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A Windsor at Hogwarts

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A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Twenty-Four:
Entering the Chamber of Secrets

-o-0-o-

Before Newt and Tina left the Hospital Wing, Dumbledore pulled the famed magizoologist aside and asked him to meet him in his office. It was about half-an-hour later, the three of them each having a cup of tea in their hands, that Dumbledore began, “Newt, I have a favor to ask…”

“This isn’t going to be another one of those favors like last time is it?” Newt asked. “When you asked me to go after Grindelwald?”

“No, no, rest assured, that is not the favor,” Dumbledore said.

“Good, Professor,” Tina said. “Because if it was, I’d be seriously tempted to shove this teacup up your arse after throwing its contents in your face.”

“I assure you, Tina, this is nothing overly dangerous,” Dumbledore said. “I’d wager that Newt’s research trips are far more hazardous to his health than what I have in mind.”

Taking a sip of his tea, Newt nodded and said, “Very well, Headmaster, what is it?”

With a smile, Dumbledore answered, “Well, Silvanus Kettleburn has decided to retire, to spend more time with his remaining limbs. So, I was hoping that you might agree to teach the Care of Magical Creatures classes next year.”

“Well, a teaching job is certainly less hazardous than going after a Dark Lord,” Tina said.

“I thought so,” Dumbledore said. “With the changes for next year that the Board of Governors are making, you’d be teaching the third through seventh-year Creatures classes. And as Head of the Magical Creatures department, you’d be starting at 15,330 galleons a year. If you decide to stay on in the position for more than a year, as you gain seniority that will go up until you hit the cap of 16,790 galleons.”

“So, I’d be the only teacher in the department but still get the department head salary?” Newt asked.

Dumbledore nodded. “Yes, the governors decided to give the elective professors that salary because they are considering adding more professors to teach those subjects. They haven’t done so yet because it hasn’t really been necessary, especially with the new scheduling being adopted next year. But, this year’s first-year class was the largest we’ve seen in nearly two decades and next year’s is projected to be even bigger. If that trend continues, even splitting the classes up by house won’t be enough to keep the class sizes reasonable, so new teachers will have to be added to the elective departments.”

“New scheduling?” Tina asked. She’d attended Ilvermorny in America, but being married to Newt for nearly sixty years now, she’d obviously learned what the Hogwarts schedule was like, at least when he was a student in the early 1900’s.

“Yes, we have several sitting lords among our student body now,” Dumbledore explained. “Including your grandson-in-law. So, they’re all using Time-Turners to take remedial classes related to politics, governing, and international affairs in addition to their regular classes.”

He figured it was fine for Newt and Tina to know this, as they were probably aware of the fact that their grandson Rolf was using a Time-Turner to take extra electives. Besides which, everyone on staff knew about the young lord’s use of the devices.

“Anyway, for the lord classes the governors were testing out a new system of A and B weeks,” Dumbledore explained. “It’s worked so well for the lord classes that they’ve decided to implement it school-wide. So, starting next year, all seven of the core classes will be on a two-one schedule. With some meeting twice a week during A-weeks and others meeting only once a week, with the reverse during B-weeks. Each class will meet for two hours.”

Dumbledore paused to take a sip of his tea before he continued. “As for the electives, for the last two years now, they’ve been meeting twice a week for two forty-five minute classes, with the third years and older only attending their core classes three times a week. That changes next year, as I’ve already said, with the elective meetings being taken down to only once a week, but with the new two hour class periods, they’re gaining an extra thirty minutes a week.”

“Interesting,” Tina said, having been aware of some of the changes made recently due to her correspondence and conversations with Rolf.

“Yes, the governors have also decided to include Saturdays in the schedule next year,” Dumbledore revealed. “No core classes will be scheduled for Saturdays, but some electives might be, in order to give those students who want to take more electives than there are class periods the opportunity to potentially do so without having to use a Time-Turner.”

After a few more moments of silence, Newt said, “I’ll admit, I am intrigued by the idea of teaching at Hogwarts. It’s not like I don’t know the material, considering that I literally wrote one of the textbooks that’s used for the class. Of course, I will say that if I accept the position, I will not be using Edwardus Lima’s Monster Book of Monsters. While informative, I don’t think its right to subject students to a textbook which tries to bite their fingers off.”

“Indeed, I’m inclined to agree,” Dumbledore said. “I know some would argue that it teaches students to be properly wary of magical creatures and even how to care for them since the book will open passively if you stroke its spine first, but I believe there are better ways to achieve both objectives.”

Newt nodded in agreement, as Dumbledore added, “At any rate, I’m sure Flourish and Blotts will be quite happy to not have to stock the book, as the need to keep a book in a cage is something they’d likely prefer not to deal with.”

“Well, Albus, if you can give me a day or two to think about it and discuss it with Tina, I can give you an answer,” Newt said.

“That’s fine, Newt,” Dumbledore said. “Before you go, however, while I have you here, I would be interested in your thoughts about Slytherin’s monster.”

“Slytherin’s monster?” Newt asked. “The one purported to be in the Chamber of Secrets?”

Dumbledore nodded, gravely, as he said, “Yes, I don’t know if Rolf has told you, but the Chamber has been opened. Nobody has died, thankfully, although as of now four students, including young Prince William and two of his bodyguards, Sir Nicholas, the Fat Friar, and Mr. Filch’s cat have all been petrified. With the Mandrake Restorative all but Miss Penelope Clearwater have been unpetrified, as she was only just petrified last night. You may have noticed the screens blocking the view of one of the beds in the Hospital Wing,” Newt and Tina nodded, “that is Miss Clearwater.”

“Well, there are a number of creatures with a petrification gaze, as I’m sure you know,” Newt said, prompting Dumbledore to nod. “Not all of them were included in my books, as I didn’t feel I had enough information about some of them to include them. Of course, I also didn’t include the species that are extinct. Or at least, believed to be, because if Salazar Slytherin truly did place some kind of creature in the Chamber of Secrets, it’s entirely possible that it could be a creature that’s believed to have gone extinct between then and now.”

“Could a creature truly live for over a thousand years?” Tina asked.

“Oh yes,” Newt said. “There are several very long-lived species, including some which enter long periods of hibernation which slow down their bodily functions so much that if you came across one you might think it was dead if you didn’t know how to properly test that. Many of those species, however, can hibernate for years and they age so slowly during that time that it’s almost as though no time at all has passed for them when they wake.”

-o-0-o-

Due to his becoming a father, Ryan was given the day off from his classes, but his friends were not. Thus, it wasn’t until a few hours after Ryan’s family and in-laws left that his friends began trickling into the Hospital Wing after classes had let out to say hello and meet his children.

As Carter, Hunter, Harry, Cedric, and Wills, accompanied by Matt, Torin, and Killian, entered the wing, the four babies were in the midst of being fed. Max and Tavi were still in bed, with Max cradling Pollux in his arms as the newborn suckled on his dad’s left nipple. Tavi was lying back with Rigel and Regulus lying on his chest, as they each sucked on one, while Ryan was sitting in a chair on Max’s side of the bed, holding Castor, as he did the same.

For Carter and Hunter, this was nothing new, as they’d seen their dads feeding Ridley over the summer, as well as seeing their dads and Alex feeding Alexandria since her birth a few months ago. Cedric had also seen it before, because while his father and stepfather were not gay, and thus his mother and stepmother had carried all of his siblings, that didn’t mean that Amos and Aidan didn’t feed their children, as the spell that allowed for male breastfeeding worked on all men, not just the gay ones.

Torin had also had the occasion to see it since he was a wizard-raised halfblood, and both of his brothers had done it, as they each had one child so far with their respective wives. Thus, Torin had seen both his niece and nephew being fed by his brothers, though not by their wives. Tiernan and Trevor, however, saw no reason to not let Torin see them feeding their children because it’s not like he hadn’t seen their naked chests before… especially since as identical triplets, Torin basically saw his brothers’ chests every time he was shirtless since they all looked the same.

For Harry, Wills, Matt, and Killian, however, it was not something they’d seen before. Harry was a muggle-raised halfblood and the others were all muggleborns, after all. Torin’s niece and nephew were born when the triplets were seventeen and thus were now eight years old. Killian had only been with Torin for the last five years, two of which they’d been married. Thus, he’d never seen his husband’s brothers feeding their kids, as wizarding children were weaned off breastmilk by the time they turned two. And while Matt had a magical niece and nephew via two of Kyle’s three brothers, Ryan and Jake had never breastfed their children, since they and their wives were muggles.

“Okay, I knew it was possible, as Alex made sure to tell all of us what he’d forgotten to mention last year,” Wills said, “but it’s strange to see men breastfeeding babies.”

“Trust me, it feels as strange as it looks,” Ryan said. “Until now, the only time I’ve had anyone sucking on my nipples was Max and Tavi during foreplay.” Blushing, he said, “And I’m ashamed to admit that my teenage hormones have reacted to the stimulus if you get my meaning.”

“Well, I’d say that’s normal,” Matt said. “Teenage hormones are hard enough to deal with and can cause you to get hard at the most inopportune of times.”

Killian nodded. “Yes, I wouldn’t say that it means you’re a pedophile or anything. Just that you’re a teenager, experiencing something that you previously only associated with sex for the first time in a non-sexual context.”

“True,” Ryan said. “I have absolutely zero desire, less than zero actually, to do anything sexual with Castor.” Grinning over at Max and Tavi, he added, “His father and uncle are a different story, however.”

“Cool your jets, Ryan,” Max said. “It’ll be a few days at least before Tavi and I are recovered enough that we’re doing anything with you.”

Tavi nodded. “Yeah, you’ll have to make do with your hand for a while.”

With a sigh, Ryan said, “Fine, fine, I’ll just think about that surprise you had in store for me.” Shaking his head and turning to his friends, he said, “Anyway, this is Castor and Max is feeding his twin, Pollux. They’re mine and his. Tavi is feeding his with me, Rigel and Regulus, who as you can see are conjoined.”

Harry smiled. “They’re very cute.” Looking over at Rigel and Regulus, he asked, “So, how are they joined exactly?”

“Side-by-side with only three legs between them, like Max and me,” Tavi said. “But, as you know, Max and I are separate above the waist and each have two arms.”

Ryan nodded. “Yeah, Rigel and Regulus aren’t, as they’re joined from the shoulder blades all the way down to the toes of their shared foot. So, they each only have one arm.”

There were a few nods at this, before Carter asked, “So, do they share any organs, other than the magical core that is?”

“They do,” Max answered. “According to Madam Pomfrey’s scans, they share a liver. Although just like Max and me, it’s not one liver for both. More like one and three-fourths of one, that are fused together. They also only have three kidneys between them, and while they both have a full set of lungs, two of the four are connected. Plus, of course, several bones, blood vessels, and nerves.”

“Yes, so Castor and Pollux both have ten fingers and ten toes,” Ryan said. “Rigel and Regulus, however, have ten fingers and fifteen toes between them.”

“Well, actually, Mr. Black,” Poppy said, as she walked over, “to be more precise, Rigel has five fingers and five toes, while Regulus was five fingers and ten toes. While their central leg has a femur bone that has a double-ball-joint connecting it to both of their hip bones, it is still technically Regulus’s left leg and foot. Just as the leg and foot that Maximus and Octavius share is technically Maximus’s.”

The babies all had their fill not long after this, prompting Madam Pomfrey to help Ryan get the four babies back into their bassinets, where they promptly fell asleep. The matron then taught the new parents a specialized version of the Silencing Charm designed specifically for bassinets and cribs. It basically created a dome over the crib which kept noise out, so the occupant wouldn’t be woken up by loud noises, but would still allow the baby’s cries to be heard.

“The spell will automatically amplify the volume of their cries,” Poppy explained. “If they’re not tended to. So, basically like a combination of a Silencing Charm and a Sonorous Charm. You’ve got the two nanny elves, however, so I don’t see there being a problem, as they’ll make sure the babies are tended to before their cries get loud enough that everyone in the school can hear them.”

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, on the second floor of the castle, two corridors over from Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, Kyle’s muggleborn niece—his brother Ryan’s daughter—first-year Laura Bradley was looking out the window in the direction of the Quidditch Pitch, where the Ravenclaw team was currently having a practice session.

At this distance, she couldn’t see the players clearly, as they looked more like ants darting about through the sky. The thought made her grin, as she remembered the first time she’d flown on an airplane, when her parents had taken her to Euro Disney in France this past summer, after its mid-April opening. Several things on the ground had looked like ants as she looked out the window of the plane.

It was as she stood at the window fondly remembering the trip that she caught sight of the reflection of a pair of yellow eyes in the glass and promptly fell backward to the ground, petrified.

A few minutes later, two corridors over, fourth-year Ravenclaw Kevin Sterndale was making his way over to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Even though he was a boy, he frequently visited the bathroom that Myrtle haunted, as when he first came to Hogwarts, he chose to seek out Myrtle’s ghost and apologize to her.

For Kevin was the grandson of Olive Hornby, the girl in Myrtle’s year who had not only found her body after she’d died but had also been the reason why Myrtle was alone, crying in a bathroom. Before he came to Hogwarts, Kevin had been bullied by some of the local muggle children where he lived in Swansea, as they’d decided that the fact that he was homeschooled must mean that he was too dumb to attend a regular school.

That wasn’t true, as his parents had opted to homeschool him because until he’d started Hogwarts and learned better control, he’d had a problem with keeping his accidental magic under control. So rather than risk a breach of the Statute of Secrecy, his parents kept him at home and taught him everything he needed to know. Obviously, since he was in Ravenclaw, he wasn’t dumb. Still, because of that experience, he hated bullies and felt compelled to apologize for his grandmother’s actions.

Entering the bathroom, Kevin smiled and said, “Hi Myrtle.”

“Hi Kevin,” Myrtle said with a smile. Despite who he was related to, Myrtle actually liked Kevin. He had sought her out and apologized to her, after all, and in the years since had made an effort to be nice to her. Very few people in the school paid attention to her as they’d rather avoid her, so the fact that Kevin sought her out and spent nearly an hour a day chatting with her while he did his homework had made them good friends.

Kevin had just taken up his normal spot, sitting on the floor, leaning up against the dividing wall between two of the stalls and pulled out his Charms homework, Myrtle floating about twenty feet above his head when the door opened again.

Myrtle was just about to start yelling when she spotted the young redhead girl in Hogwarts robes who had thrown the book through her head—she hadn’t seen her do it, but she figured it out later when the girl had come back after Harry and his friends looking for the book—but before she could, another student, taller, male, with black hair, and a Slytherin robe walked into the room behind her, followed by a great big, hulking snake, prompting Myrtle to scream.

This got Kevin’s attention, as so absorbed in getting his homework ready he hadn’t heard the door opening or the people entering the room. Now, however, his eyes widened… it was the last thing he did before his final breath, following direct eye contact with the giant snake.

-o-0-o-

Twenty minutes later, in the Hospital Wing, Max and Tavi were out of bed and dressed, as Madam Pomfrey cleared them to go back to the Lord’s Tower. She ordered them to rest for the remainder of the day, but there was no medical need for them to stay in the Hospital Wing, and they could rest just as easily in their own bed.

Leely and Pomsey had already taken the babies up to Ryan’s suite to get them settled into the bedroom that had been converted into a nursery, having brought fresh clothes for Max and Tavi to wear with them when they arrived to collect them. Just as Ryan, Max, Tavi, and their friends were about to leave, the doors to the Hospital Wing opened and the petrified body of Laura Bradley was carried into the room by Hagrid.

Eyes widening, Matt said, “Laura!” as he hurried over to the bed that Pomfrey motioned for Hagrid to place the girl on.

Dumbledore and McGonagall weren’t far behind, as they’d been in a meeting with Hagrid in the Headmaster’s Office when they’d come upon Laura in the second-floor corridor, which McGonagall explained to her clearly worried uncle.

Pulling out his wand, Matt waved it and sent his Patronus, a fox, scurrying out of the room to find Kyle, with the following message, “Ky, come to the Hospital Wing… Laura’s been petrified.”

Not long after the fox disappeared from sight, a loud wailing klaxon sounded throughout the castle, which had Dumbledore’s and McGonagall’s eyes widening, as only they and the three Heads of House were authorized to activate the emergency warning system, which would lockdown the school. They knew neither one of them had activated it, but they also knew that Pomona, Thomas, or Filius would not activate it without a very good reason.

It took about ten minutes, but the reason soon became clear when Pomona and Thomas entered the room. Pomona was levitating a stretcher behind her, covered in a white sheet, while Thomas was directing a conjured bellows to blow the petrified ghost of Myrtle Warren into the room.

Eyes widening at the sight of the sheet covered stretcher, Minerva shook her head and said, “Pomona, please say that isn’t what I think it is.”

“I wish I could, Minerva, I really wish I could,” Pomona said.

“Who is it?” Dumbledore asked a sad look on his face, his normal twinkle disappearing from his eyes the second that the klaxon had sounded.

“Kevin Sterndale,” Thomas said. “He’s one of Filius’s Ravenclaws, a fourth year, I believe.”

Dumbledore closed his eyes, and Harry noticed that there were tears leaking from the corners of them. After a moment, he shook his head, pulled a handkerchief from a pocket of his robe to wipe his eyes, and said, “All of you get back to the Lord’s Tower, now.”

The tone of his voice clearly said don’t argue with me, as at that moment none of them saw the kind, grandfatherly Headmaster of Hogwarts. No, they saw the stern and quite imposing figure who had taken down Grindelwald and was the only wizard that Voldemort feared. Nodding their heads, Harry, Ryan, and the others left the Hospital Wing and headed for the Lord’s Tower.

They’d just opened the secret passage to enter it, when Dumbledore’s obviously Sonorused voice carried throughout the castle, “All students are to report to their house dormitories immediately. All staff report to the Hospital Wing.”

-o-0-o-

Getting Max and Tavi settled into bed, and summoning Kallix and giving him strict orders that his husbands weren’t to get out of bed until dinner, Ryan left his suite and headed upstairs to Harry’s suite. Carter and Hunter were already there. Sitting down on the sofa in Harry’s living room, Ryan asked, “So, what do you think is going on?”

“I think that’s probably the sixty-four-thousand galleon question among every student in the school right now,” Harry commented. “Unfortunately, I’m afraid I have some idea.”

“What do you think is going on?” Carter asked.

“Well, if you noticed, when Hagrid brought Kyle’s niece in she was clearly petrified, but she wasn’t covered up,” Harry answered. “Kevin Sterndale was, however, and Dumbledore had tears in his eyes. I think Slytherin’s monster just killed someone.”

Carter closed his eyes. “Professor Nott was right. Kevin is a fourth-year. He was a very nice guy. Made a point of welcoming all of the incoming first years to Ravenclaw last year and made it clear that if we ever needed any help, we could ask him. He also wouldn’t stand for bullying of any kind in Ravenclaw Tower. Made sure that anyone he saw being bullied got help and reported the bully to the prefects and the professors.”

Pulling his twin into his arms, Hunter nodded and said, “He also solved a few of the riddles to enter the Ravenclaw common room that had me stumped. He didn’t care that I was in Slytherin and made sure that none of the others complained about having a Slytherin in their midst. Everyone seemed to like him though, even the prefects, so they followed his lead.”

Before anyone else could say anything, a silvery mist floated through the wall and after a moment coalesced into a ghost… a ghost that Carter and Hunter immediately recognized.

“Kevin?” They said in unison.

Kevin nodded. “Hey, guys. Yeah, it’s me, and I’m dead.”

“How did you know where to find them?” Ryan asked.

Kevin looked sheepish. “I kind of followed you all here from the Hospital Wing. Apparently, it takes a little while for new ghosts to be able to coalesce into a form that others can see.”

Harry was just about to ask Kevin how he died when there was a knock on the door to his suite. Standing up, he walked over and opened it, surprised to see Ron, Percy, and the Weasley twins on the other side.

Shaking his head, he asked, “How… how did you get up here? Dinner isn’t for another hour and students who don’t live in the Tower aren’t allowed to enter until after dinner on school days.”

“When the emergency klaxon sounded, the school went on lockdown,” Percy said. “That triggers special security protocols… such as one that allows the prefects, and those accompanying prefects—provided they’re in the guestbook of at least one of the tower residents—into the tower.”

Harry nodded and said, “Okay, um, give me a minute. Ron, Fred, and George are already in my guestbook, but I need to add you, Percy, since you’ve never visited before.”

Percy nodded, and stood patiently in the corridor outside of Harry’s suite, as his brothers entered and sat down on the couch, as Harry went over to his desk and added Percy’s name so that he could get past the wards. Closing the book, Harry said, “Okay, you can come in now, Percy.”

As Percy entered, Harry closed the door. Motioning towards the ghost, he said, “Um, this is Kevin Sterndale.”

Fred and George nodded, as they were fourth years this year.

“Kevin, nice to see you…” Fred began.

“…but why are you a ghost?” George finished.

Kevin smiled. “Yeah, ah, I died.”

“‘I died,’ he says,” Fred said, as he looked at his twin and said, “That much was obvious, wasn’t it, Forge?”

“Too right, Gred,” George said before they both turned to Kevin and asked, “How did you die? And when?”

“About forty-five minutes ago now,” Kevin answered. “Took about half-an-hour before I could take a form that anyone could see though. As for how, all I remember is Myrtle screaming and then seeing a pair of big, yellow eyes.”

“As interesting as this is,” Percy said, clearly annoyed, “it doesn’t help us with Ginny.”

“Ginny?” Harry asked. “Is something wrong with her?”

Ron nodded. “There was another message left on the wall. It said, ‘Her skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever.’

“What makes you think that has anything to do with Ginny?” Carter asked.

“Because we heard the professors talking…” Fred answered.

“…in the Hospital Wing with our…” George continued.

“…Extendable Ears. They said quite clearly….”

“…that it was Ginny who’d been taken.”

“None of them know where the entrance to the Chamber is,” Ron said. “So they don’t know what to do.”

“They only know Ginny was taken,” Percy said. With a frustrated sigh, he added, “Normally, I would say that we should leave this up to the professors… but this is my baby sister. I can’t do nothing while she’s in danger.”

“Well, what can you possibly do though?” Hunter said. “You don’t know where the entrance is either.”

“I have a theory,” Percy said, after a moment’s pause. When Harry motioned for him to continue he added, “Colin, Justin, Wills, his guards, Penny…” Percy stumbled on his girlfriend’s name, obviously upset, “they were all petrified on the second floor.”

“So you think the entrance is on the second floor?” Carter asked and Percy nodded. “Okay, but that’s still a lot of ground to cover, Percy.”

Percy nodded. “Well, there were three more attacks today. So, maybe if we can figure out where each attack happened, we can narrow it down, find a location that’s between all of them.”

“I was in the girl’s bathroom on the second floor,” Kevin said. “The haunted one.”

“Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom?” Harry asked.

“I prefer to just call her Myrtle,” Kevin answered. “But yes, that’s the one.”

Fred nodded. “Okay, that makes sense. The professors said that another ghost had been petrified.”

“Dumbledore referred to her as Myrtle Warren,” George revealed.

Kevin was upset at that, but he sighed, knowing that petrification wasn’t permanent, especially for a ghost, as you couldn’t die again when you were already dead. Besides, Nearly-Headless Nick and the Fat Friar were both petrified and they were fine now.

“Well, Kyle’s niece, Laura Bradley, was found two corridors over from the bathroom,” Harry said, remembering the explanation given after she’d been brought in.

“Weren’t Wills, Kyle and Matt also found two corridors over from that bathroom?” Ryan asked.

Hunter’s eyes widened as he said, “Yes, they were. Different corridors, as they were found in the one with the stairs down from the library, while Laura was found in the one where you can see the Quidditch Pitch from the windows.”

“The bathroom is between those corridors, however,” Harry said. “And if I remember right, Colin and Mrs. Norris were found in the same corridor as the bathroom, only on opposite ends of it.”

“So could the entrance to the Chamber be in the girl’s bathroom?” Hunter asked.

Ron looked confused. “Why would Salazar Slytherin put the entrance to his Chamber of Secrets in a girl’s bathroom?”

“Ron, it wasn’t a bathroom in his day,” Harry pointed out. “There was no such thing as a bathroom back then. They used chamber pots.”

“Eeewww,” Ron said, as his twin brothers grimaced.

Looking at his watch, Carter noted the time and said, “Damn it, as much as I want to help you find Ginny, I can’t. Neither can Hunt.”

“Why not?” Hunter asked.

“Did you forget what day it is?” Carter asked. At Hunter’s uncomprehending look, Carter said, “Aunt Anne?”

Hunter’s eyes widened. “Oh, yeah, the anniversary.” Looking at his own watch, he sighed, “Our parents and Alex will be expecting us in five minutes.”

“Anniversary?” Harry asked.

“Of Dad Dylan’s sister’s death,” Carter explained. “He has two elder sisters, Cordelia and Anne. The latter died when she was less than a year old, thirty-eight years ago today. We hold a remembrance for her every year in the family crypt.”

“Oh, my condolences,” Harry said, even as the twins got up, thanked him and said their goodbyes, along with their wishes for Ginny’s safety, before leaving Harry’s suite.

Not long after the twins left, Ron said, “Well, let’s go. The sooner we find the Chamber, the sooner we can find Ginny.”

“And make sure today doesn’t become the anniversary of our sister’s death,” Percy added.

“Wait, how do you propose we get from here to the girl’s bathroom?” Ryan asked. “Without being seen?”

“Well, I have an invisibility cloak,” Harry answered. And then realizing he’d just revealed its existence to a prefect, he added, “Dumbledore gave it to me last Christmas… it’s a Potter family heirloom that my dad lent him before he died.”

Percy nodded, but said nothing, as Ron said, “There’s no way all of us could fit under it anyway.”

Fred and George looked at each other and said in unison, “We might have a way.”

“But first, Percy, you need to swear that you’re not going to try to take it or tell anyone about it,” Fred said.

“Take what?” Percy asked.

“Swear,” George insisted. “Wizard’s Oath.”

“Really?” Percy asked. “Don’t we have more important things to do?”

At his brother’s looks, Percy sighed and pulled out his wand, “Fine, for Ginny. Now, what am I swearing not to take or tell anyone about?”

“The Marauder’s Map,” Fred and George answered.

Percy looked at his brothers for a moment, before nodding and holding his wand over his heart, he said, “I, Percival Ignatius Weasley, do solemnly swear that I will not attempt to take the Marauder’s Map from Fred and George Weasley or tell anyone that they have it. Upon my magic, so mote it be.”

After the magic of his oath settled, the nature of the oath meaning it couldn’t be tested right now, Fred pulled what looked like a blank piece of parchment out of the pocket of his robe and laid it out on Harry’s coffee table. George than tapped the center of it with his wand and said, “I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good.”

Almost immediately, writing began to appear on the map, as everyone read, “Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, purveyors of aids to magical mischief makers, proudly present, the Marauder’s Map.”

“This has been the key to our success as pranksters,” George explained. “It’s a magical map of the school.”

“It shows where everyone in the school is,” Fred said, as they unfolded the map and looked at various locations. The Gryffindor common room, for example, had so many name tags of students that it was impossible to read any of them.

“There are some locations that aren’t on the map,” Fred said. “We think it was because the makers of the map never found those rooms.”

George nodded. “The Chamber of Secrets and the Lord’s Tower, for example.” Grinning at Harry and Ron, he added, “Also, the Room of Requirement where you lot have your study group meetings.”

Catching on, Ryan said, “So, we can use this map to get to the bathroom and avoid the professors because we’ll know where all of them are.”

“Precisely,” Fred said. “Though your cloak might still be useful, Harry.”

“Along with Disillusionment and Notice-Me-Not Charms,” George added.

With a plan laid out, Harry nodded and went into his bedroom to retrieve his cloak, which he kept in the trunk at the foot of his bed, as Percy began casting the necessary charms on Ryan and the others.

-o-0-o-

Twenty minutes later, Harry, Ryan, Ron, Fred, George, and Percy entered Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Kevin, meanwhile, had gone down to the Hospital Wing, as it was clear from the map that many of the professors were still there. So, he decided to go visit Myrtle and make his presence as a ghost known to the staff.

“Okay, everyone, spread out,” Harry whispered. “Look for anything that might indicate where the entrance is.”

After a few minutes of searching, Percy said, “Over here. There’s a snake engraved on this tap.”

The others came over at this and seeing the snake, they nodded. “So how do we open it?” Ron asked.

“Parseltongue, perhaps?” Fred asked.

“This is Slytherin’s chamber, after all,” George added.

Harry and Ryan looked at each other and nodded, before Harry concentrated for a moment, and hissed, “Open.”

“What about the monster?” Ryan asked. “What if it’s waiting for us?”

“You’re just now thinking about that?” a voice asked from behind them, even as the bank of sinks began moving apart to reveal the entrance to the Chamber.

Spinning around, they found Bill standing behind them, with his hands on his hips. Shaking his head, he said, “If Ginny’s life wasn’t on the line, I’d have to be very angry with all of you.”

“Bill, how did you?” Percy asked, gulping since brother or not, Bill was a professor.

“Kevin told me,” Bill answered. “Just me and Firenze, although he’s Floo-calling Charlie at the dragon reserve to hopefully get word to Luke, who went to Iwernia with Newt Scamander to do some research in the Slytherin family archives.”

Walking over to the group, Bill looked down into the darkened abyss that had been revealed beneath the sinks. With a sigh, he added, “Twenty points to Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, for exceptional bravery. Now, is there a way down? Other than jumping into a hole when we have no idea of how deep it is?”

Ryan looked thoughtful for a moment before he decided to try something. So, hissing in Parseltongue, he said, “Stairs.”

A moment later, a few of the stones in the stone walls of the shaft shifted, to form a narrow winding staircase, going down. Patting Ryan on the back, Harry said, “Nice thinking, mate,” as the others nodded.

Lighting the tip of his wand, Bill said, “Right, I’m the adult here and a trained Curse-Breaker who’s used to exploring dark, dank tombs… I’ll go first.”

Several minutes later, the group reached the bottom of the shaft, coming out into a large room, the floor of which was covered in the skeletons of mice, rats, and other small animals. With a slight grimace, Percy said, “Well, I think we know what the monster’s been eating all these years.”

Fred nodded, as he waved his wand tip around and noted a few larger skeletons, including a few deer and one that looked strangely like… “Um, is that a house-elf?”

Looking at the skeleton, George shivered and said, “Yeah, I think so.”

“Eeewww,” Ron said, repeating his comment from earlier.

“Let’s go,” Harry said, as he and Ryan moved away from the group, as they realized that the room they’d ended up in was actually just the end of a long tunnel. Over his shoulder, he added, “Any sign of movement, close your eyes.”

“Harry, Ryan, not so fast,” Bill said, as he moved to follow after them. He had to be careful though that he didn’t trip on all the skeletons all over the floor.

After another few minutes, something else, other than numerous skeletons became visible. “What is this?” Ron asked.

“It looks like a snake,” Percy said.

“It’s a snakeskin,” Harry corrected.

“Bloody hell,” Fred and George said.

“Whatever shed this must have been huge,” Ron said.

“It must be sixty feet long or more,” Bill commented. After a moment of thought, he realized. “Oh, bloody hell. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this… Slytherin’s monster must be a basilisk.”

“A basilisk?” Ryan asked.

“The King of Serpents,” Percy answered. “Hatched from a chicken’s egg, placed under a toad. Spiders are afraid of it. Only the crow of a rooster can kill it.”

“And looking it directly in the eye will kill you instantly,” Bill added. “Or leave you petrified if you look indirectly into its eyes, such as seeing its reflection or seeing it through something else, like a ghost.”

“Well, that explains the attacks,” Ryan said. “Everyone but Kevin saw it indirectly.”

“The ghosts might have seen it directly,” Harry said. “But they’re already dead.”

“Nicely reasoned, Harry. Two points to Gryffindor,” Bill said, wanting to inject a bit of levity into the otherwise somber and very depressing atmosphere of the tunnel.

Unseen by anyone in the tunnel, was a pair of dark eyes watching them from the shadows. None of them heard it when the owner of those eyes, noting that Harry and Ryan were standing several feet ahead of the others, whispered, “Perfect,” before they pointed the wand in their hand at the ceiling, and whispered, “Bombarda Maxima.

While they hadn’t heard the whispered incantation, everyone definitely heard it when the ceiling collapsed, sending up a large plume of dust and debris, as large chunks of fractured stone and rock fell down from the ceiling, separating Harry and Ryan from the others.

It took a moment before anyone said anything, as they’d all ended up on the ground after they’d instinctively jumped away from the falling rocks. Bill let out a pained groan as he tried to stand up and realized that wasn’t going to happen. “Damn it, my leg is broken.” After a second’s pause, he looked around and asked, “Everyone okay?”

“We’re fine,” Fred said, before George added, “Percy broke our fall.”

“Get off!” Percy said as he pushed his brothers off of him.

“Ron, you okay?” Bill asked.

“Yeah, twisted my ankle, but otherwise fine,” Ron answered.

Looking over at the wall of fallen stone that now separated them from where Harry and Ryan were, he said, “Harry, Ryan?”

“We’re okay, Bill,” Ryan called out.

“A bit dusty and bruised,” Harry added, “but okay.”

Their voices were a bit muffled by all the stone, but he sighed in relief, as he could still hear what they’d said. Noticing a small gap in the stones, not big enough for anyone to get through, but at least big enough to possibly look and talk through, Bill said, “Percy, see that gap in the rock?” Percy looked to where his brother was pointing and nodded. “Think you can get to it and see if Harry and Ryan are okay?”

Percy nodded before he carefully made his way over to the gap. He had to stand on his tiptoes in order to see through it, but he managed to see Harry and Ryan standing up and dusting themselves off. “Well, you’re standing, but even with magic, it’s going to take a while to get past all this rock.”

Bill nodded. “Yes, we have to be careful that we don’t cause a second cave-in while trying to get through the first one.”

“Any idea what triggered the first one?” Ryan asked.

“Some kind of trap maybe?” Fred asked.

“It would make sense,” Bill agreed. “Egyptian tombs are full of them. This isn’t a tomb, but I can still see Slytherin adding in some traps to keep the Chamber safe.”

“Wouldn’t that be overkill?” George asked. “I mean, Parseltongue was necessary to get this far.”

“Well, logically, the Parseltongue might not have been necessary when Slytherin built it,” Ron said. “As Harry pointed out, the bathroom wasn’t there in his day, so neither was the sink.”

Fred and George were looking surprised at Ron, prompting him to ask, “What?”

“That was actually logical,” George said.

“Smart even,” Fred added.

“Who are you and what have you done with Ronniekins?” they asked in unison.

Rolling his eyes, Ron said, “I’m not completely stupid, you know. I can think logically and strategically when I want to. How could I possibly be the chess champion of Gryffindor Tower if I couldn’t?”

“A very good point,” Percy said.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the stones, Harry and Ryan were looking around and spotted a large metal door further down the tunnel. It looked like a giant, round vault door, with snakes on it. Nodding at each other, Harry moved towards it, as Ryan said, “We’ve found a door. You guys work on the rocks, we’ll find Ginny.”

“Be careful,” Bill said. He would have told them not to go, but he knew they probably would no matter what he said and between his leg and the tons of stone and rock between them, he was in no position to stop them.

Moving towards the door, Harry and Ryan both had their wands out, just in case. Reaching the door, they said, in unison, “Open,” in Parseltongue. A large metal snake slithered out of the large hinge on the left side of the door and began slithering around the door in a circle, the heads of the other snakes on the door moving backward as it did so.

Once the door swung open, Harry and Ryan had to climb down a ladder, as the floor of the chamber was about four feet lower than that of the tunnel, but it wasn’t long before they found themselves in a massive chamber. A stone bridge led across an underground lake, which had massive snake heads coming up out of the water on either side of it.

Moving across the bridge, it was when they reached the top of it that they saw a body lying on the floor several feet ahead of them. “Ginny,” they both said, as they ran forward towards the young girl. As they got closer, they could see that she was out cold and clutching what Harry recognized as Tom Riddle’s diary in her hands.

“Ginny, wake up,” Ryan said as he nudged her shoulder.

“Come on, Ginny, please wake up,” Harry said, who’d unintentionally dropped his wand as he approached Ginny’s still form. “Don’t be dead, please don’t be dead.”

“She’s not dead yet,” a voice said from behind them. “But she soon will be.”

Turning around quickly and pointing his wand at the owner of the voice, Ryan’s eyes widened as he came face to face with… himself. His doppelganger was wearing Slytherin robes, however, prompting him to say, “Tom Riddle.”

“Now, now, Orion, is that any way to greet your father?” Tom asked. “I must admit I was very curious about you when Ginny told me about your existence. Can’t say I ever thought I’d be a parent.”

“You’re nothing to me,” Ryan said. “A sperm donor, nothing more.”

“Such a crude response,” Tom said. “Come now, Ryan. You do prefer Ryan, yes? I understand you’ve got a pair of husbands who’ve made me a grandfather four times over. Join me and together we’ll rule the world.”

“I’ll never join you,” Ryan said, as he moved to begin casting a spell.

Tom was quicker, however, as he said, “Expelliarmus!” seconds before Ryan’s wand was ripped from his hand. As Tom caught Ryan’s wand in his offhand, he pointed his own wand—or more precisely Ginny’s wand which he’d borrowed—at the floor and said, “Accio Harry Potter’s wand,” causing the wand to fly up to Tom’s awaiting hand, from the floor where it had fallen.

Harry stood up and looked at Tom. “Don’t even bother asking me to join you, Tom. You killed my parents, so I’d never work with you.”

Shaking his head. “Such shortsightedness, oh well. We could have been great, the three of us, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. So, I’ll just have to kill you. I could just take your place, Ryan. Never really found men attractive, but I suppose… Max and Tavi is it? They might be fun. Like the two of you, I am a teenager and I do have urges of the sexual variety. And if they get too annoying or catch on, well, I can always kill them. Raise my grandsons as my loyal lieutenants.”

“Don’t you fucking dare!” Ryan exclaimed. “If you lay a hand on Max, Tavi, or my sons, I swear I’ll…”

“You’ll what?” Tom asked. “Kill me? That’ll be a little hard if you’re already dead.”

Tom laughed. “Besides, I can’t die. Surely you’re asking yourselves how Voldemort, the greatest sorcerer who ever lived, is standing before you. Alive and well, when you thought he was dead. Not to mention as a sixteen-year-old, when he should be in his late sixties.”

“Albus Dumbledore is the greatest sorcerer in the world,” Harry said. “You wouldn’t fear him if he wasn’t.”

“And we know you made a Horcrux, Tom,” Ryan said. “I’ve got Slytherin’s locket. Locked in a lead-lined box, sealed by the Gringotts ritual master. Safely stored away where you’ll never find it.”

“So, you know my secret,” Tom said. “Well, let me tell you another one since you’ll be dead soon anyway. The locket you speak of isn’t the only one.” Pointing at Ginny’s still form he said, “My diary is also a Horcrux. My first, in fact, of a planned seven. As we speak it’s siphoning away Ginny Weasley’s life force. And as she grows weaker, I grow stronger.”

“Well, isn’t that nice?” Ryan said. “So Voldemort will forevermore be known as the Dark Lord with the strength of an eleven-year-old girl. I’m positively shaking with fear. Not.”

“You fool, you don’t know anything do you?” Tom asked. “It’s not Ginny’s magic, I’m stealing, although I suppose I could steal it once she’s dead, and yours and Harry’s. It’s just her life force I’m stealing, to restore myself to a physical body. But that has no bearing on my power, which remains the same level it always was. The magical core, in case you didn’t know, is tied to the soul, not the body. So, just because the Killing Curse destroyed my original body doesn’t mean that my powers were destroyed along with it.”

Shaking his head, Tom smiled and said, “Anyway, in case you hadn’t figured it out, it was Ginny Weasley who opened the Chamber of Secrets. And set the basilisk on the filthy Mudbloods and Filch’s cat. Now before you retort that she couldn’t, she did, all because I told her to. My diary is very powerful, boys, and through it, I gained complete control over Ginny’s actions. It was better than an Imperius Curse.”

“I opened the Chamber when I was in school,” Tom continued. “And framed that brainless oaf Hagrid for it, but then you know that, don’t you, Harry. I showed you and your little friends, Carter and Hunter, that memory. I knew it wouldn’t be safe to open the Chamber again while I was still in school, so I left behind the diary so that one day I could lead another in carrying out Salazar Slytherin’s noble work.”

“And what noble work would that be?” Harry asked. “Purging the school of muggleborns? Salazar Slytherin never wanted to do that, Tom. Or didn’t you know that there was never any mention of his so-called hatred of muggleborns until over five-hundred years after his death?”

Ryan nodded. “Harry’s right, Tom. All of that nonsense about purging the school of those that Slytherin thought were unworthy was the creation of the then heir of House Valois.”

“That’s confirmed by numerous historical records,” Harry added. “Including the records of House Slytherin itself. But, then you wouldn’t have had access to those, I suppose since you never were able to claim the Slytherin lordship and gain access to the Basilisk’s Den in Iwernia.”

Tom looked mad, but before he could say anything, Harry added, “So your plan to rule the world will go nowhere, Tom. You’ll find no allies here. And you’ll still have to deal with Dumbledore.”

“I’m not afraid of Dumbledore.”

“Really?” Ryan asked. “He’s the greatest sorcerer alive. He defeated Grindelwald, a true Dark Lord, who was feared on every continent. Not some two-bit charlatan like you who was only feared on two tiny islands.”

Before Tom could say anything, a melodic screech caught everyone’s attention, as Fawkes appeared in the room and flew towards Harry and Ryan, dropping something into Harry’s hands, before disappearing. It didn’t take long before Harry realized it was the Sorting Hat.

Tom threw his head back and laughed. “So this is what Dumbledore sends his great defenders? A songbird? And an old hat?”

As he held the hat in his hands, however, Harry noticed his lord’s ring shimmer for a moment, before the hat got heavier suddenly as something appeared inside of it. Smiling, as he grasped the ruby-encrusted silver hilt, Harry pulled a sword out of the hat and pointed it directly at Tom’s throat. “You were saying?”

Tom rolled his eyes, as with a quick flick of his wand, Harry and Ryan were knocked backward off their feet, as Tom turned to the massive statue on the wall of the chamber and hissed, “Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four.”

At this, the mouth of the statue opened, and Harry and Ryan quickly looked away from it, as they saw something emerging, even as Tom laughed, and said, “Let’s match the power of Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin, against that of the famed Harry Potter and Orion Black… Parseltongue won’t help you boys, it obeys only me.”

Expelliarmus!” a voice that Harry instantly recognized said as he and Ryan turned to see Ginny’s wand, along with their own ripped out of Tom’s hands and into the offhand of the caster.

“Or better yet, why don’t we test the power of Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin, against the power of Lord-Rexarl Jean-Luc Flamel, Lord and Head of the Most Ancient and Most Noble House of Slytherin!”

Undeterred, Tom hissed to the basilisk, “Kill them!”

“Ignore that order,” Luke hissed, in Parseltongue, at the basilisk. “Ishara, hear me and obey! I, Lord-Rexarl Slytherin, command you to heed me and turn off your deadly gaze.”

At this command, the basilisk hung its head and closed its eyes. When they reopened, they were no longer the same shimmering yellow they had been, but a brilliant emerald green. Over his shoulder to Harry and Ryan, he said, “It’s safe. Ishara won’t harm you and Tom can’t countermand the orders of her true lord and master.”

As Harry and Ryan stood and moved behind Luke—Ryan being more than a little confused because he thought Professor da Vinci was Lord Slytherin, not this man who looked nothing like him and had called himself Jean-Luc Flamel—Harry said, “Luke, the diary in Ginny’s hands, it’s a Horcrux. It’s stealing her life force to bring Tom back.”

“Stand back,” Luke advised the two behind him, even as he pointed his wand at the diary and said, “Accio Tom Riddle’s diary,” as the diary left Ginny’s hands and began flying through the air towards Luke. Before it got even halfway, however, Luke waved his wand in a complicated arc and said, “Incaendium Bestia!

Within a second of the incantation leaving his lips, a giant fiery serpent sprung out of the tip of Luke’s wand, and engulfed the diary in flames, even as Tom shouted, “NOOOO!!!”

As the diary burned, a shower of black ink hit the floor and Tom was surrounded by an aura of bright white light, as he began breaking apart. Tom was screaming, as he writhed in pain.

“This isn’t over, you haven’t seen the last of Lord Voldemort!” Tom screamed, even as he broke apart in a shower of sparks and Ginny took a gasping breath as her whole chest arced upwards off the floor. As the shower of ink was replaced with ashes, Luke waved his wand and banished the flames he’d conjured.

Moving forward and kneeling down, Luke asked, “Are you okay, Miss Weasley?”

Taking a deep breath, Ginny said, “Yes, Jean-Luke,” as she looked up and recognized the face of her brother Charlie’s boyfriend.

As Ginny sat up, she wrapped her arms around her legs and looked around for a moment. Spotting Harry, she said, “Harry, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know… he took me over… made me do terrible things…” her eyes widening as she spotted Ryan standing behind Harry, she added, panic in her tone, “Harry, look out! Behind you!”

Placing a comforting hand on Ginny’s shoulder, Luke said, “Calm down, Miss Weasley. Tom is gone. That’s just Ryan Black.”

Stepping out from behind Harry, Ryan nodded and said, “See, Ginny? Hufflepuff robes. Not Slytherin.” After a moment, he gave her an apologetic grin and added, “I’d give you my oath that I really am Ryan, but I don’t have my wand.”

“It’s safe, Ginny,” Harry said, even as Luke stood and made his way over to Harry and Ryan, handing them their wands back as he reached them. He’d held onto Ginny’s wand for the moment, so she didn’t do anything stupid. Like trying to curse the lord of a noble house. “I saw Tom blow up in a shower of sparks. He’s gone.”

Unfortunately, he will be back. Luke thought. He wasn’t going to say that aloud though, as Ginny had been through enough, without the added knowledge of Horcruxes and the fact that Tom would be back. Luke shook his head. More than one at a time? Never have I heard or read of anyone being so insanely stupid.

“So, the basilisk has a name?” Harry asked, as he looked at the massive creature, who had coiled up and was now sitting calmly a few feet away from Luke. “Why would anyone put a basilisk under a school?”

“I’d very much like to know the answer to that myself,” Dumbledore said, as he entered the chamber. McGonagall, Snape, and Newt Scamander were behind him, along with all of the Weasley siblings, Charlie included. “Not to mention how you’re still alive, Jean-Luc, despite the destruction of the Philosopher’s Stone.”

“Perhaps we can adjourn to your office, Albus?” Jean-Luc said. “I’m sure it would be more comfortable than this place. Besides, Poppy should probably look over Ginny, to make sure she’s okay.”

As one, all six of the Weasley brothers moved forward and surrounded their little sister, hugging her from all directions, before Bill picked her up and carried her out of the Chamber. While she did complain that she could walk, she didn’t make any real effort to get out of her brother’s arms either.

Albus studied Jean-Luc for a moment before he nodded. A moment later, Fawkes appeared above his head. Reaching up and grabbing one of the phoenix’s talons in his hand, he asked, “Shall we?”

“As interesting as I’m sure this meeting is going to be,” Ryan said, “right now, I just want to go check on my sons, crawl into bed with my husbands, and hold them. So, I’ll pass.”

Harry and Ryan shared a knowing look, as they both knew that Harry would fill him in later. Making his way towards the large, round door of the Chamber, Ryan said, “I assume the cave-in has been dealt with?”

McGonagall nodded. “All clear, Mr. Black. But then you probably figured that out, considering that we were all able to get down here and Professor Weasley was up and walking around.”

“I did wonder about that,” Harry said. “Last I knew, Bill broke his leg and Ron twisted his ankle.”

“They did, but I fixed them up,” Newt said. With a grin, he added, “While I’m on my research trips all over the world, I don’t always have a healer handy when I need one, so I’ve learned quite a bit of healing magic over the years.”

Newt and Luke took hold of Dumbledore’s outstretched arm, as Harry grabbed onto Luke’s hand. Snape shook his head and left the Chamber—Luke hissed in Parseltongue as he left, closing and locking the Chamber door behind him—while McGonagall also took hold of Dumbledore’s arm, feeling that as Deputy Headmistress and Harry’s Head of House, she should be present at this meeting.

“Ishara, sleep now, I’ll be back later,” Luke hissed at the basilisk, who bobbed its head up and down, before slithering over to the mouth of the statue and going back into her den. A moment later, Dumbledore nodded and Fawkes burst into flames, flashing out of the Chamber, taking the others with him.

-o-0-o-

Once the group that had traveled by phoenix flash were all seated in Dumbledore’s office with a cup of tea in their hands, the headmaster looked at Jean-Luc expectantly.

Taking a sip of his tea, Luke said, “First off, the basilisk is named Ishara. Contrary to the legend, which has been corrupted over time, she was not placed in the Chamber to purge the school of muggleborns. When Newt and I went to the Basilisk’s Den today, we finally uncovered and translated the necessary records.”

“We?” McGonagall asked.

“I’m a Parselmouth, Professor,” Newt answered. “So I helped Luke go through the documents.”

“I wasn’t aware of that, Mr. Scamander,” Dumbledore said.

Newt shrugged. “It never came up, headmaster. Besides, it’s come in handy in my work. I also speak all three dialects of Mermish and Gobbledygook.”

“Yes, I figured out that Newt might be a Parselmouth,” Luke said. “When I spotted that his 15-times-great-grandfather married one of Salazar’s grandsons. So, I took a chance earlier and hissed a greeting at him, asking if he’d help me go through the Slytherin archives to find information about Slytherin’s monster. Obviously, he understood me and agreed.”

“So if not to purge the school of muggleborns, why did Slytherin put a basilisk in the school?” McGonagall asked. “And why did the other founders allow it? Did they even know?”

“They knew,” Luke answered. “Ishara is meant to be a guardian, who will help guard the school if it ever comes under attack. She’s also not a pure basilisk. With the poor lighting in the Chamber, I doubt any of you noticed, but some of Ishara’s scales have a golden tinge to them. Salazar harvested an unfertilized egg from Ishara’s mother, Vashara, and fertilized it with a magically preserved genetic sample from the last High English Gold dragon, Kilgharrah.”

“What does that mean exactly?” Harry asked.

“Well, for starters, Ishara is immune to a rooster’s crow,” Newt answered. “Not that Tom knew that, which is why he had Ginny kill the school roosters.”

“It also means that Ishara has more finite control over her gaze weapon,” Luke added. “Unlike a pure basilisk, Ishara can turn it on and off. She can also breathe fire, though it’s not quite as hot as a pure dragon’s breath. It also doesn’t have the same magical properties and she can only do it in short bursts, unlike a dragon, who can do a more sustained attack if they choose.”

“She’s also bound to the will of the House of Slytherin,” Newt added. “As well as the other founder’s houses, actually. She can’t speak it, but she does understand English, so as Lord Gryffindor, Harry could have given Ishara commands that would have countermanded Voldemort’s, as she’s bound to obey the lords of the founder houses first and foremost, but will listen to their heirs, provided that any order they give her isn’t in conflict with any standing orders from the lords.”

“Her mind is advanced enough that she can keep those kinds of rules straight?” Dumbledore asked.

Luke nodded. “Yes, it is. A pure basilisk couldn’t, but as we’ve already established, she’s not a pure basilisk. Her intelligence comes from her High English Gold genes.”

Dumbledore nodded as he took a sip of his tea, before he asked, “And you, Jean-Luc?”

“I’ve been here all year, Albus,” Luke answered. “So have my grandparents.”

“They have?” Dumbledore asked, clearly surprised.

“Indeed,” a male voice said, prompting everyone to look up and see Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel entering the room. Conjuring chairs for themselves, they sat down and prepared cups of tea from the headmaster’s tea service, before Nicolas said, “Hiding right under your nose, old friend. As Phillipe and Margaux Delacour, and Luka da Vinci.”

“How? The stone was destroyed,” Dumbledore said. “I thought you only had enough elixir left to set your affairs in order.”

Luke laughed. “As I told Harry at the end of last year, Albus, do you even realize how many affairs one would have to set in order after over six centuries of life?”

“Besides, the stone that was destroyed?” Nicolas asked. “That was my spare, not the original.”

Nodding, Perenelle said, “Honestly, Albus, we’ve kept our stones safe for over six centuries now. And yes, I said stones plural. Nicolas created two and both Jean-Luc and I have our own that we made ourselves. And we’ve certainly kept them safer than you’ve shown yourself capable of achieving, I must say.”

“Yes, Albus, when I agreed to let you store my spare,” Nicolas said, “I never thought that you’d put it behind protections that eight students who hadn’t even taken their OWLs yet, along with two former students who’d only finished school the previous July, could get past. Really, quite the poor showing, old friend.”

“Anyway, our stones are quite safe in three different locations which shall remain undisclosed,” Luke added. “We needed the time that faking our deaths would provide to reinforce the protections that we’d already had in place. Protections, I might add, that would take Gringotts’ very best curse-breakers months, if not over a year, to get past. Assuming they managed to live that long, as they’re also behind a gauntlet of over a thousand quite deadly traps that can only be deactivated by someone of the Flamel bloodline.”

“Of which there are currently only six in the world, by the way,” Perenelle added. “Nick, myself, Luke, Luke’s 4x-great-grandson Kieran, and Kieran’s son, Taylor, and daughter, Nicolette… the latter two of whom are less than a year old.”

“You’re a Flamel by blood, Perenelle?” Dumbledore asked.

Perenelle nodded, before revealing, “Yes, my 2x-great-grandmother on my father’s side and Nick’s 2x-great-grandfather were brother and sister.”

In the lull that followed this revelation, Luke turned to Harry and said, “Harry, could I see that sword you’re holding?”

Harry had forgotten he was even holding it, to be honest. When Tom had cast the spell to knock him and Ryan off his feet, Harry had managed to keep his grip on the sword but hadn’t thought about it again after Luke turned up.

Moving his hand so that he was holding onto one of the crossguards, Harry held out the sword to Luke who grabbed the hilt and then looked at it more closely. After a moment, he grinned. “So, it is what I thought it was. Harry, this is the Sword of Godric Gryffindor.”

“You mean…”

“Yes, it’s Godric’s personal sword,” Luke confirmed. “So quite the nice heirloom of your family, Lord Gryffindor.”

From his place on a nearby shelf, Dumbledore having picked him up and returned him, the Sorting Hat said, “Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of me, Mr. Potter. I still say you would have done well in Slytherin, but barring that, I can think of no better house for you than that of your ancestor, my former owner.”

“You belonged to Godric?” Harry asked as he looked up at the shelf that the Sorting Hat was resting upon.

“Indeed, Mr. Potter,” the Hat replied. “After many years as Godric’s favorite hat, I absorbed enough ambient magic that, with a little help from Rowena and Merlin, I developed my own consciousness. It’s then that I was given the task of sorting the new students at Hogwarts.”

“You’re not upset that we’ve canceled the sorting for a few years?” McGonagall asked.

“No, Minerva, I’m not,” the Hat answered. “Honestly, after more than a thousand years, I needed a vacation. Besides, I quite agree with the idea of waiting to sort the students until they’re in third year. Their minds and personalities will have developed better, which I imagine should lessen the already rare occurrence of my being well and truly stumped. Also, it is my hope that the governors were correct that the new students will benefit from two years of living and working together with the others in Hogwarts House before they’re sorted. The rivalries will hopefully be lessened in future if the students already have friends in every house.”

Carefully handing the sword back to Harry, Luke said, “We should take that back down to the Chamber and have Ishara put some of her venom on it. I would also suggest, however, that you do not attempt to store it at Gringotts.”

“Why?” Harry asked, clearly confused on both counts.

“That sword is made of goblin-forged silver, Mr. Potter,” Nicolas said. “A curious substance, which only absorbs that which will make it stronger. Ishara’s venom is one of those substances which will make it stronger.”

“As for not storing it at Gringotts,” Perenelle said, “the goblins have very different ideas about ownership than humans. They believe that the smith who crafts something retains permanent ownership of everything they craft, even if the item is sold because they view it as a lifetime rental, not a sale.”

Nodding, Luke said, “Indeed, so even though Godric provided the rubies in the hilt, to the goblins, the smith who forged the sword for him and by extension the smith’s descendants, are the true owners of the sword. They might allow you to keep it, but after over a thousand years since the last payment, the rental free they’d want for you to be able to keep it for your life would probably be more gold than what is in all three of your vaults combined.”

“And is there a reason I shouldn’t just let them have it?” Harry asked. “I mean, I understand it’s a family heirloom, but if the goblins feel it belongs to them, I’m not sure I feel right about keeping it.”

“Well, other than the fact that Godric commissioned it and thus designed and paid for it,” Luke answered, “I believe you should keep it for the same reason that I said we should get Ishara’s venom onto the blade.” After a moment’s pause, he added, “Fiendfyre, which is what I cast in the Chamber, and basilisk venom are the only two known substances which can destroy a Horcrux.”

Dumbledore, Nicolas, and Perenelle all sat up straighter at that, while McGonagall and Newt just looked confused. The twinkle gone from his eyes, Dumbledore asked, “Horcrux?”

“I’m afraid so, Albus,” Luke said. “It would seem that Voldemort created at least two of them. One was crafted from a locket that once belonged to Salazar Slytherin, which has been secured in a lead-lined box sealed by the Gringotts ritual master. I’ve stored it in my vault… not my Gringotts vault, as the goblins absolutely refuse to have a Horcrux stored in any of their vaults. So, it’s one of my personal vaults, outside of the bank, which has the same level of protection as my stone.”

“And the other?” Nicolas asked.

“A diary,” Luke answered. “The same diary that Filch confiscated from Harry, Carter, and Hunter, that was later stolen back by Ginny, with assistance from the spirit of a sixteen-year-old Tom Riddle aka Voldemort. They weren’t aware of its true nature, however. Neither was I, to be honest, as by that point I already knew about the locket and I didn’t believe that anyone, even Voldemort, would be crazy enough to create more than one of those abominations at once.”

Seeing McGonagall’s and Newt’s still confused look, Luke gave them a quick rundown on what exactly a Horcrux was, before Harry asked, “So why did you destroy the diary, Luke? I’ve been wondering that ever since you did it. I thought you said it would be a bad idea to destroy them as we found them because Voldemort would feel their destruction and be able to make more?”

Luke sighed. “I’m afraid in this case, I didn’t have a choice. It was either destroy the Horcrux or let Ginny Weasley die and then kill a resurrected Voldemort. Had we realized that the diary was a Horcrux before it had gotten its tentacles deeply enough into Miss Weasley that it could steal her life force to restore the piece of soul inside the diary to a physical body, then we could have held off destroying it. But since we didn’t, there was no other choice.”

Harry’s eyes widened as he said, “A resurrected Voldemort that looked exactly like Ryan.”

“I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that he created one while he was still a teenager, but it does,” Perenelle said. At the confused looks, she added, “Like Jean-Luc, and Nicolas for that matter, I also have a Mastery in the Dark Arts. They’ve often been employed over the years by those who would seek to steal the Philosopher’s Stone, so all three of us got our masteries in the subject in order to better defend against them. The Defense class is all well and good, but it is the very height of arrogance to believe that it alone is enough to protect yourself from the Dark Arts. How does one defend oneself from a subject that they’ve only just barely scratched the surface of?”

“Indeed, there are a great many Dark Arts spells,” Nicolas said, “that one simply cannot cast the appropriate counter for without having mastered the casting of the Dark Arts spell itself. That is one of the major reasons why I voted against the removal of the Dark Arts as an elective subject at Hogwarts. However, the rest of the Board voted against me and that was over fifty years before Queen Victoria was even born, so I was one of the commoner members of the Board at the time and thus lost my spot after twenty-five years.”

“Why did he look like Ryan?” Newt asked. “Isn’t he nearly seventy years old?”

“The soul fragment stored in a Horcrux,” Luke answered, “takes on the physical appearance and age of the soul’s primary vessel at the time of its creation. So, if the diary looked exactly like Ryan, Voldemort wasn’t much older than Ryan is now when he created it.”

Shaking his head, Nicolas said, “I must agree with Peren. One would think that after over 650 years of life, there would be very little that could surprise me. But the fact that Tom not only managed to find out any information about Horcruxes—I personally removed the books on the subject from the Hogwarts library during my first of three terms as a Governor which was 1527 to 1552 and periodically checked to make sure they were still gone in the years since—but was also powerful, brave, and mad enough to create one in the first place is staggering to me.”

“And to create more than one of them means that he’s truly depraved,” Perenelle added. “If he created one and it was destroyed, I could see him creating another. But having more than one at a time… the cost involved in such magic is difficult to comprehend. And no, Nick, Luke, and I will not be telling you how they’re created, so don’t bother asking.”

“Unless you fancy a permanent Dreamless Sleep addiction and a nearly overwhelming desire to pickle your brain in bleach, you don’t want to know,” Luke added. “The only reason that my grandparents and I aren’t addicted to Dreamless Sleep is that we all had well over a hundred years of Occlumency training before we found out the information ourselves, which has allowed us to order our minds enough that our dreams are lucid most of the time… meaning we usually have full control over what happens in them.”

Remembering the various taunts that Tom had hurled at him and Ryan in the Chamber, Harry’s eyes widened as he said, “Tom said the diary was the first of a planned seven.”

Perenelle fainted at this revelation, as Nicolas, Dumbledore, and Luke all exclaimed, “SEVEN?!”

Pulling out his wand, Nicolas revived his wife and she said, “Nick, darling, please tell me that I had a momentary lapse in my Occlumency skills and had a particularly bad daymare? That Harry didn’t really say that Voldemort planned to make seven Horcruxes?”

“I know better than to lie to you, my love,” Nicolas answered. “Harry did say that.”

“The man is depraved,” Perenelle said. “In fact, that word doesn’t even do that level of utter depravity justice. I don’t think there’s any word that exists in every language combined—including the dead ones—that has ever existed in the entire history of the world that accurately describes how sick he must be.”

Dumbledore nodded. His normal twinkle had yet to come back. “Indeed, the fact that a schoolboy of only sixteen could have such plans… I’m the one who was sent to his muggle orphanage to give him his Hogwarts letter before he started school. I’ll admit I found his personality a little off-putting even then, but I never got any inkling that he was that badly off. I just thought he was a poor orphan boy in an overcrowded and underfunded facility who was starved for attention and love. If I had realized it was that bad, I would have done everything I could to keep him out of Hogwarts and have the Ministry issue an order to permanently bind his magic.”

With a sigh and shake of his head, Nicolas said, “There’s no point in worrying over what-ifs, old friend. We need to focus on the far more important facts at hand. We need to find this fiend’s Horcruxes and destroy them. Preferably before he can regain a physical body, as he’ll be unable to create new ones until he does.”

“There’s a problem, grandpère,” Luke said, calling Nicolas grandfather in French. “While the diary is destroyed, the only other known Horcrux that we know about is a Slytherin family heirloom. Which means that as Lord Slytherin I can’t knowingly and intentionally destroy it or give it to anyone else who I know intends to destroy it. The magic of my lord ring won’t allow it under any circumstance, even with the knowledge that it’s been defiled with the darkest of the dark arts.”

“Well, that makes things more difficult,” Perenelle said with a sigh. “It means that the normal means of destroying a Horcrux, using Fiendfyre or basilisk’s venom to destroy the vessel holding the soul fragment beyond all physical and magical repair won’t work.”

“Mmmhmm,” Luke said. “Not knowing what other objects he might have defiled, I still think it’s a good idea to have Ishara’s venom added to the sword, in case there are other objects that can be destroyed when the time comes. True, I can control Fiendfyre, but it never hurts to have a backup method to use, especially if one has to destroy it in an area where using Fiendfyre wouldn’t be a good idea. But, if any of the others turn out to be family heirlooms of noble families…”

“Then they can’t be destroyed,” Dumbledore sighed, being familiar with the magic that protected family heirlooms. He wasn’t from a noble family himself, but there had been one or two cases before the Wizengamot during his time as Chief Warlock where the Ministry had sought permission to destroy some of the heirlooms they’d seized in their raids.

So he’d studied the laws and magic surrounding it and knew it couldn’t be done so long as the noble family line the heirloom belonged to was extant in either the male or female line. It was even more ancient than Magical Britain, having been one of the laws carried over from Atlantis, back when Magical Britain was one of their colonies.

“As intermarried as the noble families are,” Nicolas said, with a heavy sigh of his own, “and as easy as it was to travel anywhere in the empire before the death of the last monarch, there’s probably thousands, if not millions of people throughout the Britannic Empire who have the right bloodline to claim one of the lordships believed to be extinct. If they’d just do the Rite of Inheritance and find out about their connection. But even if they don’t know about it, as long as they’re alive... Oh damn it, this just got a lot more complicated.”

Perenelle nodded. “Yes, in order to destroy the Slytherin locket, Jean-Luc, Kieran, Taylor, Nicolette and myself, since it’s through my bloodline that Jean-Luc inherited both his lordships, as well as Ryan Black and his newborn sons and anyone else who has even a drop of Slytherin blood, would need to be dead before it could be destroyed.”

“Which actually makes Tom’s use of the Slytherin locket rather ingenious when you think about it,” Newt said, as he realized the implications. “It can’t be destroyed so long as there’s a living Slytherin descendant… which he is.”

McGonagall shook her head and said, “If one of his Horcruxes is impossible to destroy while he’s alive that would mean that he didn’t even need to make any others, which I’m assuming means he doesn’t know about the laws regarding family heirlooms. Does the fact that he doesn’t currently have a physical body change anything?”

“Unfortunately, no it doesn’t,” Luke answered. “While he can’t create new ones without one, that limitation does not extend to the protection of family heirlooms. So long as any part of his soul remains anchored to Earth, whether corporeal or not, it counts as him being alive, which creates quite the paradox. The locket can’t be destroyed while he’s alive and because he turned it into a Horcrux, he can’t die until it is.”

-o-0-o-

Later that evening, the Seven were gathered in Harry’s suite, behind Jean-Luc’s privacy spells. Jalry also managed to rig the lift using Harry’s authority as Lord Gryffindor so that it wouldn’t even stop on Harry’s floor until he gave the order to allow it. Thus, the Seven were well and truly alone for their conversation and wouldn’t be interrupted. After Harry and Jean-Luc relayed to the others the events that had happened in the Chamber, followed by the conversation in Dumbledore’s office, silence reigned for a while, as the others took their time to digest the information.

Finally, Wills shook his head and said, “Damn, that’s heavy.” Then he grinned and added, “But, at least you both made it through the whole encounter.”

“Yes, we did,” Harry said. “So, don’t worry, Wills, your second and third soon-to-be husbands are still alive and well.”

“Thank the Gods for that,” Wills said, as he made the decision to be brave. So, standing up and moving over to Harry, he placed his hands on either side of the brunet’s face and then pulled him into a kiss… their first, on the lips.

For his part, Harry was momentarily shocked, but after a moment, since it was happening, he decided he may as well be brave himself and return the kiss. Besides, it was 7 April, which meant in exactly four months’ time, he’d be doing a lot more than kissing the prince.

As the kiss ended, both boys were blushing, as it wasn’t just Harry who had thought about the evening of 7 August and what would be happening on their wedding night. Wills, however, wasn’t finished, as he moved over to Jean-Luc and kissed him too, only on the forehead.

“Even though we’re alone and aren’t going to be interrupted,” Wills said as he pulled back, “I’ll respect your wishes and not go further than I just did. I know it may be crossed a line, but considering the day’s events, I’m okay with that.”

Jean-Luc sat motionless for a moment before he made up his mind and kissed Wills on both cheeks. It was the first time that he’d initiated such contact and Wills and most of the others in the room looked surprised. Shrugging, he said, “What? I’m French. Kissing on both cheeks is rather common. Besides, as Wills said, we’re alone and aren’t going to be interrupted. I trust none of you are planning on turning me in to the Aurors?”

Hunter grinned and said, “Well, that depends.”

“On what?” Jean-Luc asked, even though he was pretty sure he knew what the blond Slytherin was going to say.

“On whether or not you’re going to kiss my cheeks too,” Hunter said. “You know since we are engaged and all and you just kissed Wills.”

Shaking his head, Jean-Luc said, “Somehow I figured that’s what you were going to say,” before he stood, came over to Hunter, leaned down, and kissed both of his cheeks. “Happy?”

Nodding, Hunter said, “Yes, and now my lips are sealed.”

“I’m ever so grateful,” Jean-Luc replied with a grin, as he returned to his seat, although he took a small detour to kiss Cedric on both cheeks as well. “Figured I did it for my other two fiancés, I may as well do it for you too.”

Cedric blushed, but said, “Yes, fair is fair.” With a grin, he added, “Besides, unlike these four,” as he pointed at Harry, Wills, and the twins, “I’m over the age of consent, so there’s really less of an issue.”

“True,” Charlie said, as Jean-Luc returned to his seat next to him. When they’d first done the Rite, a part of him was upset with the idea of having to share Jean-Luc with anyone. But, it got easier as he got to know the others better. By the time that he found out about the whole Camelot Seven thing, he had almost completely gotten over it. The fact that the other six men in the room were his destined lovers, who he’d been married to in multiple past lives, had been the final nail in the coffin of any jealousy or anger he’d felt.

Then with a mischievous grin, Charlie—who wanted to get as far away from the depressing topic of Voldemort and his Horcruxes as he could—said, “Luke told me about the conversation the three of you had in the Hospital Wing, while Wills was petrified.”

Harry and Hunter blushed, as Wills looked curious. That was another of the big differences between being in a coma and being petrified. The petrified person didn’t remember anything that happened around them while they were petrified, as the complete cessation of function prevented them from seeing or hearing anything that was going on around them.

“Okay, whatever it was, it has the two of you blushing,” Carter said. “So it must have been good. Out with it.”

Taking a deep breath, Harry said, “Luke suggested that the four of us,” motioning between himself, Wills, and the twins, “should consider hooking up with each other.”

“None of our contracts require us to be virgins on our wedding nights,” Hunter added, “so he thought that perhaps if we had a bit of intimate experience before the wedding nights, it would lessen our nerves about them.”

Wills blushed, but with a mischievous grin of his own said, “Well, who are we to ignore the advice of the ancient one?”

Jean-Luc’s eyes widened at that, as he said, “Hey! Watch who you’re calling ancient, young man. Or you’ll find out on the night of 7 August just how not ancient I am.”

“You’re 612 years old, Luke,” Carter said. “That’s ancient.”

Rolling his eyes, Jean-Luc said, “Please that’s barely a drop in the bucket compared to how ancient the lordships we’ve all inherited are. Besides, I haven’t aged a day since I was nineteen. So, I still have the stamina and hormones of any other teenager.”

Nodding, Charlie said, “I can attest to that.”

Everyone fell silent for a few moments before Carter blushed bright red and said, “Well, um, maybe the four of us could do what Hunter and I do together? Not all four of us together, but maybe if Hunt and I split up and did it with Harry and Wills…”

“What exactly do the two of you do anyway?” Harry asked. “You’ve never actually specified, other than saying that it’s nothing hardcore and that you’ve never done it while completely naked.” With a blush, he added, “If I’m going to do whatever it is with one of you, then I’d kind of like to know what I’m getting myself into.”

“You can’t guess?” Hunter asked.

“Well, Kyle may have given me The Talk,” Harry said, blushing, “but he was too embarrassed himself to really go into detail about the various positions. So he stuck to the basics, gave as little detail as he could and hightailed it out of there before I could ask too many questions. And it’s not like Hogwarts has a Sex Ed class and there are no books on it in the library.”

His blush deepening, he added, “Or at least none that I could find on my own and Gryffindor or not, I couldn’t muster up enough courage to ask Madam Pince.”

Jean-Luc laughed. “That’s probably a good thing, Harry. You’re twelve. If you’d asked, she’d probably have been shocked right out of her whalebone corset.” Shaking his head, he added, “And she wouldn’t have been able to help you anyway, because there aren’t any books on it in the library… there haven’t been ever since Headmistress Dilys Derwent had the few that did exist removed during her tenure in the eighteenth century, as she felt that students didn’t need that kind of material distracting them from their studies.”

“Well, there aren’t any in the library at least,” Cedric said with a grin. “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any books on the subject elsewhere in the school.”

Jean-Luc gave Cedric a knowing look since they were both Hufflepuffs and thus knew what he was talking about.

Charlie grinned and asked, “Are you talking about Helga’s famed book of love?”

“How did you know about that?” Jean-Luc asked. “You’re not a Hufflepuff. We all take a vow on our honor as badgers to never reveal the details of the Helgan Mysteries to anyone.”

Charlie snorted. “Apparently someone forgot to mention that to Helga herself. Godric has his own book of love that’s shared with those in Gryffindor House when they turn thirteen. And I’m willing to bet that it’s got pretty much everything in it that Helga’s does. They were married to each other for over fifty years, after all.”

“Rowena has one too,” Carter said. “I’ve never seen it, as while Ravenclaws generally believe that knowledge should be shared, that’s one book that the older years don’t share with anyone under the age of thirteen. As a guess, I’d imagine that Rowena’s is just as extensive as Godric’s and Helga’s since she was also married to both of them for over fifty years.”

“Salazar has one too,” Hunter said. “I’ve also never seen it, but from what I’ve heard it’s made explicitly clear that Salazar knew all of the so-called Helgan Mysteries, along with the Rowenan and Godrican Mysteries, plus the Rhysan and Moiran Mysteries. Why they actually used those names, I have no idea, but the four founders were all married to each other for over five decades. And to Rhys and Moira Hogwarts for just over three. It makes sense that in that time, they’d learn all of each other’s secrets in the bedroom.”

Carter nodded. “Seeing as how all of them had at least one child with each of the others, it can certainly be assumed that none of the marriages were chaste.”

“Well, the four of you,” Jean-Luc said, “will just have to wait until you’re thirteen to be initiated into the full Mysteries. But, as a guess, I’d assume that Carter and Hunter have been engaging in what’s known as frottage. Also sometimes called humping.”

Hunter blushed. “Yeah, that’s it. We’ve never done it with our underwear off, but basically one of us lies on top…”

“Me, because I’m older,” Carter interrupted.

Hunter rolled his eyes, before continuing, “…of the other and then we rub our cocks together until we come.”

“Well, it sounds innocent enough,” Wills said. “And like a good starting place. So, I’m game. Carter, care to join me?”

“Why him and not me?” Hunter asked. “I am your fiancé, after all, Wills.”

“And that’s precisely why,” Wills rebutted. “The whole point of this exercise is to get rid of the nerves before the wedding night. I think it’s better if at least this first time is with someone we’re not engaged to.”

“Well, I guess, I can see your point,” Hunter said. Then with a grin, he said, “So, Harry you game? I’ll be your top since I’ve actually done this before.”

“When?”

“The action, not the position, you dolt,” Hunter said, as he playfully punched his brother’s forearm.

With a nervous laugh, Harry said, “Sure, I’m game.” After a moment’s pause, he asked, “Should we um, do this now then?”

“The wedding nights are fast approaching,” Carter said. “I suppose we probably should stop procrastinating and get a move on.” With a suggestive wink, he added, “Or perhaps I should say get our moves on?”

Decision made, Harry said, “Okay then, well, Hunter join me in my bedroom. Carter, Wills, you can use the room one over from the master… that way we’re not doing it in adjoining rooms, where we might hear one another.”

With a grin, Jean-Luc, said, “I can put up my privacy spells on each room before you guys get started if you’d like.”

“I think the walls are thick enough that it shouldn’t be an issue,” Harry said. “Especially if we spread out so that there’s an empty bedroom between us. Besides, I did learn how to cast the Silencing Charm. Perhaps not as good as your whole suite of privacy spells, Luke, but it came in handy over the summer and the winter break.”

With a blush of his own, Wills said, “Yeah, same here and probably for the same reason.”

As Carter and Wills disappeared through the archway that led into the hallway that contained the bedrooms, Harry and Hunter moved to do the same. Over his shoulder, Harry said, “So, I guess if you three want to use one of the other spare bedrooms, you can.”

He disappeared with Hunter before any of the older ones could reply.

Cedric was almost as red as Charlie’s hair, as he looked nervously at the other two.

“Well, I’m game,” Jean-Luc said. “All three of us are legal, so, there’s no reason we can’t have a little fun.”

“Yes, I suppose not,” Charlie said. “Honestly, this might sound weird but ever since we’ve started double-dating with Bill and Dax I’ve wondered what it might be like to have another person or two join us.”

Luke grinned. “Threesomes—and foursomes for that matter—are quite fun. So, Ric, you up for it?”

Pushing open the front of his school robe to reveal his trousers, which had an obvious tent in them, he asked, “Does that answer your question?”

“Yes,” Charlie said with a nod. “Yes, it definitely does.”

-o-0-o-

With the Chamber of Secrets now sealed by Jean-Luc and Ishara returned to her original purpose as a guardian, life at Hogwarts Castle returned to normal, as the students settled into a peaceful existence, no longer afraid to turn a corner, for fear of being the next victim.

A memorial service was held at Hogwarts for Kevin Sterndale about a week after the events in the Chamber. Unsurprisingly, the entirety of Ravenclaw House was in attendance, although there were also numerous people from Gryffindor and Hufflepuff in attendance, and even a couple of Slytherins, as Kevin had made friends with multiple people. He had been well-liked, after all, and through his elective classes, had classes with people from every house.

Kevin chose to stay out of sight for most of it, the fact that he’d become a ghost kept quiet from the majority of the student body, at least temporarily. He didn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable eulogizing him while he was floating nearby listening to them.

Needless to say, it was a mix of emotions for his friends when they found out that he was a ghost. On the one hand, they were happy that he was still around so they could still talk to him, but on the other hand, they couldn’t help but feel a bit sad for him that he’d chosen to stick around at Hogwarts as a ghost. Thanatos didn’t force souls to go with him to the Underworld, so, sometimes they chose to remain behind as ghosts, but in so doing they let their fear of death deny them a full afterlife, potentially including time in the Elysian Fields, if deemed worthy.

Another bit of tragedy hit Kevin’s family in the days following his memorial, however, as his grandmother, Olive Hornby, having developed a serious heart condition after leaving Hogwarts—partly due to Myrtle haunting her—couldn’t take the pain and stress of her grandson’s death, suffering a massive heart attack which took her life.

Like Kevin, Olive chose to remain as a ghost, mostly to stay with her grandson. Although a small part of her, even if she wasn’t willing to admit it even to herself, wanted some payback for the years of haunting she’d endured from Myrtle, who it had to be said, had taken her anger for Olive making fun of her glasses to an extreme, having tormented Olive for years and interrupted many important events, including Olive’s brother’s wedding.

Myrtle tried to argue that she was dead because of Olive, but even Kevin as Myrtle’s friend disagreed with that statement. It’s not like it was Olive who’d opened the Chamber of Secrets and let Ishara out or commanded her to kill Myrtle. So, while it was true that Myrtle was crying because of Olive’s teasing, it had been Myrtle who made the choice to ignore the standing orders from the professors at the time to not go anywhere in the castle alone. Just as it had been Myrtle who chose that particular girl’s bathroom, instead of one of the many others in the massive castle.

-o-0-o-

On the morning Monday, 21 June 1993, several members of Albion and Iwernia’s nobility began arriving at the school. All classes were canceled for the day as it was a particularly important day in the wizarding world since it was the Summer Solstice, also known as the June Solstice since it wasn’t summer throughout the world.

Throughout the wizarding world, it was common to schedule important events on the days of the two solstices and the two equinoxes, as it was believed that magic was at its most powerful on those four days of the year. This was why Wills’s coronation had been scheduled for 22 December 1995, as it was deemed important to have such an event on a magically powerful day.

On this particular day, people were coming to Hogwarts because today was the official blessing and naming day for the Heir of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, and his three brothers who’d been born within minutes of him. Such an event would normally be held at the family’s ancestral seat, but since he was still in school, Ryan chose to break with that particular tradition. Even the most staunch traditionalists weren’t upset by this, however, as there was actually several centuries of precedence for lords who were students to have important events that fell during the school year at Hogwarts instead of at their ancestral homes.

The Hogwarts house-elves, supervised by Kallix, prepared a special breakfast feast for the day, which included all of the standard breakfast fare for the students to eat, in addition to several pieces of raw, uncooked prime rib for those students who wanted to make offerings to the gods and goddesses, which was a common occurrence on the four power days, in addition to each of the deities’ individual feast days. Because of this, there were several braziers burning throughout the Great Hall, so students who wished to could make their offerings, before eating.

At ten minutes past eight, one of the thestral-pulled carriages pulled up outside the main entrance to the school, bringing the five most senior members of the royal family up to the school from where the Knight Bus had dropped them off in Hogsmeade. It wasn’t just the blessing day of the newest members of the Black family that brought Elizabeth, Philip, Charles, Diana, and the Queen-Mother to Hogwarts, however, as today was also Wills’s thirteenth birthday.

Diana had been especially dreading the arrival of her eldest son’s birthday, as it meant that he was now legally old enough under Albion law to consent to sex and in roughly a month-and-a-half would be taking three husbands.

Obviously, Wills had no intention of telling his mother that he was already sexually active, as following that first time back in April, the four underage boys in the group had slowly progressed further and further with one another. By late April they finally did it completely naked and by mid-May, they’d each given and received a blowjob. And within the last week, they’d taken the final steps, as Hunter took Wills’s virginity, while Wills took Harry’s, Harry took Carter’s, and Carter took Hunter’s.

Of course, since their couplings happened before any of them turned thirteen, they couldn’t legally buy the birth control potion and no healer would agree to cast the spell on them. Jean-Luc, however, had taken it upon himself to help out his future husbands by providing them with the tools they’d need.

Namely magically-enhanced muggle condoms that were charmed in such a way that they could not break or tear, in addition to a few tubes of lubricant with spermicide, even though he’d also left them a small book which detailed the spells commonly used during sex, including the charms that cleaned the anus, magically expanded it in order to lessen the pain of penetration, and the normal lubrication spells.

As the royals sat down at a special table in the Great Hall, which had been reserved for them and the Camelot Seven, Charles asked, “So this ceremony today it’s like a baptism?”

“Yes, essentially,” Jean-Luc answered. “We don’t call it that, as we refer to it as a blessing and naming day, but it’s pretty similar in most respects. Including anointing the baby with liquid, only we use sacramental wine instead of holy water.”

“Yes, the wine is blessed by the priests of Dionysus,” Charlie added. “It’s a special blend of wine that’s made specifically for use in these kinds of ceremonies and is not a drinkable wine. But then, considering that the babies are just having a few drops placed on their foreheads and a couple other places, it doesn’t need to be.”

“What other places?” Elizabeth asked.

“The center of the chest, over the heart,” Wills answered, as Ryan had told him. “Which for witches and wizards is also seen to be the location of their magical cores. Additionally, the hands and feet.”

“So I take it the babies won’t be wearing a christening gown?” Diana asked.

Shaking his head in a negative gesture, Luke said, “No, they won’t. That’s the most obvious difference between this and a muggle baptism. The baby is naked during it. Especially in the case of male heirs who’ve been born to families that were on the verge of annihilation, as the Blacks were until the birth of Ryan’s four sons. An additional anointing of their genitals is usually included in that case.”

Elizabeth coughed at that, before clearing her throat and saying, “Well, I thank you, Jean-Luc, for warning us up front, as I wouldn’t want my shock at that particular difference to interrupt the ceremony itself.”

“It’s definitely different, for sure,” the Queen-Mother said. “Any other big surprises that we can expect?”

“None that I can think of,” Charlie answered. “There are sacrifices made to various gods and goddesses, as they’re asked to bless the child with strong magic, health, wisdom, etc. Godparents are named for each child, in addition to a temporary patron deity who is asked to watch over the child until the eve of their seventeenth birthday. In the wizarding world, witches and wizards have a confirmation ceremony the night before their birthday during which they can either confirm the deity that their parents chose for them as their patron or select a new one of their own choosing.”

There were nods around the table at this, before Harry said, “One thing that Max and Tavi mentioned when I talked to them last night, was whether or not any of the gods would appear in person for this ceremony. Some of them have been appearing rather frequently recently and thus they couldn’t rule out the possibility that some of them might.”

Jean-Luc nodded. “Well, there haven’t been any recorded instances of any member of the pantheon appearing at these ceremonies in over a millennium. However, in speaking with Hecate, I know that’s because the Fates had forbidden them to interact with mortals for a time. Now that they’ve been unleashed so to speak, it’s true they might turn up. At which point the most ancient of texts on the matter requires that they are granted full deference and any and all right of precedence that might belong to anyone in attendance is ceded to them.”

Charles looked like he was about to say something, but before he could open his mouth, Elizabeth nodded and said, “Which is entirely appropriate. I may be a Queen, but I would never presume to have greater precedence than a deity.”

“A pagan deity,” Charles muttered under his breath, soft enough that almost nobody heard it, except for his grandmother who was seated next to him, who shook her head and said, “Yes, Charles, but still a deity who could very likely reduce you to a pile of ash in less than a second if they so choose, so please use the brain in your head and show some respect.”

“Quite right,” Philip said, speaking for the first time as he gave his son a hard look. He understood that Charles was having a hard time dealing with all of the upheavals in his life since Wills had started Hogwarts. After all, Charles had been raised from birth to believe that he was first in line to the throne after Elizabeth and thus she was the only one he had to defer to.

Now, however, not only were both of his sons wizards, they were heirs to the Foremost Ancient and Royal House of Pendragon, which made Wills not only a future King but also a future Emperor. And since Elizabeth had to abdicate for both herself and Charles on the eve of Wills’s coronation, he couldn’t help but feel that something was being taken from him, even though he hadn’t known about the existence of magic before his eldest’s Hogwarts letter came and thus never knew anything about the Kingdom of Albion and Iwernia, or the Britannic Empire.

For the most part, he was over his ill feelings on that, as he had been ever since the dinner at Balmoral over the summer when Hecate appeared and put him in his place. That didn’t mean the feelings didn’t ever resurface or that they were even gone completely. He was just doing his best to repress them and support his son to the best of his ability. That didn’t mean that he never slipped, however, as he was only human, after all.

Of course, in cases where the gods were mentioned that was a whole other kettle of fish for Charles, who had also been raised since birth in the monotheistic Anglican Church of England. As a result, the existence of other gods was not something he’d ever given any thought to outside of the study of mythology when he was still in school. And obviously, then they were really nothing more than fanciful stories that were nothing but myths and legends. Finding out those stories were, in fact, true and those gods actually existed and still did, had certainly thrown him for a loop.

“Anyway, since the sun is out and it’s not raining,” Cedric said, “the ceremony is actually happening outside, on the shore of the Black Lake. The name has nothing whatsoever to do with Ryan’s family, but he liked the symbolism I guess, of his babies being named alongside a lake that shares their surname.”

Carter nodded. “Yes, during such ceremonies, it’s customary to stand, although there are chairs available for those who due to age or injury would find it difficult to stand for the entire ceremony.”

“Should any of the gods actually show up in person,” Jean-Luc added, “it would be customary for anyone seated to stand for at least a minute or two before resuming their seat.”

“Assuming they’re physically capable of standing, of course,” Charlie added. “Obviously, if anyone was in a wheelchair due to being paralyzed from the waist down, for example, they would not be expected to stand. But, to the best of my knowledge, nobody attending today is in that position.”

-o-0-o-

At 9:30 AM, everyone who was attending the ceremony made their way outside and headed down to the lake. The entire area where the ceremony was being held had been enclosed in an invisible dome of magic which would keep the insects away, in addition to providing a bit of extra heat for those who might otherwise not want to be outside. Of course, that was mostly for the royals’ benefit, as the magical guests would have the ability to use a Warming Charm on themselves if they needed one, assuming they didn’t have the specially charmed robes that helped regulate body temperature.

Once everyone had arrived and those who’d be sitting had taken their seats, Ryan smiled and said, “As Lord and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, I welcome all of you to this most auspicious of occasions, when we name and ask the gods to bless the new Black heir, and his three brothers that he shares his birthday with.”

With a grin, Ryan said, “At this point, Black tradition would usually see me turning this ceremony over now to a High Priestess of Hecate, Goddess of Magic, but I’m not going to do that.” There were a few soft murmurs of surprise from the audience at this, before Ryan added, “Why use one of her priestesses when Hecate herself has decided to grace us with her divine presence?”

There were many surprised looks, especially by those members of the audience who had not met one of the gods or goddesses. Some also looked quite disbelieving or even worried about Ryan’s sanity, but before there was time to react beyond that, there was a brilliant flash of golden light as Hecate, dressed in a flowing black Ancient Greek gown, her hair done in a fancy twist held up with celestial bronze hairpins and her usual pentagram necklace hanging from her neck, appeared next to him.

While she couldn’t appear in her true divine form, as that would permanently blind every mortal in the audience, she did allow her aura to be visible upon her arrival, which made it very clear that she wasn’t just a random witch who Ryan decided to hire to play Hecate, but the genuine article. With her aura visible, they could all literally feel her power and knew that there was no way a mortal woman could have that much power.

Everyone who was seated, including the Queen-Mother, stood up out of respect for the goddess in their midst, as she allowed her aura to fade and said, “Thank you, Orion Black. I am Hecate, Goddess of Magic and many other things, and I have decided to lead today’s ceremony personally. Now, shall we begin?”

Nobody was stupid enough to say no, so Hecate nodded and said, “Very well, bring forth the first of your children to receive the blessings of the gods, Orion Black.”

As Ryan gently moved aside the blanket that was covering Castor and picked up the naked babe, Hecate smiled and said, “Those of you who were seated before my announcement may now sit back down.”

Picking up a pair of silver tongs, Tavi picked up a lamb breast from a previously covered silver platter held by Max. The tray was charmed so that the house-elves would replenish it with a new one each time the cover was placed back over the platter. While many in the wizarding world offered the very best cuts of meat as offerings for the gods, it was a tradition going back over a thousand years to use lamb during this ceremony, as the newborns being blessed were almost like lambs themselves.

“I, Octavius Black, on behalf of my husband, Orion Black, and my brother, Maximus Black,” Tavi said, as Max, due to a combination of a cold and practicing his lines for this ceremony a little too much, had unfortunately lost his voice the night before, “offer this offering, my Lady Hecate that you might bless this babe with strong magic.”

As he dropped the offering in the burning brazier next to him, Hecate smiled and said, “I, Hecate Goddess of Magic, accept your offering, Octavius Black, and provide my blessing to the babe,” as she dipped her fingers into the bowl of sacramental wine and then gently touched the middle of Castor’s chest, her hand glowing as she did so, anointing him with the wine, as she said, “With this wine, may my blessing course through this babe’s veins.”

Max had replaced the platter’s cover as Tavi dropped the breast into the brazier, so removing it once again, Tavi picked up another breast and holding it over the brazier, he repeated his name, along with Ryan’s and Max’s, before he said, “Offer this offering to the blessed Lord Apollo, that he might bless this babe with good health.”

Dropping the breast into the flames, it burned for a moment, before it disappeared and Apollo’s symbol appeared in the smoke above the flames. With a nod, Hecate said, “Apollo has accepted your offering,” as she again dipped her fingers in the bowl and then anointed Castor’s left hand and foot with wine, “and thus with this wine, may Apollo’s blessing course through this babe’s veins.” As she said this, a small beam of soft white light descended from the heavens and bathed Castor for a moment.

At this point, Tavi handed the tongs over to Ryan, as Max removed the cover from the platter for the third time. Picking up the breast and holding it over the brazier, Ryan said, “I, Orion Black, on behalf of myself and my husband, Maximus Black, offer this offering to the blessed Lady Tyche, that she might bless this babe with luck and good fortune.”

After a moment, a pleasant odor filled the air, as Tyche’s holy symbol appeared in the smoke above the brazier. With a nod, Hecate anointed Castor’s right hand and foot with wine, as she said, “Tyche has accepted your offering and thus with this wine, may her blessing course through this babe’s veins.”

Castor was once again bathed in soft white light as a second beam of light streamed down from the heavens, with all of the guests viewing this event with looks of awe on their faces. Not only was a goddess leading the ceremony personally, but the gods and goddesses were making their presence known. Their holy symbols appearing in the smoke over the brazier was not unexpected, as that had been happening for as long as anyone could remember. However, the light from the heavens bathing the child was something none of them had ever seen before.

Many were also surprised that the baby wasn’t squirming with discomfort or restlessness, as most babies did, as they weren’t used to having parts of their bodies anointed with liquid. However, Castor had remained peaceful throughout the ceremony, as unbeknownst to anyone in the audience, Hecate was using some of her own divine power to soothe the babe, keeping him docile and happy.

Picking up a fourth lamb breast, Ryan held it over the brazier and repeated his and Max’s names, before he said, “Offer this offering to the blessed Lady Athena, that she might bless this babe with wisdom and intelligence.”

Seconds after the breast fell into the brazier, a pleasant odor once again filled the air, as Athena’s holy symbol appeared in the smoke, as Hecate anointed Castor’s head, as she said, “Athena has accepted the offering and thus with this wine, may her blessing course through this babe’s veins.”

As the stream of soft light bathing Castor disappeared again, Ryan handed the tongs back to Tavi, who picked up a fifth lamb breast and holding it over the brazier, said, “I, Octavius Black, on behalf of my husband, Orion Black, and my brother, Maximus Black, offer this offering to the blessed Lady Rhea, that she might bless this babe with the gift of fertility.”

Tavi dropped the breast into the flames, as the muggleborns and muggle-raised waited for the offering to be accepted, as the others had been, but after a moment some began to worry that it wouldn’t be. The purebloods and wizard-raised among the audience were also quite surprised that Tavi had called upon Rhea to bless the babe, as they’d stopped doing so over two centuries ago, as she’d stopped accepting sacrifices. Which is why many nobles now used one of the other lesser fertility gods or goddesses.

However, just as even Ryan, Max, and Tavi began to worry, there was a flash of golden light, as a tall, regal looking woman wearing a flowing silk gown of green and gold, long blonde hair cascading down her back, and a gold and diamond tiara resting upon her head appeared and smiled as she momentarily allowed her aura and power to show.

Everyone stood, many in the audience looking shocked, as the woman said, “I, Rhea, Queen-Mother of the Gods of Olympus and Goddess of Fertility and Motherhood, accept your offering, Maximus Black, and grant my blessing to this babe.”

Hecate curtsied to her grandaunt, the former Queen of the Titans, prompting many of the women in the audience to do the same as the men bowed. Before Hecate could dip her fingers into the bowl of wine, however, Rhea moved forward and did it herself, as she anointed Castor’s genitals with a brightly glowing hand and said, “With this wine, may my blessing course through this babe’s veins.”

Rhea moved off to the side, opting to stay as Hecate handed Castor back to Ryan who put him back in his crib. Normally, at this point, he would have been named, along with his godparents and temporary patron, but in ceremonies where more than one baby was involved, all of the blessings were done first, before the naming began.

Pollux’s blessings happened much the same way as Castor’s had, with Hecate and Rhea accepting the offerings and personally giving their blessings, while Hecate passed on Apollo’s, Tyche’s, and Athena’s on their behalf, as they bathed him in light. For Rigel and Regulus, due to their conjoined status, Ryan and Tavi both dropped a lamb breast in the brazier, as each blessing was done twice, first for Rigel and then again for Regulus.

The only real difference was for the blessings from Apollo and Tyche. As Rigel didn’t have a right hand or foot to be anointed with wine for Tyche’s blessing, Hecate instead anointed his ears. This was also the compromise made for Apollo’s blessing for Regulus, as Hecate anointed the foot of his and Rigel’s central leg which was actually Regulus’s left leg and thus foot, along with his left ear.

With the blessings done, Hecate handed Rigel and Regulus over to Tavi. It had been a little awkward for all three new fathers to hold the two boys for the first couple of days, but in the months since their birth, all three had now become quite adept at it. Thus, with Pollux being held by Max and Castor by Ryan, each baby now wrapped in blankets, as it was only the blessing part that required them to be naked, Hecate began the next part of the ceremony.

“Before the Moirai, the Gods and these witnesses, Orion, Lord-Teryn Black, what name do you grant your son and heir?”

“Castor Orion Black, my Lady Hecate.”

Nodding her head, Hecate said, “Very well and who do you name as his godparents?”

This had been a matter of some discussion, as Ryan’s first inkling had been to name Andromeda and Ted, but they persuaded him not to, as they were happy just being Castor’s grandparents. Ryan also would have loved to name one of his best friends, either Cedric or Jeremy, as godfather, but the laws of Albion didn’t allow people under the age of seventeen to be named as godparents, since it was believed that only an adult wizard who’d had their confirmation should serve in that role.

“I name my adoptive sister and first cousin, Nymphadora Tonks, as his godmother,” Ryan said. “And Serah Marcus Flint, Heir of the Ancient and Noble House of Flint, and his bonded partner and husband, Serah-Consort Jackson Flint née Tennant as his joint-godfathers.”

While flattered when Ryan had approached her to be Castor’s godmother, Tonks didn’t really want the responsibility of having to possibly raise her nephew should something happen to Ryan, and thus she only agreed to accept the position if Ryan named either a second joint godmother in addition to her, or if he named two godfathers. Since he couldn’t pick his best friend Jeremy, he decided the next best thing was his elder look-alike brother Jackson and his husband.

As Tonks, Marcus, and Jackson stepped forward, two members of the audience, in particular, were looking rather surprised. Marcus had chosen not to tell his parents about accepting the position and thus Malcolm and Elizabeth Flint were caught off guard by the announcement of their son as co-godfather of the Black heir. They were quite happy with the appointment, however, as being named godparent of the heir of a higher noble house than your own was a very prestigious honor.

“Nymphadora Tonks, Marcus Flint, and Jackson Flint,” Hecate began, “before the Gods and these witnesses, do you solemnly swear to guide Castor Black in his spiritual life and should the worst happen, take him into your families as your ward and see that all of his needs—be they physical, mental, or spiritual—are met?”

“I do so solemnly swear, my Lady Hecate,” all three of them said in near perfect unison.

“So be it,” Hecate said. “With their appointment by the Lord Black and their acceptance of it, let it be known before the Moirai, Gods and these witnesses that they are the godparents of Castor Orion Black forevermore.”

After a brief pause, Hecate asked, “Who do you name as his birth patron, humbly asking that they watch over and guide young Castor until his confirmation?”

This was easier for Ryan, as there was one god, in particular, that was the traditional choice for generations of Blacks, owing to the family’s reputation as one of Albion’s pre-eminent breeders of black pegasi, through which the majority of the Black fortune had been made.

“I humbly request that Poseidon, King of the Seas, and God of the Seas, Storms, Earthquakes, and Horses be Castor’s birth patron.”

There was usually some kind of sign from the god or goddess named as birth patron if they chose to accept the position. Usually, their holy symbol appearing above the baby’s head, but after a minute, there was no such sign.

From where he was standing in the audience, Harry heard a few soft whispers, as some indicated that they thought it was the height of arrogance to name one of the Big Three for this position.

However, after a moment, the water of the Black Lake began to ripple as a circular patch of water began glowing brightly before all of a sudden a golden and coral crown atop the head of a man with black hair and beard, and a hand holding a golden trident emerged from the lake, his muscular chest bare, and the lower half of his body obscured by a column of water.

In a strong voice, the man said, “I, Poseidon, King and God of the Seas, have decided to grant your request, Orion Black, and agree to serve as birth patron of your son and heir, Castor Orion Black.”

Everyone who had been seated since the arrival of Rhea was quickly on their feet, as even Charles could understand the foolishness of getting on this god’s bad side. He was one of the so-called Big Three, after all, and pagan deity or not, he was still powerful and held dominion over the seas, which as an island, the United Kingdom was surrounded by on all sides.

The only noise following this was the soft scratching of a True-Quote Quill belonging to Editor-in-Chief Barnabus Cuffe, one of only two members of the media who’d been invited to cover the event, the other being Hogwarts Governor and Editor of The Quibbler, Xenophilius Lovegood.

As his quill wrote several lines of notes for him, Barnabus made a mental note to get statements from as many of the guests as possible to confirm the appearance of not only Hecate and Rhea, but now Poseidon himself, as otherwise he knew that people would think the Daily Prophet’s journalistic integrity to be no better than that of The Quibbler, which was almost universally viewed as a joke.

Unfortunately, while Barnabus loathed to even admit it to himself, in some prominent circles even the Prophet, while still respectable, had under his late father, the previous Editor-in-Chief, become known as the official propaganda arm of the Ministry of Magic. And even now, Minister Fudge exerted more control over the direction of the paper and what it printed than Barnabus liked.

There wasn’t much he could do, however, as the Minister could revoke the press credentials of the Prophet’s reporters and if that happened, they’d be dead in the water. He was hoping that with the impending restoration of the monarchy and now the appearance of the gods that he might finally get back some measure of control of the paper that his family had owned and operated for five generations.

Hecate curtsied for her cousin, with Rhea simply nodding at her son, before Hecate said, “So be it, let it be known before the Moirai, the Gods, and these witnesses that Poseidon has granted the request of Lord Black and shall serve as birth patron of Castor Black until the eve of the babe’s seventeenth birthday, when he may choose to confirm Poseidon or pick a new patron.”

Harry could hear a few more soft whispers at this comment, asking just who precisely would choose a different patron at their confirmation when their birth patron was Poseidon, who’d deigned to show up in person to their Blessing and Naming ceremony? Poseidon wasn’t exactly known for his cool and even temper, after all.

After a few moments of silence, Hecate next asked Ryan to name Castor’s twin, which he did and then announced Lucius Malfoy as Pollux’s godfather and Narcissa Malfoy née Black as his godmother. The eagle-eyed in the audience, Luke being one of them, noted that Caractacus Burke didn’t look pleased when Ryan said Lucius’s name. He suspected he knew why but was unable to confirm it.

After a brief pause, Hecate asked, “Who do you name as his birth patron, humbly asking that they watch over and guide young Pollux until his confirmation?”

This was another easy choice for Ryan, as discussing the matter with Max and Tavi, he decided to go with the traditional choice among the Burke family. Thus, he said, “I humbly request that Hades, King of the Underworld, and God of the Dead, Wealth, and Mineral Riches be Pollux’s birth patron.”

A few eyes widened, but before anyone could react, the ground trembled slightly, before three large pointed rocks broke through the ground about twenty feet to the left of the audience, followed not long after by a small inferno of flame and smoke. When it cleared, two hellhounds could be seen, flanking a tall and muscular man who like his younger brother had black hair and a beard. He had a helmet in the crook of his left arm, and his right hand on the hilt of his Stygian Iron sword.

“I, Hades, King of the Underworld and God of the Dead, Wealth, and Mineral Riches deign to grant your request, Orion Black, and agree to serve as your son Pollux Asterion Black’s birth patron.”

“I can’t believe I’m standing within sight of Hecate, Poseidon, Hades, and Rhea,” Harry heard someone near him whisper. He didn’t recognize the voice, but he could certainly understand the sentiment. Even having met Hecate before and thus being a little more comfortable around her, the other three were certainly enough to fray his nerves.

Hecate curtsied and Rhea again nodded at her son, before the Goddess of Magic confirmed Hades’s status as birth patron of Pollux. After a moment, the ceremony continued for Rigel and Regulus. With Griffin Prewett and his wife Charlotte Prewett née McLaggen named as Rigel’s godparents, while Ciara Prewett and her fiancée Cassandra McLaggen were named as joint godmothers for Regulus, and Jean-Luc and Charlie as his joint godfathers.

Many in the audience now waited with bated breath as Hecate asked Ryan to indicate who he was selecting as birth patron for his conjoined sons. There was a traditional choice that was often named as birth patron for conjoined twins, so it wasn’t so much the selection itself that had some people anxious, but the question of whether or not they’d soon be graced by yet another deity.

“I humbly request that Janus,” Ryan began, pausing only for a second as he heard Hecate’s voice in his head, before continuing, “and Ianus, the Gods of Doorways, Choices, Beginnings, and Endings be the birth patrons of Rigel and Regulus.”

There were quite a few confused whispers at this as most in the audience had never heard of Ianus, and thus couldn’t help but wonder if Ryan had just made a big mistake by making Janus share his dominion with someone they’d never heard of.

After only a moment, there was a flash of golden light as a doorway appeared on the opposite side of the audience from where Hades appeared. It opened a second later to reveal a tall and muscular young man with brown hair and stubble.

“I, Janus,” the head facing the front said, before the god’s neck turned almost three-hundred-and-sixty degrees to reveal a second head fused to the back of the other one, who said, “and I, Ianus,” the neck turned again, this time so that both heads were visible in profile, as both heads spoke in unison, “the Gods of Doorways, Choices, Beginnings, and Endings grant the request by their father to serve as the birth patrons of Rigel Maximus and Regulus Octavius Black.”

Once Hecate had confirmed Rigel and Regulus’s patron and brought the ceremony to a close, Rhea walked over to the twin gods and hugged them, before smiling at the audience and saying, “For those of you who are confused, the god that all of you know as Janus is actually two gods. However, there was a mistake made by some of the scholars who wrote about the gods following the Moirai forbidding us deities from interacting with mortals. And ever since, my brothers, Janus and Ianus, have been known collectively as Janus.”

Janus nodded and said, “A mistake that Ianus and I have literally been waiting thousands of years to correct.”

“We may share a body,” Ianus added, “but we’ve never shared a name, despite what you may have believed until now.”

“Indeed,” Poseidon said. “My uncles have been quite upset about that over the years. Just ask Maximus and Octavius Black, or any other set of conjoined twins you know, how they’d feel if people insisted on calling them by only one name, as if they were only one person, instead of two.”

Hades nodded and chuckled darkly, as he added, “I rather doubt you’ll find many sets that would be okay with that.”

Not long after this, the deities left as they had to return to their duties, but their appearance was certainly the talk of everyone present as they made their way back up to the castle for the after ceremony reception.

-o-0-o-

At 2:00 PM on Sunday, 27 June, all of the current second-year Gryffindors met in the Entrance Hall, as they were requested to do. The time had come to pick their electives and being the last group to do so, they knew from the other students in their year that the professors had set up an elective fair in the Great Hall, which would allow them to meet the professors who taught each elective, get some information on their subjects directly from them, and sign up for the ones they wanted or thought they needed.

Due to the mandatory for all second-years Wizarding Careers class, everyone already had some idea which electives they most wanted to take. Of course, some of them really had no firm ideas of what they wanted to be yet when they grew up. The careers class had certainly helped and got them thinking about it, but they were all only twelve or thirteen and there were many people at that age who had no real clue what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives.

Of course being the last of the four houses to attend the Elective Fair had some advantages, in that they already knew what to expect from talking with the others in their year. Since the Ravenclaws and Slytherins had attended the fair the previous day at 8 AM and 2 PM, with the Hufflepuffs attending at 8 AM that morning, the Gryffindors had plenty of conversations over lunch and during free time over the last two days to learn what to expect.

It was because of this that they knew about the new scheduling for next year that Dumbledore had previously explained to Newt and Tina Scamander in his office when he’d pitched the idea to Newt to take over Care of Magical Creatures next year. Which he had decided to do, as Tina rather liked him taking a teaching job as it kept him close to home and in a safer environment than going off on another of his frequently dangerous research trips in some remote corner of the world.

They also knew that Professor Galatea Merrythought, one of the longest-serving Defense Against the Dark Arts professors in the school’s history—having taught the subject from 1895 until 1945 and thus approximately three decades before the jinx was placed on the position—was coming out of retirement to teach the restored Dueling class, alongside Professor Nicolas Flamel, who was also taking over teaching the NEWT-level Alchemy elective. There would still be a Dueling Club for the first and second years who couldn’t take electives, but the club was being replaced with an elective class for the older students.

Many of the Gryffindors, especially the muggleborns or muggle-raised, had all been rather surprised that Professor Merrythought was even still alive. Since if she had started teaching in 1895, she would have had to have been born in the 1870’s in order to be old enough to do so. Which meant she was now over a hundred and twenty years old. Their friends from the other houses, however, said that she really didn’t look her age, looking more like she was in her seventies, and from the small demonstration she’d given, still in very good shape despite her age.

One thing that had a couple of them grumbling, Ron especially, was the fact that they’d be required to pick a minimum of four electives, rather than the previous minimum of two that the older students had been required to pick. Ron was not thrilled with the idea of having to pick an extra two electives, having already planned to take the easiest two he could pick, while also attempting to get into the Magical Games and Sports elective. With the new requirement of four, however, that plan was pretty much shot to hell.

Of course, the two electives that had been widely seen as the easiest for many years now were Divination and Care of Magical Creatures. Both of which Ron had planned on taking. At least until he found out that the Governors had decided to place a new rule on the Divination class, which required a magical test be done on all potential students which would determine if they actually had any seer ability or not. Those that didn’t wouldn’t be allowed to take it, as the class was pretty much useless to those who didn’t have the so-called Inner Eye that actually allowed them to be true seers in the first place.

“Cheer up, Ron,” Harry said when he saw his friend’s dejected look. “I’m sure you’ll find something you can take.”

“Yeah, mate,” Wills said. “There are seventeen options so if you can’t pick four of them, there’s something wrong.”

“The only thing wrong with sixteen of those options,” Hermione interjected, “is that they include schoolwork and exams. Obviously, I don’t see that as a problem, but Ron on the other hand…”

“Oh be quiet, Hermione,” Ron grumbled. “Honestly, why did they have to mess with the perfectly good system that they had before?”

“Because it wasn’t a good system?” Seamus asked.

“Why would you even want to waste your time taking Divination?” Dean asked. “If you don’t actually have the innate ability to be a seer in the first place?”

Harry nodded. “Yes, that would be as dumb as Hermione, Wills, Dean, or me taking Muggle Studies. We were all raised in the muggle world, so why would we waste time with a class that’s geared towards learning about it?”

“I’m actually planning to take it,” Hermione said before anyone else could say anything. “I think it would be fascinating to see how wizards depict muggles and muggle technology.”

“As a muggleborn that would be a colossal waste of your time, Ms. Granger,” said Jackson Tennant—the seventh year Gryffindor prefect and Head Boy—as he came down the stairs with all of the Gryffindor prefects— fifth-years Ryan Westrup and Jennifer Dawn, sixth-years Percy Weasley and Trinity Lynn, and seventh year Abigail Cuffe—following behind him.

Abigail nodded. “Indeed, Ms. Granger, as intelligent as you’ve proven to be, it would be a waste of your time to take Muggle Studies. Born and raised in the muggle world, you could probably teach the class.”

“I’m afraid there’s no probably about it,” Ryan Westrup said. “Due to the separation of our worlds because of the Statute of Secrecy, even with Hogwarts accepting muggleborns and muggle-raised, the Muggle Studies curriculum doesn’t really cover anything that’s happened in the muggle world past 1720. A very small handful of things, such as the telegraph, radio, telephones, and television were added to the curriculum but beyond that, there’s nothing taught in the class that you don’t already know about.”

“Indeed,” Trinity said. “So, there’s plenty of things about the muggle world that aren’t covered at all. Robert Walpole is very briefly mentioned as the first Prime Minister, even though he didn’t start in that job until 1721. But others since then? No mention of them. Just as there’s no mention at all of Hitler, the Nazis, airplanes, bombs, nuclear weapons, and many other things you might expect would be included.”

“Computers aren’t mentioned either,” Abigail added. “Nor is the American Revolutionary War, which was only fought in the muggle world, and not the magical. There was no need for the American wizards to fight a war for independence since they were granted the right of self-governance in the 1600’s before the Statute of Secrecy went into effect. They’re still officially part of the Britannic Empire and Prince William will have veto power over any of MACUSA’s decisions that he doesn’t like,” smiling at the prince she said, “of course you have to be crowned first and that’s still a few years off.”

“See, Hermione?” Harry said. “Why waste your time?”

Wills nodded. “Sounds like you’d be much better off not taking the class and using the time period for it for something else.”

Hermione sighed and nodded. “It does sound that way, yes. But if the governors really want to improve the school, they really should do something about the Muggle Studies curriculum.”

“True, but with the current makeup of the Board, that’s not likely,” Jackson said. “Curriculum changes require the highest threshold of yes votes of any other decision they make and there are too many pureblood supremacists on the board at the moment who would vote against any improvements to Muggle Studies, as they view the class to be a waste of time that shouldn’t even be an option in the first place.”

“Yes,” Abigail agreed. “Many of them cling a bit too tightly to the controversial theories of Hambeldon Quince.”

“He’s the one who postulated that muggles evolved from mushrooms right?” Wills asked, remembering the first conversation he’d had with Dylan and Thorne when they took him shopping before his first year.

“Yes,” Percy answered, just as the doors to the Great Hall opened and Professor McGonagall appeared.

“We’re ready for you now,” she said, as she beckoned everyone to enter the hall.

Upon entering the Great Hall, the Gryffindors immediately noticed that the house tables were pushed up against the walls to create more space in the center of the room, with several booths set up, one for each elective class and manned by the professor who taught it.

“To make things a bit more orderly,” McGonagall said, “if I could have the girls start on the left and the boys on the right, I would appreciate it. You’ll have your chance to visit all of the booths, but it doesn’t hurt to meet your potential professors and get their view of their subjects.”

Several nods followed this, as Harry, Wills, Neville, Ron, Seamus, and Dean moved over to the booths on the right-hand side of the room, with Ancient Runes being the first. Meanwhile, Hermione, Lavender, Parvati, and Faye headed over to the left-hand side, which began with the booth for Arithmancy.

Ron wasn’t really interested in taking Ancient Runes and quickly moved on to the booth for Care of Magical Creatures along with Dean, while Harry, Wills, Neville, and Seamus stayed to talk with Professor Babbling. On the other side of the room, Faye and Lavender moved on to the Divination booth, while Hermione and Parvati stayed to talk with Professor Vector.

For the next half-hour or so, the students worked their way around the room, with both the elective professors and the prefects and Head Boy answering their questions. Neither Jackson nor any of the prefects had taken enough of the electives to require a Time-Turner, since they hadn’t even been made available until this year and then only to the students in the Lord’s Tower and two third-years from each house. However, between the six of them, there was at least one of them in every possible elective and were able to answer some of the second-years’ questions as a result.

At the forty-five minute mark, McGonagall, who was seated with Bill at the head table, said, “When you’ve made your decisions, you can come up and speak to me or Professor Weasley.”

Harry was the first student to walk up to the head table, as while he’d wanted to talk to some of the professors, he’d already known which classes he most wanted or needed to take.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall said. “Made your decisions?”

At Harry’s nod, McGonagall waved her wand, causing her Dicta-Quill to float over and record Harry’s choices, which he began naming, “Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Dueling, Instrumental Music, International Magic, Magical Finance, Magical Games and Sports, Magical Languages, The Dark Arts, Wizarding Home Economics, and Wizarding Law.”

“So twelve of the seventeen options,” Bill noted. “You’ll need a Time-Turner, but that won’t be a problem since you’ve already got one due to your lord classes.”

McGonagall nodded, as she said, “Speaking of your lord classes, since you’re now of age to take the regular elective versions of them, you’ll no longer have Magical Finance and Wizarding Law in the Lord’s Tower and will instead have them in Professors O’Casey’s and McLaughlin’s normal classrooms.”

“Also, since you’ve already got nearly a full year of both classes,” Bill said, “you’ll be taking them with the fourth years next year, instead of your own year mates.”

Harry nodded, as he’d rather expected that.

With a smile, McGonagall said, “Which means you’ll have OWLs to take in your fourth year, as you’ll be a year ahead in those two classes. Should you pursue a NEWT in either of them, you’ll be qualified to sit them in your sixth year, which means you’ll be able to drop them for your seventh year.”

“Considering my position in the world, I do plan on getting a NEWT in both,” Harry revealed. “Although I doubt I’ll pursue masteries, as I think I’d rather focus on subjects I enjoy for those, rather than the ones that I need for my lordship duties. Besides, I can always hire officers with masteries to handle the day-to-day for me.”

“Indeed, Mr. Potter, indeed,” Bill said.

With a grin, Harry said, “I think you can start calling me Harry, Bill. I am going to be your brother-in-law in just over a month, after all.”

“True enough,” Bill said with a smile. “Just don’t expect to get any special treatment.”

Nodding, Harry said, “Of course not. You don’t give any to Percy, the twins, Ron, or Ginny, so why would I be any different?”

McGonagall and Bill both nodded, but said nothing more to Harry, as he moved down off the dais as Wills came up and McGonagall began recording his picks, as Bill began recording Hermione’s.

The former taking all the same classes as Harry, only with Art and Magical Literature added, while Hermione took all the same classes as the prince, although she replaced Magical Games and Sports with Vocal Music. She’d sung with her church’s youth choir before coming to Hogwarts and had always enjoyed it. The main reason, however, was because she was very interested in learning the art of songweaving, which was the act of casting a spell through song and was one of the things the class began covering at NEWT level.

Somewhat stubbornly, Hermione did attempt to sign up for Muggle Studies as well, despite what Jackson and the prefects had advised, but after both McGonagall and Bill told her it wasn’t worth her time, she finally relented. She was also a little envious of Harry and Wills getting advanced placements in Magical Finance and Wizarding Law, but rather than let it bother her, she was actually happy about it, as she knew she’d be able to sneak a peek at their notes and textbooks and thus get a leg up in the class.

In the end, all the second-year Gryffindor residents of the Lord’s Tower, also got advanced placement in Finance and Law, while only three students, Lavender, Fay, and Dean—to the surprise of everyone, Dean included—tested positive for latent seer ability, allowing the three of them to sign up for Divination.

With fourteen electives each, Hermione and Wills had the most of the second-year Gryffindors, with Harry and Parvati coming in second at twelve each, while Neville, Seamus, and Fay each had ten, and Lavender and Dean each had a total of eight. It really didn’t surprise anyone that Ron had chosen the least number of electives, with only five, as he signed up for Care of Magical Creatures, Dueling, The Dark Arts, Wizarding Home Economics, and Magical Games and Sports.

Ron was quite sure, and Bill agreed, that their mother would no doubt be upset about Ron—and the rest of the second-year Gryffindors including Harry—signing up for The Dark Arts. While Ron still intended to pursue the path of professional Quidditch, he hoped that he could mollify his mother with the fact that an acceptable OWL in The Dark Arts was now required to take Medical Magic.

Ron didn’t really have any interest in becoming a healer—especially since Exceeds Expectations OWLs in Charms, Potions, and Herbology were also necessary for Medical Magic, along with an Acceptable in Defense Against the Dark Arts—but he was willing to let his mum think he did if it would get her off his back about signing up for The Dark Arts class.

-o-0-o-

On Sunday 4 July 1993, the weekend before the last week of the Hogwarts term, Cedric and Jean-Luc became the fifth married couple among the Hogwarts student body. The first being Jackson and Marcus, followed by Ryan, Max, and Tavi, who’d both been together since last school year.

Jackson and Marcus had originally done the Dominance Bond, but over the summer, despite legal precedent which held their bond in the same regard as a marriage, they did officially get married, although their bond remained in effect. Marcus had taken great pleasure in annoying his parents by vowing to love, honor, and obey Jackson during their wedding ceremony.

Just over a month after the birth of Ryan’s children and the closing of the Chamber of Secrets, Cormac and Seamus had also gotten married. Unlike Jackson taking the Flint name or Max and Tavi taking the Black name, however, both Cormac and Seamus opted to keep their surnames.

The same was true for the second student wedding of the 1992-93 school year when Draco Malfoy wed Tristan and Thomas Nott, with Draco opting to keep the Malfoy name. Draco had considered hyphenating and becoming Draco Malfoy-Nott but ultimately decided against it. He was happy enough to be married to the two people who had been the sole focus of all of his masturbatory fantasies and wet dreams ever since he began puberty. He had their bodies, so he figured he didn’t need their name.

Following their wedding, Tristan and Thomas spent most nights in the Lord’s Tower in Draco’s suite, rather than the quarters that had been afforded to Thomas as a Hogwarts professor. Both of them were still getting used to the idea of having a thirteen-year-old husband, but the Nott brother-husbands had always enjoyed a very healthy sex life, which Draco was certainly not complaining about being an active participant in. Or the numerous times he’d fallen asleep spooning one of his husbands and being spooned by the other.

Between Draco’s wedding and Cedric and Jean-Luc’s wedding, another of the planned nuptials did occur, in the form of Grayson Ollivander and Jordan Miller tying the knot. Of course with the exception of Jordan’s lord classes, neither of them were students at Hogwarts. It did, however, mean that Grayson was more often seen in the Lord’s Tower now, as he spent many nights sleeping in the guest bedroom of Wills’s suite that Jordan had previously shared with Kyle and Matt, rather than his flat in Diagon Alley.

Grayson kept the flat, figuring it was good to have for those nights when he was too tired from work to Floo or Apparate to Hogwarts. But he was now spending most nights at Hogwarts, getting to know his new husband and his husband’s boyfriends very, very well. As a side effect, this also allowed Grayson to spend more time with Neville. As second cousins, Grayson had known Neville since he was born, but they’d never really thought they’d be married to one another, even if that day was fast approaching as they would be at the end of the month.

Cedric and Jean-Luc said their vows in an extravagant ceremony that had every noble family of Albion portkeying to France and opening up their new residences in the Wynbrook Upper City. Since opening the estate, Cedric had hired just over two dozen house-elves to assist Le Fey Head-Elf Mibly in running the massive estate.

Numerous human witches and wizards had also been hired, however, as inns, taverns, restaurants, and other establishments throughout both the Upper and Lower Cities were now fully staffed and operational. A team of human herbologists had also been needed, however, as many of Wynbrook’s gardens were beyond the capabilities of even the best-trained groundskeeper-elves to deal with, after over a thousand years of neglect.

Meanwhile, one particular member of the Camelot Seven, the one who’d dreamt about freeing a dragon from an underground cave, continued to have dreams that seemed more like memories. He chose not to share this with the others, however, as none of the dreams he’d had given him any context or clue as to who the memories belonged to. Until one of the dream-memories actually revealed the name of the person they belonged to, the dreamer felt there wasn’t much point in telling any of the other members of the Seven of his dreams.

-o-0-o-

Finally, the last day of the Hogwarts term arrived and at the Leaving Feast, Gryffindor won the House Cup, although the other four houses had all been very close, being within only twenty points of Gryffindor, which was only two points ahead of Slytherin and Ravenclaw, who’d tied, and five points of the newly established Hogwarts House. Hufflepuff came in last, being twenty points behind Gryffindor, but none of its members were overly upset by this, as they were all too proud of the fact that they’d managed to win the Quidditch Cup.

Jean-Luc was successful in his lobbying attempt, not that much lobbying at all was needed, as it was an almost unanimous decision of the committee of teachers and students responsible for picking the winners of the Inter-House Unity Award that the entire second-year class, along with the older students who’d joined the second-year’s study group, would all be awarded first-place.

Well, almost the entire second-year class, as Zacharias Smith and Theodore Nott didn’t get to share in the spoils of the win, since neither of them had participated in the study group or done anything else to cooperate with the other houses. Harry, Carter, and Hunter were also disqualified from winning, however, as the rules clearly stated that any student who had been assigned to serve more than three detentions over the course of the year would be disqualified. And with all three of them serving a total of six, two detentions each with Professors McGonagall, Nott, and Flitwick, they weren’t eligible.

Second and third place and the honorable mention all went to older students in other houses that Harry, Wills, and the others in their group didn’t know. The first annual Professor’s Cup was also awarded, with McGonagall taking first place, and Thorne and Thomas taking second and third place respectively.

Not really needing the bonuses that came with it, both Thorne and Thomas split their bonuses between the Hogwarts Emergency and Hardship Funds, netting each of them an additional 325 galleons. McGonagall opted to donate 25 galleons to both funds but kept the other 950 galleons of her bonus to pay off some bills and add to her savings.

After saying their goodbyes to many of their friends on the platform of Hogsmeade Station, those riding in Wills’s private lounge car settled in for the long journey south to King’s Cross. The prince’s sleeping car was magically enlarged to add nursery space and guest sleeping quarters, beyond the prince’s private bedroom.

Ridley, Alexandria, Castor, Pollux, Rigel, and Regulus were all sleeping peacefully in the nursery, with their respective parents also taking the opportunity to get in some nap time in the guest quarters. This was especially necessary for Ryan, Max, and Tavi, as they were all very tired, as even with the nanny-elves to help out, raising four children, wasn’t easy. Especially since Castor and Pollux had been suffering from colic over the last couple of months.

Tiernan and Trevor had taken up their posts guarding the entrance to the train car, while Torin and Killian were seated in the car itself to keep an eye on the occupants while Dylan and Thorne were napping. Not that Harry, Wills, or the others really needed babysitting, as they couldn’t get into too much mischief on a moving train. Plus, Charlie, Jean-Luc, Hermione, Bill, Dax, and the other Weasleys were all riding with the Seven this trip.

“So, other than the obvious weddings,” Wills said, “what’s everyone up to this summer?”

“I’m headed back to Egypt for work,” Bill answered. “The goblins have been very accommodating in allowing me to take the teaching job at Hogwarts, especially after I began teaching the Curse-Breaking NEWT elective this year.”

“Well, it’ll ultimately save them money,” Dax said. “Since it means they’ll have to spend less time training new curse-breakers and will also likely lead them to make more gold, so I’m not surprised they’re being accommodating.”

Nodding, Bill said, “True. Anyway, I still have to report to the Valley of the Kings for work. As Heir Weasley, I have been given the necessary days off to attend all of the weddings this summer, but on the other days, I do need to work.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing Egypt,” Dax said, as he wrapped his arm around Bill’s shoulders and leaned over to give him a peck on the cheek. “It’ll be the first time I’ve ever left Albion.”

“The Dax persona has really widened your horizons hasn’t it?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, it has,” Dax agreed. “I was happy with my life before, but the human form has allowed me to have many experiences I would never have been able to have as a centaur. Shopping and clubbing in Muggle London, for example.”

Charlie grinned. “Well, now that Ministry has finally issued you a passport, Dax, I hope you two will be able to join Luke and me at some clubs in Muggle Paris at some point over the summer.”

With a grin of his own, Bill said, “Oh count on it. I’ve been looking forward to that ever since you and Luke first mentioned it.”

“So have I,” Dax added.

“Can we visit some clubs?” Carter asked, as Hunter nodded and said, “That sounds like it would be fun.”

“Not the ones Charlie and I are going to with Bill and Dax,” Luke answered. “They’re strictly over eighteen clubs, I’m afraid.” At the disappointed looks on the faces of the younger occupants of the car, Luke shook his head and added, “However, there are a couple of dance clubs that don’t serve alcohol that you guys might be able to attend. We’ll see.”

“It’ll be nice to do some traveling,” Harry said. He’d never been outside of the United Kingdom or Albion, after all, as while the Dursleys had gone on vacation a few times, he’d never been allowed to join them.

Harry had, however, gotten his passport now, so that he’d have everything in order come August. Following the last of the weddings on 7 August, the Seven were all going to Jean-Luc’s townhouse in Le Vieux Marché, Paris for a week for their private honeymoon in advance of the more public one over the Winter Break, which all of the occupants of the Lord’s Tower, plus Blaise, the Tennant brothers, and their respective significant others were joining them on. It had honestly become more of a school outing, which made the Seven all the more happy about the private time in Paris.

“I’m headed for Egypt too,” Hermione said. “Mum told me in her letter a couple of days ago. She says she was tempted to wait and leave it as a surprise for when I got home, but Great-Grandpa Rick convinced her to tell me by letter. Thought it would give me something to look forward to.”

“As much as you love school, that was probably a good call,” Ron said. “Would you have even looked forward to summer otherwise?”

Rolling her eyes, Hermione said, “Yes, Ron, believe it or not, I actually do look forward to summer vacation just like anyone else. Even when I’m not going off on vacation.”

“Where in Egypt are you headed?” Percy asked.

“Cairo, mainly,” Hermione answered. “In the portion of Mum’s letter that Great-Grandpa Rick and Grandpa Alex wrote they joked about taking me to see Hamunaptra, but my Mum wasn’t too keen on that idea. Great-Grandpa turned 91 this year, so Mum thinks he’s a little too old to go adventuring like he used to.”

“Hamunaptra?” Cedric asked. “What’s that?”

Bill’s eyes had widened at Hermione’s mention of it, as he answered, “The fabled, ancient lost City of the Dead. It’s supposedly a burial ground even older than the Valley of the Kings. Gringotts doesn’t think it actually exists.”

Shaking her head, Hermione said, “Oh it does. Great-Grandpa has been there three times and my Great-Grandma Evie and her brother Jonathan have both been there twice.”

“Wow,” Bill said. “Ragnok and several other goblins would probably part with a kidney in order to see the city and the treasures it’s rumored to hold. Of course, since they don’t even believe it exists, Gringotts doesn’t have the necessary clearance to do anything there.”

“I didn’t think the goblins would ever allow a technicality like that to stand between them and gold,” Charlie said.

“Normally they wouldn’t,” Bill revealed. “But, they have an ironclad contract with the Basileus that imposes harsh penalties they’d rather avoid if they undergo any operations that they don’t have the necessary clearance for.”

“Basileus?” Harry asked.

Luke smiled. “Justinian XI, the Basileus of the Byzantine Empire.”

“I thought Egypt had Pharaohs,” Fred said.

Shaking his head, Luke said, “Muggle Egypt hasn’t had a Pharaoh for over two thousand years now. As for Magical Egypt, the last Pharaoh died in 1487. Within two years, the Byzantine Empire reconquered Egypt and has retained control to this day. When he’s actually in Egypt, Justinian uses the title of Pharaoh, although he’s only visited the country twice since he ascended the throne in 1972.”

“Well, I think I’d like to visit Egypt,” Wills said. “It sounds like it might be fun and if I contact Justinian, as a future fellow Emperor, I might be able to work something out that gets Gringotts access to Hamunaptra.” Looking over at Hermione, he added, “Assuming your great-grandparents are willing to share the location?”

“Well, the Medjai still guard it,” Hermione said. “They’re the descendants of the bodyguards of Pharaoh Seti I. Although I suppose Justinian would outrank even the most senior Medjai if he actually is the Pharaoh.”

“True,” Luke said, as they all began talking about taking a trip to Egypt.

Even the Weasleys, since their father had recently won a contest the Daily Prophet was running and there was talk of going to Egypt for a family vacation. Harry didn’t think he’d have any issue getting permission from the Dursleys since it’s not like they’d be expected to pay for it. Wills wasn’t as sure about getting permission from his Mum and Dad, considering he was already scheduled to go on two trips out of the country this year, but he hoped he’d be able to convince them.

-o-0-o-

The End.