"Albus..." Cornelius Potter eyed his old teacher with badly disguised disbelief. "Why do you think this is any more than the usual pureblood rubbish?"

Albus Dumbledore pushed an overlong salt-and-pepper lock out of his eyes. "Because Thomas is hardly the usual pureblood."

"Tom?" Amelia Bones looked slightly puzzled. "I thought we were talking about this Voldemort character."

"Tom Riddle is his real name," Cornelius said tiredly. "You'll remember him, if you think about it."

"That quiet, sweet little genius who lived in an orphanage? But he wasn't a pureblood... I always heard him going on about his muggle father. Didn't seem to care for him much, but there you have it." Amelia slipped off her glasses; magnifying her eyes emphasized confusion.

Albus sighed again, surveying the room with outward calmness. "I have always been somehow suspicious about him, even as a student. I later discovered that all the monster Hagrid was found with was, though illegal and arguably dangerous, a mere Acromantula."

"You're probably the only person in the damn universe who'd use the phrase 'mere Acromantula' with a straight face." Skye Sparrowhawk leaned back against the sofa cushions, smoking and looking pointedly out of place. As the American Ambassador to the Ministry of Magic, he was an invaluable asset, but also a particularly annoying human being.

"I apologize for understatement, of course." Albus wished desperately for a good cup of coffee, one of the very few things he couldn't conjure himself up. "But an Acromantula is an enormous spider. Its victims are wrapped in silk and drained of juices. Myrtle was discovered without a mark on her."

"So, Dumbledore, you're accusing Tom Riddle of opening the Chamber of Secrets and attacking muggle born students at the age of sixteen."

"I didn't say that, actually, Longbottom." He was torn between smiling and snapping again. Lucretia Longbottom had that effect on him, and had since their mutual schooldays. "Implied, perhaps, but not—"

A sudden burst of conversation from the hall cut him off. He hadn't even identified both voices when the door burst open. Aberforth Dumbledore stepped in, wearing a belled jester's hat with bright orange robes and smiling contentedly. "Says he's a friend of yours, Alby."

From behind him, looking furtively left and right as if he expected to be cursed from behind, reeking of stale gin, Hector Snape stumbled into the room. Assorted gasps, snarls, and one muttered curse came from all the room's various occupants, except Skye, who looked confused.

Hector caught the arm of Amelia's Chair (she immediately scooted away) and looked blearily up at Albus. "Tom... Voldemort, wotever! There wash three... Gor, I got outta there! He—I dunno, he might be—"

Biting down disapproval, Albus pointed his wand almost languidly at Hector. "Sobrius."

Immediately, Hector drew to his considerable full height, more than a head above Dumbledore's, and shook his head with a grimace. Far from being more coherent, though, he went white, slapped a hand over his mouth, and screwed his eyes shut for a moment. Finally, he spoke again. "Twas Tom. He and some, er, others... They got ahold o' a couple muggles. Don' go lookin' cus there's nothin' left t'find. He was laughin'... He laughed..." He put his hands over his face and sobbed throatily.

Albus swallowed years of dislike and disdain. He put an arm over Hector's shoulders, standing on tiptoe to do it, ignoring the incredibly filthy state of his former student's robes. "Does anyone else think I'm overreacting?" Heads shook in unison, creating a slight, refreshing breeze.

"What happened, exactly, Snape?" Amelia apparently couldn't help but assume the strangely timid superiority Hufflepuffs tended to display towards Slytherins.

Hector was distraught enough not to notice. "Him and the Death Eaters... That's wot he's callin' us—them. They caught a couple muggle kids pokin' around where he's got his place. Doin' no harm t'all... Just bein' kids. Huh..." He shot a pointed glance at a bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhisky on the mantle, which Albus ignored just as pointedly. "I'm not gonna say... I can't say... They're dead, that's plenty. An' he laughed."