In which Scabbers is caught, Death forces Lily to reconsider he choices, and Lily learns a little more about the ministry.


Six o'clock came and with it Lily's now daily appointment with one Draco Malfoy.

At seven, in the library, Rabbit would have tutoring in Transfiguration by some poor NEWT student who maybe could be wheedled into helping Lily with her essays. Lily, at least, had some hope of passing her classes with a few nudges in the right direction.

This weekend at ten in the morning she had her first detention of the year with one Delores Umbridge. It was very likely the first of many detentions to come. There was probably also a quidditch try out or something Lily would be expected to go to in the first week.

Somehow, Lily was completely booked.

For now, she and Draco were sitting on one of the benches just outside the castle and staring at the lake glittering in the sunset. The weather, so far, still held a hint of the warmth of summer and had yet to turn to fall's biting chill.

"Well, Potter," Draco started with a long-suffering sigh, "Do you have anything to say for yourself?"

"Not really," Lily said.

"Really, nothing?" Draco prompted, "Not even about Defense—"

"Nope," Lily interjected.

"You want me to write that in my letter?"

"If you think the dark lord would care about something like that," Lily said dryly, "Then you have another thing coming."

Wizard Lenin might be amused by her antics on the first day of school but he'd hardly be surprised by them. In fact, it might just fill him with a fond nostalgia, if he wasn't too busy being pissed at her for ruining his childhood.

Draco just stared at her for a moment, "Potter, you have to give me more than—"

"I don't have to give you anything," Lily said, "I already agreed to sit out here and chat, every night at six, but the fact is that today isn't worthy of your master's notice. You want to try me, go ahead and write him and see what he says."

And as it was, Lily's thoughts were far away from Draco Malfoy and his sad need to know everything and anything about her life. It'd all been going so well, but like most things, it'd come crashing down on her head in only a few short hours.

This morning, all she'd had to do was catch a rat and send him off to his former master. She'd thought, out of everything she could accomplish this year, that'd be her easiest task.

That morning had seen her, Luna Lovegood, Ginny Weasley, and Rabbit escaping History of Magic to hunt down Scabbers.

"So, this is it," Lily said to herself, rocking back and forth on her heels, and looking at the portrait of a very out of shape woman that led up to the Gryffindor dormitory. Lily had never actually been here before.

Lily, in fact, had never loitered outside any of the dormitories aside from Slytherin and Default's commandeered quarters. Not having too many friends she'd never been wandering around with them or waiting for them to descend from their common rooms.

There was something almost sad about that, even though, at the time, Lily had never really felt lonely.

She'd always had Wizard Lenin after all.

"This is it," Ginny confirmed, shuffling nervously from foot to foot as she stared at the portrait guarding the dormitory, "Scabbers should be up there, Ron normally keeps him in the dorm during the day."

"Scabbers," Lily said in disgust, "Why the hell would you call him Scabbers?"

"Percy didn't want to," Ginny said with the slightest of shrugs, "But Fred and George called him that because he kept eating scabs—"

Oh god, Lily was going to vomit.

"I'm just kidding," Ginny said with a grin, "It's because when Percy found him, he was really scuffed up and needed a lot of healing. You know, he was scabby, Scabbers. We never did find his missing toe."

Lily leaned against the wall in relief, trying to let the image of Peter Pettigrew eating scabs off the knees of children go, and only when she'd recovered some of her sanity managed to get out, "Ginny, we're on a bit of a time limit here. Slughorn will have my hide if I duck out of my second class."

"Aren't we already ducking out of the first?" Luna asked.

"Yes, but he doesn't know that," Lily pointed out, "And if someone rats us out they will learn just why Slytherin doesn't give me shit even after I defected."

It was actually amazing how little shit Lily had gotten for that. Beating the life out of them, stealing their wands, and then auctioning them off apparently had left an impression. That, or they'd been so tired of her antics and the point loss she brought them that they were more than happy to see her go. It probably was more that second one than the first. However, they didn't have to know that.

Lily motioned to the portrait, "Ginny, since you were so kind to come along."

Ginny just blinked, looked at the fat lady then back at Lily, "What do you expect me to do about it? I joined Default before I had a chance to hear the password. I'm just as clueless as the rest of you."

Right, Lily had almost forgotten about that. Well, there was always the old-fashioned way.

"In that case," Lily swished her hand and ignored the Fat Lady's squawk as her portrait swung open and revealed the staircase up into the Gryffindor Tower. Lily began to walk in, waiting for the others to fall in line behind her.

Ginny said in awe, "You have got to teach me how to do that."

"No can do," Lily said absently, keeping her eyes on the spiral steps that would probably deposit them in the common room.

"Seriously," Ginny said, "Fred and George would kill to be able to do that."

"The captain's powers are as mysterious as they are powerful," Luna told Ginny in her own awed hush, "They're not for the likes of us mortals."

"Oh, come on," Ginny said, "I mean, I know there's things she can do that nobody can, but that one didn't look that hard. We can at least try to learn—"

"I'm afraid Luna's right," Lily said quickly just as she finally stepped into the Gryffindor common room, "A magician never reveals his secrets."

It looked a hell of a lot like the Slytherin common room. The Slytherins would probably die hearing that, thinking they were so much wealthier and more regal than the other houses, but the furniture and layout was near identical. There was the roaring fireplace, the sofas, the chess set, all the odds and ends that had been in the Slytherin common room.

The only difference was that the décor was no longer the cool green and silver but a warm gold and crimson.

She had a feeling Wizard Lenin would have gotten a kick out of that.

Suddenly, she felt like if she only turned her head, she'd see him standing next to her. He'd be giving her that knowing wry smile, charming despite how terribly confident it was, as if he was the only one who understood the joke and deigned to share it with her. He'd look like he belonged there next to her, no matter how tall he was or if he'd even bothered with a disguise.

No one was there though, only air left in the shape of him.

"It's up there," Ginny said, motioning to another set of stairs leading up higher into the tower. Ginny took the lead, confidently striding up the stairs, poking her head in doorways, until she found the one that held her older brother's trunk.

And there, just like Ginny had promised, was Scabbers. There was a small wire cage next to Ron Weasley's unmade bed but Scabbers wasn't inside that. Instead, Scabbers was burrowed in Ron's rumpled clothing, surrounded by a dozen half-eaten chocolate frogs whose chocolate limbs were still twitching, and passed out flat on his back with his mouth open.

It was the most disgusting sight Lily had ever seen in her life.

"There he is," Ginny said, "Scabbers, in all his glory."

In all his glory.

"You wouldn't think to look at him," Ginny continued, "But he's positively ancient for a rat. We thought his diet and lifestyle would have gotten to him years ago if not the neighbors' cats. He just keeps on going though, precious Scabbers."

"Right," Lily said and without another word summoned Scabbers into her hand. At the motion he woke up, squeaked in utter terror, and began frantically struggling while Lily dangled him from his tail.

He probably realized now that he'd taken Lily's threats of violence far too lightly. Well, living with Ron, he probably thought Lily was as nuts as Ron did. He'd probably thought it'd just been something she said or a new phase.

Too bad for him, Lily really had meant it.

"So, what now?" Ginny asked.

"Now, we leave," Lily said, holding Scabbers as far away from her face as possible. God, she should have brought gloves, even touching his tail made her feel slimy and gross.

"No, I meant what are you going to do to Scabbers?" Ginny said slowly, the smile dripping from her face.

She looked so young, like she desperately wanted to trust Lily, to just let her go down the stairs with Scabbers, but couldn't bring herself to.

"That's not your concern," Lily said as she slowly made her way back down the stairs.

"The hell it isn't my concern!" Ginny spat, "Look, I showed you where Scabbers is, I let you nab him, but he's our rat. If something's wrong with him, if he's—if you're—you have to let me know."

"Trust me," Lily said looking over her shoulder for a moment, "This bastard is anything but your rat."

That was the wrong thing to say. Ginny took a step downwards, face burning, eyes watering, and gearing up for the shouting match of her life. Lily, instinctively, drew her hand back closer, close enough that Scabbers bit into her arm with all his might.

"Jesus Christ!" Lily shouted, losing her grip on his tail, and inspecting the arm where, yes, he'd actually drawn blood.

Lily looked down, but Scabbers was making the most of her distraction. Squeaking in terror, he wove in between Lily's shoes, and took a zigging and zagging path down the stairs and into the common room.

Lily reached out to summon him, but her foot missed a step and instead of summoning him right back into her open arms she was sliding down the stairways, hitting her head on every stone step until she landed flat on her back in the common room.

Turning over, ignoring the way her vision swam, Lily crawled in a daze across the plush carpet. She reached out, Scabbers just ahead of her, but before she could clear her head and summon him again, he'd disappeared down the stairs and squeezed his fat body under the doorway leading into the hall and the rest of Hogwarts.

Slowly, with a strange numbness that belied the rage Lily was sure she was going to feel in two seconds, she turned to look at Ginny Weasley. Funny, her face flushed red, her hands held up in defense, she really did look nothing like him. He would have been laughing, intending for Lily to lose sight of the rat the whole damn time.

"I'm—" Ginny stopped, didn't say she was sorry, instead she shouted, "What did you expect me to do?! You didn't tell me anything!"

Lily breathed out, picked herself up off the floor, and said, "That's fine, I'll just pick him up before our next class."

Lily felt the back of her head, the sizeable lump forming there, and wondered if she really deserved this headache. She'd just been trying to be proactive and not feel like a loser. Surely, that wasn't worth all of this.

"You mean we'll pick him up," Luna cut in with a smile.

"Seriously?" Lily asked.

"Seriously, Hogwarts is a very dangerous place," Luna said in a very confident tone, as if above all else Hogwarts had managed to teach her this, "It's filled with all sorts of nasties that are just waiting to gobble up Ellie Potters before the end of first term. It makes them uncomfortable if you stick around too long."

Lily opened her mouth to disagree, but then, unfortunately had to close it. Luna might not realize that the nasties were typically Tom Riddle and that he probably wasn't here (but who knew, he very well could be hiding behind Umbridge's self-assured smile) but she did have a point.

Hogwarts was dangerous.

That, and Lily was beginning to realize that there'd be no easy way to let these kids leave her to her own devices. By the look on Luna's face, she wasn't going anywhere, which meant Ginny and Rabbit weren't either.

Lily pointed to Ginny, "You, you don't do anything like that ever again."

"Then you tell me what you're planning to do with Scabbers," Ginny said, crossing her arms and giving Lily a small glare.

Lily had to give her that, the kid had chutzpah.

Lily considered Ginny for a moment, then said, as Obi-Wan Kenobi had dubbed it, the truth from a certain point of view, "I'm sending him home to a very dear old friend who misses him very much."

"What?" Ginny asked, then frowned as she tried to put together what that could even mean, "You mean like his old owner?"

"That is, somehow, exactly the right word," Lily said slowly, trying to fight the urge to smile, if anyone had a stake on poor old Peter's soul then it was certainly Wizard Lenin.

Without another word Lily conjured a small compass, willed it to point to the missing Pettigrew, and started walking, leaving the others to follow.

"But—" Ginny in a daze jogged a bit to catch up with Lily, "I mean, Scabbers was Percy's rat for ages. And he found him in a field outside the Burrow, we didn't think he was anybody's rat. Nobody was looking for him."

"Well, someone's looking now," Lily said, "And that someone put me on the job to find him."

"Can't we talk to them?" Ginny pleaded, looking like she had no idea what to do with herself and that none of this was going the way she'd envisioned, "Ron'll be devastated if you just ship Scabbers off without a word. That's not even getting to Percy. Besides, after so many years he's as much our rat as anyone else's."

Lily windlessly cast a small tempus, then paled at the number the next class had already started and somehow they'd wasted more time bickering than Lily had thought, "Look, Ginny, I'd love to explain it to you and even give contact information but we're running a little short on time here."

Lily would not love to explain it and Wizard Lenin would kill her if she handed out his address to Tequila Weasley but Lily wasn't about to explain that.

"Can't we at least talk about—"

"Maybe later," Lily said, jogging down the steps of the moving staircase, eyes constantly moving between the needle and the steps, keeping an eye out for a fat rat running for his life.

"Why do I get the feeling there won't even be a later?" Ginny bemoaned to Luna, but Luna apparently didn't have an answer for her, or at least not one Lily needed to hear because she'd finally caught sight of Scabbers.

Somehow, he'd managed to get a floor below her and was just now rounding the corner to get to the stairs as fast as he was able. And, judging by the way the stairs were moving, Lily wouldn't make it.

"Oh no you don't," Lily hissed and without a word vaulted over the railing down to the next floor.

"Ellie!" a voice screamed above her, but Lily barely heard it, she only had eyes for the rat.

She floated a second before landing, softening the impact that probably would have broken her legs. As she sprinted up towards Scabbers he turned on his heel, feet scrabbling for purchase, and scurried his way underneath a closed doorway.

Lily didn't even slow, just increased her speed, and waving a hand outward in front of her blew the door inwards.

The room judging by the sudden shrieks of terror was not empty. In fact, as Lily sprinted in like death on wheels, it appeared like she'd just made a sudden unannounced entrance into Default, Gryffindor, and Slytherin's first third-year course of the new term.

"Oh look, there's Potter, right on time," that must have been Zabini, probably paying up whatever he owed Greengrass for the bet they'd made behind her back.

"Potter!" Draco shouted in rage and despair, his head in his hands as if he couldn't even bear to look at her, "You couldn't even wait a day?! Not even a single blasted day?!"

"Is it really true they held you back a year, Potter, or are you just playing hooky again?"

"What's she even doing here?"

Lily threw all the students, now standing from their seats to impede her path and ask all sorts of nattering questions, back to where they belonged. She kept her eye on the rat, which was now scurrying back and forth, just now realizing he was cornered and that the only way out was either back through the door or out the window.

Lily reached out and finally, after all that running, summoned him into her grasp with a wild grin.

"Miss Potter!" Lupin, the homeless professor stood at the front of the classroom, his jaw hanging open wide enough to catch birds. He looked as if he had no idea what to say. No, he looked like Ellie Potter, the girl who lived, had just busted down his door out of nowhere only to catch a rat. Unlike the third years, he wasn't used to this bullshit.

The woman behind him though, Umbridge, wasn't nearly as caught off guard, or else had just been waiting for this opportunity all morning, "Causing trouble already, Potter? That'll be fifty points from Default and detention at ten on Saturday. And stop running!"

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter was, that Lily couldn't stop running. She'd been going so fast, sprinting with all her might really, that even when she'd caught Scabbers she hadn't stopped dead in her tracks but instead began to slow.

Only, she'd been so distracted looking at the professors that she didn't notice that she was about to run out the classroom's open window. Then she did, bumping into the sill and flipping right over it and out the window to a fall that was tall enough to hurt if not kill her but long enough that she didn't even have time to wince or get out a good curse.

At least, not until she found herself flat on her back, squinting up at that ethereal white light that filled purgatory's Platform Nine and Three Quarters.

"Shit."

Lily sat up, rubbed her head, and sighed.

What a morning.

If it was any consolation, then probably by the time she got back no time would have passed, and she'd just wave up to the class telling them all she was fine. More, Scabbers probably wouldn't have time to get anywhere. That, or she'd squashed him, and he was now dead. In that case she guessed she'd just have to send Wizard Lenin his corpse and maybe a note saying "sorry" with a small frowny face and she'd probably owe Ron candy or something.

Wizard Lenin probably wouldn't care too much, sending back Peter Pettigrew had been more about the principle of the matter, and if he was dead it at least sent some kind of message to his followers.

"Lily?"

Lily raised a hand and waved it, "Over here, Uncle Death."

If there was anything that was good in this it was that she got a chance to talk to Uncle Death before she'd meant to. Somehow, even when she deliberately made time for him, the chance to talk with him always seemed to slip through her fingers.

"I'm guessing you didn't plan to see me today?" he asked, taking in her appearance with a tilt of his head and a small look of concern.

"I just fell to my death out the Defense classroom window and snapped my neck in two," Lily said, taking his hand and pulling herself to her feet, "It's fine though, I mean, not for anybody else, but that's the perk of being me. I don't have to worry about this sort of stuff."

He looked as if he dearly wanted to contradict that for a moment, but instead, he just shook his head and laughed, "I guess you don't."

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and led her to their favorite abandoned café, "Well, since you took all the trouble to get here, would you care for a spot of tea before you leave?"

"Tea sounds nice," Lily said with a smile, "I've had quite the day."

"I can only imagine," he said with a laugh, summoning tea from nowhere for the pair of them. Lily threw her head back and laughed in turn, because it was such an understatement and yet what else could she say.

More, this place was always the same. Lily popped in and out of her crazy life and yet this place was always here. Death was always here, listening to her abridged life and tried to piece together what had really happened.

Lily started as soon as she sat down, "Well, first off, I have officially been held back a year."

Death spit out his tea, "What?"

"That surprising?" Lily asked drily.

"Well, it's just," Death spluttered, looking as if he was trying very hard not to insult her, "I've never heard of anyone being held back a year. Not even Crabbe or Goyle, and they were failing every course."

Well, didn't that make Lily feel just as stupid as she'd felt this morning.

"Well, Slughorn, he's Dumbledore's latest victim for leading Default and Potions professor for a year, said I need to 'think about my future'."

"Slughorn, already?" Death asked in confusion, "He didn't teach Potions until my sixth year."

"Well, I guess Dumbledore called him in early," Lily said slowly, not sure what to think of that. Usually, it seemed that her and Death's lives lined up for the most part. Quirrell was possessed by Tom Riddle in 1991, the Chamber of Secrets opened in 1992, and Lily's godfather made an appearance in 1993.

Nothing had ever happened out of order before.

But then, it was a brave new world, and as Death noted perhaps it was time to recognize that.

"He's not the only new face," Lily said slowly, "We also have a new Defense professor, some homeless bloke named Lupin. And the ministry sent in someone to make sure students stop dying, a Ms. Delores Umbridge."

Death spewed out his tea again, "Umbridge is there already?!"

"Is she early too?" Lily asked.

Well, from the way it sounded, Uncle Death hadn't messed up nearly as badly with the chamber. The ministry probably hadn't felt the need to intervene the way they had in Lily's world, because Lily couldn't contain it, because she hadn't wanted to contain it…

"Yes, she didn't show up until my fifth year, but Lily, Umbridge is—" he stopped, looked down at her, and said, "Be careful of her."

"Of Umbridge?" Lily asked in disbelief, "That toad has that much raw power?"

Lily couldn't remember the last time Death had ever told her to be careful. Maybe around Tom Riddle, about the philosopher's stone, and that said a lot. Tom Riddle had a certain presence to him, where even just glancing at him you knew he was dangerous, Umbridge had just looked uppity and toad like.

"No," Death said quickly, "Not magical power, she wouldn't win against you in a duel. She's… While she's in Hogwarts she has a different kind of power over you, she has authority, and she'll abuse it."

"And?" Lily asked slowly, but apparently, she just wasn't getting what he was saying. She really wasn't though, because you could say the same damn thing about Snape, and Lily had always been able to handle Snape.

Death shook his head with a small, sad, smile and then said, "Perhaps, for you, it won't matter."

"Well, that's not ominous," Lily said slowly but he just kept smiling.

"Tell me about the rest of it," he said, "Surely, being held back wasn't enough to bring you here."

"Well, I was in class with second years, who by the way are all tiny," Lily said, "That, or I'm giant, and I realized I'm actually probably fourteen going on fifteen what with all the time travel last year."

Death was laughing at her, he was attempting to maintain his composure, but he couldn't hide the giggles at Lily's expense. She was glad he was getting a kick out of her embarrassing position. Maybe he'd pity her enough to help her with her essays.

"And I just couldn't take it anymore, you know?" Lily said, "So, I ended up figuring that was now was as good a time as ever to pick up Peter Pettigrew and ship him off to Lenin. Of course, Luna and the other two insisted on coming along, and—"

"Peter Pettigrew?" Death asked.

"What, is he early too?" Lily asked drily.

"You're going to give Peter Pettigrew to Voldemort?" he asked tightly, eyes burning bright enough to consume planets.

"Well, sure," Lily said slowly, "What else am I going to do with him?"

Death apparently didn't agree. He reached out, gripped her shoulders tightly, and his smile was gone as he said, "Then you must have heard about Sirius Black."

"You mean that godfather you promised me?" Lily scoffed, "Sure, he escaped Azkaban with everyone else and everyone's lost their mind. Oh hey, that's another thing, they've stationed all these dementors—"

"He's innocent!" Death spat, "Lily, he didn't do any of it! He didn't betray your parents, that was Pettigrew, and they put him into Azkaban without trial—"

"I know that," Lily said, trying to pry his hands off her shoulders, "But didn't he blow up a bunch of muggles or something—"

"Also Pettigrew!" Death said, and he'd never looked at her like this before, as if she was trying his endless patience and approaching something that shouldn't be touched, "I don't know what that bastard's told you, why he wants Pettigrew, but if you give him to your precious Lenin you will be condemning your innocent godfather, the only true family you have left, to death!"

She opened her mouth, about to ask what she was supposed to do with him then or ask how he thought she could turn her back on Wizard Lenin after what she'd done to him already. They were on such thin ice with each other…

Death beat her to it though, he leaned closer, commanding, "You must turn Pettigrew into the authorities, the ministry, and put him on trial and Sirius Black a proper trial."

"But, the dementors—" Lily said slowly.

"Exonerate Black and the dementors disappear!"

His words echoed and Lily could only look at him in quiet terror. He looked like a stranger, staring across at her, and just daring her to write Sirius Black off and let him pay for a crime that wasn't his.

As if this was the line he drew between the pair of them.

Working with any aspect of Tom Riddle, the philosopher's stone, burning down the school, anything else would be fine except for this.

This, if she did what she'd promised Wizard Lenin, would be the end of them.

And she shouldn't do it, she knew that much. Letting some innocent fool take the fall for Pettigrew for even a second wasn't something she'd do in any other situation. Especially if Black hadn't even killed the muggles like Wizard Lenin had thought. The choice should be easy, and would be, except that Wizard Lenin had only asked her to do this one thing while she was away…

But she no longer lived in a world built only for him.

She could almost see the young, orphan, Tom Riddle looking across from her with raised eyebrows and a trust and fondness he always tried to disguise. Not so long ago, she'd been sitting right next to him, watching the summer days roll by before he got on the Hogwarts Express and everything changed between them.

And Lily couldn't live in that world or the world before 1992 either.

"Of course," she said slowly, "I'll get Pettigrew to the ministry, I promise, and I'll get Black a real trial."

He stood and pulled her out of her seat into a desperate hug, "Thank you, Lily."

Lily laughed, wanting to ask just why he cared about this so much more than she did, but she didn't say that. Instead, she just awkwardly rubbed his back, and wondered what Wizard Lenin would say when he found out.

Maybe it wouldn't matter, someone was punishing Pettigrew after all, and as intimidating as Wizard Lenin was he had nothing on soul sucking Rabbit fragments. Maybe, he'd be fine with this. Annoyed, probably, but it was no skin off his nose, and if he really wanted to, he could just collect Pettigrew later after the ministry had found Black innocent.

Except, a part of her wondered what would change between them this time?

Just as Lily had predicted, she'd woken up to the real world only a second after she'd left it. Pettigrew, for better or worse, was still alive and gripped in one of her hands. She waved up to the heads peaking out of the Defense classroom windows and shouted back that she was fine (to which she heard a threat of another detention if she didn't get herself back to class already).

She stowed Pettigrew in the floorboards beneath Default's common room, petrified him for good measure, and then made her way to her second class of the day (where she was docked an impressive amount of points for tardiness). She only had a moment to sit down, catch her breath and notice that Luna, Ginny, and Rabbit had beaten her there, before the class ended.

Then Slughorn summoned her to lecture her about her education, her interruption of Defense, her tardiness, and threatened to take away her shiny prefect badge if she didn't shape up fast.

Which brought her to dinner and her meeting with Draco Malfoy afterwards, who was insisting she find something to say about Defense so he could whine about her poor behavior to Wizard Lenin.

Well, Lily thought, there was one question she could ask him, "You know how the ministry works, right? What with your father having those fancy connections?"

Draco's eyes narrowed and he got a very suspicious look in his eyes, "I'm not helping you with your latest scheme. You keep your nose out of the ministry's and the dark lord's business—"

"Hypothetically, if someone were to have caught a war criminal, where would one send that criminal?" Lily asked.

Draco's eyes practically fell out of their sockets, his face paled dramatically, and his limbs began to shake in terror, "Potter! What you're talking about is treason—"

"It's not one of his," Lily lied through her teeth, "Don't worry, he wouldn't care about this one, and he certainly wouldn't hold it against you."

"Potter!" Draco just repeated.

"I don't have to ask you," Lily said gravely.

He gritted his teeth, exhaling swiftly, and looked as if he was having trouble keeping it together, "Just send him back to the auror department, or hell anywhere in the ministry, they'll shove him right back into Azkaban."

"He was never in the Azkaban in the first place, never even had a trial," Lily said, "They thought someone else committed his crimes."

"What are you even talking about?" Draco balked, now looking at her in disbelief, "That's why they have veritiserum and legilimens at trials, so you can't just pin it on somebody else—"

"That bloke didn't have a trial either," Lily interjected, "He never got a chance to say he was innocent."

Draco held up his hands to stop her before she could really get started, summing up what she'd said so far, "So, you're saying you've caught some guy, who did something in the war but isn't one of, you know, ours… And you're saying that the ministry pinned his work on someone else rotting in Azkaban for over ten years?"

"That's about right," Lily said, but then he laughed, just shaking his head.

"What's so funny?" Lily asked, but Draco kept laughing.

"Good luck, Potter," Draco said, going so far as to thump her on the back like they were old chums, "Forget what I said about the auror department or the ministry, you're doomed."

"Why's that?"

He just kept giggling, "Seriously, Potter? Everyone knows the ministry's lousy with corruption, and not just from our people either."

Draco pointed at her, unable to contain his grin, "You think they're going to let your 'war criminal' go on trial? You think they're going to admit they blew it, even a decade ago, especially about the war and the dark lord? The administration's fighting for every scrap of legitimacy it can. They don't want a trial."

At the word trial he sneered, poking her in the shoulder, looking at her like she was the world's largest, naïve, idiot.

"No, you know what they're going to do? They're just going to make your little war criminal disappear and keep your friend in Azkaban, maybe even speed up his death. With the dark lord returning, everyone's neck is on the line, and they have a hard enough time keeping rumors of him down. They can't afford to look like fools over some bloke no one cared enough to even notice."

He sighed, letting out the last of his laughter, "Honestly, Potter, you might as well kill your war criminal yourself. Save the ministry the trouble."

"Right," Lily said dully, feeling like she'd just been run over by a truck.

"Not that I believe any of this," Draco said, "It didn't matter what the other side did during the war. You didn't see any of them charged or put on trial. No, they were given bloody parades and touted as heroes."

He then considered her, considered her hypothetical war criminal, "If you're trying to get one of ours off, forget about it, easier to just break them out of Azkaban."

"I'll think about it," she said dully, as if that was an option, as if Black hadn't already gotten himself out of prison and was now being chased down by every dementor in the country.

He patted her on the shoulder as he did, smiling to himself as he prepared to go back in the castle, "Cheer up, Potter, soon enough the only thing you need to be worried about is when I tell the dark lord you kicked in a door and jumped out a window."

He left Lily sitting there, staring out the lake as the sun finally dipped below the horizon. If she stayed here, then soon enough the stars themselves would be out.

Lily cast a silent tempus, glaring up at the numbers, almost seven.

Well, for now, it was time to make sure Rabbit didn't eat his tutor. The rest, she'd figure that out somehow.

Author's Note: You go, Lily.

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