In which Lily considers the Pettigrew problem and whether to take the path which is righteous or easy, a familiar face makes a reappearance and reminds Lily that there's no such thing as a life without consequence, and Lily finally gets a chance to confront Dumbledore.
None of Wizard Lenin's descriptions, or her acquaintance with Scabbers the morbidly obese rat, prepared her for the true sight of Peter Pettigrew.
By the grace of god, he was wearing clothes, but by the tattered look of them they were the same robes he'd been wearing when he fled to Casa del Weasley over a decade ago. They were a mixture of browns and puce, worn through with age, sweat, and grime, that made it impossible to tell if they'd once been more appealing colors.
Meanwhile his fingernails were not only overgrown but that diseased brownish yellowish green that spoke of some fungal infection, his skin was blotchy, eyes were wide and red, and she swore that every once in a while his nose would do this funny rat like twitch.
If someone had asked her to pick the animal best embodying Peter Pettigrew, she actually would have picked a rat. So much so that it was almost painful looking directly at him as he downed the hideously early morning breakfast that she'd snuck past the kitchen elves.
Real people breakfast, the breakfast Lily would attend, wasn't for a few more hours. Which would of course start off the rest of her day and the rest of year three (otherwise known as repeated year two) at Hogwarts. Featuring Lily actually reading her textbooks for once, keeping Rabbit out of trouble, apparently attending quidditch tryouts later that afternoon, and of course figuring out what the hell she was going to do with Pettigrew.
It was Wednesday, he'd now been in her tender care for two days, and thus far she had no brilliant ideas. Instead Ginny asked about him every two seconds (asking if Lily had delivered him to his previous owner yet, if Ginny couldn't have the address of said owner, and isn't there anything Ginny could do to change Lily's mind), followed by Ron screaming at her whenever he got the chance (because he just knew Lily had gone and blown up his beloved rat), followed by Lily having to sneak the bastard food.
She hadn't accounted for this. In her mind, nabbing Scabbers would be easy, almost an after thought really. More, once she had him, all she had to do was take a short trip to the Malfoy Manor, dump him onto Wizard Lenin's desk, and tell him to have fun while she went to the movies.
Even when Death had brought up his concerns, his extremely morally valid points Lily could not toss aside, the hardest part had been betraying Wizard Lenin's expectations when things between them were so very frayed.
It wasn't until Malfoy had pointed out the obvious that she realized that what Uncle Death was asking was a lot harder than he'd implied.
Lily had never paid too much mind to the ministry. She probably paid about as much mind as it ever seemed to pay to her. It had always seemed so far outside the realm of her daily life, people brought it up now and then, but until this year it might as well have just been this thing people made up to try and explain some of the ludicrousness of the wizarding world. This thing Hermione would mention off hand in her first year when she suspected Lily was off breaking the rules and using magic outside school.
Until this year, that is. Suddenly they seemed like a very real entity who had the ability to send dementors to Hogwarts, adult supervision in the form of Umbridge, and then some. Now, with Peter Pettigrew, Lily had to face what she'd been told time and again by multiple sources: the ministry was hopelessly corrupt.
Lily couldn't just send Pettigrew to their front doorstep. It was crawling not only with Wizard Lenin's people (who would ship Pettigrew right over into Wizard Lenin's grateful hands) but others who did not want the spotlight shining on them too brightly. Perhaps there were some that believed in the integrity of the law, probably more than a few, but by Malfoy's reaction they were few and far between.
She couldn't just send him to anyone, not even the head of the auror department.
She had to figure out something else, which meant keeping Scabbers locked up until then, and watching him eat with a disgusted look on her face.
The first time she'd brought him food he'd both refused to eat it and refused to transform from rat into man. Needing to double check and unable to take him seriously as a rat, she'd forced him back into Peter Pettigrew through the power of magic and sheer will. He then spent the next thirty minutes shrieking in terror, sobbing and begging her benevolent forgiveness, and trying desperately to escape the inescapable room she'd stuffed him in.
She left somewhere in the middle of all of that but by the time she returned the food was gone and he'd moved on to a new strategy. Now it seemed he'd decided that as his life was held in the palm of Lily's fickle hand, he had best butter her up and appeal to her better nature as quickly as possible. At least, that's what Lily thought he was trying to do.
"Ellie," he tried to smile at her, a wobbling half-grimace as he finally finished his food, "You look so much like your mother. You must know that I—that they—"
"Can it, Scabbers," Lily said in contempt.
His eyes bulged out, as they always did when Lily cut him off, and for a moment he looked as if he expected her to strangle him through the force like Darth Vader. At Lily's lack of action, the look passed, and he tried to seem like friendly Uncle Peter again.
"I just wanted to—"
"Can it, Scabbers," Lily repeated with more force this time, "I don't care what you think. I don't care if you feel the grand need to apologize. In fact, I would much prefer it if you never spoke at all. You're just here until I figure out what the hell I'm going to do with you."
Peter's face paled dramatically. She'd give him this, you could tell by looking at him that he knew she wasn't bluffing. In fact, he'd figured out that Lily wasn't something you messed around with much quicker than most. The man might be unattractive and absurdly cowardly, but he wasn't an idiot.
Finally, he asked, "What are you going to do with me?"
Yeah, Lily wasn't going to get into all of that with him of all people.
Lily sighed, stood up, and made her way up the stairs leading into the Default Common room, "I'll be back much later."
She didn't wait for his response, instead let the door slam shut behind her, and allowed herself to pretend for a single moment that she'd left the rat alone and didn't have to deal with any of this. She just stood there for a moment, let out a sigh, and then walked back over to her empty bed.
In a few hours she'd get to wake up, actually go to her classes, and let the day begin.
It was just too bad she couldn't ask Wizard Lenin's advice, she thought with a small smile. He'd know what to do, would know exactly where to send Pettigrew and what to do with him, and he'd make it seem so obvious.
That, however, would require her admitting that she was considering sending Pettigrew somewhere else.
And maybe it didn't matter, maybe he wouldn't care so long as Pettigrew learned something and served as an example to those similarly inclined, but still…
She closed her eyes, ready to drift back into sleep.
Only to have her eyes fly open, flail as she propelled herself away from the sound, and found herself almost falling off her own bed and face to face with Ginny Weasley.
"Jesus," Lily breathed, "You—You're not allowed to do that!" Lily hissed, trying to control her out of control heartbeat.
It was harder than she would have thought to calm herself down. In the dim lighting of the Default common room at night (a few lamps just bright enough that you wouldn't die trying to find the bathroom) Tequila Weasley was given an otherworldly and almost demonic look.
Her skin was pale, almost as pale as Lily's, marred only by her scattered freckles. Her eyes were darker than normal, pitch black and unreadable, too dark to see even Lily's reflection inside of them.
At Lily's exclamation she just smiled patiently as if she had all the time in the world. No, as if she and Lily were caught in some timeless place, where breakfast would never come, and the other Default house mates would never wake up.
"What are you doing here?" Lily asked, running a hand through her hair and refusing to go to sleep until Ginny was safely on the other side of the room in the bed that was furthest from Lily, "It's three—"
"Four," Ginny corrected calmly.
"—In the morning and breakfast isn't for another three hours."
"I could say as much to you," Ginny said, giving Lily a lingering look, "I couldn't help but notice you were awake."
"I have insomnia," Lily spat back, "Or a very bad sleep schedule, I stay up all night and sleep through classes. I'm working on it. But that doesn't mean that—How did you even know I was awake?"
Lily took a second, harder, look at Ginny whose sly smile had turned into a full on grin. Lily wasn't an idiot, she may have been tired this morning when she forced herself to care for Pettigrew without time travel getting in the way, but she hadn't been stupid about it. She'd made sure that her sleeping house mates would keep sleeping until their alarms went off.
Ginny shouldn't be awake.
"I was wondering when you'd notice that." Ginny, no not Ginny, said with that growing oh so familiar smile.
"You—" Lily said in dull horror.
"Hello, Lily, it's been a while," Tom Riddle responded through Ginny's teeth.
Lily tackled her, him, to the floor. Ginny's head hit with an audible thud, but she didn't seem to mind. She threw her head back and laughed even with Lily straddling her and pressing a palm against her pale neck.
"What are you doing?" he asked between giggles, hopelessly entertained even as a blade appeared in Lily's hand, "Lily, stop that, you couldn't kill Ginny the first time you're not going to kill her now."
"Remember," he said, eyes moving to the silver blade, "Kill the girl and I'll still be here. You get rid of her and the only thing you'll have is a dead body."
Lily pressed the blade against Ginny's neck, watching as a thin line of blood appeared, and then let it disappear. Tom Riddle didn't even have the decency to pretend to give a sigh of relief, he just kept smiling, as if he truly was glad to see her even in these circumstances.
Suddenly aware of the position they were in, one that had probably been in one too many of Wizard Trotsky's fantasies, she hastily stood and began stalking towards the chairs near the fireplace. As expected, Tequila brushed herself off as if she didn't have a care in the world and followed.
"Aren't you going to ask how I am?" he asked, "How I've been? What I've been up to since we met last?"
"How are you?" Lily asked dully as she sat down with a flop, "How have you been? What have you been up to since we met last?"
"Oh, come now," he said as he sat Ginny's delicate body across from her, "Have a little enthusiasm."
Lily spared him a dull look. He just laughed again, eyes almost dancing with mirth, and with a snap of Ginny's hand he started up a small fire.
"What are you doing here?" Lily finally asked, and then, before she could regret it, "Is Ginny Weasley even alive?"
"To the point then?" he asked with a sigh, so out of place on Ginny's features for all that this was what Ginny had been to her a year before, "After I crawled my way out of that burning brothel, thanks for that Lily by the way, and you gave all my power over to that cad who lived in your head, thanks again by the way that has been so much fun, I realized I both needed to lie low and that you would never willingly come to me. So, I decided to start over from scratch, get my bearings, and come to you."
"Come to me?"
"You had to come back eventually," he said with a cheeky grin (one that did actually suit Ginny), "There's no escaping Hogwarts."
He looked around at the common room with fondness, "That and if I'm going to start over, compete with any of my other selves in any capacity, then I might as well come back here. Well, I'd transfer back in myself, but unfortunately Dumbledore remembers my face. So, Ginny can keep an eye on the place, on you, for me while I pave the way to greener pastures in the outside world. Also, did you know the OWL exams haven't changed in fifty years? Positively dreadful, the state of our education. I imagine it's the same with the NEWTs, though as I never got to take them the first time around, I can't say for sure."
"As for Ginny," he said, looking down at his hands in the half-light of the fire, inspecting them with casual indifference, "She's certainly real, she's certainly here, and you've been talking to her the past few days. However, the magic she dabbled in had consequences, I told you that."
Lily didn't respond, thinking back to what he had and had not told her, what had and had not been rewritten multiple times in her memory. So much of that year was fuzzy, buried deep beneath false memories, there now for Lily to find but without any incentive for her to find it.
He looked across at her, a chiding expression as if she should have known better and shouldn't need him to spell it out, "Ginny gave away pieces of herself, her very soul, and invited me in. Even though I didn't devour her completely, that remains true. Even had you destroyed the diary she would have forever been changed. I will always have access to her, far more than any of the others, whenever I please."
He expected her to say something, wanted her to say it, and she knew that. She knew how he worked, it had been written deep into her mind, both by Tequila and by his own spells a year ago now. He'd always, in every incarnation, had a terrible need for dramatics.
So, she said nothing. She just looked at what he'd done to Ginny Weasley, how easy it was now that she knew to see him sitting there behind the mask.
He broke first, as she knew he would. His fingers tapped against the arm rests and he gave her an irritated glance, "Don't look like that. I wasn't going to touch anything, honestly, I was barely even paying attention to the girl. I have my own business to attend to on the outside and repeating my second year of Hogwarts through Ginny Weasley isn't exactly the pinnacle of excitement, no offense."
Lily kept waiting.
"I'm only here because you've upset Ginny."
Lily, finally, broke. She blinked once, twice, then pointed to him, "You're here because I, as in me, upset Ginny Weasley?"
"She holds you in the highest respect," he acknowledged, "Part of that is due to my presence and… feelings but most of it comes from her. She has always held high hopes for you, and you did not disappoint but in fact exceeded many of them. Her memory is fragmented, but she knows enough to remember that you were the only one who came close to saving her. She was devastated when you disappeared from Hogwarts. But she no longer can follow blindly, thanks to my terrible betrayal, and you've been taking actions she finds distressing."
"You mean Scabbers?!" Lily blurted.
He shot her a winning smile, "Which, as you can imagine, intrigued me. What could the great Eleanor Lily Potter, time traveler, destroyer of dark lords, god in mortal flesh want with a stuffy old rat?"
She said nothing, but by the look of him, you'd think he had all the time in the world. In a sense, he did. She'd tried getting rid of him last year, when it'd seemed possible to get rid of him, and it'd been to no avail. She believed him, for better or worse, that the only way to truly drive him out of Ginny was to kill the girl. Even then, he'd still be alive, and Ginny would be dead. He could come in and out of her life as he pleased and there was nothing Lily could do about it.
Well, perhaps she could. Perhaps, with the power of a god, Lily could bullshit some solution. However, she'd learned enough to know that whatever she came up with, whatever happened, might be more horrifying than what was sitting across from her now.
Lily no longer dove into anything headfirst.
This was simply the consequence of Ginny's personal time with the diary.
He apparently was thinking about something else. He considered her, looking her up and down, and finally said, "You have travelled in time, haven't you? You didn't reappear over break, Ginny looked for you, and I certainly looked for you too. The whole country looked for you, but you seemed nowhere to be found… You look old enough now, tall enough, near the same height as when you left…"
"Yes," Lily said shortly, quietly, but the word itself was important enough she might as well have shouted it.
She waited, daring for him to say something, to smash furniture, light it on fire, and claim she had no right to go there and back again so calmly. To just leave him the way she had all those years ago and in the present. He didn't though, whatever mixed feelings he'd always had about her being in his life were gone now, and he smiled with Ginny's face.
Finally, she asked, "What will it take for you to let Ginny go?"
"Playing the hero again, are we?" he asked with a laugh, "You know, she's not entirely out to lunch, she's dimly aware of what's happening. It'll be like a dream to her, afterwards, but she'll keep the important parts. Besides, I'm not entirely inconvenient for her to have around."
"You put up a sleeping spell, for example," he said motioning to the others, "And I can counteract it before Ginny Weasley has time to blink. If she can't get the truth out of you, then some part of her acknowledges that I can, and she can wake up in the morning thinking she has a gift in divination which lets her dream the answers to all her questions."
"Then," Lily said slowly, her mouth suddenly dry as she looked at Ginny again, "She knows—"
"Not quite," he finished for her, "She has all the pieces she needs, but as you can imagine she's terrified to put them together. Better to think it's a dream then guess at the truth, isn't it, Lily?"
Lily breathed in and breathed out. Tried not to think of what this must look like from Ginny's sleep hazed eyes, how much would be written off as sleep talking, and how much she'd take away for truth.
That wasn't the point, and he knew it.
Finally, Lily said, "My question still stands."
"Then my answer is that it depends," he said folding his hands together, "Just what are you up to and is it something I should be keeping an eye on directly? More, would you consent to seeing me when you have a chance? If you're just going to blow me off for all eternity, then Ginny here is my only chance to speak with you face to face."
"That sounds like stalking," Lily said.
"It sounds like taking advantage of the opportunities given to me," he responded easily.
They sat in perfect silence. He looked content, crossing Ginny's legs and staring into the fireplace, a small smile on her lips as he did so. She wondered where he really was, his real body. Was he able to manipulate both at once or was the true Wizard Trotsky sleeping in a ditch somewhere? Just what was his business on the outside world anyway? Where could he go and what could he do with a doppelganger hiding in Malfoy Manor?
When it became clear that it would be breakfast before he spoke again Lily asked, "Just what do you want to know?"
"That's the ticket," he said, Ginny's face looking like it did when Slughorn pronounced her quidditch captain, full of hope and joy, "Lily, what is the deal with this fat rat?"
Lily thought about lying for a second, thought about hurling him into a wall (even with Ginny as his hostage), and crawling back into bed. She thought about how hard it was to look at her directly, to see Tequila Weasley here again, and to have the confirmation that all her fears on the train when she'd spotted the girl were right.
Right and perhaps wrong.
Wizard Trotsky was a superb actor but even so she doubted he could have pulled off Ginny. No, he wouldn't have needed to, no one had noticed last year after all. Even if he'd just been parading Ginny's empty body around, with Lily as his witness, then Lily still would have had to get rid of the girl's body.
Lily believed Ginny was in there, chose to believe Ginny was in there, and that it wasn't just Wizard Lenin taking over in the dead of night.
And Lily was tired and out of options.
If she couldn't consult Wizard Lenin, then perhaps she could consult his evil twin and humor him while he was at it.
For something that had been so terrifying to her, this face haunting her nightmares, now that she was confronted with it she just felt exhausted.
"That fat rat isn't a rat," Lily said, conjuring tea for both her and him, just like old times, "He's an animagus by the name of Peter Pettigrew who has been missing and presumed dead since 1981. He—"
"Was supposedly murdered by Sirius Black, your parent's secret keeper and personal Judas, after Black went mad with rage upon the dark lord's demise that Halloween night."
Lily shot him a look to which he had the decency to look somewhat sheepish, "Ginny did her homework long before she ever met you. I know all about the events leading up to October 31st, 1981 and then some."
Lily wasn't sure she wanted to think about that. Some part of her had just wanted to pretend that, aside from the possession, Ginny Weasley was your ordinary tom-boyish little girl. The way Wizard Trotsky said that, his Tequila Weasley and her obsession with all things Lily hadn't been entirely out of character.
"Well, good for you, except that's not what happened," Lily said, "Apparently, Black was never the secret keeper, everyone just thought he was, including Dumbledore. They made Pettigrew secret keeper instead, but he turned out to be a spy for you, and well you know what happened after that. Black went after Pettigrew, Pettigrew blew up a bunch of muggles as he ran away, Pettigrew managed to escape due to being an unregistered animagus while Black was picked up and imprisoned without a trial because everyone knew he was guiltier than OJ Simpson."
For a moment he said nothing, then, "I see."
"Right," Lily said, and the whole damn story just came gushing out, "So, I was originally just going to hand Pettigrew off to your better half—"
"Plans have changed?" he interjected with raised eyebrows.
"Sirius Black is completely innocent," Lily said, feeling like she was admitting some terrible guilty secret, "He didn't do any of it, not a bit of it, and he's been in Azkaban for over ten years. Now, he's escaped, and he's to be killed on sight by soul sucking demons for a crime he never committed."
She paused, closed her eyes, and then admitted the damning truth, "If I just hand Pettigrew over to Lenin, no matter how much he deserves it or the fact that Lenin asked me to come back to Hogwarts specifically to do it, then I am condemning Sirius Black to a gruesome death and utterly meaningless life."
She looked across at Ginny, at Tom Riddle hiding beneath her, and spat out, "Even I have limits."
"How noble of you," Trotsky responded, Ginny's expression utterly unreadable, and finally he said, "And I'm guessing my other half has no idea you're not sending Pettigrew off to him and that you'd like to keep it that way?"
Lily said nothing but by the look on his face she didn't need to, "And I'm guessing that you have no idea what to do with him, who to send him to, or how to get Pettigrew on the stand and Black somehow exonerated?"
He seemed to be waiting for an answer, Lily shifted uncomfortably, wishing she could go back to sleep or it was already breakfast or something. Finally, she said, "I may have asked Malfoy how to go about it and he laughed in my face."
Wizard Trotsky, in turn, let out Ginny's girlish laughter, "You're damn right he did. You won't make it to the front door."
"Yeah, I figured that out," Lily said bitterly.
"Oh no need for that, you just have to figure out who to contact," Ginny said with a wave of her hand.
"What if there is no one to contact?" Lily asked but he dismissed that.
"Nonsense, somebody in there actually believes in what they're doing and has enough power to push something like this through," he said, "And if not that, then somebody high up must be working for Dumbledore, and probably believes they're working on the side of justice even if they're working for that bastard. That's how Dumbledore reels them in, after all, he makes them think they're doing the right thing."
"And how am I supposed to find them?" Lily asked.
"You?" he asked in turn, "You don't, you stay here like a good girl. You try to walk into the ministry, and I guarantee it'll turn into a disaster. You destroy everything you touch."
He held up Ginny's small, freckled hand, "It just so happens that I've managed to pick up a job in the ministry. It's not much but it is a foot in the door so to speak. Give me a few weeks to poke around and I can find a contact for you."
Lily gritted her teeth, watching his every move, watching for some sign of duplicity. Even in Ginny's body though he had the face of an angel, "Why should I believe you?"
"Because I'm not about to do it for free," he said, "You do this and you'll owe me."
"Owe you what?"
"Now that would be telling."
Lily grimaced, stood from her chair, and paced in front of the fire, "Why do you think I need you?"
"Because you can't go to your precious Lenin. The moment he catches on to what you're doing he'll confront you himself. If you turn Pettigrew over to the ministry it will make the government look weak, the minister look weak, and your friend likes the minister where he is. If you free Black, you'll be freeing one of his enemies and one with money at that. He will not help you, the ministry will not help you, even the Prophet won't jump on the scandal because they're run by the ministry. I am the only one in this world who will help you in this."
Lily whirled on him, eyes burning, as she said the one name he hadn't listed, "Dumbledore."
"Dumbledore?" he balked, Ginny's face regaining one of the expressions she'd seen the true Ginny wear, complete shock.
"Dumbledore will want Black back if he learns he's innocent. More, he'll know who to contact, maybe even has the power to move things along himself," Lily insisted but Wizard Trotsky just laughed.
"What universe have you been living in, Lily?" he asked, rubbing tears away from his eyes, "He thinks you opened the chamber, remember? I'm sure, in fact, he thinks much worse than that. He isn't going to give you the time of day."
"He doesn't have to listen," Lily said, "I just have to show him Pettigrew and—"
"Good luck," Wizard Trotsky said, cutting her off and standing to stretch out Ginny's body, "You're going to need it if you think you can get through to him. Trust me, I tried for seven bloody years."
He walked towards Ginny's bed, sparing a look over his shoulder, "When you decide you're serious about this, about saving this Sirius Black fellow, then we can talk."
With that he flopped on the bed, slid under the covers, and turned away from Lily and the fireplace. For a moment she glared at him, wondering if it was still him in there or if Ginny Weasley would wake up Ginny Weasley. At this distance, with the girl hidden under the covers, Lily couldn't tell.
The fire behind her went out and the tea Lily had summoned disappeared back into thin air from whence it came.
"I'll show him," Lily said to herself, and, without another word transformed her pajamas into her Hogwarts uniform.
It was still an ungodly time of night, long past curfew, so far past curfew in fact that the professors and prefects had stopped patrolling. For all she knew Dumbledore wasn't even in his office, but she was willing to bet if someone knocked on the door and made it past the gargoyles he'd show up.
As it was, she knew if she just tried to come later he'd only use it as an excuse to blow her off. That she did believe, but in the middle of the night like this, with no other appointments to keep either of them for several hours, well he might just give her a chance to get a word in edgewise.
And for all he believed that she could have opened the chamber there had been Ginny, there had been the others, and she'd given Neville her word. They'd never really seen eye to eye, at least, not after things had crumbled between them. He'd never liked how she'd viewed the Dursleys, her peers, anyone at all and she in turn had grown to distrust him. However, when it came to everyone else, she believe he'd try to do the obviously right thing.
People had to believe in him for something, after all.
Wizard Lenin would have killed her if he knew.
Unlike Wizard Trotsky, who sent her off with an ironic hail and farewell, he'd be chewing her out right about now and asking her what the hell she thought she was doing. Any sign of weakness to Dumbledore was the equivalent of showing him your jugular. He could and would use everything he had against him and her.
Most of the time, well, he'd been right. The man had done nothing about Quirrell, nothing about the chamber, and had held Lily's every action and thought against her.
This time though, it wasn't about Lily, it wasn't even about anything in the school. This time it wasn't for her benefit, in fact worked against her, and was very much in his benefit.
He might listen this time.
Lily stopped in front of the gargoyles guarding the path to Dumbledore's office. For a moment, she just stared at them wordlessly, wondering what the pass code would be today. Somehow, despite Dumbledore's common theme, she never did manage to guess the correct one.
Luckily, she had no need of that. Lily lifted her hands then moved them apart, like a conductor over an orchestra, and the gargoyles consent to reveal the spiral staircase leading up to the headmaster's office.
She gave them a polite nod and made her way up the dark stairwell. At the end, on reaching the wooden door to his office, she knocked quietly.
For a few minutes there was nothing, and Lily wondered if she'd be standing here until just before breakfast, then at last the door opened to a very grave looking Albus Dumbledore.
"Headmaster," Lily greeted with a small, wan, smile.
"Miss Potter," he greeted in turn.
He made no move to let her in, Lily made no move as she leaned against the doorway, and for a moment they just took the measure of the other. She could feel every year they'd ever known each other standing there between them.
Once, a long time ago, she'd had a conversation with him and had thought he might understand. He never did.
Finally, she asked, "Can I step in?"
He smiled but it looked just as exhausted as her own, "Yes, of course."
He stepped aside and let her wander in until she made her way to the chair in front of his desk. Then, just as leisurely, he made his way to his. The room itself was just the same, just as chaotic as it ever was, and as far as Lily could tell no silver instruments had appeared or else gone missing in her absence.
Finally, he asked, "I trust, given the hour, that you had something of vital importance you wished to convey?"
"Well, perhaps not vital," Lily said, "But I had this nagging feeling that you wouldn't let me get a word in later. That, and I'm booked solid all week."
"Ah," he said slowly, neither confirming nor denying her suspicion.
They sat in perfect silence, listening to the various ticking noises of the many clocks and knick-knacks cluttering his office.
And for a moment she was eleven again, finally hitting her limit and deciding enough was enough, and sitting here in this office to tell him that something was wrong with Quirrell.
Strange, how that moment seemed as if it was lifetimes ago.
"Are you going to believe me this time?" Lily finally asked.
"I'm afraid, Miss Potter," he said carefully, "That that depends on what you have to say."
Not exactly the answer she was hoping for, but then, fair of him to give. After all, if she said something like "Voldemort's actually dead" or "Luke, I am your father" she would expect him to buy it either.
Still, she'd have preferred some measure of reassurance. Looking at him, the only thing she could imagine was him sending her packing with a polite smile and grandfatherly twinkle in his eye.
"I'm sure you've heard about Scabbers," Lily started carefully.
"Ah, Mr. Weasley's rat," he said with a smile, as if Lily's antics were a source of amusement for him as much as they were Wizard Lenin, "Yes, I'd heard you made a fuss about him on the train. And that, on Monday when you should have been in your own class, you may have even kidnapped him."
Yes, Ron, when he'd put two and two together about just what rat Lily could possibly have been chasing, had been livid enough to scream at her in the great hall at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He'd probably do it again this morning as soon as he got the chance.
"Right," Lily said shortly, "See, the thing is, he's not really a rat."
Dumbledore didn't say anything, didn't give a hint of any feeling away, just watched Lily carefully.
"See, he's actually Peter Pettigrew and—"
"Mr. Pettigrew, Miss Potter, is dead," Dumbledore said gravely, "He has been dead for over ten years now."
"No, we all just thought he was dead, turns out he was an unregistered animagus and—"
"And how do you know this?" he asked.
Oh, oh shit.
He was right, she wasn't supposed to know that.
Lily swallowed, grimaced, and said, "He's over ten years old, Ginny's family found him in 1981, rats don't live that long. They don't live that long especially if they're on Scabbers' diet. That rat isn't a rat."
"Familiars often live longer than your ordinary creature," Dumbledore said, "And that does not explain why he's Pettigrew."
"I—" Lily said, desperately searching for a valid reason that was not the truth, the truth that Wizard Lenin had told her as much and an alternate version of herself had confirmed it, "I transformed him back into a man and recognized him."
"Animals can be transfigured into something that looks human," Dumbledore said back, "Are you sure you didn't just unintentionally transfigure the poor rat into something that looks like Pettigrew?"
Like Lily wouldn't be able to tell the difference somehow. She was sure, that if it was just confirmation bias, she'd noticed when rat man Pettigrew started gnawing on the furniture. No, Dumbledore didn't think Lily was that stupid.
He was leaving her room to wiggle out of this, to back down and go on her way, except…
Except he was still her best shot at this. Steeling herself, she leaned forward, and stated, "I'm sure."
He smiled slowly, amused once again, but not in a kind way. As if someone had just told him a very poor joke that should have been funny, but wasn't, "I'm afraid, Miss Potter, that I simply can't believe you. I realize that I have, multiple times now, turned you aside when you came to me with only the best of intentions. However, until I have firm evidence otherwise Peter Pettigrew is dead. After all, if he was alive, then he would have been living as the Weasley's pet rat for over a decade for no—"
"Because Black is innocent and he knows it," Lily interjected swiftly before Dumbledore could end his sentence, "He knew, he thought, he'd be questioned by you or by somebody and then everyone would know. Everyone would know that he was the secret keeper and not Sirius Black."
Dumbledore paused and his eyes lost their twinkle, "Are you suggesting that it was Peter Pettigrew who was the spy? That Sirius Black, having escaped now from Azkaban, was a loyal friend all along?"
"Yes!" Lily said, slamming her hands down on his desk as the man finally started asking the right questions, "That is exactly what I'm saying! I don't care so much about Pettigrew, but Black is innocent!"
"I see," Dumbledore said for a moment, "And what is it that you propose?"
Lily couldn't help but let herself relax, the tension running out of her, as help came from the most unexpected of sources, "I have Scabbers, Pettigrew that is, and I'll hand him over to you. You put him on trial, where he'll confess that he was the secret keeper, blew up those muggles, spied on you, yada, yada and then Black can be found and brought in for an actual trial where he can confess he's innocent. You're Supreme Mugwump, hell, you were one of the people who originally threw Black into Azkaban, if anyone can manage this even with the minister the way he is it's you."
"I see," Dumbledore said again.
Lily's smile fell, "You see?"
"I'm afraid it's not that simple, Miss Potter," he finally said.
"Why not?" Lily asked.
"You think I have more power than I do," he said with a smile, "I am but a humble headmaster, you see."
"Bullshit," Lily said, "You just don't believe me."
She sank back in her seat, letting out a small laugh, again he didn't believe her. He wasn't even denying it now, just giving her a look, evaluating as if to see what exactly Lily hoped to gain from this ridiculous story.
He wouldn't believe her if she dumped Peter Pettigrew, pathetic, crawling, man that he was right on his desk.
"Why do you think I'd lie about this?" Lily finally asked.
"I never said you were lying," Dumbledore said politely.
"We both know you're thinking it," Lily retorted.
For a moment he said nothing, and then, after a pause, he said, "When you came to me about Quirrell, I'm afraid I was all too willing to overlook your word, and I do regret that. The next year, you never came to me with your concerns or suspicions regarding the chamber. Part of that is undoubtedly my fault, for turning you aside so quickly. Still, you came to me today, I would have thought you'd come to me then."
He didn't say the rest of it, didn't say that he thought she'd opened it, that between the chamber and Lenin Rabbitson she'd been caught in the heart of it and he was fully aware of it. He didn't say he knew about Lily Riddle, that he knew something was going on from where he couldn't see.
Instead he just steepled his hands together, sighing, and looked at her fully, "I know you are involved in things you have no business being involved in, I know you have your secrets. I'm afraid, Ellie, that you play a game I cannot discern and as you so clearly do not trust me I in turn cannot trust you."
"That's a pity," Lily said after a moment.
"Yes, I quite agree," a pause, then, "Perhaps, one day, things will be different between you and I."
No, they never would be, and he knew it.
She stood slowly, looking down at him, and asked, "You would bet an innocent man's life on that?"
He just smiled at her, still sitting, and said "Sirius Black is not innocent, Ellie."
She nodded slowly and walked back to his door as if in a dream. She reached out to the handle, before she could push it down he called back to her, "Goodnight, Miss Potter."
Author's Note: Isn't it fun to see familiar faces?
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Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter