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A Windsor at Hogwarts

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A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

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Chapter One:
A Not So Normal Rainy Day

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The day had been progressing fairly normally for eleven-year-old Prince William. School was out for the summer and the family was partaking in a visit to Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This meant that his father, Prince Charles, and his grandfather, Prince Philip, were often to be found wearing kilts. Prince William had worn one a couple of times in the privacy of his bedroom, but he simply didn’t feel comfortable going outside wearing one. It was certainly possible that might change as he got older, but at that exact moment in time, he highly doubted it.

“Hullo Wills,” said William’s eight-year-old brother, Prince Henry, as he entered the sitting room that William was currently in.

“Hullo Harry,” William said, not looking up from the book he was reading.

“It would have to rain,” Henry said as he went over to one of the windows and looked outside to see the rain pouring down. The rain was coming down so hard that try as he might, Henry couldn’t see more than a couple of inches out the window.

Turning away from the window and sitting down on the couch next to William, Henry said, “Wills, I’m bored.”

“Well, find a book to read then,” William said, as he turned the page of his book.

“I don’t feel like reading,” Henry whined. “I want to go outside and play.”

“Go ahead,” William said in an uninterested tone. “It’s your funeral.” They both knew that their mother would be extremely mad at them if they went outside in the pouring rain, as they would most likely catch their death of cold.

Before Henry could say anything in response, a strange tapping noise came from the direction of the window that he’d just been standing by. Standing back up and peering through the glass, Henry tried to make out what was making the strange noise.

“Harry, stop making that noise,” William said as he turned another page of his book. Honestly, did his little brother have to be this annoying? The castle was huge, why couldn’t he just leave him alone with his book?

“Wills, I’m not making that noise."

“Then what is?” William asked, somewhat annoyed.

“The owl on the windowsill."

“What?” William asked, finally looking up from his book. “Harry, owls are nocturnal. They don’t come out in the middle of the afternoon.”

“Yeah, well, tell that to the one that’s tapping its beak on the window."

“Harry, I know you’re bored,but you don’t have to tell tales.”

“I’m not! See for yourself!”

Sighing in frustration, William put a bookmark in his book and set it on a nearby end table before he stood up and walked over to the window his little brother was standing at. He was just about to call his brother’s bluff, when he caught sight of the owl sitting on the windowsill, tapping its beak insistently on the glass, as if to say, “Will you open this bloody window already?”

“Wills, am I seeing things, or does that owl have an envelope tied to its leg?”

William was just about to tell Henry that he was indeed seeing things, because after all, owls did not fly around with envelopes tied to their legs, when he noticed that there was indeed an envelope tied to the owl’s leg. “Okay, now that’s just weird,” he said instead.

Cocking his head to one side and studying the bird for a moment, as its tapping got more and more insistent, Henry said, “I think it wants us to open the window.”

“Are you crazy, Harry? It’s pouring rain outside. Besides Mum and Dad, not to mention Grandmum and Granddad, would kill us.”

With their backs to the doorway of the room, neither of them saw their grandmother, The Queen, enter the room until she asked, “And why pray tell would I kill you?”

Both boys turned around to face their grandmother. Henry spoke first. “Grandmum, there’s an owl on the windowsill.”

“An owl, Henry?” Elizabeth asked.

“Yes, Grandmum,” William confirmed. “It looks like it has an envelope tied to its leg and it’s tapping its beak insistently on the glass. Harry thinks it wants us to open the window.”

Remembering that the members of her Magical Kingdom used owls for delivering letters, Elizabeth walked across the room and over to the window, where she saw that what her grandsons had just said was true. Curious as to why a post owl would be at Balmoral, Elizabeth reached up and turned the latch on the window, opening it, much to her grandsons’ mutual shock.

Almost immediately, the barn owl flew into the room and perched on the back of a wingback chair, at which point it held out its leg expectantly.

Walking over to the bird, Elizabeth grabbed the envelope and examined it for a moment, before she turned to William and held it out to him. “It’s for you, dear.”

“Me?” William asked, with a look on his face that said he was beyond confused, “I don’t understand.”

Before Elizabeth could say anything else, the owl flapped its wings and flew back out into the pouring rain, at which point Elizabeth said, “Henry, dear, close the window.”

Once Henry closed the window, Elizabeth sat down on the couch and motioned for her two grandsons to join her. Once they had, she said, “Yes, William, the letter is for you,” as she handed it to him.

William took the strange parchment envelope from his grandmother and then proceeded to do a double take when he saw the strange way it was addressed. Not only did it completely ignore his title, which considering he didn’t really want to be King one day he really didn’t mind, but it was also a bit too accurate as to his location.

Mr. W. Windsor
Upstairs Sitting Room
Balmoral Castle
Scotland

The confused prince was just about to comment on the strange address, when his hand brushed over the back of the envelope. Flipping it over, the first thing he saw was a large purple wax seal and he couldn’t help but think, “Who seals envelopes with wax in this day and age?” Looking closer, he saw that the seal had a large letter ‘H’ in the center, surrounded by a lion, an eagle, a badger, and a snake.

Looking to his grandmother, who just nodded her head, William broke the seal and pulled out two sheets of parchment and began to read the top piece.

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

Dear Mr. Windsor,

We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall
Deputy Headmistress

Rereading the letter a second time, sure that he somehow hadn’t read it right the first time, William said, “According to this, I’ve been accepted at a school I’ve never heard of that can’t possibly exist.”

“Really?” Elizabeth asked, as she did her best to hide her grin. She’d seen the seal, so she knew that the letter was from Hogwarts and as she was Head of State of Wizarding Britain, she knew what Hogwarts was. She just never thought that one of her family members would be attending. To be honest, she rather hoped that her son and daughter-in-law would consent to William attending the school, as it would give her a chance to become better acquainted with the magical populace of her country. “Why are you so sure it doesn’t exist?”

“A school of witchcraft and wizardry?” William asked. “That can’t possibly be real because magic isn’t real.”

“Yes it is!” Henry exclaimed, obviously upset over his older brother saying such a thing.

“Harry, you’re going to be nine in a few months,” William said. “It’s time to grow up. Magic is not real.”

“Actually, magic is real,” Elizabeth said, no longer able to hide the smile from her face, as Henry looked at William with an expression that basically said, “See? I told you!” while William, on the other hand, looked at his grandmother as if she had gone mental. The look didn’t last long, as he remembered that this was The Queen, but it was long enough that Elizabeth caught it, prompting her to say, “No, William, I have not lost my mind. Magic truly is real.”

“That’s impossible,” William said. He knew he shouldn’t contradict his grandmother, especially considering who she was, but magic being real?

“Nothing is impossible, William, improbable yes, impossible no,” Elizabeth said. “The truth is magic is real and there are thousands of practitioners of it living all over Britain, not to mention millions more in the other Commonwealth realms. You see, magical society tends to keep itself well-hidden from non-magical society, because not only do they fear a repeat of the witch trials, they also understand that the majority of the non-magical society would want to exploit their talent. The thought being, ‘You have magic, therefore it’s your responsibility to fix all of the world’s problems.’”

“Well, why don’t they?” Henry asked.

“Magic can’t fix everything, dear,” Elizabeth answered. “Besides, if people relied on those who could do magic to fix all of their problems for them, they’d lose the sense of accomplishment one feels when they fix their own problems.”

“I suppose that makes sense,” William said after a moment. “Magic is real?” He was still trying to wrap his head around that concept.

“Yes, William, it’s real,” Elizabeth said in a patient tone. She understood his reluctance to accept it, for she had been much the same way shortly after becoming Queen and finding out for herself. The only people in the non-magic government who knew about the Wizarding world were The Queen herself, the Prime Minister, and the still-living past Prime Ministers, all of whom were sworn to absolute secrecy. “I know it comes as a shock. I reacted much the same way when I was told after my ascension to the throne.”

“You didn’t know before then?” Henry asked.

“No, I didn’t,” Elizabeth answered. “Tradition states that only the reigning monarch and the Prime Minister know about the magical world. Thus, my father knew about it, but mother does not.”

“Grandmother doesn’t know what?” Charles asked, as he walked into the room with Diana. He hadn't heard his mother's first sentence, only the second, leaving him to wonder, “What are you three talking about?”

“Magic,” Elizabeth answered. “And the fact that it exists.”

“Now Mum, I wish you wouldn’t fill the boys’ heads with stories,” Charles said. “They’re getting too old for such nonsense.”

“There’s nothing wrong with stories, Charles, and they’re not too old,” Diana said, as she shook her head at her husband, a look of complete exasperation on her face. “They’re only eleven and eight. Please stop trying to make them grow up too fast and let them have a childhood.”

“I’m not telling them stories, Charles,” Elizabeth said. “I’m telling them the truth. Magic is real. Up until now only Mr. Major and I knew that, but it’s the truth, Charles. Well-hidden from the non-magical community, a second magical community exists right here in the United Kingdom and all of the other Commonwealth realms.”

“Let’s just assume for the moment that I believe you,” Charles said, who at the moment was not talking to The Queen, but his mother, as they were in private, “if this was a state secret known only to you and the Prime Minister, why are you telling the boys and us?”

“Simple,” Elizabeth said. “It would seem that William is what the magical community would refer to as a muggleborn. They call all non-magical people muggles, but it turns out that William here is a wizard. He has just received a letter telling him that he has been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I’m told that it is, without comparison, the finest school of magic in all of Europe.”

“Is that the letter?” Diana asked, as she noticed the parchment still clutched in her eldest son’s hand.

“Yes, Mum,” William said, as he handed the top sheet over to his mother to read, while he kept the bottom sheet as he was curious what it said.

Henry obviously was too, as he asked, “What does it say, Wills?”

“It’s the list of all necessary books and equipment that was mentioned in the letter,” William answered, as he looked it over.

“Read it aloud!” Henry exclaimed, as he was practically bouncing up and down on the sofa, looking every bit the excited eight-year-old and not a prince who was third in the line for the throne of an entire country.

“Harry, control yourself,” Charles scolded.

“Now, now, Charles, the boy is excited,” Elizabeth admonished, before nudging William and saying, “Go ahead, dear, I want to hear this myself.”

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Uniform
First-year students will require:
1. Three sets of plain work robes (black)
2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear
3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)
4. One winter cloak (black, silver fastenings)
Please note that all pupils’ clothes should carry name tags.

Set Books
All students should have a copy of each of the following:
The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1) by Miranda Goshawk
A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot
Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling
A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore
Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection by Quentin Trimble

Other Equipment
1 wand
1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)
1 set glass or crystal phials
1 telescope
1 set brass scales
Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad

PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS

Yours sincerely,

Lucinda Thomsonicle-Pocus
Chief Attendant of Witchcraft Provisions

Before anyone could say anything, Prince Philip entered the room, holding a cordless phone and said, “Elizabeth, dear, the front gate is on the phone. Apparently, there’s a strangely dressed man and woman seeking an audience with you.”

“Did they give names?” Elizabeth asked.

“What are their names?” Philip asked into the phone, and listened for a moment, before he took it away from his ear again and said, “Professors Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall.”

“Tell the guard to send them in, please,” Elizabeth said with a smile.

Philip nodded and relayed his wife’s orders to the guard, before hanging up the phone. “They’ll be right up. Who are they?”

“Well, according to this school acceptance letter that Wills got,” Diana said, “they’re the headmaster and deputy headmistress of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

Philip looked at his daughter-in-law at this point as if she’d grown a second head and asked, “Excuse me?”

Standing up and smoothing a couple of wrinkles in her dress, Elizabeth said, “Philip, dear, magic is real. No, I haven’t lost my mind nor am I joking. It would seem that our second eldest grandson is a wizard.”

“Mother, are you sure it’s wise to see these people?” Charles asked. “They’re clearly crackpots.”

“I would watch what you say, son,” Elizabeth said, in a tone which clearly said she had made the switch between mother to monarch. “If you think that they’re crackpots for believing that magic is real, then that would suggest that you think I’m one as well. I assure you that I’m not.”

Coming further into the room, Philip took one of the empty chairs and remained silent. He had known Elizabeth longer than anyone in the room and he trusted her, so, as hard as it was for him to believe that magic was real, he was willing to keep an open mind. About ten minutes later, one of the guards appeared in the doorway and bowed his head to Elizabeth, before he said, “Your Majesty, Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall.”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth said, as Dumbledore and McGonagall entered the room. Immediately, Elizabeth could see why the guard had referred to them as being strangely dressed.

The man, whose long silvery-gray hair and beard reached down as far as his stomach, was dressed in long purple robes with intricate gold embroidery, along with a purple cloak and half-moon shaped spectacles, over his twinkling blue eyes. The woman was wearing emerald green robes, under a tartan plaid cloak, her black hair done up in a tight bun and was also wearing spectacles.

Both of them bowed to Elizabeth and said, “Your Majesty.”

“Professors,” Elizabeth said. “To what do We owe the pleasure of your visit this afternoon?”

“The pleasure is all ours, Ma’am,” Dumbledore said. “To answer your question, Professor McGonagall and I are here because young Master William’s name has shown up on the list of new students for the fall term at Hogwarts.”

“Yes, we were just perusing his letter,” Elizabeth said. “I’m afraid that my belief that magic is real has William and the rest of my family worried for my mental health.”

“I believe you!” Henry exclaimed.

Elizabeth smiled and said, “Thank you, Henry. Perhaps you could provide a demonstration to convince the rest of my relatives?”

Dumbledore nodded and said, “Certainly, Ma’am.” Turning his head to look at McGonagall, he asked, “Minerva, perhaps you could?”

“Of course, Albus,” McGonagall said, knowing what Dumbledore meant. Looking around at the various people in the room, McGonagall said, “I am an Animagus, which means that I can turn into an animal. Observe.” At this point, McGonagall’s tall frame got much shorter as she turned into a cat right before everyone’s eyes. Elizabeth had already seen such a transformation before, so it wasn’t much of a shock, however, most of the other occupants of the room had shocked expressions etched on their faces.

“Wow,” William and Henry said in unison, as Dumbledore pulled out his wand and said, “Now for another demonstration, I’ll show you a spell that Minerva usually teaches to her second-year Transfiguration students – turning an animal into a water goblet.”

Normally, McGonagall might have shifted back into her human form and complained about this, but she knew it was coming and she trusted Dumbledore not to mess up. After all, Dumbledore had been her Transfiguration professor sixty-odd years ago. Clearing his throat, Dumbledore pointed his wand at the tabby cat on the floor, flicked it three times and said, “Fera Verto!” Instantly, the tabby cat shifted into an ornate crystal goblet with a thick golden rim. With another flick of his wand, the goblet shifted back into a cat and then back into McGonagall.

“You mean I could learn how to do that?” William asked, as both his face and his tone clearly showed his wonderment. He had been skeptical at first, but, he tended to believe things after seeing them with his own eyes.

“As Professor Dumbledore said, I don’t teach the animal into a water goblet transformation until second year,” McGonagall said, “and Animagus transformations aren’t taught at all, as it is a highly advanced form of Transfiguration that very few witches and wizards master.”

“So what do you teach in first year?” Diana asked.

“We start out very simple,” McGonagall answered. “Transfiguring matches into needles, for example.”

“And how many years does one attend Hogwarts?” Charles asked. Much like his son, he had also been skeptical, but he believed now.

“Seven years,” Dumbledore said. “Most students start at the age of eleven and complete their training when they’re seventeen, at which point they will be considered to be fully-trained. After Hogwarts, it is possible to become an apprentice to a master in a particular subject to further one’s knowledge of that subject, though most former students go immediately into their chosen fields.”

“You said most students start at eleven,” Philip said, “I take it some start at a different age?”

“Yes, the rules clearly state that you must be eleven years of age by the first of September in order to attend Hogwarts,” McGonagall said. “Young witches and wizards whose birthdays fall after September First must wait until the following year, when they’re much closer to twelve to start.”

“My birthday is September Fifteenth,” Henry said, obviously a bit disappointed. “So that means I have to wait an extra year?”

“I’m afraid so young man,” Dumbledore said. “Of course, that’s assuming you turn out to be a wizard. The fact that your elder brother is one does not guarantee that you will be. There have been numerous times when a muggleborn witch or wizard has had multiple siblings and yet they were the only witch or wizard in the family.”

“William read aloud the list of books required earlier,” Charles said, “and it didn’t sound like a very well-rounded education to me. It seems like your school focuses only on magical topics and ignores the topics that William will need one day when he becomes King.”

“That is true, Your Highness,” McGonagall said. “A Hogwarts education is focused on the magical; however, it is certainly possible for you to hire private tutors to ensure that William gets the lessons not taught at Hogwarts. Many families also choose to home school their children in magic and not send them to Hogwarts.”

“I want to go!” William exclaimed. “Mum, Dad, please say I can go to Hogwarts.”

“Son, it does sound like a fun opportunity for you,” Diana said, “but, I do have to agree with your father. It really doesn’t sound like you’d be getting the kind of education that you need for your position in the non-magical world.”

“There is another option,” Dumbledore said, “one that might work out especially well in William’s case, considering his public status as a member of the royal family. I imagine it would be very hard for you to send him off to boarding school between September and June for seven years and not tell anyone where he’s attending.” At this many of the adult royals nodded in agreement. “It isn’t used often, but in the past, Hogwarts has had some high profile students in the public eye that needed to remain that way, but also desired to attend Hogwarts.”

“What Professor Dumbledore means,” McGonagall said, “is that there is a spell, which could be cast on William that would allow him to be in two places at once. It is essentially a temporary cloning spell, which would create an exact and perfect copy of William. The copy could then remain with the family wherever they are at the time and attend school as normal, while the real William attended Hogwarts. Then over the summers, when he comes home, the spell would be ended and the real William would gain all the memories and knowledge that the copy obtained over the course of the school year.”

“I understand it isn’t preferable to have a copy of your son living with you over your real one,” Dumbledore said, “but it would allow him to gain all of the education he’d need to thrive in the Muggle world, while also gaining the knowledge needed to exist in the Wizarding world.”

“At the very least, he will need some magical training,” McGonagall said. “As it is imperative that he at least be taught to control his magic, because if he were to grow into adulthood with no magical training at all, his powers would become so unstable, that he’d become a danger to himself and everyone around him.”

Dumbledore nodded. “Yes, wild magic can be unpredictable and extremely dangerous. It tends to connect with emotion, at which point if something made William extremely angry, for example, any number of things could happen. Anything from a light breeze blowing through the room when there’s no windows open, to the lights flickering on and off, or even anything made of glass shattering into a million pieces.”

Diana and Charles looked at each other quietly for a few moments, before Charles nodded and Diana said, “Well, William, you can go to Hogwarts, if you want to.”

“Thanks Mum!” William exclaimed happily as he jumped up from the couch and threw his arms around his mother’s neck and hugged her for a minute, as she patted his back. Once the hug ended, he stood in front of his father and said, “Thanks, Dad,” and held out his hand, knowing that Charles was a more formal person than his mother.

“You’re welcome, son,” Charles said as he grasped William’s hand and shook it for a brief second, before pulling him into a hug. Just because he generally acted cool and detached, didn’t mean he couldn’t hug his son in the privacy of their own home. He could also see how happy William obviously was over the prospect of going to Hogwarts; so, he couldn’t find it in himself to deny him.

When William jumped up to hug Diana, the list of school supplies fell to the floor and Philip stood up and picked it up. Going over the list, he asked, “Where does one go to get everything on this list?”

McGonagall smiled. “He can find all of it in Diagon Alley in London, sir. If you like, I can accompany him there today and help him get his shopping done. There’s still over a month before the fall term starts, so, the alley won’t be as busy as it will be in the week or so leading up to the first day of school, which is when most students do their shopping.”

“I believe we’ll take you up on that offer, Professor,” Elizabeth said. “However, I must insist that at least one member of the royal protection force accompany you, for security purposes. I know there's a few wizards on the force that I can have reassigned to William.”

“Of course, Your Majesty,” McGonagall said.

“I would like to accompany my son, if you don’t mind,” Diana said.

McGonagall nodded and said, “We’ll have to go through the Leaky Cauldron then. It’s a Wizarding pub on Charing Cross Road in the heart of London. It’s the only way that parents of muggleborns wishing to accompany their children shopping can access Diagon Alley. With your permission, Your Highness, I’ll cast a spell on you which will override the charms which hide the building from Muggle view, so that you’ll be able to see it.”

“You have my permission,” Diana said, at which point McGonagall pulled out her wand, pointed it at Diana and said, “This will tingle a bit at first, but it won’t harm you in any way.” Diana nodded, at which point McGonagall performed a complicated swish and flick movement of her wand, and said, “Ostendo Magicum!”

Glancing at the clock on the mantelpiece, Dumbledore said, “I have a meeting I must attend with the Minister for Magic, so, Your Majesty with your permission, I will take my leave of you now.”

“Permission granted,” Elizabeth said. “Thank you for coming, Professor. I look forward to many more meetings in the future.”

“As do I, Ma’am,” Dumbledore said, as he bowed and proceeded to walk backwards out the door, bowing to Elizabeth one more time just after crossing the threshold, before turning and leaving the castle the same way he’d come in.

“There’s a Minister for Magic?” Philip asked once Dumbledore was gone.

“Yes, Sir,” McGonagall answered. “Cornelius Oswald Fudge. Many in the Wizarding world would have preferred for Professor Dumbledore to take the job after Millicent Bagnold retired last year, but he didn’t want the job. He might as well have taken it though, what with the number of owls Cornelius has sent him asking for advice on practically every subject under the sun.”

“Are you saying that Minister Fudge is incompetent?” Elizabeth asked.

“That really isn’t my place to say, Ma’am,” McGonagall said. “All I can tell you is that, since Cornelius took office last year, he’s sent at least two or three owls a day to Professor Dumbledore asking for advice. I believe the highest in one day was fifteen, about two months ago.”

“I’m sorry, but owls?” Charles asked, who hadn’t been in the room when the owl delivered William’s letter.

“Yes, Sir,” McGonagall said. “In the Wizarding world, we use owls to deliver the mail.”

William was by this point getting a bit anxious to leave, because he wanted to see this Diagon Alley, so he asked, “Can we go now?”

“Yes, William, dear,” Diana said. “We can go. Though London is a rather long trip, I’m afraid it’s going to take awhile to get there from here.”

“Not as long as you might think,” McGonagall said. “The spell I cast on you earlier will also allow you to see the Knight Bus. Not my preferred method of travel, but, it will get us to the Leaky Cauldron very quickly. We’ll easily be able to do William’s shopping and be back here before nightfall.”

“How much will his supplies cost?” Diana asked.

“Well, in the Wizarding world we don’t use pounds,” McGonagall answered, as she pulled a money pouch out of a hidden pocket in her robes and removed one of each coin. “We use these – golden Galleons, silver Sickles, and bronze Knuts. It’s twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle and seventeen Sickles to a Galleon. One galleon is equal to five pounds. The goblins can transfer and exchange funds from any bank in the UK in about five minutes, so you don’t have to bring money with you – just an account number.”

“Goblins?” Philip asked.

“Yes, they run Gringotts’ Wizarding Bank,” McGonagall said. “Not the most pleasant creatures, in either looks or demeanor, but they’re very good with money, both in making it and in protecting it.”

“Well, I can see you’re anxious to go, William,” Elizabeth said with a smile. “So, go on. I’ve called down and there’ll be two of the magical members of the royal protection force waiting for you outside.”

“I want to go too!” Henry exclaimed.

“No, Harry, you have piano lessons today,” Charles reminded his son. “Now come along.”

“Yes sir,” Henry said, as he followed his father out of the room.

-o-0-o-

Five minutes later found Diana, William, and McGonagall downstairs, where they met up with the two members of the royal protection force that Elizabeth had ordered and McGonagall got a bit of a shock.

“Professor McGonagall?” asked one of the protection officers. He stood about six feet tall, with a muscular build, short black hair with blond streaks, and blue eyes.

“Mr. Wells?” McGonagall asked, clearly taken aback to be seeing him. Looking at the other officer, who was about five foot, ten inches tall, muscularly built, with dirty blond hair and silver eyes, “Mr. Ridley-Wells? What are you two doing here?”

“We could ask you the same thing, Professor,” the dirty blond said with a smile.

“You know each other?” Diana asked.

“Yes, Mr. Wells and Mr. Ridley-Wells were students at Hogwarts,” McGonagall said. “They were both in Ravenclaw House and two of my best students. I haven’t seen them though since Mr. Ridley-Wells finished Hogwarts twelve years ago.”

“Mr. Wells and Mr. Ridley-Wells?” Diana asked. "Are you two related?"

Nodding, the taller of the two said, "Yes, Your Highness. Same-gender marriage is legal in the Wizarding world and Thorne and I are man and husband."

“Yes, they got married over the summer between Thorne's 6th and 7th year,” McGonagall said, before turning to the couple, and adding “You know I am just a little cross that you didn't invite me to the wedding.”

“I’m sorry, Professor,” Thorne said. “Dylan’s parents had just passed away and as a result, we didn’t feel like having a big wedding, so we kept it very small - just immediate family and a handful of friends.”

“Oh, that’s right, I’d forgotten,” McGonagall said. “My condolences, your parents were good people.”

“Thanks, Professor,” Dylan said with a smile. “So, what are you doing here?”

“She’s taking mother and me to Diagon Alley,” William said. “I’m going to Hogwarts.”

Thorne looked at Dylan and said, “Well, that explains why Her Majesty had us reassigned to guard Prince William. She must know that we attended Hogwarts.”

“Must be,” Dylan said. “You’ll love it at Hogwarts, Your Highness. Thorne and I certainly did and Carter and Hunter can’t wait to go.”

“Who are Carter and Hunter?” Diana asked.

“Dylan’s and my twin boys,” Thorne said. “They’re starting Hogwarts this year, too.”

“I remember writing their letters,” McGonagall said. She just hadn’t realized that they were the sons of two of her favorite students at the time. “Anyway, I suppose it’s time to get going,” at which point McGonagall waved her wand to summon the Knight Bus.

A moment later a horn blared and a large, purple triple-decker bus appeared out of nowhere. As it came to a stop in front of the group, the elderly conductor said, “Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transportation for the stranded witch or wizard. My name is Sam Shunpike and I will be your conductor this afternoon.”

“Hello Sam,” McGonagall said. “Still haven’t retired I see.”

“No Professor,” Sam said. “I’m waiting for my grandson Stan to get a bit older before I do that.”

“I see, well, we need to go to Diagon Alley,” McGonagall said, as she waved William and Diana onto the bus and then got on herself, with Dylan and Thorne bringing up the rear.

“Right,” Sam said and then cocking his head and looking at Diana, he asked, “Is she a Muggle?”

“Yes, Sam,” McGonagall said. “This is Her Royal Highness Diana, the Princess of Wales. Her son, Prince William, here, is a muggleborn and needs to get his school supplies for Hogwarts.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Your Highnesses,” Sam said. “We’ve never had royalty on the bus before have we, Ern?”

“No, not that I can recall,” said Ernie Prang, the bus driver.

“Anyway,” Sam said, “For the five of you, it’ll be three Galleons and four Sickles for the trip to Diagon Alley. For another 10 Sickles, you can get hot chocolate, and hot water bottles and toothbrushes in the color of your choice for another 10 Sickles.”

“I highly suggest the hot chocolate,” Dylan said with a smile to Diana and William. “It’s made with Honeyduke’s chocolate, best you’ll ever taste.”

Looking around at the others, McGonagall said, “We’ll each take a hot chocolate, Sam, but we’ll skip the water bottles and toothbrushes.”

Dylan pulled out his money pouch and paid for himself and Thorne, while McGonagall counted out enough coins to pay for Diana, William, and herself, agreeing to let Diana pay her back when the princess insisted.

“Grab an empty armchair,” Sam said. “And hold on it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”

Mere seconds after the five of them had sat down, there was a loud BANG, before the bus lurched forward and both William and Diana were shocked when less than a second later, they looked out the window of the bus to see that Balmoral Castle was nowhere in sight.

-o-0-o-

“This bus sure has a queer way of traveling,” William said.

“Yes, Your Highness,” Dylan said with a smile. “I suppose outside the magical world, traveling in alphabetical order must seem extremely strange, but then it would also be highly impractical without magic.”

“I can see that,” Diana said. “I can’t say as I’ve ever used any form of transportation that can travel hundreds of kilometers in less than a second.”

“Do all magical people travel on this bus?” William asked.

“No, as Sam said before we boarded, the Knight Bus is usually considered emergency transport,” Thorne said. “So, we usually use other means. For example, Apparition, which is a form of teleportation, but much like driving a car, you can’t do it until you’re seventeen and have obtained a license.”

“Some wizards and witches also travel by broomstick,” Dylan said, “although that’s usually only for short-distance trips unless you have a good Cushioning Charm on your broom.”

“Another magical transport is called a portkey,” McGonagall said. “It’s an object that’s charmed to go to whatever place the caster was thinking of when the charm was cast. Some will take you to the location as soon as you touch it, others are time and date activated and will send whoever is touching it to the location at the specific time and date, and then some others are activated by a code word or phrase.”

“Finally there’s also traveling through the Floo,” Thorne said. “In the magical world, many fireplaces are linked up to each other via the Floo Network, which allows people to travel between two locations and also talk to others via what’s commonly referred to as a Floo-Call.”

“However, none of those methods of transportation will work for a Muggle,” McGonagall said. “The Knight Bus works for muggles, but only if they can actually see it, which they can’t without the spell I cast on you earlier, Your Highness.”

Continuing along on its alphabetical course, the bus made stops in Leake in Lincolnshire, before moving on to Leake in North Yorkshire, before Ernie Prang said, “Next stop the Leaky Cauldron in London.”

“This is where we’ll be getting off,” McGonagall said. “The bus doesn’t enter Diagon Alley itself. We’ll have to walk there, but it’s a very short walk.”

At this point, the bus came to an abrupt stop on Charing Cross Road, in front of the Leaky Cauldron, lightly hitting the back bumper of a parked car and causing it’s car alarm to start going off. A brown-haired Muggle who had just gotten out of the car and was heading into the bookstore next to the pub sighed in frustration. She probably assumed that the alarm was malfunctioning, as she obviously could not see the Knight Bus. Pulling out her key chain and pressing a button, she turned off the alarm before heading into the store as she’d intended.

Standing up, McGonagall pulled out her wand and said, “Before we disembark, I’ll just quickly cast Notice Me Not Charms on all of us so that we can get into the pub without any of the muggles noticing us.”

“That certainly sounds like a useful spell,” Diana said. “Especially if you want to avoid the press.”

“Yes, it is definitely useful,” Dylan said, as McGonagall cast the charms on them and they then got off the bus.

Diana and William were both still a bit shocked when they were able to stand in the middle of a busy sidewalk full of people and not get noticed. That was certainly not normal, because being members of the royal family, their faces were very well known and they’d definitely get noticed if not for the spell. Of course, it was a good thing that McGonagall had cast it, otherwise people would probably wonder how Diana and William had appeared out of thin air. As that’s what it would look like they’d done, since none of them would be able to see the bus they’d just disembarked from.

Motioning for a moment for the group to wait, Dylan entered the Leaky Cauldron first, doing his job and quickly scanning for threats before giving the all clear and allowing the others to enter the pub. It truly was like stepping into another world, at least as far as Diana and William were concerned. Dylan, Thorne, and McGonagall were used to it.

“Good afternoon, Professor McGonagall,” Tom called over from his place behind the bar with a smile, after McGonagall had cancelled the Notice Me Not Charms, as it would be impossible to go shopping with them on.

“Good afternoon, Tom,” McGonagall said.

“Don’t usually see you in here,” Tom commented. “You just missed Professor Quirrell, he left about ten minutes before you came in.”

“Sorry to have missed him,” McGonagall said, though in reality she wasn’t. She’d rather liked the man before he had taken a year off a few years back, but once he’d returned he’d become rather annoying. At first, she’d felt sorry for him, but his constant paranoia over all manner of dark creatures being after him got very annoying after awhile. Just last week, she’d given up arguing with Professor Dumbledore over his decision to move Quirrell from his previous job as the Muggle Studies professor to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts.

“So what brings you here today, Professor?” Tom asked.

Motioning towards William, McGonagall said, “I’m taking Prince William here shopping for his school supplies.”

“Why as I live and breathe,” Tom said, noticing William and Diana for the first time. “Two members of the royal family in my establishment. The last royal to enter here was Queen Victoria back in 1839, long before my time, though my great-grandfather spoke of it often.”

“Was she a witch then?” William asked.

“No, she wasn’t,” McGonagall said. “You are the first member of the direct line of the muggle royal family in all of recorded history to be eligible to attend Hogwarts. There’s been a few wizards and witches in the various branch lines, who are over a hundredth in line to the throne, and several in the noble families, but as you’re second in line, you’re the first wizard who is likely to live long enough to take the throne.”

After a moment of silence, McGonagall said, “Well, it was nice seeing you Tom. We’d better get moving, as I told Her Majesty I’d have them back to Balmoral before nightfall.”

“Before we go, Professor,” Dylan said, “there’s a few things that I think the Princess and the Prince need to know. Perhaps, we could sit down for a moment? It shouldn’t take long.”

McGonagall nodded and moved to a nearby table. Normally, she might have objected, but, Dylan was the Lord and Head of a Most Ancient and Noble House and she was only a commoner. To publicly disagree with him would be a bad thing to do. “Of course, Your Grace.”

Diana cocked her head at that and asked, “Your Grace?”

Thorne smiled and nodded, as he sat down at one of the more secluded tables, with Dylan, McGonagall, William, and Diana following suit. Once everyone was seated, Thorne said, "Yes, there's a total of twenty-one magical noble families here in Britain. You may have heard or seen some reference to the titles they possess, but you wouldn't have known that the families themselves were magical families, because like everything else in the Wizarding world, the magical noble families are protected by the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy."

"International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy?" William asked. "What's that?"

Dylan nodded. "It's a law that mandates that wizards and witches keep themselves hidden away from the Muggle world and not allow them to find out that magic exists. As the name suggests, it's an international law laid down and enforced by the International Confederation of Wizards, which is the magical version of the United Nations. Of course, unlike the UN, which has only been around since 1945, the Confederation was founded in 1664."

Thinking he'd seen such a body mentioned, William suddenly remembered his Hogwarts letter. "It was mentioned on my Hogwarts letter wasn't it?"

"Indeed it was," McGonagall said. "Professor Dumbledore is the Confederation's Supreme Mugwump, which is the magical equivalent of being the Secretary General of the United Nations."

"Anyway, the noble families," Dylan said. "As Thorne said, there's twenty-one magical noble families here in Britain. There were originally fifty noble families, but by the time of Queen Victoria's ascension in 1837, they'd all died out. When she took the throne, in order for a magical family to qualify as nobility, they had to live in Britain, and be able to prove blood kinship with an ancestor with the same surname, who also lived in Britain and was born at least 3,000 years before them. Thus, it was extremely hard to qualify as nobility, which is why all the noble families had died out."

"It's also why nobody complained about the Muggle Queen changing Britain's magical peerage laws," Thorne said. "Even the most fanatical of pureblood families who hated being under the rule of a Muggle supported the changes because they'd result in a number of them being ennobled. So, they decided to, at least temporarily, overlook their contempt for the Queen."

"Contempt for the Queen?" William asked, obviously confused. "Why would they hate the Queen because she's a Muggle? And what do you mean by 'even the most fanatical of pureblood families'?"

"Would you mind if we explained about the nobility first and then went back to those questions?" Thorne asked.

"No, I don't mind," William answered. "I'm interested to know more about both."

"Alright then," Dylan said. "Victoria kept the residency requirement and the proof of blood kinship with a person of the same surname requirement. However, she changed the number of years required to achieve noble status. She also made it so that instead of it being that there had to be that number of years between the living person and their ancestor, it would instead be based on her ascension year of 1837. She lowered the year requirement from 3,000 to 1,000 and made it so that the living person seeking noble status only had to prove blood kinship with an ancestor who was alive in the year 837 or earlier."

"By making this change," Thorne continued, "a total of twenty-one families that didn't previously qualify for the nobility now qualified. Interestingly enough those twenty-one families could be further broken down into three groups of seven each, with the age of the family line being older than 1,000 years but less than the 3,000 years originally required. Now, Arithmancy, which is the study of the magical properties of numbers and an elective you can opt to take at Hogwarts once you reach third year, says that the number seven is the most powerful magical number in existence. So, in keeping with that theme, Victoria created three different levels of nobility, each with seven families in them."

"At the lowest level," Dylan said, "you have the Noble Houses. The year requirement for these families is 1,000 to 1,499 years prior to 1837. Now, previously, the magical nobility had no standing in the muggle world and were nobility only in the magical world. Victoria, however, hoped to create some bridges between her muggle and magical subjects, so, she gave each of the families noble standing in the muggle world. Now inside the magical world itself, it would be rare for a titled wizard to reference their muggle title. The head of a Noble House is referred to in the magical world as His Lordship Bann and then whatever their surname is. Outside the magical world, the heads of the Noble Houses are held in the same regard as a Baron and are addressed accordingly."

Thorne said, "The seven Lords of the Noble Houses are Lords Carrow, Flamel, Malfoy, Nott, Ogden, Prince and Urquhart. As Dylan said, in the magical world, Lord Carrow for example, would be referred to as His Lordship The Lord-Bann Carrow, and it would of course be the same for the other families. In the Muggle world, however, Lord Carrow is Baron Trelawynd, while Lord Urquhart is Baron Swanwick. I'm not going to bore you with the titles of all of them, however, as it would get longer and more cumbersome as we move up to the higher levels of nobility."

"Why?" Diana asked. She didn't recognize Baron Trelawynd or Baron Swanwick, but she assumed that was simply because they likely chose not to attend any social functions in the muggle world.

Dylan smiled. "Because the families at the second and third levels have more than one muggle title allocated to them. The second level of the nobility are called Ancient and Noble Houses in the magical world and must have been in existence from 1,500 to 1,999 years by 1837. The seven lords at this level are the Lords Dolohov, Flint, Lestrange, Parkinson, Prewett, Weasley, and Zabini. Now, in the magical world, Lord Dolohov, for example, would be referred to as His Excellence The Lord-Arl Dolohov. However, all the lords at this level are both an Earl and a Viscount. Obviously they'd be referred to only as the higher of the two titles, but it provides for a courtesy title for their heir. To use Lord Dolohov as an example, in the muggle world he's The Earl of Sundrum and his heir is called Viscount Prestwick."

"So, I take it that means that you're on the highest level, Dylan?" William asked.

Nodding, Dylan said, "Yes, William, I am. The highest level are the Most Ancient and Noble Houses, who were in existence for 2,000 or more years by 1837. The lords at this level are the Lords Black, Burke, Longbottom, McLaggen, Ollivander, Potter, and Wells. So, I'll use myself as an example. Here in the magical realm, I'm His Grace The Lord-Teryn Wells. In the muggle world, however, I would be entitled to use the title of The Duke of Taleford, while my son Carter is my heir and would be called Marquis of Charwell. Now, unlike those on the second level, however, the lords on the highest level have three muggle titles, instead of only two. So, in addition to being The Duke of Taleford and The Marquis of Charwell, I'm also The Earl of Laynford. Thus providing a courtesy title for Carter's son should he have one while I'm still alive."

Noticing that the group seemed to be staying, Tom made his way over to the table and asked, “Can I get you anything? It’s on the house for such distinguished guests as yourselves.”

“A cup of tea, thank you, Tom,” McGonagall said.

“Perhaps a butterbeer for young William here, Tom?” Thorne asked. “I know my boys love them,” and then noticing the look on Diana’s face, he added, “They’re non-alcoholic, Your Highness.”

Diana nodded and decided that she could have tea back home anytime she wanted. While she was here in a Wizarding pub, she might as well try a Wizarding drink, so, she said, “My son and I will both have a butterbeer, Tom.”

“Of course,” Tom said with a smile, before turning to Dylan and Thorne, “and for you, my lords?”

“I’d order firewhisky but I’m on duty,” Dylan said, knowing that Tom knew about his job as a member of the royal protection force, even though he really didn’t need to work. “So, Thorne and I will have butterbeers, too.”

“Very good, coming right up,” Tom said, as he headed back to the bar to fetch four bottles of butterbeer and a cup of tea.

"So, what about you, Thorne?" William asked. "Are you a lord?"

"In the magical world, yes, I am," Thorne answered. "As Dylan's husband I'm referred to as His Grace The Lord-Teryn-Consort Wells. Of course, our marriage isn't legal in the muggle world, so, I don't have any rights to Dylan's muggle titles."

“I know you said earlier that same-gender marriage is legal in the Wizarding world,” Diana said, and Dylan and Thorne nodded, before she added, “Now, I have no problems with such things, but I do find myself curious as to how that came about?”

“Well, it's rather simple really,” Dylan said. “Same-gendered marriage has been legal in the Wizarding world for over a thousand years now. As you might have guessed, magic is capable of achieving many things otherwise impossible and that includes allowing same-gendered couples to conceive biological children together, thus there are no laws barring them from marrying.”

“Similarly to in vitro fertilization?” Diana asked and then added, “You can speak freely, William knows all about the birds and the bees and where babies come from.”

William smiled, “Unlike my brother, who still thinks that the stork drops babies off. Mum and Dad said they’d tell him the truth when he was ten.”

Thorne nodded and said, “Yes, in a way it is similar to in vitro. As you undoubtedly found out at Balmoral, Professor McGonagall is the Transfiguration professor at Hogwarts, which is the art of transforming one thing into something else. In the Wizarding world, healers, or doctors as they’d be called in the muggle world, are capable of transfiguring eggs or sperm into the opposite. So, when two women are together, eggs are harvested from both. Then one of the woman’s eggs are transfigured into sperm, which is then used to fertilize the eggs of the other woman. At that point they’re implanted into one of the women, who in turn carries a baby that is biologically hers’ and her partners’ to term.”

“So, then I assume it’s the opposite for male couples and a surrogate mother is used?” Diana asked.

Dylan smiled. “No, actually. The intervention of a healer is necessary for lesbian couples because their equipment doesn’t allow them to engage in intercourse. However, two wizards can, and thus no healer is necessary - their magical cores do all the work and nine months later, the baby is born.”

“Are you saying that wizards can get pregnant?” William asked.

“Yes, William, they can,” Thorne said. “You know that Dylan and I have twin sons, well, I carried them. When it comes time to deliver, a magical caesarean section that leaves no scar is performed.”

“So, since I’m a wizard, does that mean I could get pregnant?” William asked.

“Yes, William, you could,” McGonagall said. “If you are eventually so inclined as to have a relationship with another male, you could get pregnant. However, that relationship would have to be with another wizard. Only two wizards' magical cores working together can make one of the wizards capable of impregnating the other, so it wouldn't work if you were in a relationship with a muggle male, because they don't have a magical core.”

At this point, Tom came over with a tray and passed out the drinks, before heading back to the bar. Diana lifted the bottle to her lips and took a tentative sip, before she said, “Mmm, this is really good.”

“Yeah, it is,” William said, as he took his own sip.

“I should warn you,” Dylan said, “they don’t serve butterbeer at Hogwarts. You'll be drinking milk, water, tea, or pumpkin juice with meals.”

“Pumpkin juice?” Diana asked, after taking another sip of her butterbeer.

“Yes, we favor it over orange juice in the Wizarding world,” Thorne said. “It’s a bit richer and sweeter than orange juice and doesn’t have a citric taste, but it’s still good and extremely popular.”

William nodded. “So, what about my previous question? Why do some witches and wizards hate being ruled by a muggle? And you said something about purebloods?"

"The definition of a pureblood has changed over the years," Thorne said. "When Hogwarts was founded just over a thousand years ago, it was believed that if you had all magical parents and grandparents you were a pureblood. Nobody ever looked further back in your family than that. Fast forward about two hundred years and you had to have all magical parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to be considered pureblood. Now, the present definition of pureblood, is that you can't have any known Muggle or non-human ancestors in your family tree. Achieving that is next to impossible though unless you remove the unwanted individuals from the family tree."

Nodding, Dylan said, "Yes, remove the unwanted individuals and marry cousins so that you're always marrying into wizarding blood."

“So, in a way,” William said, “similar to how before my great-grandmum, all the royals were expected to marry members of other royal families?”

“Yes,” McGonagall said. “That would be a workable comparison," knowing that the Queen Mother, while being the daughter of a noble, was not a royal until after her marriage. Before that point, the royal family had a tendency to pick only members of the world's other royal families as their bride or groom, which often meant they were marrying a distant cousin.

"The main difference, however," Thorne elaborated, "is that without looking beyond the borders of Britain and Ireland, which few of the old, pureblood families actually do when looking for perspective mates for their children, there aren't many choices left."

"Further complicating matters," McGonagall added, "is the stance that some of the fanatical purebloods take in that having any Muggle or non-human blood anywhere in your family tree makes your blood less desirable."

"Sadly, that's true," Thorne said. "I'm actually considered to be a halfblood. My late father came from an old pureblood line. The Ridley family isn't old enough to be considered noble, but it's old enough to have earned a certain amount of respect. However, my father fell in love with and married a muggleborn woman he went to school with. That woman is my mother, making my maternal grandparents muggles. To some people that means my blood is polluted and not as desirable."

"You see, William, in the Wizarding world," Dylan explained, "nobody cares about your skin color, national origin, sexual orientation, or really even your gender. No, there's only two kinds of prejudice and discrimination in the Wizarding world. One type is against other intelligent races that aren't human, such as goblins and vampires. The other has to do with the purity of your blood. The pureblood fanatics think of themselves as being a separate and superior race to muggles. So, they discriminate against anyone who doesn't have pure Wizarding blood."

At this point, Thorne said, "You may have heard the saying 'Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.'" Both William and Diana nodded. "Well, there's a magical version of that saying, which was coined by the author and magical theoretician Hambledon Quince which says that 'Wizards are from Mars and muggles are from mushrooms.'"

William almost spit out the swig of butterbeer he'd taken moments before at this comment. He managed not to do so, but Diana handed him a napkin nonetheless as a small amount of it came out of his nose due to his laughter. Once he calmed down, he asked, "Mushrooms?"

"Yes, it's one of the more ridiculous theories," Dylan answered. "But it should give you some idea of the way muggles are viewed in magical society. Some view them as being inferior because they don't have magic. Now, the Wells family is one of the old pureblood lines and like some of the other more fanatical lines was pure of any Muggle blood until I fell in love with Thorne and we in turn had Carter and Hunter. By the old definition, they'd be considered purebloods because they have all magical parents and grandparents, but by the current definition, they're halfbloods because Thorne's mother is muggleborn."

"Are you a pureblood fanatic then?" William asked.

"William!" Diana exclaimed. "That's not something you ask a person."

Dylan shook his head, "It's okay, Your Highness, I don't mind. It's a fair question." Looking at William, Dylan said, "No, William, I am not a pureblood fanatic. From what I've been told, none of my ancestors going as far back as 1750 could be considered fanatical purebloods. You see, there are some purebloods who don't care for the prejudiced view that others take and try to help muggleborns and halfbloods. The more fanatical witches and wizards would call them blood traitors and think of them the same way they would a muggle, even if they are a pureblood."

"Now, as to the contempt for the Queen," Thorne said, "after everything we've just told you, it should come as no real surprise that some witches and wizards would hate being under the rule of a muggle. Now you may think that they should be used to it by now, and perhaps they should be, but magical Britain hasn't been under muggle rule as long as muggle Britain has."

"What do you mean?" William asked.

"Until the year 1697," McGonagall answered, "Wizarding Britain was considered to be a completely separate country from Muggle Britain, with its own government and its own royal family. You see until 1697, when the king died suddenly without an heir, Wizarding Britain was under the rule of the Royal House of Pendragon."

"Pendragon?" Diana asked. "Like King Arthur Pendragon?"

"Yes, Your Highness," Dylan said. "It may shock you to know, but King Arthur Pendragon was a real person. I know that in the muggle world he's viewed as a legendary or even mythical person that never actually existed. He was very real, however. He ruled over a united Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland centuries before muggles achieved the same feat. Now, the muggle Arthurian legends did get some aspects correct in that King Arthur did wield a sword called Excalibur, the existence of the Knights of the Round Table, Camelot, and also Merlin. However, in the legends Merlin is often depicted as a very old man when Arthur is young, while in reality Merlin was about a year younger than Arthur."

"Something else the muggle legends fail to mention," Thorne said, "is that King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were all wizards. They did fight with swords, but they also used magic. So, anyway, as Professor McGonagall said, Wizarding Britain was under Pendragon rule until 1697, when the last male of the Pendragon family died without a male heir. Now the King did have four daughters, but Wizarding Britain followed a very strict male only rule for the crown, because at the time it was believed that a woman couldn't effectively rule a country. That opinion did change overtime, but it wasn't until after the crown was passed into the hands of the muggle royal family."

"One very big difference between Magical Britain and Muggle Britain," Dylan said, "is the fact that Magical Britain is not a constitutional monarchy. The monarch actually does possess absolute authority, acting as both Head of State and Head of Government. This also further upsets the fanatics because they don't like the idea of a muggle having that much power over them. From 1697 until 1839, the Muggle monarch did their best to rule over both countries effectively. However, after two years, it became obvious to Queen Victoria that she couldn't relate to the magical populace enough to be an effective ruler."

"So, while Queen Victoria did retain the positions of Head of State and Government," Thorne continued, "she granted the Minister for Magic nearly complete autonomy to run the magical world in whatever way they deemed best. This hands-off approach to the governance of the magical portion of the country has continued since then, with every monarch taking the same approach. The fanatics still don't like having a muggle as their ruler, but as long as they stay out of wizarding affairs, they don't make too big a deal out of it."

"What would grandmother's title be in Magical Britain?" William asked. He was curious just how different it might be from the muggle version of her title.

Dylan said, "Her full title, which even if she played an active role in the government would be rarely used, is Her Majesty Elizabeth the First, by the Grace of the Gods, of the Kingdom of Albion, Iwernia, and the Dominions Beyond the Seas Queen, Sovereign of the Most Honourable Knights of the Round Table, Sovereign of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of Camelot, Sovereign of the Most Venerable Order of Merlin, and Empress of India."

"Her regnal number is different," William commented. "And Empress of India? I thought they gained independence in the 1940's."

"They did," McGonagall said, "however, only the Muggle section of the country was involved in the fight for independence. The Wizarding sections were happy under royal rule, possibly because of the hands-off approach that all the monarchs since Victoria had taken, and thus never petitioned or fought for independence. Like all Wizarding communities, they kept themselves secreted away and they decided that one Muggle government knowing of their existence was enough. So, they chose to remain under British rule, since not doing so would have required them to make themselves known to the Muggle Indian government."

"As for the regnal number," Thorne said, "remember, it wasn't until 1697 that the crown came into the hands of the muggle royal family. The muggle Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603. Thus in Magical Britain, your grandmother is the first monarch named Elizabeth and is thus referred to as Elizabeth I, instead of Elizabeth II."

"What do you mean by the Grace of the Gods?" Diana asked.

"Wizarding society is polytheistic," McGonagall answered. "Here in Britain, we worship the Greek Gods: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera and the others. Other Wizarding societies worship other gods, such as Egypt, who worships the Egyptian gods: Ra, Osiris, and Anubis, to name a few. Now, that doesn't mean that William will be expected to convert to polytheism, as most muggleborns and a few halfbloods adhere to the Muggle religions."

"The reason we worship the Greek deities," Dylan added, "is because long before England become a holding of Rome, we were a holding of Atlantis, before it sank. Poseidon was the patron of Atlantis, so, we were worshipping the Greek gods for several thousand years before Rome invaded. As Atlantis actually pre-dated Greece, one could even call them the Atlantean gods, who happened to be called the same names as they were later called by the Greeks."

"Going back to the subject of pureblood fanatics for a moment," Thorne said, "William, there is a word that you may here. It's a rather cruel nickname that some of the pureblood fanatics use and while I don't think anyone would use it to your face because of who you are, I think you should know what it is and what it means before you hear it. The name is mudblood, which is a slur literally meaning dirty blood and it is unfortunately how some of them view muggleborns."

"Speaking of nicknames that you will undoubtedly hear," Dylan said, "there's two more commonly used nicknames for a specific wizard, who has long been believed to be dead. There are some people, however, including Thorne and I, who do not believe that he's actually dead, as much as we may wish otherwise."

William nodded, and asked, "Who?"

"You-Know-Who or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," McGonagall answered in a low voice, so as to not be heard by the other patrons. "Unfortunately, not all wizards and witches are good. Some go bad and this particular wizard went about as bad as you can possibly go. He recruited followers, who are called Death Eaters, and staged a war for pureblood supremacy, desiring to kill off all who were not of the purest blood because it's a commonly held belief among pureblood supremacists that muggleborns possess stolen magic and that it's the duty of any right thinking wizard or witch to take it back, by killing them."

Noticing the look of worry crossing Diana's face, Thorne said, "You don't have to worry, Your Highness, as this particular wizard, as I said, has been gone now for years - ever since the night of October 31, 1981. A majority of his followers are now locked away in Azkaban Prison. Besides that, Hogwarts Castle itself is one of the safest places in Wizarding Britain, protected by very powerful and ancient wards transcribed by the founders of Hogwarts, all of whom were apprentices of Merlin himself."

"Plus, Albus Dumbledore is the only wizard that You-Know-Who ever feared, so, William will not be in any danger at Hogwarts," McGonagall assured.

"Anyway, we'd better get into the alley now," Thorne said as he finished his butterbeer.

Dylan nodded, as he finished his butterbeer and said, "One more thing, before we go. As Gringotts' is our first stop, a few quick words on goblin etiquette. Rule #1 - don't waste their time. Time is money and they do not appreciate small talk, so get straight to the point of your visit."

"Rule #2 is to bare as many of your teeth as possible when speaking to them," Thorne added. "They're a warlike race and appreciate toughness and bravery. In the same vein, they have no use for cowards."

"And finally, they have a very strange, at least by human standards, idea of what constitutes polite conversation," Dylan said. "Basically praising them and their house and wishing them financial success is a good thing, as is wishing pain, humiliation, death, and financial ruin on their enemies. When talking to them about money, say gold, not pounds. They will either say gold or silver, depending on who they're talking to. Gold for royalty, nobility, and other goblins and silver for everyone else. If they ever say bronze instead, then you know that you've insulted them and that is something you most definitely do not want to do, else they may decide to make bad investments for you."

"Speaking of investments," McGonagall piped in, "It's important to note that Gringotts' does not pay interest on money deposited with them. The goblins view paying people to keep their money in their institution to be a ludicrous Muggle notion. Instead, they will assign you an account manager who will in turn make investments with the money in your account. Get on their good side and they'll do their very best to see that you make a fortune and lose nothing."

Thorne nodded and said, "Get on their bad side, however, and you might as well kiss your money goodbye, because they'll make sure you lose every Knut. They remain neutral to most wizards and witches who never bother learning how to get on their good side, which results in fair gains, but also occasional losses. Of course you can specify how much of your money they can invest. Personally, Dylan and I have a 25% limit set on our accounts, so they'll only invest up to 25% of the total liquid assets in our vaults."

Diana nodded. "Interesting. So, since they don't like wasting time, how much money should I withdraw from the royal bank for William?"

Dylan thought for a moment, before he said, "I'd suggest enough for his tuition for at least his first year of Hogwarts. It's 1,500 Galleons per term, so 4,500 Galleons total for the year. The tuition will remain the same until 4th year when it doubles to 3,000 per term. Now, for school supplies, I'd suggest another 300-350 Galleons. So at a bare minimum you'll need to withdraw £24,250, but should probably take more than that so that there's enough in the account to allow for at least 1,000 Galleons or £5,000 to be used by the goblins for investments. Less than that and they're unlikely to consider it to be worth their time. That'll ensure he has more than enough money for some investments to grow his balance, and to pay for tuition, school supplies, and give him some extra spending money, which may come in handy."

"For example, you might want to buy a few extra sets of Wizarding clothing over and above what's stated in your letter for your uniform," Thorne said. "You don't have to wear the uniform on Saturdays and Sundays or when you're not in class. When Dylan and I were in school, we noticed that some of our classmates who would usually look down on muggleborns would treat them a little better if they consistently wore Wizarding fashions over Muggle fashions."

"How does Wizarding fashion differ from Muggle fashion?" William asked.

"Essentially, it's as if you've taken a step back in time," Dylan explained. "Picture clothes from the 16th through the 19th centuries, maybe even the early 20th, say before 1920. We also often wear robes and rather than a coat, we prefer cloaks. Well made suits from Savile Row are acceptable, however, as long as the design is classical and traditional. Something extremely modern, such as the very latest in haute couture from the runways of Paris or certain retro items, like bellbottoms or platform shoes would make people stare at you as if you belonged in the mental health ward at St. Mungo's Hospital and treat you accordingly."

"Other items to avoid are jeans, t-shirts," Thorne revealed, "anything paisley or tie-dyed and open-toed footwear."

"Okay, we'd better get going," McGonagall said as she finished her tea and stood up. "I promised the Queen we'd have William back at Balmoral by nightfall."

Dylan and Thorne nodded and stood, as did William and Diana and the group headed towards the back alley and the entrance to Diagon Alley.

-o-0-o-

Just as the group was about to enter Gringotts', there was a sudden flash of flame, as Fawkes appeared briefly and delivered a note to Professor McGonagall, disappearing as quickly as he'd appeared.

"What was that?" Diana asked.

"Fawkes," Thorne answered. "Professor Dumbledore's familiar - a phoenix."

Reading the note, McGonagall looked at Diana and William and said, "I'm afraid something has come up at Hogwarts and I must go help Professor Dumbledore deal with it." Then turning to Dylan and Thorne, she asked, "I trust you two can make sure William gets everything he needs and get him and his mother back to Balmoral safely?"

"Of course, Professor," Dylan said, as Thorne nodded and said, "It's our job, after all."

McGonagall nodded and then with a crack, she was gone, as she Apparated to the edge of the Hogwarts wards.

Noticing the looks on Diana's and William's faces, Dylan smiled and said, "That was Apparition. You can't actually Apparate into Hogwarts itself, as there are wards that prevent that. You can only Apparate to the edge of the wards and then walk up to the castle, which is about half a mile."

"Well, let's get into the bank and get William setup with an account, shall we?" Thorne asked. "Then we can get his shopping done and get you two back to Scotland."

Walking into the bank, Diana and William both couldn't help doing a double take upon seeing the goblins, although they did their best to hide it, not wanting to offend the creatures. Dylan walked in front of the two royals, with Thorne walking behind them. Arriving at a free teller, Dylan cleared his throat to announce his presence.

The goblin teller finished writing something down in the ledger in front of him before he looked up and said, "Lord Wells, welcome. How can Gringotts' serve you today?"

"I'll need to visit my family vault," Dylan said, "however, I am also escorting His Royal Highness Prince William and his mother, Princess Diana. William will be attending Hogwarts in the fall and needs to acquire a vault."

The goblin nodded, before looking at the two royals and asking, "Have you brought gold to deposit or will you be transferring funds from another bank?"

Stepping forward, Diana handed the goblin a bank card, and said, "I wish to transfer £84,000 from my son's account at Coutts into a trust vault and we'll need 450 Galleons for shopping today."

The goblin nodded and took the bank card from Diana, before hopping down from his stool and motioning for the group to follow him. Entering a small private consultation room, the goblin said, "I'll be back with the necessary paperwork shortly. Someone will be in momentarily with refreshments."

And with that the goblin left the room, as the two royals and their bodyguards sat down at the table in the center of the room. A moment later, a second goblin entered carrying a silver tray with a tea service and a plate of scones, which he put on the table silently, before he bowed and left the room.

"I should warn you," Dylan said, "that William will need to sign the papers that are brought in with a blood quill."

"A blood quill?" Diana asked.

"It uses blood instead of ink," Dylan replied. "The writer's blood. It won't hurt him, but all Gringotts' contracts are signed in blood, as it makes the contracts binding and completely unbreakable."

Looking at William, Thorne said, "It'll feel like a pinprick and you might feel a little drowsy for a few minutes afterward, but as Dylan said, it won't hurt you."

William nodded his head and said, "Okay."

"The contract will require two witnesses to sign it," Dylan added. "Thorne and I will do that, as you will be unable to do so, ma'am. A magical core is necessary in order to use a blood quill, so, muggles can't use them."

Diana nodded in understanding, just as the first goblin came back in with a small stack of parchment and a large ostrich feather quill. Setting the contract on the table in front of William, the goblin said, "This is the standard contract for a trust vault. Despite being muggles, your parents will have control of the vault until your seventeenth birthday and all withdrawals must be cleared by them. Any questions?"

"Just one," William said and the goblin nodded. "You said I'd get full control at seventeen?"

"That's the age of majority in the Wizarding world, William," Dylan said. "I know it's eighteen in the Muggle world, but it's seventeen here."

"Ah, okay then," William said, as he picked up the quill. "Where do I sign?"

"Before you sign," the goblin said, "some details need to be discussed." He then turned to Diana and asked, "How much of a limit did you want to place on the vault in terms of investments?"

"For now I think 10%," Diana answered. "I realize that won't provide a very large sum for investments, but while I have been told of your races' prowess with gold, I prefer firsthand proof over secondhand assurances."

The goblin nodded. "A wise and shrewd decision, Your Highness."

Diana nodded and said, "If after a period of time I am pleased with the results, I shall talk with my husband about adding more money to William's account and possibly raising the limit. Is there a time frame you would suggest?"

The goblin stroked his goatee for a moment, before he said, "£84,000 equates to 16,800 Galleons, minus the 450 you're taking with you today brings that to 16,350 Galleons, so, 10% of that would be 1,635 Galleons. I think six months should be long enough for that amount to pay dividends."

"Then six months it is," Diana said as she smiled and made sure to show as many of her teeth as possible.

The goblin smiled back at Diana, showing a wide mouth full of sharp teeth, before he leaned over the table and made a few notations on the contracts, before handing the quill to William and indicating the first of five places that he would have to sign.

Before the tip of the quill touched the parchment, Thorne spoke up, "William, make sure you sign your name with your title. Wizarding law requires all titled individuals to use their full title when signing any legal document."

The young prince nodded before looking at the goblin and asking, "Do I need to spell out His Royal Highness or can I write HRH?"

"HRH will suffice, but you must sign your full legal name," the goblin answered.

Nodding, William gripped the quill in his left hand and turned the contract slightly so that it was at a more comfortable angle, before he signed 'HRH Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales' on the line the goblin indicated. Since he knew it was coming, he ignored the sensation of a pinprick and the blood red ink, knowing that it wasn't really ink.

Once William signed his name in all five of the required places, the goblin asked, "I assume Lord Wells that you and your husband will sign as witnesses?"

Dylan nodded as he took the quill from William and signed his name on the appropriate line as 'His Grace The Lord-Teryn Dylan Prescott Wells,' before Thorne signed as 'His Grace The Lord-Teryn-Consort Thornton William Ridley-Wells.'

Once the contracts were signed, the goblin handed William a small golden key and said, "This is your vault key. Make sure not to lose it because it can't be replaced and you can't access your vault without it." Once William nodded in understanding, the goblin said, "Thank you for your patronage, Your Highness. Gringotts looks forward to a long and profitable relationship with you. Now, if you will all follow me to the lobby, we will get someone to take you down to your vaults."

In the lobby, the goblin called out, "Griphook!"

A moment later, another goblin came over and the first said, "Take them down to Vault 670 and Vault 814."

Griphook nodded as he motioned for the group to follow him. Coming into the tunnel, Thorne pointed at the cart that would take them down into the bowels of the bank and said, "Quick warning - these carts only have one speed and that's very fast. So, you'll want to hold on tight."

Diana and William nodded as they climbed into the cart, followed by Dylan and Thorne, and finally Griphook, who hadn't been the first into the cart, because he had to grab the clankers before getting in the cart, as they would be needed for the visit to the Wells Family Vault.

A moment later, the cart was plummeting down into the depths of the bank. Dylan and Thorne were quite used to the speed by now and thus it didn't bother them. William was enjoying himself immensely, thinking of it as being like a rollercoaster, and Diana was feeling just a little bit queasy. Coming first to William's new vault, Griphook exited the cart, along with William and said, "Key please."

Handing his key to Griphook, William watched as the goblin placed it in the lock and turned it, producing the sound of the numerous tumblers moving, before the vault door swung open to reveal a pile of golden galleons. Resting on top of the pile was a rather plain-looking black leather pouch, which Griphook pointed to and said, "You can put your coins in that pouch, Your Highness. It's charmed to be weightless, so, you won't be weighted down from the coins. Also, as this is a trust vault, the pouch won't allow you to put anymore coins in it than what your mother allowed for today's withdrawal. Any coins above that amount that you try to put in the pouch will automatically reappear on the pile."

William nodded before he grabbed the pouch, opened it, and began filling it with galleons. Once he had the amount allotted to him, 450 galleons, he closed the pouch and tucked it into the pocket of his coat, before exiting the vault and getting back into the cart as Griphook closed and locked the vault. Once William had safely tucked away his key, Griphook started the cart again, as it lurched forward to go even further down.

When the cart stopped, there were no vault doors nearby, only a platform and an archway. As Dylan and Thorne exited the cart, Dylan grinned and said, "You two may want to come and see this."

Thorne nodded his agreement and said, "Yes, I think you'll enjoy it. But, please stay behind Griphook at all times and once we get into the vault area, don't touch anything."

The two royals nodded their understanding, before they exited the cart and the small group followed Griphook through the archway, as he took out the clankers and began to vigorously shake them, producing a sound similar to that of wind chimes. Diana and William both gasped when they saw the huge creature in the room. It was easily twenty-five feet tall and probably weighed somewhere in excess of five tons. It's green scales were flaking in spots, but it was still clear to anyone who saw it what it was.

As they watched, the huge animal hung it's head and seemed to cower in fear, as it moved out of the way of another archway. The room shook slightly as it moved along, dragging an equally large chain which chained it to a nearby wall behind it. Once the creature was out of the way, Griphook led the group through the archway it had been blocking into another hallway, which contained five huge doors, each with a different crest prominently displayed on them.

"Was that a dragon?" William asked, finding his voice.

"Yes, it was," Thorne replied. "A Common Welsh Green, although, normally their scales are a bit more brilliant. Living underground, however, with no access to sunlight makes them significantly duller than normal. It's also the reason for the flaking."

"Dragons guard all of the high security vaults," Dylan explained. "These particular vaults all belong to Most Ancient and Noble Houses and are among the oldest and largest vaults at Gringotts." Pointing at the vault nearest to the archway they'd just come through, he said, "This is my family's vault. The others belong to the Potter, Burke, Longbottom, and Black families."

William and Diana nodded, as they watched Griphook place his hand on the door to the Wells vault. After a moment, the entire door dissolved, revealing a cavernous room filled with a pile of golden galleons so large that it made the pile in William's vault look smaller than an anthill. There were also several trunks, shelves, tapestries, paintings, and bookcases crammed into the room, leaving very little space to walk.

"You have a very impressive amount of gold," Diana commented.

"Well, the House of Wells is the fifth richest family in Wizarding Britain," Thorne explained as Dylan made his way into the vault. "Surpassed only by the Potter, Black, Longbottom, and Malfoy families, in that order."

"So, four Most Ancient and Noble Houses and one Noble House?" William asked.

"Indeed," Thorne said, with a nod of his head, at which point they all silently watched Dylan moving about inside the vault, where pulled a black dragonhide pouch from inside his pocket and filled it with a number of galleons. He then put it back into his pocket and walked over to one of the nearby trunks and opened it to reveal an impressive collection of jewelry. Searching through the trunk, Dylan pulled out three intricate golden medallions, each engraved with the Wells family crest, surrounded by a ring of alternating sapphires and rubies. Tucking them away in his robes, he closed the trunk.

Heading back towards the door of the vault, Dylan paused at the bookcase and scanned the spines of the books, grabbing three large volumes which he quickly shrunk and put in his pocket, before finally exiting the vault and motioning to Griphook that he was finished.

Passing the dragon, as Griphook again shook the clankers, the group got back into the cart and headed back upstairs to the lobby of the bank.

"Well, let's get you your supplies, William," Dylan said. "We'll stop in at Madam Malkin's first to get you fitted for your school robes and any other wizarding attire you wish to buy. By going there first, she can have a few items in your order ready for pickup before we leave the Alley today."

"Cool," William said, as they left the bank to begin his shopping.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Edited May 2, 2017 - Changed Hogwarts tuition fee, Wills' bank deposit, and a few other minor changes/corrections.

Chapter Text

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Two:
The Welcoming Feast

-o-0-o-

September the First rolled around quickly. Since his trip to Diagon Alley, William had spent the majority of his free time with his nose buried in his new textbooks. He found the whole concept of magic to be fascinating and wanted to learn as much as he possibly could, so, he'd already read all of the first year textbooks cover to cover, as well as reading the lengthy Hogwarts: A History. Even Henry, who had never been quite as studious as his older brother, had spent large amounts of time reading the books as well. He fervently hoped that he too would turn out to be a wizard, because he didn't want to miss out on the Hogwarts experience.

As for the rest of the royal family, their reactions to the news that William was a wizard were rather varied. First of all, the Queen Mother was amused when Elizabeth told her about the Wizarding world on the assumption that she didn't know about it. The dear lady quickly corrected her daughter, however, when she informed her that her favorite cousin was a half-blood witch and as such, she'd known about magic since before the sinking of the Titanic. She quite looked forward to having another magical person in the family, as her cousin had died nearly a decade earlier.

Princess Anne and her husband, Captain Mark Phillips, were understandably leery about magic being real, because no sooner did their two children find out about it did they make certain desires known. Their son, Peter, wanted to learn how to ride a dragon whereas his sister, Zara, who had been asking her parents for a pony previously now wanted her own unicorn. Of the two, Anne and Mark found themselves to be much more comfortable with Zara's desire, due to the peaceful and pure nature of unicorns. Peter's desire, however, was completely out of the question as far as they were concerned, because they much preferred their son the way he was. The thought of Peter Flambé did not appeal to them anymore than him becoming a dragon's afternoon snack did.

Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah, were happy for their nephew, because they could clearly see how happy he was about going off to Hogwarts. Of course, another cause for their happiness was the fact that their daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, were, at the ages of three and one, much too young to understand anything about magic. This made Andrew and Sarah happy because they didn't have to deal with the potentially dangerous desires of their children, as Anne and Mark did. As for Prince Edward, he was fascinated by the idea and wondered if it would be possible for him to visit Hogwarts and other magical locales with an eye on producing a documentary. Of course, such a thing would be illegal under the terms of the Statute of Secrecy and thus Elizabeth had to tell her son that wouldn't be possible.

"Wills, we need to be heading for King's Cross soon," Diana said. "And Dylan needs to see you, so he can cast the duplication charm on you."

"Ready, Mum," William said, as he entered the sitting room in the family wing of Buckingham Palace, to find his mother, Elizabeth, Philip, the Queen Mother, and Anne. Charles had wanted to be there to see his son off, but he had to undertake a tour of Canada on his mother's behalf and thus was not in the country at the moment. Knowing that it might be hard for him to watch William go off to Hogwarts and not be able to go with him, Charles took Henry with him.

Dylan, Thorne, and two blond-haired boys that William assumed must be Carter and Hunter were also in the room. This was confirmed when Dylan said, "Good morning, Your Highness. I'd like you to meet Thorne's and my sons, Carter and Hunter."

"Pleased to meet you," William said with a smile to the boys his age, whom he hoped would be among his first friends at his new school.

"Same here, Your Highness," Carter and Hunter said in unison.

"Call me, Wills, please," William said. "I'd like for us to be friends and that's what my friends and family call me."

Carter and Hunter nodded, as Dylan pulled out his wand and motioned for William to come into the center of the room. "Now, first things first, I'm going to cast a series of Auto-Resizing Charms on your clothes, William."

"Why?" William asked, confused.

"The spell to create your replacement will quite literally involve your replacement growing out of your body," Thorne explained. "As this happens, you will be sharing your clothes with your replacement for a short time and if Dylan didn't cast Auto-Resizing Charms on them, they'd rip to shreds because they were not made for two people to wear at the same time."

"So you mean I'm going to have a conjoined twin?" William asked.

"For about ten minutes, yes," Dylan answered. "I know from personal experience that it's a weird feeling, because despite my pureblood status, my parents felt it was important that I have a Muggle education in addition to my Hogwarts education and thus used this spell on me before each and every one of my years at Hogwarts so that I could attend both Hogwarts and Eton."

"Well, let's get it over with then," William said, as he spied the clock on the fireplace mantle and saw that it said 8:45 AM. He knew that the Hogwarts Express left from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at King's Cross Station at exactly 11 AM and he didn't want to be late.

Nodding, Dylan cast the resizing charms on William's clothes, before performing a complicated swish and flick movement and incanting, "Pario Geminus!"

Almost instantly, William felt a strange sensation. At first it was nothing more than a tingling feeling. However, the tingling feeling soon gave way to a dull throbbing which got progressively more intense. William wouldn't say that it hurt exactly, but it definitely felt strange. The rest of the occupants of the room looked on in a mixture of both worry and wonderment as William's entire body shook and his arms, legs, stomach, chest, and head all began getting bigger.

Ten minutes later, the spell was complete and there were two identical Williams in the room. The real one standing where he had been and the fake one, having been levitated over to the sofa and put under a sleeping charm.

"The duplicate can't see you, William," Thorne said. "At least, not until summer when you're ready to end the spell and acquire all of the memories and knowledge he gained over the school year. That's why he's asleep, because if he saw you, he'd feel compelled to merge back into you and it's not time for that yet."

"It's important to understand, William, that you do not have a brother now, well, other than Henry," Dylan said. "This duplicate is nothing more than a magical extension of you and is not truly human. He will look and act human, in fact he looks and will act exactly like you, but he isn't really you. Just a temporary fill-in."

William nodded his understanding, at which point Thorne said, "Okay, well, now that that's done, we should be getting you to King's Cross. The Hogwarts Express doesn't wait for anyone - even those who have their own private train cars."

"Private train cars?" Diana asked.

"Yes, when William's name came up," Dylan answered, "the wizards who maintain the Express decided it would be appropriate to add two more cars to the train. So, William has his own private lounge and dining car, in addition to a car that gives him a bedroom and his own bathroom. From the exterior they look just like the rest of the train, but on the inside, they're quite lavish in their appointments."

Thorne nodded. "Yes, Dylan and I checked them out yesterday to finalize our security plans on how to keep William as safe as possible. I think Your Majesty would be more than comfortable in the cars that were built for William."

"Well, I'm pleased that he will be comfortable," Elizabeth said. "And safe. That was my primary concern," and at this Diana nodded in complete agreement.

"Does this mean I have to ride alone?" William asked.

"No, we'll be there with you," Carter said, motioning towards himself and Hunter.

"And our parents, of course," Hunter added, motioning towards Dylan and Thorne.

"Next time you ride the train," Dylan said, "we can discuss the possibility of you inviting others to join you, if you make any friends by then that you'd like to, that is."

William nodded, knowing that he'd be returning home in December for a two-week winter break. He really couldn't concentrate on that right now, however. No, he wanted to focus on Hogwarts and getting there as quickly as possible.

-o-0-o-

Four hours later, the Hogwarts Express was on its way towards the school and Dylan was in the lounge car playing wizard's chess with Hunter, while Carter was teaching William how to play Exploding Snap. Thorne was reclining in a chair outside the door to the two royal cars, with his legs up, blocking anyone from entering, as he quietly read a book. He heard the approach of the three young men and without even looking up, he closed his book and readied his wand.

"Move aside," a voice drawled. It belonged to a boy with slicked back blond hair.

"No," Thorne answered.

Not used to being told no, the young man bristled and said, "What? Do you have any idea who I am? Now move aside before I get angry."

"Get angry if you wish Draco," Thorne said. "It's no concern of mine. However, you still will not be getting past me."

"How dare you call me that!" Draco exclaimed, clearly angry. He had certainly not given this man permission to address him with such familiarity. "I'm the son and heir to the House of Malfoy! I demand that you address me properly, you simpering fool!"

Standing up and looking down at the annoying blond, Thorne said, "I did address you properly, Draco. Only commoners and lesser peers are required to address you as Serah Malfoy. You clearly don't recognize me or have failed to notice the ring on my finger, but I'll forgive you for your appalling lack of knowledge and decorum this one time."

"Who are you?" Draco asked.

"Lord-Teryn-Consort Thornton Ridley-Wells," Thorne said as he held up his left hand and made sure Draco clearly saw the ring bearing the Wells family crest on his finger, "I'm sure I needn't tell you that Wizarding law dictates that you should be calling me Your Grace."

Draco's eyes practically bugged out of his head as he realized his mistake. His father would be beyond furious with him if he found out that he'd just called a Lord-Teryn-Consort a simpering fool to his face. Blood traitors or not, the Wells family was still much higher up on the social order than the Malfoys and it simply wasn't acceptable to treat them with such blatant disrespect - at least in public.

"A thousand apologies, Your Grace," Draco said, as he bowed his head to Thorne and roughly elbowed Crabbe and Goyle, which shook them out of their usual stupor of stupidity to do the same. "Please Your Grace," Draco added, as he backed up a few steps, "I was just wondering who was in that car? I'd heard that Harry Potter was on the train."

"Serah Potter is not in this car," Thorne said, as he motioned to the entry to the royal car. "My husband and sons are, as well as one other very special new student at Hogwarts whose identity you'll learn at the Sorting Feast. Now go, Draco, before I'm forced to reconsider sending a letter to your father to make him aware of your appalling behavior."

"Yes, of course, Your Grace," Draco said, as he bowed and left, with Crabbe and Goyle on his heels.

As Thorne sat back down, he thought, "So, first the future King comes to Hogwarts and now Harry Potter, as well. This is definitely going to be an interesting year."

-o-0-o-

As the train came to a stop at Hogsmeade Station, several of the villagers who happened to be near the station began talking in confused undertones. The reason, of course, for their confusion was that the Express was longer this year. Nobody had heard that Hogwarts was expecting a larger than normal enrollment that year, so why was the normally four-car train now sporting six cars? The confused questions didn't last long, however, as the villagers moved away from the platform to make room as the doors of the train opened and the throngs of students emerged.

"Firs'-years!" an abnormally tall man with a bushy beard called out. "Firs'-years over here!"

As the older students began heading over to the carriages, the group of incoming first years headed over towards the man calling for them. Towards the back of the group were Dylan and Thorne. William was walking between them with Carter and Hunter on either side of their fathers. As the first years began getting onto the boats, Dylan walked over to the large man and said, "Good evening, Hagrid."

"Lord Wells, always good to see yeh, sir," Hagrid said with a nod. "And yer husband, of course," Hagrid said as he nodded at Thorne and then looked at the three boys accompanying the two young lords. "An' these mus' be yer boys - though, I thought yeh only had the two."

"We do only have the two," Thorne said with a smile, as he placed a hand each on Carter and Hunter's shoulders. "Carter and Hunter are our sons."

"And this other young man is our charge for the year," Dylan said, motioning towards William. "I'm sure the Headmaster must have mentioned an extra special student this year?"

Thinking for a moment, Hagrid nodded and said, "Ah, yes, he did mention summat abou' tha'. He's the prince, righ'?"

"Yes," Dylan said. "Hagrid, this young man is William Windsor, grandson of Her Majesty the Queen. William, this is Rubeus Hagrid, the Keeper of the Keys and Grounds here at Hogwarts. He's also the school's gamekeeper."

"A pleasure to meet you," William said with a nod to the much taller man.

"Pleasure is mine, Yehr Highness," Hagrid said. "Well, the lot o' yeh inter the boats. Hogwarts awaits."

Motioning William towards the boats, Thorne said, "After this year, you'll be taking the carriages up to the school, but, it's a tradition for the first years to ride across the Black Lake in these boats."

Dylan nodded and said with a grin, "Yes, if you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the giant squid."

"Aren't they ocean-dwelling creatures, though?" William asked, as he got in the boat.

"Normally, yes," Thorne said. "However, there's one in the Black Lake that's been there for as long as anyone can remember."

"There's also merpeople in the lake," Carter said, as he climbed into a boat and helped William in behind him.

"Wow," was all William said as Thorne got into the boat with Carter and William.

"Hunter and I will take another boat," Dylan said. "I'm afraid these boats wouldn't be able to hold all five of us. We wouldn't want to swamp them."

"Is that why Hagrid rides in his own boat?" Hunter asked in a soft undertone that only Dylan could hear.

"Yes, Hunter, that's why," Dylan said just as softly, as he ushered his son into a boat, before getting in himself.

Roughly five minutes later, the last of the first years were in the boats and they began their journey away from the docks and towards the huge castle perched on a hill high above the village. William had of course seen castles before, since his family owned Balmoral, but Hogwarts Castle, all lit up against the dark, starlit sky was an impressive sight indeed. If the castle was even half as impressive inside as it was outside, well, William just knew for sure that he'd be enjoying the year much more than he possibly could have at the Muggle school his double was attending in his place.

-o-0-o-

Once inside the castle, Hagrid led the group over to a stern-looking woman that William, of course, recognized immediately as Professor McGonagall, since he'd already met her over the summer.

"The firs'-years, Professor," Hagrid said.

"Thank you, Hagrid, I'll take it from here," McGonagall said, as Hagrid nodded and left, heading back to his hut to see to his other duties, as McGonagall turned towards the sea of first years. "Welcome to Hogwarts. The start of the year feast will begin shortly, but as some of you may already know, before you can take your seats, you must first be sorted. There are four houses at Hogwarts, named for the four founders of the school - Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin. You will attend all of your classes with your housemates and sleep in your house dormitories. Your achievements over the course of the year will earn your house points, whereas any mischief will cost it points. The house with the most points at the end of the year will be awarded the House Cup. I'm sure each and every one of you will do your very best to be an asset to whichever houses you find yourselves in."

Here McGonagall paused, before she said, "I will return shortly when we're ready to begin the Sorting Ceremony. I suggest you take a few moments to prepare yourselves," before turning on her heel and leaving the group of first years alone in the castle's entrance hall.

"How exactly do they sort us?" someone in the crowd asked.

It was impossible to pick out exactly who was speaking in the sea of faces, so William had a hard time placing voices with faces, but a moment later another voice answered, "I think it's some sort of test. My older brother said it hurts a lot, but I think he was having me on."

Speaking up to be heard over the voices, many of which all started talking at once at the mention of the sorting being painful, Dylan said, "The Sorting does not hurt in the slightest. Some of the older students like to scare first years by telling them that it hurts, but all you'll be doing is putting on an ancient hat that once belonged to Godric Gryffindor."

Thorne nodded and added, "It will read your mind and determine which house best suits you. There's nothing painful about that."

William did notice that some of the students had obviously recognized Dylan and Thorne as members of the highest rank of Wizarding nobility and bowed. Of course, with some people in the crowd bowing, that left others with a clear view of those standing near the two adults - such as him.

"You're Prince William!" someone in the crowd exclaimed, as a series of whispers started up again at that.

"Prince William?" Draco asked, as he sauntered over, with Crabbe and Goyle standing nearby.

"Yes, Draco," Thorne said. "Now, hopefully, you learned your lesson on the train and aren't going to make the same stupid mistake with him as you did with me."

"What stupid mistake?" Dylan asked, as he raised an eyebrow.

"Draco here apparently didn't recognize me," Thorne said. "Ordered me to get out of his way and called me a simpering fool to my face."

"Draco!" a shrill voice, belonging to a girl with long blond hair said, as she stepped forward. "You did what? How could you be so stupid?"

"Pansy, I..." Draco tried.

"There's no excuse, Draco," Pansy Parkinson said in disgust, as she walked away and many of the other purebloods, and quite a few halfbloods, nodded in agreement.

Of course, not everyone in the crowd was pureblood or halfblood. There were numerous Muggleborns as well as other Muggle-raised people, like one Harry Potter, who had absolutely no clue what was going on. Harry could understand that is was certainly rude to call anyone a simpering fool to their face, but this Pansy girl seemed to think it was a serious wrong, seemingly on the same level as calling Prince William that.

"For those of you who don't know," Dylan said, "My name is Dylan Wells. Now, for those of you who were raised in the Muggle world, is everyone familiar with the term Duke?"

"Isn't the Queen's husband one?" someone asked.

Dylan nodded. "Yes, Queen Elizabeth's husband is The Duke of Edinburgh. Magical Britain has its own nobility. It breaks down to seven families each on three levels for a total of twenty-one noble families. Now Queen Victoria did grant the magical nobles titles in the muggle world, although you wouldn't usually hear them used when in all magic company. In Muggle Britain, I'm The Duke of Taleford."

"And in the Wizarding world?" someone else asked.

"His Grace The Lord-Teryn Wells," Dylan answered. "So, to commoners and lesser peers who don't have my permission to use my first name, I'm addressed as either Lord-Teryn Wells or Your Grace."

"So, what's his title?" a young girl up front asked as she pointed at Thorne. "Is he a Duke, too?"

"Not in the muggle world," Thorne answered. "Here in the Wizarding world, I'm legally married to Dylan and am addressed as Lord-Teryn-Consort Wells or Your Grace."

"You can't be married," someone said. "You're both men."

"The laws aren't the same here in the Wizarding world as they are in the muggle world," Dylan said. "Here, two men can get married, just as two women or a man and a woman can get married."

Before anyone else could say anything else, Professor McGonagall reappeared and said, "We're ready for you now," before she led the group into the Great Hall.

Following the Deputy Headmistress and the other first years into the Great Hall, William couldn't help but being taken aback at his first sight of the enchanted ceiling. He'd read all about it, of course, in Hogwarts: A History, but actually seeing it with his own eyes, well that was by far more wondrous than reading about it.

As he walked down the center of the hall, two long tables full of students on both sides of him, he heard the whispers. Of course, they were too soft to make out, so he didn't know if they were about him or if people were curious about why Dylan and Thorne were following the first years in. He was sure that some of the older students surely recognized them for what they were, but then some of them probably also recognized him.

"Stand along here, please," McGonagall said, as she reached the platform at the front of the room where the staff table rested. In front of it, sat a stool with a hat perched atop it. Once all the first years had lined up in front of the staff table, William assumed that McGonagall would begin to call their names to put on that hat and be sorted. However, it seems that Hogwarts: A History didn't mention everything about the Sorting, such as how it's done, or that the hat could talk. Well, sing, might be more appropriate.

You may not think I look like much,
But don't judge me on what you see.
I'll set myself on fire if you can find,
A hat that's half as smart as me.

How can I be so smart, you ask?
After all, it's just a hat, you're thinking,
But if there's one thing you must learn
It's that looks can be deceiving.

Enchanted by four of the greatest
Witches and wizards of all time,
My job is to sort you and I hope
Entertain you with an occasional rhyme.

But how do I sort you, you ask?
Why I have a look inside your head,
To see what thoughts linger there.
You cannot hide them, unless you're dead.

You might take after Godric Gryffindor,
A man who was truly brave at heart.
Or perhaps you're like Rowena Ravenclaw,
A woman who was nothing if not smart.

Or there was also Helga Hufflepuff,
Who always remained loyal to her friends.
And last, but not least, Salazar Slytherin,
Willing to do anything to achieve his ends.

Of course a thousand years has passed,
And the Founders Four are long gone.
However, two special new arrivals have come
And I believe a new era is about to dawn.

The first is well known to you all,
He rid the world of a complete nutter.
Only a babe in his crib at the time,
I speak, of course, of Harry Potter.

The other, well he
Is quite special indeed.
It's been over three hundred years
Since I've seen one of his breed.

He is the first of his family
To attend our dear school.
He may only be a boy, but one
Day our whole country he will rule.

I speak, of course, of young Prince William,
Whom you should all give your loyalty.
He is more than a Muggleborn you see
For he is in fact Wizarding royalty.

How is this possible you ask?
Well, wonder not for long as I will tell.
Inside this young prince the
Blood of the Pendragons doth dwell.

I know what all of you are thinking.
The hat has clearly gone round the bend.
The Wizarding royal family all died,
There's no way he could from them descend.

That, my dear listeners, is not true,
For it was only the male line that ended.
The female line went on and it is
From them that William is descended.

But my song has gone on long enough
And we have other things to be doing.
I've told you all I wanted to,
So now let's get on with the Sorting!

'I'm descended from the Pendragons?' William thought. That was certainly news to him. 'How can I be descended from the wizarding royal family?'

Many other people throughout the hall were obviously thinking along the same lines, as the cacophony of over a hundred voices all talking at once was almost too much to bear. Silence came quickly, however, as Professor Dumbledore stood from his seat at the Head Table and raised his wand towards the enchanted ceiling and uttered a spell, which caused a bolt of lightning to flash across it, followed by a loud rumble of thunder.

"Everyone please settle down," Dumbledore said. "We will discuss the hat's revelations at a later time. For now, the Sorting Ceremony awaits. Professor McGonagall, please begin."

McGonagall nodded, as Dumbledore sat down and she unrolled a long scroll of parchment. "Abbott, Hannah," she read, as a young girl with blonde pigtails came up and the hat was placed on her head. William watched as it seemed to crinkle up, as one's brow might when in deep thought, and he thought it might be having a whispered conversation with the girl, before it shouted, "HUFFLEPUFF!"

Susan Bones then joined Hannah in Hufflepuff, followed by Terry Boot and Mandy Brocklehurst being placed in Ravenclaw. Lavender Brown became the first Gryffindor of the night, Millicent Bulstrode became the first Slytherin and Michael Corner the third Ravenclaw.

"Cornfoot, Stephen," McGonagall called out and William did his best to hide his snicker. He felt sorry for the boy, to be honest, as that was quite a name to have to go through life with. It seemed a few others thought so, too, as not everyone had been as successful as William had in holding in their reactions. To his credit, however, Stephen acted like he didn't hear the people laughing at his surname and held his head high and proud as the Sorting Hat was placed on his head, sorting him into Ravenclaw a moment later.

The ceremony continued on in much the same way until a name that caught William's attention was called out. "Finch-Fletchley, Justin!"

'Finch-Fletchley?' William thought. The name sounded awfully familiar to him for some reason and he racked his brain for a why. After a moment, he realized it was from his lessons on the nobility. He knew that Edward Finch-Fletchley was the 12th Earl of Aylesford. 'Is this Justin any relation, I wonder? McGonagall had mentioned at the Leaky Cauldron that some of the Muggle nobles attended Hogwarts.'

William watched as a tall boy with black hair sat down on the stool and put on the hat. He had never met Edward Finch-Fletchley that he could remember, so he couldn't tell if this boy was any relation by looking at him, but he resolved to find out. He hoped to make lots of friends at Hogwarts, but if this Justin was related to a noble, perhaps even heir to the title, then he'd have some idea what being an heir to a title was like for William, even if his was much higher.

Based on what the Sorting Hat had said earlier, it was even higher than he'd thought before tonight. From the history books he'd read, he knew that many in the Wizarding world believed that his family had usurped the crown, even though the throne had passed quite peacefully to King William III, who became King William XXVI in the Wizarding world, upon the death of all the male Pendragon heirs in the late 1600's. However, if the hat was to be believed, William would be the first monarch in centuries who had Pendragon blood and that meant once he took the throne, which he still didn't want to do, the Wizarding world would once again be under the rule of its original royal family.

The young prince was brought out of his thoughts as the hat shouted "HUFFLEPUFF", as Justin took off the hat, stood, and headed for the Hufflepuff table and Professor McGonagall moved on to, "Finnegan, Seamus," a clearly Irish boy who became the second Gryffindor of the evening.

Getting lost in his thoughts, William didn't pay much attention for the next few minutes as the Sorting continued, although he did catch that the Sorting Hat had barely touched the head of Draco Malfoy before sorting him into Slytherin house and that Harry Potter had been placed in Gryffindor. With the number of students yet to be sorted getting smaller and smaller, William cleared his mind and paid attention. The last thing he needed was to look like a complete idiot by being too lost in his thoughts to hear when his name was called.

He knew it wouldn't be long at all, when McGonagall called out, "Wells, Carter," and Carter stepped forward to put on the hat. That left only himself, Hunter, and one other boy left to be sorted. Watching as the hat seemed to be deep in thought, William thought back to what Carter and Hunter had said on the train. Almost the entire Wells family for the last three hundred years had been Ravenclaws and both Thorne and his pureblood father's family had been Ravenclaws for almost as long.

After another moment, the Sorting Hat made its decision and upheld the long-standing tradition, as it shouted, "RAVENCLAW!" Cheers from the Ravenclaw table erupted as Carter smiled and headed down to join his housemates, as McGonagall called out, "Wells, Hunter."

Silence fell over the hall once again as everyone watched to see where Hunter would be placed. Before tonight, it had usually been the case that identical twins ended up in the same house, but, that tradition had already been broken earlier in the evening when Padma Patil had gone to Ravenclaw and her twin sister Parvati had gone to Gryffindor.

William knew from their conversation on the train that Hunter was, like his brother, very studious, but he was also the sneakier of the twins, who was usually the instigator of any twin pranks they played. According to Carter, his brother had shown quite a bit of cunning on more than one occasion in getting out of trouble due to those pranks. His cunning and sneakiness was apparently enough to sway the Hat, as after a moment, it shouted, "SLYTHERIN!"

Hunter looked momentarily upset at not being sorted into the same house as his brother, but after Dylan and Thorne gave him reassuring smiles that they weren't upset about the Sorting Hat's decision, Hunter smiled and went off to join the others at the Slytherin table.

'This is it,' William thought to himself, as McGonagall called out, "Windsor, William." Taking a deep breath, William stepped forward and sat down on the stool as McGonagall placed the ancient hat on his head.

'Well, well, and here you are,' the hat said in his head. 'Surprised at my little revelation were you?'

'Yes', William thought. 'I don't understand how I'm related to the Pendragons.'

'Through your mother, young prince,' the Sorting Hat explained. 'As I said, all of the male heirs died and the Wizarding world at the time didn't think a female was capable of ruling, so, the crown passed to the Muggle King. There were, however, several female members of the Pendragon line who went on to marry and have families of their own. Your mother's grandmother on the Spencer side of the family was descended from the Pendragons, which means that you are as well.'

'But then wouldn't that mean that my grandfather or my Uncle Charles would have a claim to the Wizarding throne before me?' William asked.

If it was possible for a hat to shake it's head, that's what it felt like it was doing on top of William's head, before it said, 'No, you see the Muggle royalty of the time did not like the idea of gaining power only to lose it. So, when the treaties were signed handing over the crown, it specified that the crown would follow the Muggle royal family's line of succession, even if a male Pendragon were to be born. You are not the first male Pendragon born since then, but by virtue of your mother's marriage to your father, you are the first in the royal line who stands a chance of taking the crown. Oh there's a handful of eligible Pendragons much further down on the list, but we're talking over a hundredth in line of succession and as such their chances of taking the throne are slim to nil.'

'I see,' William said, before he added, 'Well, I think maybe you should get on with sorting me. I think everyone else is getting impatient.'

The hat seemed to laugh as it said, 'Let them, I'm having a perfectly lovely conversation with the first royal to put me on in years. I haven't enjoyed myself this much in, well, I can't even remember how long. First Harry Potter convinced me not to put him where he belonged and now I get to talk with you. This truly is the most fun I've had in centuries.'

'Be that as it may,' William said prompting the hat to move on. Oh he was curious indeed about what it meant regarding Harry Potter, but he wasn't going to ask because he'd already been sitting up here for a good five minutes.

The hat made a groaning noise in William's head, as it said, 'Oh very well, as you command, my prince. You do know though that the only reason they're impatient is because they're waiting with baited breathe to see where I put you. Having a royal in their house, well, they'd all give just about anything to claim that honor. Now, let's see here. I sense quite a bit of bravery and you've obviously been trained in chivalry, as befits a person of your station. You've also got a good head on your shoulders and I sense loyalty to those you love. There's also a certain degree of ambition. Hmm, wanting to become a police officer so that you can protect your mother. A noble desire, truly, if a bit impractical. Anyway, I think you'll do best in,' and here the hat paused before shouting what everyone in the hall had been waiting for, "GRYFFINDOR!"

The cheers from the Gryffindor table were thunderous, as every single person at the table stood up as one and applauded, while the other tables hung their heads and groaned wishing with every fiber of their beings that they had been granted the honor that had just gone to the lions. Standing up as McGonagall removed the hat from his head, William headed down to the Gryffindor table and could barely hear over the din of his new housemates as the final new first year, Blaise Zabini, was sorted into Slytherin.

-o-0-o-

"And now let the feast begin," Dumbledore said after the Sorting was finished, the Hat put away, and McGonagall had taken her place at the staff table. Immediately, as he said those words, the numerous empty plates and platters that lined the center of all four tables filled with sumptuous-looking food.

William, of course, was used to large feasts and banquets, as he'd had to attend a few state dinners at the palace within the last year or two, but this was obviously less formal than a white tie event for various heads of state. As everyone began filling their plates, William couldn't help but notice a few people who were openly staring at him.

"I'm just a normal person, you know," William said.

"You're royalty," the boy that he recognized from the Sorting as Dean Thomas, pointed out.

"True, but I had no more control over being born royalty than any of us had in being born magical," William said. "So, I'd prefer to be treated like a normal bloke and not put on a pedestal or anything."

Several people nodded their understanding, before they began eating. After taking a few bites of his food, Neville looked at William and asked, "So, why did the Sorting Hat take so long with you?"

Taking a moment swallow the sip of pumpkin juice he'd taken just before Neville spoke, William answered, "It was explaining to me how I'm related to the Pendragons."

"Really?" Neville asked. "How are you related to them?"

Before William could respond, however, the bushy-haired girl that had been sorted under the name of Hermione Granger shook her head and said, "That was utter rubbish, you know. Everyone knows that King Arthur and Camelot was just a bunch of stories."

"Actually, it wasn't," said an older boy with curly red-hair and freckles who was sitting next to Hermione. Pausing to look over at William, he said, "I'm Percy Weasley, fifth-year and one of Gryffindor's prefects." William nodded, before Percy turned back to Hermione and said, "The Wizarding world really was ruled by the House of Pendragon until 1697. King Arthur Pendragon XXVII died suddenly without a male heir. It was decided that the female members of the family were not suitable rulers and as such, a series of treaties were signed to pass the crown to the Muggle King, William XXVI."

"There's never been a William XXVI," Hermione argued. "The highest the name William has gone is William IV," and then pointing at William, she said, "He'll be William V when he takes the throne."

"That's true only in the Muggle world," William said. "As it was recently explained to me, the regnal numbers of the monarchs in the Muggle and Wizarding worlds do not always match. My Grandmum is Queen Elizabeth II in the Muggle world, but she's only Queen Elizabeth I here in the Wizarding world, because the Muggle Queen Elizabeth I died ninety-four years before the Muggle monarchs took the crown of the Wizarding world."

"Where did you learn this?" Hermione asked, obviously skeptical.

"From my bodyguards, Lord Wells and his husband," William said, as he pointed up towards the staff table, where Dylan and Thorne were dining with the professors. "It was also mentioned in the book 'A History of the Wizarding Royals' by Bathilda Bagshot."

"That's not on the curriculum," Hermione pointed out.

"No, it isn't," William agreed. "But then neither is 'Hogwarts: A History', but that didn't stop me from reading it. If I was going to come here, I wanted to know all I could about the Wizarding world."

The mention that he'd read 'Hogwarts: A History' seemed to please Hermione, as she turned back to her food.

At this point, Ron swallowed a large mouthful of chicken and asked, "Surely you knew about the Wizarding world before that?"

Shaking his head, William replied, "No, I didn't, actually. All of my ancestors since Queen Victoria have chosen to take a hands-off approach to ruling the Wizarding world, so it's existence has been kept as a state secret. Usually, only the monarch and the Prime Minister are made aware of its existence, but Grandmum told me, my brother, and the rest of the family after I received my letter over the summer."

"Oh," Harry commented and then obviously realizing that Neville's question hadn't been answered yet, asked, "So, how are you related to the Pendragons?"

"The Sorting Hat said it was through my mother, Diana," William responded. "According to it, my mother's grandmother was a Pendragon and thus so are my grandfather, John, the 8th Earl Spencer and my uncle Charles. However, the treaties apparently bound the Wizarding crown to follow the line of succession for the Muggle royal family and thus they're not eligible to rule because they're not in the line of succession."

"And where are you in that line?" Ron asked. Like most witches and wizards, while they knew in the back of their minds that the Muggle Queen was their monarch, they tended to not really follow what was happening with the Queen and her family. This was mainly because of the hands off approach to governing the Wizarding world that every monarch since Victoria had taken. Why should they take an active interest in the affairs of the Muggle Queen when she didn't take an active interest in Wizarding affairs?

"Second," William answered, as he refilled his goblet of pumpkin juice. He'd been a bit leery about the drink when he first heard of it, but now that he had tasted it, he liked it. "My father is first in line, then comes me, and then my younger brother, Harry - well his name is actually Henry, but everyone calls him Harry."

"How old is he?" Neville asked.

"He's eight at the moment," William answered. "He'll be nine later this month and really hopes that he'll get to come here too."

Before anyone else could speak, Professor Dumbledore stood and called an end to the feast. Directing the prefects to take their houses to their dormitories, it was a rather noisy next few minutes as everyone stood and got ready to leave the hall. William nodded and smiled at Carter and Hunter, as he passed them, noticing Dylan and Thorne following the Gryffindors.

"Please mind the staircases," Percy said from the head of the line. "They like to change."

Taking several twists and turns in various corridors and walking up seven flights of stairs, the group finally arrived at a large portrait of a woman in a pink dress. William had read that Wizarding portraits moved and talked and he'd seen plenty of them doing just that on his way here, so he wasn't the least bit surprised when the woman in the portrait looked at Percy and asked, "Password?"

"Caput Draconis," Percy answered, causing the woman to nod, before her entire frame swung outward to reveal a round hole in the wall behind her.

Walking into the large circular room, full of big armchairs and lots of red, William could hear Dylan and Thorne talking, as they were standing right behind him.

"I feel like I'm coming into enemy territory for some reason," Dylan said, with a slight grin. "I wonder when the last time a Ravenclaw was in here was?"

Thorne grinned and said, "I'm sure there's been more recent occurrences, but I was in here a few times during my seventh year."

"What? When?" Dylan asked, as he turned on his husband, and quite a few of the students turned to follow the conversation as well. Percy looked a little put out, but he wasn't about to get mad at The Lord-Teryn and Lord-Teryn-Consort Wells for not listening to him. Well, at least not aloud. He could still berate them silently in his head, however.

"I was Head Boy, remember?" Thorne asked. "My duties took me into all of the common rooms from time to time."

"Oh yeah, how could I forget?" Dylan asked. Although it was clear from the look on his face that he hadn't actually forgotten.

Thorne grinned and shook his head. "You didn't forget, Dylan, you're just upset you didn't get to be Head Boy yourself."

Well, this was at least something that Percy could relate to and felt it wouldn't be too rude to ask, "Why weren't you named Head Boy?"

"Because Professor Dumbledore picked James Potter instead," Dylan answered.

"You knew my father?" Harry asked, as he stepped up next to William.

Dylan nodded. "Yes, Harry, I knew James. I wouldn't say we were the best of friends, because he spent the vast majority of his time with his three best friends from here in Gryffindor, but we certainly knew of each other."

"Dylan and I both considered your Mum to be a friend, however," Thorne added with a smile. "Dylan was in the same year as your parents and I was two years behind, but Dylan and I were practically inseparable since we met. Lily was very studious for a Gryffindor and she spent a lot of time in the library with us Ravenclaws."

Never one to care much about studying, Ron asked, "Did you play Quidditch?"

"Yes, I was the beater for the Ravenclaw team from 4th year until I left Hogwarts," Dylan answered. "And Captain of the team from 5th year onward."

"I was a chaser for the Ravenclaws," Thorne added. "From my 3rd year through half of my 7th year and I took over as Captain for one and a half years after Dylan left."

"Why only half of your seventh year?" someone in the crowd asked.

"This may come as a shock to those of you who are muggleborn or muggle-raised," Thorne said, "but I had to step down and walk away from Quidditch for the second half of my 7th year due to finding out that I was pregnant. And yes, wizards can get pregnant."

This caused several of the younger muggleborns who hadn't known this to all start talking at once and Dylan to shush them and say, "Some of you are too young for details, so just trust us on this. Thorne was pregnant and carried our sons, Carter and Hunter."

"Why are you here anyway?" one of the older Gryffindor boys asked. He wasn't much older than William, probably a second year at most, with blond hair.

"Well, Mr.. what was your name?" Dylan asked.

"McLaggen," the boy said. "Cormac McLaggen."

"Ah yes, I should have recognized you," Dylan said. "Your Bruce's son and heir, right?" Referring to The Lord-Teryn Bruce McLaggen.

"Yeah," Cormac said.

"Well, in the Muggle world," Dylan said, "Thorne and I are members of the private security force that guard the various members of the royal family. When William got his Hogwarts letter, the Queen, knowing that we attended Hogwarts, reassigned us as William's bodyguards."

"Bodyguards?" Seamus asked. "Why does he need bodyguards?"

"Well, I don't suspect he's in any imminent danger here at Hogwarts," Thorne said. "It's one of, if not the, safest places in Britain. However, the Queen's orders still stand and one of us is to accompany William to all of his classes and observe."

"Do you really have to?" William asked. He wanted to fit in at Hogwarts, after all, and he didn't see how he could do that when he'd be the only student at the school who had two bodyguards following him around all day.

"I'm afraid so, William," Dylan said. "At least for the first couple of weeks anyway. Once you get into a routine and we're sure your safe, perhaps we can write the Queen about us not being around all day."

"There are certain advantages though, you know," Thorne said with a grin.

"Oh and what's that?" William asked.

"Well, for one thing you never have to worry about getting lost," Thorne answered. "This castle is very big and easy to get lost in, but Dylan and I both went here for seven years, so we know where everything is."

"Even the kitchens?" someone near the back of the room asked.

Dylan smiled. "Yes, even the kitchens. We will not be telling all of you though where they are," and at this several of the younger students who hadn't found them yet, groaned, while a few of the older students who had simply grinned.

"Alright, all of you, up to your dorms now, please," Percy said. "Boys up and down the stairs to your left, the girls the same on the right."

"Where's that door lead?" someone asked, as they pointed to a door between the two staircases.

"What door?" Percy asked, not knowing of any door, only to turn around and see a door between the two staircases that he knew was not there last year. In fact, he was sure it hadn't been there five minutes ago. "Where did that come from?"

"It's the door to the private apartments for Lord-Teryn and Lord-Teryn-Consort Wells," McGonagall stated as she came into the room. "William will be in the first year boy's dorm with the others in his year, but Professor Dumbledore thought that his bodyguards should be close by and thus arranged for them to have private apartments attached to the common room."

Dylan smiled, "Make sure to thank the Headmaster for me, Professor. Although I do hope it wasn't decorated in all red."

"What's wrong with red?" someone asked.

Thorne smiled. "There's nothing wrong with red, in fact it's one of the two main colors in the Wells family crest. Oddly enough, the other is gold - Gryffindor colors. However, Dylan and I are both Ravenclaws, so, we're more partial to blue."

"The Headmaster is aware of that," McGonagall stated. "I believe he had the room decorated mostly in earth tones, with various shades of blue added as accent colors. Now, before you all go to bed, I have an important announcement to make." Waiting for a moment until she had everyone's attention, she then said, "Unlike in years past, breakfast will start tomorrow morning in the Great Hall at 6:30AM. Due to the fact that your timetables will be handed out during breakfast and because the Headmaster has some important announcements he needs to share with you, your attendance at breakfast tomorrow morning is mandatory. I expect each and every one of you to be in the Great Hall at 6:30 sharp. I will take five points from Gryffindor for each student who is even one minute late tomorrow morning. Now, all of you off to bed. Morning will come quickly and you will need your sleep."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Three:
The First Week

-o-0-o-

The morning after the welcoming feast, William awoke in the Gryffindor boys dormitory along with his five roommates. After McGonagall had sent everyone up to bed last night, the six of them had stayed up talking for about an hour and a half getting to know one another better. Despite his request at the feast, there was still some initial hesitance on the other boys' parts in terms of treating him like they would each other.

Of course, Harry had the same problem, as everyone but Ron, William, and Dean seemed to treat him in much the same way. William found out that Ron had sat with Harry on the train, so they'd gotten to know each other and were more comfortable with one another as a result, whereas Dean was a Muggleborn and thus had not grown up hearing all about the famous Harry Potter. William, on the other hand, wasn't about to treat Harry any differently just because he'd apparently killed a Dark Lord when he was only a baby. While that was certainly quite an achievement, William figured it wouldn't be right to ask other people not to put him up on a pedestal if he in turn did the same thing to Harry.

By the end of the night, however, the six boys were laughing and getting on with one another quite well. Although, Ron did seem a little bit jealous whenever anyone else tried to talk to Harry, as if they were trying to steal something from him. Which of course made absolutely no sense to William, but he chose to ignore it for the moment.

Emerging from the bathroom after his shower, William saw Harry trying to wake up Ron, who was alternating between complaining that it was too early to wake up and asking his mother for five more minutes. Since he was only wearing a towel, William went over to his bed and got dressed before going over to help Harry, who had already gotten showered and dressed.

"Come on, Ron, you have to get up!" Harry said, as he shook Ron's shoulder persistently.

"Harry's right, Ron," William said. "It's 6:00. Breakfast starts in half-an-hour and it's mandatory that we attend today."

When after another minute or so of Harry shaking him, Ron still didn't seem willing to budge from his bed, William decided it was time for drastic measures and pulled out his wand, prompting Harry to give him a questioning look.

"You know a spell to wake him?"

"Well, not to wake him, precisely," William answered. "But I've read all of the first year textbooks and I think I can cast the spell I have in mind without a problem."

"Go ahead then," Harry said, not wanting Ron's refusal to wake up to put Gryffindor in the hole on the first day of school, as he still remembered McGonagall's threat from the previous night to deduct five points from the house for every Gryffindor who either did not show up for breakfast or was even so much as one minute late.

Raising his wand, a supple 12 1/4 inch mahogany wand with the heartstring of a Common Welsh Green that was best suited for Charms and Transfiguration according to Lord-Teryn Ollivander, William pointed it at Ron and performed the movement he'd memorized from the Standard Book of Spells, Grade One and incanted, "Congelo!"

Ron instantly shot straight up in bed as he pulled his blankets tighter around him and glared at William. "What did you have to do that for?" Although it didn't come out quite that way as it was hard to understand what he was saying through his chattering teeth.

"You refused to get up," William explained with a shrug. "You're not going to cost Gryffindor points on the first day of classes if I have anything to say about it." Then giving Ron an apologetic look, he added, "I'm afraid I don't know a Warming Charm, so, I hope a hot shower will work."

"You hope?" Ron asked as he gaped at the young prince, clearly not able to believe what he was hearing.

William had the grace to look sheepish, "Yeah, I'm afraid, I don't remember if our textbook said it would work or not. Sorry."

Still shivering, Ron grumbled as he got out of bed and headed for the bathroom.

"What was that spell?" a curious Harry asked.

"The Ice Veins Jinx," William answered with a grin as he stowed his wand in the holster concealed up his left sleeve. "It gives the person it's cast on the sensation of all their blood turning into ice water. Of course, it doesn't really turn their blood into ice water, just makes it feel like it."

"Ah, okay. Remind me never to get on your bad side."

The two boys were silent for a moment, before they burst out laughing, and headed down to the common room, which was still mostly empty.

"What's so funny, you two?" Thorne asked, as Harry and William came down the steps, still laughing. Dylan looked quite interested, as well.

Once William managed to stop laughing, he explained what happened to them, and began laughing again when Dylan and Thorne started laughing. Dylan was the first to recover and he said, "Oh that was wicked, William, funny, but truly wicked. Anyway, that spell normally lasts for five minutes before wearing off. If he takes a hot shower though, it will cancel the effect faster."

As their laughter died down, Harry and William took seats in front of the fireplace, with Dylan and Thorne sitting nearby. By this point, Neville, Seamus, and Cormac had joined the little group.

"I wonder what this important news is," Cormac commented, after a brief yawn.

"No idea," Harry said.

"I guess we'll find out soon," Neville added.

William, however, had been looking in the direction of his bodyguards and had noticed a look between them at Cormac's comment, prompting him to ask, "You two know what it is, don't you?"

Dylan and Thorne looked at one another for a moment, before shrugging and answering in unison, "Yes, we do."

"How?" Seamus asked.

Thorne grinned. "Well, the news has something to do with a decision that the Hogwarts Board of Governors made over the summer and Dylan is one of the governors, so naturally, we both know."

"Gran is on the board, too," Neville said. "But she didn't tell me about any decision."

"I'm not surprised," Dylan said. "Augusta has always been a very serious woman and very tight-lipped about board business. The governors are allowed to discuss their decisions with their immediate families before they're made public, but it's left up to each governor whether to do that or not."

"Dylan told me and our boys," Thorne said. "Although, he swore us all to secrecy."

"As the future king, I order you to tell us," William said, as all the others looked at Dylan and Thorne, with hopeful expressions on their faces.

Dylan just laughed, "Ha, ha, nice try, William. That won't work though because I'm under strict orders from your grandmother not to give in to anything that you order me to do."

Thorne nodded and said, "Yeah, sorry, but we only take our orders from the current monarch, not the future one. Even if we did take orders from the future king, we wouldn't take them from you, William, because your father will be King before you are."

"That's not fair," William complained, as Cormac and Seamus nodded in agreement. Honestly, was it really too much to ask that if he had to be King one day that the position actually be useful to him?

"Sorry, William, but life isn't fair," Dylan said. "Besides, do you realize how many people Thorne and I would have to take orders from if we took orders from the future monarchs?"

When William didn't answer, Thorne said, "Let's see here, there would be your father, you, your brother, your Uncle Andrew, your cousins Beatrice and Eugenie, your Uncle Edward, your Aunt Anne, your cousins Peter and Zara... and basically everyone else in the line of succession up to and including your grandfather, even though he's over 400th in line, because while the chances of most of them ever becoming monarch in their lifetimes are slim, they are still, technically, a future monarch."

"Okay, okay, I get it," William said. "I don't like it, but I get it."

"There's over 400 people in the line of succession?" Cormac asked, clearly shocked.

"Actually there's well over a thousand," Dylan answered. "The royals intermarried with so many of the royal and noble families both in this country and abroad, that it would probably be easier to say who isn't in line then who is."

Further elaborating, Thorne added, "William's grandfather, Prince Philip, for example is in the line of succession because he's the great-grandson of Queen Victoria's third child, Princess Alice. William's grandmother, however, Queen Elizabeth, is the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria's second child and successor, King Edward."

"So, basically," Dylan said, "all of King Edward's descendants, as well as all of the descendants of Queen Victoria's younger sons, Princes Arthur, Alfred and Leopold and her eldest daughter, German Empress Victoria, would have to die or abdicate before Princess Alice's descendants could take the throne. The line of succession favors all the male heirs and their children first, before the female heirs, regardless of when they were born."

William nodded, as he understood this much from his lessons. "Following my brother in line are my Uncle Andrew, his daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, my Uncle Edward, then my Aunt Anne, and her two children, Peter and Zara - even though Aunt Anne was born before Uncle Andrew."

"So, if your parents or your uncles had more children," Harry said, "your aunt, her children, and everyone below them would move even further down on the list?"

"Precisely," William said with a nod.

"How many children did Queen Victoria have?" Seamus asked.

"She had nine children," Thorne answered. "And forty-two grandchildren, hence the reason that she's nicknamed the grandmother of Europe, because almost every royal on the continent can count her as a relative somewhere on their family trees."

By this time, the common room was filling up and several of the Gryffindor prefects had already led groups of students down to the Great Hall for breakfast. So, Dylan and Thorne stood up, looking around at the stragglers, before Dylan said, "Alright, you lot, let's all get down to the hall for breakfast. I'm sure you don't want to start the year with a negative point balance for being late or not showing up."

-o-0-o-

By 6:30AM, every single Gryffindor, Slytherin, and Ravenclaw were present in the Great Hall, with most of Hufflepuff present. Professor Sprout was not a happy woman, considering that the Hufflepuff dorms were the closest to the Great Hall, when she had to go down to the common room and collect the rest of her students, after telling them all quite specifically the previous night that attendance at breakfast in the morning was mandatory and she expected them to be on time at 6:30AM sharp.

If she hadn't made her displeasure abundantly clear from the five minutes she spent yelling at them in the common room, it certainly became so when she led the stragglers through the Entrance Hall, and they noticed that the Hufflepuff hourglass placed their point total at -60, ten points from each of the six students, all of them 5th, 6th, or 7th year students, who for some unfathomable reason had decided it would be fun to blow off the mandatory breakfast and sleep in.

To say that she was upset with them for their apparent lack of house loyalty, considering that Hufflepuff prided itself on its loyalty, was probably the understatement of the century. She had expected them, as her eldest students to set a good example, at which they had miserably failed. In addition to the point loss, each of them now had detention with her for a month, the two prefects were stripped of their badges and the three of them that had been on the Hufflepuff Quidditch team were banned from playing for the rest of the year.

If they didn't look down enough from their Head of House yelling at them and the punishments she'd doled out, they looked even worse when they arrived in the Great Hall and every single person at the Hufflepuff table was giving them looks that would have probably made both Grindelwald and Voldemort wet themselves. It was then that they realized that perhaps their idea to have a little fun hadn't been such a good idea, after all. The moral of the story? Never upset a badger.

Giving the late arrivals a few minutes to sit down and eat, Professor Dumbledore stood up and called for everyone's attention at about 7:00AM. Once everyone had quieted down and given him their attention, he began.

"Students, as your Heads of House have undoubtedly already told you, I have a series of important notices to share with you this morning that I did not include last night in my start-of-term notices. The reason for this is because you'd all had a long train ride and I figured you would all be too tired to listen to an old man outlining the extensive changes that our Board of Governors made over the summer. Some of you who have parents among our governors may already know what changes I'm referring to, but for those of you who don't, let me explain."

There were a few worried and curious looks on the various faces of the student body at this revelation. Just what kind of extensive changes could the board have made? Most of the students honestly couldn't even tell you the names of more than maybe one or two of the board members, because it was rare for the students who weren't family of the governors to have any contact with them. To most of the students, they were a nameless and faceless body that had the power to hire and fire the headmaster and other staff, but had little involvement with the school otherwise. Of course, there were some, mostly in Ravenclaw, that knew that the board did possess quite a bit more power than just determining the headmaster or staff. They also had power over the curriculum and could even decide to indefinitely shut down the school for any reason they deemed worthy of such an action. And should the school ever be shut down for any reason, only with the governor's approval would it be possible to re-open it.

Dumbledore was also correct about some of the students already knowing about the changes that had been made. Not all the governors had children at Hogwarts and even among those who did, some of them had chosen not to share the changes with them, opting to let them find out along with the rest of the school when the headmaster made the announcement. But to those few students who did know - Cedric Diggory, Draco Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson, and Carter and Hunter Wells among them - the changes were old news, as they'd had time to digest them already. However, not wanting to attract attention to the fact that they already knew because they didn't want to have to explain what was going on to their housemates, they all kept their faces impassive. It was best to let the headmaster explain.

"Over the summer, the Board of Governors collected and reviewed the last fifty years worth of exam scores for all seven year levels at the school. As headmaster it is with profound sadness that I must report that the board was less than thrilled with those results. In fact, it's my understanding that many of them were appalled by what they saw and honestly, I can't blame them. Hogwarts has for as long as anyone can remember been billed as the best school of magic in all of Europe, but I'm afraid that reputation for excellence may well have gone to our heads and allowed us to become complacent. The sad truth of the matter is that upon completing their examination of the scores and then comparing them to the scores of some of the other European magic schools, both large and small, Hogwarts is no longer ranked number one. I'm afraid our ranking has fallen to eighteen out of the twenty-five schools in Europe. And that number only gets worse when compared to the rest of the world. At one time, Hogwarts was consistently within the top five magical schools worldwide. I'm afraid you'd now have to look near the bottom of the top one hundred in order to find Hogwarts, as we're now ranked 94th."

To say that there were students who were shocked to be hearing this news would be an understatement. Reactions were a mixed bag at most of the tables. Some were mildly surprised, while others were thoroughly shocked. Some couldn't care less, while others were outraged at the idea that they were getting such a bad education when compared to the European and world averages. Admittedly, most of the people who were outraged were Ravenclaws, although that didn't mean that there weren't people who were equally as upset at other tables. Another common reaction, however, was the mixture of bewilderment and disbelief. Many people found it hard to reconcile what they'd always heard about Hogwarts being hands down the finest school of magic in all of Europe compared to the details the headmaster had just shared. Surely the governors had made a mistake. Hogwarts was and always would be the finest school of magic in Europe and any numbers that said otherwise were clearly wrong.

Raising his hands in a gesture meant to silence the raising whispers, Dumbledore said, "Believe me, I understand the numerous reactions all of you are no doubt having to this news. Both the staff and myself had much the same reaction before school started and the board came to us to announce their findings and lay out their plans to try and fix the problems we find ourselves facing. All we can do at this point is to move forward and hope that the governors' changes will make a difference. Your professors and I are hopeful that the changes will help, as long as we all work together to make them work. And I don't just mean working together with those in your own houses. I mean putting aside the rivalries of the past and working together with those outside of your houses. I firmly believe that the only way our school has a chance to recover and reclaim its former glory is for the students of all four houses to work together toward that common goal."

Predictably, there were many outraged shouts from students all over the hall at this. Was the headmaster insane? In the minds of many of the students, he most certainly was if he thought for a minute that the four houses could actually unite and work together. Gryffindors working with Slytherins? Slytherins working with anyone other than Slytherins? Preposterous. Some of the younger students, mainly the first year muggleborns and muggle-raised, who did not have the house rivalries ingrained in them from a very young age could only look around the hall with complete confusion at the reaction the headmaster's words had caused.

'Surely working together can't be that hard,' William thought as he looked around the hall and saw all the reactions. He knew there was probably a great deal he didn't understand, coming into this new and strange world, but he simply couldn't understand why so many of the students seemed to be acting as if the headmaster's wishes were an impossibility. Honestly, from the reactions of some of the students, William would almost have thought that the headmaster had just asked the student body to fly to Pluto on a broomstick rather than work together with their schoolmates by the way a number of them were reacting.

Dumbledore tried in vain for about two minutes to calm the students and restore order so that he could continue with his speech, but it soon became clear that the students weren't going to listen to him. 'So be it,' he thought to himself, as he pulled out his wand and for the second time in as many days pointed it at the enchanted ceiling, uttering the same spell he had the previous night following the Sorting Hat's revelations. This time, however, Dumbledore put more force behind the spell, which instantly caused the ceiling, which had been reflecting the peaceful early morning sky outside, to be completely covered in storm clouds so dark as to be almost black. This was followed by several extremely bright, almost blinding flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder so loud that it almost seemed as if the entire room was shaking.

The storm got the students' attention and although it was probably unnecessary, Dumbledore yelled, "SILENCE!!" The older students all knew that their headmaster rarely yelled, so, some of them actually flinched when they heard it, as none of them cared for the thought of one of the world's most powerful wizards to be taking that tone with them. Even the Slytherins who thought Dumbledore was something of a joke and an embarrassment to the Wizarding world couldn't help but quiver ever so slightly in fear.

Once everyone in the hall had quieted down, Dumbledore cancelled his spell, causing the ceiling to return to normal as he said, "There will be no further interruptions. I understand that some of you may not like what I'm saying, but there is nothing that any of you can do about it and protesting as you have been isn't going to change anything. Now, you will all remain silent while I outline the governors' changes. If you wish to complain about them, you can do so on your own time, although I would only remind you that complaining won't do anything other than waste time that could be better spent doing other more constructive things. Like doing everything in your power to make sure that the changes are a success and that this once proud and great school reclaims its place as one of the world's elite institutions of magical learning instead of falling even further into disgrace. Any further interruptions and I will not hesitate to take points and start handing out detentions with Mr. Filch. Do I make myself clear?"

Several students simply nodded, while others, mostly Gryffindors, were brave enough to utter, "Yes." Putting away his wand, Dumbledore said, "Now, for those of you who attended Hogwarts last year, you will already be familiar with the layout of the school day. Breakfast was served from 7:30AM until 8:30AM, at which point you had a half hour break during which you could study, but also use as time to get to your first class of the day which started at 9AM. That class let out at 10AM and you then had another thirty minute break before your second morning class, which lasted another hour. Lunch was then served between 11:30AM and 12:30PM, with the afternoon schedule being the same as the morning. Thirty minute break following lunch, with two more hour long classes with a thirty minute break between them. So, your school day ended at 3:30PM."

Many of the second through seventh years were nodding their heads as the headmaster detailed what their days had been like the previous year. There were also some very quiet murmuring from some of those same students wondering where exactly the headmaster was going with this. It couldn't just be for the first years' benefit, as he'd never done something like this before. Of course, the obvious answer was that the daily schedule had been changed, which to those who took the time to think about it would make sense considering that they'd all been told to be in the Great Hall for breakfast an hour earlier than in previous years.

The students' thoughts were interrupted as the headmaster began speaking again. "Many of you have probably deduced by now that one of the changes the governors have made is to the daily schedule, considering that you're all here for breakfast an hour earlier than in years past. For those of you who haven't figured it out, breakfast will now be served between 6:30AM and 7:30AM. At this point, you will have a fifteen minute break that you can use to get to your first class which will start promptly at 7:45AM. The class will last for forty-five minutes and be followed by another fifteen minute break. Now, unlike last year, where you only had four classes for the entire day, this year you will have four classes before lunch."

Several students looked like they wanted to protest at this announcement, but with one warning look from Professor Dumbledore, and several of the other professors, they all kept quiet. Nobody, especially the Hufflepuffs who were already in the hole points wise, wanted to lose points for their house before breakfast was even over on the first day of classes. Not to mention the threat of detention with Mr. Filch. Obviously the first years didn't really understand why that would be a bad thing, but for everyone else, detention with the caretaker was pretty much one of the worst fates you could possibly have to suffer. Well, with the possible exception of detention with Professor Snape, which could actually be worse than having it with Filch, if you were in any house other than Slytherin that is.

"Lunch will be served from 11:45AM until 12:45PM, after which you will have fifteen minutes before your first afternoon class begins at 1:00PM. Like the morning classes, the afternoon classes will be forty-five minutes long, with fifteen minute breaks between each class and you will have four classes after lunch. Single period classes will be, as I've said, forty-five minutes long, while double period classes will be a hundred and five minutes long, as the period includes the fifteen minute break that would fall between the two periods the double period occupies. All first through fifth year classes will be two-house classes, with the house you take the classes with changing by term. There are three terms in the school year, so by the end of the year, you will have had all of your classes with all of the other houses. You will find out which house you will have your classes with this term when your heads of house hand out your timetables."

Dumbledore paused here as he picked up his teacup and took a few sips, before putting it back down and continuing his speech. "Now, because of the fact that you will now have eight class periods a day, there are some important changes to note. First and second year students will have all of the core classes, except for Potions, History of Magic, and Astronomy five days a week. First and second years will have History of Magic and a double-period Potions class four times a week, while Astronomy will meet three times a week. Now, of special note on the Astronomy classes, in years past, this class was held in the middle of the night, requiring students to interrupt their sleep to attend the class. This is no longer the case, as we have split the top floor of the Astronomy Tower into three classrooms. Through the use of some advanced spell work, the ceilings of these classrooms will now accurately depict the night sky and thus the classes no longer need to be held at night."

While it seemed that many of the older students were still upset about everything else the headmaster had said so far, there were several students who made it clear that they did like the idea of not having to get up in the middle of the night to attend Astronomy classes.

"Another important note for the first year students is that in years past they had Friday afternoons off. This will no longer be the case. They will have two free periods on Fridays, although depending on their schedules it's possible it won't be during the afternoon. Also, we're introducing a new class this year for our first-year students, however, only those of you who are muggleborn or muggle-raised will be taking it. The reason is because the new class, which will be meeting twice a week, is called 'Intro to the Wizarding World' and its purpose is to teach those of you who did not grow up in the Wizarding world about the customs, traditions, and beliefs of our world. Those of you first years who were raised in the Wizarding world will not be required to take the class and will instead have two extra free periods in your schedules, since the class is geared towards teaching things that you most likely already know."

Some of the first years groaned at this, probably because while they were muggleborns or muggle-raised, they didn't like the idea of having two extra classes that some of their own year mates would not have to take. There were, of course, some muggleborns and muggle-raised, such as Hermione Granger, who were looking forward to taking the class as they wanted to learn everything they could about the magical world they now found themselves in. And, of course, those among the first years who had been raised in the Wizarding world were all looking quite pleased at the idea of having two extra free periods.

"Now, another new class that we're introducing this year is for our second-year students. When you get your timetables you will notice a class called 'Wizarding Careers', which will meet twice a week. All second-year students regardless of whether they're muggleborn or not, will be required to take this class. The purpose of the class is to teach you all about the various careers that are available in the magical world and the class will also let you know what classes you need to concentrate on in order to go into the different careers when you're older. This, of course, has the added benefit of allowing you all to make more informed choices at the end of this year when it comes time to pick your elective classes for third year."

Dumbledore paused again to take a sip of his tea, before he continued. "Speaking of elective courses, starting in third year, all of the core classes that previously met four or five times a week will only be meeting three times a week in order to make room in your schedules for elective courses. All students are required to take at least two electives, although with the greater number of class periods added this year, you will have the time to take more than the required two if you so desire. Now, for those of you in sixth and seventh year, if you're attempting a NEWT in one of the core classes, you will notice that the number of times per week you attend the class will be further reduced. All of the NEWT level core classes will be meeting only two times a week, with one of those meetings being a double period class. This should give you all more free periods that you can use for the independent studies that many of the classes at that level require."

At this point Dumbledore turned towards McGonagall and appeared to have a short conversation with her that the students couldn't hear. After a moment, the Deputy Head nodded and Dumbledore said, "I will now turn things over to Professor McGonagall who has information for you regarding the school staff."

Dumbledore sat down as McGonagall stood and said, "Thank you, Headmaster." Before she could say anything else, however, a bell sounded. It was obviously charmed to be heard throughout the school. Getting everyone's attention, McGonagall said, "You can ignore the bell for the moment, but if you're wondering that was the bell signaling the end of breakfast. According to the new schedule, you now have fifteen minutes to get to your first class, however, due to the announcements today, the first class of the day will be shortened. Now, as Professor Dumbledore said, I have a few staffing announcements to make. First of all, I am pleased to inform you that this year Hogwarts is welcoming several new professors to help teach the core subjects. Professors Flitwick, Sprout, Quirrell, Sinistra, Snape, and I will act as the department heads for our respective subjects and will be teaching the sixth and seventh year classes, in addition to the first year classes."

A couple of students noticed that McGonagall had not mentioned Professor Binns as being the department head for History of Magic and began murmuring quietly amongst themselves about that. McGonagall could obviously hear them, as she nodded once and said, "Yes, for those of you who noticed, I did not mention Professor Binns. The reason for this is because the governors felt that the History of Magic scores were by far the worst scores for any subject in the school due not only to Professor Binns' monotone lecturing, but also because he tends to focus solely on the goblin rebellions. We've looked through the school records and it would seem that Professor Binns was lecturing on the goblin rebellions when he died some seventy years ago and since then his ghost has continued to do so. Which as a consequence means he's been ignoring the rest of the subject. Because of this, the governors have seen fit to sack him."

As a rather pleasant switch from the previous groaning and general discontent over the changes the governors had made, the announcement of Binns being sacked caused resounding cheers to go up throughout the hall from all of the older students who'd had the ghostly professor. There were a small handful of students who didn't look happy about it, however, this was most likely because they'd be losing out on the nap time that History of Magic had become for many of the students.

"The History of Magic department will now be headed by new staff member, Professor Flamel, who like the other department heads, will be teaching the fist, sixth, and seventh year classes. Now, there have been one or two new professors brought in for each subject to teach the other year levels. The governors have called in several favors in order to get some of these people to teach at Hogwarts this year and some of you may recognize a few of them. For example, Professor Jigger, whose name some of you may recognize either because he's the co-owner of the Slug & Jigger's Apothecary in Diagon Alley, or from his written works, which include Magical Drafts and Potions, Potions Opuscule, and The Essential Defense Against the Dark Arts. Professor Jigger will be covering the third and fourth year classes for both Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts this year."

Professor Dumbledore stood back up at this and added, "Ravenclaws and anyone else so inclined, I ask that you please refrain from asking Professor Jigger to autograph your copies of any of the books that he's written. The same goes for any of the other professors who wrote one of the textbooks used here at Hogwarts that have kindly agreed to teach, including Professor Bagshot for History of Magic and Professor Switch for Transfiguration."

As the headmaster sat down again, McGonagall continued. "Now, another new staff member who we've brought in as one of the new Astronomy professors is Professor Firenze. I'm making special note of him because he is a centaur and in order to allow him to get up to the Astronomy Tower to teach his classes, we've had a lift installed in the tower, similar to the ones installed at the Ministry for Magic." Pleased whispers sounded throughout the hall from students who loved the idea of not having to climb all the stairs up to the top of the Astronomy Tower any longer. These whispers were quickly silenced, however, when McGonagall added, "The lift is to be used only by staff members and prefects. Everyone else will need written permission from a professor and any student caught using the lift without such permission will have house points taken and be given detention."

A few groans could be heard, but for the most part kept quiet, as they remembered the headmaster's warning from earlier. There were also, of course, a handful of students who'd begun plotting ways in which they could circumvent the requirement for permission from a professor to use the lift. A certain pair of red-headed twins were among this group, as they tended to disregard most rules as often as they possibly could.

"One more staffing related issue I need to bring up," McGonagall continued, "is that for those of you in first through fifth year, the teachers you have this year will move with you through your time here at Hogwarts. So, for example, I will be teaching the first, sixth, and seventh year classes this year, but next year I will be teaching the second, sixth, and seventh year classes. Thus, those of you currently in first year will have me as your Transfiguration professor for your entire Hogwarts career, while the second through fifth years won't be in my class again unless they decide to take my NEWT class." McGonagall paused here for a moment, before she said, "Now, I believe Professor Dumbledore has a few more items to share with you before we began handing out your timetables."

"Thank you, Professor McGonagall," Dumbledore said, as McGonagall sat down and Dumbledore stood back up. "Now, I just have a few more important items to share with you. First of all, starting tomorrow morning and then every weekday morning thereafter, the Hogwarts house-elves will be placing a limited selection of breakfast and lunch foods in the house common rooms at the appropriate times. So, for example if you'd like to sleep a bit later and not come down to the Great Hall for breakfast, you may do so with the knowledge that so long as you get down to your common room before 7:30AM, you will be able to have something for breakfast. You may also opt to eat lunch in your common rooms if you'd like to use the lunch hour to study or perhaps even take a short nap before your afternoon classes."

A few students were obviously happy about this, as they made appreciative noises. Dumbledore smiled, and said, "The house-elves have informed me that the breakfast menu they will set out in the common rooms will consist of cold cereals, fruit, and various baked goods, such as muffins and bagels. There will also be water, milk, tea, and pumpkin juice available to drink. The lunch menu will be equally simple, consisting of a variety of cold sandwiches, fruit, crisps, and some biscuits, with the same drinks available. If, however, you want a hot meal, you will need to come down to the Great Hall at the appropriate times to get it. Now, one very important change this year, which coincides with my desire for the houses to work together, during the breakfast and lunch periods, the four house tables will be open to every student from every house to sit at. So, for example, if a Ravenclaw has made friends with a Gryffindor, both students will be able to choose to sit at the Ravenclaw or Gryffindor table. Of course, both of them would also be welcome to sit at the Hufflepuff or Slytherin tables if they so desired."

Predictably perhaps, there were some rumblings of discontent at this announcement, although Dumbledore was pleased to note that there were at least a few students who seemed to like the idea. Among them were both the Patil twins and the Wells twins, who'd both been a little upset over being put in separate houses. This was especially true in the case of Carter and Hunter, because they were practically inseparable. Dylan and Thorne had sent them to a muggle primary school before now, and according to several of the twins' friends, Carter and Hunter were joined at the hip, as before now it had been an exceptionally rare occurrence to see them not at each other's sides. So, of course, they'd been a bit upset about the fact that they'd been placed in separate houses. Knowing they'd be able to eat together and that they would at some point during the year have classes together did help, however.

"Now, the house-elves will not be providing a selection of dinner foods in the common rooms, so you will all have to come down to the Great Hall for dinner. Like the other meals of the day, you will also be able to sit at any of the house tables during dinner, if you'd like to socialize with friends from other houses. The only time that you will be required to sit at your house tables will be during special events, such as the Halloween Feast and the Leaving Feast."

Dumbledore paused here as he took another sip of tea, before he continued, "Another important announcement I need to cover is that this evening at 5pm, the Heads of House will begin placing the Restful Sleep Charm upon all of your beds. For those of you below NEWT level who haven't yet learned this spell, it will allow a person sleeping in a bed its cast upon to enjoy deeper, more restful sleep. Thus, you can sleep for a shorter period of time and still wake feeling refreshed. We're doing this because I know the new schedule may be taxing on some of you, especially the younger years. Your Heads of House will be monitoring all of the students in their houses and may adjust the charm making it weaker or stronger if they deem it necessary. I would also ask that the prefects keep an eye on their classmates and immediately inform their Head of House if they see any students who seem to be too tired.

"I realize that those of you in the NEWT level classes already know how to cast this spell," Dumbledore continued, "however, I would ask that those of you who do know how to cast it only do so on your own beds and leave it up to your Heads of House to cast and adjust the charm as necessary on your housemates' beds. I would also ask that all prefects keep an eye out for any student who seems to have trouble waking up and may in turn be late for classes. Should you notice a student having such trouble, I ask that you please inform your Head of House, so that they can see to it that an appropriate Waking Charm can be cast on those students' beds. Now, finally, my last announcement before the Heads of House begin handing out your timetables is that for the next week only, all of the moving staircases in the castle will be frozen in place, to allow you all to get used to getting to your classes on time within the shorter period of time you now have to do it. After this week, they will go back to moving randomly as they have in the past. Thank you for your attention."

At this point, the four Heads of House left the staff table, each levitating a large stack of papers behind them, which they began to distribute to their houses, starting with those seated closest to the staff table and working their way down. Meanwhile, the noise level in the hall increased as the students began discussing the changes that had been made.

"This is not right!" Ron exclaimed. "Why would the governors do this?"

"A better question, ickle Ronniekins," Fred began.

"Is why exactly our father," George continued.

"Who is one of the school governors," Fred said.

"Didn't tell us about these changes," George finished.

"I'm sure he had a perfectly good reason not to tell us," Percy said. "He is not required to share the decisions of the governors with us."

"He's our father!" Ron exclaimed. "When he's involved in making decisions that will affect us, he bloody well is required to tell us."

"Honestly, I don't know what you're complaining about, Ron," Hermione said. "From what I've heard, the changes the governors made are a good thing. Or do you not care that Hogwarts is no longer one of the best schools in Europe and has fallen over eighty places in the world rankings?"

"That's a load of shite," Ron said. Before he could continue with whatever he had planned on saying, however, Professor McGonagall, who had heard both Hermione's and his comments, said, "10 points from Gryffindor, Mr. Weasley."

"10!" Ron exclaimed.

McGonagall nodded. "Yes, Mr. Weasley. Five for your language and another five for your implication that Headmaster Dumbledore is a liar. Now, unless you want another five and detention, I suggest you be quiet."

Ron's ears turned slightly red at being the first student of the year to lose points for Gryffindor, although secretly, he was kind of happy about it as that distinction usually went to Fred and George. So, doing something before one of his older brothers for once was something he enjoyed. Of course, they were on the Quidditch team and very popular, so the house usually forgave them quickly. They'd also never lost ten points at breakfast on the first day of classes either. It usually took them until lunch on the first day to lose points and then it was only three or four at the most. Seeing the disgruntled looks that some of his housemates were giving him, Ron couldn't help but think that maybe finally beating his brothers at something wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Nobody else said anything until McGonagall handed them their timetables and moved further down the table and out of hearing range.

"Nice work, Ron," William said, with a scowl to the redhead, as he picked up his timetable and perused it. "Well, I see I have two free periods on Friday afternoon."

Hermione nodded. "I can't wait for Transfiguration," noticing that it was the first class of the day. "I've read all about it, of course, it sounds like a fascinating subject. I wonder what we'll be doing?"

"First years start small," Percy said, from his position next to Hermione, without looking up from his own timetable. "Transfiguring matches into needles usually."

"This is insane," Ron said, as he looked down at his. "What were the governors thinking adding all these extra classes?"

"Oh honestly, Ron," William said. "Weren't you listening to the headmaster, at all?"

"I was listening," Ron said. "And not liking anything I was hearing. Now seeing it on this card, I'm not liking it even more. This just isn't fair."

"To quote Lord Wells," Harry said, "life's not fair, Ron."

Looking at Harry, Ron said, "Don't tell me you're okay with all these extra classes?"

"I don't really mind, honestly," Harry said. "I was never the best student in Muggle school, but it's not because I didn't like what was being taught." In his head, he added, 'The only reason I got such bad grades is because the Dursleys didn't like it if I got better grades than Dudley,' as he thought back to the very first report card he'd ever brought home. He'd gotten almost all A's, and one B. Dudley, however, had gotten C's and mostly D's.

So, of course Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia decided that Dudley's poor grades were somehow Harry's fault and punished him by locking him in the cupboard under the stairs for a week, only letting him out to go to school or the bathroom. And the bathroom visits were actually only every other day because as far as the Dursleys were concerned, Harry could do all bathroom activities involving the toilet at school. His every other day visit to the bathroom at home was only meant so that he could bathe himself, because Aunt Petunia didn't want him stinking up the hallway where his cupboard was.

"Harry?" William asked, bringing the brunet out of his thoughts. "You okay? You seemed like you were on another planet or something."

Shaking his head, Harry smiled and said, "Yeah, I'm fine."

"Besides, Ron, unless you missed it," Seamus said, as he pointed a finger at his own timetable, "you have fewer classes than Harry, Dean and William. Neville, you, and me were raised in the wizarding world, so we don't have to take 'Intro to the Wizarding World.' So we have four free periods while they only have two."

This argument didn't seem to register with Ron at all, as he stared at his timetable and then said, "Oh bloody hell."

"Now what, Ron?" Cormac asked in a somewhat annoyed tone, from his spot to the left of Neville.

"We have all of our classes with Slytherin!" Ron exclaimed.

"Well, you heard the headmaster," Hermione said evenly. "He said all the classes would be two-house classes from now on to try and make them work together."

"Work together?" Ron asked. "You can't work with them! They're a bunch of slimy, no good snakes!"

"Now that's not fair, Ron," William said. "Not all Slytherins are bad."

Shooting an angry look at William, Ron said, "You don't know what you're talking about. You grew up in the muggle world, so you don't know. But all wizards who ever turned bad were in Slytherin - including You-Know-Who."

"Not all Slytherins turn bad," Neville piped up.

"And there's been plenty from other houses that turned bad, as well," Cormac added.

Ron looked at him with a challenging glare and said, "Name one!"

"Fine," Cormac said. "Sirius Black."

"Who's Sirius Black?" Harry asked.

"He was a Gryffindor," Percy said, finally looking up from his timetable. "Sent to Azkaban, the wizards' prison, for the murder of his best friend. Not to mention the murder of twelve Muggles."

Looking at Percy's expression, William had the distinct feeling that there was something the older boy was leaving out, but before he could say anything, a warning bell rang, which signaled that breakfast was now over and they had fifteen minutes to get to their first class.

Taking one last sip of his pumpkin juice, William stood and said, "Well, we'd better go. Transfiguration classroom is on the seventh floor."

Hermione nodded, as she stood up as well. "At least the moving staircases are frozen for the week," as Harry and Neville both nodded in agreement, as they said a quick goodbye to Cormac, who was on his way out to the greenhouses for Herbology.

Just as they were about to cross the threshold and out into the Entrance Hall, Thorne caught up with them. It seemed it was his job to accompany William to all of his classes today and Dylan would do it tomorrow. "So what class do you have first?"

"Transfiguration," William said as he handed his timetable to Thorne to look at.

"Okay then," Thorne said, and then motioning for Hermione, Ron, Harry, Neville, William, and Seamus to follow him, he led them towards a wall with nothing but a tapestry on it.

Confused, Hermione said, "The stairs are that way," as she pointed in the opposite direction.

"True," Thorne said, "but, those staircases won't be frozen forever, so you should learn alternate routes to your classes. Routes that are actually shorter and don't use stairs that move," as he said this, he pulled back the tapestry to reveal an archway, with a circular stone stairway visible through it.

"So, this'll get us to the seventh floor?" Harry asked.

"Not all the way, no," Thorne said, as he ushered the group through the archway. "But it'll get you up to the third floor faster than the main staircase will. There's passages like this hidden all over the school, but most people never find them. However, since you now have shorter periods to get to your classes, I think it makes sense to take as many shortcuts as possible."

"True," William said.

-o-0-o-

Percy had been correct at breakfast when he'd said that Professor McGonagall would start them off small. After spending half the class explaining the necessary theory, wand movements, and correct pronunciation of the incantation, she provided each student with a wooden match and told them to try and transfigure it into a needle. Very few succeeded. Pansy Parkinson, much to her utter horror and the amusement of every Gryffindor in the room, managed to make her match spark and light her desk on fire, where it burned her textbook before Professor McGonagall could put the fire out.

By the end of the hour, Slytherin had lost ten points, after Vincent Crabbe managed a repeat of Pansy's earlier mistake - only instead of burning his desk or textbook, he managed to set McGonagall's hat on fire. Of course, to make matters worse, it was on her head at the time. Meanwhile, Gryffindor earned ten points, making up for Ron's loss of ten at breakfast when Hermione and William were the only students in the class who managed to make their matches look even remotely like a needle. Harry's had come pretty close, but not quite enough for McGonagall to award points.

After class, Hunter joined the group of Gryffindors heading for Charms, shaking his head. "I'm sure many of my housemates would want to murder me for this - but after what just happened in McGonagall's class, I wish I was anything but a Slytherin."

"Go away you filthy Slytherin," Ron said disdainfully.

"Mr. Weasley, you should be thankful that I can't take points," Thorne said. "As it is, I would thank you to not call my son filthy. Do we understand each other?"

"Yes, sir," Ron said softly, his skin about as red as his hair. 'Stupid, stupid, stupid.' He thought to himself. If only he'd taken a minute to think before he spoke, perhaps he would have remembered that Hunter was a Wells and also Thorne's son and thus it probably wasn't a good idea to call him a filthy Slytherin in front of him.

At that moment, a drawling voice asked, "Wells, why are you walking to class with the Gryffindorks?"

Turning his head to one side and spying Draco Malfoy, flanked as usual by Crabbe and Goyle, with Blaise Zabini and Pansy Parkinson following nearby, Hunter grinned and said, "Well, Malfoy, I'm sure you've met them," as he motioned to his father and William, "but just in case you don't remember, this is my father and this is Prince William who I spent the entire trip from King's Cross with in his private train car. I should hope I wouldn't have to explain about spending time with my father, but as for William, Gryffindork as you put it or not, I still consider him to be a friend."

"Draco, don't antagonize Wells, huh?" Blaise said. "You're already on thin enough ice with the family after your stupid mistake with His Grace there - there's no need to get on the spare heirs' bad side too."

Of the Wells twins, Carter was born ten minutes before Hunter and thus while Carter was heir as head of the Wells family should something happen to Dylan, Hunter was indeed considered to be the spare heir. Not that he minded in the slightest, because like William not wanting to be King, Hunter had no desire to be a Lord, as there was too much responsibility that went with it - such as the Wells seat on the Hogwarts Board of Governors, not to mention a seat on the Wizengamot. No, thank you. Carter could have the title of heir as far as Hunter was concerned.

Chastised and embarrassed, Draco and his fellow Slytherins walked off, as the Gryffindors, Thorne and Hunter headed for one of the concealed staircases to head down to the third floor in order to make their way to Professor Flitwick's classroom.

-o-0-o-

Later that day, the Gryffindors and the Slytherins found themselves down in the dungeons for their last class of the day - a double-period Potions class with Professor Snape. The Slytherins were, of course, happy because Snape was their Head of House. The Gryffindors, however, having heard nothing but horror stories about the greasy-haired professor from the older students all wished that they could have been put in one of the classes of one of the new professors brought in to teach Potions. Alas, it seems they were not that lucky.

Snape was just about to start his normal speech that he gave on the first day of classes for the first-year idiots, when he noticed Thorne standing in the back of his classroom. They knew each other in school of course and while they hadn't been friends exactly, they had been on a first name basis owing to Dylan being his assigned partner for the year in Professor Slughorn's 7th year N.E.W.T. class. This had resulted in them getting together after classes to discuss potions and since, outside of class, Dylan and Thorne never left each other's sides, Snape had had no choice but to get to know Thorne as well. As such Snape was not required to address Thorne with deference to the fact that he was noble, as permission to use his given name had been granted. As a member of the Noble House of Prince, Snape was a noble himself, but House Wells, being a Most Ancient and Noble House, was still the superior of the two houses.

"Thornton," Snape said, as he'd always refused to call him by his nickname of Thorne, "what are you doing in my class?"

"My job," Thorne answered, getting rather tired of answering this question.

"Your job?" Snape asked, with a raised eyebrow. All of the professors so far that day, with the exception of McGonagall, had asked about why Thorne was accompanying the first years around. Professor Dumbledore had forgotten to tell the staff that William would have either Dylan or Thorne accompanying him at all times and McGonagall hadn't told her fellow staff members, because she'd assumed that Professor Dumbledore had already done so.

"Her Majesty the Queen's orders," Thorne said. "Until further notice, either my husband or myself will be following His Highness Prince William to all of his classes and observing."

"Perhaps you'd care to make yourself useful then and come up here and teach this lot?" Snape asked.

Shaking his head and smiling, Thorne said, "No thank you, Severus, I believe that's your job."

Giving Thorne a withering look as he mumbled something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like, "Don't remind me," Snape cleared his throat and said, "There will be no foolish wand waving in this class, so put them away. As such, I don't expect any of you to fully appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is potion making, let alone believe that there's actually any magic involved. However, I can teach you to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses - how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death. That's assuming, of course, that you are not as big a group of simple-minded fools as I usually have to teach."

Noticing that both Harry Potter and Prince William were writing instead of listening to him, Snape said, "Ah Mr. Potter, our new celebrity, and Mr. Windsor, our resident royal. I do hope that you are not under the erroneous assumptions that your statuses do not require you to pay attention in my class."

Putting their quills down, where they'd both been writing down, word for word, what Snape had just said, they both turned to look at their professor with twin looks of innocence on their faces. This apparently did not make Snape happy, so he asked, "Tell me, one of you, what would I get if I added powered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"

Remembering from his reading over the summer, William answered, "A powerful sleeping potion known as The Draught of the Living Death, sir."

"A lucky guess, I'm sure," Snape said, "but take one point for Gryffindor. Now, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"

Harry had no clue what Snape was talking about, but William did. "The stomach of a goat, sir."

"And it's use?" Snape asked with a raised eyebrow.

"It will save you from most poisons," William responded.

"Correct again," Snape said. "Take another point for Gryffindor. Now, one final question, what's the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?"

'No idea, but I'm sure Wills knows - I hope,' Harry thought.

"There isn't any," William answered. "They're the same plant, also known as aconite."

"Correct again, Mr. Windsor, one point to Gryffindor," Snape said and then sneering at Harry, he added, "Clearly fame isn't everything, Mr. Potter - five points from Gryffindor for not bothering to open a book before coming to my class!"

By the end of the class, Slytherin had made back all the points that McGonagall had taken from them during Transfiguration, and gained fifteen more, while Gryffindor, despite William earning a couple more points for brewing a nearly perfect version of the Boil Curing Potion with Hermione Granger, was back in the -10 hole that they'd been in after Ron's point-loss at breakfast. Snape had taken four points each from Neville Longbottom and Seamus Finnegan after Neville had managed to melt Seamus' cauldron, and another two points from Harry, who had been working with Ron at the table next to them, for not telling Neville to take the cauldron off the fire before adding the porcupine quills.

"That was so not fair," Ron grumbled, as they made their way up the stairs from the dungeons after class.

Hermione agreed saying, "All the points I got for knowing the answer to Professor Flamel's question about Uric the Oddball lost."

"And I did open my books before coming to class," Harry groused. "But, honestly, does he expect me to remember every detail about something he hadn't even taught yet?"

"Yeah, it's not fair to punish someone for not knowing the answer to something that hasn't been taught yet," William said. "True, the answers were all in our books, but they were all from like Chapter Thirty. While some people might look through the books before class, most people wouldn't read that far ahead, figuring that the professor would start at Chapter One."

"You know, I think the only reason he gave William any points at all was because you were there, Your Grace," Seamus said, as he cast a sidelong look at Thorne.

"Call me Thorne, all of you," Thorne said. "And, yes, you're probably right. Severus certainly hasn't changed since we were in school."

"You went to school with him?" Harry asked.

"Yes, Harry," Thorne confirmed. "He was in the same year as Dylan and your parents. I could be wrong, but I think he had a crush on your mother and he hated your father for marrying her, so, that might be why he was taking so many points from you today."

"That is so not fair," Neville said.

"No, it isn't," Hunter agreed, as he caught up to the group, as they reached the second-floor landing, heading up to Gryffindor Tower. "As my fathers are fond of saying, life isn't fair, but what Professor Snape did in class today, if it was for the reason father thinks, was crossing the line."

"Yes, it was," Thorne said, and then sighed. "Unfortunately, Hogwarts rules state that professors can take or award points for any reason they deem worthy, so, there's really nothing that can be done."

"Well, looking at the bright side," William said, "at least we don't have a negative point balance." They'd all looked up at the Gryffindor hourglass as they crossed through the Entrance Hall and had seen that it listed the Gryffindor point total at 17, so obviously the students in the other years had managed to gain enough points that Snape's prejudice toward Gryffindors and Harry most of all, didn't matter as much.

Everyone nodded in agreement, as they continued upstairs towards Gryffindor Tower. On the fifth floor, Hunter said his goodbyes and headed for the entrance to Ravenclaw Tower to go visit with Carter and do their homework together. They were usually inseparable, so, not having any classes with one another since Slytherin had all their classes with Gryffindor and Ravenclaw with Hufflepuff, both of the Wells twins were going through a kind of withdrawal from not seeing each other since lunch.

-o-0-o-

By the end of the week, the group of Ron, Harry, Hermione, William, Neville, Seamus, and Cormac were pretty much the best of friends. Hermione got on the others' nerves a bit with her know-it-all attitude, but both William and her were proving very useful in doing their homework. Of course, doing their homework didn't mean the same thing to all of them, as Ron and Cormac seemed to prefer the idea of Hermione and William actually doing their homework for them, instead of just helping them.

The fact that Cormac was a second-year didn't seem to affect Hermione and William's ability to help him, as they had proven to be quick-studies, so after a quick read through his textbooks and what few notes he'd taken in class, they had no trouble helping him. After awhile, Cormac stopped asking them to do his homework, content that it was getting done, even if he did have to do it himself. He also rather quickly found himself wishing that Hermione and William had been around the previous year because he really hadn't been that great of a student in his first year, as he'd had a hard time understanding half of what was being taught.

Hanging out with Hermione, William, and the others, however, he'd begun to catch on to those things he hadn't been able to understand during his first year and as a result his work in his current classes began to get easier for him. In hindsight, he should have just asked some of his professors or some of the other students for help, but his father had instilled a great sense of pride in him and unfortunately that pride had begun to lead to arrogance and a desire to be above his fellows. That of course precluded him from asking for help as that would have required admitting that he needed it. His new friends, however, were helping him to see the error of his ways.

As for Ron, well, his desire for Hermione and William to do his homework for him had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he didn't understand the material, even though he didn't understand all that well. No, on Ron's part it was all due to the fact that he hated schoolwork and thus took a very lazy attitude towards getting it done. His opinion was that there were so many better things to be doing with his time, like playing wizard's chess or exploding snap or Quidditch, so why use the time that could otherwise be used doing those things doing homework? Yes, it was an immature attitude that his friends hoped he'd grow out of in time, but there was nothing they could do about it, because until he was willing to admit that there was a problem, nothing his friends said would be retained as anything more than them nagging him to do something he didn't want to do.

On this particular night, the group of friends was sitting in the Gryffindor common room. They'd all, with the exception of Ron who preferred waiting to the last possible minute, finished their homework assignments. As Scabbers ran across Ron's lap and began sniffing at one of his discarded Chocolate Frog boxes, William asked, "Ron, I've been meaning to ask. Why did you bring that rat to school?"

Ron had a genuinely confused look on his face, as he answered, "Scabbers is my pet."

"Yes, I got that much," William said. "However, what I want to know is why you were allowed to. The Hogwarts letters said that we could bring a cat, an owl, or a toad. There was no mention of rats."

"Oh, well, Mum and Ginny, my little sister, didn't want to have to take care of him while I was in school," Ron explained. "So, Dad got me special permission to bring Scabbers with me. He's one of the governors, so Dumbledore really couldn't say no."

"Ah, I see," William said.

"Did you bring a pet, Wills?" Seamus asked, as he had yet to see the blond prince with one.

"He's up in the Owlery," William answered. "An eagle owl named Zeus."

"You named your owl after one of the gods?" Neville asked.

"No, the storekeeper had already named it that," William said. "It refused to respond to anything else, so there wasn't much I could do really. Besides, I had to get an owl because my grandmum and my mum and my great-grandmum all insisted that I keep in touch regularly."

"What do you mean the gods?" Hermione asked, as she looked up from the book on her lap. "There's only one."

Sensing that statement could cause an argument, Dylan stepped in and said, "Miss Granger, I'm sure this is something that will be covered in 'Intro to the Wizarding World' at some point, but Wizarding society is polytheistic, worshiping the ancient gods that were worshipped by the Greeks. Now, we pay special tribute to Hecate, of course, as the Goddess of Magic, but we also worship the others like Zeus and Hera, Poseidon, Hades, et cetera."

"How utterly barbaric," Hermione said.

Silencing everyone else in hearing range with a look, Thorne said, "Hermione, I assume you were brought up in the Church of England?" and at Hermione's nod, he continued, "And how exactly would you feel if someone told you that what your parents taught you to believe in and what you've come to believe in yourself wasn't correct and was in fact barbaric? I think you wouldn't much care for the person who said it, am I right?"

"Well, that's true," Hermione answered.

"Everyone in this world is different, Hermione," Dylan said. "From the color of their skin to their sexual orientations, the purity of their blood, or even their most basic beliefs. All of those things that make us different are what makes this world a place worth living in, as it would be a very dull place if we were all exactly the same. History shows countless times that heartache, pain, and tragedy often follows whenever a person or group of people decide that what they believe in is the only correct thing to believe in. It's important that we embrace the differences or at least learn to accept them, because to not do so, only breeds anger and resentment which can lead to atrocities best not spoken of."

"Do you mean like with You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters?" Cormac asked.

"Yes that is a good example," Thorne said. "The Death Eaters believe, correct or not, that Muggles and Muggleborns need to be destroyed because they see them as destroying everything that is good about the Wizarding world. They also fear that by mixing their blood with Muggles that they will weaken their blood and in so doing, lose the ability to use magic."

"Muggles were destroying magic?" Hermione asked clearly offended. "That doesn't make any sense."

"Doesn't it, Hermione?" Dylan said. "The first thing that one must remember is that because witches and wizards live longer than Muggles, we tend to hold on to grudges longer and thus many in the Wizarding world have not forgiven the Muggles for the witch hunts yet. Now, while it is true that very few actual witches and wizards were killed during them, there were enough killed who, for whatever reason were unable to cast a freezing charm on the flames, died in a most painful way. Surely you can understand that the families of those who died would be extremely angry with the group who committed the act against their loved one."

"Not every Muggle was involved in the witch hunts, though," Hermione argued.

"True," Thorne said. "But anger has a way of clouding one's judgment, making it impossible for them to see the truth. At the time of the witch hunts, to publicly condemn those responsible for them would have most likely meant that you yourself would be branded a witch and killed, so, of course very few stood against them even if privately they disagreed. Is it wrong to pool all Muggles together because none stood up against what was happening and said it needed to stop? Yes, of course, it's wrong, but when one is angry enough because they feel that a group grievously wronged them, they can stop caring about details such as that because they're not thinking clearly. They're consumed with getting revenge and they don't care about anything else.

"Going back to Dylan's earlier point, however, many Muggleborns come into the Wizarding world and try to impose their customs and beliefs on those around them. Now, this is partially the fault of the Wizarding world itself for not better preparing the Muggleborns. We really should have some form of class to teach the Muggleborns and Muggle-raised students all about the history and customs of the Wizarding world. Which is exactly why Dylan suggested adding the 'Intro to the Wizarding World' course this year."

Dylan nodded and said, "Yes, I've been trying to get that class added to the offerings ever since my parents passed on and I became head of the Wells family. I guess after twelve years, I've finally managed to wear my fellow governors down enough that they agreed to add the class to the curriculum. Either that, or with all the evidence of how much Hogwarts' has declined in the rankings, they decided that they needed to do everything necessary to bring the ranking up. And making sure the students raised in the muggle world understand more about our would and what they're learning can only help in that goal, since their grades count towards the ranking just as much as those of the students raised in the wizarding world do."

"Well, I still don't think the changes were a good thing," Ron said. "I don't see how giving us more work then we can possibly do is going to make us get better."

"We're not getting that much extra work, Ron," Cormac said. "And as someone who was here last year, I have to say, I'm understanding the work more now that the professors have more time to explain it. You know when I had Transfiguration last year, the class met only once a week. Because of this, McGonagall only spent ten minutes on the theory, wand movements and incantation of transfiguring a match into a needle. Even though there were plenty of people who couldn't do it by the end of the period, we had to move on to a different spell in our next class because there simply wasn't enough time. And you lot have spent what? Two or three days on it now?"

"Five," Harry answered. "McGonagall wanted to make sure we all got it right before moving on."

"By the end of class today, we could all do it," William added. "Oh, not everyone managed to make a needle you could actually sew with as quite a few of them were still made of wood and didn't have a sharp enough tip to pierce parchment, let alone cloth, but they all still looked more like a needle than a match. McGonagall said that that was good enough that she felt comfortable moving onto something a bit harder on Monday."

"So, you spent all week on something that we only spent a day on last year," Cormac said. "She refrained from moving on until all of you understood it enough that you could do it. I admit, I hated the decisions when I first heard them, but now after a week, I think they're actually a good thing."

Several of the first year Gryffindors nodded their heads in agreement, while Ron just harrumphed and continued to sulk about having way too much homework.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Four:
Howlers, Quidditch, and Other Surprises

-o-0-o-

Monday morning of the second week of school dawned just like any other day, as the inhabitants of the castle began rising at what some still considered an ungodly hour. There were certainly some who chose to sleep late and eat something from the small buffet of cold breakfast foods that the house-elves setup in the common room, but for those who preferred a hot meal, bacon and eggs for example, they had no choice but to get up early, shower, and make the trek down to the Great Hall. As time passed, however, this was getting easier for some, so fewer and fewer complaints were being heard with each passing day.

Harry and William finished up their showers at the same time, and after getting dressed, they headed downstairs to the common room where they found Hermione standing near the bulletin board. She was balancing a piece of parchment on a book in one hand, while she copied something down from a new notice that had been placed on the board. Curious, Harry and William walked over to read the first few lines.

Attention students. In our ongoing effort to improve your educational experience at Hogwarts, the following professors have scheduled extra tutoring sessions on the days and times listed below. These sessions are open to all students who feel they need some extra help in a particular subject.

It should also be noted that the professors can give you a pass to leave an actual class in order to attend a tutoring session in another subject that's scheduled for the same time if they feel you're doing well enough in their class that missing a day won't hinder your performance in their class. Whether they do this or not, however, is entirely up to the professor. Also, for those of you who think this is a good way to get out of class, know that the tutoring pass will be charmed to alert the staff if you don't go directly to the classroom that the tutoring session you left class to attend is being held in. You'll get one warning and not be able to receive any tutoring passes for a week. The second time, however, you will lose 10 points, receive two nights of detention and be barred from getting tutoring passes for the rest of the term.

Also, of special note, the Head of our Herbology Department, Professor Sprout, asks that students only attend tutoring sessions that are appropriate to their year level. Thus, if the schedule says that the tutoring during a given period will be held in Greenhouses #6-#10, then first through fourth years are asked not to attend, as the plants in those greenhouses are much too dangerous for students below fifth year. And as some of you may already know, entrance to Greenhouses #7-#10 is restricted to professors and NEWT level students only.

What followed was a list of the seven core classes in alphabetical order, followed by each day Monday-Friday, and during what times the professors teaching that subject would be available for extra tutoring sessions. There was also a listing for the elective classes, but since first years didn't take electives, Harry and William didn't pay much attention to them. Scanning down the list, they both had thoughts on it, however, and as it would turn out, they were thinking alike.

"Anyone surprised that Snape is only doing two sessions a week?" Harry asked. "While all the other professors doing tutoring are doing at least six sessions a week?"

William shook his head, "I was just about to say the same thing, Harry, and no, I can't say as I am." The two boys grinned at each other, before William added, "I can also guarantee that should I feel the need for extra help in Potions, I won't be attending Snape's tutoring sessions."

Harry nodded his head in complete agreement. "Yeah, four double class periods a week is more than enough time with him if you ask me. I'll go to Professor Nott's sessions if I need help."

Professor Thomas Nott was the husband of Hogwarts Governor Bann Tristan Nott and the father of Slytherin Theodore Nott. He was covering the second and fifth year potions classes, but would be available for tutoring all the years since Professor Snape had only scheduled two sessions a week. Now, this was only partially due to the fact that Snape hated teaching and didn't want to deal with students anymore then he absolutely had to. The rest of it, though, was because he brewed a majority of the potions for the Hospital Wing and thus needed his free periods to monitor and tend to the numerous cauldrons he had going at any one time.

Professor Jigger, the teacher covering the third and fourth year Potions classes wasn't doing any tutoring sessions at all, but Harry assumed that was because he was also covering the third and fourth year Defense Against the Dark Arts classes and didn't have the time. Speaking of Defense Against the Dark Arts, Harry turned his eyes towards the schedule again and said, "Whoa, hold on. What's this?"

"What's what?" William asked, as he looked to where Harry was pointing on the schedule, specifically the Thursday and Friday Defense tutoring sessions which listed two professors - Professor Quirrell and "Professor Weasley?"

"It's Ron's eldest brother," a voice said from behind them, as Harry and William turned. Hermione was still busy copying down the schedule and hadn't been paying any attention whatsoever to Harry and the prince. It was Cormac who'd spoke.

"Ron's brother?" Harry asked.

Cormac nodded. "Yes, Bill Weasley. He finished Hogwarts in June of 1989. From what I've heard he then went to Egypt and spent the next three months training as a Curse-Breaker for Gringotts' and was working in the Valley of the Kings after that. When he shared this with the class, it obviously wasn't long before someone asked him why he came back here to teach, because Curse-Breakers make a lot more money than professors do."

"What'd he say?" William asked.

"That he missed his family," Cormac answered with a shrug. "So, he's taken a sabbatical from the bank and come back home for awhile. He figures he'll go back eventually, but for now he's enjoying what he's doing. He's cool. I have him for two classes, since he's teaching the second and fifth year Defense classes, plus the second and third year Astronomy classes."

The three boys were silent for a moment, before Harry asked, "Do you think Ron even knows that his brother is teaching classes?"

William shrugged. "If he does, he certainly hasn't said anything." After a moment, he added, "Of course, as a first year Ron isn't in any of Bill's classes, so, it's possible that he doesn't know."

"True, but Fred, George, and Percy are in Bill's classes," Harry pointed out. Which was true since Fred and George were third years and would thus have Bill for Astronomy, while Percy was a fifth year and would have his brother for Defense Against the Dark Arts. "So obviously they know about it, so one would think they'd tell Ron."

"Tell me what?" Ron asked with a yawn as he came down the stairs. He absolutely hated being awake before seven in the morning, but he opted to get up early because he wanted to be able to eat the eggs, bacon, sausages, and other hot breakfast foods that were only available in the Great Hall. He hated the fact that students from other houses were allowed to sit at the Gryffindor table now, but his stomach hated the thought of being limited to eating only the cold breakfast foods available in the common room even more so.

"That your brother is apparently one of the new professors," William said.

Looking confused, Ron asked, "My brother? Which one?"

"The eldest," Cormac answered.

"Bill?" Ron asked and Cormac nodded, at which point Ron shook his head and said, "You must be mistaken Cormac, because Bill is in Egypt. He's a Curse-Breaker for Gringotts'."

"No, I'm not mistaken, Ron," Cormac said. "Professor Weasley is both my Astronomy and Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher." Seeing Ron's bewildered look, Cormac elaborated, "Stands about six feet, two inches, with long red hair tied back in a ponytail, and wears a fanged earring and dragon hide boots - sound familiar?"

"That certainly sounds like him," Ron said. "But, since when is he teaching here? Why'd he leave Egypt?"

Hearing Ron's question as he descended the stairs, and assuming he was talking about Bill, Percy answered, "He says he missed us - as in his family. So, he's taking a sabbatical from work, but instead of sitting around the house doing nothing, he decided to come here and teach."

"Why'd he take on two subjects though?" Ron asked. "That seems like a lot of work."

"No more work than the professors who were here last year had," Cormac commented and Percy nodded in agreement.

"What do you mean?" William asked.

"Last year, the core classes only had seven professors teaching them," Percy explained. "So, for example, Professor McGonagall was teaching all seven years worth of classes for Transfiguration. Along with the fact that we only had four classes a day, that's a big reason why many of the classes were only meeting one day a week."

"Which is sad really," Cormac said. "Honestly, looking back, I think the fact that so many people didn't realize just how far the standards at Hogwarts had fallen is shocking."

"Why?" Harry asked. He was genuinely curious since he was only a first year and had no experience with what the school had been like in the past. He couldn't help but wonder if his parents would be for or against the changes that the governors had made. Personally, he thought they were good changes, but that didn't stop him from wondering.

Cormac shrugged and said, "Well, you might not realize this, but when Hogwarts was founded, it was built with the intention of housing and teaching over a thousand students at any one time. Right now, I doubt there's much more than two hundred enrolled. Now, that's partly because birth rates fell a bit during the war with You-Know-Who, but Hogwarts also used to get lots of foreign students attending. Last foreign student who was coming to Hogwarts from abroad finished school in 1930, I believe."

"How do you know all that?" Ron asked.

Grinning, Cormac said, "Simple, really. My father is Teryn Bruce McLaggen, after all, and I'm his heir. Hogwarts is situated on our lands, so we're better informed about the school history because it falls under our jurisdiction. We have school records dating back centuries in our vaults at home, going all the way back to the founders, because the school is required to send quarterly reports to my father and to my ancestors before him. My father doesn't currently sit on the Hogwarts Board, but he does have the authority to revoke the school's right to use the land it's built on, since the land was never sold to the founders or anyone else and is thus still owned by my family."

"Would he ever do that?" Hermione asked. She had finished copying down the tutoring schedule and had finally begun paying attention to what was going on around her.

Shaking his head, Cormac said, "Probably not, but if he did, there wouldn't be much that anyone could do about it. As the McLaggen lord, he's the current master of the wards on the McLaggen lands. When permission was granted to build Hogwarts, the wards were pulled back to not cover the area where the school would be built, so that the founders could erect their own separate wards that the head of the school would control. However, the McLaggen wards are older and would take precedence, so, my father could re-extend the wards to include the land the school is on. Problem is, that in doing that, he'd be completely destroying the founder's wards, which could very well cause the castle to crumble and collapse into a pile of rubble. So, obviously it's not something he would do lightly or before he was sure that the castle had been completely evacuated."

A look of confusion on his face, Harry asked, "Why would the castle collapse if the founders' wards were destroyed?"

"Because there's magic imbued into every block of stone it's built with," Percy answered. "In addition to the various wards meant to protect the students, there'd also be wards to keep the castle standing. This place was built over a thousand years ago, after all. For centuries now there's only been a single caretaker in the school at any one time and they're really nothing more than a glorified janitor."

Cormac nodded. "Yeah, Filch cleans toilets and mops floors. However, maintenance to the castle walls or the roof has never been part of his job description. Mainly because it's unnecessary, since the founders' wards keep the castle in pristine condition so that it looks the same way now as it did when it was built. If those wards were stripped away, however, well, I imagine over a thousand years of wear and tear would rather quickly catch up and make the castle collapse."

Before anyone else could say anything, a rumbling noise filled the otherwise quiet room, causing everyone's eyes to move to Ron, since he was its source - or my precisely, his stomach was.

Looking at his watch, William said, "Well, it's nearly quarter to seven. I suppose if any of us plan on getting a hot breakfast, it's time to head down to the hall."

Everyone nodded, as they began filing out of the common room.

-o-0-o-

Later that day, in the office that was granted to Professor Firenze near his classroom in the Astronomy Tower, the centaur was lying on the floor, preparing to eat his lunch, when there was a knock on the door.

"Enter," Firenze called out and the door opened to reveal a familiar head of long red hair.

"Bill," Firenze said with a smile, as his colleague entered the room.

"Hey Firenze," Bill said, returning the smile, as he closed the door and sat down on the floor next to the centaur. In an attempt to make Firenze more comfortable, both his office, quarters, and classroom were all designed to look like the forest that he'd grown up in. So, unlike the rest of the castle which had hard stone floors, the floor in Firenze's office was soft, as it was covered in a lush, green grass. "Eating lunch?" the centaur nodded at which point Bill added, "Mind if I join you?" as he pulled a bag out of a hidden pocket of his robes.

"Go right ahead," Firenze said, as he picked up an apple and bit into it. Like most of his kind, Firenze was a vegetarian, so, his lunch consisted of apples, carrot sticks, a salad, and a large bowl of oatmeal. There was a larger quantity than Bill could ever eat in one sitting, but a commonly overlooked fact about centaurs was that they actually had two stomachs. They absolutely hated the idea of being thought of as half-human, because they weren't half-human. Contrary to what some people might like to believe, centaurs were not the result of humans mating with horses. They were a completely separate and unique species all their own, but, that didn't mean that there weren't similarities.

One of those similarities was that centaurs had various internal organs in the same places that both humans and horses had them. So, Firenze had a stomach in the human-like section of his body in the same location that a human's stomach would be. However, he also had a second stomach in the horse-like part of his body. A big difference, however, was that centaurs were not grazing animals the way horses were and thus centaurs in the wild did not eat grass, nor did they spend most of the day eating small amounts of food. They had an eating schedule that was much the same as the human schedule of three meals a day and they occasionally would have a snack between meals. Their diets were much closer to that of a human vegetarian, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, along with nuts and other grains, such as wheat and oats. Some centaurs, however, did eat meat, especially if they lived in an area where meat was more plentiful than fruits and vegetables.

"Still not eating meat, I see," Bill said, as he grinned at his old friend. During his fifth year at Hogwarts, Bill had met Firenze and they'd become friends. They'd lost touch with each other after Bill finished Hogwarts and moved to Egypt, but now that they were back together, they'd both wanted to reestablish their friendship.

Firenze shook his head, "No, I don't eat it, as a general rule. Although you know I have in the past."

"Yes, and if I remember correctly, you even liked it," Bill said, as he unwrapped a ham sandwich and took a bite.

"It's true, I did," Firenze said. "However, the rest of my herd in the forest is vegetarian and don't believe in eating meat, so, once you left Hogwarts, I really had no way of getting it anymore. So, I went back to a strictly vegetarian diet."

Some might not understand that comment, seeing as how the centaurs of Firenze's herd were all very good at archery, so, surely it would be a rather simple matter of going bow hunting in the forest they lived in if they wanted meat for dinner. This wasn't done, however, as the centaurs of the Forbidden Forest chose to live in harmony with the forest and not harm any of its inhabitants unless they were harmed first. Thus, they did not believe in killing other denizens of the forest that hadn't done anything to them just so that they could eat.

A little known fact was that the Forest's herd of centaurs did not actually call the entire forest home. They considered it their forest, sure enough, but then so did many of the other intelligent denizens that lived in it. The truth was, they had a village deep into the forest that was strictly theirs. It was surrounded by powerful wards that kept uninvited guests away, which is why most people up at Hogwarts didn't know about it. In their village, they had housing specially tailored to their needs, including glass ceilings so that they could stay out of inclement weather but still have an unfettered view of the stars.

There was also a section of the village that was dedicated to cultivating food for the herd to eat, which was tended to mostly by the female centaurs, with some help from the foals. Thanks to the magically-enriched soil, they easily produced enough food to feed the entire herd on a strictly vegetarian diet and thus had no need of sending the males out with their bows to hunt.

"Well if you ever want to expand your palate again, let me know," Bill said with a smile. "I'm more than willing to share."

"I'll keep that in mind, Bill," Firenze said with a smile of his own, before they fell into a companionable silence as they ate their respective lunches.

-o-0-o-

On Thursday afternoon at around 1:47PM, William, Harry, Dean, and Hermione, accompanied by Dylan, left Professor Flamel's classroom. They were headed upstairs to the second floor to attend their third Intro to the Wizarding World class. Since he was raised in the Wizarding world, Hunter wasn't taking the class. Neither were Neville, Ron, and Seamus, who were headed upstairs to the Gryffindor common room to spend their free period. From the conversations they were having as they walked, it sounded as if Neville planned to get some reading for one of his other classes done, while Ron and Seamus were going to see if they could find a couple more people for a game of Exploding Snap.

Dylan led the group of first years up to the second floor, detouring past the bathrooms, so that if any of them had to go, they could. It was at this point that the Gryffindors exchanged their goodbyes with Hunter, as he'd accompanied them and his father upstairs on his way to the Ravenclaw common room. He always met up with Carter in the Ravenclaw common room because Carter's fellow 'claws didn't mind him bringing his twin brother into their common room. Neither did Professor Flitwick for that matter, and the diminutive professor had given the Wells twins permission to spend time together in Ravenclaw Tower whenever they wanted.

The same could not be said, however, for Professor Snape and the Slytherins. It had been made quite clear by both Hunter's head of house and the older Slytherins that no non-Slytherin students were to be brought into the Slytherin common room for any reason. The only exception to that rule was the Head Boy and Head Girl, a Gryffindor and a Hufflepuff respectively, as their duties occasionally required them to go into all of the house common rooms.

Outside the classroom, the Gryffindors met up with Hufflepuffs Justin Finch-Fletchley and Wayne Hopkins. Justin was a Muggleborn and Wayne was a Muggle-raised halfblood, so both were taking the class. The first year Gryffindors usually didn't have classes with the first year Hufflepuffs, as the 'puffs were scheduled to take their classes with Ravenclaw this term and the Gryffindors with the Slytherins. There were a total of forty-two first years, but since none of the purebloods or other wizard-raised first years were taking it, there were only seventeen students in the class. This broke down to four Hufflepuffs, six Ravenclaws, four Gryffindors and three Slytherins. The staff decided that having two classes, one with ten students and the other with seven, didn't make sense and opted to have all four houses attend the class together.

"Hello Justin, Wayne," William said with a smile to the two Hufflepuffs.

"Hello Your Highness," Justin said, a grin on his face. He knew that William preferred to be called William or Wills, but he didn't really know him that well. He'd also been instructed to make sure to show the prince the proper respect when he'd written home to his parents and told them all about his first week at Hogwarts - including the fact that Prince William was attending. Justin's father was an Earl, so, he'd met a few of the royals before, but never Prince William.

"Justin I told you not to call me that," William said, as he sighed exasperatedly.

"I know, but we don't know each other that well yet," Justin said. "And my parents told me that I need to show you the proper respect and according to them, that includes addressing you in deference to your title."

"Even if I tell you not to?" William asked.

Nodding, Justin answered, "Yeah pretty much."

Before anyone else could say anything, the other two Hufflepuffs in the class, Roger Malone and Sally Smith, arrived and the small group entered the classroom. The Slytherin contingent consisting of Tracey Davis, Sophie Roper, and Gary Thomas were already in the room. As the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs began taking their seats, the Ravenclaw first years began filtering into the room in twos or threes until all six of them had arrived. The 'claws in the class were Sally-Anne Perks, Oliver Rivers, Mandy Brocklehurst, Kevin Entwhistle, Sue Li, and Lisa Turpin.

There wasn't a teacher in sight, however, as the students all took their seats, so naturally, conversations began. This was the third time the class had met, as it met on Thursdays and Fridays at 2PM. However, during the first week of class, Professor Dumbledore had sat with the class, explaining that due to some personal issues, the professor that had been hired to teach the class wasn't able to be at the school for the first week of classes. None of the first years had met the new professor yet, but they knew that he'd arrived on Sunday afternoon.

"So, what do you think the professor will be like?" Harry asked his fellow Gryffindors.

"No idea," Dean answered. "I just hope he's nicer than Snape."

The Gryffindors shuddered at that thought, as they had Potions next, which meant spending almost two hours down in the dungeons with Professor Snape. The classes were normally only forty-five minutes long, but Potions was a double period class and because it included the break time between the two periods it occupied, they'd be in the dungeons with the greasy-haired git from 3PM until classes let out for the day at 4:45PM. None of them looked forward to it, as if the first week was anything to go by, Professor Snape would be especially hard on them today because they only had Potions four days a week. Last Thursday it had seemed as if Professor Snape wanted to make up for the fact that he wouldn't be seeing them on Friday by making the last class for the week even more miserable than it usually was.

"That's Professor Snape, Dean," Dylan corrected automatically. Although it was clear from his tone that he was only saying it because he knew it would be expected of him to say it, being the only adult in the room. The truth of the matter was that Dylan didn't really care one way or the other, as he himself had been guilty of referring to his own professors in much the same way when he was a student.

Dean nodded but said nothing, because at that moment, a tall blond-haired man in green robes walked into the room and went to stand in front of the teacher's desk. Once the class had quieted down, the newcomer nodded and said, "Welcome first years to 'Intro to the Wizarding World.' I am Professor Alexander Davies." Lisa Turpin of Ravenclaw raised her hand at this and with a nod, the professor asked, "Yes, Miss..."

"Lisa Turpin," Lisa provided, before she asked, "I was just wondering if you were any relation to Roger Davies?"

Professor Davies nodded and said, "Yes, Miss Turpin, I am - he's my younger brother. Anyway, Professor Dumbledore informs me that he introduced all of you to the world of magical candies last week." There was an interesting combination of groans, grins, sniffs, and chuckles at that statement. "Well, I see your reactions to the topic are quite mixed aren't they? I would urge you not to be too mad at the headmaster, as I'm sure I probably would have covered that at some point anyway. I probably wouldn't have spent two days on it, but then I didn't finalize my lesson plans for this class until this past Tuesday. Now, today I figured I would just spend the period getting to know all of you, memorizing your names, and letting you know what I expect from you in my class. I'll also gloss over some of the topics that we'll be covering over the course of the year, just to give you a basic outline. We will, of course, cover each subject in greater detail as the year progresses."

There were nods of acknowledgement around the room, before suddenly one of the girls, Sally Smith from Hufflepuff, jumped and gave a surprised gasp. Professor Davies cast her a concerned look and asked, "Are you okay, Miss...?"

"Sally Smith," Sally supplied. "I'm just... surprised. Professor, your hair..."

"My hair?" Professor Davies asked, confused for a moment, before he shook his head and sighed, realizing what must have happened. Pulling out his wand, he grabbed a spare quill from his desk, tossed it in the air and transfigured it into a hand mirror, which he deftly caught in his free hand. Looking into it he saw that instead of his natural blond, his hair was now bright neon pink. Transfiguring the mirror back into a quill and putting it on his desk, he said, "Forgive me, I suppose before we go any further, I should explain why my hair just changed color. Assuming she still likes to sit on her desk and observe her classes as a tabby cat, I'm sure most of you know by now that Professor McGonagall is what's called an Animagus?"

There were nods all around the room, as McGonagall had demonstrated her ability to turn into a cat on the very first day of classes. William had already seen it back at Balmoral, of course, though it had surprised quite a few of the other students, as they hadn't thought such a thing was possible, but they were fascinated by it none the less. Of course they were all rather disappointed when McGonagall then informed them that few people ever mastered the Animagus transformation as it was one of the most advanced forms of Transfiguration.

Advanced enough that it was only touched upon during the NEWT classes and not taught in detail. What McGonagall hadn't mentioned to her first years though, was that with the more frequent class meetings this year, it just might be possible that she'd have time to cover it with her NEWT classes. There really was no reason to tell the first years that though, as it would be six years before they would learn anything about it, because if McGonagall did cover it in more depth in class, it would only be for the seventh years.

"I'm not an Animagus," Professor Davies continued. "I'm what's known as a Metamorphmagus, which means that I can change the color of my hair or eyes. Those are simple switches and it'll sometimes happen when I'm not even trying, as those changes tend to connect with thought or mood." More than one of the students were curious just what could have been going through their professor's head to make his hair turn pink, but nobody asked. "More complicated changes require more concentration, but if I try hard enough, I can effect changes to the rest of my body. These changes might include changing the shape of my nose or eyes, or even changing my height."

"Cool," said several of the boys in unison.

"Yes, it is," Professor Davies agreed. "However, I must warn you now that unlike the Animagi transformation which is an acquired skill, being a Metamorphmagus is something you're born with. It's a rare ability, however, which tends to run in families. And no, if any of you are wondering, Roger is not a Metamorphmagus. He's my half-brother, same father, different mothers and the Metamorphmagus trait comes from my mother's family. So, becoming an Animagi is something you can learn, but no matter how hard you try or study, you cannot learn how to be a Metamorphmagus if you weren't born with the ability."

There were some noises of disappointment at this, but for the most part, it was over quickly and Professor Davies, his hair back to its normal blond now that he'd concentrated on righting the temporary slip moved on to getting to know his students a bit better and then began the lecture he'd prepared, glossing over the various topics they'd be studying in class. He was a good teacher, however, as he wasn't lecturing in a monotone voice and had a way of making sure his students were listening. Some of the things that were mentioned to be covered in greater detail later were time-honored traditions, marriage customs, polytheism, wizarding fashions, magical games and sports, and even a section on the kinds of regional or cultural magics used in other areas of the world that weren't taught at Hogwarts.

When the bell rang, Professor Davies said, "Class your homework is to write an essay of at least three inches, but absolutely no more than six inches," he was looking directly at the Ravenclaws as he said this, "on which topics you're the most interested in learning about. It'll be due next Thursday, as I'll be spending tomorrow giving you more overview of what we'll be learning. So, if something didn't interest you today, it's possible something will tomorrow. Class dismissed."

-o-0-o-

As students gathered in the Great Hall for lunch on the second Friday of classes, most of those who had been against the changes had begun to reverse their opinions. However, there were still a few holdouts, such as the Weasley twins and Ron. Of course, Fred and George were actually more upset about the fact that their father hadn't told them about the changes before they left for Hogwarts, since as one of the governors, he had to have known about them.

At about 12:15PM, the room filled with owls, as the post began to arrive. In years past, this had happened during breakfast, but since most of the owl post offices throughout the Wizarding world didn't open until eight in the morning and breakfast at Hogwarts now ended at 7:30AM, the arrival of the post was moved to be during lunch instead.

Draco Malfoy was sitting calmly at the Slytherin table, chatting with his friends, when one of his family's eagle owls that regularly delivered a variety of sweets to him from his mother, landed imperiously next to his plate. All talk at the table ceased as Draco and everyone else nearby caught sight of what the owl had brought him. It wasn't a package full of chocolate. No, it was a bright red envelope with his name on it, written in his mother's fancy and graceful handwriting.

Gulping, Draco said, "A howler? Mum sent me a howler?"

"You'd better open it," Hunter, who had opted to actually sit with his housemates for once, said from his place nearby. "I've never gotten one myself, but I've heard it's worse if you don't open it." At this, one or two people nearby nodded their heads in agreement.

With a shaking hand, Draco reached out and took the envelope from the family owl, who promptly bit him on the hand and gave him what looked like, even on an owl, a reproachful look before spreading its wings and flying off. Never having a strong tolerance for pain, Draco almost forgot about the howler in favor of whimpering over the bite on his hand, only the envelope had now started to smoke and that was rather hard to ignore. Turning it over, he broke the seal. Almost immediately, his mother's voice filled the Great Hall - she wasn't exactly yelling, as she was too much of a lady to do that, but this was definitely her angry voice.

Draco Lucian Malfoy,

It has just come to my attention that you gave orders to the Lord Consort of a Most Ancient and Noble House and then proceeded to call him a simpering fool, to his face, when he refused to comply with your orders. I had thought that I had raised you with more common sense and respect, but apparently I was wrong.

Your actions have brought great shame on not only the Noble House of Malfoy, but also the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black. I can assure you, Draco, that I was not amused to receive a howler from the Lord Arcturus Black condemning my parenting skills for not raising you properly. I'm not the only one who isn't pleased with you, as your Father is equally upset, but I convinced him to allow me to handle this issue.

Due to your actions, I am henceforth putting a stop to all my gifts of sweets to you for the rest of the school year. Your father has also decided to cut your monthly allowance from your trust vault by ninety percent to teach you a much needed lesson in respect and proper decorum. I warn you now that no amount of whining on your part will convince your Father and I to reverse our decisions, as I've now come to believe what your Father has been telling me for years now. I've been too soft with you, Draco, and now it's time for some tough love.

Your Extremely Displeased With You Mother,
The Lady-Banness Malfoy, Narcissa Druella Black-Malfoy

Upon finishing, the missive quickly burst into flames. Draco was clearly fighting a war to keep his face impassive and free of emotion, if his heavy breathing was anything to go by.

Many people throughout the hall were laughing, as usually happened when anyone got a howler. Although at the Gryffindor table none were laughing as hard as Ron, since he hated Draco and all Slytherins, so seeing one of them getting a howler was especially satisfying.

"Ha, ha, ha, did you see the look on his face?" Ron asked, as he clutched his sides, laughing so hard that it hurt.

"What was that thing?" Harry asked.

"That was a howler," Percy answered. "They always come in bright red envelopes and are charmed to explode if the person they're for doesn't open them fast enough after receiving it. They allow magical parents to yell at their children without actually being around to do it in person."

"Of course, it's not only parents who send their children howlers," Cormac said. "A friend of my father's works for the Daily Prophet and he says that they have a special room where all the howlers sent to the editor, Barnabas Cuffe, get sent so that he never actually hears them."

As the owl post continued to arrive, a large and ancient-looking owl with gray feathers flew towards the Gryffindor table - and crash-landed in a tureen of chicken soup. Ron's laughter quickly died as he realized that it was the Weasley family owl, Errol, and that he had a red envelope clutched in his beak.

With a shaking hand, Ron reached out and took the envelope, noticing immediately that it wasn't just addressed to him, but to Fred and George as well. That made him feel a little better because at least he wouldn't be alone in being yelled at. Fred and George, who were sitting on either side of Ron today took one look at the envelope and shrugged. They'd gotten so many of these things from home over the course of their time at Hogwarts that it really didn't faze them. Honestly, what would faze them is if they managed to go a whole year at Hogwarts without getting a howler. And, of course, if that were to happen, well, they were obviously doing something wrong.

Taking the now smoking red envelope from Ron's hand, Fred held it while George slit the seal with the knife he'd been using to cut his sandwich. And thus, for the second time that day, the voice of an angry woman filled the Great Hall - only unlike Narcissa Malfoy, Molly Weasley had no trouble with yelling. One might even go so far as to call it screeching.

FRED, GEORGE, AND RONALD WEASLEY,

HOW DARE YOU SEND A HOWLER TO YOUR FATHER! WHAT IN MERLIN'S NAME WERE YOU THREE THINKING? YOUR FATHER HAS NEVER BEEN MORE EMBARRASSED IN HIS LIFE THAN WHEN HE GOT A HOWLER IN THE MIDDLE OF A STAFF MEETING BETWEEN ALL THE MINISTRY DEPARTMENT HEADS AND THE MINISTER FOR MAGIC! AND TO MAKE IT WORSE, IT WAS FROM HIS SONS, AND DELIVERED BY HARRY POTTER'S OWL. HOW DARE YOU BRING THAT POOR BOY IN ON YOUR DEVIANT BEHAVIOR!

YOUR FATHER WAS SO ASHAMED THAT HE HAD TO BE RUSHED TO ST. MUNGO'S FOLLOWING A HEART ATTACK AND IT'S ENTIRELY YOUR FAULT! THANK MERLIN THE HEALERS MANAGED TO SET HIM RIGHT OR I WOULD HAVE COME DOWN TO HOGWARTS IN PERSON TO YELL AT YOU - BEFORE STRANGLING THE LOT OF YOU. I'M SO DISGUSTED WITH ALL THREE OF YOU THAT I MAY STILL DO IT. IF YOU THREE EVER DO ANYTHING EVEN REMOTELY LIKE THIS AGAIN I WILL BRING ALL OF YOU STRAIGHT HOME AND YOU WILL NOT SEE THE OUTSIDE OF YOUR BEDROOMS UNTIL RONALD IS FIFTY!

YOUR BEYOND FURIOUS MOTHER,
THE LADY-ARLESSA WEASLEY, MOLLY GENEVRA PREWETT-WEASLEY

"YOU LOT SENT OUR FATHER A HOWLER?" Percy yelled. He wasn't usually one to raise his voice, but, since his younger brothers had screwed up worse than they ever had before by doing something that required their father to be raced to St. Mungo's, he would make an exception. "WHAT IN THE NAME OF HECATE WERE YOU THINKING?!"

Before Fred, George, or Ron could answer, Harry, while not yelling, but still clearly angry said, "You used Hedwig to send your father one of these, Ron?"

Ron nodded and Harry said, "Bloody hell, Ron, if I'd known that's why you wanted to borrow her I never would have let you!"

"When we trusted you to send it, Ron," Fred began.

"We never thought you'd use," George continued.

"Harry's owl - we thought you'd use one of the school owls," they finished in unison.

"Let me guess, this was about your father not telling you before school started about the governors' changes, wasn't it?" William asked. "That was a very stupid thing to do."

"Yes it was," Dylan said as he walked down from the staff table. "You're quite lucky that you're not my sons. If Carter or Hunter ever sent me a howler, they'd both be praying to all the gods for protection because a howler would be the least of their worries."

"Yes, well, I'd never send you a howler, Father," Carter said as he came up to the table. "I'm too much of a 'claw to ever be that stupid."

"Same here," Hunter said as he too approached the Gryffindor table.

"You're a Slytherin," William reminded him with a grin.

"Still," Hunter said. "I come from a long line of 'claws - not to mention that Slytherins like self-preservation. Doing something as stupid as sending a howler to either of my fathers, well, that's about the farthest thing from self-preservation I can think of. More life self-harm."

"I can't believe you three," Percy said, after several deep breaths, as he tried to calm down. He had never been more disappointed in his younger brothers than he was at this moment. "I'm going to go talk to Professor McGonagall and get permission to Floo-Call mother and check on our father."

"Percy, could you tell your mother that I didn't know anything about this?" Harry said.

"Yeah, Harry, I will," Percy said, before glaring at Fred, George and Ron. "You were just an innocent bystander of their stupidity!"

Before the other Weasleys could say anything, Percy stalked off, heading out to Professor McGonagall's office, knowing that she ate lunch in her office on Fridays.

"If I were you," Hermione said, looking at Ron and the twins, "I'd pray that your father is going to be alright. That was a very, very stupid thing to do."

"We were mad at him," Ron said, as if that excused their actions. "People send howlers when they're mad."

"Not to their parents, Ron," Dylan said. "Not when there's a chance it could find them at work. I may not be as old as your father, but I can't say with certainty that I wouldn't have had the same reaction as he did to getting a howler from my sons and having it yell at me in front of several of my co-workers and my boss. I can't even begin to imagine how completely and utterly mortified he must have been. Ministry jobs are stressful enough without the added stress of being humiliated like that," as he added in his head, 'and that's not counting the stress of working for someone as utterly incompetent as Cornelius Fudge.'

"Why did it take this long for your mother to respond though?" William asked. "As upset as you three were, I'd have thought you'd have sent it over a week ago."

Carter shook his head and said, "They probably didn't know the spells involved in making a howler. They're not taught to third years, and definitely not first years."

"I think they're seventh year spells, aren't they?" Hunter asked.

"Yes," Dylan said, giving his son an appraising look. "And just how did you know that?"

"I wasn't thinking of sending anybody one, honest," Hunter defended. "Remember this summer Carter and I were helping Dad clean the attic?" Dylan nodded, as he remembered Thorne mentioning that he'd done some cleaning in the attic, and that the boys had helped him. "Well, I came across his old textbooks from when he was here. I may have been sorted into Slytherin, but there's still enough 'claw in me not to pass up the opportunity to look through the more advanced textbooks when they were right in front of me." After a moment of silence, he added, "And before you say anything, I only read them, I didn't try anything out of them."

"Well, at least not from seventh year," Carter said with a grin, knowing that his brother had in fact tried a few spells more advanced than first year.

"Carter!" Hunter exclaimed.

Grinning, Dylan just shook his head as he ruffled both of his sons' hair, prompting the normal pulling away and angry looks, as they didn't like anyone messing up their hair.

-o-0-o-

Later that day, all of the first years from Gryffindor and Slytherin gathered in the west courtyard for their first flying lesson with Madam Hooch. In years past, the flying lessons often consisted of all four houses taking them together, but with all the others the Governors had made, they'd also changed that policy. There were forty-two students in the first year class, after all, and it was believed that was way too many students for Madam Hooch to be attempting to teach all at once.

"Welcome to your first flying lesson," Hooch said, after blowing her whistle to get everyone's attention. "Now, I want everyone to step up to the right-hand side of their broomstick, hold their right hand over their broom, and say 'Up'."

At this point, William tentatively raised his hand to get Madam Hooch's attention. "Yes, Mr. Windsor?" she asked.

"I'm left-handed, should I still use my right hand?" William asked.

Thinking for a moment, as nobody had ever asked her that question in the years she'd been teaching flying lessons, she answered, "Try to get the broom to come up to your hand a few times with your right hand and if it doesn't work, then try the left."

Nodding, William did as Madam Hooch originally instructed, along with a couple of other people whom judging by the curious looks they'd given Madam Hooch upon hearing the prince's question were probably also left-handed. Harry's broom practically jumped into his hand as soon as he uttered, "up" for the first time, surprising him as he said, "Wow." Hunter's also went up on his first try, but then that's because both he and Carter had had a training broom back home since they were four.

This seemed to annoy Hermione a bit, as she'd already said it about half a dozen times and all she could get her broom to do was roll over. Draco got it up on his second try, while Ron had to try about three or four times before the broom handle swooped upwards and hit him in the face. William tried a couple of times using his right hand as Madam Hooch instructed, but couldn't get it to do much more than Hermione's broom was doing. Stepping over the broom and standing on the left-hand side, he held his left hand over the broom and said, "Up!" at which point, much like Harry's had, it flew up into his hand on the first try.

Noticing William's success using his left hand, Madam Hooch blew her whistle and said, "Anyone else here who is left-handed, stop trying with your right hands and use your left."

Even though she wrote with her right hand and held her wand in her right hand, Hermione had noticed that using his right hand William's broom had been doing the same as hers had been, so she decided to try with her left. Alas, it didn't work any better with her left hand, in fact, it seemed to work worse, as the broom wouldn't even finish a complete roll. Sighing in frustration, Hermione went back to trying it with her right hand, where she seemed to be getting better results, even if they weren't the results she wanted.

"Say it with more feeling," Madam Hooch prompted for those having trouble.

After another ten or so minutes, everyone finally had their brooms in their hands, with Hermione being one of the last to get it up, reinforcing her belief that broom flying was pointless. She hadn't much cared for the class from the moment she found out that it was an entirely practical class with no textbook or theory involved. She had not been the last to get her broom up, however, as that dubious honor had gone to Slytherin Theodore Nott. 'So much for purebloods being better at magic,' several of the Muggleborns couldn't help but think.

"Alright, now I want all of you to mount your brooms," Hooch instructed and waited a moment for everyone to do it, before she said, "now, on my whistle, I want all of you to kick up from the ground, hover for a moment, then lean forward, and touch back down. On my whistle, three, two..." and instead of saying one, she blew her whistle.

Several students did exactly as she said, except Neville who had obviously lost control of his broom, because he'd almost immediately gone higher than Madam Hooch would have liked.

"Mr. Longbottom!" she exclaimed. "Mr. Longbottom, bring that broom down this instant. Mr. Longbottom!"

Neville was obviously trying to come down, but the broom wasn't cooperating and he suddenly shot forward faster than a rampaging hippogriff. Doing several loops through the air as he clung desperately to his broom, it quickly become obvious to anyone watching that the broom, not Neville, was in charge. It had been known to happen occasionally, especially if the rider was scared, but it had been a few years now since Madam Hooch had seen it. Pulling out her wand, she prepared to cast a spell to stop Neville and the rogue broom, but before she could, she and almost the entire class had to drive out of the way to avoid getting hit as Neville and the broom came speeding towards them.

Soon afterwards, the broom turned away from the ground and spiraled upwards, climbing ten feet, thirty feet, and then fifty feet into the air and showed no signs of stopping its ascent. Madam Hooch was at her wit's end trying to figure out what to do because Neville was now too high up to be within casting distance, so, she couldn't cast a spell and she didn't have her broom with her. True, there were over two dozen training brooms nearby, but as they had all been made with children in mind, they were all too small for her to use to go after Neville.

All of the students were watching, some with horror, others with amusement as they stared upwards after Neville, shielding their eyes with their hands.

"Can't you do something, Dylan?" William asked, as he turned to his bodyguard. Technically, it was supposed to be Thorne accompanying them to classes today, as Dylan had done so yesterday, but Thorne hadn't been feeling well that morning, so Dylan told him to stay in bed and rest.

"I'm afraid not," Dylan answered. "He's too high to be within casting range."

"What about flying up to him?" Dean asked.

"Well, I'm certainly not sending one of you up there after him and these training brooms are too small for Teryn Wells or me," Madam Hooch replied. "And I sent my broom in for maintenance so that it'd be ready for the Quidditch trials tomorrow. I'm going down to the owl post office in Hogsmeade to pick it up first thing tomorrow morning."

"Thorne and I didn't bring our brooms," Dylan said. "I could summon mine, but it's back at Wells Manor, which is in Taleford, so I highly doubt it would get here fast enough to be of any use." Pausing for a moment, Dylan added, "That's near Cornwall," more for the benefit of William, but also the other muggleborns who wouldn't necessarily know where the Duchy of Taleford was, since even though it was his muggle title, it probably wasn't all that well known. Dylan figured that William, at least, would know where the Duchy of Cornwall was though, considering that his father, Prince Charles, was the Duke of Cornwall.

"Why didn't you bring your broom?" William asked.

"Because my job is to protect you, William, not go flying," Dylan answered. "Since first years aren't allowed to have their own brooms and the only broom you'd have access to were these training brooms which usually can't go any higher than five feet off the ground, I didn't think I'd need it."

"If these brooms can't go more than five feet high," Hermione said as everyone watched Neville fly around the top of Gryffindor Tower, "then why is Neville over seventy feet high right now?"

"Sometimes, if a young witch or wizard is too scared," Madam Hooch explained, "their fear is enough to tap into their innate magic and override the enchantment on the training broom. It doesn't happen often, but depending on the age of the broom and hence the age of the enchantment, it can happen."

Shortly after Neville rounded the top of Gryffindor Tower a second time, the broom spun around in a circle and Neville lost his grip.

"He's falling!" several people shouted all at once.

Both Madam Hooch and Dylan had their wands at the ready for when he came into casting range, which at the speed he was falling wouldn't be long. Moments later, both Madam Hooch and Dylan cast, "Arresto Momentum!" on Neville. Madam Hooch's spell missed by inches, but Dylan's didn't, successfully slowing Neville's descent - although even slower, he was still likely to be injured since he was falling from over seventy feet in the air.

When Neville finally landed it was with a loud thud on the grass nearby, as several students and the two adults rushed forward. Examining Neville, Madam Hooch said, "Oh dear, he broke his leg."

"Well, a broken leg is better than a broken neck," someone amongst the crowd of students said.

"True," Madam Hooch said, as she levitated Neville for the trip to the hospital wing. "Now, I want everyone to keep their feet firmly on the ground while I take Mr. Longbottom to the Hospital Wing. If I see a single broom in the air, the one riding it will be out of Hogwarts before they can say 'Quidditch'," she warned, before looking at Dylan and asking, "Teryn Wells, I know your job is to keep an eye on Mr. Windsor, but can you keep an eye on everyone else until I get back?"

Dylan nodded. "Certainly, Rolanda."

Madam Hooch nodded, before she walked off towards the castle, with Neville floating along after her, as Dylan looked around at everyone and said, "You heard your professor - no flying."

Several people nodded, as they walked short distances away and started talking, as they awaited Madam Hooch's return. Meanwhile, William asked Dylan, "Could you give me a few pointers on riding a broom while we're waiting?"

"As long as you keep your feet on the ground," Dylan answered, "I don't see any harm in it, I suppose."

William nodded, as Dylan led him a short distance away and began to give him some pointers. Unfortunately, this left Dylan with his back turned to most of the other students. A fact which Draco Malfoy decided to use to his advantage. He was still rather upset about getting humiliated by his mother's howler at breakfast, so he wanted to do something to make himself feel better. Something like proving to all of the other first years that he was better than they were. Yes, that would definitely make him feel better.

Spying the small glass ball otherwise known as a Remembrall on the grass near where Neville had fallen, Draco smirked and picked it up. Holding it up, he said, "Look what that idiot dropped? Perhaps if he'd given this a squeeze, he'd have remembered to fall on his fat arse."

Several of the Slytherins laughed as Harry walked over and said angrily, "Give it back, Malfoy."

"I think I'll leave it somewhere for Longbottom to find," Draco said, as he grabbed his broom and was soon flying up. "How about up a tree?" Draco had obviously overrode the charm on the broom somehow, as he was about twenty feet in the air within seconds, flying towards a tall oak tree that grew up in the center of the courtyard.

Readying his broom, Harry prepared to go up after him, as Hermione said, "Harry, you heard what Madam Hooch said," in a disapproving tone that Harry chose to ignore as he concentrated on wanting to follow Malfoy and shot upward on his broom. Apparently, if the broom was old enough and it seemed many of the Hogwarts training brooms were old enough if the twigs falling out of them were any indication, it was very easy to override the charm that was supposed to keep the broom from going any higher than five feet.

Looking around for Dylan, Hermione cried out, "Teryn Wells!"

Dylan turned towards the voice calling for him and immediately saw Harry take off after Draco Malfoy. He was about to shout out for the two of them to come down this instant, when Draco threw the Remembrall and Harry sped off after it. Watching Harry on a broom instantly brought back memories from his own school days and watching James Potter on a broom. James had been one of the best flyers in Dylan's year and a real asset to the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Dylan had been a good beater, but he had stopped trying to stop James with a bludger after awhile because the Gryffindor was simply too fast to ever be in the same place by the time the bludger got to where Dylan had hit it to. Thorne had also been a good flyer and chaser, but had never quite been a match for James - which is probably why Ravenclaw never managed to win a game against Gryffindor while James Potter was on the team - nor did any of the other houses, for that matter.

Shaking his head quickly to put a stop to his woolgathering, Dylan turned his eyes skyward just in time to see Harry pull off an impressive dive and turn movement that would have made his father proud, as he deftly caught the small glass ball and began his descent. Many of the Gryffindors, and a couple of the Slytherins, were cheering as he landed and Harry held the small ball up triumphantly in his fist.

Moments later, however, Professor McGonagall appeared and called out, "Harry Potter!" and all cheers died, as the crowds parted to reveal Harry to McGonagall.

Looking around and not seeing Madam Hooch, McGonagall turned to look at Dylan and asked, "Where is Madam Hooch?"

"She took Neville Longbottom to the Hospital Wing," Dylan answered. "He had a mishap with his broom and broke his leg."

"And why weren't you watching this lot and making sure none of them tried to fly?" she asked.

"I apologize for that, Minerva," Dylan said. "I was giving William a few pointers and not paying adequate attention to everyone else."

"I see," McGonagall said, but she didn't sound overly angry. "Mr. Potter, come with me."

-o-0-o-

Later that evening, once William and the other first-years had gone up to their dormitory for the evening, Dylan sat on the sofa in front of the fireplace in the common room of the private quarters that Dumbledore had arranged for Dylan and Thorne. True to McGonagall's statement, the room had been decorated mostly in earth tones, with various shades of blue as accent colors. Entering the room through the door from the Gryffindor common room, there was their own private common room, along with a small kitchen and dining area with enough room to seat about nine or ten people comfortably.

Through another door was Dylan and Thorne's bedroom, which was a fairly spacious room all things considered, with a king-size bed, two wardrobes, and a pair of armchairs in front of a second fireplace. Attached to the bedroom, they also had their own bathroom, which was a smaller scale version of the prefect's bathroom, something which both Dylan and Thorne couldn't help but grin at when they first saw it, because the first time they were together as a couple had been in the prefect's bathroom in Dylan's seventh and Thorne's fifth year. So, this new bathroom certainly brought back lots of very good memories that Dylan and Thorne had already enjoyed reliving a couple of times in the two weeks since the start of the school year.

Now, however, Dylan was relaxing on the sofa, with his feet up on a nearby ottoman, nursing his nightly glass of firewhisky. He never drank more than one glass, but he always had a glass before calling it a night in order to unwind a bit from the stresses of the day. The sofa shifted slightly as Thorne joined Dylan, lying down so that his head was resting in Dylan's lap, his own glass of firewhisky resting on a nearby end table. Thorne smiled as Dylan began to run a hand through his hair as he'd always found Dylan's touch to be very soothing and relaxing.

"Feeling better?" Dylan asked.

"Yes, I'm feeling much better," Thorne said. "I heard about what happened during the flying lessons today."

Dylan grimaced slightly. "I imagined you would."

"I know our job is to guard William," Thorne said. "But, you did agree to watch the others for Madam Hooch. And you really didn't do a very good job of it, Lan," using the shortened version of Dylan's name that he'd long used as a pet name.

"I know, I know," Dylan said. "I got caught up on giving William pointers. You know sometimes I really miss flying."

"Yeah, I know, we don't have much chance to do it very often, do we?" Thorne asked, as he decided to ignore the change of subject for now, as he wasn't really in the mood to be angry right now. "Are the rumors true? Did Harry really catch Neville's Remembrall after a twenty foot dive?"

"Yeah, he did," Dylan confirmed. "I know James was a chaser, not a seeker, but I swear watching Harry on that broom today - it was like James all over again."

"It's a shame that only Harry got in trouble," Thorne said. "Draco should have gotten in trouble too."

"Well, you see that's the thing," Dylan said. "I talked with Minerva later on and Harry wasn't in trouble."

"He wasn't?" Thorne asked.

"No, he wasn't," Dylan answered. "She took him up to the third floor, pulled the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Oliver Wood, out of Charms class and basically told him that she'd found him a new seeker. The position was vacant since Charlie Weasley finished school in June."

"But first years aren't allowed to join the house teams," Thorne said.

"I know, but apparently Minerva is going to pull some strings with Albus," Dylan said. "And there will once again be a Potter on the Gryffindor team."

"Huh. Well, if he's half as good at seeking as his father was at chasing, then the other teams had better get used to losing."

"Yeah, it'll be nice if they manage to take the cup this year," Dylan said. "I know our son is a Slytherin now, but the snakes have won for seven years in a row. I think another house is due to win it."

"I agree, but let's not tell Hunter that," Thorne said, as they both laughed.

Sitting quietly for a few minutes, Dylan finished his drink and then smiled down at Thorne, who shook his head and grinned. "I know that look."

"Oh you do, do you?"

"After fourteen years - twelve of which we've been married?" Thorne asked in response. "Yeah, I think I know your 'let's go shag' look by now."

Dylan grinned. "Oh is that the look I was giving you?"

"Yes, Lan, it was."

"Well, are you up to it? I know you weren't feeling so hot this morning, so, if you're not up to it, that's okay."

Taking Dylan's hand and bringing it to his lips to kiss it, Thorne then guided it down to his crotch and the obvious bulge that could be found there, as he asked, "Does that answer your question?"

"Yeah, I think that definitely answers it," Dylan said as he pulled Thorne up and kissed him on the lips, before taking him in his arms, standing, and carrying him into their bedroom.

-o-0-o-

Around 12:45 the next afternoon, the Gryffindor Quidditch team made their way towards the pitch for the Quidditch trials. They needed a seeker and there were several positions open on the reserve team. Harry had never even thought about the idea of trying out for the Quidditch team, but there he was. Professor McGonagall had cleared everything with Professor Dumbledore for him to be on the team and despite coming to the trials, it seemed his addition to the team as the new seeker was pretty much a fait accompli. After Professor McGonagall told him about the Remembrall incident the previous day, Oliver Wood pretty much agreed, but said it was only fair that Harry come to the trials and tryout like everyone else.

McGonagall agreed that would only be fair, although she expressed her belief that there was no possible way that the trials would produce anyone for seeker that was as good as Harry. That statement, said right in front of him, had made Harry blush because he couldn't believe that he was that good. Of course, since he hadn't grown up in the Wizarding world and they hadn't covered Quidditch in Intro to the Wizarding World yet, he'd spent half the conversation trying to figure out just what his professor and Oliver were talking about. Once he finally figured out that they were talking about a sport, he spent the next several minutes in shock that they thought he was good enough to play something he'd never heard of or seen before.

Since then, however, he'd gotten all the information he could out of Ron, Cormac, and Seamus about the game and now found himself excited at the prospect of trying out.

"What are they still doing here?" Oliver asked, as they arrived at the pitch to find the Hufflepuff team still holding their trials.

Katie Bell rolled her eyes. "Relax, Ollie. We're early. The Hufflepuffs' trials were scheduled between noon and one and it's only quarter to one. They have every right to still be here."

"Yeah, besides, they have to find two new chasers and a seeker since the team members who decided to try to blow off breakfast a couple weeks ago have been banned from playing," Angelina Johnson said. "Not to mention the openings on their reserve team."

"I think I heard they need new people for almost every position on the reserve team," Alicia Spinet added. "Three of them were seventh years who left last June, two decided to resign to focus more on their OWLs, and I think I heard their reserve keeper is in St. Mungo's."

"He's my cousin, actually," Lee Jordan spoke up. He wasn't trying out for the team, but he went to all the trials and practices to support his best friends, Fred and George. "Contracted dragon pox in the middle of August while on vacation with his family in Romania."

"Wow, even once he isn't contagious anymore," Katie said, "it'll probably be a month or more before he's recovered enough to even come back to Hogwarts."

"Yeah, the dragon pox does take a lot out of you," Ron said. He too wasn't trying out for the team, but had come along to support Harry. "My brother Charlie works in Romania now. He's never had it, but he's seen people who have."

"The dragon pox?" William whispered to Thorne who was accompanying him today.

"Kind of like the Wizarding version of the chicken pox," Thorne whispered back. "Only much more serious, not to mention deadlier. There was a cure developed in the late 1500's, but patients don't always live long enough for it to work. Of course, the downside is that if you do manage to live through them, your skin can sometimes remain green and pockmarked for the rest of your life. So, extremely vain people would probably prefer to die, as odd as that probably sounds."

"Remind me never to get dragon pox, then," William said, as he shuddered. "That'd be extremely hard to explain in the Muggle world. Like, 'Oh yeah my skin turned green after a bout with the dragon pox.' Everyone would think I was insane."

"Well, at least the Muggles would," Thorne said. "Anyone with knowledge of magic would probably just feel sorry for you."

A few minutes later, the new captain of the Hufflepuff team, a fifth-year boy named Jasper Tennant who played chaser, landed and had a brief consultation with his remaining team members before he proceeded to announce who the positions on the reserve team had been given to before naming the new members for the main team.

"Cedric," Jasper said, looking at third-year Cedric Diggory, "you're our new seeker."

Cedric smiled. "Thanks. I'll do my best not to let you or the team down."

Jasper smiled and nodded. "That's all we can ask for," before he turned to his younger brother, third-year Jeremy Tennant, and said, "Congrats Remy, you played really well, so you get to be one of our new chasers."

Jeremy was all smiles as he thanked his brother, before Jasper turned towards the remaining two people waiting to hear their fate. All three reserve chaser positions had been filled now, but there had been six hopefuls as chasers and only one position was left. "Marcus," Jasper said, turning to fourth-year Marcus Isaacs, "You were very good, but, I'm afraid the final chaser position goes to," turning to a black-haired third-year boy, "Ryan Black."

At the mention of that name, Neville, whose broken leg had been expertly mended by Madam Pomfrey in less than a minute of his being brought into the hospital wing the previous day, stiffened before turning and running back towards the castle, ignoring the concerned voices of William and a couple of others.

Once Neville was out of sight, William turned to Thorne and asked, "What was wrong with Neville?"

Thorne sighed. "Ryan Black. His real name is Orion Cygnus Black, but everyone calls him Ryan. He's the illegitimate son of Bellatrix Black Lestrange - a Death Eater currently in Azkaban. She along with a few other Death Eaters tortured Neville's parents, Frank and Alice Longbottom, with the Cruciatus Curse until their minds basically snapped. They're in the spell damage ward at St. Mungo's to this day, unable to stand up, walk, talk, or do anything for themselves. They're conscious, but that's about it - they're basically shells of their former selves."

"That's terrible," William said.

"Yeah, it is," Thorne said. "From what I've heard though, Ryan is nothing like his mother. The fact that he was sorted into Hufflepuff is proof enough of that."

"What about his father?" Harry asked.

"Nobody knows who his father is," Cormac said. "All anyone knows is that Bella's husband, Rodolphus Lestrange, isn't his father, or at least that's what my father and Uncle Tiberius have said."

"That's correct, Cormac," Thorne said. "Bella was captured and sent to prison once before she escaped and tortured Neville's parents. So, her son was actually born in Azkaban. The current Teryn Black, Arcturus, petitioned to be his guardian, but he and his wife were in their late seventies when Ryan was born, so it was decided that they weren't suitable. Teryna Black passed a few years ago, leaving just Teryn Black and his house-elves, further reducing his chances of getting the decision on Ryan's guardianship changed. So, no, despite his best efforts, the Wizengamot opted to place him with Bella's sister, Andromeda. You can bet that old Arcturus was not happy about that, considering that Andromeda was disowned for marrying a Muggleborn."

"So, was Ryan disowned then, too?" William asked.

Before Thorne could answer, however, the person in question, who'd been on his way back towards the castle with his friends and heard William's question, answered, "No, I wasn't disowned. I think Teryn Black would have disowned me in a heartbeat if it wasn't for the fact that after he dies, there'll only be two living male members of the Black family that bear the name left. Myself and one other person."

Recalling a name that had been mentioned at the Gryffindor table on the morning that the governor's changes had been announced, Harry asked, "You mean Sirius?"

Ryan looked momentarily startled, before he nodded and said, "Yeah. Just one more of my family members who landed themselves in Azkaban. Anyway, Teryn Black didn't disown me since his daughter-in-law disowned Sirius years ago. He knows he's not going to live forever and that he needs an heir, so he made me his heir, even though he doesn't approve of me living with my aunt and uncle. Apparently though he hates the idea of the Black family being without a Lord more than he hates my aunt."

"How'd his daughter-in-law have the power to disown anyone?" William asked.

"Well, technically she didn't have the authority to do it," Thorne answered. "However, Arcturus didn't object to it because Walburga was a Black by birth, as well as marriage, and because he agreed with the decision."

"She married into her own family?" Harry asked.

"Yeah, that's pretty common among some of the old pureblood families," Thorne answered. "If you limit your potential mates to only purebloods and don't look beyond the borders of England then your choices are somewhat limited. In Walburga's case, she and her husband were second-cousins."

Before anyone else could say anything, Oliver said, "Okay, let's get a move on people. Hufflepuff is done with their tryouts so, let's go!"

"It was nice meeting you," William said with a smile to Ryan.

"We didn't really do it properly though," Ryan said with a smile of his own, before he extended his hand towards William and said, "Hi, my name's Orion Black, but everyone calls me Ryan."

Taking Ryan's hand and shaking it, William said, "William Windsor, but you can call me Wills."

"It's nice to meet you," Ryan said and grinning he added, "Your Highness."

William groaned, as Harry, Cormac and a few of the other Gryffindor boys laughed. It was Harry who spoke up and said, "You'll have to excuse Wills here. He doesn't like the whole royalty thing. Always says that he doesn't want to be king."

"Well, I suppose I can understand that," Ryan said. "I'm sure being the king would be a lot of pressure." Motioning towards Cedric and Jeremy, he added, "Anyway, these are my roommates, Cedric Diggory and Jeremy Tennant."

Cedric and Jeremy both smiled and waved, as William said, "And these are mine. Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Dean Thomas, and Seamus Finnegan. Neville Longbottom was here, too, but he left." Almost as an afterthought, he added, "Oh and this is Cormac McLaggen, he's a year ahead of us."

Ryan nodded. "Nice to meet all of you. As for Neville, I understand why he did. What my mother did to his parents was horrible."

"Yeah, it was," Cedric said, as he squeezed Ryan's shoulder. "But not your fault, mate."

"Ric's right, Ry," Jeremy added. "You were only three when she did it."

"I know it's not my fault," Ryan said. "I'm just saying that I can understand why Neville wouldn't want anything to do with me."

"Yo, Harry, stop consorting with the enemy and get over here!" Oliver yelled from about twenty feet away.

"I'd better go," Harry said, nodding to the three older Hufflepuffs, before running off.

"He's trying out?" Cedric asked, as he watched Harry run off.

"Yeah," Seamus answered. "I don't know if you heard about what happened in our flying class..."

"Oh we heard," Jeremy interrupted. "The whole school is talking about it."

"Well, Professor McGonagall pulled some strings with the Headmaster," William said. "Got Harry permission to try out, even though he's only a first year."

"From what I've heard," Dean said, "his trying out isn't even necessary. He's already got the spot, but they're making him try out just to be fair."

"We'll go and let you guys watch the tryouts," Ryan said, before grinning and adding, "Hopefully you guys get a good team put together, because I think we've got a good one this year and we're going to do our best to beat you."

"While I'd prefer that Gryffindor wins," Cormac said, "I'd be happy if Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw wins too, if only because that would mean that Slytherin finally lost. After seven years in a row it's about bloody time."

"You won't get any arguments here," Cedric said. "Anyway, later guys."

"Later," William said, as he and his fellow Gryffindors who'd come to watch the trials headed into the stands to watch.

Half-an-hour later, Oliver called an end to the trials and it surprised nobody that Harry was the new seeker. Two others had tried out for the position, but Harry was far and away the best of the three hopefuls. One of them, a fourth-year, looked like he'd never played Quidditch before in his life and many wondered why he'd even bothered trying out in the first place. He obviously didn't make the team, but the other student, a sixth-year girl, was given the reserve seeker position. Most of the other positions on the team were already filled, but that didn't stop a few people from trying out anyway.

Cormac hadn't intended to try out, but Seamus and William convinced him to when sitting in the stands, he mentioned that he played keeper. Obviously that position was already filled by Oliver Wood, but William and Seamus told their older housemate that it didn't hurt to try out anyway. Oliver was impressed with Cormac's skill, as was the fifth-year girl who'd held the reserve keeper position for the last two years. In fact, she was impressed enough that she voluntarily stepped aside so that Cormac could take the position. She said she'd been thinking of stepping aside any way to concentrate on her OWL exams, but knowing that there'd be a strong and competent player taking her place on the reserve team made the decision much easier.

Leaving the pitch, Fred and George suggested that they all head upstairs to the common room and celebrate, because they were of the mind that they now had one of the best teams they'd had in years. While some knew that celebrating before they'd actually won a game was perhaps a little premature, none of them were about to turn down the chance to relax and have some fun.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Five:
A Duel, a Dog, and Detention

-o-0-o-

Arriving in the Great Hall for breakfast on Thursday, September 20th, Harry Potter and William Windsor took their normal seats at the Gryffindor table. It was only 6:20AM, so the tables were empty at the moment, as the food wouldn't appear until 6:30. Over the last week or so, however, Harry and William had gotten into the habit of rising early, neither of them sleeping past six in the morning. Neither of them had intended to start getting up that early, but it's still what happened. Thanks to the Restful Sleep Charms that had been cast on all the students' beds, however, they did not feel sleep deprived. On the contrary, they were both actually sleeping much better now than they could remember sleeping at any other point in their lives.

Over the weekend, William accompanied Harry, Hermione, and Ron to Hagrid's hut for tea. Harry really liked Hagrid, as he'd been the one to save Harry from the Dursleys. William didn't know all the details, but he knew enough to know that his new friend had not liked living with his relatives. Not that William could blame him, because from what he did know, they sounded horrible. What nagged and worried the prince, however, was the sneaking suspicion that Harry had only told him the bare minimum. William was, honestly, amazed by how quickly he'd come to think of Harry as one of his best friends. He liked Hermione, Ron, and the others that they hung out with on a daily basis, but there was just something about Harry that William couldn't explain.

Anyway, it was during their trip to Hagrid's that the four of them found out about the attempted break-in at Gringotts' Wizarding Bank. It was big news simply because one so rarely heard of anyone attempting to breach the bank's security and then do it so well that they managed to escape without being detected by the goblins. Of course, the goblins insisted that nothing had been stolen, because oddly enough, the vault that was broken into had been emptied earlier the same day. But, perhaps most significant, was the fact that Harry had been present when the vault was opened.

"So you have no idea what it was that Hagrid took from that vault?" William asked.

"None," Harry answered. "All I saw was him grabbing a small parcel about the size of a golf ball, wrapped up in cloth and twine. He tucked it into his coat and told me to forget I'd ever seen it."

"Which is stupid if you ask me," Cormac said, as he sat down across from his two friends. "If he wanted you to forget about it, he shouldn't have gotten it while you were there with him."

"True," William said. "It's probably not the best idea to visit a high-security vault to retrieve something you don't want people to know about in front of a witness."

Cormac nodded. "And of course it really doesn't help when that very same vault is broken into later that same day. That's bound to make the witness, in this case Harry, and anyone he's told, such as you and me, Wills, more than a little bit curious about the whole thing."

William nodded his head in agreement, before he asked, "They still haven't caught the would-be thief, have they?"

Shaking his head, Cormac said, "No they haven't and that in itself is amazing that anyone could attempt a break-in at Gringotts and then manage to remain undetected. It must have been a very powerful wizard to pull that off."

"Or a sneaky, slimy Slytherin," Ron said, as he arrived at the table and sat down. While he'd been slow to wake up at first and still made it clear he didn't like being awake this early, he was nonetheless awake. All it had taken was a couple of times where he overslept and missed breakfast for him to readjust his internal clock to make sure he got up in time. If there was one thing that Ron Weasley hated more than schoolwork or Slytherins it was, without a doubt, missing meals.

"Oi, Ron, lay off will you? Not all Slytherins are bad," William said.

"I know you want to believe that because you’re friends with Hunter," Ron said, "but just give it time. They'll corrupt him and he'll be singing You-Know-Who's praises in no time. He's a Slytherin and all Slytherins are sneaky, slimy, no good, junior Death Eaters."

Before anyone could say anything, however, Ron was yanked roughly out of his seat by Carter and Hunter, who turned him around and pushed him up against the table hard enough to rattle the silverware and empty plates, in addition to making some of the goblets tip over. Both of them were clearly angry if the looks on their faces were anything to go by.

"Listen here, you little shit," Carter started.

"Our grandparents were murdered," Hunter continued.

"By Death Eaters, so if you think," this was from Carter.

"That I'll ever become one of them," Hunter took over.

"You're the dumbest person to ever walk the face of the Earth," they finished in perfect unison. Carter and Hunter didn't do the whole twin speak thing very often. In fact, they almost never did it, unless they were both pissed off with someone and wanted to drive home the point that if you messed with one of them, you were messing with both of them.

"You really stuck your foot in it this time, Ron," Cormac said.

Before Ron or anyone else could say anything, however, the stern voice of Professor McGonagall asked, "Messrs. Wells and Weasley, what is going on here?" She hadn't heard what anyone had said, but she'd walked into the Great Hall to see Ron backed against the Gryffindor table with the Wells twins looking at him murderously. Not to mention the fact that they were each tightly grasping one of Ron's arms in one hand, while their other hands were balled into fists and held the front of Ron's robes. They let go and dropped their hands to their sides at the sound of McGonagall's voice, however, they continued to give Ron the twin looks of what could only be described as extreme anger.

"Professor, Ron is constantly saying bad things about Slytherins," Carter explained. "For example, he just said that all Slytherins are sneaky, slimy, no good junior Death Eaters and it's only a matter of time before Hunter becomes one since he was sorted into Slytherin."

"Grandma and Grandpa Wells were murdered by Death Eaters," Hunter added. "So, obviously Carter and I did not like the implication I'd ever support them or that I'm going to join them some day."

"Carter and Hunter are telling the truth, Ma'am," William added, as both Cormac and Harry nodded in agreement. This caused Ron to shoot them all a look that clearly said he felt betrayed that his Gryffindor housemates would side with non-Gryffindors against him.

"Is this true, Mr. Weasley?" McGonagall asked.

Knowing he couldn't lie at this point, not when it was his word against that of five other people, including that of Harry Potter and the future King, Ron nodded. "Yes, Professor, it's true."

"I see," McGonagall said. "Two points each from Ravenclaw and Slytherin House. There are better ways to handle things than with violence, Messrs. Wells." Carter and Hunter nodded and looked down at their feet as Ron looked happy because his Head of House was punishing the non-Gryffindors. His happiness didn't last long, however, as McGonagall wasn't finished. "As for you, Mr. Weasley, 10 points from Gryffindor for not treating your classmates with the respect they deserve. You will also serve four nights of detention, one with each Head of House. I expect you to be respectful of all of your classmates from now on, Mr. Weasley, and that includes the Slytherins. Do I make myself clear?"

Ron looked like he wanted to say something for a moment, something which knowing him would undoubtedly get him into more trouble, but he apparently managed to reign in that desire at the last minute. Nodding his head, he said, "Yes, Professor."

'Probably doesn't want to get into any more trouble than he's already in,' William thought. He, of course, had no way of knowing that both Harry and Cormac were thinking along similar lines.

As food blossomed onto the serving platters lining the table, McGonagall said, "Now I suggest you all eat breakfast and do try to get along." Over her shoulder, as she walked away, she added, "And I will be watching."

Not wanting to sit next to Ron, Carter and Hunter circled the table and sat down on either side of Harry and William. In years past, it might have raised some eyebrows for a Slytherin and a Ravenclaw to sit down at the Gryffindor table to eat breakfast. However, with the new policy at Hogwarts of allowing students to sit at any of the house tables they wanted to, with the exception of the special events like the Halloween Feast next month, it didn't cause as much of a stir as it might have in the past.

Not everyone was taking advantage of this new policy, of course. Almost all of Slytherin House, with a few notable exceptions like Hunter, continued to sit exclusively at the Slytherin table. As the days went on, however, more and more people were sitting at other tables, and in doing so, beginning to forge more friendships then they'd had in the past. Like with the governor's changes to the scheduling, however, there were some people who were very vocal about not liking the decision. Ron being one of them since he didn't like the idea of possibly having to socialize with Slytherins while he was trying to eat. Thus it really surprised nobody when Ron moved further down the table and away from Harry, William, and the others.

Since the redhead was now sitting far enough away to be out of hearing range, William asked, "Do you think he'll ever lighten up?"

"Wills, he's still complaining about the governor's changes," Cormac pointed out, as he scooped scrambled eggs onto his plate. "So, I don't see him accepting the idea of non-Gryffindors sitting with us during meals anytime soon."

"He hasn't complained about them as often since his father's heart attack and the howler from his Mum," Harry said, as he grabbed some toast and filled his goblet with pumpkin juice. "Although he still brings it up."

"Well, it's an improvement, at least," William said.

"I'm going to have to agree with Cormac," Hunter said. "I don't see Ron accepting Carter and me sitting with you guys anytime soon. He probably wouldn't care much if it was just Carter though. After all, Carter isn't a slimy, Slytherin bastard."

"Neither are you, Hunt," Carter defended his twin. "Yes, you're a Slytherin. But you're not slimy and you're most definitely not a bastard." Then with a grin, he added, "Besides if you were a bastard, then I'd have to be one too, what with us being identical twins and all."

Hunter grinned. "Thanks Carter. You always know how to cheer me up."

Carter nodded. "Of course I do. I'm your older brother, it's my job."

Hunter groaned at this. "As you just pointed out, Carter, we're twins. We were conceived at the exact same time, even if you were born ten minutes earlier."

"Yeah, ten minutes and you'll forever be trying to catch up," Carter said, a lopsided grin plastered on his face. "Not that you ever will."

Shaking his head, Hunter said, "I'm not trying to catch up with you, Carter. Why in Merlin's name would I want to do that? So I can be the heir?" Shaking his head even more vigorously, he added, "No, thank you, I'm perfectly content as the spare, thank you very much."

Harry, William, and Cormac laughed at the byplay between the twins. It was fun to watch sometimes because it highlighted the fact that no matter how identical they looked and even sometimes acted, their personalities were not identical. At this point, the five of them settled into a companionable silence as they quietly ate their breakfasts. Neville and Seamus joined them a few minutes later, sitting down on either side of Cormac. Good mornings were exchanged, before Neville and Seamus began filling their plates.

A minute later, someone cleared their throat and William looked up to see Cedric Diggory standing there, along with his roommates, Jeremy Tennant and Ryan Black. With a friendly smile on his face, Cedric asked, "Mind if we join you, guys?"

The first year Gryffindors and Cormac couldn't help but cast a somewhat worried look in Neville's direction, as he'd visibly stiffened when he realized just who was with Cedric. This was noticed by the older Hufflepuffs, of course, and Ryan sighed. Sitting down next to Neville with his back to the table, Ryan said, "Look, Neville, I know you're uncomfortable around me and I don't blame you. There are no words to describe how horrible what my mother did to your parents is. If I could change it, I would in a heartbeat, but I can't. All I can do is hope that you're willing to give me a chance to prove that I'm nothing like my mother."

When Neville didn't say anything, Ryan added, "Honestly, I don't even think of Bellatrix as my mother. I know she is biologically, but she had nothing to do with raising me. Her sister Andromeda is, in every way that counts, my mother. I really don't even have any memories of Bellatrix, but from everything I've heard, none of it good, I can say that Andromeda is nothing like her sister."

Jeremy nodded and said, "He's right, Neville. I've never actually met Bellatrix or Andromeda, but from what I've heard I can say they couldn't be more different. And Andromeda was disowned for marrying a Muggleborn, which you have to know Bellatrix would never do."

Neville nodded his head, but didn't say anything. He was still sitting rather stiffly, but he had relaxed just a little bit.

"Andromeda also has a daughter," Cedric added. "She's technically Ryan's cousin, but they're more like brother and sister, really. She's really a very nice person, if a bit clumsy."

Ryan nodded. "Yeah, Tonks is great."

"They named her Tonks?" William asked. "Forgive me, but that's kind of a strange name."

Jeremy laughed. "Well, it's not her first name, Your Highness, it's her surname. Her first name is Nymphadora, but she hates it with a passion and thus prefers to be called Tonks."

Nodding in understanding, William said, "Ah, I see. And I told you to drop the 'Your Highness' thing at the Quidditch trials."

Cedric grinned and said, "Actually, no you didn't. You said that we could call you Wills and then you groaned when Ryan called you 'Your Highness'. But you never specifically said not to call you that."

Cormac nodded, a grin on his face, as he said, "He's right, Wills."

William sighed. "Fine, then. Please drop the 'Your Highness.' It's Wills."

"Okay, Wills," Jeremy said with a grin as he sat down next to Seamus and Cedric circled around the table and took a seat next to Hunter.

Ryan, however, remained seated with his back to the table and asked, "Do you mind if I sit here, Neville? I don't want to make you uncomfortable, so I will leave if you want me to. Just say the word and I'm gone."

The offer broke whatever resistance remained in Neville and he finally relaxed the rest of the way. Turning his head and giving Ryan a tentative smile, he said, "You can stay."

"Thanks," Ryan said, returning the smile, before turning around on the bench to face the table and beginning to fill his plate.

Everyone in their little group was quiet for a few minutes, the only sound being that of chewing and the other normal sounds that accompany a group of people eating, before finally Cedric opted to break the silence by asking, "So, is everyone enjoying their classes?"

"Some of them," Harry answered. "Others not so much."

"Which ones do you like?" Cedric asked.

"Charms and Transfiguration are cool," Harry replied. "And I think I'd like Defense Against the Dark Arts if I could understand what Quirrell was saying half the time."

Ryan nodded and said, "Yeah, I can see how that might be a problem. His stuttering does make it a challenge to understand him at times."

"That was a common complaint I heard last year," Jeremy said, after taking a sip of his pumpkin juice. "Of course, he taught Muggle Studies then. I have no idea why Professor Dumbledore opted to make him the Defense Against the Dark Arts department head." After a moment, he looked at Cedric and asked, "It was Dumbledore's decision, right?"

Cedric nodded. "Yes, it was the Headmaster's decision. He'd already decided to put Quirrell in that position when my father and the other governors brought their changes to him. They opted to keep Quirrell in the position and then brought in Professors Jigger and Weasley to cover the other years." Pausing as he put a forkful of eggs in his mouth, he chewed and then added, "I imagine if he wasn't also teaching Potions, the governors would have made Professor Jigger the department head instead of Quirrell - he did write the textbook commonly used in third year and up, after all."

"It's probably for the best though," Ryan said. "Well, at least for those of us who don't have him as a professor." He gave the first years a sympathetic look at this, before adding, "I would have had him this year if he hadn't switched subjects, since I'm taking Muggle Studies. Instead I have Professor Warren, who thankfully doesn't have a speech impediment impairing my ability to understand what he's saying."

"I'm also enjoying the new class, 'Into to the Wizarding World'," Harry said after he finished chewing a piece of toast and washing it down with pumpkin juice. "Professor Davies hasn't covered much yet, so far just an overview of what he'll be covering this year, but it sounds like it'll be interesting."

Cormac nodded. "Yeah, I've heard some of the older muggleborns and muggle-raised in Gryffindor tower wishing they had the class so that they could learn about the wizarding world as well."

"It's the same in Hufflepuff," Cedric commented. "The class is a good idea, although, they should do something for the students who aren't first years anymore."

"Maybe the governors assumed that the older students would have picked up everything the class teaches by now," William said.

"It's possible," Cormac said. "Although I doubt it. Not all of them do, but there are purebloods who would find it insulting for a muggleborn or muggle-raised student to ask them questions about wizarding customs."

"Why?" Harry asked.

"Because they come from fanatical pureblood families, probably," Jeremy said. "Those who think that magic should be kept within all magic families. Believing that, they'd obviously be adverse to explaining wizarding customs and traditions to people who don't come from such families."

Carter revealed at this point that he'd also heard some of the older Ravenclaws expressing an interest in the 'Intro' class, although to a slightly lesser degree, since by their very nature Ravenclaws were a studious bunch. This had led the muggleborns and muggle-raised to research many of the customs and traditions of the wizarding world. Of course, reading about them in a book didn't give them the opportunity to ask any questions that they might have. And house of learning or not, it wasn't exempt from the politics involved in pureblood/wizarding-raised vs. muggleborn/muggle-raised, so there was hesitance from the latter group to ask the former questions on the subject.

As for Slytherin House, Hunter said that he hadn't heard much chatter at all on the topic, but that was because of all the Houses, Slytherin had the most purebloods and many of them came from the fanatical families. So, the few muggleborns and muggle-raised students in the house quickly learned to keep their heads down and not open their mouths about any questions they might have. "Essentially, they do their best to keep quiet and not talk about the fact that they're muggleborn or muggle-raised," Hunter said. "The people from old pureblood families know they are, obviously, since many of them have surnames that aren't a recognizable pureblood name, but if they stay quiet and don't bother the purebloods, they're left alone for the most part."

"Well, Professor Davies doesn't teach that many classes a week, does he?" Neville asked.

Before anyone at the table could answer that, Professor Davies himself, who heard the question on his way up to the staff table, stopped and said, "I'm sorry what's your name?"

"Neville Longbottom," Neville answered in a shy tone.

"Ah, well, nice to meet you, Mr. Longbottom," Alex said. He was wearing black this morning and his hair was in Slytherin colors - green with silver tips. He certainly knew how to draw attention, as there were several people whispering and pointing in his direction from the moment he entered the hall. Up at the head table, Professor McGonagall was looking at him with a displeased look on her face, probably thinking it wasn't appropriate for a professor to walk around with green hair. "Anyway, to answer your question, I teach the two 'Intro' classes a week for the first years, plus the new 'Wizarding Careers' class for the second years, which means four more classes since the pureblood and wizarding-raised aren't exempt from that class and thus I have two classes each with Gryffindor/Hufflepuff and Slytherin/Ravenclaw."

"That must leave you with a lot of free time, Professor," Cedric said. "I don't recall seeing your name listed anywhere on the tutoring schedule."

Alex nodded. "Indeed, I do have lots of free time and no my name is not currently on the tutoring schedule because it was drawn up before I arrived. I teach six classes in all and they all only meet on Thursday and Friday afternoons, so, that leaves me with nothing to do Monday through Wednesday and most of the day on Thursday and Friday. I've been talking with the Headmaster though about possibly getting my name added to the tutoring schedule, as I am qualified in a few of the core subjects, notably Charms, Transfiguration, and Potions."

"Well, a suggestion you might want to take to the Headmaster," Wills said, "is that you come up with some kind of tutoring schedule for 'Intro'. Only not for the first years, since they have the class."

Harry nodded and said, "Yeah, there's been plenty of talk in Gryffindor tower from the older muggleborns and muggle-raised that they wish they had the 'Intro' class." Motioning towards Cedric, he said, "Cedric says he's heard the same in Hufflepuff."

"And Carter and Hunter," William said, motioning towards the twins, "report that to a certain degree it's a similar situation in Ravenclaw and Slytherin."

Alex remained quiet for a moment, before nodding his head and saying, "Not a bad idea." Glancing up at the Head Table and catching the Headmaster's eye, he said, "In fact, I'll take it to him right now." With that said, Alex headed up to the head table and took a seat in the vacant seat to Dumbledore's right and they began talking about what he'd just learned at the Gryffindor table. He must have dropped a few names, because when Harry and William glanced that way, the Headmaster was beaming at them, and even McGonagall smiled at them, although matching her stern personality, it was a tighter smile and less jovial and open then the headmaster's.

Finishing their breakfasts as they chatted amongst themselves, the group was just getting up to leave the hall moments before the bell signaling the end of breakfast was due to ring when Alex came back over to them and said, "The Headmaster liked your idea and is going to see about getting tutoring in 'Intro' for the older students added to the schedule as soon as possible. So, 10 points each to Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff - not only for the good idea, but also for helping me combat my boredom."

"You're welcome, Professor," Cedric said with a smile. Harry and William grinned at each other, while Carter and Hunter high-fived each other. "And thanks."

Alex nodded, as he left the hall and headed upstairs, as Dumbledore asked him to come up to his office after breakfast to start hammering down details for the new tutoring sessions. Meanwhile, the group of friends parted company, with Harry, William, Neville, and Hunter headed upstairs for Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall and Carter made his way towards Professor's Quirrell's classroom for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Cormac, meanwhile, was headed out to the greenhouses for Herbology with Professor Goshawk, while Cedric, Ryan, and Jeremy were headed down to the dungeons for Potions with Professor Jigger.

-o-0-o-

Later that day, Harry and William were on their way into the castle from Herbology, heading to the Great Hall for lunch. Ron was still upset about his morning confrontation with the Wells twins, so he was giving Harry a wide berth since Hunter was walking with Harry and William. The redhead was definitely angry about that because he just didn't understand why Harry, and even William, were so blind to the truth. It didn't matter how nice Hunter may seem, because he was a Slytherin, which meant he was a slimy sneak. As far as Ron was concerned, the nice guy routine was just that - a routine. It was a show that Hunter was putting on in order to get whatever is was that he truly wanted. Ron didn't know for sure what that was, but he had a few ideas, ranging from Hunter simply wanting to steal Harry's friendship, all the way up to Hunter secretly plotting to turn Harry over to the Death Eaters.

As for Carter, who joined the group heading towards the Hall on his way upstairs from Potions with Snape, Ron didn't really have anything against him, per se. Well, except for the fact that he was so supportive of his brother. He got that they were twins and he knew from watching Fred and George over the years that twins usually were very close. But what Ron couldn't understand is why Carter was still so supportive of Hunter after he'd gotten himself landed in Slytherin. Carter was, after all, a Ravenclaw, so as far as Ron was concerned it really didn't bode well for Carter's intelligence to allow himself to be so blinded by brotherly loyalty that he couldn't see Hunter for what he really was: a sneaky, slimy, no good junior Death Eater.

In short, it surprised nobody when Ron moved ahead of the rest of the group and into the hall without so much as a word.

"He's still mad, I see," Harry said. A part of him felt bad about that because Ron truly had been the first friend he'd ever really had. Although, he wasn't sure if the time they spent together on the train really counted as friendship. They'd enjoyed a degree of camaraderie, yes, but since then, Harry would have had to be blind not to notice the differences in their personalities. Harry honestly thought that Ron was, at the core, a good person, but his temper tended to get the best of him, he was far too lazy about schoolwork, and his hatred of all things Slytherin seemed way out of proportion.

"Indeed," William said. "I imagine it's going to take him some time to get past this morning."

Carter and Hunter didn't look the slightest bit apologetic, as Carter said, "He had it coming."

"I agree, Carter, he did," Harry said, before he sighed. "You two are lucky though."

"Why?" Hunter asked.

"Because you don't have to share a room with him," Harry answered.

"Yeah, I imagine your confrontation with him this morning is all we'll be hearing about for a while," William said with a frown.

"Sorry, guys," Carter said, and he did genuinely look sorry.

"It's okay, we'll deal," Harry said after a moment. "And besides, maybe it'll give him something to complain about that doesn't involve the governor's changes for once."

As the group talked, Cedric, Jeremy, and Ryan entered the school, also on their way in following Herbology, only unlike the first year Gryffindors and Slytherins, they'd been in Greenhouse #4 with Professor Goshawk. They were just about to join Harry, William, and the others when a voice called out, "Potter!"

Turning in the direction of the voice calling him, Harry groaned as he saw Draco Malfoy headed straight for him, with Crabbe and Goyle in tow not far behind him.

"What do you want Malfoy?" Harry asked.

Draco looked affronted at Harry's question. He was silent for a moment, before he said, "That's Serah Malfoy, to you Potter. I am the Malfoy heir after all."

Before Harry could comment, Carter stepped forward and said, "So what, Draco? Yes, you're the Malfoy heir, but that doesn't mean anything as far as Harry is concerned. Or did you forget that as the only son of James Potter that Harry is the Potter heir?"

'Potter heir?' Harry thought. 'What is Carter talking about?'

Before Draco could say anything, Hunter stepped forward and said, "I'd be careful how you respond, Drake. Remember, my brother is the Wells heir and you're already skating on thin ice after how you talked to our father."

Draco sneered at Hunter. "You expect me to treat your brother with respect, Wells? Why should I do anything that you ask? You're not even a proper Slytherin. You hardly ever sit with us and you spend the vast majority of your free time in the Ravenclaw common room. I think the only reason you ever set foot in Slytherin is because you're not allowed to sleep in Ravenclaw Tower."

"Draco, I shouldn't have to tell you this," Ryan said, as he walked over with Cedric and Jeremy, "but you should do as Hunter asks because whether he acts like a proper Slytherin or not, he still outranks you. Spare heir or not, he is still a member of the Wells family - the Most Ancient and Noble House of Wells which holds the rank of Teryn, just like the Potters. You may be a member of the Noble House of Malfoy, Draco, but your family only holds the rank of Bann - the lowest level of the nobility. So, you need to treat your betters with more respect."

"My betters?" Draco asked. "I don't see any here, Orion." Motioning towards Harry and the twins, he said, "They're halfbloods and not worthy of the nobility." Draco was tempted to also bring up the fact that Ryan was illegitimate, but he knew that argument wouldn't fly, not only because Teryn Arcturus Black had named Ryan as his official heir, but also because he was in enough trouble with his mother already without publicly insulting her nephew.

Carter shook his head. "Draco, I would point out that the laws currently governing the nobility, the laws without which there wouldn't even be any noble families in Wizarding Britain anymore, were written by Queen Victoria - the Muggle Queen Victoria - and as such do not make any mention of blood purity as being a requirement."

Knowing that he'd be fighting a losing battle with these blood traitors, Draco decided not to waste his breath and instead turned to glare at Harry. "Why are you even still here, Potter? I expected McGonagall to expel you after the incident in Flying class."

"Why? You started it," Harry said. "Why would you expect me to be expelled but not expect the same for yourself?"

"Simple, Potter," Draco replied, with a smug grin on his face. "I'm a pureblood noble whose father is a governor of this school. You on the other hand are the son of a dead blood traitor and his equally dead mudblood wife. So why haven't you been expelled yet?"

"Haven't you heard, Draco?" William asked, as he patted Harry on the shoulder in a gesture that was part congratulatory and part consolatory. "Harry didn't get in any trouble with McGonagall. In fact, he was given special permission by the Headmaster to try out for the Gryffindor Quidditch team."

"What?" Draco asked.

"I'm the new seeker," Harry said in a tight voice. He didn't know exactly what blood traitor and mudblood meant, as this was the first time he'd heard either of them used, but he had a feeling that whatever they meant, it wasn't good. So, obviously he didn't like Draco calling his parents that. He'd had enough of that at the Dursleys to last him a lifetime, so, all the blond was doing, whether he realized it or not, was making Harry even more happy that he'd refused to take Malfoy's hand when he'd offered it.

"Seeker?" Draco asked. "You have got to be joking."

"I'm not," Harry said. "According to McGonagall, I'm the youngest seeker in a century."

Draco was seething. First Harry had publicly humiliated him by refusing to take his hand in friendship and now he was showing him up on a broom and getting on the Quidditch team? It was too much. "I challenge you to a duel."

"A duel?" Harry asked.

"Yes, a proper wizard's duel," Draco responded. "Tonight, midnight, in the Trophy Room." Then after a moment, Draco asked, "You do know what a wizard's duel is, right, Potter?"

Before Harry could respond, Cedric, who was feeling rather protective of Harry for some reason he couldn't quite explain, stepped forward and said, "Of course he knows what a wizard's duel is, Malfoy." Then looking at Harry, he said, "Harry, you'll need a second - I'm volunteering."

"Okay," Harry said. Honestly, he didn't know the first thing about what a wizard's duel entailed. It was only the third week of school, after all, and he hadn't known he was a wizard until he got his Hogwarts letter. However, not wanting to look like an idiot in front of Malfoy, because he knew it would make the smug bastard feel good, he said, "I accept your challenge, Malfoy, and Cedric is my second."

Ryan sighed. "Well, it wouldn't be fair for Harry to have a third-year as a second and you not, Draco, so even though I don't agree with this duel or most of what's come out of your mouth in the last few minutes, I'll be your second."

"And just what makes you think I want you as my second, Orion?" Draco asked.

"Easy," Ryan said. "You'll take me as your second because if you don't, I'll be writing a letter to Teryn Black and your parents, Draco. I'm sure they'd love to know that you're following up insulting Teryn-Consort Wells by publicly maligning his sons, not to mention insulting the late Teryn Potter and his wife to their son and heir."

Draco huffed in an effort to look like he was upset. On the inside, however, he was terrified, because he really didn't want his parents punishing him anymore than they already had. Draco had a huge sweet tooth and since his mother had stopped sending him sweets, he'd had to resort to stealing from other students in order to satisfy it. He'd buy it, but first years weren't allowed to visit Hogsmeade and even if they could, with his father cutting his trust allowance by ninety percent, he loathed to admit that he couldn't afford most of his favorite sweets, since he had very expensive tastes.

"Fine, you're my second, Orion," Draco said with a nod, before glaring at Harry and saying, "I'll see you in the Trophy Room at midnight."

Draco was just about to leave when Cedric said, "Oh Draco?" Normally, Cedric, as a commoner, would not be allowed to call the Malfoy heir by his first name without permission. However, being the designated second of a higher noble in an official duel, did afford certain privileges, at least until the duel was actually fought.

"What is it, Diggory?" Draco asked with a sneer as he turned to the elder Hufflepuff, only to find himself staring down the business end of the teen's wand, which shocked him enough that he didn't duck fast enough to avoid the spell that had just hit him. After a moment, he asked, "What the hell was that?"

Cedric grinned as he put away his wand. "It was insurance, Draco." The blond Slytherin raised his eyebrow at this, prompting Cedric to elaborate. "Simply put, I jinxed your forehead. If you show up tonight, the spell will wear off with no ill effects, but if you don't, your forehead will break out in warts that spell 'I'm a coward' - for a month." Grinning at the horrified look on Draco's face, Cedric said, "Oh and I wouldn't try to remove it, because that'll just activate the jinx, only then the warts will spell 'I'm an idiot' instead. Oh and that'll last for two months."

Needless to say, Harry, William, Carter, Hunter, Ryan, Jeremy, and Cedric were all laughing as Draco stormed off, with his clueless brutes shuffling after him. Slinging an arm around Cedric's neck, Jeremy grinned, as he said, "Nice work, Ric."

"Thanks, Remy," Cedric said.

After a moment, Harry said, "What have I done? I don't know the first thing about fighting a duel!"

Shaking his head, Cedric patted Harry's shoulders and said, "Don't worry about that, Harry. We'll help you brush up on the basics, right guys?" He was looking at his roommates as he said this last part.

"Absolutely," Jeremy said with a nod. "In fact, I know the perfect place. We'll meet you in the corridor one over from the entrance to Gryffindor Tower after the last class of the day."

With a raised eyebrow, Ryan said, "You know, technically speaking, as Draco's second I really shouldn't be helping his opponent." With a shake of his head, he then added, "It's really too bad for my cousin then that I simply don't like him enough to care about such technicalities."

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, in the Hospital Wing of Hogwarts, Dylan Wells had insisted on bringing Thorne in so that Madam Pomfrey could give him a full examination. For just over a week now, Thorne had been waking up feeling sick. He wasn't eating all that well either because just the smell of food made him nauseous, let alone actually eating it.

Thorne, of course, insisted that it was a waste of time and tried to get out of it - at least until Dylan wrote to the Queen. Elizabeth's reply had come that morning, giving Dylan and Thorne the day off from guarding William and telling Thorne in no uncertain terms that he was to let the matron give him a full physical whether he wanted one or not. Not one to disobey a direct order from his monarch, Thorne reluctantly agreed and accompanied Dylan to the infirmary.

Madam Pomfrey knew they were coming, as Dylan had made an appointment, but when they got there, they found the matron busily tending to some injured sixth years who'd been hurt by one of the more dangerous plants in the NEWT-level greenhouses. Directing Thorne to sit on a vacant bed, Dylan stood nearby, as they awaited the matron to finish with the injured students. Twenty minutes later, the last of the students were tended to and had left, at which point the matron took a moment to clean up from her hurried treatments, before she said, "I'll be right with you and your husband, Teryn Wells. I just need a drink of water."

Dylan nodded, understanding how the number of spells that the matron had just been casting in rapid succession might make her throat a bit dry. Honestly, he wouldn't be surprised if that drink was accompanied by a Magic Restorative Draft, as he was sure she must be feeling just a little weak after expending as much energy as she just had. Moments later, the matron was back and smiling, as she asked, "Now, what seems to be the problem?"

"It's nothing!" Thorne exclaimed. "Dylan is totally overreacting, so this visit is a complete waste of my time and yours, Madam Pomfrey."

Raising one eyebrow, the matron looked at Thorne and said, "I'll be the judge of that, young man." Then turning to Dylan, she asked, "Since you're the one who made the appointment for him, I imagine you don't agree with his assessment?"

"No, I don't," Dylan said. "For the past week now, he's been feeling sick. Can't eat and just the smell of food makes him want to throw up." He wrapped his arm around Thorne at this, as he added, "Since it usually passes by mid-afternoon and then he's feeling fine, I must admit that I have my suspicions on what's going on."

Thorne shook his head and said, "No, Dylan, what you're thinking is not happening! I think I would know if it was morning sickness."

"And just how would you know that, Thorne?" Dylan asked.

"Because I've been pregnant before?" Thorne asked. "I did carry Carter and Hunter, if you remember."

"I don't dispute that, Thorne," Dylan responded. "However, I would also point out that you didn't get morning sickness back then, so, how would you know how to recognize it?"

Madam Pomfrey smiled as she pulled out her wand and said, "Well, let's just run a scan and find out for sure then, shall we?"

Dylan nodded enthusiastically, while Thorne only very grudgingly nodded in acquiescence. It's not that Thorne didn't want any more children, because he did, to be honest. However, he had also been very careful over the years not to get pregnant again because he'd made it quite clear to Dylan that he wasn't doing it again until Dylan had done it. Obviously since they only had the twins, despite Thorne's best and repeated efforts, Dylan had never gotten pregnant. In Thorne's mind it was only fair that they both got pregnant at least once before either of them had a repeat performance.

Casting a few diagnostic charms meant to detect pregnancy and other related health issues, Madam Pomfrey hummed to herself as she compiled the results, all the while keeping Dylan and Thorne in suspense. When she was finished, she looked directly at Thorne and said, "Teryn Wells was correct in his suspicions - you are pregnant. About two months along at this point."

Thorne shook his head from side to side, a shocked look on his face, as he said, "What?! How?!" At the matron's raised eyebrow, he said, "Well, I know how, but what I mean is, I've been using birth control ever since Carter and Hunter were born because I was determined not to get pregnant again until Dylan had done so." Then turning to look at Dylan, he gave him an accusatory glare as he asked, "Have you been using birth control all these years?"

Shaking his head, Dylan said, "No, Thorne, I haven't been. I knew you were, but I haven't been using any."

"Well, first off, I would point out that no birth control is completely foolproof," Madam Pomfrey said. "The potion which suppresses male pregnancy only works in 87% of cases, while the spell stops it in 92% of cases. Used together, it would be suppressed 97.5% of the time, but that still leaves a 2.5% chance of failure. Were you using both potion and spell since you had Carter and Hunter?" Thorne nodded. "Well, then I'd say that after eleven years of working, the failure chance, as small as it is, finally caught up with you."

All three people were silent for a couple minutes, until finally, Thorne said, "Oh sweet Merlin, I'm actually pregnant again?" Madam Pomfrey nodded, at which point Thorne turned to Dylan and said, "Damn it, why haven't you gotten pregnant Dylan? You say you haven't been using birth control but come on! It's not like we haven't been trying."

That much was certainly true, because Dylan and Thorne had a very healthy sex life. As in they usually did it twice a day, every day, for the entire twelve years they'd been married. There were a few days over the years where they only did it once or not at all, but those instances were few and far between. Now, they did switch in terms of who was on top, so, only half of their couplings could result in Dylan getting pregnant, but it seemed almost impossible to believe that Dylan hadn't gotten pregnant after all this time if he truly wasn't using birth control.

Dylan wasn't sure how to respond exactly, but finally settled with, "Thorne, honey, I swear to you on my parents' graves that I never used any type of birth control. I want more children with you, but I knew you were taking birth control because you didn't want to get pregnant again until I'd done it. I was okay with that. I've certainly wondered why I've never gotten pregnant, but we had Carter and Hunter, so I chose to be happy with the two children we had. I got to the point where I was okay with not having any more, since after so many years it seemed as though it just wasn't meant to be."

"Would you mind if I ran a few quick diagnostic spells on you, Teryn Wells?" Madam Pomfrey asked.

Dylan shook his head and said, "No, I don't mind," as he sat down on the bed next to Thorne.

Pulling out her wand again, the matron cast another battery of tests, this time on Dylan. When she was finished she nodded once and said, "Well, I know why you've never gotten pregnant, Teryn Wells."

"Why?" Dylan asked and then after a moment, he added, "There isn't something wrong with me is there?"

Shaking her head, Madam Pomfrey said, "No, Teryn Wells, there's nothing wrong with you." Thorne had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach at this point, as the matron turned her gaze on him and said, "I'm afraid the problem is with your husband."

"What does that even mean, Madam Pomfrey?" Thorne asked, looking confused. "I'm pregnant for the second time for Merlin's sake. How could I possibly be the problem?"

"Well, Your Grace," Madam Pomfrey answered, "my earlier scans indicated that you have a very low sperm count, to the point of being almost non-existent. So, while that wouldn't have any effect on your ability to get pregnant, it would have an effect on your ability to impregnate somebody else, like your husband." Remaining quiet for a moment, to give her patient time to absorb what she'd just told him, she then added, "In my professional opinion, Your Grace, at this point it would be a miracle if you ever managed to impregnate anyone."

Dylan wrapped his arms around Thorne, doing his best to comfort him. For his part, Thorne was shivering slightly, as he digested the news. Then looking up at the matron he asked, "Is there anything that can be done?"

"There are spells and potions that we could try," Madam Pomfrey said. "Now that I know the problem exists, it's possible it might be able to be fixed. Even with magic and potions though, some problems can't be fixed and this particular issue can get harder to fix the longer it goes untreated." Thorne was just about to tell the matron to start the treatments then, when she added, "And unfortunately it's going to have to remain untreated for the moment, because the same spells and potions that would be used to treat the problem would have a negative effect on the baby you're carrying."

Thorne nodded his head and then after a moment, he said, "You said baby. Does that mean it's only one this time?" His tone was hopeful because while he loved Carter and Hunter to death, he really didn't want to have to go through having twins again.

Madam Pomfrey nodded and said, "Yes, Your Grace, it is only one baby. Did you wish to know the gender?"

Thorne looked at Dylan at that. They'd opted to be surprised the first time around, so they'd told the healer not to tell them if the twins were boys, girls, or both. They knew that Carter and Hunter would probably ask when they sat them down to tell them, although they were still unsure if they really wanted to know. So, finally Dylan said, "We'll have to think about that. Can we get back to you, Madam Pomfrey?"

The matron smiled and nodded. "Of course."

"Also, I'd prefer you not tell anyone," Thorne said. "We'll start telling people ourselves, but I think like we did the first time, we're going to wait until after the first trimester is over."

Madam Pomfrey nodded. "It goes without saying that I won't tell anyone, as you're covered by healer-patient confidentiality. As for waiting until the first trimester is over, I can understand that, as even with magic to help insure the health of the baby, the chance of miscarriage is still the highest in the first trimester." She paused here and then added, "And I'll be honest and tell you that the chances of a miscarriage are higher than normal for men who were actively taking the spell/potion combination birth control when they got pregnant. There have been documented cases over the years of men getting pregnant due to the failure rate and then the birth control working retroactively to end the pregnancy. Although that would usually happen in the first few days after conception, so, the fact that you've made it to two months suggests that's not going to happen, but it still isn't entirely outside the realm of possibility."

"When will it be out of the realm of possibility?" Dylan asked.

"The chances of a birth control related miscarriage decrease with each day that the pregnancy continues," Madam Pomfrey replied. "So, first of all, Your Grace, stop using birth control immediately." Thorne nodded, as the matron turned to Dylan and said, "Make sure your husband takes care of himself, eats properly and gets plenty of rest. I'll give you some anti-nausea potions which will help with the morning sickness, so he won't have any excuses to not be eating properly."

"Thanks, Madam Pomfrey," Dylan said, as Thorne nodded and managed to smile. He was still shocked to be honest, as he totally didn't expect to find himself in this situation again until Dylan had done it. He now knew why Dylan hadn't gotten pregnant, of course, and looking back, he wondered why the thought had never crossed his mind that something might be wrong. They'd been married for twelve years, after all, and their sons were eleven, so it hadn't been all that long after their marriage that Carter and Hunter were conceived. And yet, in all that time since the twins' birth, Dylan had never gotten pregnant, despite the probably thousands of times they'd done it.

After getting the potions from the matron, Dylan escorted Thorne back to their apartment in Gryffindor Tower. Once they were there, Dylan led Thorne into their bedroom and undressed him down to his underwear, before picking him up and literally putting him to bed. Thorne, of course, objected, as he found himself being tucked into bed like he was a two-year-old, instead of a thirty-year-old man. "Lan, I can undress myself you know and I'm really not tired."

"I know, but you heard Madam Pomfrey," Dylan said. "You need to rest and I intend to make sure you do. Now just stay here while I go into the kitchen and get you something to eat. I think, some tomato soup and toast for now, and then something more substantial a bit later."

Dylan was out of the room before Thorne could say a word.

-o-0-o-

That afternoon after leaving Professor Flamel's History of Magic classroom, Harry, William, Hermione, and Dean headed upstairs to the second floor for Into to the Wizarding World with Professor Davies. The homework assignment that the young professor had assigned them last Thursday was due today. Hermione had found every subject the professor had given overview on to be intriguing and had thus written her essay to indicate that she was interested in learning more about all of the topics. Being a big fan of soccer in the muggle world, Dean was the most interested in magical games and sports, and had thus written his essay on that topic.

Like Hermione, Harry was interested in learning as much as he could about this world he now found himself in. Of course, that probably wasn't all that surprising after growing up with the Dursleys and being told all his life that his parents were worthless drunks. Finding out that wasn't true had certainly made Harry very curious about his parents' lives and he figured that learning more about the world they lived in would be a good first step in getting to know them better. In terms of his essay, however, Harry had decided to express an interest in all the topics, but with his recent addition to the Gryffindor Quidditch team had focused it mostly on magical games and sports.

William, on the other hand, found himself most intrigued by the concept of polytheism and the marriage customs of the wizarding world. He wondered just how the marriage customs might differ from the muggle world. He already knew that same-sex marriages were allowed, but he couldn't help but wonder if there was more to it than that. As for polytheism, he'd been raised in the Church of England, so he believed in the Christian god, but he'd also always been fascinated by Greek Mythology, so, finding out that the witches and wizards of Britain actually worshipped the Ancient Greek deities was certainly interesting. He didn't think he'd convert to polytheism as that might cause some issues in the muggle world, where he would one day become the Head of the Church of England upon his coronation, but surely simply learning more about it couldn't hurt, right?

Taking their seats, the students began chatting quietly with their friends while they waited for Professor Davies to show up. About a minute before the bell signaling the beginning of the period rang, Professor Davies walked into the room. His hair was still green with silver tips, which prompted Gary Thomas of Slytherin to ask the professor if he'd attended Hogwarts.

"Yes, Mr. Thomas, I did," Alex answered. "And yes, I was in Slytherin House."

Walking up to his desk and leaning against the front of it, Alex then said, "Now, for today's lesson I've decided to cover the topic of polytheism. Now for those of you who don't know what that means, polytheism is the practice of worshipping multiple gods, as opposed to monotheism, which is the worship of a single god. Raised in the muggle world as you were, I imagine many of you were raised in Christian religions which worship only one god and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I would also stress that the majority of people raised in the wizarding world will not expect you to convert to polytheism. They will, however, expect that you respect their right to worship as they choose."

Allowing that to sink in for a few moments, Alex continued. "Now, different magical communities around the world worship different gods. For example, in Egypt, they worship the ancient Egyptian gods: Ra, Anubis, Osiris, Ptah, and Set to name a few, while in the Scandinavian wizarding communities, they worship the ancient Norse gods, such as Odin, Thor, Loki, Tyr, and Skadi. Now, while it would be wise for you to study some of these other pantheons so that you know something of the beliefs of any foreign witches and wizards you may meet, I will be focusing our lessons on the pantheon of gods that are worshipped here in Albion."

Noticing a few confused looks, Alex smiled and said, "I can see some of you look confused. We'll be covering this in more detail at a later date, but Albion is an old name for the entire island that the countries of England, Wales, and Scotland inhabit. The members of the wizarding communities of those countries will mostly use Albion to refer to the island, although some may also use Britain, which I'm sure is probably the term that you're more familiar with. You will not, however, hear it referred to as the UK or the United Kingdom, as that's viewed as a purely muggle creation. After all, unlike in the muggle world, the whole of Ireland, often called Iwernia, is under the jurisdiction of the magical government of Albion, instead of just a section of it, as is the case with Northern Ireland in the muggle world."

A few students looked a bit upset at Alex's words, which prompted him to add, "Now, while I will admit that Iwernia was conquered over a millennia ago by Albion, the wizarding populace of the country chose to remain part of Albion, as the government took great strides to improve their quality of living far beyond what they'd previously enjoyed. Also, six of the twenty-one noble families are Irish and thus they do have a voice in the Albion government. Iwernia has also been offered complete independence on more than one occasion since the original conquest and both the leaders of the country and a vast majority of the populace have turned down the offer each time it was given - the most recent being only ten years ago."

Pleased to see many of his students taking notes, Alex said, "Now, back to the topic of today's lesson. The pantheon worshipped here in Albion is what some of you may recognize as the Greek pantheon, that is gods and goddesses such as Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and Athena. What some of you might not know is that this same pantheon was also worshipped by the inhabitants of Atlantis. Now if you've heard of Atlantis, you may think that it's a work of fiction, but you'd be wrong. The continent of Atlantis did exist, taking up a large area of what is now the Atlantic Ocean. Long before Rome invaded this island, we were a holding of Atlantis, before it sank and that is why we worship the Greek gods, which would also be called the Atlantean gods. You might also find that surprising as you might have expected us to worship the Celtic gods, but worship of those deities was limited to the muggle populace, while the wizarding populace remained faithful to the Atlantean or Greek pantheon."

Pouring a glass of water from a pitcher on his desk, Alex took a sip, before he said, "Now, of course, we do pay special homage to the goddess Hecate, who among other things is the Goddess of Magic. While Albion was an occupied territory of Rome, we did refer to the gods and goddesses by their Roman names and celebrated the Roman holy days for the gods, instead of the days held sacred by Atlantean and Greek tradition. However, once Rome's influence was gone, we went back to calling the gods by their Atlantean names. We did, however, continue to celebrate the Roman holidays and festivals, though in many cases the names of those festivals were changed to reflect the Greek names rather than the Roman. Any questions?"

Several people raised their hands, which made Alex smile, as he pointed at Hermione and asked, "Yes Miss Granger?"

"Could you give us a few examples of holy days?" Hermione asked.

"Of course," Alex said. "To use Hecate as an example, in Atlantis and Greece, there were two days that were associated with her. One was the Moon of Hecate on the 13th of August and the other was the Day of Hecate at the Crossroads on the 30th of November. Rome, on the other hand, celebrated Hecate on the 29th day of every month, which as she is the Goddess of Magic appealed to a great many witches and wizards and thus we now celebrate holy days dedicated to Hecate every month on the 29th as the Romans did. Of course, come November we usually have a much more lavish two-day festival in honor of Hecate, covering both the 29th and 30th of November. Now, before anyone asks, in February, we celebrate Hecate on the 28th in most years, with the February 29th festival that falls every four years being almost as grand as the November festival, only held on a single day instead of two."

Pointing at William, Alex said, "Yes Mr. Windsor?"

"You said that the wizarding communities reverted back to calling the gods and goddesses by their Atlantean names after the Roman occupation," William said and Alex nodded. "But, what about the gods that Rome worshipped that didn't have an Atlantean or Greek counterpart? Are they still worshipped?"

"An excellent question, Mr. Windsor," Alex said. "5 points to Gryffindor. Now, as for the answer, yes, there are instances of gods who were solely Roman that were adopted even after we reverted back to the older names. Janus, the Roman God of Gates and Doorways, did not have an Atlantean or Greek counterpart. However, as he was seen as a god of transition and the month of January was named after him, we do still worship him. Some witches and wizards worship him more than others, depending on which origin for Janus they choose to believe. There is one, for example, which names Janus as a son of Hecate, and thus those witches and wizards who believe that tend to give him a bit more attention, due to the connection with the Goddess of Magic."

Alex spent the next twenty minutes answering questions and explaining about more of the gods and the holy days or festivals associated with them. The class seemed to be enjoying learning about it and Alex handed out several points to all four houses for some particularly good questions.

Finally, looking at the clock, he said, "Well, class is going to be over in about two minutes. So, we'll continue where we left off in tomorrow's class. Now, for your homework, I want you each to choose one of the gods or goddesses that we talked about today and write a scroll of a foot to a foot and a half about that god." Looking at the Ravenclaws in the class, he grinned and added, "And Ravenclaws, please don't try to write smaller in order to fit more information on your scrolls - if I need to use a Magnifying Charm to read your report, I will ask that you write it again and deduct one grade level for a late assignment."

Seconds after he said this, the bell rang, prompting Alex to say, "Class dismissed."

-o-0-o-

Later that day, Harry, William, Carter, and Hunter, made their way up to the seventh floor and over to the corridor one over from the entrance to Gryffindor Tower. Cedric, Ryan, and Jeremy were already waiting for them when they arrived and smiled at the group as they approached.

"Hey guys, ready for some dueling practice?" Cedric asked.

Harry nodded, but asked, "Where? Surely not here in the hallway?"

"I must say that I'm curious about that myself, Remy," Ryan said. "I don't really understand why you had us come all the way up here."

Nodding Cedric injected, "When I suggested training Harry a bit, I was thinking maybe the lake."

Shaking his head, Jeremy said, "No, not here in the hallway. That'd be a surefire way to get in trouble with Filch and the lake has the potential for having too many witnesses around. The fewer people who know about the duel tonight the better, as there's less of a chance of it getting back to one of the teachers or Carter and Hunter's parents."

Carter nodded. "That makes sense," as Hunter asked, "So, where are we doing this?"

"Follow me," Jeremy said, as he moved down the hallway and took a few left turns until finally the group found themselves in a deserted corridor with mostly blank walls, except for a large tapestry of a wizard trying to teach trolls how to dance the ballet. Motioning towards it, he said, "That's Barnabas the Barmy, called that as you'd have to be quite barmy to think that trolls would be capable of learning ballet."

The others all nodded their heads in agreement, as Jeremy stood directly in front of the tapestry and said, more to himself, "Let's see here, I need a room where my friends and I can practice dueling - a room completely beyond the reach of anyone other than me and my friends." Jeremy went on to name each of the people in the hallway with him, and repeated his statement, as he paced in front of the blank wall three times.

Everyone else was looking at him like he'd gone nuts, when suddenly a heavy, wooden door materialized out of thin air on the wall opposite the tapestry. Stopping his pacing, Jeremy pulled open the door and ushered his friends inside. Once everyone was in and Jeremy had closed the door, he said, "The house-elves call this the Come and Go Room or the Room of Requirement. It will only appear if you really need it and it will take whatever form you need it to take. My brother Jasper found it in his fourth year when he snuck out of Hufflepuff in the middle of the night to explore the castle. In doing so he encountered Mrs. Norris and needed a place to hide so that Filch wouldn't find him. That's how he came upon this room, which he asked one of the more talkative elves about. They were more than happy to fill in the details."

"This place is amazing," Cedric said, as he looked around the room.

The room had taken the form of a large stone room with high, vaulted ceilings and a stone floor. In the middle of the room was a regulation dueling strip, while several practice dummies were setup along the left side of the room. On the right side were some tables and chairs, along with a large number of bookcases filled with books. Walking over to them, Cedric ran a hand over the spines as he read some of the titles. Multiple copies of all seven grades of Miranda Goshawk's Standard Book of Spells were present, as were copies of Vindictus Viridian's Curses and Counter-Curses, Quentin Trimble's The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection, and several other books that Cedric knew contained a variety of spells. Thus not only had the room given them a place to practice, but had also given them access to spells they could practice.

"Yes, it is," Jeremy agreed. "I didn't specifically ask for the books, but I certainly won't object to them being here. Maybe we can find something useful in them."

"Considering Draco's upbringing," Hunter said, "I wouldn't be surprised if he knows some Dark Spells, so learning a spell for blocking harmful magic would probably be useful."

Nodding his head, Ryan said, "With a Malfoy for a father and a Black for a mother, I can almost guarantee you that he does know some of the darker curses." Walking over to the bookcase and scanning the titles himself, he then grinned and said, "Fortunately for us, it looks like the room has provided the right books that we can teach Harry how to counter most of what Draco might be able to throw at him."

"Plus, we do have the advantage of rank on our side," Carter said. "Normally, the challenger gets to set the terms of a duel, but in this case the challenged gets to set the terms, since Harry outranks Draco." Turning to Harry with a grin, he added, "So, you can ban any particularly dark curses that you know you can't counter. And Draco's pureblood honor would never allow him to use a banned spell in an official duel, especially when it's against a higher noble."

"A higher noble?" Harry asked. "I'm nobility?"

Hunter looked confused as he asked, "You didn't know that?"

Shaking his head, Harry said, "No, I didn't. There's a reason I'm in the 'Intro to the Wizarding World' class - I grew up in the muggle world with my mum's sister and her family. I didn't even know that I was a wizard until I got my Hogwarts letter. And Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia didn't like my parents so they talked about them as little as possible."

"Well, Harry, you're nobility in both the muggle and wizarding worlds," Carter said. At Harry's confused look, he elaborated. "There's twenty-one noble families in the wizarding world, broken down into three groups of seven. However, it was the muggle Queen Victoria who ennobled those families, so while in the wizarding world the traditional titles that Albion has been using since before the time of the founders were kept, she also gave all of them titles in the muggle world."

"Minor heirs can't claim a title until they're fifteen," Cedric explained. "So, it'll be a few years before you can claim your father's title, Harry, but he was His Grace The Lord-Teryn Potter, Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter. The Potter and Wells families, along with five others, are on the highest rung of the nobility."

"Lord-Teryn is the official title," Hunter said, "but on a more informal basis, it's common just to say Teryn, which is the magical equivalent of the muggle Duke. The next highest title is formally Lord-Arl and informally just Arl, which is the same as an Earl in the muggle world. And the lowest rung, which by the way is the rung that Draco's father is on, is Lord-Bann or just Bann, the equivalent of a muggle Baron."

"Ron is actually nobility too," Carter said. "His father is Arl Arthur Weasley and as I'm sure you've heard countless times by now, he's one of the governors of the school. Which, coincidentally is the only reason that Ron can even attend Hogwarts."

"What do you mean?" William asked.

"If you ranked the noble families by their wealth," Jeremy answered, "the Weasley family would be dead last because they're dirt poor. Arl Weasley has a job at the Ministry for Magic, but unfortunately the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office doesn't pay very much. And having raised seven children, the vast majority of Arl Weasley's pay each week is already spent before he even collects it, so saving money is pretty much out of the question."

Ryan sighed and said, "I personally don't agree with it, but I can tell you that in the pureblood circles, the Weasley family is thought of as blood traitors. That means they're purebloods who don't believe that purebloods are better than everyone else. An old saying among the more fanatical purebloods that dates back centuries would be that you can always tell a Weasley from anyone else because they all have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford."

"For many generations now the Weasleys usually have had a large number of children," Jeremy said. "Combined with a number of lords over the centuries who’ve made some extremely bad investments, the family pretty much lost all their money and has never been able to gain it back. So, back to Carter's point about Hogwarts, like most boarding schools there is a tuition fee. It's quite low in comparison to most muggle boarding schools, but it's still high enough that the Weasleys would never be able to pay it. However, because Arl Weasley is a school governor, the tuition costs are waived for his children and grandchildren so long as he remains a governor."

"Thus him and his wife only need to scrape together enough money to buy the uniforms, books, and other equipment," Cedric said. "Although, they can't afford to do their shopping at stores like Flourish and Blotts or Madame Malkin's. They instead have to go to the Second-Hand Robe Shop or the Junk Shop to buy old, used equipment. And of course whenever possible they make use of hand me downs for clothes, books, and other equipment."

After a moment of silence, Ryan said, "Alright, well, we really do need to get back to the reason we're here."

"Agreed," Harry said. As much as he was curious about the whole nobility thing, he knew that he had time to learn about that. However, he had a duel to fight at midnight and thus he needed to learn some spells to use in that duel as he didn't want to look like a complete idiot. He refused to give Draco Malfoy the satisfaction of seeing that.

Taking a copy of 'Curses and Counter-Curses' from the shelf, Cedric walked over and said, "This book is full of good spells to use for a duel, Harry, and thankfully they're all simple enough that a first year should be able to learn them easily. We'll also try to teach you some harder spells, to see if you can get the hang of them, but we'll start with the basics. So, wand out."

Harry nodded and got his wand out, as Jeremy grinned at William, Carter, and Hunter and said, "You three might as well get your wands out as well. I'm guessing the twins already know how to cast some of these spells," and at this Carter and Hunter nodded, "but when it comes to magic, getting a little extra practice time in is very rarely a bad thing."

Over the next half hour, Cedric, Jeremy, and Ryan were in full teacher mode, as they taught Harry, William, Carter, and Hunter the proper wand movements and incantations for spells such as Full Body-Bind, the Jelly-Legs Curse, and the Tongue-Tying Spell. After awhile they moved onto other books and by the time they decided to leave the Room of Requirement to head down to the Great Hall for dinner, the dueling repertoire of the four first-years had definitely increased with a few first, second, and third year spells. Out of curiosity, Carter and Hunter also tried a few of the more advanced spells that they'd read about in Thorne's old textbooks when they'd helped him clean out the attic at Wells Manor over the summer.

-o-0-o-

Much later that evening, around eleven-thirty, Harry and William snuck quietly out of their room in Gryffindor Tower and made their way down the stairs. They'd almost made it the portrait hole when a voice asked, "Where do you two think you're going?"

Turning around, Harry and William saw Hermione standing there, hands on her hips and foot tapping the floor, with the look on her face saying that she expected an answer.

"Out," William said and moved to turn back towards the portrait hole.

"It's after curfew," Hermione said. "You're not allowed in the halls at this hour."

"I'm a prince - I can do whatever I want," William said, although even as he said it, he had the feeling that argument wasn't going to fly.

"Really? And if I knocked on that door," Hermione said, pointing at the door that led to Dylan's and Thorne's apartment, "would they agree with you?"

"Hermione, please, don't," Harry said. "You're going to make us late."

"Late for what?" Hermione asked.

William sighed as he realized that they were never going to get out of the common room if they didn't tell Hermione. He just hoped they could convince her to keep her mouth shut or they'd really be in for it. "Malfoy challenged Harry to a duel in the Trophy Room at midnight."

Hermione looked incredulous as she asked, "And you actually plan on going? This is Malfoy we're talking about. I doubt he intends to show up. He's probably just going to tip off Filch and get you in trouble for being out after curfew."

Shaking his head, Harry said, "I'm sure he did intend to do that, but Cedric took care of that."

"Cedric? Cedric Diggory?" Hermione asked. "How's he involved in this?"

"He's acting as my second in the duel," Harry explained. "And he jinxed Malfoy's forehead." Harry then explained to Hermione just what Cedric had done and said, "The little berk thinks he's perfect - he isn't going to want to walk around school with warts on his face."

Hermione had to admit that was probably true. So, she instead tried a different track. "How do you plan on fighting a duel anyway Harry? You need to know spells for that."

"I know some spells," Harry said in an indignant tone. He liked Hermione, but sometimes her know it all attitude got a little annoying.

"Hermione we have to go," William said. "As for spells, that won't be a problem. Cedric, Jeremy, and Ryan helped Harry practice - taught him appropriate dueling spells all the way up to third year."

'All the way up to third year? This I've got to see,' Hermione thought. She loathed the idea of breaking the rules, but the possibility of learning something was too irresistible for her to pass up. She had wanted to buy the more advanced books, but her parents had been quite firm in their insistence that with the exception of Hogwarts: A History, she wasn't allowed to buy any of the more advanced books until she had a school book list that called for them. "Fine, I'm going with you," she said finally.

"You're going with us?" Harry asked.

"Unless you'd rather I tell Dylan and Thorne?" Hermione asked in response.

"No, no, that's not necessary," William said in defeat. "Now let's go."

And with that, the three of them exited the portrait hole and made their way out into the darkened corridors of the castle, hoping for no further interruptions. Luck was not on their side, however. They'd barely walked more than a foot from the entrance to Gryffindor when they heard the sound of somebody crying. Turning the corner into the next corridor, they found a person curled up in a ball on the floor against a wall.

"Neville?" Hermione asked, recognizing him. "What are you doing out here?"

Looking up at the voice, he said, "I forgot the password to get back in to the tower."

'Problem with that thing his grandmother gave him is that it doesn't tell him what he's forgotten,' William thought, as he spied the Remembrall clutched in Neville's fist, the smoke inside of it brilliant red. 'What's the point of a magical ball that tells you that you've forgotten something if it can't be considerate enough to tell you what that is?'

Offering Neville her hand, Hermione said, "Come on, Neville, we'll take you back to the common room."

"The password is pig snout, by the way," William said as the turned back into the corridor that held the entrance to Gryffindor Tower. "Not that it's going to do you much good."

"Why?" Neville asked, as he tried to dry his tears.

Spying the portrait that William was looking at, Harry answered, "Because the Fat Lady has gone visiting. Knowing the password won't do much good if there's nobody there to give it to."

"Well, we have someplace to be," William said. "So we'll see you later, Nev."

"Don't leave me!" Neville exclaimed. "I don't want to stay here all alone - the Bloody Baron has been past twice already."

Shaking his head, William said, "Fine, Nev, you can come with us," as he said this, however, he pulled out his wand and said, "But if you or Hermione make us late, fair warning, I'll be introducing you to the Ice Veins Jinx."

Both Neville and Hermione shuddered at that, as by now it was all over Gryffindor Tower that William had cast that jinx on Ron. Although they had both shuddered, Neville looked more scared then Hermione who looked a bit more indignant. Neither of them said anything, however, as the group headed for the Trophy Room. Arriving, they found Carter and Hunter already there and Ryan, Jeremy, and Cedric arriving not that far behind them.

"Rather surprised Draco isn't here yet," Harry said.

"I think I saw him skulking up the stairs from the dungeons on our way up here," Ryan said. "He should be here soon."

"Malfoys don't skulk," a cool, aristocratic drawl said, and everyone turned to see Draco standing in the doorway.

"So, Malfoy, tell the truth," William said. "Would have you even shown up if it wasn't for the jinx that Cedric placed on your forehead?"

"I don't owe you any explanations, you filthy mud..." Draco began, but was cutoff as Ryan clamped a hand over his cousin's mouth and said, "Draco, I suggest you don't finish that sentence. If you think that Teryn Black and your parents were mad about you insulting Teryn-Consort Wells, do you even want to imagine how upset they'd be if they found out that you'd insulted His Royal Highness Prince William - the grandson of the Queen? Who, by the way, in case you forgot, according to the Sorting Hat is also a Pendragon?" Still holding a hand over Draco's mouth, Ryan grinned and said, "Now, perhaps you should answer William's question or I'll be forced to write letters you don't want me to write."

Draco's normally pale skin got even paler as Ryan's words sunk in. After a moment, Draco shrugged Ryan's hand off of him and said, "Fine. No, I wasn't going to come, if you must know. But, I'm here now, so let's just get this over with, shall we?"

"Agreed," Harry said as he pulled out his wand, as Draco did the same. "As I'm the higher noble, Draco, the terms are no physical contact, magic only, and absolutely no dark magic of any kind, nothing lethal, and nothing that will require a visit to Madam Pomfrey to fix or heal."

Draco nodded, as he thought, 'Damn it - I'd hoped he didn't know about being allowed to set the terms. Guess that was too much to hope for.' "Fine, Potter."

As Cedric and Ryan took their positions behind Harry and Draco, both with their wands at the ready in case they needed to step in, Jeremy motioned for Carter, Hunter, Hermione, and Neville to stand back, which they did, none of them wanting to get caught in the crossfire. Jeremy then turned back to the duelists and said, "Bow to each other."

Harry and Draco both inclined their heads ever so slightly towards one another, but did not go into a full bow, as neither trusted the other enough to do so. Nodding, Jeremy said, "Close enough. Now, on the count of three, you may begin. One... two... three!"

"Flipendo!" Draco said at the same time that Harry said, "Mucus Ad Nauseam!"

Draco's Knockback Jinx and Harry's Curse of the Bogies met halfway between the two duelists and exploded in a small ball of light, as Harry immediately fired off, "Mimble Wimble!"

Draco, who had been momentarily stunned by the small explosion of the two spells, and by the fact that Potter had used the Curse of the Bogies - a spell that Professor Quirrell had only mentioned briefly in class, but had not taught - didn't react fast enough and found himself hit square in the chest by Harry's Tongue-Tying Spell. Thus, when he tried to say, "Titillando," in order to cast the Tickling Jinx, it came out instead as "Tithallanzo," and thankfully, at least in Draco's mind, had no effect. Everyone else, however, had rather hoped that some ill-effect would befall Draco, as they all remembered Professor Flitwick's warning about a wizard named Baruffio who had mispronounced a spell and ended up flat on his back with a buffalo sitting on his chest.

Using this to his advantage, Harry shot off the Disorientation Charm, "Everte Statum," which caused Draco some momentary disorientation as he felt like he'd just been hit upside the head by a frying pan. Shaking it off, Draco looked quite peeved, as he said, "Locomotor Mortis!" prompting Harry to quickly say, "Protego!" Draco's eyebrows rose as he saw the shield form in front of Harry and block his spell. Furious, Draco shot off several spells in rapid succession, "Flipendo! Locomotor Mortis! Locomotor Wibbly! Petrificus Totalus!"

Strengthening his shield by saying "Protego!" a couple more times, his shield thankfully held out long enough to block Draco's spells, at which point Harry said, "Stupefy!"

'That's a third year spell!' Draco thought, shocked enough to overlook the fact that the Shield Charm was also a third-year spell. 'If Potter can do it, so can I.' With that thought, Draco said, "Protego!" just as the jet of red light from Harry's wand was about to hit him. Of course, while a shield did form, it wasn't very strong and only managed to block about a quarter of Harry's Stunning Spell before it collapsed and hit Draco squarely in the chest.

Waving his wand at Draco, Ryan said, "Rennervate!"

Draco was beyond furious at this point and it showed on his face as he said, "Serpensortia!" Everyone's eyes widened as a snake shot out of the tip of Draco's wand and began slithering towards Harry.

Looking directly at the snake, Harry said, "Stop, snake, stop."

The snake stopped and turned to one side as Harry continued talking. Meanwhile, everyone else in the room had shocked looks on their faces. Harry was talking to a snake! After a moment, the snake seemed to nod its head before it fizzled out of existence and Harry leveled his wand at Draco and said, "Expelliarmus!"

Shocked by what he'd just seen and heard, Draco didn't react as Harry's Disarming Spell hit him and ripped his wand from his hand, making it fly through the air and into Harry's awaiting hand. As Harry's hand closed around the shaft of Draco's wand, Jeremy, in a hesitant voice said, "Harry Potter wins the duel."

Harry grinned and looked around triumphantly, which is when he noticed the looks on everyone else's faces. He was just about to comment when a bit of movement caught his eye and he saw a pair of glowing yellow eyes. "Filch's cat! Run!"

Not wanting to be caught by the caretaker, everyone quickly made their way out of the Trophy Room, soon finding themselves in the Charms corridor. There was no sign of Mrs. Norris, so they all took a moment to catch their breath. Draco was just about to ask for his wand back, when something shot out of the doorknob of a nearby classroom.

'Oh no,' Carter thought as he realized that it was Peeves and he'd spotted them. In a pleading tone, he said, "Please, be quiet, Peeves."

Grinning, Peeves said, "Wandering around after midnight, Ickle Firsties?" Spotting Cedric, Ryan, and Jeremy he added, "Ickle Thirdies, too? Tut, tut, tut. Ickle Thirdies should know better, oh yes they should. Bad example they're setting for Ickle Firsties. All being naughty, naughty, you'll get caughty!"

"Not if you don't give us away, Peeves, please," Cedric said.

"Should tell Filch, I should," Peeves said in saintly voice, although his eyes had a truly wicked glint to them. "It's for your own good, you know."

Stepping forward and pulling Hunter with him, Draco said, "Peeves, in case you didn't notice Hunter and I are Slytherins. So, we know how to call for the Bloody Baron." This caused Peeves to gulp. "So, unless you want to find yourself on the wrong side of his sword, I suggest that you let us pass without telling Filch you saw us."

Hunter grinned wickedly as he said, "What's it going to be Peeves? Can we pass without incident or do we call the Baron?"

Peeves was shivering as he said, in an obviously fearful tone, "You can pass - don't call the Baron, Ickle Snakies, please!"

Nodding, Hunter and Draco moved past Peeves, but just as the others were about to move past him, the poltergeist's eyes turned mischievous as he said, "Uh, uh, uh, I said the Ickle Snakies could pass, didn't say anything about the rest of you." Before anyone could say anything, however, Peeves cackled before yelling at the top of his lungs, "STUDENTS OUT OF BED! DOWN THE CHARMS CORRIDOR!"

"Run!" Cedric exclaimed, as he grabbed Harry by the arm and pulled him down the corridor as fast as he could. At the same time Ryan grabbed Hermione and Neville, as Jeremy grabbed Carter and ran after Cedric and Harry. Hunter and Draco, who had gotten a slight head start before Peeves began yelling, were also running. None of them were paying any attention to where they were going and they soon found themselves in a darkened corridor. Still fearful of being caught, however, they ran towards the only door they could see.

Reaching it and realizing it was locked, Cedric pulled out his wand and said, "Alohomora!" The door unlocked and the group quickly made their way into the room, shutting the door behind them. Several of them bent over, their hands on their knees, as they tried to catch their breath. When he could finally speak, Cedric said, "Well at least we're safe."

"I wouldn't say that," Jeremy said, his tone obviously scared, prompting Cedric to look at his friend and see that his face had gone deathly pale and he was shaking like a leaf as he pointed a shaking hand at something. Several pairs of eyes turned at this point to see what Jeremy was pointing at and were all soon tripping over each other to try and get the door open and get away from the giant three-headed dog that had just spotted them, growling as slobber dripped from the fangs of three mouths and creating a large puddle on the floor by its feet.

Getting the door open, Cedric ushered everyone out, before he pulled the door shut with all of his might, as Ryan pointed his wand at the door and cast the Locking Charm on it. With that done, they quickly made haste, wanting to get as far away from that door as they could. Finally stopping to once again catch their breath in a darkened alcove, William asked, "Guess we know why Dumbledore said to stay out of the third floor corridor now."

Harry nodded and said, "What are they doing keeping a thing like that in a school?"

"That was a cerberus," Ryan said. "And didn't you see what it was standing on?"

Shaking his head, Draco said, "No, Orion, I didn't, I was a little too preoccupied with its heads to notice its feet."

"It was standing on a trapdoor," Hermione said. "So my guess is that it’s guarding something." Not giving anyone else a chance to say anything, however, she soon added, "Now, I suggest that we all get to bed before we all end up dead - or worse, expelled."

Even being a somewhat studious person, who was definitely enjoying his time at Hogwarts, William couldn't help but think that Hermione had seriously messed up priorities if she thought being expelled from school was worse than being dead.

"Agreed," Draco drawled, before holding out his hand at Harry and saying, "My wand, if you please?"

Harry had forgotten he was even holding it until Draco said something, at which point he nodded and handed it back to the blond. They were all just about to leave the alcove and head back to their common rooms, when a small orb of light punched through the darkness.

"Well, well, what have we here?" a male voice asked as the ten students looked past the glowing wand light to see Professor Firenze standing in the hallway.

As Firenze taught the fourth and fifth year Astronomy classes, this was the first time that any of the ten students were meeting the centaur up close, although, they'd all seen him around Hogwarts. They'd also heard him being discussed in their common rooms. It had apparently come as a great shock to a number of the older students who had him as a professor that he was actually capable of using a wand. He was a centaur, after all, not a wizard.

Cedric, of course, didn't particularly understand why some of his housemates were so shocked that Firenze could use a wand, because it said quite clearly in 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' that centaurs were skilled in magical healing. In Cedric's mind, at least, this suggested that they probably did possess enough magic to wield a wand. He just figured that as they usually lived in the forest, they didn't visit stores very often or have money to do so, and thus cast any spells that they did need wandless. However, as he had taken a job at Hogwarts, Cedric didn't think it was that much of a leap to think that Firenze had decided to spend some of his new salary and get a wand.

This was, in fact, exactly what had happened. Firenze had decided that if he was going to live among humans, he might as well try to fit in a bit better. So, one of the first things he'd done, after opening a vault at Gringotts', where the goblins told him he was the first centaur to ever do so, was pay a visit to Ollivander's to get a wand. Professor Dumbledore had accompanied him and kept him Disillusioned until he was actually in the store, so nobody on Diagon Alley saw him. Garrick Ollivander was more than happy, however, to match Firenze with a wand and set about the task of doing so. After trying nearly forty of them, however, Garrick was forced to accept the fact that none of his premade wands were going to work for Firenze, who he could tell was certainly magically powerful enough to possess a wand, but his magic worked differently from that of a human, which made sense, since he was a centaur.

So, opting to do something he very rarely did, Garrick set to work making a custom wand for Firenze. Taking note of which woods had seemed to react best to Firenze, but still not quite up to his liking, Garrick decided to use lignum vitae, a wood that he kept only a very small amount of on hand and up until that point had never made a wand from. There were a few scattered references to wands made from it, with perhaps the most famous of all being Merlin's wand. After crafting the shaft and handle, Garrick was faced with another quandary in that none of his three supreme cores had seemed to work as well as he would have liked for Firenze. Of course, he had compiled his results on those cores based on humans, so it stood to reason that those particular cores might not work as well for magical creatures.

In the end, Firenze ended up paying fifteen galleons for a thirteen and one-quarter inch lignum vitae wand with a hair from his own tail. Garrick had never worked with centaur hair before and didn't know of a single wandmaker who had, but then that was probably because most centaurs would be more likely to plant their hooves in your chest then give you one of their tail hairs, no matter how nicely you asked. Firenze allowed Garrick to cut a hair from his tail, however, when the wandmaker suggested that it might be the most appropriate core which would work best with Firenze's unique magic. It was a perfect match, as almost the second the finished wand touched Firenze's hand his whole body seemed to glow and he effortlessly cast a few spells to test it out, some of which he'd never even cast before, as his magic use had previously been limited to mostly healing.

Dumbledore had then Disillusioned Firenze for a second time and they then made their way to Madam Malkin's, where Dumbledore was quite pleased to see nobody else in the store. The reason for the visit was because of a suggestion that Professor McGonagall had made. She thought that with Firenze teaching fourth and fifth year classes that some of the students that would be in his class would be of a sufficient age that having their teacher teach classes with his naked torso showing would be distracting. Firenze hadn't quite understood why that would be the case, but had blushed a bit when McGonagall then elaborated that some of his students might be distracted because they found him attractive and enjoyed looking at his attributes.

It was for this reason that Firenze had visited Madam Malkin and got fitted for several shirts which he could in turn wear while teaching classes so that hopefully the students would be more focused on their lessons. Looking forward to the challenge, Madam Malkin also hadn't let Firenze leave until taking full measurements that she should use to make him some robes, both regular and dress, which would not only cover his torso but also the rest of his body. Firenze hadn't really seen them as being necessary, as he felt the shirts would be more than enough, but he allowed her to make some anyway. He didn't think he'd ever wear them, but as Dumbledore said at the time, it was better to have them and not wear them then to find himself needing them at some point and not having them.

"I believe you're all supposed to be in bed at this hour, are you not?" Firenze asked in a calm tone.

"Yes, Professor," Cedric admitted.

"Well, then I have no choice," Firenze said. "The ten of you will all serve detention with Hagrid, Professor Weasley and myself. You'll be contacted with details of when and where." Not giving anyone a chance to say a word, Firenze added, "Now, all of you off to bed before I decide to take points, as well."

None of them wanted to lose points for their houses, especially Harry, William, Neville, and Hermione because they knew that depending on how many points Firenze opted to take it could be very bad for Gryffindor since there were four of them.

-o-0-o-

The next morning at breakfast, an owl flew over to the Hufflepuff table and dropped off notes for Ryan, Jeremy, and Cedric, as well as their young friends Carter, Hunter, William, Hermione, Harry and Neville, who had all opted to sit at the Hufflepuff table that morning, for a change. An owl could also be seen flying over the Slytherin table and dropping a similar note in front of Draco Malfoy's plate. Opening the notes, the students who'd got them realized that they were all exactly the same.

You will serve detention at eleven o'clock tonight. Meet Mr. Filch in the Entrance Hall. Don't be late. And bring your cloak.

-- Prof. Albus Dumbledore

"Oh man, detention with Filch?" Cedric asked. "That's gonna be bad. I was hoping that it would be with Firenze, since he's the one who gave it."

While William didn't particularly care for the caretaker, he didn't know him all that well, seeing as how he didn't have much contact with the man since the beginning of the school year, so he asked, "Why, Cedric?"

"Filch hates all students," Cedric explained. "I've heard him mumbling that he wishes the old punishments hadn't been abolished."

"Old punishments?" Harry asked.

Jeremy leaned over and said, "Whipping, thumbscrews, the rack, you name it, he hates that he can't do it to any of us."

"That's utterly barbaric," Hermione said. "Hogwarts never allowed any of that."

"And what makes you so sure, Hermione?" Ryan asked.

"There was no mention of it in Hogwarts: A History," Hermione said with an authoritative tone, as if she was sure that the book was the end all source of information and if something about Hogwarts didn't appear in it, it wasn't true.

At this several people rolled their eyes, as William asked, "Hermione, did it ever occur to you that the author didn't include anything in the book that might make Hogwarts look bad?"

Before Hermione could comment, Cedric said, "There's plenty of stuff that isn't written down in books, Hermione. Doesn't make it any less true."

"There's also plenty of stuff that is written in books that isn't true," Ryan added. "You should learn not to believe everything you read."

Hermione looked like she was about to say something, but whatever comment she was about to make was silenced by the warning bell signaling the end of breakfast. Whatever retort she had prepared died on her lips, as everyone around her got up to head for the first classes of the day. Not that she was far behind.

-o-0-o-

The ten students serving detention that night arrived in the Entrance Hall at two minutes to eleven to find Mr. Filch waiting for them. He was holding a large lantern in his hand, as he nodded at the group of students, a look none of them could possibly mistake as anything other than abject hatred on his face, before he turned and headed outside. Throwing on their cloaks, the group followed Mr. Filch out of the castle and into the star-filled darkness outside.

As he continued walking, Filch said, "You'll be serving detention with Professor Firenze and Hagrid tonight." Several of them felt relieved at that when they realized that the caretaker was simply escorting them to detention rather than administering it, but their relief was short lived when Filch added, "In the Forbidden Forest."

"The forest?" Carter asked, a note of fear in his tone. There was a large forest on the grounds of Wells Manor in Cornwall and Carter and Hunter used to like sneaking into it to play. Their fathers had expressly told them not to, that it was dangerous, especially at night, but they hadn't listened. At least until that time when they were seven and Hunter was almost killed by a rabid wolf. Thankfully, the groundskeeper had been working late on some of the hedges in the formal garden and had seen them going towards the forest. Following after them, he quickly stunned the wolf before it could do anything to Hunter. That didn't make the memory any less scary, however, and both of the Wells twins had since avoided dark forests.

"We can't go in the forest," Hermione said. "It's forbidden."

"You're forbidden from entering it by yourselves," Filch said, as he continued walking. "You won't be by yourselves."

Filch didn't say anything else, well, anything aloud, anyway. He was mumbling to himself, however, and Harry and William, who were the closest, shuddered as they realized that Cedric and Jeremy had been correct. Filch was muttering about wishing that the old punishments hadn't been allowed to die and how much he'd love to drag some of the students down to the old torture chamber beneath the castle. William couldn't say that he was overly surprised to learn that Hogwarts Castle had a torture chamber, because it was a very old castle and many old castles had such rooms. He would have thought, however, that it would have been converted or sealed up by now though. Filch was, however, talking as if not only did the room still exist, but that he visited it often, making sure that all of the equipment was kept in working order.

That thought definitely sent chills down his spine, as he thought, 'That stuff has no place in a school. Maybe I'll write to grandmother. She's Head of State and Government in the Wizarding world, maybe she can do something about it. Issue a proclamation or something.'

It wasn't long after this that the group arrived at Hagrid's hut on the edge of the woods. Hagrid was sitting on the steps of his home, loading a large crossbow, a large boarhound sitting next to him. Nearby stood a palomino centaur with white-blond hair, that they all recognized as being Firenze, the professor who'd gotten them into this. Of course, truthfully, they had nobody to blame but themselves, but they found it easier to blame Firenze then to accept the blame for their own actions.

"Hagrid, Professor," Filch said as he approached.

Hagrid nodded as Firenze, who was gazing up at the stars said, "I have no use for human titles. My name is sufficient, Mr. Filch."

"As you wish, Firenze," Filch said in a tone that indicated he didn't care much for the centaur. "I've brought the students, so, I'll be on my way."

Filch didn't say anything else as he turned on his heel and marched back to the castle. Meanwhile, Hagrid looked at the group assembled and said, "Anyway, this here's Firenze, as I'm sure yeh heard." Everyone nodded, as they chose not to point out the fact that Firenze was the one who assigned them detention in the first place. "Yeh'll be goin' with us into the forest tonight."

"The Forest?" Draco asked. "I thought that was a joke. We can't go in there, students aren't allowed. And there are," he paused here as a howling noise could be heard, before adding, "werewolves."

"Oh there's more than just werewolves in the Forest, Mr. Malfoy," Firenze commented in a totally unconcerned tone, which probably had something to do with him growing up in the forest.

"May I ask why we're going into the Forest?" William asked.

Turning his gaze from the stars to William, Firenze said, "A unicorn has been injured. We need to find it."

"There's unicorns in the forest?" Harry asked.

"Indeed," Firenze answered. "There's all manner of creatures in the forest. Some of which will not hesitate to attack a human on sight. You would all be wise to stick close to Hagrid and myself."

"We'll be splittin' up into two groups," Hagrid said, as he stood up and rested his crossbow on one shoulder. "We can cover more ground tha' way. Hermione, Jeremy, Ryan, Draco, and Neville yer with me, the others with Firenze."

With that, Hagrid entered the woods, Hermione, Jeremy, Ryan, Draco, and Neville following him. Fang, the boarhound, stayed behind at Hagrid's house, because as Hagrid explained, despite his size, the dog was a bloody coward.

"Follow me and stay close," Firenze told his group. "The forest is a dangerous place, especially now."

"Why especially now?" William asked.

"Even the most dangerous of predators," Firenze answered, "don't attack unicorns. For one to be injured as grievously as Hagrid and I fear, there is something extremely dangerous loose in the forest."

"The forest isn't the only place with dangerous creatures in it," Cedric commented.

"True," Harry agreed as his thoughts turned back to the giant three-headed dog - the cerberus as Ryan had called it - that they'd all encountered the previous night.

"I don't know what they're thinking keeping a thing like that in a school," Carter said. "Telling people not to go into that corridor is all well and good, but for some people that's just a license to do the exact opposite."

"True," William agreed. "If Hermione is right though, I do wonder what its guarding."

"So, you were in the Forbidden Corridor," Firenze commented. "I figured as much when I caught you. As for the cerberus that's kept there - Hagrid calls it Fluffy - you shouldn't be worrying about it. What it's guarding doesn't concern any of you and I would suggest you not venture up there again. Of course, in coming to understand human nature better since I started working at Hogwarts, I'm sure you probably won't listen to me. So, fair warning, don't let me catch you, or I'll be taking points and giving you detention with Mr. Filch every night for a month."

At this point, Firenze held up a hand to stop the group before he knelt down to examine a pool of silvery liquid.

"What is it?" Hunter asked, as he peered down at the liquid.

"Unicorn blood and a large amount of it," Firenze responded, a look of worry gracing his face, as he returned to a standing position. "If it's loosing this much blood, it must be mortally wounded. I suspect we're close."

Moments later, something howled nearby and Carter and Hunter instantly froze with fear, as Cedric, sensing their fear, wrapped his arms around both of them, doing his best to comfort them. The memory of that night in the forest when Hunter was almost killed came flooding to the fore of both twins' minds. It had been hovering close to their consciousnesses ever since they'd found out they were going into the forest, but they'd both managed to keep it at bay. Now, however, hearing that sound, all other thoughts fled from their brains as they relived that night in their heads.

"We're being hunted," Firenze said, as he readied his bow and notched an arrow, scanning the darkened forest. Having grown up in the forest, his sense of direction was far superior to the three humans with him and he had soon zeroed in on where the wolf was. It was about fifty feet in front of them, circling around, getting closer and closer by the minute. Of course, Firenze also knew that it wasn't an ordinary wolf.

He could tell just from the howl that it was actually what was known as a dread wolf, which was much larger and stronger than a regular wolf, not to mention being far more dangerous. Not only would it attack almost anything on sight, its ferocious bite carries the lycanthropy curse. While there'd been plenty of werewolves who had spread the curse to others, the curse originated from a human being bitten by a dread wolf. They were extraordinarily rare and solitary wolves, who usually only appeared once every ten years or so in the early to late autumn, as that was their breeding season. The offspring of a dread wolf was always male and the mother never survived the pregnancy due to the fact that when it comes time for a baby dread wolf to be born, they literally claw their way out of their mother's womb, killing her in the process, and then eating her remains as their first meal.

"It's a dread wolf," Firenze explained. "Its diseased bite is where the lycanthropy curse originated. Stay here - you don't want to get bitten by that thing."

Before any of them could comment, Firenze trotted away, bow raised, ready to fire. He wasn't worried for his own safety, as he'd hunted a dread wolf before and centaurs were one of the few creatures that they did not attack. For some unknown reason that was either lost to time or simply never known, dread wolves seemed to avoid attacking anything with hooves, so they left centaurs, unicorns, hippogriffs and other hoofed creatures alone. However, they seem to have a particular hatred of humans and become particularly enraged whenever they smell one - to the point that they will try to attack a human even if they're in the company of a creature that they usually avoid.

"Did he really just leave us here?" Carter asked, his tone clearly indicating that he was terrified.

"Yeah, he did," Harry answered. "He's going to deal with the wolf though."

"I assume he's going to try and lead it away from us," William said. "So, that's a good thing, right?"

While neither William or Harry sounded quite as scared as Carter did, that didn't mean they weren't scared. They were only eleven years old, after all, and they were alone in a dark forest, full of dangerous creatures, several of whom probably wouldn't hesitate to eat them if given half a chance. It's safe to say that anyone in their position, provided they were sane, would be just as scared as they were. Especially if, like in Carter's case, they'd almost seen someone they loved killed the last time they were alone in a dark forest, or in Hunter's case, had been the person that was almost killed.

Looking around, William spotted a grouping of large rocks that jutted out from a small hillock. It would provide protection on three sides, which he pointed out. Cedric agree that it would be a good hiding place, as the three of them huddled together and made their way over. However, when they'd gotten close enough to the opening of this natural barrier, they realized that it was already occupied. All five of them gasped at the sight of a unicorn laying on the ground, as a shadowy figure in a long black cloak kneeled near the creature's head, which was bleeding profusely.

"What is it doing?" Hunter whispered.

Blinking once or twice to make sure his eyes weren't deceiving him, William whispered back, "I think... I think it's drinking the blood."

Harry was just about to concur with the prince's assessment of the situation, when his scar erupted in a searing pain that almost instantly knocked him off his feet. Letting go of the twins, Cedric was next to Harry in moments, holding him and trying to figure out what was wrong. Moving to try and help their friend, William, Carter, and Hunter tripped over a tree root that none of them had seen in the darkness and fell flat on their faces. The movement was enough to catch the attention of the shadowy figure who was feeding on the unicorn's blood, at which point it floated upwards, more to the height of a man, before floating towards the three pre-teens with an alarming speed.

With their nerves already frayed, Carter and Hunter were shaking with fear as the creature got closer to Harry. They wanted to help their friend, but they were both paralyzed with fear. Other than the shaking, they couldn't get any part of their bodies to move. William wasn't that much better off, though, as he too was quite scared. He didn't quite understand what was going on with Harry and why he was screaming in what was obviously pain. He wanted to help him, but he also wanted to help Carter and Hunter, especially since Cedric was already helping Harry, or trying to anyway.

As it got closer, William could see that whatever the figure was, it was covered in a black hooded cloak, with no face noticeable in the darkness. It didn't appear to have hands or feet, and was just floating ever closer to Harry, who continued screaming, his hands clutched to the scar on his forehead. 'What is it about whatever this thing is that's making Harry's scar hurt?' William thought. 'Is it even this thing that's doing it?'

No sooner had those thoughts crossed the young prince's mind, did the shadowy figure reach Harry, as Cedric tried to shield Harry with his body, too scared to even think of pulling out his wand. Not that he had any idea what spell to use in the first place, as he had no clue what the heck this thing was. It was moving downwards and whether it was a figment of his imagination or not, William had the distinct impression that this figure meant to harm Harry... and that Cedric, Carter, Hunter and him were probably next. 'I have to do something,' William thought, as he tried to continue holding the shaking Carter and still get his wand. He wasn't sure what he could possibly do against this unknown creature, but he had to try something.

William's hand had just closed around the shaft of his wand when he heard hooves on the ground behind him. A moment later, Firenze leapt through the air, over William, Carter, and Hunter, landing with his rear hooves about a foot from Harry's and Cedric's heads, as he reared up and kicked at the creature with his front legs. Whatever it was, quickly retreated backwards, floating away at a fast pace, before disappearing into the darkness. As it moved away, Harry's cries of pain got softer, until they disappeared completely and Carter's shaking lessened.

Coming down and moving to the side so that Harry and Cedric weren't beneath him, Firenze then leaned down and held out his hands to Harry and Cedric, who quickly took them. Once he'd pulled the two of them to their feet, Firenze moved over and helped William, Carter, and Hunter to their feet. All was silent for a moment, before Harry asked, "What was that thing?"

At this Firenze stared off into the direction the creature had disappeared for a moment, before he turned his gaze to the body of the dead unicorn. In the silence, William and the twins moved closer, as Cedric said, "Whatever it was, it was drinking the unicorn's blood."

Firenze nodded and after a moment he said, "It's a monstrous thing to slay a unicorn. Do any of you know what unicorn blood is used for?"

"We've only used the horn and tail-hair in Potions class," William answered, as he tried to recall from his reading what the blood was used for. Nothing was coming to him though.

Shaking his head, Cedric said, "We haven't used the blood in Potions class, either. I've never seen any reference to potions needing it in any of the books I've read."

"Unicorn blood will keep you alive," Firenze said. "Even if you are within an inch of death. However, you have slain something so pure and innocent in order to save yourself, that from the moment the blood touches your lips, you will be cursed - there is no cure or counter."

"So they'd be cursed forever?" Carter asked and the centaur nodded.

"Well, wouldn't death be better then?" Hunter asked.

"Yes, it would," Firenze said. "Unless, of course, you intend to drink unicorn blood to keep yourself alive long enough to drink something else."

"Drink something else?" William asked, thoroughly confused. "Like what?"

"Do any of you know what is hidden in the school at this very moment?" Firenze asked.

"Hidden at the school?" Harry asked. Remembering the strange package that he'd seen Hagrid collect from a Gringotts' vault that was broken into later that same day and Fluffy guarding something on the third floor, Harry queried, "Does this have something to do with what's on the third floor?"

"Yes, Mr. Potter, it does," Firenze said. "Do you know what it is?"

"Not a clue," Harry said. "Is it... is it the same thing I saw Hagrid take from a vault at Gringotts'? I know he took something from a vault there on Dumbledore's orders and that vault was broken into later that day, but nothing was stolen."

"That is what's on the third floor," Firenze said. Hesitating for a moment, he then added, "As a professor, I really shouldn't tell you this, as I'm sure it will only increase your curiosity about what Fluffy is guarding, but you might want to have a word with your History of Magic professor."

Not understanding what the centaur was talking about, and still wanting to know what that figure was, William asked, "Firenze, what was that thing though? That was drinking the blood?"

Turning to look at the blond prince, Firenze said, "Can you think of nobody, young prince, who has awaited many years to return to power? Clinging to life as they awaited the chance?"

If he wasn't pale enough already, Carter suddenly got even paler as he said, "Surely you don't mean? That... that thing was... You-Know-Who?"

"You should say his name," Firenze answered. "Being afraid to utter it only gives him more power."

Taking a deep breath, Harry said, "So, you mean that thing was Voldemort?"

"I'm afraid so, Mr. Potter," Firenze answered.

"But he's supposed to be dead," Harry said, even as he remembered what Hagrid had told him the night they'd met, "Codswallop, if yeh ask me. I don' think he was still human enough to die."

"Apparently not dead enough," Firenze commented.

Before anyone could ask what that was supposed to mean, Hagrid showed up with his group of students.

"I see yeh found the unicorn," Hagrid said.

"Indeed," Firenze said.

"Among other things," Cedric commented.

"What other things?" Hermione asked.

"First a dread wolf," William revealed, "and then a shadowy, cloaked figure that was drinking the unicorn's blood. Firenze seems to think it was Voldemort."

"Don't say his name!" Hermione, Neville, Jeremy, Ryan, Draco, and Hagrid all exclaimed at once.

Shaking his head and stamping his left front hoof on the ground, Firenze said, "As I told them," motioning towards Harry, Cedric, William and the twins, "you should say his name. Fear of a name only increases fear in the thing itself and thus gives him more power over you. Which is exactly what he wants."

"We should be gettin' back ter the castle," Hagrid said. "We found what we came for."

"Yes, the forest is not safe tonight," Firenze said, as he and Hagrid led the six students out of the forest and back up to the castle.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Six:
Reactions

-o-0-o-

The next morning, when Dylan found out about the detention the previous night and the details of exactly what had transpired, he was about two seconds away from having a major coronary. Within moments he was leaving Gryffindor Tower and heading straight for the Headmaster's office.

"Acid Pops," Dylan said, as he reached the gargoyle, which leapt aside to reveal the stairs. Reaching the top of the staircase, Dylan wasn't the least bit surprised to hear Dumbledore say from within, "Enter, Lord Wells."

'Old man always seems to know everything,' Dylan thought. 'I wonder though if he knows why I'm coming?'

Entering the office, Dumbledore smiled at Dylan and said, "Ah, Your Grace, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company this morning? Please have a seat. Tea? Sherbet Lemon?"

"No thank you," Dylan said, as he remained standing, gripping the back of the chair in front of the headmaster's desk, as he felt that it was a good idea to keep his hands occupied - so he couldn't reach for his wand. "With all due respect, Headmaster," Dylan began in a soft tone, before exploding with, "WHAT THE BLOODY HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!"

Dumbledore looked more than a little taken aback by Dylan's outburst, as he wasn't used to people coming into his office and yelling at him. Several of the portraits of past headmasters and headmistresses were also looking quite shocked, but remained silent as they watched what they were sure was going to be an interesting meeting. After a moment of silence, he said, "What are you referring to, Your Grace?"

"The detention last night," Dylan said, resisting the urge to add 'you old fool' at the end of that statement. "Pray tell me, Headmaster, why you thought it would be a wise move to send a group of ten students - ten eleven year old first year students - into the Forbidden Forest at 11 o'clock at night."

"They had Hagrid and Firenze with them," Dumbledore said. "And I would point out, Your Grace, that not all ten of them were eleven-year-old first years. Messrs. Diggory, Black, and Tennant are third years."

"And is that supposed to make me feel better, Headmaster?" Dylan asked, as he realized his mistake. He was so angry that he had misspoken, but he wasn't surprised that Dumbledore had caught the mistake. Although he couldn't say he was thrilled with the Headmaster's tone of voice when pointing it out, however. "No offense to Hagrid, but he was expelled from Hogwarts in his third year! And while it's true that Firenze grew up in that forest, it was still not an appropriate place to send ten students for detention, especially at night, Dumbledore. And are you aware that Firenze left his group alone with only Cedric to watch over them? There are plenty of things in that forest that are well beyond the capabilities of one third year and four first years to deal with."

"They all made it back safely, did they not?" Dumbledore asked. "Besides that, I think you are underestimating them, Your Grace. Children have a way of rising to a challenge if they have to, but they can't do that if they're never challenged. Are you saying it's wrong to challenge the students?"

Dylan shook his head, unable to believe what he was hearing. "No, there's nothing wrong with presenting the students with challenges, as I'll be the first to agree that presenting them with challenges can be a good learning experience for them. However, the challenges you present them should be appropriate for their age and skill level. If the students in question were sixth years, I might think the Forbidden Forest at night an acceptable challenge, but first and third years have no business being there. I thank Merlin that they all made it back safely, but I have to wonder. Are you even aware of the reason that Firenze left his group alone?"

"Yes, Firenze informed me of the dread wolf roaming the forest," Dumbledore said. "That was indeed quite troubling."

"Quite troubling?" Dylan asked. "It would have been way more than quite troubling, Dumbledore, if one of the students had been bitten by it. I don't even want to imagine having to explain to Her Majesty The Queen that her grandson is a werewolf because he was serving detention in a place he had no business being in the first place, and that I wasn't doing my duty to protect him because I wasn't informed of the detention to begin with. And speaking of that, why wasn't I informed? Considering that both of my sons were in that group, not to mention Prince William, who in case you forget it's my job to protect, I rather think I had a right to know that you were placing them in completely unnecessary danger."

"With all due respect, Your Grace, you're getting quite worked up over nothing," Dumbledore said. "Nothing bad happened and all of them made it back safely. Dwelling on what might have happened serves no purpose."

Dylan gave the headmaster a look at this point that was both incredulous and withering at the same time, as he said, "You should know, Dumbledore, that I will be filing a report on this with both my fellow governors and the Ministry. I wouldn't be surprised if you were called before the Minister or even the Queen herself to explain your rationale for signing off on this detention. And for your sake, Dumbledore, I would suggest that you come up with something more convincing then 'Dwelling on what might have happened serves no purpose.' Considering that you placed her grandson in unnecessary danger, I highly doubt that Her Majesty will accept that argument, Dumbledore. And despite the fact that you showed an inexcusable lack of judgment on this matter, I should hope that you're smart enough to know that."

Before Dumbledore could comment, Dylan turned and left the office, leaving the headmaster alone with his thoughts. Of course, judging by some of the looks Dylan had seen on the faces of the portraits, he rather doubted that Dumbledore would be alone with his thoughts for very long, as he had a feeling that more than one occupant of the portraits was thinking along the same lines as Dylan himself and that was that Dumbledore had completely lost his mind.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, in the Great Hall, Harry, William, Carter, Hunter, Cormac, Seamus and Neville sat down in their usual place at the Gryffindor table for breakfast. Not long afterwards, they were joined by Hermione, Cedric, Ryan, and Jeremy.

"So is it true you had to spend detention in the Forbidden Forest?" Seamus asked.

Harry nodded his head and said, "Yeah."

"Detention in the forest at night?" Cormac asked. "Glad I didn't have to do that."

"It wasn't that bad," Hermione said. "It was dark, but nothing really that bad happened."

"Speak for yourself, Hermione," Harry said. "Maybe nothing really bad happened to your group, but I can't say the same for mine."

"Why what happened?" Seamus asked.

"There was a dread wolf roaming the forest last night," William explained. "Professor Firenze had to leave us alone for awhile, so that he could lure it away from us and kill it."

"A dread wolf?" Hermione asked, being unfamiliar with that specific creature, as learning about dread wolves was not part of the first year curriculum.

"A much larger and more vicious version of a wolf," Cedric explained. "Always male, very solitary, and seems to have a particular hatred of humans. Its diseased bite is the original source of the lycanthropy curse."

"And let's not forget You-Know-Who," Carter said.

Cormac's head snapped up at that, as he asked, "What do you mean You-Know-Who?"

"We saw this shrouded figure in the forest last night," William explained. "It was drinking a dead unicorn's blood."

"Firenze said it was Voldemort," Harry said.

"Don't say his name!" Seamus exclaimed, before he said, "And it couldn't have been him. He's dead."

"Harry is only repeating what Firenze said," Hunter said.

"Well, Firenze obviously doesn't know what he's talking about," Cormac said. "You-Know-Who has been dead for over a decade now. You said it was drinking blood?" Those who'd been witness to it nodded. "I'd say it might be a vampire, but definitely not You-Know-Who."

"You would be incorrect, Serah McLaggen," a masculine voice said, as they turned to see an older boy in Gryffindor robes standing behind them. Harry couldn't help but notice that he looked a lot like Jeremy, only older, with straighter and shorter hair. "While some vampires do drink animal blood, it would only be from mundane animals. A vampire would starve to death before it would willingly drink blood from a unicorn."

Noticing that a few of his younger friends were looking between him and the new arrival, Jeremy cleared his throat and said, "Guys and gal, this is my eldest brother, Jackson Tennant. He's a sixth-year and as you can see from his robes, a Gryffindor."

Sitting down on the bench next to his brother so that his back was facing the table, Jackson asked, "Are you okay Jeremy? When I heard about your detention last night I was nearly out of my mind with worry. Jasper and Jordan were worried too, but I said I'd talk to you and let them know that you were okay."

"I'm fine, Jacks," Jeremy said, using his brother's nickname. "I wasn't in Professor Firenze's group. Most exciting thing to happen to those of us with Hagrid was seeing one of the school owls swooping down to catch a mouse for its dinner."

"Jasper is your brother right?" William asked. "How many do you have?"

Jeremy nodded. "Three. Jackson is the eldest, and then there's Jasper, who's a fifth-year Hufflepuff. You probably saw him at the Quidditch trials, as he's Hufflepuff's team captain. Jordan is a Ravenclaw and five minutes younger than Jasper."

"And finally there's Remy," Jackson said with a grin. "The baby Tennant brother who we're very protective of."

Jeremy groaned and said, "I'm hardly a baby anymore, Jacks, and I can take care of myself thanks."

Jackson was just about to respond to his brother when his attention was drawn to the entrance of the Great Hall, where someone had just come in. "Excuse me a minute," Jackson said, as he stood up and headed towards the new arrival.

Seeing him, Cedric looked confused, as he said, "Isn't that Marcus Flint? Slytherin's captain?"

"Yeah, it is," Ryan answered. "What does Jackson want with him?"

"No clue," Jeremy said, as he watched his older brother approach the Slytherin. It was then that his eyes almost bugged out of his head as Jackson grabbed onto Marcus, dipped him backwards and kissed him, full on the lips, with very obvious tongue action.

Several mouths throughout the hall had dropped open at the sight of a Gryffindor kissing a Slytherin. Taking a moment to recover, Cedric, eyes wide, said, "Your brother is into blokes I take it?"

Jeremy nodded. "Yeah, he is - Jacks told us two or three years ago now. Didn't know about him and Flint though - I knew he was dating someone, but Flint? I'd have never guessed that."

The truth was that Jackson Tennant and Marcus Flint had been dating, in secret, for just over a year now. Despite that, however, it had totally caught Marcus off guard when Jackson decided to kiss him in front of everyone in the Great Hall, because they hadn't discussed the possibility of making their relationship public prior to this. And if they had, Marcus would probably have nixed the idea not only because of the Gryffindor/Slytherin feud, but also because of their different stations in life. Jackson was a commoner, after all, and Marcus was the heir apparent of the Ancient and Noble House of Flint. Not to mention the fact that Marcus was also a pureblood and Jackson and his brothers, thanks to their muggleborn father, were all halfbloods.

As the kiss ended and Jackson allowed Marcus to stand back up, the Slytherin was about to let loose an angry retort for outing them, when it died on his lips at the sound of applause. Turning their heads, Marcus and Jackson saw Dumbledore standing there, his eyes twinkling with pride as he applauded and said, "Mr. Flint, Mr. Tennant, that was a most impressive display of house unity. 25 points to both Slytherin and Gryffindor."

Meanwhile, up at the head table, Dylan shook his head as he leaned over to Professor Thomas Nott, the husband of Hogwarts governor Bann Tristan Nott, and whispered, "Is the headmaster actually serious?"

"It would seem so," Thomas said in an equally soft tone.

"Has the old man totally lost his mind?" Dylan asked. "First he authorized that detention last night and now he's awarding points to people for kissing? Doesn't he realize that that's a very bad precedent to set?"

"You're right, it is a bad precedent," Thomas agreed. "But somehow I don't think the headmaster cares."

Dylan nodded and said, "Yes, you're probably right."

"I do wonder how many couples among the students will start kissing in front of professors now," Thomas said after a moment of silence. "In an attempt to earn points for their houses."

"I was just thinking the same thing, Thom," Dylan said. "Next couple of days will definitely be interesting, to say the least."

Thomas nodded and said, "Yes, that's putting it mildly."

Back over at the entrance to the Great Hall, Jackson nodded to Dumbledore and said, "Thank you, Headmaster," to which Dumbledore just nodded, the twinkle never leaving his eyes.

Wrapping an arm around his boyfriend's waist in an iron grip that Marcus wouldn't be able to extricate himself from even if his life depended upon it, the Slytherin soon found himself being led towards the Gryffindor table. This prompted him to say, "Oh you are not serious."

"Yeah, I actually am," Jackson said. "I want to eat breakfast with my boyfriend. Is that so wrong?"

"No, Jacks, but I would have preferred some warning before you outed me to the entire school!" Marcus hissed through gritted teeth.

"Oh relax, Mark," Jackson said, an easy grin on his face. "Less than half of the school is even here."

"Like that matters," Marcus replied. "It'll be all over the school by the end of first period and you know it."

Jackson nodded and said, "Yeah, you're right, I do." At this, Jackson leaned over and whispered into his boyfriend's ear, "And guess what? I don't care. I love you and I'm tired of hiding it, Mark, so get used to it." As he finished saying this, he playfully bit at the Slytherin's ear.

Marcus sighed and whispered, "I love you too, Jacks, but Merlin's balls, I'm just saying I would have liked to discuss this before you did it."

"Oh where's the fun in that?" Jackson asked. "Besides, need I remind you that you've given up control of our relationship?"

Marcus deflated considerably, remembering the ritual they'd performed over the weekend, as he sighed and said, "No, Jacks, you don't."

"Oh, Mark, don't worry it'll be okay," Jackson whispered to his boyfriend. "And to make it up to you, I'll make sure to fuck you into the mattress harder than I ever have later tonight."

Marcus blushed crimson at Jackson's words, but felt a stirring between his legs, indicating just how much that thought truly excited him. "You promise?"

"Yes, my sweet Mark, I promise," Jackson whispered as he kissed his boyfriend on the temple, just as they reached the Gryffindor table and he said in a louder voice, "Remy, everyone, I'd like you to meet Marcus Flint - my boyfriend of just over a year now."

Nobody moved for about half a minute, before finally Jeremy held out his hand to Marcus and said, "Um, nice to meet you? I'm Jeremy."

Taking Jeremy's hand, Marcus shook it, before he said with a grin, "Yes, I know, Jeremy. With your resemblance to Jacks there's no way you could be anybody else. Well, except perhaps your other brothers." Turning to Jackson he added, "I still say the four of you look freakishly similar."

Jackson nodded as he sat back down at the Gryffindor table, pulling Marcus down to sit next to him and making sure that there was barely half an inch of space between them. "Well, what can I say? We are brothers so it's only natural that we look alike."

Shaking his head, Cedric said, "No, Jacks, what's natural is for Jordan and Jasper to look alike because they're identical twins. Can't say as I know many brothers who look as much alike as the four of you though."

With a grin, Ryan nodded and said, "Yeah, if I didn't know better, I'd almost think that Jordan, Jasper, and Jeremy were your clones, Jacks, because with the exceptions of your ages, differing hairstyles and clothing preferences, you four could probably be mistaken for identical quadruplets."

"As I said," Marcus said. "It's freakish."

Before anyone else could say anything, a cool voice said, "A most impressive display, Mr. Flint."

Turning towards the voice, Marcus saw his Head of House, Severus Snape, standing there. His face was set in the usual scowl he tended to wear whenever he was near Gryffindors, especially one Harry Potter.

Not exactly sure what, if anything, he should say, Marcus simply nodded his head.

After a moment, Snape said, "You appeared quite angry with Mr. Tennant here after that kiss, although you seemed to deflate rather quickly. I find myself wondering why."

Unsure if the Potions Master would actually appreciate it or not, Jeremy said, "I'd noticed that myself and was wondering about that. What's going on, bro?"

Marcus looked to Jackson for direction, while Jackson looked around, before standing up and saying, "Perhaps, it would be best if we had this conversation in a more private setting, Professor. Some of the details aren't really age appropriate for first years."

Severus pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance, but nodded, as he said, "Fine. We'll use the antechamber then," motioning towards a door on the far side of the room near the head table.

"Alright," Jackson said, as he motioned for Marcus to stand up, which he did. When Jeremy made to stand up, however, Severus gave him a pointed look and said, "You will remain here, Mr. Tennant. I wish to speak with Mr. Flint and your brother, not you. If your brother chooses to tell you what's going on at a later time that's up to him, but it will not be right now."

While it was true that Jeremy had Professor Jigger for Potions, he still knew that Snape was not someone you wanted to mess with, as he'd had the taciturn professor during his first and second years at Hogwarts.

"Yes, Professor," Jeremy said, as he turned back towards the Gryffindor table to finish his breakfast. There were quite a few curious looks among the others sitting at the table. Especially the first years, some of whom kind of resented the comment about details not being age appropriate for them, if only because they'd heard "I'll tell you when you're older," from their parents enough times to hate those words or any variation of them.

Sitting on the side of the Gryffindor table that faced the door to the antechamber, Harry said, "Well, whatever it is they're going to talk about, it looks like McGonagall and Dumbledore are going to join them," as he spotted the Deputy Headmistress stand and follow the group, followed shortly afterward by the Headmaster himself.

After a moment of silence, "And there goes Dad and Professor Nott, as well," Carter said, as he saw Dylan stand up at the same moment as Thomas Nott, and follow the others towards the door.

"I do wonder what they're going to talk about," Seamus said, "that we couldn't hear."

Hunter grinned, as he turned towards Jeremy and asked, "So, once you find out, Jeremy, will you tell us?"

Carter nodded and added, "Yeah, you wouldn't want us all to die from curiosity, would you?"

Jeremy shook his head. "I doubt not knowing will kill you, but I'm sure I will find out about whatever is going on at some point. Jacks is my brother, after all, so he can't hide it from me forever."

-o-0-o-

If Snape was at all angered by the presences of Dylan and Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall and Nott, he didn't show it. He did, however, look slightly perturbed when he opened his mouth to start the conversation, only to be cut off by McGonagall.

"What's going on here, Severus?" McGonagall asked. "Why did you want to speak to these two alone?"

"I can't speak with a member of my house now, Minerva?"

"You're perfectly welcome to speak to a member of your house, Severus," McGonagall said. "But last time I checked only Mr. Flint was a Slytherin, while Mr. Tennant is one of my lions."

"I am perfectly well aware of that, Minerva," Snape answered. "Besides, I'm not the one who requested a private meeting. I'd asked Mr. Flint and Mr. Tennant a simple question in the hall and Mr. Tennant is the one who suggested that we move to a more private setting."

McGonagall turned to Jackson at this, prompting him to nod. "That's true, professor, the private meeting was my idea."

"And just what was this question that Professor Snape asked you?" Dumbledore asked.

"He noticed that Mark seemed very angry with me for kissing him at first," Jackson said. "But that he got over it very quickly and he wanted to know why that was. That's when I suggested the change of venue because the answer to that question wasn't really appropriate for the younger students that Mark and I were seated with when Professor Snape asked the question."

Clearing his throat, Snape said, "And what is the answer then?"

Sharing a look with Marcus, who nodded, Jackson said, "Mark and I have been dating for just over a year now and we love each other very much. However, I'm a halfblood and a commoner, so I would not be considered an appropriate match for their son in the eyes of Lord and Lady Flint."

"We knew it was only a matter of time before my parents found out," Marcus said. "And I knew that they'd force us to break up as soon as they did, so this weekend, Jacks and I took preemptive measures to prevent that."

"What kind of preemptive measures?" Dylan asked.

Marcus and Jackson were silent for a moment, before Jackson cleared his throat and said, "We performed the Dominance Bond."

"The Dominance Bond?" McGonagall asked, her voice unsure, as she looked at her colleagues. She was clearly unaware of the particulars of the bond.

"In many ways its similar to a Marriage Bond," Thomas answered, as several people turned to look at him. "I've always been fascinated by magical rituals, personally, and have studied a great number of them as a result. This is definitely one of the more obscure bonds in existence and there aren't many recorded instances of the Dominance Bond actually being used, as very few couples are willing to deal with the consequences of using it."

"What kind of consequences, Thomas?" McGonagall asked. Normally, as a commoner, she would have been required to address Thomas by deference to his title as Bann-Consort Nott, but to make things easier on his co-workers, Thomas had granted all of them permission to use his first name.

"The bond requires one partner to essentially give up control of the relationship," Thomas replied. "This partner is known as the bonded submissive and from a magical and legal standpoint, they give up the right to make any decisions pertaining to the relationship itself. That doesn't mean that the dominant partner controls every aspect of their lives, as the submissive has full control over all aspects of their life not pertaining to their relationship."

"Which is why I got over my anger so quickly," Marcus revealed. "I'm the submissive and Jacks reminded me that I ceded control to him. So, even though one could argue that when and how I came out of the closet should be my decision alone, since we bonded, it falls under the relationship heading, which means Jacks has full control."

"Why didn't you just use a regular Marriage Bond?" Dylan asked. "Why opt for a rarely used bond like this?"

"Because unlike the Marriage Bond," Jackson answered, "the Dominance Bond is permanent."

"Well, that's not entirely true," Thomas said. "It's permanent in the sense that an annulment is not an option, but it can still be ended by the death of one of the partners."

Shaking his head, Snape said, "I fail to see why you couldn't answer these questions in front of the others. So far, I haven't heard anything that I would deem too sensitive for younger ears."

"Well there's a few other points that we haven't covered," Thomas said. "One of those being that when this bond is performed it is very rarely if ever performed in front of an audience, because it requires the partners entering into it to not only be completely naked, but to be engaging in sexual intercourse while saying their vows. The power of the bond also renders the submissive partner incapable of having sex with anyone except their dominant partner. So, as long as Mr. Tennant here is alive, he is the only person on the planet that Mr. Flint can have sex with. The bond doesn't place any such limitations on Mr. Tennant, however."

Both Marcus and Jackson were blushing almost as red as Jackson's Gryffindor tie, because while Jackson had asked for privacy, he still hadn't been completely prepared for the reality of discussing his sex life with his professors.

All was silent in the room for several moments, as the people in the room who were just finding out about the details of the bond digested this information. After a moment, however, Snape raised an eyebrow and said, "So, the only way to end the bond is Mr. Tennant's death?" Thomas nodded. "I fail to see why you two thought this bond was necessary, as I would only point out that life is a very fragile state, Mr. Tennant."

McGonagall bristled at this comment and said, "Severus, are you threatening one of my lions?"

"No, Minerva," Snape said. "I'm just pointing out that Lord and Lady Flint will not be happy about this turn of events. Also, accidents do happen and sometimes they do have tragic circumstances."

"Severus, that's a horrible thing to say!" Dylan exclaimed.

Dumbledore nodded his head and said, "Yes, indeed, Severus, my boy, that was quite inappropriate."

Before Severus could say anything, however, laughter filled the room and everyone turned shocked eyes on Thomas, who was doubled over and laughing his head off.

"Thomas, I fail to see what's funny!" McGonagall exclaimed, with a stern look to her fellow professor and former student.

Getting a hold on himself, Thomas stood straight and wiped a tear from his eye as he said, "I'm sorry, but I just realized why they did this bond the way they did and I was just imagining the looks on Lord and Lady Flint's faces when they realize that they'll have to do everything they can to keep their halfblood, commoner son-in-law alive and well." In his head, Thomas added, 'When they would probably much rather murder him in a most gruesome manner.'

"What are you talking about, my boy?" Dumbledore asked and if anyone in the room was surprised that the man that many considered to be one of the most powerful and learned wizards in the world seemed to be unaware of the specifics of this bond, nobody said anything.

"I'm an only child," Marcus said, before Thomas could respond to the headmaster's question. "And due to a magical accident, my father is sterile, so, he can't replace me as his heir. By making myself the submissive in the bond, I've ensured that my parents can't force Jacks and I apart."

"As I said earlier," Thomas explained, "the submissive partner cannot have sex with anyone other than their dominant partner. The bond would make it physically impossible for Mr. Flint to perform for anyone other than Mr. Tennant, meaning that so long as Mr. Tennant is alive, Mr. Flint cannot impregnate anyone else and Mr. Tennant is the only one who can impregnate him. Now, if Mr. Tennant died, the bond would be broken and Mr. Flint could be with someone else. However, the bond leaves a lasting effect that would be horrifying to most magical families."

Jackson nodded and said, "So long as I'm alive, Mark and I can have children. Now, they won't be purebloods, due to the fact that I'm a halfblood, but they'll still more likely than not be magical. If I should die before we have any children together, however, any and all children that Mark has with someone else will be squibs."

"As will their children and their children after them," Thomas added. "That's the heaviest consequence of the Dominance Bond - it suppresses the magical abilities of all the descendants of the submissive partner that are born after the death of their dominant partner, if they die from anything other than natural causes. Thus, Lord and Lady Flint will have to deal with having Jackson as a son-in-law if they want their grandchildren to have magic."

After several minutes of silence, Dumbledore sighed and said, "Well, boys, I can't say as I agree with your actions, as they were quite manipulative, but what's done is done." Turning to Thomas, Dumbledore asked, "You said that this bond is like a Marriage Bond, but is it seen as a legal marriage?"

"Legalities aren't really my field of expertise, Albus," Thomas said. "However, Tristan did look over the information I found on the bond and he did some research of his own. He found reference to a younger son of the Pendragon family entering into a Dominance Bond in the 1100's and despite the lack of an officiate, witnesses, or a marriage license, the king at the time declared the union a legal marriage, thus setting a precedent that in Tristan's professional opinion stands to this day."

Knowing that Tristan Nott was one of the most successful and respected solicitors in the country, despite his relatively young age, Dumbledore nodded, before turning back to Marcus and Jackson. "Well, in that event, I must ask if it is your desire to be granted private rooms? There is a provision in the Hogwarts bylaws which grant married students the right to live separately from their houses so that they can cohabitate together."

Marcus and Jackson were silent for a few moments, as they silently contemplated that. Neither of them had been aware of that provision in the school bylaws, but then it was a relatively rare event for a student to be married while still attending Hogwarts. In fact, the last time martial rooms had been arranged for a student was when Thorne married Dylan over the summer before his seventh year. Turning to his boyfriend, Jackson asked, "Thoughts, Mark?"

"Would I still be allowed to play Quidditch for Slytherin?"

"Yes, Mr. Flint," McGonagall answered. "The rule in question states that student occupants of the martial rooms retain full membership to their houses and all the rights and privileges that go with being a member of that house. So, yes, you would retain your position on the Quidditch team."

A confused look crossed Jackson's face, as he asked, "Wouldn't all occupants of such rooms be students?"

"Not necessarily, Mr. Tennant," Dylan said. "My husband and I had marital rooms ourselves, but I'd already finished Hogwarts when we got married over the summer before his seventh year. So, he was the only student, but I was allowed to live in the castle with him due to our marriage."

"Ah, okay," Jackson said, as he nodded his head in understanding.

With his question answered, Marcus nodded at Jackson, who then said to Dumbledore, "Yes, Headmaster, we want private rooms."

"So be it," Dumbledore said, just as the bell signaling the end of breakfast rang. "I'll have rooms prepared and have the house-elves move your belongings. Now, I believe you both have classes to get to, so you're dismissed. I'll send someone to find you later in the day to show you where your new rooms are."

-o-0-o-

It was as he was making his way back to his office after breakfast that a tawny owl swooped into the corridor from a nearby open window and landed on the floor in front of Professor Dumbledore. Looking down at the bird and noticing the envelope tied to its leg, he asked, "You have a message for me?"

The bird seemed to nod it's head and Dumbledore nodded, as he pulled out his wand and said, "Accio envelope." He was an old man, after all, and he wasn't entirely sure if he'd be able to get back up if he knelt down to get the envelope with his hands. Relieved of its burden, the owl spread its wings and left the castle the same way it had come in. Dumbledore, meanwhile, continued towards his office, figuring that he'd open and read the missive once he was sitting down. Recognizing the owl as one of the Ministry's owls, Dumbledore thought to himself, 'I wonder what Cornelius needs my advice on this time?'

Reaching his office, Dumbledore set the envelope on his desk as he crossed over to the small sideboard where the house-elves set up his tea service. Preparing himself a cup, Dumbledore took it back over to his desk and sat down, taking a few sips of the hot liquid and sighing in contentment. Setting the cup on his desk, Dumbledore reached over to his candy jar and grabbed a sherbet lemon, which he popped into his mouth, before taking the envelope, opening it, and pulling out the sheet of parchment inside, as he leaned back in his chair and prepared to read.

Dumbledore,

I received a priority report on my desk this morning from The-Lord-Teryn Wells indicating that you had placed his twin sons in what he called unnecessary danger by assigning them to serve detention at eleven o'clock at night in the Forbidden Forest. He was also quite angry over the fact that you didn't inform him of the detention until after the fact and informed me that the professor assigned to the group left them alone for a time to kill a dread wolf.

Obviously I am greatly disturbed to hear that a dread wolf has been found so close to Hogwarts, however, I have confidence that this threat has now been eliminated and that when you authorized the detention you had taken every possible precaution to insure that the students were in no real danger. I would, however, request that you please forward the professor's first name to me as soon as possible. Lord Wells' letter only referred to him as 'Professor Firenze' but I'll need both his first and last name in order to turn it over to the nominating committee for the Order of Merlin. I'm sure you'll agree that single-handedly eliminating such a dangerous threat is surely worthy of at least an Order of Merlin, Third Class, if not a Second Class.

In closing, I would just like to add that Lord Wells had also mentioned in his letter that another of the students with his sons was his charge for the year. A William Windsor I believe? He seemed to think Her Majesty would be very upset to find out that he'd been placed in unnecessary danger, but since nothing happened and all the children are perfectly safe, I really see no reason to bother Her Majesty with this matter. After all, she has never shown any interest whatsoever in the magical world, nor have any of the monarchs before her for over a hundred years now, so we'll just keep this between us, shall we?

Lord Wells did mention that he'd forwarded a copy of his message to me to the other Hogwarts governors, but I doubt any of them would bother Her Majesty with this, as contact between our government and hers' has always been through my office. So, what she doesn't know won't hurt her.

Signed,

Cornelius O. Fudge
Minister for Magic

Setting the letter aside, Dumbledore knew that he'd have to contact Cornelius and urge him to change his mind about informing the Queen. While he had no desire to deal with her potential anger over the detention, as he had already dealt with that of Lord Wells that morning, he knew that it would only be ten times worse if she found out later and that the information had been withheld from her. And since he knew that Lord Wells and his husband worked for the royal family, there was a distinct possibility that it would get back to Her Majesty sooner rather than later.

Deciding that a Floo-Call would be best, Dumbledore stood and taking the letter with him, he threw it in the flames of his fireplace, watching it burn for a moment, before he grabbed a pinch of Floo powder and threw it into the flames, before kneeling before the fireplace. He wasn't as worried about the potential of not being able to get back up as he was earlier, because he had a magically charmed bench in front of his office fireplace which could assist in returning him to a standing position if it became necessary.

"Minister for Magic's office," Dumbledore said, before sticking his head in the flames.

-o-0-o-

Cornelius Oswald Fudge was reclining in the very comfortable leather chair behind his desk in his stately office. His hands were folded behind his neck and his feet were up on the desk as he neared dropping off to sleep, as he listened to the latest hit from The Singing Sorceress, Celestina Warbeck. There was a rather large pile of correspondence in his inbox and other matters that he should have been dealing with, but honestly, he wasn't all that concerned. After all, that's what the underlings at the Ministry were for, to deal with all the minutiae which crossed his desk.

He had just closed his eyes and settled back for his afternoon nap when he heard the telltale whooshing noise of his Floo connection coming to life. Quickly sitting up and doing his best not to fall out of his chair in the process, Cornelius quickly picked up a pen, grabbed a random item from his inbox, and attempted to look busy. After a moment, the sound of someone clearing their throat caused him to look up and he said, "Ah, Dumbledore. I'm very busy, but I suppose I can spare you a couple of minutes."

Dumbledore smiled and said, "How very kind of you, Cornelius." Those who knew the headmaster well would recognize the hint of sarcasm in his voice, but the Minister was oblivious to it, as he was to most things. "I got your owl and I thought it best to discuss it."

"Of course, of course," Fudge said. "What's the first name of that professor, who killed that dread wolf?"

"Firenze," Dumbledore said and in his head he counted 'Three, two, one...' knowing that it wouldn't long before the minister commented on that in a confused voice.

'Right on time,' Dumbledore thought, as Fudge looked up, his face one of complete confusion and his tone equally so, as he asked, "His name is Professor Firenze Firenze?"

Shaking his head, Dumbledore said, "No, Cornelius, his name is just Firenze. Honestly, he doesn't much care for the Professor honorific, but it goes with the job. Anyway, he has only the one name, as surnames are not often to be found among centaurs."

"Centaur?" Fudge asked. "You have a centaur working at Hogwarts, Dumbledore? Are you sure that's wise?"

"Yes, Cornelius," Dumbledore replied in a patient tone. "Firenze is one of the new professors we just brought in this year. He's teaching the fourth and fifth year Astronomy classes and doing quite well according to the department head, Professor Sinistra. She says he has quite an excellent grasp on the subject and has even given her a run for her galleons a few times as he shared more than a few Astronomy facts that, Professor Sinistra in all her years of experience as a Ministry-accredited Master of Astronomy, had to look up in order to realize they were true."

"But surely a professor at Hogwarts should be capable of performing magic?" Fudge asked.

"Yes, they should be," Dumbledore agreed. "And Firenze is perfectly capable of performing magic. All of his colleagues at Hogwarts, myself included will vouch for that, as will His Grace Lord-Teryn Ollivander who sold him his wand."

"Wand?" Fudge asked. "Dumbledore centaurs aren't allowed to own wands."

Dumbledore smiled patiently and said, "Cornelius, as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, I can assure you that there are no laws barring Firenze from owning a wand. And in my opinion it would be a gross miscarriage of justice if any such laws were passed because Firenze is a very gifted spellcaster, I would even go so far as to say that he's a prodigy, despite not being human. In fact, Teryn Ollivander and I can swear to the fact that he was performing spells he had never performed in his life like a master within five minutes of owning his first wand."

"Still, Dumbledore," Fudge said, "I'm sorry but I just cannot support a centaur teaching children."

"Well, that doesn't really matter, now does it, Minister?" Dumbledore said. "The Board of Governors signed off on his hiring and I'm sure I needn't remind you that by order of the Educational Decree of 871, signed by His Majesty King Arthur Pendragon I, the Ministry and the Minister shall have no say in the running of Hogwarts, with the ultimate authority resting solely with the Board of Governors."

"The members of the Board of Governors are appointed by the Minister for Magic, Dumbledore," Fudge argued. "They will do as I tell them to do or I will dismiss them and appoint somebody who will."

Shaking his head, Dumbledore said, "Actually, Cornelius, you don't have that authority. I suggest you look it up, but when you do you will find that removing members from the Board of Governors before the end of their appointments is a power which rests solely with the sitting monarch and was not one of the powers given over to the Minister's office when Queen Victoria decided to step back and allow the Ministry to handle the day to day running of the magical realm."

Fudge visibly deflated at this, as he knew that Dumbledore was probably right as he was a very knowledgeable man. It was this confidence that Fudge had in Dumbledore's knowledge that had him often sending several owls a day asking him for advice. Not that he would ever admit publicly to the fact that he wasn't doing his job. Of course, part of the reason he would never admit that was because he felt that he was doing his job. He just had a tendency to delegate more than past Ministers had, but that didn't mean that he wasn't doing his job.

"Fine, Dumbledore," Fudge said. "Was there anything else? I'm a very busy man."

"Yes, I can see that Cornelius," Dumbledore said, the note of sarcasm back in his tone that Fudge totally missed. "The real reason I opted to contact you is because I thought I should strongly urge you to reconsider your decision not to inform Her Majesty about the incident involving the detention."

"Why? Nobody was hurt, so it's a non-issue," Fudge said.

"It's true, nobody was hurt," Dumbledore said. "Although in retrospect I believe that I was wrong for signing off on that detention and not just because of the dread wolf that I obviously didn't know was in the forest. And I was definitely wrong in not informing Lord Wells, who is currently living at Hogwarts, that his sons and Mr. Windsor were given detention."

"Why does Lord Wells even care so much about this Mr. Windsor?" Fudge asked. "And why does he think that Her Majesty would care one way or the other if this boy was hurt? She's shown no interest whatsoever before now."

"Cornelius, my boy, are you even aware what the royal family's surname is?"

Fudge looked at Dumbledore with a blank look for a moment, before he said, "It's some German name isn't it? Um, Savvy-Copenhagen or something like that?"

"Saxe-Coburg-Gotha?"

"That's it!"

"No, actually, that's not it," Dumbledore said. "It was Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but the surname was changed in 1917 due to anti-German sentiments. Ever since then they've been the House of Windsor."

"Windsor? As in William Windsor?"

Nodding, Dumbledore said, "Yes, Cornelius. Mr. Windsor, or more appropriately His Royal Highness Prince William, is Her Majesty the Queen's grandson and second in line to the throne. Thus, I'm sure you realize that she would care very much about anything that puts him in danger and that she most likely would not be a happy woman if she found out that information pertaining to her grandson's safety was intentionally withheld from her."

"No, I suppose she wouldn't."

"I would also point out, Cornelius, that even if you don't tell her," Dumbledore said, "that there's a very real possibility that she will find out, considering that both Lord Wells and his husband are employed in the muggle world as members of the royal protection force. That is, in fact, the reason that they're staying at Hogwarts, because they've been assigned as Prince William's security detail. So, I think, Cornelius, it would be best if she found out from you and not from them."

Nodding, Fudge said, "Yes, yes, you are right, of course, Dumbledore. I will contact Her Majesty immediately."

"Good, you do that, Cornelius," Dumbledore said. "And don't worry, I burned your letter suggesting that she be left in the dark and your secret is safe with me."

"Thank you, Dumbledore, you've been most helpful."

Smiling Dumbledore said, "I live to serve, Cornelius. If you need any advice, you know where to find me. Now, I do have a school to run, so I shall take my leave. Good day, Cornelius."

"Good day, Dumbledore, and thank you."

Dumbledore nodded, before withdrawing his head from the flames and pulling out his wand to activate the charm on the bench which would help him stand back up. As he returned to his desk, he mumbled under his breath, "What a bloody, blundering idiot."

-o-0-o-

The following Monday, after the last morning class let out for the day, Dylan said, "Hunter, your father and I need to speak to you about something important, so could you come have lunch with us in our suite today?"

Hunter looked bewildered, but said, "Sure."

Dylan nodded and said, "We'll have to go grab Carter, as well." Looking at William he asked, "And Wills, since Thorne and I will be otherwise engaged, could you eat lunch in the common room today?"

"Sure, I can do that," William said with a nod.

"I'll come eat lunch with you, Wills," Harry said, as both Cormac and Neville indicated that they'd come as well.

"You guys don't have to do that," William said.

Shaking his head, Cormac said, "True, but we want to."

"Yeah, it's fine, Wills," Neville said. "We'll keep you company."

William smiled and said, "Thanks, guys."

"That's what friends are for," Harry said, returning the prince's smile.

About ten minutes later, Cormac, Harry, Neville, and William were taking seats in the common room, having filled their plates with the food they wanted from the selection, while Carter and Hunter had accompanied their parents into their private room. A couple of the other Gryffindors had not been exactly pleased at seeing a Ravenclaw and a Slytherin in Gryffindor Tower, but they kept quiet, knowing that they were Lord Wells' children. The four boys ate quietly for a couple of minutes, before Harry asked, "Cormac, your father's a noble right?"

Cormac nodded and said, "Yes, Harry, he is." Glancing at Neville and knowing that his parents were a touchy topic, he said, "Neville's family is nobility, too."

Harry nodded and said, "Well, I didn't know I was nobility until recently. I've learned a few things, but, I find myself curious what it actually means."

"Well, I'll try to answer any questions you have," Cormac said.

"So will I," Neville added.

"Dylan and Thorne explained a bit to me about the nobility," William said, "but it was just the basics. So, I'm kind of curious myself."

"What exactly is the role of the nobility in the wizarding world?" Harry asked. "I know in the muggle world many of the lords have hereditary seats in the House of Lords."

"House of Lords?" Neville asked, as he was unfamiliar with the term.

"One of the two houses of Parliament, the other being the House of Commons," William answered. "The closest wizarding equivalent would be the Wizengamot, I suppose. The House of Lords has ultimate power as an appeal court, but generally speaking Parliament is more legislative than judicial."

"Ah, okay," Neville said. "Well, it's similar here. All twenty-one of the lords have a seat on the Wizengamot."

Cormac nodded. "The lords' seats are hereditary, so, they pass from father to son to grandson. There's another ten seats which are elected positions and the rest go to high-ranking Ministry employees, usually the department heads. So, for example, Madam Amelia Bones, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, has a seat on the Wizengamot."

"Gran says that Minister Fudge has also been trying to get his senior undersecretary a seat for awhile now," Neville said, "although so far he's been unsuccessful in doing so."

"So, the Wizengamot makes laws?" Harry asked.

"Yeah," Cormac replied. "They make the laws and then they're sent off to the Minister for his seal of approval." Looking over at William, he added, "I suppose technically speaking they should be sent to your grandmother, Wills, but the muggle monarchs haven't shown a whole lot of interest in wizarding affairs in years."

William nodded and said, "Yes, I know. I don't really know if grandmother plans on changing that or not. I know she seemed pleased when I got invited to attend Hogwarts."

"Not sure how I feel about being involved in making laws," Harry said. "I know nothing about that kind of thing."

"Well, you don't really have to worry about it yet, Harry," Neville said. "You can't claim your position in the Wizengamot until you're fifteen, so, you have plenty of time to learn."

"Anything else I should know?" Harry asked.

"Well, once you claim your title," Cormac answered, "there is a possibility that you could gain a seat on the Hogwarts Board of Governors."

"How does that work anyway?" William asked. "You mentioned that your father doesn't currently have a seat?"

Cormac nodded and said, "Yeah, he doesn't. The board consists of twelve members - four Teryns, three Arls, two Banns, and three commoners. For the noble positions, whenever a position opens up the monarch or the minister nominates two candidates from the necessary level of nobility. All twenty-one of the lords then vote by secret ballot which one of those two lords should fill the empty spot. Whoever gets the most votes wins."

Neville nodded and said, "Noble positions on the board don't come up often as they're lifetime appointments, so, once one of the lords is appointed to the position, they keep it until their death."

"For the commoners, they're monarch or minister appointed," Cormac said. "The difference is there's no voting for them. The monarch or minister appoints a person to fill the empty commoner seat and then they serve for the rest of their life or twenty-five years, whichever comes first." Pausing to take a bite of his sandwich, which he took a moment to chew, Cormac swallowed and said, "An interesting fact about how the board operates is that for any decision they make to pass, two of the three commoner members must vote in favor of it. So, even if all the noble lords voted in favor of a measure, the commoner members could prevent it from passing if two of them vote against it."

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, in Dylan's and Thorne's quarters, the four members of the Wells family were sitting around the dining table eating lunch. Conversation up until now had been mostly light, with Carter and Hunter talking about their classes. Dylan and Thorne were especially interested in Carter's classes simply because William currently wasn't taking any classes with Ravenclaw and thus Dylan or Throne were not standing in the back of the room observing as they were with all of William's classes with Slytherin, and hence Hunter.

Finally not able to take it any longer, Carter said, "So, what's up?"

Hunter nodded and said, "Yeah, you said you had something important to tell us."

"And so far all we've done is small talk," Carter added, before grinning and saying, "So, spill, before lunch is over."

Dylan and Thorne smiled at their sons and Dylan said, "Alright, guys, you're right, your Dad and I have stalled long enough. We just weren't totally sure how to broach the subject with you guys."

Raising an eyebrow, Hunter asked, "It can't possibly be more awkward than the sex talk, can it?"

William wasn't the only one whose parents had given him the sex talk when he turned ten, as Dylan and Thorne had sat Carter and Hunter down and somehow managed to fumble their way through it and the resulting questions with only a small amount of blushing. At least, in front of the twins, as afterwards, as Dylan and Thorne remembered the conversation and some of the questions they'd been asked, they both turned redder than a tomato.

"Well," Thorne said, drawing out the word a bit. "What we have to say is sort of related, actually." Carter and Hunter looked like they were about to say they didn't need to hear it again, once was enough thank you, when Thorne plowed ahead and asked, "How would you guys feel about a baby brother?"

The response that had been on the twins' lips died away as they just sat there silently for a moment, before Carter grinned and turning to his twin said, "You owe me a galleon, Hunt!"

Hunter grumbled as he pulled a galleon out of a concealed pocket in his robes and handed it to his brother, while Dylan and Thorne looked dumbstruck.

"What? How?" Dylan managed to ask.

Pointing at Thorne, Carter said, in a very matter-of-fact tone, "Dad's been sick a lot lately and always in the morning. Doesn't take a genius to figure it out."

"I told Carter he was nuts," Hunter said. "So we made a bet and I just lost."

Thorne covered his face in his hands, feeling quite stupid at the moment, seeing as how he had refused to believe that he might be pregnant and fought Dylan tooth and nail about going to get a check up from Madam Pomfrey, insisting that nothing was wrong. All along his eldest son had already figured out what was going on and had made a bet with his younger brother about it.

Ignoring Thorne's obvious discomfiture, Carter asked, "You are pregnant, right, Dad?"

"Yes," Thorne said, his voice muffled by his hands.

"He had his first prenatal appointment with Madam Pomfrey this weekend," Dylan explained. "He's about two and a half months right now, so we're look at early April and you'll have a new baby brother."

"So it's definitely a boy?" Hunter asked.

"Yes, Madam Pomfrey confirmed it today," Dylan answered. "It's definitely a boy."

"Cool!" Carter and Hunter exclaimed in unison.

"Well, you guys certainly seem happy about this," Thorne said, as he finally took his hands away from his face.

Twin heads nodded as Carter said, "Yeah, we've always wanted a baby brother."

"A baby sister would have been okay, too," Hunter said, "but a brother is better."

"One thing I have to warn you guys about," Dylan said, "is that Madam Pomfrey says this is a rather high-risk pregnancy."

The twins' smiles faded at that, as Carter asked, "What do you mean high-risk?"

"Dylan, don't scare the boys," Thorne admonished.

"They need to know, Thorne," Dylan insisted. "You remember the sex talk and how we told you guys about birth control?"

"Yeah," Hunter said. "There's a spell and a potion that can be used together."

Nodding, Dylan said, "Yes, that's right. Well, your Dad has been taking both ever since you two were born, but it seems the small failure chance finally caught up with him. He's stopped taking it now, but Madam Pomfrey warned that there may still be enough of a buildup of it in his system for awhile that there's a much higher than normal chance of miscarriage. So, she warned him that he needs to take it easy and not do anything too strenuous for the time being."

"Miscarriage means the baby dies right?" Carter asked after a minute.

"Yes, Carter, that's what it means," Thorne said.

"And what about you, Dad?" Hunter asked. "Is there any risk to you?"

Standing up and rounding the table, Thorne kneeled between his sons' chairs and wrapped an arm around both of them, pulling them into a group hug as he said, "No, guys, there's no risk to me. So don't you two start worrying, I'm not going anywhere anytime soon."

Nodding the twins returned the hug, although it was very hesitantly and lightly, prompting Thorne to squeeze his sons tighter and say, "Guys, I'm not a china doll, so don't treat me like I'm going to break."

"We just don't want to hurt our new brother," Carter said, as Hunter nodded.

"You're not going to hurt him," Dylan said. "You can still hug Dad just as you always have. Him taking it easy doesn't mean that you can't show him that you love him. If it'll make you feel better, we'll take you both to see Madam Pomfrey with us, but I'm sure she'd say that hugs are perfectly okay."

Taking Dylan's word for it, Carter and Hunter hugged Thorne a bit tighter. After a few minutes, they pulled back and Carter asked, "Can we go tell our friends?"

Thorne and Dylan looked at each other for a moment, before Thorne nodded and said, "Yeah, sure, go on. Get out of here."

Hugging Thorne again, Carter and Hunter then practically jumped out of their seats and headed for the door to the common room. Thorne couldn't help but laugh as he stood back up and said, "Well, they certainly took the news well."

Dylan nodded. "Yeah, they did." Coming up behind Thorne and wrapping his arms around him, Dylan rested his chin on Thorne's shoulder and added, "I think they'll make excellent older brothers."

Turning his head, Thorne kissed Dylan lightly before he said, "Yeah, I agree, they will."

-o-0-o-

Harry, Neville, Cormac, and William congratulated the twins when they came out of their parents' suite and informed them of the good news. Harry was still a bit taken aback by the idea that wizards could get pregnant, but he was still happy for his friends. Not long after this, the bell signaling the end of the lunch hour rang and Dylan came out to escort the first years to History of Magic with Professor Flamel.

Despite Firenze's advice that they ask their History teacher about what Fluffy was guarding, none of them had done so yet, as they weren't exactly sure how to broach the subject with their professor, especially in front of Dylan. His job was to guard William, but ever since the incident in Madam Hooch's class, he'd been paying much closer attention to not only William, but the rest of his young friends. This, unfortunately, left very few chances for a private chat with their History professor about something that they probably weren't supposed to know about in the first place.

And today was, once again, no exception, as Dylan ushered them away from their History of Magic classroom almost immediately after the bell rang, at which point, after a stop at the bathrooms, they were headed up to the top of the Astronomy Tower for their 2pm class with Professor Sinistra. It was on their way down towards the dungeons for Potions with Professor Snape that they passed Cedric, Jeremy, and Ryan in the hallway, themselves on their way up from their own potions lesson with Professor Jigger.

Motioning for his friends to wait, Cedric asked, "Excuse me, Lord Wells, could I just borrow Harry for a moment? I need to talk to him about something in private. It won't take long, I promise."

Dylan nodded and said, "Alright, Mr. Diggory, go ahead. The rest of us will wait just over here."

Cedric smiled and said, "Thank you," before taking Harry over to an alcove off the corridor that gave them some privacy. Cedric looked around almost furtively for a moment, before he pulled Harry aside and said, in a hushed voice, "Listen, Harry, about what happened in the Trophy Room, with the snake."

"I did notice you all giving me strange looks afterwards," Harry said. "Why was that?"

"Because you were talking to it," Cedric answered, nervously looking around again, making sure nobody was listening, before adding, "In Parseltongue or the language of snakes."

"I was speaking another language?" Harry asked, clearly surprised. "How can you speak another language without realizing you're doing it?"

"I don't know, Harry," Cedric said. "But I would warn you that it's not a common ability. It's actually considered to be a dark ability, seeing as how the last known person who could speak it was You-Know-Who."

"Voldemort could talk to snakes?" Harry asked, refusing to use the nickname born from fear.

Cedric let out a sharp intake of breath at the name, but nodded, as he said, "Yes, he could. I know Firenze said we should call him by his actual name, but I'm just not quite comfortable with that yet. Anyway, back on point, you need to keep your ability a secret, Harry. Don't talk about it with anyone who wasn't there that night."

Harry looked confused for a moment, but he could see just from the look on the older boy's face that he was worried. Harry wasn't quite sure why, but he felt a need to relieve Cedric of his worry, so he nodded and said, "Alright, Cedric, if you think it's best, I'll keep quiet about it."

"I do, Harry, I really do," Cedric said, and then noticing the sudden panicked look on Harry's face, he asked, "What? What's wrong?"

"Well, it's that I just realized that Malfoy was there," Harry said. "I don't think my housemates or yours would mention it, nor would Carter or Hunter, but Malfoy..."

Cedric grinned and said, "Don't worry about Malfoy, Harry. I doubt he'll mention it because then he'd have to admit how he knew about it and do you honestly think that he's going to admit that you beat him in a duel?"

Harry took a moment to think about that, before he grinned and said, "No, I suppose he wouldn't."

"He definitely wouldn't," Cedric said, as they came back into the main corridor, just in time for Cedric to see three men turning into the corridor and coming towards them. Cedric's eyebrows raised, as he asked, "What's he doing here?"

"Who?" Harry asked, as he turned to look where Cedric was looking and spotted Professor Dumbledore walking towards Lord Wells' group with two unknown men. One was a tall black man and the other was a shorter man with a lime green bowler hat on his head.

"The guy wearing the lime green hat," Cedric said. "That's Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic."

Curiosity piqued, Harry and Cedric walked back over towards Dylan's group only seconds before Dumbledore, Cornelius, and the other man reached them.

"Ah, Lord Wells, I'm glad I caught up with you," Dumbledore said. "I'm sure you know our esteemed Minister, Cornelius Fudge."

"Of course," Dylan said, as he nodded at Cornelius and said, "Minister."

"Your Grace," Cornelius said, as he removed his bowler hat and bowed slightly.

"And I don't know if you've met him before," Dumbledore said, motioning towards the other man. "This is Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt."

"I've heard of him, but I don't believe I've had the pleasure," Dylan said, as he shook hands with Kingsley.

Noticing William standing off to one side of the hallway, chatting with his friends and obviously not paying much attention to the headmaster's arrival, Dumbledore cleared his throat and said, "Mr. Windsor?"

Turning at hearing his name, William asked, "Yes, Headmaster?"

"Allow me to introduce Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic," Dumbledore said, motioning towards the man. "Cornelius, this is Prince William, Her Majesty's grandson."

"A pleasure to meet you, Your Highness," Fudge said, as he put out his hand, leaving it up to the prince whether to shake it or not.

"Likewise," William said, as he took Fudge's hand in a light grip and shook it once, before letting go.

Once the introductions were done, Dumbledore turned back to Dylan and said, "Lord Wells, I need you to go to Buckingham Palace. Minister Fudge received word this morning that Her Majesty the Queen and Prince William's parents want to meet with me, so we've arranged for them to come to my office at 3:30. So, someone needs to go pick them up and cast the necessary spells so that they can actually see and enter Hogwarts."

"My grandmother and parents are coming here?" William asked, as he turned his attention back to the headmaster, having gone back to chatting quietly with Hunter when Dumbledore had turned to address Dylan.

"Yes, Mr. Windsor," Dumbledore confirmed. "And I need Lord Wells to go and get them, as I understand his husband is feeling a little under the weather recently."

"I can't leave William unguarded, Albus," Dylan argued.

"And I'm not asking you to, my boy," Dumbledore said. "That's why Kingsley is here. He has agreed to temporarily take over your guard duties. I know he isn't a member of the royal protection force, but we've already cleared it with Her Majesty and she's okay with an Auror of Kingsley's skill and experience filling in for you temporarily."

"Alright, Dumbledore, but it's ten to three now," Dylan said. "It'll take me at least twenty minutes to walk to the edge of the Hogwarts wards in order to Apparate to the palace. How in Merlin's name am I supposed to have them back here by 3:30pm?"

"Fawkes will take you," Dumbledore said, as Fawkes appeared in a flash of flame and landed on a nearby windowsill. He wasn't looking all that good, honestly, as his feathers were rumpled and discolored. There were also spots where his feathers were clearly falling out. Noticing the look on Dylan's and everyone else's faces, he said "Yes, I know he looks rather dreadful at the moment. I expect he'll have his burning soon, but he assures me he has enough strength to get you safely to the edge of the wards in order to Apparate, Your Grace. Once you've cast the necessary charm on the royals, you'll have to take them outside and call for the Knight Bus. That will bring you as far as Hogsmeade and I'll have one of the school carriages waiting to bring you up to the castle."

"Well, if he's sure," Dylan said, in a somewhat hesitant voice. Magical creatures had never been his particular area of expertise and thus he wasn't aware of the fact that phoenixes could communicate with their owners. Of course, then again, it was also very rare for a phoenix to have an owner to begin with and was usually the mark of an exceptionally talented wizard for such a powerful magical creature to be willing to bond with them.

Fawkes let out a few soft trilling notes and nodded his head, before spreading his wings wide and flying up from the windowsill, as Dumbledore said, "Just reach up and grab his claws, Lord Wells."

Dylan nodded and did as he was told. Moments later, Fawkes disappeared in a burst of flames along with Dylan, leaving several stunned faces in the corridor and prompting Dumbledore to say, "Witches and wizards cannot Apparate inside the wards of Hogwarts, however, Fawkes is a phoenix. Now, phoenixes travel from one place to another in a burst of flame called a flash which the Hogwarts Anti-Apparition wards do not block. As you've all just seen, they can take people with them, through the wards, when they do this."

Smiling at Hunter, Dumbledore said, "Don't worry, young Mr. Wells, your father is perfectly fine. Fawkes has flashed me through the wards on several occasions and as you can see, I'm still here."

Hunter nodded, obviously relieved at the reassurance from the headmaster, as Dumbledore turned to Kingsley and said, "Well, Kingsley, if you could take William and his friends to their last class and sit in, I'd appreciate it. I believe they have Potions with Professor Snape in the dungeons, Room D-10. Afterward, bring them directly back to Gryffindor Tower."

"Of course, Dumbledore," Kingsley said, as he led the group of first years towards their next class, as Dumbledore smiled at all the other students who'd stopped in the corridors to watch and said, "Alright, off you go - you don't want to be late for your next class."

-o-0-o-

Reaching the edge of the Hogwarts wards, Dylan closed his eyes and took a moment to recover from his first experience traveling by phoenix flash. It had felt a little bit like apparition, only there was a pleasantly warm sensation that had warmed Dylan from head to foot. Fawkes had flashed back to the headmaster's office in the moment that Dylan's eyes were closed, so, focusing his mind on Buckingham Palace, he Disapparated with a pop. Moments later, he was in the sitting room of the family wing of the palace with the Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales.

"In order for you to be able to see and actually enter Hogwarts Castle," Dylan explained, "I'll need to cast two spells on each of you. The first is the same one that Professor McGonagall cast on Princess Diana that allowed her to see the Knight Bus and Diagon Alley. The second is a charm which will override the Muggle-Repelling Charms."

"Muggle-Repelling Charms?" Charles asked.

Nodding, Dylan said, "Yes, Hogwarts Castle inhabits a large valley in Scotland near Inverness, which is also home to the village of Hogsmeade and the Forbidden Forest. The entire area is protected by charms which repel Muggles from those areas, not only so that we can keep the secret of magic intact, but also for their own safety. The charm basically prevents Muggles from exploring the area because they'll suddenly remember an urgent appointment elsewhere and thus they make haste to leave the area."

"You have our permission to proceed," Elizabeth said.

Dylan nodded, before pulling out his wand and casting, "Ostendo Magicum! Repello Immunitatum!" on Elizabeth, before repeating them on Charles and finally Diana. Putting his wand away, Dylan said, "And now we'll have to go outside and I'll summon the Knight Bus."

A couple minutes later, the large triple-decker bus was pulling up in the gardens of Buckingham Palace and Sam Shunpike was stepping off the bus and saying, "Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transportation for the stranded witch or wizard, I'm Sam Shunpike your conductor." Having said all of this without looking up, as he'd been looking at the steps as he descended from the bus, Sam said, "Ah hello Lord Wells, always a pleasure," and then smiling at Diana, he said, "And Your Highness, a pleasure to see you again."

"You as well, Sam," Diana said with a smile.

Dylan, motioning towards Elizabeth and then Charles, said, "Sam, this is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and her son and Diana's husband, Charles, The Prince of Wales. We need to get to Hogsmeade for an important meeting with the Minister and Professor Dumbledore."

Nodding, Sam said, "Step right up then. Ernie and I talked about it and decided that we won't charge any group containing a member of the royal family. Hot chocolate, hot water bottles, and toothbrushes in the color of your choice are also available, free of charge, for such distinguished guests as yourselves."

"I strongly recommend the hot chocolate," Diana said to her husband and mother-in-law. "William and I both had a cup on the way to Diagon Alley and it was simply the best I've ever tasted."

Deciding to trust Diana, both Charles and Elizabeth said that a cup of hot chocolate would be lovely. Well, Elizabeth said it would be lovely, Charles just said that he'd take one. Nodding as he followed the group of four onto the bus, Sam said, "Right, four hot chocolates coming up. In the meantime, grab an empty armchair and hang on tight because it's going to a be a bumpy ride."

"He definitely means that," Diana said, as she sat down in one of the armchairs and held on tight.

Once everyone was seated, Sam said, "Fire her up, Ern!" Seconds later there was a loud BANG as the bus took off, which caused Elizabeth to jump ever so slightly, as she had not been expecting the sudden, loud noise.

"You know I quite agree with Professor McGonagall," Dylan said. "This is not my preferred method of travel, although it is very fast and the only form of wizarding transportation that will work for Muggles."

"True," Diana said as Sam arrived with a tray and handed out the cups of hot chocolate. Taking one of them, Diana smiled and said, "Thank you, Sam," to which the elderly conductor smiled and nodded. Turning back to Dylan, Charles, and Elizabeth, she said, "Although honestly, this is better than the Gringotts carts, I think." Taking a sip of her hot chocolate, Diana smiled and said, "Or maybe this excellent hot chocolate just settled my stomach enough that I didn't feel as nauseous as I did at the bank."

"It is quite good," Elizabeth said after she'd taken a sip. "Where is this chocolate from?"

Dylan smiled. "Honeyduke's Sweet Shop in Hogsmeade, a fully wizarding village, which is about a mile from Hogwarts Castle. With parental permission, third years and older get occasional weekend visits to the village."

"Well, I must admit it is very good," Charles said. "So, what exactly can we expect when we get to Hogwarts?"

"Well, your meeting with the headmaster is at 3:30," Dylan said, as the royals nodded. "So, as long as we don't enter the school until after 3pm, the halls should be mostly clear of students as the majority will be in classes. There are some who have free periods, as the older students especially are given more free periods as many of the more advanced classes require independent studies. One thing you will immediately notice is that all the portraits on the walls are animated, as they're painted in such a way that their subjects can move and in the case of people, speak."

"Talking portraits?" Diana asked.

"Indeed," Dylan answered. "There's portraits of famous witches and wizards throughout the school, although the headmaster's office has one of the largest concentrations as there's portraits of all the past headmasters and headmistresses in the office. They often give the sitting head their opinions and advice. Another thing you might notice are the ghosts, as Hogwarts has a large number of them. There's also a poltergeist named Peeves who’s a bit of a troublemaker and prankster. Many people over the years have tried to get rid of him, but thus far no one has been successful."

"He isn't dangerous is he?" Elizabeth asked.

"Well, he'd probably be offended by this but I think he's mostly harmless," Dylan said, even though he didn't really believe it to be the gods' honest truth. He knew it was wrong to lie to the Queen, but he wasn't sure that telling her Peeves was an amortal embodiment of chaos who had in the past threatened students with death was a good thing to be doing and thus decided to play the poltergeist down a bit and hope that his deception wasn't discovered. "His mischief making is generally comic in nature. I remember one time when I was a sixth year, during the annual Halloween feast, he started throwing a variety of cream pies at people, which in a room full of children and teenagers did result in a rather large food fight. It was certainly very messy, but nobody got hurt."

After a moment of silence, Dylan said, "There is something that I should tell you, Your Majesty, about my husband Thorne."

Elizabeth nodded. "How is he? I know you'd written that he was feeling ill and refusing to get checked out."

"He's fine," Dylan answered. "The illness turned out to be morning sickness, because he's two months pregnant."

Charles nearly choked on his hot chocolate, as he lowered his cup and asked, "Pregnant?"

Nodding, Diana said, "Yes, Charles. As was already explained to me, two wizards in a relationship together are capable of getting each other pregnant. Their magical cores work together and allow for them to carry children, which are delivered via c-section when it's time for the baby to be born."

"Yes, my husband Thorne carried our sons, Carter and Hunter," Dylan said. "And now, he's pregnant again, which was a somewhat unexpected turn of events, as he's been taking birth control since Carter and Hunter were born. Of course, due to that birth control, the school matron, Madam Pomfrey, says that it's a high-risk pregnancy. Not so much for Thorne, but there is a much higher than normal risk of miscarriage, so he'll need it take it easy for the duration of his pregnancy."

Elizabeth nodded and said, "Well, first of all, you have my congratulations. You shall remain as head of William's security, Dylan, but I'm relieving Thorne of his duties until further notice. I'll also give you whatever resources you need, be it money or personnel so that William is well-guarded and you can also be there to care for your husband."

"Thank you, Ma'am."

-o-0-o-

Arriving in Hogsmeade, Dylan and the royals disembarked from the Knight Bus and got their first look at the town.

"How quaint and charming," Diana said. "It's like stepping back in time."

"Some of those buildings look a bit crooked," Charles commented. "How on Earth to they even stay standing?"

With a grin, Dylan said, "Magic, of course."

"Of course," Charles said. He's realized almost as soon as the question had come out of his mouth that it probably wasn't the smartest question in the world. Well, at least from a magical standpoint and that was something he was still having a little difficulty in grasping. He accepted that it existed, having seen it with his own eyes, but he was still for the most part in the dark about all that it was actually capable of.

Once the Knight Bus disappeared, one of the Hogwarts carriages became visible, and Dylan motioned towards it and said, "Ah, there's one of the school carriages. Professor Dumbledore said he'd send one down to wait for us."

Turning their eyes towards the carriage, both Elizabeth and Charles gasped slightly at the sight of the creatures that were harnessed to the front of the carriage. With a knowing look, Dylan said, "I take it you can see the thestrals."

"Thestrals?" Elizabeth asked. "Is that what those beasts are called?"

Dylan nodded, even as Diana asked, "What beasts?"

Charles gave her a confused look and said, "The ones harnessed to the carriage, Diana."

"There's nothing harnessed to the carriage," Diana said.

"Actually, there is," Dylan said. "They're called thestrals. Now usually they wouldn't be visible to Muggles at all, but the charm I cast on the three of you allow you to see them, but only if you meet another requirement. You see, thestrals, are invisible even to witches and wizards. Only those of us who have seen a person die and internalized and accepted it can see thestrals. From a personal standpoint, I can see them because I witnessed the deaths of my parents."

Elizabeth revealed that she'd witnessed a few deaths while serving as a mechanic in World War II and Charles mentioned a couple during his own military service. Diana, however, had not witnessed anyone die, for which she was very thankful, even if it did mean that she couldn't see the thestrals. Although from the descriptions the others gave her, she wasn't sure that was actually a bad thing, as they almost sounded like something out of a nightmare.

After helping the ladies into the carriage, Charles and Dylan got in and the carriage was soon underway, heading up towards the castle, which hadn't been immediately visible from where they'd arrived in Hogsmeade. As they crested a hill in the long Hogwarts driveway, however, Dylan pointed out the window and said, "There's Hogwarts Castle."

"It's certainly an impressive edifice," Diana said, as Elizabeth and Charles nodded. They'd all seen a number of castles in their lifetimes, obviously, as the family personally owned Balmoral Castle, along with their estate at Sandringham. There were, of course, also the state-owned properties such as Windsor Castle and the various palaces: Buckingham, Kensington, St. James and Hampton Court to name a few.

"When we get up to the castle," Dylan said, "I'll take you up to the headmaster's office, the entrance to which is on the third floor. We'll take one of the concealed side stairs to save time." Noticing the confused looks, he added, "The various sections of the Grand Staircase have long been charmed to move at random, although this year it seems they're moving more often than normal. The headmaster froze them in place for the first week of school this year and it seems the stairs didn't like that and are now trying to make up for the week during which they couldn't move by moving more than they used to in the past."

"When you say move, do you mean like an escalator?" Charles asked.

"No, I mean that entire sections of the staircases will change the direction that they face," Dylan replied. "Each section of the stairs has two to three different landings that they can connect with. So, when they decide to move, either the bottom or the top end of the staircase will literally swing away from one landing to connect with a different one. But, yes of the one-hundred-and-forty-two staircases at Hogwarts, there really is a great variety from the wide, sweeping Grand Staircase, to narrow, rickety, wooden ones, and also the hidden staircases. Some staircases lead to different places on different days, while others have a vanishing step that you have to remember to jump over."

"Why were these charms placed to begin with?" Diana asked. "And who placed them?"

"The who would be the four founders of Hogwarts back when the school first opened in the year 871," Dylan said. "As for why, it's believed that it was done as just one of many security measures. You see, there's also doors that won't open unless you politely ask them to, while others require a password, or you need to tickle them in just the right spot. Some doors aren't even doors at all and are in fact solid walls pretending to be doors. There's also rooms and even entire wings that can change not only their location, but also the floor they're on, thus making it very hard to draw an accurate map of the school."

"That sounds very confusing," Elizabeth said.

"Yes, it can be, but you get used to it," Dylan said, as the carriage came to a stop in front of the massive oak doors of the castle. "Anyway, we're here."

-o-0-o-

At precisely 3:30pm, the three royals were sitting down in the plush armchairs in front of Professor Dumbledore's desk, while Fudge and Dylan sat in chairs to the left side of the desk.

"You know why I requested this meeting, Professor?" Elizabeth asked.

"Yes, Your Majesty," Dumbledore answered. "I imagine you were most displeased to learn of William's recent detention and the fact that Lord Wells was not present to protect him."

"Detention?" Diana asked. "Why did Wills have detention?"

The Queen hadn't actually shared the details with her son and daughter-in-law when she told them that she'd setup a meeting with the headmaster. Just that she was going to go to Hogwarts and meet him, asking if they'd like to accompany her. Both wanting to see their son's new school, both Charles and Diana agreed.

"He and nine other students were caught in an alcove on the third floor," Dumbledore explained. "It was nearly one-thirty in the morning at the time and thus well past the nine pm curfew time in which all students are expected to be in their houses. One of our Astronomy teachers, Professor Firenze, found them and assigned them detention."

"I see," Elizabeth said. "And is it standard Hogwarts procedure to send a group of eleven-year-olds into a forest in the middle of the night for detention?"

"There were three thirteen-year-olds with them," Dumbledore answered, "but, no, it isn't a standard detention. I signed off on it because I had complete confidence that Professor Firenze and our gamekeeper, Rubeus Hagrid, would keep them safe from harm. Of course, I had no way of knowing that a dread wolf was in the forest that night and if I had I wouldn't have authorized the detention for all the gold in Gringotts'."

"A dread wolf?" Charles asked. "What precisely is a dread wolf?"

"It's a magical creature," Dumbledore explained. "About twice the size of a normal wolf, always male, solitary, and very territorial. They're actually very rarely seen and this is the first time one has ever been spotted this far north. They do, however, seem to have a particular hatred of humans and their diseased bite is also the original source of the lycanthropy curse."

"Lycanthropy curse?" Diana asked.

"Otherwise known as the werewolf's curse," Dylan spoke up. "According to Professor Firenze, he and Hagrid split the group up into two smaller groups, searching for a dead unicorn, as Hagrid had found some blood the previous day. William, my sons, and two other students were in Professor Firenze's group when he realized that they were being hunted by a dread wolf. So, Firenze lured it away from the children and killed it, before it could harm them."

"While Firenze was gone," Dumbledore continued, "the children found the dead unicorn and according to them and Firenze a shade-like creature was drinking the unicorn's blood. Firenze managed to scare it off, but having gotten a look at its face, he swears it was Voldemort."

"Don't say his name!" Fudge exclaimed. "And that's quite impossible, Dumbledore, because You-Know-Who has been dead for years now. In the dark, Firenze clearly mistook whatever it was for some other denizen of the forest."

"Is it possible that he was wrong, Professor?" Elizabeth asked. She'd been briefed on Voldemort, of course, and while she did find it rather ridiculous that people were afraid to say his name, she knew that before his downfall and presumed death, that he had been a very dangerous individual.

"There's always a possibility, Ma'am," Dumbledore said. "Although if he was mistaken, I'm quite sure that whatever that creature was it was not a denizen of the Forbidden Forest, as Firenze grew up in that forest and is familiar with every type of creature that lives there as a result."

"He grew up in the forest?" Charles asked.

"Yes, sir," Dumbledore said. "You see, Professor Firenze is not human. He's a centaur."

"A centaur?" Diana asked. "You mean the half-man, half-horse creatures from mythology?"

Dumbledore nodded and said, "Yes, but I would caution you to never say that in front of a centaur. They're a very proud race and they do not look kindly upon being thought of as half-human. There are some people who like to think that because of their appearance they must be the result of humans mating with horses but that isn't true. They are in fact a completely separate species all their own and quite nice company I've found."

"They're classified as Beasts, Dumbledore," Fudge said. "Why the Hogwarts Board ever signed off on his hiring, I'll never know."

"Cornelius, I would only point out that the centaurs asked to be classified as Beasts," Dumbledore said, "as they didn't wish to share Being status with hags and vampires."

After a moment of silence, Charles, wanting to get the conversation back on track, asked, "And why wasn't my son's bodyguard informed about the detention?"

"That was an unfortunate oversight on my part," Dumbledore replied. "I'm afraid that at 110 years old, I do have occasional lapses in memory. They are, thankfully, few and far between, but they still happen from time to time."

'Well played, Dumbledore,' Dylan thought. 'Didn't expect you to use the age card.'

"I'm beginning to wonder, Professor, if perhaps Hogwarts is not as safe as we were led to believe," Diana said. "One more incident like this and I may be forced to seriously consider pulling William out."

Elizabeth and Charles shared a look at Diana's words. They were both, obviously, very concerned about William's safety, as they wanted him to grow up safe and healthy. They also understood, however, that it would be quite impossible to shield him from every potential danger the world had to offer and that trying to do so would only end in failure. Or in William hating them, because keeping him safe from everything that could possibly harm him, would probably mean locking him up in his room for the rest of his life.

"Professor Dumbledore, I believe you when you say that you didn't know about this dread wolf's presence," Charles said. "And that you trusted in your two staff members to keep the children safe. However, I would like to impress upon you that we do not employ bodyguards for William or other members of the family for no reason."

Elizabeth spoke up. "I understand that memory lapses happen, Professor, after all, I have them occasionally, as does my mother who is in her nineties, but, when a memory lapse places my grandson in potential danger, I find myself much less willing to forgive it. So, in the future, I strongly suggest that you do everything you can to insure that you do not have a repeat of this type of incident. If it happens again, I will not be amused."

"I understand, Your Majesty," Dumbledore said in a contrite tone. "In the future, I will make sure that Lord Wells is informed beforehand if William is given any more detentions. Although I must say that it is my fervent hope that he not do anything else in the future that warrants being given detention."

"On that, I think, we can all agree," Charles said, as Diana nodded.

After another moment of silence, one of the portraits suddenly spoke up and said, "Albus, I have something I want to say."

"Of course," Dumbledore said, as he motioned towards the portrait and said, "This is Professor Vindictus Viridian, the Headmaster of Hogwarts from 1671 until his death in 1703."

"What I have to say, however," Vindictus said, "is not for the Minister's ears."

"What?" Fudge blustered. "I'm the Minister for Magic!"

"I realize that, Minister," Vindictus said. "However your position does not change the fact that what I have to say is not for your ears. It doesn't actually concern you, anyway, but I feel it is my duty to share it with Her Majesty, William's parents, Albus, and Lord Wells, as the head of the prince's security detail."

Fudge looked about ready to unleash an angry retort when the Queen said, "You may go, Mr. Fudge. I wish to hear what Professor Viridian has to say and if he won't say it in your presence, then your presence is no longer required."

"Yes, Your Majesty," Fudge said, clearly not happy about being dismissed, but knowing there wasn't really anything he could do against Her Majesty the Queen, since all of his power stemmed from her in the first place. Standing up, he bowed to the royals, nodded to Dylan and Dumbledore, and left the room.

Once the door was securely closed and knowing that the Headmaster's Office was warded to prevent eavesdropping, Vindictus said, "What I have to say is in regards to Her Highness's previous comment about pulling Prince William out of Hogwarts. The simple truth of the matter is that you can't do that."

"Why?" Diana asked. "If William's father and I decide to pull him out of Hogwarts, then we'll pull him out."

"Even if that means breaking the terms of a 294-year-old treaty that is still very much in force?" Vindictus asked, as one of his eyebrows arched.

"What treaty are you referring to?" Elizabeth asked.

"The Dragon Concordant," Vindictus answered. "It's the treaty signed in 1697, following the death of His Majesty King Arthur Pendragon XXVII, which transferred the crown of Wizarding Britain into the hands of your ancestors, Your Majesty."

"Transferred the crown? Arthur Pendragon?" Charles asked. "What are you talking about? King Arthur is a myth."

"No, actually, he wasn't, sir," Dylan said. "He was a real man, but the stories written about him turned him into a legendary figure among Muggles. His direct descendant, Arthur XXVII, died in 1697 without a male heir. He had four daughters, but at that time Wizarding Britain was a male-dominated culture, in which women had almost no rights and that included barring them from inheriting the throne. We did eventually adopt full gender equality, but that wasn't until about two hundred years later."

"With no living eligible heirs," Vindictus said, "the Dragon Concordant was signed, transferring the Pendragon throne into the hands of the then Muggle King, William III. Of course, William and his advisors did not like the idea of gaining power only to lose it, so, the Wizarding crown was bound to follow the line of succession for the Muggle royal family even if a male Pendragon were to be born. However, there was a clause placed in the treaty that allowed for the splitting of the crowns if a male Pendragon was born into the top five spots of the line of succession."

Dumbledore sighed. "At the Welcoming Feast on the night of September First, our Sorting Hat proclaimed that William possesses Pendragon blood, a fact which we later confirmed in the second week of school when William received a minor burn in Potions class. Madam Pomfrey had him completely healed within about a minute of his arriving in the Hospital Wing, but she did run a diagnostic test on him which proves unequivocally that he does bear the blood of the Pendragon family." Looking at Diana, he added, "It would seem that your grandmother on the Spencer side of the family was a direct descendant of the third of King Arthur XXVII's four daughters."

"As interesting as this is," Elizabeth said, "I fail to see why it would prevent William's parents from removing him from Hogwarts."

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Vindictus said, "It prevents them from removing him because there's a section of the treaty which states, quite clearly, that any and all male Pendragons born into the top five spots of the Muggle royal family's line of succession must complete their magical educations at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It goes on to say that if they are pulled out before completing their education that the Dragon Concordant will be declared in abeyance and a magical punishment will be exacted upon the Muggle populace of the country."

"What kind of punishment?" Charles asked.

"The kind that I feel very safe in saying that Her Majesty would wish to avoid at all costs," Vindictus answered. "You see, at the time that the Concordant was signed, I was considered to be the foremost expert on curses and thus I was asked to design the punishment that would befall the Muggle populace should the Concordant be broken. Taking a page from the magical histories of Egypt and Babylon, I based the punishment on the ten plagues which are attributed in the Muggle Christian religions as acts of God. In truth, they were actually acts of war carried out by the court sorcerers of Egypt and Babylon - five against Egypt and the other five against Babylon."

Pausing to clear his throat, Vindictus said, "However, there were Muggles among the populace of both countries who could not understand magic in any form and thus sought other means to explain the occurrence of these otherwise unexplainable plagues. They created stories explaining them which got passed orally from generation to generation. As can sometimes happen with stories delivered orally, however, they changed with each new telling of the tale until eventually all ten plagues had effected Egypt and Babylon was completely eliminated from the equation."

"If what you say is true," Elizabeth asked, "then how is it that you know the alleged original details of what happened?"

"Because I was granted access to the original accounts," Vindictus answered. "It was ultimately Egypt that won the war, after the Egyptian sorcerers unleashed the tenth and final plague - the death of every firstborn child under the age of 17 - upon Babylon. Thus the Egyptian Pharaoh became the new ruler of Babylon and thus all of the Babylonian records of the war became the property of the Egyptian throne. These records, containing both written accounts and magically preserved memories, along with Egypt's own records, have been kept intact all of these years.

"They are usually kept in the restricted section of the Library of Alexandria, but several years before the Dragon Concordant was signed, the Egyptian royal family called upon my expertise in curses to break a curse which had been placed on the heir to the throne, which I did. Despite receiving a very handsome reward in gold, years later the heir, who had by then become Pharaoh, decided that he still owed me for saving his life and granted me full access to the restricted section of the library. Pouring over the resources there, I found the records of the plagues and decided to base the punishment upon the plagues, at which point the magic necessary to unleash them was woven into the Dragon Concordant."

"The Library of Alexandria was destroyed in a fire over a millennia before the Dragon Concordant was drafted," Charles argued. "And Egypt was not still ruled by Pharaohs in the 17th Century."

"Actually, that's not true, Your Highness," Dumbledore said. "You see, I myself have visited the Library of Alexandria dozens of times. It was only the section of the library accessible to Muggles that was destroyed by fire. The magical section of the library remains intact to this day. You are, of course, correct that 17th Century Egypt was no longer ruled by a Pharaoh, but that is only true for Muggle Egypt, as Wizarding Egypt remains under the rule of a Pharaoh to this day. The current one is Justinian XI of the Byzantine Empire, who in my capacity as Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, I have had the great pleasure of meeting on several occasions."

"I've also visited the library once," Dylan piped up. "Thorne, the boys, and I took a vacation in Egypt last summer and the Library of Alexandria was one of the locations we visited. The City of Alexandria is actually the capital of Wizarding Egypt, although they retain a secondary capital in the fully wizarding city of Thebes. Small sections of Alexandria are hidden from the Muggles with magic, such as the Library, but Thebes is completely hidden, much like our Hogsmeade. As a result, Muggles think that Thebes no longer exists and they call it Luxor now, but that's only because they can't see it."

Charles was looking quite angry by this point and asked, "Why are you people so intent on hiding all of this from the Muggle populace of the world? If you can hide entire cities, you clearly have the power to be helping those who cannot help themselves. You could be doing so much good with your magic and frankly I fail to see why you aren't."

"First and foremost, we do it because of the Statute of Secrecy," Dumbledore said. "The international law imposed by the International Confederation of Wizards, which is the Wizarding version of the United Nations. As for why that law exists in the first place, Your Highness, I would ask you to think about a few things. One being that there are a great many people in the world who fear that which they cannot understand. There are many Muggles in this world who would never be able to understand the existence of magic, leading them to fear not only it, but those who can wield it. It is feared among witches and wizards that this would lead to a repeat of the witch trials, which none of us with magic wish to see happen again."

Charles looked like he was about to respond, but Dumbledore held up his hand to stop him and said, "Now you may believe that such a thing would never happen in the modern world. But, one only has to turn on one of your radios or televisions to know that the Muggle world is full of hate. I'm not saying that it's an opinion held by the majority, but there are plenty of people who can and would be swayed by the words of a particularly charismatic leader to commit atrocities that no good person would ever wish to see happen. Muggle history is full of such people, after all."

Pausing for a second to gather his thoughts, Dumbledore continued. "There are a great many things that magic cannot do. One of those things is restoring to life that which is dead. Magic can heal almost any wound and can even save people that are on the very brink of death, but once death has occurred, no amount of magic can bring a person back from beyond. But how many Muggles do you think would understand that? That in their grief over losing someone they loved and thus not thinking clearly, they would lash out at the witch or wizard for refusing to help them by bringing their loved one back to life?

"You ask why we don't help those who can't help themselves? The simple, sad truth of the matter is that many of those same people would then expect those of us with magic to do everything for them. To solve not only their own problems, but every problem existing anywhere in the world. Magic can't do that, but for those who don't understand it or its limitations, they would just see arrogant practitioners of magic refusing to help them. And, something else for you to think about, even if magic could solve all of the world's problems, would it really be the best course of action to take? What would Muggles strive for if they had no problems left that needed fixing?"

In the silence that followed, Dylan decided to add his own two cents to the headmaster's argument, which he had to admit was very good. "Your Highness, you may be under the impression that because we have magic that the magical world itself is perfect and free of problems. But I cannot stress enough that nothing could be further from the truth. There's plenty of problems in our own world that are beyond the abilities of even the most powerful among us to solve, so asking us to solve all of the Muggle world's problems, on top of our own, is a rather unfair request.

"Something the Headmaster didn't touch upon though is the question of safety. If magic was revealed to the Muggle world, that would mean revealing everything that goes with it, including the existence of a multitude of magical creatures which are dangerous even to those of us with magic. How long do you think it would be before there were calls for all of these exotic and wondrous new species to be added to a zoo for people to gawp at in wonder? Thorne and I took Carter and Hunter to a zoo once that had large mechanical re-creations of dinosaurs and we heard plenty of people saying that they wished they could have seen the real thing. So, if those same people found out that dragons, for example, are real do you think they would be satisfied with a re-creation when they could instead see the real thing? I should hope I don't have to tell you how disastrous that would be, considering that humans are considered to be lunch to a number of the dragon species of this world."

"Lord Wells is correct," Dumbledore said. "It's not only for our own safety that we keep ourselves hidden, but also for the safety of the Muggles. There are many magical species which we do our best to keep under control and away from Muggle populations. We are not always successful, but we do our best. Of course, I would point out that there are some in the wizarding world who don't care one iota about the safety of Muggles. Those of us in positions of power do our best to keep these elements at bay, but just like in the Muggle world, there are times when people intent on doing some nefarious deed can't be stopped until they've already committed it."

Throughout Dumbledore's and Dylan's arguments, the clearly angry Charles had visibly deflated as he took in the arguments and really listened to them. By the end, he was nodding his head and finally said, "I see what you're saying and as much as I wish it wasn't true, you are correct on many of your points."

"I quite think that we've gone off on a tangent long enough," Elizabeth said. "So, let us get back to the matter at hand, which is this treaty, and the matter of my grandson's safety. With the hands off approach to the governing of the magical realm that my ancestors have taken, I admit I wasn't aware of this Dragon Concordant. I was aware of the Pendragon family and their role in the history of Wizarding Britain and I did know that a treaty transferring the crown was signed, but I didn't know all of the details or its' name. Now that I am aware of it, however, I agree that avoiding the unleashing of the ten plagues upon my non-magical people is something that I would do all I could to avoid. I do find myself hesitant to accept that magic can actually create all of the effects of those plagues, but I also do not wish to be proven wrong by breaking the treaty and setting them in motion."

Elizabeth paused here for a moment, before continuing with, "Nevertheless, I wish to make it perfectly clear that treaty or no treaty I will find a way to express my most extreme displeasure should anything happen in the future which once again endangers the life of an heir to the throne, and believe me, I will find a suitable measure if I have to." Dumbledore, Dylan, and Vindictus nodded in understanding, before Elizabeth added, "Now, with that clearly understood by all of us, let us all come to some agreement on how we can avoid any situations like this arising again."

Before anyone could say anything further, Fawkes let out a single soft trilling note, before lifting his head towards the ceiling as his whole body burst into flames, showering ashes into the tray below his perch. Several pairs of eyes were drawn to the sudden spectacle and after a moment of stunned silence, Diana asked, "What just happened to your bird, Professor?"

Instead of immediately answering the princess's question, Dumbledore turned to Dylan and said, "I can tell from the wards that Minister Fudge has not left the castle, but is at the bottom of the steps leading to my office. I believe it would be wise for him to be privy to the conversation regarding any measures put in place for William's safety." Turning towards Elizabeth, he added, "If that is acceptable to you, Your Majesty, then Lord Wells can retrieve him."

"You may go get him, Dylan," Elizabeth said, at which point Dylan stood, bowed to the Queen, and left the room.

Turning to Diana, Dumbledore smiled and said, "Do not worry for, Fawkes, dear lady, for he is a phoenix." Standing up and motioning for everyone to move closer, he said, "They burst into flames when it is time for them to die and then they are reborn from the ashes." As he said this, the head of a small bird pushed its way up from under the pile of ashes in the tray under the perch and sung another soft trilling note.

The three royals all had smiles on their faces as they looked at the newborn baby bird, as Dumbledore said, "Fascinating creatures, phoenixes - they can carry immensely heavy loads, their tears have healing powers, and if they choose to bond with a witch or wizard, they make highly faithful companions."

Moments later upon the arrival of Dylan and Fudge, Dumbledore and the royals resumed their seats and the six of them got down to business discussing just how they would keep William safe and prevent anything like what had happened in the forest from ever happening again. By the end of the meeting, Her Majesty and the Prince and Princess of Wales were satisfied that William wouldn't be needlessly exposed to unwarranted risks in the future.

-o-0-o-

When the meeting was over, Fudge headed back to the Ministry, as he had a few important matters that needed to be handled. Elizabeth had been tempted to ask what kind of matters, but deciding that it would probably take too much time for the Minister to bring her up to speed on the necessary details to even understand the matters, she held her tongue. Of course, it was probably a very good thing for Fudge that she didn't ask, because his idea of handling important matters was handing all of them off to subordinates to do for him while he took a nap in his office. Or meeting with upstanding members of the community and arranging for donations to worthy causes - the most worthy of all in the Minister's mind being his own personal vault at Gringotts'. In short, it was Fudge's lucky day that the monarch didn't ask, as it was unlikely that she would have been amused to learn just how lazy and corrupt the man holding the position to Minister for Magic truly was.

With Fudge gone, Dumbledore offered to take the royals on a small tour of the castle and show them a few of the places that William was most likely to visit on a day-to-day basis. The offer was gladly accepted and thus it was that the royals found themselves visiting the Hogwarts library, the Great Hall, and a couple of the less dangerous greenhouses. They also visited the Hospital Wing where they were able to witness Madam Pomfrey expertly dealing with a few minor and moderate injuries, thus giving them confidence that even if William were to be hurt, that he'd be in good hands.

The last stop on the tour was the top of the Astronomy Tower to have a look at the classrooms there, as with the ceilings' charms to accurately depict the night sky, they were one of William's more impressive classrooms. This visit also gave the royals the chance to meet Professor Firenze and thank him for killing the dread wolf in the forest and thus preventing William from becoming a werewolf. It was certainly an interesting meeting, however, as having seen tons of moving portraits in the hallways, a few ghosts, and then capping things off with a real live centaur, the royals were all suitably in awe of the school William was now attending.

Once the tour had concluded, Dumbledore led them to the portrait of the Fat Lady and said, "Hello, my dear lady."

"Headmaster, it's always a pleasure," the Fat Lady said, before she bowed to the royals and said, "And it's an extra pleasure to meet you, Your Majesty, and Your Highnesses."

Elizabeth, Charles, and Diana nodded, as the Fat Lady asked, "Did you wish to visit with Prince William?"

"Indeed," Dumbledore said and then with a smile, he asked, "I believe the password this week is Cor Leonis?"

"Correct," the Fat Lady said, as her whole portrait swung away from the wall to reveal the hole in the wall behind it.

With a smile to the royals, Dumbledore said, "Welcome to the Gryffindor House common room."

Dumbledore offered Her Majesty his hand to help her to step through the portrait hole, as Diana whispered to Charles, "Cor Leonis? That's Latin isn't it?"

Charles nodded. "Yes, it means The Lion's Heart."

Inside the common room, several conversations around the room silenced as the portrait hole opened and Professor Dumbledore appeared, assisting a woman into the room, followed by a man and woman. Some of the muggleborns immediately recognized them, of course, their eyes widening in shock. For those who didn't recognize the royals, it became pretty obvious who they were when William looked up from his Charms homework and said, "Grandmum! Mum! Dad!"

Elizabeth smiled, as she stepped further into the room and said, "Hello William dear." Then pausing to take a look around the room, she said, "My isn't this a cozy room."

Charles also took a moment to look around, as he took in the tall windows, the vaulted ceilings, and finally the large carved stone fireplace, as he said, "Hmm, this fireplace reminds me of one I've seen at Eton College." Turning to Dumbledore, he asked, "I wonder if they could be works of the same architect?"

"I very much doubt it, sir," Dumbledore said. "Hogwarts was founded in the year 871 and unless I'm very much mistaken, Eton was founded in 1440. However, it is possible that an architect who helped the founders with the castle worked in the Muggle world and Eton's architect was inspired by their work."

Looking around the room herself, Diana smiled and said, "I must say this castle is in remarkably good shape for being 1,120 years old."

"Just one of the many perks of magic, I guess," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling with pride.

With a nod, Diana came over and gave William a hug, while Dumbledore and Charles chatted some more about the castle architecture and at her request, Dylan led Elizabeth into his private suite to see Thorne.

"Introduce me to your friends?" Diana asked her son.

"Oh, of course," William said, as he began pointing at each in turn. "This is Neville Longbottom, Hermione Granger, Cormac McLaggen, Seamus Finnegan, Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter."

Diana smiled and shook hands with each of them, before she asked, "So what are you all working on over here?" as she looked down at the table they were all seated at and seeing they all had open textbooks and parchments in front of them.

"It's an essay for Professor Flitwick's class," Hermione said. "On the Mending Charm."

"Well, theirs' are on the Mending Charm," Cormac corrected. "I'm a second-year, so mine is for Professor Vance on the Dancing Feet Spell."

"Professor Flitwick teaches Charms for the 1st, 6th, and 7th years," William explained to his mother. "He's so short that he has to stand on a pile of books to see over his desk, but he's very kind."

"And Professor Vance teaches the 2nd and 3rd year Charms classes," Cormac added.

"I see," Diana said. "Is there any chance I could see these spells in action?"

William and his friends looked at each other, uncertainty written all over their faces, as Harry said, "I'm not sure if that would be allowed or not. There is a law that forbids the use of magic in front of Muggles."

"That's true, Harry, my boy," Dumbledore said with a smile. "However, the fact that William's relatives have been allowed to visit Hogwarts means that you can perform magic in front of them, at least while they're here in the castle."

Nodding, Harry looked at Hermione and said, "Well you're probably the best of us at this charm."

Smiling, Hermione stood up and grabbed an empty glass from the buffet table where the house-elves set out breakfast and lunch at the appropriate times - the drinks remained out all day, thus the cups. Raising the glass over her head, she said, "Stand back," before she dropped it to the floor and it broke into several pieces.

"The Mending Charm repairs broken objects," Hermione explained, as she pulled out her wand and performed the necessary wand movement before saying, "Reparo!"

Charles and Diana looked suitably impressed when the pieces of broken glass reformed into a complete glass with no trace that it had ever been broken. Hermione was just about to bend down and pick it back up when William pulled out his own wand and said, "I've got this, Hermione."

Realizing that William wanted to show off a little for his parents, Hermione smiled and nodded, as William pointed his wand at the cup and with a swish and flick, incanted, "Wingardium Leviosa!" The smiles on Charles' and Diana's faces widened as they watched William raising the tip of his wand, the cup rising into the air along with it. He then did a little twirling motion with his wand which caused the cup to turn upside down before floating it over to the table and bringing it down softly.

Dumbledore applauded and said, "Very nice work, Mr. Windsor and Miss Granger - five points to Gryffindor, for each of you."

Hermione blushed slightly, but smiled at earning the unexpected points, while William high-fived with Harry, and then Seamus.

After giving her son a pat on the back for his success, Diana turned to Cormac and asked, "Mr. McLaggen wasn't it?" Cormac nodded. "I'm curious. What does the Dancing Feet Spell do?"

Cormac grinned as he stood up and pulled out his own wand. "Willing to help me show your Mum, Wills?"

"Sure, I guess," William said, at which point Cormac moved his wand in the necessary pattern and said, "Tarantellegra!" Almost instantly, William began dancing a wild jig where he stood. Turning his head to his mother, William said, "As you can see, the Dancing Feet spell makes the person it's cast on dance."

"And they can't stop until the spell wears off or it's cancelled," Cormac added with a grin. "Whichever comes first." After another minute or so, Cormac swished his wand at William's feet and said, "Finite Incantatum!"

William stopped dancing and wrapped an arm around his mother's waist to steady himself and took a moment to catch his breath. After a moment, he said, "It's pretty good exercise actually."

"Five points to Gryffindor, Mr. McLaggen," Dumbledore said. "And take five more since I know Professor Vance hasn't actually taught the General Counter-Spell in class yet."

"McLaggen? That name sounds vaguely familiar to me for some reason," Charles commented.

Turning to the Prince of Wales, Cormac said, "Well, sir, that might be because my family is wizarding nobility and Queen Victoria granted all of them titles in the Muggle world as well. My parents, Bruce and Caroline McLaggen, are The Duke and Duchess of Levenmore."

"So does that make you Marquis of Glencoe, young man?" Elizabeth asked, as she came back into the room with Dylan and Thorne.

With a bow, Cormac said, "It does, Your Majesty."

"Ah, yes, I believe I've actually met your parents at one of the court functions," Charles said. "They did mention that they had a young son named Cormac, come to think of it."

Cormac nodded. "That's possible. Many of the wizarding nobles don't attend the Muggle court functions, but my parents have attended a few of them, if only for curiosity sake."

"Any of your other friends members of the nobility, William?" Diana asked.

"Well, Carter and Hunter Wells, obviously," William said with a smile. "Also Neville and Harry." After a moment, he said with an almost sheepish grin, "Oh and Ron, too."

"And which ones are they?" Elizabeth asked, as she'd been in Dylan's and Thorne's room when William introduced his friends.

Neville shyly raised his hand and said, "I'm Neville Longbottom, Your Majesty."

"Your parents are Franklin and Alice, right?" Elizabeth asked. "The Duke and Duchess of Aldersey?"

"Yes, Ma'am," Neville confirmed.

Raising his hand up a bit, Harry said, "And I'm Harry Potter, Ma'am."

Elizabeth smiled. "Ah, yes, The Duke of Granston."

Hermione's eyes widened with each new title mentioned, as she hadn't realized that any of her new friends, other than Carter and Hunter, were actually members of the nobility and obviously William was a step above them, being royalty. Of course, Carter, Hunter, and William didn't talk about it very much and Hermione had not been present when Harry found out that he was nobility. It didn't really shock her that Neville hadn't said anything, because he was very shy to begin with, but Cormac and Ron were another matter entirely. Given what she'd seen of their personalities thus far, she would almost have expected both of them to be bragging about it.

"William said Ron, too," Hermione said, as she looked at Ron. "What's your father's title?"

"The Earl of Ravenstone," Ron answered. There were many children of the noble families, especially the fanatical pureblood ones who wouldn't even know what their father's title in the Muggle world was, because quite frankly the only one that they cared about was their wizarding title. However, with Arthur always being so fascinated by Muggles, he took great pride in having a Muggle title in addition to the wizarding one and thus all of his children knew what it was. Perhaps the only surprising thing was then that Arthur had never attended any of the events on the Muggle court calendar, but that was more or less because Molly made sure her husband never saw the calendar and thus didn't know any of the dates of when the various social functions were. The reason for this, of course, was partly because she was afraid her husband's enthusiasm about all things Muggle might make them look more than a little weird to the Muggle nobility, but it was also because they couldn't afford the appropriate clothes for any of the events.

At this point, Dumbledore stepped forward and said, "Your Majesty, while you were in Lord Wells' quarters, William and his friends showed the Prince and Princess some magic. If you're interested in seeing some yourself while you're here, I can arrange for a couple of duels between some of the professors in the Great Hall. I'm sure the students would enjoy watching it and then, of course, the three of you are more than welcome to join us this evening for dinner."

"What time is dinner?" Elizabeth asked.

"Between six and seven pm," Dumbledore said.

Shaking her head, Elizabeth said, "I'm afraid I won't be able to stay for dinner. Philip and I are expected at a charity dinner this evening, but I think I can spare the time for the duels. I'd be very interested to see that."

Charles looked at his watch and said, "Diana and I won't be able to stay for dinner, either, as we're expected at a movie premiere tonight, but I think we have time for the duels if you can get us to Kensington Palace by six."

"That won't be a problem," Dumbledore said, as he pulled out his wand and said, "All of you in the room may want to cover your ears." Once everyone had done so, the headmaster placed the tip of his wand against his throat and said, "Sonorus!", and then, "Attention Students and Staff, as a special entertainment this evening in honor of the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and The Prince and Princess of Wales, we will be holding a pair of duels in the Great Hall in ten minutes time. The duelists will be Gryffindor's Professor McGonagall vs. Slytherin's Professor Snape and Ravenclaw's Professor Flitwick vs. Hufflepuff's Professor Sprout. Thank you."

From their respective locations in the castle, all four Heads of House couldn't help but think that it would have been nice if the headmaster had asked if they wanted to duel each other before making the announcement, but now that it was done, it was rather too late for such thoughts. Of course, they'd all been on staff at Hogwarts now for long enough to know that Headmaster had a tendency to make unilateral decisions such as these and thus it didn't really bother them as much as it perhaps should have, since they were all used to it by now. In truth, more than one of them was actually looking forward to it, thinking that it might actually be fun.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Seven:
Duels and a Feast

-o-0-o-

As soon as he'd finished making his announcement, Dumbledore did something that only the sitting Headmaster could do at Hogwarts and Apparated directly to the Great Hall. Waving his wand at the doors, they quickly closed so that nobody would be able to enter while he was preparing the room. A few more flicks of his wand and he had moved the Hufflepuff, Slytherin, and Gryffindor tables so that they were resting along the perimeter of the room, before transfiguring them into bleachers, all six rows high, so that the students would have a place to sit and watch. Moving the Ravenclaw table and benches into the center of the room, he transfigured them into a regulation dueling strip, before turning his wand on the head table, vanishing it from sight, as he raised the ornate throne-like chair that he normally sat in so that it was two steps higher than the others, while the chairs on either side of it were raised to be one step higher.

Satisfied with his work, which had taken him all of three minutes to complete, he waved his wand at the doors to open them and found that quite a few students and staff members had already gathered outside the hall. With a smile, he said, "Please come in and find a place to sit, however, for the time being I ask that you remain standing. The duels will begin in seven minutes."

A couple of minutes later, the group that had been in the Gryffindor Common Room with Dumbledore entered the room and he smiled at the royal guests, as he gestured towards the three chairs on the raised platform where the head table usually sat. "Your Majesty, I've prepared special seating for you and the Prince and Princess."

"Thank you, Professor," Elizabeth said with a smile, as Charles took his mother's hand and led her towards the chair that was usually reserved for the headmaster, but tonight Dumbledore had opted to relinquish for the Queen. Charles and Diana took their seats on either side of Elizabeth, as more students and professors filed into the room. It wasn't long before, by Dumbledore's count, every student and staff member was present in the room and with about a minute to spare. Apparently the idea of watching their professors and co-workers dueling was very interesting to the students and staff.

There was some confusion amongst the staff and students about why they'd been asked to remain standing, although many of the muggleborns knew the reason immediately upon seeing the Queen entering the room. Those who'd been raised in the wizarding world, however, and had never even seen the Queen didn't know who she was until Dumbledore said, "Thank you all for coming. Before we begin the duels, it is my great honor to present to you Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and Their Royal Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Wales, the grandmother and parents of Gryffindor's own Prince William. Now, you may be seated."

Knowing that protocol would dictate that everyone else stand up if she did, Elizabeth remained seated, and simply waved at everyone, as Charles and Diana did the same.

"Duelists, please step forward," Dumbledore said, "and when I call your name, please identify your second. I ask that you only choose from among your fellow professors, however, and as I will be acting as a judge this evening, I will be unavailable. Professor McGonagall?"

Stepping forward, McGonagall said, "Professor Weasley," which prompted Bill to stand up from where he'd sat down with the other professors, as he joined the Deputy Headmistress.

"Professor Flitwick?"

The diminutive professor remained silent for a moment, obviously thinking about his options, before he said, "Professor Goshawk," which prompted Professor Miranda Goshawk, the author of The Standard Book of Spells, who this year had agreed to teach the fourth and fifth year Charms classes, as well as the second and third year Herbology classes, to stand and join Professor Flitwick.

"Professor Snape?"

"Professor Nott," Snape said immediately, at which point Thomas stood and joined his colleague and fellow Slytherin.

"And finally, Professor Sprout, who will act as your second?"

"I'll take Professor Vector," Sprout replied, at which point Septima Vector joined Professor Sprout.

"Good, now that you have your seconds selected," Dumbledore said, "I ask that Professors Babbling, Flamel, Quirrell, Sinistra, Kettleburn, and Davies join me as the judges of tonight's exhibition." Giving the six professors a moment to join him, Dumbledore nodded and said, "Now, the rules. Duelists, you may use any and all legal and non-lethal spells, charms, jinxes, curses, and hexes in your repertoires. You've been provided with a chair, a pillow, and a rucksack full of random objects, should you need them for transfiguration purposes. You will be unable to summon anything, as the other judges and I will be maintaining a protective shield around the dueling strip to protect the spectators from any errant spells. However, you may also use anything you have on your person and make use of any special abilities you possess, like Animagus forms."

The duelists and their seconds nodded their understanding, before Dumbledore continued. "You should also know that I will be adjusting the wards inside of the protective shield, so you will be able to Apparate anywhere inside of the shield's covered area, should you so desire. Also please note that nobody outside the shield or the castle itself will be able to Apparate into the protected area. Seconds, you may open the rucksacks of random objects and remove the contained items to make them more readily available for transfiguration, but otherwise you will keep your wands down and only step in if your partner is incapacitated. If you are able to restore your partner to the duel with one spell, then you are instructed to do that, otherwise you must step in and fight in their stead.

"Each duel will last a minimum of five minutes and a maximum of ten minutes. Successfully disarming your opponent after five minutes will make you the victor, but do it before five minutes and victory goes to your opponent by default. If neither side can successfully disarm their opponent after ten minutes, the other judges and I will determine the winner based on the creativity of the magics and tactics used. If left up to the judges to determine victory, each judge can award up to ten points and the winning team will be the one with the highest point total. Is everyone clear on the rules?"

The four duelists and their seconds nodded, prompting Dumbledore to say, "Alright, then our first duel will be between Professor Flitwick and Professor Sprout. Seconds, take your positions at the ends of the strip and duelists stand in the center of the strip back to back." When Flitwick, Sprout, and their seconds took their positions, Dumbledore said, "Now I ask that the seconds unpack the rucksacks, in which are ten random items. Duelists, you will have one minute following the removal of the last item to look them all over and start coming up with ideas of how to use them, although please note that you are not required to use any of them. Also, please note that you can also use the empty rucksack, if you should desire."

Opening the rucksack, Vector pulled out the first item, a spoon, as Sprout got a contemplative look on her face. This was followed by a goblet, a quill, a sock, a pocket watch, a bouquet of roses, an apple, a head of lettuce, a jar of pufferfish eyes, and finally a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. Meanwhile, on the other side of the strip, Goshawk removed the items that she and Flitwick had been allotted. First up was a standard table knife and then a tea pot, a sheet of parchment, a black leather belt, an empty coin purse, a potted geranium, a banana, a stalk of broccoli, a vial of flobberworm mucus, and finally an acid pop.

Once a minute had passed, Dumbledore nodded to the professors he'd picked to serve as judges and as one they all raised their wands and incanted, "Protego Maxima! Fianto Duri!" causing a clear protective barrier to shimmer into existence around the strip. With the barrier in place, Dumbledore said, "Duelists, take five paces, turn, bow," Dumbledore waited for them to do this before adding, "and begin!"

As soon as the words left the headmaster's mouth, both Flitwick and Sprout fired off their first spells, which connected and exploded midway between them. Sprout immediately fired off another spell, which Flitwick easily dodged out of the way of as he levitated the sheet of parchment into the air and with a flick of his wand caused it to fold up into an intricate origami crow. Despite his concentration, he kept moving, expertly dodging every spell that Sprout fired his way, his years of training and experience as a dueling champion kicking in as if he'd never retired - more than thirty years ago now. With another flick of his wand, his paper creation duplicated and continued to do so.

There were a few gasps of surprise from the audience, mostly from the younger students who had not yet seen this kind of magic, and applause from the older students who had seen it, but still enjoyed seeing it in action. Dodging another spell, Flitwick finally waved his wand in Sprout's direction and sent over two dozen paper birds flying towards her, only as they approached, Flitwick waved his wand again and caused them to magically turn into real birds, which began pecking at Sprout's hat and arms as soon as they reached her. The applause from the audience increased, as they watched the Herbology professor thrashing her arms through the air for a moment, attempting to shoo the charmed birds away from her.

A few of the older students, however, had keen enough eyes to notice that while the professor was thrashing her arms, she was actually casting a series of spells in rapid succession. A full minute after Flitwick's birds reached her, they suddenly disappeared, as the bouquet of roses morphed into a vaguely humanoid shape and began to move towards Flitwick at a slow pace. When it was halfway across the strip, Sprout waved her wand again and a mass of green arms, covered in thorns, shot out from the figure, all of them headed straight for the Charms professor.

Flitwick attempted to dodge out of the way, but soon realized that the thorny arms were matching his every move, so, just before they reached him, he transfigured his robe into a suit of armor. Seconds later, he was thankful he'd managed to do so when he found himself hanging upside down as the vine-like appendages of Sprout's creation were squeezing around his armor-clad body like Devil's Snare. However, since Dumbledore adjusted the wards inside the barrier to allow for Apparition, it wasn't long before Flitwick disappeared from inside the gripping vines, only to reappear behind his opponent, where he quickly cast a Stunning Spell on her, before Apparating away again.

Professor Vector stepped forward and raised her wand at Professor Sprout, incanting "Rennervate," as Flitwick used the flobberworm mucus and the acid pop to create a herbicide, which he placed inside the tea pot before transfiguring it into a sprayer. Enchanting the sprayer to spray the rose creature that Sprout created, Flitwick grinned as it's flowers wilted and it's greenery turned brown, before the entire thing fell apart and hit the floor. He then sent a number of spells flying at Sprout, who quickly threw up a shield to block them.

From their places up in the stands, Harry leaned over to Wills and whispered, "Wow, talk about an amazing spectacle."

William nodded and said, "Yeah, it's definitely impressive," as Flitwick was forced to shield himself from an onslaught of spells that Sprout sent at him in rapid succession. "Though personally, I'm looking forward more to McGonagall and Snape."

As the duel entered its ninth minute, Sprout grabbed the pillow and threw it into the air, transfiguring it into an angry badger, which she then sent flying through the air towards her diminutive coworker. Flitwick just grinned, however, as he placed his wand on his throat, muttered an incantation, and spat fire from his mouth that quickly took the form of an eagle and met the badger in midair. A moment later, the badger burst into flames and turned back into a pillow, sending a shower of fiery feathers falling to the ground.

"Time!" Dumbledore called. "Your duel is over, so duelists please lower your wands and bow to each other."

After Flitwick and Sprout had done as the headmaster asked, Dumbledore said, "Since neither duelist was able to disarm their opponent in ten minutes time, the judges and I will decide the winner. As there are seven judges, the highest possible score is 70 points. Professor Babbling, how many points do you wish to award to Professor Flitwick?"

Ancient Runes Professor Bathsheba Babbling remained silent for a moment, before she said, "Eight points."

"And Professor Sprout?"

"Nine points, Headmaster," Babbling replied.

Dumbledore nodded, as he waved his wand and a scoreboard appeared above the dueling strip, with Flitwick 8 and Sprout 9 written on it. Turning to the History of Magic professor, he asked, "Professor Flamel?"

Just as Babbling had done, Professor Perenelle Flamel remained silent for a moment, before she smiled and said, "I award Filius eight points and Pomona seven points."

"Professor Quirrell?"

Quirenus Quirrell remained silent for a moment just as Professors Babbling and Flamel had done, although a handful of students sitting near him, Jackson Tennant among them, noticed the professor's lips moving as if he was talking to himself, before he stuttered out, "T-th-three p-p-points f-for F-Filius and t-t-two f-for P-P-Pomona."

To say that Professor Quirrell granting such a low number of points caused quite a few outbursts among the students would be an understatement. Meanwhile, the three royals were looking surprised that Hogwarts would allow a person with such an obvious speech impediment to be a professor.

Dumbledore continued to call on each professor that he'd asked to be a judge, with Professor Aurora Sinistra awarding both Flitwick and Sprout seven points, while Professor Silvanus Kettleburn awarded Flitwick nine points and Sprout eight points. Meanwhile, Alex Davies awarded Flitwick a perfect ten, while he gave Sprout a nine. Thus it was that Flitwick was in the lead with 45 points and Sprout was trailing with 42 points, when it came down to Dumbledore to award his points. "You both did very well, in my opinion, and I award both of you a perfect ten, however, there can only be one winner, so with a total of 55 points out of a possible 70, Professor Filius Flitwick wins the duel."

Several of the Ravenclaws cheered as their Head of House took a bow and some of the Hufflepuffs could be heard muttering that it hadn't been fair to pit their Head of House, who had no professional dueling experience, against a ten-time professional dueling champion.

If Sprout heard these comments, however, she ignored them as she walked over to Flitwick and held out her hand. "Well fought, Filius."

"You too, Pomona," Flitwick said with a grin, as he took her hand. "I'd almost forgotten how much fun dueling could be."

After the applause and cheers died down, Flitwick and Sprout both left the dueling strip as Professor Dumbledore said, "And now for the second duel of the evening, I call upon Slytherin's Professor Snape and Gryffindor's Professor McGonagall and their seconds to please step forward."

Thomas and Bill made their ways to the ends of the dueling strip, while Snape and McGonagall took their positions, back to back, in the center of the strip. At Dumbledore's nod, the seconds began to unpack the rucksacks allotted to their side. For McGonagall these items turned out to be a fork, a tea cup, a book, a hat, a ruler, a potted Venus Flytrap, an orange, an onion, a bottle of lionfish spines, and a chocolate frog. Snape, meanwhile, had been given a plate, a bowl, a set of brass scales, a cloak, an empty ink bottle, a bouquet of tulips, a pineapple, a carrot, a bowl of leeches, and a cockroach cluster.

After one minute had passed, Dumbledore and the other judges all raised their wands and incanted as one, "Protego Maxima! Fianto Duri!" as the protective shield once again shimmered into existence. "Duelists, take five paces, turn, and bow," Dumbledore said, waiting until they did just that, before he said, "and begin!"

Almost immediately, both Snape and McGonagall sent spells flying as the two of them began their duel. Perhaps it was due to the rivalry between Slytherin and Gryffindor, but many of the onlookers couldn't help but think that this duel seemed more intense than the previous one, as spells from both sides continued flying and were dodged or blocked by shields. At one point, McGonagall transfigured the Venus Flytrap into a much larger plant that was taller than Snape and had a head that vaguely resembled that of a cow, which tried to swallow the Potions Master whole. Sadly, he got out of the way just in time to avoid it, before pulling a vial of something from inside his robes which he threw at the plant that caused it to melt into a puddle of green slime on the floor.

About five minutes into their allotted ten minutes, McGonagall sent a spell at Snape that he failed to dodge or block and while it wasn't immediately clear what the spell did, it became clear a moment later, when McGonagall shifted into her cat form and lunged at Snape, who promptly began sneezing like crazy. The older students grinned as they realized that McGonagall had hit Snape with an Allergy Curse to make him allergic to cats. As the curse began wearing off, McGonagall ran back over to her side of the strip and transformed back into a human, as she transfigured the lionfish spines into an actual lion, which charged towards Snape.

Snape had gotten over his allergic reaction, however, and was ready as he Apparated out of the way of the charging lion and then pulling another vial from inside his robes, shrunk the creature to the size of an ant, which was promptly stepped on, before he sent a spell flying towards McGonagall. It was borderline Dark Arts, but not officially classified as Dark Arts and it wasn't lethal, so, Dumbledore didn't call an immediate end to the duel as Snape hadn't yet broken any rules.

Finally, as the duel entered its tenth minute, with neither Snape or McGonagall managing to disarm the other, Dumbledore called time and began calling on each professor who'd been named as a judge one at a time for them to give their scores. Professor Babbling started things off by awarding McGonagall 8 points, while she gave Snape 6 points, followed by Professor Flamel awarding 9 points to McGonagall and 3 points to Snape, along with the comment that she'd planned on giving him more than that right up until the point he used that borderline Dark Arts spell and felt she had to penalize him.

The next judge to award a score was stammering Professor Quirrell, whose scoring caused quite an uproar among the Gryffindors, as he awarded only 1 point to McGonagall. The Slytherins meanwhile were cheering when he then turned around and awarded a perfect 10 to Snape. Professor Sinistra then took a more balanced approach, awarding both duelists with a score of 7 points, which was repeated by Professor Kettleburn, only he awarded both of them 8 points. Alex was silent for a moment, when it came time for him to vote, but finally, he awarded McGonagall 5 points and Snape 7 points.

Finally, it was Dumbledore's turn, and he said, "I award Professor McGonagall with 9 points and Professor Snape with 5 points. So, with a final score of 47-46, Professor McGonagall is the winner."

As Snape stiffly congratulated McGonagall on her victory, the professors took down the protective barrier and Dumbledore, seeing that the Queen was about to stand, said, "All rise." Within moments of the Queen standing, everyone in the room was on their feet, as the monarch walked over to Dumbledore and said, "A most," she paused here, presumably searching for the right word, before saying, "impressive display, Headmaster. Thank you."

"You're quite welcome, Your Majesty," Dumbledore said.

"William," Elizabeth called out to the room at large, prompting William to stand up and come over to his grandmother. Dumbledore, meanwhile, discreetly put up a Silencing Charm so that the entirety of the Hall wouldn't be able to hear what the Queen said to her grandson. "I have to be going now as I have a charity dinner to attend with your grandfather. Now I want you to behave, young man, as I will not be amused if I hear about you getting into any further trouble that warrants detention."

William nodded, "Yes grandmother."

"Yes, son, please do try to be on your best behavior," Charles added. "You are a prince, after all, and as such you must act like it. And that includes following the rules."

"Yes, please do try not to get into anymore trouble," Diana agreed, "but also, make sure to have as much fun as you possibly can, alright?"

"Yes, Mum," William said with a grin, as he hugged each of the older royals, before Dylan and Dumbledore escorted them to the front door, as Dylan got back into the carriage with them for the trip down to Hogsmeade.

-o-0-o-

As the following days turned into weeks, it was soon the end of October, which brought with it the annual Halloween Feast. By this point, very few people were still complaining about the changes the governors had made, but there were still a few holdouts, Ron Weasley among them. While he was certainly sorry that his objections to the decisions had caused his father to have a heart attack, he was still a rather immature young man. The healers had fixed his father up, after all, so Ron saw no reason why he shouldn't go on complaining about the changes. As long as he wasn't doing it to his father anymore, then in his mind, it was okay.

Of course, Ron's housemates and the others that they hung out with on a regular basis did not feel the same way about it. More than once now Cedric, Jeremy, and Ryan had gotten so sick of Ron's complaining that they'd started taking turns casting a Silencing Charm on him whenever he opened his mouth. Of course, that just gave him more reason to complain, which is what prompted Marcus Flint, who had been spending more and more time at the Gryffindor table with Jackson, to finally lose his temper with the younger redhead and cast a particularly brutal Bat-Bogey Hex on him. Normally, Marcus probably would have gotten into trouble for doing so, since a professor saw him do it. He lucked out, however, and actually ended up earning 10 points for Slytherin from the particularly impressed inventor of the hex, Professor Miranda Goshawk.

If anything seeing a Slytherin rewarded for publicly humiliating him in the Great Hall only made Ron complain even more than he already had been. Those around him began to do their best to ignore him, because his constant complaining was quite frankly getting on their last nerves. He'd made his point abundantly clear several times and yet he still kept bringing it up, thus continuing to beat an already very dead horse. Ron was nothing if not stubborn, however.

As for the others, when they weren't nearing the point of ripping their own hair from the heads in frustration over the Ron situation, they were all concentrating on their schoolwork. Harry found himself studying harder than he had in years. He really wanted to do well in school now, especially since he didn't have to bring report cards home to the Dursleys anymore. Why should he continue to intentionally perform badly in order to get worse grades than Dudley when he wouldn't see his fat tub of lard cousin again until summer? He hated the thought of having to go back to the Dursleys, but he hoped that the fact that he would now be trained in magic would make his life better. Oh he knew that he wasn't allowed to do magic outside of school, but the Dursleys didn't know that and what they didn't know could only help him.

Another reason he wanted to do well, of course, was because he hoped that his parents were looking down on him and they'd be proud. He'd always wanted that, but before he'd come to Hogwarts, he'd thought his parents were drunks who didn't care about anyone but themselves. The Dursleys had always made it seem like no matter what he did, his parents would never have been proud of him because he was worthless and they would have been too busy with their own lives to care. Now that he knew that wasn't true, he had a renewed desire to make them proud.

Carter and Hunter were doing quite well in their studies, although they accredited part of their success to the fact that they'd both studied from Thorne's old textbooks after they'd found them in the attic. So, they did tend to pick up the practical work a bit faster than their friends, but that was because they'd studied the theory before ever coming to Hogwarts. Of course, Carter was also a Ravenclaw, so studying came naturally to him and while Hunter was a Slytherin, that didn't mean he was incapable of studying.

It was, perhaps one of the common misconceptions about the Hogwarts houses that only Ravenclaws enjoyed studying. One only had to look at Gryffindor's Hermione Granger to know that wasn't true, but there were plenty of other students in houses other than Ravenclaw who enjoyed studying. Cedric, Ryan and Jeremy were also good examples, because they all studied hard, even though they were Hufflepuffs. But then again, the house of badgers was known to place a very high value on hard work, so working hard on one's studies wasn't all that surprising.

William was thriving at Hogwarts and greatly enjoying every minute of his time at the school. Yes, finding out that magic was real and that he was a wizard had been something of a shock to him at first, but he adapted well and now even after such a short time, he couldn't picture his life before magic. In late September, three new bodyguards - Jordan Miller, Matthew Lawson, and Kyle Bradley - had been brought in to alternate with Dylan and ensure that William always had someone trailing him to all of his classes and anywhere else he went during the day.

This, of course, allowed Dylan plenty of time to care for Thorne, although if you asked Thorne, he would say that Dylan was taking caring for him to a completely unnecessary extreme. He understood that Dylan was worried about the health of their unborn child as he was worried as well. However, despite the high risk of the pregnancy, Thorne was a very independent person by nature and thus did not take kindly to Dylan insisting on treating him like an invalid who was incapable of doing anything for himself.

Thorne had now spent most of the month of October in bed with Dylan actually going so far as to place magical restraints on Thorne's arms and legs, which prevented him from moving. Either Dylan or a house-elf served all of Thorne's meals to him in bed and because he couldn't move his arms, he was getting spoon-fed as if he was a baby himself. Anytime that he did have to get out of bed, say to bathe or to go to the bathroom, Dylan insisted on carrying him, fearing that even the simple act of walking might be too much of a strain on Thorne.

The reason that Dylan was being so hyper-protective was because Dylan and Thorne had woken up one morning in the first week of October to find very small traces of blood on the sheets where Thorne had been sleeping. Dylan immediately called for Madam Pomfrey who gave Thorne a complete examination and judged the traces of blood to be a normal part of a wizard pregnancy. This was because while the magical cores of two wizards working together did allow them to impregnate one another, the male body still wasn't technically intended to carry children and thus some minor bleeding tended to happen as the baby grew or shifted positions inside of the magically created womb.

Thorne remembered that aspect from his first pregnancy and yes when it had happened the very first time, he had been scared. But, Madam Pomfrey assured him at the time that it was perfectly normal and despite several more occurrences during that first pregnancy, Thorne had still carried Carter and Hunter to full term. The twins had been born perfectly healthy and there had been no complications whatsoever, either for them or for Thorne. However, apparently having heard the words high risk scared Dylan to the point that he was ignoring past experience, the Matron's assurances, and Thorne's objections.

Swallowing the bite of food that Dylan had just given him, Thorne turned his head away when Dylan tried to give him another spoonful.

"Now come on Thorne, don't be difficult," Dylan said in a chastising voice. "You and the baby need to eat."

"Then why don't you bloody well let me feed myself?" Thorne asked, his tone clearly bitter and angry. "Dylan, despite what you seem to think I am not incapable of doing anything for myself."

"I know you're capable of doing things," Dylan said. "I just want to pamper you right now. Is that so wrong?"

"When you're doing it by keeping me restrained to the bed?" Thorne asked. "Yes, Dylan it is wrong. I understand that you're worried about our new baby. Trust me, I am too, but this is going too far. I haven't even seen the outside of this room in three weeks."

"I seem to recall a time when you enjoyed being tied up."

Thorne shook his head and made an exasperated sound, before he said, "Yes, Dylan, there was a brief time in my late teens that I was interested in experimenting with bondage and I'll admit we had fun, but in case you haven't noticed, that hasn't been a part of our sex lives in almost ten years now. And before you say anything, it's not because of Carter and Hunter, because them being around hasn't stopped us from having sex on an almost daily basis. We stopped with the bondage because I lost interest in it and quite frankly after spending the last three weeks tied to this bed almost every waking and sleeping moment, it's an activity that I'd never want to revisit."

"Thornton, honey, calm down," Dylan said, his face full of concern, as he watched his husband get worked up. "You're getting worked up and stressing yourself out, neither of which is good for the baby."

"Are you even hearing a word that I've been saying, Dylan?" Thorne asked. "Because I'm beginning to think that it's going in one ear and right out the other. I'm beginning to think that you don't care about my feelings and a marriage can't work that way."

"Whoa, Thorne, baby, of course I care about your feelings," Dylan said. "I just don't understand why you won't let me pamper you."

"Oh really? So keeping me tied to a bed, spoon feeding me, carrying me to and from the bathroom and doing everything else for me including wiping my ass is your idea of pampering? Well, Dylan, I call it you treating me like a baby and not only am I way past sick of it, I'm actually surprised that you haven't gone all the way and started making me wear fucking nappies and feeding me with a bottle!"

Before Dylan can respond, a voice from the doorway asks, "What in the name of Merlin is going on in here?"

Dylan turns and asks, "Madam Pomfrey, what are you doing here? How did you even get in?"

"I'm the school Matron, Lord Wells," Pomfrey said. "I have a master password that will grant me access to every password-protected room in the castle and even a few that aren't - the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw common rooms for example. Now I will repeat this only once, what in Merlin's name is going on in here?"

"I was just trying to convince my husband to release me," Thorne said.

"Release you?" Pomfrey asked, as she came closer. Her eyes widened when she saw the restraints and she said, "Lord Wells, Lord-Consort Wells, I understand that some people like this sort of thing," and here she looked at Thorne, as she added, "but I don't think it's appropriate in your condition."

"This isn't what it looks like Madam Pomfrey," Thorne said. "You remember when we found the blood on the sheets?" Pomfrey nodded. "Well, my idiot husband decided to ignore your assurances that everything was okay and has insisted on keeping my restrained ever since. I've basically been a prisoner in this room for the last three weeks, not allowed to do even the simplest of tasks for myself."

"So now I'm an idiot for caring about you and our unborn son?" Dylan asked, in a clearly wounded voice.

"No, I want you to care about me and our unborn son, Dylan," Thorne said, "but treating me like an invalid is not a good way to show me that you care! We've only been together for fourteen years Dylan, so you should know that I'm a fiercely independent person, so you thinking that I would be okay with this is what makes you an idiot."

"Lord Wells there is no medical reason to keep your husband tied to a bed," Pomfrey said as she vanished the restraints with a flick of her wand. "I realize that I told you that there was a higher than normal risk involved with this pregnancy, but I never expected you to take that so literally that you would actually endanger the child while trying to protect it."

"What are you talking about?" Dylan asked.

"I've known you boys for years now," Pomfrey said. "I realize that neither one of you actually are boys anymore, but as the Matron of Hogwarts since 1965, before either of you even started your schooling, I've been treating both of you since you were boys and in that time I have realized that Thornton is a very independent young man. Sometimes perhaps a little too independent, but knowing that I can see how he would resent being restrained and that resentment is going to cause him stress that is not good for the baby, Lord Wells."

Dylan took a few deep breaths. "Okay, maybe I took things too far."

"Maybe?" Thorne asked.

"Fine, I did take things too far," Dylan said, a bit more forcefully. "But I will not apologize for trying to protect you and our unborn son, Thorne, so don't you dare ask me to."

"I wasn't going to," Thorne said. "However, I hope that you can at least agree not to attempt this again in the future. If Madam Pomfrey says I need to go on bed rest, that's fine, I'll do it, but if you ever even think about tying me to the bed again and treating me like I'm helpless, we're going to have a problem, Dylan."

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, in the Gryffindor common room, Harry, Ron, William, Hermione, Neville, Seamus, and Cormac were all working on finishing up their homework so that they could enjoy the feast later that night and their weekend without having to worry about it. Well, that wasn't entirely true, because Ron wasn't doing homework and he thought the others were crazy to be wasting such a perfectly good afternoon doing it.

"You guys have the whole weekend to get that done, you know," Ron griped. "Why are you wasting time doing it now?"

Not looking up from his Charms essay, William answered, "Because Ron, unlike you, some of us choose not to wait until the last minute to do it."

"I don't wait until the last minute," Ron protested.

"Yes, actually you do," Cormac said. "I seem to recall five different assignments in the last three days that you were rushing to get finished the same day they were due."

"Assignments I might add," Hermione said, "that you didn't even bother starting until the day they were due."

"It's not my fault that all these extra classes the governors just had to add results in too much homework," Ron grumbled.

"Oh not this again," Seamus mumbled under his breath.

Not able to take it anymore, Cormac shook his head and said, "Oh Merlin's beard, Ron, stop it already! We got that you don't like the governors' changes the first fifty-thousand times you said it."

"I agree," Harry said. "If you can't accept the changes, fine, but do the rest of us a favor and stop bringing it up because we're sick of hearing about it."

"Continuing to bring it up accomplishes nothing," Hermione added. "Except driving the rest of us crazy. Just admit that you're lazy when it comes to studying and stop blaming the governors for it. None of us has had any problems getting our work done."

"I'm not lazy!" Ron practically yelled. What was this? Gang up on Ron day? He simply couldn't understand why his so called friends were not supporting him and why they weren't just as upset as he was about the changes the governors had made. They were completely unnecessary and extremely unfair. Everyone knew that Hogwarts was the best school of wizardry in the world, so there was no reason to force the students to take extra classes and pile more homework on them than they could do. The fact that his friends had been having no problems getting their work done didn't register with Ron because he felt that they were getting all of the extra work done at the expense of having fun, which is what they really should have been doing.

Ron knew that in years past, students in all the years often had free periods a couple times a week during which they could do anything they wanted. With the amended scheduling however, only the older students who were at least third years had a chance of having a free period. The core classes were reduced to meeting only three times a week for third years and older in order to open up class slots for electives, most of which met twice a week, so depending on the number of electives taken, some of the older students ended up with several free periods during the day. Ron didn't think it was fair that he didn't have any. Well, as a first year he did have Friday afternoons off, but then again he also had to attend flying classes during that time so it wasn't truly a free period. The class's only saving grace in Ron's eyes was that it was an entirely practical course with no theory or homework.

"If the truth hurts, then so be it," Neville mumbled.

"What was that Neville?" Ron asked.

"Just ignore him, Neville," William cut in, as he paused in writing his essay to dip his quill in his ink bottle. "He's obviously too thick to understand anything we say."

"Oh too thick am I?" Ron asked. "Fine!"

Ron then stormed out of the common room. A second later the portrait guarding the entrance to the tower slammed shut and everyone could hear the Fat Lady yelling her displeasure at Ron for being so rough.

William sighed. "I probably shouldn't have said that."

"It's okay, mate," Seamus said. "The way he keeps going on, it was only a matter of time before one of us snapped."

"I know, I just hate to make people mad," William said.

"He was asking for it," Cormac said. "He just doesn't know when to shut up."

"I suppose," William said as he let some of the excess ink drip off the tip of his quill and back into the bottle before going back to writing his essay. Nobody else said anything, as they decided to take advantage of the quiet and get back to work.

-o-0-o-

A couple hours later, the Halloween feast was in full swing. All of the candles that usually floated in mid-air had been replaced by carved pumpkins, which glowed eerily in the slightly darker than normal room. The house-elves had also out-done themselves, as the feast was certainly one of the most scrumptious that William could remember in his relatively short time at Hogwarts. There was also an abnormally large amount of various desserts and candy, much more than what was normally served at dinner.

"I'm sure I'm going to regret this in the morning," William said as he helped himself to a second slice of chocolate cake, "but it's all so good."

"You can say that again," Harry said, as he grabbed some more treacle tart.

Hermione was just about to comment that they shouldn't eat so many sweets lest their teeth rot, when someone at one of the other tables shouted, "Peeves!"

Looking around towards the Hufflepuff table, several people at the other tables broke out laughing when they saw Jeremy Tennant covered in what looked like egg yolks. A broken balloon slid down his face just as Peeves grabbed another projectile from a bag he was carrying and lobbed it across the room, where it hit Cho Chang at the Ravenclaw table, who promptly shrieked as she was covered in maple syrup.

Laughter filled the hall, as more and more people fell victim to Peeves' assault. A balloon full of molasses was thrown at Adrian Pucey, which splattered on impact and hit Terrence Higgs and Marcus Flint as well. This was followed by a balloon full of chocolate sauce which was dropped on Lavender Brown and a balloon full of whipped cream, which found two marks in the forms of Justin Finch-Fletchley and Zacharias Smith.

Up at the staff table, McGonagall leaned towards Dumbledore and asked, "Shouldn't we stop him?"

Chuckling as the poltergeist dropped a balloon full of guacamole on Percy Weasley's head, Dumbledore shook his head and said, "No, Minerva, this is a party. He's not really hurting anyone, so we'll let him have his fun. Just for tonight anyway."

McGonagall clearly didn't like that answer, although she wasn't going to go against the headmaster's wishes. Turning her eyes back to the crowd of students below, McGonagall couldn't help herself, as a small chuckle escaped when Peeves took aim at Hunter Wells, who ducked just in time causing the balloon to instead hit Professor Snape and Draco Malfoy, covering them in a red liquid which at first glance looked suspiciously like blood, but was actually just watered down ketchup.

Grabbing another balloon, Peeves quickly hurled it towards the Ravenclaw table, where it hit Penelope Clearwater in the face, the salsa in the balloon splattering onto Roger Davies and Marietta Edgecombe. It was then that Peeves reached into his bag and pulled another balloon out that everyone could immediately see was different from the others. This one had a see-through ghostly appearance to it and the poltergeist got a devilish look on his face as he took aim for the closest ghost, which happened to be Nearly-Headless Nick.

Seeing the projectile flying towards him out of the corner of his eye, Nick reacted quickly and tipped his head to the side which caused the balloon to soar right over his severed neck in the direction of the Slytherin table where it finally came to a stop on the Bloody Baron's face. Peeves' eyes bulged and he let out a terrified noise that sounded like, "Mommy," as the Baron unsheathed his sword and chased Peeves out of the room.

Laughter filled the hall, as everyone laughed at those who'd gotten hit by Peeves' little grenades. Of course, those who got hit did not find it amusing in the slightest. Those sitting closest to Percy, for example, could hear him muttering about poltergeists and bemoaning the fact that he couldn't take points from the annoying specter. Fred and George, meanwhile, each grabbed a tortilla chip from one of the bowls that had just appeared in the center of the table and grinned at their brother as they caught some of the green condiment as it slid down his cheeks.

"Tasty," they said in unison, as Percy glared at them.

A bit further down the table, Harry was laughing hard and was just about to say something to Ron when he finally noticed that the redhead wasn't at the table. Cocking his head to one side, he asked, "Has anyone seen Ron?"

"Not since earlier," Cormac said, as he looked around and realized that the redhead was nowhere to be seen.

"Ron missing the feast?" William asked. "That's not like him."

"Definitely not," Seamus agreed.

"I thought I saw him going into the boy's bathroom on the second floor," Parvati said, having caught the conversation.

"When?" Hermione asked.

"Just before the feast," Parvati answered. "If it wasn't him, it was definitely someone with red hair. Only saw him from the back though, so I can't be sure it was him."

Before anyone else could say anything, the doors to the hall burst open as Professor Quirrell ran in and yelled, "Troll! In the dungeon! Troll in the dungeon!" All laughter in the hall abruptly stopped as Dumbledore stood up and Quirrell said, "Thought you'd want to know," before fainting dead away. The room that had once been full of laughter was quickly full of panic and screaming, as the students began getting up from their tables to leave the hall, which being on the ground floor was just a bit too close to the dungeon for comfort.

"SILENCE!!" Dumbledore shouted over the din, which quieted everyone down as they all turned to look at their headmaster. Now that the room was quiet enough that you could have heard a pin drop, Dumbledore spoke normally, "Everyone will please not panic. Now prefects will lead their houses to the dormitories, teachers will follow me to the dungeon."

Several of the prefects nodded as they began gathering the students in their respective houses and telling them to follow. Over at the Slytherin table, Hunter could be heard saying, in a sarcastic tone, "Oh great idea. The troll is in the dungeon, so let's go down to our dormitory which is also in the dungeon."

Many of the Slytherins who'd heard Hunter's comment voiced similar opinions as to the stupidity of the headmaster's request. Nonetheless, the Slytherin prefects were still leading their housemates towards the entrance to the hall to comply with it, even if they didn't agree with it.

Up at the staff table, there was some obvious conflict visible on Dylan's face because he'd given Jordan, Matthew, and Kyle, who made up a triad, the day off so that they could go down to Hogsmeade for their date night. There were probably some people who wouldn't have hired them due to their relationship, but Dylan didn't think what they did in their off time should have any impact on their employment. Besides, the three of them had actually been Thorne's roommates at Hogwarts, so Dylan knew them pretty well, and thus he had no doubt that they were capable.

Anyway, the conflict on Dylan's face arose from the fact that a potentially very dangerous situation had just presented itself and there was only one of him. It was his job to guard Prince William, of course, but he also had his sons to think about and of course he wanted to make sure they were safe. The fact that William, Carter, and Hunter were all in different houses didn't make it any easier, nor did the fact that Thorne, who had insisted on coming to the Feast, was pregnant. While Dylan knew that Thorne was a talented wizard who held a mastery in Defense Against the Dark Arts, he wasn't totally comfortable with the idea of his pregnant husband having to possibly face off against a mountain troll.

"Dylan, you get William," Thorne said, after a moment. "I'll get Carter."

Shaken from his thoughts by Thorne's voice, Dylan turned to his husband and nodded, but then asked, "What about Hunter?"

Shaking his head, Thorne said, "If you had been listening instead of spacing out, you'd know that Thom said he'd take care of Hunter, along with his son Theo, since they're both in Slytherin."

"Okay," Dylan said as both he and Thorne stood up. Dylan couldn't help the worried look, however, as he said, "Please be careful, Thorne. Make sure Carter is safe, but please don't go after the troll."

"You worry too much, Dylan," Thomas said. "Now, let's go make sure our children are safe, shall we?"

Dylan nodded as the three of them left the Head Table, figuring that now was not the time to point out that William wasn't their child. They were charged with protecting him, after all, and he was a child so it didn't really matter if he was their child or not, as they were still responsible for his safety. Of course, as Dylan, Thorne, and Thomas quickly realized, it wasn't easy getting to William, Hunter, Carter, or Theo, because everyone was crowding towards the doors trying to leave and being that the students they were looking for were only eleven years old, they couldn't be seen over the heads of the older students. Dylan, Thorne, and Thomas continued looking, but refrained from pushing their way into the crowd, as they didn't want to accidentally push anyone to the ground, as chances were the person would get trampled if that happened.

Outside the Great Hall, as the crowd of students began splitting up into groups to follow their prefects back to their houses, the crowds began to thin. It was around this time, however, that Harry grabbed onto William's arm and said, "Oh no, Ron! He doesn't know about the troll."

Already feeling guilty about what he'd said to Ron earlier, as he'd almost immediately regretted his words, William nodded and said, "Well, we should go get him then."

Harry nodded, as the two of them slipped away from their fellow Gryffindors and headed for the second-floor bathroom where Parvati thought she'd seen him just before the feast. Noticing them sneaking away, Hermione followed after them and said, "Were are you two going?"

"Ron doesn't know about the troll," Harry whispered urgently.

"Then tell a teacher!" Hermione whispered forcefully. "What are you two going to do against a fully-grown mountain troll?"

"We'll think of something," William said. "Besides we're Gryffindors - we're supposed to be brave."

"There's a difference between being brave and being stupid," Hermione said, although she continued to follow her two housemates towards the bathroom.

"What are you three doing?" Cedric asked as he ran up behind them. He'd spied them leaving their group just as he was about to head down to the basement corridor that led to the Hufflepuff Common Room. It had taken him a moment to be able to slip away, but he quickly came after his younger friends as soon as he could. "It's not safe for you to be wondering around on your own."

"Ron doesn't know about the troll," Harry said.

"What?"

"He wasn't at the feast," William answered. "So, he doesn't know. Parvati said she thought she'd seen him going into the second floor bathroom just before the feast."

"And you didn't think to tell one of the prefects so they could tell a teacher?" Cedric asked.

"That's what I said they should do," Hermione interjected. "But of course they're too pigheaded to listen to me. I mean, honestly, what are we supposed to do against a bloody mountain troll?"

"We'll think of something," William said, his voice suggesting more confidence than he actually felt.

"Would that be before or after it kills us?" Hermione asked.

"Preferably before," Harry answered.

Cedric was just about to comment, when a putrid smell hit his nose, causing him to wrinkle it up in disgust as he asked, "Ugh, what is that smell?"

William's eyes widened as he spotted a shadow at the end of the hallway and said, "I think the troll has left the dungeons."

"What makes you think that, Wills?" Harry asked.

"Because it's going into the bathroom," William answered.

"The bathroom?" Hermione asked, now concerned. "But this is the second floor, so... could you tell if it was the boys' or girls' bathroom?"

"I'm pretty sure it was the boys' bathroom," William replied.

"Ron!" Harry exclaimed in a whisper, as he and his friends took off running towards the bathroom.

Bursting into the room, Harry, William, Hermione, and Cedric found that the troll had indeed come into the bathroom and that Ron was still in the room, as they could see him crawling on the floor on his stomach under the dividing wall between two of the stalls, as the troll raised its club and in one swing, demolished all of the stalls.

Spotting the others, Ron shouted, "Do something!"

"What?" Harry asked in a rather helpless tone, as he watched his housemate scurry away from the ruined bathroom stalls and over towards the sinks. Ron was obviously trying to stay low by not standing up, hoping that maybe the troll wouldn't see him if he didn't stand up.

"Anything!" Ron shouted back, as he hurriedly crawled under another sink, as the one he'd just been under was smashed by the troll's club.

Spotting a piece of wood on the ground from the demolished stalls, Harry picked it up and threw it at the troll's head, as he shouted out, "Hey pea brain!"

The piece of wood hit the troll in the head and it swung around to face the others, ignoring Ron, as it raised its club in a menacing gesture.

"Great now it's after us!" Hermione exclaimed, as all of them pulled out their wands.

"Well, shite!" William said as he raised his wand and said the first spell he could think of. "Petrificus Totalus!"

The troll did slow down a little, but it didn't stop, prompting Cedric to point his own wand and yell, "Stupefy!"

Again the spell didn't work and the troll was obviously getting angrier with every spell thrown at it. Harry was obviously scared and confused, as he asked, "Why aren't the spells working?"

"Because troll hide is resistant to magic!" Hermione exclaimed, as she remembered reading about it in a book. Knowing that Cedric was a pretty studious person, she was bewildered by the fact that he, as a third year, was unaware of this. Of course, the truth was that Cedric was in fact aware of it, but the abject terror he was currently experiencing had made him forget.

"What's going on in here?" a voice asked as someone came into the room. Moments later, the group realized that it was one of the Wells twins. Spying the colors of his tie, Hermione realized it was Carter, just as he noticed the troll and said, "Whoa!"

Thinking back to summer, when he'd been looking through some of the more advanced textbooks with Hunter, Carter pulled out his wand and thought, 'I hope this works,' before he swished his wand at the troll and said, "Incarcerous," causing thick ropes to shoot out of the tip of his wand, which quickly wrapped themselves around the legs of the troll. As it began to fall, William had an idea and pointing his wand at the troll's club, he said, "Wingardium Leviosa!"

The troll lost its grip on the levitated club as it fell to the ground with a loud crash, at which point William levitated the club over the troll's head and cancelled the spell, allowing it to fall on the creature's head, knocking it unconscious.

"Nice thinking, Wills," Harry said.

"Thanks," William said with a nod, as Ron came over to the others.

"What is going on in here?" a voice demanded as everyone turned to see a very angry looking Professor McGonagall standing there, along with Thorne and Professors Quirrell and Snape. "Explain yourselves all of you!"

Stepping forward, William said, "It's my fault, Professor. I went looking for the troll. I read about them and thought I could handle it. If the others hadn't come to get me, I'd be dead."

"William, that was extremely foolish!" Thorne exclaimed. "You're only eleven years old and you're going chasing after a mountain troll? Just because you'd read about them in a book? Have you lost your mind?"

"My thoughts exactly," McGonagall said.

"I would have expected more rational behavior out of you, Mr. Wells," Snape said, as he fixed Carter with a dark look. "Five points from Slytherin, for your serious lack of judgment." It was then that it became clear that Snape thought Carter was Hunter. Of course, they were identical and the way they were standing, Cedric's arm was blocking the view of the Ravenclaw patch on the front of Carter's robes.

As satisfying as it was to hear Snape take points from Slytherin, as none of them had heard him do it before, Carter didn't want his brother's house punished for something he did, so he stepped forward and said, "Professor, I'm Carter," as he pointed at his house patch. "Hunter shouldn't get punished when he isn't even here."

"Yes, that is Carter, not Hunter," Thorne added, who as their father was one of the few people who had no trouble telling them apart whether they were wearing their differing house robes or not. "I was going to say something, but Carter beat me to it."

"Alright," McGonagall said. "Five points to Slytherin and twenty points from Gryffindor. I'll only take three points from Ravenclaw, Mr. Wells, since you didn't let your brother's house suffer for your actions." Here she looked over at the troll and said, "Who used Incarcerous on it? That spell is not taught until fourth year."

"I did, Professor," Carter said, as he looked at his father and said, "That was one of the spells that Hunter and I tried out over the summer when we found your old textbooks."

"Carter Prescott Wells, you know you're not allowed to use magic outside of school," Thorne scolded, as his son looked down and nodded. After a moment, however, he said, "I can't exactly argue with the result though."

"H-How d-did it g-get knocked o-out?" Quirrell stammered out.

"Wills," Harry said. "Once Carter tied up its legs and it was falling, Wills levitated its club and dropped it on its head."

"Well, at least you're resourceful," McGonagall said. "Not many first and third year students could take on a fully grown mountain troll and live to tell the tale. Five points to each of you. Now all of you get back to your dormitories."

As they began to leave, Thorne shook his head and said, "Not so fast, Carter. I want to have a word with you and I'm sure Dylan will as well. You're coming with me to our rooms in Gryffindor tower."

"Yes sir," Carter said, as he followed Thorne and the others out of the room.

-o-0-o-

Twenty minutes later, all the students who had been in the bathroom downstairs were sitting on the couch in Dylan's and Thorne's common room. Thorne had just finished explaining what happened to Dylan and to say that he was looking angry would have been an understatement.

"William, that was a very stupid thing to do," Dylan said. "I have no choice. After this stunt, you leave me with no choice but to make changes to your security detail. From now on, you won't be going anywhere without at least two of your bodyguards accompanying you at all times."

"Don't punish Wills," Ron said.

"Why not, Mr. Weasley?" Dylan asked.

"Because it's not his fault," Ron said. "They didn't go looking for the troll, they went looking for me."

"You?" Thorne asked.

"We had an argument a couple of hours before the feast," William said. "Ron was going on again about not liking the governor's changes and I lost it. I insulted him and he stormed out."

"I went down the main stairs," Ron explained. "And then they moved on me and I got lost. By the time I managed to get somewhere I recognized, the feast had already started."

"Why didn't you come to the feast then?" Dylan asked.

"Because I had to go to the bathroom," Ron said. "I planned on coming down to the great hall after that, but then the troll came in just as I was finishing drying my hands."

"If that's what happened," Thorne said, "William, why did you feel the need to lie?"

"Because it was my fault that Ron was wondering around the castle alone," William answered. "He wouldn't have needed to be rescued from the troll if it wasn't for me."

Dylan and Thorne sighed, before Dylan said, "Alright, William, I'll refrain from changing your detail for now. But if anything like this happens again, I won't be as lenient."

"Dylan, are you sure?" Thorne asked.

"Yes," Dylan said. "I'm going to go talk with Professor Dumbledore. The rest of you up to your rooms. Thorne, if you could take Carter back?"

"Sure," Thorne said.

-o-0-o-

The next morning at breakfast, an owl dropped off notes to Carter, William, Hermione, Harry, Ron, and Cedric. They all said the same thing, except for William's which added a postscript.

You will serve detention with Mr. Filch. Meet him in the Trophy Room at 8PM.

-- Prof. Albus Dumbledore

P.S. William, for lying to Professor McGonagall, I'm taking five points from Gryffindor. Also, your parents have been told of this incident and while they were not happy about it, because you acted to save one of your friends, they agreed with Lord Wells' recommendation that no changes be made to your security detail at this time. However, if any incident like this happens again, your mother asked me to tell you that all of your clothes will need to be magically resized in order to accommodate both you and one of your bodyguards at the same time, as that's how close they'll be sticking to you for the rest of the year.

While they all shuddered at the thought of serving detention with Mr. Filch, they all at least took some comfort in the fact that a) it wasn't in the Forbidden Forest, and b) it was nowhere near the dungeons and thus the old torture chambers. When 8PM finally arrived and the six students arrived for their detention, they found a spectacular mess, as the floor, walls, trophy cases, and even many of the trophies themselves were all covered in various condiments.

"Peeves made all of his balloons up here," Filch explained. "And it'll be your jobs to clean up the mess, without magic." And here, Filch held out his hand and said, "I'll take all of your wands now. You can have them back when you're dismissed."

All six students reluctantly handed over their wands to the caretaker, at which point, Hermione cleared her throat and asked, "If not with magic, then how are we going to clean up this mess?"

Filch grinned evilly, as he said, "With these," and held up his hand to reveal six toothbrushes. "You'll find pails of water and trophy polish behind that case," as he motioned towards one of them with his hand. "You will clean up this mess and polish every trophy in the room until they're gleaming. Have fun."

After Filch had left, Harry sighed and said, "This is gonna be a long night."

The others simply nodded, but nothing else was said as they all chose an area and got to work.

-o-0-o-

On a cold morning in November, the first Quidditch game of the school year occurred. Needless to say Harry was more than a bit nervous about playing in front of the whole school for the first time. It didn’t really help that Oliver’s way of trying to calm him down was to tell him that he felt the same way before his first game. Naturally, Harry asked what happened, and it wasn’t very reassuring when Oliver’s answer was that he didn’t remember because he’d taken a bludger to the head two minutes in and woke up in the Hospital Wing a week later.

“Now I want a nice clean game, from all of you,” Madam Hooch said, as she walked out onto the field after the Gryffindor and Slytherin teams took their positions in the air. After a moment she released the Golden Snitch and the Bludgers before throwing the Quaffle up in the air.

“And the Quaffle is taken immediately by Angelina Johnson of Gryffindor,” said third-year Gryffindor Lee Jordan, who was Fred and George Weasley’s best friend and the designated Quidditch announcer. With a grin he added, “What an excellent Chaser that girl is… and rather attractive too.”

“JORDAN!” McGonagall yelled.

“Sorry, Professor,” Lee said, not sounding or looking even the slightest bit sorry.

Up in the stands, Neville, Cormac, William, Hermione, Seamus, Dean, and Ron joined their housemates and those from the other houses that were rooting for Gryffindor… which was almost everyone that wasn’t in Slytherin. Carter had joined Hunter with the Slytherins to support his twin’s house’s team though.

Also in the stands with William and the other first years were Cedric, Ryan, Jeremy, and Jackson. Looking over at the sixth year, William asked, “Shouldn’t you be supporting Slytherin?”

Jeremy nodded at his brother, and before Jackson could respond, added, “You’re bonded and essentially married to the Slytherin Captain Marcus Flint, after all.”

Shaking his head, Jackson said, “When it comes to Quidditch, Mark knows I’m a Gryffindor first and his husband second.”

Giving Jackson a high five, Cormac said, “A man who’s got his priorities straight.”

“And Johnson back in possession of the Quaffle,” Lee said. “The goal posts are ahead, come on, Angelina, you can do it! Slytherin Keeper Miles Bletchley dives, he misses, GRYFFINDOR SCORES! It’s now Gryffindor 10, Slytherin 0.”

Cheers went up from almost three-quarters of the stands, easily drowning out the boos from the quarter that held the Slytherin supporters.

“I think Harry’s seen the snitch,” William said excitedly, as Harry, who had been sitting rather calmly on his broom surveying the stadium suddenly went flying as if chasing something.

“So has Terence Higgs,” Jackson said, as he spotted the Slytherin seeker not that far behind Harry. Of course, Harry having the latest racing broom available had an advantage… which Marcus Flint was determined to ruin when he purposely pulled out in front of Harry, forcing him to lurch sideways to avoid a mid-air collision.

Blowing her whistle, Madam Hooch said, “Foul!” and directed that Gryffindor get a free shot at the goal posts. A moment later, more cheers went up among the Gryffindor fans as Miles failed to block Alicia Spinnet’s goal, putting the score at Gryffindor 20 and Slytherin 0.

In the confusion that followed, however, both seekers lost sight of the snitch and returned to their high vantage points to scan the pitch. However, while Terence Higgs sat calmly on his broom, Harry was having a much harder time as his broom suddenly gave a sudden lurch. An icy fear went through Harry’s body for a moment as it felt like his broom was trying to throw him off.

Taking a deep breath, however, he tightened his grip on the handle and locked his knees on either side of the broom. It only gave him a moment’s reprieve, however, as his broom gave another shudder before taking off, zooming forward, much to Harry’s surprise because he hadn’t done the necessary motion to make it go forward.

The rest of the students were concentrating on the game happening below the two seekers, during which Marcus Flint took the beater’s bat from one of his team’s beaters and hit a bludger at Oliver, which hit him in the chest and knocked him to the ground. It was at this point that Slytherin easily managed to score two goals, tying the game at 20-20, before Gryffindor’s reserve keeper managed to get into place to protect the hoops. Meanwhile, Oliver, unconscious but relatively unharmed—having landed in the sand pit at the base of the goal posts—was taken off the field on a stretcher.

“What does Harry think he’s doing?” Jackson asked as he looked up a moment later, as he spied Harry in his omnioculars. Harry was at this point zigzagging through the sky at breakneck speeds and clearly hanging on for dear life. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say that he’d lost control of his broom.”

It was shortly after this that the entire crowd noticed what was happening and gave a collective gasp as Harry’s broom did a sudden barrel roll and Harry slipped off… dangling over a hundred feet in the air with only one hand holding onto his broom.

“Did something happen to it when Flint blocked him?” Seamus asked.

Shaking his head, Cedric said, “No. The only thing that could interfere with a broomstick is powerful Dark magic.”

Nodding, Ryan said, “To affect a Nimbus Two Thousand, which has only the very latest anti-jinx and anti-curse spells as standard features it would have to be Master level Dark magic. Way beyond what’s taught even to NEWT students at the schools that actually do teach the Dark Arts.”

“There’s schools that teach them?” William asked, fear in his eyes which were still locked on his dangling friend.

Nodding his head, Jeremy said, “I know it’s a compulsory class at Scandinavia’s Durmstrang Institute and Russia’s Koldovstoretz, and an elective at both Ilvermorny in America and Beauxbatons in Aquitaine.”

Instead of looking at Harry, Hermione was scanning the crowds with her mother’s old opera glasses, which she’d been allowed to bring to school with her after her father bought her mother a new pair for their anniversary in June. After a moment, she gasped and said, “It’s Professor Snape.”

“What?” Jackson asked as he turned his omnioculars in the direction that Hermione was looking.

“He’s looking directly at Harry,” Hermione pointed out for the benefit of those who didn’t have an enhanced means of looking over at the other side of the pitch. By this point, almost the entire school was on their feet, all worriedly watching Harry.

Fred and George Weasley attempted to fly over to Harry and pull him onto their own brooms, but every time they got near him, Harry’s broom would give a sudden jerk and go higher up. This prompted them, along with Alicia, Angelina and Katie to fly down so that they were all under Harry, as Katie conjured a net which all five of Harry’s teammates grabbed a section of, hoping they’d be able to catch Harry in it if he fell.

Meanwhile, Marcus Flint had taken the Quaffle and scored five goals for Slytherin without anybody noticing, as even Oliver who was back in the game now after Madam Pomfrey had rennervated him wasn’t paying attention to guarding the goal posts, his eyes transfixed worriedly on his new seeker, since he knew that a fall from the height that Harry was at currently would almost certainly kill the boy.

“You’re right, he’s looking right at Harry and his lips are moving as if he's muttering a curse,” Jackson said. “I know he seems to dislike Harry, but trying to kill him in front of the entire school seems a little extreme.”

Nobody said anything for a moment, before Wills said, “Hang on, where’s Hermione?” when he noticed that she wasn’t where she had been a moment ago.

A few minutes later, on the other side of the field, Hermione crept into the stands under the seats and pointing her wand at Snape’s cloak, she said, “Caeruleus Ignis!” as she conjured Blue Bell Flames to burn Snape’s cloak.

A moment later, Care of Magical Creatures Professor Silvanus Kettleburn, who was sitting next to Snape, said, “Severus, you’re on fire!” as he tried to get away from the Potions Master… which wasn’t exactly easy for him since he only had one arm and half of one leg.

This prompted Severus to stand up and as he began stomping on his cloak to put out the fire, several of the other teachers tore their eyes away from Harry and focused on the more immediate threat in their own box. This included Arithmancy Professor Septima Vector who unintentionally pushed Professor Quirinus Quirrell over as she stood up so that his head went behind Magical Finance Professor Abigail McLaughlin’s back.

Within moments, Harry managed to swing back up onto his broom, as whatever had been making it act so strangely had now stopped.

“Neville, you can look now,” Ryan said in a soothing tone, as Neville had buried his face against Jackson’s torso and had been sobbing into his robe for the last five minutes.

“And Harry manages to get back on his broom,” Lee said triumphantly, before looking at the charmed scoreboard which added goals whether they were noticed by anyone or not, and said, “And while the Gryffindor seeker was nearly dying, those uncaring, jackarses in…”

“Jordan, I'm warning you...” McGonagall nearly growled.

“Fine, the Slytherins scored another fifty points while everyone’s attention was diverted from the game,” Lee amended. “Play continues, with Slytherin in possession of the Quaffle. Score is Slytherin 70 versus Gryffindor 20.”

With Harry safe, Katie banished the net she’d conjured as she and the rest of the Gryffindor team went back to playing the game, hoping to regain the lead. Not long after regaining his broom, Harry spied the Snitch and also noticed that Terence Higgs was already chasing after it.

Using his broom’s speed to his advantage, Harry came up fast alongside the older Slytherin and used his momentum to roughly shoulder him and knock him off course. It didn’t feel like the most sportsman like action to Harry, but having read the rules several times over before today, he knew that there was absolutely nothing in them that said you couldn’t do it. Besides the Slytherins had been using dirtier tactics throughout so Harry figured he might as well join them if it meant a win for his house.

Not having to listen to Quidditch-obsessed Oliver whine about losing the game and then undoubtedly putting the team through hours of extra practices on top of the nearly exhausting practice schedule he already had in place were also big pluses in Harry’s mind.

Terence wasn’t knocked more than a foot or so off course and he quickly moved back over shouldering Harry right back. They kept this up for a few minutes, each keeping their eyes on the Snitch, while shouldering each other back and forth, until finally Terence put a bit more muscle into it and knocked Harry far enough off course that he ended up circling around one of the towers that held the stands.

With the Nimbus’s speed, however, it wasn’t long before Harry had circled around the tower and was once again flying neck and neck almost right next to Terence as they continued chasing the Snitch which was flying only a few feet in front of the both of them. Terence shouldered Harry a couple of times, but soon both seekers had to abandon this tactic as the Snitch dived down towards the pitch, forcing both seekers to go into nosedives themselves if they hoped to catch it.

After a few seconds, however, as the ground was getting closer and closer, Terence began to panic a bit as he knew that if he didn’t pull up soon that his older model broom wouldn’t be able to handle the dive and he’d be speeding into the ground head first. Choosing his own welfare over catching the Snitch, Terence pulled his broomstick up out of the dive, but Harry didn’t.

Waiting until the last possible second to pull up on his broom, at which point Harry was flying only about two feet off the ground, Harry was soon standing up on his broomstick, hand outstretched to catch the Snitch. His fingers almost reaching it, he moved one foot a bit further on his broom handle than he should have, as it dropped downward, causing Harry to overbalance and fly forward towards the Snitch.

Rolling head over heels a couple times, Harry finally managed to gain his feet, at which point he quickly grabbed his stomach.

“It looks like he’s going to be sick,” Jackson said up in the stands.

A moment later, however, something did come out of Harry’s mouth, but it wasn’t the puke that everyone watching expected… it was the Snitch, which popped out into Harry’s awaiting hands.

As he held it aloft, an ecstatic Lee announced, “Harry Potter gets 150 points for catching the Snitch!”

A second later, Madam Hooch blew her whistle and announced, “Gryffindor wins!”

Twenty minutes later, an infuriated Marcus Flint was still shouting, “He didn’t catch it! He nearly swallowed it!”

Coming up behind his husband, Jackson grinned and said, “Mark, shut up. There’s nothing in the rules that makes that an illegal play, so deal with it.” With a rather prurient leer, he added, “I’ll make it worth your while later tonight.”

Marcus blushed slightly, but had nothing more to say on the subject, while the Gryffindors—and a majority of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs—continued cheering while the Slytherins bemoaned their loss. One Slytherin who wasn’t upset, however, was Hunter who happily congratulated his friend Harry on a job well done.

-o-0-o-

Edited 02/26/2018 to add: brand new closing scene (Quidditch scene).

To be continued.

Chapter Text

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Eight, Part One:
The Christmas Holidays

-o-0-o-

Early into the second week of December, Professor McGonagall began asking students about their holiday plans, specifically whether they would be going home or if they wished to remain at Hogwarts over the break. Not realizing that staying at the school was an option, Harry had been dreading the break because he didn't want to go back to the Dursleys, but now that he knew that he could stay at Hogwarts, he had every intention of telling McGonagall that he'd be staying. At least, that is, until he was pulled aside by a grinning Carter, Hunter, and William.

"What are you three grinning about?"

"The holidays, of course," Carter answered.

"And our successful scheming," Hunter added.

"It isn't quite a success, yet," William pointed out. "He hasn't said yes yet."

"Okay, you've lost me," Harry commented. "What are you talking about?"

"Inviting our best mate to spend the holidays with us," William replied, as he grinned from ear to ear.

Harry looked dumbfounded for a moment, before he said, "You mean me?"

"Of course we mean you," Carter said, as he playfully punched Harry in the forearm. "Who else would we mean?"

"Well, there are other people who could fit the 'best mate' title," Harry reasoned. "Cedric, for example."

"We already asked him," Hunter revealed. "And he's going to Martinique with his parents over the break."

"So, what exactly are you asking?" Harry asked.

"We want you to come home with us over the holidays," Carter said. "You'll spend Christmas with Hunter and me at Wells Manor, while William is with his family at Sandringham House."

"And then after Christmas," William added, "say from the 27th onwards, I'll be at Windsor Castle, with Carter, Hunter, and hopefully you, Harry, as my guests."

Harry was quiet for a moment, as he contemplated that. He'd never considered that his friends might invite him to spend the break with them. Of course, he was still very new to the whole concept of even having friends to begin with, since he hadn't had any while he lived at the Dursleys. So, there were at times moments that surprised him and this was definitely one of them. 'It might be fun though,' Harry thought. 'And it would probably be rather lonely here, since all of my other friends are probably going home for the holidays.'

"Okay, I'll go," Harry said with a grin.

Before Carter, Hunter, or William could react, however, Professor McGonagall walked over to the group and said, "Ah, Mr. Potter and Mr. Windsor, I need to know your holiday plans."

"We were just discussing that, Professor," William said with a smile. "I'm going home of course."

McGonagall nodded and said, "Indeed, I figured as much." Turning to Harry, she said, "I imagine you'll be staying at Hogwarts, Mr. Potter?"

Shaking his head, Harry answered, "No, I'm leaving too."

McGonagall looked surprised at this, as she said, "I wouldn't have expected you to want to go back to your aunt's house."

"I'm not going there," Harry said, before he explained his plans to spend the break with his friends.

"That's all well and good, Mr. Potter," McGonagall said, "but quite impossible unless you can get your aunt and uncle to allow it." At Harry's questioning look, she added, "They are your legal guardians, Mr. Potter, and you're a minor, so going anywhere other than their home over the break requires them to sign a permission slip."

"My aunt and uncle would never sign it though," Harry said. In his head, he added, 'They would never do anything that they know would make me happy.'

"Then I'm sorry, Mr. Potter, but you will have to stay at Hogwarts," McGonagall said.

"Not so fast, Professor," said Jordan Miller, who was on duty today as William's bodyguard. When McGonagall looked at him, he said, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but as Headmaster, doesn't Professor Dumbledore stand in loco parentis to all of the students? If he does, then he should be able to sign the permission slip for Harry."

McGonagall opened and then closed her mouth, as she was unsure of the answer. "I'd have to ask him to be certain, Mr. Miller, although it would be the first I've heard of it, if it's true."

"Well, even if he can't," Jordan continued, "I feel confident in saying that Mr. Potter will be perfectly safe with Teryn Wells and his family. Not to mention the fact that I'm sure he'll be perfectly safe with Prince William and his family - all of the royal properties are warded to the hilt, after all."

"I agree that he'll be safe," McGonagall said. "But it's not a question of his safety, as much as it's a question of the legality of the matter. And as a minor, his guardian must sign a permission slip for him to go anywhere other than his guardian's home over the break."

-o-0-o-

The next day, Harry found out from McGonagall that Professor Dumbledore had signed off on Harry spending the Winter Break at Wells Manor and Windsor Castle, which made Harry quite happy. What McGonagall didn't mention was her impression that the Headmaster had not been particularly thrilled with the idea of Harry being out of the castle over the break, but there was little that he could do, especially after Dylan, as one of the Governors, applied some pressure to the Headmaster. Thus Dumbledore decided that it would be for the best to go along with it, especially if it meant he only had to deal with pressure from Dylan, as the last thing he wanted was for the Queen to get involved.

Thus it was that on the 23rd of December, Harry found himself boarding the Hogwarts Express to head back to London. Of course, this particular trip differed from his last trip on the train because he was immediately ushered into the second-to-last carriage of the train, which was William's private lounge carriage. William, Carter, Hunter, their parents, and Cedric were also present, because while Cedric wouldn't be accompanying his friends to Wells Manor or Windsor Castle, he could still ride to London with them. Jeremy and his brothers, meanwhile, were staying at Hogwarts, as were Ron and his brothers.

Speaking of Ron, he'd gotten a lot easier to deal with following the incident with the troll on Halloween, as he was extremely grateful that the others had come to save him. He had, thankfully, stopped complaining about the governor's changes and was even starting to actually do some of his homework before the day it was due. He was still the slowest of the group in terms of finishing it, but it was still progress at least.

Ryan was also in William's carriage with his friends, as he had originally planned on staying at Hogwarts over the break, but those plans changed when he received word that his ninety-year-old first cousin, three times removed, Lord Arcturus Black, was on his death bed and wasn't expected to be long for the world. Thus, Ryan's holidays were bound to be rather sad compared to his friends, as it was likely that he would have to attend a funeral. He had never been particularly close with Lord Black, but he had been named as the man's heir, so he would be expected to attend the funeral.

"It sucks that you'll likely have to go to a funeral over the break," Carter said.

"Yeah," Ryan agreed. "I was never close to cousin Arcturus, as we had pretty limited contact due to my being raised by my Aunt Andromeda and Uncle Ted, the latter of whom, being a muggleborn was not cousin Arcturus' favorite person. But still, a funeral is a funeral, so I'll be having a rather somber break."

"Well, at least you'll be able to have some fun, right?" Harry asked. "I mean after the funeral?"

"Propriety won't allow me to have much fun, I'm afraid," Ryan replied, prompting Harry to look confused.

Hunter sighed, as he explained, "Ryan is Lord Black's heir, so when he dies, Ryan will not only be expected to attend the funeral, but to go into a mourning period of two to three months, during which he's required to wear all black and have as little fun as possible in order to 'properly' mourn his dearly departed relative."

"Even though you weren't close?" William asked.

Ryan nodded. "Even then. In the eyes of pureblood society, it would be considered extremely distasteful and an insult to Lord Black's memory if I was seen to be having fun when I should be mourning him."

"So, what you're not allowed to have any fun for the next two to three months?" Harry asked, as he tried to wrap his head around this totally foreign concept.

"No, I can have some fun," Ryan said. "I just can't do it in public where other people can see it. And I can't have it with anyone who would run off and blab to anyone else that I was having it to begin with."

"Well, you can count on us not to say anything," Cedric said, as the others nodded in agreement. "And I'm sure Jeremy would say the same."

"Thanks guys," Ryan said.

"I know Cedric will be out of the country," William said, "but Ryan, assuming Lord Black's funeral doesn't conflict, you're welcome to join Harry, Carter, Hunter, and me at Windsor Castle. We'll be there from the 27th onwards."

Ryan smiled. "Thanks Wills, I'll keep the invitation in mind. I think even if Lord Black does pass away, I might still be able to drop in. Proper pureblood society types wouldn't see anything wrong with accepting a royal invitation during a mourning period, even if it was given by a muggleborn."

"No that wouldn't be considered wrong," Carter agreed, as Hunter nodded and added, "Especially since Wills is a Pendragon. The society types would view it as being wrong for you to ignore such an invitation."

Not long after this, the group stopped talking as they gathered around the table to play a game of Exploding Snap to pass the time on the long train ride to London.

-o-0-o-

Several hours later, night had fallen as the Hogwarts Express pulled up to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at King's Cross Station. After they'd played Exploding Snap for a few hours, all the boys had been a bit tired, as Ryan fell asleep on one of the sofas in the lounge carriage. He looked too peaceful to wake up, so nobody did, while Wills allowed the others into his sleeping carriage, figuring that the bed there would be more comfortable than the couch. Lying down on the large bed, still fully dressed, they'd all fallen asleep rather quickly.

Thorne grinned as he came in to wake them and let them know that they'd arrived in London. Sneaking over to the door, he called out softly, "Dylan, get in here."

Dylan hurried over and after seeing the tangle of limbs on the bed, smiled. In a whispered voice, he said, "We so need a picture of this."

"My thoughts exactly," Thorne agreed, as he surveyed the occupants of the bed.

Despite the fact that the bed was large enough that William, Harry, Carter, Hunter, and Cedric could easily have spread out, they were all lying together in a piled up and tangled mass of human flesh. Harry seemed to be lying in the middle of everything, with Cedric lying to his left and William to his right. The twins, meanwhile, were sprawled out on top of the other three. Hunter's head was resting on William's chest, while Carter's was half on Cedric's and half on Harry's.

Thankfully, Dylan had a camera in his luggage, so he snuck out of the room and got it, returning a moment later, quite happy to see that none of them had moved.

Thorne grinned. "The flash will probably wake them up, but it'll be so worth it."

Dylan nodded as he raised the camera and took the picture, followed by two more as the flash did its work and roused the boys, but Dylan couldn't resist taking the extra shots as they tried to disentangle themselves, which was hindered by their half-asleep states.

When they'd finally managed to disentangle themselves, all of them were blushing to be caught the way they were and it didn't help that Dylan made no attempt to hide the camera. Of course, Cedric's blush was a little deeper as he made a point of sitting up with his legs bent in front of his chest and wrapping his arms around them. Thorne suspected that being fourteen, he was trying to hide the evidence of his arousal.

Some people might be upset to think about someone getting aroused by their eleven-year-old sons, but Thorne couldn't bring himself to be upset because it was obvious that nothing untoward had happened, other than the five of them falling asleep, fully clothed, and presumably moving together in their sleep. He also remembered the raging hormones of the teenage years and knew that when he was Cedric's age, even the slightest touch was enough to give him a boner, so he wasn't going to get mad at Cedric for getting one.

"You just had to take a picture, didn't you?" Carter asked.

Dylan nodded. "Yes, I did. You all looked so cute, I couldn't resist."

This was followed by a few groans and Dylan and Thorne laughed as they ducked the pillows that were hurled in their direction. After a moment, Thorne shook his head and said, "Anyway, boys, we've arrived at King's Cross."

There were nods all around, as William, Carter, Hunter, and Harry moved off the bed. Cedric, however, remained where he was. Dylan exchanged a look with Thorne, who nodded and ushered the boys into the lounge carriage, as Dylan sat down on the bed and said, "It’s okay, Cedric. You have nothing to be ashamed of."

"You're not going to get mad at me?"

"Why would I get mad?" Dylan asked.

"Because they're only 11?" Cedric asked. "And I um... well..."

Dylan smiled. "Popped a boner?" Cedric blushed crimson and said nothing, but nodded. "It’s okay, Cedric, really. You were all fully clothed so I know nothing happened. And honestly, even though I'm in my 30's, I do remember what it's like to be a teenage boy. I got hard at the slightest touch or stimulation. There were plenty of times that it happened at the most inopportune of times, too, so as I said, you've got nothing to be ashamed of, Cedric."

Cedric nodded, as he felt his hard on wane, and he finally felt comfortable with moving his legs away from his chest.

"Shall we head out?" Dylan asked.

"Yeah," Cedric answered, as he got off the bed. "What are we going to tell the others? They have to be wondering why we stayed in here." After a moment, he blushed as he remembered the position he'd been lying in and added, "And Harry at the very least must have felt it. Carter, too, possibly."

Dylan could tell that Cedric was clearly upset about this and beating himself up, so pulling him into a comforting hug, Dylan said, "As I said, it’s okay, Cedric. As for what to tell the others, I don't know about Harry, but I know William has already had that talk with his parents, because his mother told me when I took him school shopping and the fact that wizards could get pregnant came up. Carter and Hunter know about it as well, as Thorne and I had the talk with them, too."

"I'm just mortified that I got hard with a bunch of kids," Cedric said.

"Don't worry about it, Cedric," Dylan said. "It's not worth beating yourself up over because it's just a natural bodily reaction that at your age happens to occur more often than you would like and probably in situations that you wish it didn't. This was one of those times, but you and I both know that you didn't do anything wrong, because cuddling people in your sleep is not wrong. Thorne and I actually thought it was cute, hence the reason I got the camera. Now come on, let's go, because the longer we stay in here the more they're going to wonder. Plus your parents are no doubt waiting for you."

Cedric nodded his head and said, "Yeah, okay."

Much to Cedric's relief, nobody brought up him staying in the sleeping carriage to talk with Dylan or anything about his problem. Instead, the others were more concerned with saying goodbye to him, wishing him a Merry Christmas, and not so subtly suggesting that he should get them all gifts from Martinique. Cedric, of course, had something to say about that since he'd already gotten them all Christmas gifts and thus thought getting them all additional gifts from his vacation would be overkill.

"You can never have too many presents," Harry said.

"Exactly," William, Carter, and Hunter said in unison, which caused them all to grin at each other, before they burst out laughing.

"I'm going to have to agree with them, Rick," Ryan said. "Besides, I'm going to have to go into mourning and have no fun for the next two to three months. It's your job as my friend to do whatever you can to cheer me up and a present from your vacation would help."

"Oh great, turn on the guilt why don't you?" Cedric complained.

"Hey, whatever works," Ryan responded.

Dylan and Thorne, meanwhile, just laughed, before Thorne said, "All right, let's get a move on, before your parents all start worrying what's happened to you."

Before leaving Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, Dylan cast a Notice-Me-Not Charm on William, who then accompanied Dylan, Thorne, and the twins out to the muggle section of the station to find Charles and Diana waiting for him. The presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales went completely unnoticed by the holiday travelers at King's Cross, because William's other three bodyguards— Jordan, Matthew, and Kyle—had left Hogwarts via the Knight Bus shortly before the Hogwarts Express left Hogsmeade. Thus, they were able to handle things with William's double and cast Notice-Me-Not Charms on the Prince and Princess.

Since the Hogwarts Express arrived in London on the night of the night of 23 December, Charles, Diana, and William headed for Kensington Palace for the night, before it was time to make the highly regimented trip out to Sandringham House the next day, in which all the guests were given a strict time in which they had to show up, with the more junior members of the family arriving first and the most senior members arriving last.

Thus, when Charles, Diana, William, and Henry arrived at Sandringham at 11:00 in the morning on Christmas Eve, they found the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, and her children, David and Serena Armstrong-Jones, already present, as they'd been the first to arrive at 9 that morning. They were then followed by Princess Anne, her husband Mark and their children Peter and Zara at 9:30, Prince Edward at 10, and Andrew, Sarah, and their two daughters at 10:30. The last group to arrive was at 11:30 and consisted of the Queen Mother, Prince Philip, and Queen Elizabeth herself.

Upon arriving, some of the family members, including Margaret and the Queen Mother, retired to their rooms to rest for a few hours, while some other members retired to various rooms around the estate to chat and catch up with one another. One such gathering was that of William, Henry, Peter, and Zara, as William's younger brother and cousins were extremely interested to hear about his time thus far at Hogwarts.

"So what's Hogwarts like?" Zara asked.

"It's great," William answered with a grin. "It's a large castle perched on a cliff overlooking a large lake, although despite being in Scotland, it's called the Black Lake, instead of the Black Loch, as you might expect. The ceiling in the Great Hall is magically charmed to depict the sky outside, so the look of it varies depending on time of day and what the weather is like. Of course, the headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, seems to have the power to change what the ceiling shows, because on a couple of occasions now when he's wanted to get the student body's attention, he's made the ceiling depict dark storm clouds, complete with flashes of lightning and even thunder that you can actually hear."

"That sounds kind of scary," Henry commented.

"Yeah, it was," William agreed. "Although it's really not something he's done often. He's usually a very jovial and nice person." Pulling out an envelope that he'd put in his pocket before he left the train, he said, "Anyway, I've got a few pictures if you want to see them."

"Yes, we'd very much like to see them," Peter said.

Before he opened the envelope, William said, "I should warn you, however, that the people in wizarding photographs move, almost like you were watching a silent movie on television."

"No way," Peter said.

"I'm not kidding," William said as he pulled the photographs out. The first one was of William standing in front of the greenhouse that the first years had Herbology in, along with several of his friends, all of whom were smiling and waving at the camera, while also moving and interacting with each other. Carter and Hunter for example, were playfully trying to shove each other out of the frame, while Jeremy was discreetly holding up his hands behind both Cedric's and Ryan's heads to give them rabbit ears.

"Wow," Zara said. "You really weren't kidding."

"I hate to say I told you so, but I did."

"Yes, you did," Peter agreed. "So who are your friends?"

"The twins are Carter and Hunter Wells," William answered. "Their father, Dylan Wells, is the head of my security and he's also The Duke of Taleford."

William left out the fact that Dylan was married to a man, who was the twins' other parent, and that Thorne was currently pregnant. Not only did he not really feel like explaining that to his brother and cousins, but his parents had asked him not to discuss that, since Henry didn't know about where babies really came from yet. They also told him that Zara had also not been told yet, as Anne and Mark had decided to wait until each of their children was 12 before telling them, thus Peter knew, as he was currently 14, but 10-year-old Zara did not.

"The Duke of Taleford?" Peter asked, as he cocked his head to one side. "I think I saw the title mentioned in my studies, but I don't recall him ever attending any of the court functions that I've attended."

"Well, he's probably been at most of them," William said, "only he was never announced by his title, because he generally attends most of the court functions in his role as a member of the royal protection force, instead of as a guest." Pointing at the girl standing next to the twins, William said, "That's Hermione Granger, who’s a muggleborn witch like me. Her parents are dentists."

William continued to point out and name his various friends, which prompted Zara to express some surprise that there were actually that many members of the nobility attending Hogwarts. Especially after William had pointed out Harry and revealed that unlike most of the others, he wasn't an heir, but a Duke in his own right. This, of course, led to an explanation of how Harry’s parents had died when he was only a year old and that as such, he was probably one of youngest Dukes in the country, having become one at the tender age of one.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, at Wells Manor in the Duchy of Cornwall, Carter, Hunter, and Harry had settled in, with Harry in a bedroom right next to the twins’ shared bedroom. Harry had been a little surprised that the twins shared a bedroom since there was more than enough room in the sprawling manor house for them to have separate bedrooms. Carter and Hunter, however, explained that up until their forced separation at Hogwarts when they’d been put in different houses, they had been pretty much inseparable growing up and had insisted on sharing a bedroom, even when their parents had offered to give them their own rooms.

Of course, what further surprised Harry has the fact that there was only one double bed in the twins’ bedroom. Questioning them on this, Carter grinned and said, “There used to be two beds. We had bunk beds, in fact, but we never used the bottom one. So, finally when we turned ten, by which point we were getting a little too big to share the top bunk of the bed we’d been using since getting out of our cribs, our parents bought us this one.”

“Up until then they’d pretended not to notice that we slept together,” Hunter said. “Since when they’d tucked us in, we were always in our separate beds. After they left, however, I always got out of bed, climbed up the ladder and joined Carter.” With a sidelong look at his twin, he added, “Sleeping at Hogwarts the first few nights was definitely hard because we’d gotten used to always sleeping together, so not having each other around it was hard to fall asleep at first.”

“That Restful Sleep Charm that was put on everyone’s beds helped, though,” Carter said. “Not sure I would have been able to fall asleep otherwise, without being able to feel Hunter’s presence.”

“Hmm, okay,” Harry said. “I never had a brother so I’m not going to pretend to understand the bond you two share.”

“Yeah, as twins, there’s definitely a bond between us,” Hunter agreed. “Most kids our age would sleep with a teddy bear or something, but we preferred cuddling with each other instead.”

“Of course, we both still have bears too,” Carter added, looking slightly embarrassed to be admitting that.

“I never had one,” Harry said and couldn’t help but feel uneasy about the direction that would undoubtedly take the conversation.

The room was silent for a moment, after that admission. Carter and Hunter looked at Harry, then at each other, and then back at Harry. Finally, Carter laid a hand on Harry’s shoulder and said, “Mate, you don’t have to talk about it, but we’ve gotten the impression that things aren’t so good for you at home.”

Hunter nodded. “Yeah, the fact that you’re here instead of at home with your own family was a big clue. Not to mention when you told McGonagall that your relatives would refuse to sign the permission slip to let you come here in the first place.”

Harry looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a truck that was barreling towards him for a moment, because it was ingrained in him from a very young age by his aunt and uncle that he wasn’t to talk about his home life to anyone. After all, if Harry had told the truth to some of the concerned teachers he’d had before coming to Hogwarts, the Dursleys probably would have had Child Services knocking on their door, which they obviously would not have liked.

‘Calm down, Harry,’ he thought. ‘They said you don’t need to talk about it.’ Here, however, Harry couldn’t help but feel kind of bad because Carter and Hunter had never been anything but nice to him since meeting him and he truly considered them to be his friends. ‘And if you can’t talk to your friends, who can you talk to?’ he asked himself.

Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves, Harry took a moment to order his thoughts. Maybe he could give them a few details without telling them too much. He wasn’t ready to share all the details like the cupboard under the stairs or often being made to go without food or being punished if he got better or even the same grades as Dudley, which pretty much meant he had to intentionally fail everything since Dudley usually got barely passing grades.

The twins apparently could see Harry’s reluctance to talk and thus finally, Carter said, “Hey let’s head over to the east wing. If you want to open up to us, you can, Harry, but in the meantime, Hunter and I going to give you skating lessons.”

“Skating lessons?” Harry asked.

“Ice skating lessons,” Hunter clarified, as each twin hooked an arm with one of Harry’s and led him towards the east wing of the mansion, which as Harry soon found out housed among other rooms, an Olympic-sized indoor ice-skating rink.

“You have a skating rink in your house?”

Carter nodded. “Yes. Shortly after we turned four, Hunter and I saw a figure skating competition on television and we’ve been obsessed ever since. Enough so that our fathers agreed to allow us to have lessons and then when we showed clear ability, had this rink added.”

“I’m a little surprised you even have a television,” Harry said. “Most kids from magical families don’t.”

“True, but we’re not purebloods, remember?” Hunter asked. “Grandma Ridley is a muggleborn, after all, so we had a lot of muggle things growing up that many of our pureblooded peers probably didn’t have.”

“What about skates?” Harry asked, as Carter and Hunter sat down and began removing their shoes. “I don’t have any.”

Carter pointed at a cabinet and said, “We have several extra pairs in there. They’re charmed to be one-size fits all, so all you have to do is pick a pair and it’ll magically adjust to the proper size as soon as you start to put your foot in it.”

Once everyone had skates on their feet, Carter and Hunter gave Harry a moment to adjust to walking in skates, which was a bit hard at first, but he got the hang of it quicker than they’d expected. Before heading out on the ice, however, Carter wrapped what at first appeared to be a belt around Harry’s waist, except that it also had a pair of straps attached to the back of it that went between Harry’s legs and then attached to the front.

Harry looked confused as Carter finished fastening it onto him, as he asked, “What’s this for?”

“You’ll see,” Carter said. “Trust me, you want it.”

Walking over to the edge of the ice, the twins led Harry out onto the ice, each of them gripping one of his arms and thus preventing him from falling flat on his face the second his skates got on the ice. After about fifteen minutes of shaky skating, Harry got good enough that the twins decided to risk letting go of Harry. He skated pretty well for a good three feet, before he apparently realized that the twins weren’t holding him anymore, at which point he lost his balance, his arms flailing wildly as he fell backwards.

Scrunching up his face in anticipation of the pain he knew was coming, Harry was surprised when it never came and that’s when he realized what the belt was for. Just before his ass made contact with the ice, a pillow magically appeared on the back of the belt and softened his landing. Carter and Hunter glided over to Harry and each offered him a hand to help him up, as Hunter said, “Isn’t magic great?”

Harry nodded. “Definitely.”

“Our Dad, Dylan, has always been good with Charms,” Carter explained. “And he charmed those belts for us when we were just learning how to skate. In addition to the pillow, there’s also a charm that makes sure that when you do fall, it’s always on your arse, thus preventing you from being able to hit the back of your head or your nose on the ice. When we were just learning, these belts were definitely very useful.”

“But you don’t wear them anymore?” Harry asked.

Hunter shook his head. “Not for the last three years. We just don’t need them anymore because we haven’t fallen in years.”

“Of course the whole reason that Dad did the charms in the first place,” Carter said, “is because Hunter fell and hit his head once, badly enough that he was out cold for a while.” Then, with a cheeky grin on his face, he added, “And that’s why I’m the smart one, as Hunter hasn’t been quite as smart since that incident.”

“I’ll give you not as smart,” Hunter said, as he smacked his brother’s rear end hard enough to send him gliding several feet. “Damn, you didn’t fall.”

“Sorry, to disappoint you, Hunt.”

After this, the three boys went back to skating, with Harry gradually getting better at staying on his feet, although his arse was still very thankful for the magical cushioning as he fell a few more times. Not long after Harry managed to make two complete circuits of the rink without falling, one of the house-elves appeared with a tray of biscuits and hot chocolate, which prompted the boys to get off the ice for a while to take a break. While Carter and Hunter made it off the rink without incident, Harry suffered a rather inelegant landing as he reached the edge of the ice.

“You did good for a beginner,” Hunter said, as he sat down next to Carter and grabbed a mug of the steaming hot chocolate.

“Thanks,” Harry said, as he bit into a chocolate chip biscuit, before taking a sip of his own hot chocolate.

After a few minutes of the three boys silently sipping hot chocolate and eating biscuits, Carter said, “So, we’ve spent the morning ice-skating… how about we make use of the pool for the afternoon?”

“You have a pool too?” Harry asked.

Hunter nodded. “Yeah, indoors, heated, and it even has a cool water slide.”

“I don’t have any trunks though,” Harry said. “Not exactly something I figured I’d need, it being the middle of winter and all.”

“We have extras that you can borrow,” Carter said. “We’re not exactly the same size, but, I think Hunter’s and my clothes would still fit you.”

“And it would be an improvement over your current clothes,” Hunter added. “What exactly is the deal with that anyway? I mean, your trousers are big enough that Carter and I could probably both fit inside of them with you… and if they were here, Wills and Cedric could probably fit too.”

Harry blushed slightly at this, as he said, “They’re my cousin Dudley’s clothes. While my aunt and uncle spoil him, they spend as little money on me as possible and that includes clothing, so all of my clothes are things Dudley outgrew.”

“Outgrew?” Carter asked, his eyes widening as he said it. “Is he a bloody blue whale or something?”

“No,” Harry answered, “but he is very big.”

“I think that’s the understatement of the century, Harry,” Hunter said. “Anyway, you can borrow a pair of our trunks and anything else you want. So, if you’d rather not wear clothes that you could share with the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team, you’re welcome to borrow any of our other clothes, too.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, after a moment, as he couldn’t help but think that wearing clothes that fit better might be a nice change from Dudley’s cast-offs. He’d gotten used to them over the years, as he’d had no other choice, but he had to admit that he definitely had never seen anyone wearing clothes that were as overly baggy as his were.

-o-0-o-

Back at Hogwarts, Bill Weasley was sitting alone in his quarters, deep in thought. His parents, Molly and Arthur Weasley, and his little sister, Ginny, went to Romania to visit his brother Charlie for the holidays. It was the first time in a couple years that Bill was home for Christmas, as he’d spent the last two in Egypt. However, it was Charlie’s first Christmas away from home and apparently Molly and Arthur didn’t want him to be completely alone for the holiday. Thus it was that Bill opted to remain at Hogwarts for the holidays, along with his other brothers, Percy, Fred, George, and Ron. Of course, at the moment, his family was not what was on his mind.

What was on his mind or rather who was a certain co-worker of his who he’d become good friends with and for whom he was developing feelings of a romantic nature. He wasn’t bothered in the slightest that it was a male co-worker, as he’d accepted that he was gay when he was fourteen. His parents knew and were supportive. Charlie and the twins also knew and had no problems with it. Bill had yet to tell Percy, Ron, or Ginny, however. The latter two because he thought they were too young and Percy because, well, they had never been all that close since Percy had spent much of his childhood with his nose buried in a book and had thus never really bothered to get to know his siblings. Bill had tried to engage him a few times, but it quickly became apparent that they had no common interests and thus any conversations they might have had were stilted from the get go.

The thing that was bothering him a bit, though, was the fact that the person in question wasn’t human. Well, technically, some would consider the person to be half-human, but Bill knew better than to ever even consider doing such, let alone voicing the opinion, especially to the person in question, as it would undoubtedly result in quite a bit of pain and a pair of hoof-shaped bruises on his chest. The reason being that the person that Bill was falling for was his fellow Astronomy professor and friend, the centaur Firenze. They had developed a friendship while Bill was a student at Hogwarts and while they had drifted apart a bit after Bill graduated and headed off to Egypt to become a curse-breaker, upon his return, it didn’t take long for them to rekindle their friendship.

Over the last month or so, however, those feelings of friendship had begun turning romantic for Bill and more than once now he’d woken up with wet sheets and knew that it was because he’d had another wet dream about his blond-haired, palomino centaur friend. He didn’t ever really remember the specifics of the dreams themselves, but he did always remember who they were about. This, of course, did lead to quite a few moments in which Bill found himself wondering just how a human would go about having sex with a centaur, because at first glance it would appear that the parts did not really mesh together all that well.

Deciding he needed to learn more about centaurs, but not wanting to ask Firenze himself, because despite him being an obvious source of information, Bill wasn’t really comfortable talking to him about it because he worried that Firenze would want to know why Bill was so interested. The thought that Firenze might not return his feelings and that it would negatively impact their friendship which had come to mean so much to the red-head, led Bill to keep his mouth firmly shut. Instead, he availed himself of the Hogwarts library, which had quite a few volumes on centaurs, although he immediately realized that much of it was pure speculation or complete and utter nonsense. There were, however, a few details that made sense with what he already knew and gave him some hope that a relationship with Firenze wouldn’t be quite as impossible as it might at first seem to be.

Upon taking the job at Hogwarts, Firenze had agreed on Professor McGonagall’s suggestion, to begin wearing shirts and a caparison, simply for propriety sake, since none of the other teachers taught their classes naked. What had always confused Bill, however, was the belt that Firenze had begun wearing around his waist, just above where his torso connected with the horse-like part of his body, which had an abnormally large, round buckle. Bill had rather doubted that it was a fashion statement, as he couldn’t really imagine that Firenze had much of a fashion sense, since he was so new to wearing clothing at all and he certainly didn’t need a belt to hold his trousers up, considering that he didn’t wear any to begin with.

There was, however, one book in the library that appeared to be a fairly accurate account of a centaur’s internal organs and the details in the book matched up with the details that Firenze himself had shared. For example, Bill knew that Firenze had two stomachs, as there was one in the human-like part of his body and a second one in the horse-like part. In fact, almost all of his internal organs were doubled, and located in the same places as they would be in both a human and a horse. So, in addition to his two stomachs, Firenze and other centaurs also had two hearts and four lungs. The doubled internal organs might seem a bit excessive, but they served the purpose of ensuring that their owners had adequate oxygen and blood flow throughout their bodies.

Something that Bill had not considered, however, was that the book claimed male centaurs had two penises. The horse-like one that Bill had assumed Firenze had located in the same place as a horse, in addition to a second smaller one that was more in line with the size of a human’s penis, which was hidden inside of a well concealed pocket of flesh where their torsos met the rest of their bodies. The book claimed that this second smaller penis was almost never used for intercourse, as centaurs instead used the horse-like one for that when having sex with each other. The smaller one still served a purpose, however, as it allowed centaurs to more easily masturbate, since unlike the other one, they could actually reach it with their hands. Of course, it also potentially allowed a centaur to safely have sex with a human if they so chose and the male human author of the book claimed that he’d done just that with a centaur friend of his in Greece.

Reading that led Bill to wonder if that might not be the reason behind the belt that Firenze wore, because it was worn in the same vicinity and could probably be used to prevent an erection from happening, as it would hit the back of the belt buckle and not be able to come out any further. If that was the case, then it would certainly serve the purpose of ensuring that Firenze didn’t get embarrassed by popping a boner in front of his class. Of course, it wouldn’t just be his own embarrassment to worry about because if he did get one in front of his class and they actually saw it, Bill was sure that quite a few parents of the 4th and 5th year students that Firenze taught would not be pleased.

Since reading it, Bill had also fantasized while awake about Firenze more often. He’d done it once or twice before he’d read the book, but it usually involved the palomino giving him a blowjob, as that was the only safe means of them having sex that Bill could imagine, since he was sure that there was no possible way for him to return the favor to Firenze. However, finding out that Firenze potentially had the second more human-like penis, had Bill fantasizing about anal sex with the centaur for the first time, as it now seemed as though it was actually possible. Still, it had been three weeks now since he’d read the book and other than the fantasies, both waking and sleeping, Bill had yet to do anything about it, as he was still afraid of losing Firenze’s friendship since he didn’t really even know if Firenze was gay or not.

‘I’m going to drive myself crazy,’ Bill thought. ‘Maybe if I tell him about a couple of my past boyfriends it’ll get him talking about his past relationships and then I’ll be able to at least figure out which gender he likes… and maybe get a clue as to his type.’

With a plan in mind, Bill stood up and crossed the room to the door, intending to go find Firenze right now and have a chat. Opening his door, however, he realized that he wouldn’t have to go far to find his quarry, since Firenze was standing right there, with his fist raised as if he had just been about to knock.

“Hey, Firenze,” Bill said. “This is an unexpected, but not unpleasant surprise. I was actually just coming to look for you.”

Ignoring Bill’s statement, Firenze, who looked almost apprehensive and definitely nervous, said, “We need to talk, Bill.”

“About what?” Bill asked, as he stood aside and motioned for Firenze to enter.

Firenze remained silent as he trotted into the room, before turning to face Bill and sitting down on the floor near Bill’s couch. “Us.”

-o-0-o-

Back at Sandringham, the royal family gathered for tea in the White Drawing Room at precisely 4PM, after which they all moved over to the Red Drawing Room, where the staff had already laid out the various gifts that were being exchanged, with each family member’s gifts placed on a separate trestle table. One might assume that one could expect to see some very expensive, high-end gifts being exchanged at the royal gathering, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, years ago, at the first Christmas since her marriage to Charles, Diana had gotten a bit angry and a little embarrassed when she’d brought cashmere sweaters for everyone. It’s not that they weren’t appreciated, but apparently nobody had thought to tell her beforehand that the Windsors preferred to give each other novelties and gag gifts for Christmas, instead of expensive things.

Much like the arrivals, the opening of gifts was done in a strict order of precedence, starting with the most junior members of the family and ending with the most senior. Of course, this had nothing to do with their ages and everything to do with their position in the family hierarchy, thus it was that the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, was the first to open her gifts, instead of any of the children as one might expect. Her children, David and Serena, were next and everyone was having a good laugh about the various items they were getting.

After this, however, Margaret and her children said their goodbyes, as they wouldn’t be staying to watch the rest of the gifts being opened since they were going to a special charity concert in town that benefitted one of the charities that Princess Margaret was the royal patron of. Usually, such an event would not have been scheduled during the family holidays, but knowing that some of the gifts that William might be giving out may reveal the existence of magic, the Queen made arrangements to ensure that her sister, nephew, and niece, who had not been told about magic, would not be present for anything that might reveal the secret to them.

Once they were gone, Princess Anne and her husband opened their gifts, at which point it was then time for Peter to open his gifts, which included the first of the gifts that would not have been suitable to be opened in front of Margaret and her children. Opening the first of two boxes that said, ‘To Peter from Wills’, the fourteen-year-old found a large collection of candy.

Picking up a box and reading it, Peter asked, “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans?”

William smiled and nodded. “Yes, they’re wizarding jelly beans, although I would caution you that when they say every flavor, they mean every flavor. Including some you’re probably going to hate.”

Examining the box, Peter found a list on the side of the box that listed some of the potential flavors that might be in the box, which he began reading aloud, “Strawberry, Chocolate, Coconut, Pumpkin… these don’t really sound so bad.”

“No, but keep reading,” William urged.

Scanning the list, Peter soon made a face as he read, “Grass? Overcooked Cabbage? Liver and Tripe? Vomit?! Ear Wax?! Oh you have got to be kidding me!”

Shaking his head from side to side, a huge grin plastered on his face, William said, “Nope, there are some truly disgusting flavors, in addition to some really delicious ones. Some of them, you can maybe tell what it might be just by looking at it, for example, I can say that Coconut flavored beans are white, but then again so are the Soap flavored beans. And I should point out that some of the beans are disguised to look like they might be one flavor when in fact they’re not, so for many of them you really have no idea what it’ll be before you put it in your mouth and start chewing.”

Opening the box, Peter grabbed one of topmost beans, which was orange in color. “So what you’re saying is this could taste like an orange or something entirely different?”

William nodded. “Yeah. All you can do is pop it in your mouth and chew.” After a moment, as Peter contemplated the bean in his hand, William added, “You may, however, want to have a glass of water handy, just in case.”

Reaching over to a nearby side table, Anne picked up a crystal pitcher and poured a glass of water, which she handed over to Peter. “Here you go, dear.”

“Thanks, Mum,” Peter said, before he popped the bean in his mouth and started chewing, while everyone watched with baited breath. It wasn’t long, however, before it became obvious to everyone in the room based on his expression that it wasn’t orange flavored, despite the color. “Oh, gah!” Peter said as he gulped down some water. “Curry-flavored, really hot curry.”

Taking a few more sips of water, Peter decided to be brave and grabbed another one which turned out to be Blueberry Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream flavored. Obviously, he preferred the second one, to the first, although that’s only because Curry was not something he’d acquired a taste for. Grinning, Peter said, “Thanks, cuz.”

“You’re welcome,” William said, as Peter put the candy aside for the moment and opened the other gift, as William added, “This sort of breaks with the gag tradition, but I figured you’d like it.”

Removing the wrapping paper and opening the box, Peter pulled out a green plush toy that was clearly a dragon. Holding it up, he asked, “Is this?”

William nodded. “Yeah, it’s a dragon. Or more specifically a Common Welsh Green. Squeeze its front claws.”

Doing as he was told, Peter first squeezed the left claw which caused the plush toy to growl and blow out smoke from its mouth, while squeezing the right claw actually made it breathe fire. Noticing the concerned looks on the adults’ faces, William hastened to add, “Its magically charmed fire that can’t start anything on fire. It also won’t burn you.” To prove his point, William came over and used his right hand to squeeze the toy’s right claw, while he put his left hand right in front of the dragon’s mouth, so that it was in the path of the flame.

“See?” William asked, holding up his completely uninjured hand. “It’s really just like hot air blowing across your hand.”

“Thank you, Wills,” Peter said, as he gave his cousin a quick one-armed hug.

As the dragon was the last of Peter’s gifts, it was now time for Zara to start opening her gifts. There was quite a bit of laughing again as she opened the gifts from everybody, as she was careful to save William’s gifts to her for the last. Finally, she opened the larger of the two boxes and found the same collection of candy that Peter had gotten. Avoiding the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Zara instead picked up a box and asked, “Chocolate Frog?”

“Open it,” William said with a grin.

Tearing open the package, Zara jumped slightly when the frog tried to hop out of the box and onto her lap. “Is this thing alive?”

Shaking his head, “No, but it’s definitely very realistic, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” as she managed to grab it and bite off its head. “Mmm, this chocolate is delicious.”

William nodded. “Yeah, I don’t know what makes it different, but I swear Honeyduke’s chocolate is the best I’ve ever had in my life.”

“I would have to agree on that,” Elizabeth commented, as she remembered the hot chocolate she’d drunk on the Knight Bus. Diana and Charles both agreed, which prompted a curious Peter to grab one of his own chocolate frogs and several of the others in the room to eye Peter’s and Zara’s candy with looks that were a mixture of jealousy and curiosity.

Noticing the card inside the box, Zara pulled it out and asked, “What’s this?”

“A Chocolate Frog card,” William answered. “Lots of people collect them. They’re kind of like baseball cards, only they’ve got famous wizarding people on them. Some are extremely rare, so completing a set is quite hard, especially since a few new cards are added to the mix every few years. So, who did you get?”

“Albus Dumbledore,” Zara read. “Considered by many to be the greatest wizard of modern times, Professor Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark Wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel.”

“Dumbledore. Isn’t that your headmaster, William?” the Queen-Mother asked.

“Yes, it is, great-grandmum,” William answered.

Opening the second box from William, Zara smiled as she pulled out a plush white unicorn with a crystal horn and pink mane and tail. “Does it do anything?”

William nodded as he said, “If you pet its back, it’ll glow. It’s also charmed to be able to run if you place it on a flat surface and tap its head once, at which point it will run about two feet forward, with a rainbow trail appearing behind it. Of course, the horn also has a practical use, as it has some healing powers, although it’ll only work on minor cuts and scrapes. The healing powers run on magic which will need to be recharged occasionally, however.”

“Thank you, Wills, I love it,” Zara said, as she pulled her cousin into a hug.

“You’re welcome,” William said with a smile, as he hugged Zara back.

When the hug ended, Zara decided to test out her new toy and thus set the unicorn on the floor and tapped its head. She clapped delightedly as it ran forward, a rainbow trailing behind it just as William had said. She quickly ran after it, picked it up and while cuddling it, stroked its back, and the unicorn glowed.

"I'll show you how to use the horn later," Wills promised.

Anne shook her head and said, “Oh no you won’t, as that would mean intentionally injuring yourself or Zara and I’m sure your parents would agree that’s out of the question.”

“Yes, Wills, I have to agree with your Aunt Anne,” Diana agreed. Seeing the looks on their faces, she added, “And no I don’t care how minor the injury is, it’s still out of the question.”

Mark nodded and said, “If I find out that you’ve intentionally injured yourself to test that toy’s healing ability, I’m taking it away. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Father,” Zara said, as William nodded and said, “Yes, Uncle.”

Seeing the dejected looks on the children’s faces and believing that such looks shouldn’t be on his grandchildren’s faces on Christmas, Philip picked up a stack of Christmas cards that he’d been going through before tea and opened one of them in such a way as to give himself a paper cut. Elizabeth saw it and shook her head, but said nothing, as Philip said, “Ouch. Zara, dear? It seems I have a paper cut, do you think your unicorn could do something about that?”

Zara was all smiles again, as she said, “Yes, grandfather,” before turning to William and asking, “How do I make it work?”

“Hold the horn a few inches from the cut,” William explained and when she did it right, he nodded and said, “Yes, like that. Now say ‘Sanaret.’

Sanaret,” Zara said, at which point the unicorn’s horn glowed bright white for a second, after which Philip’s finger glowed bright white for another second.

When the glow subsided the small cut was gone and Philip smiled, “Thank you, Zara, my dear.”

Elizabeth smiled and said, “Well, Zara, it looks like you and your unicorn will be quite busy from now on, healing anyone who gets a cut or graze.”

Zara was beaming, as she petted her unicorn and made it glow, as William said, “Just remember that it needs to be recharged periodically. It only has enough magical reserves to be used about ten times before it needs a recharge.”

“Who will recharge it though?”

“It’s a very simple spell,” William answered. “Any of the witches or wizards on the royal protection force should be able to do it for you without any problems.”

“But I don’t know which ones are witches and wizards,” Zara said.

Elizabeth smiled. “I can help you with that, dear, but also you must remember that you can’t use the unicorn’s powers on anyone who is not currently in this room. I may be head of both state and government in Magical Britain, but that doesn’t exempt me or anyone here from following international law and the Statute of Secrecy must be upheld.”

What Elizabeth didn’t say was that she’d already been contacted by the International Confederation of Wizards with a warning letter, because they did not believe that it had really been necessary for her to tell as many people as she did about the existence of magic. That knowledge, after all, was usually limited to only the immediate family, as in parents and siblings, of a muggleborn, and thus her telling William’s aunts, uncles, cousins, grandfather, and great-grandmother was believed to be a breach of the Statute, but since she was the Queen they gave her a one-time pass. Of course, this came with the warning that they wouldn’t be so lenient the next time and that there would be censures and punishments if another breach occurred.

“Yes, grandmother,” Zara said and since she had no more gifts to open, Edward started opening his own gifts, followed by Andrew and Sarah, who also helped three-year-old Beatrice and one-year-old Eugenie to open their gifts. The latter, of course, having the smallest pile of gifts of anyone, simply because she really was too young to appreciate them anyway. Although that didn’t stop them from getting some nice gifts, as William gave his baby cousin a mobile that could be hung over her crib, which played ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ and featured magically charmed fairies who danced in time with the tune. Upon buying it, William had also learned that Pyotr Tchaikovsky was actually a wizard, so his compositions were just as popular in the magical world as they were in the muggle world.

“Hmm, I wonder how many other famous people were magical.” Edward commented.

“According to my History of Magic textbook, Shakespeare was a wizard, too,” William said, as he’d learned quite a bit form his studying. “So was Thomas Edison, so his nickname as the ‘Wizard of Menlo Park’ was not far off. Closer to home, Queen Jane Seymour, her son, and Queen Catherine Parr were all magical as well and apparently it was actually dragon pox that killed Edward VI.”

It was now Charles’ turn to open his gifts and one that got a particularly strong reaction of laughter from everyone in the room was Anne’s gift to her brother, following in the tradition of giving each other novelties and gag gifts perfectly, as she’d given him a white leather lavatory seat. Coming to William’s gift, which was a rather large item that had been left on the floor next to the table that held Charles’ gifts, the Prince of Wales smiled, as he asked his son, “I wonder what this is?”

William grinned. “Open it and find out, although I must say, Aunt Anne’s gift is almost ironic considering.”

Tearing away the wrapping paper, Charles said, “Oh my.”

“What is it?” Diana asked.

“Fertilizer,” Charles answered.

William grinned. “100% genuine Hungarian Horntail manure, or if you prefer, dragon dung.”

The room erupted in laughter at this point, as some people even had to dab their eyes with a handkerchief they were laughing so hard. When everyone finally got a hold of themselves, William said, “I thought it’d be useful for your garden, Father. That bag holds 62.5lbs of dragon dung, although it has a charm on the bag to reduce the weight by half. I asked why they didn’t just put a Feather-light Charm on it, which would have made it as a light as feather, but apparently dragon dung is just as resistant to magic as dragons themselves are, so magically reducing the weight by half was as much as they could do.”

“I hope this wasn’t too expensive, William,” Charles said.

Shaking his head, William said, “No, actually, it was quite cheap. I’m told that a full-grown male Hungarian Horntail weighs in at just over sixteen tons, so when they go… well, suffice it to say that it’s very plentiful and therefore cheap. In fact nearly all of the dragon sanctuaries in the world pay over half their bills by exporting dragon manure for use as fertilizer.”

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Previously in ‘A Windsor at Hogwarts’…

-o-0-o-

William, Carter, and Hunter make plans for Harry to join them at their homes for the break and Harry agrees. After some initial worry that their plans might not work thanks to McGonagall, they end up happening when Dumbledore, pressured by Dylan, reluctantly agrees to sign off on the excursion. On the train from Hogwarts, Cedric, William, Harry and the twins learn that Ryan will likely have to attend Lord Black’s funeral and because he’s the Black heir will end up going into an official mourning period for two to three months in which he’s not allowed to publically have fun. Later, while still on the train, the students minus Ryan fall asleep fully clothed in the bed of the sleeping car and start cuddling in their sleep leading to Cedric waking up with a hard-on. This makes him worry that he’s a disgusting pervert since his friends are only eleven although Dylan allays his concerns with a private chat.

The royal family arrives at Sandringham House for the annual holiday get-together, where William tells his cousins, Peter and Zara, and his brother Henry all about his time at Hogwarts. Later gifts are exchanged, and in the tradition of giving each other novelties and gag gifts, some pretty interesting gifts are given among the royals, including Princess Anne giving Prince Charles a white leather toilet seat and William giving his father a bag of dragon dung to use as fertilizer in his gardens. Peter and Zara are also introduced to the world of Wizarding candy when William gives them chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. Meanwhile at Wells Manor, Harry gets ice-skating lessons from the twins, spends an afternoon swimming, and later gets some better fitting clothes compliments of Carter and Hunter’s wardrobes. And at Hogwarts, a confused Bill Weasley tries to deal with his crush on a certain equine co-worker…

-o-0-o-

Chapter Eight, Part Two:
The Christmas Holidays

-o-0-o-

Back at Wells Manor, it wasn’t long after Carter, Hunter, and Harry finished swimming that a house-elf appeared again, this time to inform them that they needed to head upstairs and get dressed, as the rest of the Wells-Ridley family was due to be arriving in about half-an-hour and that dinner would be served an hour after that. Leaving the east wing of the mansion and heading upstairs to the family wing, Carter, Hunter, and Harry stopped into the twins’ room to let Harry pick some of their clothes to wear.

Harry ended up choosing a pair of Carter’s black trousers and a green button-down shirt belonging to Hunter, along with a pair of white socks and underwear. Harry had been more than a little embarrassed to admit needing underwear and honestly he wouldn’t have done so, at all, if it wasn’t for Carter asking point blank if Harry’s underclothes were also hand-me-downs from Dudley. Finding out that they were, both Carter and Hunter gave Harry one of the unopened packages of underpants from their individual chests of drawers, thus giving him six brand-new, unworn pairs that would likely fit him much better than Dudley’s.

Once all three of them were dressed, they headed downstairs and ended up in the mansion’s family room, which had a much more comfortable feeling to it when compared to some of the more fancy rooms on the mansion’s ground floor. As Harry sat down in one of the plush armchairs, which reminded him of the ones in Gryffindor tower, only in brown instead of red, the twins took a seat on the nearby sofa. Taking a moment to look around the large room, Harry caught sight of the Christmas tree sitting in one corner of the room and asked, “Why is that tree decorated so sparsely? I saw the tree in the main drawing room, but it’s fully decorated.”

“There’s actually a total of fifteen trees setup throughout the house,” Carter revealed. “And you’re right, they’re all fully decorated. For this one, however, it’s a family tradition to leave it sparingly decorated.”

“Why?” Harry asked, as he looked at the tree. There were lights strung on it, as well as a garland of dried cranberries and a few ornaments, but large parts of it were left bare.

“It’s the family tree,” Hunter explained. “We have this tradition where we hang ornaments with our names on them on the tree, but we don’t do that until Christmas Eve, after the rest of the family has arrived. So, as they arrive they’ll all filter in here and then once everyone’s here, we’ll decorate the tree and then head into the dining room for dinner.”

“Ah, okay,” Harry said. “Just how many people are coming anyway?”

“Not many,” Carter answered. “Our grandfather on the Ridley side of the family is dead, so it’s just Dad’s mum coming, our Grandma Eliza. Of course, in the decade since Grandpa Ridley died, Grandmum did remarry, so her husband Rufus is coming, along with our Dad’s half-brother, Ethan. He’s Grandma Eliza’s son with Rufus and is thus younger than we are, so it’s kinda strange that he’s our uncle. Rufus’s older son from his first marriage, Felix and his husband—Bann Tiberius Prince—might also put in appearance with their son, Octavian.”

“And on the Wells side of the family,” Hunter added, “our grandparents are dead, although Dad’s grandmother, Violet, is still alive, so she’ll be here, along with Dad’s older sister, her husband, and our two cousins, Adrian and Adriana.”

Harry nodded before he asked, “Should I make myself scarce while you all decorate the tree? Since I’m not family?”

This question made the twins look at Harry as if he was crazy, but before either of them could say anything, Thorne walked into the room along with an older, elegantly dressed woman who was clearly nearing her nineties. Shaking her head, she said, “Nonsense young man. Any friend of my great-grandsons’ is more than welcome here.”

“Hey great-gran,” Carter said with a smile, as Hunter waved and said, “Harry, this is our great-gran, Violet, the Dowager Teryna Wells. Great-gran, this is our friend Harry Potter.”

Coming over to Harry, her cane rhythmically tapping the hardwood floor as she walked, she held out a hand to Harry and said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Serah Potter.”

“Same here,” Harry said with a smile, as he took the older woman’s hand and gently shook it, before placing a light kiss upon it after he saw Carter mouthing ‘Kiss it.’

If Violet saw Carter’s silent instructions to Harry she didn’t mention it, choosing instead to give Harry an appreciative nod of her head and say, “Such refined manners, although I would expect nothing less from one of your excellent lineage, Serah Potter.”

Harry smiled as he thought, ‘Excellent lineage? I know loads of people at school who would strongly disagree with that due to my muggleborn mother.’ Aloud he said, “Thank you,” and then a thought came to him and before he could stop himself, he added, “Did you know any of my family?”

Violet smiled and said, “Yes, my boy, in fact I knew your grandmother Katherine at Hogwarts, although I wouldn’t say we were friends back then, as she was from a noble family and despite being from a respectable family, I wasn’t nobility until I married my late husband, so we had very different social circles in school. After I became Teryna Wells, however, I did get to know Katherine and her husband Julian well enough to know that they were good people and that the world is worse off without them in it.”

Harry nodded as Violet moved over to the twins and pulled them both into a hug at the same time. Thorne, meanwhile, took a seat next to Harry and said, “No need to make yourself scarce, Harry. We wouldn’t have invited you to spend the holidays here if we didn’t want you here.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, a genuine smile on his face. What he didn’t say of course was that the reason he’d even asked if he should make himself scarce was because he was so used to doing it at the Dursleys. If they didn’t need him to cook or clean, he was pretty much always expected to make himself scarce during any family event because they’d done a good job of ramming home the idea that he was not family in their minds.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, in his small flat just outside the grounds of the dragon reserve in Romania, Charlie Weasley was awake and sitting in his kitchenette sipping coffee. His parents and baby sister had arrived late last night, which was a total surprise to him as they hadn’t thought to send word ahead that they were coming. Although Charlie really wasn’t sure why he was surprised since he knew that they’d done the same when Bill first moved to Egypt after becoming a Curse-Breaker, as Molly thought it wasn’t right for her eldest son to spend Christmas alone in a foreign country. Apparently the same held true for her second-born, although a little advance warning would still have been nice.

“Morning sexy,” a voice said that made Charlie smile as he turned towards the hallway that led to the flat’s bathroom and two bedrooms where he saw his boyfriend of the last year standing. Of course the fact that he hadn’t actually come out to his family yet was a big reason why he would’ve liked a little advanced warning that his parents and sister were coming.

“Shh, Luke,” Charlie shushed him. “My parents and sister, remember?”

The platinum blond man, Jean-Luc Flamel, grinned as he came over to Charlie and kissed the top of his head. “Don’t worry, they’re still fast asleep.”

As Jean-Luc moved over to the stove, grabbed the coffee pot and poured himself a cup, Charlie sighed. “I know I need to tell them, but I just wasn’t planning on having to deal with it until after the New Year.”

Jean-Luc grinned. “Yes, it was one of your planned resolutions, I believe.” Grinning he added, “And in my experience people rarely actually fulfill their resolutions, so I’ve often wondered why people even bother making them to begin with.”

“That’s so cynical.”

“Perhaps,” Jean-Luc said as he sat down at the table next to Charlie. “But also true. Besides you can’t live as long as I have without developing a healthy dose of cynicism.”

“Well, I suppose I can give you that much,” Charlie said. He often forgot that his boyfriend was so much older than he looked. Jean-Luc was, after all, the grandson of Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel and as such, while he looked like he was only nineteen, that was only because that’s how old he was when he started drinking the Elixir of Life. In truth, however, Jean-Luc had celebrated his six-hundred-and-eleventh birthday in July, so he certainly had quite a bit more life experience than Charlie did.

“So, do you think your parents like me?” Jean-Luc asked after a few moments of silence.

“Well, considering they just met you last night, I’d say it’s too soon to tell. And I did only introduce you as Luke, rather than Jean-Luc and I didn’t say your surname, so I doubt they actually figured out that you’re Bann Flamel’s grandson and heir.”

“True,” Jean-Luc conceded as he sipped his coffee. “I imagine they think I’m just your co-worker and roommate, who was nice enough to give up their room for them to sleep in. I guess it’s a good thing the closets here are small enough that I actually do store my clothes in your spare bedroom’s closet, even if I never actually sleep there.”

“Is that how you knew they were still asleep?”

“Yeah, I had to sneak in to grab some clothes,” Jean-Luc answered, before he added with a grimace, “You know I hate wearing the same clothes two days in a row.”

“Well at least you admit that you’re a clothes horse,” Charlie said with a grin, as he tipped his coffee cup up and drank the last bit of the contents.

Jean-Luc rolled his eyes. “I’ve forgotten more fashions than you’ve ever seen, so it should go without saying that I have a large wardrobe.”

“Large?” Charlie asked, as he raised an eyebrow. “That’s kind of an understatement, Luke. You spent over an hour charming the guest room closet to hold all of your clothes and that’s not even a quarter of what you own. You keep enough clothes here that you could wear a different outfit every day for a year—with no repeats—and you’re usually only here three days a week.”

“Careful or I might begin to think you don’t want me here.”

“You know better than that,” Charlie said as he quickly glanced over at the guest room door to make sure that it was still closed, before leaning over and kissing his boyfriend on the lips. “If I had my way you’d be here seven days a week.”

“I know and I wish I could be,” Jean-Luc said. “But you know I need to be in Paris during the week, as it would be kind of hard to train the Paris Opera Ballet’s dancers from here in Romania.”

“I know,” Charlie said. “It’s quite the coup for you though, as it was something of a shock to the ballet world that the oldest ballet company in the world would hire a nineteen-year-old as their lead choreographer.”

Jean-Luc nodded. “Yes, but it helps that my family is one of their biggest patrons and that the current managing director of the company is a squib and the great-grandson of the director running it when I actually danced with them last century, not to mention my stint singing for the Paris Opera.”

“True,” Charlie said. “Of course, he knows it’s you because he’s from a magical family, but I imagine there was still some heavy resistance to signing you due to your presumably young age. I still find it funny that they actually bought that cover story you sold them, about how you just happen to bear a very striking resemblance to your great-grandfather, who was one of their best performers of the last century or that his talent was a trait that runs in your family.”

Jean-Luc nodded. “Well, I couldn’t exactly tell them the truth now could I? They’d think I was nuts if I said that was actually me in all those 19th century black-and-white photos in their archives. The whole not aging thing would confuse them, not to mention the fact that I’m still alive.”

“True, plus since most of them are muggles, telling them that would break the Statute of Secrecy.”

“Indeed and I don’t need any fines from the ICW, especially since those greedy bastards tend to gouge my family due to the whole ability to turn any metal into gold thing. And then the goblins get mad because us injecting too much gold into the economy leads to inflation which in turn devalues the galleon and upsets the international wizarding economy.”

Charlie grinned, “And if there’s one thing that goblins hate it’s anything that makes their fortunes worth less. It’s no wonder you took the time to learn Gobbledegook—you need every advantage you can get when dealing with them.” Jean-Luc nodded his head in agreement, as Charlie looked up at the clock on the wall and said, “Well, I have to get going for my morning rounds, because the dragons don’t care that it’s a holiday.”

“True,” Jean-Luc said as they both stood up and Jean-Luc placed a kiss on the side of Charlie’s face as he said, “Be careful love.”

“I always am,” Charlie said with a grin as he put his coffee cup in the sink and headed for the door. “My parents and sister should be waking up in roughly half-an-hour, so if you need something to do while I’m out, you might consider making breakfast. Your cooking should impress my Mum, not to mention stop her from worrying that I’m not eating properly.”

“I suppose I can do that,” Jean-Luc said, before he grinned and said, “Now be a good little dragon handler and go feed the dragons.”

Charlie grinned at that. “And clean up their mess.”

“Yes, well, I wasn’t going to mention that,” Jean-Luc said as he grinned and added in an only half-joking tone, “Although I’ll make sure that the shower is free when you get home so you don’t stink up the place too much.”

Rolling his eyes, Charlie left his flat, as Jean-Luc poured himself another cup of coffee and took a sip, before heading over to the icebox to start getting out everything he’d need to make breakfast. Nearly forty minutes later, Jean-Luc was in the process of scrambling a large bowl of eggs when the door to the guest room opened and Molly Weasley emerged in a long white linen dressing gown, that Jean-Luc recognized as a style that had been popular in the Muggle world in the 1850’s.

“Good morning, Arlessa Weasley.”

“Good morning, Luke, and please just call me Molly.”

“Okay, Molly.”

Walking closer, Molly looked around and raised an eyebrow as she noticed the hearty breakfast that Jean-Luc was preparing and said, “My, my, I’m surprised you’re here cooking instead of out with Charlie tending to the dragons. That is where he is, I assume?”

Jean-Luc nodded. “Yes, he left about forty minutes ago. I suspect he’ll back in an hour or so. Breakfast will be ready long before he gets home, but I’ll keep a plate hot for him. As for me, I didn’t go with him because the reserve doesn’t like civilians getting too close to the dragons.”

“Civilians?” Molly asked, clearly confused. “You’re not a dragon handler?”

Shaking his head, Jean-Luc answered, “No, I’m not. I’m actually an alchemist and the lead choreographer for the Paris Opera Ballet.”

Molly looked very surprised at this. “Paris? You commute to France from Romania?”

“No, I’m only here about three days a week. I suppose I could commute, but getting international portkeys can be such a hassle. So, I stay at my family’s Parisian townhouse most of the week.”

Molly was silent for a moment as she watched Jean-Luc cooking and very competently at that, which sort of surprised her as her own sons had never been good at cooking. Of course, then again Molly knew that was probably her fault since she’d pretty much refused to teach any of them how to cook, because she was from a generation that believed that was their future wives’ jobs and thus not something any of them needed to know. After a moment, however, she asked, “You and my Charlie are more than friends, aren’t you?”

Jean-Luc looked surprised as he paused in flipping the frying bacon and asked, “What?”

“You and my son are an item, aren’t you?” Molly clarified and seeing the look on Jean-Luc’s face she said, “Oh don’t look so surprised. You don’t raise seven children without developing the ability to figure out when they’re not telling you something. Charlie—and Bill come to think of it—always got flustered whenever I mentioned them getting married and having kids, way more than the other children. Having six sons, I always figured I’d have six daughter-in-laws and that Ginny would be the only one to give me a son-in-law. But as the years have gone by I’ve pretty much figured that Bill and Charlie will be giving me son-in-laws instead. Of course, Bill confirmed that when he was fourteen. Charlie, however, has always been quiet on the subject.”

Jean-Luc remained quiet for a moment, using the excuse of finishing his task of turning the bacon before one side ended up getting too dark, before he asked, “And that wouldn’t upset you?”

“Heavens no, why should it?” Molly asked in response, sounding truly confused by the question. “Men can get pregnant just as easily as women, so why should I care if any of my sons would prefer to have a husband instead of a wife? As long as they’re happy—and they give me lots of grandchildren to spoil—I’m happy.”

Jean-Luc was quiet for a moment, before he said, “Well, I wasn’t going to say anything as it really is Charlie’s truth to tell, but since you already know and you’re okay with it, yes, Charlie and I are a couple. We’ve been dating for a year and cohabitating three days a week for the last six months.” Jean-Luc blushed slightly as he said, “Which is why I wasn’t the slightest bit upset about giving up what you may have considered to be my bedroom last night. My clothes use the room, but I never have.”

Molly smiled. “Yes, I figured. You were too quick to offer the room last night and didn’t seem the slightest bit upset about having to share with Charlie. If you were only roommates I would have expected a bit more resistance.”

After a moment during which Jean-Luc didn’t say anything as he concentrated on cooking, Molly asked, “So, how serious are you two? Do I need to start planning a wedding and baby shower?”

“We haven’t really discussed that yet. Although, I wouldn’t be averse to getting married or having children.” Of course, he was only telling Molly what he figured she wanted to hear because he couldn’t bring himself to upset her on Christmas. In truth, however, Jean-Luc wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to get married again, let alone have children again. In his 611 years, Jean-Luc had been married a total of six times and had ten children, all of whom he’d outlived, as they’d all chosen not to drink the Elixir of Life.

Another reason, however, was that he didn’t really feel like having the conversation that was sure to occur if Molly wasn’t aware of the Elixir of Life, as most people weren’t. Obviously Nicolas, Perenelle, and Jean-Luc didn’t go around telling all and sundry about the Philosopher’s Stone, because if they did, there would no doubt be a sharp increase in the number of people attempting to steal it as the lure of unlimited life and money would be far too great. There were people who knew about it, obviously, although the three elder Flamels did their best to keep as much of a lid on it as possible, limiting the information to family and close friends whenever possible.

The ICW knew about the stone because the Albion Ministry for Magic knew about it and because Nicolas had been one of the very first members of the ICW when it was founded in the mid-1600’s and had even been one of the delegates who helped create the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy in 1692. Nicolas stepped down as an active member of the ICW in the 1750’s, but many of Britain’s delegates—and even some from other countries, France in particular—had sought out his council over the years that followed as his grasp on international politics was legendary. Honestly, if anything ever happened to Albus Dumbledore, it would probably be very easy for Nicolas to maneuver himself to be the next Supreme Mugwump, even though he wasn’t currently a delegate. Of course, every Minister for Magic for the last hundred years has been trying to get him to go back, but unfortunately he’d developed other interests.

“Do you need any help?”

“No, I’m good,” Jean-Luc said as he began dicing peppers and onions to put in the scrambled eggs. “I don’t often cook for five people, but I do cook for Charlie and myself whenever I’m here and when I’m not, well, I leave him with enough preservation charmed food to last until I get back. I’ve tried to teach him how to cook, but he doesn’t seem all that interested and would rather just eat my food. Of course, his duties on the reserve do keep him pretty busy and tired, so I suppose the last thing he wants to do when he gets home is cook food if he can avoid it.”

Molly looked a little dubious about sitting back and allowing someone else to cook, especially when it was a male, given her beliefs on the roles of men and women in the home. However, she had to admit that Jean-Luc certainly seemed to know what he was doing, perhaps even better than she did because he was using very little magic in preparing the food and thus showing off some pretty impressive knife skills. Nothing was burning and it smelled really good, although she’d reserve judgement until she actually tasted it.

Not long after this Arthur and Ginny came out of the guest room and were surprised to see Molly sitting at the kitchen table sipping tea, while Jean-Luc did the cooking.

“Mum, why is Luke cooking instead of you?”

“Because it’s his house, dear,” Molly answered. “We’re the guests and guests don’t commandeer their hosts’ kitchens. I asked Luke if he needed any help and he said no.”

“Well, it certainly smells good, I must say,” Arthur said, as he took a seat and poured himself a cup of tea from the pot that Jean-Luc had placed on the table before the Weasleys had awoken, as Charlie had mentioned that while he preferred coffee, the rest of his family preferred tea.

Noticing, however, that Ginny wasn’t fixing herself any tea, Jean-Luc said, “Would you prefer pumpkin juice, Ginny? There’s a bottle in the icebox.”

“Yes, please,” Ginny said.

“You’re busy, Luke, so I think I can handle that much, at least,” Molly said. Jean-Luc who was in the process of finishing up breakfast simply nodded and tilted his head towards the icebox, silently telling Molly to go for it. Standing up she walked over to the icebox, opened it, and found the bottle of juice. Turning to Jean-Luc she then asked, “Where do you keep the glasses?”

“In the overhead cabinet to the left of the sink,” Jean-Luc answered as he began turning off the heat under the various pots and pans, as breakfast was pretty much finished. All that remained now was plating it and then enjoying the fruits of his labor, which he really hoped the Weasleys—especially Molly—would like.

Nodding, Molly walked over to the indicated cabinet and removed a glass, before opening the bottle of juice and pouring a glass for Ginny, which she then put on the table in front of her daughter, as she said, “Here you go dear.”

“Mmm, nice and cold,” Ginny said, before cocking her head and saying, “Although it tastes a little different from what I’m used to.”

“The dragon keepers prefer a bit more spice in it than what’s popular in Britain,” Jean-Luc explained. “The reserve store—which is the only grocery for a hundred miles—used to carry both brands, but the one you’d get in Britain didn’t sell very well, so they’ve pretty much stopped carrying it. You can probably still owl order it or I could probably get it in France each week when I’m there, but Charlie and I agreed that it wasn’t worth the hassle, as we didn’t mind the extra pumpkin spice.”

Ginny nodded and said, “It’s different, but not in a bad way.”

“You’re in France each week?” Arthur asked, clearly confused as he obviously hadn’t been present for that part of Jean-Luc’s conversation with Molly.

“Yes,” Jean-Luc answered, as he explained about his job working for the Paris Opera Ballet. Arthur’s face lit up a bit when he realized that Jean-Luc actually had a job in the muggle world and was probably about to ask a dozen muggle-related questions, but Ginny cut him off.

“Why do you live here with Charlie if you work in France?”

“He’s Charlie’s boyfriend, honey,” Molly answered.

“You told them?” Charlie asked, as he entered the flat just as Molly answered Ginny’s question. “Jean-Luc, you said you wouldn’t do that!”

Momentarily struck silent by Charlie’s sudden appearance and by Charlie calling him Jean-Luc instead of Luke, as he’d previously called him, Molly shook her head and said, “Don’t be mad at him, Charles. The truth is I’ve suspected for quite a while now that you liked men and I asked Jean-Luc point blank if you were dating.”

“When I said I wouldn’t tell her,” Jean-Luc said, “I meant I wouldn’t bring it up, but I also wasn’t going to lie when your mother asked me a direct question.”

Charlie sighed. “Fair enough.” Turning to his parents and sister, he asked, “So, you’re okay with this?”

Molly nodded with a smile, as Arthur said, “Of course we are son. We just want you to be happy, so if Jean-Luc makes you happy, then we’re happy for you both.”

“Gin?”

Instead of answering, Ginny wrinkled her nose and said, “You stink!”

“Ginevra!” Molly shouted.

“Well, it’s true,” Ginny said as she held her nose. “He reeks.”

Realizing that Ginny was referring to the smell of dragon dung that was undoubtedly on his clothes, Charlie grinned and said, “Yes, I suppose I do. It’s an unfortunate side effect of having to clean up after dragons. I should go take a shower and then I’ll come out here and eat breakfast with you all.”

Holding up a hand to stop Charlie from moving, Molly looked at Ginny and said, “Ginevra, answer your brother’s question.”

“You mean about him and Luke?” Ginny asked and Molly nodded. Ginny took a moment to study Jean-Luc and then Charlie, before she said, “They look good together. With their hair colors, they’ve got a nice fire and ice thing going for them.”

Arthur, Molly, Charlie, and Jean-Luc were a bit surprised that Ginny—at only 10—would think that, but then she always had been pretty mature for her age, which was probably a side effect of being the youngest of seven siblings.

“Thanks, Gin,” Charlie said. “Now I’m gonna go hop in the shower.”

-o-0-o-

Back over at Wells Manor, Harry was definitely noticing the difference between a Wells family Christmas and a Dursley family Christmas. The biggest being that he was actually allowed to participate in the festivities in a capacity that didn’t involve him donning an apron and doing all the cooking, serving, and cleaning up. Nor did it involve him running from Ripper, dealing with Aunt Marge belittling him or his parents, or getting smacked around by Dudley. All in all, Christmas at Wells Manor was definitely an improvement from what he was used to.

Currently, the entire family was gathered in the family room and a house-elf had brought in three large boxes filled with ornament balls, each with the name of a member of the Wells family gracing it. As Violet explained, her late husband, Preston Wells, was the youngest of six children and it was his parents who started the tradition of hanging ornaments with their names on them on the Christmas tree. Every member of the family since then, whether they were still living or not, in addition to those family members who were not members of the family by blood, were represented. Thus even the twins’ grandmother, Elizabeth Scrimgeour and her husband Rufus, their son Ethan, and Rufus’s elder son Felix and his husband and son were represented with their own ornaments.

As the twins’ cousins, Adrian and Adriana Pucey—who Harry had learned were fraternal twins and third-year Slytherins—hung their ornaments on the tree, Harry thought it was definitely a nice tradition and he could see why Carter and Hunter had called it the family tree, because that was essentially exactly what it was, albeit in a much more physical form than a family tree usually took. Harry thought that maybe if he ever had a family of his own someday that maybe he’d borrow the tradition from the Wells and hang ornaments for his own parents, in addition to himself, and his children. Of course, at eleven, Harry didn’t really think much about having children of his own someday, although he’d be lying if he said the thought had never occurred to him, as the years spent in the cupboard under the stairs had certainly given him plenty of time alone to think and dream about the future.

‘One thing is certain though,’ Harry thought as he watched Carter and Hunter hang their ornaments. ‘If I do start this tradition with my own family someday, Vernon, Petunia, Dudley, and Marge will not have their own ornaments.’

Once all the ornaments were hung, Carter and Hunter came over to Harry, one twin on each side of him, and hooked their arms with his. Harry looked momentarily confused, but soon realized that the entire family was retreating from the family room and heading into the mansion’s ballroom. There was a large fire burning in the massive hearth and no less than ten Christmas trees were decorated and setup around the large room. The ceiling—easily sixteen to twenty feet high if Harry had to guess—was also enchanted similarly to the ceiling in the Hogwarts Great Hall and thus showed the night sky. Harry was surprised to see that it was actually snowing inside the room, although the small magical snowflakes stopped and simply disappeared about eight feet from the floor and thus they never actually touched any of the occupants of the room. Nor did they melt and make puddles on the floor or make the furniture all wet.

As Dylan walked up a small flight of stairs at one end of the room and took a seat at the massive pipe organ that graced one side of the room, Violet, Elizabeth, and Thorne pulled out their wands and began casting Sonorus Charms on everyone in the room. Before they reached Carter and Hunter, the twins grinned at Harry’s confused look, as Hunter said, “It’s time to sing some carols, Harry.”

“Okay,” Harry said. “And what’s the charm for?”

“It’s the Sonorus Charm,” Carter answered. “It’ll amplify your voice and make it much louder than it normally is. That’s necessary so that when we start singing it’ll actually be audible over the sound of the organ.”

Hunter nodded and added, “Yeah the organ is loud enough that it can be heard as clear as a bell throughout the house. Actually it can probably be heard a few miles in every direction of the house and with the Sonorus Charm, our singing will also carry pretty far.”

“But I don’t really know any Wizarding Christmas carols,” Harry worried. He’d heard a few muggle ones before, but he doubted they’d be singing the same songs here.

“Actually, you probably do know the songs we’ll be singing,” Carter said. “Many of them are also sung in the muggle world, as many of them are actually much older than the muggles think they are, as they were originally wizarding carols that got adapted for muggles.”

Overhearing the conversation, Adrian came over and nodded. “Yeah, in fact, many of them are about four to five hundred years older than the muggles think they are, but the problem is when the various muggle composers adapted them for the muggle world they slapped their names on them as if they were totally original works, when in fact they weren’t. It’s just one more reason why some purebloods hate muggles.”

Hunter nodded. “Biggest differences between the versions are that we usually replace Christmas with Yule, change God to Gods, and we don’t sing anything that revolves around the birth of Jesus Christ, since we’re not Christian.”

“And if we end up singing a song I’m not familiar with?” Harry asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” Carter said. “You can read, right?”

“Of course I can read,” Harry answered. “You know that I can.”

“Yeah, he does,” Hunter said. “But, still, don’t worry. You’ll see why he asked that when we actually start singing.”

It was at this point that Violet approached them and cast the Sonorus Charm on Adrian and Carter, while Elizabeth cast it on Hunter and Harry. As they were the last ones in the room, Violet turned towards Dylan and gave him a signal, which prompted him to nod and turn around on the organ bench so that he was facing the massive instrument. Not long after this, three house-elves appeared with a pop. One was standing on a platform next to the rack that held the sheet music, it presumably being the elf’s job to turn the pages at the appropriate times. The other two were standing atop platforms on either side of Dylan and Harry could only guess that it was their job to handle the various knobs (or organ-stops, although Harry didn’t know that’s what they were called) that were visible on either side of the five keyboards.

As Dylan raised his hands and began playing the first few notes of a song that Harry actually did recognize, Violet waved her wand and suddenly the musical notes that Dylan was playing appeared in mid-air, with the words to the song appearing below them, with a golden snitch flying above the first word in the song ‘Deck the Halls.’ As the singing began, Harry realized what Carter had meant about reading, because he could easily read the lyrics as the snitch jumped from word to word in time with the singing. Bouncing from word to word, Harry noticed that once the snitch had gotten about three or four words ahead, the previous words would slowly fade away so that there were never more than about a dozen words visible at a time.

Heedless of the wind and weather, Fa la la la la, la la la la,” everyone in the room sang, as the song ended and Dylan almost immediately began playing another one. This time it was ‘O Yule Tree,’ which Harry also recognized for the most part, although he was more familiar with hearing it as ‘O Christmas Tree.’ After that they also sang ‘Silver Bells’ in which the only change Harry could see what that they’d changed the mention of Santa to St. Nick. ‘Good King Wenceslas,’ ‘The Wassail Song,’ ‘We Wish You a Merry Yule,’ and finally ‘The Twelve Days of Yule’ were the songs that came afterward and Harry was happy to say that he was actually familiar with all of them, despite the occasional changes to the words.

Once the singing stopped and Dylan played the last note of the final song, Violet, Elizabeth, and Thorne began cancelling the Sonorus Charms on everyone. Once his voice was no longer magically amplified, Harry said, “Your dad is very good on that organ.”

Carter nodded. “Yeah, he is. It’s actually a wizarding tradition for the lord of a noble family to be able to play the pipe organ, so I’ve actually been taking lessons.”

“So have I, actually,” Hunter said, “just in case anything happens to Dad and Carter and I end up being Lord Wells, although I really don’t want to be.”

Harry’s eyes widened a bit, as he asked, “Does that mean I’m going to have to learn how to play the organ?”

“Yeah, Harry, as Lord Potter, you will be expected to know how to play it,” Carter answered. “Although you have from now until you turn fifteen and you inherit your lordship to learn how.”

Harry couldn’t help but feel very nervous about that prospect as he had never really had that much interest in taking up a musical instrument. Not that he likely would have been allowed to do so anyway even if he had wanted to for the simple fact that the Dursleys would never have agreed to buy said instrument or pay for the lessons. Thus, Harry didn’t even know how to read sheet music, let alone play any form of instrument. ‘Oh well, something to worry about for another day,’ Harry thought, not wanting to ruin his Christmas holidays with such thoughts.

-o-0-o-

“Hey, Firenze,” Bill said. “This is an unexpected, but not unpleasant surprise. I was actually just coming to look for you.”

Ignoring Bill’s statement, Firenze, who looked almost apprehensive and definitely nervous, said, “We need to talk, Bill.”

“About what?” Bill asked, as he stood aside and motioned for Firenze to enter.

Firenze remained silent as he trotted into the room, before turning to face Bill and sitting down on the floor near Bill’s couch. “Us.”

‘He wants to talk about us?’ Bill thought. ‘Does that mean that… no, Bill, don’t go there. Don’t get your hopes up.’

Walking over and sitting down on the couch—on the side furthest away from where Firenze was sitting so that he wouldn’t be tempted to reach out and touch him—Bill asked, “So, what do you mean by ‘us?’”

Firenze was quiet for several minutes and Bill was honestly beginning to wonder if the centaur was ever going to speak. Finally, after several deep breaths, he said, “Bill, we’ve been friends for a long time.”

“Yes, we have,” Bill agreed, as he thought back upon his Hogwarts days when he’d first befriended the centaur. They’d been very good friends back then, seeing each other almost every day right up until the time that Bill graduated. Upon moving to Egypt for Curse-Breaker training, he missed Firenze, but did his best to move on. Taking the job at Hogwarts, however, and working alongside Firenze in the Astronomy Department, they easily fell right back into their friendship as if the separation of years had never happened.

“I really do value our friendship, Bill. To most of my herd that would be heresy, as they pretty much all consider themselves to be far superior to humans, but between my friendship with you and working here, I’ve realized the error of that belief.”

“I value our friendship, too, Firenze. As for your herd, I don’t mean any disrespect, but I can’t say as I like them very much, based on the way they’ve treated you since you took the job here.”

Firenze nodded. “Indeed I have pretty much become a pariah and an outcast. Most of them won’t even talk to me. I still occasionally talk to my mother—Hecuba—but I can tell from the tone of her voice that she doesn’t approve of my job here. She’s just not willing to completely cut me off because of it.”

“Did any of them ever even contact you after you killed the dread wolf?”

“My mother thanked me on behalf of my father,” Firenze revealed. “Magorian’s pride wouldn’t allow him to thank me in person, as he doesn’t approve of my choices. Of course, my half-brother Ronan accompanied mother when she thanked me and he also expressed his personal thanks for my eliminating a dangerous beast from the forest that did not belong there. Said the centaurs had only just become aware of the threat themselves and were mobilizing to act but I beat them to it. Of course, for some of the herd—Bane, for example—my killing of the dread wolf was an insult because he doesn’t even consider me to be a centaur anymore, since I’ve chosen to live among, work for, and teach humans.”

Thinking back to the handful of times he’d met Bane during his school days, Bill said, “I can’t say as I ever liked Bane all that much. To me anyway he always seemed so standoffish and haughty. And I can’t say as I approved of him calling you a common mule that time he caught you allowing me to ride on your back. You may be a great many things, Firenze, but a mule is definitely not one of them.”

Firenze grinned. “I assume that’s meant as a compliment?”

“Very much so,” Bill answered. “You’re a very handsome and noble creature and there’s nothing even the slightest bit mulish about you.”

“Handsome?”

Bill blushed, as he said, “Well, I… um…”

“Bill, you’re blushing,” Firenze said, and after a moment, he asked, “Is it possible that you’re attracted to me?”

Bill gulped. “Um… maybe?”

“Maybe? Does that mean you’re not sure?”

“It means that I don’t want to ruin our friendship.”

“Ruin our friendship?” Firenze asked. “You honestly think that you being attracted to me would ruin our friendship?”

“I don’t know,” Bill answered. “I’d hope it wouldn’t, but I’d rather not take any chances.”

Firenze was silent for a moment, before he said, “That’s a pity, because I think in this case if you did take a chance, you’d enjoy the result.”

Bill’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates as he struggled for a moment to find his voice, as he was momentarily struck dumb by what his centaur friend had just said. Finally, he asked, “Firenze, are you saying that you’d be open to us becoming more than friends?”

Firenze smiled brightly. “I’d be more than open to it, Bill. I’m ready, willing, and eager for us to be more than just friends.” At Bill’s amazed look, Firenze added, “You’ve been driving me crazy with lust these last few weeks, Bill. At first it was just dreams while I was asleep, but lately I’ve been thinking about you during the day, as well. If it wasn’t for the caparisons that I’ve started wearing or this abnormally large belt buckle, there’s many times now that I would have totally embarrassed myself in front of my classes and likely gotten fired for it.”

“So that book I read in the library was right?” Bill asked and at the centaur’s questioning look, he added, “You really do really have two penises?”

“Yes,” Firenze said with a mischievous grin, although his expression quickly turned serious as he added, “All male centaurs are born with two, although there are some herds—thankfully not mine—that practice castration where the smaller, human-like one is concerned. For those herds that do practice that, the smaller one is cut off at birth and the pocket of flesh that hides it is magically sewn shut so that there’s no scar. The centaurs in herds that do practice it, don’t even realize they had a second one until they reach maturity and are told so that they can in turn continue the practice on their own foals. It’s actually caused more than a few herds to break up as there are some who are angry enough to disown their own parents and family when they find out about it.”

“I could never do that to my own child,” Bill said.

“Neither could I,” Firenze agreed. “Not that I’m likely to ever have foals of my own, seeing as how I prefer males.”

“Well, I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Bill said with a grin, as he moved over on the couch so that he was closer to Firenze. “That book I mentioned did say that male centaurs were incapable of getting pregnant, but Firenze, in case you hadn’t already heard, Teryn-Consort-Wells is pregnant.”

“But he’s…”

“A male?” Bill interrupted, prompting Firenze to nod. “Yes, he is, but Firenze, male wizards can get pregnant. Both partners have to be magical for it to work, but that’s not an issue because you do have magic.”

“Wizards can get pregnant?” Firenze asked, clearly surprised by that information. He obviously had not heard about Thorne’s pregnancy, although he didn’t spend a ton of time with Thorne, either, especially considering that he didn’t teach the man’s sons or Prince William. He’d talked briefly with Dylan Wells after the detention incident, but he’d never really said more than a few words to Thorne and had not even seen him in a few weeks. “Even if that’s true, though, surely the fact that we’re different species would mean that we can’t procreate.”

Bill shook his head, as he said, “Actually, we can, according to the author of that book I mentioned. He mated with a male centaur and then carried and gave birth to a total of four children, two of them were centaur foals, while two were human. That led the author to speculate that there’s a 50/50 chance of the baby being a centaur or a human. When the two foals grew up you couldn’t tell that one of their parents was human, although it took longer for them to reach maturity because they were born a lot smaller than a centaur foal normally would be if it had two centaur parents.”

“So, you’d have to carry any children we had.”

“Maybe, yes.”

“What do you mean maybe?”

“Well, the author and a few friends of his speculated that it might be possible for a male centaur to get pregnant, if they made use of Cross-Species Transfiguration to physically become human. They could only speculate, however, as the author’s centaur mate wasn’t willing to try the experiment because if he was able to get pregnant, he’d then have had to remain in human form for the entire duration of the pregnancy.”

“I wouldn’t have thought that a Cross-Species Transfiguration was that complete.”

“Well I guess it depends on how magically powerful the person casting the spell is, but it is apparently possible if the caster is strong enough. There are a few documented cases of male goblins—who like centaurs can’t get pregnant—being transfigured into humans and gaining the ability to carry children as if they were wizards. However, in every one of those cases they had to remain in human form while pregnant, because going back to their natural form caused a miscarriage.”

“Huh,” Firenze said, as he remained silent for a moment. “I’ve gotta say I’ve never really given much thought to the idea of becoming human, because to do so would just not be something that most centaurs would think about. I don’t think it’s a form I’d want to remain in forever either, although it’s something I suppose might be interesting to try at some point. Not anytime soon, however, because I can’t say that I’m ready for children yet.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not ready for them either,” Bill said, as he placed his hands on Firenze’s shoulders and said, “For now, I propose we stop talking and do more fun things.”

Raising an eyebrow, Firenze grinned and asked, “And just what did you have in mind, Bill?”

“This,” Bill said as he moved the hand that was on Firenze’s left shoulder to the back of his neck and pulled his head down until their lips met. The kiss was somewhat tentative and chaste at first, but it quickly became more heated and passionate as both wizard and centaur got more and more into it. Firenze soon wrapped his own arms around Bill’s body and pulled him up into a half-sitting-half-standing position which made up for the difference in their heights.

-o-0-o-

On the morning of December Twenty-Seventh, William woke up full of energy and looking forward to the day, since it was time for him to leave Sandringham House and head over to Windsor Castle to meet up with Carter, Hunter, and Harry. Ryan had sent him a short note via owl stating that he might not be able to join them until after the New Year, as Lord Black was lingering. His healers all agreed he would not live to see 1992, but for the moment, he had not yet taken his last breath and thus as the heir, Ryan had to remain at Arlington Grange, as the heir was expected to be at the Lord’s bedside when they died. Everyone did know, however, that Lord Black was not likely to live much longer and thus everything was set for his funeral and thus it would likely be held within only a day or so after he died.

The household staff had already packed all of William’s luggage, only leaving out one clean outfit for him to wear today. Getting out of bed, he showered, brushed his teeth and took care of other business before getting dressed and then heading downstairs for breakfast. Entering the dining room, he found his mum, Henry, Elizabeth, and the Queen-Mum already present, although there was no sign of Philip, Charles, or the rest of the family.

Although, honestly, William hadn’t expected to see many of them this morning as some of them had already begun leaving. Andrew and Sarah, for example, had left the previous afternoon in order to take Beatrice and Eugenie to visit with Sarah’s family for the holidays. Anne, Mark, Peter, and Zara had also left as they had standing plans to go on a skiing trip in the French Alps. Peter and Zara had put up a little bit of a fuss as they both wanted to go to Windsor Castle to meet William’s wizarding friends, but their parents put their feet down because they couldn’t cancel the skiing trip as it was partially an official trip, since a few members of Sweden’s royal family, including Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Carl Philip, were joining them.

Just as William sat down at the table and one of the household staff placed a plate of food in front of him, the Queen’s secretary entered the room and handed her a note. Opening it, Elizabeth perused it for a moment, before she said, “Oh dear.”

Recognizing the look on her daughter’s face, the Queen-Mum asked, “What’s wrong?”

“The President of Argentina is coming for a last minute state visit,” Elizabeth said. “Apparently he wants to talk about the Falkland Islands and thus I have to meet with him.”

“So you’ll have to go back to London?” the Queen-Mum asked.

Shaking her head, Elizabeth said, “No, that’s another problem because apparently the main boiler at Buckingham has stopped working and thus there’s no heat or hot water. The boiler system is not a standard model, so the local hardware stores don’t stock the parts needed to fix it and they’ve all had to be special ordered. Even with a rush being put on them, however, being the holiday season, the maintenance staff doesn’t expect the parts to be in until after the New Year, so the state visit is being moved to Windsor Castle.”

William perked up at this, looking alarmed, as he asked, “Does that mean that I can’t have my friends over?”

“No, William, your plans will go ahead as planned,” Elizabeth said. “Windsor is more than big enough that we can have a state visit and still allow you to spend time with your friends. You’ll just have to avoid certain areas of the castle while the Argentinian delegation is present.”

William nodded, looking slightly less alarmed, although a part of him was upset because he’d been looking forward to him and his friends having the full run of the castle for a few days. Still, he understood that things like this happened. “I guess this means no magic.”

“Well certainly not in front of the Argentinians,” Diana said. “Although I suppose as long as you and your friends keep it to only the private rooms where the Argentinians wouldn’t be allowed anyway, then I suppose you could use magic.”

“I thought they weren’t allowed to do magic outside of school?” the Queen-Mum asked.

“I granted William a special dispensation,” Elizabeth revealed. “He and his friends can use magic at any of the royal properties so long as Dylan and Thorne are there to supervise them. Minister Fudge wasn’t exactly thrilled about the idea, but he couldn’t exactly say no to me.”

In the silence that followed, Elizabeth thought, ‘Thank God Andrew is not here,’ as she didn’t even want to imagine the comments he’d have about an official state visit with the Argentine President, considering that Andrew had served in the Royal Navy as a helicopter pilot during the war in 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. She was sure none of them would be positive as several of his friends had been killed in the conflict. Taking a sip of her tea, she then turned to Diana and said, “I assume you realize that being an official state function, you and Charles will have official duties to attend to?”

“Yes, I realize that,” Diana said. “I suppose I’ll just have to trust Dylan and Thorne to keep an eye on the kids. Of course, it’s just the five of them and two of them are Dylan and Thorne’s own children, so I assume they can handle it.” Looking thoughtful for a moment, she then said, “Although Thorne is pregnant, so I don’t know what his energy level might be like.”

“Thorne is pregnant?” Henry asked. “I thought only girls could get pregnant?”

While Henry had not yet been given the full sex talk, he did at least know about pregnancy, at least in the most general of terms. He still believed that the stork was involved in new babies coming into existence, although thankfully for his parents he’d never asked too many questions on that subject.

Diana briefly closed her eyes and muttered something under her breath, before she said, “Yes, Harry, Thorne is pregnant and yes he’s a boy. Muggle boys can’t get pregnant, but boy wizards can.”

“Okay,” Henry said, as he went back to eating. Apparently that was enough of an explanation for him or he simply didn’t care beyond that. Although Diana suspected that he was hungry and thus just cared more about his food at the moment.

“Well, if it’ll ease your mind, Diana,” the Queen-Mum said, “I can go to Windsor and help Dylan and Thorne with the boys. I have no illusions about being able to keep up with four eleven-year-olds and a nine-year-old in terms of pure energy, but I can at least provide an extra set of eyes to ensure they don’t get into too much trouble.”

“Are you sure, Mum?” Elizabeth said. “I don’t want you to over stress yourself.”

“Yes, I’m sure, Elizabeth,” the Queen-Mum answered with a determined shake of her head. “Just because I’m ninety-one doesn’t mean that I can’t keep an eye on the children. I raised two daughters after all and helped you with your own, so it’s not like I don’t have any experience with children. Besides, it’s been a number of years now since my favorite cousin—who was a witch, if you remember—passed away and I think I’d enjoy seeing magic again.”

“Well, William, Henry, I assume you don’t mind spending time with your great-grandmother?” Elizabeth asked.

Henry, who was busy chewing, just nodded his head to indicate that he had no issues with it. William smiled and said, “Of course not,” as he honestly did enjoy spending time with his great-grandmother as she usually had some pretty interesting stories to tell.

“Well, everything is settled then,” Elizabeth said. “After this state visit is done with, I’ll return here to Sandringham until February as usual, so you and your friends will have the castle to yourselves until you head back to Hogwarts after the first of the year.”

William nodded, but said nothing else as he focused on his breakfast, the same as everyone else.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Previously in ‘A Windsor at Hogwarts’…

-o-0-o-

At Wells Manor, Harry participates in the Wells Family Christmas traditions, which include decorating a Christmas tree with ornaments bearing their names and singing Christmas carols, with music provided by a pipe organ, compliments of Dylan. In Romania, Charlie Weasley is surprised by the unexpected visit of his parents and sister and worries about how to handle the fact that his boyfriend, Jean-Luc, is there and he hasn’t told his family yet that he’s gay. His family, however, is totally supportive after they find out. Over at Hogwarts, Bill and Firenze talk and realize that they both want the same thing—a romantic relationship with each other—and embark on what’s sure to be an interesting adventure. And finally at Sandringham, William prepares to head for Windsor Castle for the rest of his break. Unexpectedly, Elizabeth ends up making plans to accompany him due to a broken boiler at Buckingham Palace forcing her to have a last minute state dinner with the Argentinian President at Windsor Castle.

-o-0-o-

Chapter Nine, Part One:
Winter Break

-o-0-o-

Orion “Ryan” Black sat forlornly in an antique rocking chair in the master bedroom of Arlington Grange—the ancestral home of the Black family—rereading the same passage in a book of Wizarding poetry that he’d been reading for the last ten minutes. He’d had a very depressing holiday, as with Lord Black’s impending death there was no celebrating at Arlington this Christmas.

Lord Black was too weak to leave his bed, so he wouldn’t have been a very good host and Ryan couldn’t act as host in his place because as the heir, he was expected to be at Lord Black’s bedside when he drew his last breath, which meant that Ryan had pretty much been living in the master bedroom for the last few days since he arrived from King’s Cross. The house-elves had set up a cot for him to sleep on and brought all of his meals up to him. The only times that he was allowed out of the master bedroom were when he had to go the bathroom—thankfully the house-elves had not gone so far as to provide him with a chamber pot and thus he was allowed to use the facilities in the master bathroom—or for about five minutes a day when he was allowed to get some fresh air, although even then he was never allowed to go further than the master bedroom’s balcony.

The reason that Ryan was rereading the same passage over and over again was because his thoughts weren’t really on the book, but instead on his adoptive family. Since she had been disowned, Andromeda wasn’t allowed to set foot at Arlington Grange, which meant that Ryan wasn’t allowed to see Andromeda, Ted, or Nymphadora over the holidays, as they weren’t allowed at Arlington and Ryan, as the Black heir, wasn’t allowed to leave until Lord Black died. Other than his dying cousin Arcturus, the only person that Ryan had seen was his great-grandaunt, Cassiopeia Black, who quite frankly scared the shite out of him.

A loud, hacking cough brought Ryan out of his thoughts, as Arcturus suddenly sounded like he was in the middle of coughing up a lung. Putting his book aside, Ryan pulled out his wand and quickly did the spell the healers had taught him to help relax the man’s airways and thus reduce the severity of his coughing fit. Once it had subsided, he stood, poured a glass of water and helped the elderly man take a few sips. Usually, after an incident like this, Arcturus would fall asleep and remain quiet for a few hours, but this time, he turned his head and asked, “Orion, what day is it?”

“Friday, 27 December,” Ryan answered.

“So the holidays are over,” Arcturus said, prompting Ryan to nod.

The old man remained quiet long enough that Ryan assumed he’d fallen asleep—as the monitoring wards that the healers had set clearly showed that he was still alive—prompting him to sit back down and pick up his book. Before he could open it, however, Arcturus said, “I’m sure this has been a very depressing holiday for you.”

Looking over at Arcturus, Ryan could see him gazing right at him, his eyes seemingly clearer than they’d appeared in days. Honestly, Ryan had thought the old man’s illness had nearly blinded him, as he had stopped focusing on anything. Now, however, his focus seemed to be Ryan himself. Ryan was going to say something, but Arcturus shook his head and said, “Don’t bother lying to me, boy. I may be old and I’m as close to death’s door as you can get without actually dying, but I still remember what it was like to be your age and I know this must be very depressing for a boy your age.”

“Yes, it is.”

“You’re the future of this family, boy,” Arcturus said. “Tell me, what direction will you take it?”

Ryan remained silent as he thought about that. He’d thought of it during the hours since his arrival at Arlington, although the fact that he technically couldn’t do anything until he turned fifteen meant that he hadn’t given it as much thought as another older heir facing impending lordship might have. There were several things he wanted to do, but he wasn’t really sure if he should tell Arcturus or not, because the man was old and set in his ways and had been the one to control the direction the family had taken for the last thirty-nine years, ever since Arcturus’s own father, Sirius Black, had died.

“While I’m still alive, Orion,” Arcturus prompted, when Ryan stayed quiet for a few more minutes, deep in thought.

“I plan to breathe some new life into the family,” Ryan said, after a moment and seeing Arcturus nod at him that he should continue, he added, “For too long now this family has been left to stagnate and age which has left it in the position it’s currently in of having very few members who still bear the name of Black left. I aim to change that.”

“A worthy goal that I can support,” Arcturus said. “Are you seeing anyone who you think can help you with that plan or is that just a long-term goal?”

Ryan blushed slightly. “More of a long-term goal, as I’m not currently seeing anyone.”

“I see and do you prefer women?” Arcturus asked. “Or men?”

Ryan suddenly wasn’t sure if he liked where this conversation was going, but answered it anyway. “I’m bisexual, so either one is fine with me.”

Arcturus nodded. “Well, then I think I have a way of speeding up your goal of revitalizing the family and saving us from financial ruin all at the same time.”

“What in Merlin’s name are you talking about?”

“Before I was taken ill this last time, I was going through the document vault and I found an old contract between the Blacks and the Burkes that had never been fulfilled. After reading it I realized that the date by which it had to be fulfilled was fast approaching and if it isn’t fulfilled by that date, the Blacks will have to pay the Burkes a substantial amount of money as a penalty for failing to fulfill the contract and I’m afraid that amount is more than we have in our vaults.”

Ryan’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates as he asked, “More than we have in our vaults? Aren’t we the second richest family in Wizarding Britain?” Arcturus nodded. “So how could the penalty be more than we have in our vaults?”

“The contract was drawn up a little over five hundred years ago and never fulfilled,” Arcturus answered. “After the first hundred years of non-fulfillment, the penalty for not fulfilling the contract became subject to compounding interest for every year that it went unfilled and I’m afraid to say that with the interest the penalty for not fulfilling the contract currently sits at just over 950,000,000 galleons and we only have 945,237,863 galleons in our vaults. If we sold off a few holdings, we could raise the rest, but it would place us on a downward spiral that would leave us with no money in our vaults and thus nothing left to maintain our various investments, which would also trigger numerous penalties with the goblins that we’d be unable to pay as financially we’d end up worse off than the Weasleys.”

“Why on Earth was it never fulfilled?”

“As near as I could tell, the contract was drawn up and placed in the document vault here at Arlington and then it was completely forgotten about until I found it about a month ago. I was going to write you about it, but then I was taken ill and I couldn’t.”

“I’m guessing this is a marriage contract?”

“Correct,” Arcturus confirmed. “Like most marriage contracts in the our world it has a long term within which to fulfill the contract, however that term will be up in June of next year. I’m sure you can see the problem.”

Ryan closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head, not wanting to believe what he was hearing but even not being particularly close to Arcturus, he knew him well enough to know that he would not lie about something like this. “Yes, I can see the problem. In order to avoid paying the penalty, both of the current lords of the Black and Burke families have to be present at the wedding in order to witness it and then sign the necessary lines on the contract to confirm that it was fulfilled. However, your healers expect that you won’t live to see the New Year and I’m only thirteen, which means I won’t become Lord Black until after the contract’s expiry date and I can’t sign the contract until I actually am Lord Black.”

“Indeed,” Arcturus confirmed. “I’m afraid there’s another wrinkle in that the contract requires a member of the Burke family to marry the Black heir, which would be you, Orion. So in order to avoid the complete ruination of our family, you need to get married before I die, which could honestly be anytime now so you may well be a married man before dinnertime today.”

“Oh sweet Circe and Morgana,” Ryan said.

“If I was in your position, those would be my sentiments too,” Arcturus said. “Of course, the other issue at hand is whether or not Lord Burke will even agree to fulfilling the contract, because at this point, one could say it’s definitely in his best interests to allow it to lapse, as the penalty we’d have to pay the Burkes would most likely allow them to surpass the Potters as the wealthiest family in Wizarding Britain. We are currently allies with the Burkes, but that alliance will die with me and can’t be renewed until you become Lord Black, so Lord Burke might not care that much about our ruination, as our money will allow him to sleep perfectly fine at night. After all, the Burke family motto is ‘Quaestus est nostrae gloria.’

‘Profit is our glory,’” Ryan said, as Arcturus nodded.

Ryan didn’t really want to get married at this point in his life, but he also didn’t want to be responsible for the fall of the Black family, as he’d dreamed of reviving it and cleaning up its reputation ever since Arcturus had named him the heir. He also knew that despite being disowned, Andromeda was still very proud of her Black heritage and she wouldn’t want to live to see the family fall into ruin so completely. Jumping up from his chair, Ryan called out, “Kallix!”

A moment later, there was a pop, as Kallix, the head-house-elf at Arlington Grange, appeared in the room and asked, “You called, Master Orion?”

“Go to Sutton Grange and bring Lord Burke here immediately,” Orion said. “Tell him its emergency family business.”

The elf looked briefly at Arcturus who nodded his head in agreement before he popped away. With that issue taken care of, Ryan turned to Arcturus and said, “Okay, if we can work out a deal with Lord Burke for this marriage to go through, I’ll do it, although I’m not happy about it. I do have one request, however.”

“And what’s that?”

“That you agree to reverse Andromeda’s disownment,” Ryan answered. “I love her and her husband as if they were my parents and I think of their daughter as my sister. So, if I have to get married, I want them present for my wedding.”

Arcturus was quiet for a moment, before he nodded and said, “Fine. Since you’ll essentially be the family’s savior, I’ll do it, but only if Lord Burke agrees to allow the contract to be fulfilled.”

“Fair enough,” Ryan said, as Kallix reappeared with Lord Caractacus Burke.

“Arcturus, what is going on?” Caractacus asked. “What’s this emergency family business?”

“First off, Caractacus,” Arcturus said, “have you met my heir? Bellatrix’s son Orion?”

“No, I hadn’t met him,” Caractacus said. “Hello Orion.”

“Hello,” Ryan said.

Pausing to cough, Arcturus said, “Kallix, there’s a document in a red folder in my safe in the study. Bring it here.”

“Yes, Master Arcturus,” Kallix said with a bow before he popped out, only to return a moment later with the document.

“Orion, if you could explain?” Arcturus asked.

“Of course, sir,” Ryan said, as he proceeded to explain the situation to Caractacus Burke, adding in the fact that he was bisexual and thus wouldn’t be opposed to marrying either gender.

When Ryan was finished and Caractacus had taken a moment to peruse the contract, just as Arcturus had suspected, Caractacus said, “At first glance, I’d have to say that it would be in my family’s best interest to allow the contract to lapse, as we’d make a fortune.” Holding up his hand, he said, “However, I also fully realize that to many of the other lords my profiting from the financial ruin of the House of Black would not be looked upon kindly, most especially by the Malfoys and the Lestranges, and even the Longbottoms. I don’t really care what the latter family thinks, although I would prefer not to make an enemy of Callidora Black Longbottom if I can avoid it and I definitely don’t want to make enemies of Bellatrix, Rodolphus, Lucius and Narcissa.”

“So you’ll allow the contract to be fulfilled?” Ryan asked.

Caractacus was silent for a moment, before he said, “I have conditions, which according to the terms of the contract I’m allowed to set.”

“Name them,” Arcturus said.

Caractacus got a shrewd look on his face, as he said, “If you want me to agree to this, then Orion must agree to marry my son Maximus and his brother, Octavius, and the Blacks will pay me a groom price of twenty million galleons for each of them.”

Arcturus summarized, “So, Orion takes two husbands and we pay you forty million galleons.” Caractacus nodded, which prompted Arcturus to look at Ryan and ask, “Well, you’re the one who would have to get married, so thoughts?”

Knowing that Arcturus, as Lord Black, could force the issue and order him to do it regardless of his thoughts or feelings on the matter, Ryan was happy that Arcturus had even asked. Before he answered, however, he looked at Caractacus and asked, “If I may ask, how old are Maximus and Octavius and why do you want me to marry both of them?”

“They’re eighteen,” Caractacus answered. “As for why I want you to marry both of them, it’s because they’re rather wild in terms of their sexual conquests and I’m hoping that marriage will tame them. Especially since the contract stipulates that the Burke entering the marriage must remain faithful to the Black heir until they’ve provided them with no less than three children, two of which must be sons. I want you to extend that clause to cover both of them.”

“Okay,” Ryan said, but seeing the look on Caractacus’s face, he had a feeling there was more to it than that, prompting him to ask, “And what else as I suspect there’s another reason you’re not mentioning.”

“Very perceptive, young man,” Caractacus said. “In addition to the reasons I already stated, I’m asking that you marry both of them simply because it would be awkward for both them and you if you only married Maximus, because he and Octavius share a liver, a leg, and a magical core. So even if you married only one of them, you’d still have both of them in your bed so you’re better off just marrying them both.”

Ryan sighed, although honestly, a part of him was intrigued by the idea. “Yeah, I guess so.” After a moment of thought, as he quickly weighed the pros and cons of the whole situation, he said, “I’ll do it—I’ll marry them both.”

“Very well,” Arcturus said, as he turned to Caractacus and said, “We have a deal then, Caractacus. I suggest you fetch your sons, as we’ll be having the wedding today. As Ryan said, I could die at any moment so there’s no time to waste.”

“Very well,” Caractacus said, as he called out, “Nala!”

The Burke’s head-house-elf, Nala, appeared a moment later, and not waiting for her to speak, Caractacus ordered, “Find my wife, Maximus and Octavius and bring them all here to Arlington Grange immediately.”

“Yes, Master,” Nala said, as she curtseyed before popping out.

“We’ll need an officiate and additional witnesses,” Arcturus said. Glancing at Ryan, Arcturus said, “Your family can serve as witnesses, so per our agreement, Orion, I, The-Lord-Teryn Arcturus Black, Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, do hereby reverse the disownment of Andromeda Tonks née Black and restore to her all of the titles, duties, responsibilities, and privileges due her as a member of the House of Black. Furthermore, I also hereby lift the ban that prevents her, her husband, and her daughter from setting foot inside Arlington Grange. So mote it be.”

A swirl of magical energy and a brief burst of magic followed ‘So mote it be.’ As for Caractacus, he remained silent as it was fairly common knowledge among the nobility that Ryan had been raised by Andromeda and Ted Tonks. He didn’t necessarily approve of a respectable pureblood woman marrying a muggleborn and having a halfblood daughter, but there were worse things, such as producing a squib.

“Might I suggest Minister Fudge as the officiate?” Caractacus asked. “I think given the last minute nature of this wedding it would be wise to have a ministry official present to ensure that everything is done right. Fudge is allowed to perform wedding ceremonies and he owes me a few favors.”

“Very well,” Arcturus said. “Normally we’d also have to invite all of the other lords, but given the last minute nature of this event and the fact that it’s happening here in my bedroom since I’m too weak to get out of bed, I think we’ll keep it limited to the Malfoys and the Longbottoms since they’re the only families that still have living Blacks among their members.”

“I can deal with that arrangement,” Caractacus said. “Although I would ask that we also invite the Prewetts, since my daughter Philomena is married to Lord Prewett’s heir. She was also best friends with Maximus and Octavius’s late mother and is their godmother, so she’d never forgive me if she found out that her godsons got married without her being present to witness it.”

“Fine, but only if they can be here within the hour,” Arcturus agreed, just as Nala reappeared with Teryna Ophelia Burke and a pair of conjoined men that Ryan could only assume were Maximus and Octavius.

Looking at his future husbands, Ryan was definitely glad that he was wearing wizarding robes, as it hid the fact that he’d gotten hard while doing so. ‘At least they’re easy on the eyes.’

“Caractacus, what’s going on?” Ophelia asked, almost at the same time that Maximus asked, “Father is this important?” and Octavius added, “We have a date.”

Rolling his eyes, Caractacus turned to look at his sons and said, “I’m afraid you’re going to have to cancel it, because very soon neither one of you will be allowed to date anyone other than Serah Orion Black, whom you will both be marrying within the hour.” Seeing that his sons looked like they were about to object, Caractacus added, “And no, that was not a request, so unless you’d prefer that I disown you and cut you off without a knut to your names, you will do as I say.”

Both Maximus and Octavius’s eyes widened at their father’s order and for a moment it looked like they were going to object, but then they deflated, because they knew better. Despite getting very good grades and several NEWTs each, since getting out of Hogwarts this past June, they’d focused entirely on having fun—and their sex lives—and thus they hadn’t gotten around to getting jobs and they also still lived at Sutton Grange. So, the idea of being left penniless and homeless was enough for them to not object.

“Very well,” Maximus said, as Octavius scanned the room for a moment, before his eyes landed on Ryan and he asked, “I assume you’re Orion Black?”

“Yes,” Ryan said as he stepped forward and held out his hand. Octavius shook it, followed by Maximus, before the latter asked, “And how old are you?”

“Thirteen,” Ryan answered.

“Well, at least he’s legal,” Octavius commented to nobody in particular, as he knew that the Age of Sexual Consent in Wizarding Britain was thirteen, as the age had never been upped from the centuries past when it was common for people to get married very young since life expectancy generally didn’t see people living much past the age of thirty.

Turning to his father, Maximus asked, “Can I at least ask why you’re in such a rush to get us married off Father? I mean less than an hour? Really?”

“The rush is because Lord Black is dying,” Caractacus answered. “He could literally go at any moment, so there’s no time to waste. Besides he’s paying me forty million galleons for your hands.”

Maximus and Octavius looked at each other and then at their father, before they said in unison, “Ah, okay.”

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, at Windsor Castle, the majority of the royals hadn’t arrived yet, although Dylan, Thorne, Carter, Hunter, William, and Harry had arrived. They’d arrived first due to the unexpected state dinner that was not on the schedule and thus several members of the Royal Protection Squad had been recalled from their holiday vacations in order to perform a security sweep of the castle in preparation for the Queen’s arrival and the upcoming state dinner. Needless to say that between the protection officers and the castle’s household staff, Windsor Castle was currently in a flurry of activity that was uncommon for this time of year, since the Queen was usually only at Windsor Castle for a month in March to April—for the so called Easter Court—and for a week in June for Order of the Garter services and the Royal Ascot race.

Seated in a ground floor sitting room with Carter, Hunter, William, and Thorne, Harry asked, “Why are the protection squad performing a security sweep?”

“The castle is usually open to the public this time of year,” William explained. While the rest of the royals hadn’t arrived yet, William was already at Windsor because of the standing plans for Dylan and Thorne to pick him up from Sandringham House. The Queen had seen no reason to change those plans and thus William left with them, with the others to follow later. “Grandmother arranged for it to be closed for my winter break, so a security sweep would have been performed anyway, but they’re doing a much more extensive one right now because Grandmother herself is coming.”

“The Queen is coming?” Carter asked. “You didn’t mention that before, Wills.”

William grinned. “Yeah, sorry about that, but I didn’t know about it myself until breakfast this morning. Long story short, my parents, my grandparents, and my great-grandmother are coming over from Sandringham for a few days because the President of Argentina is coming for a last-minute state dinner and the main boiler at Buckingham Palace is broken and can’t be fixed until next year, so Grandmother is having that state dinner here instead.”

“Are we going to be expected to attend?” Hunter asked.

Shaking his head, Thorne said, “No, none of you will be attending. The Queen-Mother is also not attending the dinner, but she’s coming to help Dylan and I keep an eye on you kids, since I’m pregnant and don’t have quite as much energy as I usually do.”

Thorne wasn’t due until early April, but that still put him almost halfway through his fifth month and thus he’d begun showing. The baby bump was still small enough that it could still easily be passed off as Thorne just gaining a little extra weight, although after another month or so that would no longer be the case as it would be painfully obvious to anyone with eyes what the cause of his weight gain was. Muggles would probably think it was just fat since he was a man, but just to be safe, once he was far enough along, it was the plan that Thorne’s contact with muggles would be severely limited until he gave birth.

The room was silent for a few minutes, until Dylan came in and said, “Okay, I just talked with Jordan, Matthew, Kyle, and a couple of the other protection officers. They’ve finished sweeping the family apartments, so you’re clear to head up there now, Wills. Also, you should know that we’ve had a bit of a change of plans regarding the sleeping arrangements.”

“What do you mean?” William asked.

“Your friends will all be sleeping in your room, Wills,” Dylan answered. “Previously, they would have each had their own rooms, but with the Argentinian delegation arriving and staying for a few days, all the guest quarters are needed to accommodate them and the Queen also wants to keep you and your guests away from them in the hopes that none of you accidentally break the Statute of Secrecy in front of them.”

“So, does that mean that we’ll be camping on the floor of Wills’ bedroom?” Carter asked.

Thorne smiled. “No, we’ll magically expand Wills’ bed to accommodate all of you, although given your closeness on the train, I don’t think that’ll pose any problems.”

William, Carter, Hunter, and Harry all blushed slightly, but remained silent, as they left the sitting room and headed upstairs with Dylan and Thorne.

-o-0-o-

To say that Andromeda was shocked when Kallix showed up at her house to tell her that Lord Arcturus Black had reversed her disownment and that her presence, along with that of her husband and daughter, were required immediately at Arlington Grange would be the understatement of the century. She suspected that in two years when Ryan became Lord Black that her disownment would be reversed, although she’d never actually asked Ryan to do it. Lord Black doing it, however? She honestly thought that it was more likely for the Wizengamot to repeal all of their anti-werewolf laws and for centaurs to actually start using the office set aside for them at the Ministry.

Arriving at the Black ancestral home for the first time in over a decade, Andromeda smiled. While she’d always thought that some of the décor was gruesome, she’d still grown up in the house and thus it held some very happy memories for her that she would always cherish. Her husband and daughter, however, had never set foot inside Arlington and they were looking around with looks of horror on their faces as they looked at some of the tapestries and frescoes.

“Mum, I’m going to have nightmares looking at all this,” Tonks said.

Ted nodded. “Yeah, it’s definitely enough to trigger a Dreamless Sleep addiction.”

Before Andromeda could say anything, Kallix snapped his fingers and Apparated them all upstairs to the master bedroom, where they found Teryn Arcturus Black himself, looking very pale and weak, lying in his bed. Ryan was standing next to the bed, while Teryn Caractacus Burke and a pair of conjoined twin boys that Andromeda was pretty sure were his sons were sitting in front of the fireplace on one end of the room. Also present were Cornelius Fudge, Arl Ignatius Prewett and Arlessa Lucretia Prewett, Cassiopeia Black, and Callidora Black Longbottom.

“What are they doing here?” Cassiopeia asked. “Blood traitor and muggleborn filth!”

“Cassiopeia, shut up!” Arcturus exclaimed, as he coughed violently. “I’ve reversed Andromeda’s disownment and lifted the ban for her and her family. If you don’t like it, I suggest you go…” coughing again, he said, “Orion, finish,” and more coughing, “that statement.”

“Soak your head in a barrel of dragon dung,” Orion finished.

Tonks laughed, while Andromeda, Ted, and Ignatius grinned. Maximus and Octavius were also grinning, but under the hard look from their father were holding in their laughter.

“How dare you say that to me, Orion,” Cassiopeia practically shrieked. “Apologize now!”

Finishing his coughing streak, Arcturus said, “He’ll do nothing of the sort, Cassiopeia, as I told him to finish my statement.” Looking at Orion, he said, “It’s not precisely how I would have said it, but the sentiment remains and that is if you don’t like it, I don’t care. While I still have breath in my body, I am still Lord-Teryn Black and head of this family, so what I say goes, Cassiopeia.”

“May I ask why exactly we’re here?” asked Cornelius Fudge.

“All will be revealed soon, Minister,” Orion said. “However, before we get into that, we’re waiting on a few last people. Namely Arl and Arlessa Prewett’s son and daughter-in-law, and Bann and Banness Malfoy.”

Arcturus nodded as he looked at the clock on the fireplace mantle and said, “But if they’re not here in the next five minutes, we’re starting without them.”

“Starting what without them?” Andromeda asked. “Orion, what’s going on?”

Before Orion could answer his aunt and adoptive mother’s question, there were several pops as the last four remaining guests they’d been waiting for arrived in the room, Kallix bringing Jonathan and Philomena Prewett, while the Malfoy elf Dobby brought his master and mistress.

“Dromeda?” Narcissa asked, surprised to see her sister.

“Reunions can wait until after I’m dead,” Arcturus said. “Orion, explain.”

“You’re all here for my wedding,” Orion said, as he quickly explained about the contract, the penalty fee, and the agreement with Teryn Burke that he would marry both Maximus and Octavius to avoid the Black family going bankrupt.

“Ryan, you don’t have to do this,” Andromeda said. “You’re only thirteen. Surely there’s other members of the Black family who could marry Maximus and Octavius to satisfy the contract.”

Shaking his head, “No, Mum, unfortunately that won’t work. Maximus and Octavius are gay, so other than Arcturus, who will be dead soon and Sirius, who’s in prison, I’m the only suitable male Black left. Besides the contract clearly states that it must be the Black heir and that’s me.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Ted said, “but as the heads of the families involved, can’t Lord Black and Lord Burke agree to make changes to the contract?”

Caractacus shook his head. “In modern contracts that’s possible, but this contract was drawn up over five-hundred years ago in an age when all the contract’s stipulations became permanent and unbreakable once it was signed.”

“So you’re getting two husbands, Ry?” Tonks asked, as she looked over at Maximus and Octavius and grinned, before she said, “At least they’re easy on the eyes.”

“Enough!” Arcturus said. “It’s taking every last bit of my magic for me to stay alive right now so let’s get this done so that I can die in peace and preferably before I drain my core to the point of being a bloody squib. Minister, perform the wedding and make it as quick as you possibly can.”

Fudge nodded, as he motioned for Ryan, Maximus, and Octavius to stand in front of him. “Face each other and join your wand hands.” This proved to be slightly difficult as it took a moment to figure out how Maximus and Octavius could both hold Ryan’s wand hand, but they managed. Fudge, meanwhile, looked at the piece of paper that Ryan had handed him and saw that it was Ryan’s and his new husband’s full names.

“Do you Orion Cygnus Black take Maximus Caractacus Burke and Octavius Balthazar Burke as your lawfully wedded husbands, in sickness, health, yadda, yadda, until death do you part?” Fudge asked, saying ‘yadda, yadda’ after he’d seen Arcturus motioning for him to speed it up.

“I do.”

“Maximus Caractacus Burke and Octavius Balthazar Burke do you take Orion Cygnus Black as your lawfully wedded husband, yadda, yadda, until death do you part?”

“I do,” they both said in unison.

“Then by my authority as Minister for Magic, I now pronounce you married, so mote it be. You may seal your unions with a kiss.” As Ryan hadn’t hit his final growth spurt yet, he had to stand on his tiptoes and both Maximus and Octavius had to lean down in order for them to kiss each other, but once they did, Fudge said, “It is my great pleasure to present to you Serah Orion Black and his husbands, Serah-Consort Maximus Black and Serah-Consort Octavius Black.”

“Yes, yes, good, now let’s sign that thrice-damned contract,” Arcturus said, as he took the quill from Kallix and signed his name on the appropriate line. Caractacus signed it and then shook hands with Arcturus.

“Well, the contract has been fulfilled,” Caractacus said.

Arcturus nodded. “And not a moment too soon,” before he gasped slightly and then let out a long breath before he slumped against his pillows, as his eyes closed for the final time.

-o-0-o-

After Lord Arcturus Black’s death, Ryan found himself accepting both condolences and congratulations. It was definitely a strange experience, made perhaps all the more strange by the presence of his new husbands standing behind him, each resting one of their hands on his shoulders, while they also shook hands with the people offering their condolences and congratulations. If Maximus and Octavius were at all upset that as Ryan’s husbands they would also have to go into mourning for three months and wear nothing but black, they didn’t say anything.

Andromeda was the last person in the impromptu receiving line and after shaking hands with Maximus and Octavius, she shook hands with Ryan and said, “Congratulations, Lord-Teryn Black.”

“He’s not Teryn yet,” Cassiopeia said. “He’s only thirteen. He can’t claim that title until he’s fifteen.”

Andromeda smiled. “Well, Aunt Cassiopeia, given your earlier comments about me and my family, I take great pleasure in informing you that you’re wrong. As the Ministry’s Chief Solicitor, I can tell you that while it’s true the law says he can’t claim his title until he’s fifteen, there is a clause to that law which states that if he’s married before the death of the previous holder of the title, he can inherit immediately. So that means Orion is now officially Lord-Teryn Black and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black.”

Upon hearing this, Kallix walked over to the bed and slid the Black family lord’s ring off of Arcturus Black’s finger, before holding it out to Ryan and saying, “Your ring, master.”

“You’re sure about this?” Ryan asked, more than a little nervous because he knew the ring would shock him if he tried to put it on if he wasn’t Lord Black yet.

“Quite certain, Ryan,” Andromeda said.

Trusting Andromeda, Ryan took the ring from Kallix and slid it onto his ring finger, where it didn’t shock him, but did readjust to fit his finger. Smiling at her adoptive son, she said, “Now, I suppose we do have to work out exactly who is who in terms of your new husbands, Ryan. As you may know, only one of them can hold the title of Teryn-Consort Black, while the other would gain the next highest title and thus be Seteryn-Consort Black.”

“Well, that’s usually based on marriage order,” Lucius pointed out. “Although in this case they both married him at the same time.”

“Yes,” Caractacus agreed. “May I suggest that we then go with birth order? Maximus is older by a minute.”

Turning to his new husbands, Ryan grinned as he asked, “Any objections to that?”

Maximus and Octavius looked at each other, before Octavius shook his head and said, “No, not really. While I admit I’m occasionally frustrated by Max holding it over my head that he’s a minute older, I still can’t exactly complain about being a Seteryn-Consort. As my father’s third-born-son, it’s a much higher title than I ever expected to hold, especially considering my half-brother Linnaeus had already made Max and I uncles before we were even born. So my nephew Dominick would inherit our father’s title even before Max would.”

Maximus grinned. “Indeed, and Tavi had very little chance of ever inheriting the title, because even if Linnaeus and Dominick died and I inherited, it’s not likely he’d ever hold the title since we’re so close and all. Assuming I had no children, he might be able to hold it for a few minutes to an hour after my death, before death claimed him too.”

“Max, please shut up,” Octavius said as he visibly shuddered. “I can do without that mental image, thank you.” Octavius was extremely close to Maximus and not just because of their physical connection. Spending every second of every day for the last eighteen years together, they’d developed an extremely strong emotional bond which did not make the idea of one of them being a corpse while the other was still alive something that Octavius enjoyed thinking about.

“Well now that that’s taken care of,” Tonks said with a grin, “I think we should let the newlyweds retire to their bedroom. It is their wedding night after all and they have marriages to consummate. Have fun, brother, dear.”

Ryan looked at his sister with wide eyes, which just made her laugh.

“Arcturus just died, for pity sake” Cassiopeia said.

“That doesn’t matter,” Narcissa said. “The law is the law and it does say that marriages need to be consummated within twenty-four hours in order to be valid. And I’m sure there’s a clause somewhere in that contract that requires consummation, or the penalty can be claimed.”

“True enough,” Callidora said. “Besides, it’s not like anyone but the three of them are going to be in the room. Mourning or not, they need to consummate their marriages and since it won’t be happening in public in front of witnesses, it doesn’t break any of the rules regarding their mourning period.”

Andromeda grinned, “Yes, run along now, boys.”

“Et tu, Mum?” Ryan asked.

Andromeda laughed, as Ted said, “Well, son, for better or worse, you’re a married man now, which means you have to do what married people do.”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” Ryan said. “Kallix, make sure everything is on schedule for Arcturus’s funeral service tomorrow.” The house-elf nodded, at which point Ryan began walking towards the door, as he said, “Max, Tavi, let’s go.”

Leaving the room and the sniggering adults behind, Ryan and his new husbands—and boy was that gonna take some getting used to—made their way down the hall to the second largest bedroom in the house, which was reserved for the heir. Even though Ryan was now Lord Black, tradition wouldn’t see him moving into the master bedroom at Arlington until a week after Arcturus’s funeral.

Arriving in the room, Ryan walked straight over to his desk, as he said over his shoulder, “I’ve just got to write a note to a friend of mine and send it.”

“Okay,” Maximus said, as he and Octavius moved over to the bed and sat down, their eyes never leaving their new husband as he bent over the desk, quill in hand, as he wrote his note. Whispering to his brother, Maximus said, “Too bad those robes don’t really show off his arse very well.”

Octavius rolled his eyes. “You’re so impatient, Max. We’ll be seeing the goods soon enough.”

Finishing his note, Ryan folded it up and gave it to his eagle owl. “Take this to Wills. He should be at Windsor Castle by now.”

The owl nodded his head, as Ryan opened the window, and it flew out. Watching the owl fly away for a moment, Ryan took a deep breath before he closed the window and turned to the two men sitting on the bed. “So,” but he stopped there.

“Who’s Wills?” Octavius asked.

“He’s a friend from school,” Ryan asked. “He’s a first year muggleborn. Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, actually.”

Maximus nodded. “I thought I’d heard something about the Queen’s grandson going to Hogwarts.”

“Yeah, he’s a Gryffindor,” Ryan said. “He invited me to spend some time with him at Windsor Castle over the break, so now that Arcturus is dead and I’m actually allowed to leave Arlington, I figured I’d write him and ask if it was a good time for me to drop in for a few hours.”

“What you’re gonna abandon us on our wedding day?” Octavius asked.

“No, I asked in the note if I could bring two guests,” Ryan said. “Meaning the two of you, although I didn’t say that I was married because I rather think that kind of news is better shared in person.”

Octavius nodded. “Okay, and just so you know I was only kidding about the abandoning thing.”

“Ah, okay.”

“So, Ryan, if you’re done with your note, why are you still way over there?” Maximus asked. “I’m assuming it’s gonna take a while for your owl to fly to you friend’s castle and back. Where is it?”

“The town of Windsor in Berkshire, England,” Ryan answered. “It’s just over twenty-three miles west of London.”

Octavius said, “Well, we’ve probably got at least two hours then before your owl gets back.” And since Ryan hadn’t moved yet, Octavius added, “We don’t bite, so, you could come closer, you know.”

Maximus nodded and hoping to break the obvious tension with a bit of levity, he said, “Yeah, and unless you’ve got a real monster hiding under your robes it’s gonna be kind of hard for any consummation to occur when we’re ten feet apart.”

Ryan flushed crimson at this comment as he felt himself go slightly week in the knees, prompting him to grab onto the back of his desk chair to steady himself.

“You okay there, Ry?” Octavius asked, as even from a distance he could see Ryan’s knuckles turning white as he gripped the chair back.

“Yeah, just crazy nervous,” Ryan admitted. “I’m a virgin, after all, and well, there’s only one of me and two of you and I just don’t know how I can possibly satisfy you both.”

Looking at each other for a moment, Maximus and Octavius nodded before they stood up and walked over to Ryan, who soon found himself wrapped in Maximus’s arms as Octavius reached over and massaged his shoulders. Resting his chin against the top of Ryan’s head, Maximus said, “It’s okay, Ryan, we’ve got you. I know this isn’t exactly ideal, as this whole marriage thing has undoubtedly caught all three of us by surprise. But what’s done is done, so I say now we just need to make the best of it.”

Octavius nodded and said, “Max is right, Ry. The three of us? We’re in this together. It’s also perfectly natural for you to be nervous, as I can tell you that Max and I were nervous before our first times, too.”

“Really?” Ryan asked, as he tilted his head back so that he could look his new husbands in the eyes.

Maximus smiled. “Yes, really. Honestly, in a way this is going to be quite similar to Tavi’s and my first time, as we both lost it to the same guy—a classmate of ours at Hogwarts—and obviously he couldn’t take both Tavi’s and my virginity at the same time. So on top of the nerves, it was also kind of awkward—I think you can guess why.”

“Yeah, I think I can too,” Ryan said with a grin, as he rested his head against Maximus’s chest and just enjoyed the feeling of his arms around him, as Octavius continued to massage his shoulders.

After a few minutes, Octavius said, “Well, we should probably get this done. I don’t mean to rush you, Ryan, but I know my father. He will use the spell to check for consummation and if it comes back negative, he won’t hesitate to bankrupt your family, regardless of what he said about not wanting to make enemies of the remaining Blacks.”

Octavius hadn’t been present for that part of the conversation, but his father had brought him and Maximus up to speed on what was said before they’d arrived while they were waiting for the various guests to arrive. Neither Octavius nor Maximus believed for a second that their father actually cared about making enemies, especially because they knew that if the Burke family was the wealthiest noble house in Wizarding Britain, plenty of the other nobles would rather suck up to them than make enemies of them.

Maximus nodded. “Yeah and even though you’re currently Lord Black, that’s only because you married us before Arcturus Black’s death. But if the marriages are declared invalid because we didn’t consummate them, then you’ll probably be stripped of the title until you’re fifteen, which means the contract will revert to an unfulfilled state and your family will go bankrupt because the contract will expire before you could sign it yourself.”

Ryan nodded before he asked, “Um, what about birth control? I wasn’t exactly expecting to get married today let alone have sex so I’m not taking the potion or using the spell and I know that both of them don’t kick in instantly. Because I’m so not ready for children.”

“Well then I guess it’s a good thing that Max and I are both using the potion and spell for that very reason. So as long as Max and I don’t penetrate you, we shouldn’t have to worry about any unwanted pregnancies. That does however mean you’ve got twice the work, since you can’t top one of us and then bottom for the other in order to make both marriages count as being consummated.”

“Great,” Ryan said, knowing that while it was true that the contract had only called for one marriage, in order to be fulfilled, it not only had to be signed by Caractacus and Arcturus, but the names of the Black and Burke getting married had to be entered. And unfortunately, as soon as Octavius’s name was added to the contract in addition to Maximus’s, the contract’s magic would require both marriages be consummated in order for the contract to remain fulfilled.

“Hey, look at the bright side, Ry,” Maximus said. “You’re a teenager, so I doubt you’ll have trouble getting it up twice in the same day.”

Ryan laughed. “Yeah that definitely won’t be a problem.”

-o-0-o-

Back at Windsor Castle, William knew the moment that the rest of his family arrived, because he could hear his grandmother’s dogs yapping.

“What is that racket?” Harry asked.

“My grandmother’s dogs,” William answered. “I’ve never been a big fan of the corgis or the dorgis, for that matter.”

“What are dorgis?” Hunter asked, as he’d heard of corgis, but he’d never in his life heard of a breed of dog called a dorgi.

William shook his head. “My grandmother’s sister Margaret has daschunds and some of grandmother’s corgis had puppies with them, resulting in dorgis.”

“Ah, okay,” Carter said, as he looked down at his Exploding Snap cards. “It’s your turn, Wills.”

“Yeah,” Wills said, as he took his turn, followed by Harry, and then Hunter.

When it was Carter’s turn, he grinned as he laid down his hand and said, “Snap,” which made Harry’s, Hunter, and William’s cards explode. Of course, Exploding Snap decks were magically charmed so that when they exploded, they magically reappeared a few minutes later good as new, so the other’s cards weren’t permanently lost, just temporarily disintegrated.

The four boys were in the midst of another game of Exploding Snap when the bedroom door opened and Diana walked in with Henry.

“Wills!” Henry said, as he almost bounced over to his older brother, clearly happy to see him, even though it had only been a few hours since they’d last seen each other.

“Hey Harry,” William said to his brother, prompting a confused look from Harry. Turning to his school friends, William said, “Harry, Carter, Hunter, you’ve already met my mum.” The three of them nodded, since Harry had meet Diana when she visited Hogwarts following the detention incident and Carter and Hunter had met her on the first day of school when they accompanied their fathers to Buckingham Palace to collect William and take him to King’s Cross. “Well, this little hellion is my brother, Henry. Although we more often than not call him Harry.”

Normally, Harry, Carter, and Hunter would have been expected to stand up as per protocol when Diana entered the room, seeing as she was the Princess of Wales, however, William had already relayed to his friends that his mum had said that none of them had to do that when they were in private among just the family.

“Harry, I’m going to start calling you Henry, because otherwise this is going to get confusing,” William said to his brother. “These are my friends,” as he pointed at each of them, “Carter Wells, Hunter Wells, and Harry Potter.”

“Hi!” Henry exclaimed, as he shook hands with each of them. “What are you doing?” Looking around the room a bit, he then added, “Wills, why is your bed so big and where did that door come from?”

“I was just about to ask the same thing,” Diana said before William could answer.

“We’re playing a wizarding card game called Exploding Snap,” Carter explained. “We’re in the middle of a game, but we can deal you into the next one if you want.”

“Okay,” Henry said, clearly excited about playing a wizarding game.

After explaining about the bed, Hunter then said, “As for the door, when the bed was expanded Wills’ wardrobe had to be moved to make room and we found that door behind it.”

“Since the wardrobe is taller and wider than the door,” William added, “I never knew it was there.”

“Where does it lead?” Diana asked.

“No clue,” Harry answered. “We wanted to explore when it was first found, but Dylan and Thorne wouldn’t let us until they’d done a security sweep to make sure it was safe.”

“I tried to argue that it had to be safe,” William said, “because I couldn’t see how any room connected to my bedroom wouldn’t be, but they argued that this castle is centuries old and this room apparently doesn’t appear on any of the blueprints they’ve seen, so they insisted on checking it out before letting any of us inside.”

Diana nodded, clearly reassured by Dylan and Thorne’s thoroughness, but said nothing as Carter said, “They went down to the guard room to tell the other guards about it and said we’d probably have to move to another room while they conduct the sweep, just to be safe, but said we could all stay here until they were ready to do it. Dylan warded the door to make sure we stayed out.”

“Bummer,” Henry said with a sad shake of his head, although his expression almost immediately brightened when he heard a tapping noise and looked up towards one of the windows and saw an owl sitting there. “Wills, look! Owl post.”

Looking at the window, William saw the regal looking eagle owl sitting on the windowsill tapping it’s beak on the window. He almost immediately recognized it as Ryan’s personal owl, Achilles. Standing up, he opened the window and held out his arm, as Achilles flew into the room and perched on it, as William relieved him of the letter he was carrying. Petting the bird’s plumage, William asked, “Did Ryan ask you to stay for a response?”

The owl nodded its head.

“It can understand you?” Henry asked, his eyes wide as he looked at the owl perched on his brother’s arm.

Harry grinned and said, “Yeah, post owls are very intelligent and understand human speech. They can’t talk back, but they still find a way to communicate. My own owl, a snowy named Hedwig, can say quite a bit for a creature that can’t speak. Whether it be through nodding, nipping my fingers, affectionately or not if she’s not pleased with me, or just by looks alone.”

Henry was reaching out a hand to touch the owl, which prompted Diana to say, “Henry, be careful.”

“Achilles, this is my brother Henry,” William said to the owl. “Would you mind if he strokes you?”

Achilles peered at Henry for a moment before nodding to indicate that he’d be okay with it, prompting William to say, “He says it’s okay, but be gentle, Henry. Just as if you were petting one of grandmother’s dogs, because Achilles will bite if you hurt him and his beak hurts more than a dog bite.”

Henry nodded, before he reached out and very gently stroked the bird’s plumage as he’d seen William doing a moment earlier. The owl turned its head and nuzzled Henry’s hand a bit and hooted softly, bringing a smile to everyone’s faces. After a few more minutes, William shook his arm a bit and Achilles flew over to sit on the back of a nearby chair, as William opened the note.

Wills,

Lord Black died twenty minutes ago, so I’m now officially in mourning. The funeral is tomorrow at Arlington Grange, but the adults here said that I could come over to see you today for a few hours. I’ve got a lot to tell you and the others. You should prepare for a shock. Oh and can I bring two guests with me when I come over?

Ryan

Reading the note and then showing it to everyone else, Diana was the first to speak, as she asked, “I take it Ryan is a friend of yours from school?”

“Yeah, Orion Black, although we all call him Ryan,” Carter explained. “His ninety-year-old cousin Arcturus is the Lord Black he mentions. They weren’t very close, but Ryan’s the Black heir so he had to be at Lord Black’s bedside when he died.”

Diana nodded, as Hunter added, “As the heir, he’s now expected to mourn for three months, during which he has to wear all black and can’t be seen to be having any fun in public.”

“That sucks,” Henry said.

“While it’s a longer mourning period then we would practice,” Diana said, “There are similar plans already in place for your great-grandmother, Wills, Henry. As its only right to show how sad you are when a member of your family dies, even if you’re not close to them.”

William and Henry nodded. Neither one of them liked to think about their great-grandmother dying, but they had both been told to prepare for it, because she was ninety-one and couldn’t possibly live forever.

“I am curious who these guests he wants to bring with him are though,” William said after a moment. “As far as I know he’s the only member of the family under the age of thirty. The rest of the family is very old and there’s not many of them left, especially now with Lord Black dying.”

“Maybe with Lord Black passing on some of his distant cousins are visiting?” Diana asked.

Carter nodded. “It’s possible. The way the noble families intermarry, almost all of them are related somehow. I just hope he doesn’t want to bring his cousin Draco here.”

Shaking his head, Hunter said, “I doubt Ryan wants to bring Draco, because from what I’ve seen at school they’re not all that close.”

“So, what should I say, Mum?” William asked. “Can Ryan bring his two guests?”

Diana was silent for a moment, before she nodded and said, “I don’t see why not.”

William nodded and grabbing a ballpoint pen from his desk, he wrote a quick response on Ryan’s note saying it was okay, before sending Achilles off with it.


Seconds after William closed the window, Dylan, Jordan, Matthew, and Kyle entered the room, and Dylan said, “Good morning, Your Highness,” to Diana, who nodded at him. “Okay, we’re here to do the security sweep on that mysterious room. Since we have no idea what’s behind that door, all of you have to go someplace else until we give the all-clear.”

Diana nodded and said, “Okay, boys, you heard Dylan, come with me. Wills, Henry, I know you’ve already seen most of the castle, but your friends haven’t, but why don’t we show them around a little? Although we’ll have to be careful not to get in the way in any of the rooms that are being prepared for the state dinner.”

William, Carter, Hunter, and Harry looked a bit upset that they had to abandon their game without finishing it and Diana clearly saw the looks on their faces as she added, “You can bring the cards with you.”

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text




Characters Pictured on the Cover
Left to Right: Carter Wells, Charlie Weasley, Jean-Luc Flamel, Harry Potter, Cedric Diggory, Prince William, and Hunter Wells

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Previously in ‘A Windsor at Hogwarts’…

-o-0-o-

While sitting at the bedside of his dying cousin, Lord Arcturus Black, Orion gets the shock of his life when he finds out that a century’s old contract exists between the Black and Burke families which says that the Black heir must marry a member of the Burke family before the expiration of the contract or pay a substantial penalty. Unfortunately this penalty, due to four-hundred years’ worth of compounding interest, is now more than the Blacks possess in their vaults and is due to expire before Orion is due to become Lord Black when he turns 15, meaning he must fulfill the contract before Lord Black dies to prevent the complete financial ruination of the Black family. Since Lord Black’s healers don’t suspect he’ll live to see the New Year, arrangements are made with Lord Caractacus Burke for Orion to get married to Lord Burke’s conjoined twin sons, Maximus and Octavius.

Meanwhile, at Windsor Castle, William talks with his friends and they all find out that due to the last minute state dinner with the Argentinian President, not only are Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip coming to Windsor Castle, but so are William’s parents and his great-grandmother. Also due to concerns about the children, accidentally or otherwise, breaking the Statute of Secrecy in front of the Argentinian delegation, it’s decided that William’s bed will be magically expanded so that he can share it with Carter, Hunter, and Harry. Of course, magically expanding the bed requires some furniture to be moved around in William’s bedroom and this leads to the discovery of a previously unseen door hidden behind his wardrobe.

-o-0-o-

Chapter Nine, Part Two:
Winter Break

-o-0-o-

Just over an hour and a half later, a rather sweaty Orion Black was in bed trying to catch his breath after his second orgasm in the last hour. He’d gotten off twice in the same day before—and sometimes more than that—but never within the span of only a single hour. Of course, those other times had also only involved his hand as this was the first time that he’d ever gotten off with another person in bed with him. Let alone two other people.

“You okay, Ry?”

“Yeah Tavi, I think I’ll be okay,” Orion said, as he pulled himself out of Octavius and pressed a quick kiss to his lips. “It was just pretty intense coming twice within such a short period of time.”

“Well, we’ll make sure to get you on birth control,” Maximus said as he reached over and massaged Ryan’s left arm. “That way you won’t have to do all the work in the future.”

“Unless of course you enjoy it,” Octavius said.

Orion smiled. “I did enjoy it, but it was tiring at the same time. Not saying I wouldn’t like to do it again sometime, but I’ll still start taking birth control because I’m so not ready for kids yet. I think I’d really like to finish up at Hogwarts before becoming a father.”

“Fine by me,” Maximus agreed. “I’m not ready for parenthood yet, either.”

“Yes same here,” Octavius chimed in.

Moving over a bit so that he was lying halfway on top of both of his husbands, which left him straddling their shared leg, Orion laid his forehead against the pillow. “You’re both okay, right? Neither of you need the loo?”

“Nope.”

“No I’m okay,” Octavius answered. “Why?”

“Just thought I’d ask, in case either of you needed me to move,” Orion answered. “Since you don’t, I’m going to take a nap, because I’m rather tired right now.”

“A nap sounds good,” Maximus said.

“And you’re sure you don’t mind me lying on top of you?” Orion asked.

Octavius shook his head. “No, you’re fine just where you are. In truth, I think you lying where you are is perfect, because that way both of us can easily cuddle with you. Which we couldn’t do if you were actually lying on the bed next to one of us.”

“Sounds good to me then,” Orion said with a yawn. “Could you pull the sheets up? My bum is getting cold.”

Maximus grinned. “Well, we can’t have that,” as he and his brother pulled the sheets upward, covering the three of them. It wasn’t long afterward that all three drifted off to dreamland.

-o-0-o-

Roughly two hours later, William and his friends sat down in one of the sitting rooms in the family apartments of the castle. As Diana had suggested, William gave his friends a tour, although they did their best to stay clear of the rooms that were currently being prepped for the state dinner, as William knew better than to get in their way. It was just William, Harry, Carter, and Hunter now as Diana had insisted that Henry take a nap, which he hadn’t wanted to do, but hadn’t managed to worm his way out of. Especially after Elizabeth backed up Diana on it being a good idea, as Henry was clearly tired after he’d tagged along on the tour, despite his objections to the contrary.

“They’re certainly taking a long time to check out that room behind the wardrobe,” Carter commented, as he sat down on the sofa next to Hunter.

William nodded. “True, but we don’t have any idea what’s in that room. In truth we don’t even know if it is a room.”

“If it’s not a room then what could it be?” Hunter asked.

“Well, it could be just about anything,” William answered. “We know that it’s clearly magical in nature since it doesn’t show up on the blueprints. And we checked the room next to mine and there is no door that corresponds to it on that side of the wall, so we know it’s not simply a forgotten connecting door between the two rooms.”

“True,” Carter said. “As I doubt the door would have been plastered over on one side and not on the other.”

Before anyone else could say anything, one of the guards entered the room, bowed to William, and then said, “Excuse me, Your Highness, but there’s an Orion Black here to see you, accompanied by a Maximus and Octavius Black. Did you wish to see them?”

“Yes, send them in.”

The guard nodded and left, as Harry asked, “Maximus and Octavius? I wonder who they are.”

“I’d assume maybe some of Ryan’s cousins?” William asked.

Hunter looked thoughtful at this, before saying, “Maximus and Octavius don’t sound like typical Black names though as it’s something of a tradition of theirs going back several generations now to name their children after stars and constellations.”

Carter nodded. “Yeah, I can’t say that I recall any stars called Maximus or Octavius.”

“Well, I guess we’ll find out who they are when they get here,” Harry said, prompting the others to nod in agreement.

It took about five minutes, but soon Orion, dressed in all black, was entering the room, although he was alone with nobody else in sight. “Hey guys,” he said with a smile.

“Hey Ry,” William said. “I thought the guard said you were with two other people?”

Orion nodded. “Yeah, I asked them to wait out in the hall for a few minutes, as I thought some explanation was in order before you met them.”

“Okay,” Carter said, drawing out the word, as it was clear that he, like Hunter, William, and Harry were confused about what Orion could possibly think he needed to explain to them.

“Well, first off, as I’m sure you can guess from my clothes and the fact that I’m here, Arcturus is dead,” Orion said. “He died earlier this afternoon.”

“You have my condolences,” William said.

“Thank you,” Orion acknowledged. “At any rate, I got a few shocks before he died. Such as the fact that immediately upon his death, I became the new Lord-Teryn Black.”

Everyone looked confused at this, as Harry asked, “I thought you couldn’t inherit a magical lordship until you were fifteen?”

“That is normally the case,” Orion agreed. “However, that’s another big thing I needed to explain. You see apparently there’s a clause in the law that states that an heir who hasn’t yet achieved the age of fifteen can inherit immediately upon the death of the previous lord, if they’re married when said lord dies.”

“Wait, married?” William asked, clearly shocked. “Ryan, are you saying that you’re married?”

“Yes, I am,” Orion answered, at which point he told his friends about the contract and how he had to get married before Arcturus died if he didn’t want the Blacks to go completely bankrupt.

“Wow,” Harry said, after a moment. “So I assume that this Maximus or Octavius is your new husband… which one is it?”

“Actually, I’m married to both of them.”

“Wait, what?” William asked. “Both of them? How can you be married to both of them?”

Harry looked equally confused as William did at this, although Carter and Hunter didn’t, but then again, they’d both been raised in the Wizarding World. Seeing the confusion on his friends’ faces, Hunter said, “Polygamy, or having more than one husband or wife, is legal in Wizarding Britain.”

Carter nodded and said, “It’s not really practiced much these days, but the law actually says that you can marry up to six people at once.”

William and Harry shared a look at this bit of information before they both started laughing. After a moment however, once they’d noticed that the other three weren’t joining in, William asked, in a hesitant voice, “That was a joke, right?”

Shaking his head in a negative gesture, Orion said, “No, it wasn’t a joke. The Marriage Law of 564, signed by King Arthur Pendragon I and made permanent and unchangeable until the end of time by the combined magic of King Arthur and his six consorts does make it legal for anyone in Wizarding Britain to marry up to a maximum of six people.”

“As I said, it’s not really practiced much these days,” Carter said. “But it’s still legal.”

Hunter looked thoughtful as he said, “I want to say that I read somewhere that the six person limit isn’t the only thing that law did, but for the life me I can’t remember what else.”

Orion nodded. “You’re right, it’s not the only thing related to marriage that the law covers. It also states who can marry whom. For example, it specifically states that marriages between witches or wizards to a select group of magical creatures are legal. I don’t remember all of them, but I know that trolls are on the list.”

Thinking back to the mountain troll at Halloween, William grimaced as he asked, “Why in Merlin’s name would anyone want to marry a troll?”

Shaking his head, Orion said, “I really don’t know, although in truth it has happened before. I’m sure you’ve heard at least one or two people mentioning that Marcus Flint has troll blood?” The others nodded. “Well, he actually does, although it’s not something he’s likely to admit. It’s pretty distant though I think, but with most magical creature blood, the effects of it can last for several generations. That’s actually why Professor Flitwick is so short, because he actually has a goblin ancestor.”

“Huh, interesting,” Harry said, as William nodded.

“Of course, magical creature marriage isn’t the only thing the law covers,” Orion revealed. “As it also says which of your relatives you can legally marry.”

“Relatives? Why would anyone want to marry their family members?” Harry asked.

Orion shrugged. “I honestly don’t know, but as a Black I can tell you that there’s been quite a bit of inbreeding within the family. My mother’s aunt, Walburga Black, married her second cousin, Orion Black, for example. And yes, I was named after him. Of course, the law doesn’t actually just cover cousin marriage, but also marriages to your aunts, uncles, and siblings. The only marriages that are illegal are any that have the word parent or child in the relationship name.”

William’s eyes looked about ready to pop out of his head, as he said, “So you’re saying you can’t marry your mother, father, or grandparents, but you can marry your brother or sister?” Grimacing, he added, “Yuck! I’m so not marrying Harry!” And looking over at Harry, he said, “My brother Harry.”

Orion grinned. “Yeah, I know, it does seem rather gross to me too, but then King Arthur was married to six people, including his half-sister, Morgana Le Fey, so I guess that’s why the law allows for sibling marriage.”

Shaking his head, Orion added, “At any rate, Maximus and Octavius are Lord Burke’s second and third-born sons and he wanted me to marry both of them because,” Orion blushed bright red at this point, “marrying one of them would mean sharing a bed with both of them, so he figured I should just marry both of them and be done with it.”

“Huh?” Harry asked, the confusion clear on his face. “Why would you have to share a bed with both of them if you married only one of them?”

“Because they’re conjoined twins, also sometimes called Siamese twins,” Orion answered. Noticing the uncomprehending looks on William’s and Harry’s faces, which probably wasn’t that surprising considering that they’d probably never met or seen any such twins in their lives, he added, “which means that they’re physically connected to each other. In their case, they share a liver and a leg.”

After a moment, William said, “I think I read about that somewhere, come to think of it. But why weren’t they separated? There’s operations for that I think.”

“In the muggle world, yes there is,” Hunter said. “But conjoined twins in the wizarding world are almost never separated.”

“Why?” William asked.

“Because they share a magical core,” Carter answered. “And separating them almost guarantees that they’d lose all of their magic in the process. So very few magical parents are willing to separate any conjoined children they have.”

Orion nodded. “There’s probably been cases where muggleborn conjoined twins whose names appeared on the Hogwarts rolls when they were born, ended up not attending Hogwarts because their parents had them separated. Makes you wonder how some of them might react if they found out that they were born with magic, but lost it.”

“Yeah, that would suck,” Hunter said. “Especially if they’re really into muggle fantasy novels and then found out that they could have basically entered the fantasy world that they love reading about if not for their parents choosing to cut them apart.”

“True,” Orion said, as he walked over to the door, stuck his head out, and said, “You can come in now, guys.” Not long after this Maximus and Octavius entered the room, and Orion said, “Meet my husbands, the Lord-Teryn-Consort Maximus Black and the Lord-Seteryn-Consort Octavius Black.”

Maximus and Octavius bowed to William, before they said in unison, “Hello,” as they waved to the others, who all sat there with wide eyes for several moments. Long enough for Octavius to say, “Ry, I think we may have broken your friends.”

Despite their shock, this comment sent William, Harry, Carter, and Hunter into a fit of giggles, which only had Octavius thinking they might be broken even more. After a few minutes, the four giggling boys managed to pull themselves together, as William said, “It’s nice to meet you both.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Maximus said, adding, “Your Highness,” as an afterthought.

“Please just call me Wills,” William said. “All my friends do and you’re both married to one of my friends, so I imagine I’ll be seeing a lot of you from now on. We might as well try to become friends, too.”

“The nickname only applies in private settings, of course,” Orion said.

“Yeah, what Ry said,” William said. “Sorry, I don’t really like a lot of the protocol so I generally try to ignore it, but in many cases I can’t. So in public it’s Your Highness the first time and sir after that, but technically I suppose that only really applies to the muggle world, as I doubt anyone in the wizarding world would complain.”

Maximus nodded and said. “Understood, Wills. All of you can call me Max.”

“And I’m Tavi,” Octavius added with a grin. “We rarely use our full names, unless it’s at like some formal noble’s event. Not that we go to those very often, as it’s usually our elder brother Linnaeus and his son Dominick that get stuck going to those things with our father.”

“Well, we’re going to have to start going to them now, bro,” Maximus pointed out. “We’re married to Lord Black now, after all.”

Orion and Octavius both groaned at this, as Octavius realized that his brother was right. Orion, meanwhile, realized that he was Lord Black now and that carried with it a bunch of duties and responsibilities that he didn’t really want to think about. He hadn’t really thought much about it until Maximus called him Lord Black, but then immediately after the wedding his mind was more focused on the fact that he was married now, losing his virginity, and consummating two marriages.

“What was that title you used for Tavi earlier?” Harry asked. “Seteryn?”

“It’s the wizarding equivalent of a muggle Marquis,” Orion answered. “There can only be one Teryn-Consort Black, so, since Max was magically determined to be the older twin, he got that honor. Tavi then took the title of Seteryn-Consort as it’s the next highest title after Teryn.”

“Both Max and Tavi get to use the style of His Grace,” Carter added. “As that’s the proper style for a Teryn and their spouses, but each spouse after the first one takes the next highest title.”

“And depending on the lord’s title,” Hunter revealed, “that can result in some of a lord’s spouses having no title, if there’s more spouses than titles. So, for example, Draco’s father is Lord-Bann Malfoy and his wife Narcissa is Lady-Banness Malfoy. If he took another wife, they’d take the next highest title, which would be Lady-Bantessa. Banet or Bantessa being the male and female equivalent of a muggle Baronet, which is a hereditary knight. There are no titles below that, however, so if Lord Malfoy took a third wife, they’d be Her Ladyship followed by their first name and last name, but no title.”

Maximus said, “Seteryn and a couple of others haven’t been awarded in their own right in over sixteen hundred years, however, so there’s probably some people who don’t even realize that they exist, as they don’t hear them often these days what with polygamy not being practiced much anymore.”

“Not sure how I would deal with that in the muggle world,” William said. “If I took more than one spouse, that is. That is illegal there, after all.”

“Probably the best way to deal with it,” Octavius commented, “would be to only introduce your first spouse to the muggle world. Beyond that, any additional would just be close friends and nothing more as far as the muggles are concerned.”

“Indeed, we don’t need to give them anymore information to attack us with,” a feminine voice said, as everyone looked toward the entrance to the room and saw the Queen standing there. Everyone quickly moved to get to their feet, but Elizabeth just said, “Stay as you were. This isn’t a state function and we’re in the private family apartments, so there’s no need for protocol.”

Walking further into the room, Elizabeth looked around at the occupants of the room and said, “Okay, Wills, I’ve met Carter, Hunter, and Harry, but who are these three?”

“This is my friend Orion, the new Teryn Black,” William said. “And the twins are his husbands, Maximus and Octavius Black.”

“Ah, I had wondered why you were discussing polygamy,” Elizabeth said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Also, you have my condolences on your loss, Lord Black.”

Orion smiled. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”

Taking a seat in an unoccupied armchair, Elizabeth looked over at Maximus and Octavius and said, “Well, I think you two may well be the first set of conjoined twins I can recall meeting as they’re not a very common sight in the muggle world. I understand that’s not the case in the wizarding world, however.”

“It is still somewhat rare, Your Majesty,” Maximus said. “Although it is more common since magicals don’t separate conjoined twins due to the very high risk—over ninety-five percent—that it’ll render both of them squibs.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Yes, I believe I did read something to that effect, although it was quite a while ago. I’m beginning to understand now why Queen Victoria and her successors opted to be hands off monarchs where the wizarding world was concerned.”

“Why did she decide that?” William asked. “Ever since Dylan and Thorne told me that I’ve been wondering why she did it. Especially since she did it only two years into her reign, at which point she was still very young.”

“I wondered the same thing, so I looked into it,” Elizabeth answered. “It turns out that her uncle, King William IV, had planned to step back and allow the Minister for Magic to deal with the day-to-day operations of Wizarding Britain, in addition to restoring the magical nobility, since all the magical noble families had died out. But he died before he could carry out his plans, which he’d detailed in his journal. Victoria attempted to govern the magical section of the kingdom for two years, but realized that it was taking up too much of her time, since every single decision she had to make usually required several hours of study in order to understand all the magical concepts involved. And she simply didn’t have time for that on top of her muggle duties.”

“Well, that makes sense,” Carter said. “Honestly though it’s probably a good thing that she did step back, as some of the families that she ennobled were then and still are not likely to want to bow down to a muggle. No offense meant, Your Majesty.”

“None taken, young man,” Elizabeth said. “Since William started at Hogwarts, I’ve studied enough about the wizarding political climate to know that you’re right in that some of the families would rather see me dead than have me rule over them. Which is why I’ve decided to limit which issues I involve myself in and continue to allow the Minister to handle much of the day-to-day. Although that will be with more oversight than my predecessors since having met him, I can’t say that I have much confidence in Cornelius Fudge.”

Nobody said anything for a moment, before Dylan came in and bowing to Elizabeth, he said, “Excuse me, Your Majesty, but the Argentinian delegation is arriving.”

“Very well,” Elizabeth said as she stood up and adjusted her clothes a bit to remove any wrinkles that sitting down had caused. “I shall go greet them then.” With a smile to William she added, “Have fun with your friends, Wills, and I’ll see you later.”

As she moved towards the door, she asked, “Has the rest of the greeting party been informed, Lord Wells?”

“Thorne was going to tell Prince Philip,” Dylan said. “And I sent Jordan to tell Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Your mother is sleeping, I believe, and left strict instructions not to be disturbed, so I didn’t send anyone to tell her.”

Elizabeth nodded and said “Very well, then. Thank you, Lord Wells,” before she left the room.

Once the Queen was gone, Dylan turned towards the others and after a quick round of introductions between Dylan, Orion, and his new husbands were made, Dylan said, “William, you’ll be happy to know that you and your friends have been cleared to enter the secret room now.”

“It’s about time,” William said. “What took so long?”

Dylan smiled. “You’ll see when you get there. For now, suffice it to say that the security team and I had to check for curses on everything and that took a while.”

“Well, let’s go then,” Carter said, as everyone else stood up.

Orion, Maximus and Octavius looked rather confused as Orion asked, “Secret room?”

“We’ll explain on the way,” William said, as the five boys and three men left the room.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile at Hogwarts, Bill Weasley was sitting on top of the desk in his private quarters, his trousers and underwear down at his ankles, as the blond head of a certain centaur bobbed up and down on his cock. One of Firenze’s hands was currently playing with Bill’s balls, while the other was holding one of Bill’s hands, their fingers intertwined. With his free hand, Bill was holding the back of Firenze’s head, running his fingers through his soft blond hair, while urging him to move faster. “Oh, sweet Merlin, Firenze, yes. You’re so good at this.”

While it was true that they’d only recently begun dating, neither one of them saw any reason to postpone a sexual relationship. They’d been friends for years now, after all, and they were both red-blooded males with needs. Firenze was proving to be very talented in the art of giving head and Bill was definitely enjoying the fact that Firenze had the second, human-like penis, as it allowed him to return the favor without worrying about choking, which he probably would have if he’d ever tried to take Firenze’s other penis into his mouth.

“Oh… ah… Firenze… oh… I’m gonna…” Bill moaned, seconds before he came, shooting his load deep into the centaur’s mouth. For his part, Firenze eagerly drank every last drop, refusing to let go of Bill’s penis until he was sure that he’d sucked him dry.

As he recovered from his orgasm, Bill was panting, as he said, “Just give me a minute to catch my breath and then I’ll do you.”

Standing up, Firenze leaned over and kissed Bill on the lips, allowing the redhead to taste himself in the process. After their kiss ended, Firenze said, “Actually, I had something else in mind.”

“What’s that?”

“I want you to transfigure me.”

Bill was silent for a moment, as he wondered if he’s just heard Firenze correctly. After a moment, he asked, “Did you just…”

Firenze nodded and said, “Yes, I said I want you to transfigure me.”

“Into a human?”

Firenze grinned. “No, into a duck. Of course a human you silly man.”

“Um, why?” Bill asked. “I mean, with your second penis, you don’t really need to be human in order for us to have sex.”

“You’re right, I don’t,” Firenze said. “But I’m not asking you to do it so that we can have sex. I’m asking because I want us to go out. You know, like on a date? That is what you humans call it, isn’t it? When two people in a romantic relationship go out in public together?”

“Yes, that is what we call it,” Bill said. “And I wouldn’t be opposed to going out with you, but even if I do transfigure you now, I doubt we’re going to be going out today.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re not used to walking on two legs,” Bill said. “I guarantee that your equilibrium will be shot and you’re going to need some time to get used to walking on two legs instead of four. Not to mention the fact that you’re going to need some more clothes. Trousers, socks, shoes, that sort of thing.”

Firenze was quiet for a moment. “Okay, I hadn’t thought about having any difficulty in terms of walking. As for clothes, I figured I could borrow some of yours. You don’t mind sharing, do you?”

“No, I don’t mind,” Bill said. “Although another question is where exactly you’d like to go on this date? I honestly think we should avoid Hogsmeade because it’s too close to the school and the forest that you grew up in, so I’d say there’s too great of a risk that someone might recognize you.”

Firenze quirked an eyebrow. “Ashamed to be seen in public with me?” Before Bill could respond, however, the centaur placed a finger over the redhead’s lips and said, “I’m only joking. I agree, Hogsmeade is too close and someone might recognize me there. Plus, the whole reason I asked you to transfigure me in the first place is so that we could go out and have some fun together, without anyone giving us strange looks or discriminating against us because of our differing species. Even though your own laws say it’s legal for witches and wizards to marry centaurs, I don’t imagine there’s many people who would be very accepting of such a pairing.”

“True,” Bill said. “Well, I suppose we could try Diagon Alley or the Carkitt Market. I’m assuming you’ve never been to either one?”

Firenze smiled. “Actually, I have been to Diagon Alley.” At Bill’s questioning look, Firenze said, “Professor Dumbledore took me there in order to visit Gringotts, Ollivander’s and Madam Malkin’s, although I didn’t really get to see much of the Alley itself, as I was disillusioned the entire time that we were outside. So I can’t say that I’d be against exploring a bit. Madam Malkin, Lord Ollivander, and the goblins were the only ones who actually saw me there.”

“Okay, then the only other thing I think we should probably do is come up with a name for you.”

Firenze looked confused as he said, “I already have a name.”

“Yes, you do, but Firenze isn’t exactly a common name for wizards. Plus there’s the risk that if you use your real name, people might recognize you, as they’d be able to put two and two together. I’m pretty sure it was in the Daily Prophet that you’d been hired at Hogwarts after all.” After a moment, Bill added, “Plus, if you’re in human form we could even venture out into Muggle London on a few of our dates and there I can guarantee that the name Firenze would raise more than a few eyebrows.”

“Hmm, I never thought about visiting Muggle London. I must admit that it is an intriguing idea. I think I’d be the first centaur to ever do that, as I’ve certainly never heard of any doing that before.” After a moment, Firenze added, “And I suppose if you think it’s for the best, I could adopt an alias for use in human form. I’m not sure what kind of name would be appropriate though, so I’m open to suggestions.”

The next few minutes were spent as Bill and Firenze went over various options for his alias and Firenze narrowed things down by saying that he preferred something unique and not exceptionally common. Bill also remembered a phrase that his Brazilian pen-friend had once used to refer to keeping something a secret. Which is basically what they were doing by transfiguring Firenze when they went out in public together, so they decided to have his human alias start with the letters D and L.

After tossing several options back and forth, Bill finally said, “How about Dax Leavitt?”

Saying it a few times to himself, Firenze nodded and said, “I like it. I’ve certainly never met anyone named Dax, so it’s not a common name.”

“Indeed it’s not,” Bill said. “So, are you sure about me transfiguring you? I know it would mean bringing someone else in on the secret, but Minerva or Albus might be better options for this. I did okay with Transfiguration and earned an OWL in the subject, but I didn’t take it at NEWT level because it wasn’t a required class for becoming a Curse-Breaker. And Trans-Species Transformation is one of the most difficult branches of Transfiguration, so I’m not sure I’m the best person for this since I don’t have a NEWT in the subject and have never even attempted the spell before.”

“I do trust you, Bill,” Firenze said, as he kissed the redhead on the tip of the nose. “However, I’m assuming that your concern on this is coming from not wanting to accidentally hurt me.”

Bill nodded. “That’s it exactly. I never learned how to do it, so I really don’t want to cast the spell on you, mess it up, and hurt you. I really like you and hurting you in any way is the last thing I want to do.”

Firenze smiled. “I appreciate that, Bill. So, while I would have preferred to keep this just between us, I can see the need to bring someone else in. The question is who? Hogwarts currently has three Transfiguration Masters on staff that I know of, although I haven’t said more than two words to Emeric Switch, so I don’t think I would ask him about this.”

“Yeah, I don’t know him very well either,” Bill agreed. “I suppose I’d feel comfortable with Minerva, since she was my Transfiguration professor and my Head of House when I was in school.”

“Shall we ask her then?” Firenze asked.

After taking a moment to think, Bill nodded and said, “Yes. You want to do that now then?”

“Yes, no point wasting time. Besides, with school not being in session right now, she’d probably have more time to teach you than if we wait until after the Winter Term starts.”

“True,” Bill agreed, as he pulled up his pants and trousers and made sure he looked presentable, before the two of them left his quarters and headed off to see Minerva.

-o-0-o-

Elsewhere in the castle, Marcus Flint was currently seated at the large round table in the Great Hall which had replaced the normal house tables while school wasn’t in session. He was currently in the middle of eating lunch, but since the house-elves had continued to serve cold lunch in the house common rooms for the few people who’d stayed at school over the break, the only ones currently at the table with Marcus were Jackson and his three brothers, Jordan, Jasper, and Jeremy. Professor Snape was in the Great Hall for a few minutes and had begun eating lunch with the five students, but then had to leave to tend to a potion he had brewing, leaving the five of them alone.

“So, how’s everyone’s day going?” Marcus asked.

“Well enough,” Jasper said, before taking a sip of his pumpkin juice.

Jeremy nodded. “Yeah, I can’t complain. Although it’s definitely strange being here instead of at home for the holidays.”

“Yeah, but you can’t blame Mum and Dad for wanting to go on their honeymoon,” Jackson said. “Seeing as how they never did when they first got married.”

Jasper grinned. “Yes and I wonder who’s fault that was,” as he looked directly at Jackson.

Marcus looked confused at this and asked, “Am I missing something?”

Shaking his head, Jackson sighed. “Our mum was pregnant with me when our parents got married. In fact, her water broke and she went into labor just as the wedding ceremony was ending, so, they never went on their honeymoon because Mum didn’t want to leave me at home with relatives while she went on vacation. And they decided that it wouldn’t really be a honeymoon if they brought me with them, so they just never went.”

Marcus nodded at this and decided that would be something he’d refrain from mentioning to his parents, as they were going to be uptight enough about the whole Jackson being a halfblood thing, without adding the fact that he was conceived before his parents were married and was almost born a bastard. In the silence that followed, Marcus looked around the table and realized that Jordan Tennant hadn’t said a word during the conversation and seemed to not even be paying attention to what was going on around him as he concentrated on eating his lunch.

“So how’s your day going, Jordan?” Marcus asked. Despite the question, however, Jordan made no attempt to answer the question or even acknowledge that it had been asked in the first place.

“He can’t hear you,” Jeremy said, when he saw that Marcus looked a bit miffed at Jordan apparently ignoring him.

“What do you mean he can’t hear me?” Marcus asked.

Jasper looked down at his plate at this, a guilty look on his face, as he said, “When Jett and I were five, we were playing a game and he was beating me badly. I got mad and lost control of my magic as all the glass in the room shattered. Unfortunately, I also caused a breeze that started blowing the shards around and some of them went into Jett’s ears. He hasn’t been able to hear anything ever since.”

“Well that was what eleven years ago?” Marcus asked. “Why didn’t you ever take him to a healer?”

“Our parents took him to St. Mungo’s,” Jackson answered. “The verdict was that the damage was so extensive that even magic couldn’t fix it.” Turning his gaze to Jasper, he added, “And you need to stop blaming yourself Jazz. You were only five and accidental magic happens to every young witch and wizard, so it wasn’t your fault, because you certainly didn’t intentionally hurt Jett or cost him his hearing.”

Seemingly sensing that he was being talked about, Jordan looked up from his lunch at this and looked around at Marcus and his brothers for a moment, before taking out his wand and writing in the air, “What’s wrong?”

“We were just explaining to Marcus about your inability to hear,” Jeremy said. “He asked you a question and you didn’t answer.”

Jordan nodded and turning to Marcus he wrote, “I’m sorry. What did you ask?”

“I asked how your day was going,” Marcus said, but before Jordan could answer, he added, “How can you understand what anyone is saying if you can’t hear?”

“My day is going okay,” Jordan wrote in the air. “And I can read lips. I use a spell to help with that, but I still have to actually see your lips moving to know what you’re saying.”

Marcus nodded, but remained silent as Jordan looked at his twin and caught the guilty look on his face before he could hide it. Shaking his head, Jordan wrote, “Jazz, are you blaming yourself again? I told you to stop that.”

Jasper sighed. “I know, it’s just that I’m your big brother. I’m supposed to protect you and yet I’m the reason you can’t hear or talk and why you need to write everything.”

Shaking his head, Jordan wrote, “No, Jazz. Not your fault. Accidents happen.” Looking a bit cross, he then added. “And stop saying you’re my big brother. We’re twins for Merlin’s sake. Yes, you’re five minutes older, but that doesn’t really make you my big brother, because we’re the same bloody age.”

“So, not being able to hear is why he can’t talk?” Marcus asked Jackson.

“Technically Jett can talk, but not very well,” Jackson replied. “Not being able to hear what he’s saying hinders his ability to form words and have people understand him. So, he stopped trying and now just uses a charm to write what he wants to say in the air. His teacher originally taught him to use Flagrate for that, but he didn’t like writing in flames, so our Mum helped him create a new spell that would make the words appear in a more mist-like form.”

Before anything else was said, the sound of the main doors of the castle opening caught everyone’s attention as they looked through the open Great Hall doors into the Entrance Hall. Marcus visibly paled when he saw who had just entered the castle and grabbed onto Jackson’s hand. Jackson, meanwhile, having seen pictures of Lord and Lady Flint realized that the confrontation that he and Marcus had been dreading was about to happen.

Looking over at Jeremy, Jackson said, “Remy, go find Professor Nott and bring him here quick.”

Jeremy nodded as he stood up and hurried out of the hall, just as Lord and Lady Flint spotted Marcus and began heading towards their son. Moments later, a severe looking Lord Malcolm Flint said, “Marcus Octavian Flint, what is the meaning of this?!”

Marcus had no trouble understanding what his father was talking about, because as he spoke, he held up a parchment clutched in his fist which Marcus could only assume was the letter he’d sent to his parents telling them that he wasn’t coming home for the Winter break and was instead staying at Hogwarts. While Marcus had been tempted to spill the beans about his new status in the letter, he didn’t, figuring that kind of information was still best revealed in person.

Before Marcus could answer his father, however, Jackson squared his shoulders and said, “With all due respect, Lord Flint, I’ll thank you not to speak to him that way.”

His eyes shifting to Jackson, Malcolm Flint said, “And just who the bloody hell are you to tell me how to speak to my son and heir?”

“His husband and bonded dominant,” Jackson answered. Behind him Jordan and Jasper were standing at the ready, in case their brother needed any help. Of course, Jasper was actually standing at an angle so that he could keep an eye on what was going on with Jackson and the others, while also mouthing what Jackson was saying so that Jordan would be able to follow along with the conversation, as standing behind him he couldn’t see Jackson’s lips.

“Husband?” Lady Elizabeth Flint asked. “Impossible. Marcus is not married.”

“Indeed,” Malcolm agreed. “As I’m Lord Flint and he’s my heir, he can’t get married without my permission.” Looking at Jackson up and down for a moment, he then added, “I don’t recognize you. What’s your name, boy?”

“Jackson Tennant.”

“Tennant?” Elizabeth asked. “That’s not a pureblood name.”

“You’re right, it isn’t,” Jackson agreed. “My father, or perhaps I should say our father,” as he motioned behind him at Jordan and Jasper, “was a muggleborn wizard named Aiden Tennant.”

“You honestly expect me to believe that my son married a piece of muggleborn filth?” Malcolm asked.

“He’s not muggleborn, Father,” Marcus said, finally finding his voice. “Jackson and his brothers were wizarding-raised halfbloods. Their mother is Katarina Tennant née Rosier.”

“And you think that makes it any better?” Elizabeth asked. “As if your father and I actually care that their mother is a disowned blood traitor? If anything, that just makes us have an even lower opinion of her than we may have had previously.”

Not liking what was being said, Jordan pushed his way forward, past Jackson and Marcus and angrily said, “Stop!” before using the Flagrate spell instead of his normal mist writing spell to write, “How dare you insult our parents! You don’t even know them.”

From the one spoken word, Malcolm was able to deduce that Jordan was deaf, so he didn’t comment on him writing the rest of his response. Instead he glared at Jordan and said, “I have every right, boy! I am The Lord-Arl Flint and Head of the Ancient and Noble House of Flint, so I can say whatever I damn well please, especially when speaking to a lowly commoner like you.”

“Lord Flint, I would ask that you do not take that tone with one of my students in this castle,” Dumbledore said, as he entered the room with Jeremy, Professor Nott, and his husband, Bann Tristan Nott, who was spending the holidays at Hogwarts with his husband and son. “And before you say that I’m a commoner as well, that’s true, I am. However, I am still Headmaster of Hogwarts, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, the latter two of which, noble or not you are legally bound to obey.”

Malcolm growled lowly in his throat, as he turned to Dumbledore and said, “I apologize, Headmaster.”

“It’s not me that you owe an apology to, Lord Flint,” Dumbledore said.

Malcolm’s eyes flashed with a look of cold fury for a moment, before he turned to Jordan and said, “I’m sorry, young man.” Not waiting for a response, Malcolm turned back to Dumbledore and said, “Headmaster, my wife and I are here to collect our son. Matters of family business kept us from coming earlier, but we’re here now and we’ll be taking Marcus with us now to spend the rest of the break at Flint Castle. I don’t understand why you allowed a sixteen-year-old underage wizard to remain at Hogwarts over the break without parental permission, but I’m willing to overlook it just this once.”

“No, you won’t be taking Marcus anywhere,” Jackson said.

“You have no say in the matter,” Elizabeth said. “Marcus is our son and heir and as my husband just said, he’s underage. He’s going with us.”

“Actually, Lady Flint, in my professional legal opinion, I can tell you that Mr. Tennant has more say than you do,” Tristan Nott said, as he stepped forward. “My husband tells me that they’ve entered into a magical bond called the Dominance Bond, which by all standing legal precedent is akin to a marriage.”

“Furthermore,” Thomas Nott added, “Mr. Tennant is the dominant partner in the bond, which by the way, does not require parental permission to enter into, even in the case of the nobility. It only requires two consenting witches or wizards capable of performing the necessary spells to carry out the bond. At any rate, as the dominant partner, when it comes to their relationship, Mr. Tennant has full and complete control over all decisions and that includes whether or not he and Marcus are separated for any length of time.”

“And before you get any ideas, Mum, Dad,” Marcus said, “the bond is permanent and the marriage it forms cannot be annulled. Also, you should know that as Jackson’s bonded submissive, I am physically and magically incapable of having sex with anyone but him while he lives, which means he is the only one who can get me pregnant and I can’t impregnate anyone else but him.”

“I read up on this bond after finding out they’d entered into it,” Dumbledore said. “Everything Marcus, Lord Nott and his husband said is true. Also, should Jackson die of anything other than natural causes, while Marcus will be released from the bond all of his children that are not also Mr. Tennant’s children will be squibs. As will their children and their children after that, for a total of ten generations.”

Malcolm and Elizabeth looked like their eyes were about to pop out of their heads and they both looked like they were having trouble breathing. Finally, Malcolm said, “Marcus, you know your mother and I can’t have more children and you do this? By Circe’s sagging tits, what were you thinking?”

“Lord Flint that kind of language is wholly inappropriate in a school setting in front of children,” Dumbledore rebuked. “And the fact that school is not currently in session doesn’t change that.”

Ignoring the Headmaster, Malcolm said, “Well, Marcus?! What do you have to say for yourself?” And turning to Jackson, he added, “And don’t you answer for him. I’m talking to my son, not you!”

“I’m in love with Jackson,” Marcus said. “Just as he is with me. I knew you wouldn’t accept that, however, and would do everything in your power to split us up. So we found a way to prevent that. You may not like that Jackson and I are essentially married, but if you want your grandchildren to have magic, even if they’re not purebloods, you’re just going to have deal with it.”

Thomas grinned, because he was enjoying this so, so much. “Yes, if you want your grandchildren to have magic, and your great-grandchildren, and your great-great-grandchildren, and your great-great-great-grandchildren…”

“We get the point!” Elizabeth exclaimed angrily, as she threw up her hands in disgust.

After an awkward silence, Malcolm looked at Jackson and said, “I absolutely despise the fact that you are now my son-in-law, boy. But seeing as how it seems I have no choice but to accept you as my son’s husband, I will grudgingly do it. However, you will change your surname because I will be damned if any of my son and heir’s children bear your father’s filthy muggle name!”

Jackson was quiet for a moment, as he bit back the retort that immediately came to mind after the insult to his late father. Jasper, meanwhile, was holding Jordan back, while Thomas had placed a hand on Jeremy’s shoulder, warning him to stay out of it as well.

Finally, Jackson nodded and said, “Fine. I’ll change my surname to Flint and all Marcus’s and my children will be Flints. Honestly, Marcus and I had already discussed that and agreed that I would do it, but as students, we don’t exactly have easy access to a solicitor to file the necessary paperwork.”

“I’ll file the necessary paperwork for you,” Tristan said. “And because this whole encounter has been so entertaining, I’ll even reduce my normal fee to just one sickle.” Raising an eyebrow at Jackson, he asked, “I assume you can afford that?”

Pulling out his coin purse, Jackson pulled out a galleon and held it out to Tristan. “Keep the change, Your Lordship.”

Taking the offered coin, Tristan smiled. “You I like.”

-o-0-o-

“Travail fantastique, tout le monde. Profitez de votre week-end et je vais vous voir de retour ici à l'heure normale la semaine prochaine,” Jean-Luc said, as he dismissed the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, on the afternoon of the Second of January 1992. Walking over to the side of the room, Jean-Luc grabbed a towel, wiped his forehead and stretched a bit, before he began packing up his things so that he could head home. Normally, they wouldn’t have had a practice at all this early in the year and would have resumed practices on the following Monday, but they had an important performance coming up in a few weeks’ time and Jean-Luc wanted to get in as much practice as possible, without interfering with the three days a week he spent in Romania with Charlie. He’d put three day weekends in his contract for a reason after all.

He soon, however, felt a pair of arms snaking around his waist from behind as a voice whispered in his ear, “I love watching you work and it’s so sexy when you speak French.”

Jean-Luc smiled, as he leaned back against his boyfriend and said, “Not that I’m complaining, but what are you doing here, Charlie? Aren’t your parents and sister still in Romania until tomorrow?”

Charlie nodded as he turned his head to the side and kissed Jean-Luc on the lips, whose head was also turned to the side. “They are, but I had to see you, so I left them with Alexei and then snuck away.”

“Naughty boy, abandoning your family like that,” Jean-Luc said. “And on their last full day in the country, too. Tsk, tsk.”

“We’ll see them tomorrow before they leave. Tonight, however, I have plans for you, Mr. Flamel.”

“Really? What sort of plans?”

Wrinkling his nose, Charlie said, “Well, definitely a shower first, as you kind of stink.”

“Wow, thanks,” Jean-Luc answered sarcastically. “In my defense, I did just spend the last eight hours with the dancers and I’ve never been one to just stand back and tell them what to do.” With a grin, he added, “And it could be worse, because I’m pretty sure that I smell a fair bit better than dragon shite.”

Charlie groaned. “Just about everything smells better than dragon shite.” Shaking his head, he added, “Anyway, I know you like to show them, which is fine, and yes, you don’t smell as bad as I do after work, but you still need a shower.”

“I won’t argue that point, but is there any chance that I can convince you to join me?”

This time Charlie grinned. “You, naked, wet, and at my mercy? Rampaging dragons couldn’t keep me away.”

-o-0-o-

Like all good things, the Winter Break from Hogwarts had to end eventually and thus it was that on the morning of the Fourth of January 1992, Harry Potter, Prince William, Carter and Hunter Wells, Orion Black, and Cedric Diggory found themselves sitting in William’s lounge car on the Hogwarts Express. Dylan and Throne were there as well, of course, as were William’s other bodyguards: Jordan Miller, Kyle Bradley, and Matthew Lawson. Joining the group, however, were Maximus and Octavius Black, who were now doing something they hadn’t expected to be doing when they’d finished their educations at Hogwarts in June of the previous year and that was returning to live at Hogwarts. However, as they were now married to Orion, the three of them would now be sharing one of the school’s marital suites.

“I still can’t believe that you’re married now, Ry,” Cedric said.

“Yeah, I can scarcely believe it myself,” Orion agreed. “Although I’m certainly not complaining.”

“You’d have to be a fool to complain,” Cedric said, as he looked over at Maximus and Octavius, who were currently engaged in conversation with Jordan, Kyle, and Matthew. “Your husbands certainly aren’t hard on the eyes, after all.”

“Very true,” Orion agreed, before he blushed and added, “And believe me when I tell you that they look even better without any clothes on.”

Cedric laughed. “Lucky boy. If it wasn’t for the fact that I know your marriage contract forbids it, I’d ask if you’d like some help in the bedroom. Since you’ve got the two of them to contend with.”

“That’s true, it would be against the contract,” Orion agreed, before he got a mischievous look on his face that instantly had Cedric getting worried, as he added, “Unless…”

“Unless what?” Cedric asked warily.

“Unless you and I got married,” Orion answered. “The contract has an exception for any other spouses I take, so, even if you didn’t marry Max and Tavi, you could have sex with them as long as you and I were married.”

Shaking his head, Cedric said, “No thanks. I like you, Orion, but not that much.” After a moment, he added, “Besides, if I ever get married, I want it to be for love and not just to have sex.”

“I used to say the same thing,” Orion said. “And then boom, marriage contract and now I’ve got two husbands that I can’t honestly say that I’m in love with, considering that I only just met them a week ago.”

“From what I know about you, Ry, combined with what I’ve seen of your interactions with Max and Tavi, I think you’ll fall in love with them in time. As for a surprise marriage contract, I rather doubt that’s something I need to worry about, as the Diggory family isn’t nobility and it’s usually only the royal or noble set that use them. Plus, I’ve asked my parents and they said they’ve never drawn up any contracts for me.”

“You may well be right, Ric, although I’d caution you that just because your parents never drew up a contract for you doesn’t mean that there isn’t one out there somewhere that could fall to you to fulfill. After all, none of my parents, whether biological or adoptive, had anything to do with the contract that resulted in me marrying Max and Tavi, considering that it was drawn up over four hundred years ago, before any of them were even alive.”

“He is right, you know,” Thorne said, as he sat down next to Cedric. “Just because your parents never drew up a contract for you doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist. In fact, it’s entirely possible that there’s a contract that could fall to you to fulfill that has absolutely nothing at all to do with the Diggory family.”

“What do you mean?” Cedric asked.

“Well, Cedric, your family has been joined in marriage by many families over the centuries,” Thorne answered. “And there’s nothing that says that one of those families didn’t draw up a contract at some point that could pass to you to fulfill. If any exist, the only way to get out of fulfilling them would be if you were already married to six people and thus couldn’t marry anyone else or if the reigning monarch granted an extension to the contract that would allow it to be passed onto another generation.”

“The term on a contract can be extended?” Orion asked. “So you mean I wouldn’t have had to get married?”

Shaking his head, Thorne said, “No, Orion, you had to get married because contract extensions haven’t been a possibility in centuries. Not since the last Pendragon king died.” At the confused looks on Cedric’s and Orion’s faces, Thorne elaborated. “Magic is required to grant an extension on a magical contract and only the reigning monarch’s magic will work. However, as a muggle, Queen Elizabeth doesn’t have any magic and thus she can’t grant extensions.”

Meanwhile, in another corner of the train car, Harry, William, Carter, and Hunter were playing Exploding Snap. Like most children coming off of school break, none of them particularly wanted to go back to school, but the adults had forced the issue. If the four of them had had their way, they would’ve stayed at Windsor Castle and continued to have loads of fun in the mystery room connected to William’s bedroom which had turned out to be a magical playroom full to the brim with a wide assortment of magical toys of every size, shape, and description. That was also why it had taken a few hours for security to clear the boys to enter the room, as every single item had to be checked for curses before it was deemed safe.

“We should totally go back over Spring Break,” Carter said, as he took his turn.

William nodded. “I’d love to, but I don’t know if that’ll be allowed or not.”

“Why not?” Hunter asked.

“My grandmother is in residence at Windsor from March to April for the Easter Court,” William said. “So, while the Hogwarts Spring Break does coincide with that time, there’s likely to be a lot of dignitaries visiting and I don’t know if grandmother would want to risk us being around and possibly breaking the Statute of Secrecy.”

“There were dignitaries there this time,” Harry pointed out.

“True, but that wasn’t planned,” William said. “There’s not usually much going on at Windsor in December, so, grandmother allowed us to use it for the latter half of winter break. The state dinner was a surprise, but since all the arrangements for our visit had already been made over a month in advance and she didn’t find out about the need to have the dinner until the morning I was due to leave for Windsor, she opted not to cancel my plans, although she could have.”

The four boys were silent for a moment, before Carter said, “Well, I suppose the three of you could always come to Wells Manor for the spring break.” Grinning at Harry, he added, “Or maybe we could check out Seacliff Castle.”

“What’s Seacliff Castle?” Harry asked. “And why are you grinning at me?”

“What’s Seacliff he asks,” Hunter said, before he playfully hit Harry on the arm and said, “Mate, that’s your castle.”

“My…” Harry started, before his eyes almost popped out of his head. “I have a castle?”

Nodding his head as he grinned, Carter said, “Yeah, Harry, you do. Seacliff Castle is the ancestral home of the Potter family.” Getting a thoughtful look on his face, he added, “I think it’s located somewhere in Wales, if I remember correctly.”

“I think you’re right, Cart,” Hunter said. “It’s probably been locked up tight for at least the last eleven years, however. Probably longer though, as your parents weren’t living there when they… well, died. Sorry, Harry. Didn’t mean to mention them like that.”

“It’s okay, Hunt,” Harry said. He was quiet for a moment then, before he said, “Wow, this is a lot to take in. First I find out I’m the heir to a magical lordship and that I’m already a muggle Duke. And now you’re telling me I own a castle. What’s next?” Nobody had an answer for that after a few minutes, prompting Harry to grin and say, “Well, we’ll have to look into that then, I guess. Because now I’m curious.”

“So how many of the magical nobles have castles?” William asked.

“Not many,” Carter said. “Just four of them, I think. Or at least there’s only four that have an ancestral home that actually uses the word in the name of their estate.”

Hunter nodded. “Some of them are probably comparable to a castle in size, however, whether they’re actually called a castle or not.”

“So are they limited only to the Teryns then?” Harry asked.

“No, they’re not,” Carter replied. “The Potters have Seacliff Castle and the Ollivanders have Castle Windermere. So, yeah they’re both Teryns, but the other two aren’t owned by Teryns. The Zabini family has Châteaux Zabini, which is simply French for Castle Zabini, and the Flints have Flint Castle.”

“The latter two being Arls,” Hunter added. “Although, now that I think about it, I think there’s only one castle per country. As Seacliff is in Wales, Windermere is in Scotland, Zabini is in Ireland, and I’m pretty sure Flint is in England. I don’t know if that’s just a coincidence though or not.”

Not much else was said, as the boys continued playing their card game and chatting about the upcoming term. At around four in the evening, Dylan went over to the main cars of the Express and bought a variety of sweets for everyone from the trolley, which did not visit William’s private train car, since the doors between it and the rest of the train were kept tightly locked so that all and sundry couldn’t access it.

Of course, before anyone was allowed to eat any of the sweets that Dylan bought, the dinner that the kitchen staff at Windsor Castle had prepared for the train ride was consumed first. This was mainly because both the Queen and Diana agreed that the children needed a healthy dinner in their stomachs and couldn’t just fill up on sweets. In truth, Dylan and Thorne agreed. They remembered not having any issue at all with the trolley only having candy and other sweets available when they were still students themselves, but now they were adults with children of their own, they both couldn’t help but think that the trolley really needed to start carrying a wider variety of offerings.

After dinner and dessert, most of the children fell asleep, although it wasn’t only the children who slept as Maximus and Octavius fell asleep too, of course that was at least partly due to not being able to do much else once Orion fell asleep on their laps. Dylan and Thorne remained awake, however, and woke everyone when they were half an hour out from Hogsmeade Station so that all the students could go into William’s sleeping car and change into their uniforms.

As they disembarked from the train, William said, “Well, another term begins.”

“So it does,” Harry said. “Hopefully it’ll be a little quieter than the first one.”

“What you don’t feel like confronting another mountain troll?” Carter asked.

“That would be a definite no,” Harry said. “Once in my life was all I need, thanks.”

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text




Characters Pictured on the Cover
Left to Right: Carter Wells, Charlie Weasley, Jean-Luc Flamel, Harry Potter, Cedric Diggory, Prince William, and Hunter Wells

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Ten:
A Cloak, a Mirror, and an Egg

-o-0-o-

Arriving in the Gryffindor Common Room, Harry and William spent a few minutes talking with Seamus, Dean, Cormac, Ron, and Hermione about their breaks. However, after about forty-five minutes, both Harry and William were yawning, because despite the nap on the train, they were both pretty tired. Dean opted to stay in the common room to finish up the Potions essay that Professor Snape had set during the winter break. Hermione had looked like she was about to lay into him for not finishing it already, when he mentioned that he hadn’t had the time over the break because he had a house full of muggle relatives visiting for the holidays. Relatives that didn’t know that he was a wizard and kept him busy enough that he couldn’t find a spare moment to work on the essay without risking a breach to the Statute of Secrecy.

Seamus and Cormac also opted to stay in the common room, although they didn’t specify a reason why. Harry suspected, however, that they were going to play a game of chess, but didn’t say that because they didn’t want Ron to know, as he’d no doubt stay and then want to play the winner. Even though they’d only been at school now for one term, pretty much all of Gryffindor Tower already knew not to challenge Ron to a game of chess or to play him, unless you enjoyed losing. Thus it was that Harry, William, Ron, and Hermione headed upstairs, with Hermione joining the boys in their dorm room, where they found Neville lying on his bed, reading his Herbology text.

“Hello, what’s all this?” Harry said, as he approached his bed and saw a pile of wrapped presents on his bed. Looking over to William’s bed, he also had a small pile, although not quite as large as Harry’s.

“They’re Christmas presents, duh,” Ron said. Looking over the pile, he said, “Some of them are from my Mum, I believe. She sent them with our family owl Errol though and he didn’t get here with them until after you’d already left.”

“I thought owls could find wizards wherever they are,” Hermione commented.

“That’s normally true,” Ron said. “However, it wasn’t just Harry’s presents that Errol was bringing, as he was also bringing Bill’s, Percy’s, the twins’, mine, and I think Mum even sent a couple for you, Wills, since I mentioned in one of my letters home that we were friends now. Anyway, Errol is so old that he often loses consciousness on most flights and Bill and Percy agreed he was in no shape to undertake another flight so they gave him to Professor Kettleburn to take care off, figuring you guys could get your gifts when you got back to school.”

“I take it you didn’t mention me then?” Hermione asked.

Shaking his head, Ron said, “No, I did, Hermione. Mum sent you a gift, but it’s obviously not here since this isn’t your room. Percy got one of the female prefects who stayed over the break to put it in your room for you.”

“Oh, okay, then,” Hermione said. “I’ll have to send your Mum a thank you note.”

Harry, meanwhile, began looking through the pile of gifts on his bed and sure enough, there were two packages with tags that read, “To Harry, from Arthur and Molly Weasley.” There was another gift that read, “To Harry, from a Friend,” and much to Harry’s surprise, several that said “To Harry, from Dylan and Thorne,” and “To Harry, from Carter and Hunter.” In fact, there was even one that said, “To Harry, from Violet Wells.”

“I was just at Wells Manor over the break,” Harry said. “Why would Dylan, Thorne, Carter, Hunter, and Dylan’s grandmother send gifts to Hogwarts?”

“No clue, mate,” Ron said. Hermione, William, and Neville all shrugged as they couldn’t come up with answers to that question either.

Shaking his head, Harry said, “By the way, thanks for the Chocolate frogs, Hermione.”

Hermione smiled. “You’re welcome, Harry. Thank you for the books. You too, Wills.”

Harry and William had gone in together on a gift for Hermione, getting her a couple of muggle paperback novels, which Diana said she’d send her secretary out to buy and mail to Hermione’s parents’ house.

“You’re welcome, Hermione,” William said, as he sat down on his bed and grabbed the first of the gifts that were resting there. “I hope you enjoy them.”

“So what did you get, Wills?” Harry asked.

Tearing open the wrapping paper, William said, “Looks like a box of fudge and…” he hesitated for a moment, as he unfolded a bundle of purple, “… a purple jumper with a gold W embroidered on it in gold. Oh and there’s a gold crown above it.”

“That would be Mum’s homemade fudge,” Ron said. “And I’m sorry about the jumper, I know it probably isn’t what you’re used to getting, but Mum knits one for everyone in the family every year, and often for our friends too.”

Shaking his head, William said, “No need to apologize, Ron. I think it’s brilliant. I actually don’t get many handmade gifts.” Seeing that Ron still look a bit unsure, he added, “Besides, my family doesn’t do expensive gifts on Christmas. We usually give each other gag gifts.”

“Gag gifts?” Neville asked. “Like what?”

William grinned. “Well, my Aunt Anne gave my father a white leather toilet seat this year. And I gave him a sixty-two-and-half-pound bag of Hungarian Horntail dung.”

“You’re joking,” Hermione said.

“Nope, totally serious,” William said. “Dad is an avid gardener, so I figured he’d appreciate it as fertilizer.” After a moment he said, “Not really sure though how dragon dung will affect muggle plants.”

“Some of them may die,” Neville said. “However, depending on the plant, some of them may also bloom like they’ve never bloomed before.” After a moment, he added, “I don’t know what your father grows, but I would however strongly suggest that you write him and make sure he doesn’t use it on any plant in the Dionaea muscipula family or any other similar plant.”

“The Dio what?” William asked.

“Venus flytrap,” Neville said. “Or any other similarly carnivorous plant. You could very well end up with a plant large enough that it could eat a man.”

“Well, I don’t think Dad grows any of those,” William said. “But I’ll make sure to tell him just in case.”

Having opened his gifts, William looked over at Harry’s pile and said, “So, Harry, what’d you get?”

Opening the gifts from the Weasleys first, Harry found a box of fudge and an emerald green jumper with a letter H on it. Next, he opened the gift from Carter and Hunter and couldn’t help but blush a bit when he found three more packages of underwear, three packages of socks, three pairs of trousers, three t-shirts, and three button down shirts. Once all the clothes were removed, he also found a stuffed bear in the box, which was similar to the ones he’d seen in the twins’ bed at Wells Manor.

“Clothes?” Ron asked.

“And why not?” Hermione asked. “They’re certainly a step up from what Harry was wearing all last term.”

“True,” Ron conceded, as all of the clothes that Carter and Hunter gave him appeared to be brand new and looked like they’d even fit Harry properly. The same could definitely not be said about the clothes he’d worn for most of the first term of the school year.

Putting the clothes away in his trunk and the bear on his bed near his pillows, Harry next opened the gift from Dylan and Thorne, which turned out to be a broom maintenance kit for his Nimbus, along with a slip of paper that had Harry’s eyes widening in shock.

“What is it, Harry?” Neville asked.

“It’s a gift certificate for Gladrags Wizardwear in Hogsmeade,” Harry answered. “For 500 Galleons.”

“Wow,” Hermione said, clearly surprised. “That’s £5,000.”

“It’s way too much is what it is,” Harry said, with a shake of his head.

“Not really, Harry,” Neville disagreed. “While you can’t claim the Potter lordship until you’re fifteen, you are still an heir to a Terynir, so it could be argued that you should have a nice set of expensive tailored, dress robes and that won’t be cheap.”

“If you say so,” Harry said, as he put the gifts in his trunk. Grabbing the package from Violet Wells next, Harry opened it and was surprised to find a framed picture of a man and a woman. Noticing an envelope, he opened it and pulled out a letter that was written in an elegant hand.

Serah Potter,

Following our meeting at Wells Manor, I was going through some boxes in my attic and found this old picture. It’s of your grandparents, Katherine and Julian, and I thought you might like to have it.

Sincerely,
Her Grace Violet Wells, the Dowager Teryna Wells

As Harry hadn’t read the letter aloud, Ron asked, “Who are they?” as he looked at the picture on Harry’s lap.

“My grandparents, Julian and Katherine Potter,” Harry answered, as he sniffled a bit and fought back the tear he felt threatening to fall. Looking at the couple in the picture, they looked so happy and Harry wished that he’d had the chance to meet them.

“Why would Dylan’s grandmum give you a picture of your grandparents?” Ron asked. “That’s a rather lame Christmas gift, if you ask me.”

Pulling out his wand, William pointed it at Ron and said, “Congelo!

“Ah!” Ron yelled, through his suddenly chattering teeth. “What the hell, Wills!”

Shaking his head, William said, “I thought maybe a hit of Ice Veins would wake up your brain, Ron. Harry’s grandparents died before he was born and his parents died when he was one, so he’s never met any of them. So it’s not a lame gift at all and you’d have gotten that if you’d thought about if for a half second before opening your mouth.”

“He is right, Ron,” Hermione said, as Neville nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, okay, but did you have to hit me with that damn spell again?” Ron asked through chattering teeth, as he wrapped his arms around himself as he shivered uncontrollably. “Now I’m going to have to take a hot shower.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Oh honestly, Ron, are you a wizard or not?” Not waiting for an answer, she pulled out her wand, pointed it at Ron and said, “Regelo!

Ron’s teeth stopped chattering at this and he finally warmed up, prompting him to grab Hermione and hug her tight, as he said, “Thank you!”

“You’re welcome now get off me.”

Harry, meanwhile, hadn’t even noticed the exchange between his friends, as he starred down at the picture of his grandparents. After a moment, however, he realized that he still had another gift to open, so placing the picture on his bedside table, he grabbed the last gift, which had the tag “To Harry from a Friend.”

As he tore open the paper, Harry cocked his head, confused as he saw what looked like a bundled up piece of cloth. This cloth, however, was unlike anything he’d ever seen before, however, as it shimmered like it was made of liquid silver. “What the heck is this?”

Ron, who had let go of Hermione, looked over when Harry said this and said, “Blimey! That’s an invisibility cloak.”

“An invisibility cloak?” Harry asked.

Ron nodded, his eyes the size of dinner plates, as he said, “I’m sure of it. Try it on, Harry.”

Standing up, Harry unfurled the bundle of cloth and realized that it, like Dudley’s old clothes, was much larger than he was. It was clearly made for a fully-grown adult. Ignoring that, however, Harry whipped it around his shoulders and fastened it, at which point there were gasps from all his friends. Looking confused, he asked, “What?”

“Look down, mate,” William said.

Harry looked confused for a moment, before he did as he was told, at which point his eyes widened and said, “My body is gone!”

Walking over to Harry, William poked at the air under Harry’s head, who said, “Ow. Wills, what was that for?”

“Just seeing if your body was gone,” William said with a grin. “Since you felt that, it’s obviously still there. Just invisible.”

“Thing is huge,” Ron said, as he grabbed at the air and took the fabric in his hand, running it through his fingers as he did so. “I’d give anything to own something like this. Anything. Just imagine it. You could go anywhere you wanted and nobody would be the wiser.”

“I’m not sure Harry should keep this,” Hermione said. “We should probably turn it in to McGonagall.”

“Are you nuts, Hermione?” Ron asked, looking at her as if she’d just grown a second head.

“There’s a note,” Neville said, as he pointed at the piece of paper at Harry’s feet, which had become visible when Ron had grabbed a handful of the cloak.

Bending down and picking it up, Harry looked at the narrow, loopy handwriting he’d never seen before, as William asked, “So, what does it say?”

“It says, ‘Your father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was returned to you. Use it well. A very Merry Christmas to you, a friend.’” Unfastening the cloak and running his hands over it reverently he said—more to himself, but still loud enough that the others heard him—“This belonged to my father?” Raising his eyes to look at Hermione, he said, “There’s no way I’m giving this to McGonagall, Hermione, not if it was my dad’s. I don’t have anything of his.”

Hermione, whose eyes and face had softened significantly when she’d heard Harry read the note, nodded and said, “I understand, Harry. Just try not to get into too much trouble with it.”

-o-0-o-

While Harry was seriously tempted to use his new invisibility cloak that very night, he figured it was probably best to wait a day or so, especially since Hermione had been present when he’d opened it. He found out at breakfast the next day that was actually a good call on his part, as Hermione had camped out in the common room and set a charm that was specifically attuned to Harry that would wake her if he moved through the room. Ron, of course, groused about Hermione being no fun and a killjoy when he heard about this. Harry, however, said nothing, as he figured if he waited long enough to use the cloak, Hermione would forget all about trying to stop him and would go back to sleeping in her own bed and not set the charm any longer. After all, as comfortable as the sofas in the common room were, they didn’t really make good beds.

Over the course of their first week back to school, the entire school was abuzz with gossip and questions in regards to Orion Black moving out of Hufflepuff House and into one of the school’s marital suites with his new husbands. The purebloods and those raised in the wizarding world weren’t really discussing it much, as it honestly wasn’t all that interesting as far as they were concerned. True, polygamy wasn’t practiced much these days, but it was still legal and the vast majority of the wizarding-raised knew that, so for them, it wasn’t newsworthy. They also knew that in the wizarding world, conjoined twins were almost never separated and thus that too wasn’t all that interesting beyond the fact that Maximus and Octavius were the only pair of conjoined twins currently in the castle.

Thus feeling the need to address the situation, Alex Davies decided to postpone the lesson he’d planned for the first Intro to the Wizarding World class of 1992, to instead discuss this new development.

“All right, class,” he said once everyone was seated. “I know the talk of the castle this week has been largely centered on Orion Black and his husbands, Maximus and Octavius. So, rather than starting our unit on wizarding fashions, I’ll instead cover the subjects of wizarding marriage law and conjoined twins.”

There were nods all around the room, as several students pulled out parchment and quills, ready to take notes. Giving them a moment to get ready, Alex then said, “Okay, now first off on conjoined twins,” and then went on to explain pretty much everything that William and Harry had already learned upon meeting Maximus and Octavius at Windsor Castle over the break.

“There have been a few attempts over the years,” Alex said, “to try and develop a spell which would allow for the safe splitting of the magical core, allowing each twin to take half of their shared core and retain their magic. However, nothing much has ever come of those attempts because like in the muggle world, conjoined twins are relatively rare to begin with, although they do happen at a greater frequency in the wizarding world than they do in the muggle world. In fact, one could almost compare conjoined twins to being a metamorphmagus, as it’s something that tends to run in families. Thus families where there’s already been at least one set of them seem to have a greater chance of it happening again.”

Pausing for a moment, Alex then said, “Of course, another interesting thing to note on this subject is that in the muggle world, conjoined twins are usually more often female than male, many are stillborn, and are sometimes born in ways which would make it very hard, if not impossible for the twins in question to lead anything remotely resembling a normal life. I won’t get into too much detail on the muggle side of things since I’m here to teach you about the wizarding world.”

There were nods from several in the class, as Alex continued. “So, here in the wizarding world, conjoined twins are more often male than female, hardly any are stillborn, and almost all are born in ways which wouldn’t make a normal life impossible. To the non-conjoined, it may seem impossible, because they can’t imagine it, but as I’m sure Maximus and Octavius Black would tell you, they’ve adapted to their circumstances and thus don’t have any insurmountable issues that make their lives impossible. I’ll see about maybe getting them into class as guest lecturers sometime before the end of term, so that you can get a more expert opinion directly from them.”

Speaking up from his place at the back of the classroom, as it was his turn to follow William around for the day, Dylan said, “Sorry to interrupt, Professor Davies, I just thought it wise to say, please don’t bombard Maximus and Octavius with questions should you see them in the halls or around the castle. If they volunteer information, that’s fine, but it’s entirely up to them if they share any information at all, as they are by no means required to do so and I’m sure they’d get annoyed after a while if they were asked the same questions over and over.”

Alex nodded. “Indeed, a very good point, Lord Wells. I would also add that you should remember that being married before the death of Lord Arcturus Black means that Orion, while still a student here, is now Lord-Teryn Black and thus you should treat him, and by extension his husbands, with the same respect that you would Lord Wells or any other member of the nobility.” Leaning against the front of his desk, Alex then asked, “Now, are there any questions on this before I move on?”

Unsurprisingly, Hermione’s hand was one of the first hands in the air. With a smile, Alex pointed at her and asked, “Yes, Miss Granger?”

“Why hasn’t there been much progress on the splitting spell you mentioned?” Hermione asked.

“A good question, Miss Granger,” Alex said, before awarding three points to Gryffindor. “Other than the relative rarity of conjoined twins as I’d previously mentioned, the biggest reason is because like any spell, one can put together all the theory they want, but the theory is pretty much useless without a practical element. And very few magical parents are willing to allow an experimental spell of this nature to be used on their children, out of fear that the spell researchers got something wrong and their children end up as squibs. By the same token, adult conjoined twins don’t volunteer because they don’t want to risk losing their magic. However, it’s also a documented fact that conjoined twins tend to have larger more powerful cores due to being able to expand into two bodies. So, there’s also a fear that splitting the core—even if it’s successful and both twins retain their magic—that they will lose half their power and be weaker separately than they were together.”

Waiting a moment, Alex said, “All right, now on the subject of marriage laws. Obviously the laws regarding marriage are not the same throughout the wizarding world, as each country sets their own laws. However, here in Albion, the laws were set back in the year 564 and have never been changed. I suppose some of you may find that hard to believe that the Wizengamot has never changed the marriage laws in 1,427 years, but the Marriage Law of 564 was enacted by King Arthur Pendragon I with the following written into it,” at which point Alex raised his wand and made a piece of chalk start writing by itself on the blackboard.

Looking over at the board, the students saw: By the authority and magic of His Royal Majesty King Arthur Pendragon I, King of Albion and Iwernia, and reinforced by the combined magic of his six consorts, this law and all of its provisions shall be the law of the land in all lands under the dominion of the Pendragon dynasty and shall exist as written from now until the end of time and cannot be amended or abolished by any future monarch or government body, under penalty of immediately suffering the effects of the Sundering Curse.

Since the curse in question wasn’t even taught at Hogwarts, Alex wasn’t surprised by the confused looks on his students’ faces, which prompted him to add, “The Sundering Curse is a powerful and very much feared curse which is now classified as a Dark Arts spell, although that classification didn’t come until 1185. There have, however, been many calls over the years for it to be named the fourth Unforgivable Curse, because it will immediately strip the magical core of any witch or wizard that it’s cast upon, rendering them powerless. If cast on a muggle or a squib, it will have the same effect as the Killing Curse, instantly killing them.”

Several eyes went wide at this, as Alex said, “Thus I’m sure all of you can understand why nobody on the Wizengamot, nor the Minister for Magic, or any of the other monarchs since King Arthur—whether they were Pendragons or not—have ever attempted to change this law, as doing so would cost them their magic or potentially even their lives.” Almost every student in the room nodded their heads, as they could definitely understand why nobody had tried to change the law.

Moving into a sitting position on his desk, Alex said, “Now, in case you were wondering, King Arthur was married to Merlin Pendragon née Emrys, who was his first spouse and thus the one to carry the title of King-Consort. And yes, that is the famous Merlin who the Order of Merlin is named after and the so-called Prince of Enchanters. Coincidently, he also trained the founders of Hogwarts, although depending on who you ask, some will say that it was the other way around and that the founders trained Merlin. In fact, it’s erroneously stated in the current version of Hogwarts: A History that Merlin attended Hogwarts and was sorted into Slytherin House. Now, as a former Slytherin myself, as much as I would love to claim Merlin as a member of my house, I can tell you that the actual history doesn’t match up and thus Merlin never attended Hogwarts, considering that he died about fifty years before the school was even founded.”

Hermione looked gobsmacked at this, as she couldn’t believe that something that was written in Hogwarts: A History wasn’t accurate. William, who’d also read the book prior to coming to Hogwarts, however, beat her by raising his own hand a few seconds quicker than she had. Since he’d just answered one of Hermione’s questions, Alex asked, “Yes, Mr. Windsor?”

“Why is something that’s not historically accurate written in a book about the school that purports to be the history of it?”

“An excellent question, Mr. Windsor,” Alex said, before awarding Gryffindor another three points. “I would suggest bringing it up with Professor Flamel, as I’m sure she could probably give you more detail on the matter since it’s a history question and that’s her area of expertise, but in a nutshell, the book is updated every fifty or so years by a different author. The original author of the book was actually Helena Ravenclaw, who I’m sure you’ve all seen around the castle, because whether you knew this or not, Ravenclaw’s Grey Lady is Rowena's daughter, Helena. At any rate, while the book may have started out as a true history of the school, over the years it’s become more fiction than fact, as the various authors who updated it put their own biases into the book. The current edition was written by a Slytherin and thus a lot of the information in it has a pro-Slytherin stance.”

Shaking his head, Alex added, “Which is why I would caution all of you to never believe anything you read simply because you read it in a book. Even books that are supposedly non-fiction can contain information that is not factual, either because the author made a mistake in their own research of the topic or as is the case in many of the editions of Hogwarts: A History, because the author wrote the book to make their own house look like the best house, even if the facts don’t support what they wrote. So, I would strongly urge all of you to check out other sources whenever you read something and then form your own opinions, rather than taking everything written in a book as unquestionable truth, because sometimes you will come across fiction masquerading as fact.”

Allowing the students a few moments for that to settle in, Alex said, “Now, in addition to Merlin, King Arthur had three other husbands and two wives. His husbands being Lancelot Pendragon née du Lac, Gawain Pendragon née MacCallum, Mordred Pendragon née Le Fey, and his wives being Guinevere Pendragon née Chastain and Morgana Pendragon née Le Fey. I’m sure growing up in the muggle world, you’ve all heard those names in Arthurian legend, although you might not have known all of their surnames and the relationships as the legends have largely been changed by the muggles from what they were in reality. This was at least partly because the muggles felt it was necessary to hide the fact that Arthur was bisexual and a polygamist.”

Putting his chin on his left hand, with his left arm bent at the elbow and resting on his knee, Alex revealed, “Now, there a few different version of Arthurian legend in the muggle world and depending upon which version you’re familiar with you’ve probably seen a variety of origins for Mordred. One of the more popular seems to be that he’s Morgana Le Fey’s son by her half-brother Arthur Pendragon, which here in the wizarding world is known to not be true. While Morgana is Arthur’s half-sister, as they’re both the children of Uther Pendragon, in truth neither of them was Mordred’s parent, as he’s actually the son of Morgana’s half-sister Morgause, although when Morgana and Arthur met him for the first time, they were unaware of that fact. Both Morgana and Arthur later wed Mordred and the texts say that by that point she was aware that Mordred was her nephew.”

Predictably, several students were confused by that, as they didn’t understand how or why Arthur would marry his own sister or why Morgana would marry her nephew.

“Now, I’m sure many of you are wondering why they did that. Obviously, nobody now over a thousand years after the fact can know for sure, but the wizarding texts from the time do suggest that both marriages were love matches. Thus, when he wrote the marriage laws, he made it possible for him and everyone else to marry siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. There’s also been some speculation over the centuries that Arthur may also have written the laws that way so that they would reflect the marriage customs as practiced by the Olympian gods. As I’m sure most of you will remember from our previous discussions on the topic that Zeus and Hera were both husband and wife, and brother and sister. Just as Hades and Persephone were husband and wife and uncle and niece.”

Shaking his head, Justin Finch-Fletchley said, “I still don’t get it. Why would anyone want to marry their sibling or their aunt or uncle?”

“One point from Hufflepuff for asking a question without raising your hand or being called upon, Mr. Finch-Fletchley,” Alex said. “I will, however, say that while I am personally inclined to share your confusion on the subject, it’s important to note that not everyone feels the same way about it. That’s especially true among the old pureblood families who often enter into what others would regard as incestuous marriages in order to keep their bloodlines pure of muggle influence. We’re not here to debate whether or not trying to keep one’s bloodlines pure is right or not, however, as regardless of your beliefs it’s a fact of life in the wizarding world and my job here is simply to introduce you to the wizarding world. It’s up to you to form your own opinions based on the information that I present, in addition to what you will all hopefully gather on your own.”

After a moment’s pause, Alex added, “One thing I would caution all of you on, however, is to avoid trying to force other people to adopt your opinions on matters once you’ve formed them. Much of the animosity between the wizarding raised and the muggle raised can be attributed to that after all, as before this year, when this class didn’t even exist, many of the muggle raised such as yourselves came into the wizarding world, knew nothing about it, and then tried to force their own beliefs and morals upon the wizarding world. I shouldn’t have to tell you that the wizarding raised of the past did not react well to that. So whether or not you personally agree with the marriage law and what it allows is basically irrelevant because the law is the law and this particular law can’t be changed. It’s entirely up to you which aspect of the law you personally choose to adhere to, but you shouldn’t try to shame anyone else around you for adhering to an aspect of the law, simply because you don’t agree with it.”

Moving off his desk and circling around it, Alex poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher he kept on the table behind his desk. After taking a sip he said, “Now, I should probably add that there are exceptions in the law which outlaw certain types of marriages. Those exceptions being that you cannot legally marry your parent or your child. In fact you aren’t allowed to marry anyone related to you if the relationship name contains the word parent or child. Which is actually a good argument against the speculation that Arthur wrote the marriage laws to reflect the customs of the gods, considering that it’s not unheard of for gods to have children with their own children. One such example being Gaia, who had children with her sons, Pontus and Ouranos. Additionally, two children who were born to a pair of married siblings or a pair of married first cousins are also barred from marrying or having children together.” Pausing for a moment, Alex then said, “Now the marriage law also names a number of magical creatures, who can legally wed a witch or wizard.”

Harry and William perked up at this, as they were curious what other magical creatures were included in the law, as Orion had only been able to name trolls as being legal. Neither of them could understand why anyone would want to marry a troll and thus were wondering if they’d have similar thoughts on the other allowed creatures.

“Now there’s actually seven magical species that are legally allowed to wed witches and wizards,” Alex said. “Although, you’d be very hard-pressed to find many examples of many of these marriages actually taking place, especially among the pureblood families, as the vast majority of them view not only muggle blood as undesirable, but creature blood as well. The allowed species are vampires, hags, goblins, merpeople, centaurs, giants, and trolls.”

Even as the class wrote down this information, Alex could see that some of the students were clearly confused as to why anyone would want to marry some of the named creatures. “Now, I’m sure that some of those are confusing to you, as you probably can’t imagine marrying some of them. And for the most part, you wouldn’t be alone as there are very few examples of any of the marriages between those groups actually happening. More often than not, one of the listed creatures will have a child with a witch or wizard, but not marry them, preferring to marry their own kind.

“There are two examples right here at Hogwarts of people with creature blood and they’ve both given me permission to share this information. The first is Professor Flitwick, whose short stature is actually due to his great-great-great-grandfather on his mother’s side of the family, who was a goblin. The other example, is Hagrid, whose father is human, but his mother is a giantess, making him a half-giant.”

Opening the floor to questions, Alex pointed and said, “Yes, Miss Turpin?”

“Professor Flitwick set many of us in Ravenclaw up with pen-friends in other countries,” Lisa said. “Mine is a girl in France whose grandmother is a veela so I was just wondering if there was a reason why veelas weren’t on the list of allowable marriages?”

“That’s an instance where the laws differ from one country to another,” Alex said, before awarding three points to Ravenclaw. “The marriage of a witch or wizard to a veela is legal in some countries, such as Bulgaria and France, but illegal here in Albion. However, an international law imposed by the International Confederation of Wizards does require that all member countries recognize the marriages performed in other member countries, even if the marriage couldn’t legally be performed in their own countries. So for example, here in Albion, if you wanted to marry a veela, you’d have to go overseas to a country where it’s allowed. Once the marriage is performed, however, Albion must recognize the marriage as valid, if it was legal in the country that performed it.”

Looking over at the clock, Alex picked up a stack of parchment from his desk, which he began handing out, as he said, “Okay, class is about to end, so your homework is to read over the handout that I’m passing out now. It’s an overview on wizarding fashions and what I would have covered today if not for the postponement. When we meet tomorrow afternoon, there will be a test first thing on the contents of these handouts, so I highly suggest you read them.”

There were several groans at the word ‘test’ but Alex ignored them and just shared a grin with Dylan at the students’ reaction. Just after he’d finished handing out the parchments, the bell rang, and Alex said, “Class dismissed.”

-o-0-o-

The next day, after Alex’s class, Harry, Hermione, and William met up with Carter, Hunter, Ron, and Neville and headed up to the library to get started on the Potions essay that Snape had assigned them the previous day in double Potions. As they sat down at the table, Ron couldn’t help but groan. “It’s just not right. We get a break on Fridays from the greasy-haired git but we’re still spending it working on something for his class.”

“It’s Professor Snape,” Hermione said. “And do stop complaining, Ron.”

“Yeah, honestly, mate, we’re all sick of hearing it,” William said.

Carter nodded. “Besides if we get this done now, we’ll have the whole weekend free and not have to worry about it.”

“Yeah, since Professor Snape was the only one who set an essay over the weekend,” Hunter said. “I’ve got some reading assignments from the others, but I can knock those out later tonight.”

“Shhh,” Madam Pince said, as she passed by their table on her way to her desk.

Ron sighed, pulled out his Potions text, and whispered, “Okay, well, if we’ve gotta do the git’s essay then let’s get it done.”

Since he was actually pulling out his textbook, quill and parchment, Hermione decided not to correct him on calling Snape a git. Ron would probably never be the most studious person of their group, but Hermione did have to give him some credit, as he had begun to make some improvement the last month or so of term before the holidays. It seemed having the time off had gotten him back into his old habits, but he was slowly returning to the pattern of actually doing his homework and not waiting until the last possible second.

For the next several minutes, the only thing that could be heard was the scratching of quills on parchments as the group of seven friends started on their essays on the Forgetfulness Potion. After a moment, Neville looked at his essay, then at his textbook, and then back at his essay. Noticing the movement, Hunter, who was seated next to him, asked, “Need some help?”

Neville nodded. “Do the mistletoe berries go in before or after the valerian sprigs?”

“Before,” Hunter said, as he looked over at Neville’s book and noticed that there was an ink stain covering the recipe in his textbook, probably from one of the many times that Snape had scared Neville during class and made him spill his ink bottle. Turning his own textbook a bit, he added, “Here, we can share mine.”

“Thank you,” Neville said, clearly grateful. “I’m probably still going to fail because I suck at practical work and Snape scares the shite out of me.” After a moment, he added, “And seems to enjoy doing it too.”

“He enjoys picking on all the Gryffindors,” William said.

“He does seem to like singling out Neville more than anyone else though,” Harry said.

“That’s true,” Hermione agreed, as while she wasn’t usually one to badmouth professors, even she had to admit that Professor Snape often took his Slytherin bias too far and in Neville’s case seemed to pick on him for no reason at all. Sometimes even going so far as to create reasons to belittle him by sneaking up behind him and scaring him by slamming his hand down on Neville’s workstation so that he’d jump and mess up during a key step.

“Dad said he’d talk to the other governors,” Carter said, referring to Dylan, since Thorne was no longer accompanying William to classes due to his pregnancy. “Honestly, I can’t help but wonder if maybe the fumes from all the potions he’s brewed over the years have addled his brain, because I can’t understand why he acts the way he does when one of the school governors is observing the class.”

“True, it doesn’t seem like the most intelligent thing to do,” William said. “I mean, the governors implemented all these changes this year to improve the school and I don’t see that happening if Snape scares ¾ of the student body away from studying potions.”

“Snape is still scaring everyone who isn’t a Slytherin, huh?” Max asked, as he and Tavi approached the table.

“Yeah, he’s pretty horrible to everyone who isn’t in his house. He also seems to enjoy singling out certain students though.”

Tavi grinned, as he and Max pulled over a pair of chairs from a nearby table and sat down. “You don’t have to tell us that, Harry. Max and I are from a noble family that traditionally gets sorted into Slytherin house, but we were Ravenclaws, so Snape wasn’t all that kind to us.” Looking over at his twin, he added, “I still don’t get how Potions is one of your favorite subjects and I’m still mad at you for making me sit through NEWT Potions.”

Max rolled his eyes. “Oh give it a rest, bro. You must have told me a hundred times to drop the subject in two years, and yet you still scored an Outstanding on your Potions NEWT.”

Tavi nodded. “You’re right, I did. Because I copied your notes and because the examiner had us brew our NEWT potion as a team, instead of separately. If not for that I’m sure I’d have gotten a Troll grade because I didn’t want to be in that class after fifth year, and wouldn’t have been if not for the fact that I can’t get away from you, so I wasn’t paying any attention.”

Watching the byplay between the two brothers, Ron shook his head and said, “Man, I don’t understand how you two do it. Fred and George are close and all, but you two take closeness to a whole new level and one that I just can’t imagine.”

“Very true,” Max agreed. “Of course, I think Fred and George are closer than you realize, Ron.”

“What do you mean?”

“We did just finish here last June,” Tavi said. “And we’re friends with your brother Charlie, so Fred and George hung out with us on more than one occasion.”

“So?” Ron asked.

Max grinned. “There were a few weekends during Charlie’s and our seventh year, in which Fred and George borrowed some of Tavi’s and my clothes, magically resized them, and spent the entire weekend wearing them.”

Ron looked surprised by this. “Really?”

“Yeah, really,” Tavi confirmed. “They already work together very well, but I think they wanted to get even better at it and obviously Max and I have no choice but to work well together.”

Max nodded. “Yeah, I really can’t think of many better ways to practice team work than being stuck to someone else, as it forces you to work as a team, whether you want to or not. So, if you want to stay sane, you get really good at it quickly.”

Silence fell over the table for a few minutes, as the students got back to their essays, with Max offering the occasional bit of advice. Despite getting an Outstanding NEWT in the subject, Tavi insisted he was the last person anyone should ask for help with Potions, because he did his best to put the entire subject out of his head as soon as he finished the NEWT examination, because he hated it.

Taking a break from writing and flexing his hand, Harry looked up and said, “I wonder what Hagrid is doing here.”

Looking around to where Hagrid was clearly visible, Hunter shrugged and said, “Whatever it is, it must have something to do with magical creatures, because that’s the section he’s looking at.”

“I think I’m going to go say hi,” Harry said as he stood up. “I could use a break from my essay anyway.”

“I’ll join you,” Ron said, before crying out in pain, as Hermione dug her fingernails into the back of his hand.

“No, you won’t, Ronald,” Hermione said. “You’re going to sit right there until you finish your essay because if you get up now, you’ll no doubt skive off on finishing it until lunch on Monday, when it’s due and then start begging me or William to let you copy ours.”

Ron looked like he was about to complain, but one look from Hermione had him shutting up. Everyone at the table, with the exception of Max and Tavi who didn’t really know Ron all that well, agreed that Hermione was right. William was also quietly thanking Hermione for the intervention, because he had no doubt that she was right about what Ron would do if he stopped work on his essay now and he really didn’t want to hear Ron’s begging come Monday.

Walking over to where Hagrid was, Harry was about to say hello to the large man when he saw the title of the book that Hagrid had just pulled off the shelf.

‘Dragon Breeding for Pleasure and Profit?’ Harry thought. ‘What could you possibly want with that?’

Shaking his head, Harry cleared his throat and said, “Hullo, Hagrid.”

Turning and spying Harry standing there, Hagrid smiled. “Hello Harry,” as he hid the book he’d just taken from the shelf behind his back. “What brings yeh to the library?”

“Potions essay for Snape,” Harry answered, as Hagrid nodded. “So what about you?”

“Oh nothin’ much,” Hagrid replied. “Was just lookin’ for summat ‘bout herbicides for the school cabbages.”

‘In the magical creatures section?’ Harry thought. ‘He’s definitely hiding something… I wonder if it has something to do with Fluffy.’

“I think you might have better luck in the potions or plant sections, Hagrid,” Harry said. “I doubt Madam Pince shelves books about herbicide or cabbages with the books on magical creatures.”

As if just realizing what section he was in, he said, “Oh, ah, yeah, you’re probably right ‘bout tha’.”

Deciding to take a chance, he said, “You being here wouldn’t have anything to do with what’s on the third floor, would it?”

“I don’ know what ya talkin ‘bout, Harry.”

“I’m talking about Fluffy,” Harry said. “Firenze said that’s what you call that three-headed dog that’s guarding something on the third floor.”

Shaking his head, Hagrid said, “Now, listen to me, Harry — yer meddlin' in things that don' concern yeh. You already landed yerself in detention once over this. It's dangerous. You forget that dog, an' you forget what it's guardin', that's between Professor Dumbledore an Nicolas Flamel —"

“Nicolas Flamel?” Harry asked.

“I should’na said tha’,” Hagrid said. “Forget I said anythin’, Harry, please.” Looking around, he added, “I gotta go.”

Hagrid hurried away from Harry at this point, stopping only briefly to check out the book he’d taken, before hurrying out of the library. Harry couldn’t help but notice that Madam Pince looked very annoyed as she watched Hagrid leaving, of course that was probably because his hurried movements had shook one of the bookcases enough to knock a few volumes to the floor. Going back over to the table, Harry noticed that Cedric had joined the others, although there was no sign of Max and Tavi.

“Where’s Max and Tavi?” Harry asked.

“With Ryan,” Cedric said, his skin flushed slightly, as he wasn’t really sure what to say to his young friends on this subject. “They were going to help him with his homework… in private.”

Shaking his head, Carter said, “Ric, you don’t need to speak in code. I’m sure most of us here already know what married people do when they’re alone together.”

Neville nodded. “Yeah, Gran gave me that talk when I was ten.” Shuddering he added, “Scariest hour of my life.”

Everyone else confirmed that they also knew about it, which at this point now included Harry, who’d gotten “the talk” from an extremely embarrassed Kyle Bradley over the winter break, as Dylan and Thorne had recognized the need for Harry to get it and delegated it to Jordan, Kyle, and Matthew to do because after already giving the talk to Carter and Hunter, they weren’t ready to do it again this soon. Unfortunately for Kyle, his boyfriends quickly abandoned him and left him all alone to do it himself.

“I wonder what Max and Tavi do all day?” Hermione asked. “When Ryan is in class that is. They don’t have jobs, do they?”

Shaking his head, Cedric said, “No, they don’t, which is at least partly why their father forced them to marry Ryan. As for what they do, I guess they’ve worked something out with McGonagall to apprentice under her for their Transfiguration Masteries. Ryan says they have different favorite subjects and Transfiguration is the only one that they share, so they figured they’d get their Masteries in that first.”

“So what was Hagrid up to?” Ron asked.

“He clearly didn’t want me to see the book he got,” Harry answered. “But I did and I’m not entirely sure I want to know why he’s interested in a book on dragon breeding.”

“Dragon breeding?” Cedric asked. “Are you sure Harry?”

Harry nodded. “Yeah, Ric, I saw the title on the spine of the book. It was called Dragon Breeding for Pleasure and Profit.” After a moment, he asked, “You don’t think he’s trying to breed a dragon do you?”

“He couldn’t possibly be trying that, Harry,” Cedric said. “There’s no way he could hide a pair of dragons to breed with each other on Hogwarts grounds. Besides, dragon breeding is illegal. Obviously the Ministry can’t do much about dragons in the wild, of which there are still some, but all other breeding is strictly forbidden outside of the dragon reserves around the world, like the ones in the Hebrides Islands and Romania.”

Everyone was quiet for a few minutes, before Harry grinned and said, “I did manage to get something else out of Hagrid though. Something which he immediately said he shouldn’t have told me and asked that I forget it.”

“Maybe you should listen to him, Harry,” Hermione said.

“So you’re going to sit there and tell me that you’re not even the slightest bit interested in what Hagrid let slip about Fluffy and what he’s guarding?”

Hermione sighed, as she knew there was no point in denying that she was curious, as she’d been curious ever since they first found Fluffy. “What did he say?”

“Just that whatever the dog is guarding that it’s between Professor Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel.”

“Nicolas Flamel?” Carter asked. “I wonder if that’s any relation to Professor Flamel.”

“I guess now we know why Firenze told us to ask her,” Hunter said, as the others agreed.

After this, with some prodding from Hermione, they all got back to their Potions essay. Well, Cedric didn’t since he didn’t have Snape for Potions, however, he did have some of his own homework to work on. Once it was finished, they searched the library for a little while about information on Nicolas Flamel, but didn’t find anything before it was time for them to go downstairs for dinner.

-o-0-o-

The next day, after History of Magic class ended, Hermione stayed behind and asked Professor Flamel about Nicolas Flamel. Of course, Perenelle Flamel was nothing if not observant and all the teachers knew the reason for the detention in the Forbidden Forest, so she only said, “I’m afraid I’m under orders from Professor Dumbledore not to talk about that, Miss Granger.”

Needless to say, Hermione didn’t get the information she’d been hoping for from Perenelle, however, as she later told Harry, William, and the others, she got the impression that Perenelle didn’t appreciate the headmaster ordering her not to talk about Nicolas Flamel. This, of course, got all of them wondering why that would be the case. None of them could conceive of a reason, however, until William suddenly remembered the one detail that had been plaguing him ever since Harry had told them what Hagrid had said. The feeling that he’d heard the name before.

“Chocolate Frog Card,” William said out of the blue.

“What?” Hermione asked, clearly annoyed. “Wills, this is hardly the time to be thinking of candy.”

Shaking his head, he said, “No, that’s where I heard the name Nicolas Flamel. Ever since Harry mentioned it I’ve had this nagging thought that I’d heard it somewhere before. I just remembered that it was on a chocolate frog card.”

Ron looked up at this and said, “There’s a list of all the people that have cards that they put out to aid people in collecting the entire set. I don’t recall Nicolas Flamel having a card.”

“It wasn’t on his card that he’s mentioned,” William said. “I gave my cousin Zara some chocolate frogs over Christmas and she read one of the cards aloud. It was Dumbledore’s I think and I’m almost certain that Nicolas Flamel is mentioned on the card.”

“I’ll be right back,” Ron said as he left the common room and hurried up to his dorm. He returned about two minutes later carrying a box that contained all of his chocolate frog cards.

The group sorted through them for a moment before Harry found one for Albus Dumbledore and said, “Ah here it is.”

“What does it say?” Hermione asked.

Harry read the card. “Considered by many to be the greatest wizard of modern times, Professor Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark Wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel.”

“So, Nicolas Flamel is apparently an alchemist,” William said. “Presumably a rather famous one if his work on it with Dumbledore is considered one of the headmaster’s biggest achievements.”

Hermione pulled out a copy of ‘Famous Witches and Wizards of the 20th Century’ and after checking the index, she shook her head and said, “Professor Dumbledore has an entry, but there’s nothing for Nicolas Flamel. There isn’t even a mention of anyone named Flamel.”

“Flamel?” Cormac asked as he came over. “Are you talking about the noble family?”

“Noble family?” William asked.

Cormac nodded. “They’re one of the seven Noble Houses who hold the rank of Bann. I think the current head of the family is Lord-Bann Nicolas Flamel.”

Skimming over the names in the index of the book, Hermione said, “Most of the other lords are all mentioned in this book,” as she lifted it so that Cormac could see the cover, “but there’s no mention of any Flamels in it at all.”

“Well, that’s odd,” Cormac said, before cocking his head and saying, “of course, now that I think about it, I want to say there’s been some rather odd rumors about the Flamels for a while now.”

“Like what?” Harry asked.

“Well, as I said the current Lord Flamel is named Nicolas,” Cormac said. “The previous Lord Flamel was named Nicolas. As was the one before that and the one before that. This has led to some pretty crazy rumors that Lord Flamel might be a vampire or something, because there’s some who think that all those Lord Nicolas Flamels over the years are in fact the same person, meaning that he’s been leading the family for centuries.”

“That’s not possible,” Hermione said.

William, meanwhile, looked around the room for a moment and spotted a seventh year girl sitting on one of the nearby couches. William couldn’t think of her name, but he knew she was muggleborn, as she’d been one of the first people he’d encountered at Hogwarts who actually had some idea of the royal protocol around meeting a member of the royal family. William knew that Wizarding Britain had had protocols as well but it had been so long since there was an active monarch or a royal family that most people in the wizarding world weren’t quite as well briefed on the subject.

Anyway the girl was clearly doing her homework, Charms by the look of it and had put in a pair of earplugs to block out the noise of the common room. What had caught William’s attention, however, was that sitting on a stack of books next to her chair was a book called ‘Alchemy Through the Ages’.

Getting up from the table, William walked over and tapped the girl on the shoulder, prompting her to look up, pull the earplugs from her ears and ask, “Can I help you, Your Royal Highness?”

“I was wondering if I could borrow your book on Alchemy,” William said. “I’ve heard mention of it and was curious to learn a bit more about it.”

Gesturing to the pile with her hand, the girl smiled and said, “Of course, sir, if it’ll help you. I will need it back though, as I have to return it to the library in the morning.”

William smiled and said, “That’s fine and thank you,” as the girl nodded, before putting her earplugs back in and getting back to work on her homework, while William took the book.

“What’s that?” Harry asked, as William returned to the table with the book.

“A book on alchemy,” William answered. “Since Dumbledore’s card says he’s famous for his work on alchemy with Nicolas Flamel, I figured it couldn’t hurt to look at it.”

Nodding her head, Hermione said, “Good thinking, Wills.”

Opening the book to the index, William scanned it and then said, “Ah here it is: Flamel, page 638.” Turning to the correct page, William scanned it and said, “Hmm, it’s about something called a Philosopher’s Stone.”

“What is it?” Ron asked.

Reading aloud from the book, William said, “Easily the hardest alchemical project that can be undertaken is the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, which is purported to have astonishing powers. It is said that the stone will transform any metal it touches into pure gold. The Stone is also said to secrete the Elixir of Life, which when drunk will freeze the drinker at whatever age they were when they began drinking it and then keep them alive, potentially forever, as long as they continue drinking the Elixir.”

“Bloody hell,” Cormac said, as Harry and Ron both nodded in agreement.

“What about Flamel though?” Hermione asked.

Skimming the page a bit, William found the right section and continued reading, “While opinions vary on whether or not anyone has ever successfully managed to create a Philosopher’s Stone, there are long-standing and unsubstantiated rumors that famed alchemist Lord-Bann Nicolas Flamel managed to create the stone. When I interviewed the Lord Flamel at his home in Albion for this book, however, he refused to comment on the rumors, calling them nothing more than fanciful stories.

“There are, however, some people who believe that Lord Nicolas Flamel and his wife, Lady Perenelle Flamel, are in fact the same Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel that appear in French birth records dating back to 1327 and 1334 respectively. That Nicolas and Perenelle attended Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and later donated a substantial amount of galleons to the school, leading to the construction of a statue and fountain dedicated to the couple on the grounds of the school. Without confirmation from the Flamels, it is probably impossible to ever know for sure, however, I will say that having seen the statue at the school, it does bear a striking resemblance to the current Lord and Lady Flamel.”

“Wow,” Harry said, as he quickly did the math on a spare bit of parchment. “If the rumors are true than that would mean that Nicolas Flamel is 665 years old and that his wife Perenelle is 658.” Looking at his friends, he asked, “Isn’t Professor Flamel’s first name Perenelle?”

Hermione nodded. “Yes, I’ve heard Professor McGonagall call Professor Flamel Perenelle.”

Cormac looked speculative as he asked, “Is there any mention in the book as to roughly how large a Philosopher’s Stone would be?”

Shaking his head, William said, “There’s several theories, ranging from the size of a snitch to bigger than a quaffle. Nobody can agree though because most seem to believe that the stone has never been created in the first place.”

“Hmm,” Cormac said. “And how big would you say the package you saw Hagrid take from Gringotts’ was Harry?”

“About the size of a snitch,” Harry answered. “As Ron has said, you’d have to be a fool to try to steal anything from the goblins,” Ron nodded, “but a stone that can basically give you unlimited money, plus eternal youth and life? That may well be something that somebody would risk trying to steal from the goblins.”

“I’ll admit that there’s certainly an appeal to it,” Hermione said. “And it’s probably a fair assumption that whatever Hagrid took from that vault is what Fluffy is guarding, because I can’t think of any other reason that something as big and dangerous as a Cerberus would be brought into a school, unless it was to guard something extremely valuable.”

There were nods all around at this, but not much else was said, as William returned the book to the girl he borrowed it from. Not long afterward, the group of them headed up to their dormitories to get some sleep.

-o-0-o-

Much later that night, around one in the morning, Harry woke up and decided that it was finally time to try out his new cloak. He assumed that Hermione wouldn’t be down in the common room making sure that he didn’t try to sneak out considering that he’d seen her go into her dorm room just before he’d gone into his own. So, throwing back his bedcovers and swinging his legs off the bed, Harry, clad in a pair of pajamas that William had given him to wear while he they were at Windsor Castle and told him he could keep, slipped his feet into a pair of slippers and quietly moved over to his trunk.

“Gonna test out the cloak?” a soft voice asked, causing Harry to jump slightly, as he turned his head and saw William standing nearby, having apparently just made a nighttime visit to the loo.

Nodding, Harry whispered, “Yeah… you wanna come with?”

“Hell yeah,” William answered as softly as he could so as to not wake the others. Glancing over at Ron’s bed, he asked, “Should we wake him? He’ll be mad if he finds out we tried it out and didn’t take him with us.”

“True,” Harry agreed. “But you know how hard he is to wake. We’d probably end up waking everyone else in the process and then we’d lose our chance.”

William nodded, before he came over to Harry and wrapped one arm firmly around his waist, as Harry moved the cloak over the both of them. If they were both adults, this would never have worked as there simply wouldn’t have been enough space for both of them under the cloak, but at only eleven years old, they were both small enough to fit. Pulling up the hood and disappearing completely from sight, the two of them made their way over to the door and quietly pulled it open just enough from them to get through, before shutting it as quietly as possible. Carefully making their way down the stairs, they found—much to their relief—that the common room was empty.

Moving over to the portrait hole, they pushed it open and quickly made their way out into the empty hallway. Of course, the movement woke the Fat Lady and she was looking quite confused when she saw nobody, prompting her to ask, “Who’s there?” Harry and William, however, ignored her and quickly left the hallway that the Fat Lady occupied, moving as quickly as they dared until they could no longer hear the portrait calling out.

“So where should we go?” William asked softly, as they stopped to catch their breath for a moment.

“Maybe try to find the kitchens?” Harry asked. “I heard some of the older students say they’re near the Hufflepuff Common Room.”

“Sounds good to me,” William agreed, as the two of them headed down one of the hidden staircases that didn’t move.

Just as they reached the second floor, however, Harry spied movement out of the corner of his eye and before he could warn William, something darted out in front of them and let out a loud squealing noise as William stepped on the tail of what turned out to be Mrs. Norris. Knowing the sound would undoubtedly have Mr. Filch hurrying to investigate, the two boys quickly made their way away from the angry cat, turned a corner, and entered the first open door they could find, which turned out to be an old, unused classroom.

Closing the door behind them, Harry and William grabbed a chair and wedged it under the door handle as a makeshift barricade, since both of them had unfortunately left their wands in their dorm room and thus couldn’t use the Locking Charm. Leaning against the teacher’s desk, the two of them took a moment to catch their breath, but said nothing for several moments out of fear that Filch might hear them if they did. Once they could no longer hear Mrs. Norris, however, they figured the coast was clear and they removed the cloak to look around the room they were now in.

“Looks like an old abandoned classroom,” William said, as he ran a finger over the teacher’s desk and frowned when he found a thick layer of dust on his finger. “Obviously not used—or cleaned—in a while.”

Harry nodded, as he looked around the room. In many ways the room was like many of the other classrooms in the castle, although this one also seemed to have been turned into a storage room of sorts, as there were a number of crates stacked in one corner. Harry was kind of curious what was in them, but he knew he wasn’t going to find out considering that the crates were nailed shut and he didn’t have anything to pry them open with. Scanning his eyes around the room, he finally spotted a tall mirror, which had him whispering, “Hey Wills, look at that.”

Looking where Harry was pointing, William said, “Well, that’s clearly an antique, cause it looks pretty old.”

Harry nodded as he pushed away from the teacher’s desk and moved closer to the mirror. As he got near it, the whole surface shimmered for a moment, before Harry gasped slightly and asked, “Mum? Dad?”

“Harry?” William asked, curious. “What do you see?”

“My parents,” Harry said. “And my Dad’s parents.” After a moment, he recognized the other two people in the mirror from pictures he’d seen at the Dursleys, “And my Mum’s parents, too.”

“There’s nobody but us in the room, Harry,” William said. “So how could you see your parents and grandparents in the mirror?”

“I don’t know, but they’re there,” Harry answered. “All standing around me, like a big happy family. Mum and Dad have their hands on my shoulders.”

“Hmm,” William said as he moved closer and noticed the inscription on the mirror. “There’s something written on it.” Squinting a bit, he read, “Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.”

William pondered the inscription for a moment, before he realized that the first word was desire spelled backwards. Scanning the room for something reflective, he saw a shiny silver tray on top of one the crates which he grabbed, before standing with his back to the mirror and held the tray up so that he could see the inscription reflected in it. Reflected in the tray, William saw, “Ishow no tyo urfac ebu tyo urhe arts desire,” at which point it wasn’t long before he realized that what he’d initially thought was gibberish was actually English, only spelled backwards with several of the spaces changed.

“I show not your face, but your heart’s desire,” William said.

Moments later, a startled William dropped the tray and Harry spun around, as the sound of applause came from the corner of the room. Looking over towards the crates, both boys paled as Professor Dumbledore emerged from behind them. “Good work figuring out the inscription, young Mr. Windsor. Five points to Gryffindor. I assume you realize what it means?”

“That the mirror doesn’t show your reflection, but what you desire most in your heart?”

Dumbledore nodded. “Indeed, Mr. Windsor. Take another five points for Gryffindor. Harry, who has never known his family, sees himself standing in front of the mirror surrounded by them. I imagine that if he were here, Ron on the other hand, who has always felt overshadowed by his brothers, would see himself alone the best of all of them.” Pausing for a moment, he asked, “Care to venture a guess as to what you’d see, William?”

“I don’t really know,” William said after a moment of thought. “I don’t really want to be king, so I’d assume I’d see myself leading a normal life somewhere and never getting crowned.”

“Well, why don’t you have a look and see?” Dumbledore asked. “One glance can’t hurt.”

Nodding his head, William moved to stand in front of the mirror, as Harry moved off to one side. The surface of the mirror shimmered for a moment, before an image appeared and William’s eyes widened slightly as he saw… absolutely the last thing he expected to see. He saw himself standing in the mirror, wearing silver and gold chainmail armor with a flowing red cape embroidered with a golden dragon around his shoulders and a golden and jeweled crown upon his head. He wasn’t alone, however, as Hunter was standing next to him on his left, dressed very similarly and also wearing a crown, although smaller than William’s. A tall man with platinum blond hair stood on William’s right, dressed identically to Hunter, although he had no idea who the man was because his face was blurred. Kneeling in front of William was Harry, also dressed like the other two. Cedric and Carter were also visible in the background, along with a tall red-haired man, his face also blurred.

William wasn’t sure how long he stared at the mirror, but after a moment, Harry said, “So, Wills, what did you see?”

“Myself in a policeman’s uniform,” William lied. “Standing protectively in front of my family. No crowns or other signs of royalty in sight.”

“Interesting,” Dumbledore said. His tone seemed a bit off, making William wonder if the headmaster knew he was lying. If he did, however, he made no mention of it, as he shook his head and said, “The mirror will be moved from this room and I must ask that neither of you go searching for it. Many men have gone completely mad staring into its surface, so caught up in what they see that they forget to actually live their lives.”

Harry and William looked at each other for a moment, before they both nodded and Dumbledore said, “Now, why don’t you get back under that cloak and get back to bed where you both belong.”

As William moved over to Harry and wrapped his arm around him and Harry began putting on the cloak, Harry asked, “Sir, can I ask you a question?”

Dumbledore smiled. “You just did, Harry, but you may ask one more.”

“What do you see when you look in the mirror?” Harry asked.

“I see myself holding a pair of lovely woolen socks,” Dumbledore answered. When both boys gave him an odd look, he said, “It can get very cold in this castle at night and woolen socks are good at keeping my old feet warm. Alas, I didn’t get a single pair this past Christmas, as people always insist on giving me books. Oh well.” Shaking his head, he said, “William, you may also ask one question, if you have one.”

Thinking for a moment, he asked, “How did you know about Harry’s cloak?”

“Other than the fact that I saw you both come in and remove it?” Dumbledore asked in response, before he smiled and added, “I’m the ‘friend’ who gave it to you, Harry. As I said on the card, your father lent it to me before he died and I’ve hung onto it all these years, but I thought it high time it was returned to you. It is, I’m told, an old Potter family heirloom after all, handed down in the family for many generations.”

Harry ran a bit of the cloth through his fingertips at this, taking a moment to look at it almost reverently, before Dumbledore said, “All right, now, both of you off to bed.” Harry and William nodded before they pulled up the hood and moved towards the door. As they removed the chair, Dumbledore added, “And do try not to step on poor Mrs. Norris’s tail this time.”

-o-0-o-

The following weekend, Harry, William, Hermione, and Ron found themselves heading down to Hagrid’s hut, as Harry had received an invitation to tea, with Hagrid saying he could bring up to three friends. Hagrid had also rather cryptically said that he wanted to show Harry something.

“What do you think Hagrid wants to show you?” William asked.

Shaking his head, Harry said, “I’ve no idea.”

“I’m sure we’re not lucky enough for it to have something to do with the stone,” Ron said.

“Probably not,” Hermione agreed. “Maybe… you don’t think it’s something to do with why Hagrid was looking at books on dragon breeding do you?”

“I doubt that,” Ron said. “As Cedric said in the library, dragon breeding outside of the reserves is illegal.”

William nodded. “Yes and somehow I doubt Hagrid would be thick enough to try breeding something that dangerous in a school… although given his love of large, dangerous animals like Fluffy…”

As the four of them arrived at Hagrid’s hut, Harry noticed that Fang was sleeping next to the steps leading up to the door. Shrugging, Harry said, “Well, I guess we’ll know soon enough,” before he climbed the three steps up to the door and knocked.

Hagrid’s heavy footsteps could be heard inside the hut at this and a moment later the door opened a crack, as one of Hagrid’s eyes appeared. When he saw who it was, he opened the door wider and said, “Get in get in.”

Once all four where inside, Hagrid bolted the door and moved back towards the fireplace. “Have a seat, all o’ ya.”

Taking a seat around the table, at the center of which was a large plate full of what looked like a weird cross between a cake and a rock, the four students watched as Hagrid took a tea pot from a hook near the fireplace and moved over to pour them all a cup of tea.

“What’s that over the fireplace?” Harry asked, as he noticed the large cast iron pot over the fireplace, its lid rattling, as steam escaped from underneath it.

“That’s what I wanted to be showin’ ya, Harry,” Hagrid said as he poured the tea. “It should be ready to hatch soon.”

“Hatch?” Ron and Hermione asked in unison, before William asked, “Hagrid, don’t tell me that’s a dragon egg in there.”

“Okay, I won’t be tellin’ ya that,” Hagrid said as he put down the teapot.

“Oh Merlin, it is isn’t it?” Harry asked, as he could tell from Hagrid’s tone that he was hiding something. “Where did you get a bloody dragon egg from?”

“A couple o’ nights ago was down in the village,” Hagrid said. “Got into a game o’ cards with a stranger and he bet the egg. Won it, I did. Think he was quite glad ter be rid o’ it ter be honest.”

Moving over to the fireplace, Hagrid removed the lid from the boiling pot and looked inside for a moment, before grabbing a long metal hook and using it to remove the pot from over the flames. Resting it on the floor, Hagrid then took a pair of tongs and lifted a large black egg from the boiling water inside the pot, which he placed in a basket with a blanket in it. Putting away the tongs, Hagrid moved the basket over to the kitchen table and said, “I’m thinkin’ it’s about ready ter hatch.”

“Hagrid, what are you going to do with a dragon?” Hermione asked, as William asked, “Hagrid, you do realize that dragons breath fire right? And that your house is made of wood?”

Staring at the egg, Ron said, “I think that’s a Norwegian Ridgeback egg. Charlie told me what color the various eggs are and that one looks like what he said the Ridgeback looked like. They’re supposed to be really rare.”

“Um, I think it’s hatching,” Harry said, after a moment.

And sure enough, a crack had appeared down the side of the egg. A moment later, another crack, running in a different direction. And then a small chip that broke away as a small clawed arm broke through the shell. Lifting the broken pieces away as they split apart from the rest of the egg, Hagrid was all smiles as he looked down at the egg and asked, “Isn’t he beautiful?”

At this, Hagrid reached out and stroked the dragon’s head, which was now fully outside of the egg. The dragon snapped at Hagrid’s fingers, showing fangs, before it sneezed and sparks flew out of its snout. “Bless him, look he knows his mommy.”

“Ron, do you have any idea how fast Norwegian Ridgebacks grow?” William asked.

Ron shook his head and said, “Not really, no, although I’m pretty sure Charlie said that dragons grow pretty quickly once they’re hatched. I think he said they’d get to nearly full grown in about a year’s time.”

“And how big is that?” Hermione asked.

“Varies depending on the breed,” Ron answered. “But usually several tons.”

“Hagrid, you can’t keep him,” Harry said. “If he doesn’t burn down your house, he could probably crush it. And that’s not even considering what he could do to the school or the people in it. You need to set him free.”

“I can’t,” Hagrid protested. “He’s ter little. He’d die.”

“Yes, but the point is he’s not going to stay little,” William said.

“And then there’s going to be a several ton living flamethrower wandering the grounds,” Harry said. “Not a good thing to have at a school full of children.”

Hermione was quiet for a moment before she said, “Ron, what about your brother?”

“Charlie? What about him?”

“Could we get him here?” Hermione asked. “Give him the egg?” Looking over at Hagrid, she added, “That would probably be for the best, Hagrid. For him to be raised on a dragon reserve by trained professionals and possibly with others of its kind… it would probably get very lonely here, as it’s going to want companionship from other dragons.”

Spying the jar of Floo powder on the fireplace mantle, Ron said, “I know Charlie’s Floo address. I could call him.”

Hagrid looked sad, but after a moment, he sighed, and said, “All right, call him.”

Standing up, being careful to stay as far away from the dragon as possible, Ron grabbed a pinch of Floo powder, threw it into the flames and said, “Dragon’s Claw Cottage, Wallachia, Romania,” before bending down and putting his face in the now green flames.

-o-0-o-

Over in Romania, Charlie had just gone through the door to his bedroom with Jean-Luc not far behind, delayed by a few minutes as he’d stayed to tidy up a bit, when a noise made Jean-Luc turn around. He quickly realized it was the Floo activating. “Who would be calling at this time of night?” he asked quietly, as he moved closer to the flames, only to see the face of a young man appear.

“Hello, Charlie? It’s Ron.”

“Um, hello, Ron, Charlie just went to bed,” Jean-Luc said.

“Who are you?” Ron asked.

“Jean-Luke, but just call me Luke.”

“Okay, well, could you get Charlie?” Ron asked. “This is an emergency.”

“Luke, baby, come to bed,” Charlie’s voice called out from the bedroom, making Ron cock his head to one side. “I need you to fuck me, baby.”

“Luke, baby?” Ron repeated. After a moment, he realized what else Charlie had said and his eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. Charlie may have come out to his parents and sister over Christmas and introduced them to Jean-Luc, but since his other siblings weren’t there, he hadn’t had the chance to do either yet.

“Charlie, your brother Ron is in the Floo,” Jean-Luc called out. “And he just heard you.”

“Oh shit,” Charlie’s voice could be heard saying. A moment later, Charlie came out, wearing only his boxers and pulling a shirt over his head as he walked. His skin was redder than his hair, as he looked at Ron’s face in the flames and said, “Ron, hi, um… yeah, this is Luke… my boyfriend.”

Nodding his head, Ron said, “Funnily enough, I kind of figured that out, thanks.”

“Yeah, I told Mum and Dad and Ginny when they were here,” Charlie said. “Was going to tell the rest of you the next time I saw you. Figured in person was better.”

“Yeah,” Ron said. “Anyway, the reason I called is because I’m here with Harry, Hermione, Wills, and Hagrid… and his newly hatched Norwegian Ridgeback.”

“His what?” Charlie asked.

“He won a dragon egg playing cards,” Ron said. “It just hatched and I think from the egg descriptions you gave me, that it’s a Norwegian Ridgeback. We were all kind of hoping you could come take it before it burns down Hagrid’s house or roasts someone here at the school.”

“Oh for the love of all the gods,” Jean-Luc said. “What was Hagrid thinking hatching a dragon egg? At a school?”

“Move over, Ron, I’m coming through,” Charlie said, but was stopped by Jean-Luc’s hand clamping down on his shoulder.

“Charlie, don’t you think you should um, put some trousers on first?” Jean-Luc asked, “And maybe some shoes?”

Looking down at himself and seeing his attire—or lack thereof—he blushed again and said, “Yeah, I’ll be right back.” Not long afterward, Charlie was back and shooed Ron out of the way, before he stepped into the flames, with Jean-Luc not far behind.

-o-0-o-

Back at Hagrid’s, Ron stepped away from the fireplace and moments later Charlie emerged with Jean-Luc following close behind. Motioning towards the table, Ron said, “As you can see, one baby dragon.”

“I’m calling him Norbert,” Hagrid said with a smile.

“Norbert, huh?” Charlie asked, as he approached the table and got a good look at the small dragon. “Norberta might be more appropriate.”

“What?” Hagrid asked.

“Hagrid, that’s a female.”

“How can you be sure?” Hagrid asked, as he looked from Charlie to the dragon and back again.

“Because I’m around dragons all day, Hagrid,” Charlie said. “And trust me, that little one—which is a Norwegian Ridgeback as Ron thought—is definitely a girl. You can tell from some of the markings on the scales that only females have. Not to mention the fact that she doesn’t have the right equipment to be male, if you catch my drift.”

Harry, Ron, and William laughed at that, as Hermione blushed a bit, as she’d been looking intently at the dragon as Charlie spoke, because she wanted to learn as much about them as she could while she had the chance.

When he’d calmed down, Ron motioned towards Charlie and said, “Well, as I’m sure you could all guess from the red hair, this is my elder brother, Charlie Weasley.” Motioning towards Jean-Luc, he added, “And this is his boyfriend, Jean-Luc… sorry I didn’t catch your last name.”

“That’s because I didn’t give it,” Jean-Luc said with a grin, before he said, “its Flamel. Jean-Luc Flamel.”

“Wait did you say Flamel?” Harry asked. “Like as in our History of Magic professor: Perenelle Flamel?”

“Yes, she’s my grandmother,” Jean-Luc said, although even as he said it he almost winced as if he realized too late that he shouldn’t have said that.

“Grandmother?” Hermione asked. “She barely looks old enough to be your mother let alone your grandmother.”

“Good genes run in the family,” Jean-Luc said. “And she had my father when she was very young.”

“Really?” William asked. “Or is it that Perenelle’s husband Nicolas is the only alchemist in the world to make a Philosopher’s Stone and they’re both in fact over 600 years old?”

“Going for the direct approach I see,” Jean-Luc answered. “Who are you anyway?”

“William Windsor.”

“And that’s actually His Royal Highness Prince William,” Harry said with a grin. “He’s Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and second-in-line to the throne after his father.”

“Yeah, so maybe you shouldn’t lie to him,” Ron added.

Charlie looked over at Ron at this and said, “Ronald, I get that you’re mad that I didn’t tell you that I’m gay or that I’ve got a boyfriend, but don’t take it out on Luke, huh? He hasn’t done anything to deserve you accusing him of lying.”

“How do any of you even know about the so-called Philosopher’s Stone, anyway?” Jean-Luc asked. “I went to Hogwarts myself and I know for a fact that alchemy is not taught to first years.”

“Because we’re smart?” Ron tried, although his tone wasn’t very convincing.

Charlie just grinned. “Smart, huh? Like the time that Bill and I had you convinced that Percy was adopted because he was actually a pixie that Mum found in the garden while de-gnoming it?”

Ron groaned. “That was seven years ago Charlie! I was three for crying out loud.”

“Yes and yet I seem to recall you following Percy around for over a year after that asking to see his wings,” Charlie said with grin. Looking over at Jean-Luc, he added, “Drove Percy absolutely bonkers, let me tell you.”

“We know that Hagrid took something small—roughly the size of a snitch—from a vault at Gringotts,” Harry said. “Because I was with him when he did it. Later that very same day that vault was broken into, although the goblins insist nothing was taken because the vault had already been emptied by Hagrid.”

“And then Professor Dumbledore told everyone to avoid the third floor corridor on the right hand side,” William added. “With good reason it seems since there’s a bloody Cerberus there standing atop a trap door, obviously guarding whatever is under it which Hagrid let slip is between Professor Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel.”

Ron nodded. “And it says on Dumbledore’s chocolate frog card that one of the reasons he’s famous is because of his work on alchemy with Nicolas Flamel. So William borrowed a book on alchemy from an older student in our house and that’s where we learned about the stone.”

“My, my, aren’t you guys resourceful,” Jean-Luc said. “Too bad the Philosopher’s Stone is nothing more than a myth.”

“You’re just saying that because we’re kids and you think we’re too young,” Harry said. “But, we know the stone is in the school at this very moment and that Voldemort is trying to steal it.”

Charlie and Hagrid both flinched at Voldemort’s name, as did Ron and Hermione. Harry noted, however, the William didn’t, although then again he hadn’t grown up in the wizarding world being taught to fear saying it. Harry wasn’t sure why exactly Hermione was so afraid of a name, seeing as how she also hadn’t been raised in the wizarding world, but he didn’t feel like going into that right now. He also realized, of course, that Jean-Luc hadn’t flinched either.

“Really? Vol…” Jean-Luc began, but then catching the look on Charlie’s face, said, “Oh for Merlin’s sake, fine, You-Know-Who is trying to steal the mythological Philosopher’s Stone, which you say is hidden in the school?” Harry nodded, before Jean-Luc—who had seen Harry’s scar and thus knew exactly who he was—said, “The problem with your theory, Harry, is that he’s dead. You should know that better than anyone, considering that you’re the reason he is to begin with.”

“Except that he’s not!” Harry exclaimed. “I know he’s not because I saw him in the Forbidden Forest drinking blood from a dead unicorn. Even Professor Firenze confirmed that it was Voldemort!”

Jean-Luc paled slightly at this, but before he could say anything, Charlie asked, “Firenze? The centaur? Since when he is on staff?”

“He started this year,” Hermione answered. “He teaches the 4th and 5th year Astronomy classes. The Board of Governors made a ton of changes over the summer in order to try to improve Hogwarts’ falling standards.”

Charlie nodded. “Yes, I was aware that changes were made,” noticing the look on Ron’s face, he added, “and don’t even start, Ron. I know you weren’t happy with them, but then you made that abundantly clear when you and the twins sent that howler to Dad at work. I’m sure Mum had some very choice words for you and you’re lucky that Dad’s resulting heart attack was minor.”

Ron didn’t say anything at this, as Charlie looked at him harshly for a moment, before shaking his head and saying, “At any rate, I knew that changes were made, but I didn’t know all the details. Such as the fact that Firenze was on staff now.”

“Bill is on staff too,” Ron said. “I guess he’s taken a sabbatical from Gringotts’ because he missed his family.”

“Is that supposed to be a dig at me, Ron?” Charlie asked. “Because if it is, it’s not a very good one. And I knew Bill was working here now. We’re the first and second born, after all, and only two years apart so we’re very close and have kept in touch via letters.” Charlie looked thoughtful for a moment, before he said, “Although he’s been a bit distant the last few months. I’m not sure why, but I can’t shake the feeling he’s hiding something.”

“So this Firenze,” Jean-Luc said. “He’s sure that it was Voldemort you saw in the Forest?”

William nodded. “Yes, he was certain of it, and as a centaur he grew up in that forest, so he knows what belongs there and what doesn’t. He was quite adamant that it was Voldemort that we saw drinking the unicorn’s blood.”

“Stop sayin’ his name in my house!” Hagrid bellowed, causing some of the windows to rattle and a couple of the jars on a nearby shelf to tip over, as the small dragon growled and coughed, emitting more sparks from its mouth in the process.

“Drinking a unicorn’s blood is a very drastic step,” Jean-Luc said. “Very few people who know anything about the magical world would ever even consider doing such a thing. Although, if there was anyone who’d be willing to stoop to that level of depravity, I suppose it would be,” shooting a look at Hagrid, “You-Know-Who.”

“Firenze said that too,” Harry said. “Something about living a cursed life from the moment the blood touches your lips.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Hagrid said. “Ain’t no way You-Know-Who is gettin’ past Fluffy or the other protections the other professors setup so the stone is safe.” After a moment, his eyes widened and he added, “I should’na said tha’.”

Jean-Luc groaned and said, “No, Hagrid, you shouldn’t have said that.” After a moment, he sighed and said, “But I suppose the damage is already done. Also, I’m not on staff here and I never agreed with Dumbledore’s foolish plans for the stone to begin with. My family has kept it safe for centuries now so honestly it was an insult for him to act like we suddenly weren’t capable of it.”

“So, Nicolas and Perenelle?” Hermione asked.

“Yes, they’re both over 600 years old,” Jean-Luc answered. “And so am I, for that matter.”

“So she’s really your grandmum?” William asked.

Jean-Luc nodded. “Yes, Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel are truly my grandparents. Grandfather Nicolas is 665, Grandmother Perenelle is 658, and I’m 611. My parents drank the Elixir for a time, extending their lives by about a hundred years, but my grandparents and I are the only ones who’ve continued drinking it over the long-term.”

“Why did your parents stop drinking it?” Ron asked.

“Because they got tired of all the secrecy,” Jean-Luc answered. “It should go without saying that we don’t usually tell all and sundry about the Stone, as that would only increase attempts to steal it. So, we keep it a secret and if we live in one place for a long time, we use Glamour Charms to make it look like we’re aging. I don’t really care for that much, though, so I tend to never stay in one place for more than a couple of decades. Longest time I’ve ever spent in one place was in Florence, Italy in the 15th century, where I lived for 50 years.”

“Why’d you stay there for so long?” Harry asked.

“I was enjoying the Italian Renaissance,” Jean-Luc said. “And I was sort of dating some of the more famous Renaissance artists. Although dating is a rather strong term, as unlike what I have with Charlie, there weren’t any romantic feelings in those relationships and don’t ask any more questions about that because most of you are only eleven years old and this isn’t an appropriate topic.”

“We’ve all had ‘The Talk,’ you know,” William said with a grin. “So we know about sex.”

“True as that may be, Your Highness,” Jean-Luc said, “I am not going to talk about my love life with eleven year olds. And yes, I realize that I brought it up, but I’m not discussing it any further.”

After a moment of silence, Jean-Luc said, “Well, I’ll leave you to handle the dragon, Charlie, since you’re the dragon handler. I’m going to head up to the castle and have a word with my grandmother. I’m sure Dumbledore will put up a fight, but the Stone belongs to my family so I think it’s probably best if we just retake possession of it.” Looking at the children, he said, “I don’t want any of you to put yourselves at risk over this. It’s too dangerous and it doesn’t concern you anyway.”

As Jean-Luc left the hut, Charlie looked at Ron and said, “Ron, I don’t want to hear anything about you trying to go after that Stone, do you hear me? I don’t want to hear about any of you going after it, of course, but I’m not your parent or your teacher, so I don’t really have a say. I am, however, your brother, Ron, and I will be very disappointed in you if you disobey me on this and I assure you that I will tell Mum if you do.”

For all of his bravado, Ron quickly deflated and nodded. Fixing his brother with an ‘I mean business’ look for a few more moments, before shaking his head. Picking up the small dragon, Charlie placed it in the specially designed pouch that he’d grabbed when he went to get dressed which was issued to all the dragon handlers at the reserve for when they had to carry the newborn dragons whose mother died before they hatched. Hagrid, was, of course crying as he said goodbye over and over, prompting Charlie to say, “It’s okay, Hagrid. I know you’ll miss the little girl, but the reserve with her own kind is a far better place for her to grow up than at a school full of children that she could quite easily hurt.”

Walking back over to the fireplace, Charlie looked over his shoulder and said, “Jean-Luc can Apparate back, so you needn’t keep the Floo connection open for him,” before stepping into the flames.

The four students did their best to comfort the blubbering Hagrid for a few minutes, before they decided they’d better leave so that they’d be able to get back up to the castle before curfew.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text




Characters Pictured on the Cover
Left to Right: Carter Wells, Charlie Weasley, Jean-Luc Flamel, Harry Potter, Cedric Diggory, Prince William, and Hunter Wells

A Windsor at Hogwarts
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Eleven:
The End of First Year

-o-0-o-

As the days and weeks rolled on, it was soon the last week of February and Dylan, after having another heated argument with Thorne, headed down to Hogsmeade to cool off before he ended up saying something that he’d regret. Upon arriving in the village, Dylan could see that today was obviously the day that The Three Broomsticks was closed to the general public and most especially everyone under the age of seventeen. There were probably a great many people up at the school who would be surprised to learn that the reason that Rosmerta Macmillan was called Madam Rosmerta was because she had a license to operate her establishment as a brothel and one day a week, she did just that. Thus it was that Dylan walked past The Three Broomsticks and instead found himself at the Hog’s Head Inn.

Sitting down at the bar, Dylan flagged down the bartender and said, “Firewhisky, Black Label if you have it.”

A moment later a glass was placed on the bar in front of Dylan and the bartender poured his drink. When he went to put the bottle back on the shelf, Dylan said, “Oh just leave the bottle,” before throwing a handful of galleons on the bar. The bartender looked at Dylan with a raised eyebrow for a moment, before grabbing the appropriate amount of galleons to pay for the bottle and walking away.

Picking up the glass and drinking a mouthful of the amber liquid, Dylan winced slightly as it went down. He wasn’t usually a heavy drinker, but after the fight he’d just had with Thorne, he needed something to dull the ache in his heart. Thorne was still angry with him over his trying to keep him from doing anything too strenuous and it had only gotten worse in late January when Madam Pomfrey had put Thorne on bed rest. The sniping and arguing was now to the point that Dylan barely recognized his own husband, as he had never in all the years they’d been together ever seen Thorne act like he’d been acting the last couple of weeks, which included insulting Dylan at every possible opportunity.

He understood that pregnancy hormones could make a person say and do things that they normally wouldn’t, but Dylan couldn’t understand how it was this bad considering that Thorne was only pregnant with one baby this time, instead of twins. Of course, Dylan strongly suspected that Thorne was also angry that he was pregnant at all, not to mention finding out that he was the reason that Dylan had never gotten pregnant and thus was determined to take out all of his anger on Dylan, deserved or not. Taking another drink, Dylan sighed as the alcohol burned its way down his throat. He couldn’t wait for this pregnancy to end, not only because he’d have a new son, but he also hoped that he’d finally get back some semblance of the easy-going and loving man that he’d married, which he’d been seeing less and less of as Thorne got further along.

Finishing his first drink and pouring himself another, Dylan took another drink, before a voice asked, “Rough day, Lord Wells?”

Turning and looking over his shoulder, Dylan saw Professor Alexander Davies standing behind him. Motioning for him to take the empty seat next to him, Dylan said, “Yes and call me Dylan.”

“Okay, Dylan, but only if you call me Alex.”

“Deal,” before he called out, “Bartender a glass for my friend here,” as the bartender came over and put an empty glass on the bar in front of Alex, before walking away to serve another customer.

As Dylan screwed off the top of the bottle of Old Ogden’s Black Label Firewhisky and began pouring it into Alex’s empty glass, Alex said, “I don’t know if I should, Dylan. I’ve never drunk anything stronger than butterbeer and I have to teach tomorrow afternoon.”

“Oh one glass won’t hurt you, Alex. Now don’t make me drink alone.”

Alex looked hesitant for a moment, but then nodded and said, “Oh all right,” as Dylan finished filling his glass. Picking it up he held it aloft and said, “Cheers,” before taking a sip, and saying, “Damn that burns.”

“You get used to it.”

Alex looked unsure about that, but took another drink anyway.

Just over two hours later, Dylan and Alex had not only finished the bottle, but drank an entire second and third bottle. A clearly drunk Dylan waved the bartender over, but before he could say anything, the bartender, Aberforth Dumbledore, said, “Don’t even ask, sonny, I’m cutting you off.”

“What?” Dylan asked, slurring his words. “Do you have any idea who I am? I’m a Teryn!”

Raising one eyebrow, Aberforth said, “I realize that, my boy, and that is the only reason why I’m not throwing you and your friend out on your arses.”

“I’d like to see you try, old man,” Alex slurred, as he wobbled on his stool, drunker than he’d ever been in his entire life. Of course, that was probably also because this was the first time he’d ever drank anything stronger than butterbeer, so he really wasn’t used to it by any stretch of the imagination.

“Don’t threaten me boy,” Aberforth warned. “I may be old but I’ve forgotten more curses than you’ll ever know.” After a moment, he grabbed something from a drawer under the cash register and said, “Now, as I doubt either of you is in any shape to get back up to the school,” he placed a key on the bar in front of them, “take this, go upstairs and sleep it off.”

Both Dylan and Alex looked like they might say something to that, at which point Aberforth pulled out his wand and said, “Go, unless you’d prefer I start throwing Stinging Hexes at your arses. And just so you know, it wouldn’t be the namby-pamby version they teach up at the school, but the original full-strength version that’ll make you feel like you’ve got an entire swarm of angry bees stinging you all over your body.”

Knowing that this was Albus Dumbledore’s younger brother, both Dylan and Alex, despite not firing on all cylinders at the moment, decided that maybe it was best not to argue with the old man. So taking the key, they both headed for the stairs, clinging unto each other in order to even stay upright as they made their way up the stairs to the second floor room that Aberforth gave them the key for. Opening the door and stumbling into the room, they soon realized that there was only one bed.

“Only one bed,” Alex slurred. “Yer the lord. I’ll sleep on,” hiccup, “the floor.”

Shaking his head, Dylan slurred out, “Nah, Alex, its moran big enough fer us ta share.”

“Ya sure?”

“Abso-fuckin-lutely.”

“Okay then,” Alex said, as both of them started getting undressed. Of course neither of them managed to get off more than their shirts, because as they each tried to kick off one of their shoes, they both lost their balance and fell onto the bed, practically on top of one another, where they quickly passed out.

It was several hours later, as the morning sun began shining through the window that Dylan groaned. He had a killer headache and his mouth felt like he’d eaten an entire box full of cotton. In his barely awake state, he also struggled to figure out why exactly he was sleeping with his bare arse up in the air or why there were what felt like a pair of legs on either side of him. Then he realized that there was a person under him, which got him to quickly bolt upright, afraid that he’d just spent the whole night lying on top of Thorne’s very pregnant stomach.

Of course, the quick movement was too fast for his body to handle and he quickly found himself leaning over the bed, where he ended up retching on the floor. Of course, it was as he did this that he felt his morning hard on pulling out of the person he’d been lying on top of. Wiping his mouth, he sat back on his haunches and finally looked at the person in bed with him, at which point he said, “Oh shit,” upon realizing that it wasn’t his husband Thorne, but Alex Davies.

“Not so loud,” Alex moaned. “Ow my head.”

“Alex, wake up,” Dylan said.

“What?” Alex asked as he blinked his eyes open. “Dylan? What are you doing in my bed?”

“This isn’t your bed,” Dylan said. “We’re in a room at the Hog’s Head. We got drunk and came upstairs to sleep it off. Remember?”

Alex’s entire face scrunched up, as he thought about it and then with a groan he said, “Oh, yeah, I remember now.” After a moment he said, “Wait, are we… oh Merlin, we are.”

“Naked?” Dylan asked. “Yes. Um, Alex, please tell me you’re on birth control.”

Alex’s eyes widened at this as he said, “Ah, no? I’m single and a virgin,” Alex blushed as he said this, “so I ah didn’t figure it was necessary since I wasn’t seeing anybody. We didn’t… did we?”

“Considering my dick was still inside you when I woke up?” Dylan asked. “I’d say it’s a safe bet that you’re not a virgin anymore.”

“Oh shit.” Of all the ways that Alex had imagined losing his virginity, a night of drinking way too much and then falling into bed with a married man was never anywhere on the list.

-o-0-o-

As they headed downstairs, Dylan and Alex were very happy when they found Aberforth had coffee and hangover cures waiting for them. After they each had a potion and some coffee, Dylan stayed and settled the bill, while Alex left, as they figured they shouldn’t be seen leaving together. Dylan briefly wondered if maybe he could just forget that the previous night ever happened and not tell Thorne about it, but then he remembered the reputation of the Hog’s Head Inn. It was pretty much widely accepted and had been for years that you should never do anything at the Hog’s Head that you wanted kept a secret, because it would come out one way or another.

So, taking a deep breath, Dylan left the inn and headed back towards the castle, knowing that even though it was likely to cause a fight fifty times worse than anything he’d had with Thorne over the last few months, that he still had to come clean, because it was better for Throne to hear it from him than a total stranger.

He was tempted to order a glass of Firewhisky as liquid courage before leaving, but remembering the hangover he had when he got up, even if it was now gone thanks to Aberforth’s potion, he decided against it, wishing like hell that he didn’t have to have the conversation he was going to have to have. No matter how hard life with Thorne had been over the last few months, he did still love him and he didn’t want to do anything that would hurt him and this was definitely going to do that.

No sooner than he’d walked in the door to their room in Gryffindor Tower, was Thorne yelling at him and he hadn’t even said a word. “There you are, you jackass. Where the hell have you been all night?”

More of the same, but it was about to get worse, of that Dylan was certain. He knew that he’d fucked up and had nobody to blame but himself, even if a small part of him insisted that Thorne had driven him to drink with the constant fights and insults that he seemed to delight in throwing Dylan’s way over the last month. Taking a deep breath, Dylan said, “Thorne, I have something to tell you and you’re not going to like it.”

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, since he had no classes to teach until the afternoon, Alex made his way up to his quarters for a change of clothes, before taking a deep breath and heading for the hospital wing. He knew that with magic, it would be possible to tell, even this early, whether or not he was pregnant. Obviously he hoped like hell that he wasn’t, as he knew that his sleeping with Dylan would cause enough problems between Dylan and Thorne without a baby being added to the mix. He didn’t want to be the cause of any issues between them, because despite the rough last few months since Thorne had gotten pregnant, they were a model couple, obviously very much in love.

“Alex,” Madam Pomfrey said as he walked into the hospital wing. “What can I do for you?”

“I need a pregnancy test, Poppy,” Alex said, still feeling a bit strange calling Madam Pomfrey by her first name, since she’d treated him more than a few times while he was a student. Of course, that was an issue he’d had with pretty much everyone since he’d taken the job. It was slightly easier for him to call Severus by his first name, since their school attendance had overlapped by two years, with Severus finishing Hogwarts in 1978 and Alex starting in 1976, but obviously that had also caused a bit of weirdness when Horace Slughorn retired and Severus took over the Potions position in 1981, the year Alex was starting his sixth year.

Pomfrey nodded and said, “Okay, Alex, just have a seat on one of the empty beds and I’ll be with you in just a couple minutes. I have two more papers to grade for my Medical Magic class and since you’re not in any immediate danger…”

Alex nodded. “That’s fine, Poppy. Finish your grading, I can wait. I know all too well how good it feels to finish grading papers.”

“Enjoying your time on staff?” Pomfrey asked, as she looked back down at her grading key and started on her second to last paper.

“Yeah, it’s been fun,” Alex said. “And I think it’s definitely a good thing that the governors saw fit to add Intro to the Wizarding World and Wizarding Careers this year. I’m sure there’s plenty of students in years past who would have loved both classes.”

Poppy nodded. “Indeed I’m sure you’re right. Especially Wizarding Careers. It never affected Medical Magic much, as the requirements of Exceeds Expectations OWLs in Charms, Herbology, and Potions—all core classes—but I’ve heard more than a few students gripe about not being able to take Spell Creation, for example, as they were missing one or all of the three elective OWLs required for it.”

“Yeah, so far the second years all seem very happy with the class,” Alex agreed. “Many of them already had plans for what they wanted to do after Hogwarts, but had no idea which classes they’d have to take to do it. I’ve had a couple students who want to become Aurors after Hogwarts who wanted to drop Potions after fifth year, not realizing that you need a Potions NEWT to enter Auror training. That probably would have come up in the fifth year career counseling, but that doesn’t really help any student who didn’t take one of the electives that become available in third year that are required for many future jobs.”

“Yes, it was definitely a good change on the governor’s part,” Poppy said as she finished grading one paper and started on the last one. “I was a bit worried about the extended school hours, as I thought having classes until quarter to five in the evening was too long, although I’m happy to say that with the Restful Sleep Charms cast on all the students’ beds, I’ve had very few cases of sleep deprivation this year. Fewer than in years past, actually, although I suppose I’ll really know if it helped once the fifth years start taking the OWLs and when the end of year exams start.”

Alex grinned. “Let me guess, lots of Ravenclaws coming in with sleep deprivation?”

“Yes, that accounted for probably 80% of the cases in years past. Still treated two for it this year, but that’s down from the twenty it was by this time last year, so definitely an improvement. I’m hoping that trend will continue going into the exams later this year. Of course, I’m sure I’ll still get more than a few students coming in with the usual symptoms caused by some of the quack potions that always go around at exam time. The Potions Licensing Board has their work cut out for them because it seems that whenever they ban one of the so-called Memory Improvement potions that don’t work, two more that don’t work crop up to take their place. And usually with even worse side effects than the one that was just banned.”

“I’ll never understand why most of those potions get licensed at all. As I’ve yet to come across one that actually worked.”

Finishing her grading, Poppy stood up and said, “Because unfortunately, most of the people on the board are on the take. The corruption at the Ministry gets worse and worse every year. Too many people willing to look the other way if their palms are greased with enough galleons.”

“Well, I understand Queen Elizabeth is planning on taking a more active role now after meeting with Minister Fudge,” Alex said. “Although, as a muggle, I’m afraid she’d still be very limited in terms of what she can do, absolute power monarch or not. Too many of the avenues open to the monarch require magic that she doesn’t have.”

“Indeed,” Poppy said as she pulled out her wand and said, “Anyway, you wanted a pregnancy test. I take it that means you have reason to believe that you could be pregnant?”

“Yeah. I haven’t had any symptoms, but I’m not on any birth control,” Alex answered, before blushing and adding, “And I unexpectedly lost my virginity last night, so I figured I’d come in and get checked.”

“Well, I can’t say that I approve of the risky behavior of having sex without precautions,” Poppy said, “but I commend you on doing the mature thing and finding out one way or the other. Anyway, since this happened last night, you’ll need the early detection test, which is more complicated than the one I’d usually use, but something I can still do easily enough.”

Waving her wand at Alex in a complicated motion and uttering an incantation under her breath, Poppy ran the test and a moment later, she said, “Well, Alex, it would seem that congratulations are in order, as you are with child. I would, however, suggest not drinking the amount you did last night ever again, but especially not while you’re pregnant.”

Alex felt sick to his stomach as Poppy said the words ‘you are with child.’ He wasn’t ready to be a father, but it seemed that ready or not, he was going to be one. “Can you tell me what it is?”

Shaking her head, Poppy said, “That won’t show on any test until at least three weeks and probably closer to five. However, as it’s now late February, I can approximate that you’re due sometime in November, although as you are a metamorphmagus, it could be December before you give birth, as it isn’t entirely unheard of for pregnant metamorphmagi to be overdue by a few weeks, especially if the baby inherits the ability.”

“Great,” Alex said.

“I’ll want to see you in about a week’s time,” Poppy said. “As I’ll need to get you started on the right course of prenatal potions. I know this was an unexpected pregnancy and I know what yesterday was in the village, so, I have to ask, do you know who the other father is? It would help how I treat you during your pregnancy if I knew the medical histories of both you and the other father, in case there’s any inherited issues or abilities that need to be addressed during the pregnancy.”

“It wasn’t one of the Broomsticks companions,” Alex said, choosing the more socially acceptable word for people employed in the sex industry, at least partially because Madam Rosmerta herself preferred to call her employees companions instead of prostitutes. “It was… well, obviously since I only just found out, I haven’t told the other father yet.”

“Naturally.”

Alex sighed. “I guarantee you have his records though, as he’s a past student here at Hogwarts.” Looking around to make sure that it was only him and Poppy in the ward, he said, “You can’t tell anyone this.”

Nodding, Poppy said, “Of course, Alex, anything you tell me is covered by healer-patient confidentiality.”

Gulping, Alex said, “The other father is,” he pause