Derek Whitesell and Emma Dickinson
"Harry, what do you think you're doing!?" came Hermione's concerned cry from behind him, but Harry paid it no heed. In a flash he peeled into the alley. The taller of the Death Eaters was raising his wand towards Derek, who seemed unaware that he had company. Harry thrust forward his own wand. "Derek, run for it!" he shouted, followed by an echoing, "Expelliarmus!" There was a loud bang as the Death Eater's wand flew up in the air. "Potter!" he exclaimed upon turning and seeing who his opponent was, "Get him!" he shouted at his associate, "We'll be rewarded beyond our wildest dreams!"
"Sectumsempra!" the other Death Eater fired off a curse. Harry just managed to avoid it, followed by the Severing Charm that was fired a few seconds later. "No you don't!" he jumped in front of the first Death Eater, who had retrieved his wand and was about to let Derek have it. "Protego!"
The curse was deflected backwards, sending the Death Eater spiraling into a pile of garbage. The man's mask flew off, revealing that he had long hair and a cruel expression. The twins appeared from the head of the alley and leaped on top of him before he could get up. "Hello there, chump," George tossed the man's wand away, "Might as well test this on somebody. Bon appetit."
He shoved one of his Fireworks Filaments down the Death's Eater's throat. The man immediately seized up and clutched his throat as bright purple fireworks exploded out of his mouth. His associate ran over to assist him. "No, no, get the child and stop Potter!" he gasped between explosions.
"Come on, run!" Harry seized Derek's hand and tugged it hard. His former classmate was staring at the scene before him with a very blank, disbelieving expression, for which Harry really couldn't blame him. "DOWN!" he changed his mind and threw the both of them to the ground as the larger Death Eater fired a Cruciatus Curse at them. "Impedimenta!" he shouted, throwing out a spell that left his adversary walking towards them in slow motion. He was just about to run again when he noticed Hagrid's sleigh was diving out of the sky towards where he was standing. "Hagrid, down here!" he fired sparks out of his wand to mark his exact location. Without really thinking, he seized Derek around the waist and hoisted him up into the air. Moments later, Hagrid's massive arm lifted them up onto the sleigh and dumped them into the back seat. The sleigh lurched hard towards the sky, curses flying around it but missing. "Harry, that was crazy!" Ron's hand snaked over the top and helped him upright, "You're lucky Hagrid was able to get this there in time."
"Quite so," Harry looked around, "Fred and George...!?"
"YAAARR!" the two of them popped up from behind the rear of the sleigh, causing him to jump slightly. "Oh no need to be worried, Harry, we caught on too," Fred was grinning from ear to ear as they slid next to him, "Those two just loved everything we gave them. So who's your friend here anyway?"
"Oh this is...Derek, are you all right there?" Harry waved a hand in front of his face. Derek was still in massive shock. Without changing his blank expression, he stared right at Harry. Then at Hagrid in the front seat. Then over the side at the lights of Little Whingling far below. Then back at Harry again. "Harry?" he finally spoke, in the lowest of voices.
"Yes, it's me, Derek."
"Are you sure they didn't hit him with something, Harry?" a worried Hermione leaned over the front seat and pressed a hand to Derek's forehead. This snapped the boy out of it. "What's going on here!?" he gasped loudly, shrieking as he took in the sight of the town below again, "What am I doing up here!? Is this some sort of nightmare!?"
"It's OK, Derek, just relax, don't look down if it's too much," Harry put a hand on his shoulder.
"Try one of these, chum, it'll calm you down," George extended another Fireworks Filament.
"George, not helping!" Ron shot him a stern look. He looked a terrified Derek in the face and reassured him, "We're not going to hurt you, we're Harry's friends..."
"But this can't...but Harry's at St. Brutus's, I heard it myself. Aren't you?" Derek looked Harry right in the face, "Tell me I'm dreaming this?"
"No, it's no dream, this is...this is...this is really very, very complicated," Harry didn't know quite how to reveal the situation-ironic, given that normally he'd give anything to be able to tell it to someone he knew. "Um, where to begin? Those people I saved you from, they were Death Eaters, they were probably sent to kill you..."
"Hold on, we are not this high up!" Derek whimpered at the town below and cowered down on the floor of the sleigh, "I don't like heights much!"
"Not t'fear, little bud, we'll drop ya off back at yer place," Hagrid proposed, nudging the team of thestrals towards the southwest, "Where street're ya on?"
"I don't...I don't really have a home," the boy admitted sadly. There was an uncomfortable silence on the sleigh. "Well then, I propose we bring him with us," Fred proposed, "Dad would love to meet a real Muggle up front."
"But what about those laws Hermione's mentioned to us about the secrecy statutes you have?" Mrs. Granger pointed out next to Hagrid, "Wouldn't that be breaking the law?"
"Well what the ruddy Ministry doesn't know isn't going to hurt them, woman," George countered, "And then we'd have to wipe his mind; you wouldn't want to forget about this, would you chap?"
He gave Derek a too-hard slap on the back. Derek turned back to Harry with a deeply imploring gesture that he demanded information on what was going on right now. "Um, Derek, everything you've heard about me being in St. Brutus's is false, my aunt and uncle came up with that as a cover," he admitted, "They don't want people to know...to know I'm really a wizard."
"Wizard!?" his friend's expression was highly incredulous.
"Yes, a wizard," Hermione leaned over the seat, "His parents were wizards too. They were murdered by the most evil wizard in recent times, Lord Vol-"
"DON'T SAY THE NAME!" all three Weasleys screamed simultaneously in her face. Derek raised his eyebrows at them. "You'll thank us later," Ron told him, "Those men who were after you, they were working for this wizard."
"Wizards?" Derek still looked very skeptical, "And you by chance are...?"
"These are my friends," Harry explained, "And they're right, you've got nothing to fear from them," he glanced behind them, just to make sure the Death Eaters weren't somehow following them. The skies, however, were thankfully empty. He turned back to Derek and proceeded to relate the entire story of his life...of the tragic events in Godric's Hollow when he'd been one...how he'd been left at the Dursleys for ten miserable years...how he'd received letter from Hogwarts when he had turned eleven...how Hagrid had come and told him of what had been waiting for him...about how the Hogwarts Express had whisked him away to the school...how he'd befriended Ron and Hermione...how he'd managed to thwart several of Voldemort's schemes...and dozens of other tales of his adventures. Derek took it all in without losing the puzzled expression. Finally, he managed to softly squeak, "So,...you really are a wizard?"
"Yes, I absolutely am," Harry told him, feeling strangely like he was watching himself come to terms with the revelation over again.
"So, this isn't a dream after all?"
"Do diricawls vanish when someone comes close to them?" George proposed matter-of-factually, flashing a "What?" expression when everyone gave him looks that clearly told him that didn't make sense to a Muggle. "I see," Derek nodded softly, "Well, this...I don't quite know what...it sort of makes some sense...explain to me why those Death Eaters, or whatever you said their names were...why would they be after me?"
"Probably just because you're a Muggle," Ron said with a snort of disgust at the Death Eaters' twisted logic, "Offing you would be fun to them. Oh, that reminds me, you hungry?"
He extended a cupcake to the newcomer. Derek eagerly downed it. "Thank you, it's been so long since I've had..." he said between chews, stopping when it apparently became a hair too uncomfortable to bring up the fact he was destitute, "Is that everything you've got?"
"Well, there's a restaurant in the hotel, you can have a full meal there; how far out are we now, Hagrid?" Ron asked the giant of a man.
"Looks like about a hundred 'n fifty kilometers from 'ere," Hagrid shifted to the west, "Should be there in less 'n an hour."
"Well could you, um, at least fly this thing a tad lower, mister," Derek scrunched down against the seat, "As I said, I really don't like heights that much!"
"No prob," Hagrid tapped the reins, prompting the thestrals to go a few feet lower, "Anything fer a special guest."
It was in fact well over an hour later that the sleigh landed on the roof of a posh Bristol hotel near the sea. Hagrid helped drop Harry's belongings onto the roof. "See ya tomorrow," he called in parting as he rushed the sleigh back into the sky. "Hang on, what exactly's pulling that thing?" Derek inquired, staring after it, "There's not..."
"Thestrals," Harry explained to him, "You can only see them if you've witnessed death, so hope you'll never have to see them. Well, give me a hand with this trunk, I think it'll take two of us to get this down the stairs."
"No need, Harry," Hermione walked over to the wall next to the door to the stairs and tapped it three times with her wand. Moments later, the entire wall slid open, revealing a lift waiting for them. "We're on the thirteenth floor," she informed Harry, helping with Hedwig's cage, "Room 767."
"I thought skyrises weren't supposed to have a thirteenth floor?" he asked, "That they're bad luck?"
"That's what the Muggles think," Fred explained, shoving a trunk into the lift, "It's amazing how some superstitions can work so well to our advantage. Coming in, chap?"
Derek was glancing warily at the elevator. "I'm not really...is it supposed to work like...is it safe?" he had to know.
"Come on Derek, you can trust us," Harry beckoned for him. His former friend hesitantly put his foot over the threshold of the lift-then was forced to leap inside when the door started sliding shut suddenly. "Sorry," he said apologetically, "it's just...this is going to take some time getting used to the thought that..."
"Don't feel upset," Harry reassured him, "It took me a little while too when I found out."
"In fact I think we're still trying to get used to it, and we've been here several days," Mr. Granger conceded, "If I'd known what we'd be in for when..."
He stopped as the lift opened on the thirteenth floor. Harry could immediately see why the Grangers were having some difficulty adapting; the torch-lit corridor before them seemed to stretch on forever in the distance, far beyond what he guessed the external dimensions of the hotel were. Plus, additional hallways-far more than the architects could possibly have hoped to achieve using mere Muggle designs-seemed to branch off in every direction. A few owls sat on perches outside their rooms, hooting loudly as the party came past them. It took two turns to the right and a long trip down another staircase before they reached Room 767. Ron gave a loud knock on the door. His mother's head slipped through it. "What took you so long!?" were her greeting words, rather sternly delivered, "Your father and I clearly stipulated you be back by nine; would you care explaining why you're over an hour late with school tomorrow!?" She turned to Harry before anyone could answer and smiled warmly at him. "So nice to see you again, Harry, I hope you had a good trip."
"For the most part, Mrs. Weasley. Um, we had a little incident back on Privet Drive," Harry paused for a moment, deciding to himself that Mrs. Weasley would be better off not knowing about the run-in with the Death Eaters until later. "That's why we're running a little behind. But I'd like you to meet a friend of mine. This is Derek," he led the boy forward, "We were in school together before I got my letter; he'll be staying with us tonight, if that's all right."
"I won't be any trouble, I promise," Derek mumbled softly, apparently used to being told that he would be. Mrs. Weasley, however, seemed delighted beyond words that they'd have company. "Oh it will be no trouble at all," she told him warmly, leading him inside, "You look like you could use a nice cup of hot chocolate. Arthur, we've got company."
"What sort of company, Molly?" Mr. Weasley emerged from the room next door, the disassembled pieces of what appeared to be a child's train set.
"We've brought a Muggle, Dad," Fred told him proudly, "Harry and us, we saved his life."
"You don't say!?" Mr. Weasley's face lit up like a Christmas tree. In a flash he leaped over to Derek and gave his hand a very vigorous pumping. "So pleased to have you," he said very quickly, "If you may, explain to me, how does a dam work? And how is it that your traffic lights know how to change colours at the proper time?"
"Arthur, give the boy some air," his wife chided him, "This must be a fairly large surprise for him to be in this situation."
"You're right about that," Derek gave a soft nod. He still looked rather disoriented. "So, um, they told me there was a restaurant in this place?" he asked.
"Oh certainly," Mr. Weasley told him, still overly excited, "It's down in the basement; just take the lift all the way down. Blessed Muggles, if they only knew what was right underneath them."
"Just be careful, there's a big Ministry meeting going on right about now," George pointed out, "Percy's down there with them."
"So he is here?" Harry asked, having not seen Percy for some time lately.
"He's got his own room here," Ron shook his head, "He stopped in briefly to tell us not to disturb the meeting while it's in progress; something about top secret security measures or something. He was sort of haughty about the whole thing, really." He turned to Derek with a much brighter expression. "What do you say we get that meal for you?"
"I, uh, really don't have any money," the other boy admitted.
"Don't worry, we do," Harry told him, feeling into his pocket for several Galleons that he'd been careful to keep out of the Dursley's sight while he'd been at Privet Drive, "They wouldn't take Muggle money here anyway. I'm kind of starving myself, so this'll work out pretty well."
A short trip down the lift later, the doors opened onto a long, low-ceilinged alcove underneath the hotel itself. Harry, who had been expecting only the restaurant, was rather surprised to note this area contained many stores, including a Quidditch supply store, a pet store, and a large cauldron dealer. It was almost as if he was stepping into a compressed version of Diagon Alley. His surprise, however, was nothing compared to Derek's, who was finally starting to come to his senses now that both his feet were firmly on the ground. "So, places like this are really everywhere around us?" he inquired, staring in awe at a store selling unicorn horns.
"Everywhere," Hermione smiled, "It is a great feeling to find it out; I was amazed when I first came into..."
Her expression grew brighter when she noticed a bookstore across from the restaurant. "Oh, they've got the latest edition of Advanced Transfiguring in!" she exclaimed, "I ordered a copy of it last month!"
"Why not, since clearly you have to have every single book in the English language?" Ron quipped. She paid no attention and eagerly rushed into the bookstore to claim her copy. "That's one thing you'll have to get used to," he confided in Derek, "Don't ever disturb her when she's got a book in her hands if you want to live to old age."
He too became distracted by anther business, this one apparently a pub of some sort with shouting crowds inside. "The Cannons game!" he realized, "I forgot they were playing tonight! You go get the table, Harry, I've got to check the score first."
"Cannons?" Derek raised an eyebrow at Harry as Ron scuttled off.
"I'll explain later," Harry had spotted the restaurant. Perhaps given the lateness of the hour, it was empty of customers, except for a young girl with long black hair who looked about Harry's age sitting in the first booth near the door, slowly and rather glumly sipping a cup of tea. Harry strolled up to the counter and glanced over the menu above them. "Roast bangors and mash fine?" he asked Derek. His friend nodded firmly. Within five minutes, the two of them were seated in a booth of their own and eagerly started eating the bangors and mash. "When was the last time you had a good dinner?" Harry had to ask between bites.
"It had to have been at least three days ago," Derek confided in him, "It seems no one in Little Whingling really cares about anyone lower on the ladder than they are, sadly. I'd pretty much had enough of the place and was going to try and get a bus ticket out of there once I'd gotten enough money, but as you could guess, that's easier said than done. And I'm not stealing it, that wouldn't be right, and..."
A sudden movement had caught Harry's eye. He spun to see the last person in the world he wanted to see at the moment striding into the restaurant. "Hide!" he hissed, pushing Derek under the table.
"But what...?" his friend asked. Harry held up his finger to silence him. He glanced warily around the table to watch Draco Malfoy slide up to the counter and pound intently on the service bell. "Can I help you!?" the cashier on duty said with barely restrained impatience.
"You can certainly help me," Malfoy told him with the air of a master commanding a servant, "I want the prized roast boar special, to be delivered to the penthouse. And I want it in no more than ten minutes."
"That'll be twenty galleons then," the cashier said. Malfoy's hands remained in his pockets. "You'll get it when I get it," he told the man off arrogantly, "So be on time."
He started to walk away, thankfully not noticing Harry under his booth. He did, however, stop upon seeing the girl in the first booth. "Oh, so you're here," he told her. He wasn't being friendly. "So they called your mother in to this as well?"
"Look, Draco, I'd rather be alone right now, really," she told him, not looking up at him and not changing expressions.
"Hey, you should be glad they're willing to let her in on their dealings," Malfoy went on lazily, "Of course, since she's Pureblood, she should practically be the Minister's first aide, and I..."
"Will you stop with that, please!?" she glared at him, much to Harry's pleasure, "I've told you before, that has nothing to do with anything, and I don't like it when you bring it up!"
"Well, you're no fun," Malfoy grumbled, "It's no wonder none of us can stand you in the first place. Well, see you tomorrow, I guess."
Again, he was not being friendly. Harry thought he saw the girl's eye's moistening a little as his foe strode off. Come to think of it now, he did remember her being sorted with him so long ago-so it now seemed at least-and that she'd ended up in Slytherin, although her sorting had taken a while. Her name, however, escaped him at the moment.
"What was that all about?" Derek had to know as they rose back up.
"Malfoy," Harry explained, "Very unpleasant type. Better you never meet him at all. If he knew about you, it would be very unpleasant."
His friend nodded softly. "So, the Cannons," he said again, taking another bite, "You said you'd tell me?"
"Oh, yes, right," Harry remembered, "Well, um, Derek, I suppose you wouldn't know what...um..." Again he found himself in the dilemma of not being able to say something he'd thought would just roll off his tongue, "I suppose you haven't seen what Quidditch is?"
"What WHAT is?"
"You haven't seen a game before?" it was the girl, who was now turned around in her booth and watching them. Harry's heart skipped; the last thing he wanted was a Slytherin finding out he was eating dinner with a Muggle inside the wizarding community. "Um, well, he's, he's sort of new here," he gestured at Derek very quickly, "He's um, an, um..."
"Oh well, I guess it can be a little overwhelming to take it all in the first time," the girl not only wasn't suspicious, but seemed rather friendly about the whole thing, "I'm a Ballycastle fan myself; my uncle's got season tickets, although if they don't pick up the play lately, the Cannons'll be ahead of them for the first time in two decades; that's not going to go over too well this off season."
She sighed deeply. Harry could sense some depth of great sadness within her. He calculated he could afford to be friendly. "So, you don't like Malfoy either?" he asked her, "Sorry, but I couldn't help overhearing..."
"Don't even start with me about Draco," she rolled her eyes, "It's embarrassing to be in the same house with someone like him. Always acting superior, strutting around like a king and talking about Muggles like they need to be exterminated. I wish Headmaster Dumbledore would just catch him at something and have him expelled-of course, his family would rise a huge fight over it, then they'd get my mother involved in it..."
She sniffed again. "Do I know your mother?" Harry asked.
"You've heard of the F.M. Dickinson Cauldron Company?" she asked him. Harry nodded; the cauldron he'd gotten his first year had in fact been manufactured by this company. "She runs it," the girl admitted, "Millions of galleons a year. Some reports say we have might have more wealth stored up than any other wizarding family in the kingdom. "Of course, it's not nearly as..."
"Emma, come, we're done!" a sharp female voice from the entrance to the restaurant. Harry was surprised to see about a dozen high ranking witches and wizards milling around, some of them being shadowed by the most unwelcome figure of Rita Skeeter; apparently the big Ministry meeting had been in a room that had been made Undetectable, for he'd not seen any other rooms in the atrium. Emma the Slytherin slowly rose up and shuffled over to a tall witch in a purple cloak and worn yellow top hat with a large in it. She had a tired worn face and looked prematurely older. "We're done here," she told her child without any degree of emotion, "I have much to do still, and you need to be..."
She caught a glimpse of Harry in the restaurant and was immediately staring at him. But not at his scar as everyone else seemed to, Harry realized, but right in his face. And her expression was one of pure malice, to his surprise. "Potter," he heard her breathe softly and dangerously, "Let's go Emma, now."
She half dragged the girl off. Harry saw Emma turn back and flash him a look that seemed to say "Sorry." "Wait," he jumped up and rushed after them, feeling he needed to get an explanation. Only to find Cornelius Fudge himself stepping into his path. "Have you been bothering Amaralda Dickinson's daughter, Potter?" the Minister demanded.
"No, I don't even know who she was, Sir," Harry said, watching the Dickinsons disappear into the lift, "We were just eating in here and..."
"Not from what I've heard," came another voice Harry truthfully did not want to hear at the moment. The toad-like face of Dolores Umbridge frowned towards him. "A message from the Misuse of Underage Magic office came in midway through the meeting, saying there had been a disturbance of some kind on your street, Potter. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you!?"
"Now Dolores, this is not the time to make rash accusations," a more familiar voice could be heard now. Several wizards stepped aside to reveal the sympathetic figure of Albus Dumbledore in the rear of the crowd. "Now I'm sure there is a rational explanation for that report, is there not, Harry?"
"Yes, yes, Headmaster," Harry was relieved he'd have backup for the moment, "There were Death Eaters, they attacked..."
"What's all this about now, Harry?" Derek had joined him, looking inquisitive about the conversation. "Who are you there?" Fudge stared intently at the newcomer, "I can't say I've ever seen you before."
"Oh he's, um, he's, uh, just, um, he's actually Ron's second cousin twice removed," Harry blurted out quickly, "He's staying with us for the holidays."
"Who is?" Ron had unfortunately chosen this moment to reappear.
"Your second cousin here, remember?" Harry told him through gritted teeth. Ron picked up the message. "Oh, oh, of course," he added, putting an arm around Derek, whom Harry realized did in fact bear a strong resemblance to a Weasley with his own red hair, "Yes, uh, he'll, he'll be with us for some time now, he, uh, couldn't come to Hogwarts when he got the letter, his, uh, family lived too far away..."
"...but of course he is more than welcome to stay with us at Hogwarts for as long as he can," Dumbledore spoke up again. There was an almost knowing twinkle in his eye, as if he already knew what had happened over the last few hours, Harry thought.
"Dumbledore, you do realize there are forms to be filled out if...!?" Fudge started to tell him.
'Excuse me, Minister, one side," Harry was discomforted to see Skeeter pushing her way through the crowd of wizards. "Hello there, I'm with the Daily Prophet," she told Derek, digging her Quick-Quotes Quill out of her crocodile skin handbag, How'd you like to be the cover story for tomorrow morning's edition-New Face Joins Wizarding Community for the Holidays?"
"Uh, no, thank you, he wouldn't," Harry jumped between her and Derek, "He's, he's had a very long day, he'd like to get some sleep now."
"You wouldn't be trying to infringe on the freedom of the press, now would you Potter?" she called after him with an edge of determined warning in her voice, "That might make an interesting story itself."
"No comment!" Harry shouted back. He looked back and noticed a look of sheer determination on Skeeter's face. Hopefully he hadn't given her a bad idea, he hoped. "Why'd you do that?" Derek had to know as they detoured into the bookstore to wait for the Ministry officials to depart.
"Trust me, you don't want to spend any time with her," Harry told him, "She'll chew you up and spit you out over and over again. And if you want to stay here without the Ministry coming down on us, she's the last person you want to see."
"Second cousin, Harry?" Ron leaned over his shoulder.
"Give me a break, Ron; it was the best I could come up with under the gun!" Harry protested.
"What was?" Hermione approached, carrying not just one but an entire stack of very large books that made Ron's jaw drop in horror. "We're posing Derek as my cousin for the Ministry," he told her once he got his voice back, "You've got to be broke having all those!"
"I have a discount card, remember," she reminded him. "I hope you know what you were doing with that plan, Harry," she turned to him, "Registering as a wizard when you're not carries very stiff penalties; I read about them in Criminal Codes; a History of Wizarding Punishments."
"What kind of penalties?"
"The worst cases could carry life in Azkaban," Hermione pointed out, causing everyone to flinch, "So let's just hope the Ministry doesn't find out anything more about Derek."
Harry had to agree. But that wasn't all that troubled him. That look Emma's mother had given him had been quite unsettling. What could the cause of it have been, he wondered...?