In which Lily decides enough is enough about the dementor problem, makes a point of antagonizing Umbridge, and faces her deepest fears.
By Lily's second week of school, her second-year classmates were already starting to catch on. Gone was the look of wonder struck awe of being in the same class as the girl-who-lived and instead looks of dismay and disbelief as, before the start of Defense Against the Dark Arts, Lily hurriedly scribbled "Voldemort's Back, Tell Your Friends" on the chalkboard in giant letters.
She forgot if it'd taken her third-year peers the same amount of time, only a week, but the second years were catching on fast.
That, and everyone had figured out that you didn't mess with Umbridge. Within a week she'd beaten Snape in total number of deducted house points and assigned detentions. Part of this was because Snape was lurking in the dungeons somewhere brewing experimental potions and performing secret research, out of the sight of your average student, but it was still very impressive.
Or maybe it was Lily writing the word "Voldemort" in giant letters that did it. That wasn't exactly kosher, even in the era before Umbridge.
Ginny just looked at Lily with wide eyes as Lily rushed back to her seat at the edge of the Default table. There probably was no need to rush, neither Umbridge nor Lupin were present yet. Both were mired in their impromptu meeting in the hallway, something they seemed to have before every class. Still, it wouldn't hurt to be back in her seat before they stepped inside.
Ginny, it seemed, didn't agree, "Umbridge is going to kill you."
Lily looked back at the board, frowning, "No, hang on a second."
With a wave of her hand Lily added the words, "Love Ellie Potter" beneath her message and turned to look at Ginny, "Now she's going to kill me."
Ginny looked over at Luna and asked, "Do we ever win the house cup?"
Luna just shook her head, "Oh no, Default has no such need for materialistic things like house cups. Also, we're lucky if we get out of house point debt by the end of the year."
"When you let go of the need for house points only then can you experience true freedom," Lily added sagely.
"I don't know," Ginny said, "I kind of liked house points. I mean, we sure as hell aren't winning the quidditch cup—"
"What happened to your fighting spirit?" Lily asked.
"After Saturday's performance?" Ginny asked, "I've decided to face reality. No, we're not winning until we recruit hard from other houses and get some experienced upperclassmen. You're great and all, Ellie, but I can't score all the points we need by myself."
"Not to mention the dementors," Lily added glumly.
"Right, and those," Ginny replied somewhat awkwardly. It was nice of her not to come up and say that while everyone else had managed to stay on their brooms, Lily had immediately swooned at the mere sight of them.
If they weren't terrifying, reality distorting, abominations it'd almost be embarrassing.
Lily sighed, on the upside, her hand was hurting much less. She could actually take her own notes again. It'd be cause for celebration if Lily didn't have to care for a fat war criminal in her basement and the castle wasn't surrounded by soul sucking demons.
Ginny turned to peer at the door, craning her head for sight of Lupin or Umbridge, "What do you think's taking them so long?"
Lily just shrugged, "Either Umbridge is trying to axe Lupin's lesson plan or she's pushing content onto him he doesn't want to teach."
"His last lesson was nice," Luna said cheerfully.
"Your only comparison is Lockhart who started his first lesson with a pop quiz about himself," Lily corrected.
That said, Lupin had been better than Squirrel as well as Lockhart. Not that that was much of an accomplishment either. Squirrel had just had them open to page one of their textbooks and immediately started reading directly from it.
Lily was pretty sure she'd learned absolutely nothing for the few months she'd been there.
Lupin's first lecture had simply been an introduction, going over the syllabus (which was "hem hem" revised by Umbridge), and discussing the importance of learning self-defense as a wizard (which was again "hem hemmed" by Umbridge who corrected that dark wizards were a thing of the past and it was only the stray dark creature that should concern the average witch or wizard). He'd seemed unnaturally competent compared to their previous professors, if underdressed, but he hadn't actually gotten to any content yet.
They'd see what he came up with and they'd see how Umbridge revised it. As the Default-Gryffindor-Slytherin session was the first second year iteration in the week, they got to play guinea pigs as Lupin tried to sneak content past the ministry.
"I think he'd be a lot better if we didn't have Umbridge around," Ginny grumbled, sinking into her seat and sighing as she crossed her arms.
It was… good, to see her this way. Reassuring, Lily thought. For all his dramatics, Wizard Trotsky also liked to put on airs. He didn't visibly sulk like a child, didn't grumble about professors or quidditch, and wouldn't bother even if he was pretending to be a little girl.
Ginny, even a week later, was still Ginny.
Though Lily was certain Wizard Trotsky watched through her dark eyes.
Finally, the pair came in. Lupin with a resigned, put upon, shuffle and Umbridge with that proud, prim, walk that spoke of total victory. Clearly, once again, things were not going to go the way Lupin had planned.
He rubbed at his face, sighing, as he moved to the front of the classroom. He waited, watching dully, as Umbridge took her customary seat in the back of the classroom where she could watch all of them like a hawk.
Then, of course, she noticed the chalkboard.
Her dark, beady, eyes slowly turned to Lily. Lily grinned and cheerfully waved back, wriggling her eyebrows. Everyone, including Lupin, held their breath and watched the two of them with wide fearful eyes.
"Miss Potter," Umbridge said, only the slightest edge to her high-pitched voice, "I suppose you think this is funny."
"I think it's hilarious," Lily responded.
Umbridge's tight smile became a tighter grimace, "Well, Miss Potter, if you're not prepared to take Defense Against the Dark Arts seriously then—"
"Fifty points from Default, Miss Potter," Lupin hastily cut in, waving his wand and erasing the words from the board, "And detention with me at five tonight!"
Lily turned to look at him, feeling her eyebrows raise dubiously, but he didn't back down. Instead he met her eyes, puffed out his chest, and just dared her to talk back or else return her attention back to Umbridge and get thrown out of class with a failing grade.
Umbridge didn't say anything, but her grimace became an outright scowl.
After a beat of silence, it was clear that the moment was done, Umbridge apparently appeased by Lupin's quick-thinking discipline. Not to mention that Umbridge owned Lily's soul for the next three Saturdays. As far as Umbridge knew, she'd get her chance at revenge.
Lily wondered how she would react when Lily refused to play along next time. If Lily was lucky, there'd be an actual shriek of rage.
Still, it was just as well she wasn't thrown out of class, Slughorn would have killed her.
"Now," Lupin said, placing his hands on the podium, "Today's lecture is… not quite what I had originally planned but something I think will be very useful to all of you."
Luna took that as her cue to start doodling one of her mythical mythical creatures in her notebook. Ginny, for her own part, was drawing a stick figure version of herself crawling on the floor saying, "I'm dying!" while a stick figure Lupin was crushed by a giant toad with cat ears croaking out "Hem hem".
"In fact," Lupin continued, ignoring the pervasive disappointment of the students, "This is actually third year material. Originally, I was only going to cover this with my third years, but Ms. Umbridge pointed out that as a common household pest, boggarts are something each and every one of you could come across in your daily lives."
One of the second year Gryffindors raised his hand, "Sir, what's a boggart?"
"I'm glad you asked, Mr. Johnson," Lupin said with a smile, "Open your books to page fifty-three and you'll see a description of a boggart."
Everyone flipped to the page. There, just as Lupin had promised, was a single wordy paragraph dedicated to boggarts. Only, unlike the fairy dust mites and house elves, there was no accompanying drawing of the creature.
"But there's no picture!" another Gryffindor commented.
"Ah, very clever of you to notice, Miss Clark," Lupin said, "That's because nobody knows what a boggart really looks like."
"You see, boggarts are mostly harmless creatures, except they have a very advanced magical camouflage and defense system. They scare away any threats, particularly witches and wizards who might drive them from their territory, by taking the shape of their greatest fear."
He moved to the chalkboard and began writing down several words, "fear", "closets", and "natural magical defense".
One of the Slytherin's snorted, "So they don't even do anything? Boggarts aren't that scary."
"Imagine your greatest fear appearing suddenly out of your wardrobe," Lupin said, "It may not have a mountain troll's thick skin and strength, but they've given more than one witch and wizard a heart attack."
He then turned to look at them all, "More, remember this is not just a fear, it is your greatest fear. Whatever comes out of that wardrobe is what terrifies you most in all the world, something that petrifies you, and steals your very reason. It doesn't matter if you know it isn't real, it will shake you to the very core. If it were up to the boggart, you would never be able to open your wardrobes ever again."
"Unfortunately for boggarts," Lupin said with a smile, "There is a very simple spell we can all use to repel them."
He pulled out his wand and slowly went through the motions, "Ridikulous!"
There were no accompanying sparks, no sign the magic had worked, but Lupin's smile didn't diminish. "To get rid of a boggart, all you have to do is use this spell, and mentally transform your greatest fear into something funny."
"Something funny?" one of the Slytherin's derisively asked.
"Sure," Lupin said, "Say your fear is spiders. Out of the closet comes this giant spider with fangs the size of your forearm. Give the spider some roller skates or a silly hat."
He pointed back to the board, "Knowing that its natural defense has failed, the boggart will flee and seek another place of refuge."
He then had them all stand and practice the wand motions. He stopped in front of Lily, eyebrows raised when he noticed her absence of a wand, but decided he wasn't going to touch that with a ten-foot pole and just gave her a consolatory pat on the shoulder.
After about ten minutes of wand swishing and pseudo Latin chanting, he had them line up in front of a wardrobe pulled to the front of the room. He frowned as he caught sight of Lily in the back of the line, opened his mouth, only to shut it as a "hem hem" came from across the room.
Whatever he was going to say was apparently not on Umbridge's agenda.
"Now, unfortunately," Lupin said, "The best way to know if you can successfully cast the spell is to do so against a real boggart. Remember, everyone, a boggart is your greatest fear. It is an individual fear, one person's fear is not another's, and each should be treated with respect. Each of you is facing your own fear today, that's not an easy thing, and there's no shame in failure. You can get back in line and try again or come back later during office hours."
His look then turned sharper, golden eyes roving over each and every one of them, striking the fear of god into their twelve-year-old souls, "Most importantly, I want everyone to be respectful of everyone's attempts against the boggart. If I hear a hint of laughter, any joke, you will be thrown out of my class, points will be deducted, and it will be reflected in your final grade. Am I clear?"
Slytherins and Gryffindors looked at each other, clearly sizing each other up, trying to gauge if it was worth a docked grade to have infinite ammunition against the other side.
"Am I clear?" Lupin asked again.
Finally, he received a dutiful chorus of, "Yes, Professor Lupin."
"Good, with that, let's get started."
The line was segregated into Gryffindors (who had practically sprinted to the front to show each other how brave and badass they were), Slytherins (who had casually strolled into line at a pace slow enough not to be first but fast enough that they didn't look like cowards), and finally the few stray Default members who didn't care in the slightest about their reputation.
There were quite a few giant spiders and most of the students stole Lupin's roller skate and silly hat suggestion. Otherwise there were snakes put into roller skates and silly hats (Lily detected a disturbing lack of imagination among some of these kids), vampires that looked nothing like Frank and company dressed in Dumbledore's robes, swamp monsters given bathtub duckies, and more.
At each attempt of the spell Lupin either encouraged the student to try again, giving them several attempts while at the front of the line as well as a few suggestions, or else applauded their success.
"Why do you think he didn't want to do the lesson?" Ginny asked, "This doesn't seem all that bad."
Her face was pale though, her hands clenching and unclenching, and Lily wondered if Ginny knew that, when she got up there, it wasn't going to be a giant spider waiting for her.
No, Lily had a feeling she knew exactly what would greet Ginny.
Lily just didn't know what would greet her.
Luna looked unusually sober, staring down at her feet, "I think Professor Lupin knows that some fears are not the same as others. Some people have seen thestrals."
"Thestrals?" Ginny asked, "What are those?"
"They pull the carriages from Hogsmeade's station," Lily answered for Luna.
"Wait, something pulls those?" Ginny asked.
"They're only visible if you've seen—" Lily cut herself off, not sure how to put it, and then grimly stated it as plainly as she could, "Well, if you've seen someone die."
Ginny at first looked confused, then horrified, as she looked wincing at Luna and then over at Lily herself. Ginny, for all the horrors she'd gone through, hadn't seen the light leave someone's eyes.
Still, Ginny had a point, this was an awfully useful lecture for something pushed for by Umbridge. Hermione, Zabini, and Greengrass had all moaned that their lectures so far had been spent reading from the ministry textbook and Lupin had promised they might get to boggarts and practical spells next week.
Given the wardrobe, Lupin must have already had the boggart ready for them, but for some reason Umbridge had only approved of it now and for the wrong year at that.
As they worked their way through the last of the Gryffindors and started through the Slytherins Ginny began to break out into a cold sweat. Standing behind her, Lily could see the way she paled, the way her hands shook, and the cold drops running down the back of her neck.
"Ginny?" Luna asked quietly.
"I'm fine," Ginny said, "I was a Gryffindor, we're supposed to face our fears, I'll be fine."
Most of the girls Wizard Trotsky had gotten his hand on last year had been second years, and those that he had corrupted hadn't been possessed for nearly as long, and all too likely had never seen his face. Not the way Ginny or Lily had.
Lily thought one of the Gryffindor girls ahead of them might have been possessed, and her fear was a ghostly, faceless, boy, but she was quickly able to transform him into a mortified crossdresser in a girl's Hogwarts uniform.
Luna pressed again, "It's okay to go—"
"I've got this!" Ginny hissed, resolutely staring ahead, "I can do this!"
She didn't have this, she wasn't fine, and Lily wasn't sure Ginny could do this.
After all, when Lily had been facing Hogwarts, when she'd been facing the shadow Wizard Trotsky had left behind… The very sight of Ginny Weasley had terrified her out of her mind. Strangely, it was only now, when Lily knew that Wizard Trotsky really was hiding behind that poor girl like she was a mask, that she could relax.
Ginny existed, Wizard Trotsky existed, and after Wizard Trotsky's reveal Lily finally knew where they stood.
Ginny didn't have that same assurance. Worse, Ginny's mind was not really her own, and she probably suspected it but didn't dare to believe it.
Lily was about to shove Ginny out of line, tell her to just go back to the common room while Lily talked to Lupin using her prefect powers, when suddenly Ginny stiffened. Ginny took a single, shuddering, breath and her whole posture changed. Gone was all the tension, replaced by a relaxed, casual, confidence that was so very unnervingly familiar.
Familiar, because it wasn't Ginny Weasley's.
Ginny turned back to them with a crooked grin, "Relax, I really do have this."
Oh, Lily would punch him in the face and throw him out the window if it wouldn't take Ginny out with him. The fact that Luna didn't even seem to notice, visibly relaxed, made it that much worse.
And some part of Ginny must know that this bastard could take her body out for a ride and no one would even notice. Wouldn't even notice whenever her fear was replaced by whatever Tom Riddle's was.
Lily gritted her teeth, forcing herself to keep her questions to herself. What did Wizard Trotsky think he was doing? What did he want? Did he have news for Lily already and this was his ridiculous method of making contact? Couldn't he have waited just a few hours until the middle of the night or something?
"Good," Lily said instead, "I'm so glad you've got this."
"You should be," Tequila said back with that awful smile Wizard Trotsky no doubt thought was charming, "If you think about it, Ellie, it's a priceless opportunity."
"Is it really?" Lily asked dully.
"Sure," Tequila said, that smile never wavering, "It's not every day one can find out their greatest fear."
Oh, was that why he was suddenly here? He just wanted to see what he was most afraid of today? Or was he actually, in his own horrible way, trying to take pity on Ginny and prevent her from having to do this herself.
"Aren't you a little bit curious what you're afraid of, Ellie?" he pressed.
Right, that was probably the other reason he was here, Lily thought with a scowl. If Lupin was right, by the time Lily got to the front of the room, they'd all be finding out exactly what the girl-who-lived was afraid of. Even though she, personally, had no idea what that would be.
There were so many awful things she'd encountered in her life. Sometimes, it felt like her greatest fear could be any one of them.
Instead, what Lily said, was, "Don't you have anything useful to say, Ginny?"
Luna's head whipped from Ginny to Lily wildly, seeming to catch on that the atmosphere between them had inexplicably changed, but where the true Ginny would probably crumple beneath Lily's contempt, Tequila lived for it.
"If you're asking about that little favor you owe me, then no, I'm not quite finished yet," she said, "Though prospects are looking good. I should hopefully have something for you within a few weeks."
A few weeks, a few more weeks of whining Pettigrew. It could be worse, that was about what she'd expected if not faster than what she'd expected, and it certainly wouldn't help if she dared to complain to him about it. It'd be fine, Pettigrew could keep, and the dementors…
The dementors wouldn't keep.
They'd already almost eaten Lily twice within two weeks when nobody else seemed to run into the bloody things at all.
The first time had been unpleasant, the second time had been just as unpleasant, and Lily was not looking forward to running into the things a third time.
And she would, because she couldn't just stay inside the castle forever, never venturing outside ever again.
Her eyes moved to Lupin at the front of the room. On the train he'd done something, cast some spell, and it hadn't killed the dementor (not surprising since Rabbit was an unkillable monstrosity) but it had warded them off for a little while. Lily had written it off, because warding off Rabbit felt a lot like trying to kill him, a lost cause but Lily was starting to get desperate.
She silently evaluated him, just as she had on the train. Lily hadn't paid him much attention since, he hadn't sought her out and in turn she hadn't bothered with him. If he was a threat, if he was Tom Riddle in disguise, then he wouldn't be able to help but bring it to her attention eventually. Lily had intended to keep as large a distance between her and Lupin as possible because of it.
That spell on the train could have been a clever ploy to grab her attention. His detention today, undermining Umbridge, could just have been his attempt to get her alone. Except, what would the original Tom Riddle have to gain from playing this stupid charade of Defense Professor twice? Lily was not stupid, even if he made Lupin as likeable as possible, Lily would never hand over the philosopher's stone. No, if he wanted that then he'd have to try a little harder.
There was a chance Lupin was exactly what he said he was. A starving, hapless, wizard in dire need of income who took the infamous cursed Hogwarts position and happened to be a better professor than some. Even if he wasn't, even if he was Tom Riddle, Lily could try and see if he was willing to bargain for that spell with something other than the stone.
If he blew her off, then she'd just start looking somewhere else.
Ordinarily, Lily wouldn't step near him, but she was starting to get desperate.
Finally, they made it through the last of the Slytherins and Luna stepped in front of the wardrobe. Like all the others before her, Lupin gave her a chance to collect herself and hold out her wand. She took a large breath, her hand shaking in front of her, and waited for the wardrobe to open.
Unlike the others, the boggart didn't fly out, there was no sudden jump scare for Luna. Instead the wardrobe opened slowly, quietly, but even when it was fully open the inside was obscured in shadows.
A single, pale, human foot stepped out of the void, as if emerging from water. The foot became a naked human leg, followed by two spidery, feminine, hands gripping the sides of the wardrobe.
"Ridiku—" Luna started, only to trail off as the boggart continued to emerge.
The top of a human head began to emerge. Pale blonde hair, long and matted, obscured the creature's face and eyes from sight as it kept rising out of the wardrobe.
"Remember, Miss Lovegood," Lupin said quickly, "It's not real, it's only an illusion."
The creature pulled itself further out of the wardrobe, revealing a torn uniform, dark purple robes with the crest of the ministry embroidered into the lapel, and a woman's thin body. It stared at the floor, face covered by its overgrown hair, and began to slide its way towards Luna.
"Concentrate, Miss Lovegood," Lupin said, "Remember the spell."
The woman started to look up, vacant blue eyes now visible through her hair, and started to mouth the beginning of a word, "Luna—"
Luna took another breath, remembering where she was, and completed the spell, "Ridikulous!"
The woman burst into confetti and streamers, a penguin with a top hat and kazoo playing out Hogwarts' school song in her place. Unlike most of the student's solutions, there wasn't a hint of the original fear anywhere inside it.
"Well done, Miss Lovegood! Ten points to Default," Lupin said, patting her on the back, "You did very well. You should be proud"
Luna looked as if she was in a daze, not quite sure where she was and why, and quietly allowed Lupin to move her down into a nearby seat.
Luna had been right, Lily thought in a daze herself, there were boggarts and then there were boggarts.
Where everyone had been silent for Luna's boggart, they were now all chattering among themselves, undercurrents of fear and distaste in their whispers. Unsurprisingly, they tried to smother their discomfort with the ridicule they'd so far abstained from.
"Looks like Looney Lovegood's just afraid of being homeless," a Gryffindor snickered to his friend, "Glad she's aware of her job prospects."
A Slytherin rolled her eyes, "I had to face an acromantula and she just has to deal with a bad hair day?"
"I thought for sure she'd see one of her crumple-horned whatevers."
"Nah, the real fear is that they wouldn't be real and everyone else would be right. Hey, maybe that is what she saw, Looney Lovegood's looney future."
Lupin turned his attention back to the class, eyes blazing, "Need I remind you all what you agreed to at the start of this lecture?"
The class immediately fell silent, several caught in the middle of their sentences, all looking at him in wide eyes. For a man who didn't seem to have a change of outfits, he was oddly intimidating when he wanted to be. His eyes roved over each and every one of them.
"Anything else to say?" he prompted, "No? None of you are dying to get thrown out of class today?"
They each looked away from Lupin, quietly pretending that it hadn't been them saying anything to their friends. Luna just sat staring at the floor, as if she hadn't heard or seen any of it, still facing her boggart somewhere in her mind.
Lupin spared Luna one last glance, his eyes tired and worried, before he moved to stand with Tequila at the front of the line.
"Next time any of you says anything," Lupin warned, "Even if it's every last one of you, I won't hesitate to throw each of you out and deduct points per student."
Finally, he turned his attention to Tequila, "If you please, Miss Weasley."
Tequila spared Luna an indecipherable look before nodding and raising her wand up to the wardrobe.
Now, it was hard to top Luna's horrifying boggart, anything that came afterwards would seem tame by comparison. However, that said, it took everything in her power not to laugh when a doppelganger of Lily stepped out of the closet.
She wouldn't say she'd seen it coming, but somehow, she really should have seen that coming.
The other Lily, dressed in the exact clothes Lily was wearing, looking the same age as Lily herself, stared down at Tequila in clear contempt. Nowhere on her face was a hint of any soft feelings, any compassion, or even pity. There was nothing there, except a stony, burning, hatred.
It was, in fact, an expression Lily was fairly certain she'd worn in his presence before.
Lily was trying very hard not to laugh.
Unfortunately, Wizard Trotsky wasn't going to give her the satisfaction of hearing what the Lily of his worst fears had to say, "Ridikulous!"
Suddenly, the other Lily was flushing in embarrassment, trying to cover up her suddenly exposed skin as she was dressed in Princess Leia's slave girl bikini. Lily… No, there were no words, there was no actual response Lily wanted to give to any of this.
Ginny better appreciate the fact that she didn't have to see Tom Riddle face to face in the form of a boggart. As it was, Lily was going to have to live with this moment for the rest of her life.
"Very… good, Miss Weasley," Lupin said slowly, trying to look anywhere but bikini sporting Ellie Potter, "That was—Well done."
Tequila opened her mouth, likely trying to find a way to pass this off as normal or else completely valid, and then closed it. Apparently, Wizard Trotsky was self-aware enough to know it was a) sad to fear the rejection of a twelve-year-old girl and b) even sadder that his idea of something funny was stuffing her into a nerd bikini.
The class was trying very hard not to comment. Some were even turning purple holding their breath to keep from commenting. Everyone's eyes kept turning to Lily, eagerly gauging her reaction.
Finally, someone lost it and started audibly snickering. Lupin's head spun and he barked out, "Twenty points from Slytherin!"
Apparently though, he couldn't quite bring himself to throw the kid out. He probably wished that he was either laughing or drinking away this memory too.
Lily was dying.
In fact, Wizard Trotsky seemed to hit his limit, as with a sudden shudder Tequila was looking around in blinking confusion. Right, that would be Ginny's grand return. She'd get to find out the entire school thought she was a lesbian who had the hots for Lily thanks to Wizard Trotsky being incorrigible. Lily wished her luck with that.
In confusion, Ginny wandered off to sit in the chair next to Luna, looking equally dazed.
Another Defaultee, it seemed, had bitten the dust. Only two now remained.
"Mr. Rabbitson," Lupin said quickly, ushering Rabbit forward until he was directly in front of the wardrobe, "Why don't you give it a try?"
"Raise your wand—" Lupin stopped, noticing the dead look in Rabbit's eyes, and his utter inability to even raise his arm and wand. Which wasn't really a wand at all but in fact a stick of wood Lily had found one day and given to him so that professors would shut up about getting him a damn wand already.
"No, Mr. Rabbitson, see you have to raise your wand," Lupin demonstrated, lifting his own arm and wand up.
Rabbit, of course, made no move.
The other children looked at each other, clearly wondering if pointing out Rabbit lacked the mental capacity to move his limbs was a point loss worthy event. They also were clearly wondering when Lupin would get a clue like the rest of the professors.
"Lift—" Lupin tried again, looking around desperately as Rabbit continued to stare at the wardrobe with those blank eyes, "Does anyone know how to say it in Albanian?"
Lily stepped forward, moved Rabbit's arm herself, and stuck the makeshift wand into it.
"Thank you, Miss Potter," Lupin said dully, giving both Rabbit and her a very worried look. Lily just gave him a thumb's up.
That was one sign that he might be who he said he was. Either Hindenburg was putting on the best show of his life or this man really had never encountered Lepur Rabbitson before this year.
"Now, are you ready?" Lupin asked.
Rabbit neither nodded nor shook his head. Just kept his arm raised right where Lily had left it. Lupin, after a second, seemed to take that as a yes and the wardrobe opened.
Lily probably should have shoved Rabbit out of the way. In fact, Lily probably should have kept him as far out of the way of the wardrobe as possible. However, some dark part of her wondered what a thing like Rabbit feared most of all no matter what the consequences might be.
Her eyes were glued to the wardrobe, unable to look away even if she wanted to.
Then she ended up looking away anyway as, instead of a spider, an older zombie Luna Lovegood, or Lily herself the boggart transformed into a bright flash of light more blinding than the sun. Without thinking Lily shoved Rabbit out of the way and stepped forward and the room suddenly returned to normal lighting. Only, as she gingerly opened her eyes, there was nothing there to greet her.
There was no Morgan Gaunt, no Tequila Weasley in the chamber, no Wizard Lenin turning away, no Rabbit, nothing. She was staring at thin air and an open wardrobe, the boggart nowhere in sight.
Lily slowly turned her head to look at Rabbit who was staring unrepentantly out the window, "Rabbit, did you eat the bloody boggart?"
Was that what Rabbit eating something looked like? A giant flash of light then poof, gone from the world and all its memories? Lily had never seen it in person before, she'd always assumed that like the devoured itself there was no event to be seen or remembered, the devouring went the way of the lost person, place, or thing.
Rabbit turned his head equally slowly to stare back at Lily. Now, Lily wasn't one for interpreting Rabbit's expressions, but if she had to guess then he was looking at her as if she was the greatest idiot to ever walk the face of the earth.
"I do not fear oblivion," he said.
Lily looked at him, looked back at the thin air, and then back at him, "Are you sure you didn't eat the boggart?"
He didn't even deign to give that a response. Probably because the evidence spoke for him. Rather than everyone wondering what they were doing standing in front of an empty wardrobe (or coming up with some non-reason to stand in front of the empty wardrobe), Lupin was shoving coats aside to look for the missing boggart and the students were giving Lily funny looks again.
They clearly remembered there'd been a boggart there two seconds earlier.
Which meant Lily was once again playing the role of a magician and had just made the boggart disappear. She hoped that didn't tank her grade, if Lupin was Snape, he'd fail her for the term right here and now.
Finally, Lupin sheepishly looked back at them all, "Well, it seems our boggart has flown the coop. Not to worry, I'm sure somebody will find it in some other wardrobe…"
None of the other students looked convinced, in fact, they just kept staring dully at Lily. Lupin might be new to the castle, but they'd been around for one year of Ellie Potter and knew the score.
"And ten points each from Default, Mr. Rabbitson and Miss Potter," Umbridge chimed in, "For failing to take the dangers of magical creatures seriously and allowing the boggart to escape."
Joke was on Umbridge, Default was already well in the red.
Lupin cleared his throat awkwardly, "In the meantime, as class is about finished anyway, let's consider this class dismissed while I try to find where our pesky friend went."
There was a great cheer, a sigh of relief, and the chattering returned as everyone freely discussed Default and its messed up boggarts as they exited the classroom. Ginny and Luna weren't far behind, wobbling out after the others, looking like inmates on death's row as they moved to their next class.
Which left Lily, Rabbit, Umbridge, and Lupin.
Umbridge was back to staring at Lily like a hawk. All her false pleasantness from the class, from Lily's detention, was gone and instead her eyes were black and hard as stones. Something about Lily displeased her, something she hadn't previously expected.
For a moment, Lily considered asking Lupin about the spell now. Instead, she gathered her things, tugged on Rabbit's hand, and said, "I'll see you in detention, tonight, sir."
He started, still focused on the wardrobe and the missing boggart, but nodded jerkily. From the look of it he'd forgotten all about that. By the time she showed up at five, an hour before her nightly ritual of Draco chewing her out for her daily misadventures, it was clear he really had forgotten.
"Ah, Miss Potter," he said, jerkily lifting his head as he noticed her loitering in the doorway to his office, "Right, detention, come in, please."
He motioned for her to step inside, looking uncomfortable in his own skin. It was funny, in front of a room full of dubious students he'd had a certain confidence to him, alone with her and it was all stripped away. He was that nervous, awkward, wreck of a man on the train again.
Lily sat in the seat across from him while he searched around the office for something for her to do. Unlike Snape, he lacked frogs for her to dissect or cauldrons to clean. Eventually, with a grimace, he murmured, "Well, I suppose there's always lines."
Lily winced and purposefully didn't look at her right hand, "I already did lines with Umbridge."
"Oh," he said shortly, "Right, I remember you had detention with her as well."
He should, she'd hurled herself out of his classroom window.
"Multiple now," Lily said, "I'm unfortunately fond of back talk."
They were both unfortunately quiet a second too long, not an easy quiet, but that beat of silence just long enough to tell the other that they had no idea what to say or do.
Again, Lily thought to herself, that either Hindenburg was a better actor than she'd ever given him credit for, or this man really couldn't be him. She couldn't imagine any incarnation of Tom Riddle getting the sheer awkwardness of this moment right.
Lily cleared her throat, "Actually, I wanted to ask you, instead of doing lines… On the train, when the dementors showed up, you cast some spell—"
"The patronus," Lupin cut in, and then seemed to realize what she was getting at as his eyes widened, "Oh, Miss Potter, I know—I've heard—you're very talented but the patronus is a very difficult spell that most adults never master. I've never heard of anyone younger than sixteen casting a full corporeal patronus."
"But you said it's the only thing that can ward off dementors," Lily pointed out.
"If you haven't noticed," Lily said, motioning around them, towards the dementors undoubtedly floating just outside the castle, "I find myself in desperate need to ward off dementors."
He frowned, remembering either the quidditch match, the train, or both.
"It really isn't an easy spell," Lupin said slowly, "The wand motions are simple enough—well, if you had a wand—as is the pronunciation, but the patronus requires much more than that. It requires… a pure, happy, memory in the face of a dementor. That's not as easy as it sounds."
"Are you saying you won't do it?" Lily asked.
He paused, looked at her, and for a moment Lily was certain he'd say just that. He sighed, rubbed a hand through his hair, "I guarantee it'll take more than a single detention."
How did she somehow know he was going to say that?
"Unless you're planning to try and kill me before the end of term, I'd say we have all the time in the world," Lily countered with a smile.
He winced, looking as if he hadn't been thinking about that at all, "I really—That is—I know you've had issues with your previous professor but I'm not—"
"You're not going to convince me one way or another," Lily cut in before he could get too far into his apologetic ramble, "Either you'll do something or you won't, and so far you defense professors have had a bad track record. The entire school agrees with me on that one."
"The curse, yes," Lupin said, "We were talking about that when I was a student."
"So, you see, I have no reason to trust you," Lily said, "It's nothing personal, we just both know you're going to end up trying to gut me by December 31st."
"And you'd still ask me for help?" Lupin balked, clearly thinking that he would never ask his potential murderer for any kind of aid.
"Well, I can't let a little thing like attempted murder get between us, now can I?" Lily asked, "Unfortunately, you have something I need, and you've decided to use it to your advantage to drag this out as long as possible and get under my skin. It'd be clever if Squirrel hadn't beaten you to it. That plan didn't really work out for him in the long run."
He opened his mouth, closed it, looking like a drowning fish while Lily continued, "And I really don't hold it against you. Even if you are Voldemort in disguise you have your reasons for being here, even if you are beating around the bush unnecessarily. Now, the Defense Professor twice in a row is a little ridiculous, it's been done, it's passé, but I can't exactly blame you for it either. Now, if you were Voldemort, you could just get to the point already, but I'm not going to tell you how to do your job."
"I'm not—" Lupin started in horror, "I promise—I am not You-Know-Who."
"Well, time will tell," Lily corrected, "It's only the second week of September, there's no need to get ahead of ourselves. Let's face it, I wouldn't even be asking about this if you hadn't a) laid out the bait and b) are the only professor in this whole school who'd even agree to take the time to teach me. I'm not stupid, I'm just tired of dementors."
There it was.
She didn't think Lupin was some Tom Riddle in disguise. Wizard Trotsky was now mostly accounted for and possessing both Lupin and Ginny at the same time seemed a bit much even for him. As for the other, she didn't think he'd pull the same trick twice, and he probably would have gotten to the point by now but in the end it didn't matter.
Voldemort or not, cursed or not, Lily would stay on her toes and dealt with whatever he threw at her whenever he chose to throw it at her.
And if he didn't throw anything at her then good for him.
For a moment, Lupin seemed to have no idea what to say to that. He just sort of nodded to himself, as if Lily being tired of dementors was something he could perfectly understand. Then he frowned, his brow furrowed, and his eyes narrowed as he focused back on her, "Didn't you say You-Know-Who kidnapped you?"
"Yes?" Lily asked in turn, not quite sure where he was going with this.
"If You-Know-Who kidnapped you, has now returned, why would he come to Hogwarts disguised as me?" he asked.
That question either proved that he was Hindenburg or else that he wasn't Hindenburg. Lily had no idea which it was.
She could also think of about a million responses.
"For the philosopher's stone, you see, I stole it from under Dumbledore's nose and he's probably been salivating over it for years."
"Oh, you see, his sixteen-year-old incarnation he stuffed into a diary fifty years ago is a freak who wants to marry me either when I grow up or when I'm not so young it's gross. For reasons that are almost irrelevant, I'm actually probably fourteen, that has me worried. I never talked about any of this with the non-sixteen-year-old version, but hey, if it's good enough for one Tom Riddle, am I right?"
"Well, if he's been supposedly kidnapping me all over the place then he probably wants to kidnap me again, right? Third time's the charm and there's no place like Hogwarts. Wearing your body as a cheap disguise is just pure genius. After all, who would suspect the Defense professor again? It's fool proof."
"Actually, the Voldemort you're talking about is the Voldemort that was secretly stuck inside my head for twelve years. He's the one outside pretending he's not outside. The other, original, Voldemort is still out there as an unhappy wraith and we're pretty sure he's going to track me down eventually. You see, the last time we saw each other, he bashed my head into a chair and I stabbed him through the heart. We have history."
"I don't actually think he'd come disguised as you, that's too obvious for me and Dumbledore, but you could have your own reasons for wanting to gut me or you will by the end of the year. Look at Lockhart, he came in with no plans for my murder, he walked out as a part of Trotsky's hive mind. Well, he would walk out, if Trotsky hadn't devoured his soul in order to create himself a body. Ginny walked out though."
"Then again, maybe he would do just that because it's so damn obvious, I'd never suspect it, it's fool proof."
Instead she said, "I wonder that every day of my life."
He appeared to have nothing to say to that.
Lily clapped her hands together, "So, patronus, what exactly is a pure, happy, memory? If we're being, honest I'm not sure I have one of those, though I have a fair supply of bittersweet, so-so, and downright horrible memories to spare."
Author's Note: You'd think a boggart chapter would just be angst fuel but instead I use it for comedic relief. Also, I imagine Draco's latest report to Wizard Lenin goes something like "AND THEN THE BOGGART DISAPPEARED AND EVERYONE HAD TO LOOK FOR IT FOR DAYS" and Wizard Lenin just silently burns the letter and wonders why he even bothers. Good times, good times.
Thanks to readers and reviewers, reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter