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The first two weeks of classes were filled with a strange but exciting mix of learning and fun.
Harry and Cherub had taken to their new responsibilities with a passion and Draco used the time apart from his friends to become involved with the political and social groups within Slytherin. Draco became the social director of activities for his group of friends and saw to it that they didn't isolate themselves from their housemates. Pansy had become the unofficial voice of the Slytherin first year students within the house and to some degree within the school. Draco was content to see her assume the position knowing that Pansy looked to him for guidance when she was in doubt of the proper action.
Pansy had surprised nearly everyone in the school when she invited Darla Waynethropp, who she had met on the train, to sit with her at dinner the first evening of the second week. The students at the Gryffindor table and the Slytherin table all seemed to be on edge through the meal. The Slytherin first year students worked as a group to try and make Darla feel comfortable with them. Harry and Cherub even got her to laugh.
Hermione Granger had essentially withdrawn from everything and everyone since Ron's departure. Harry repeatedly tried to talk to her but she refused to acknowledge him. Potions class seemed unusually still without her enthusiastic waiving hand at every question asked.
Harry was just talking about how DADA class gave him a migraine every day when Eldon Widget ran up to the group of friends.
"Headmaster Dumbledore wants to see Cherub in his office." Eldon said quickly.
"What's up Eldon?" Cherub asked with concern.
"I don't know. Prang gave me that message. That's all I know." Eldon said seriously.
"I guess I'm ready. I'll see you guys at lunch." Cherub said to the rest of the group as he left with Eldon.
* * * * *
"You asked to see me Headmaster?" Cherub asked cautiously as he entered the room.
"Yes Mr. Nightshade. Your father has requested that you be allowed to accompany him for the weekend. Miss Prang is in the process of getting the assignments from your afternoon classes and will meet you in your dorm. Enjoy your weekend." Headmaster Dumbledore finished with a gentle smile.
Cherub turned in slow shock to see his father standing to his right.
"Hello Father." Cherub said cautiously.
"Come along. The carriage is waiting." Mr. Nightshade said shortly.
Cherub looked at Headmaster Dumbledore with worry but only received a nod of encouragement in response.
* * * * *
As they reached the bottom of the stairs, Cherub noticed that Eldon was waiting for him.
"Widget, I'd like to introduce my father Gideon Nightshade. Father, this is the prefect of Slytherin, Eldon Widget." Cherub said formally.
"A pleasure to meet you sir." Eldon said in his most respectful voice and offered his hand to shake.
Mr. Nightshade shook the offered hand briefly, but didn't speak.
"Widget, would you tell Potter and Malfoy that I'm going away with my father for the weekend?" Cherub asked hopefully.
"Of course. Do you need me to get your assignments while you pack?" Eldon offered seriously.
"No. But thank you for asking. Headmaster Dumbledore already asked Prang to take care of that. Knowing her, she's probably waiting for us in the common room right now." Cherub said in a very business-like tone.
"I'll let you go then. It was a pleasure to meet you Mr. Nightshade, have a good weekend Cherub." Eldon finished in a friendly tone.
"You too Eldon." Cherub said with a gentle smile and turned to leave.
Cherub walked with his father through the hallways and down the stairs to the Slytherin dorm in tense silence.
After passing through the hidden door and through the common room, Cherub found a list of assignments waiting on his bed.
Cherub quickly gathered some casual clothes and the schoolbooks he would need into the one piece of soft luggage that he had.
The silence went from tense to oppressive as Cherub carried his leather suitcase up to the main entrance of the school.
Cherub walked out the front door and took note of the very old and lavish carriage that waited for them.
Without a word, Mr. Nightshade climbed into the carriage as Cherub handed his suitcase to the driver.
As the carriage pulled away from Hogwart's, Mr. Nightshade finally spoke, "Father asked that I come and collect you. We will be stopping for your brother then go on to meet with Father at his office."
"I have a brother?" Cherub asked in shock before he could restrain his words.
Mr. Nightshade looked at Cherub with equal measures of disapproval and disgust as he said, "Yes."
Cherub had a thousand questions that he wanted to ask, but couldn't force himself to speak.
* * * * *
The rest of the ride continued in silence until the carriage came to a stop in front of a mansion that was nearly twice the size of Dour Oaks where Cherub had been raised.
An old woman guided a reluctant blond haired boy to the carriage.
After helping the boy, who might be eight years old, inside, she began to climb in when Mr. Nightshade spoke again, "No. Father specifically stated that you are to remain here."
The old woman looked at Mr. Nightshade with an expression of surprise, but only nodded her acceptance and withdrew.
"What is that?" the boy asked as he pointed at Cherub.
"It's your brother, Choab." Mr. Nightshade said sharply.
Cherub couldn't restrain his need to say, "My name is Cherub."
Mr. Nightshade again let his look of disgust be plainly seen as the carriage continued on its way.
* * * * *
The father and two sons walked into the massive ancient building in silence.
After walking through a labyrinth of hallways, Mr. Nightshade finally opened a door and led the way into an office.
"Let my father know we've arrived." Mr. Nightshade said abruptly to the elderly witch sitting at a desk.
"Have a seat Mr. Nightshade. I will let you know when he's ready to see you." The witch said coldly.
After five minutes of sitting in silence, the younger boy began to squirm in his seat.
"Be still Chuffery." Mr. Nightshade said firmly.
"I gotta go." Chuffery said in a little kid's whiney tone.
"Then go." Mr. Nightshade said in almost a growl.
"I need help." Chuffery said as he continued to fidget in his seat.
"Gwendylfarb, would you take Chuffery to the lavatory?" Mr. Nightshade asked in a demanding tone.
"No." She said flatly and immediately returned her full attention to the paperwork before her.
"Choab. Take your brother to the lavatory." Mr. Nightshade said as a command.
"My name is Cherub."
Silence fell over the room as Cherub sat, waiting for his father's acknowledgement.
"I've got to go nooooooow!" Chuffery whined.
Through gritted teeth Mr. Nightshade said, "Cherub, would you please take Chuffery to the lavatory?"
"Yes Father." Cherub said coldly as he stood.
"Do you know where it is Chuffery?" Cherub asked in a more gentle voice.
Chuffery looked at Cherub with fear in his eyes and hesitantly nodded.
"Show me where it is and I'll help you." Cherub said, more softly.
Chuffery hesitated a moment, then started walking down a hallway to the side of Gwendylfarb's desk.
* * * * *
"I finished." Chuffery said from the bathroom stall.
"What do you need help with?" Cherub asked as he walked into the stall to find Chuffery sitting on the toilet.
"I finished." Chuffery said again, as if that explained everything.
"What do you need me to do?" Cherub asked in confusion.
Chuffery gathered some toilet paper from the roll beside him and handed it to Cherub.
"You want me to wipe your butt?" Cherub asked in astonishment.
Chuffery nodded as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
"Why don't you just do it yourself?" Cherub asked cautiously.
"Nana always does it for me." Chuffery said seriously.
"Is Nana the woman who brought you to the carriage?" Cherub asked in thought.
"Well, I'll help you do it yourself, but I won't do it for you." Cherub said firmly.
Chuffery looked at Cherub with wide, disbelieving eyes.
Cherub handed Chuffery the toilet paper and said, "Go ahead and try."
Chuffery reluctantly reached behind him and awkwardly began to wipe himself.
Finally Cherub said, "That wasn't so hard. Next time you'll be able to go by yourself."
Chuffery stood with his pants pooled around his ankles and looked at Cherub with a lost expression.
"Go ahead. Pull up your pants." Cherub prompted.
Chuffery pulled up his pants but seemed to be having difficulty getting them fastened.
"You need to fasten the waist, then pull up the zipper." Cherub said patiently.
Chuffery fumbled with the button at the waist, but finally was able to get it through the hole. The zipper was then closed with little effort.
"Flush the toilet, then wash your hands." Cherub said, inwardly horrified at his brother's helplessness.
After several unsuccessful attempts, Chuffery was finally able to flush the toilet. From his expression you would have thought he'd just solved the mysteries of the universe.
"Come on and wash your hands." Cherub prompted as Chuffery was still looking with amazement at what he'd accomplished.
Reluctantly, Chuffery went to the sink and held out his hands to be washed.
Cherub was about to instruct him how to wash his hands, but decided that Chuffery had apparently experienced quite a bit in the past few minutes.
"Next time, I'll show you how to wash your hands for yourself." Cherub said as he turned on the water and started to soap Chuffery's hands.
"Are you really my brother?" Chuffery asked in a small, frightened voice.
"I think so. Look in the mirror, we have the same color eyes." Cherub said as he gently washed Chuffery's hands.
Chuffery stood on tippy toes to see his own eyes in the mirror, then stared at Cherub's eyes with amazement.
"I always wanted a brother." Chuffery said in wonder.
Cherub took a towel from the stack on the counter and began to dry Chuffery's hands as he whispered, "Me too Chuffery."
Chuffery reluctantly took a step toward Cherub and put his arms around him, obviously afraid he was going to be scolded.
Cherub put his arms around his brother and said, "You're the only family that I've met who wanted me."
After a long minute of hugging, Cherub led Chuffery back to the waiting room by the hand.
* * * * *
"Cherub?" Gwendylfarb asked cautiously.
Cherub stood and walked to the desk.
"Mr. Nightshade will see you now." She said with a secretive smile.
"Thank you." Cherub said with hesitation and went through the door she held open for him.
* * * * *
"Cherub, have a seat my boy." The elderly wizard said in a friendly voice that reminded Cherub of Headmaster Dumbledore.
After looking around, Cherub took the third seat in a row of chairs facing the desk.
"I'll just give you the high points to begin with and then you can ask about the things you want to know, is that alright with you?" The man asked with a gentle, inquisitive smile that put Cherub at ease.
Cherub nodded and gave a gentle smile in return.
"My son, your father, is a prick." Cherub's grandfather said frankly.
Cherub couldn't help but give a big smile in agreement.
"His wife, your mother is a loon... no, let me rephrase that. Loons are lovely creatures and your mother isn't... forgive me. My mind wanders off on tangents these days. That's part of the reason I called you here."
Cherub waited expectantly.
"Your father, 'the prick', rejected you at first sight. Your mother was... less than nurturing. In an attempt to force 'the prick' to do the right thing, I withdrew his access to all my accounts. I have provided him a monthly allowance on the condition that he watch after your well-being. I suppose that in his mind he was doing the right thing by hiring an expensive wizard to transfigure you and give you a more conventional look. But at the same time, he had the glamour put on you to hide your family resemblance. Did I mention that he's a prick?"
Cherub couldn't help but give an amused smile as he nodded.
"Yes, well then... where was I? Oh yes, when I saw his plan to keep you hidden away from the world, my immediate reaction was to take you away from his care and raise you myself, but... look at my son, he's the product of my lovely wife's child raising skills. Even though your father had the worst of intentions for you, I realized that he might actually be doing what is best for you in the long term. Thanks to 'the prick', you were able to have a more 'normal' childhood than you might have otherwise. And I took steps to be sure that you would be safe and cared for."
"Millicent works for you." Cherub said as a statement of fact.
Grandfather Nightshade looked at Cherub with surprise, then said, "I hired Millie to watch and listen. It was on her recommendation that I arranged for James to be hired. So far as he knows he was hired to be your valet. In reality, he was hired to be an example of a kind and caring man in your life. I required 'the prick' to visit you two times. When Millie reported how his visits effected you, I didn't insist on him visiting you again. Instead I presented him with a contract to grant me guardianship over you and terminate his parental rights, he was only too happy to agree... I'm sure I've forgotten many things that you should know but that's all that comes to mind at the moment. Ask those questions that are most important to you and I'll do my best to answer."
Cherub's mind was a whirl; he concentrated and finally was able to think of one question he would like the answer to.
"Where is my mother?"
"I'm sorry my boy. I honestly have no idea. When we found that she was pregnant with Chuffery, we had to keep her under observation every minute of her pregnancy to keep her from transfiguring. After he was born, she seemed to come back to her senses then the next thing we knew, she was gone. No one has seen or heard from her in nine years."
Cherub nodded in thought.
"My boy, my health is failing. I have seven children and your father is the best of the lot."
Cherub looked at his grandfather in disbelief.
"That's right, this family has more pricks than a cactus. Of all my descendents, you're the only one worth a damn."
"What about Chuffery?" Cherub asked cautiously.
"The child has no mind of his own. He has been trained to behave and obey to the point that he wouldn't step out of a burning fire unless you told him to do so."
Cherub looked at the floor and considered the statement.
"Cherub my boy. I'm giving everything to you."
"Excuse me?" Cherub asked as he looked up in surprise.
"My vaults, my business holdings here and in the muggle world, my property, everything will be yours. Of course, with you being eleven years old, you can't own property, but Albus said he'd watch after your interests until you come of age. And Mr. Klegg will be seeing after the business side of things. After today, you shouldn't be bothered with more than the occasional meeting with Mr. Klegg, two or three times a year I should think." Grandfather Nightshade said in thought.
"Albus?" Cherub asked carefully.
"Albus Dumbledore. The headmaster of Hogwart's. He and I shared a room when we went to school. He's my oldest and dearest friend. He contacted me nearly two weeks ago, quite upset on your behalf. I explained as best I could and he agreed to keep me apprised of your situation. I must say that I'm very proud of you. You are academically strong, have good friends and are quite powerful in your magic. It makes me think that if I had fostered out my own children rather than leave them to the loving attention of my dear wife Griszelda they might have turned out worth something... There I go again. There is no time left for regrets." Grandfather Nightshade said and waived his hand over a crystal orb on his desk.
"Andrew, would you come in? We're ready."
A moment later a middle-aged man with a kind face walked in through a side door that Cherub hadn't noticed before.
"Andrew, this is my grandson Cherub, Cherub, this is my business manager Andrew Klegg." Grandfather said in introduction.
Cherub stood and took Mr. Klegg's offered hand to shake.
"I can't tell you how glad I am to meet you. I feel like I know you already, Aristotle has told me about everything you've ever done. My favorite story is when you were eight and were able to make your own flying potion and enchant your own broom. I don't think I've ever heard anyone speak with so much pride as your grandfather did that day." Mr. Klegg enthused.
"Thank you." Cherub said as he sat down in shock.
"Andrew, I've told Cherub why he's here. Would you tell him about the decisions he has to make? My mind keeps wandering and this is too important to take the chance of doing it improperly." Grandfather Nightshade said seriously.
"Yes, of course. There are currently fourteen family households living on monthly stipends from the Nightshade accounts. Do you want them maintained?" Andrew asked in a strict business tone.
"You're asking me?" Cherub asked in surprise.
"Yes. As of two o'clock this afternoon all businesses, properties and holdings of the Nightshade family were put in trust in your name. I will manage your business affairs until you are of age to do so yourself. It is your grandfather's wish and my intention to conduct the business in accordance with your wishes. What would you like to be done with the family members who live off the family fortune without making any contribution?" Andrew finished and waited patiently.
"Is one of those fourteen households my father's?" Cherub asked in thought.
"Yes. His permanent residence is in Paladanshire, he shares that residence with your brother Chuffery, four household staff and two elves." Andrew said in thought.
"Is there any way you can make a contract or something that he has to sign to keep getting money?" Cherub asked seriously.
"Yes, of course. In fact, your Grandfather made him sign such a contract some time ago to protect you." Andrew said with a look of intrigue.
"I want you to draw up a contract to get Chuffery away from him. I don't think Chuffery is beyond help if he has someone who will encourage him." Cherub said passionately.
"What do you want done with Chuffery?" Grandfather Nightshade asked curiously.
"I want him moved to Dour Oaks... Is there any way we can make arrangements for me to be able to return to Dour Oaks every weekend and on holidays?" Cherub asked, his mind racing with plans.
"I'll speak to Albus, I shouldn't think there would be any problem with that." Grandfather Nightshade said seriously.
"And I can arrange a carriage to be at your disposal for when you wish to return." Mr. Klegg said in thought.
"I would like for Mrs. Puckett to be retired. Find her a nice house and make sure she has a comfortable wage and a house elf to look after her." Cherub said as if he were working down a mental checklist.
"I was taken to believe that she was a thief and had threatened your life on more than one occasion." Grandfather Nightshade said carefully.
"True. But she is barely able to care for herself and has no one else to look after her interests. I don't ever want to have to see the horrible old thing again, but I don't want to see her penniless on the street either. Regardless of her flaws, she devoted years of her life to looking after me and deserves a proper retirement." Cherub said firmly.
"I will see to it Mr. Nightshade." Mr. Klegg said as he made a note on the clipboard he was holding.
Cherub looked at his grandfather, then realized that Mr. Klegg was calling him Mr. Nightshade.
"I'd like to see Millicent put in charge of the house. Give her the freedom to hire whatever staff she needs including house elves. Make sure that she is paid well for her new position." Cherub said forcefully.
Mr. Klegg nodded as he wrote.
"If he is willing, I would like James to serve as valet for Chuffery. Make sure he is paid well for his services. In fact, since taking care of Chuffery is probably going to be a challenge, at least in the beginning, offer James a substantial signing bonus if he agrees. That way if he and Catty decide to get married, they'll have enough money to do it properly." Cherub said in a calculating voice as he was obviously thinking out loud.
"Very good sir." Mr. Klegg said as he wrote furiously.
"When you write that contract for my father to sign, be sure there is a clause that forbids him from any contact of any kind, either direct or indirect with Chuffery until he reaches the age of majority. Any failure to abide by the terms of the contract will result in him being immediately and completely locked out of all Nightshade accounts, properties and holdings." Cherub said firmly and noticed his grandfather smiling at him in approval.
"Is there anything I should know about my other relatives?" Cherub asked in a determined voice.
"None of them are of any consequence. One of your cousins, December Nightshade, has chosen to live in the muggle world and is beginning to show promise as an artist. Besides her, none of them have ever earned a wage or accomplished anything more remarkable than depleting their accounts." Mr. Klegg finished in a voice filled with disappointment.
"I see. Would you remind me about December when things have settled down. I'd like to see her work and speak with her." Cherub said seriously.
"Yes sir." Mr. Klegg said immediately.
"As far as the rest of the family, I doubt that cutting them off from the family money will accomplish anything positive. I want them all to receive contracts that clearly state that any and all Nightshade business is going to be handled by Mr. Klegg until further notice. Any attempt to contact me, directly or otherwise, will have an adverse effect on their monthly allowance." Cherub said in thought.
Grandfather Nightshade laughed and said, "You have the right instincts my boy. It took me years to learn how to deal with the family leaches. You're going to start out with them lined up at attention."
Cherub smiled at his grandfather's praise.
"If you'll excuse me for a moment, I'll be right back." Mr. Klegg said and hurried through the side door.
"I suppose it's about time to bring your father in and let him know what's going on." Grandfather Nightshade said in a tired voice.
"Would you like me to handle it Grandfather?" Cherub asked carefully.
"No my boy. I've been looking forward to this for too many years. Sit back and enjoy the show." Grandfather finished with an amused smile.
The side door opened and Mr. Klegg walked directly back to his chair beside Grandfather Nightshade's desk.
"Mrs. Puckett will be out of the house by nightfall. I took the liberty of authorizing her to be able to choose the city of her choice in which to retire provided that it is not within 100 miles of Dour Oaks or Hogwart's. Millicent and James will be at Dour Oaks when you arrive this evening. They are only aware that Mrs. Puckett has been retired and they are being asked to be available. I thought you might enjoy extending the job offers yourself." Mr. Klegg said quickly.
"Am I going to Dour Oaks tonight?" Cherub asked in confusion.
"I had assumed you would. I doubt you'll want to experience what your father considers hospitality, and you are signed out from Hogwart's for the weekend. If you would rather stay in a hotel, I'll make those arrangements immediately." Mr. Klegg said, almost frantically.
"No, no. I'm just not used to someone anticipating my needs. I think going to Dour Oaks will be fine. I appreciate your foresight. And it's hard to believe you were able to get all that accomplished in the two minutes you were out of the room.
"In truth, I flooed Millicent and told her about Mrs. Puckett, then asked if she and James could be available." Mr. Klegg said in a smile of accomplishment.
"Gwendylfarb, send in 'the prick' and his son." Grandfather Nightshade said into the crystal ball.
"Right away sir." Gwendylfarb said immediately.
* * * * *
Gideon Nightshade walked into the room in a huff, obviously put out by being made to wait. Chuffery trailed behind him timidly, then froze with an expression of fear at the sight of his grandfather.
"Come sit by me Chuffery." Cherub said in a kind voice.
Chuffery jerked his head around at the sound, then ran to sit in the chair beside his brother.
"Gideon, please have a seat so we can conduct our business." Aristotle Nightshade said in a firm and commanding voice.
Gideon reluctantly sat down, obviously irked by his need to obey his father's command.
"As I'm sure you know, my health is deteriorating. The time has come for me to pass control of the family fortune to someone better able to maintain the best interests of the Nightshade family name." Aristotle said slowly.
A blaze of hope fired in Gideon Nightshade's eyes.
"Of all my descendents, there was only one choice for heir to my estate." Aristotle said, obviously enjoying the coming announcement.
Gideon moved to the edge of his chair, waiting to hear the words.
"Therefore, as of two o'clock today, all assets of the Nightshade family have been transferred..." Aristotle said, ever more slowly, drawing it out.
"...To my grandson, Cherub Uriel Nightshade." Aristotle finished and awaited the reaction.
"You what?" Gideon asked in a gasp.
"I gave everything to Cherub." Aristotle said, enjoying the flashes of emotions flying across Gideon's face.
"You... you can't! It's a monster! That thing drove my wife insane! You can't! I'll appeal! You aren't in your right mind!" Gideon ranted.
"Mr. Klegg?" Aristotle said with a contented smile.
"The original contract naming Cherub Nightshade as sole heir to the Nightshade properties and holdings was formally submitted to the ministry four years ago. The decision was made at that time when no one was in doubt of Mr. Nightshade's mental faculties." Mr. Klegg said calmly.
"It's not old enough to own property! I'm it's father which means the money is mine until it reaches majority." Gideon said in an angry voice as he stood.
Chuffery was shrinking down in his chair in fright.
"Come here and let me hold you." Cherub whispered and guided Chuffery onto his lap.
Within seconds Chuffery was relaxed and holding Cherub in a tight embrace.
"It, as you have come to call Cherub, has all the family assets in trust until he reaches majority. His interests are to be administered by Albus Dumbledore, and the business is to be managed by Mr. Klegg. You signed away any legal rights to Cherub many years ago and have never shown a moments remorse for doing so. And one further thing, It can cut off all your money with one word to Mr. Klegg." Aristotle said in a cold voice that chilled everyone in the room.
"You can't." Gideon said in a whisper as he fell into his chair.
"I did." Aristotle said firmly.
Cherub looked at his grandfather, holding back his own comments.
"If you'll be willing to listen, your son can tell you under what terms you can continue to receive your monthly allowance." Aristotle said and smiled at Cherub to take over.
"Thank you Grandfather." Cherub said as he shifted to hold Chuffery more comfortably.
"I understand that you signed your parental rights over to Grandfather in exchange for a monthly allowance. I'm willing to make that same deal with you in regard to Chuffery. Sign over custody and agree to have no contact with him and your money will continue without interruption." Cherub said in a strictly business tone of voice.
"Sign over custody to who? You're too young and he's too old." Gideon said, grasping at any idea to make the situation other than what it was.
"Does it matter? You'd sign him over to Voldemort for the right number of galleons. The terms of this agreement are not negotiable. You are free to take Chuffery and walk out that door right now, but realize that when you do, you won't have a home to return to because I own that. You won't have access to your vault, because I own that too." Cherub said firmly.
Gideon stared at Cherub in shock.
"I will have your answer now or the offer will be withdrawn." Cherub said coldly as he rubbed Chuffrey's back.
"I'll do it." Gideon said in a low, defeated voice.
"Good. As you pointed out, I am underage so any contract that I make with you isn't legally binding. Mr. Klegg will see to preparing one that is." Cherub said forcefully then turned to Mr. Klegg and asked, "How long will it take to prepare the contract?"
"It will be ready in less than two hours." Mr. Klegg said in a professional voice.
"In two hours you will return here and sign the contract. After that business is concluded, I can think of no reason you should have to contact me or my brother again. But if for some reason you do need to contact one of us, you may contact Mr. Klegg and if he deems it a valid reason, he will foreword your request for contact to me." Cherub said firmly, then paused for effect.
"We're done, you may leave." Cherub said with an icy voice.
Gideon looked at everyone in the room. Then stood on shaking legs and walked to the door.
With one last look at his father and sons, he left the room.
* * * * *
Aristotle Nightshade looked at his grandson with boundless pride.
"Are you doing okay Chuffery?" Cherub asked with concern.
"My tummy is hungry." Chuffery said in a small voice.
"I think my tummy could do with some food too. Let's ask Grandfather where a good place is to eat around here." Cherub said with a smile in his voice.
Aristotle blinked and said, "Yes, of course. I'm sure all of us could use a good meal. I'll ask Gwendylfarb to get us a table at Madame Chinchbug's. She serves the most delightful variety of dishes from around the world."
"What would you like to eat Chuffery?" Cherub asked quietly.
Chuffery looked at Cherub with confusion.
"Do you have a favorite food?" Cherub tried again.
Chuffery nodded shyly.
"Will you tell me?" Cherub coaxed with a gentle smile.
Chuffery scooted to Cherub's ear and whispered, "I like basketti."
Cherub smiled and asked, "Do you know if Madame Chinchbug's has spaghetti?"
"My boy, if one of her best customers asks for it, she will." Aristotle said with a grand smile.
"Good. Make sure she has enough for two, I'm going to eat spaghetti with my brother." Cherub said as he hugged Chuffery tightly.
"Excuse me, but have you considered who you would like to be Chuffrey's guardian?" Mr. Klegg asked carefully.
"Yes, you'd better get out your clipboard." Cherub said as he snuggled Chuffery again.
Mr. Klegg picked up his clipboard and nodded to indicate that he was ready.
"My first choice for guardian for Chuffery is Professor Severus Snape. He is one of the few people I can say that I completely trust. If his duties permit, he would be welcomed at Dour Oaks to discuss the matter anytime this weekend. Also, I would like for you to contact Headmaster Dumbledore and ask if Mr. Harry Potter and Mr. Draconis Malfoy would be allowed to join me at Dour Oaks for the weekend. If he approves, see that an invitation is extended to them and suitable transportation is waiting when they are ready to depart... and tell them to bring their brooms. Chuffrey's things will need to be collected from his old home and transported to Dour Oaks. I'd like him to have my old bedroom and I'll have the master bedroom. Also, I left my suitcase in my father's carriage, please see that it is retrieved and forwarded to Dour Oaks." Cherub said in thought.
"Right away sir." Mr. Klegg said seriously as he stood.
"Thank you Mr. Klegg." Cherub said with a smile.
"Gwendylfarb has made the reservations and made sure that two orders of spaghetti will be available for my grandsons." Aristotle said in a happy voice.
"Thank you Grandfather. Thank you for everything." Cherub said with a contented smile as he coaxed his brother to stand.
"You carry me?" Chuffery asked quietly.
"I'm sorry Chuffery, I'm only two years older than you. I don't think I can." Cherub said with apology.
Chuffery nodded and started shuffling toward the door.
Cherub felt his heart ache at having to deny his brother such a simple request for affection.
In a flash of insight, Cherub said "I know how I can do it! Come back here Chuffery."
Chuffery turned around with excitement.
Cherub made a few gestures in front of Chuffery while concentrating on the words of the Leviosa Spell, then picked Chuffery up easily.
"Albus said you were quite powerful. He mentioned something about an impressive Camborie Cambolis Spell that you were able to use while under attack." Aristotle said as he stood with difficulty and slowly made his way to the door.
Cherub smiled and said, "That day I realized just how much I still need to learn. Camborie Cambolis is one of a few spells that I know without hesitation. If I had had even a moments hesitation that day you would be talking to a duck right now."
"It's good to hear that you understand the importance of learning and practice. Too many glide their way through their studies thinking the objective is scoring well on the next exam. They don't see that the most important thing is to learn. Properly used, exams are a method of determining what areas need to be covered more fully for the ultimate purpose of learning." Aristotle said as he led the way through the labyrinth of hallways.
"But for some, exam scores are the only motivation they have for learning anything at all. At Hogwart's the Gryffindors are extremely competitive. Without exam scores, they wouldn't see a purpose. The Slytherin have the opposite problem. We tend to focus on the learning to the point that we study beyond the scope of the assignment. When we take the exams, we over think the questions and end up doing more poorly than we would have without studying at all." Cherub said with a smile.
"You seem to have devoted much thought to the subject." Aristotle noted.
"My friends and I discussed it earlier this week. Harry is both a Gryffindor and a Slytherin so he has a unique viewpoint that gets us into a lot of detailed discussions. Eldon, another friend called Harry and I a half-pint philosopher and lawyer." Cherub said with a chuckle.
"After seeing the way you conduct business, I must agree with your friend. It pleases me to know that you have friends who provoke thought and discussion. I assume your friends are of the upper social class?" Aristotle asked curiously.
"They are. I wouldn't refuse a friendship based on class. But for whatever reason, we of the upper social strata seem to be drawn together." Cherub said in thought as they exited the building.
"So seems the natural order of things. People who complain about the upper classes being unwilling to accept the lower classes don't understand that people tend to gravitate to what is familiar. When you've been raised with old money, you feel a kinship with others who were raised with those same values." Aristotle said as he preceded Cherub and Chuffery into the carriage.
"I'm sorry Grandfather, but I don't entirely agree. My friend Harry Potter comes from a proud old family, but his parents were killed..."
"...I'm familiar with the story. Most tragic." Aristotle said with a nod.
"Yes. But he was raised by muggle relatives who had a hatred of anything to do with magic. He didn't know anything about magic or the wizarding world until he received his Hogwart's letter." Cherub said seriously.
"Do tell." Aristotle said with interest.
"Harry and I are as comfortable together as Draco and I. We were raised differently and yet feel that kinship you were talking about. The only thing we've been able to come up with is old bloodlines. It's the only thing all of us have in common, not just us three, but the seven of us who are friends." Cherub said in a considering voice.
"You may be right my boy. My friends and I grew up in a different time. All of us were children of privilege in an age when etiquette and protocol ruled every nuance of your life. All of us had identical upbringings because that was just the way it was done in those days." Aristotle said in a distant voice.
"I think we're here." Cherub said as he looked out the carriage window.
"Oh, yes, I do drift away at times." Aristotle said with a chuckle.
"Are you okay Chuffery?" Cherub asked as he lifted Chuffery out of the carriage.
"m'scared." Chuffery said in barely a whisper.
"What are you scared of buddy?" Cherub asked with immediate concern.
"That stuff you said to daddy." Chuffery said quietly.
"Come on in the restaurant and tell me about it." Cherub said in a soothing voice.
"A problem?" Aristotle asked curiously.
"I think he realizes what just happened with father. I'm going to try and explain it to him." Cherub said as he walked beside his grandfather.
"Bon jour Madeline." Aristotle said in a smooth voice to a well dressed woman just inside the door.
"Ari, you're looking as good as ever. Who is this you have with you?" Madeline asked, letting her gaze linger on Cherub's wings for a moment.
"These are my grandsons Cherub and Chuffery." Aristotle said with pride in his voice.
"What fine young men. Well, no need for you to be standing in the doorway, follow me, Gwendylfarb made sure to get you a private table so you wouldn't be disturbed." Madeline said and led them through a doorway to a small dining room with two tables.
"Your meals have already been ordered, so just sit back and enjoy. Marissa will be just outside the door if you need anything." Madeline said and rushed out of the room.
"I knew Madeline's mother... I think I may have changed Madeline's diaper." Aristotle said in thought.
Cherub smiled, then turned his attention to Chuffery who was in his lap.
"When I go home tonight, I'm going to take you with me. Is that okay with you little brother?" Cherub asked carefully.
"Did Daddy sell me to you?" Chuffery asked in a shaky voice.
Cherub tried to think of a way to answer the question honestly that wouldn't destroy his brother.
"Grandfather Nightshade and I thought it would be a good thing for you to live with me. Giving our father money made it so he would let you." Cherub said uncertainly.
Chuffery considered Cherub's words then asked, "Is Nana going to live with you too?"
Cherub smiled and said, "No Chuffery, you're old enough now that you don't need a Nana anymore. You're going to have someone a whole lot better than a Nana."
Chuffery pulled back to look at Cherub's whole face before asking, "Who's better than a Nana?"
"His name is James and he's a valet. What that means is that he's there to help you when you need it, but he lets you do things for yourself too." Cherub said carefully.
Chuffery looked at Cherub curiously.
"When James was my valet, he would ask me if I wanted him to run my bath water. If I said yes, he would go do it for me, but if I said no, I could go do it myself when I was ready to. He also showed me how to tie my own tie and a bunch of other things." Cherub explained.
Chuffery got a look of dawning comprehension followed by a smile.
"You're going to grow up little brother, and I'm going to do whatever I can to make it fun for you." Cherub promised as he hugged Chuffrey tightly.
Aristotle watched his grandsons with love and pride. After a lifetime of mistakes and regrets, he found his redemption in the most unlikely place.