Echoes of a Grim Past
Harry couldn't believe it. McGonagall!? No, it couldn't possibly be...could it? But, then again, it had been McGonagall who'd handed him that newspaper to begin with. Had it...?
"What are you doing?" Derek seemed more than a little confused himself as he was hauled up off his feet, "I thought you were on our side, whatever you said your name was!"
"You watch yourself with me, Mudblood!" McGonagall roared at him. Harry's jaw would have hit the ground if he weren't completely immobilized. It had to be a fake McGonagall before them now, he reasoned; the real Professor McGonagall would never say anything like that. And sure enough, a familiar figure he had seen before in the alley on Privet Drive came running up from behind the nearest tree. "Got him, I see, Gaspard," he told "McGonagall," glaring Derek down, "And here's the famous Harry Potter, helpless and all alone," he sneered down at the figures on the ground before him, "I say we finish him now and reap a reward from the Dark Lord beyond our wildest dreams."
"No," the fake McGonagall shook her/his head, "You know what the Dark Lord's said so often; he'd prefer the honor of killing Potter himself if he could help it. We'd get a bigger reward..."
She (or more certainly he) abruptly started shaking and becoming more masculine in appearance; apparently he'd used Polyjuice potion at some point, and it was now wearing off. In seconds, he'd returned to his true form of Gaspard Gavertson. "As I was saying, we'd get a bigger reward if we delivered Potter to the Dark Lord alive so he could finish him off himself," he continued, tightening his grip on Derek's collar as he tried to pull away, " Get him and the rest of his blood traitor friends together; the sooner we get out of here and back to his side, the better. I don't..."
Abruptly, there came a pair of loud pops to the left. To Harry's delight, a pair of family figures had appeared. "Gavertson," Sirius glared furiously at the Death Eater.
"Black," his foe flared back, "I knew we'd see each other again, blood traitor."
"There were worse blood traitors in the Black family than Sirius," Lupin stepped forward aside Sirius, wand leveled at the Gavertsons, "Release the boy now."
"Stand where you are!" Gaspard held his wand right to Derek's temple, "One more step, Lupin, and this boy is...!"
Quickly, Derek sank his teeth into the Death Eater's hand. With a loud howl, Gaspard released him. "Accio!" Lupin conjured Derek towards himself, then turned his wand towards Harry. With a loud blast of light, Harry felt himself able to move again. "Harry, take him and get him to the castle, quickly," Lupin pushed Derek towards him as he released the others from their spells as well, "Sirius and I will try and hold..."
"Crucio!" came the loud roar from Theodoric, and Lupin fell to the ground in agony, trying to keep from screaming as the torture curse overtook him. "Accio!" the Dark wizard shouted again, and Derek was dragged towards him. Harry quickly seized his friend by the arm and dug in hard. "Why are you doing this!?" he demanded as he felt Ron grab hold of his midsection and start pulling as well, "What do you want him for!?"
"You think we're going to tell you, Potter?" Theodoric all but snickered at him, "You'll find out in due time once the Dark Lord cannot be stopped by you or anyone...if you live that long, that is!"
"You bet I shall!" he shouted more bravely than he felt at the moment. He felt Neville grab hold of him as well, although both he and Ron plus Harry still weren't enough to keep Derek from being pulled towards their foe's grasping fingers.
"Brave to the last, just like his folks," Gaspard sneered, firing a very loud spell right at Sirius, who ducked just in time to avoid it before it shattered a very thick oak behind him, "Neither you nor they care to understand, Potter, that the Dark Lord has done more good for wizardkind than anyone in wizarding history! He alone has carried the banner of wizardhood high; he alone wishes to unite and exalt our race! He alone has the spine to do what others dare not and rid us all of corrupting influences of inferiors!"
"And where would we be without the Muggles, mind you!?" Ron shouted out loud himself, pulling harder as Derek got closer to Theodoric's grasp, "Don't you or anyone in You Know Who's camp care to realize we'd've died out long ago without them!?"
"A blasted fool just like your old man!" Gaspard barked at him, "You should have been chucked out with your whole family years ago and turned into Muggles yourselves! Well, it won't be too late for that before long, so I can simply say..."
"Lumos totalum!" Hermione's voice rose up. Seconds later an absolutely blinding blast of light lit up the woods-so bright Harry had to both shut his eyes and turn his head to keep from going completely blind. But he could hear the Death Eaters howling in pain from the light, and the spell slackened, sending him and the others toppling to the ground. "This way, quickly!" he could feel Hermione lifting all four of them up, "It'll fade away in a couple of seconds!"
"How come you can...?" Ron was momentarily cut off as he walked straight into a tree, still somewhat blinded, before continuing, "...can you see well enough to know which way the castle is!?"
Any answer she might have given was rendered moot as dark spells started flying blindly around their heads. "Never mind, as long as we get out of here quickly!" Harry groped around for Derek and hefted him to his feet once he found him. His vision was starting to return, and he could make out the outline of the castle through the trees. The five of them were quickly through the edge of the Forbidden Forest...
When Harry abruptly was slammed into the back by a spell, sending him and Derek toppling over and sliding forward along the ground. Laughing, Theodoric was rushing quickly upon them. He raised his wand high before Harry could get back to his feet, and let out the carnal cry, "AVADA KEDAVRA!" Harry tried to roll away, knowing the spell would hit him regardless in a few seconds. He shut his eyes, hoping this wasn't the end...
And it wasn't the end, for he heard only a loud thumping sound, as if the spell had hit something in between the wand and himself. His eyes flew open, and were amazed to register flashing colors in midair in front of him, and a loud cry from Theodoric as he frantically dove to the ground to avoid the rebounding spell, which exploded a large conifer behind him in flames. The Death Eater stumbled back to his feet, but before he could fire again...
"Expelliarmus!" it was Neville over Harry's shoulder, firing the disarming spell that sent Theodoric's wand flying back into the forest. He stumbled after it. "Thank you," Harry commended Neville as he helped Derek back up.
"Don't mention it," Neville mumbled modestly, "I've wanted to do that for..."
"Harry, over here!" came Hermione's call. She and Ron were standing by the Quidditch broom shed. ""Something's not right here," she told him when he'd joined the two of them, tugging on the doorknob, "It's never supposed the be locked this tight, and I don't remember the windows being blacked out like this."
She gestured at them with her wand, then waved everyone back while she pointed her wand at the knob and mumbled, "Alohomora." The door creaked open, but nothing happened. Low humming, however, could be heard inside. Harry hesitantly peered over Hermione's shoulder-and nearly fell over in shock. Professor Sprout, whom, come to think of it, he hadn't seen all day, sat on the floor, her eyes noticeably out of focus, humming softly away. And on the floor next to her, stone still, was the real Professor McGonagall, clearly under the influence of the Full Body Bind. "Professor? Professor?" he waved his hands in front of both of their faces, but got no reply. "What's the matter with them?" Derek leaned over his shoulder, frowning as he took in the unpleasant scene.
"You probably don't want to know, Derek. This explains a lot," Harry told the others gravely, bending down to lift Professor McGonagall up into a sitting position, "They must have caught Professor Sprout when she was going to the forest, maybe for some more herbs, or lured her there, and bewitched her to lure McGonagall out there as well. Then they used something to make Polyjuice Potion with her and locked the two of them in here."
"Or got Professor Sprout to do it, because clearly something's in place that kept them from getting into the castle," Ron glanced back at the woods, and whatever the boundary that had protected Harry in place there, "What happened there just a minute ago?"
"I think I have an idea, but that's really not the most important thing at the moment," Hermione took Professor Sprout's hand and lifted her up; their Herbology instructor was still entranced enough to not resist, "Right now let's get the two of them to the hospital ward; Harry, go to Dumbledore's office and tell him about this; by now Sirius and Lupin had to have warned him something went wrong. I'll meet all of you in the library..."
"Again!? Even when our lives are in danger you can't keep yourself away from the bloody library!" Ron complained, "It's almost psychotic on your part...!"
"To remember where I'd heard the name Andric Vydzaal before," she glared at him, "Now come on, Ron; there's no telling if their conditions are worse than they appear."
She all but pushed Professor Sprout at him, sending Ron almost stumbling to the ground. Harry would have wanted to help as well-after all these years, Professor McGongall almost felt like a family member-but he agreed with Hermione's point that Dumbledore should know as quickly as possible what had just happened.
He thus burst into a very brisk run across the castle grounds towards the front door. Pushing them open, he barreled breathlessly through the halls of the still largely deserted castle until he came to a stop at the entrance to Dumbledore's office. His brow furled here, however; he couldn't remember what the new password was. "Uh...rutabagas?" he guessed off the top of his head. Nothing happened at all. "Um...Cornwall...bowling...?"
"Huh?" Harry glanced up. "Oh, Nick," he noticed the his house ghost circling overhead, having come up undetected behind him.
"It's parsnips at the moment, Harry," Nick winked at him, "Something amiss? You seem quite out of breath? I thought I'd heard..."
"I'll explain later; parsnips," Harry stammered at the griffin statue, which did in fact obligingly leap aside. A quick jog up the stairs led to Dumbledore's office. Somehow, he thought, it looked even more cluttered than usual, as if something had been working on the headmaster's mind lately; indeed, the Pensieve was glowing, signaling he'd dropped some memories in for viewing before they'd left on the field trip. Something inside him was set off. Perhaps they could help him find out something important with whatever was going on.
He bustled over and glanced into the Pensieve. Inside he could make out yet another Wizengamot scene-and on a bench near the edge of the row he could make out what was definitely a younger Amaralda Dickinson. He nodded softly. Much as he had apprehensions about protruding so intimately into Dumbledore's memories, he felt he had to know more about Mrs. Dickinson's past. So it was without hesitation that he touched his wand to the Pensieve and moments later found himself being sucked into the past.
He landed with a soft thud next to Dumbledore, who was watching the floor around Courtroom #10 with rapt attention. Harry glanced around. The chamber was indeed packed wall to wall with witches and wizards-including, miserably enough, Rita, preparing to take notes, and up on the dais Barty Crouch, Sr., who looked stern but not furious. Whatever was about to transpire, Harry reasoned, must have taken place before his son had been caught torturing Neville's parents with the Lestranges. His gaze then fell on Mrs. Dickinson at the end of the row, cradling a baby Emma in her arms. In contrast to the comparatively calm looks of everyone else in the chamber, her face was warped with a mixture of rage and grief-looks that intensified as the door to the courtroom swung open, and a pair of Dementors glided in, leading with them a squat, unpleasant looking man, whose face was pale and sunken; the Dementors must have worked overtime on him, Harry supposed. They dumped the man into the chair in the center of the room, the chains on which rose up and bound his arms to the chair. "Thaddeus Devlin," came Crouch's strict voice as he rose up, "You are hereby charged with participating in the murder of Tiberius Castlebert, ordered specifically by He Who Must Not Be Named. Have you anything to say for yourself!?"
"I...I...I didn't...!" Devlin weakly started to mutter.
"Do not try and play coy with us, Devlin!" Crouch thundered at him, "We have testimony that places you among those You Know Who sent to commit this horrible crime; Igor Karkaroff has specifically named you in testimony given with us..."
"Ah yes, good old Karkaroff, Crouch, can't forget how you took six months of hard work for me to catch him and threw it right out the window on me," muttered Mad Eye Moody softly to Dumbledore's left, "Karkaroff should still be serving..."
"Shhh," Dumbledore softly hissed at his associate, listening as Crouch continued, "...further, the Secret Keeper for Tiberius Castlebert has agreed to testify today to put you away. Send him in," he announced to a pair of wizards closest to the door. Harry nearly fell over to see Lucius Malfoy striding into the chamber, a look of cool confidence on his face. "Mr. Crouch, honored members of the Wizengamot," he greeted them all with feigned respect, "I would like to bring to light the truth of the Castlebert affair for your benefit."
"Can't be sure he arranged this whole testimonial as insurance to make sure he wasn't prosecuted," Moody grumbled to Harry's left again. To this, Dumbledore merely nodded softly. "As you know now," Lucius continued to the witches and wizards in the chamber, "When it became clear Tiberius needed to go into protective custody owing to what he'd overheard concerning the planned actions of He Who Must Not Be Named, I volunteered to be the Secret Keeper; we've been friends most of our lives, so it made sense. Then, on the night in question, I was inside my manor, reading the Prophet, when all of a sudden six of You Know Who's followers burst in and demanded to know where Tiberius was. I held out as long as I could, but," he sniffed some fake tears, "They threatened to kill my wife and son unless I cooperated, so in the end, after they held poor Narcissa and Draco at wandpoint to make it clear how deadly serious they were, I had no choice but to comply and tell them what they wanted to know. It was also at that point they placed me under the Imperius Curse to make me do their bidding in other matters. Words cannot describe the grief I still feel to have seen such a good friend die the way Tiberius did..."
"We understand, Mr. Malfoy," Crouch said with misplaced sympathy, "Was Mr. Devlin one of those that attacked you that night?"
Lucius made an effort to look Devlin over thoroughly. "Yes, he definitely was one of them," he said firmly and with a slick smile as Devlin started sputtering in shock.
"I see," Crouch nodded firmly, "Did you specifically recognize any of the others?"
"Only Rosier, whom, I understand, is dead already," Lucius said flatly, "Please, Mr. Crouch, I request, for Tiberius's memory, make sure this...this monstrosity gets nothing less than life in Azkaban," he pointed sharply at Devlin.
"Given the brutality of the attack on Mr. Castlebert, I'm sure that can probably be arranged," Crouch nodded, "You may go now, Lucius."
Harry noticed, given the angle he was at, a dark and triumphant smile spreading on Malfoy's father's face as he left. Mrs. Dickinson at this point stood up to leave with the baby Emma in hand. This in turn prompted Dumbledore to rise as well and follow her. Harry jumped up and pushed his way after the headmaster, listening in as he left to Crouch proclaiming a sentence of life in Azkaban for Devlin, and catching a glimpse out of the corner of his eye of more than half the Wizengamot's hands going up in approval. But he had more important things to listen to now.
He increased his pace once outside the courtroom as Dumbledore did the same to keep up with Mrs. Dickinson, who was headed for the stairs up to the main Ministry atrium. "Amaralda," the headmaster called out to her. Mrs. Dickinson stopped on the second step up, but did not turn around. "I have nothing further to say to you, Albus," she mumbled softly and coldly.
"Oh, I would think we would have much to say with each other," Dumbledore came to a stop, "For what it is worth, Amaralda, the Order is sorry about what happened. I assure you, our sentry was gravely sorry he left, but he was convinced..."
"I don't care to hear your excuses, Dumbledore!" Mrs. Dickinson wheeled on him, furious, "Tiberius was everything to me! You gave me your word nothing would happen to him...!"
"I did," Dumbledore nodded solemnly, "And thus some blame does fall on me. I feel, however, Amaralda, you are failing to examine the entire situation. I had stringently insisted you not choose Lucius Malfoy as the Secret Keeper..."
"And there you go again, with your hateful tirades against Lucius!" Mrs. Dickinson thundered at the top of her lungs, "As far as you're concerned, Dumbledore, he was practically You Know Who's right hand man from day one, even though he's already been cleared by the Wizengamot of any wrong-doing at all! The truth is, you need a scapegoat, and Lucius is it!"
"I never insinuated he was Voldemort's right hand man from the beginning," Dumbledore emphasized, "Certainly not so. But I strongly believe Lucius had been gaining much influence within Voldemort's inner circle at the time Tiberius was placed into our custody; being chosen by you to protect Tiberius gave him a chance to please his master beyond..."
"I will stand for no more of this!" Mrs. Dickinson coldly cut him off, "I've known the Malfoy family for forty years, Dumbledore; Lucius would have never harmed Tiberius!"
"I fear, Amaralda, you are too blinded by..."
"Shut up!" she roared furiously at him, making Harry jump backwards in surprise. The outburst also started the baby Emma crying. "And you be quiet too!" her mother roared at her, "I mean it, young lady!"
"Perhaps you're only making it worse for her right now, Amaralda," Dumbledore remained calm despite her tirades, "And it would be best to treat this girl with utmost love from here on; she is, as of now, the only link to Tiberius you have left."
"Tiberius who!?" she glared at him, "I don't know any Tiberius Castlebert from here on, Dumbledore. It was his foolish beliefs that got him in his mess, and you encouraged it. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm a busy woman, and I have business to attend to right now."
She stomped up the stairs with a still crying Emma, going three steps at a time and not looking back. Dumbledore shook his head softly. "I fear, Amaralda, your child will be in for a sad life if that's the way you feel," he mumbled softly to himself, turning to leave, "What would Tiberius think of you now? You may not be the woman he loved anymore if you choose to hold this grudge."
"I think it's time to leave this memory, Harry," came the older Dumbledore's voice from behind and above him. Harry turned to see him looking down from the ceiling. Satisfied he'd seen enough anyway, he reached up and took the older Dumbledore's hand. Seconds later, he was pulled back out into the headmaster's office. "Curiosity got the better of you, I see," Dumbledore eyed him down, "So you do realize, Harry, I doubt you would enjoy it if someone was to go through your memories so often without you knowing."
"Understood, sir," Harry nodded softly, "It's just...everything that Mrs. Dickinson said..."
"You wished to know that. I am not surprised," Dumbledore nodded softly; there was something in his expression that Harry couldn't quite make out, "If there is one thing to be learned from what you have seen, Harry, let it be that bearing anger destroys a person. To hold a grudge for long times is to murder yourself without actually ending your natural life, and it is a cold and realistic a death as being struck with the Killing Curse. I myself have seen many, many people besides Amaralda Dickinson destroy themselves by hating others, and even if the initial reason may have been right, they carried the disdain much too far (he seemed a bit melancholy upon saying this, Harry thought). I hope that because you have seen this, Harry, you will see for yourself the folly of such a way of choosing to live and avoid it if you were ever to be tempted to do so."
"I'll try, Professor," Harry said quickly; he wasn't exactly sure he could promise it given how frequently both Malfoy and Snape held grudges against him for who he was. "So," he had to get a few things out that he had seen in the Pensieve, "The guard on Mr. Castlebert got lured away..."
"I'm afraid so," Dumbledore told him, cutting in rather quickly, "Regrettably, the Death Eaters led the guard to believe a loved one was in grave danger; by the time the ruse became wholly evident, it was already too late, particularly since, as I presume you saw, Mrs. Dickinson went against the Order's advice and chose a most unreliable Secret Keeper."
"And you couldn't talk her out of choosing Mr. Malfoy?"
"Believe me, we tried," Dumbledore walked over towards his desk, stroking Fawkes on the back, "Stubbornness can sometimes be a boon to us in a crisis, Harry, but more often it can blind us to painful truths. Perhaps given the uncertainty of Voldemort's time in power, Mrs. Dickinson was only being rational to choose someone she knew well, but she was too blinded by that loyalty to see who Lucius really was underneath. And there is, Harry, most assuredly a grave difference between true friendship and that kind of relationship, so I would hope you are grateful to be able to experience the former with those close to you."
Harry nodded softly. "And so Mr. Malfoy just got off scot free, then?" he asked, a scowl now permeating his lips.
"To date, yes," Dumbledore shook his head, "His story proved quite convincing to the Wizengamot, and his influence in the Ministry regrettably blinded them to look any closer than they should have. Oh, we've continued looking for evidence that would have tied him to the murder, but none yet have conclusively come to light, and given Minister Fudge's hard-to-break beliefs about Purebloods, it would probably take much convincing to prove it."
He leaned back in his chair and stared straight at Harry. "But I do suppose you had other reasons to come here, did you not?" he asked, "How is young Master Whitesell at the moment?"
"Oh, uh," Harry's mind snapped back to its initial setting when he'd entered the office. He related the tale of what had happened since they'd left the museum. Dumbledore took it all in within the slightest change in expression. "So, I was correct to take the precautions in the end," he mused cryptically once Harry had finished.
"What precautions exactly, sir?"
"This is not, I'm afraid, the time or place I can give you the full answer," Dumbledore shook his head, "I am, though, quite glad you and the others are all right. You can run along now and give them my relief no lives were taken. And do be careful from here on; if the Gavertson brothers could go to this length to do what they appear to have for Voldemort, we had best be on our toes for what else they might be capable of. And Harry?"
"Yes?" he turned right in the doorway.
"I think there may be others who may need looking out for in this school given the currently climate," the headmaster gave him a knowing look over his half-moon glasses, "Given it would appear to be a matter of interest to you, if you could do such looking out, I think you may find a good reward in the end."
With a smile, he hefted a copy of the Prophet off his desk and buried his nose in it. Somewhat puzzled, Harry nonetheless made his way down the stairs and back up the hall, lost in thought...
...so lost in thought that he apparently lost track of where he was going, and only snapped back to reality as he heard a loud thump against the wall in the corridor parallel to the one he was currently in (which apparently was the one that led to the Charms classroom, he recognized), as if someone had been plowed against the wall to his right. "What do you think you're doing?" he in fact heard Emma's voice cry out, "Vincent...!"
"I'd say you're going to just be quiet and listen to everything I have to say," came Malfoy's voice, sounding murderous. Harry inched as close to the doorway to the next hall as he dared, listening in as Malfoy continued, "Because, Dickinson, if I ever catch you fraternizing with Potter again, Goyle and Crabbe here will have to get..."
"How dare you!" Emma remained defiant despite the warning, "You don't own this school, Draco; I can be friendly with whoever I want, and Harry...!"
"...is a complete enemy of Slytherin house and all in it," Malfoy snarled, presumably right in her face, "Anyone who wants to be friendly with him is a traitor to Salazar Slytherin and his ideals. And frankly, come to think of it, I don't know why you ever ended up here in Slytherin in the first place, Dickinson; you're as much a Pureblood blood traitor as Weasley, I can certainly see that much after today..."
"I can't believe you'd actually condone what the Death Eaters did today!" Emma was furious, "Little children have been carried off into Lord Voldemort's clutches; several Howarts students in the hospital...!"
"They could have gotten out of the way," Malfoy seemed wholly unconcerned, to Harry's immense ire, "And if you think the fates of a couple of Gryffindors means anything to me, especially some of Potter's lovely Quidditch teammates..."
Harry's stomach did a horrible somersault. "They're students like the rest of us, Draco!" Emma roared back at him, "I can't believe you hold houses in such...ow, ow, you're hurting me, Gregory!"
"Don't stop, Goyle," Malfoy coldly instructed his stooge even as Emma whimpered softly in pain. Harry questioned whether or not to jump in. "Listen and listen good," he heard Malfoy snarl furiously at Emma, "I catch you near Potter again, or if you ever talk back to me the way you did in the museum, the pain you're feeling now's going to be an awful lot worse. And don't bother going to Professor Snape; he'll automatically side with me on this. And even though my father's an old family friend, he could very easily lobby Dumbledore to throw you out; maybe making you live like a Mudblood'll knock some sense into you, since clearly you're mother's not going to want you around after..."
"Your father," Harry could almost feel the cold fury in Emma's voice, "killed my father, Draco! I know it, and one day I'm going to prove it! He's a filthy...OW!"
"Is something going on here?" came Lockhart's rather jovial voice from up the hall just as Harry had made the decision to jump in and help.
"Oh, uh, no, Professor, we were all just having a nice talk about what happened early today," Malfoy said quickly, "And we were just finishing, weren't we boys?"
Low grunts were all that Goyle and Crabbe could manage. Harry slid backwards away from the archway, but fortunately Malfoy and his clique could be heard sauntering off in a different direction. "Ah, Miss Dickinson, so there you are," he heard Lockhart greeting Emma, "Quite an eventful day, wasn't it? Too bad I was detained with the Daily Prophet, or I might have stepped in to assist, but anything for the press. You all right?"
"Sure, sure, Professor," Emma said quickly, covering up. "Uh, Professor..." she started to say, but after a long pause merely mumbled, "Never mind." Harry couldn't blame her if she couldn't bring herself to tell Lockhart, who clearly wasn't the best person to go to for moral support.
"Oh," if Lockhart suspected anything was amiss-which Harry doubted given how thick the man's head usually was-he didn't show it. "Well before I go, let me say, you really took quite a few chances there earlier, running around after those Death Eaters," the teacher continued, "I can understand if you wanted to be as famous as Potter, but please, next time, come to me if you need some pointers on the matter; I have more than enough experience chasing Dark Wizards around. Fame is a strange and powerful thing; if you..."
"Professor," Emma spoke up softly, sounding more than a little dumbfounded at what she was being told, "I'd really like to be alone right now if you don't mind."
"Not at all," Lockhart clearly still didn't see anything out of the ordinary, "But you know where my office is if you need any advice on being famous."
He could be heard trotting off, clicking his heels together. Once this sound had died off, Harry could hear Emma slide to the floor and start sobbing. Now was the time he could intercede, he knew. He hesitantly glanced around the corner. No one else was in sight. He started around the corner...
"Miss Dickinson," came Snape's unwelcome voice from the end of the hall. The Potions master came striding forward, glowering. "Didn't you get the message; all Slytherins were to report back to their commons room upon arrival back here at the castle," he told her sternly.
"I..." she seemed almost ready to say something about Malfoy's threats towards her, but simply shook her head and mumbled, "I guess I just forgot..."
"Well get down there, then; we want to take a head count to make sure everyone's here," he grumbled, jerking a finger back in the direction of the Slytherin dormitories. "Well, there you are, Potter," he noticed and acknowledged him as she trudged off, "I hope you're proud of yourself. Not only did you completely bend the rules and endanger every single student in this school, just like your dear daddy would have happily done himself, but you've put Hogwarts students in the hospital too. So when Gryffindor's Quidditch team loses the next match to Slytherin by a landslide, they can all blame you for it. The only question is, do you finally have the guts to blame yourself? Or are you really your father's son through and through? Let me know when you have the answer to that."
He seemed angrier than usual as he turned as stormed off. Harry leaned against the wall, trying to take everything in. He still felt numb to know some of his Quidditch teammates had been injured; if any of them were serious, he couldn't forgive himself. Had he really made everything infinitely worse for everyone this afternoon? It was horrible to contemplate.
He could still hear the loud sniffing up the hall. There was, he knew, something he had to do first before he could join everyone else in the library. He bustled after Emma. "Hey," he spoke up loudly as she came into sight near the stairway to the Slytherin common room, making her come to a stop, "I, uh, before you go back, I, uh, I just wanted to say thank you for earlier, both for what you said to Malfoy and what you did. That was pretty brave on your part. You should be proud, really."
"Thank you," she did not turn around, "I'm glad you're willing to see that, Harry, if no one else is."
"Listen, I heard Malfoy being rough on you just now," he told her, "I can tell Dumbledore; he'll..."
"It's no use," she shook her head sadly, "It would be my word against Draco's, and he's got his father behind him, and his father's got the Ministry in his back pocket, and they can sway my mother any way they please-not that she cares about me, anyway..."
"I..." Harry wondered if he should let on that he saw how her mother's grudge against the Order had started; after all this time, he still had no idea how widely used Pensieves were in the Wizarding world, "I, uh, I've heard about everything that happened, after they caught the one man who...who got your father. Your mother..."
"Hates me!" she lamented, slumping against the wall, "I bring back too many painful memories for her by just existing, so she avoids me every chance she can get! Doesn't anyone else in Slytherin know what it's like to spend hours on hours in your room alone!? To feel like you amount to absolutely nothing, that no one cares!? Really, Harry, I'm just as much an orphan as you are!"
"Well, you do amount to a lot, Emma, you proved that much this afternoon," without even fully realizing it, Harry found himself walking over and putting a hand on her shoulder, "I don't know why your mother has to react that way to you, but she's dead wrong; you're fifty times more a person than someone like Malfoy could ever be. So if he gives you any more trouble, let me know, and I'll see to it that it comes back around on him. And if there's anything else I can do for you..."
"There is," Emma rose up and finally looked him right in the eye, "Word's been going around you've been helping to train the students in case Voldemort tries anything. I don't care what my mother says about remaining neutral; he's got to be stopped for good, and anything I can do to stop him, I want to do. Let me know when and where you're meeting next; I want to be as prepared as possible if I ever come face to face with him."
"Umm..." Harry mused. Although clearly her intentions were good, Ron would clearly not take having her, or likely any Slytherin for that matter, attending a Dumbledore's Army session well, "Umm, well, I haven't planned anything out yet, but I suppose I could let you know when one's planned out..."
"Please do," she told him firmly, "I don't care what Draco or anyone says, I'm not blindly following the wizard who ordered my father killed just because I'm in his House. And Harry, thank you again," she took his hand softly, "You're the only who's stood by me."
She quickly withdrew the hand, almost embarrassed, and bustled down the stairs towards the Slytherin Commons. Harry stood still for a moment before turning and walking in the direction of the library. Regardless of how successful his raid on the museum had been, Voldemort had still lost today...
"What took you so long?" Ron greeted him with more than a little impatience as he entered the library.
"I got hung up on the way," Harry said quickly, feeling deep down that telling Ron the whole story might set him off again. He noticed Neville had left; perhaps he was keeping watch on the professors in the hospital wing, he supposed. "Anything yet, Hermione?"
"In fact yes; I found it right here," Hermione hefted a book onto the nearest table and opened it while everyone else gathered around her, "Andric Vydzaal was a notorious Dark Wizard who lived in present day Luxembourg around 1050. He committed wide scale atrocities against Muggles all across the Continent. Eventually he was defeated and banished to England. But he wasn't alone, as they had thought. For it was then his partnership with Salazar Slytherin began."
"Slytherin?" Ron's eyes flew wide open.
"Yes," she nodded, "After leaving Hogwarts in disgust at being unable to convince the other founders to follow his views on wizarding bloodlines, Slytherin retreated to a solitary life, but then records show Vydzaal came to live with him for some time, Slytherin apparently being the only one willing to take him in. Witnesses claimed the two men, when not away on some business or other, seemed to be working together on something intently. Exactly what they were doing has never been fully revealed as far as I know, but we do know that after three years together, Vydzaal mysteriously vanished. Slytherin apparently abandoned his project after Vydzaal's disappearance and died shortly thereafter."
"So do you suppose whatever Voldemort wants with me, it may have to do with this experiment from centuries ago?" Derek inquired, clearly both intrigued and worried.
"It seems possible," Harry concurred, "But there's no clues at all in there about exactly what Slytherin wanted to do, Hermione?"
"None, sorry," she shook her head, "And I read from cover to cover three times to make sure (Ron almost keeled over in shock). So we'd better keep looking quickly-very quickly," she gave Derek a concerned glance, "Because after what just happened, I don't know how much long we can keep you safe