The Dickinsons' Dark Past
"No, no, no, no, no!" Hermione raised her hands in disappointment as the latest levitation spell Derek was trying to cast on his Runes book failed, sending it falling with a loud thunk on her head, "I've told you, this takes skill and proper spell enunciation!"
"Give him a break, Hermione," Harry tried to tell her, "It takes time for most people."
"Time we don't have," she rubbed her head and glanced out the window of their compartment, "We'll be at Hogwarts within half an hour; that's not nearly enough..."
Just then the compartment door slid open. Harry could stop himself from groaning as the last person he wanted to see at the moment strode inside. "Well, this is the famous Weasley cousin that people all up and down the train are talking about," Malfoy fixed Derek with a superior gaze, "Funny, I've never heard of you before."
"Please, Malfoy, we're not in the mood right now," Harry told him as calmly as he could, "So please just walk out the door and don't..."
"Oh we'll leave all right, Potter, but when we feel good and ready to, right boys?" Malfoy glanced knowingly at the equally unwelcome Goyle and Crabbe in the doorway. He snatched Ron's old wand out of Derek's hand before the latter could protest. "Why am I not surrpised?" he sneered, "I half expected it to be made of cardboard, since you Weasleys can't afford proper wands in the first place."
"Say that again!?" Ron leaped to his feet, indignant.
"You heard what I said," Malfoy taunted him, "If your cousin here has any brains, he should just go to the rear of the train and get off, because he'll fit in at Hogwarts about as well as you..."
"What's going on in here?" it was the witch with the snack cart in the hallway. Malfoy abruptly shuffled towards the door. "We were just leaving, if it's any of your business in the first place," he told her roughly before slinking off with his associates. Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "That was too close," he said out loud.
"What was?" the witch was listening in.
"Oh, uh, they almost...nothing," Harry told her, "Could you give us...?"
Suddenly, without any advance warning, the train lurched to a sudden stop, sending both the witch and her tray crashing out of sight up the hall. "What's this now!?" Ron cried out, grabbing hold of the luggage railing above to keep from falling himself, "Something on the tracks?"
"I don't think so," Hermione had braced herself against the wall, "This section of the tracks is past any Muggle development. It's got to be something else."
Harry could now make out another sound getting louder from the hall...the sound of compartment doors being thrown open with loud bangs. Without really thinking he threw open his trunk and dug through it frantically for his father's invisibility cloak. "Quick, under here!" he threw it over Derek, then pushed Ron and Hermione under it as well.
"Shhh!" Harry hissed, shoving the trunk underneath the cloak before squeezing in himself. This was not a moment too soon, for seconds later the door to their compartment was flung open, and a hooded figure leaned in and scanned every inch of the room. Harry hoped he could not hear their frantic breathing. "Nothing?" came the familiar voice from the other night from the other side of the door.
"Nothing, Gaspard!" the hooded figure cursed out loud, "We saw him get on board; he's got to be somewhere on...!"
"You two, get out of here!" a man in a conductor's uniform lunged forward and grabbed the figure's arm. Several more wizards appeared as well and dragged him and his associate out of sight. Making sure he stayed under the cloak, Harry slid over to the window and watched as the men were thrown off the train, which started forward again and quickly left them behind. He slipped out from under the cloak. "How did they get on board?" he asked out loud, "Shouldn't there be anti-hitchhiker spells on here?"
"As a matter of fact not," Hermione shook her head, "It's not Ministry protocol yet; I've read their entire transportation law structure." She helped Derek to his feet, "You are all right, aren't you?"
"I think so," Derek picked up the cloak and examined it in wonder, "Did this make us invisible? I could swear whoever that was was looking right at us."
"Yes, it does makes us invisible," Harry explained, "It belonged to my father once." He threw the compartment door shut and slid the lock into place, hoping they would not be disturbed for the rest of the trip to Hogwarts. Deep down he was very worried now; if the Death Eaters could so easily penetrate the Hogwarts Express, what could stop them from getting into the castle?
The rest of the student body were very subdued from the intrusion when the train finally pulled into Hogsmeade Station about twenty minutes later. Several groups mumbled excitedly about the event, while others seemed quiet and even outright edgy. Fortunately for Harry's interests, the red-roofed carriage Dumbledore had mentioned in his letter was waiting right by the station. He help lift Derek-busy examining the invisibility cloak further-up into the seat, then joined Ron and Hermione across from him as the carriage pulled out, first with the rest of the fleet, then diverting towards the Forbidden Forest. It lurched to a stop outside of Hagid's hut. The gamekeeper opened the door a crack when they knocked on it. "Ya weren't followed, were ya?" he asked them.
"No, but we had a rather nasty scare, Hagrid," Harry related the near miss on the train. Hagrid nodded solemnly when he'd finished. "Dumbledore was right; this is sumpin' big ther plannin'," he mumbled, unable to keep from glancing at Derek, "Well, I got Floo Powder on the table; go to Grimmault Place right away."
"Floo?" Derek inquired.
"It's how we travel long distance," Ron explained to him, taking a handful of the powder and tossing it into Hagrid's roaring fireplace, "Better come with me; I've had the most experience doing this. Number Twelve Grimmault Place."
He took Derek's hand and dove into the fireplace with a low pop. Harry let Hermione go on ahead of him. "Watch this end, Hagrid, we don't know if they were still following us," he told the gamekeeper before leaping into the flames himself. He landed with a thud on the cold floor of Number Twelve Grimmault Place, his glasses flying across the floor from the impact. "Got to be careful with that, Harry," came the familiar voice of his godfather from nearby, "How've you been lately?"
"Decent, Sirius," Harry put his glasses back on, "I'd like you to meet Derek Whitesell, he's the boy they've been after. Derek, Sirius Black, he's my godfather."
"Pleasure to meet you, Derek," Sirius gave the boy's hand a strong pumping, "Any friend of Harry's is a friend of mine. Remus, they're here," he called into the next room.
"So you're with the, uh, that group Harry told me about, the Phoenixes?" Derek asked him.
"The Order of the Phoenix," the worn-down figure of Remus Lupin entered the room, "We've been instructed by Dumbledore to arrange for your protection while you're at Hogwarts."
"But I still don't understand, why are these Death Eaters, as you call them, after me?" the orphan had to ask him.
"I'm afraid I can't help you with that, young man," Lupin shook his head, "But lately Voldemort's supporters having been increasing their activity all over Britain. We know something's going on, but we can't quite find any evidence what it's about yet."
"We heard one of men who stormed the train earlier was named Gaspard," came Ron's voice from the other room, "Does that help at all?"
"So it's them," Sirius's brow furled. "So you know him?" Harry inquired.
"Gaspard and Theodoric Gavertson have been in Voldemort's inner circle for close to twenty years by most accounts," his godfather told him, "Even before his rise to power, the two of them were leading a movement to have all Muggles in Britain eradicated. Voldemort's appearance was like their finest dream had been granted. Some of the worst wizarding attacks on Muggles during his reign of terror were done under their watch. I was assigned to bring them in for about a year and a half, but they always managed to stay one step ahead. We finally got some proof and witnesses just after Voldemort fell, but by then they'd fled the country to avoid Azkaban, and really couldn't do much myself, at that point," a dark snarl crossed his lips at the memory of being in Azkaban himself. "Bringing Gaspard and Theodoric in would be a great pleasure if...careful there now."
For Derek had been looking behind the curtain against the wall. From underneath it came Mrs. Black's carnal roar: "BLOOD TRAITORS! MUGGLE-LOVING LICE! DISGRACE TO THE BLACK NAME!" Harry pulled the curtain back shut. "You'll learn to be more careful with these things," he told his shaken friend.
"It's ready," came Hermione's voice from the other room.
"Very well," Lupin called back. "Young man, if you may," he gestured gently for Derek to follow him into the room. Harry stepped in behind. "So, is it just you two here?" he asked Sirius, having been aware of how empty Grimmault Place had seemed.
"Most of the rest of the Order's on assignment at the moment," Sirius explained, "So yes, it's pretty much Professor Lupin and myself here for the holidays. It's probably better since he and I really have nowhere else to go anyway." He sighed deeply. "You know, Harry, your father threw a wonderful Christmas party every year. From our first year I always tried to be there. It was a welcome break from the...festivities they threw here," his face contorted in rage, "My father always picking up stray Muggles off the street and putting them on display for Regulus to use his magic on. Said it made him a man. I wanted to just heave them all through the window if I could, it made me..."
Harry wasn't listening anymore. He was staring at the rather foul-looking liquid Ron was pouring into a chalice on the table in front of them. Derek too looked rather repulsed. "You expect me to drink that?" he asked Lupin hesitantly.
"It will not harm you," the former Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher explained to him, "This will mark your location only to us at all times."
"It's a standard protective spell, really," Hermione tried to reassure the boy as well, "Most wizards under protection use this, and it has never been known to cause any side effects. But I'm wondering," she glanced up at the two adult wizards with a quizzical glance, "Is this really going to last long enough? It looks like there's only enough for a couple of days' protection."
"I know, supplies have been harder to find lately," Lupin admitted, "We'll try and see if we can get more for him by the end of the week. Well, she said there was no complications."
He glanced firmly but gently at Derek. Derek shrugged and downed the drink. His face wretched briefly, then went surprisingly calm. "Actually, it feels just like tomato soup," he admitted, "Very good."
"See, we told you there'd be no problems," Ron patted him on the back, "Well, if that's all, guys, we'd probably be off before..."
"One minute, Ron," Harry had something he'd been meaning to ask since last night. Turning to the men, he inquired, "What do you two know about Amaralda Dickinson? I met her last night, and she seemed a little upset."
"Oh Harry, would you just let it go!?" Ron sighed, "It doesn't concern us."
"Well, what do you know?" Harry implored Sirius and Lupin anyway. His eyebrows went up slightly as he noticed a small glance between the two of them. "So you ran into her?" Lupin asked.
"And she had this furious look in her eye when she saw me," Harry told him.
"Well, really I'm not all that surprised," Sirius admitted, "Amaralda Dickinson has born an open grudge against the Order and everyone in it since her husband was killed around the time you were born."
"That's absolutely awful," Hermione shuddered, "What happened?"
"She was in love with Tiberius Castlebert at the time; he was head of a dragon breeding center in Sussex," Lupin explained, "Then, about nine months or so before Voldemort fell, he overheard a plot by the Death Eaters to kill all the Ministry department heads at a conference on an island off the coast of Wales. He told the Order everything, and we put him into hiding, but unfortunately it didn't go right. Six Death Eaters breeched the defenses and killed him; he never had much of a chance, and there wasn't much left afterwards."
A cold shiver ran down Harry's spine. "Did, did they ever catch the ones who did it?" he had to know.
"Well," Sirius raised his fingers and counted off names, "Evan Rosier was the ringleader; several other Death Eaters captured later confirmed he'd been in charge. Another was Thaddeus Devlin; he was caught shortly thereafter, but refused to name names and was killed in Azkaban after serving three months of a life sentence. The other four we're not absolutely sure about, but we're pretty convinced the Gavertson brothers were among them, Harry. Tiberius Castlebert spoke very strongly in favor of Muggle rights, and he'd openly criticized the Gavertsons several times."
"So then Mrs. Dickinson...she held you all responsible for his death?" Harry realized.
"And then some," Sirius shuddered, "I myself received several Howlers in which she shouted that she held me responsible for letting the Gavertsons roam free and get away with it. We'd given her our word no harm would come to him, and she took that as a supreme betrayal of trust. She never talked to anyone associated with the Order from that day forward, and from what I've heard, she's never trusted anyone again, and works long hours just to dull the pain which can never fully go away. But at least she has her daughter."
Harry recalled the rather pained look on Emma's face in the restaurant when she'd mentioned her mother. He wondered whether Mrs. Dickinson really had her daughter at all.
"Well, it looks like it's getting a little late," Lupin glanced at the clock on the wall, "You'd probably better be off. And don't you worry, young man," he told Derek reassuringly, "We'll have someone on alert at Hogwarts around the clock, Dumbledore's already made clear he wants as much. So try and enjoy your stay there. Harry, you Ron and Hermione keep your eye on him too; if he is in some way connected with the Death Eaters' activity, they'll stop at nothing to get him."
"We will," Harry promised. He remained silent as they went back through the fireplace and out of Hagrid's hut and walked along the path towards the castle. "But why still the look at me?" he finally asked out loud.
"Huh?" Hermione frowned at him.
"Amaralda Dickinson specifically said my name when she saw me," he told her, "She knows me."
"Harry, will you just forget about the Dickinsons!?" Ron all but begged him, "Our focus here is keeping Derek safe, not to dig up information on Slytherins whose lives are none of our business anyway."
"But there's something..." Harry trailed off, noticing the awed expression on Derek's face as they crested the hill. Hogwarts stood before them in the glow of the afternoon sun like Camelot. "It's incredible," the boy breathed.
"Quite so," Harry put an arm around him, "Derek WHitesell, welcome to Hogwarts."