...shattering a display case housing an old weathered book of some kind. The guards picked it up and started carrying it out of the room. Harry leaped to his feet. "Impedimenta!" he roared, aiming his wand at the guards. They were quickly reduced to slow motion. He rushed forward to grab the book off them...only to have Malfoy grab his feet and trip him. "What are you doing!?" he demanded to his foe.
"You're not stopping this, Potter," Malfoy told him roughly, "You can't..."
An abrupt fist to his face silenced him. "Always wanted to do that," Ron said, clutching his wrist with a grimaced expression, "Now what?"
"Help me!" came Derek's voice from the wall, still inflated beyond belief. "Get Derek back to normal, you two," Harry instructed Ron and Hermione, "I'm stopping this robbery."
"Um," Ron glanced at their friend with a confused look, "I'm not really sure..."
"It's simple, really," Emma spoke up. She crawled over to Derek, wand in hand, "Reducio."
The boy was immediately shrunk back to normal. "Thanks," Harry leaped back up with looking back, "Derek, stay down here where it's safe. One of you keep an eye on him, the others go call for help."
He was rushing for the door before anyone could offer any advice. Rounding the corner, he jumped for the still slow-moving guards and grabbed the book...
...and froze up. Directly in front of him, pouring out of an iron maiden against the wall, was about two dozen masked Death Eaters. "It's Potter!" exclaimed a hunched-over one whose voice Harry didn't quite recognize, "And he's got it!"
"Hand it over, Potter," it was Lucius Malfoy's voice that emerged from under the mask of the Death Eater that stepped menacingly towards him. Harry took a number of quick steps back. "You want it?" he told them as bravely as he could, trying to think of the most rational way to handle the rapidly deteriorating situation, "Come and get it!"
He broke into a mad rush for the stairs; he certainly didn't want to risk going back into the Dark Arts room and exposing Derek to them. "Get him!" Lucius's voice roared, "You all, after him, the rest of you, finish the rest of the mission!"
Dozens of Dark spells zinged around Harry's head. He flung himself low and zigzagged about as best he could. The staircase railing was blasted off its hinges right next to him as he hastily barreled around the corner and up to the main floor. "Run!" he shouted at the knots of wizards nearby, "Run for your lives! There's Death Eaters downstairs!"
Most of them stared at him in confusion. Confusion that quickly turned to horror as dark curses rocketed into the gallery. Witches and wizards scattered in every direction, forcing Harry to weave his way through them as he looked around desperately for someone to turn to or a safe place to go. As the Death Eaters were between him and the door, he rushed back into another gallery with a large dragon skeleton overhead and a long scroll along the wall. Only to plow right into another warlock trying to run, sending the both of them toppling to the floor. He rolled over and tried to get up, but a Death Eater was right on top of him. He aimed his wand right for Harry's face...
Only to be sent flying into the wall by a spell from behind. Harry looked up to see who had saved him, but saw only an arm with a wand withdrawing out of sight around the corner. Before he could do anything else, he was sharply pulled to the side under a display table. "Take your hands off...!" he demanded.
"No need to get upset, Harry," it was the twins, who seemed to be enjoying the moment for whatever reason. "The book!" Harry remembered it was still on the floor, and a pair of Death Eaters were now hustling towards it.
"No problem, Harry," Fred seemed quite confident, "George and me have worked a new spell that'll come in handy for a time like this."
"Absolutely," George bravely jumped out from under the table with his brother. They aimed their wands at the Death Eaters and shouted something that sounded to Harry like "Beptopisto!"Whatever the spell was, however, it had its effect; the Death Eaters were hit with pink blasts of light, and immediately started grimacing and hopping up and down in discomfort before rushing for the lavatory nearby. "That'll keep them occupied for a while," Fred was grinning from ear to ear.
"You've got to teach me that one some day," Harry scooted out of hiding and picked up the book. "That should come in..."
Suddenly yet another Death Eater tackled him from behind. "The book, Potter, now!" he threatened.
"Let go of me!" Harry pressed back against the man, trying to keep him at bay. As such, his hands went against the man's mask and managed to push it off. Harry froze up; it was Willy Widdershins, the lowlife who'd given him so much trouble with Dumbledore's Army. Widdershins froze as well after being unmasked, which gave the twins enough time to use their spell on him as well. Discomforted, Widdershins released Harry and joined his associates in the lavatory. "Thanks again," Harry told the two of them. He ran to the corner and looked the book over carefully. The cover had something written on it in a strange language. "What do you suppose this is?" he mused, not daring to open it, knowing how dangerous some wizarding books could be.
"Who knows?" George shrugged, "Maybe if we held onto it, Dad could..."
More dark blasts slammed into the wall inches from them. "Why are we just sitting around here!?" Harry realized a little too late. The twins raised their wands to give the incantation again, but they and then Harry were hit with the full body bind. "Got you, Potter!" a trio of Death Eaters was advancing towards them now, and Harry thought the leader of this group sounded much like Antonin Dolohov, "We've got what's ours now," he picked up the book, "And the Dark Lord will reward us beyond our wildest dreams for bringing you to...!"
"EXPELLIARMUS!" came the shout behind them. Dolohov's wand flew out of his hands. Immediately Harry felt the curse slacken. "Expelliarmus!" he fired his own spell at the other two Death Eaters, who rushed to retrieve their wayward wands. Roaring, Dolohov lunged towards him, raising the book over his head like a lethal weapon. "Accio book!" came the incantation behind him again. The spell book flew away from the Death Eater right into Emma's hands. She had a determined, furious look on her face. "Give that to me, girl!" Dolohov threatened, advancing menacingly towards her, "You know you are no threat to me!"
"Am I!? Levicorpus!" Emma fired at hired, sending Dolohov flying up in the air by his ankle. "Wingardium Leviosa!" she aimed her wand at a heavy cauldron on a shelf nearby, maneuvered it into position over Dolohov, and released it, sending it down hard on his head. "Levicorpus!"she repeated the first incantation on the other two Death Eaters, leaving them suspended in the air as well. Released from the curse as well, the twins repeated their own spell on these two, who were soon frantically swimming through the air trying to get to the lavatory themselves. "What do they teach you in Slytherin to know all that?" George asked her, admittedly impressed.
"I've wanted to do that to a Death Eater for a good long while. What is this?" she picked up the book as well. Oh my," she exclaimed at the sight of it, "Harry, you've got to get this to Dumbledore or the curator as soon as..."
But Harry saw a more pressing matter for the moment, however: the hunched over Death Eater who'd first recognized him down in the basement had pushed open the front door to the museum, and with an insane yell started firing indiscriminately at Muggles all up and down Downing Street. Harry rushed him from behind. "Expelliarmus!" he bellowed, blasting the man down the steps. He rushed for the Death Eater's wand, but his foe grabbed it at the same time. "Crucio!" the man yelled, trying to turn the business end of the wand in Harry's direction. Harry pushed it the other way at the last second so the curse fired into the awning instead, setting it on fire. "Avada kedavra!" the man screamed trying to turn the wand towards Harry's chest. Harry pushed upwards with all his might, and the green blast deflected upwards. Harry's heart froze again, though, to hear a loud cracking sound. He just had enough time to look up to see huge chunks of concrete falling towards him before it crashed down on top of him and all went black.
Someone was softly calling his name when he came to. Slowly a blurry image came into focus. "Oh Harry!" Hermione threw her arms around him, "We were so worried...!"
"How long have I been out?" he glanced around, "Where am I now?"
"We put you in the museum's back office," it was Madam Pomfrey standing behind Hermione, shaking her head disapprovingly, "You're lucky I was on standby for this field trip, Potter; Professor Dumbledore had to come back to Hogwarts to fetch me to make some emergency treatments on you."
"Am I going to be all right?" Harry shifted his limbs around, feeling perfectly fine, in fact.
"She did heal everything from what I could see," Ron was behind the nurse and their friend, looking deeply relieved, "You had a number of broken bones and some bleeding inside. Don't ever scare us like that again, Harry; even if you're going to stop the Death Eaters from..."
Harry's mind snapped back to the last moments before he'd been knocked out. He glanced around the office wildly. "Did they get that book!?" he asked everyone breathlessly, remembering Emma's uncomfortable reaction to seeing it.
"No," it was Emma herself who stuck her head in the door, also looking relieved, "The one you were trying to stop grabbed Andric Vydzaal's spell book before he and the others Disapparated. But it's..."
"How long have you been back there!?" Ron glared at her disapprovingly, "Funny how you seemed to be out and about it the middle of this whole thing without...Harry, where are you going now!?"
Harry had heard what sounded like loud shouting from outside in the museum, plus some wailing. He hastily got up, ignoring Madam Pomfrey's cry of, "Potter, you're not ready yet to move about like that!" and bustled into the hallway. An equally worried Derek was standing by the entrance to the gallery. "Harry, good you're back to normal," he greeted him with his own relief, "Having half the building fall on you looked pretty fatal."
"Never mind that now, Derek; what else happened while I was out?" Harry asked him breathlessly.
"Well, it looks like those Dead Dogs or whatever their names are took that big crown and then kidnapped some kids about our age, even some younger," his Muggle friend told him, "Ron and Hermione told me to stay put till it was over, and so...where are you going now?"
Harry had to see exactly what had happened. It would be just like Voldemort to resort to snatching children from their parents. What, though, was the significance of the Scone Crown to his sworn enemy? And what did Andric Vydzaal have to do with it as well? He'd never heard of that name before (although he was sure Hermione had to have read it somewhere).
The atmosphere in the main lobby was pure chaos. Aurors and Obliviators were bustling this way and that, some taking notes from witnesses, others trying to comfort numerous hysterical parents. Harry overheard of a few of them saying, "...informed the Muggle Prime Minister to tell the Muggles it was a sniper here that caused all this, whatever a sniper's supposed to be, although I'm not sure if the damage would support that." There was a large wail of grief in the very center of the room, where a rather large woman was sobbing into Cornelius Fudge's shoulder. "He's only ten!" Harry heard her say, "Why would they want him!?"
"Don't worry Mrs. Plumstead, we will be working with all our resources to bring your son and everyone else who was taken home," Fudge assured her, "I wouldn't completely panic just yet; there's no telling if these people were actually Death Eaters, or just imposters trying to scare all of us with memories of You Know Who."
There came a popping sound. "Ah, Amaralda, you got my message," the Minister of Magic greeted Emma's mother.
"And this had better be important, Cornelius, because I'm a very busy woman," she looked quite disgruntled as she strode towards him, "Now what did you pull me out of work for!?"
"Some people dressed like Death Eaters came in here and stole the Scone Crown, I'm afraid, Mrs. Dickinson," Rufus Scrimgeour stepped forward out of a knot of Ministry officials near Fudge that included, Harry could make out, Umbridge and Percy. Mrs. Dickinson's face contorted with disgust. "That has been in my family for centuries!" she berated both the Minister and the curator, who was standing nearby and looking pale that such a theft had happened on his watch, "I consider it my most prized possession! If I don't get it back...!"
"We will get it back, Amaralda; the Ministry will go the extra mile for someone of your prestige," Fudge assured her sycophantically.
"But keep in mind it wasn't really the Ministry's fault," Umbridge stepped forward, taking a notepad away from Scrimgeour, "More than a few witnesses say that Harry Potter started a riot just before the thieves entered the building..."
A hot flash of anger surged through Harry's veins. "Excuse me!" he stormed forward, "Where do you come off saying that!?"
"Read for yourself, Potter; no fewer than nine people claim you incited a riot," Umbridge was smiling darkly as she shoved the notepad in his face, "And that you seemed to be leading these so-called Death Eaters around the museum..."
"They were trying to get the book off me!" he shouted back at her, "And if you're insinuating that I was the leader of the Death Eaters...!"
"IF they were Death Eaters," Scrimgeour cut him off, "We've no proof they were actually followers of He Who Must Not Be Named. After all, there have been copycats over the years."
"And besides, Potter," Umbridge glared him down, "There's no proof you WEREN'T leading them all either. After all, like you said, you were leading them around anyway if they were after you; thus, you were conscientiously endangering everyone in this museum whether you're willing to admit it or not. Which certainly is a likely possibility, am I right Amaralda?" she glanced at Mrs. Dickinson for a reason Harry couldn't comprehend, making Mrs. Dickinson nod firmly.
"That's a lie!" came Emma's voice again. Having apparently been listening in on the whole conversation herself, she stormed right up to Umbridge. "Harry did everything he could to protect the safety of everyone in here today!" she shouted in Umbridge's face, "And those were real Death Eaters, so don't skirt the issue! I don't believe half the things you say in...!"
"Don't you interrupt us, young lady!" her mother barked at her, "You have no idea what's going on here at all!"
"I was here, Mum; I saw everything that happened!" she protested, "You're going to believe these people when you know they've been covering things up in the Prophet and are going to do the same with this!?"
"We do no such thing, miss," Fudge glowered at her. "I'm surprised at you, Amaralda, allowing such a fine young woman to fall into such dissembling," he shook his head disapprovingly at Mrs. Dickinson.
"She's not lying, Minister," Harry said firmly, "And for your information, I know some of the people involved in this break-in: Antonin Dolohov..."
"He's safely back in Azkaban right now, as the staff there would tell you in a heartbeat, Potter," Scrimgeour glared at him.
"Willy Widdershins..." Harry looked around for any sign of Dumbledore to back him up, but grimly only Rita Skeeter was nearby, listening in on the conversation, which couldn't bode well at all.
"...who has never once been accused of being a Death Eater, which immediately sinks your theory that it was them, Potter, assuming it even was Widdershins in the first place," Umbridge sneered at him.
"..and the leader, Minister, whether you care to believe it or not, was Lucius Malfoy!" Harry shouted at Fudge.
"That's absolutely impossible," Mrs. Dickinson scoffed, "I've known Lucius Malfoy very well for over forty years; he is no more a Death Eater than I am."
"I know, Amaralda; the truth is, Potter has always had a vendetta against Lucius for some unfounded reason," Fudge glared at Harry.
"I swear to you, Minister, Lucius Malfoy was the leader of the Death...!"
"Did somebody say my name?" came Lucius's voice at that very moment. Now outside his Death Eater robes, he came striding up to the knot, false concern on his face. "I had heard about the fracas here, Minister," he told Fudge with a wry smile, "Is anything amiss?"
"No, Lucius, nothing really worth mentioning, except Potter here thinks you were in charge of the break in that took place earlier," Fudge pointed with more than a little contempt at Harry.
"How interesting," Lucius feigned surprise, "Well, I was at a Hogwarts board of directors meeting all that time; all of them could vouch for me being there, if that would settle this issue."
"After you altered their memories of course!" Emma was indignant, "I never trusted you, Mr. Malfoy; even back when my father...!"
"Be quiet, young lady!" her mother barked at her, "May I remind you Mr. Malfoy helped us out after your father died, and that in fact he did what he could to ensure his safety before his death! He would never do anything of the sort that happened here today!"
"Of course not, Amaralda," Lucius told her warmly, "It's Potter we really have to be concerned about. After all," he turned to Fudge with a smug smile, "How do we know HE didn't cause all this in the first place? Let's see here," he leaned over to Scrimgeour and looked at the notes the head Auror's magic pen was writing on the parchment for his report, "Funny that the intruders only showed themselves after Potter ran screaming out of the basement, I'd say."
"Because it was just going to be a simple smash and grab, wasn't it Mr. Malfoy!?" Harry was indignant himself, "Ask the guards downstairs!" he begged Scrimgeour, "They were under the Imperious Curse, but maybe they could tell you something at least! You can't just take what this man says at face...!"
"The matter is closed, Potter," Scrimgeour waved him off, "We have our official report, and we will follow up on it as we need to-WITHOUT any interference from you."
"Oh I see, so it's basically all about making the wizarding world think you're actually doing something, smiling for the press instead of stopping the Death Eaters from doing whatever they...!"
"You can't defeat the forces of darkness," Mrs. Dickinson spoke up bluntly, "There was a time I thought you could, but I've found I was wrong. Evil will always keep coming back no matter what you try. Better to just let whatever happens happen; you're only wasting your time trying to stop the inevitable."
"But your husband believed..."
"TIBERIUS WAS A FOOL!" she roared in his face at the top of her lungs, "If he'd realized trying to fight evil was pointless, he'd still be here today! I couldn't talk sense into him, so I wash my hands of him!"
"I think what he did was brave!" Emma spoke up, looking crushed and outraged at the same time, "I'd be willing to do the same any time!"
"Then go ahead and do it, but don't come crawling back to me when it backfires on you!" her mother warned her, "If I were you I'd just forget trying anything; we're purebloods, and thus the Dark Lord would have no reason to come after us unless he would be provoked by someone doing something stupid..."
"No buts at all, young lady; the Ministry knows exactly what it's doing, and you clearly don't, so don't push your luck with anything. Now if all of you will excuse me, I must get back to work this minute-and I expect my crown to be found in no time flat, Cornelius," she gave Fudge another warning glare.
"Oh yes, your stupid, precious crown! God forbid anything happen to that!" this had apparently touched a nerve with her daughter, "You care more about that than me most of the time anyway! I hope Lord Voldemort smashes it into a million pieces!"
There were countless horrified gasps all around at the mention of the dark wizard's name. Even Mrs. Dickinson herself jumped in shock. "I've heard enough here," she recovered rather quickly, though, "I have to get back to work right now, and..."
"Are you sure you need to, Amaralda?" finally, Dumbledore had made an appearance, although with Snape right behind him, "I would think given the circumstances here, you'd want to stay a little longer to make sure of a few things."
Harry noticed he was looking right at Emma as he said this. "No, Dumbledore, my time here is done," Mrs. Dickinson told him firmly and with just a little bit of anger at the headmaster, "All I want from you is to make sure to keep Potter away from my daughter before he plants more dangerous ideas in her mind, and if you screw it up like you screwed up last time, I will see to it that it costs you dearly."
She Disapparated before she could say anything else. "I see," was all Dumbledore could manage, shaking his head sadly. "Well, Harry, Ms. Dickinson," he turned to the two of them, "Given the circumstances of this afternoon, I have decided we are to return to Hogwarts this moment, so if the two of you will return to the groups you came in, we can get back to the castle before any ills befall you."
"I will expect you to uphold Amaralda's dictum, Dumbledore," Fudge frowned at him, "I don't want to hear any more stories of Potter corrupting her daughter here."
"Well, the strange thing you'll find, Cornelius, is that sometimes if someone is kind enough to someone else, there is very little that can be built between those persons that they can't tear down," Dumbledore said cryptically, but with a twinkle in his eye.
"Most of the time," Snape seemed more melancholy and bitter (not that that was surprising to Harry, given that that was the Potions master's default mood most of the time). This way, Ms. Dickinson."
He jerked a finger towards a knot of Slytherins by the front register. Emma trudged after him and Dumbledore, turning briefly back towards Harry. "Thank you for everything," he whispered towards her, not wanting her to go back to the castle thinking her efforts had all been for nothing. He turned to head back to the corner himself, but Fudge's gruff hand came down on his shoulder. "Potter," the Minister warned him, "I will tolerate no more of what happened here today. Stay away from Amaralda Dickinson's daughter and don't cause anything else like this again."
"What's the matter, Minister, afraid of losing all of Mrs. Dickinson's gold!?" Harry glared back at him, "I probably wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for Emma, Minister. And everything she told you about what happened was true. But of course why should she be believed if she's underage, am I right!? This was a Death Eater attack, whether you choose to accept it or not, and if Voldemort..."
"DON'T SAY THE NAME!" Fudge all but screamed at him, "You are on very thin ice already, Potter, and the Ministry will take punitive action if you carry this any further! Now good day!"
He waved at his entourage, who tromped after him towards the back of the building, Lucius Malfoy included, smiling smugly at his successful deception. "Percy," Harry waved at Ron's brother at the rear, hoping he of anyone would care enough to hear him out, "You've got to believe me on..."
"The Minister's right, Harry," Percy shook his head firmly, "There's no proof these were actual Death Eaters, and you did lead them right up here to steal the Scone Crown. Think about that the next time you and Ron want to have fun at our expense. Good day."
He turned away from Harry and followed the other Ministry officials away. Harry growled in frustration. Yet in the pit of his stomach he realized that they did have a point; in his haste to get the book away from the Death Eaters, he HAD led them right upstairs. Perhaps if he'd stayed down in the basement and tried to lose them there, all those children wouldn't have been taken...
"Harry, you all right there?" came Ron's voice in his ear. He'd been subconsciously walking back the way he'd come, where his friends, now joined by Neville again, had been watching.
"Oh, um, sure, of course," he lied, "I, uh, guess you heard we're going back to school now?"
"Well, it was good here while it lasted," Derek was at least taking the early end of the field trip well, "We couldn't catch everything they were saying to you, Harry; what seems to be the problem with those people?"
Harry laid it all out for him. "We've got to prove Lucius Malfoy was behind this beyond any reasonable doubt for them to believe us," he concluded, "Further, we've got to figure out who Andric Vydzaal is. I suppose you have read about him somewhere?" he turned to Hermione.
"I know I have, but I can't remember where offhand," she admitted, "I'm sure the library has something on him we can check."
"We'll do that first thing once we're back at Hogwarts," Harry pulled out the newspaper Portkey, "Ready?"
"Ready," Neville said firmly as he joined the others in touching it. Again the colorful spirals began as they were pulled through space, landing with a soft thump on some grassy ground...
Grassy!? Harry looked around. Something definitely wasn't right. "How'd we end up in the Forbidden Forest?" he inquired, concerned, "Is this Portkey defective?"
"It doesn't work that way, Harry," Hermione looked worried herself, "I think this was tampered with in..."
Suddenly, there came bright blasts from the bushes, and for the second time in a few hours, Harry found himself under a full body bind curse. And worse, so was everyone else, writhing on the ground. The bushes rattled as their assailant stepped out. "So nice of you to drop in, Potter, just like I planned," said...Professor McGonagall!?Laughing, she picked up a froze and frightened Derek. "It's time to meet the Dark Lord, Mudblood!"