Castle Roland

The Other

by MultiMapper

In Progress

Chapter 10

Posted: 23 May 16

The Other

Copyright © 2005-2012 by MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

Part 4: December

"Granger... Hermione... you look great." Cherub said in astonishment.

Hermione blushed at the praise.

"Wings is right. You look very nice. I feel underdressed now." Draco said as he looked at Hermione appreciatively.

"You'd better watch out guys, you'd risk your Slytherin reputations if it got out that you were admiring a Gryffindor." Harry said in a playful voice.

"Good point." Draco said and pretended to lose interest.

Cherub smiled and said, "Yes. Thank you Harry.... By the way Draco, you look lovely this evening."

All four classmates broke into laughter at the statement.

"Are you ready for me to do the glamour?" Andrew asked as he walked into the room.

"Ready when you are." Cherub said happily.

Andrew pulled out his wand and began chanting a very complicated spell.

Within two sentences, Cherub was completely lost as to what he was doing and could only stand still and admire Andrew's mastery of spell casting.

Long minutes passed as Andrew continued his spell. All four students were enthralled by the complexity of the spell and the ease with which Andrew was casting.

In a final crescendo of words, Andrew made a complicated gesture with his wand and the magic was released.

Silence fell over the room and Cherub finally had to ask, "Did it work?"

"It's perfect." Draco said in astonishment.

"If I didn't know you had wings, I wouldn't be able to guess." Harry said as he walked behind Cherub to look at his back.

"You matched the color of his shirt perfectly... it's seamless." Hermione said in wonder.

"Glamours were my specialty when I went to Hogwart's. I often thought of doing something with it after graduation, but practicality demanded that I take up a more lucrative career." Andrew said gently.

"Then are we ready to go?" Draco asked, finally snapped out of his daze.

"Not yet. We're waiting for Chuffery." Cherub said casually.

"Do you think he's having trouble?" Hermione asked cautiously.

"No. James is helping him. I'm sure he'll be along any minute." Cherub said with assurance.

As if on cue, Chuffery and James walked into the sitting room.

"You look great Chuffery. We're going to have to get dressed up more often." Cherub said as he looked at his brother consideringly.

"He's right Chuffery, you look very nice." Hermione said with a gentle smile.

"You're pretty." Chuffery said as he looked at Hermione carefully.

Cherub looked at Chuffery's expression and felt a wave of panic when he recognized what was happening.

"My p..." Chuffery began to say but Cherub grabbed him by the arm and pulled him out of the room.

Chuffery stared at Cherub with fear and confusion.

Cherub recognized the look and said in a soothing voice, "I'm not mad at you Chuffery. I just forgot to tell you something earlier and it's important that I tell you now."

Chuffery looked at Cherub hesitantly.

"While we're with other people, we don't talk about pee-pees, butts or anything we do in the bathroom. Can you remember that?" Cherub asked carefully.

Chuffery nodded shyly.

"I'm sorry if I scared you, but I thought you were just going to tell Hermione that she made your pee-pee hard." Cherub said with a smile.

Chuffery shyly nodded again.

Cherub hugged him tightly and said, "It's okay to have a hard pee-pee, but it's not okay to talk about it with everyone. You can talk with James or I about it when we're alone. Is that okay with you?"

Chuffery nodded again, this time looking much relieved.

"Good. Then let's go to London." Cherub said happily.

"You look funny without wings." Chuffery said as he stared at Cherub's back.

"Yes. I think so too." Cherub said and put out his hand for Chuffery.

"You have a very nice carriage Mr. Klegg. It's very comfortable." Draco said, obviously trying to make conversation.

"It belongs to the Nightshade family. My own carriage is too small to carry all of us comfortably, and since Cherub and Chuffery are going to visit their cousin, it seemed justified." Andrew said pleasantly.

"So what is your cousin like?" Hermione asked, trying to keep some sort of conversation going.

"I have no idea. I've never met any of my family but Father, Grandfather and Chuffery." Cherub said simply.

With that being said, the conversation was effectively killed and the group continued their journey in silence.

"Remember Chuffery, we don't talk about magic or muggles while we're here." Cherub said seriously as the carriage made it's way down the London streets.

"Or pee-pees or butts or things you do in the bathroom." Chuffery said seriously.

The tense silence they had endured finally erupted into laughter as everyone, even Andrew, found the statement to be incredibly funny.

"That's exactly right Chuffery." Cherub said with a smile as he hugged his brother happily.

The group stepped out of the carriage and were surprised to find that it appeared to be a limousine from the outside.

"It might have seemed odd to drive up in a carriage." Andrew said with a shrug.

Cherub automatically took Chuffery's hand and followed behind Andrew to the front door of what appeared to be someone's home.

As they approached the door, it was opened by a doorman.

"We're here to see Miss Nightshade's works." Andrew said to the doorman.

"Yes. Welcome, come right in." The doorman said happily.

"Thank you." Chuffery said as they passed.

Cherub gave his brother an appreciative squeeze at the polite gesture.

Hermione gasped and turned away from the painting she was looking at.

"What's wrong?" Harry asked as she started to walk away.

Hermione couldn't talk, she was blushing over every inch of exposed skin and hiding her face in her hands.

Cherub and Harry looked at the picture that had embarrassed her and tried to figure out what was wrong.

"It's just a flower." Cherub said in confusion.

"It looks kind of funny." Harry said as he tilted his head to look at it from a different angle.

Draco walked up and joined them.

"Are you guys into looking at dirty pictures now?" Draco asked curiously.

Harry and Cherub turned at the same time to look at him in question.

"It's a vagina... a big one." Draco said as he looked at the picture queasily.

Harry and Cherub looked at the picture again.

"Oh... ewww." Cherub said as he realized what he was seeing.

"I kind of like it." Harry said with a timid smile.

"Oh Potter." Draco said with a sigh and shook his head as he walked away.

A moment later Cherub followed, leaving Harry staring at the picture looking at it first one way, then another.

"I think your cousin might be a lesbian." Draco said as he stood by Cherub and Chuffery in front of a picture of six naked young women, frolicking in a fountain.

"Maybe she just can't draw penises?" Cherub speculated.

Draco got an amused look and said, "I suppose that's a possibility... only you would think of that."

Cherub smiled at Draco, then put an arm around Chuffery and asked, "How are you doing Chuffery?"

"Them pictures don't have no clothes on."

Cherub gave Chuffery a quick squeeze and said, "That's right. Some people think that people without clothes are nice to look at. How do you think those girls are feeling in the picture?"

A woman approached to look at the painting as Chuffery said, "I think the little girls are having fun playing in the water, but the oldest one feels bad because she's too old to play."

Cherub looked at the picture again, trying to see what his brother saw.

"That's exactly right young man." The woman said from behind them.

Cherub, Chuffery and Draco turned to see a woman in her late twenties, dressed simply, but elegantly.

"You've just given the best summary of this painting I think I've ever heard." The woman said to Chuffery with a warm smile.

"I'm December Nightshade." She said as she looked at the three boys before her.

"She's got a name like mine!" Chuffery said with excitement.

The woman gave Chuffery a curious look.

"December Nightshade, I'd like for you to meet Chuffery Nightshade." Cherub said formally.

"A Nightshade? Here?" December said in shock.

"We came to see your work." Cherub said with a shrug.

"And you are?" December asked cautiously.

"I'm Cherub Nightshade, and this is my friend Draconis Malfoy." Cherub said in a pleasant tone.

"A Malfoy too?" December asked with wide eyes.

Cherub gestured to Harry to come over.

"December, this is our other friend, Harry Potter." Cherub said, getting a sadistic little thrill from heaping one shock on top of another.

"THE Harry Potter?" December asked in a gasp and looked as if she were about to faint.

"You can just call me Harry if you want." Harry said shyly.

December took a deep breath and steadied herself before a concerned look came over her face and she asked, "Are you guys here alone? Did any of your parents come with you?"

Cherub didn't fully understand her apprehension, but understood enough.

"No. We are here with an adult, but he isn't going to spread the word of where to find you." Cherub said quietly.

December seemed to wilt with relief and said, "Then I'm happy to have you here. And I'm overjoyed that you appreciate my art."

"The only family I've ever met was my father and grandfather. When I heard about you I wanted to meet you." Cherub said seriously.

"Your father?" December asked, then looked Cherub in the eyes.

"You're Gideon's aren't you?" December asked cautiously.

"Yes." Cherub said flatly, seeing no reason that he should act thrilled by the fact.

"How is Uncle Gid these days? Still pointing fingers and thinking he's above everyone else because he's the oldest?" December asked with a hint of anger in her voice.

"Yes, but he may have come down a few notches in the past twenty-four hours." Cherub said with a timid smile.

December looked at Cherub with interest.

"When Grandfather passed away, Father didn't receive anything." Cherub said with a devilish smile.

"Oh my... I didn't know about Grandfather, but that's good news about your father. Please tell me he was left penniless and thrown into the gutter." December asked hopefully.

"No. I believe there are laws against littering. But he's being kept on a short leash. He's receiving a monthly allowance... as long as he behaves himself." Cherub said happily.

"Even better... you don't have to do without things because of him do you?" December asked with concern.

"No. Father sold me and my brother for the price of the allowance. We have other guardians now, people who actually like kids." Cherub said happily.

"That's great to hear. I'm glad to see you didn't inherit your father's pompous ass. Magda can watch the front for a while, come back and talk with me for a few minutes. I haven't heard anything about the family in years." December said hopefully.

"We need to let Hermione and Andrew know where we'll be." Cherub said seriously.

"I'll find them." Harry said and ran off before anyone could suggest otherwise.

"Oh, I see you found her." Andrew said with a smile.

"Mr. Klegg?" December asked with a look of horror.

"Please December, call me Andrew. Don't worry about me telling anyone where you are, I work for Cherub now so he's the only one I would tell." Andrew said gently.

December looked from Andrew to Cherub and asked, "He works for you?"

"Grandfather left everything to me." Cherub said shyly as he held Chuffery close.

"Oh really?" December asked as she led the group into the back room.

"Grandfather didn't seem to have a very high opinion of the rest of the family." Cherub said carefully.

December let out a loud laugh, then said, "I guess that's one way of putting it. Everyone else in the wizarding world thinks the Nightshades are a high and mighty family and Grandpa Ari is selfish for not spreading the wealth amongst his children. What they don't know is that all his children are a bunch of idiots."

"Grandfather said my father was the best of the lot. If that is true, I think you're being too kind to my aunts and uncles." Cherub said as he took a seat on a comfortable couch.

"I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees it. My own family threw me out when I decided that I wanted to live with my lover, Magda." December said frankly.

Draco flashed a 'told'ja so' look at Cherub.

"Fortunately, living among muggles has inspired me to discover my other talents and my art is really starting to catch on." December said happily.

"I noticed that Harry was particularly interested in one of your paintings, and you heard Chuffery's analysis of the girls at the fountain." Cherub said, amazed at how comfortable he felt with his cousin.

"Yes. And now that I know you're a Nightshade, that makes it even more special. It's always been my hope that my work might be the catalyst to bring an appreciation of art for something beyond the monetary value to a member of my family." December said happily.

"Well, I think it's safe to say you've done that. Even though we were only looking at them a few minutes, they inspired thought and discussion." Cherub said with a smile and glance at Draco.

"I'm just curious, Uncle Gid and Aunt Lyd were both blond. Did you two change your hair color?" December asked with a speculative look.

Cherub smiled and said, "Yes, in fact, we changed Chuffery's hair this morning."

December's eyes seemed to glaze over for a second, then she said, "Hold still for a second. I'm going to get something."

Cherub looked at everyone sitting around the comfortable little room and asked, "Is everyone having fun so far?"

"Actually, I am. Your cousin is quite amusing." Draco said with a smile.

"I find your cousin's outlook to be much like that of Aristotle's. I am content in her company." Andrew said peacefully.

"That's got to be the best compliment you could have paid me." December said as she hurried back into the room carrying a camera.

"Would you two mind if I take a few pictures? I just love the contrast between your hair color and your skin... and your eyes. I think I would like to use you for a painting." December asked hopefully.

"Do we have to be naked?" Chuffery asked Cherub with concern.

Cherub shrugged and looked at December with question.

"No cutie, you don't have to get naked. I just want a few pictures of your faces so I can be sure to get the facial details right." December said with a smile.

Cherub nodded at Chuffery, then they both nodded at December.

"You don't need to pose for me or anything. Just look at me." December said, then snapped the picture.

"Now look into each other's eyes." December instructed.

She snapped the next picture, then said, "Now look up."

She snapped another picture, then said, "Last one. Look at each other's knees."

Cherub tried to keep the laughter out of his expression as he did as he was told.

"Would you mind taking one of all of us?" Cherub asked as she began to lower the camera.

"All?" She asked hesitantly.

"Harry, Draco, Hermione, Chuffery and I?" Cherub asked hopefully.

December stopped and got a speculative look.

"I'll take your picture, but please let me pose you." December said in thought.

Cherub nodded and motioned for his friends to join him on the couch.

"Cherub, move to the right side of the couch and put Chuffery on your lap." December said and scooted back from the couch and looked through her camera.

"Draconis, put your right arm around Cherub's shoulder and hold Chuffery's right hand with your left hand." December said in thought.

"Chuffery needs to scoot a little to the right to keep the shadow off Cherub's cheek, just a little." December said professionally.

"Hermione and Harry, sit next to Draconis on the couch, side by side and look at each other."

After a moment of considering, she said, "Harry and Hermione, switch places and do the same thing."

They did so and looked at each other. December hurried to Harry and fussed with his hair a little to emphasize his scar.

"Hermione, take Harry's left hand. Harry, put your right hand on Draconis' knee." December said in concentration.

After looking through the camera she said, "Harry, move your hand a little higher up Draconis' leg."

Harry moved his hand an inch or so higher.

"Perfect. Now Cherub, tell me, is Draconis your friend?" December asked in a leading tone.

"My best friend." Cherub said with a smile.

"Hold that expression. Draconis, does Harry's hand make you feel a little nervous?" December asked quickly.

"Well... I guess that's one word for it." Draco said with a look of hesitance.

"Perfect. Hold that look. Hermione, do you trust Harry?" December asked with excitement.

Hermione got a peaceful look and said, "Yes."

The picture snapped, followed by two more.

"I'm not usually one for photography, but I think this will be a masterpiece. Where should I send the prints?" December asked as she put down her camera.

"All of us except Chuffery are students at Hogwart's, you can owl them to us there." Harry said as he removed his hand from Draco's leg.

"I don't have access to owls." December said with a note of regret.

"I will give you an address that you can post them to. Just address them to my attention and I will see that everyone gets one." Andrew said with a peaceful smile.

"Thank you Mr. Klegg. I should be getting back into the gallery. I'm hoping to sell a painting or two tonight so I can buy some more supplies... and pay rent." December finished quietly.

"December, if you need some money to finance your art career, I'll be willing to..." Cherub began to say.

"Thank you Cherub, but it wouldn't work. It's the struggle that inspires me. If you paid my way, I wouldn't be able to put any emotion into my paintings." December said seriously.

"I understand. Then why don't we go look around the gallery again. Perhaps we could find a painting or two that we'd like to buy." Cherub said in thought.

"I know which one I want." Harry said with a smile.

Cherub and Draco both gave identical eye rolls as they stood.

"Come along, I'd hate for any of my adoring public to get away without meeting me." December said with a smile.

"Chuffery, would you like to have this picture at home?" Cherub asked as they stood before the picture of the girls at the fountain again.

Chuffery nodded and said, "I think Millicent would like it."

Cherub smiled and hugged his brother.

"Potter bought 'the flower'." Draco said as he approached.

"You can't be serious. Where will he put it?" Cherub asked in disbelief.

"He thinks it will liven up his room at Gryffindor." Draco said as he tried to restrain a smile.

Cherub fought to hold in a chuckle, but couldn't as he said, "I'd love to be there to see the looks on everyone's faces."

"Especially Professor McGonigal's." Draco said, not even trying to keep from laughing.

Cherub held Chuffery close as he broke down into full laughter.

"Shhh. We're in a public place." Hermione scolded as she approached.

"Don't worry Hermione, I have a feeling that this place needs more laughter. Just as long as you aren't making fun of my painting, that is." December said as she approached from the other direction.

"No, not at all." Cherub said, trying to regain control.

"We were just anticipating the reaction to Harry's purchase when he displays it in his dorm at Hogwart's." Draco said with a grand smile.

"He isn't!" December asked in a gasp, then started to chuckle as Draco nodded.

"Which house?" December was barely able to ask.

"Gryffindor." Cherub said, pulled back into the laughter.

Hermione and Chuffery were even beginning to be effected by the infectious laughter.

December had tears in her eyes as she let out a hearty laugh at the thought.

"Is... is McGonigal... still head... of Gryf... Gryffindor?" December asked, barely able to speak.

Draco and Cherub nodded with tears of laughter in their eyes.

December dashed away from the group and into the back room, bellowing with laughter.

"It's been ages since I've heard December laugh like that. Thank you." An elegant red-head said as she approached.

"It was our pleasure." Cherub said with a smile.

"I am Magda Belfleur. It's wonderful to see a group of young people taking an interest in art." Magda said warmly.

"Our main reason for coming was to meet my cousin, December. But now that we're here, I think we're all enjoying the paintings." Cherub said honestly.

"Your cousin... then you're?..." Magda trailed off, looking for the correct words.

Cherub nodded.

"Oh my. Well, December always seemed to be apprehensive about her family finding her. I'm glad it didn't turn out as badly as she expected." Magda said uncertainly.

"She's probably right to be concerned. The rest of the family won't hear where she is from us." Cherub assured.

Magda gave a warm smile and said, "I'm glad she has someone in her family that accepts her. Even though she doesn't say it, I know the rejection of her parents shook her to the core."

December walked out of the back room wearing a smile.

"I've just met your cousin dear. You have a delightful family." Magda said happily.

December stopped in her tracks and got a considering look, then said, "You know Magda, I think I can honestly say that you're the first person to ever say those words to me."

Cherub gave a full smile and said, "Well Chuffery and I are honored to be your family. I hope now that we've met, we will be able to behave like a proper family and keep in touch."

"I would like that." December said with a smile.

"I'm busy at Hogwart's during the week, as you can imagine, but perhaps one weekend when you both are free you could come to Dour Oaks as my guests. It could be like a holiday for you." Cherub said warmly.

December looked at Magda with question and received a nod.

After a look around to see that no one was listening, December asked, "You do realize that Magda isn't a witch?"

Cherub smiled and said, "I had assumed as much. As long as our occasional use of magic won't be offensive to you. Both of you will be welcomed in our home."

"I don't know where Dour Oaks is." December said uncertainly.

"Just get in touch with Mr. Klegg and he'll make arrangements for you to visit." Cherub said with assurance.

"Yes. That will work. We'll let you know when we're free for a weekend, it sounds like a wonderful idea." December said happily.

"Good, now that that's settled. Chuffery would like to purchase this painting as a gift." Cherub said and indicated the fountain picture.

"Oh, how nice!" December said with delight.

"It is one of my favorites." Magda said with a smile.

"Andrew can arrange payment if that's alright with you December?" Cherub asked gently.

"Yes, of course. Would you like to take it now or have it delivered?" December asked in a professional tone.

"What do you think Chuffery? Would you like to give it to Millicent tonight or have it delivered later?" Cherub asked seriously.

"Tonight. I don't want to wait." Chuffery said with a grand smile.

"You said Millicent?" December asked curiously.

"Yes, why?" Cherub asked with concern.

"Oh, I'm just going to put a personalized message on the back of the canvas to her. If I ever become a famous artist, it increases the value of the painting." December said as she walked to the painting and carefully took it down.

"I think Millie will love it." Andrew said from behind the group.

"I think so too. It was Chuffery's idea to get it for her." Cherub said proudly.

"There, I'm going to take it in back to wrap it for travel." December said with a smile.

"Thank you December." Cherub said warmly.

As the group got into the carriage, all of them were in high spirits.

"Thank you for suggesting this Andrew. It was wonderful." Cherub said happily.

"Yes, I never expected that going to an art gallery would be so much fun." Hermione said with a smile.

"I'm glad you enjoyed it. Would you like to stop somewhere for a snack before we return to Dour Oaks?" Andrew asked with a voice of contentment.

"I think a snack would be lovely. Do you think we could get into Madame Chinchbug's?" Cherub asked as he hugged Chuffery gently.

"I'm sure Madeline will be able to find a place for us." Andrew said, then moved to the front of the carriage to tell the driver of the change in plans.

"I never expected to have fun this weekend. I was sure I was going to be miserable the entire time." Hermione said honestly.

"I'm glad we were able to change your plans then. It's nice to be able to enjoy the company of friends outside Hogwart's, I feel more free to be myself." Cherub said speculatively.

"Friends?" Hermione asked cautiously.

Cherub realized what he said, then nodded as he said, "If you want to be Hermione. Now that I've had some time to get to know you, I can see why Harry considers you a friend."

Hermione considered for a moment, then said, "I need to know something first."

"Ask anything you like." Cherub said seriously.

"I need to know why Harry left us to clean up the mess in potions class on the second day." Hermione said seriously as she looked at Harry.

"Because I don't like being bullied." Harry said simply.

"What?" Hermione asked in confusion.

"I had fully intended to stay and help you clean up. I never even considered otherwise until Ron told me that I couldn't go with Draco and Cherub. It may be a personality flaw, but I can't stand to be bullied. If he would have asked, or even said nothing I would have stayed, but as soon as he ordered me to stay... I couldn't help it. I had to defy him to prove that he couldn't tell me what to do." Harry said honestly.

"I didn't think of that." Hermione said quietly.

"When I left the classroom, Cherub and Draco were kind enough to allow me to join them. They showed me courtesy and respect... I started to question some of the things I believed up to that point." Harry continued.

Hermione nodded in thought.

"We talked. All of us shared our thoughts about a variety of things and I realized that Cherub and Draco aren't that different from us. They just base their actions on thinking more than feeling." Harry said frankly.

"And everything Ron and I said after that was like us trying to bully you into coming back." Hermione said in deep concentration.

"Yes. If you could have calmed down and listened to me, we could have resolved everything easily. But as long as you couldn't respect me enough to listen to me, I couldn't stay in Gryffindor. If the sorting hat hadn't made it's declaration about me belonging in two houses, I probably would have withdrawn from you and become isolated from everyone in Gryffindor and visited with Cherub and Draco when I was able." Harry said in thought.

"I think I understand. You weren't behaving the way we expected, so we thought the Slytherin had done something to lure you away, when in reality, we were driving you away." Hermione said seriously.

"Yes. Tell me honestly. What kind of example could I be to Gryffindor if I allowed myself to be so easily dominated?" Harry asked as he looked around the carriage at everyone.

"But allowing Ron's demands to influence your behavior isn't that much different." Cherub said in thought.

"Maybe not. But I can see that now. At the time, I was driven only by my feelings, now I better understand the importance of recognizing my motives before I act." Harry said as he looked Cherub in the eyes.

Hermione nodded at the statement and said, "I think that's a lesson a lot of us need to learn."

"That's the main reason I'm switching houses." Harry said honestly.

"We're here." Andrew said into the silence that followed.

As Cherub walked into Madame Chinchbug's he couldn't help but say, "Bon jour Madeline."

Andrew watched Cherub with pride, enjoying the fact that he was automatically taking charge of the situation.

The elegantly dressed woman looked at him in surprise, then did a double take at Cherub's apparent wingless state.

"We went to London, I had to hide them." Cherub said with a shy smile.

Madeline nodded and said, "I'm sorry to hear about Ari, he was a dear, sweet man."

"Thank you Madeline. He held you and your family in high regard. He even mentioned that he changed your diaper once." Cherub said with a teasing smile.

"Oh, that Ari." Madeline said with a chuckle.

"Do you happen to have a table available?" Cherub asked with a gentle smile.

"Of course Cherub, come with me. You can have the same dining room as yesterday if you like." Madeline said pleasantly.

"That would be nice."

The group followed Madeline to the small dining room and took their seats.

"Marissa will be in to take your orders in a few minutes." Madeline said as she sat menus at each place.

As soon as Madeline left the room, Harry said, "This is a really nice place."

"Yes, my Grandfather took us here last night. He thought highly of it." Cherub said in a subdued tone.

"He mentioned that you three had spaghetti. That delighted him no end." Andrew said with a smile.

"It was quite good. I think we all enjoyed it." Cherub said and glanced at Chuffery.

A shy nod was Chuffery's only response.

"What should we have?" Harry asked as he looked at the menu.

"If you would like, I could just order the snack feast. It's a selection of snack foods prepared for the number of people attending. There's enough variety that everyone can have something they enjoy and it gives you the opportunity to try new things." Andrew said informatively.

"That sounds like a good idea to me." Cherub said as he sat down his menu.

Everyone else seemed to agree, then Cherub thought to ask Chuffery.

"Would you like to try some different foods, or would you like to have spaghetti again tonight?"

Chuffery looked around the table and whispered, "Basketti."

"Do you think they could put a serving or two of spaghetti in with the feast?" Cherub asked Andrew casually.

"I'm sure they will if you ask." Andrew said with a smile.

Cherub remembered what his grandfather said about being one of Madame Chinchbug's best customers and smiled in return.

The meal was interspersed with general conversation about professors, studies and the goings on at Hogwart's.

The trip back to Dour Oaks focused primarily on what needed to be studied in preparation for Monday and it was decided that the next morning would be devoted to study.

Upon arriving at Dour Oaks, Andrew remained in the carriage and said his goodbyes, accepting a hug from each of the children as they disembarked.

As Cherub left the carriage, the glamour left his wings. Cherub noticed and gave Andrew a last smile and wave before walking to the front door.

"Did you have a good evening?" Millicent asked in a cheerful and welcoming voice as she opened the front door.

"A wonderful evening Millicent. Chuffery even bought something while we were out." Cherub said and indicated the wrapped painting he was carrying.

"How nice." Millicent said with a delighted smile.

"Come in the sitting room and we'll show it to you." Cherub said as he led the way.

"Oh, it's lovely. It shows such a counterpoint of emotions, maturity and frivolity, joy and longing..." Millicent said as she looked at the painting carefully.

"Look at the message on the back." Cherub said with an impish grin.

Millicent carefully moved to the back of the painting and read:


Chuffery saw this painting and thought you would enjoy it.

He's a perceptive child, so I have no doubt that you will.

I hope it brings you joy.

December Nightshade

Millicent looked at Chuffery in surprise, then ran to hug him.

"Thank you Chuffery, it's wonderful." Millicent said joyfully.

Chuffery was speechless but returned the hug with an expression of bliss.

"I'm glad you like it Millicent. Chuffery was sure you would." Cherub said with a glow of happiness.

"Yes. Yes, it's wonderful. It's such a beautiful painting, and it's even more beautiful because Chuffery bought it for me." Millicent said as she continued to hug Chuffery tightly.

"Do you have any idea where you'd like to put it?" Cherub asked with a smile.

Millicent slowly released Chuffery from the hug, then gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek as she whispered, "Thank you Chuffery."

Cherub noticed the look on Chuffery's face and had no doubt that his little brother was not only incredibly happy, but also having 'pee-pee' issues.

Millicent got a considering look, then said, "If you have no objection Mr. Nightshade, we could put it in the entry hall. I believe the color would compliment the room more than the floral picture that is in there now."

Cherub smiled and said, "I think you're right. If Harry and Draco will help me, we can put it up right now."

The group moved as one into the entry hall and quickly took down the rather common picture of a vase of flowers and replaced it with Millicent's gift.

"Oh yes. Quite lovely." Millicent beamed.

"It's like it was made for this room." Hermione said with appreciation.

Draco, Cherub and Harry stood back and looked at the picture carefully.

"What do you think?" Millicent asked hesitantly.

"Oh, it's beautiful. I was just noticing how it draws your attention immediately. It's become the focus of the room." Draco said in thought.

"Yes. That's it exactly." Harry said with a nod.

Millicent smiled with pride as she stood with the boys and looked at the picture.

"If you will excuse me, I'm going to get Chuffery ready for bed." Cherub said as they left the entry hall.

Millicent stepped forward and gave Chuffery a quick kiss on the cheek before saying, "Thank you again Master Chuffery, I love my gift."

Chuffery smiled with pride.

"Go on. This will give us a chance to talk about you." Draco said with a smile as he made a 'shoo' motion.

"Yeah, take your time." Harry said with a chuckle.

Cherub laughed and led Chuffery away by the hand.

"Go ahead and start your bath water." Cherub said as he watched Chuffery undressing.

"Will you bathe with me?" Chuffery asked hopefully.

Cherub thought about it for a few seconds before saying, "Of course I will. But we have guests, so I won't be able to take too long."

Chuffery finished undressing and started the water in the tub.

Cherub took his time undressing, as he watched his brother getting them each some soap and a wash cloth.

He made a point of setting Herbert, his wand, on the edge of the tub so it wouldn't feel left out.

Memories of the frightened, dependent boy of the day before filled Cherub's mind as he eased into the tub of warm water.

"The water is just right Chuffery." Cherub said with appreciation.

Chuffery smiled with a look of accomplishment.

"Did you have fun today?" Cherub asked casually as he picked up the soap and wash cloth.

Chuffery nodded with excitement as he took his own wash cloth and soap.

Cherub felt as if he were looking in a mirror as Chuffery mimicked his every motion as he washed himself.

"I'm very proud of you Chuffery. You behaved very well today. You're the perfect brother." Cherub said in a distant voice.

Chuffery looked surprised by the statement, then moved to give Cherub a hug.

Cherub enjoyed the feeling of his brother hugging him, skin to skin and knew that this was pure love.

The hug lingered for long minutes until Cherub finally said, "We'd better finish and get you to bed. I don't want the others to have to wait too long."

Chuffery kissed Cherub on the cheek, then eased away to finish his washing.

As the brothers were drying themselves, Cherub said, "Did you notice that you bathed yourself tonight?"

Chuffery looked at Cherub curiously.

"You ran the water, washed yourself and now you're drying yourself. You don't need someone to help you anymore." Cherub said happily.

Chuffery got a look of regret and fear.

"Don't worry Chuffery. I'll bathe with you as long as you want me to. I'm just saying that now you have a choice. You don't need someone to bathe you. If I'm here with you it's because I want to be, not because I have to be." Cherub said carefully.

Chuffery smiled with relief and hugged his brother again.

Cherub lifted his naked little brother and carried him to the bedroom.

"So what did I miss?" Cherub asked as he walked into the sitting room.

"Not much, I think all of us are fighting to stay awake." Harry said with a sleepy look.

"Well I don't have anything else planned tonight. If you want to turn in, we can get up early in the morning and get our studies out of the way in time to do some flying." Cherub suggested.

"That sounds good to me." Draco said quietly.

"Me too." Hermione said and stood.

"Then it's settled. No one is going to wake us up in the morning, so just come down to the family dining room when you're ready for breakfast." Cherub said as he led the way upstairs.

"Sounds like a plan." Draco said absently.

"Goodnight." Hermione said as they approached her room.

"Goodnight Hermione, sleep well." Cherub said gently.

"You too." Hermione said with a small smile and went into her room.

Cherub made a 'come on' motion and continued on to his bedroom.

"You guys are welcomed to sleep in my room tonight if you want... this may be our last time." Cherub said seriously.

Draco nodded sadly.

Harry looked unsure but finally said regretfully, "One last time."

All three boys began to undress. They stripped to their underwear then looked at each other in question.

Normally they would change into pajamas at this point, that being the proper thing to do at Hogwart's.

Cherub gathered his courage and pulled his underwear down and off.

Draco followed Cherub's lead and was soon naked too.

Harry looked at Draco and Cherub hesitantly and finally lowered his own underwear.

No words were spoken as Cherub climbed into his massive bed. Harry and Draco followed him in, leaving Harry in the middle.

Cherub made a gesture to the lamp and the room fell into darkness except for pale moonlight shining in through the window.

Draco carefully snuggled into Harry's left side, allowing his entire body to come in contact with Harry's bare skin.

Cherub rested his head on Harry's shoulder and aligned himself along Harry's right side.

Harry kissed Draco's cheek, then turned and kissed the top of Cherub's head.

This was not a night for passion, it was a night for togetherness.

Perhaps their last.

To Be Continued...

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