In which Lily fills everyone in on what she's been up to and for the first time goes ahead and blames Tom Riddle, is told in clearer terms what a dementor is and why it's something that greatly concerns her, and resolves herself to catching a killer.
Lily woke up to the sound of loud conversation and the smell of chocolate. The words, at first, weren't distinguishable from one another, just a dull endless roar. Slowly though, as her consciousness came back and her eyes flickered open, they started to sound like English.
"I can't believe it, it's really her."
"Did she just waltz onto the Hogwarts Express? Did nobody seriously see her enter? Did anybody see her on the platform?"
"Well, I saw her on the—"
"Shut it, Malfoy, we don't want to hear how many galleons you paid to spot Potter before everyone else."
"Yeah, but who's this bloke?"
"He must be a professor."
"This guy? For real?"
"Can everyone please stand back and give her space, I think she's coming to," this was the man, Lily's homeless companion, and apparent Hogwarts professor.
No one moved to give Lily space.
Slowly, Lily sat up. She was surrounded on all sides by familiar faces. Ron, his twin brothers, Tequila (and Lily was not going to think about why she was in this mob), Neville, the whole Default crew, Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson, and a whole barrel full of others in a mob that extended outside the compartment door. Each was peering down at her, taking her in with fearful awe, as if with just a word she'd vanish into thin air again.
And they all clearly expected her to say something to explain, yet again, just what had happened to Eleanor Lily Potter since that fateful November in 1992 when she'd disappeared into thin air and the heir of Slytherin with her.
Lily, weakly, raised a hand, "Hello."
"Seriously?!" Hermione balked, moving dangerously close to the limits of Lily's personal bubble, "You just show up on the Hogwarts express, pass out thanks to the dementors, after months of disappearing and that's the first word out of your mouth?!"
Lily considered that dully and then replied with the entirely truthful, "I don't want to talk about it."
"You don't want to—"
"I was brainwashed, taken to a brothel, and almost forced into marriage with a man who wished he was my first cousin," Lily summarized, blandly, brushing herself off and lifting herself up onto the seat again, "It was great fun."
God, she was tired. Her hands were still shaking and it felt like all the energy had been sucked out of her. Suddenly everything felt too exhausting, like she just couldn't deal with any of this, and wished these people could just disappear.
Why did she have to do this?
She already did this last year, and they hadn't liked her explanation then either, why did she have to come up with a whole new explanation? Couldn't she just be kidnapped by Squirrel to Albania twice, was that too hard to ask?
She needed to sit here and close her eyes, she needed sleep, she needed to think and try to process what had just happened. The train had stopped, something, something that wasn't a thing at all, had entered the compartments and she'd seen—
Someone shoved a chocolate frog in her face. She looked up, the homeless man, who was trying and failing to meet her eyes, held it out in a worn hand, "Here, it helps with the… effects."
Lily looked down at it, back up at him, and then asked, "Really?"
He tried to smile, as if Lily was just doubting that chocolate was the cure to… To Rabbit, essentially.
Lily clarified, "I meant, are you really offering me food, after I've been kidnapped twice in the past two years and once by someone claiming to be a professor?"
He opened his mouth, paled dramatically, and then closed it. Slowly and awkwardly he withdrew his offering of chocolate frog. Only, clearly not knowing what else to do with it, he shoved it into his pants pocket.
Yeah, that's what Lily thought.
Still, how did all these people get in here? Had this asshole really let them in and shouted something like, "Ellie Potter, she's here and passed out on the train! Everyone panic!" God, he probably had, she could just picture it.
She didn't know if that was a vote in favor of him being some derivative of Tom Riddle or not. She was too tired to figure out just how far either Wizard Trotsky or the original Voldemort would go to annoy her after what she did to them.
Still, she supposed it was good enough, she might as well get this over with.
"Alright people," Lily addressed her audience, "I'm going to cut to the chase here and try to be as brief as possible. I'm only going to do this once, so pay attention."
Luna, brave soul that she was, lifted a hand, "But what about—"
"Well," Lily heard Blaise mutter sotto voce to Daphne, "At least we know it's really her."
For once, it seemed that everyone was willing to listen. Lily was surrounded by wide eyes and somber expressions. For a moment, Lily's eyes met Neville and he… His face was unreadable, thinner than it'd been half a year ago, and his eyes sharp and defiant as they met hers. They were just daring her to explain this away.
Well, they'd start with that then, "First, no, I did not open the chamber of secrets."
"Yeah, we know," Ron said bluntly, expression darkening, ignoring the way his sister flinched next to him, "It was—"
Then that voice, that familiar yet entirely unfamiliar voice. Lily had talked to Tequila a lot last year, had had many late night conversations, but Tom Riddle had twisted her words and her tone into something cool, confident, and on occasion passionate. This voice was quieter, shy and uncertain, a small spark trying to reignite itself with little kindling to spare.
"The heir, after you disappeared, we found out that it'd, he'd, possessed a lot of people. Most the girls in my class, in your class, in fact. No one blames you, even if it was you, when it was—when it could have been anybody."
Ginny couldn't hold Lily's eye, could barely glance at her, instead turning her gaze to the carpet as if it was the most interesting thing in the world. Neville though, standing nearby his Gryffindor buddies, didn't even blink.
"For some of you it needs to be said twice," Lily answered, looking away from Neville and to the rest of them, "And if you asked me I would swear on my life, on my magic, on whatever you wanted that I didn't do it, that I actively tried to stop it before anyone even really believed it was happening."
Neville did start at that. His eyes practically bugged out of his skull, he flinched visibly, and everyone turned towards him in anticipation. Even the man, who up until this point had been visibly uncomfortable and looking desperately torn between being filled in and leaving the mass of children their space, looked over at Neville.
Neville tried to smile, but it was a crumpled and awkward thing, "Ellie, really, we don't need to—"
"I'm serious," Lily said, and held out her own shaking hand, still effected by Rabbit's… whatever the hell those things were, "I'll do it."
He looked at her hand as if he couldn't look anywhere else, like it was a trap and he knew it, but it still tempted him. His eyes darted up to hers, met her endless gaze, and then darted away, "No, it's fine. It's, fine, I believe you, honestly."
Lily kept her hand stretched out, waiting, but Neville couldn't even look at it anymore. He just shuffled where he stood and finally, when he couldn't take it anymore, said, "Ellie, please, can we just do this later?"
Lily dropped her hand, let it return to her lap. Fine, they'd do this later, clear the air sometime later. As much as Neville didn't like it, in terms of opening the chamber of secrets, Lily had nothing to hide.
"Right then, so as you all probably guessed I was kidnapped, again."
"You, Lepur, and Lenin—" Luna chimed in.
"Yes, them too. Lenin didn't make it," Lily quickly interjected, making sure to get Lenin Rabbitson, poor orphan, out of the way without too many questions, "It was very sad."
Everyone looked horrified by that, by the idea of what 'not making it' in that context could possibly mean. Especially considering the gore filled trauma of Lenin Rabbitson's Albanian backstory. Funny how the vampires hadn't managed it, but England had somehow done him in.
"But it…" Hermione trailed off, narrowing her eyes at Lily, "It wasn't really Hagrid, was it?"
Well, here came the hard part. Who was Lily going to blame? Did she claim it was some associate of the mastermind Hagrid? Did she fess up and blame Wizard Trotsky, the undying wayward spirit of Tom Marvolo Riddle? Did she simplify but essentially lie and blame Voldemort?
Wizard Lenin hadn't told her what to say. He'd only said that Hagrid was blamed by the Wizengamot again, that it tied things up with a neat little bow. Except he knew, she knew, and everyone else knew that Hagrid made no damn sense. Sure, Hagrid was very fond of pets that could maul your average sized bear, but he'd be surprised if it actually ate the students. That, and she highly doubted Hagrid was the kind of guy who had the ability to possess dozens of people at the same time.
Still, she'd always covered for Tom Riddle, for Wizard Lenin. She'd blamed Quirrell, and let others put together if they could that he was possessed by the dark lord. She felt inclined to cover for Wizard Trotsky, if only because he was Tom Riddle, because this could come back to bite him in the ass.
Ellie Potter, for better or worse, held some sway with these people and depending on what she said life got just that much harder for both him and Wizard Lenin. Because if she said Voldemort, it wouldn't be Squirrel or the thing possessing him that they'd think of, it'd be the newly resurrected but unacknowledged Wizard Lenin.
But then, maybe he could use the publicity. More, maybe he deserved the publicity. Maybe Wizard Lenin deserved the consequences of telling her to do whatever the hell she wanted as if that had no bearing on his life. Maybe he needed to be reminded that just sending Lily off to Hogwarts without even a hail and farewell was not a great idea.
"Voldemort did it."
There were audible gasps, the window (brittle from earlier) cracked ever so slightly, and everyone looked at Lily as if she'd just taken out a megaphone and dropped the f-bomb on Professor Snape.
Malfoy, especially, looked as if he was about to choke on his own spit, "Potter! Potter—what are you?! Potter!"
He was likely imagining this getting back to Wizard Lenin, that he'd hear Malfoy was in the same compartment, that Malfoy did absolutely nothing to stop it and failed the man before he could even become a Death Eater.
And hey, there was a convenient excuse. Wizard Lenin had told her to make things hellish for Draco Malfoy, hadn't he?
"Voldemort did it," Lily repeated evenly, as if it was the most understandable statement in the world.
Another round of audible gasps, wincing, and Draco turning purple with both fear and lack of air.
Hermione recovered first, "Wait, the man who you said brainwashed you, took you to a brothel, tried to marry you, and pretend to be your cousin was—was You Know Who?"
Lily for a moment wondered at the fact that they lived in the universe where that was very true, and then she just went ahead and soiled whatever was left of Wizard Lenin's reputation, "Shockingly, yes. Voldemort likes it hot."
Draco was now on the floor, Crabbe beating his back with a meaty fist, like Draco was actually choking on the physical manifestation of his horror and dread. Crabbe frowned as his attempts continued to fail him.
Daphne rubbed at her temples, as if she dearly didn't want to ask but just couldn't help herself, "But why—how—"
"I'm the girl who lived," Lily explained, "Everybody, but especially Voldemort, wants to kidnap my pale messiah ass."
This was actually, again, completely true. For one reason or another, power or else sentiment, every iteration of Tom Riddle wanted something to do with her and were not above kidnapping her to get it. It just sounded a bit ridiculous and dirty when she said it out loud.
"But when?!" Daphne cried out, "When would he have gotten in—Oh my god."
"Yup," Lily said as she watched Daphne put it together, this was slowly followed by everyone else, or at least most everyone.
The Weasleys, Ginny, didn't look surprised, and neither did Neville for that matter. Ginny, Lily wondered how much she'd learned, how much she remembered about what had happened. She'd been possessed the longest out of all of them, Wizard Trotsky had implied that left some marks. If anyone remembered, if anyone was still likely to be him, then it was Ginny Weasley.
"Oh my god," Daphne repeated, swaying in place, caught at the last minute by Blaise who looked as if he wished he could be in a shocked stupor.
That seemed to be the state of most of Lily's audience, either floored, wishing they could be floored, or else dubious and looking around to see who believed this garbage. For once though the truth was actually stranger than fiction, and as far as Lily cared, they could take it or leave it.
Neville looked as if he didn't know what to think anymore.
"Right," Lily continued, "Regardless, it was not fun, and I really don't want to talk about it. So, here me and Rabbit are, after somehow clawing our way out of that mess, and ready for round three. Which brings me to the exciting portion of this talk."
Draco, on the floor, spasmed and gurgled, the only sign of distress he was capable of making at the moment. Lily could just imagine his letter back to Daddy Lucius.
"Ron," Lily said, "I need your rat."
"Scabbers?!" Ron said, clutching wild eyed Scabbers protectively. And oh, oh god, was it just Lily or was that fur covered in some sort of sweaty grime that she was now imagining on naked human skin.
As for the rat, Lily didn't know if it was human intelligence, but certainly he looked at her with more interest than he had before.
"Yes, Ron, I need Scabbers," Lily repeated, "Trust me, you want me getting rid of Scabbers."
"Getting rid of?!" Ron asked, now taking a step back, pushing back into the mob surrounding Lily, "What's wrong with you?! You're not getting Scabbers!"
Oh, Lily was getting Scabbers, it would just be easier if she got him now, "Ron, trust me, you want me getting Scabbers desperately."
"No, I don't! And you're not—getting him or whatever you want to call it!" Ron spat back, and then, holding Scabbers protectively to his chest fled the scene with his siblings watching his progress.
"Um, Ellie, not to be rude, but Scabbers is kind of the family rat," one of the twins said only for the other to sheepishly add, "Ron would be very put out if you axed him."
Lily couldn't give a shit about that. Technically, she could just summon the damn thing and do it herself but this seemed less… Rude. Besides, she had time, she had a whole damn school year to kill.
Speaking of, her eyes drifted to the man. He froze under gaze half twitch, looking like a deer in the headlights, like he'd been hoping she'd do anything but notice him. Too bad for him, he'd made himself very noticeable.
"You, what's your deal?"
Everyone turned to look at him with blank faces, apparently not knowing the answer either.
"My deal?" as if he had no idea how the young folks talked these days.
"Why are you here?" Lily clarified.
"Right, well," he paused, looked around at them, and a humble yet anticipatory smile bloomed on his face, "My name is Professor Remus Lupin, I will be teaching you Defense Against the Dark Arts this school year."
"Oh my god," Blaise said, "They do keep getting worse."
The man, Lupin, winced, "Well, I should hope that—"
"Right, one out of two Defense professors so far has tried to murder me in cold blood," Lily said dully, "Are we going to have a problem?"
He opened his mouth, but Lily beat him to it, she didn't have the patience for this, "Because if we're going to have a problem, I'll warn you that I'm not about that this year. I did it in 1991, I even did it in 1992, but I will be damned if I do it in 1993."
He tried and failed to smile, Lily would give him credit for trying, except it just left his mouth looking sort of sad and twisted.
"Yes, I…" he trailed off, took in a breath, and said, "I don't think we're going to have a problem."
If he was Wizard Trotsky then he was doing a much better job with this man than he had with Tequila. Then again, with Tequila, he hadn't seemed to have been trying. No, Lockhart was his subtle maneuver, his slight of hand in the great poker game they'd been playing. Quirrell, too, for all his tells, had been subtly played by a more experienced iteration of Tom Riddle.
Frankly, it was too early to tell, but Lily just preferred to let him know where he stood. There were no three strikes for him, even one, that would be enough.
Finally, Lily looked to the rest of them, thinking over what she'd wanted to say. Discuss what had happened, done and with the added bonus of being honest. Talk to Weasley about the rat, sort of done but she could finish that up whenever she wanted to. Finally, put the new professor on the spot, close enough as it was going to get.
The things outside, the train, everything else wasn't for them.
"That's it," Lily summed up.
They all just stared, some open mouthed, like they were waiting for something. Lily gestured with a hand towards the door, "Leave, the show's over. I'll see you all in the Great Hall."
No one moved. Not shocking, really, but with an aggrieved sigh Lily pushed through a compulsion, one that sent each and every one of them on their way, muttering amongst themselves if the dark lord really was back or not (the Prophet said no but some thought yes) and if he'd really kidnapped Ellie Potter or not (it made sense but it also came from Ellie's mouth).
Finally, it was just Lily and Rabbit again. Lily leaned back against her seat with a sigh, feeling absolutely drained. Outside Scotland was rolling by, the sun returned to the sky, and not a hint of that dark unearthly cold that had descended on them.
They'd be at Hogwarts soon.
"I told you," Rabbit said next to her, "You care about such little things."
Slowly, Lily looked at him. While she'd been talking to the others he'd been his usual inanimate and unexpressive self. However, personality seemed to have leaked into him once again, leaving an amused but cold smile on his perfect face.
Lily said dryly, "I thought you weren't talking."
"They are not gone," Rabbit answered, "They're still here, hovering, waiting. They seem to be following us, perhaps even guarding us. Isn't that funny? The enemy of life itself, the perfect guard for the children…"
Lily's eyes, unwillingly, turned back towards the window. There was nothing in sight, not that she'd ever seen anything in the first place. Regardless, she didn't think Rabbit was lying, and if he did lie, she didn't think he'd start now. Whatever that had been, whatever that was, it was still here.
Before Lily could ask him anything, try to find the words to get him to answer cleanly, the door opened. Against all compulsions the man, the professor, walked back in. At Lily's look he blinked, flinched a little, then said, "I… Realized I had nowhere else to sit."
If he was trying to be pitiable, Lily thought, he was doing a very good job of it.
"Go ahead," Lily said with a sigh, "Why not?"
Gratefully, he took a seat across from her, shifting quietly. Lily turned her head back to the window, searching for a sign of Rabbit, of whatever a piece of Rabbit was supposed to look like.
For a moment Lily thought they'd spend the rest of the ride in silence but it seemed he wasn't capable of that.
"Did you really mean what you said?"
"If I didn't mean it, I wouldn't have said it," Lily said without turning.
"No, I meant, that you were kidnapped by—"
"Yes," Lily said curtly.
She expected that to shut him up, or at least put him off, but instead the shuffling stopped. Lily glanced at him, he looked sober, but understanding as he looked at her, "I wish you had taken the chocolate, or at least some chocolate, recovering from dementors is… It is very unpleasant."
Against Lily's better judgement, her interest was piqued, "Dementors?"
The man, Lupin, nodded to the window, "Yes, they are the creatures that guard Azkaban. I'm afraid that the minister felt it was a good idea to bring them to Hogwarts, to hunt down Sirius Black in case he came for you here, if you managed to come here… Honestly, when they said he broke out, I'd wondered if he'd found you and did something to you."
Sirius Black, funny, Lily hadn't even thought about blaming him. Had completely forgotten Wizard Lenin's offhand mention of the man, the betrayal he hadn't committed, but the murder he probably had. Why would he want to find Lily? No, bad question, why wouldn't he want to find Lily? Everyone seemed to want to track down Ellie Potter these days especially if they had no good in mind.
"Wait, wait a minute," Lily said, "Whatever that was, it's… Wizards use them? Wizards use them to guard a prison?!"
"Yes," Lupin said, looking a little ill at ease though not nearly as much as he should, "The island of Azkaban is their home, actually, we were the ones who just set up a prison there."
"But don't you know what they are?!" Lily asked, pressing forward. She didn't look at Rabbit, didn't dare, and he didn't say anything either, but she could just imagine his face. She could imagine that dark, inhuman, light in his eyes. An intelligence that came from beyond this world and all worlds and hungered for suns and stars.
"No one does, really," Lupin said, apparently finding this amusing, "Well, no more than we know where any magical creature truly comes from. We only know that they suck the happy memories, sometimes the very soul, out of people. Even being near one can have very negative effects, though chocolate helps. And of course, there is the patronus, that can ward them off."
"You can't ward it off," Lily said quickly, because she felt like she knew something this Lupin didn't. These things, whatever they were, weren't just a magical creature. They were Rabbit, they were things that weren't supposed to be here, something that had been forgotten and festered.
You couldn't destroy it, couldn't ward it off, couldn't…
"You can," Lupin said, speaking through her haze, not even seeming to realize that she was only half listening, "It's not easy, the patronus is a very difficult spell, but it can be done."
He gave her a smile, one that she imagined was supposed to be comforting, "It's alright, even dementors aren't undefeatable."
Oh, he meant it, he really meant that and meant it to be inspirational. Secretly Tom Riddle or not, she couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him. Or, perhaps, a little envious, Lily wished her problems seemed so easily resolved.
"And they're going to be here the whole time?" Lily asked hesitantly, nodding her head towards the window.
"Yes, or, I suppose until they capture Black…" the man said, trailing off on the name, as if he could hardly stand to even say it.
Lily, however, didn't care that he'd stopped talking because her mind was spinning. Suddenly, a much larger threat than Tom Riddle was on the horizon of 1993, one Lily honestly hadn't seen coming. Forget the rat, forget this man in front of her, but those things… She had trouble handling one Rabbit, one Rabbit who seemed to be growing increasingly powerful and daring, how was she supposed to handle more than one? Smaller bits of Rabbit that ate human souls and memory?
If the wizards had invited them in, brought them from whatever hell hole they'd resided in until they captured this Black fellow, regardless of the consequences and clear danger…
Lily was going to have to capture Sirius Black.
Author's Note: Sadly this is likely going to be those few chapters, where since we're building the next major arc and catching back on all those characters we missed along the way, we're going to have a bunch of chapters that are essentially the same day. That said, look out Lily, a plot is a foot!
Thanks to readers and reviewers, reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter