EPONINE: The Last Black Heir
Book 4: The Goblet of Fire
A New Life
The Riddle House
It had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there. It stood on a hill overlooking the village, some of the windows were boarded, tiles missing from its roof, and ivy spreading unchecked over its fence. Once a fine looking manor and easily the largest and grandest building for miles around, the Riddle House was now damp, derelict, and unoccupied.
The villagers of Little Hangleton all agreed that the old house was 'creepy' ever since what happened over half a century ago: something strange and horrible happened there, something that the older inhabitants of the village still liked to discuss for gossip was rare. The story had been told so many times and had been embroidered in so many places that nobody knew the truth anymore. Fifty years ago, at daybreak on a fine summer morning, when the Riddle House had still been well kept and impressive, a maid had entered the drawing room to find all three Riddles dead. The maid had run screaming down the hill into the village and roused as many people as she could.
"Lying there with their eyes wide open! Cold as ice! Still in their dinner things!"
The police were summoned, and the whole of Little Hangleton had seethed with shocked curiosity and ill-disguised excitement. Nobody wasted their breath pretending to be sad about the Riddles, for they had been most unpopular. Elder Mr. and Mrs. Riddle had been rich, snobbish, and rude, and their grown up son, Tom, had been anything, worse. All the villagers cared about was who the murderer was—because apparently three healthy people did not all drop dead of natural causes on the same night.
One man was a suspect: Frank Bryce.
"Frank!" cried several people. "Never!"
Frank Bryce was the Riddle's gardener. He lived alone in a rundown cottage on the grounds of the Riddle House. Frank had come back from the war with a very stiff leg and a great dislike of crowds and noises, and had been working for the Riddles ever since.
Yet, hardly anyone in Little Hangleton doubted that Frank Bryce had killed the Riddles. But, over the neighboring town of Great Hangleton, in the dark, dingy police station, Frank kept repeating stubbornly that he was innocent and that the only person he had seen near the house on the day of the Riddles' deaths had been a teenage boy, a stranger, dark-haired and pale. Nobody else in the village had seen any such boy, and the police were quite sure that Frank had invented him.
However, just when things were looking very serious, the report on the Riddles' bodies came back and changed everything. The police had never read an odder report. A team of doctors had examined the bodies and concluded that none of the Riddles had been poisoned, stabbed, shot, strangled, suffocated or (as far as they could tell) harmed at all. In fact (the report continued, in a tone of unmistakable bewilderment), the Riddles all appeared to be in perfect health—apart from the fact that they were all dead. The doctors did note (as though determined to find something wrong with the bodies) that each of the Riddles had a look of terror upon his or her face—but as the frustrated police said, whoever heard of three people being frightened to death?
The police had no choice but to let Frank go. The Riddles were buried in the Little Hangleton churchyard, not far from the Riddle House. The headstone had a large grim reaper, draped in a cloak, carrying a large scythe, it grinned inside its cloak a terrible grin. Their graves remained objects of curiosity for a while. To everyone's surprise, and amid a cloud of suspicion, Frank Bryce returned to his cottage on the grounds of the Riddle House.
Frank wouldn't leave. He stayed to tend the garden for the next family who lived in the Riddle House, and then the next—for neither family stayed long. Soon, a wealthy man who owned the Riddle House these days neither lived there nor put it to any use; they said in the village that he kept it for 'tax reasons', though nobody was clear what might be. The wealthy owner continued to pay Frank to do the gardening, however. Frank was nearing his seventy-seventh birthday now, very deaf, his bad leg stiffer than ever, but could be seen pottering around the flower beds in fine weather, even though the weeds were starting to creep up on him, try as he may to suppress them.
Weeds were not the only things Frank had to contend with either. Boys from the village made a habit of throwing stones through the windows of the Riddle House. They rode their bikes over the lawns that Frank worked so hard to keep smooth. Once or twice, they broke into the house for a dare. They knew that old Frank's devotion to the house and grounds amounted almost to an obsession, and it amused them to see him limping across the garden, brandishing his stick and yelling croakily at them. Frank, for his part, believed the boys tormented him because, like their parents and grandparents, thought him a murderer.
One night, Frank was awoken by his bad leg; it was paining him worse than ever in his old age. He got up and limped downstairs into the kitchen with the idea of refilling his hot-water bottle to ease the stiffness in his knee, hell, perhaps he would have a cup of tea while he was up. First, he filled the kettle with water, then lit the gas stove with a match and placed the kettle over the burner. While he was fetching the teapot, he saw lights glimmering in the upper windows of the Riddle House. The boys had broken into the house again, and judging by the flickering quality of light, they had started a fire.
"Bloody kids!" he mumbled.
He figured that he'd shoo the kids out and be back in time to take the kettle off the burner. He put his cap and jacket on, grabbing the keys, his cane and a flashlight. Frank limped around to the back of the house until he reached the door almost completely hidden by the ivy, took out the key, put it into the lock and opened the door noiselessly.
He let himself into the cavernous hall. Frank had not entered it in many years; nevertheless, although it was dark, he remembered where the door into the hall was and he groped his way toward it, his nostrils full of the smell of decay, ears pricked for any sound of footsteps and voices. He reached the stairs and went up the stairs and that's when he heard voices.
"How fastidious you've become, Wormtail," said a voice, which appeared to belong to a man—but it was strangely high-pitched and cold as a sudden blast of icy wind. Something about that voice made the sparse hairs on the back of Frank's neck stand up.
He turned off his flashlight so he wouldn't make his presence known. At the top of the passage a door stood ajar, and a flickering light shone through the gap, casting a long sliver of gold across the black floor. Several feet from the entrance, he was able to see a narrow slice of the room beyond. When he continued to go up the stairs to get a closer look, a stair creaked loudly and Frank decided not to move any closer.
"As I recall," said the man's voice. "You once called the nearest gutter pipe home. Could it be that the task of nursing me has become wearisome for you?"
"Oh, no. No, no, my Lord Voldemort," said another man's voice—supposedly belonging to the man named Wormtail—what the hell kind of name was that? The man's voice was timid and fearful. "I only meant…perhaps if we do it without the boy…"
"No!" said this man who was called Lord Voldemort. "The boy is everything! It cannot be done without him…and the girl. And it will be done. Exactly as I said."
"The girl?" asked the man in the leather jacket.
"Yes, the Bearer of the Stone," said Voldemort.
"Are we going to kill her as well?" asked the man in the leather jacket.
"NO! She is of great importance and will be of great use to me."
"What are you saying, my Lord?" asked the man.
"The girl's family, especially back to the Medieval times inherited such powers that she has. She is the Dark Lady's last heir. In time, the Dark Lady will rise in the flesh of her true heir once I have enough strength to evoke her…"
"The Dark Lady?" said Wormtail.
"Yes, the Mistress of Salazar Slytherin. When I first heard about the Dark Lady, she produced an illegitimate heir, tainting Slytherin's good name. Needless to say, the birth of that heir left a permanent stain on Slytherin's name for a long time. Somehow, the heir disappeared. Probably that foolish brother of hers hid it. So, I decided to find the last heirs of the Dark Lady and eliminate them so I could remove that stain from Slytherin's name. Most of the heirs of the Dark Lady were hard to find, most of them were dead…one of the heirs was Jane Hartigan. What I didn't know was the girl's powers she inherited from the Dark Lady. Soon I realized that perhaps I wouldn't have to kill her. Perhaps I could use someone like her in my war. We need both Harry Potter and Eponine Black in order to do this. Get them both here!"
Frank continued to get closer to the open door while maintaining his distance to hear what they were saying, remaining unseen in the shadows so he wouldn't be seen.
"I will not disappoint you, my Lord," said a man in a leather jacket.
"Good," said Lord Voldemort. "First, gather our old comrades. Send them a sign."
Soon, something was slithering towards him along the dark corridor floor and it went past his feet. It was a gigantic snake, at least twelve feet long. Horrified and transfixed, Frank stared at its undulating body cut a wide, curving track through the thick dust on the floor, coming closer and closer—what was he to do? Frank jumped out of his skin and slightly a bit. He decided to stay still and waited until the snake went away. It slithered into the room and climbed up the chair and soon, there was a strange language that whispered in low, high-pitched hisses and spitting noises that sent chills up Frank's spine.
"Nagini tells me the old Muggle caretaker is standing just outside the door," said Lord Voldemort.
Frank didn't have a chance to hide himself. The man in the leather jacket turned towards the door and his face paled slightly. A short, balding man with graying hair, a pointed nose, and small, watery eyes stood in the doorway and stared at him with a grin.
"Step aside, Wormtail," said Lord Voldemort. "So I can give our guest a proper greeting…" then, "Avada Kedavra!"
There was a flash of green light and the tea kettle that was on the stove was screaming a high-pitched whistle…
The Grangers' House, 200 miles away
Eponine woke with a start; her heart was glowing brightly, filling the room, making it a crimson color. Eponine was breathing hard, sweating profusely from her forehead and her blood felt hot as if liquid fire was pulsing through. The dream seemed so real. But why was she having this dream? She tried to recall the dream before she awoken, concentrating hard, frowning, trying to remember…the dim picture of a graveyard…a grim reaper…a darkened stairwell leading to a room…three people: two she knew and one didn't…the small man, Peter, nicknamed Wormtail…and a cold high voice…the voice of Lord Voldemort…something about the Dark Lady and her heirs and her mother's name was mentioned…Voldemort and Wormtail and the other man were talking about some plot to kill someone…her friend, Harry Potter…and yet, Voldemort said that he was not going to kill her…but why?
She looked at the clock and saw it was 5 o'clock in the morning. She was putting on her clothes and was getting ready for her usual morning chores. She had filled a bucket with water and soap and was already scrubbing the kitchen.
"Eponine!" said a voice behind her. It was Hermione. "What are you doing? It's five o'clock in the morning! Why are you scrubbing the kitchen?"
"Oh!" Eponine said, embarrassed. "Sorry. You know how old habits die hard."
"Well, why don't you go back to bed and get some sleep? You're not at Hogwarts anymore. You can sleep in."
"I know," Eponine said. "But I'm used to being up this early. Plus, I would like to get some studying done today. Plus, I can't stop thinking about Dad."
"I'm sure he's fine. He's probably worried about you just as you are about him."
"I'm not worried about him. I just would really like to have some kind of relationship with him over the summer; but you know, he said that I have lots of studying to do."
"You're doing just fine, 'Ponine," said Hermione. "You've been doing excellently on all the material we've been studying. You deserve to take a break now and then."
"I know, but still I feel behind everyone."
"Don't worry. You'll do just fine. Besides, Dumbledore did agree to have you be with the fourth years as long as you've read all the material we've been reviewing over the summer. Thanks to your dad, you'll be all caught up."
Eponine smiled. "I am excited about going to Hogwarts. It's just it's going to be a bit odd now since I've been liberated from domestic servitude."
Eponine Black was a skivvy who worked at Hogwarts for nine years and her guardian was the Potions professor, Severus Snape, who was horrible to her: he abused, starved and even let his own house students, Slytherin bully her. She wanted to put all of that behind her now that she had her father, Sirius Black, back into her life.
Her dad was imprisoned in the wizard prison, Azkaban and then escaped last year and the two were reunited. He escaped the second time and liberated Eponine from domestic servitude by giving her the proof to the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, that he was her father with a birth certificate that he had held onto for thirteen years since he left her and twelve while in prison. Second, now that Eponine was enrolled in school, she was given permission to visit Hogsmeade and gave her access to his bank in the wizard's bank, Gringotts. He saw how responsible she was and decided that he could trust her.
After being liberated, Sirius thought it would be best if she stayed with Hermione Granger so that she could tutor her over the summer so she could be all caught up for the new term; Hermione was pleased to see that her student was doing so well on her spells, potion ingredients, her memorization of herbs, etc. that she envied her.
Since she had been staying with her best friend, Eponine went through a lot of changes: she began eating regularly and gained some weight. She had been sickly thin and pale since she had left Hogwarts and all the Grangers did was demand her to eat. She enjoyed taking baths (of course, she bathed while at Hogwarts but it was seldom that she did) and the second she stepped out of the bathroom, the Grangers stared at her in awe: her golden hair shined like the sun and her porcelain skin glowed like freshly cleaned white linen with the sheen of a pearl. Her grey-blue eyes were no longer sunken in, her body had gained curves from eating regularly, and her face had gained some color.
Also, now that her father was back in her life, her entire personality had changed as well: she was more confident and happier. She received letters from her father that were delivered by beautiful, exotic birds as well as expensive gifts. Eponine appreciated the gesture, but she wished he wouldn't spend so much on her.
Today was her birthday. The Grangers planned on throwing her a small party that would include her friends. Eponine got a letter from her dad that was delivered by an exotic bird:
Happy 14th birthday! I would like to give you your birthday present. I am flying up with Buckbeak tonight to give it to you in person. Don't worry. This present didn't cost me anything. Meet me at the park just after dark. I'll be waiting there.
Love your father
Eponine wished he wouldn't risk flying up to just give her a birthday present; she knew that the Ministry of Magic was looking for him since he was a fugitive on the run. She wished he would just lay low until the charges were dropped. She didn't want to lose him again.
She picked up her quill and wrote:
I'll be at the park tonight for you to give me my present. But, please promise me that you won't be sneaking around to see me until the new term starts. I don't want to lose you again.
The party was held in the afternoon. Ron and Harry showed up for the party with gifts for Eponine, who stared at her new self. Eponine's presents from her friends were a sweater from Ron made by his mother and a box of fudge, a grey velvet cloak from Harry, and a brooch that was a red rose from Hermione.
After the party, night fell and Eponine sat on the bench waiting for her dad to come. Soon, a black dog appeared, holding two boxes in its mouth.
"Hi, Dad," she said.
Soon, the black dog transformed into her father, Sirius Black. He was bedraggled and dirty just as when she first met him last year. Yet, his grey-blue eyes were shining with joy.
"It's so good to see you, 'Ponine," he said, smiling.
"Dad, it's only been two, three months since you saw me," Eponine said, smiling back, laughing.
"I know. But they seem like eternity."
He hugged his daughter and kissed her forehead, stroking her hair.
"You look much better since the last time I saw you."
They sat on the bench together. "Here's your presents." He handed her a long, old faded red box along with a large one. She opened it and inside was a wand, in perfect condition with a golden vine with red rosettes. She held it and could feel a strange sensation from touching it…almost as two souls were connecting and whispers of a female's voice in her mind, speaking in an ancient language in her mind. Yet, it felt just right to her. She smiled, touching the rosettes.
"This was your mother's," he said. "She told me that it had been passed down from her family for generations. It contains a lock of hair from a witch in her family."
Eponine opened the package and inside was a beautiful creamy, silvery grey dress that looked as though it was made from the Renaissance era. It was made of satin and lace, with an empire waist, a deep V neckline of antique satin, decorated with small pearls and seed beads. The insert was made of satin with more small pearls and seed beads as well as a silver bullion and aged lace. The chemise was semi-sheer that gathered to sleeve cap. The sleeves were trimmed in lace and beaded, tie to each other at elbow and then to sleeve cap with metallic cording. There was a split overskirt of two types of gauzy crinkled fabric made of silk, possibly satin sewn together into panels. The underskirt was bias cut with antique satin that features French knots at hem.
"Thanks, Dad," she said. "It's beautiful! But, what is it for?"
"Dumbledore let me in on a little secret," he said. "I've been in contact with him, making arrangements on how we would meet while you're at school. He told me that this year, the Triwizard Tournament will take place at Hogwarts and I believe that they hold the Yule Ball on Christmas. I was able to sneak into my house and get this. This too was your mother's."
"This was Mum's? Really?" Eponine said, her voice breaking; she could just picture her mother wearing this dress.
"Yes. I've kept this and all your mother's things at my house ever since she died. I remember when she wore this dress to our first dance, when I first saw her in this and she was absolutely beautiful. I couldn't even work up the courage to ask her to dance. And now, I think it's time that her things were passed down to you."
"Oh, Dad," she said, smiling. "I want everyone who's ever been mean to me to be pea green with envy."
He laughed. "I'm sure they will when they see you set foot into Hogwarts as a new student, 'Ponine."
"Oh, Dad," she said. "I wanted to ask you something."
"Well, Hermione says I've been doing very well with studying and well…Ron and his Dad have invited me, Harry, and Hermione to go to the Quidditch World Cup. I was wondering if I could go…"
"Of course you can go," Sirius said, laughing. "You silly girl. Your happiness is all that matters to me." He paused. "Just be careful, OK? And stay close to your friends. And listen…"
"Dad, I'm 14, not 4. I know what to do," she said, smiling earnestly. "You don't have to baby me."
"Sorry. This whole Dad thing is difficult. It's just I'm so happy to have you back in my life…and you've grown so much." He paused. "Oh! I almost forgot my present. And don't worry, this didn't cost me anything either."
He handed her two presents. The first one was a photo of her mother and himself when they were young at the Potters' wedding day. Her mother was in an elegant dress and her father in a tuxedo; they were dancing and smiling.
The second present was a large book and on the cover it said: THE BLACK FAMILY
"I thought you'd like to know about our family," he said. "Found it at my old house."
"I'll definitely read it," she said. "Thanks, Dad."
He hugged his daughter. Just having her near made him happy.
"OK, Dad," she said. "I have to go back. And please be careful. I don't want you running about after me. And please don't buy me so many expensive gifts."
"Alright, precious," he said. "Just keep in touch."
"I will, Dad."
He hugged his daughter one last time and transformed into a large, black dog and he walked down the street. She held the dress and the book tightly to her chest as she watched her father go down the street. She walked down towards Hermione's house.
Later that night, she lay on the bed and looked through the BLACK FAMILY album. Many of the photos were scowling at her or shouted things:
"FOUL, LOATHSOME, SCUM FROM THE LOINS OF A MUDBLOOD SLUT!"
Eponine slammed the book shut and flipped through to the family tree. She found it and looked at all the names on the Black Family Tree. She found Sirius's name; his face had been burned off. She was sad. Why would Sirius's own family do this to him? What had he ever done to deserve such a thing?
She looked at the family tree: BELLATRIX LESTRANGE, ANDROMENA TONKS, NARCISSA MALFOY…
The name Malfoy hit her like an oncoming train when she saw this. She and Draco Malfoy were cousins! She felt very sick, but on the other hand happy that she found this out. She could finally get her revenge to humiliate Malfoy once and for all after three years of humiliation.
"Hello, cousin," she practiced saying. And she could picture the look on his stupid face when she would say this.
"Eponine," said Hermione's voice.
Eponine slammed the book shut.
"Yes?" she said.
"Sorry to bother you, but I wanted to know if you're coming to the Quidditch World Cup?"
"Oh, yes. Dad said I could go."
"OK. I'll let Mr. Weasley know. We'll be leaving tomorrow morning to go to the Weasleys. The game isn't until the day after tomorrow. So, we're leaving early to go to the Weasleys tomorrow."
Eponine climbed under the covers and went to sleep, trying to dream about herself in her mother's dress…how beautiful she would look and all eyes would be on her, everyone who was mean to her was green with envy…she smiled, sighing…