Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
Ebony Riddle and the truth about the boy-who-died
Chapter seven – The forced Protector
Ebony chewed on a piece of toast unwillingly. Even though she loved 's cooking, she was so full she feared she might throw up any minute, but her 'aunt' Molly insisted that she should eat some more bacon, egg, toast and anything else that nobody else took before she had the chance to place it on her plate.
Bill, who was pretending to read the Daily Prophet, which proclaimed in bold letters on the front page, that the Potter grave had been vandalised and nobody seems to be able to get rid of the changes that had been made on it, and Charley were sitting on either side of her, watching this with great amusement, although they seemed to agree that Ebony could use some extra-weight. Under all that transfigured body was a still bony Ebony after all. That didn't mean she was going to eat another bite, though, she thought, eying the full dish in front off her with a glare that could give Snape a run for his money.
She gave Bill, who like the rest of Weasleys had happily started treating her like the family she was supposed to be, a pleading look to which he responded with a mean grin and a shake of his head moving his own finger like fork to his mouth. "Isn't it great to have a family?" Giving him a glare, she turned to Charley, who was sitting next to her, stating very softly: "If you don't help me soon, I'm going to throw up and it will be all over you."
He gave her an amused glance before standing up. He mouthed: "What do I get for helping you?". Undoubtedly understanding that her pleading look meant she'd do anything, he told her out loud: "I could use your assistance with a tapestry in Bellatrix Black's room, Cassy, would you mind helping me?"
Said witch froze. She wasn't sure what was worse another course or the former Black's room, glancing at her full plate and the still busy , she answered with a resigned expression, which made him grin evilly: "I'd love to help you! Thanks, !"
The older witch, who had never been in that particular room before, just sternly butted in: "But you finish your plate and it's Auntie Molly!" sending Bill and Charley into a fit of laughter, while Ebony blushed, glaring at the laughing duo.
There was no task and no place in the house that was as unloved as trying to 'clean' the convict's bedroom. Nobody seemed to be able to get rid of the faithful deatheater's curses and the hexes, which seemed to have been cast virtually everywhere in the room and those, who tried usually only ended up with a rash, a broken nose, an extra eye or other such pleasantries.
"We have to get rid of those though." Ebony sighed, trudging behind Charley, who she knew was smirking. "Anything in there could possibly be sending information to its owner or even worse its owner's sister." She lowered her head glaring at the floor. "Narcissa might not be a bad person, but she is - to a point - loyal to the Dark Lord...I think. You never know with Slytherins..."
"Careful now!" the dragon researcher commanded, startling her out of her musings, opening the dreaded door slowly and cautiously. She crept into the room, closely behind him, whirling her head this way and that. "OK," the wizard in front of her murmured, "you try to get to it from the left and I from the right. The left should be more or less safe, but try to stay away from the carpet, Bill said there are still some nasty hexes in there that he just couldn't get out. We run and jump that tapestry over there. You will then hold it still. On the count of three, OK?"
She nodded confusedly. "Why the hell are we going to jump it and hold it still?"
"Good. Oh! I almost forgot! Stay away from the teeth!" he warned her.
"Teeth?!" she exclaimed. "What do you mean teeth?!"
Charley pointedly ignored, starting to count: "One!"
"Charley, what do you mean with teeth?!" she yelled at him, as he squared his chest.
"Two!" he continued and absentmindedly she got into a stance, preparing herself to start running.
"Charley!" she yelled at him. "What teeth are you talking about?!"
"Three!!" he screamed, breaking into a run. Instinctively she followed suite. Running on either side of the room, they made their way across the room, where the dirty, ugly tapestry hung. While Charley expertly dodged curses and hexes that were flung at him from almost everywhere, Ebony was almost hit by a few hexes as she ran over exactly the carpet Charley had warned her to stay away from.
As she lacked a little behind him the younger magic user saw what her 'cousin' had ment, when he had said teeth. The carpet suddenly split in half, revealing a gaping mouth that was filled razor sharp teeth. "How did that girl come up with things like this?!"
She ran up, trying to help Charley, who was trying desperately to heed his own advice and tried to hold the thing still without losing a finger, while he unsuccessfully tried several spells to paralyse the thing.
"Can't you just burn the stupid thing?", she rasped, wanting to lighten the mood, even though the beast was just trying to get her throat and she had to strain her body to hold it securely, while getting as far away from it as she could without letting go.
He looked at her for a split second incredulously, then shrugged and actually yelled: "Incendio! Let go of it!!"
They both quickly ducked, watching in morbid fascination and not a little satisfaction as the screeching fabric was burnt completely and the fire almost got out of control, until Charley had the sense to put it out, leaving scorch marks and smuts all over the wall and ceiling, loads of smoke in the room and two youths, that both sported a few nice scratches, where sharp teeth scraped skin, behind.
Coughing they made their way out out of the room, but when they opened the door, he said: "Go. Thanks for helping me. Nice way of getting rid of dark and dangerous artifacts by the way. Should have thought of that one... I'll just clean the rest up, so nobody will find out we had problems with the more harmless stuff in here, OK?"
"Harmless?!", she almost shrieked at him incredulously, looking at the embarrassed man incredulously, before waving goodbye and turning on her heel, so he wouldn't have the chance to ask her for assistance with anything less 'harmless'.
"Where to go now?" She usually spent all her time with Remus and Tonks or the other teens, but the adults had work to do and the teens a free day that they spent in their rooms, which she would have to search for as they told her to just ask her aunt (with very evil grins, while watching her being fed to death by said aunt). She walked for a while aimlessly down the corridor. Then crossing her arms, she set a cloud of soot free, causing her to smile, when she realized that she was covered grime. "That settles it then, I guess, a shower first..."
"Did you know that talking to oneself is the first sign of insanity?" startled she turned around to find that Sirius Black was standing directly behind her. "You know, you shouldn't be here. This far away from everyone," he meant in fake concern. "Things can happen. If one's alone, in a house filled with dark magic..."
"What are you doing here then?" she asked, sounding braver than she felt, when confronted with this obvious threat.
He bared his teeth in a wolfish grin: "I live here."
"What do you want?" she asked coldly, hiding the bad feelings she had about being alone with him.
"My godson, Riddle!" he snarled at her, while she backed away in, what she was loathed to admit was fright, as his face turned a into horrible mask of hate with his yellow teeth bared and matted, long hair flying wildly, but he continue to advance on her. "Oh! And while we are at it how about you give me James and Lily back?" She was now pressed against a wall, but she still forced herself to look calm, while her body told her to panic and try to flee. "Stupid Gryffindor pride!" "And maybe I can have 14 years of my life back?!" With a swift motion he grabbed the front of her shirt, lifted her up and pinned her against the wall, almost choking her, while she struggled helplessly. "It's all your fault!! If you hadn't been born, nothing of this would have happened!! Why? Why did you-" he stopped his rant abruptly as his eyes widened.
Ebony seeing her chance for survival forced out two raspy words still hardly able to breath, forcing him to face the truth: "Why what?"
He dropped her abruptly to the ground, where she lay gasping for breath, as he shook his head and ran away.
She closed her eyes for a moment, sitting up tiredly. She just listened to her racing heart for few minutes, very glad to hear it beating. "That was a close one."
Suddenly she heart footsteps down the corner. She scrambled up, squinting into the darkness, praying to every god that might be listening that it was none of her enemies inside the Order.
As the steps drew nearer she got some sense back and tried to find some cover, but it was just an empty corridor that didn't seem to have any doors. She stared at the place the person would appear in any moment and contemplated running for it, but the only other direction she could turn to was where Black had gone and she was not willing to go there, she thought looking in that direction.
"What are you doing here?!"she whirled back around to find out the person was none other than Snape. "Could it get any worse?!" Taking in her dishevelled, scratched up and soot-covered appearance, he snarled furiously: "What has happened to you?!"
She winced. "Um, I-," she muttered, trying to create several excuses, why she was looking like this.
He rolled his, muttering to himself: "Ever the eloquent." Then he grabbed her arm and dragged her down several corridors. She was way too tired to argue and surprisingly she didn't feel threatened at all by him, so when he opened a door that led into a room filled with potions, she allowed herself to be guided more gently into the room and into a hard wooden chair off in a corner. "Scourgify!" he cast in a lazy way, cleaning off the soot and revealing the bruises and cuts, she had acquired while fighting the vicious tapestry and being held up by Black.
He gave her scrutinising glare, before turning to a shelf with several big-bottled potions, picking an especially large bottle with a soft pink liquid. He pulled off the cork, sniffed at it and took out a vile pouring a small amount of the potion into it. "Here," he said, handing it to her, "drink it."
She eyed it almost as warily as Narcissa's as she held it, but then she recognised it as one of the numerous healing potions she had been given by Madam Pomfrey and downed it, grimacing as the terrible taste filled her mouth. "...Thanks..."
For a few minutes they just sat in silence both absentmindedly watching the girl's wounds heal.
"Care to explain, why you were not only covered in soot and dishevelled, but also badly bruised and covered in bites, girl?" he asked in a soft voice that betrayed none of his emotions.
"Um, well, Charley asked me to help him with a man-eating tapestry," she said as though it was obvious, attempting to stand up, but she found herself forced back into her chair. She glared at him for a few seconds, before remembering that she wasn't supposed to look into any suspected Legilimens' eyes, when she wanted to hide her secrets from them. Facing the floor she attempted to glare a hole into that instead. "Why doesn't he allow me to leave? Why did he help me, anyway? Does he suspect I was leaving out something? Why don't I just tell him what happened, anyway? What do I care if Snape tells Dumbledore or Voldemort or who ever that the mutt wanted to kill me; just to get him into trouble? He would certainly deserve it and just once Snape and I would delight in the same thing."
"I know you're lying," Snape whispered in a bone-chilling voice, "Who grabbed you by the front of your shirt? I recognise many signs of brutality and I doubt a carpet, even a," here he changed his voice into a mocking imitation of Ebony's, "man-eating one," his voice became even colder than before and the girl half wished he would just continue to taunt her, "could grab somebody by the front of their shirt. Actually I know someone, who showed that he is quite inclined to do so..." Shocked the girl stared at him and realised far too late that she had given Sirius away, as Snape bared his crooked, yellow teeth whirling around his robes flying wildly, he whispered furiously: "I'm going to strangle you, Black!"
Before he could walk much farther though, the amazed witch had reached him, taking a hold of his arm she got his attention and both looked into each other's eyes. She asked him, looking deeply into well-guarded onyx-eyes. "You know what he asked me, don't you? It's quite a good question: Why? Why do you care?"
Hesitating the man looked into her eyes for a moment, then gave her a carefully-worded answer: "I gave a good friend my word, that I would."
She let go of him and backed away a few steps, just incase he had 'promised' it to someone she actually needed protection from. "Whom did you promise this to?"
He didn't say anything for a very long time, before he finally murmured softly: "Your mother."
Her eyes widened, but soon hardened, as she stated furiously: "Why should she ask you to do anything?!"
What Snape did next shocked greatly, she had expected him to throw her out of his study, but he just smirked: "Yes, I was quite astonished, too, we had never been enemies, but we hadn't been very close friends either, but it seemed she couldn't find anybody willing to be the godfather or -mother of her newborn child should anything happen to her – very possible in such troubled times."
She retorted in disbelief: "I don't believe you. If you had been such good friends with her, why did you treat me so badly when you thought I was Harry Potter?"
He glared at her, hissing angrily: "Because just because I liked your mother doesn't mean I have to like her pompous brat."
Blushing in anger she taunted: "Yeah, sure! The truth is that you are too self-centred to put your liking of Lily before your hate for my fath-!"
He sneered. Obviously savouring the moment, before he added to it: "Oh. I think you are forgetting something very important. Your father isn't James Potter, girl. Your father is the murderer of him and your mo-." He cut himself off. His features turned the smallest bit guilty, as he guided an unresponsive young witch into the chair she had vacated not that long ago.
She almost laughed out loud, when she realised that he was acting a little like Sirius: Say something before thinking. The only problem was, that she usually wasn't at the receiving end of it and though she didn't really like admitting this even to herself; it stung! She looked down at the floor. Being hurt by Snape she realised wasn't that bad, but being intentionally hurt and rejected by her godfather was agony.
"Come on, girl! Say something!" he almost yelled at her.
She winced, but remained otherwise silent. She hated being yelled at like that. It sounded a great deal like Uncle- "No, I don't want to remember that." A small spark of happiness slithered itself into her heart and she hugged herself, closing her eyes tightly.
Snape must have been scared to death by now, because she felt two hands settle on her shoulders, shaking her lightly, as he said in an urgent voice: "Come on, girl, snap out of it!"
She didn't respond to that at all, she was too distracted as the feelings that made her feel disgusted with herself came back full force.
After a few more minutes a seemingly terrified Potions Professor reluctantly copied, what he had seen do the night she had come back, hugging her, which effectively startled a tense Ebony into awareness. She still didn't look into his eyes though, afraid of what he might see.
He let go of her immediately, as soon as he saw that her eyes had opened, he stood straight, turning to one of the shelves acting as though he was examining the different potions and ingredients, picking some up and sniffing at them. A minute of silence followed, before he murmured seemingly hoping she wouldn't catch it: "I'm sorry...I shouldn't have said that."
"He really thinks I was like that only, because of his words. He really doesn't know me at all." Feeling that if she didn't ask them now she would never be able to, she searched for some of the many questions she had wanted to ask him a long time ago or at least since the past week, but she couldn't remember any of those, so she settled for a more recent mystery.
"So," she went, her voice a little too scratchy for her liking, "you beat up Black just, because you are my godfather?" "Thinking of Snape as my godfather feels so... I don't know!"
She could just see the big self-satisfied smirk on his face, as he said in a voice that could be considered conversational: "That was only part of the reason I did it then..." "No, surprise there! He of course loves to talk about beating up Si-Black!"
"And the other reasons?" she continued, trying to make him talk.
He responded lightly, taking off the lid off a bottle with green stuff in it that must have been rotten as the stench reached her nose: "I have been waiting for a reason to hit him like that for a long time..."
"Why not curse him?" she put in, grinning, but it soon disappeared, when he didn't reply for a long time. "Doesn't he want to answer the question or he is thinking about his explanation?"
Finally he turned around, eying her calculatingly. He said: "Growing up without magic, you just like to do some things without it."
She gaped. "A muggle-born deatheater?!"
"I'm not muggle-born!" he hissed fiercely. "Another Legilimens. No surprise here..." She could have hit herself for staring at the spy. At her questioning gaze, that asked him to continue, he gave her a short glare that plainly said this was a secret, before he explained: "I've just been raised among muggles until my mother told me I was a wizard."
"So you are a muggle-raised Half-Blood like me," she murmured astonished.
"Yes, I didn't make many good encounters with muggles though," he frowned, leaning against the shelf he was standing in front of, giving Ebony the impression that he was wondering why he was telling her all this.
"Well, if he let's his walls down maybe... I should return the favour?" "Neither did I," she spoke slowly not sure whether she wanted him to know this, "My relatives didn't like me, because they felt I was ...well not like them," he nodded for her to continue, some understanding creeping into his emotionless eyes, "and everyone else thought I was frightening, strange or just an annoying troublemaker and loner."
"Muggles never change I guess," he whispered, a sad smile touching his lips, "They still fear everything they don't understand!" he ended harshly.
Feeling obliged to say something for the muggles' defense, she retorted: "Wizards are no better! They are just as afraid of muggles, because they don't understand them and how they live without magic."
He looked at her raising an eyebrow a proud look gleaming deep inside those cold black eyes for just a moment.
Feeling a little embarrassed for her enthusiasm, she decided to change the subject: "Um, so is the paternal potion finished, yet?"
Snape smirked at the random topic, shaking his head. "Another thing that the muggle world and ours have in common: Proving someone's parentage takes time. Maybe in another week." She felt a little hope every time she thought of that test, but seeing that look, the ex-deatheater gave her a damper: "You shouldn't cling to false hopes. Chances are very low and you know that."
She remained quiet. She didn't need to be told that. Everybody seemed to say that.
"Do you want me to bring you to the room Weasley and Granger are living in? I doubt you could find your way there on your own and they would probably delight in seeing you."
She nodded. "Yes... Please."
He opened the door, holding it open until she past through, then closing it behind them. She glanced at the spot she had been pinned to by Black earlier, while going past it, shuddering, when she remembered the murderous glint in the animagus' eyes. "I have to stay away from him..."
When they stood in front of the door to Ginny's and Hermione's room. Laughter could be heard inside. Ebony turned around to have a last word with the usually elusive teacher, but he was already gone. "He is probably as freaked out that we have quite a lot in common as I am... That was actually quite strange. We hit it right off after we got past our mutual hatred... It was almost like when I met Si-...Black!"
She knocked on the door. The giggles stopped abruptly, as the door opened to reveal Hermione and all the Weasley teens, who immediately grinned broadly, when they saw, who it was, dragging her inside.
AN(Originally by JuMiKu):
So if you think, this was out of character on both parts: Ebony is, if you haven't noticed projecting her feelings for Sirius on her new godfather, while Snape is just forgetting, who she is and a very lonely man in general...
If you are wondering, what Sirius had been doing in that corridor: He was trying to get access to Snape's study and find some evidence for him still being a loyal deatheater. I just tell you this, because I don't see a place in the story, where this might be explained.
AN (Now by SCM): The adventure continues in Harry Potter: Keeper of the Dark Heart, over in my profile. It's been 'completed' for a while now, but that's only because Keeper's currently on other worlds. Check it out for more of Ebony.
The next two chapters of Ebony will be more my style, even though parts of them were originally written by JuMiKu, before she let me have it.