Hermione shifted in her seat. She tried to avoid looking over her shoulder at the Headmaster.
Please let this work. Oh, please let this work.
Harry leaned across the table.
"Hermione, what's wrong?"
She shook her head and started muttering under her breath.
"Oh, I'm going to be in so much trouble."
Now Ron frowned at her in concern.
"'Mione, what did you do?"
She looked at him, eyes wide, but before she could say anything, a sudden silence descended upon the Great Hall. Everyone had been silenced – mouths continued moving for a few seconds until the minds of their owners caught on to the lack of sound. Most of the students exchanged confused glances before looking to the head table. Perhaps only Harry and Ron caught the half anxious, half anticipatory look on Hermione's face.
At the head table, all of the professors were staring at Snape as he tucked his wand into his sleeve. With a sneer, and a flickering glance towards the Gryffindor table, he turned to Dumbledore. Lifting a single dark eyebrow, he spoke in a silky, sinister voice.
"I have been told that confession is good for the soul."
Forget silence; everyone froze in their seats. McGonagall's jaw dropped slightly and Dumbledore blinked in confusion, trying to determine just what his Potions' professor was up to. Snape tilted his head.
"Tell me, Headmaster, what would you confess?"
For a long moment, silence reigned in the Great Hall. The students watched as Dumbledore's face reflected an internal struggle. Finally, eyes wide in dismay, he opened his mouth and began to speak.
"I've been manipulating things for a while now. I knew that Voldemort would find a way to return, and have made sure Harry Potter would be in place to face him. I left the Sorcerer's Stone inadequately guarded to give Mr. Potter a chance to practice some of the skills he would need. I did not pursue the Chamber of Secrets as strongly as I should have for the same reason. In his fourth year, I did not declare the Triwizard Tournament void due to the illegal entry of a fourth champion even though I had that right as host."
Harry lurched to his feet, but Ron and Neville grabbed him, holding him still. Hermione bit her lip. Snape broke into the babble.
"And what of before? What of Lily and Potter? And Black? What of Lupin?"
Dumbledore again struggled with himself before being forced to answer.
"I knew of the change of Secret Keepers, that Sirius Black was innocent. I did not argue for a trial and let everyone think he was guilty because it let me put Harry in a situation I could control. I could manipulate the Marauders to a point, but not control them. He had to be removed from being protected by either Sirius or Remus. That is why I did not fight the Werewolf legislation."
Now Ginny and Lavender had to keep a hold on Hermione. Seamus and Dean had jumped in to help keep hold of Harry and to restrain Ron. Dumbledore continued speaking.
"I knew Peter Pettigrew was weak. I did not know he had joined the Death Eaters. I just took advantage of the situation he had created. I had to have control of…"
Heads snapped around to stare at McGonagall in amazement as she stood, wand in hand. Shaking with barely suppressed rage, she gestured to Snape.
"Make sure he stays out until I have summoned the Aurors."
As she swept down the table to the side door, she pointed at Flitwick.
"Make a Pensive recording of that memory for the record."
As she stormed out and the other professors moved to follow her orders, loud exclamations and quieter whispering broke out among the students. Harry, Hermione, and Ron fell back to their seats. The other students slowly released them, watching to make sure nobody was going to jump back up. Harry glared at the head table for a long moment before turning to Hermione. She started talking before he could even ask.
"I'm sorry, I didn't realize it was going to go that way! It's just that too many things didn't add up! I mean, I was researching something and came across the rules for the Tournament. It could have been voided and the drawing could have been done again. He had to bKNOW/b that! If he didn't do anything about that, then what else did he do? Or not do? It bothered me for days, and I knew I didn't have enough proof to go to Professor McGonagall, even after I found a bunch more things that didn't add up. The only one I could think of that might even begin to listen to me was Professor Snape. He did and it matched with some of his observations, so we came up with a plan. He gave me some Veritaserum, and I had Dobby spike some pumpkin juice and slip it into his cup. Professor Snape would watch for him to drink it and then ask the question."
As her babbling wound down, her two best friends stared at her and then back up to the table. Snape's dark eyes rested on the trio. With an inclination of his head, he seemed to express a smidgeon of admiration. Before anyone could speak further, a group of Aurors walked into the room behind a still-angry Professor McGonagall. They gathered up the unconscious Dumbledore and left the room. Professor Snape followed them.
Taking a deep breath, Harry turned to Hermione. Although his eyes were still wild with fury, some gratitude had started to shine through, and his voice was soft.
"Thank you, Hermione."