The day Regulus Black came to Hogwarts to pretend to teach Severus' prize pupil some Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons started out wet and dreary. Clouds pushed their way in great, grey billows across the sky and the rain couldn't decide if it wanted to sputter or pour and alternated between the two until no one was sure whether they should carry rain gear or just run. Ginny had opted for running and then the rain had opted for pouring and the combination had left her wet, bedraggled, and as mad as a cat. She hauled herself, wet robes, soaking bag, and bad attitude into Severus Snape's classroom and made no effort to conceal the scowl on her face.
The professor looked her up and down, flicked his fingers dismissively at her, and all her robes dried. Her mood didn't change, and the spell didn't affect her hair, which continued to drop water down her neck. "You should share that spell with my mum," she said as snottily as she could. "She's always looking for new housewife magic."
Snape looked down his long nose at her and she shoved her jaw out in defiant response. Before he could voice some silky put down that would sting for days, a voice from behind his desk said with posh vowels, "I've always said you'd missed your calling, Severus."
"Hedge witch magic is a tremendous untapped resource," Snape said. He flicked a glance towards the man who'd spoken.
Ginny followed his gaze and recognized Regulus Black from Narcissa's Christmas party. Tom had been interested in him then, though not enough to pursue in the face of Voldemort. Now they both studied him. His face failed to be handsome by some exactly wrong alignment of cheekbones and jawline and eye shape. He should have been devastatingly attractive. Each feature taken by itself seemed flawless. When they all came together, however, they argued with one another and left a man in their wake who might have been called arresting or striking or interesting but never handsome. His grey eyes glittered with ferocious intelligence, though. "A Weasley in Slytherin," he said. "And Narcissa's protégé. Are you sure you want to take this on, Severus?" he asked. "It might be a bit above your pay grade."
"And who else do you think I should ask about it?" Snape said. "Dear Bellatrix, madder than she was before? Or maybe Amycus Carrow. I'm sure his keen mind would -."
"Albus Dumbledore?" Regulus asked. There was a wealth of meaning in that question Ginny couldn't parse out.
"He's distracted," Snape said. "And his distraction is keeping me too busy to sort this out properly."
"And yet he lives," Regulus said.
"No thanks to his own efforts," Snape said.
Ginny desperately wanted to know what they meant. She hadn't cared for adults talking above her head even when she'd been too tiny to so much as reach the dinner table on her own and now, with a monster in her head and several dead horcruxes in her past, she hated it. I don't recommend asking, Tom said. And I'm not a monster.
Close enough, she said.
"See?" Snape asked.
"Indeed." Regulus Black stood up and crossed over to where she stood and, as he frowned at her, a large drop of water that had been working its way down her hair plopped onto her skin and slid down her neck, into her robes, and along her back. She shivered and told herself it was because of that wet chill and not because two men – both Death Eaters – were watching her very carefully. Both had their hands settled way too casually on their wands, and hers was tucked down in her bag. Even with it she didn't think she and Tom could take more than one of them out. Two against one wasn't going to break her way.
Don't be so sure.
"Are we going to do extra help or not?" she asked. "I have a lot of homework if this was just a meet and greet thing and I'd like to – hey!"
Regulus Black and pulled her school bag over to himself and was calmly pulling her books out one at a time. Transfiguration. Defense. History. He set her wand on a student work table with great care and then, as she closed her eyes, pulled out her knife. "Pretty," he said. "Against school rules, however." He tossed it to Professor Snape who caught it far more handily than she would have predicted.
"Headmaster Dumbledore said I could have it," she said. "He had the sheath made."
Snape's brows went up as he pulled the dagger from that leather sheath and examined the blade. "Goblin work," he said. "Not something your family would be able to afford."
"I have rich friends," she said. "As you know." She could feel her jaw getting tighter and tighter as he looked at her, and the knife.
"And do those rich friends always bathe their gifts in basilisk venom?" he asked.
The trap closed and she looked, instinctively, toward the door as if she could still run, as if there were any place to run. "I don't know what you mean," she said, the words coming out with a stammer that made the lie all too apparent.
I can take over, Tom said. He pushed his way to the front of her mind. These insubordinate fools need to learn their place.
"No!" she said out loud as she shoved him back down and away. The last thing she needed right now was Tom Riddle in control trying to murder a professor and his friend. She only realized her error when she looked up and both of them were smiling at her with the delighted grins of Slytherins who'd caught one of their fellows in a weak spot. She'd seen that look on Pansy's face, and Blaise's, and most certainly on her roommates'.
Severus Snape was unrolling his sleeve and making quite the idle show of looking at the Dark Mark. She could feel it writhing at Tom's presence. Regulus Black did the same.
"Now," Severus Snape said. "Let's have a moment of honesty, Miss Weasley. How deeply entwined with the Dark Lord are you and what, exactly, does Lord Voldemort want with a teenage girl?"