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"Are you ready to do this?" Draco asked as he helped Cherub straighten his robes.
"As ready as I'll ever be." Cherub said with as much confidence as he could muster.
"Just remember what I told you last night. Don't let their ignorance and inferior breeding distract you from who you are. They will only see what you let them see, so show them what it means to be from a proud, old family." Draco said, then stood back to take one final look at Cherub's appearance.
"I'll remember." Cherub said and adjusted his posture.
"Just focus on getting used to the classes and leave the reactions and comments from the rabble to Goyle. If anyone tries to cause you grief, he'll deal with them." Draco said, then glanced at Goyle to receive a nod of confirmation.
"Let's do it." Draco said and led the way out of the room.
* * * * *
Draco, Cherub, Crabbe and Goyle walked into the great hall to the cacophony of everyone in conversation.
The level of volume began to decrease as more and more students saw Cherub and stopped to stare at the winged boy amongst them.
Cherub made a conscious effort to fully retract his wings as he sat down between Draco and Goyle.
"Are you ready for the potions class today?" Draco asked, trying to break the tension among those at the Slytherin table.
"Yes, I read through the text and shouldn't have any problem." Cherub said, trying to maintain a relaxed tone of voice.
Cherub looked up at movement from the front of the room and saw all the professors enter in procession.
Morning announcements were made and Cherub began to relax as most of the students attention moved away from him to the front of the room.
Breakfast appeared and Cherub realized just how hungry he was.
"The food is very good here." Cherub said casually as he made his selections from the center of the table.
"You think so? I find it to be a bit bland for my taste." Malfoy said in a considering tone.
Everyone around them was listening intently to the conversation while making their own selections.
Cherub decided to try and initiate conversation with someone else and noticed Pansy sitting across from Draco.
"Pansy, in all the chaos of the sorting I never did see what happened to Darla, did she get sorted into Hufflepuff like you predicted?" Cherub asked before taking a bite of his food.
Pansy blinked twice before snapping out of her daze and finally said, "She was sorted into Gryffindor if you can believe it. She did as good a job at hiding her true nature as..."
Cherub smiled at the look of wide-eyed terror on Pansy's face as she had obviously spoken before thinking.
"I guess you won't be the next in line for the job of sorting hat then, will you?" Cherub asked with a teasing smile.
Pansy blushed and finally gave a relieved giggle.
Conversations began to spark up around them after that and Cherub settled into a comfortable meal. His breakfast was interspersed with casual conversation with the other first years at his table.
* * * * *
Cherub walked into the potions classroom and looked around for a place to sit, when the room suddenly fell silent.
Professor Snape walked briskly to his desk and said, "Mr. Nightshade, as you weren't here yesterday you seem to be without a partner."
"I believe Mr. Nott ended yesterday's session in a similar state, so if you will take the seat next to him, we will begin."
Cherub looked around the room and found Theodore Nott, a fellow Slytherin, sitting near the back of the class, looking at him curiously.
He quickly took the seat beside Theodore and listened intently to Professor Snape.
"In preparation for any potion, certain steps must be followed and the order of preparation may be significant. Why? Miss Granger?" Professor Snape asked with a chopped tone.
After a long moment of silence, Hermione said, "That wasn't in the reading you assigned."
"Why? Mr. Nightshade?" Professor Snape asked in the same tone.
"Certain ingredients begin to lose their potency as soon as they're cut or ground. You place them in the order of preparation where their potency will be most effective for your potion." Cherub said in thought.
"But that wasn't in the reading." Hermione objected.
"Mr. Nightshade, will you tell Miss Granger where you found the correct answer?" Professor Snape asked without inflection.
Cherub thought for a second and remembered a passage of text he had skimmed over the night before in preparation for class.
"The reading you assigned yesterday mentioned that shrieking mandrake root quickly loses it's potency when altered in any fashion from when it's harvested. It stands to reason that if an ingredient makes the transition from full potency to inert over a period of time and that transition is initiated by preparation, then the degree of potency should be able to be controlled by being aware of the time span between preparation and its inclusion in the potion." Cherub said carefully.
"Five points to Slytherin for the correct answer to my question and five points to Slytherin for supporting that answer with sound reasoning." Professor Snape said firmly.
"But..." Hermione began to say.
"Miss Granger. If you were to learn only what is written in the book there would be no need for you to attend this class. You could simply read the book and be done with it. Mr. Nightshade has just demonstrated one of the disciplines you are here to learn; deduction and reasoning. Speaking of deduction Miss Granger, a five point deduction from Gryffindor for speaking out of turn." Professor Snape finished coldly.
After an icy moment of silence, Professor Snape looked around the room and finally said, "Now we will practice the principle that was just discussed by brewing the potion on page 54. The number of ingredients will require you to form into groups of four if you are to have a hope of completing the potion in the allotted time. Maintain your partnerships and move to the workstations as I call you."
"Granger, Parkinson." Professor Snape said sharply and pointed to the first workstation.
"Nightshade, Malfoy." He said and gestured to the second.
Cherub, Theodore, Draco and Harry walked to the second workstation.
"To do this correctly, someone needs to be in charge." Draco said firmly.
Harry looked like he was about to object when Draco continued, "I think that since Nightshade got the right answer, he should tell us what to do."
Cherub glanced at the appropriate page in the book and smiled. He walked immediately to the supply shelf and picked up two hour-glass timers.
"Potter, begin grinding the mineral components into fine powder. They don't lose potency so order doesn't matter." Cherub said firmly.
"I don't know which ingredients are minerals." Harry said weakly.
Cherub looked at Harry with surprise, then said, "Malfoy, get Potter's raw ingredients. Nott, start to pulverize the jimson weed, it needs to rest before we use it. Turn this timer the moment you finish. I'll start on the henbane, it has to be sliced just right or it won't absorb properly."
Everyone started working and were silent until Draco finally said, "Potter has everything lined up, what needs to be done next?"
Cherub kept his focus on his slicing and said, "Get the dry ingredients that don't require preparation and measure them. Prepare the cauldron for use. As soon as it's heating, check to see that Potter is grinding the minerals to the proper texture, then see that the exact amounts are waiting for us when we need them. A fraction of a dram either way can spoil the potion."
Draco nodded seriously and began to work.
* * * * *
Cherub finished the painstaking slicing, flipped his own timer and transferred the henbane to a shallow dish, then walked around the table to check on everyone's progress.
"That's exactly right Nott. I'm glad you're going to be my partner." Cherub said as he watched Nott's attention to detail.
"I'm glad too." Nott said with a smile as he kept his focus on his work.
"You need to twist the pestle or you won't break down the crystalline structure." Cherub said as he watched Harry grinding the minerals.
"Like this?" Harry asked cautiously as he began to twist.
"That will work, but let me show you an easier way." Cherub said and scooted in beside Harry.
"Oh, I see." Harry said timidly.
"Haven't you ever mixed potions before?" Cherub asked as he handed the mortar and pestle back to Harry.
"No. I... um, never had the chance." Harry said uncomfortably.
"Well now you do Potter." Cherub said and began to walk away.
"Please call me Harry."
Cherub saw the lost, overwhelmed expression on Harry's face and said, "I tell you what Potter, outside class I will."
Harry nodded and went back to grinding minerals.
Cherub looked over the preparations and read over the potion text one more time before saying, "Malfoy, will you help Potter measure the minerals now? We're almost ready to begin."
Draco left the cauldron and moved to Harry's side.
After a quick inventory and glance at the book Cherub looked at his teammates and said loudly enough for all of them to hear, "It's time to begin. Potter, add the salt peter."
Harry hesitantly took the small tray of powder and dumped it into the cauldron.
"Potter, watch Malfoy add the bloodstone, the ingredients need to be added slowly and evenly so they will disperse through the potion." Cherub said in a professional voice.
Harry watched as Draco took the small dish of ground bloodstone and drizzled it into the cauldron.
"Nott, as soon as your timer runs out, add the jimson weed." Cherub said while keeping his gaze fixed on the boiling mixture.
Nott watched his timer carefully and appeared to be ready to attack the dish the moment the last grain of sand fell.
Cherub glanced at his timer, then at Nott who was moving into action.
Nott picked up the dish of jimson weed and began sifting it through his fingers, letting it fall through into the potion.
"You see Potter, by adding the jimson weed this way, Nott is preventing it from clumping and becoming concentrated. With this method it will release it's effect evenly." Cherub said instructively.
"Nott, start stirring the cauldron while we add ingredients. Slow and even." Cherub said in a firm voice.
"Potter, add the bone dust." Cherub said as he picked up his henbane and watched the timer carefully.
"Malfoy, add the talc."
When the last grain of sand fell in the timer, Cherub began to sift the henbane through his fingers into the potion.
"Potter, add the slippery elm bark." Cherub said as he focused on his task of evenly distributing his ingredients.
"Malfoy, add the willow shavings. Potter, add the spider's web, you can just dump it in." Cherub said as the last of the henbane fell through his fingers.
"Potter, what does the book say next?" Cherub asked, and turned the timer over yet again.
"It says whilst the brew has..." Harry began to say in a dramatic voice.
"Paraphrase." Draco interrupted.
"It'll turn blue." Harry said flatly.
As Nott continued to stir the cauldron all four watched the potion carefully.
"There it goes." Nott said with a smile.
The group watched with delight as the potion changed from a murky gray sludge to an ethereal blue creamy liquid.
"You did it." Harry said with a delighted smile at the potion.
"We did it, Potter. Every one of us had a hand in it." Cherub corrected.
"As it should be Mr. Nightshade." Professor Snape said seriously as he walked past the workstation.
"I'll get the bottles." Draco said quickly, knowing that successful potions were sold by the school to offset the cost of ingredients.
"Nott, keep stirring until the timer runs out, then help Malfoy bottle. Potter and I will get this cleaned up." Cherub said as he started to gather the small dishes and bowls.
"What do you want me to do?" Harry asked as he watched.
"Clean the mortar and pestle. Then wipe down the table." Cherub said as he carried the containers away.
As the timer ran out, Theodore Nott stopped his stirring and picked up a funnel. Draco ladled with one hand as he held the neck of the potion bottle with the other.
"How long do we have?" Theodore asked quickly as he held the funnel for Draco.
"Anything that isn't bottled in two minutes will be useless." Draco said as he ladled a steady stream into the funnel.
"I think we can do it." Theodore said seriously.
"Then we will." Draco said confidently and increased his speed.
"What else?" Harry asked as he looked around.
"Let me see your class notes." Cherub said seriously.
"Why?" Harry asked hesitantly.
"Either do as I say or don't offer to help." Cherub said firmly.
Harry cautiously handed Cherub his notebook.
"Your handwriting is better than mine, start writing labels for the potion bottles while I stopper them." Cherub said and handed Harry his notebook back.
Harry considered apologizing but thought better of it and went to work writing labels.
"That's it! Who gets to wash the cauldron?" Draco said as he finally dropped his ladle.
"I'll get it." Nott said and carried it quickly to the wash sink.
"Then I guess we're ready to give these to Professor Snape." Cherub said as he sealed the last bottle and handed it to Harry to be labeled.
"I'll get him." Draco said and hurried across the room.
"Sorry about that thing with the class notes." Harry said quietly to Cherub.
"No need to be sorry. I'm sure before the next seven years is over we'll tread on each other's toes a few times. Just know that when I'm in charge, it's Mr. Nightshade talking to Mr. Potter. It doesn't carry outside this class and it isn't personal. When you're in charge, you will probably choose to deal with people differently than I do. I'll do my best to follow your lead and will probably piss you off somewhere along the way." Cherub explained, then fell silent as Professor Snape approached.
"What do you have for me gentlemen?" Professor Snape asked regally.
Cherub motioned to the eight bottles of potion lined up on the workstation.
"Properly prepared as evidenced by the color. Properly sealed as evidenced by the lack of crystallization on the top of the potion. Properly labeled and the work area is appropriately cleaned. Well done. You have earned one point... per bottle... per student for your respective houses." Professor Snape said calmly.
All four boys held their enthusiasm until Professor Snape walked away to check on another team.
"We just got twenty-four points for Slytherin." Nott said with amazement.
Harry looked a little lost.
"Potter, you just earned eight points for your house. That's a good thing no matter how you look at it. Look around, did any other Gryffindors earn any points today?" Cherub asked seriously.
Harry looked around at the room full of frustrated students trying to make their potions and reluctantly shook his head.
"There you go." Cherub said, then noticed Draco's disgusted look, directed at Harry.
Cherub glanced over at the next workstation, then quickly said, "Potter, would you go to the supply room and get the large container of beetle breath just inside the door?"
Harry opened his mouth to ask, then caught himself and walked to the supply room.
"Guys, I think we'd better move... now." Cherub said loudly enough to catch Nott's attention.
"What's going on?" Nott asked as he walked with Cherub and Draco toward the back of the room.
"Wait for Potter, then I'll explain." Cherub said, then noticed Harry exiting the supply room. Cherub motioned for Harry to join them.
"Why did you move?" Harry asked curiously as he sat the large container on the table beside Cherub.
"Nott, do you know why we were so careful to keep the henbane and jimson weed from clumping?" Cherub asked as he glanced back at Hermione and Pansy's work area.
"Yes. If they clump, they form concentrated pools in the solution that can become volatile." Nott said carefully.
"You mean it will explode?" Harry asked with worry.
"Erupt might be a better word." Cherub said, then as if on cue, a high pitched squeal of a scream came from Hermione and Pansy's work area. Slimy, sticky purple foam spat and oozed out of the cauldron, coating everyone and everything in the surrounding area.
"That's Ron." Harry said with worry and began to move away, but Cherub held him back.
"Potter, beetle breath is the neutralizing agent you need to stop the reaction. Go sprinkle some of that in their cauldron." Cherub said and handed Harry the container.
"Thanks Nightshade." Harry said quickly and ran to help his friends.
"Why didn't you go take care of it yourself?" Draco asked curiously.
"Because I'm a Slytherin. That means I'm meant to lead. I've done my leading today so I'm happy. Potter is a Gryffindor. I saw a chance for him to do some heroing so I thought I'd help him out." Cherub said as he watched the chaos with an amused smile.
"Well I'm a Slytherin too..." Draco said in a wounded tone.
"If you remember, you're the one who put me in charge today. I'm still not at the point where I'm comfortable 'taking' charge, but when It's given to me, I can handle it." Cherub said in thought.
"There goes another one." Nott said quickly as a second cauldron erupted.
"Are you gentlemen enjoying the show?" Professor Snape asked as he slowly approached.
"Yes, as a matter of fact we are. How about you?" Cherub asked with a smile.
"This happens every year when we make this potion. I feel it teaches some valuable lessons about preparation, the proper method for adding ingredients... and cleanliness.." Professor Snape said, then pointed at a third cauldron beginning to erupt.
"How long will it take to get all this cleaned up?" Nott asked curiously.
"It will be well into the next class period, which by some strange coincidence, your class group has free today." Professor Snape said with a knowing smile that confirmed that this event was planned in advance.
"Since your group completed the potion properly, you may stay to help your classmates clean or you may go about your business if you would rather." Professor Snape said casually.
"I'm going outside." Nott said immediately.
"No flying without supervision." Professor Snape said sternly.
"Yes Professor." Nott said quickly as he headed for the door.
"I'm going to go too. I'm just going to ask Potter if he wants to go with us." Cherub said happily.
"He doesn't like me. He wouldn't even shake my hand when we met, I don't think he's going to want to hang around with us." Draco said seriously.
"Probably not, but it's nice to be asked." Cherub said casually as he walked toward the slippery, slimy purple mess.
* * * * *
"Potter. Professor Snape said that those of us who completed the potion are free to leave while the others clean up. Would you like to come with us?" Cherub asked from the edge of a purple pool of goo.
"I'd like to, but..." Harry began to say but was abruptly cut off.
"You can't go with him, he's a Slytherin." A red headed boy said angrily. Cherub recognized him as the one who let out the disturbingly feminine scream.
"I'm sorry, do I know you?" Cherub asked carefully.
"No. And I don't want to know you, Slytherin." The boy said in disgust.
Cherub shook his head dismissively and turned his attention back to Harry.
"I just came over to let you know that you're welcomed to join us if you'd like to. We'll be leaving in just a moment." Cherub said then cast a disapproving glance at the red haired boy before leaving.
* * * * *
"He's not coming is he?" Draco said as he pushed himself away from where he had been leaning on the wall.
"Probably not." Cherub said without concern as he altered his course to fall in beside Draco.
"You don't sound too disappointed." Draco said as he opened the classroom door.
"I'm not really. I just thought that if I were in his situation, I'd appreciate the offer." Cherub said casually as they walked into the hall.
"Hey Nightshade, wait up." Harry called from the classroom doorway.
"We're outside class now, you may call me Cherub if you'd rather." Cherub said with a smile.
"Yeah, I'd like that Cherub. You can call me Harry."
"Does that go for me too?" Draco asked cautiously.
Harry looked at Draco then glanced down as a brief look of shame fell across his face.
"Yes, of course that goes for you. I'm... I'm sorry about day before yesterday. I'm not used to being around people, I guess. Sometimes I don't act properly." Harry murmured.
"I know that feeling Harry. What would you guys like to do?" Cherub asked, trying to lift the mood.
"Well I think Nott had the right idea. Let's go outside for a while." Draco said hopefully.
"I'm in." Cherub said and looked to Harry.
"Lead the way." Harry said, his mood much improved.
"Draco is leading now. I was just the leader in potions class." Cherub said shyly.
"When do I get to be leader?" Harry asked in a half-teasing voice.
"You don't." Draco said firmly.
Harry got a look in his eyes like he was ready to fight.
"Hold on Harry. What I mean... Cherub, you explain it to him, you're better at it." Draco finished with a dismissive wave.
"What he means is that we're Slytherin, we're learning to be leaders. You're a Gryffindor, you're learning to be an activist... basically a hero. When leading needs to be done, we'll take care of it because it's what we're expected to do and we're good at it. When some heroing needs done, you'll be first on the list to deal with it." Cherub said, then smiled as he saw the sunlight pouring in the open door.
"Leaders? I thought Slytherin were all evil, learning to be dark wizards." Harry said seriously.
Draco was about to bark a response when Cherub held up a hand to prevent him and said, "Do you honestly think Hogwart's or anyplace else would sanction the recruiting and training of those type of people?"
Harry thought for a second while they walked and finally said, "No. I didn't think about that."
"I think you've been listening to people who don't know the facts. The truth is, we're one of the four houses, just like Gryffindor. Your house focuses on bravery and fighting for your beliefs. Our house focuses on making us strong leaders who are sure of our abilities. Some Slytherin turn their skills to dark use, but so do some Gryffindors. If you check out the histories of dark wizards through the past few centuries, you'll find them evenly distributed throughout the houses." Cherub said seriously.
"How do you know so much?" Harry asked curiously.
"I read a lot." Cherub said frankly with a shrug.
Harry seemed to be waiting for more.
Finally Harry snapped out of it and he said, "Sorry, I just realized that if I asked Hermione the same question, she'd still be answering about this time tomorrow.
"Well, Draco can tell you that I can go on a bit at times. But I do make a conscious effort to keep it down." Cherub said with a shy smile.
"This feels great." Draco said and spread his arms as he tilted his face to be warmed by the sun.
Cherub smiled at the scene and stretched out his arms and wings.
"Wow." Harry said with wide eyes.
"What?" Cherub asked as he abruptly stopped his stretch.
"Nothing, I mean. I've never seen you... do that... before." Harry said nervously.
"Spread my wings?" Cherub asked carefully.
"I didn't realize they were that big." Harry said shyly.
"I guess they'd have to be to support my weight." Cherub said with thought.
"Can you fly?" Harry asked with a boyish smile of delight at the thought.
"You know, I haven't tried. What do you guys think, will I get in trouble?" Cherub asked carefully.
"Wrong question." Draco said seriously.
Cherub and Harry both turned to Draco with matching looks of question.
"The proper question is: if you get caught, will it be worth it?" Draco asked seriously.
"It will." Cherub said with a smile and started to flap his wings.
After a minute of flapping and a few hops, Harry weakly said, "Um, it doesn't seem to be working."
"No. Not even a little." Cherub said as he flapped harder.
"I think you're too heavy." Draco said as he looked at Cherub consideringly.
"There's not much I can do about that." Cherub said as he stopped his flapping.
"Sure there is. Be lighter. The Leviosa Spell should be able to be modified, then you can use your wings for propulsion and navigation." Draco said in thought.
"It sounds like it could work. Give me a minute to work on the spell." Cherub said and stared off in the distance.
"But I thought the Leviosa Spell was for floating a feather." Harry said in confusion.
"The one we used in class yesterday was, you can modify the spell to make it levitate other things. Cherub levitated his clothes into the wardrobe the night he arrived." Draco said proudly.
"I'm ready." Cherub said in thought.
"Okay, the flying class brooms are right over there. If you get in trouble, give a yell and Potter... I mean Harry will be up to help you." Draco said seriously.
"Me?" Harry asked cautiously.
"Hero." Draco and Cherub said in response, simultaneously.
Harry gave a genuine smile and nodded his agreement.
Cherub decided to try and do the spell without a wand or spoken words. He wanted the effect to be as if it were natural flight.
After a deep breath to calm himself, Cherub spread his wings dramatically while he concentrated on the words in his mind and made the subtle gestures of the Leviosa Spell with his hands.
"He didn't use a spell." Harry said in awe as he watched Cherub glide into the air.
The silky caress of the breeze on his skin was like his first ever taste of freedom.
"Guys, this is great." Cherub said as he soared, then did a barrel roll.
His instincts guided him exactly where he wanted to be with only a thought.
"Cherub, you need to come down now." Draco said seriously.
Even though he was caught up in the bliss of gliding effortlessly through the air, Draco's serious tone got through to him.
Cherub carefully landed between Harry and Draco.
"Why did you want me to stop?" Cherub asked with concern.
"Seeing if you could fly was one thing, but if you're going to be soaring and flipping, you should really have a professor watching out for you. Harry and I wouldn't be able to get to you in time if you got into trouble." Draco said seriously.
"I guess so, I just felt so free. It was wonderful." Cherub said in a dreamy tone.
"I feel the same way on my broom." Harry said with a distant smile.
"We have flying class after lunch, maybe if you ask Madame Hooch, she'll let you fly without a broom." Draco suggested carefully.
"I can ask. If she says no, then I'll talk to Professor Snape and see what he suggests." Cherub said as he started walking.
* * * * *
Comfortable silence fell over the group as they walked without purpose or concern.
"I'm sure Hermione and Ron are thinking that you're corrupting me right now." Harry said in thought.
"I suppose we could try if you really wanted us to." Cherub said in a teasing voice.
"It would be a shame to disappoint them." Draco said with a nod.
"It wasn't a suggestion, just a thought." Harry said with a smile.
"Your friends really don't like us do they?" Cherub said more seriously.
"No. They're convinced that you're evil and anything you do that seems nice is just to try and deceive us." Harry said with regret in his voice.
"It's the money." Draco said firmly.
"What money?" Harry asked curiously.
"Our families have money. People who don't have money look at us and think that since they don't have money and we do, we must have done something dishonest to get it." Draco said with an open expression.
"But that's ridiculous. I have money and they don't treat me that way." Harry said in defense of his friends.
"They will." Draco said darkly.
"What do you mean?" Cherub asked curiously.
Draco looked around the school grounds and gave a shrug before sitting in the grass.
"Sooner or later something will happen that can't be ignored. Some problem will present itself and you'll solve it with your money because you can and it's the right thing to do. From that point on, everything changes. You aren't a person anymore, you're a resource. It is natural to exploit resources to accomplish goals. Regardless if the goals are lofty high ideals or selfish desires, you end up being used to fulfill the desires of others. When the time comes that you can't or won't finance the wants and dreams of those who have been draining your accounts, you'll be seen as a traitor to whatever cause you've been supporting. You'll be called the same names that Cherub and I are being called at this moment by members of your house." Draco said quietly.
Harry thought about it, but didn't respond.
"Harry, tell me honestly, what do you think would happen if you used your money to buy yourself something that you would really enjoy? Would your friends be happy because you're happy or would they be jealous and resentful and accuse you of flaunting your wealth?" Cherub asked cautiously.
"I've thought about that." Harry whispered.
"So have I. That's why I don't have the expensive custom tailored robes. I didn't want to give people additional ammunition to use against me when they hear my name." Cherub said quietly.
"Did it help?" Harry asked slowly.
"Not really. I think that if I had gotten the more expensive robes, people would have assumed my wealth a little earlier, but it all ends up being the same." Cherub said honestly.
"I can see that. I was so sure that I was being put in with the 'good guys' when I arrived here, but now..." Harry drifted off in thought.
"That's part of the problem." Cherub said as he looked off into the distance.
"What do you mean?" Draco asked curiously.
Cherub turned to Draco and said, "Think about what it means to be a Gryffindor. They fight for their beliefs, they do what's right, they jump in and fight for those who can't or won't defend themselves. All noble traits. But consider that your best friend and worst enemy may both have those traits in common, the only difference being what they believe in. Being a good guy is relative depending on who is defining good."
"An interesting point." Draco said, then laid back on the grass to stare at the passing clouds.
"My uncle is like that." Harry said with wide eyed realization.
"How's that?" Cherub asked with interest.
"My Uncle Vernon thinks that wizards are evil and wrong and shouldn't be allowed to exist. But... what you just said... he believes it. He thinks his cause is right and is ready to fight to defend it, he feels that he's protecting his family who can't defend themselves." Harry said in wonder.
"He sounds daft to me." Draco said without moving his stare from the clouds.
Harry smiled at the statement and said, "He is, but I never understood why he was daft. It's hard to admit that we are alike in some ways, we just have different beliefs."
Silence fell over the group as they each thought their own thoughts.
* * * * *
"Guys, are we going to be friends?" Harry asked, breaking the long introspective silence.
"Maybe... Probably not." Draco said with something that might be regret under his words.
"Why not?" Harry asked, obviously afraid of the answer.
"Because your friends won't allow you to be friends with us. They'll make you choose." Draco said as he turned to look Harry in the eyes.
"And you won't?" Harry asked cautiously.
"No. I wouldn't do that. I think Cherub can tell you that." Draco said seriously.
"What friend do I have besides you?" Cherub asked with surprise.
"I seem to remember waaaaaay back when, you said you were going to invite someone to join us when we left Professor Snape's class." Draco said with a teasing smile.
"Oh yes, way off in the distant past a half an hour ago." Cherub said with a chuckle.
"Why don't you tell Harry how he got invited, I think he needs to know." Draco said seriously.
"Well, when Professor Snape said we could stay or go, I said I wanted to go and told Draco that I was going to invite you." Cherub said in thought.
"Did I say anything like 'you can't be friends with him if you're friends with me'?" Draco asked casually as he rested back to look at the sky.
"No. You just said you didn't think Harry would join us because he didn't like you." Cherub said in thought.
"Sorry about that." Harry said in a mumble.
Draco glanced at Harry and held out his hand. "Malfoy, Draco Malfoy."
Harry took the offered hand and said "Harry Potter."
"There, now its done. Whatever happened before is forgotten." Draco said and turned his gaze back to the clouds.
"I don't know how things are going to work out with Hermione and Ron because of this. I want to be your friend. But I can't promise..." Harry drifted off sadly.
"We're not asking you to promise anything. If your friends make you happy, then go and be with them. Life is too short to limit yourself with people who drag you down." Draco said as he looked at Harry again.
"I don't understand." Harry said carefully.
"Like Cherub for example. He's friendly, smart, has a good attitude... well, most of the time." Draco said with a teasing smile directed at Cherub.
"You grow wings and see how cheerful you are." Cherub said in a growly voice.
"Anyway, I feel better about myself when I'm around him. He asks my opinions and is willing to trust my decisions. By the same token, he's willing to take charge when it's something that he's better at, like potions." Draco said slowly.
"I feel the same about Draco. He listens to me and gives me his honest opinion. I'd probably still be in the infirmary freaking out about the wings if it weren't for him helping me sort through my options." Cherub said frankly.
"But if... I mean... would I be butting in if I wanted to hang around with you guys sometime?" Harry asked slowly.
"You mean coming between us?" Cherub asked to be sure.
"Not at all. Crabbe and Goyle share a room with us and are always invited to join in when we're talking or goofing around. It's only better with more people." Cherub said with a smile.
"Those are the big guys. They look mean." Harry said cautiously.
"That's right, they 'look' mean. Because of that, people treat them like they are mean. And sometimes, they live up to people's expectations of them because you can only go so long being treated that way before you finally start to give in to it.? But inside, they're both really good guys, I trust them completely." Draco said with a sad, concerned look in his eyes.
"He's right. I've only known them a few days, but I can see how people react to them... it's easier to have wings." Cherub finished in a small voice.
"I never thought about how they felt..." Harry said as he looked off into the distance.
"No one does." Draco said in the same distant tone.
* * * * *
"What's our next class anyway?" Cherub asked lazily.
"Defense Against the Dark Arts." Draco said in a bored tone.
"It sounds interesting." Cherub said in thought.
"It sounds that way, and yet..." Draco drifted off.
"Is it really that bad?" Cherub asked Harry.
"Do you want to see my class notes?" Harry asked and picked up his bag.
Cherub nodded, then accepted the notebook.
Evil is Bad?
"That's it? For an hour lecture?" Cherub asked incredulously.
"It's one more sentence than I had." Draco said as he rolled on his side to face the other two.
"Professor Quirrel stutters and stammers and repeats himself and says nothing. I listened, really listened for the entire hour and couldn't find a point anywhere. The only thing I got out of his lecture was a pounding headache." Harry said darkly.
"Well, we're required to go. I can't say I'm looking forward to it now." Cherub said as he tilted his head back.
"We just have to get through it and it'll be time for lunch..." Harry said, then looked away.
"What's wrong Harry?" Cherub asked with concern.
"I don't want this to end. I mean, us sitting around, talking about... whatever comes up. I've never done that before." Harry said in a small voice.
"Well, I can't promise that we'll be able to do it again, but just so you know, you're always welcomed." Cherub said seriously.
"That goes for me too." Draco said firmly.
"I'll remember guys. I hope you're wrong about Hermione and Ron and that I can still work it out so I can be friends with all of you." Harry said as he looked at the ground.
"If anyone can make it work, it's you Harry. Draco's got the wisdom of the world, I've got the knowledge of the books, but you have the Heart." Cherub said softly.
"If you guys start snogging, I'm going to vomit." Draco said with his biggest teasing smile.
"Let's get him." Harry said and jumped up.
Draco bolted from his spot on the ground and started running.
Cherub and Harry were in close pursuit.