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Cherub woke to the wonderful feeling of Harry and Draco in his bed.
He opened his eyes to find Draco looking at Harry with a sad expression.
Cherub's heart broke as he realized that this might be the last time they would ever wake this way.
"I love him." Draco whispered.
"Me too." Cherub whispered in return and felt a tear falling down his cheek.
Harry opened his eyes and looked at Cherub and Draco both watching him.
"I'm sorry." Harry said, letting all of his regret be clearly heard.
"I know. So am I." Draco said sadly and leaned down to give Harry a gentle kiss.
Cherub laid back down to snuggle into Harry's shoulder.
"I wish..." Harry began to say, but couldn't continue.
"I know." Draco said again and laid down to take the opposing position from Cherub.
Silence fell over the room as all three held close, not wanting the precious moment to end.
* * * * *
"Cherub?" A young voice called into the room.
"Come in Chuffery." Cherub said and wiped the tears from his eyes.
Chuffery saw Cherub's tears and became worried and fearful.
"Come on Chuffery, everything is fine." Cherub assured as he extended an arm to his brother.
Chuffery climbed on the bed and snuggled into his brother's embrace.
"Why are you sad?" Chuffery asked in a small, frightened voice.
"It's a long story Chuffery and I really can't talk about it now. Please just hold on to me and give me a kiss and I'll feel better." Cherub said quietly.
Chuffery gave Cherub a kiss on the cheek and hugged him tightly.
"We'd better get up. We've got some studying to do." Draco said with regret.
"Yeah." Harry muttered.
Draco reluctantly got out of the bed and started dressing with the clothes he had worn the night before.
"Draco is naked!" Chuffery gasped.
Cherub smiled and said, "Draco and Harry are my friends, so it's okay for us to be naked together sometimes."
Harry got out of the bed and tried to hide himself as he gathered his clothes that he had dropped on the floor.
Chuffery got a considering look before asking, "Is Draco and Harry your boyfriends?"
Cherub felt a stab of pain before saying, "Yes, today they are."
Chuffery looked at his brother curiously, but didn't question any further.
"We'll meet you downstairs." Draco said as he pulled on his shirt.
"We'll be there in a few minutes." Cherub said quietly.
Draco left the room, followed by Harry.
"I love you Chuffery." Cherub said as he held his brother tightly.
"I love you too Cherub." Chuffery said sincerely.
Cherub gave his brother a long kiss on the cheek, then climbed out of the bed.
"Why was you naked with Harry and Draco?" Chuffery asked as he watched Cherub dress.
"Do you remember how good it feels to hug when we're in the bathtub together?" Cherub asked casually.
Chuffery nodded seriously.
"Well we needed that kind of hug last night. It made us all feel better to be able to hold each other." Cherub said as he pulled on his shoes.
Chuffery thought about the words, but didn't say anything.
"Come on. I'm sure Catty has something ready for breakfast." Cherub said with a tender smile for Chuffery as he held out his hand.
Chuffery hurried off the bed and took Cherub's hand to follow.
* * * * *
"I don't understand." Hermione said in a huff.
"I know. It's hard to explain. When you've done it a few times you just get used to the timing." Cherub said with frustration.
"You said you have a potions lab here. Can we just brew this potion to see what the book is talking about?" Draco asked in an aggravated tone.
"I think that's a good idea. We've studied everything else and I don't think going over and over this reading is going to explain it any further." Cherub said and closed his book.
"Chuffery, we're going to brew a potion, would you like to come with us?" Cherub asked in a more gentle tone.
Chuffery looked up from the book he was reading and shook his head.
"We'll be in the potions lab off the study if you change your mind." Cherub said with a small smile.
Chuffery nodded and looked back at his book.
* * * * *
"Professor Severus Snape is here for you Mr. Nightshade." Millicent said from the potions lab doorway.
"Please show him in here Millicent." Cherub said as he watched the cauldron carefully.
"I can see it, the texture changed just then." Hermione said as she watched.
"Stir it, it feels different too." Cherub said and handed the stirring spoon to Hermione.
"It's kind of like it's thicker." Hermione said in thought.
"Good morning class." Professor Snape said as he walked into the potions lab.
"Good morning Professor." All four said in unison.
"I must say, when I was invited to visit your home, I believed you would be somehow unlike you are in class." Professor Snape said as he looked around the well equipped lab.
"We are *dressed* differently." Draco said with a smile.
"There is that." Professor Snape said as he walked to see what they were working on.
"We were studying for class tomorrow and were having difficulty with the way the book described the series of reactions in this potion." Cherub explained as he backed away from the cauldron.
"I must admit that you aren't the first to voice that failing in the book. I'm glad to see that you've gone to such lengths to achieve understanding." Professor Snape said with approval.
"One does what one can." Cherub said in a haughty voice.
"Would you have a moment to discuss why I have been invited?" Professor Snape asked more quietly.
"Yes. Come into the sitting room and we'll discuss it." Cherub said and led the way out.
* * * * *
As they walked to the sitting room, Cherub spotted Millicent in the entry hall, looking at the picture.
"Millicent, would you please have Chuffery join us in the sitting room? When last I saw him he was in the library." Cherub asked with a smile.
"Right away Mr. Nightshade." Millicent said quickly and hurried away.
Cherub led the way into the sitting room and gestured to Professor Snape to have a seat.
"You have a lovely home Mr. Nightshade. When I first encountered you, I was in doubt that you were related to the legendary Nightshade family." Professor Snape said slowly.
"I was trying to be unobtrusive. Before the wings, that was somewhat possible." Cherub said with a smile.
"I suppose it was." Professor Snape said with a hint of humor under his words.
Chuffery walked into the room and took a seat by Cherub.
"Professor Snape, this is my brother, Chuffery Nightshade. Chuffery, this is one of my teachers, Professor Severus Snape." Cherub said formally.
"Hi." Chuffery said shyly as he stayed close to Cherub's side.
"Good morning young man." Professor Snape said with a considering look at Chuffery.
"I'm sure Mr. Klegg filled you in on most of this already. Our father has given up his parental rights to Chuffery, and to me for that matter. If I were of legal age to do so, I would gladly assume guardianship of Chuffery, however that is not possible. The next best thing I could think of to do is ask you to assume legal responsibility for Chuffery until I am able to do so." Cherub said carefully.
"What do you see as my practical role in this agreement?" Professor Snape asked seriously.
"That would be at your discretion for the most part. Chuffery has been moved into this house and I have a household staff who are quite capable of taking care of him. A tutor will be hired this week to see to his studies and he has a valet for companionship and guidance. If you do not wish to be an active part of his life, I see no reason that you should need to do more than stop by to check on his well being every so often. If you prefer a more active role, then you may visit as often as you like we could even have a room prepared for you so you could stay the night. The only limitations I will insist on is that Chuffery not be moved out of this house. This is his home until he chooses otherwise." Cherub finished in a firm voice.
Professor Snape looked at Cherub, then Chuffery before saying, "So, should I agree to your proposal, I will be Chuffery's legal guardian. He will in essence become my child."
"Yes." Cherub said seriously.
"And what happens if my thoughts on child rearing differ from yours?" Professor Snape asked carefully.
Cherub thought about the question, then asked, "Would you ever punish a child by inflicting pain?"
"No. Never." Professor Snape said without hesitation.
"That being the case, if my opinions differ from yours, I will voice my concerns, but ultimately support your decisions." Cherub said carefully.
"Have you discussed this with Chuffery?" Professor Snape asked quietly.
"Not in any detail. I thought it best to know your feelings on the matter before I tried to explain what was going to happen." Cherub said and gave Chuffery a gentle hug.
"I discussed this matter with Headmaster Dumbledore at some length. Since he is your guardian, we felt that we should be united in our vision regarding both your futures." Professor Snape said seriously.
Cherub nodded in understanding.
"It is my intention to be involved in both your lives in the following manner. Saturday will be a day for the three of us to go on outings, visit shops, go to the countryside, perhaps go to the coast if the weather is favorable. Those pursuits may carry on into the evening. If not we may go to enjoy some theatre or attend a social gathering." Professor Snape said carefully, looking for a reaction.
"I will accept your offer and have a room here so I may spend Saturday night. Sunday will be for our relaxation. We may choose to read, or work on potions... strictly for fun mind you, or perhaps just talk." Professor Snape said in his 'classroom' voice.
"Sunday afternoon, Headmaster Dumbledore will join us and stay for dinner. After dinner, we will return to Hogwart's together." Professor Snape said seriously.
"It's going to be hard on Chuffery to be alone after doing so much all weekend." Cherub said as he held Chuffery close.
"If you have other suggestions, I would be willing to consider them. Headmaster Dumbledore and I worked for many hours trying to find a way to give you and Chuffery a family." Professor Snape said intensely.
"A family?" Cherub asked in surprise.
"Yes Cherub. A family. Albus and I are going to do everything in our power to give you both the family you should have had all along." Professor Snape said with a note of tenderness.
"You called me Cherub."
"Yes. And outside Hogwart's you may call me Severus if you like, or Uncle Severus if that is more comfortable. Cherub, you don't have to raise your brother alone. You don't have to make all the decisions by yourself. You don't have to be strong all the time." Severus said in a gentle voice.
Cherub's eyes filled with tears as he nodded.
Severus walked over to Cherub and gave him a gentle hug.
"Are you going to be my new daddy?" Chuffery asked in confusion.
"I suppose you could say that." Severus said with a small smile.
"When we're alone like this, can we call you Dad?" Cherub asked hopefully.
"Yes, and if you have no objection, I will call you my sons." Severus said warmly.
Cherub noticed that Chuffery had a slight look of confusion.
In a low voice, Cherub tried to explain, "Our Father didn't want us. He sold us when he had the chance. Severus wants us, he asked to be our Dad."
Chuffery smiled happily at Severus and hugged him tightly.
"The little guy's got quite a grip doesn't he?" Cherub said with a smile.
Severus gently put a hand on Cherub's shoulder and guided him into the hug.
* * * * *
"What about my friends?" Cherub asked suddenly.
"I believe they are still in the potions lab. I would expect them to be in there for another thirty-five minutes at least from the potion they were working on." Severus said seriously.
"No. I mean, in all those plans you were making, my friends weren't included." Cherub asked with concern.
"Oh, I see. That's difficult. To accomplish including your friends in our plans you'd need the Headmaster's approval and a member of staff, perhaps even a member of the faculty to supervise. I dare say, it might be impossible." Severus said seriously.
Cherub looked at Severus in confusion, then saw the teasing grin trying to break out on Severus' face.
"You were joking?" Cherub asked with disbelief.
"It has been known to happen Mr. Nightshade." Professor Snape said in his 'classroom' voice.
Cherub hugged Severus tightly and said, "I wish this had happened last week. Now that you're here it's too late to fix everything."
"Pray tell, what has gone so horribly wrong that it can't be fixed?" Severus asked with concern as he held a brother in each arm.
"Well... um... Draco and Harry and I... we kind of..." Cherub stammered.
"Are boyfriends. The whole school knows, go on." Severus said firmly.
Cherub pulled out of the hug and looked at Severus in horror.
"Maybe not the whole school. Perhaps just the head of Slytherin house who was told by the prefect." Severus said with a 'gotcha' smile.
"Widget told you?" Cherub asked with concern.
"Only to ask my advice. He wasn't betraying your trust, he was protecting your interests." Severus said with assurance.
Cherub nodded and said, "Harry is going back to Gryffindor."
"It is his choice to do so... Wait, did he break up with you to change houses?" Severus asked suddenly.
"Yes. I understand why he's doing it... but it hurts Dad. How can I make it stop hurting?" Cherub asked as he hugged Severus tightly.
"Do you love him?" Severus asked in nearly a whisper.
"I love them both." Cherub said as a sob escaped.
"Are you absolutely certain?" Severus asked seriously.
"Yes." Cherub whispered.
"Then come along." Severus said as he straightened his posture, signaling that he was ready to be let go.
"What are you doing?" Cherub asked in confusion as he wiped his eyes.
"Dad is going to fix this." Severus said firmly, and walked out of the room.
* * * * *
"Mr. Potter, a word with you." Professor Snape said severely.
Harry snapped to attention and walked to stand before Professor Snape.
"It has come to my attention that you are going to return to Gryffindor." Snape said coldly.
"Yes Professor." Harry said with a trace of fear in his voice.
"And in doing so, you are going to sever your relationship with Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Nightshade." Professor Snape continued sternly.
Harry turned to see Hermione's reaction but was stopped by Professor Snape's next words.
"I thought I would never meet a person with more cruelty than James Potter, but the son surpasses the father." Snape said with venomous intensity.
Harry looked at Professor Snape with wide disbelieving eyes.
"Your father and his Gryffindor friends taunted and teased me with the utmost cruelty our entire time at Hogwart's..." Snape said and leaned in to look Harry straight in the eyes.
"...But even they wouldn't be so unbelievably heartless as to profess friendship and love, then just walk away when the relationship became inconvenient." Snape continued in a whisper.
"I... I didn't." Harry began to say.
"You should do well out in the world Mr. Potter. If you can throw away love with so little regard for others, you shouldn't have any problem with trivial things like morals or legalities. I dare say, you might rise to the highest levels of the ministries one day... provided you don't turn your back on any of your victims." Snape said with an icy firm voice.
"I... But..." Harry stammered as tears began to fill his eyes.
"Yes Mr. Potter? You had something to say?" Professor Snape asked patiently.
"Gryffindor needs me. If I'm with Draco and Cherub then Gryffindor can't trust me." Harry blurted out.
"And what do you believe Gryffindor needs you to do?" Professor Snape asked carefully.
"To lead them so they can rebuild.? Help them get back to where they were before. Make them strong again." Harry said with a plea for understanding in his voice.
"Where they were before was on the brink of madness with paranoia, vigilanteism and cruelty. And it is your wish to make them strong again? To lead them? You have surprised me yet again Mr. Potter. I believed you to be a heartless beast, but I didn't imagine you to have the megalomaniacal dreams of becoming the dictator of a crazed hoard of barbarians." Snape said with menace in his eyes.
"I wasn't..." Harry said, then thought about what Professor Snape was saying.
"I was..." Harry said in realization, then looked at Professor Snape with fear.
After a long moment of silence, Professor Snape said, "Prioritize Mr. Potter. Deal with the most important things first. Take Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Nightshade somewhere private to talk. When you have things resolved, we will talk again."
Harry looked at Draco and Cherub and motioned them to follow.
* * * * *
"So how bad did I screw up guys?" Harry asked as he sat on the edge of Cherub's bed.
"No worse than we did. We helped you make this decision." Cherub said seriously from Harry's right.
"And if you think about it, we actually only made one major mistake, all the rest came from that." Draco said reasonably.
Harry turned to his left to look at Draco in question.
"We didn't talk to Professor Snape about it sooner." Draco said seriously.
"Where does this leave us?" Cherub asked with worry.
"Professor Snape said it best, you guys have to be my first priority. I was being stupid. As soon as I started feeling good about myself, I thought I could take on the whole world single-handed. And that was my real mistake. I was throwing away everyone who gives me advice and support. Whatever I decide to do, you guys have to be there with me. There's no way this can work otherwise." Harry said seriously.
"What about next time?" Cherub asked quietly.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked with concern.
"If you broke it off once, what's to stop you from doing it again?" Cherub asked with pain at saying the words.
"I don't know Cherub. I could promise you that I wouldn't do it again, but even I'm having trouble trusting me now." Harry said quietly.
"Without trust, it won't work." Draco said flatly.
"It takes time to build trust, so we'll give it time. For right now, faith will have to do." Cherub said with a hopeful look at Harry.
Draco smiled and said, "I can accept that."
"Are you guys sure?" Harry asked with worry.
"We have faith in you Harry. So make whatever promise you're going to so we can get you back to Professor Snape for your next butt chewing." Cherub said with a smile.
"Okay, here it goes." Harry said and took a deep breath.
"I promise that no matter what happens next, I will love you both, I will listen to your advice and I will be there when you need me." Harry said as a solemn vow.
"It works for me." Cherub said with a nod.
"Good one Potter." Draco agreed.
"I have a promise to make too." Cherub said quickly.
Draco and Harry waited expectantly.
"I promise that I will love you both, be there when you need me, listen to your advice, and get help when all three of us are screwing it up." Cherub said with a smile.
"You told Professor Snape!" Harry said in realization.
"If you beat him over the head with the obvious long enough..." Draco said with a smile.
"I was hurting and needed help. I stand by my decision." Cherub said firmly.
Harry thought about it and finally said, "Yeah, I guess we don't know it all."
"But sometimes we forget that." Cherub said with a smile.
"My turn." Draco said seriously.
Cherub and Harry waited.
"I promise to love you both, listen to your advice, be there when you need help, and to refuse to accept whatever lame excuses either of you come up with to try and break us up." Draco said firmly.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Cherub asked playfully.
"It means that next time Potter comes up with a plan that involves us breaking up, I promise to say 'no'." Draco said with a smile.
"That would have saved a lot of trouble." Harry said with a nod.
"Then I guess we're done. It's fixed isn't it?" Cherub asked as he looked from Draco to Harry.
"As far as I'm concerned." Draco said frankly.
"Yeah. Sorry guys." Harry said shyly.
"One quick kiss, then you're up for round two with Snape." Draco said with a smile.
Harry was pulled into a hug and given a deep kiss by Draco, then Cherub.
"Thanks for sticking with me guys." Harry said shyly as they started toward the door.
"That's what friends do." Cherub said offhandedly.
* * * * *
"I trust that all is resolved?" Professor Snape asked regally as he stood before Harry.
"Yes Professor. Thank you." Harry said shyly.
Cherub and Draco walked into the sitting room and took seats on either side of Chuffery.
"Then perhaps we could sit down and discuss what is to be done for Gryffindor." Professor Snape said with icy authority.
Cherub leaned in and asked, "Are you okay Chuffery?"
Chuffery leaned in and gave Cherub a kiss on the cheek.
Cherub hugged him quickly and turned his attention to Professor Snape.
"We think the problem may have to do with the Gryffindors feeling instead of thinking out their actions." Harry said seriously.
"A common misconception." Professor Snape said in an even tone.
"Then I don't understand why Gryffindors act the way they do." Draco said as he sat forward in his chair.
"How do they act? Mr. Malfoy?" Professor Snape asked in the same cold chopped tone he used in class.
"They're heroes. They jump in and fight for what they believe is right. They make sacrifices to protect others..." Draco trailed off, not knowing what else to say.
"If Chuffery were put into Gryffindor without the benefit of the sorting hat or being told what it means to be a Gryffindor, how do you think he would behave? Mr. Potter?" Professor Snape asked in a measured tone.
Harry thought about the question and finally said, "I guess the longer he was there, the more likely he would be to start acting like them. Constant exposure to their beliefs would eventually cause him to identify with them."
"Correct. Now extrapolate all that we have just discussed and formulate a hypothesis." Professor Snape said seriously.
Harry thought carefully about what Professor Snape told him before they went upstairs, and what they just discussed.
"Over time, various behaviors have crept into Gryffindor and become accepted as 'Gryffindor Qualities'. Each successive year of students have passed them on, sometimes altering them from what they originally were. The farther you get from the origin of Hogwart's the more abstracted the concept and ideals become until we arrive at a time when the house can no longer sustain itself because the attitudes and behaviors are counterproductive to the well-being of the house." Harry said in thought.
"So you end up with a house full of people trying to live up to abstract concepts of what is acceptable and reasonable." Hermione speculated.
"Correct." Professor Snape said with approval.
"So when someone like Ron shows up who has problems dealing with his anger. His distorted view of the world is encouraged rather than being recognized as a problem." Draco said in surprise.
"And the Gryffindors fed his paranoia and encouraged his erratic behavior rather than seeking help for him." Cherub said in wonder.
"So what happened to Ron was our fault." Harry said in a lost voice.
"It appears that the Gryffindors exacerbated an existing problem." Professor Snape said with a nod.
"It seems the worst qualities of each of us were encouraged. I was so sure that I was right." Hermione said in a distant gaze.
"I was working under the assumption that Gryffindor was without problems when we arrived and that what happened the first two weeks caused all this." Harry said in deep thought.
"And if your assumption had been correct, your original plan might have had a chance of working, though at a terrible personal cost." Professor Snape said seriously.
"It's sorted Uncle Severus, leave it be." Cherub said quietly and didn't notice the curious looks from Harry, Draco and Hermione.
After a long minute of silence, Harry finally asked, "So how do we fix it?"
"By example, Mr. Potter." Professor Snape said reasonably.
Harry looked at Professor Snape with question, then at Draco and Cherub.
"You have friends in both houses!" Hermione said suddenly.
"The process has already started. Miss Parkinson invited Miss Waynethroppe to the Slytherin table for a meal this past week. Perhaps the Gryffindors should extend the same courtesy." Professor Snape said with a smile.
"We go to the same classes, there's no rule that says we can't study together." Harry said in wonder.
"Wait, I agree that this sounds nice, but how does it fix the problem?" Cherub asked in confusion.
"Mr. Potter?" Professor Snape prompted.
"Because my time in Slytherin helped me get back what Gryffindor is missing. Gryffindors aren't meant to jump in without thinking. But generations of Gryffindors being told to jump in first, ask questions later has led to what we have now... And Slytherins aren't meant to ignore their feelings!" Harry finished in a flash of realization.
"The common belief is that Slytherin disregard their feelings in favor of their reasoning." Professor Snape acceded.
"So was Harry acting like a Slytherin or a Gryffindor when he came up with his plan?" Draco asked curiously.
"Mr. Potter is quite capable of using the worst qualities of both simultaneously." Professor Snape said in a serious voice.
"Hey! I asked you guys before I did anything! It wasn't just me." Harry said playfully.
"So let me get this straight. All we have to do is be friends and everything will be okay?" Cherub asked in confirmation.
"Some encouragement for your two houses to do the same would be beneficial." Professor Snape said casually.
"Which house should I be in?" Harry asked the group.
"You should sleep in Slytherin." Draco said immediately.
"But you should sit with Gryffindor." Hermione said reasonably.
"Headmaster Dumbledore said that you can be either, you just have to change your colors." Cherub said casually.
Chuffery snuggled into Cherub's side, wanting attention.
"If you guys will excuse me, I think my brother would enjoy some flying." Cherub said with a smile.
Harry, Draco and Hermione all looked up at the suggestion.
"There will be sufficient time to discuss serious matters later. Proceed." Professor Snape said seriously.
Faster than a Quidditch Snitch, all the children were out of the room.