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"Professor Snape?" Harry asked hesitantly.
"Mr. Potter?" Professor Snape responded coldly as he watched the other children flying around the backyard.
"Were you telling the truth about my father?" Harry asked with a note of fear in his voice.
"Although I may have been overly dramatic in certain of my statements and reactions to make a point, I assure you that I in no way embellished on the actions of your father, Mr. Black or Mr. Lupin. If anything, I underplayed the events." Professor Snape said firmly.
"So that's why you don't like me." Harry said distantly, not meaning to say it out loud.
"You are the image of your father. I see you and all the years of trying to forget those days are undone. Although I make an effort not to seek retribution on you for the actions of your father, there are times that my hostility finds its way to the surface." Professor Snape said in an introspective tone.
Harry thought about the words, and finally said, "I'm sorry Professor Snape. I'm sorry my father treated you badly."
Professor Snape kept his gaze fixed on the sky as he said, "You have nothing to be sorry for Mr. Potter. His choices and actions were not yours. For that reason, it is I who should apologize to you. I suppose it is my own failing that I seem to be unable to deal with those unresolved feelings from the past."
"Maybe what you did today will help you to do that." Harry said in thought.
"How so Mr. Potter?" Professor Snape asked curiously.
"By stopping me from going through with my plan to rebuild Gryffindor into what it was before, you may have broken the cycle. Instead of getting revenge for what you endured, you've seen to it that others won't have to go through the same thing in the future." Harry said seriously.
Professor Snape closed his eyes and thought about the statement a moment before saying, "Perhaps Mr. Potter. Perhaps."
* * * * *
"Where did you go Harry?" Cherub asked as he landed with Chuffery in his arms.
"Professor Snape and I were discussing my father. It seems the histories of former Gryffindors are as distorted as anything else. All this time I thought I was following in the shadow of a bigger-than-life hero. It turns out that he was a person just like us. He did some good, brave things, but he wasn't perfect and wasn't loved by all." Harry said, then glanced at Professor Snape.
Chuffery ran to Severus and gave him a warm hug.
"Did you have fun Chuffery?" Snape asked in a voice filled with warmth.
"It was fun. Cherub even did loopy-loops." Chuffery said with a giggle.
Severus ruffled Chuffery's hair and said, "Yes. I was watching. If you'll go in and wash up, I believe we will be having lunch shortly."
Chuffery got on tippy toes and pulled Severus down slightly to give him a kiss on the cheek before running into the house.
"I wasn't going to ask about the 'Uncle Severus' thing until later, but now I'm really curious." Harry said frankly.
"Uncle Severus is going to be Chuffery's legal guardian. He's also going to step into the role of parent, since Chuffery needs that stability in his life." Cherub said in thought.
"As grown up as I like to act, it's too much for me sometimes. I'm not ready to be responsible for everything in my life. So Uncle Severus has offered to let me be a kid for a while longer and let him make the decisions and deal with the problems." Cherub said, a bit shyly.
Harry looked at Cherub with question and concern.
Professor Snape noticed Harry's look and explained, "He isn't giving up anything except the burdens he is too young to be expected to carry. Headmaster Dumbledore will oversee the administration of his holdings to see that everything is properly handled. I will make the decisions having to do with Cherub and Chuffery's home and education. Cherub and Chuffery will be free to focus on their studies and other pursuits of childhood."
"Thank you Uncle Severus." Cherub said warmly and hugged Professor Snape tightly.
Professor Snape laid a hand on Cherub's head and said, "It's my pleasure Cherub. Now go in and wash up for lunch."
Cherub mimicked his brother's earlier action and gave Professor Snape a quick peck of a kiss on the cheek before hurrying inside.
"Mr. Potter, would you retrieve the others and tell them to wash up for lunch?" Professor Snape asked seriously, trying not to show any reaction from Cherub's kiss.
"Yes Uncle Severus." Harry said with a mischievous grin before mounting his broom to leave.
Professor Snape allowed a small smile to escape before turning with a swish of his robes and walking into the house.
* * * * *
"Headmaster Dumbledore will be joining us for dinner this evening." Professor Snape announced as he was seated at the table.
Hermione and Draco looked at Professor Snape in shock.
"After the meal, we will return to Hogwart's together. So be sure to have your belongings packed before dinner so they can be put in the carriage." Professor Snape said calmly.
Millicent, Catty and James walked into the dining room carrying plates of food, placing them before each person at the table.
"Thank you James." Chuffery said with a smile as he was given his plate.
Cherub smiled at his brother's politeness and said, "Yes. Thank you Catty, this looks wonderful."
A course of agreement went around the table as everyone received their food.
"Although I am aware of your academic standing in my class, I am curious to know how all of you are doing in your other classes." Professor Snape said before taking a bite of his food.
"I think we're all doing well Professor Snape..." Harry began to say.
"Severus, please. You may return to calling me by my title when we return to Hogwart's." Professor Snape said carefully.
"Of course Uncle Severus." Harry said, then looked to see if Professor Snape was going to raise any objection.
The only reaction was an almost imperceptible nod.
"As I was saying, we are all doing well. I think we are at the top of our classes." Harry continued.
"Except for transfigurations. Theodore Nott and Greg Goyle both had perfect scores on the last exam. The rest of us missed at least one question." Cherub said seriously.
"I couldn't believe Goyle scored higher than I did." Hermione said in a low voice.
"He has a talent for transfigurations. When he reads the text, it makes perfect sense to him. I suspect its something like Cherub's ability with potions." Draco said, trying to ignore the derogatory implication in Hermione's statement.
"I don't have any special ability with potions, just an interest and years of practice. I think what Greg has is a natural talent. He can explain the reading in a way that is easy to understand." Cherub said seriously.
"Do you think he would mind if I asked him some questions when I have trouble understanding the reading?" Hermione asked cautiously.
"I think he would be flattered. You might even talk to him about forming a transfigurations study group. I know a lot of us have difficulty with it." Draco said in thought.
"That would be good... I just don't know how the other Gryffindors would react." Hermione said hesitantly.
"Invite them. After that, it's out of your hands." Cherub said before taking another bite of food.
"These potatoes are quite good. Your cook is very talented." Professor Snape said with appreciation.
"Yes, Catty used to help Mrs. Puckett, the old head housekeeper, with cooking. Mrs. Puckett's cooking was dreadful and Catty's contributions to the meal were sometimes the only edible food I would get." Cherub said quietly.
"It's good to know that Chuffery will be well fed while we're away at school." Professor Snape said seriously.
Cherub smiled at his brother and nodded with agreement.
"I want to go to school too." Chuffery said quietly.
"I know Chuffery. As soon as your Hogwart's letter comes, you'll be able to go to school with the rest of us." Cherub said slowly.
"Until then, you need to concentrate on your studies so you'll be ready for Hogwart's." Professor Snape said seriously.
"When will you be coming back?" Chuffery asked in a small voice.
"We will be returning Friday evening to stay next weekend. But I was thinking that if no one objects, Chuffery and his valet could come to Hogwart's to attend Wednesday's Quidditch game." Professor Snape said seriously.
"That would be great. Would you like that Chuffery?" Cherub asked with excitement.
Chuffery nodded quickly.
"I will see to the arrangements. Miss Granger, I had meant to ask earlier, are you feeling any ill effects from your encounter with the troll on Friday?" Professor Snape asked curiously.
Hermione froze in mid bite, then quickly swallowed before saying, "No. I'm fine. I was just a little scared is all."
"You seemed to have been quite subdued for the past few weeks, I'm glad to see your mood improved." Professor Snape said casually.
"Um... yeah. We talked about things and I'm feeling a lot better." Hermione said shyly.
"It is good that you are able to resolve these issues yourselves. The faculty notice these things and have the desire to offer assistance, but are for the most part unified in the belief that students should be left to sort out their difficulties on their own. Otherwise, we would be encouraging your dependence on us to solve your problems for you. Though satisfying in the short term, it leads to problems when you leave Hogwart's." Professor Snape said in a distant tone.
"That must be difficult. To have to watch and care about what's going on but not interfere. I don't know if I could do it." Harry said introspectively.
"I am not always able to resist the temptation. As you recall Mr. Potter, this very day I was unable to restrain myself from making my point of view known." Professor Snape said seriously.
"If I am to call you Severus, then you should call me Harry."
"As you like."
"I appreciate that you gave us your point of view. If you hadn't I would be facing a very lonely, unhappy future at Hogwart's." Harry said seriously.
"I am pleased that I was able to spare you that Harry." Professor Snape said, the tone of his voice stating clearly that he knew the lonely, unhappy life intimately.
"Any happiness Cherub, Draco and I enjoy in the future is in large part thanks to you." Harry said, then looked quickly to see Hermione's reaction.
"Chuffery told me that you three slept naked together last night." Hermione said with a smile.
"Mr. Malfoy, how have you been adjusting to being away from your family?" Professor Snape said quickly, obviously trying to change the subject.
"You know, I haven't noticed any problem. My family has always been somewhat distant. Being away at school isn't that much different from being at home. I still have the sense that my parents are just an owl message away, just like always." Draco said in thought.
"How fortunate. Many first year students have difficulty being away from their families for the first time. One of the primary functions of the houses of Hogwart's are to give something resembling a family structure, to provide some sort of comfort and guidance." Professor Snape said seriously.
"It's worked very well in Slytherin. Widget and Prang are excellent examples of what we are trying to become." Cherub said in a considering voice.
"Percy and Monica are good too. I'm glad Percy was able to keep his prefect position. He's really a great person." Hermione said with a gentle smile.
"You can thank Mr. Widget for that." Professor Snape said seriously.
"What?" Hermione asked in surprise and looked around.
Draco looked at the others and decided to tell the story.
"Originally Percy was going to lose his position and be grounded for a week. Widget talked to Professor Snape and Headmaster Dumbledore and talked them into giving Percy a different punishment."
"Why?" Hermione asked in confusion.
"Because Widget has known Percy since they were both first years and he knew how much it would hurt Percy to lose the prefect position. And since that whole thing happened, they've started to become friends." Draco said seriously.
"Percy doesn't know, does he?" Hermione asked carefully.
"No, I don't think so. And I don't think we should tell him. I think the last thing Percy and Widget need is a sense of obligation between them. Right now, they're just two people who share an interest in Quidditch." Draco said firmly.
"What would you like to do this afternoon?" Professor Snape asked as he put his napkin on his empty plate.
"I hadn't really thought about it. Does anyone have any ideas?" Cherub asked as he looked around.
"Can we do magics?" Chuffery asked hopefully.
Everyone looked at each other with question before Professor Snape finally said, "I think that would be a wonderful idea Chuffery."
"We have an extensive magic library. Now that I have a better understanding of the basics, there are a few things I'd like to try." Cherub said seriously as he stood.
"I would like to practice a few of the spells for class this week." Hermione said as she got up to follow.
"Do you have your wand Chuffery?" Draco asked as he also stood.
Chuffery pulled out his wand and happily waved it for all to see.
Professor Snape was the last to stand.
With a peaceful smile, he followed the group out of the room.
* * * * *
"I did it!" Chuffery called with excitement as he stood before an erupting shower of sparkles.
Professor Snape put a hand on Chuffery's shoulder and said, "You did that perfectly Chuffery."
"Good job Chuffery. I don't know that spell, would you show me how to do it?" Harry asked with a smile.
Chuffery nodded quickly and ran to Harry's side.
Professor Snape moved to stand beside Cherub and said, "Your brother is quite special. I believe with the proper encouragement and guidance, he will be a powerful wizard one day."
"Maybe. But for right now, I just want him to be a happy kid." Cherub said seriously.
"It is good to know that you have your priorities in the proper place Cherub. All too often children are forced to behave as miniature adults. Together we will walk the fine line of giving him responsibilities to foster his sense of importance and accomplishment without robbing him of the joy and innocence of childhood."
"I don't think we are going to have any problem reconciling our philosophies of child rearing." Cherub said with a smile.
"That is good to know since you, yourself are a child and will be treated as such." Professor Snape said seriously.
Cherub discretely put an arm around Professor Snape's waist and whispered, "Thanks Dad."
* * * * *
"Headmaster Dumbledore has arrived and is in the sitting room." Millicent said from the library doorway.
"Is it that late already?" Cherub asked as he looked at the clock.
"We still need to pack." Draco said quickly.
"We still have some time before dinner. Go and pack now, then come down to the sitting room and visit with Headmaster Dumbledore for a while." Professor Snape said reasonably.
"Will you help me pack Chuffery?" Cherub asked hopefully.
Chuffery nodded quickly.
"Come on." Cherub said and held out his hand.
* * * * *
"I don't want you to go." Chuffery said quietly as Cherub put items into his suitcase.
"I know. I would rather not go either but I have to." Cherub said quietly.
"Daddy Sevrus said that James and I can see you on Wednesday." Chuffery said in a mumble.
"That's right. You're going to get to see Harry play Quidditch. I'll talk to Dad and see if you and James can join us for dinner that evening, I'd like to introduce you to my other friends." Cherub said as he closed his suitcase.
"You have lots and lots of friends." Chuffery said proudly.
"They're your friends too Chuffery. Harry, Draco and Hermione all like you a lot." Cherub said honestly.
Chuffery looked at his brother with wide eyes.
"I don't just love you Chuffery, I like you too. That means we're not only brothers, but friends too." Cherub said carefully.
Chuffery jumped off the bed where he'd been sitting and ran to pull Cherub into a hug.
"I tell you what, why don't you write me a letter tomorrow. James can show you the proper way to address it to me at Hogwart's. You can tell me everything that you're doing. When I get your letter, I'll read it and write one back to you. That way maybe I won't miss you quite as much." Cherub said as he hugged Chuffery fiercely.
Chuffery nodded into Cherub's chest.
Cherub kissed the top of Chuffery's head, then gave one final squeeze, signaling the end of the hug.
"Come on, I want to introduce you to Headmaster Dumbledore." Cherub said as he took his brother's hand.
* * * * *
"What a fine looking young man. Chuffery is it?" Headmaster Dumbledore said in a booming voice.
"It's okay Chuffery. Headmaster Dumbledore is nice." Cherub said quietly.
"Everyone, do sit down. We aren't at the school. Let's not stand on ceremony." Dumbledore said happily.
"How was your trip Headmaster?" Cherub asked cautiously, trying to make conversation.
"It was delightful. I can't remember when I last had the experience of sitting quietly and watching the scenery pass me by. Quite relaxing." Dumbledore said pleasantly.
"I was expecting you earlier in the day Headmaster, was there a problem?" Professor Snape asked carefully.
"You must call me Albus. I fully intend to call you Severus. To answer your question, there wasn't a problem as much as a concern." Dumbledore said as he looked at the group consideringly.
After a long moment of thought, Headmaster Dumbledore said, "I suppose this situation concerns most everyone here."
Everyone looked around at the vague statement, trying to think of which of many situations to which the Headmaster might be referring.
"I received a visitor today. A ministry official, in fact." Headmaster Dumbledore said gravely.
Everyone sat closer, listening with rapt attention.
"Hogwart's is under no obligation to even consider their request, but they have made a most convincing argument." Dumbledore continued.
"What argument might that be Albus?" Professor Snape asked cautiously.
"It has been suggested that we may consider reversing our decision to expel Mr. Ronald Weasley." Dumbledore said carefully.
Silence filled the room as everyone considered the statement.
"Mr. Weasley has undergone a series of evaluations and a cause has been established for his behavioral problem. In the interest of preserving Mr. Weasley's privacy, that cause won't be discussed, it isn't relevant to this discussion. But it is believed that with regular counseling sessions and the proper supervision, Mr. Weasley will be able to overcome his issues." Dumbledore said slowly.
"Surely he would receive the best help in a clinical setting." Professor Snape said seriously.
"Not necessarily. Three independent professionals have evaluated Mr. Weasley and come to the same conclusion. If he is to overcome his anger and gain control of it, he must do so at Hogwart's. In his mind it is his great failure and the source of his ruination. If he can return and succeed, it will be of more benefit than years of therapy." Dumbledore said carefully.
"How are you defining success?" Cherub asked speculatively.
"A very intelligent question Mr. Nightshade." Dumbledore said with a smile.
"Please call me Cherub while we're here." Cherub said quietly.
"Yes, yes of course Cherub. And to answer your question, success is defined as Mr. Weasley becoming a contributing, self-confident,? functioning member of the Hogwart's community." Dumbledore said seriously.
Cherub nodded in thought.
"You want us to be his friends." Draco said without emotion.
"In an ideal world, I would ask you to do so. However, this being reality, it isn't that easy. Mr. Weasley must form his own friendships and work to maintain them. What I am going to ask of you four, five including Severus, is to ease the way for him. There is bound to be rumor and speculation regarding his return. I am not so naive as to think an announcement by me at breakfast will do much beyond ensuring that every person in the school is aware that Mr. Weasley is once again amongst us." Dumbledore said carefully.
"What do we do if he has trouble?" Harry asked quietly.
"Notify me immediately and I will contact his counselor. Mr. Weasley will be meeting with his counselor daily after classes." Dumbledore said in thought.
"So it's been decided." Professor Snape said seriously.
"Yes Severus. Occasionally we receive a student that has such problems that he is unable to integrate into our school and we are forced to turn him away for the benefit of the rest. But I honestly believe that Mr. Weasley is not to that point...? yet. If we simply ease his path in the beginning, it is my hope that he will be able to find the proper way for himself." Dumbledore said seriously.
"Mr. Nightshade." Millicent said from the sitting room door.
"Yes Millicent?" Cherub asked with distraction.
"Dinner will be served in the formal dining room." Millicent said quietly.
"Thank you Millicent." Cherub said with a smile.
"Good. Good. I'm quite hungry after that carriage ride." Headmaster Dumbledore said with a smile.
"Then please allow me to show you to the formal dining room." Cherub said gently.
"Thank you my boy. Aristotle was quite proud of you, you know." Dumbledore said as he stood.
Cherub smiled and said, "And he claimed you as his best and dearest friend."
"That makes you and Chuffery my grandsons after a fashion doesn't it? Come along Chuffery, help your Grandfather Albus to the formal dining room." Dumbledore said gently.
Chuffery hurried to join his brother at Headmaster Dumbledore's side.
"It's right down this hall." Chuffery said quickly as he took the lead.
Cherub smiled in contentment as he walked beside 'Grandfather Albus'.
* * * * *
"I'll see you on Wednesday." Cherub said quietly as he held Chuffery in his arms.
"I'm going to miss you a lot." Chuffery whimpered.
"I'll miss you too little brother. Remember to write to me tomorrow. I'll be waiting for your message." Cherub said seriously.
"I promise. I'll write you a really big letter." Chuffery said earnestly.
Cherub smiled and said, "I'll be happy with whatever you send me."
Chuffery nodded into Cherub's shoulder.
"Listen to James and Millicent and do as they say and remember that you are not to go flying. I'm going to get you a new broom and teach you how to fly safely." Cherub said firmly.
"Cherub? We need to be going." Harry said hesitantly.
"Give me a kiss. I've got to go." Cherub said as tears formed in his eyes.
Chuffery held Cherub tight and gave him a big smacking kiss on the lips.
Cherub laughed and said, "I think that was a big enough kiss to last me till Wednesday."
Chuffery got a speculative look and said, "If you need another one before Wednesday, Harry and Draco can give you one."
Cherub smiled and gave Chuffery one final squeeze before handing him over to James' care and climbing into the carriage.
As the carriage pulled away, Cherub looked at his brother and remembered the reluctant blond haired boy he'd met two days before.
Cherub lifted his hand in a final wave goodbye as he saw his brother jumping and waving goodbye in the distance.