcissa knows that Andromeda and Molly go up to the lake together sometimes. She wonders what it would be like to have a friend who was only hers, someone who'd never tell Bella or her mother what she says. Maybe Andromeda would even be that friend. But she knows there's a choice between Bella's protection and Andromeda's friendship, and she knows which one she wants more.
"Well, at least she's Pureblood," Mother sighs when she passes the envelope to Andromeda.
Andromeda carries the letter upstairs before she reads it, and Narcissa watches her go.
Narcissa finds the parchment easily when she sneaks into Andromeda's room later that afternoon. It's hidden under her pillow, the first place anyone would think to look. Narcissa keeps her secret things in the bottom of a box of tampons. She doesn't actually need them yet, but no one has to know that. Maybe her sister's not really a Slytherin. Maybe she belongs in Hufflepuff. Narcissa files the thought away in case she needs a retort later, even though it's not that good. Bella's probably said it before.
The letter's boring, trivia about music and the family holiday, mostly. Narcissa can tell from the large, looping handwriting that Molly didn't have a tutor when she was young.
"Purebloods," her mother had sniffed. "But fallen ones."
She tucks the letter back into its hiding place and summons the house elf to smooth the sheets. The Malfoys are coming for dinner soon, and Mother had said to dress.
Andromeda sits at the end of the table, toying with her food. She looks bored, but not in the ostentatious way that Bella would have. Of course, she isn't even trying to participate in the conversation, and no one tries to include her. Narcissa wonders if she's thinking of her secret letter, whether talking with Molly is better than weighing every word with the Malfoys.
That night, she looks in the mirror at her sleek blond hair and swelling breasts. She's perfect, she decides, better than Andromeda and maybe even Bellatrix. She wonders if being beautiful is any protection against being lonely.