It was curious that the Headmaster’s office was so well concealed at Hogwarts, considering that it was as large as most of the classrooms in the castle. It was rumored that the previous Headmaster, Professor Dippet, had coveted his privacy, believing that students at the school would go to the teachers for assistance and leave him alone if his office was too difficult to find. However, once an inquiring mind had the password, all he or she had to do was approach the large eagle statue down the otherwise abandoned hallway and whisper the phrase of choice.
This year, it was ‘peppermint toffee’, a reference to the holiday treat that sat in a dish on Dumbledore’s desk. He loved seasonal candy, though he did not believe in enjoying it merely once a year. The remainder of his office, however, did not betray the approach of Christmas. The dark stone walls let in none of the daylight from outside, though they also kept out the chilly night and freezing stars that currently threatened to seep through the crevices between the bricks. Five banners hung on the back wall, one for each of the school houses and a large purple one with the Hogwarts crest on it, marking the place for Dumbledore’s inherited throne. The remainder of the wall space was taken up with portraits of every size and shape, each of them inhabited by a slumbering former patriarch of the institution.
It was a mark of Lily’s training as a Death Eater that her silent footsteps did not wake any of the soporific men in the paintings as she invaded the office, tiptoeing from one rich imported carpet to another in her journey to the Headmaster’s desk. She pulled her coat more tightly around her, wondering if the Slytherin students in the bowels of the castle had turned to ice sculptures yet, and tucked her untamed red hair behind her ears. Green eyes searched the room but found no one there, leaving her to stand awkwardly before her former Headmaster’s desk and await his return.
The statue creaked a bit as it spun back around, folding the spiral staircase upon itself as the one who had just traversed the steps came into the office. Albus Dumbledore didn’t look a day older than eighty, causing her to wonder if he had simply stopped aging once he reached a certain zenith. He wore thin flannel robes of powder blue, though his expression was anything but soft.
“Good evening, Headmaster.” She choked out, feeling like a sinner standing before the altar.
“I’m surprised to see you here, especially looking as you do.” Dumbledore took his seat behind his desk, glancing briefly at her left sleeve but then allowing his eyes to return to her face. “It’s barely been three years, and yet the lines around your eyes resemble those of an old woman.”
Lily wasn’t sure how to reply to his audacious statement. Truthfully, she was a bit shocked that he even remembered her. She could not recall having much contact with him as a student.
“Are you putting your charms prowess to good use these days?” He questioned.
Ah, so that was what made her so distinct in his mind. Again, she didn’t have an answer.
“How is Mr. Black?” Dumbledore continued, and Lily realized that he was taunting her, in a way. Dumbledore had always had an uncanny way of knowing things that weren’t his business, and her recent exploits under the guidance of Tom Riddle were clearly no exception to the rule.
“I wouldn’t know.” She lied, knowing her words were transparent. She didn’t care. After all, she hadn’t knocked on Professor Sprout’s door at one in the morning to ask for the password to Dumbledore’s office so that she could stand there with him and make small talk about Sirius. “Professor, I truly apologize for disturbing you at this hour, but I didn’t know who else I could trust.” She paused. “I need to know that I can speak with you about a rather sensitive matter.”
“No disturbance at all.” Dumbledore said casually. “I couldn’t sleep, and I had intended to stay up and read over star essays that I retained from my days teaching Transfiguration. Too many toffees before bed, I assume… nevertheless, I imagine you will make for better entertainment.”
Lily blinked. She supposed that was his way of spurring her along. “I need to know where I can find Severus Snape. He was a Ravenclaw in my year—”
“I know of Severus.” Dumbledore interrupted. “For what purpose do you need to contact him?” He paused. “Don’t you have his address? I thought you and he were close friends as students.”
“We were. It’s a long story.” Lily said hurriedly, her desperate voice a sharp contrast to his vaguely curious tone. “I believe he may be in danger.”
“You’re speaking of Voldemort.” Dumbledore’s voice took a turn for the grave, but he still did not act as if the information were overly frightening or novel to his ears. “What does he seek?”
“He means to recruit him.” Lily said breathlessly, feeling herself begin to flush.
“Well, Severus will certainly refuse.” Dumbledore said, glancing down at his desk. “And, of course, when Voldemort is met with a response he does not like…”
“He’ll kill him.” Lily finished for him. “Or, rather, I will.”
Dumbledore’s eyes shot back up to hers. “He set you to the task.”
“I set myself.” Lily explained. “I requested it. But I don’t want to hurt him.”
“You want to save him.” A faint smile creased the Headmaster’s aged face. “Why?”
Lily swallowed, looking at him. “I need the address.” She said, dodging the question.
“Well, surely Filius has retained it in his alumni files.” Dumbledore said slowly, standing up.
“Good.” Lily’s tone became rather desperate once again. “I’ll go to Ravenclaw Tower—”
“Lily, wait.” The cold distrust that laced Dumbledore’s words stopped her in her tracks. “I will be happy to go and wake Filius, and I’m sure he will not mind the early hour when I tell him of the danger confronting his former student.” He walked over to where she stood, his additional four inches of height suddenly very threatening to her. “But it troubles my conscience to allow a Death Eater access to a man who has worked so tirelessly to further my cause, the side of good.” His searching blue eyes met hers. “I will give you the information if you do something for me.”
Lily nodded. It didn’t matter what the task was. She would do anything to help her old friend.
“I’m certain that Severus is not the only promising young wizard that Voldemort seeks to add to his repertoire.” Dumbledore said. “I need the names of the others on his list.”
She nodded again. “Regulus Black will likely join, and Lucius Malfoy is also being sought out.”
“Not now.” Dumbledore almost laughed at how easy she’d acquiesced. “You can give them out in front of the others at the next meeting of the Order of the Phoenix. We’ll be wanting the names of your fellows in Voldemort’s service as well, just to keep an eye on them.”
Lily had certainly heard of the Order, but she treated it more like a mythical beast, an enemy that the Death Eaters attempted to evade using their flattering tongues and quick feet. The idea of standing before these so-called enemies turned allies was more than a little daunting to her. However, Severus soon floated back to the forefront of her thoughts. “Of course, sir.”
“Excellent.” Dumbledore brightened just slightly. “Wait here, and I’ll go and wake Filius.”
Lily nodded again, watching him walk over to the door, feeling like she should be grateful but unsure how to thank him. As he opened it, another concern suddenly passed through her mind.
“What should I tell the Dark Lord?” She asked hesitantly.
Dumbledore paused. “Stall him.” He said finally. “Tell him you are still working on Snape, growing ever closer to sealing the deal. Do not let anyone else take over your task, Lily.”
She felt a lump growing in her throat, feeling very small next to so much responsibility.
“And call him Voldemort.” Dumbledore said shortly. “He’s done nothing to deserve fancy titles.” With that, he pulled the door open and headed to the tower, leaving her alone once more.