Title: Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying
Fandom: Harry Potter
Disclaimer: Own nothing… I live in a box and wear a barrel.
Type: One Shot
Rating: T (PG-13)
SHIPs: One sided(?) AD/MM, One sided AD/PP, FL/AL, NL/LL, PW/OW, vague SB/RL
Summery: Dumbledore is a good guy… right? But if he isn't, who would know? A look at his real face and it's effect on the rest of the world.
Time: Post-HBP, attempts at AU within Cannon boundaries
Warning: Cursing. Hetero- and homosexuality. Evil, man-whore Dumbledore. Character death and mentioned violence. Possibly (?) used McGonagall; Regulus abuse; ambiguous Aberforth; Cassandra Luna and tortured Neville; All other characters are just generally angsting.
Special Thanks to reveur idioteque, who agreed to Beta for me. She's on FFN too, so go check out her stuff.
Oh, I'll settle down with some old story
About a boy who's just like me
Thought there was love in everything and everyone
You're so naive!
-Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying (Belle & Sebastian)
She tossed and turned for hours before she finally admitted defeat. Getting out of bed, she got dressed and left her bedroom. Slowly, because she was physically drained and her mind would not focus, she changed into her animagus form before walking down the hall and exiting the ancient castle of Hogwarts. After taking a small detour to avoid Mrs. Norris and her owner (even though she often debated who owned whom), she finally reached her destination. She didn't dare touch the spot of earth she stood in front of, even though she knew it was silly. There was nothing special about it, even if many other people thought differently.
"Minerva?" a voice asked, and her heart jumped into her throat. Calming herself down, she turned and looked up at the figure towering over her, before changing back into her normal, human form.
"Albus. It is you," she whispered as she fought back tears. "You're alive."
Rolling onto his side, Regulus Black opened one of his eyes and tried to figure out why there was a pounding in his head when he hadn't even been drunk the night before. Then he realized that the pounding wasn't in his head but coming from across the hall. Sitting up in bed, he listened closely and, when he heard the front door shatter, he knew it was a raid. Cursing viciously, he leapt out of bed, wearing only a pair of boxers, and ran out of his room, grabbing a shirt and his wand as he left. Pulling on his shirt, he summoned a pair of shoes as he passed his friend, Jacquelyn, who was just emerging from her bedroom.
"What's going on?" She asked as she ran down the hall with him, her wand drawn.
"Do I look like I know?" Regulus spat back at her, as he attempted to put shoes on his feet and run at the same time. "Not that I care too much about the name and personal history of whoever just smashed your front door to splinters, but I'd hazard a guess that they're probably from the Order… or from…. You-Know-Who. They're looking for me… probably."
"Fuck," she cursed, before coming to a complete halt and reaching out to grab Regulus's shirt. Stopping before his shirt could rip, he turned on her, angry that she had halted his escape.
"Where's Tolliver?" she asked, panic beginning to build in her. "It's early! He always reads downstairs before breakfast! He's down there!"
She hadn't even finished her sentence when a loud explosion shook the house and Jacquelyn turned, running to where her husband was fighting off the intruders. Biting his lip nervously, Regulus took a step to follow her but thought better of it and turned to flee in the opposite direction.
"Sorry," Regulus muttered, half to himself, as he opened a window and climbed down to the ground. He trampled Jacquelyn's roses, cutting his bare legs several times as he clambered out of the bushes. When he was finally free of the plants, he took off running across the perfectly green lawn. He heard a shout behind him and knew that someone had seen him escape but he didn't dare turn around to fight, because he knew it would slow him down. Curses' and Hex's flew around him, but he managed to dodge them all until he reached the edge of the forest. There was a loud bang and Regulus flew several feet before hitting a tree. Staggering to his feet, he held himself upright with the aid of a tree and looked at his pursuer. It was a Death Eater, dressed in full regalia. Pointing his wand, he opened his mouth and screamed, "Avada Kedavra!"
There was a flash of green and, when it cleared, the Death Eater was lying on the ground, dead. Turning, Regulus stumbled away, losing himself in the endless forest. He knew he had been hit by a slow killing curse, which meant that he had less than a twenty-four hours before he died. It didn't bother him as much as he had thought it would. There was something about staring death in the face that calmed him, in a way.
He walked, stumbled really, through the forest, looking for someone, anyone, to carry a message for him. He finally collapsed just outside a small clearing in the middle of the forest. Leaning against the tree, Regulus tried to relax as his body began to fail him. When he began to lose feeling in his feet, a large black dog came towards him and sniffed him.
"Regulus?" The dog asked.
"I didn't know I would hallucinate before I die," Regulus laughed, until the dog began to morph into a man. "Oh… it's you, Sirius."
"What happened to you?" Sirius asked, as he knelt next to his brother.
"Slow killing curse," Regulus explained. "Don't bother trying to stop it; my body's already starting to fail and we both know St. Mungo's won't treat people like me. Oh, don't pretend to worry about it. It's not so bad. Certainly are worse ways to go. Well? Aren't you going to tell me you told me so? 'I told you this would happen, Reg! I told you to stay away from those bastards. But, nooooo, don't listen to your older brother.'"
"I wasn't going to say that."
"Sure. Listen, Sirius… I need to tell you something," Regulus began, his voice losing its earlier mocking tone. Reaching up, he grabbed Sirius's shirt and pulled him closer. "Watch out for Dumbledore."
"What? Are you crazy? Dumbledore is a great man!"
"Listen to me! I know you think I'm full of shit, but just this once... listen! A dying man's request."
"A dying man's request," Sirius agreed.
"Dumbledore. He's dangerous. He knows too much, he's too smart, he influences too many people. He has too much power. I joined you-know-him to try and check his power. But, well, it looks like that idea backfired, didn't it? But you'll be careful, right? Watch him for me. Promise?"
"I… I'll be careful."
"Good. I don't have much longer. My vision's going, which is never a good sign."
"I… I'm sorry, Reg."
"I know. Don't worry about me; it was fun. Oh… by the way, here," Regulus whispered, his voice hoarse and raspy. Sirius reached out and took the locket from Regulus's tired fingers. "Put it among the heirlooms. Mum'll never notice it doesn't belong."
And with that, Regulus was silent until his death five minutes later.
"Of course, I am alive," the older man replied, before reaching to wipe away her tears with the hem of his sleeve. "But why are you crying?"
"I don't know, Albus. I can't decide. I don't know… whether or not to be happy you're alive."
"Oh, Minerva. I understand," he whispered in her ear as he pulled her close for a hug. They stood like that for a moment, his arms wrapped around her and her head resting on his chest. Finally, she pulled away and wiped the last of her tears from her eyes. "Please, tell me what I have missed."
They sat on the cold grass, facing each other, and Minerva pulled her shawl closer around her shoulders.
"The ghosts were rather excited about your death. They even set up a small area for you to haunt, if you were to return. I think that Nearly Headless Nick was looking forward to the possibility of a good conversation partner. However, the students, those who stayed, are all very upset about your death."
"Did you tell anyone… what you suspected? That I was not really dead?"
"Not even Harry?"
"Especially not Harry! He was- is emotionally fragile. I doubt he could have taken the shock. Particularly after he saw your body," Minerva replied, slightly upset that he had doubted her. She was silent for a moment, before looking Albus in the eye and asking the question she had been saving for years. It had never been the right time before, but now she knew that she truly might never see him again. "Why, Albus?"
"I had to fake my own death. To be honest, I did actually die in a way. I went close enough so that the magic that bound Snape to Draco would release the pair of them. I did it for them."
"That's not what I asked and you know it. Besides, that reason is a lie. It maybe true that your near death released Snape from his promise, but it is not the reason."
"I… I see you will no longer take my excuses. Well, the truth is that a certain Hermione Granger was beginning to suspect that my plans for the world were not as I had led everyone to believe. I knew she suspected me last year, but she did not say anything, simply gathering observations as is her way. Much like yours, yes? At any rate, it came to my attention that she was going to reveal her findings to Harry and Mr. Weasley.
"This turn of events would have been disastrous, should her word have been believed, which was the most likely course of events. So I sent word to Riddle, through a spy that none of you know about, that if his Death Eaters were to attack Hogwarts it would be unguarded. And when I returned, I faked my own death, a very convincing act, as you can see. And so Harry Potter continues to see me in the god-like role I have assumed for him because Ms. Granger would not dream of slandering the name of the dead, especially since informing others of her finds would be a moot point."
"Ah, Minerva, don't you see? The wizarding world, our world, is chaos. Or as close as you can get without obliterating existence. There is no leader who everyone can trust and rely on. No one is in charge. Laws are broken every day, laws that endanger our existence and privacy. We live precariously close to the edge. What we need, what our kind needs, is a strong leader, a single person who can lead our people and keep order."
"Precisely. But there was no way I could take over the ministry without an uprising against me. But my fight with Grindelwald taught me something. Everyone fears a strong, tyrannical leader like him. And they look to someone else for protection and help. So I came to Hogwarts and resumed my position as headmaster. And I waited, gathering the support of most of the people who passed through my doors. Until I meet Tom Riddle. And I knew that he was the one to give me power. So I convinced him to rise up against the wizarding world but I knew that I would defeat him. And with me as their beacon of peace and happiness, I would take over the ministry."
Dumbledore sat in front of the man formerly known as Tom Riddle and fought the urge to fidget. He hated Polyjuice Potion and he especially hated the body he was forced to wear. But Peter Pettigrew had been the best choice; he was easy to manipulate and weak enough not to protest.
"You think I should attempt a take over of the ministry?"
"In a sense. It wouldn't be difficult to gain more supporters and gain more influence and power. You don't have to live the rest of your life as a cult leader, hiding in basements and secret rooms. There's a strong purity movement. I know your ideas run in that vein anyway. If you tap into it you could gain supporters in leaps and bounds."
"What's in it for you? Why tell me this?"
"I believe that your cause is right, I think you will triumph and I want to help you gain power and influence that is rightfully yours. Let me be your servant, my Lord."
"But your friends may not approve. Especially Mr. James Potter, who is married to a mudblood. To help me, would you join my followers? Be branded with them? Betray your friends?"
"If you command it."
"Hmmm…" Riddle murmured, before holding out his hand. "Give me your wrist, Pettigrew." Sniveling, as he knew Peter would have done in the situation, Dumbledore shakily extended his arm and screamed when Riddle grasped his bony wrist and gave it a squeeze. Fire burned his wrist and ate at his flesh, but Riddle would not let go. "And now? Even though it hurts will you obey me!" Riddle shouted over Dumbledore's screams.
"Yes! Yes!" Dumbledore shouted as he wrenched his wrist free and looked down at the raw skin to see a skull with a snake coming from its mouth etched into the skin on his wrist.
"We shall see. The mark will fade in about a half-hour. When I need you, the mark will appear again and it will burn like it did moments ago. Go. I will call you when I need you."
Nodding rapidly, Dumbledore scrambled out of his seat and hurried from the meeting room. Apparating just outside an apartment building, Dumbledore let himself in and felt his body return to its original form as he climbed the stairs. Looking at his wrist, he watched it disappear as his skin returned to it's natural color. Knocking on the door of apartment 4A, he waited until the real Peter Pettigrew let him in.
"You're part of the Death Eaters now."
"I know. I felt the burn and I still bear the mark," Peter muttered, displaying the mark that marred his skin.
"Well, at least you have the safety and security that you wanted. Thank you for allowing me to use your body for an hour," Dumbledore said with a nod, before he turned to leave. But Peter reached out and grabbed at Dumbledore's robes.
"Wait! You haven't paid up. I want everything that was promised me. I sold myself to that madman… I want what you owe me!" Peter spat, glaring at Dumbledore angrily.
"I did not know you could speak with such passion," Dumbledore murmured, before he leaned over, cupped Peter's face and tenderly kissed him. Pulling away, Dumbledore left while Peter was still dazed from the kiss. Flopping down into a chair, Peter covered his eyes and cried, his right hand soothing the skin that bore the dark mark.
"And my plan was working, too. Oh, some people got in my way, but by playing both sides, I was able to get rid of them."
They saw him talking with Peter. It was a terrible moment. For the one second when he looked over Peter's Death Eater attire and saw the Longbottom couple watching them in mute horror, he thought his heart had stopped.
They knew, he thought, and, when he used his powers of Legilimency to enter their minds, he knew he was right.
Why is he speaking with that Death Eater? Has Dumbledore turned?
I heard him telling the Death Eater what to tell Voldemort! We've been betrayed!Pushing Peter aside so violently that the other man fell to the floor, Dumbledore raised his wand and cast a body-bind curse on the auror couple. Satisfied that they wouldn't be going anywhere, he walked over to them and gave each of them a gentle push so they toppled over, falling onto their backs.
"Dumbledore… Albus… I swear. I did not tell them. I did not know, I did not know."
"Stop wailing, Wormtail. I know you would not have put yourself at such risk, not when the ministry does not suspect whom you really work for. We're both lucky that these two were too stunned by my presence to capture us."
"Indeed," Peter replied, his voice coming down from it's previous whining to a gentle sycophantic tone. "Though I'm sure they could not have brought you down."
"No, they had the element of surprise. Remember that, Wormtail, especially since you lack any dueling skills. The element of surprise is always helpful to have. But enough of that. These two saw too much. If they tell anyone that they saw us, all my planning will be ruined."
"What will you do?"
"I'll have to end it. Avada…!" Dumbledore began, pointing his wand at Frank Longbottom.
NO! Frank! God! Not Frank, my love! What about Neville! Neville! I love you, my son!
He could hear Alice's voice; her thoughts were so loud. And he could see an image of her son, a baby. And he couldn't finish the curse. Lowering his wand, he looked down at the woman on the floor, her eyes wide and desperate.
"You should have stayed at home, Ms. Longbottom," he told her, before turning to leave the room.
"Wormtail! Contact Bellatrix. I don't care what you tell her, so long as you lie and she takes care of those two."
"But, when Riddle was defeated by Harry, it was a great set back for me, but I decided to raise Harry, who was protected by his mother's love and therefore more powerful, as the new menace to the wizarding world. I felt that leaving him with his terrible muggle family would breed in him a disgust for muggles and others like them, but then it came to my attention that Riddle was not dead, merely hiding and Harry was much too pure of a person to become like Riddle. So I was forced to rethink my plan. And it came to me that if I became Harry's friend and Harry defeated Riddle, I would use Harry as a puppet to control the ministry. Or, if Harry were to die in the process, I might take over with his name."
"And you managed to keep this a secret from everyone? All I had was suspicions and theories," Minerva replied, grudgingly impressed by Albus's plan.
"Oh, I never said that no one knew of my plan. The Centaur's knew what I was planning and executing, but they had seen the future in the stars and had decided not to interfere, not even by telling me whether I would fail or not. They can be very frustrating at times. I also believe that Sirius began to distrust my intentions for Harry and began to watch the boy closer than before. And I am sure there are, or were, others who knew or suspected but never spoke, for whatever reason."
Aberforth was waiting in his brother's living room, when Albus stepped through the fireplace. He looked up, and caught a glimpse of fear in Albus's eyes before his brother smiled broadly at him.
"Aberforth! What are you doing here? I haven't seen you in weeks."
"Over a month actually. It seems silly that I haven't seen my own brother in so long, so I decided to stop by for a visit. Is now a bad time?"
"No, no. It's fine. Just let me freshen up. Why don't you make some tea?"
"All right," Aberforth nodded, but he didn't get out of his chair. Instead, he turned in his seat to watch his brother go down the hall to the bedroom. Aberforth knew something was wrong with his brother. Albus was generally very focused and grounded, but recently he had seemed more and more distracted and distant. And, sometimes, Aberforth would see flashes of pain or fear or deep welling anger in Albus's eyes.
Getting to his feet, Aberforth walked over to the kitchen to make some tea. Waving his wand quickly, he filled two mugs with tea. Suddenly, there he heard several muffled curses coming from Albus's room, so he walked out into the hallway.
"Albus?" Aberforth asked, as the bedroom door flew open and Albus tumbled out, his hair, beard and clothes even more disheveled than when he had come through the fireplace. "Something the matter?"
"Did you see this!" Albus asked, waving a letter in Aberforth's face. "The Longbottom's! They've been tortured! Tortured into insanity!"
"Yes, I had heard," Aberforth replied calmly, as he summoned the two mugs of tea and handed one to his brother. "They were discovered less than a half hour ago. When the Longbottom's did not return to the ministry after their patrol, another pair of auror's followed and found them being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange. But by then it was already too late. They're harmless, but they're living in their own minds now. Quite sad, really."
"Yes," Albus agreed, sipping his tea. "She should have stayed home today."
Aberforth looked at his brother for a moment, wondering if his instincts were right and something was happening with his brother. But, then again, he decided what business was it of his? He himself had some secrets that he made certain to keep from Albus. So, instead, he changed the subject and spent the rest of the day talking Quidditch with him.
His last class of the day, double potions with Slytherin and Gryffindor, was almost over and he had almost finished grading a stack of horrendous essays. All in all, his day was looking up. Picking up the last roll of parchment, Snape looked at the student's name and, without looking at the rest of the essay, he scribbled 'See me after class' on the top and put it with the rest of the graded essays.
"All right!" He yelled over the dull roar of the students making potions. "Bottle a small vile and put it on my desk. Make sure to pick up your graded essays. I expect all corrections to be submitted next time I am unfortunate enough to be in your presence. Dismissed."
Snape glared at the students as they quickly bottled their potion, submitted it, collected their essay and gathered their stuff to leave, but soon enough the classroom was cleared and Snape was alone again. He quickly sorted through the potions assigning grades partially based on merit, partially on how much Snape liked the student.
He had almost finished when someone knocked on the door and Snape looked up to see Draco Malfoy standing in the entranceway.
"Yes, Mr. Malfoy?"
"You wanted to see me, Professor?" Draco asked, holding up his essay, with the note scribbled on it.
"Yes. Come in… and close the door behind you," Snape ordered and Draco complied. Closing the door behind him, Draco walked over to one of the tables close to Snape's desk and sat down on it. "What I am about to tell you is to be kept an absolute secret. If you tell anyone, you father, your mother, your diary, that teddy bear you hide under your pillow… I will know. And you will regret it. Understand?"
"Yes," Draco nodded slowly, wondering how Snape knew about his bear, Nyoka.
"There are certain people who you shouldn't trust. People who aren't what they seem."
"Dumbledore! What, that muggle lover? If he isn't what he seems, what is he?"
"I'm not sure. Listen, it doesn't bother me if the rest of the world is duped. But… you should know. Watch out for that man."
"Listen… Snape, you call me here and tell me not to trust Dumbledore, but let me tell you something. I don't trust anyone! And that includes you. You're telling me not to trust Dumbledore? How do I know I can trust you?" And with that, Draco hopped off the table and left the room, his cloak whirling behind him.
"Such a spiteful child," Snape mumbled, rubbing his forehead. "What a lovely job you've done, Lucious."
Picking up this herbology textbook, Neville put it in a small basket and left the Gryffindor common room. He wandered down the hall trying to find a down-staircase that wouldn't change on him when he was halfway down.
"This one is safe," Luna Lovegood informed him from behind and Neville whirled around to see the Ravenclaw girl perched on the banister of a staircase. Tripping on his own robes, the small boy fell on his rear. His book flew out of his basket and was about to plummet seven floors down to the bottom of the tower when Luna pulled her wand out from behind her ear and cast a levitation charm on it so that it floated over to her waiting hands. "Going out?"
"Y-yes," Neville stammered, as he clambered to his feet and reached out to take his book from her. "I need some… plants. For study."
"Oh? You wouldn't be going near the Forbidden Forest, would you?" Luna asked. Neville was about to deny it, but when he looked at Luna he knew she had not been asking a question so much as stating a fact.
"Yes, I am."
"Mind if I tag along? My father says that the Wynatruk dragons are really active this time of year. I was hoping to see one."
"Sure, you can come, Luna," Neville nodded, smiling slightly, unsure whether to be worried about dragons, or automatically assume that, since Luna had talked about them, they must not really exist. Luna jumped off the banister, and they descended the stairs to the bottom floor together. They made their way to the outskirts of the forest, and Neville opened up his book to find the diagrams of the plants he wanted, while Luna sat on the grass reading a copy of The Quibbler. Neville had found most of the plants he was looking for when Luna closed her magazine and looked over at him.
"Yes, Luna?" Neville asked, looking at her absently, but when he saw how lucid she appeared he put down his clippers and turned to face her.
"Have you ever wondered how Dumbledore knows so much?"
"He's very old; I imagine he has a lot of good friends who inform him of most things that are going on."
"Yes. But did you ever wonder if all his friends are on our side? He's very powerful and smart. That can be a very dangerous combination if the possessor has high ambitions."
"But Harry thinks…"
"Harry has a very narrow mind, and once it has been set on a track he cannot see things any other way unless it suits him. And Dumbledore being infallible and godlike suits him."
There was a long pause before Neville finally managed to say, "Luna… you shouldn't say things like that."
"You don't believe me?"
"No. I think you have a good point. But I've been Neville Longbottom, virtual squib, long enough to know that, if you aren't strong, it doesn't matter how right you are, you'll eventually be wrong. We, regardless of how strong you are, do not have the force necessary to go against Harry and Dumbledore. Not to mention all their supporters. Didn't you see what happened to Percy, Ron's brother?"
"So you're saying we should give up and let Dumbledore manipulate the world?"
"Yes. Because Dumbledore is by far the lesser of the two evils… and he doesn't want us dead."
"And I should keep my thoughts to myself?"
"Yes," Neville nodded decisively, before returning to gather the last of his plants.
"You believe me right?"
"It doesn't matter, Luna."
"I don't ask that! Do you? Do you believe me!"
"Yes. I do," Neville replied, his voice tight, almost totally choked with fear. Dumping his gatherings into his basket, Neville got to his feet with his things and turned back to look at Luna. "You see any of those dragons you were looking for?"
"Dragon…? Oh! Don't be silly, Neville. Wynatruk dragons only live in Mexico! I wouldn't have seen any this far north. I just needed an excuse to speak with you."
Neville didn't say anything for a moment before he gave her a small smile. Extending his hand, he helped her to her feet. "Ms. Lovegood, will you come have lunch with me?""I'd be delighted Mr. Longbottom."
"No one tried to stop you?"
"No. Many people trusted me and believed that I was who I said I was, regardless of what 'side' they were on, but there were people who tried to stop me and people who thought my cause was right. Of course, there were some people who, even if they did not suspect me, did see that the defeat of Riddle would bring the risk that someone might attempt to fill that void in the way that I meant to and they were on the look out for such people."
"Hey, Perce," Oliver greeted his lover upon entering the small restaurant. Pulling a seat over to Percy's table, Oliver sat down and ruffled Percy's hair, before giving him a teasing grin. "You wanted to see me?"
"Don't do that," Percy mumbled, smoothing out his disheveled hair.
"But I love calling you Perce. So much nicer than a stuffy old name like Percy," Oliver pouted, but the argument was obviously an old one.
"Not that. Don't mess up my hair."
"Wha? But you never minded before!" Oliver retorted, mildly offended.
"Keep your voice down! Please, try to remember where we are!" Percy hissed, before lowering his voice, so Oliver had to lean forward to hear him. "They're all muggles! They hate people like us! I don't want to get killed by a mob for who I chose to sleep with!"
"I'm pretty sure not all muggle's are like that," Oliver mumbled. Looking around, he saw a group of girls in a corner of the restaurant giggling and he got a feeling it was about him and Percy. "What about my mother? She hasn't tried to hurt you yet."
"You're her son and I'm your lover. Special circumstances," Percy shrugged, finally getting all of his hair to lie flat again. "Anyway, try to keep your hands to yourself while we're here."
"If you're uncomfortable meeting with me here, why'd you bother? There are plenty of good wizarding restaurants we can go to. Or I could even cook. You know, I don't mind everyone knowing that I love you, and I don't care who they are! What's your problem with it?" Oliver asked, as he pushed his chair back and prepared to stand.
"No!" Percy cried, reaching out to grab Oliver's hand. "Don't go! Please, don't be mad. I'm just… nervous. And I don't want to cause any trouble here. Please. Sit down?"
"All right. Sorry I got mad," Oliver muttered and Percy opened his mouth to say something, but their waiter arrived and Percy ordered for both of them to save time. Oliver waited, knowing that Percy would tell him what he wanted to say when he was ready, but Percy didn't speak again until their food had arrived.
"Yep?" Oliver asked, beginning to work on his steak.
"I love you. You know that right?"
"You love me?"
"What? What kind of question is that?"
"Well? It's simple. Do you, or don't you?"
"You know I do," Oliver replied, putting down his utensils. "Why?"
"WHAT? What's wrong with you, Perce? Stop asking these ridiculous questions!"
"I'm going to tell you a secret, Oliver. If you tell anyone else, I'll kill you."
"You understand?" Percy asked, taking a sip of his coffee.
"Yeah…. I think…."
"Good. I brought you here, because I didn't want anyone to overhear us, and no wizard, or witch, in their right mind would come here," Percy explained before taking a deep breath. "I don't trust Dumbledore."
"What? Why not?"
"Simple. He's quite strong, possibly the strongest wizard alive today. What if he decided to… I don't know… take over the world? Who could stop him?"
"But he wouldn't. He hasn't."
"Or hasn't he? Look at him. Everyone, except for Voldemort's supporters, loves him. They'd do anything for him. Maybe he already rules the world?"
"That's… quite a theory," Oliver said, his mind turning over these new thoughts. "Does that bother you?"
"YES! He can't just be allowed to do whatever he wants!"
"What can you do? If you're right, and he does control the world, what can you do about it? You only just graduated, Perce."
"I've got a job at the ministry. Even if I can't stop him, I can help them enforce rules. If everyone, even Dumbledore, follow the same laws, at least there's some equality… right?"
"I suppose. Why tell me all this?"
"Because I love you. And I may have to take… some bad positions. You know what those bastards are like. And I just want you to know why, up front. No secrets. I might have to do some things I don't like, or want to do. But I just want to know, are you with me?"
"I love you. Of course, I am. And we can come here anytime you need to talk like this," Oliver told Percy, and, for the first time since Oliver had entered the restaurant, Percy smiled back and thought that everything might be all right.
"Hey, Lupin! Where are you?" Sirius called, walking down one of the halls of 12 Grimmauld Place. "Lupin!"
"I'm in here, Sirius!" Remus Lupin shouted from one of the rooms Sirius had just passed. Backtracking, Sirius found the room and walked in to find Lupin dusting the many knick-knacks that cluttered the small room.
"What are you doing?"
"Dusting. I'm not very good at this cleaning thing. I'm afraid I don't have much practice."
"And why are you dusting?"
"Because, well, you're giving me a place to stay. I feel I should pay you back, right? I can't stay here for free."
"Lupin, you're my guest, not a border! You don't have to pay me back. Besides, I need someone to go outside every now and then for things."
"Well, it makes me feel better," Lupin shrugged, as he went back to stirring up the dust that coated the room. "Oh, right. Did you want something?"
"Uh, yeah. You got a moment?"
"Sure. What's on your mind?" Lupin asked, not stopping with his chores.
"Could you read this?" Sirius asked, pulling a letter out of his pocket and passing it over Lupin's shoulder, so the other man didn't have to turn around to take it. Confused, Remus opened the letter and read it quickly, before turning to stare at Sirius.
"Are you serious? You think that Dumble-!" Remus's sentence became a mumble in mid-sentence as Sirius leapt forward and covered Remus's mouth.
"Keep it down! I wrote it in a letter so that fucking house-elf of my mother's wouldn't overhear. He specializes in eavesdropping and making my life hell. And of course, I'm not fooling around," Sirius replied, purposefully avoiding the common pun. "Would I do this if it was a joke?"
And Sirius reached out, took the letter from Remus, put it in his mouth and ate the piece of paper.
"You just ate that! I can't believe you! That's disgusting!" Lupin protested, moving forward to stop Sirius, but it was too late. Sirius had already swallowed the paper. "I can't believe you just did that!"
"I don't want anyone to know. If someone knows what I think I know, I might get… you know… taken out, as the muggles say."
"Oh, this is ridiculous. You can't seriously believe that. Do you?"
"I do. I mean… think about it. Doesn't it make sense?"
"Well… I… I don't know. I hadn't really thought about it," Lupin admitted.
"You should. I… I don't have much these days," Sirius sighed, before reaching up to put a hand on Sirius's shoulder. "I can't lose everything I've managed to keep."
"Sirius, you shouldn't say things like that."
"I can't lose you, Remus! I can't lose our… friendship."
"Don't be silly. You won't lose that. No matter what happens." Lupin smiled and Sirius smiled back.
"Ok. Think about it, though. I'm Sirius," Sirius replied with a wink, before leaving to feed Buckbeak.
Frowning, Remus sat down on one of the chairs in the room and coughed as a great cloud of dust rose up and surrounded him. When he was able to breathe again, Lupin relaxed in the old chair and allowed himself to think.
He has a point. Maybe I shouldn't trust Dumbledore as much as I do. He might be dangerous. But…he hasn't hurt anyone. And Voldemort and the Death Eaters… they torture people and kill them! Voldemort hates half bloods, people like me.
Not to mention that I'm a werewolf. Everyone hates us, everyone, and those who join Voldemort are treated like dogs, real dogs. At least Dumbledore gave me a chance, gave me dignity. He tried to help me and I believe that one day he will make life better for werewolves like me. We'll be able to live like real people!
It's easy for Sirius to distrust Dumbledore. Perfect Sirius! He's a pureblood and fully human. Voldemort would easily welcome him into the fold. And, with the exception of being framed for murder, he could easily fit into… real life. He could have a life again.
No, I shouldn't think things like that. Sirius has been very kind to me; he even took me into his home. And Sirius is my friend, even though he knows what I am. He doesn't care that everyone fears and hates me.
But that doesn't mean I can side with him against Dumbledore. I don't have such luxuries, such options and choices. No, my only hope for equality, for any chance of freedom is through Dumbledore. And I will follow him until the end… whatever end that is.
"But what about you, Minerva? You knew that I faked my own death and I'm sure you suspected many other things about me, for all your feigned ignorance. Explain yourself."
"It's true. I did know that you were planning something, and I did suspect that you were never telling the whole truth, but I did nothing. I did not even voice my suspicions or question you. I used to say I remained silent because no one would believe me but it was also because, if I was right, and you were planning something, what then? I could not defeat you or stop you. You are much stronger than I am."
"And? There's another reason, isn't there?" Albus asked, trying to catch her eye.
"Yes. I… I love you, Albus. I know I've never mentioned this before, but it would be improper for us to see each other in that way while we work together and…" Minerva began to babble, uncomfortable with her confession. Reaching over, Albus pulled Minerva forward and their lips meet for a moment.
"Quiet. It's all right," Albus told her, and their lips meet again and again, each moment longer than the one before. Pulling away, Albus looked at the younger woman and kissed her on the forehead. "I have to go now. Stay safe… and don't tell anyone."
"I won't," Minerva promised and, before she could understand what had happened, she was alone. Rubbing her face, with her hands, she sighed and fought back the tears that she knew were coming. Blinking back tears, she dried her eyes and stood so she could stare into the darkness of the Forbidden Forest. For a moment she entertained the thought of running there to hide, to hide from the pain of loving a man who was not whom he seemed, the pain of loving someone whom she couldn't trust, who might just be using her. But she knew that she was responsible for more than herself and she did not leave. "I know you were listening, Snape."
"McGonagall," Snape replied as he stepped into the moonlight and stood next to her. Neither one looked at the other; they knew what they would see; broken people held together with inner strength and practice. "What shall we do now?"
"Nothing, just like we did before, when we were watching and waiting. There is nothing that can be done."
"True," Snape replied. "I will be taking Draco with me to New Zealand. It is far away from Europe. There are also few wizards there and many places to hide."
"I will spread false reports that point to you and Mr. Malfoy being in Russia. The wizards there do not think much of foreign wizards as it were."
"Thank you." Snape nodded as he turned to face McGonagall with his hand out stretched. Taking it, Minerva shook it. Then Snape left for the Forbidden Forest to take Draco away, and Minerva returned to Hogwarts and her bed.