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Knights of the Founders

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By J.C. Vascardi

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Chapter One:
Memories

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As the moon rose above Privet Drive, a teenage boy with a mess of raven black hair sat alone in his small upstairs bedroom. If anyone had been in the room with him, they would have heard the sniffles and seen the tears that occasionally ran down his cheeks as he looked through a leather-bound photo album. For the boy, fifteen-year-old Harry James Potter, looking through this album was never easy as it only served to remind him of everyone that he'd lost. Contained within were pictures of his parents, who'd died when he was only a little over a year old. There were also pictures of his godfather who had died just a few short months ago. The pictures that brought the most tears to Harry's eyes, however, were those of a handsome, brown-haired, grey-eyed young man of seventeen who had died way too young. This young man was Cedric Diggory, wizard, Hufflepuff, and Harry's first love.

Harry sobbed softly as his fingers traced over one of the moving pictures of his beloved, if secret, boyfriend. Very few people had known that Harry and Cedric were dating during what would have been Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts, which was Cedric's sixth. They weren't ashamed of their relationship, quite the contrary, but they did believe that people would think it was unfair if they found out that Hogwarts' two Triwizard Champions were more than friends. So, they kept their relationship a secret, meeting up in town during Hogsmeade weekends or sneaking off together to the Room of Requirement.

The picture Harry was currently looking at was taken the weekend before the Third Task of the Triwizard. Cedric and Harry had been in the Room of Requirement, which had taken on the look of a tropical beach. It had been Cedric who had imagined that particular destination for the room to create, basing it on the island of Martinique where he'd gone with his parents a few times when he was younger. He'd always enjoyed it and wanted to share it with Harry.

Despite the sadness he felt at looking at Cedric's picture, Harry couldn't help but grin and shake his head as he thought, "Aunt Petunia would be furious if she saw this picture." The reason he thought that was because while his aunt had usually always spoiled his cousin Dudley rotten, giving him whatever he wanted, there was one thing that she refused to allow him to have. That one thing was pornography of any kind. She had nearly struck Dudley for the first time in his life when she found a copy of Playboy in his sock drawer while putting away laundry. Petunia managed to restrain herself but had marched Dudley downstairs, by the ear no less, and forced him to burn it in the fireplace. Once it was done, she made it clear that if he ever brought that filth into her home again it would be the last mistake he ever made. So why would Harry's aunt be furious if she saw the picture of Cedric? Simply put it was because this particular picture showed Cedric sunbathing on a beach, completely naked.

"Oh Cedric," Harry thought, as he sniffed and wiped a tear from his eye. "Damn Wormtail and Voldemort. Damn them both to the Hells for taking you from me."

Harry's painful trip down memory lane was cut short moments later when a loud voice yelled from downstairs, "BOY! GET DOWN HERE!"

Closing the photo album and stowing it under the loose floorboard beneath his bed, Harry grabbed a tissue and dried the tear tracks from his face, blew his nose, and headed out of the room. He hoped that his relatives wouldn't see any trace that he'd been crying, as he knew that would only make them happy. Arriving downstairs, he found his only living family, the Dursleys, seated in the living room watching the television show that they usually watched following dinner. The dirty dishes were still on the table, along with the scraps of leftovers that his obese Uncle Vernon and equally obese cousin Dudley didn't eat. With their backs turned to him, all engrossed in the television show they were watching, none of them saw Harry, let alone any hint that he'd been crying. His uncle obviously knew he was there, however, as it wasn't long before he said, "Clear the dishes, boy."

Nodding silently and restraining the urge to sigh, Harry set to the task of clearing the dishes and taking them into the kitchen to be washed. All that was left from dinner was a single slice of cold roast beef and a dinner roll, which Harry set aside as he did the dishes. Once they were all washed, dried, and stacked neatly back in the cupboards, Harry tore open the roll and put the roast beef inside of it. He'd been deprived of both breakfast and lunch due to not finishing his earlier chores in as timely a manner as the Dursleys desired. So, the food tasted good going down, although it was definitely a very meager dinner. Harry was used to it, however, as the Dursleys had never fed him much to begin with. He wasn't starving, however, as unbeknownst to his relatives his friend Ron's mother sent packages of food along with the frequent letters that Ron, and his brothers, Fred and George, sent over the summer.

Of course, there was another person who sent him frequent letters that also included food. That person was sixteen-year-old Noah Diggory, who was Cedric's younger brother. Harry had gotten to know Noah while he was dating Cedric, but they hadn't hung out that much until after Cedric's untimely passing. Now, this wasn't because Harry didn't like Noah, because he did, but it's that Harry had had a tendency to spend the majority of his free time with Cedric. Being in love, that was probably natural. Once Cedric had died, however, Harry and Noah did gravitate more towards each other, as they were both in mourning over the loss and thus they had become good friends. Of course, towards the end of Harry’s fifth year, which had been Noah’s sixth, Noah mustered his courage and confessed to Harry that he'd like to be more than friends. Harry said he wasn't ready for another relationship, which at the time, was very true. He was still trying to get over losing Cedric, as it had been just over a year at that point and he wasn't ready to date anyone.

Having now had the summer to think about it, however, Harry had come to a few conclusions. One was that he knew that Cedric would want him to be happy and part of that meant that he find someone to love. Although, Harry was still very unsure how his late boyfriend would feel if that person was his younger brother. Technically, they were only step-brothers as Cedric's father had married Noah's mother when Cedric was 12 and Noah was 10, but in the five years between that time and Cedric's death, they'd developed a strong bond as they'd both always wanted a brother, but had never had one prior to that. Even without spending a ton of time with Noah while Cedric was alive, Harry could see that they were close and genuinely loved each other, despite only knowing each other for about seven years. The first two being when their parents were dating and the last five after they'd gotten married.

The second thing Harry realized was that he had to admit that he did find Noah to be attractive. Certainly not in the same way as Cedric, but the attraction was still present. If he were completely honest with himself, he knew it was there for the last couple months of school, but had steadfastly ignored it as he simply hadn’t been ready to date anyone. Of course, a part of him still felt that he wasn't ready, but Noah had made it clear that if Harry was willing to be more than friends with him, they could go as slow as Harry wanted. And if friendship was all Harry was comfortable with, then Noah assured him he could be content with that and would do his level best to get over his feelings, as he didn't want anything to be awkward between them.

Harry sighed and shook his head to clear it of the confusing thoughts that were going through it and had been for the last few weeks. Popping the last bit of his meager dinner into his mouth, he had just finished chewing when his Aunt Petunia's voice carried into the kitchen. "Boy, get out here."

With a deep breath, Harry walked into the living room and asked, "Yes, Aunt Petunia?"

It was Uncle Vernon who answered. "I got a raise at work and I'm taking the family on holiday to the south of France."

'Let me guess, I'm not invited,' Harry thought. Not that he really wanted to go on vacation with his relatives. He wouldn't mind visiting France and many other places at some point, as not counting the trips to Martinique he'd taken with Cedric in the Room of Requirement, Harry had never been anywhere outside of the United Kingdom. A fact which annoyed him to no end, as all of his friends had taken at least one vacation with their families over the summers. Making it worse was the fact that his friends liked talking about them, thus forcing Harry to listen to all the details, before he in turn had to come up with a reason for why he never had his own vacation stories to tell. Ron and Hermione knew, of course, and thus didn't pester him about it as much, but the same couldn't be said for the others in his year.

"You're not invited," Dudley said, in a rather dull voice, that Harry noted didn't have as much venom as he usually would have expected from his cousin. Of course, Harry had noticed that Dudley seemed to be making an effort to be if not nicer to him, then to at least not be quite as mean as he had been in the past. Looking back on the time he'd spent with his cousin, Harry had pinpointed that the change seemed to happen after the Dementors had attacked Privet Drive. He wasn't sure what Dudley might have seen while the foul creatures were around him, but he'd obviously seen something that had changed him. Of course, Harry could understand how that might be true, because he still occasionally had nightmares about what he saw anytime a Dementor was around.

Harry didn't say anything in response to the confirmation, because he'd expected it and his Uncle Vernon was talking almost as soon as Dudley finished. "Now the only problem is what we're going to do with you, boy. I don't want your unnatural self alone in my house. We already called Mrs. Figg and she can't take you, and your Aunt Marjorie is going with us to France."

'Thank Merlin for that,' Harry thought. His opinion of Mrs. Figg had changed a bit since his trial before the Wizengamot last year, as he now knew that she was a squib. So, he wouldn't have minded staying with her quite as much, although her cats were still a bit much to deal with. And, of course, if he was given the choice, he'd much rather chew off his own arm than go and stay with Aunt Marge, Ripper, and her other bulldogs – all of whom, thanks to lots of reinforcement from Marge, hated Harry with a passion. After a moment of silence, Harry said, "If you'll allow me to let Hedwig out of her cage, I can send out a few letters. I have some friends from school that would probably let me come and stay with them for the rest of the summer."

"So, we wouldn't see you again until next summer?" Vernon asked, raising an eyebrow as he considered that.

"Correct," Harry answered.

After a moment of silence, Vernon shook his head and said, "Fine, you can let the bloody bird out of its cage and send your letters. But I'm warning you now, boy. We're leaving in four days. If you haven't made arrangements by then, it'll be the street for you when we lock up the house and leave. Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal clear, Uncle Vernon," Harry replied, before he headed up to his room to get started on his letters.

-o-0-o-

An hour later, Harry was opening his bedroom window and attaching two letters to Hedwig's leg. "Take these to Ron and Noah, okay girl?" After a second of thought, he added, "Best go to Noah's first though, as you know Ron will be jealous if he sees the letter for Noah."

Hedwig nodded her head and hooted in understanding, as Harry fed her an owl treat and petted her white plumage. A moment later, Hedwig spread her wings and flew out the window, leaving Harry to wonder just who would respond first. Not for the first time, he thought that it would be nice if Ron wasn't jealous whenever Harry seemed to be making friends with someone that wasn't him. Ron didn't seem to mind Harry being friends with Hermione, mainly because Harry suspected that Ron was harboring romantic feelings for her that he was just too tongue-tied to tell her about. As for everyone else though, Harry had seen the looks that Ron had given people behind their backs when it appeared that they were getting too close to his friend.

'I'm not your possession, Ron,' Harry thought to himself. He could understand that Ron felt like he was always competing with his older brothers and that there was nothing special he could do because his brothers had already done it before. This was, in turn, why Harry suspected that Ron was so possessive about their friendship. Ron was the first of the Weasleys to make friends with Harry and being the first and best friend of The Boy Who Lived was Ron's claim to fame, so to speak. So, he didn't really like it when Harry began making other friends. 'I'll have to have a talk with him at some point,' Harry thought with a sigh. 'Hopefully without the drama that tends to ensue whenever I say or do something that he doesn't like.’ Thinking back to the Triwizard Tournament, Harry thought, ‘Or when he only thinks I've done something.'

Being just after eight according to the digital clock on his bedside table, Harry stripped down to his boxers and crawled into bed. It was still pretty early to be going to bed, but Harry didn't have anything better to do and he knew that he'd probably be expected to be up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast for the Dursleys, before working all day in the garden. So, it was best for him to get as much sleep as possible while he could.

It was about four hours later that Harry awoke with a start, after feeling a hand on his shoulder shaking him and a soft voice calling out, "Harry? Harry, are you awake?"

Blinking the sleep out of his eyes and reaching over to his nightstand for his glasses, Harry put them on and then pulled the chain on his bedside lamp. He was quite shocked to find a pajama-clad Dudley standing in his room.

"Did you want something, Dudley?" Harry asked.

Dudley was silent for a moment, before he nodded and pulled the chair from Harry's desk over as quietly as he possibly could and sat down. "I was wondering about that night."

Harry was confused as he asked, "What night?"

"When the whats its attacked," Dudley asked. "You got a warning letter from your school."

"Oh, you mean the Dementors," Harry said and Dudley nodded. "And the letter wasn't from my school. It was from the Ministry."

"The Ministry?"

"Yeah, Dudley, the Ministry for Magic," Harry said. "It's magical Britain's government body, led by the Minister for Magic, who’s sort of like the Prime Minister."

"Ah, okay," Dudley said. "What were those Dementor things again? I remember that Mum recognized what they were, but I don't remember what she said."

"They guard Azkaban - the wizard’s prison," Harry replied. "They leave you feeling cold and depressed, because they feed on your happy memories, leaving you with only the less than happy ones. And they can also kiss you, which would be a very bad thing."

"Why?"

"Because they suck out your soul when they do that," Harry answered. "Doesn't kill you, but it does leave you as a soulless shell. You wouldn't be able to walk, talk, or basically do anything. It's irreversible and there's no effective treatment, so you'd be like that until your body failed and you die."

Dudley shivered and remained silent for a moment, as Harry wondered why Dudley had come into his room after midnight to talk to him about the magical world. He was usually terrified of magic, ever since Hagrid had given him that pig's tail. The twins' Ton-Tongue Toffees hadn't helped matters either, of course. Harry was just about to ask his cousin why he'd woke him up when Dudley said, "When the Dementors were attacking, I saw myself for what I really am."

A confused Harry turned his head to one side as he asked, "What do you mean?"

"A spoiled and cruel bully," Dudley answered. "To several people, but to you most of all, Harry." With a sigh, he added, "You never really did anything to deserve it either. I suppose the driving force behind my being so mean to you over the years is because Mum and Dad seemed to like it when I was and I'd get rewarded."

Harry knew only too well that his aunt and uncle had rewarded Dudley several times over the years for being mean to him. So, he could understand how Dudley might think it was the right thing to do, with his parents giving him positive reinforcement for doing it. Not to mention watching his parents treating Harry like he was a lower life form. Given the circumstances, it was probably only natural that Dudley turned into the holy terror that he'd become.

After a moment of silence, Harry asked, "Is that why you seem to be leaving me alone more?"

Dudley nodded. "I regret the way I've treated you, Harry." Looking around him for a moment, almost as if he was afraid someone might be watching or listening, he then added in almost a whisper, "I'm sorry."

Harry remained quiet for a moment as he just looked at his cousin, who squirmed a bit under his green-eyed gaze. With a sigh, he said, "I forgive you, Dudley."

Dudley's face brightened at that, before turning somber once more as he asked, "There is something I've always wondered."

"What's that?"

"I know what I saw around those Dementor things," Dudley answered. "But, what did you see?"

'It's a fair question, I suppose,' Harry thought, as he took a moment to gather his thoughts, before he said, "My parents' last moments."

"What?" Dudley asked, in an unsure tone. Whatever he'd been expecting his cousin to say, that was clearly not it.

"I can hear my Dad talking," Harry said. "He says 'He's here - take Harry and run, I'll hold him off.' Mum took me up to my nursery and the next thing I know I'm in my crib with my Mum standing in front of me."

"Who's he?" Dudley interrupted.

"Voldemort," Harry answered. "He's a very evil wizard who has killed or tortured hundreds of people. My parents were members of a group that fought against him. Anyway, by the time that he was up in my nursery, he'd already killed my Dad and my Mum was pleading with him to spare me and take her instead. That's what I hear and see whenever Dementors are around - my parents' voices, Voldemort laughing, and a flash of green."

"Flash of green?"

Harry nodded. "The Killing Curse produces a sort of green mist from the tip of a wand when its cast. The death is instant and a muggle doctor would be unable to find a cause of death. It would appear as if the person just dropped dead for no apparent reason." After a moment of silence, Harry added, "Anyway, Voldemort killed my parents and then he tried to kill me, but for some reason his curse backfired and hit him instead. That's how I got my scar, when the Killing Curse hit me and rebounded against Voldemort."

Dudley was speechless for several minutes as he tried to process what Harry had just told him. He didn't understand many of the magical concepts, but one thing he could understand is that his cousins' parents had been murdered and that Harry had witnessed his mother's murder. Dudley shivered as he didn't even want to think about such things. True, he'd only been a baby at the time, but still no child should ever see their mother murdered right before their eyes. When he finally managed to speak, he said, "Well, at least he's dead."

With a sigh, Harry said, "I wish that was true."

Confused, Dudley asked, "What do you mean?"

"Voldemort had taken precautions, I guess," Harry said. "When the curse hit him, his body was destroyed but his spirit remained. He remained without a body for several years, but then he performed a ritual towards the end of my fourth year at Hogwarts which restored him to a body. Nobody believed it at first and for most of my last school year, people thought I was lying."

"Do they still think that?"

Shaking his head, Harry said, "No, they know he's back now. Towards the end of this past school year, his followers attacked the Ministry and he showed up in person. My headmaster dueled with him and then Fudge and the Aurors showed up just in time to see him, before he could Apparate away."

"Fudge? Aurors? Apparate?" Dudley asked, clearly confused.

Harry smiled. "Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic. Aurors are kind of like magical policemen. And Apparating is a form of teleportation that witches and wizards can do."

"Wow," Dudley said. "Can you do it?"

"No, you have to be 17 and licensed," Harry answered. "It's like getting a driver's license actually."

At this point, Dudley yawned and said, "Well, I guess I should be getting back to bed."

"Yeah, sleep well, Dudley," Harry said, as his cousin stood up and replaced the desk chair.

"You too, cousin," Dudley said, before he left the room.

Harry just sat there for a few minutes, unable to believe what had just happened. 'Did I actually just have a civil conversation with Dudley? Talk about a miracle.' Shaking his head, Harry took off his glasses and set them on the nightstand, before turning off his lamp and settling back down into bed.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By J.C. Vascardi

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Chapter Two:
Decisions

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Sixteen-year-old Ryan Cole Cromwell emerged from his ensuite bathroom wearing nothing but a towel following his morning shower and walked over to the closet to decide what he'd wear for the day. It was Saturday, the 20th of July, 1996, so, even if it wasn't summer vacation, Ryan wouldn't have had to go to school, and thus he immediately eliminated his school uniform as an option. Settling on a pair of blue denim shorts and a black t-shirt with a silver dragon printed on it, Ryan walked back over to his bed and dropped his towel.

As this point, he took a moment to look at himself in the full-length mirror near his bed, as he did nearly every morning. He didn't consider himself to be vain, but he still enjoyed checking himself out. Of course, part of the reason for this was because it was also at this point that he grabbed his wand from his bedside table and carefully performed the Glamour Charms which reshaped part of his ears. Why did he need to reshape them? The reason was that due to a birth defect, his ears were pointed, similar to those of a Vulcan on Star Trek. He had once expressed an interest in having cosmetic surgery to correct the defect, but his grandmother forbade it so vehemently that he never brought it up again and decided to make do with the Glamour Charms.

Ryan lived in a small cottage in Asheville, North Carolina with his grandmother, retired Auror Lucinda Cromwell. Ryan's mother died giving birth to him and he'd never known his father. He assumed that he was dead as he didn't like to consider the possibility that his father was alive and yet chose to have nothing to do with him. Ryan was actually born at Cromwell Hall, the family estate in North Yorkshire, England in the United Kingdom, but had lived with his grandmother in Asheville since he was ten. Ryan remembered that he'd been given no choice in moving to Asheville, as his grandmother just packed up all of his belongings and told him one morning at breakfast that they were moving to the United States and that they would be leaving immediately after breakfast that day.

That was classic Lucinda Cromwell, however, as she was widely known for her tendency to make decisions for other people and expect them to go along with them with no comment. If it wasn’t for the fact that Lucinda was known to be one of the strongest witches alive and a very well-respected and generous philanthropist who helped numerous different causes, it was likely that she would have faced more issues due to her forceful personality. Ryan himself hadn’t been pleased with his grandmother for the abrupt move, as he hadn’t wanted to leave his friends, but she provided him with a magical means of remaining in contact with them so that helped at least a little bit.

Of course, even being only ten at the time, Ryan had also been very perceptive for a person his age and had the feeling that the recent death of his grandfather, William Cromwell, had had something to do with the move. Cromwell Hall held nearly forty years of memories for Lucinda after all and not all of them were good, especially the most recent as William’s death had been a long and agonizing ordeal as he slowly succumbed to a magical wasting sickness. Ryan supposed that watching the love of your life slowly wither away and die could not be a good experience and thus he understood his grandmother’s desire to get away from the site of those memories. A part of him wanted to do so as well, even though he hadn’t seen the worst of it because his grandmother had done her best to shield him from having to see just how badly off his grandfather had gotten towards the end.

Finishing up the Glamour Charms, Ryan walked over to his dresser and pulled out a pair of red and white Calvin Klein boxer-briefs, along with socks and a white, ribbed, sleeveless undershirt. Putting these items on, Ryan then pulled on his denim shorts and the black t-shirt he’d selected, before he left his bedroom. Entering the kitchen, Ryan spotted his grandmother at the table, calmly sipping a cup of tea as she read from a nearby book, which Ryan recognized to be a copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works. Looking up, Lucinda shook her head and said, “Finally decided to join the land of the living did you?”

“It can’t be that late,” Ryan commented. He wasn’t in the habit of wearing a watch and he hadn’t spared a glance at his bedside clock or any of the other clocks he’d passed to get to the kitchen, so he didn't know what time it was, but it couldn't possibly be as late as his grandmother's statement suggested, could it?

“It’s 2:30 in the afternoon, Ryan,” Lucinda said. “I realize that you’re a teenager and that it’s your summer vacation, so you’re bound to sleep in, but I think first waking up two and a half hours past noon is pushing it a bit. Honestly, if I hadn’t heard your shower running, I was nearing the point of coming in to wake you.”

"Wow, can't believe I slept that long," Ryan said aloud, although as he turned away from his grandmother, heading towards the fridge for some food, he couldn't help but grin as he remembered the reason for his sleeping so late: a particularly naughty and very sexy dream starring himself between Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.

"Don't think I don't know you're grinning like an idiot, Ryan Cole Cromwell," Lucinda said, as she finished her tea and closed her book. "And since you slept so late, your lunch can wait."

Stopping midstride, Ryan turned to look at his grandmother and asked, "What? I'm hungry."

"Well you should have thought of that before sleeping most of the day away," Lucinda said, as she stood up and said, "Now, come with me, Ryan, we're leaving."

"Leaving? Where are we going?"

"Cromwell Hall," Lucinda said over her shoulder, as she headed into the living room.

"Why are we going there?" Ryan asked, as he came into the living room to see his grandmother throwing a pinch of Floo powder into the fireplace.

"This should explain it to you," Lucinda said, as she pulled a parchment envelope out of a concealed pocket of her robes and held it out to her grandson.

Ryan had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as he took the envelope. Something told him that his grandmother was up to her old tricks of making decisions for others and he had the feeling that he wasn't going to like this decision. Taking a deep breath, Ryan opened the envelope and pulled out a letter.

Dear Mr. Cromwell,

We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Your records have already been transferred over from the Asheville Academy of the Arcane, although you will be required to sit examinations to insure that you are up to Hogwarts' educational standards for the sixth year. Please report to the village of Hogsmeade at 9AM sharp on 1 August, 1996, where someone will be waiting to escort you up to the castle for your examinations and a private sorting ceremony.

You will receive the list of necessary supplies once we have your exam results and know which year level you belong in. Term begins on 1 September, 1996.

Sincerely,
Minerva McGonagall
Deputy Headmistress

"You have got to be kidding me!" Ryan exclaimed, after he'd reread the letter a second time, sure that he must have read it wrong the first time.

Fixing her grandson with her normal no-nonsense look, Lucinda said, "No, Ryan, I assure you I am not kidding."

"You can't do this!" Ryan exclaimed. "You've already done it to me once and you're not doing it to me again! I'm almost seventeen for Merlin's sake!"

Shaking her head, Lucinda said, "Save the dramatics, Ryan. Your birthday is in April and since it's only July you're much closer to sixteen then you are to seventeen. As such, I am still your legal guardian and you will do as I tell you to do." Seeing her grandson's clearly angry look, Lucinda sighed and added, "I'm sorry about this, Ryan, but there is business that I must attend to in England - business which will take several months to finish. With Asheville Academy being a day school, I cannot leave you here and I refuse to impose on any of your friends' parents by asking them to take you in as a houseguest for several months. So, I had no choice but to transfer you to Hogwarts."

"I don't want to go to Hogwarts," Ryan said. "I don't know anybody there and the way this letter is worded, it almost sounds as if they might want to try and put me in a different year than sixth."

"I have every confidence that you will have no trouble with the exams, Ryan," Lucinda said. "You're a smart boy and a good student. You'll be placed in sixth year, so don't you worry about that. As for not knowing anybody, I'm sure some of your old friends attend Hogwarts and even if they don't, you'll know at least one person there."

"Who?" Ryan asked. He didn't mention the tests again because he knew his grandmother was probably right in that he'd have no trouble with them. He just didn't feel like admitting that she was right though because he was still mad at her. Yes, the logical side of his brain knew that she was correct about her reasoning for his transfer, but it was possible for someone to see that something is logical and still not like it. As for his old friends, it was possible that a few of them did attend Hogwarts, but he'd fallen out of touch with all of them. Oh they'd kept in contact via the Floo Network, letters, and the magical hand mirrors that his grandmother had provided for a few months, but in time that contact became less and less as they all had moved on. There was an ocean between them, after all, and children have short attention spans, so it probably would have been a miracle if the friendships had survived the lack of physical contact.

"Your cousin Matthew."

Looking at his grandmother as if she'd just grown a second head, Ryan asked, "Um, grandmother, Matthew is twenty years old and finished Hogwarts in June of 1994."

"I realize that Ryan," Lucinda said. "He's taken a job at Hogwarts, however, as the Assistant Professor for Potions. You won't have him as a teacher as he'll only be teaching the third and fourth year classes, but he'll still be in the castle, which means you will know someone. Now, we've stood here talking long enough, so get in the fire, Ryan. Now."

Ryan recognized his grandmother's tone and knew that she wasn't going to allow any more arguing. Sighing, he said, "What about all of my things? I haven't even packed."

"I gave Blinky standing orders to go in and pack your things as soon as you left your room," Lucinda said, at which point, as if on cue, the house-elf appeared with Ryan's trunk. Turning her gaze to the creature, she asked, "Is Ryan all packed?"

"Yes, Mistress Cromwell, Blinky has packed all of Master Ryan's things."

At this, Lucinda gestured silently at the fireplace and Ryan sighed, before stepping into the emerald green flames and saying, "Cromwell Hall, North Yorkshire, England."

-o-0-o-

Sixteen-year-old Nicolas Phillipe Lavoisier-Delaney stood silently in the drawing room of the only home he'd ever known, Chateaux Lavoisier in Versailles, France, as he reflected on the last two weeks. It had been a relatively uneventful summer, as Nicolas went out with friends and helped his grandfather in the family vineyards. All in all, it had been a good summer, although a part of Nick was anxious for it to end. Now it wasn't because he had an overwhelming desire to go back to school as much as he enjoyed attending Beauxbatons Academy, but because the sooner summer ended, the sooner the tenth of September would arrive. What was so special about that date? It was Nicolas' birthday, but it wasn’t just any birthday, as it was his milestone seventeenth birthday, which meant he would finally be a legal adult.

Nicolas still had his sixth and seventh years at Beauxbatons, of course, as much like Hogwarts, you had to be eleven by the first of September in order to attend Beauxbatons. Thus, Nicolas had started his education a year late when he was much closer to twelve. However, he'd still be seventeen, which meant that he'd be free from the restrictions on underage magic and would be allowed to get his Apparition license. He'd also be able to do pretty much anything he wanted without having to ask his grandfather for permission first. Not that he could ask him anything anymore.

The happiness that Nicolas had been feeling about his upcoming birthday quickly evaporated just over a week ago when he'd arrived home from an afternoon with friends to find the housekeeper, Elise Blanchet, waiting for him. He could tell almost immediately just from the look on her face that something was wrong. That's when Nicolas' world came crashing down when Elise told him that while he was out, his grandfather, Jean-Phillipe Lavoisier, had collapsed while tending to some of his prize vines. It had apparently been a minor stroke that had caused him to collapse and one of the hands had immediately sent word to the Chateaux for a healer, as Jean-Phillipe was loaded onto a conjured stretcher and taken to his room. Unfortunately, not long after this, he suffered a massive heart attack and was beyond a healer's ability to help when the healer arrived.

Nicolas lived with his grandfather because his parents, Jean-Luc Lavoisier and Stefan Delaney, had died in August of 1981 when Nicolas was almost two years old. His parents had gone to England to visit Stefan's younger brother Christian and his wife Sarah, who lived at the Delaney family estate in Northumberland. The plan had been for Nicolas to go with them, but he'd come down with a childhood illness two days before the trip and the healer deemed him too ill to travel. Jean-Luc and Stefan considered cancelling their trip and staying home with their ill son, but Jean-Luc's mother, Nicolette Lavoisier, said that she and her husband were more than capable of taking care of Nicolas. Having moved to France following his marriage to Jean-Luc, Stefan didn't get the opportunity to go back home and visit his family as often as he liked and thus he and Jean-Luc opted to go.

Unfortunately, a few days after they'd arrived, Voldemort and his Death Eaters launched a raid in the area and Jean-Luc and Stefan were among the casualties. This led Nicolas to be raised by his grandparents in France. His grandmother passed away when he was twelve and now that his grandfather had passed, Nicolas had no living blood relatives left. Since he wasn't seventeen yet, the laws of Wizarding France didn't allow him to live alone, so he'd had no choice but to place a Floo call to his Aunt Sarah in England. Her husband Christian was a Hit Wizard and had died in the line of duty in 1987, at which point ownership of Delaney Hall passed to Nicolas, as the sole remaining living Delaney. Living with his grandfather in France, however, Nicolas saw no reason to turn his uncle's widow out and allowed her to stay on at the house. Having never remarried and grateful that Nicolas had allowed her to stay in his family's home, she dropped everything the moment she found out about Jean-Phillipe's death and came to France to help Nicolas with the funeral and other arrangements.

One of those arrangements was Nicolas transferring to Hogwarts, as he'd be going back to Northumberland to live with his aunt. Having been born and raised in France, he didn't really want to leave it. He had friends and a life there, but he knew that he had no choice. The way that Magical France's legal system worked was that if his grandfather had died after his seventeenth birthday, then there wouldn't have been any issues. But, since he died before, Nicolas had to be taken in by a family member or become a ward of the state. The problem with becoming a ward of the state was that while he'd still be considered to be an adult at seventeen, all of his monetary assets would remain under state control until he was twenty-one. The French Ministry would assign someone to oversee them and whoever was assigned had complete autonomy to do whatever they wanted and would not be required to ask for any input from Nicolas, so long as they believed, in their professional opinion, that what they were doing was best for Nicolas.

Nicolas didn't like the idea of turning over all of his family's business and financial interests to someone outside of the family as both the Lavoisier and Delaney families had kept those interests family only for over three centuries and he didn't want to be the family member who stopped that tradition. Thankfully, because his Aunt Sarah had never remarried, she was seen as a viable family member for Nicolas to live with in order to avoid becoming a ward of the state and everything that went with it. Until Nicolas turned seventeen, Sarah would be the public face of both families taking care of any family business that Nicolas, as a minor, couldn't. However, she made it clear that Nicolas would be completely in charge, making all of the decisions behind the scenes, and that she would happily turn everything over to him the second he turned seventeen.

"Nicolas?"

Turning towards the voice, Nicolas smiled at his aunt and said, "Yes Aunt Sarah?"

"It's time to go," Sarah answered.

Nicolas nodded, knowing that his aunt needed to get back to England as after nearly a week and a half in France she was almost out of paid vacation time from her job. Now his aunt didn't really need the money, as her husband had left her with a good-sized inheritance when he died and living at Delaney Hall rent free she'd managed to save a fair amount. However, Sarah greatly enjoyed her work as a healer in the pediatrics ward at St. Mungo's and wanted to get back to her patients. There was, however, one colleague at work that she didn't get along with who would take any opportunity she could to get Sarah fired and position herself to get promoted in the process.

So, Sarah didn't want to give the hospital any reason to fire her and not showing up for work when she was out of vacation time would be a valid reason. While she liked to believe that her superiors would give her a grace period because they knew that she wasn't taking a pleasure trip, she didn't want to risk it since she knew that her colleague's husband had friends on the hospital board, though thankfully not enough to force Sarah's termination without a valid reason. Thus, she obviously didn't want to do anything that would give them a reason.

Taking a look around the room, Nicolas said, "It's hard to leave the only home you've ever known. I've visited Delaney Hall before, of course, and I live at Beauxbatons for most of the year, but this is still home to me."

"I understand, Nicolas," Sarah said. "But, you don't have to stay in England. Once you're seventeen, you can move back here if you wish."

"Well, I'll have to stay at least a year," Nicolas said. "I've already checked and Beauxbatons doesn't do midyear transfers, even for returning past students. So, I'll be at Hogwarts for my entire sixth year, at the very least. Assuming I do well enough on their examinations to get placed in sixth year that is."

Sarah smiled, as she shook her head, and said, "Nicolas, I've seen your transcript. With your grades, you'll have no trouble with the Hogwarts examinations. I have no doubt that they'll place you in your sixth year where you're supposed to be."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right," Nicolas agreed. "I just can't help but get a little nervous, what with having no idea whats actually going to be on the examinations. Not to mention the fact that despite being a good student, tests in general have always made me nervous." Smiling as he remembered something, he added, "Grandfather had to give me Calming Draughts almost every day for the week leading up to my proficiency exams last year. They're called OWLs in Britain, right?"

With a nod, Sarah said, "That's the abbreviated name, yes. The full name is Ordinary Wizarding Levels. Then at the end of seventh year you take the NEWTs or Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests."

"I fear for the sanity of whoever came up with those names," Nicolas said. "The first one isn't so bad, but I don't think the words 'Nastily Exhausting' belong in the name of an aptitude test."

"I'm inclined to agree," Sarah said. "But all in all, I believe you'll enjoy your time at Hogwarts, even if you do opt to return to Beauxbatons for your seventh year."

"That's what I'm hoping," Nicolas said. "Anyway, I suppose we should get going. Thanks again for taking me in Aunt Sarah."

"Nicolas, you don't have to thank me," Sarah said. "It's your house that I'm taking you to after all and you're family. I know some people would say that our familial connection died with Christian, but I still think of you as family regardless."

"Same here," Nicolas said with a smile, before he and his aunt took hold of the international portkey they'd gotten, disappearing moments later.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o

Chapter Three:
New Beginnings
Part One

-o-0-o-

The next morning, Harry awoke early and went downstairs as he usually did to make breakfast for the Dursleys. Harry was standing at the stove, calmly tending to the eggs, while the bacon and sausages baked in the oven below, but he usually had no trouble hearing his relatives waking up. Thus, he was quite surprised when the kitchen door opened and Dudley walked into the room, smiled, and said, "Morning Harry."

"Morning Dudley," Harry said back to his cousin, as he turned down the heat on the eggs so that he could check the bacon and sausages. Seeing that both items were finished cooking, Harry grabbed some pot holders and proceeded to take the hot pans out of the oven. Setting them down on a nearby counter, Harry said, "You're certainly up early."

"I couldn't sleep," Dudley said. "To excited about the upcoming trip I guess."

"Ah, I see," Harry said, as he plated bacon, sausages, eggs, and toast for Dudley and said, "Well, I hope you enjoy yourself then. Anyway here's your breakfast."

"Thank you," Dudley said as he sat down at the kitchen table. Noticing that it looked like Harry wasn't going to eat anything, Dudley added, "Fix a plate for yourself, Harry."

"What?" Harry asked, more than a little shell-shocked. He knew he'd had a civil conversation with Dudley last night but he didn't think he'd live to see the day when his cousin actually invited him to eat a meal with him.

"Fix a plate for yourself, Harry," Dudley repeated. "You cooked it, so, it's only right you get to enjoy it."

"I..." Harry began, unsure what to say. After a moment, he settled with, "Your parents wouldn't like that."

"My parents are still sleeping," Dudley said. "I checked on my way down, so, fix a plate and pull up a chair, cousin."

"I didn't make enough for four."

Lifting an eyebrow, Dudley said, "Didn't make enough for four? Please, Harry, there's enough here to feed a small army. If I end up eating a bit less then so be it."

"Okay, who are you and what have you done with Dudley?"

"It's me, Harry," Dudley said with a grin. "I know me volunteering to eat less seems extraordinary but we both know that I could stand to lose a few pounds."

"I think I've entered The Twilight Zone," Harry said, even as he placed an egg on a plate, along with a single slice of bacon, a sausage link and one piece of toast.

Dudley shook his head, however, and said, "Oh come on, Harry, you can eat more than that. Unlike me, you could actually stand to gain a few pounds."

"You're really starting to scare me, Dudley," Harry said. "And considering everything I've faced at school, that's quite the accomplishment."

Temporarily abandoning his own breakfast, Dudley stood up and took the plate from Harry's hands, placing another egg on it, along with another slice of toast, and three more of both the bacon and the sausage, before placing it on the table and saying, "Sit down and eat, Harry, or I may be forced to get violent."

'Well that at least sounds more like the Dudley I know,' Harry thought as he sat down at the table across from Dudley.

Nothing was said for the next few minutes, as the two of them ate in silence. Finally, Dudley asked, "What did you mean everything you've faced at school?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Try me."

Staring blankly at his cousin for a moment, Harry shook his head and said, "Well, okay, if you must know, in my first year, I came face to face with Voldemort."

"Voldemort?" Dudley asked. "I thought you said he didn't have a body until last year?"

"He didn't," Harry answered. "He'd possessed my Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, so Voldemort's spirit was sharing his body. Professor Quirrell always wore a large turban to hide the fact that he had Voldemort's face on the back of his head."

"Okay that's more than a little freaky," Dudley said after a moment. "What happened?"

"Apparently my mum sacrificing herself for me gave me some kind of protection from Voldemort," Harry replied. "When Professor Quirrell reached out and touched me, he burst into flames and Voldemort's spirit was forced to flee before he ended up dying along with Quirrell."

Dudley was silent for a moment when Harry suddenly started laughing. Dudley looked at him strangely as he asked, "What's so funny?"

Taking a moment to get a hold of himself, Harry said, "I just remembered something. Around the Christmas holidays my friend Ron's elder brothers, Fred and George, charmed a few snowballs to follow Professor Quirrell around and continually hit him in the back of the head. I'm not sure they realize that they were actually throwing snowballs at Voldemort."

Dudley laughed at this, but after a moment, sobered enough to ask, "Fred and George? Aren't they the red-headed twins that gave me that candy that made my tongue swell up?"

"Yes," Harry confirmed. "That was their Ton-Tongue Toffee. Be glad it wasn't a Canary Cream."

"A Canary Cream? What's that?"

"It looks and tastes like a custard cream," Harry answered. "But, it'll also transfigure the eater into a large canary for about a minute, until they molt all their feathers and turn back to normal."

"Okay and why do they create these things?"

"They're practical jokers," Harry said. "It's also how they make a living, as they own a store called Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, which is basically a joke shop. They sell all kinds of products that are specially charmed to make people laugh." After a moment of silence, Harry admitted, "I'm actually their silent partner."

"Silent partner? How?"

"I gave them their startup money," Harry revealed. "In my fourth year, my name got drawn to participate in the Triwizard Tournament and I was deemed the winner in the end. Got a thousand galleons in prize money, which I gave to Fred and George to start their shop."

"What's a galleon?"

"Highest denomination of wizarding money," Harry explained. "We use gold, silver, and bronze coins. It's twenty-nine bronze knuts to a silver sickle and seventeen sickles to a golden galleon. One galleon is worth five pounds. So, I won £5,000 for the Triwizard and gave it all to Fred and George to start their business."

"Wow, that was very generous of you, Harry," Dudley said. "Forgive me, but I also think it's crazy. If I won £5,000 there's no way I'd give it all away."

"Yes, well, I didn't need the money," Harry said and noticing the look on his cousin's face, he said, "I'd prefer that you refrain from mentioning this to your parents, Dudley, but I'm not actually as poor as they probably think I am. Honestly, I'm not sure how much is actually in it, but I have a trust vault that pays for my school tuition and supplies. I'm sure that if your parents knew that I had any money though, they'd want me to hand over everything to them, thinking that they deserve it all for letting me stay here all these years. And if that leaves me destitute, then so be it, as I'm sure they'd think that it's only what a freak like me deserves."

"As much as I wish you were wrong, I know you aren't, so, I won't tell Mum and Dad," Dudley said. "Although, if they did know, I can only imagine they'd wish they'd been nicer to you, if only to get their hands on whatever money you do have. That isn't my motive, by the way. I truly am trying to be a better person."

"Well, that's good if it's true," Harry said. "Last night and this morning I have seen a different side of you, but you'll forgive me if I'm a bit skeptical after all the years you spent tormenting me."

"Of course," Dudley agreed. "Anyway, I'm sorry about your godfather. Was that the person you were talking about in your sleep? Cedric?"

Harry briefly closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. 'Can I trust Dudley with the truth? He's been acting nicer to me, but will he react the same if he knows I'm queer?' Shaking his head, he said, "No, my godfather was Sirius Black. He died towards the end of my last school year."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Dudley said. "So, who's Cedric?"

Harry looked down at this, as he continued to debate whether or not he should answer that question. He rather liked this new side to Dudley that he'd begun seeing and he didn't want to go back to having his cousin torment him. It would be nice to have at least one blood family member that he actually got along with, after all. Dudley was silent as he waited for Harry to answer, silently going about eating his food. His eyes cast downward towards the table top, Harry noticed for the first time that the knuckles on Dudley's right hand were bruised and it looked like he was having a bit of trouble holding his fork as he ate his eggs.

"You say you're trying to be a better person," Harry said, "but from the look of your hand, it would appear that you're still beating people up."

Dudley looked down at his hand for a moment, before he turned back towards his cousin and said, "This guy deserved it."

"Really?" Harry asked. "And what did he do, Dudley? Look at you wrong? Or did you decide to steal his shoes? Or his bike? Wouldn't be the first time."

"No, no, none of that," Dudley said. "He was making fun of Piers - called him a cock-sucking fairy boy. Piers is my oldest and best friend and I couldn't let him get away with that, so I punched him."

"Wait, he called Piers that?" Harry asked and Dudley nodded. "Calling him names is wrong, but why'd you feel the need to punch him? It's not like it's true. You couldn't have just ignored it?"

"I don't like it when people call my friends names," Dudley answered and then after a moment, he added, "And I did tell him to stop a few times before punching him, but he wouldn't listen. Besides, it is true."

"What?"

"Piers is queer," Dudley said and Harry found himself almost spitting out the sip of orange juice he'd taken moments before Dudley had spoken.

Coughing, Harry said, "Excuse me? Piers? Piers Polkiss? He's queer?" Dudley nodded. "Since when?"

"Since forever?" Dudley asked. "I've known since we were twelve. He's out to most of his friends, though not to his parents."

"And you're actually okay with that?" Harry asked, as he thought, 'Okay, now I know I'm in The Twilight Zone.'

"Yeah, I'm fine with it," Dudley answered. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, and then added, "Okay, I wasn't at first. In fact, it freaked me out a little. Was afraid he'd try and get with me or something and I don't swing that way. But, in time I realized that he wasn't interested in me and that he was the same Piers I'd always known. So I accepted it and we moved on."

"I don't know what to say," Harry said.

"You don't have a problem with Piers being queer do you?"

"No, I don't," Harry said. "The Wizarding world has a different outlook on that topic. In fact, same-sex marriage is legal in the Wizarding world, so, most witches and wizards don't really care about such things."

"Oh cool," Dudley said.

'I guess if Piers is queer and Dudley doesn't mind, maybe I could tell him about Cedric,' Harry thought. There weren't a ton of people that he could talk to about Cedric as neither of them had ever come out of the closet. They'd planned to do so, but those plans had derailed when both of their names came out of the Goblet of Fire. They then decided to stay in the closet about both their relationship and their sexualities until after the Tournament. Unfortunately, Cedric didn't live to see the end of it and Harry was so upset about it that he in turn never came out himself. He wasn't ready to date anyone anyway, so he figured there wasn't really any point. There were a few people who knew, of course. Noah, obviously, and Hermione knew. Harry suspected that Fred and George knew as well, but he couldn't confirm it.

"You've suddenly gotten very quiet, Harry. Is something wrong?"

"No, I was just thinking," Harry answered, as he looked Dudley straight in the eye, hoping he'd see some sign if he was lying, and asked, "You really don't have a problem with Piers being queer?"

Shaking his head, Dudley said, "No, I don't. I know my parents don't have the nicest things to say about such things and I suppose at one time I blindly followed them in their beliefs. But, Piers coming out forced me to reevaluate some things, just as my encounter with the Dementors did." Then getting a confused look on his face, he asked, "Why do you care so much, Harry? You're not queer. Are you?"

'Moment of truth,' Harry thought. He hadn't been able to see any sign that Dudley was lying, so he decided to tell the truth himself. He only hoped that Dudley was in fact telling the truth and not simply trying to lull him into a false sense of security and get him to tell him something which would end in a busted lip or worse. "Well, actually, yes, Dudley, I am. Cedric was my boyfriend."

Dudley's eyes widened and he said, "You're queer? Wow, I never would have guessed." Then what Harry had said registered and he asked, "Wait, was? Did he break your heart? Do I need to beat him up?"

"No you don't need to beat him up," Harry answered. "I did get my heart broken, but not by him. Or at least not directly by him."

"What do you mean?"

Feeling choked up all of a sudden, Harry swallowed past the lump in his throat and said, "I was heartbroken when he died."

"Died?" Dudley asked. "Sweet Jesus, Harry. You certainly have had more than your fair share of loss haven't you? First your parents, then your godfather, and now your boyfriend, too?"

"Cedric died at the end of my fourth year," Harry answered. "Just before the ritual Voldemort did to get his new body. One of his Death Eaters, Peter Pettigrew, killed him on Voldemort's orders. 'Kill the spare,' he said." Tears came to Harry's eyes as he said this. "Ric wasn't a spare. He was the man I loved and he was too young to die."

Dudley wasn't quite sure what to do for his cousin. His father had always told him that real men don't cry. Although, Dudley had slowly come to the realization that a lot of the things his father told him were complete rubbish. It was hard sometimes, however, to let go of the beliefs that had been drilled into him for as long as he could remember, even if he now acknowledged that they were wrong. Of course, Dudley also had very little experience in comforting people, as he didn't do it very often. Most of the time he'd communicate with his fists or he'd throw a temper tantrum with his parents in order to get what he wanted. Until the incident with the Dementors when he saw himself for what he really was, he had cared very little about anyone other than himself.

'I want to change that, though,' Dudley thought. Making up his mind, he reached across the table and took Harry's hand, giving it a squeeze. He remained silent, however, as he rather doubted there was anything he could say that would truly make his cousin feel better. Harry had lost more in his young life than anyone deserved and it only reinforced the thoughts that had been forming in Dudley's mind since his encounter with the Dementors - that all of his priorities up until that point had been completely wrong and that he needed to change if he was going to be able to look at himself in the mirror and actually like what he saw.

Harry jumped slightly when Dudley touched him, as he wasn't used to his cousin doing that unless there was pain soon to follow. Once his mind had processed the fact that it was a friendly, comforting touch however, he gave Dudley a weak smile and did his best to dry his eyes. He was just about to thank Dudley for his support when Hedwig flew into the room through the open kitchen window and landed on the table next to Harry's plate. Dudley let go of Harry's hand at this point and just watched silently, not entirely sure how to react around the snowy owl. He'd seen Harry's owl before, of course, but he'd never been this close to it.

Smiling, Harry said, "Hey girl, you have something for me?"

Hedwig seemed to nod her head and gave Harry a look that said, "Yes, you silly boy, or did you not notice the envelopes tied to my leg?"

Shaking his head and drying the last of his tears, Harry then reached down and untied the two envelopes from Hedwig's leg, at which point he set them aside for a moment. Grabbing a strip of bacon from his plate, Harry broke off some of it and held it out to his owl, who quickly took it and began eating. Feeding Hedwig a couple more pieces of the strip of bacon, Harry then turned his attention to the two letters.

"Messages from your friends?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah one is from Ron and the other is from Noah. I sent Hedwig out with messages to both of them yesterday asking if I could stay with them while you and the family are on vacation."

"Ah, well, what did they have to say?" Dudley asked, hoping that one of them would be able to take Harry in, because he knew that his father was serious about leaving Harry out on the street when they left. Of course, Dudley had a feeling that probably wouldn't be an issue for a wizard, as there were surely spells that would enable Harry to get past a locked door if he wanted to.

Opening Ron's letter first, Harry started reading.

Harry,

That sucks that your family is going on vacation without you, but you're more than welcome to come stay with us. You know Mum would love to have you and so would I. The only problem is that the house is packed at the moment because Charlie is in from Romania. He's getting married to his longtime friend, Alexi Zeklos, and thus Mum and Dad invited the entire Zeklos family here for the week leading up to the wedding so that the two families could get to know one another. Thus, Fred, George, and Percy are bunking in my room so that Alexi and three cousins can sleep in Percy's room, while Alexi's parents, aunt, and uncle have taken over the twins' room.

Bill and Charlie have always shared a room, but now they've also got Alexi's two brothers bunking with them and Ginny and my parents are sleeping in the living room so that Alexi's three sisters can have Ginny's room, while all four of Alexi's grandparents are sharing Mum and Dad's room. So, yeah, until the wedding on 28th July, the house is going to be quite full, but we'll make room for you somewhere, Harry. Alexi's family is leaving the day after the wedding, so then things will get back to normal around here and we can celebrate your birthday without tripping over Alexi's family.

Ron

"Yikes," Harry said as he finished reading, noting that when Ron had first mentioned Charlie's girlfriend, he'd written something else, which he then scribbled out so well that Harry couldn't read it. The word friend also seemed to be written quite a bit darker than the rest of the letter for some reason. "Ron says he'd love for me to come and spend the rest of the summer with him, but the house is quite crowded at the moment. His older brother, Charlie, is getting married to some girl he met in Romania where he works and both sides of the family are currently at Ron's parents house for the week leading up to the wedding, so they could get to know one another."

"How many people is that?"

"Well, including Charlie, Ron has five elder brothers and a younger sister, plus his parents," Harry said. "So, that's already nine people, in a six bedroom house. And as for the girl's family, it seems she has five siblings, three cousins, an aunt and uncle, her parents, and all four grandparents, so that's another seventeen people in the house."

"Damn! Sounds like they're packed in worse than sardines."

Harry nodded and said, "Yeah, I'm inclined to agree."

Setting Ron's letter aside for the moment, Harry pulled out Noah's letter and began reading.

Hey Harry,

Can I just say how horrid it is of your relatives to go on vacation without you? The more I hear about them, the more I really want to hex them into the middle of the next millennium. I'll be seventeen in September, so, I could do it. Only thing stopping me is the fact that anything I did at your relatives' house would likely be attributed to you and you'd get in trouble. Anyway, I've already asked Mum and Amos, and they're both fine with you coming to stay here for the rest of the summer. I know you've probably contacted Ron too, so, you may have more than one offer, but let me know what you decide. Of course I hope you opt to stay here, but if you choose Ron's I'll understand. Take care, Harry, and I hope to see you soon. If not at my house then at Hogwarts come September.

Noah

Finishing Noah's letter, Harry said, "Well, Noah says I can stay with him too. It's just him and his parents there, although that isn't without issues either."

"Why? Seems to me that not having to trip over so many people would be a good thing."

"Noah is Cedric's stepbrother," Harry said. "So, if I go to stay with him, I'll be in the house that Cedric grew up in with Cedric's father."

"Ah, I see how that might be awkward," Dudley said. "Which way are you leaning?"

Before Harry could respond, movement could be heard upstairs and Harry quickly put the letters away and motioned for Hedwig to leave the kitchen, as he knew that his aunt would be furious if she saw an owl sitting on her kitchen table. Standing up from the table, Harry picked up his plate and cleaned up the evidence that would give away the fact that he'd eaten breakfast with Dudley. He then began heating up more food so that it would be ready by the time his aunt and uncle came down.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Three:
New Beginnings
Part Two

-o-0-o-

Ryan awoke the next morning in a large bed and for a few moments he was slightly on edge as he didn't recognize where he was. After a moment, however, when he'd more fully woken up, he realized that he was in his old room at Cromwell Hall, which hadn't changed at all over the years that he'd been living in Asheville. Getting up, Ryan headed into the adjoining bathroom to start his morning routine. Once he was finished he came back out, selected the clothes he was going to wear for the day, applied his Glamours, and got dressed. Before leaving the room he looked at the clock on his bedside table and smiled.

'Grandmother can't complain that I'm sleeping too late now,' Ryan thought. 'It's only eight fifteen in the morning.'

Making his way down the hallway towards the back stairs that led down to the kitchen, Ryan paused outside the doors to the master bedroom, which is where his cousin Matthew slept. Ryan knew that his cousin had been a bit wary of moving into the bedroom after his father had died three years earlier, but eventually he got over it and moved into the larger, more luxurious suite of rooms.

'I wonder if Matt is up yet,' Ryan said, as he stood there for a moment, before walking over to the double doors. He raised his fist and was just about to knock when he heard a muffled moaning sound, along with the sound of squeaking mattress springs and a headboard hitting the wall. Ryan grinned as he lowered his hand. 'Seems Matt is up after all, though not precisely in the way that I'd been thinking.'

Backing away from the door, as he didn't want anyone to catch him loitering outside the door to the master bedroom listening to its' occupants having sex, Ryan continued on his way towards the back stairs. He was very curious, however, about just who was in the room with his cousin, because while living on opposite sides of the Atlantic for the last few years, Ryan and Matthew had still kept in regular contact. In fact, they'd talked via the Floo Network for just over an hour two days before Lucinda dropped the bomb on Ryan that they'd be moving back to England and never once in that time did Matthew mention being involved with anyone.

Arriving in the kitchens, Ryan spotted one of the family elves and said, "Hello Barin."

Turning at the voice, Barin smiled and bowed deeply, before he said, "Master Ryan, welcome back. How can Barin serve you today?"

"I'd like some breakfast, please," Ryan said and the elf nodded. "Just tea and toast is fine."

"Yes, Master Ryan," Barin said. "If you'll have a seat in the family dining room, Barin will bring it out to you."

Ryan had considered eating breakfast in the kitchen's breakfast nook, but looking out the windows he could see that it was a rather gloomy and depressing looking day outside and thus opted to head out to the small family dining room that adjoined the kitchen as Barin had suggested. Sitting down at the round dining table, which would seat about ten people comfortably, Ryan looked around at the oak paneling and floors of the room. It had been years since he'd last eaten a meal in this room and yet, as the memories began flooding back to him, it felt like it was just yesterday. There had been many family dinners held in this room over the years he'd lived here, some of them being joyous occasions, while others had been much more somber. It had also been in this room that Lucinda had changed the course of Ryan's life by telling him they were moving to America.

'I honestly never thought I'd be back here,' Ryan thought. 'I wonder if any of my old friends will even remember me when I turn up at Hogwarts.'

Before his move across the ocean, there were several people that Ryan had counted as friends, both in the muggle and wizarding world. It was somewhat uncommon for the son of a pureblood witch to be associating with muggles, but then the Cromwell family had never really bought into the whole blood purity spiel, as evidenced by the fact that Ryan's late uncle, Charles Cromwell, had married a muggle woman. Katrina Cromwell had been more than a little shocked to find out that her new husband was a wizard, but she had eventually come to terms with it. Of course, there had been some tension, as well, because Katrina had wanted Matthew to go to Eton College and thus had lobbied quite hard for him to be pulled out of Hogwarts after his second year, figuring that by then he should have learned enough to control his powers and could then go and get a proper British education.

In the end, however, Matthew, with his father's help, managed to convince his mother that remaining at Hogwarts would be for the best. Charles had to bring in some very expensive private tutors to ensure Matthew kept up with his muggle studies to a sufficient enough degree to placate his wife, but he didn't mind doing that, as the Cromwell family was old money and had more than they knew what to do with anyway. Of course, the year before Ryan moved to America with his grandmother, his Aunt Katrina found out that she was pregnant. With the whole family saddened by the declining health of family patriarch William Cromwell, the news was a much needed bit of happiness. Unfortunately, in her sixth month of pregnancy, Katrina tripped and fell down the stairs, breaking her neck. The whole family was devastated not only by her death, but the death of her unborn child, as well, which had been determined to be a girl only a week prior to the accident.

Ryan was brought out of his thoughts by the door to the kitchen opening and Barin coming through, levitating a tray behind him. Once it was moved up to the table in front of him, Ryan saw the china tea service, along with a plate of toast and a few bowls full of various fruit preserves. There was also a small glass of orange juice, a helping of scrambled eggs with diced onions, red and green peppers, and ham added to them, as well as a bowl of fresh fruit. Turning to glance at Barin, Ryan raised an eyebrow and the elf gave him an apologetic smile, before he said, "Sorry sir, but Barin has orders from Mistress Lucinda that Master Ryan should eat more balanced breakfast than just toast."

Ryan rolled his eyes. He had never been a big fan of breakfast, because he wasn't really a morning person to begin with, and thus he usually would only opt for something light. Like the tea and toast that he'd ordered. He wasn't the least bit surprised, however, that his grandmother had already gotten to the house-elves and made sure that he was eating more than that. He could just hear his grandmother saying, 'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, Ryan,' and grinned.

Picking up the fork on the tray, Ryan took some of the eggs and took a bite. Once he was finished chewing, he swallowed and said, "Thanks Barin, these are actually very good."

"You welcome, Master Ryan," Barin said with a smile. "Anything else Barin can do for Master Ryan, sir?"

"Well, I do have a few questions."

Barin nodded his head and said, "Barin will do best to answer, Master Ryan."

"First off, where's my grandmother?" Ryan asked, as he hadn't seen her yet this morning and that was very unusual, since in the time they'd lived in Asheville, he couldn't remember a single time that she hadn't been there when he'd woken up, whenever that might be.

"Mistress left early this morning, sir," Barin answered. "Said she had some important work to do. Barin not know what, sir."

"Okay," Ryan said, as he wondered just what this important work was. He couldn't help but be curious about it, after all, since it was the reason why his grandmother had suddenly uprooted his life yet again. "Do you know when my cousin will be down for breakfast?"

"Master Matthew and his friend take their breakfasts in bed, sir," Barin said, although his eyes bulged after he'd said it and he added. "Oh, Barin wasn't supposed to say that. Oh, Barin is in so much trouble!"

"Calm down. It'll be okay," Ryan said in an attempt to calm the now hysterical house-elf.

"No, Barin is in much trouble," the elf repeated. "Master Matthew say house-elves not supposed to talk about that. Barin is in trouble. Bad Barin! Bad!"

"I'm family though," Ryan said. "Aren't you supposed to do as I ask?"

"Um, yes." The elf nodded and Ryan could see that the elf desperately wanted to punish itself, but it didn't because Ryan distinctly remembered his grandmother telling him that she had long time ago forbidden the house-elves from punishing themselves. "But not this. No, no, not this. Master Matthew insisted. Threatened Barin and other elves, sir. Said he'd give us clothes if we told!"

"Ah, I see," Ryan said. "Okay, well, I'll just ask my cousin then, Barin, and don't worry, I'll make sure that Matt doesn't give you clothes for revealing what you have. I've always been told that I can be very persuasive. Anyway, Matt and I have always been close, so I'm sure I can convince him not to punish you."

"You is most kind Master Ryan," Barin said as he bowed again before disappearing from the room with a loud pop.

'Hmm, if I can't get the information out of the house-elves,' Ryan thought, 'I guess I'll just need to try the sneakier approach.'

A few more minutes later, Ryan had finished his breakfast and was headed back upstairs to his bedroom.

-o-0-o-

As the morning sun began to peek through the edges of the drapes, Nicolas opened his eyes and just laid in bed for a moment, not quite ready to move. He'd been shocked yesterday when arriving at Delaney Hall for the first time in five years to find that his Aunt Sarah had moved out of the master suite, which had been the room she'd shared with her late husband. More shocking was when she'd had the house-elves take all of his belongings up to the master bedroom, rather than the smaller room he'd always slept in previously whenever visiting the house. He'd tried to object, but Sarah insisted that it was his house and thus he should sleep in the largest bedroom.

After everything else that had gone on in his life recently, Nicolas had been too tired to argue and opted to just deal with it. There were far more important things that he'd have to adjust to than where he was sleeping after all. One was the weather, because it was quite a bit colder in Northumberland, England than he was used to living in Versailles, France for most of his life. There was also the issue that he was used to speaking in French and knew he'd have to switch to English now that he'd be living in England. Since one of his two fathers was from England, he had learned how to speak English and was fluent in it, but he very rarely, if ever, used it while living in France, so, it was going to take some time to get used to speaking in a different language.

Of course, there was also his impending transfer to Hogwarts and he still wasn't entirely sure how he felt about that. Partly because, again with the weather issue, he knew that the highlands of Scotland would be even more of a temperature difference then he was used to, especially with Beauxbatons being located near Cannes on the southern coast of France in the French Riviera. Beyond that, however, was the fact that he didn't really know anybody at Hogwarts and he still didn't really like the idea of leaving behind his life and all of his friends. Not for the first time he found himself wishing that his grandfather hadn't died. Or if he'd had to do so, that he could have just have waited a couple of months until after Nicolas had celebrated his seventeenth birthday.

With a sigh, Nicolas threw back the bed covers, got out of bed, and headed for the ensuite bathroom to start his morning routine. Thirty minutes later, he was entering the kitchen to find his Aunt Sarah standing at the stove making pancakes.

"Morning, Nicolas," she said, without turning away. "Breakfast will be ready soon, did you want some juice while you're waiting?"

"Do we have any coffee?"

"Yes, it's in the pot right there," as she pointed at the coffee pot. "Didn't realize you were a coffee drinker though, Nicolas."

Nodding, he said, "Yeah, I started about three years ago. Now I just can't function right in the mornings until I've had a cup." Walking over to the coffee pot and pouring himself a cup, he asked, "Is that going to be a problem at Hogwarts? I know you Brits usually prefer tea."

Sarah laughed. "That's true for many, but I've always preferred coffee myself. As for Hogwarts, I honestly couldn't say. It's been a long time since I went there, although I can say that when I did, they didn't serve coffee. Only milk, tea, water, or pumpkin juice with meals."

"Lovely," Nicolas said, as he sat down at the table in the breakfast nook. "Well, hopefully I can convince the house-elves to make me some." Taking a sip, he said, "This is good."

"It's an imported blend that I have to specially order," Sarah said. "A bit on the expensive side, but I figure I can afford an indulgence or two. I can make sure you're well-stocked at Hogwarts, if you like. And since you're not asking for alcohol, I don't think the elves will have any issue with making it for you. They always seemed more than willing to fill special requests for students if they asked, so long as there were no rules forbidding it. You might ask at Hogwarts when you go to take your tests and get sorted if it'll be a problem. Just to be sure."

Nicolas nodded and said, "Oui, c'est logique." After a moment, he said, "I mean, yes, that makes sense. I'm going to have to work on remembering to use English now."

Plating pancakes, eggs, sausages, and bacon for her and her nephew, Sarah came over and placed one of the plates in front of him and said, "Yes, I suppose that's true. I'm sure there's at least a few people at Hogwarts who will understand French, but there won't be enough that you can use it exclusively. And I doubt your professors will let you hand in your assignments in French, because having to use a Translation Charm would just mean more work for them and they're already overworked."

"Overworked?" Nicolas asked, as he picked up his fork and cut some of his pancakes and popped them in this mouth. "And thanks, Aunt Sarah, for making these for me. I know they're not a common breakfast food in England."

Sarah smiled. "No, but I know you ate them at home, Nick, and I want you to feel at home."

"Thanks," Nick said with a grin, as he remembered the vacation to New York City he'd taken with his grandparents when he was six. It's when he'd first tasted pancakes and had pretty much had them for breakfast almost every other morning ever since. "I know I'm probably not going to be getting them much at Hogwarts, so, I guess I should enjoy them while I can. Of course, it wasn't exactly easy getting them at Beauxbatons, either, but I'd eventually worked things out with one of the elves that they'd make them for me."

"Well, again, I think the elves will probably accommodate you," Sarah said. "Unless something has changed since I went to Hogwarts, alcohol is pretty much the only special request the elves won't fulfill." She paused here to take a bite of her own breakfast, before she said, "Anyway, as for the professors being overworked, Hogwarts doesn't have the same setup that Beauxbatons does."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, correct me if I'm wrong," Sarah said, "but at Beauxbatons you have assistant professors who teach the younger years, right?"

Nick nodded and said, "Yeah, there's an assistant professor who teaches the first through fourth year classes and then the main professor for the subject teaches the fifth through seventh year classes."

Nodding, Sarah said, "Yes, I thought that's what I read. Anyway, at Hogwarts, it's traditionally always been one teacher for all seven years of classes. Thus, you'll probably end up having most of your classes in a particular subject one day a week simply because the professors don't have time to meet with you more than that with their other classes."

"Cela ne sonne pas vraiment comme la meilleure approche," Nick said, before he groaned and said, "Sorry, I'm doing it again, aren't I? I said, 'That does not really sound like the best approach.'"

"It's okay, Nick, I understand," Sarah said. "Besides, I actually do speak French, so, if you're more comfortable speaking in French, you can do so."

"Well, I am more comfortable with it, because it's what I'm used to," Nick said. "But, no, I suppose I need to make an effort. Hard to get used to speaking in English if I never do it."

"Yes, that's true," Sarah said. "Anyway, lets finish our breakfast and then I can tell you some more about Hogwarts, if you like."

With a smile, Nick said, "That'd be great, Aunt Sarah. Dad told me a bit about his own time there and about Ravenclaw."

"Well, I can tell you a bit about two more of the four houses," Sarah said. "Christian was a Hufflepuff and I was a Slytherin, so, I know about both houses."

"That'd be great, thanks."

-o-0-o-

Arriving back in his bedroom, Ryan pulled out his wand and cast a Notice-Me-Not Charm on himself, followed by a Disillusionment Charm. Having lived at Cromwell Hall for the first ten years of his life, he knew many of the house's secrets, including where the numerous hidden passageways were and thus reaching his hand under the mantle of his bedroom fireplace, he found and triggered the small latch. Moments later the entire wall that the fireplace occupied swung open and Ryan made his way into the passageway.

After a few moments of navigating the cramped passage, Ryan found himself in the passage that he knew led into the master bedroom. 'I'd better make sure it's all clear,' he thought, as he reached up and grabbed the small silver handle which slid aside a panel behind the portrait above the master bedroom fireplace and looked through it, knowing that he was actually looking through the eyes of the man depicted in the portrait. Since his Uncle Charles had married a muggle, all of the moving portraits had been moved to Charles' study, the library, or the portrait gallery, as the moving and talking portraits had freaked out his Aunt Katrina.

Looking into the room, Ryan could see that the room appeared to be empty. He did, however, spot that there was light and a small amount of steam emerging from underneath the door to the bathroom. Closing the spy panel, Ryan moved a couple of feet and pushed the button which would open the panel into the room and entered the room, closing the panel behind him. Crossing the room, the sound of the shower running was obvious as well as the fact that the house-elves had not been up yet to clean the room, as the bed was turned down on both sides, the sheets were very rumpled, and a breakfast tray with two of everything except food on it laid abandoned at the foot of the bed.

The shower water soon turned off and, after a moment, a tall and slender young man who must have been about the same age as Matt walked out of the bathroom clad only in a white bath towel. His hair was damp and was clinging to his forehead, but it was obviously a light brownish blond color when dry.

Ryan watched the young man getting dressed for a few moments, thoroughly enjoying the sight before his eyes. Ryan couldn't help but think that while he was unaware of the fact that his cousin liked guys, he certainly did have good taste. And that's when it happened. Something which Ryan wished hadn't and he tried to stop it, but he failed. He sneezed.

The young man's eyes quickly looked around the room and seeing nobody there he asked, "Who's there?"

"I said, 'Who's there?'" the young man asked a second time, after a few moments when nobody said anything, during which he grabbed his wand from the bedside table and held it up, ready to defend himself if necessary.

Ryan sighed and then said, "No need to be alarmed," as he cancelled the charms that were hiding him from view.

"Who are you?"

"I could ask you the same question."

"I asked you first."

"I'm Ryan Cromwell."

"Oh, Ryan," the man said as he lowered his wand. "You're Matt's cousin from the States, right?"

"Yes, I'm Matt's cousin," Ryan said. "Are you going to tell me who you are?"

"Oh, sorry," the man said. "Name's Wood, Oliver Wood."

"A pleasure to meet you Oliver," Ryan said as he held out his hand and Oliver shook it. "You look rather familiar. You play professional Quidditch, don't you?"

"Yes," Oliver said, instantly lighting up at the mention of Quidditch, "I'm the reserve keeper for Puddlemere United. I only play when the normal keeper gets sick or injured and can't play, but I love it nonetheless."

"I knew I'd seen you somewhere before," Ryan said. "Must have been in a Quidditch magazine. Having been born here, I still followed the British Quidditch circuit despite living in the States. I have subscriptions to a few of the British magazines and must have seen an article about your signing."

"What's your favorite team?"

"It's a tie between the Magpies and Puddlemere actually," Ryan said. "My grandfather was a Puddlemere fan and grandmother is a fan of the Magpies, so I was raised to like both."

Oliver nodded and then asked, "How long were you standing there concealed?"

Ryan just grinned and then said, "Long enough to know that my cousin has extremely good taste for having himself such a gorgeous and well-endowed boyfriend."

Oliver blushed several shades of red at the comment and then asked, "How do you know I'm Matt's boyfriend?"

"Oh please, Oliver," Ryan said. "It doesn't take much to figure it out. I mean, we are in Matt's bedroom and you were showering in his bathroom. The bed is turned down on both sides, the sheets are rumpled, and it's obvious that two people ate breakfast in bed this morning. Of course, the clincher is that I heard the two of you on my way down to breakfast this morning."

"You heard us?"

"Yes, I did," Ryan said still grinning. "I'd wondered if Matt was up yet, meaning awake, but I guess he was up in another way. Or was that you?"

Blushing a shade of red comparable to a Weasley's hair, Oliver, who really didn't want to discuss his sex life with his boyfriend's sixteen-year-old cousin, then said, "Okay, can we change the subject now?"

"Sure," Ryan said, "though I must admit you are quite cute when you blush. I haven't known you that long, but I can certainly see why Matt likes you so much. How long have you been together anyway?"

"Since our fourth year at Hogwarts," Oliver said as his cheeks began returning to normal. "So, almost seven years."

"Wow," Ryan said. "Seven years and Matt has never once mentioned having a boyfriend."

"We've been keeping it a secret."

"Why?"

"Well, at first it was because of Matt's mom," Oliver said. "While the wizarding world has no problem with same-sex relationships, it isn't the same in the Muggle world and Matt's mom would have been furious if she'd found out Matt was gay, so we didn't tell anyone. We got so used to keeping it a secret that we kept it up after she died."

"So, does my grandmother know?" Ryan said.

"As far as I know, no, she doesn't," Oliver said. "And Matt isn't sure if he should tell her or not because he's afraid that she might not accept it."

Ryan burst out laughing at that, prompting Oliver to look at him strangely as he asked, "What? What's so funny?"

"It's just that I thought Matt was smarter than that," Ryan said. "Obviously I was wrong."

Oliver's whole face looked confused, as he asked, "What do you mean?"

"Oliver, I'm gay," Ryan admitted. "And grandmother knows about it. Her exact words to me where, 'Ryan, I don't care if you're gay. You could date a llama for all I care - so long as you're happy, that's all I care about."

Oliver grinned and said, "A llama? Do I want to know?"

"Grandmother is a very serious woman," Ryan explained. "But sometimes she shows another side of herself and has a good laugh. As for the llama comment, well, sometimes she has a weird sense of humor." With a grin, he added, "I'm sure that if she'd been the one to overhear you and Matt this morning, she would have had something very interesting to say. Not that I'm complaining, because from what I heard you and Matt were having a great time, but, seriously, you may want to remember the silencing charms next time."

"Yeah, I'll try to remember that," Oliver said, as he blushed again.

"You're cute when you blush, you know."

"I'm taken."

"I know," Ryan said. "I love Matt too much to try and steal his boyfriend. But, stealing and admiring are two very different things and you're hot."

Oliver blushed again and said, "You're complimenting me on purpose aren't you?"

Ryan nodded and said, "Yes, I am, you sexy beast."

"You're incorrigible."

"So I'm told," Ryan said and with a grin he added, "Hot stuff."

Oliver sighed.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Four:
A New Place to Call Home

-o-0-o-

It really didn't take Harry very long to make up his mind. As much as he loved the Weasleys, life at the Burrow, at least until after Charlie's wedding, sounded like a nightmare. Thus, it was that Harry sent Hedwig out with two short notes. Each thanked his two friends for the offer to stay with them, while one accepted the offer. Thus it was that on the day the Dursleys were due to leave, Harry had all of his worldly goods packed in his trunk, as he waited for Noah and his mother, Amelia, to arrive.

"You better hope they're coming, boy," Vernon said. "You have twenty more minutes and then we're leaving for Heathrow. If they're not here by then..."

"I know, Uncle Vernon," Harry said. "It'll be the streets for me."

"Too right it will," Vernon said, pleased that his worthless freak of a nephew understood how things would work. After a moment of silence, Vernon spotted Dudley coming down the stairs with two suitcases. As he reached the bottom, he glared at Harry and said, "Don't just sit there, boy! Make yourself useful and take Dudley's bags out to the car."

Harry could tell from the tone of his uncle's voice and the glare that in his uncle's opinion, Harry had failed somehow in his duties, since Dudley had been forced to carry his own luggage down the stairs from his bedroom. Doing his best to suppress the sigh, Harry stood up from where he was seated on his trunk and grabbed Dudley's suitcases, before heading out to Uncle Vernon's car. For his part, Dudley followed his cousin out the door and once he was confident that his uncle was out of hearing range, he said, "I'll work on them, Harry. See if I can get them to be nicer to you next summer."

"Dudley, that would be nice," Harry said, "but I don't expect miracles. And that's what your parents treating me better would be. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea of you being nice to me."

Dudley smiled. "Yes, I suppose it is a rather foreign concept, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is," Harry said as he struggled with lifting one of Dudley's suitcases high enough that he could get it into the car. "Damn, Dud, what did you put in this thing? Everything but the kitchen sink?"

"Just a few essentials," Dudley said, not mentioning what those were. "Here let me help you with that."

As Dudley was helping Harry lift the heavy suitcase into the back of Uncle Vernon's car, a sleek, silver BMW pulled up and parked in front of Number Four. Moments later, Noah and Amelia Diggory got out and walked over to where Harry and Dudley were standing on the driveway.

"Hey Harry," Noah said with a smile, before gesturing to his mother, "This is my Mum, Amelia Diggory."

"Hi Noah, and its a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Diggory," Harry said.

"No need to be so formal, Harry," Amelia said. "You can call me Amelia." Spotting Dudley, she asked, "And who is this?"

"My cousin, Dudley Dursley," Harry said.

Before anyone else could say anything, Uncle Vernon came out of the house, carrying a stack of three boxes which obscured his view and thus he didn't see the Diggorys or the car they'd arrived in. It just so happened that Aunt Marge's birthday fell while they'd be on vacation and since she was going with her brother and his family on vacation, the boxes Vernon was carrying were Marge's birthday presents, one from each of them. "Boy! Get your useless arse over here and help me."

Harry visibly flinched at that, which Noah and Amelia noticed, leaving them with no problems in figuring out who Vernon Dursley was talking about. Putting a hand on Harry's shoulder, Noah stopped him from going over to his uncle, before he walked over himself and took the boxes from Vernon, carefully setting them on the ground next to him, before he glared at Vernon and said, "Harry is not a useless arse."

Looking the young man in front of him up and down for a moment, Vernon couldn't help but notice that he was very well dressed in what were clearly high-end designer clothes. Frowning, he asked, "And who might you be?"

"Noah Diggory," Noah said.

Vernon's face paled slightly, as he recognized the name of the family Harry had mentioned he was going to be staying with over the summer. "You're... you're one of them then?"

Coming up behind her son, Amelia nodded and said, "If you mean wizard, then yes, Mr. Dursley. And if I ever hear you speak to your nephew like that again I won't hesitate to turn you into a mouse and feed you to my cat."

"I don't know Mum," Noah said. "From what I've heard he's probably much too foul. There's no need to give poor Salem indigestion."

"You're right, Noah," Amelia said. "I'll just turn him into an ant and then stomp on him."

Noah grinned. "Much better." Over his shoulder, he said, "Yo, Dudley, why don't you make yourself useful and put these boxes in your father's cheap car."

"Cheap?!" Vernon blustered, clearly angry, not only about the insult to his car but also at the threats to use magic on him.

"Compared to mine anyway," Amelia said as she gestured to the BMW parked in front of the house. Looking over at Vernon's car, she added, "Not doing so well, are you, Mr. Dursley? Did you not qualify for the top 5% salesmen's car and had to settle for the company Grenada? And a two-year-old model at that... rather overdue for replacement wouldn't you say?"

Picking up Aunt Marge's gifts, Dudley quickly put them in the car, doing his best to hide his grin at seeing his father put in his place in such a way. Before encountering Dementors, he wouldn't have been grinning, but since that night and having resolved to treat Harry better, he couldn't help but grin at seeing someone calling his father out for treating Harry so badly. Harry, for his part, stood rooted to the spot behind Vernon's car, his eyes wide, because he really wasn't used to anyone standing up to his relatives like this. His enjoyment of this moment, however, was tempered by the fact that he knew that his uncle would not forget being humiliated 'by one of THOSE people' as he would say. Harry almost winced at the punishments he was sure to have to endure next summer.

Turning to Harry, Noah smiled and asked, "Where's your stuff, Harry?"

"In my trunk, in the house," Harry said.

Noah nodded and turned to look at Dudley, who nodded himself and said, "I'll go get it."

"Good boy," Noah said with a grin, as Dudley headed into the house.

Dudley emerged from the house a moment later, dragging Harry's school trunk, which was on wheels, behind him with one hand. He held Hedwig's empty cage in the other, as Harry had instructed his beloved owl to just stay at the Diggorys after she delivered the notes the other day.

Amelia walked over to her car and opened the boot, at which point Dudley loaded the trunk and cage into the clearly magically expanded space, prompting him to think that maybe magic wasn't so bad after all. Turning to Harry, Amelia asked, "Is that all?"

"Yes, Amelia," Harry answered.

"Hmm," Amelia said. She wasn't sure she really liked the idea that everything Harry owned and wanted to take with him for the rest of the summer and the school year to follow fit inside of his school trunk. She was a Charms Master, after all, and could tell just by looking at it that it wasn't magically expanded. Looking over at Harry, she also couldn't help but think that his clothes seemed very worn out and ill-fitting. 'They look like hand me downs,' Amelia thought. 'Not sure why he'd be wearing such ratty clothes though, because the Potters would make Amos and I look poor by comparison.'

Shaking her head to clear it of such thoughts for the moment, she smiled at Harry and asked, "Are you ready to go, dear?"

Harry nodded, which prompted Noah to walk over and sling an arm over Harry's shoulder, as he said, "Well, then let's go, mate." Looking over his shoulder at Vernon, he added, "I'd say it was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Dursley, but my mother taught me that lying is wrong."

Amelia climbed into the driver's seat and rather than getting into the front seat next to his mother as he had been for the trip over, Noah instead climbed into the backseat with Harry. Moments later, the car was driving down Privet Drive, leaving behind a grinning Dudley and a fuming Vernon.

-o-0-o-

Roughly an hour later, the car arrived at the Diggory house. Harry wasn't entirely sure what he'd been expecting, honestly, as the only wizarding home he'd ever seen, beyond Hagrid's hut and the homes in Hogsmeade, was the Burrow. Cedric hadn't gone into much detail about what his house looked like, but that was mostly due to the fact that both Harry and Cedric had considered snogging to be so much more fun and important.

'It certainly looks nothing like the Burrow,' Harry thought, as he got out of the car and looked up at the three-story house, made of warm yellow sandstone. Since Amelia had parked the car in front of the garage, they were currently in the backyard. Beds of flowers surrounded the house and Harry couldn't help but grin as he thought of the look of jealousy he was sure would be gracing his Aunt Petunia's face if she saw it. An inviting looking porch extended off the back of the house, with a set of green-padded wicker furniture providing a place to sit down and enjoy a summer evening. There was also a vegetable garden, a greenhouse, a few fruit trees, a good-sized pond, and much to Harry's surprise, what looked like a tire swing.

"Welcome to Diggory House, Harry," Noah said with a grin. "You like it?"

"It's brilliant," Harry answered.

"Well, let's get you inside then," Amelia said. "I'm sure your owl would love to see you."

Harry nodded and moved to collect his trunk and Hedwig's cage from the boot, but Amelia waved him off, "No, no, Harry I'll get this stuff. Noah, why don't you show Harry to where he'll be sleeping?"

"Yes Mum," Noah said, as he led Harry towards the house. Entering the backdoor, Harry realized that they were in the kitchen, which had polished wooden floors and oak cabinets with butcher-block counters. The appliances were all rather old-fashioned looking by modern Muggle standards, but Harry couldn't help but think that they seemed to belong. A table covered by a white and yellow checked tablecloth, and surrounded by six chairs, sat in the center of the room, with a stoneware bowl full of apples resting in the center of the table.

"Bedrooms are on the first floor," Noah said, as he led Harry over to a small hallway off the kitchen where what Harry assumed were the back stairs were located. "Mum and Amos wanted to put you in the guest room, but I convinced them to let you stay in my room." Looking over his shoulder at Harry as they climbed the stairs, he asked, "I hope that's okay?"

"Yeah, that's fine."

"You saw the kitchen," Noah said, as they reached the top of the stairs. "Also on the ground floor are the formal living and dining rooms, the library and Amos' study. This level, as I said, is the family bedrooms and the guest rooms. Cedric and I shared, so, there's actually two guest rooms, plus Mum and Amos' room. All the bedrooms have their own bathrooms."

"And what's on the top floor?"

"Box rooms for storage," Noah answered. "There used to be four bedrooms for household staff up there as well, along with a nursery, but only one of them is still a bedroom. We have two house-elves and they use that room for themselves. The other rooms were converted into a study room for Cedric and me, a game room, and an informal family living room. The nursery is Mum's sewing room now."

Leading Harry along the upstairs hallway, Noah pointed out the door to the master suite, along with the doors to the two guest rooms, and the door that led to the top floor stairwell. Finally, they reached the final door, which Noah pushed open and said, "And here's my room, which will also be yours' for the rest of the summer."

Following Noah in Harry looked around at the room. It was quite a bit larger than what he'd expected, certainly much larger than his bedroom on Privet Drive. In fact, as he looked around, he was pretty sure that his room, Dudley's room, and the guest room that Aunt Marge used when she visited would all fit inside of the room that Noah had at one point shared with Cedric. The room appeared to be split down the middle in terms of decor with one side of the room, obviously Noah's, decorated in Gryffindor red and gold, while the other side was decorated in Hufflepuff's yellow and black. Each side of the room had a large four-poster bed, a bit smaller than the ones at Hogwarts, but still large enough that each one of them would comfortably sleep two people.

There was also a wardrobe and a chest of drawers on both sides of the room, as well as the usual clutter one might expect to find in a teenager's bedroom. Walking over to what would have been Cedric's bed, Harry ran his fingertips over the yellow and black patchwork quilt and smiled. He tried to hold back his tears, as he thought of Cedric growing up in the very room that he was now standing in. Noah remained silent for a moment, as Harry looked around and then said, "I've tried to keep it exactly as Cedric left it. Once I convinced her to let you share with me for the summer, Mum did pack up most of his clothes, to make room for yours, but I saved a few of them."

Walking over to the wardrobe, Harry opened it and hesitantly ran a hand over Cedric's old Quidditch robes, before he brought the sleeve up to his nose and sniffed at it. A sad smile spread across his face as he said, "It still smells like him. How? He's been gone for over a year now."

Noah nodded and answered, "Everlasting Preservation Charms - I cast them on all of his clothes and the bed, too. Sometimes, when I'm really missing him, I'll put on a pair of his pajamas and sleep in his bed. Thanks to the charms, everything still smells like Cedric." With an unsure look on his face, Noah asked, "This isn't going to be too painful for you is it? Sleeping in Cedric's old room, surrounded by his things?"

Harry shook his head, "No, Noah, it's brilliant. Thank you."

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, downstairs in Amos' study, Amelia came into the room to find Amos sitting at his desk, looking through his ledger, as he handled the household accounts. Some of the wealthier people in the wizarding world let the goblins do all of that for them, but the Diggorys, while not hurting by any means, were not rich enough that they could afford to live in the lap of luxury. They lived a very comfortable life, but it had been a bit of a challenge when Amos was younger. His father, Jeremiah Diggory, had made some bad investments that had hurt the family's financial position, which is why the four bedrooms on the top floor of the house were no longer for live-in human staff.

Now nearly twenty years since Jeremiah had passed away, Amos had carefully managed the family's funds to a point where they probably could have afforded to have staff again, but they all agreed that it wasn't really necessary. The two house-elves they had acquired took care of the family quite well and Amos had always had a good head for numbers, so he didn't mind doing his own bookkeeping. In fact, he thought it would have been ridiculous to have the goblins do it for him, because they charged 100 galleons an hour, with a minimum of two hours, for the service. Even if they managed to finish all of your bookkeeping in forty-five minutes, you were still required to pay for two full hours.

Finishing the figures he was in the process of writing when his wife came in, Amos placed his quill in the holder on his desk and looked up, "Hello, darling. Is Noah taking Harry upstairs?"

Amelia nodded, "Yes, he is." She paused here before she said, "Amos, I got the distinct impression that Harry's home life leaves a lot to be desired. His cousin seemed okay, but his uncle. The man was utterly horrible," and she then explained her encounter with Vernon Dursley.

By the time his wife finished speaking, Amos was shaking his head. "Some people shouldn't be allowed to have or raise children."

"What really struck me though is how thin Harry is," Amelia said. "He's practically swimming in his clothes. And speaking of his clothes, they're all very worn out. If I had to guess, they're all hand me downs from his cousin who is about five times larger than Harry and I don't mean in height. He is taller than Harry by about half a foot, but also much, much wider. Honestly, Amos, as bad as this may sound, I think you, me, Noah, and Harry could all fit in the trousers that boy is wearing without them feeling snug."

Thinking back to when he'd met Harry just before the Quidditch World Cup, Amos nodded and said, "Yes, I remember thinking his clothes seemed rather too big for him when we met him and the Weasleys on our way for the portkey to the Cup."

"Leaves me wondering if Harry even knows how wealthy his family is," Amelia said. "The Potters are the epitome of old money, so to see James and Lily's only son dressed so shabbily and looking so thin, I worry for him, Amos, I really do. I think I'd almost be afraid to see whats under those clothes because it wouldn't shock me if his bones were visible through his skin."

"That bad?" Amos asked and his wife nodded emphatically. "Well, if it'll make you feel better, dear, we can take him to see a healer. Assuming he agrees that is."

"Well, I hope he does, Amos," Amelia said. "Because I really do think that Cedric would want us to take care of him."

"Yes, that's true," Amos said, after a moment of quiet reflection. "He would."

-o-0-o-

Later that evening, Amos, Amelia, Noah, and Harry gathered in the dining room for dinner and Amos could immediately see why his wife had been so concerned. The overly large clothes hid Harry's small frame rather well, if you didn't look closely, but if you did it became painfully obvious that Harry was not only small for his age, but clearly hadn't eaten anywhere near as well as the former owner of his clothes. Now it had to be said that the former owner of his clothes had eaten much too well, but that made it all the worse in Amos' mind, because the Dursleys were clearly able to afford food. Dudley clearly had quite a bit of girth on him and Amelia said that Vernon was even heavier than Dudley, so, why was Harry so painfully thin?

Noah and Harry conversed about school through most of dinner, with Amos and Amelia throwing in occasional comments. Finally, just as one the elves was serving dessert, Amos couldn't stay silent any longer and asked, "Harry, my wife and I were wondering if you would consent to seeing a healer."

"A healer? Why?"

"I sense that your home life with the Dursleys wasn't very good," Amelia said as she held up a hand and stopped him from speaking. "Now, I'm not asking for any details. If you choose to share them, that's entirely up to you. However, looking at you, I can't help but think that your small size might be due to years of malnourishment."

Before Harry could say anything, Amos said, "If that's true then there are potions which might be able to correct it, but they're medical potions that need to be taken under healer supervision."

Harry remained silent for a moment, before he asked, "If such potions exist then why didn't Madam Pomfrey ever give them to me? Merlin knows I've been in the Hospital Wing enough times over the years, so, why didn't she ever notice this and give them to me?"

Amos and Amelia shared a look, before Amelia said, "I can't answer that, Harry. I suspect only she'd know the answer to that, but what I do know is that it would set my mind at ease if I knew that you were okay."

Harry looked confused at that statement and asked, "Why? You barely know me."

Amos and Amelia shared another look at that question, before Amos said, "My wife is a very caring woman, Harry. She hates to see anyone who may possibly need help not getting it. We won't force you to do anything but if you'd like to go, we'll take you to a healer and maybe do something about those clothes."

"My clothes?"

"Well, they are rather big, Harry," Noah said. "I mean you and most of the Quidditch team could probably fit in them at the same time."

Harry laughed at that and said, "You're not the first person to say that actually." After a moment of silence, he said, "I'll go to a healer, if only because I'm kind of tired of being the shortest person in my year at school. As for clothes, well, I'll think about it."

Amos and Amelia smiled at that, at which point the four of them all dug into the pie and vanilla ice cream that had been set out for dessert.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Five:
Teasing

-o-0-o-

The first night that Harry spent at Diggory House was a bit surreal, to be honest. It was without a doubt a much different experience then what he was used to, even when staying at the Burrow with the Weasleys. Of course, Harry attributed this to the fact that the Diggorys, while just as loving as the Weasleys, were a smaller family. And with a smaller family, came the ability to go from one room to another without tripping over anyone else. A feat which from Ron's letter, Harry knew would be next to impossible at the moment. Harry had, however, done a little exploring of the house after dinner and was quite surprised when he was able to go from room to room and not encounter another living soul. That was definitely not something that had ever happened to him at the Burrow.

'Of course, if not Ron, then it was always Ginny following me around,' Harry thought. He didn't mind Ron so much, because despite his faults, Ron was his first real friend and thus Harry was willing to forgive far more with Ron than he would with anyone else. Ginny, on the other hand, well, Harry wasn't stupid. He could tell that Ginny was crushing on him and that made him extremely uneasy. Not only because he thought of her like a little sister, but also because he was gay and thus, knew that there was no future for him and Ginny. A fact which he was sure would upset and hurt the girl, as she seemed to have it quite bad for him, especially after the whole Chamber of Secrets fiasco. Hurting her was the last thing he wanted to do, but he didn't see how he could avoid it.

At around eight thirty, Harry met Noah in the games room and they played a few hands of Exploding Snap, before they finally retired for the night at about ten o'clock. Arriving in the bedroom, Noah went over to Cedric's wardrobe and pulled out a pair of pajamas for Harry to wear, who took them almost reverently. Bringing them up to his nose, he smiled when he smelled the unique scent that he'd always associated with Cedric.

While Harry was engrossed with his memories of Cedric, Noah was looking at the other pair of Cedric's pajamas, folded up on a shelf in the wardrobe. Today had been one of those days for Noah where he was especially missing Cedric and having Harry around had made it that much more real. Since Cedric had died, Noah had gotten used to being alone over the summers. He had his mother and stepfather around, of course, but it wasn't the same as having someone his own age around. He had friends who visited, of course, but they were mostly his fellow Gryffindors and thus none of them had really known Cedric.

'Normally, I'd put on Ric's pajamas and sleep in his bed when I'm missing him like this,' Noah thought. 'But, that would be wrong, wouldn't it? I don't want to intrude on Harry. I've had two years around Ric's things, but Harry... I also don't want Harry to think that I'm just using Ric's memory as an excuse to sleep with him.'

Noah's conflicting emotions must have shown on his face, because Harry asked, "Noah? Are you okay? You've seemed a little... well, off for the last couple of hours now."

Turning to Harry, Noah smiled and Harry noticed that it didn't quite reach his eyes. "I'm okay, Harry."

Shaking his head, Harry said, "I know you better than that, Noah, so what's wrong?"

Noah sighed. "Well, it's just that since Cedric died, I've gotten used to being alone over my breaks from Hogwarts. I'm got Mum and Amos, of course, and my friends from school visit from time to time, but none of them really knew Ric. You knew him, however, probably better than anyone. So, talking and spending time with you today has just made me miss him all the more."

"I'm sorry," Harry said. "If my being here is going to be too hard, I can go stay at the Burrow. Ron's brother is getting married, so the house is packed right now until after the wedding, but I'm sure I could deal with it."

Shaking his head, Noah placed his hands on Harry's shoulders and said, "No, Harry, you don't have to go. I like having you here." He smiled at this and said, "I happen to really like you, remember?"

Harry blushed a bit at that and said, "I like you too, Noah, but I'm not sure I'm ready."

"That's okay, Harry, there's no rush," Noah said. "As I've said, if you just want to be friends, that's fine with me. I'll deal with it. So, no more talk about you leaving. I want you here. Mum and Amos want you here. And I know if he was alive, Ric would want you here too."

"Thanks, Noah," Harry said as he pulled him into a hug. Noah was about four inches taller than Harry, thus, he couldn't rest his chin on Noah's shoulder as they hugged, so, he instead turned his face to the side and rested it against it instead. It was then that he spied the second set of pajamas folded up in the open wardrobe. Pulling back, Harry said, "Hey Noah? Being around Cedric's things is a bit, well overwhelming for me. Especially with how everything still smells like him. Do you think, well, if it wouldn't be too hard for you, that you could sleep with me tonight? Just as friends, mind you."

Noah smiled. "I can do that, Harry."

A few minutes later, Harry and Noah were both dressed in Cedric's pajamas, one set yellow and the other black, and snuggled under the quilt of his bed. Noah mumbled, "Nox," to turn off the lights, before settling down on the pillow. All was silent for a little while, before Harry whispered, "Noah?"

"Yes, Harry?" Noah asked, his tone equally soft.

"Could you, um, hold me?" Harry asked, glad that it was dark and that Noah hopefully wouldn't see just how red his cheeks had gotten at that question.

Moving over and closing the distance between them, Noah wrapped his arms around Harry's smaller form and said, "Like this?"

Harry nodded and felt a tear forming in the corner of his eye. "Yeah, just like that," he said with a contented smile as he remembered just how many times that Cedric had held him exactly the same way. He knew, of course, that Noah wasn't Cedric. Technically speaking they weren't even related to each other, except for the piece of paper that declared Noah's mother married to Cedric's father. But, in the dark, surrounded by Cedric's unique scent, Harry, could imagine that it was his beloved holding him.

After a few more moments, Harry whispered, "Noah, is it wrong that I'm imagining that you're Ric? I mean, I know you aren't, of course, but in his bed, surrounded by his scent..."

"It's okay, Harry," Noah said, as he quickly pecked Harry on the right temple. "I understand how you feel. To be honest, I can't help but feel particularly close to Ric like this myself. We may not have been lovers, but we were certainly friends. Very good friends, and we sometimes did sleep together like this. Especially when our parents first got married. I was only ten and I sometimes had nightmares. Ric would always have me climb into bed and hold me until I fell asleep, safe in his arms."

"Just good friends?" Harry asked, a couple minutes later. "I thought you thought of Ric like your brother."

"Well, I did on some level, I suppose," Noah said, after taking a moment to think about it, during which Harry had almost thought that maybe Noah had drifted off to sleep when he didn't say anything immediately. "Ric and I were definitely close and we'd certainly bonded, but, I don't know. I really loved him, but there was always something in the back of my mind which prevented me from placing him completely in the brother category."

Harry grinned, "Well, he was the Hufflepuff Hottie - basically sex on legs. Can't say as I really blame you for not thinking of him completely like a brother."

Noah was flabbergasted that Harry had figured that one out. He was right, of course, because if Noah was honest, he knew the reason that he'd never totally thought of Cedric as his brother was because he was attracted to him. He knew they would never be together, especially after Cedric and Harry started dating towards the end of Harry's third year. "You figured that out did you? That I liked Ric perhaps a bit more than a brother really should like their brother?"

"Yeah, Noah, I did," Harry said. "Although to be honest, Ric suspected that you had feelings for him. He mentioned it to me once and you know, he even said that those feelings weren't entirely one-sided."

"What?" Noah asked. "You're kidding me, right?"

Shaking his head, Harry said, "No, I'm not. Ric liked you, too, perhaps a little more than a brother should, but I don't see anything wrong with it, personally. As I told Ric when we talked about it, you were only stepbrothers and it's not like you were raised from birth to think of each other as siblings. I know some people would still say that such thoughts were incestuous and wrong, but honestly, I think they'd be being narrow-minded. I mean, it's not like two blokes have to worry about pregnancy, so, honestly what's the big deal? And even if they could, it wouldn't have made much difference in Ric's and your case since you were only related on paper."

"That's a remarkably mature, if unpopular, opinion, Harry."

"Well, Ric always did say I was mature for my age," Harry commented. "He figured it was a result of facing near death situations so many times. Anyway, Ric never told you because he was happy with me and also because he was worried he was wrong. That perhaps he'd misread the signs and that you didn't feel the same. He didn't want to risk losing your friendship."

Noah was quiet for a moment, before he said, "Wow, I never suspected that Ric might actually return some of the feelings I had for him. I never told him because I thought he'd be disgusted with me. I was also worried about how my mum and Amos would react, because let's face it, I don't think people who get married ever really plan on romance happening between their children from past marriages. Especially when they're both boys. But Ric, well, he was hard not to love."

"You don't have to tell me that," Harry said, before yawning.

"Well, I think we've had enough revelations for one night," Noah said, as he fought back a yawn himself. "We should probably get some sleep. Goodnight, Harry."

"Night, Noah," Harry whispered, as he snuggled closer to Noah and closed his eyes. Noah, meanwhile, tightened his hold on Harry a bit, resting his chin on top of the younger boy's head, and closed his own eyes. Within minutes, they were both sound asleep.

-o-0-o-

The next morning, Noah and Harry both woke up at about the same time. Letting Harry use the ensuite first, Noah got out of bed and walked over to his wardrobe, pulled out some clothes and walked over to his bed. Setting aside an outfit for himself, he then grabbed a pair of black trousers and quickly cast a charm to shorten the legs by a couple of inches and take in the waistline a bit. He then resized a red button-down shirt, before repeating this process on a white ribbed undershirt and a pair of red boxers. It took him all of about two minutes and thankfully, Harry was still in the bathroom while he was doing this, because Noah planned to tell a little white lie.

A few minutes later, Harry emerged from the bathroom, having put Cedric's pajamas back on following his shower and said, "Bathroom is all yours, Noah."

"Thanks, Harry," Noah said, as he grabbed the clothes he'd just resized and said, "Hey Harry, while I was going through my wardrobe I found these clothes. They don't really fit me anymore, but I think they'd probably fit you better than your cousin's old clothes."

Harry was momentarily speechless, before he grinned and said, "Thank you."

"Don't mention it," Noah said. "Knowing Mum, she'll make sure we go shopping and get you your own clothes very soon, but until then, I figure you can wear some of my old things. At least you won't be swimming in the stuff." Heading for the bathroom door, Noah turned and said, "Oh and Harry, if you want to borrow a pair of socks, they're in the top drawer on the left. I've seen your socks and they don't really look very comfortable."

"They're not, really," Harry admitted. "They're wool, so, they're quite itchy. Thankfully, since they were Dudley's they're also stretched out enough that they don't really touch my legs. My feet, however, are another story."

"Well, I don't own any wool socks," Noah said. "They're not all that popular in the wizarding world, honestly. Even among witches and wizards who live in colder climates, wool is not that popular for wizarding clothes as a general rule, but then, the extra warmth isn't really needed when you can cast a Warming Charm on yourself."

Harry nodded. "That's true, I suppose, but we're both underage remember?"

"Surely somebody has told you by now that doesn't really matter?" Noah asked. "I mean, yes, at your Aunt and Uncle's house, it would. But here? You can use all the magic you want because underage or not, you won't get in trouble with the Ministry. They'll detect it, but they won't be able to tell if it was you, me, my Mum or Amos who cast the spell."

"Really?" Harry asked. Nobody had ever told him that, honestly, and he'd never seen any of the Weasleys using magic at the Burrow while they were underage. Even Fred and George had, as far as Harry had seen, refrained from using magic at home before they turned seventeen.

Nodding, Noah said, "Yes, really, Harry. In wizarding households, the Ministry expects to detect magic and with adult witches and wizards in the house, they won't send warning letters to anyone because they'll just assume it was the adults using the magic whenever they detect it. The belief is that it's up to the parents to police their own children and make sure they don't do magic. Some are stricter than others, of course, but Mum and Amos have let me use magic anytime I want since I was fourteen."

Harry's mouth dropped open at that and Noah grinned. "When you're done catching flies, Harry, you might want to get dressed. And try a spell if you don't believe me, but I swear to you on my honor as a Gryffindor that I'm telling the truth."

Noah went into the bathroom at this point, grinning one last time as he saw the look on Harry's face when he turned to close the door behind him. It took a minute or so before Harry shook off the shock he'd felt at what Noah had just told him. How is it that nobody had ever mentioned that to him in the last six years? Even Cedric had never said anything, but then, in retrospect, Harry imagined that the topic had simply never come up. They'd struck up a friendship during Harry's third year, after Cedric had come to visit Harry in the Hospital Wing after the Gryffindor-Hufflepuff game that the Dementors had interrupted. By the end of that year, friendship had turned into romance.

Cedric had then visited Harry several times that summer, usually meeting up at the small playground over on Magnolia Road. These 'dates' usually just consisted of talking as they swung on the swings, but usually by the end, they'd sneak off to a private, concealed corner for some snogging. Harry never thought to ask Cedric how he was getting from his home to Little Whinging, as he always came alone. He would have only been sixteen at that point, so, Harry didn't think he'd been Apparating, but having never asked he didn't know for sure. But then, he'd just been so happy to see him that he never thought to ask.

By the time of the Quidditch World Cup, Harry and Cedric were head over heels in love with each other and after the game, they met up and Cedric took him to the Diggory tent. Amos, Amelia, and Noah were off celebrating Ireland's victory so they'd had the tent all to themselves. So, what started out as some chatting and cuddling quickly progressed to snogging, which led to Cedric taking Harry into the bedroom he was sharing with Noah. Not long after that, Harry and Cedric each lost their virginity to the other and they fell asleep, naked, in each other's arms, with the bed sheets only just protecting their modesty. That's how Noah had found them two hours later and was also how he found out about their relationship. Up until that point, Noah hadn't even known that Cedric was gay, let alone dating Harry Potter.

Shaking his head, Harry stripped out of Cedric's pajamas and pulled on the red boxers that Noah had left for him. Harry knew that most people would find the idea of wearing somebody else's old underwear to be gross, but Harry was used to it. All of his clothes - and that included underclothes - had once belonged to Dudley, after all, because the Dursleys refused to spend any more then they absolutely had to on their nephew. However, since one of Harry's tasks since he'd turned five was doing the laundry, he made sure that whenever he was given more of Dudley's old clothes to wear that they were very well washed before he put them on. Of course, hygiene hadn't been the only reason to run Dudley's old clothes through the wash several times, because Harry had also been trying to shrink them a bit.

Of course, as Dudley got older and bigger, the old clothes he was getting kept getting larger and larger and Harry had resigned himself to the fact that he'd never be able to get them to shrink enough that they wouldn't be hanging off of him. As he got older, though, a part of him was thankful that the clothes were so large because they did a pretty good job of hiding just how scrawny he really was. It also provided plenty of room for Harry to pad himself a bit. He'd often take one of Dudley's shirts and wrap it around his waist, for example, which usually added a couple of inches to it.

This, of course, had multiple uses in that it hid the worst of his small frame from his teachers, because he knew the Dursleys wouldn't be happy if one of his teachers called Child Protective Services because they thought Harry was being starved to death. Besides that, however, it had also helped the clothes to fit better and provided a little extra padding which dulled the blows from Dudley and his gang whenever Harry couldn't outrun them when they were Harry Hunting. Thinking back to his recent interactions with Dudley, Harry had to admit that was one aspect of his life that he definitely wouldn't mind leaving in the past.

Harry had just finished getting dressed when the bathroom door opened and Noah emerged. Only unlike Harry, who had put Cedric's pajamas back on before coming out into the bedroom, Noah had opted to come out wearing only a towel wrapped around his waist, with the one he'd used to dry his hair hanging around his neck. At five feet, eleven inches tall, with brown hair, blue eyes, and the beginnings of a six pack, Noah was certainly a handsome specimen. Harry averted his eyes when he felt a blush creep up on his cheeks and his cock twitch as his thoughts turned decidedly dirty as he thought about where the sparse trail of hair on Noah's abs led, after it disappeared under the towel.

Noah noticed the blush that rose on the younger boy's cheeks and how he'd quickly averted his eyes. Grinning, Noah walked over to his bed and turning his back on Harry, he took the towel from his shoulders and made a little show of running it through his hair one final time, before tossing it aside. Of course, his hair was already mostly dry by that point, so, all it had really done was give it an extremely tousled look. Sensing that Harry was watching him, he decided to continue the show by dropping his towel and allowing it to slide down his legs into a heap on the floor, leaving his bare ass on full display for Harry.

Harry's eyes widened at this, but he didn't say anything, as his mind was completely unable to form anything even remotely resembling a sentence by this point as he took in Noah's naked body. And so, he simply watched in silence as Noah grabbed an undershirt and put his arms through the sleeves before pulling it slowly over his head and then just as slowly down his torso. 'The bloody git knows I'm watching,' Harry thought, finally becoming capable of coherent thought as he realized what Noah was doing. 'So, he's giving me a strip tease, only in reverse.'

Once Noah put his shirt on, making sure to pull it down a lot slower than he normally would have, he grabbed his socks and deciding that he wanted to keep his ass on display for Harry, he raised his left leg, bending it at the knee and resting it on the bed, before he bent over a bit and began pulling a sock over his toes, just as unhurriedly as he had put on his shirt. If he bent a little more than necessary and thus stuck out his ass a bit, well, all the better.

Harry was as hard as a rock by this point, because while he didn't really feel that he was ready for another relationship at this point, he could still recognize a hot guy when he saw one. And Noah definitely fit that description to a T. As Harry watched Noah ever so leisurely pulling on his socks, taking much longer than was necessary to do so and sticking his naked butt out, Harry would have been lying if he said he wasn't half-tempted to put his hand in his pants and start jerking himself off. Especially when Noah shifted enough that Harry caught a glimpse of his balls hanging between his legs, along with what he could see of Noah's own erection.

'Well, he's certainly enjoying teasing me, of course, so am I,' Harry thought, as he continued to watch Noah's every move, his eyes transfixed as he did his best to commit every second of this to memory. He had no intention of jerking off at that moment, because he didn't feel comfortable doing that in front of someone who wasn't his boyfriend. He knew that Noah wanted to be his boyfriend, but until that actually happened - if it happened - Harry would not jerk off with Noah in the room. He did, however, grin as he thought about the fun he'd have the next time he took a shower and he replayed this scene in his head.

With his socks finally on, Noah decided to prolong things just a bit longer and thus rather than grabbing his underwear and beginning to put them on, he instead grabbed the golden colored silk button down shirt that he'd grabbed for himself to wear. Pulling his left arm through the sleeve at a snail's pace, he flexed his arms a bit, showing off his biceps, as he reached around his back with his right arm and began to put it through the appropriate sleeve. Once this was done, leaving the shirt bunched up around his lower back, Noah began to ever so slowly and deliberately inch it up his back, flexing his arms as he did so. He also wiggled his ass a few times for good measure.

'If it wasn't for the fact that he's giving me excellent material the next time I jerk off,' Harry thought, as he adjusted his trousers to give his raging hard on a bit more room, 'I'd have to kill him.' He pointedly ignored the voice in his head that told him that nobody was making him watch this. He could have left the room at anytime, but then, why in Merlin's name would he do that? He might not be ready for a relationship but he wasn't dead. He was a teenage boy with raging hormones that were all screaming at him to drop his pants and put Noah's gorgeous ass to good use. Unfortunately for his hormones, Harry was much too good of a person to grab someone from behind and have his way with them without making sure they actually wanted to do it.

After finally getting his shirt on, leaving it unbuttoned for the moment, Noah moved to pick up his underwear, but paused as his hand touched the red cotton of the boxers he'd taken from his wardrobe. 'Not nearly sexy enough,' he thought to himself, as he closed his eyes, concentrated and attempted a bit of wandless magic. He'd practiced it before and managed a few simple spells, so, he hoped this would work. Opening his eyes, he grinned and said, 'Perfect.' His spell had worked and what had moments earlier been a pair of red cotton boxers was now a pair of red bikini briefs. He'd never attempted a wandless transfiguration before, but he had to admit he was very pleased with the result.

Taking the underwear in his hands, Noah bent over so that he was doubled over and lifted his left foot just far enough off the floor that he could slip it into the small cotton undergarment, before repeating the motion with his right foot. He wanted to start as close to the floor as possible, after all, so that he could make a show of slowly and seductively pulling them up little by little over his muscular legs.

'Forget the next time I jerk off,' Harry thought, as he burned this event into his memory. 'He's giving me enough material for the next two or three months.'

A few agonizing minutes later, Noah finished pulling the confining material up and did his best to adjust his own raging cock inside the material. He realized now that perhaps the bikinis hadn't been his best decision. Catching a side-long glimpse of himself in the mirror on the door of his wardrobe he could see that he looked quite sexy in them, but they were rather limiting in terms of space for his fully erect cock. 'Oh well, I'll deal with it,' he thought, as he caught a glimpse of Harry's face in the mirror. 'It's worth it for that look alone.' Noah grinned. 'Did he just lick his lips?'

Harry had, in fact, just licked his lips. This was definitely one of the most erotic moments of his life so far. Oh he'd had plenty of them with Cedric, but since his death, they'd been very few and far between. Clearing his mind of thoughts of Cedric, however, as he felt a little strange thinking about his dead boyfriend while watching said boyfriend's stepbrother performing a reverse strip tease, Harry instead concentrated on what Noah was doing now. He'd bent over again and was repeating what he'd down with his underwear with his navy blue trousers, pulling them up his legs so slowly you could barely discern any movement at all.

Speaking of movement, however, as Harry watched he realized that Noah, still bent over, his head down, was turning around to face him as he pulled his trousers up. 'Oh Merlin,' Harry thought. 'He's going to turn around and let me see what his cock looks like in those sinfully tight and small bikinis he's wearing. Yes!'

Finishing his slow turn around, Noah began to pull up his trousers a bit faster, but still quite slow. Straightening up as he pulled them up past his knees, he finally looked at Harry and grinned wide, as he spoke aloud for the first time since emerging from the bathroom. "Enjoying the show, Harry?"

Gesturing to his crotch, which looked rather painfully swollen inside of the shrunken trousers Noah had given him, he asked, "What do you think?"

"I think you're definitely enjoying it," Noah said, as he finally finished pulling his trousers all the way up. Before he could move to begin buttoning up the first of the button fly, however, Harry stepped forward and pushed Noah's hands away, as he slowly buttoned them himself. Noah grinned but remained silent as Harry continued his task. When he finished, he moved a bit closer and said, "That was so hot, so, you get a prize."

With that, Harry leaned forward and gave Noah a quick peck on the lips. Noah, however, obviously would have liked something a bit longer, as he asked, "Is that all I get?"

"For now, yes," Harry said. "Time will tell what the future holds."

"You are so evil, Harry."

Harry raised an eyebrow. "I'm evil? This coming from the guy who just performed a reverse strip tease?"

Noah couldn't really say anything about that, and it showed on his face, which prompted Harry to just nod and say, "Come on, Diggory. Let's get downstairs and get something to eat. I'm starving."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Six:
A Trip to St. Mungo's

-o-0-o-

Following a truly excellent breakfast prepared and served by Jazzy and Misty, the Diggory family's two house-elves, Amelia pulled Harry aside and told him that she'd managed to get him an appointment with a healer at St. Mungo's. Harry hadn't really expected the healer visit to happen this quickly when he'd told Noah's mother that he'd go to one, but as it turned out the healer was an old friend and housemate of Amelia's from Hogwarts who had a cancellation in her schedule and thus agreed to see Harry as a personal favor to Amelia.

She'd figured she'd have to take Harry shopping before the trip to St. Mungo's so that he'd have something appropriate to wear that wasn't several sizes too large, but she was pleased to see that Noah had already taken care of that issue. She knew that Noah had shrunk one of his own outfits for Harry to wear, as she'd recognized it, but she wasn't the least bit angry with him. In fact, she was proud of him for doing it and had given him a smile and a thumbs-up when Harry wasn't looking.

She still had every intention of taking Harry shopping, but that could now wait until after the visit to the healer, which was probably a good thing. If it turned out that the healer could help to reverse some of the malnourishment that Harry had suffered, then it wouldn't be wise to buy too many new outfits for Harry if he was going to end up quickly outgrowing them. She knew that Harry could afford it, as the Potters were one of the oldest and wealthiest wizarding families still in existence, but why spend money that didn't need to be spent, if you could avoid it?

Thus two and a half hours after eating breakfast, Amelia took Harry via Side-Along Apparition to a darkened and deserted alleyway in London, where the two of them then took a short walk, finally stopping in front of Purge and Dowse, Ltd., the red-brick condemned department store that the muggles thought was never open due to never-ending renovations. Walking up to the store window, Amelia looked at one of mannequins in the window, who asked, "Name and purpose for visiting today?"

"Amelia Diggory, escorting Harry Potter, for an appointment with Healer Sarah Delaney."

"Healer Delaney is expecting you, please enter," the mannequin said, at which point Amelia and Harry walked straight through the window and into the reception area of St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.

Knowing where they needed to go, Amelia led Harry right past the welcome witch at the inquiries desk and headed straight for the lifts. Pushing the down button outside the lifts, Amelia and Harry waited for a few minutes, before one of the lifts opened. They entered the lift to find that it was nearly empty, save for one other person who did not get off at the Ground Floor. A moment later, they were going down. When the lift stopped and the doors opened, a voice said, "Now arriving on Basement Level One - In-Patient Rooms and Maternity Ward."

"Not the floor we want, obviously," Amelia said and Harry nodded, as two people got onto the lift. The person who had already been on the lift when Harry and Amelia got on, remained on the lift, as the doors closed and the lift continued to go down. A moment later, the doors opened again and the voice said, "Now arriving on Basement Level Two - Pediatrics, Geriatrics, and General Consultation Rooms."

"This is our floor," Amelia told Harry, as she ushered him out of the lift. One of the people who had boarded the lift from the Maternity Ward also got out and Harry found himself curious. "Is there another basement level below this?"

Amelia nodded. "Yes, Harry, although you usually need clearance from a healer to get there. Basement Level Three houses the Morgue, Staff Lounge, and Supply Rooms."

"Ah, I see," Harry said, as Amelia led him down a hallway. "And why would they put the maternity ward in the basement? I'd think that new mothers, relaxing after giving birth, would enjoy being able to look out a window and see a nice view of London."

"Being in the basement doesn't affect the windows, Harry," Amelia said with a smile. "They're all charmed to show whatever scene the healer or patient prefers. So, in their offices, healers might have the windows displaying Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. While in patient rooms, the windows might show a garden, the mountains, or even the patient's own house. Of course, some may also choose to have it show a pitch black sky, devoid of stars and moonlight if they're trying to sleep."

"Oh," Harry said, as he thought, 'I love magic!'

Entering the Pediatrics Wing, Amelia led Harry into a waiting room, before going over to a nurse sitting at the desk to let her know that Harry Potter had arrived for his appointment with Healer Delaney. The nurse nodded and said that Sarah would be with them in a few minutes. Sitting down next to Harry, Amelia said, "It'll be a few minutes."

Harry nodded. "So, this healer, she's an old friend of yours?"

"Yes, Harry," Amelia answered. "We went to Hogwarts together. We were housemates, actually. Slytherin, to be precise."

"You were a Slytherin?" Harry asked.

"Yes, I was Slytherin," Amelia confirmed. "I suppose that might surprise you or possibly even worry you. Considering the feud between Gryffindor and Slytherin, I understand how that might shock or surprise you, but I assure you that you have nothing to fear from me."

"Don't worry about it," Harry said. "Very few people know this, but when I was eleven, the Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin, but I convinced it not to. Since finding out about the magical world, my only real contact with wizards up until that point had been with Gryffindors who all said that every witch or wizard who'd ever gone bad was sorted into Slytherin. I'd also met a boy at Madame Malkin's that I later found out was Draco Malfoy and he said some very bad things about muggleborns, which I didn't agree with, obviously, since my Mum was one. So, when I saw Draco get sorted into Slytherin, along with everything else I'd heard, I decided I wanted no part of it and begged the Hat not to put me there."

"Wow," Amelia said. "I've never heard of anyone being able to convince the Sorting Hat to put them in a house other than the one it thought the student belonged in. Of course, I imagine those who do convince it to change its initial choice probably don't talk about it, because if they didn't want to be in a certain house badly enough to convince the Hat, I imagine it's not something they would share with people."

Harry nodded. "Yeah, as I said, very few people know that." Amelia probably figured that Harry had told Ron and Hermione, but the truth was that he hadn't. There was only one person that Harry had shared it with and that was Cedric. "I figured I'd trust you with it though because it would back up the idea that I don't have any problems with you or Healer Delaney being in Slytherin. You've been very kind to me, Amelia, and if your friend is anything like you, then I feel I can trust her."

"I thank you for your trust, Harry," Amelia said. "Not all Slytherins are bad, despite what some people might like to think. Of course, as I'm sure you know, you don't have to be in Slytherin in order to go bad."

"Yeah, I know," Harry said, as his thoughts turned to Peter Pettigrew, who had obviously been in Gryffindor, but that hadn't stopped him from selling out his friends to Voldemort.

Nothing more was said between Amelia and Harry, as a nurse walked into the room with a chart in her hands and said, "Harry Potter?"

"You want me to go with you?" Amelia asked.

Thinking about that for a moment, Harry decided that as much as he hated hospitals, he didn't know precisely what this examination might entail. Not wanting to risk the possibility of Cedric's stepmother seeing him without any clothes on, he shook his head and said, "No, I'll be fine."

As Harry stood and walked over to the nurse, he realized, perhaps a bit belatedly, that it wasn't likely that Amelia would have seen him naked, because if Healer Delaney did need him to take his clothes off, then he would surely have been able to ask Amelia to leave the room first. And that was assuming she didn't volunteer to do so before he could ask. But, hindsight is crystal clear and Harry was a Gryffindor, so, as much as he generally disliked hospitals and healers, he was determined to be brave and part of that was sucking it up and going to see Healer Delaney on his own. He was in a hospital, after all, what could possibly go wrong?

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, at Hogwarts Castle, Professor Albus Dumbledore stood in a secured private room off of the Hospital Wing, looking sadly upon the faces of the twin occupants of the magically expanded double bed, as Madam Poppy Pomfrey ran a few tests to check their vital signs. After a moment, Poppy looked up and with a shake of her head, she said, "Their vital signs are holding, but, I'm afraid there's nothing more I can do for them. The treatment I prescribed has had no effect and they remain comatose."

Albus nodded. "I understand, Poppy. We knew the treatment was a long shot at best, but we had to try. Set up a monitoring charm to alert you if there's any change in their condition and lock the door to this room when you leave. Nobody is to know of their presence here."

"Yes, Albus," Poppy said, as Albus left the room and headed up to his office.

-o-0-o-

Back at St. Mungo's, Harry was led into a consultation room in the Pediatrics Ward by the nurse who'd come to get him. When they arrived in the room, she directed him to take off his shoes and sit on the bed, at which point she ran a couple of simple diagnostic spells. She worked quietly as she noted down the results on his chart. Harry was somewhat surprised that she hadn't even once looked up at his scar. Since she'd called him by name it was obvious that she knew who he was, but thus far she hadn't acknowledged it. It was strange because Harry was used to people always wanting to see his scar and shake his hand, but he wasn't about to complain about the nurse's apparent lack of desire to do so either.

Finishing up a note on the chart, the nurse smiled and said, "Healer Delaney will be in to see you shortly, Mr. Potter."

At Harry's nod, the nurse smiled once more and then left the room. It wasn't long after that the door opened and a brown-haired woman entered the room and smiled. "Mr. Potter? I'm Healer Sarah Delaney. It's a pleasure meeting you."

"It's nice to meet you too."

Looking at the chart, she asked, "This is your first checkup here at St. Mungo's correct?"

Harry nodded. "Yes. Up until now all my previous medical care has been done by Madam Pomfrey at Hogwarts."

Sarah nodded, but she was frowning, as she said, "I see. Honestly, from the preliminary findings my nurse wrote on your chart, I'm shocked that Madam Pomfrey hasn't put you on a potion cocktail to correct the rather obvious signs of malnutrition. Has she ever mentioned any such potions to you?"

Shaking his head, Harry said, "No, she hasn't. I didn't even know that such potions existed until Amelia Diggory mentioned them to me."

"Yes, I knew that Amelia brought you in," Sarah said. "May I ask why she brought you in and not your legal guardian?"

"Well, my guardians are my aunt and uncle," Harry answered. "Vernon and Petunia Dursley, the latter of whom is my late mother's muggle sister. They've actually gone on vacation with their son and Vernon's sister in the south of France, so, I'm staying with the Diggorys for the rest of the summer."

"I see," Sarah said. "I'd ask why they didn't take you with them on vacation, but looking at these results, I'm afraid I may already know the answer to that. According to these results, you've suffered years of malnutrition and while you do seem to be eating a bit better since you turned eleven, your body is having difficulty making up for the first eleven years of neglect. I'm also seeing the residual signs of several old injuries that haven't all healed as well as they should have because your body, and by extension your magic, weren't strong enough to heal them properly. You don't have to answer this if you don't want to, Mr. Potter, but were your relatives ever physically abusive?"

Harry remained silent for a moment, thinking about what to say. Should he be honest? He'd always heard that you should be honest with your doctor and a healer was the magical equivalent. Of course, he'd attempted to be honest with Madam Pomfrey and she usually just ignored him or hushed him whenever he tried to say something. She treated the most serious injuries, such as his Quidditch injuries or when Lockhart had vanished the bones in his arm, but she'd never brought up anything about malnutrition or seeing evidence of physical abuse. Harry had just assumed that such things didn't show up on the magical diagnostic tests, but it would seem that he was wrong.

Making up his mind, he said, "Well, my aunt did hit me in the head with a frying pan once and my uncle hit me with his belt a few times, but usually they would just lock me in my room for a few hours, deprive me of food, and give me a large number of chores to do. My cousin Dudley and his friends liked to beat me up and did so quite frequently, although lately, Dudley seems to be trying to turn over a new leaf. He's been a lot nicer to me ever since he encountered a couple of Dementors last summer."

"Dementors in a Muggle neighborhood?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah, two of them. I used the Patronus Charm to drive them off and got called before the entire Wizengamot for a disciplinary hearing. Of course, that was when the Ministry was doing everything they could to discredit me and my claims that Voldemort was back. I later found out that the Minister's Senior Undersecretary, Dolores Umbridge, was the one who actually ordered the Dementors to attack me. She's also responsible for the scarring on my hand that spells, 'I must not tell lies.' As the Defense teacher at Hogwarts, and later Headmistress and High Inquisitor last year, she gave me several detentions during which she forced me to write lines with a blood quill."

"A blood quill?!" Sarah asked. "That's outrageous that she would use one on students. Blood quills are illegal. Only the goblins have been given permission to utilize them and then only to sign contracts and other legal documents. Never enough that they'd do any permanent damage, however. Were you ever given any Blood Restoration Potions last year?"

"No, why?"

Sarah's frown deepened, as she said, "Because if she was making you write with it often enough to scar your hand to the point that it's still visible and you weren't drinking Blood Restoration Potions, it's frankly a miracle that you're even still alive. When overused, those quills can be lethal, which is why they're so strictly regulated. Using one in a school as a means of punishment is appalling. And that's not even considering the fact that she sent Dementors to attack you. She was punished I hope?"

"As far as I know, no, she wasn't," Harry answered. "It's my understanding that everything she did at Hogwarts last year was sanctioned by Minister Fudge."

"Well, if that's the case it's all the more reason to be glad that he was sacked."

Not getting the Daily Prophet on Privet Drive, this was news to Harry, as none of his friends had mentioned it in their letters. "Fudge was sacked? Living with muggles I don't get the Prophet, so I'm usually a bit out of the loop over the summers and none of my school friends have mentioned Fudge getting sacked."

Sarah nodded. "It was a week and a half ago now. He was replaced with Rufus Scrimgeour, who until recently was the Head of the Auror Office."

"Well, hopefully he'll do a better job than Fudge," Harry said. "Not that that will be too hard, especially now that the Ministry believes that Voldemort is back."

"You're very brave to say his name," Sarah said.

"Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself," Harry said. "I refuse to give him the satisfaction of being afraid of him. Anyway, we should probably get back to why I'm here."

"Yes, of course, Mr. Potter," Sarah said. "From my nurse's initial readings I can tell you that it's a good thing you came in when you did. If you'd waited much longer, say another six months at the most, the damage to your system would have been beyond the ability of any potion to correct because the required dosage would be too much for it to handle. Even now, correcting the damage will take the highest dosage that's considered to be safe, but as long as you eat well, I think most of the damage can still be corrected. You'll be taking several potions every day for the next few months, however."

"What kind of potions are we actually talking about here?"

"Well, there'll be a combination of three potions to correct the damage," Sarah answered. "There will also be a growth potion which will help your body to catch up on the growing that it hasn't been doing. This potion especially will increase your appetite, as one of the side effects of it is that it will speed up your metabolism to a point where you'll be burning off a lot more calories than normal. Thus, you'll need to eat a lot more than you normally would in order to stay healthy. I'm also thinking you're going to need several vitamin potions to help correct numerous vitamin deficiencies that are present in your body and lastly there will also be a potion to help regulate your magic."

"Regulate my magic?"

"Yes. Over the next few months your body is going to get progressively stronger and healthier," Sarah said. "And along with that your magical core will also get stronger, but, it's my experience that oftentimes the sudden increase in power is too much for a body that's not used to it to handle. So, you'll be drinking a potion which will help your body regulate your magic better so that you're not overcome by uncontrollable bouts of accidental magic."

"Ah, okay," Harry said. "So, that's at least five potions, not counting the vitamin potions."

The worried look must have shown clearly on his face, because Sarah asked, "Is something wrong?"

"I was just wondering how much this was going to cost," Harry answered. "I don't want to impose on the Diggorys and have them pay for it and I'm really not sure how much is actually in my trust vault."

"I doubt you'll have any trouble," Sarah said, as she thought, 'Is it possible that he doesn't know?' Seeing that the worried look wasn't abating, she added, "I suggest you tell Amelia and Amos that you need to make an appointment at Gringotts to go over your accounts with a goblin, Mr. Potter. I'm not privy to such things, of course, but I can tell you that the Potter family is one of the oldest wizarding lines around, dating back at least five centuries and has been very well off for almost as long."

'Really?' Harry thought. It was definitely news to him, as nobody had ever told him that. Of course, he supposed it might have been because people were afraid that talking to him about his family when they were all dead would upset him. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as he wanted to know as much as he could about his family, but he also didn't feel that throwing question after question at those who might know more was appropriate either. He didn't want to upset them, after all, by bringing up any unpleasant memories. It was a stance that in the back of his mind, he'd come to regret, especially after Sirius had died.

"I'll do that then," Harry said.

"Good," Sarah said. "Anyway, I'm going to run some more intensive tests on you now, which will give me a better idea of the appropriate dosages for your potions. Once that's done, I'll write up your prescriptions and you can take them up to the hospital's apothecary on the third floor to be filled before you leave."

Harry nodded, but remained silent, as Sarah pulled out her wand and began her work.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Seven:
Journal Entries and Other Surprises
Part One

-o-0-o-

Journal of Ryan C. Cromwell
Saturday, 27 July 1996

It's been a week now since my grandmother turned my entire world upside down, when she announced that we'd be moving back to Yorkshire. I guess she was telling the truth about having some important work that she had to do, because in the week since we arrived, I've only seen her a couple of times outside of dinner. She has been very secretive about what she's actually doing, however, as neither Matthew nor I have been able to get her to open up. All she ever says is that ‘she's doing something important for the war effort against You-Know-Who’, but beyond that, she refuses to say anything.

Speaking of Matthew, since finding out that he's gay and been hiding his relationship with Oliver, we've gotten closer than ever. Matt was shocked when I told him that I was gay, as apparently he had never considered the possibility. Of course, before this past week, the last time we were actually in the same house on a regular basis was before grandmother and I moved stateside, back when I was only ten. I didn't really figure out that I was gay until I was twelve and it took another year for me to accept it. While I was in the states, Matt and I did talk via the Floo Network, and we'd seen each other in person on holidays and other short trips that grandmother and I had taken back home, but we never discussed our personal lives. Well, at least not as far as dating was concerned.

It was during dinner the evening that I found out about Oliver that Matt finally came out to grandmother. Much as I suspected, based on my own experience, she had no problems with Matt being involved with him. She did grill him a bit, to ensure that he was worthy of her grandson, but beyond that, she said she really didn't care who Matt was dating, so long as he was happy. She understood, however, why Matt had been afraid to come out to Aunt Katrina, as she agreed with Matt's assessment that she wouldn't have approved. Grandmother thought Uncle Charles would have been okay with it, but admitted that she had never discussed such matters with him before he died and thus had no way of truly knowing for sure.

In the time I've been back in England, I've also had the opportunity to catch up with a couple of my old friends from before I moved to Asheville: Ernie Macmillan and Justin Finch-Fletchley. Ernie and I are actually related to one another, as grandmother's maiden name is Macmillan. She's Ernie's grandfather's sister, making Ernie and I second cousins or something, I think. As for Justin, his family has worked for mine for more years than I've been alive. Justin's father is the stable master, while his mother is the housekeeper. Justin, Ernie, and I were like the three musketeers growing up, but having an ocean between us had certainly put a damper on that. So, it was nice to reconnect with them and find them both willing to restore our lapsed friendship.

Ernie and Justin were both thrilled to find out that I'd be attending Hogwarts come September and both hoped that I'd be sorted into Hufflepuff with them so that we could all be together. Ernie did say, however, that he wouldn't be shocked if I was placed in Ravenclaw because he knew that I've always been a rather studious person. Justin agreed, especially after he saw my testing results from the United States equivalent of the OWL exams. Converting the American grades onto the British grading scale, I received an Outstanding in History of Magic, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Transfiguration, Charms, and Astronomy, and Exceeds Expectations in Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology, Divination, and Muggle Studies. Even if it wasn't for the grades, they both thought that the fact that I'd taken and passed twelve OWLs meant that I was probably a shoe in for Ravenclaw, despite their hope that I'd be with them in Hufflepuff.

Anyway, I suppose it's time that I stopped writing and got to bed, as I'm beginning to have trouble keeping my eyes open. And I know that I'll need my sleep for tomorrow, as I'm going to get in some fencing practice with Matt. It'll be interesting to see if Matt's skill with a blade has gotten any better since the last time we sparred, as it's been a few years now. Before his illness got really bad, grandfather had taught both of us how to fence, and we'd both kept it up to a certain extent after he passed away. Asheville Academy had an afterschool fencing club, however, so I managed to get lots of practice in the states and I'm curious to see if Matt has stayed in top form or if he's gotten rusty over the years.

-o-0-o-

Journal of Nicolas P. Lavoisier-Delaney
Friday, 26 July 1996

My first week of living in Northumberland is coming to a close and it's getting slightly easier, but only slightly. It's definitely been a chore to remember to speak and write in English, instead of French. I speak both languages fluently and can read and write in both, but, I still used French almost exclusively while living in France so, it's proven to be a hard habit to break. I've still been slipping up on occasion, but at least when it does happen I don't feel the need to translate anymore. Well, at least not when it's only me and Aunt Sarah in the room, since she knows what I said, whether I said it in English or French. I suppose once the school year starts though, if I'm still slipping up and going into French, I may have to do some translating if I'm around people who don't speak it.

A few days ago, Aunt Sarah mentioned at breakfast that she'd had an occasion to meet Harry Potter, although it was in an official capacity, so healer-patient confidentiality prevented her from sharing any details of the meeting. She did say, however, that he seemed like a well-mannered and likeable young man and hoped that I might be able to make friends with him, once I get the chance to meet him myself, which she felt I was sure to do at Hogwarts. I'm not sure - and I may be totally off base here - but I think Aunt Sarah may have been hinting at the possibility of Harry and I getting together. She knows I'm gay and she has attempted to set me up before when I've visited England, but not knowing anything about Harry Potter, including whether he's gay or not, I chose not to pursue the conversation. Not only because I found the idea of talking about such things with my aunt to be embarrassing, but also because I really wasn't sure if that's actually what she was implying or not.

Besides it's not like we don't have enough to talk about, without going into potentially embarrassing topics. Before he died, grandfather had handled all of the Lavoisier family business, and had also handled the Delaney family business on my behalf. We did talk about things, so I knew what was going on, but grandfather had obviously not planned to die when he did and thus hadn't really begun to train me in earnest for the time when I would eventually have to take over the reins of the family business.

Aunt Sarah, however, is fully intent on turning everything over to me when I turn 17 in September, as she doesn't really have much of a head for business. So, I've had to deal with the learning curve and learn a lot of stuff in a rather short period of time, as it's all things I'll need to know in about a month and a half. The lion's share of the Lavoisier interests are all centered on the family vineyards, so having grown up in the mansion that sits in the middle of the largest of the vineyards, it's been easier for me to learn everything. Grandfather hadn't taught me much about the business aspect, but he had begun to teach me about caring for the grapes and the processes involved in making wine. Being in charge, however, is still a bit daunting to think about because Lavoisier Vineyards is one of the wizarding world's premier labels and thus the standards for excellence are very high.

As for the Delaney side of things, that's more varied, with no one specific holding being the primary source of income. My ancestors on the Delaney side of the family invested in several companies in the wizarding world, but were never interested in actually running any of them, so, the holdings were vast and varied, as they kept buying into companies, but never bought enough of any one business to actually gain a controlling interest. Shipping, construction, manufacturing, mining and agricultural interests all combined together to form the family business, Delaney Holdings Limited. And as if that wasn't enough, Delaney Holdings is also one of the largest landlords in Britain, owning nearly 30% of Diagon Alley and nearly 40% of Hogsmeade. So, with hands in so many different pots, learning about the business is a lot more complicated, even if I won't be involved in all of the day to day management.

There are, of course, people working for both Lavoisier Vineyards and the Delaney Holdings businesses who I know are trusted employees who will be able to advise me, but I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't nervous about the idea of being thrust into the position of having the final say on decisions pertaining to the two companies. Grandfather was only fifty-six, so, the thought that he'd die had never crossed my mind and thus I hadn't even begun to prepare myself mentally for the idea that I'd have to take over the businesses. I'd always known it in the back of my mind but, it always seemed like something that was so far off into the future that I didn't need to worry about.

Speaking of worrying about things, of course, the family business interests aren't the only things on my mind as of late. I'm also worrying about the tests I have to take at Hogwarts. I know that I shouldn't have any difficulties in passing them, but, then again I've always had a tendency to get very nervous before tests. Aunt Sarah has already started giving me a mild Calming Draught, or else with everything I've got on my plate at the moment, I'd probably be so nervous that it would begin to affect my health. I can hear Aunt Sarah calling for me now, so it's time to bring this entry to a close.

-o-0-o-

Journal of Harry J. Potter
Saturday, 27 July 1996

I'm still in a state of shock. Following my appointment with Healer Delaney, I told Amelia what she'd said in regards to setting up an appointment with the goblins. Amelia agreed that it would be a good idea and said that she was very surprised to see my clothes because she couldn't understand why the heir to the Potter fortune would be wearing what she called 'hand-me-down rags five sizes too big.' When I asked her just how rich my family was, she couldn't answer me, but she did say that the Potters were considered to be the epitome of old money. She also implied that there were several families who would like to think of themselves as being in the same category as the Potters, when in reality the Potter family made them look poor.

It was thus with some trepidation that I went to Gringotts the following day with Amos. On the way to the bank, Amos informed me that when he'd first contacted Gringotts about setting up an appointment, they'd assumed he was seeking an appointment for himself and thus they scheduled a meeting for mid October. As soon as he corrected them, however, that the appointment was not for him but for me, he says their tune changed immediately and they said I should come in the very next day, which was today. As I later found out, Amos and Amelia were not lying when they said my family was old money - ancient money might be the more appropriate way to phrase it.

It was in the private consultation room that I learned that in addition to my trust vault, there were also eight Potter family vaults and that the contents of my parents' private vaults had not been moved into the Potter vaults when they died because the head of the Potter family had to give the goblins permission to access any of the Potter vaults. As the last of the Potter line, I became head of the family as soon as my father died, but being only a little over a year old, I wasn't capable of giving the goblins permission to do anything.

It is apparently, also, a courtesy extended to all the bank's oldest and wealthiest customers that the goblins won't discuss any matter of family business unless the customer brings it up first. This is why they never contacted me or said anything when I was actually at the bank. As they explained to me, they view time to be money and thus they don't ever want to risk offending their oldest and wealthiest clients by bringing up subjects that the customer didn't personally raise. So, basically they thought that if I'd wanted to discuss it, I would have brought it up and since I didn't bring it up, they felt they would be wasting my time if they did it. And they didn't want to risk angering me for fear that I'd remove the family money from their care.

As it stood, however, with the gold, silver, and bronze coins in the eight Potter family vaults, my parents' vaults, and my trust vault, plus the other contents, and the various business and real estate holdings, my net worth, as the sole living Potter, actually stands at just over 829 million galleons. When I then said I'd grown up in the muggle world and was curious how much that was in British pounds, the goblin did a few quick calculations before informing me that at the current exchange rates that it was over four billion pounds. It was at this point that Amos had to cast a calming charm on me, as I'd started to hyperventilate because never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I'd go to the bank and find out that I was a billionaire four times over.

After I'd calmed down, the goblin then informed me that I actually had more than that, as Sirius Black had named me his primary heir and thus, in addition to the Potter family fortune, I had inherited the majority of the Black family fortune. From the Blacks, I gained the six Black family vaults, plus two vaults that had belonged to Sirius and what had been Regulus Black's trust vault. Walburga and Orion Black were apparently so distraught over the loss of their favored son, that they never instructed the goblins to close his vault before they died and thus it had remained open all these years. Sirius never closed it because he didn't know it existed, as it was next to impossible for him to meet with the goblins as a wanted felon, so they never discussed his accounts with him.

In hearing that I was the primary heir to the Black family, Amos cast a calming charm on himself. When I asked why he'd needed the charm himself, he said that he wasn't aware that I'd inherited the bulk of the Black holdings and it had shocked him because while his family was comfortably well off, he'd be the first to admit that he looked like a pauper in comparison to the Potter family. As a result he didn't usually socialize with the richer families and thus couldn't help but feel just a bit nervous around someone who held the bulk of the Black fortune in addition to the Potter fortune, as it meant I was one of the richest wizards alive anywhere in Britain.

The goblin spoke up at that point to say that I wasn't just one of the richest wizards in Britain, I was the richest, with an estimated net worth of nearly a billion and a half galleons, which in British pounds was over 7.3 billion. It wasn't long after this revelation that Amos had to revive me as I fell out of my chair in a dead faint. A calming charm and a cup of tea later, I instructed the goblin to close my parents' vaults and move the contents into the main Potter vaults, while also ordering Regulus' vault closed and its contents moved to the main Black vaults. On Amos' advice, I asked the goblin to prepare an itemized inventory of all the vaults so that I'd know what was in all of them. I also made arrangements for St. Mungo's to be paid for the potions regimen I'd be taking for the next few months and then withdrew quite a bit more then I usually would have, knowing that Amelia planned to take me shopping for new clothes, as it was late when we left St. Mungo’s yesterday.

Upon leaving the bank, Amos and I met up with Amelia and Noah at the Fortesque's ice cream parlor, where the four of us all ordered a sundae. When the bill came, the Diggorys protested when I said I'd pay, but seeing that I wasn't going to take no for an answer, they relented. Amos and Noah headed home at that point, while Amelia stayed with me, taking me to both Madam Malkin's and Twillfit and Tattings to help me pick out a new wardrobe. It was the first time I'd bought such a large quantity of wizarding clothing, but then as I'd never realized just how wealthy I actually was, I had always made a point of spending as little as possible in order to make what I'd inherited from my parents last as long as possible. After finishing up on Diagon Alley, Amelia and I went back to Gringotts', got some of my money exchanged, and then went out into Muggle London to visit a few more clothing stores there.

Knowing now that I'm the richest wizard in Britain I certainly don't intend to go on a spending spree and spend huge sums of money but, I figured I could be a little less conservative than I had been in the past. And despite his recent change in character, I had to admit that I was definitely looking forward to never having to wear any of Dudley's clothes ever again. In fact, I'm looking forward to burning them, which Noah promised he'd help me do sometime soon.

Arriving back at the Diggory house after the shopping trip, I was putting some of my purchases in the drawers of Cedric's old dresser when I found his old journals. I'd known, of course, that he kept a journal, as he'd told me as much when he got me into journaling when he bought me one for my fourteenth birthday. I had never read any of his journals; just as he'd never read mine. Noah said he'd known that the journals were in the drawer, but that he hadn't read them either, as it just felt like he'd be invading Cedric's privacy. He did believe, however, that Cedric wouldn't mind it if I read them.

I'm not sure what I'll do, honestly. On one hand, I'm definitely curious about what Cedric wrote about and I'd love to read his thoughts, if only to feel closer to him. On the other, though, I can't help but think that Noah is probably right in that it would be an invasion of privacy, despite the fact that Cedric has been dead for over a year now. Maybe after a good night's sleep, I'll have a clearer idea of what to do, so, on that note, I'm going to stop writing and get to bed.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Seven:
Journal Entries and Other Surprises
Part Two

-o-0-o-

Journal of Harry J. Potter
Sunday, 28 July 1996

Today was a day full of surprises. First was the surprise I got at breakfast, an owl arrived from the Wizarding Testing Authority with my OWL results. I'd known that they'd be coming eventually, but I hadn't known when. While I never got as worked up about the exams as Hermione did, I have to admit I did worry about opening up my results and finding out that I'd failed everything. That would have been very distressing because I would have had to repeat my fifth year and that's one year that I'd never want to repeat. Now, Umbitch - er, I mean Umbridge... no, who am I kidding? I really did mean Umbitch - wouldn't be around to torture me, so that would definitely have been an improvement, but I still wouldn't have wanted to repeat the year.

So, I was happy to see that I wouldn't have to as I had passed a few of my OWLs. In fact, I got an Outstanding in both Defense Against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration. I got Exceeds Expectations in Care of Magical Creatures, Charms, Herbology and Potions. My grades for History of Magic and Astronomy were Acceptable and I got a Troll in Divination. I think the Potions grade was the most surprising to me, as I didn't really expect to do very well due to Snape's horrible teaching, but apparently I did learn something from the slimy git in between the insults if I managed to get the second highest grade on my OWL exam. Of course, I'm sure Snape would insist that the tester had obviously made a grading mistake because, in his mind at least, I deserved a Troll grade.

Not that it should really matter to Snape what my Potions grade was, so long as it wasn't an Outstanding, which it obviously wasn't. I wouldn't be able to take NEWT-level Potions since Snape requires an Outstanding OWL to get into the class. So, there goes my idea of being an Auror after Hogwarts, because they need a Potions NEWT. Honestly, though, I'm not really all that upset about it because in thinking about it, I've come to the realization that I'm not sure I really want to be an Auror. In hindsight, I don't think I ever actually wanted to be an Auror, but with Umbitch sitting in on my career counseling session with McGonagall, I was very nervous and Auror was the first possible career that came to my mind, so I just blurted it out. I know my father was an Auror and there is a certain appeal to following in his footsteps, but at the same time, I realize that I have to do something that will make me happy and after Voldemort is dead and gone, I'm not sure I really want to spend the rest of my life going after more dark wizards.

Beyond the surprise I received concerning my OWL results, there was another surprise waiting for me when I got to the Burrow for Charlie's wedding. I had assumed that Charlie's friend Alexi was his girlfriend, but as it turned out, I was wrong, because Alexi Zeklos was actually Charlie's boyfriend. On the handful of times that I'd met Charlie, I'd never gotten any hint that he was into guys, but then again, the first time, I was only eleven. And the second time, just before the World Cup, my only thoughts were of my own boyfriend, Cedric.

Anyway, the twins filled me in a bit on Charlie's history with Alexi. He was thirty years old, making him about seven years older than Charlie. Alexi had a few years under his belt working at the Romanian Dragon Reserve when Charlie started work there and Alexi basically took the redhead under his wing, teaching him everything he'd need to know in order to survive working in such a dangerous environment. Working closely together they developed a strong friendship which eventually began to turn romantic after Alexi helped a closeted Charlie come to terms with his sexuality.

I also learned that the reason that Ron didn't specify Alexi's gender was because, in the twins' opinion, Ron was trying to ignore the fact that Charlie and Alexi are a couple. As George explained it, Ron had made it clear that he did not believe that Charlie was actually gay and that the whole relationship with Alexi was nothing more than a close, but totally platonic friendship. Of course, it got much harder for Ron to cling to that idea when Charlie and Alexi came to the Burrow with Alexi's family in tow to get married. Platonic best mates don't usually marry each other, after all.

I'd be lying if I said that it didn't hurt to find out that Ron was not supportive of Charlie and Alexi being a couple. They seemed very happy together and they were clearly in love, so that's all that should matter right? But, apparently in Ron's mind the fact that they were both men made it wrong for them to be together. Getting confirmation on Ron's feelings on such things hurt, but then, not as much as it may have if I hadn't already suspected that that was the case. It's why I'd never told Ron about my relationship with Cedric - because I was afraid he wouldn't react well and it seems I was right.

As for the rest of the Weasley family, Molly and Arthur loved Alexi like one of their own children, because they knew that he made Charlie happy and that was enough for them. Bill had apparently been the only member of the family who knew that Charlie was gay prior to him leaving for Romania. He didn't have a problem with it, however, and in fact stood up for Charlie as his best man. Fred and George, in their usual way, had joked and pranked Charlie quite mercilessly for a while after finding out. They'd done pretty much everything you can think of from slipping dyes into Charlie's shampoo to turn his hair the colors of the rainbow to giving him a cock-in-the-box for his birthday. I haven't actually seen it and for that I'm thankful, but apparently it was like a muggle jack-in-the-box, only when you turned the crank, instead of music, a male voice moaned until the lid popped up and a giant rubber cock popped out.

Of course, as anyone in the Weasley family knew, if Fred and George were pulling pranks on you that were perhaps mildly embarrassing but not harmful, that meant that they liked you. They'd already begun pulling pranks on Alexi and from what I heard when I arrived, they had apparently pulled the dye in the shampoo prank on him just hours before the wedding. This rendered Alexi's hair bright pink instead of its normal brown while he and Charlie said their vows, but Alexi had taken it in stride. As for the two remaining Weasleys, I don't know what Percy's thoughts on the matter are, as he's still estranged from his family and thus wasn't at the wedding. It was pretty clear, however, despite her not actually saying anything bad that Ginny, like Ron, was not supportive of Charlie's relationship.

Speaking of Ron, he was rather upset with me not only because I wished Charlie and Alexi a long and happy marriage, but also because I had opted to stay at the Diggorys instead of coming to the Burrow. Apparently even with the house being packed like a tin of sardines due to the Zeklos family, Ron had never considered for a second that I wouldn't be coming to the Burrow for the summer. So, he wasn't happy when he got my note thanking him for the invitation but turning him down. Of course, he only got angrier when I made it clear that I was going to stay with the Diggorys for the rest of the summer, even after Alexi's family went back to Romania.

Thus, Ron wasn't speaking to me by the time I left the Burrow and I'm not sure what'll happen come my birthday. Amelia and Amos were throwing me a party and told me to invite anyone I wanted, so, of course I invited all of the Weasleys, Hermione, and several other people from school. I can only hope that if Ron is still mad at me by my birthday that he will opt to stay home rather than come with his family and cause a scene.

On a different note, after thinking about it for a while, I've decided that I will begin reading Cedric's journals. I get the feeling that Noah is probably right when he says that Cedric wouldn't mind me reading them. I don't know what I'll find in them, but knowing Cedric, I'm sure it won't be anything bad. He always was the honorable sort, perhaps a little too much for his own good.

-o-0-o-

Journal of Cedric J. Diggory
Saturday, 6 November, 1993

Due to an injury that Draco Malfoy suffered in Care of Magical Creatures class, the Gryffindor vs. Slytherin Quidditch match was switched in the schedule so that the Gryffindor vs. Hufflepuff match was played today instead. As the team captain, I have to say my first thought when I got the news was that we weren't ready. We had practiced a little, but usually Hufflepuff's first game isn't until late November when we play Ravenclaw. So, not knowing until about an hour before the game that we'd be playing today, I hadn't scheduled as many practices for the team as I would have if I'd known.

Compliments of the school's rumor mill, which I usually don't pay much attention to, I heard that the real reason that the matches were switched wasn't because of Malfoy's injury, but because he didn't want to play in unfavorable weather. So, he played up his injury and got the match postponed due to the fact that he couldn't play and Slytherin's reserve seeker, Terence Higgs, was sick with the flu. Of course, if you ask me, Terence was by far a better seeker then Malfoy and never should have been replaced. But, money talks and Malfoy's father bought the entire team Nimbus 2001's. I suppose Professor Snape probably forced the issue, but if I had been Slytherin's team captain, I never would have allowed a player to essentially buy their spot on the team. It just wouldn't be fair to those who actually tried out and earned their places.

Although, I do have to admit that the weather was awful. I've never played a match in which my hair was soaking wet and plastered to my forehead within a couple of minutes of stepping out onto the pitch. Between the rain and the wind, I would have been completely blinded if not for the fact that I was wearing goggles that were charmed to remain dry and unclouded. It was also pretty uncomfortable flying around on a broom when my entire uniform weighed twice the usual amount due to being drenched. I personally would have cancelled the match, but that's not up to me and Madam Hooch said that during her professional Quidditch career she'd played in much worse weather, so, she saw no reason for us not to.

Despite the weather, Gryffindor did manage to take an early lead, placing the score at 20-0. Of course my teammates then managed to tie it up pretty quickly and that's when I spotted the snitch. My sole focus was on catching the snitch and ending the game, because I was wet and chilled to the bone, so I wanted to get inside, change out of my wet clothes, and have a cup of hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire. Because of this single-minded determination to catch the snitch, I failed to notice when the Dementors stationed at the school due to Sirius Black's escape invaded the game or that Harry Potter lost consciousness and fell off his broom. Had I seen Harry falling I would have gone after him instead.

I've known and accepted for a number of years now that I like blokes and I've had plenty of crushes in that time. But, after the first time I saw him play Quidditch, I developed a crush on Harry that far outshone any crush I'd ever had before. And I have to admit a part of me felt like a dirty, old man when I realized that because Harry was only eleven at the time, so it wasn't exactly appropriate for me, at fourteen, to be lusting after him. That logic didn't stop the fantasies, however. If anything, they just got more frequent as if my subconscious liked the forbidden aspect.

Because I didn't see Harry falling, however, I managed to catch the snitch and Hufflepuff won. It was the first time in several years that Hufflepuff had beaten Gryffindor and I felt great about that. It didn't last long, though, because not long after I raised my fist in victory, the snitch held tightly in my hand, I heard Professor Dumbledore's obviously Sonorused voice saying, 'Arresto Momentum!' followed by 'Expecto Patronum!' This drew my attention to the world around me and that's when I realized what had happened. Any happiness I felt about my team winning instantly evaporated, only to be replaced by a sinking sense of nausea in the pit of my stomach.

Upon landing, I ignored my celebrating teammates and marched over to Madam Hooch, telling her that we should reschedule the match and play it again. The Dementors attacking and making Harry fall of his broom had given Hufflepuff an unfair advantage and thus it wasn't right for us to be allowed to claim victory. Madam Hooch seemed impressed by my request and said she'd discuss it with the headmaster. I found out about an hour later, however, that it had been decided not to reschedule the game and thus Hufflepuff's win would stand despite my effort. I didn't participate in the victory party with the rest of my house because it just didn't feel right. A few of my housemates agreed that it wasn't a fair win, but, the majority didn't see it that way and jumped on the all too rare opportunity to celebrate a Hufflepuff Quidditch win.

Later that evening, when I found out that my scheduled Prefect rounds would take me near the Hospital Wing, where Harry was still recovering from his fall, I couldn't help myself. I slipped into the darkened ward and over to Harry's bed to check on him. I had to make sure that he was okay. I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime between my fantasies about Harry and berating myself for pleasuring myself while thinking about him because he was still too young for me, I began to develop feelings for him. Feelings that were stronger than anything I'd ever felt for any of my previous crushes. Well, with one possible exception being Noah, but, like my fantasies about Harry, that wasn't without issues either, because Harry was too young and Noah was my stepbrother.

I tried to be as quiet as possible and stick to the shadows so that Harry wouldn't know I was there. It looked like he was fast asleep and I didn't want to wake him up. However, after I'd stood there looking at him and feeling a little sick about the fact that I was getting hard looking at him lying in a hospital bed, he turned his head in my direction and asked 'Who's there?' It took a moment for me to find the courage to step forward and show Harry that it was me, and there was a bit of an internal struggle over whether I even should, but after I did, I quickly pulled up a chair and sat down beside his bed. We talked for over an hour and all the while my feelings for him were getting stronger, as I got to know him better.

After leaving the Hospital Wing and finishing my rounds, I came back to my dormitory, where I am now, sitting cross-legged on my bed with the curtains charmed shut and the handle of my lit wand held between my teeth as I write this. I didn't get any hints from Harry that suggested he might fancy blokes, but he was very easy to talk to. He'd heard about my trying to reschedule the match and thanked me for it with one of the biggest smiles I've ever seen. Something else I realized during our conversation is that he's more mature than most of the thirteen-year-old boys I know, but then if even half the rumors about everything Harry has been through at school are true, then I guess that's to be expected.

-o-0-o-

After reading the entry in Cedric's journal about the Gryffindor vs. Hufflepuff match and what followed it, Harry closed the journal and went to bed. It took awhile for him to fall asleep, however, and even when he did it wasn't particularly restful, as he spent most of the time tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable. He was thankful that Noah was sleeping in his own bed tonight, because he didn't want to keep him up. Harry woke up around midnight and couldn't fall back asleep no matter how hard he tried. Looking over at Noah's bed he could see that his housemate was sound asleep. Making up his mind, Harry sat up, pushed back the covers and crept out of the room as quietly as possible.

Heading down to the kitchen, Harry opened a cabinet, took out a glass, and then walked over to the refrigerator where he grabbed the bottle of milk. After pouring a glass for himself, Harry put away the milk before walking over to the kitchen table. Pulling out his wand and casting a Warming Charm on the milk, hoping that maybe it would help him fall asleep. Taking a few sips, Harry sat there in silence for a while, as he thought about what he'd read. Harry knew that Cedric had a crush on him before they got together, but he didn't know that it went all the way back to his first year.

Harry hadn't really realized what it actually meant at the time, but even as young as eleven, Harry had thoughts about some of the people he'd met at Hogwarts. As he got older and began accepting the fact that he was gay, he realized they were crushes, but to his eleven-year-old mind they'd just been a bit of what he'd assumed at the time was some form of hero-worship. Not that any of his crushes had really done anything to warrant being called a hero, but it was the only thing Harry's mind could come up with at the time to explain what he was feeling.

One of these people was Oliver Wood. Harry had been in awe of him ever since their first meeting when Oliver was teaching him the rules of Quidditch. And eleven-year-old Harry didn't understand why, but he began thinking about Oliver even more after the first Quidditch game when he'd caught sight of Oliver coming out of the showers with only a towel wrapped around his waist. Later in the year, Harry also began having similar thoughts about Charlie Weasley, after meeting him for the first time when he'd come to Hogwarts to pick up Norbert. Of course, as Harry got older and began to realize what the thoughts and feelings actually meant, he felt a bit sick, because he'd heard his Uncle talking about blokes who fancied other blokes and how sick that was and how they weren't right in the head.

In time, Harry realized that his Uncle Vernon was wrong and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with a bloke fancying another bloke, of course, finding out that such relationships were generally accepted in the wizarding world certainly helped. There were a few people who agreed with his uncle, but not on a wide enough scale that it could be considered a majority opinion. As Harry found out once he started talking about such things with Cedric, it was very much the minority opinion. While some were vehemently opposed to it, the majority was pretty much split between being supportive, not caring, or viewing it as perhaps an odd quirk of character, but still not really caring one way or the other.

Harry sighed as he took another sip of warm milk. Reading Cedric's journal had turned Harry's thoughts towards his late boyfriend. It had been over a year now since Cedric died and Harry's thoughts were never far from his Hufflepuff Hottie. Cedric hated that nickname. If it had been up to him, he would have preferred to be known for his brain, rather than his looks. There were plenty of people at Hogwarts, however, Harry included, who did not agree that Cedric's brain was his most attractive feature. Sure, to the Ravenclaws maybe, but to mostly everyone else, the outward packaging was much more attractive. That doesn't mean that Harry didn't appreciate Cedric's brain, because he did, but it wasn't his brain that Harry was thinking about during his fantasies about the older boy.

'He was literally sex on legs,' Harry thought. This got Harry thinking about the first time they'd had sex, which had been in the Diggory tent at the Quidditch World Cup. Harry had felt he was ready for sex a couple of weeks earlier than that and had made that abundantly clear to Cedric. The Hufflepuff insisted, however, that Harry was too young and wouldn't even consider the idea of them being intimate. Well, at least beyond the confines of snogging, some heavy petting, and the occasional hand job. Cedric's refusals had frustrated Harry, but he made do with what he could get his boyfriend to do, because there was nothing wrong with it and while he did want more, he was also happy with what he was getting.

When Cedric finally broke down and stopped refusing, however, Harry was elated for several reasons. One was because Cedric finally decided to give in, but more so because everything just seemed right. As Harry later admitted to his boyfriend, he was actually glad that they'd waited until they did, as despite the fact that it had been in a tent at the World Cup, it had still been very romantic, as Cedric had done everything he could to make their first time together special. He'd lit a few candles and some sandalwood incense, put on some soft music, and had even bought a few red roses, the petals of which he'd scattered on the bed. It was perhaps a bit corny, but Harry enjoyed it.

'Ric always was the romantic sort,' Harry thought, tears coming to his eyes as he thought about the many romantic encounters he'd had with his late boyfriend. As the memories danced through his head, the tears became more frequent until soon Harry was silently sobbing. It was in this state that Noah found him not long after when he came into the kitchen.

"Harry?" Noah whispered, his voice laced with concern as he crossed the room and knelt on the floor next to Harry's chair. "What's wrong?"

Harry smiled despite his tears and shook his head. "Nothing, Noah."

"Harry, you’re sobbing," Noah said. "People don't cry when there's nothing wrong."

"I was just thinking about Ric," Harry admitted. "Reading an entry in his journal tonight just got me thinking about him more than usual."

"Oh Harry," Noah said, as he wrapped his arms around the younger man and just held him, allowing Harry to cry on his shoulder. After a moment, Noah began to rub small circles on Harry's back with his hand and the brunet's sobbing began to subside.

Once it had stopped completely, Harry pulled back to thank Noah for comforting him, but as he looked into Noah's eyes, he was overcome by a different desire and instead he leaned forward and kissed Noah squarely on the lips. It was a gentle and chaste kiss and Harry kept his tongue inside his closed mouth, but it lasted for a few minutes.

For his part, Noah was celebrating in his head, because he really liked Harry. But, at the same time, he was worried that it might be too soon for them to be going down this road with each other. He knew that some people would think that it was a road they should never go down with each other, but Noah didn't see it quite that way. Oh he understood that it was wrong for them to use each other to deal with their grief over losing Cedric, but Noah honestly didn't feel like that's what he was doing. It had been over a year now, after all, and Noah had shed plenty of tears in that time. Not having Cedric around anymore did still hurt, but the pain lessened with each passing day because he knew that Cedric would want him to move on.

After another minute or so, Harry pulled back and said, "I'm sorry, Noah."

Confused, Noah asked, "What for, Harry?"

"I shouldn't have just kissed you like that," Harry said, shaking his head. "I know how you feel and I don't want to lead you on. Don't get me wrong, I like you, Noah, I do, but I'm..."

Noah stopped Harry here by placing a finger over Harry's lips. "I know, Harry, and that's okay. As I've said, we can take things as slowly as you want. If that means a snail's pace, that's fine and if it means we don't end up together, that's okay too. Yes, I like you, but first and foremost I want you to be happy and I know you can't be happy if you rush into any relationships before you're ready. So, I want you to take all the time you need to, and if after that you want to be with me, then great. And if not, then that's great too. I just want you to be happy, Harry - you deserve it."

"Oh Noah," Harry said, a smile coming to his face as he shook his head. "You're sounding too noble for your own good. Just like Cedric. You sure you weren't biological brothers?"

Noah grinned. "Pretty sure, yeah. Completely different parents, after all."

"Yeah," Harry said. After a moment of silence, he added, "And thanks for understanding."

Noah just nodded, but otherwise remained silent. Standing up, he got himself a glass and poured himself some milk, topping up Harry's glass at the same time, before casting a Warming Charm on both glasses. He then sat down at the table and the two of them talked about Cedric for a few minutes as they drank their milk, before heading upstairs to bed, where they crawled into their beds and were asleep almost as soon as their heads hit the pillow.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Eight:
The Birthday Party

-o-0-o-

The morning of Harry's birthday dawned like any other, except unlike previous birthdays that he'd spent at the Dursleys, Harry didn't stay awake to welcome his birthday in the moment the clock switched over to midnight. Instead he had fallen asleep, enjoying a very nice dream about Cedric. So when he did wake up, it was with a smile on his face, which prompted Noah, who was on his way out of the ensuite which happened to be on what had been Cedric's side of the room, to grin and say, "Happy birthday, Harry."

"Thanks, Noah," Harry said, as he stretched his arms over his head, before pushing back the covers and swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He wiggled his toes a bit before shifting so that they touched the floor and stood up.

"Excited about your party today?" Noah asked, as he reached his bed and dropped his towel. Harry couldn't help but notice that Noah had apparently taken a pair of boxers into the bathroom with him, as he was wearing a pair under his towel.

This caused Harry to pout as he said, "What no show today?"

"My naked upper body isn't enough eye candy for you?" Noah asked as he picked up a long sleeved white t-shirt.

"Oh it's quite nice," Harry said. "It's just a little weird that you put boxers on under your towel. I mean why even come out of the bathroom wearing a towel if you had clothes on under it?"

Noah grinned at that as he said, "To get your hopes up that I'd give you another show?"

Harry frowned at that and said, "You're mean, Noah, and on my birthday, too."

"Oh come on, don't frown," Noah said. "You're too pretty to frown."

"Got ya!"

"Why you little..." Noah said, as he grabbed the towel he'd been wearing and hurled it across the room in Harry's direction.

Of course, Harry's seeker reflexes immediately kicked in and he deftly caught it. Wagging a finger at Noah in a chastising manner, he said, "Na, ah, ah, - seeker, remember?"

Noah just rolled his eyes as he put his arms in the sleeves of his shirt before pulling it over his head and down his torso. Harry, meanwhile, headed into the bathroom to shower and take care of some other pressing business. When he came back out fifteen minutes later, Harry found the room empty and knew that Noah must have finished getting dressed and gone down to the kitchen for breakfast. Getting dressed himself in some of his new clothes; Harry left the room and went down the backstairs to the kitchen. Almost as soon as he entered the room, Amos, Amelia, Noah, Jazzy and Misty said, "Happy birthday!"

Harry grinned and said, "Thank you," as he made his way over to the table, as Jazzy came over and poured Harry a glass of pumpkin juice, while Misty began putting bacon, eggs, sausages, and toast on his plate. Jazzy then supplied Harry with a large dish of kedgeree(1) and an equally large bowl of chopped up fruit. It was quite a bit more than Harry would ever have considered eating not long ago, but Healer Delaney hadn't been kidding when she said that the potions he was now taking would increase his appetite. He was sure that he could now give Ron a run for his money in terms of the sheer amount of food he ate in a single sitting and while that did scare him slightly, he knew that it would be worth it in the end if he didn't end up being the shortest sixth year student at Hogwarts.

As Noah sat down and Jazzy came over to pour him a glass of pumpkin juice, the elder Gryffindor shook his head and said, "Merlin, Harry, I still can't get over how much you're eating now."

"I know," Harry said. "I'm a little shocked myself, but I think it'll be worth it in the end."

"Indeed it will," Amos said. He didn't say anything, but he was glad that Harry had given Jazzy and Misty some extra money when they'd gone grocery shopping two days earlier. As they usually did after getting home from shopping, they reported back to Amos how much they'd spent and Amos's eyes almost popped out of his head when he heard the figure because it was more than double what they usually spent in a month on groceries and it was only for a week. Of course, Amos knew that a big reason for that was because of Harry's birthday party. Amelia had told Harry to invite whomever he wanted, so, Harry turned around and invited the Weasleys, Hermione, Neville, Luna, and pretty much every single member of the DA - with the notable exceptions of Marietta Edgecombe and Zacharias Smith.

Since Harry hadn't answered him earlier, Noah asked again, "So, Harry you excited for your party later?"

Harry finished chewing the sausage he'd put in his mouth a second or two before Noah asked his question, before he nodded and said, "Yeah, I am. I'm usually on Privet Drive until after my birthday. The Weasleys usually throw me a party a couple of days later, but it'll be nice to have it on my actual birthday for once."

"Well, hopefully you'll never have to go back to those awful people ever again," Amelia said.

With a sad shake of his head, Harry said, "Unfortunately, I will, Amelia."

"Why?" Amelia asked. "You're more than welcome to come stay here with us next summer."

Amos nodded and said, "Yes, Harry, we'd love have to you."

"And I'd love to come here too," Harry said. "Unfortunately, I have to go back to the Dursleys every summer. At least until I turn seventeen. You see, my mum died to protect me. Voldemort gave her the chance to save her own life, if she would just step away and let him kill me, but she refused, so he killed her. Her sacrifice, plus some very powerful blood magic wards cast by Professor Dumbledore keep me safe from Voldemort, but only if I can continue to call the home of my mother's blood my home. So, you see, I have to go stay with the Dursleys for at least a part of every summer, because that's where my mum's sister Petunia is."

"They've been so wretched to you though," Amelia said.

"True," Harry conceded. "Although, I have to give Dudley credit because he does seem to be trying to turn over a new leaf. He's been much nicer to me ever since he encountered Dementors last summer. As a Muggle, he couldn't see them, but they did affect him nonetheless. So, he was forced to see himself for what he really was back then and he didn't like what he saw. So, he's trying and he said he'd work on his parents. I don't hold out much hope, honestly, especially not with Aunt Marge around."

"Marge? Who's she?" Amos asked.

"Marjorie Dursley," Harry answered. "She's my Uncle Vernon's sister, so, she isn't really any relation to me, but I've always been forced to call her Aunt Marge. She breeds bulldogs and doesn't have a kind bone in her body." Taking a bite of his toast, Harry smiled and added, "Of course, I did have a bit of accidental magic affect her before my third year which was quite fun."

"What happened?" Noah asked.

Harry grinned. "She was badmouthing my parents. I lost my temper and told her to shut up. Next thing I knew the lights were flickering and her whole body was blowing up like a giant balloon. She hit the ceiling, rolled over, went out the open doors of the conservatory and flew off into the night. Accidental Magic Reversal Squad collected her, of course, set her to right and Obliviated her, but how I do wish she had just flown off into the night never to be seen again. Of course, some good did come out of it as ever since my aunt and uncle don't invite Aunt Marge to come visit while I'm in the house. Which means I also don't have to deal with Ripper."

"Whose Ripper?" Amelia asked.

"Marge's favorite bulldog," Harry answered. "She never goes anywhere without him and he's very vicious. He's bitten me several times and Marge rewards him for doing it. He also chased me around the Dursleys' backyard once, prompting me to climb a tree to get away from him. He then stood with his front paws on the trunk barking and growling at me for a while, before he settled down to wait for me to come down. Was probably up in the tree for six hours waiting for Ripper to go away and he didn't until Marge called him for dinner. Of course, then I got punished because being up in the tree, I didn't get any of my chores done."

"And how old were you at this point?" Amos asked.

Taking another bite piece of his eggs, Harry chewed, before replying, "Oh probably about five."

"Do I even want to know how many chores you had?" Noah asked. "Or how you were punished?"

"Probably not."

"I was afraid you'd say that," Noah said with a shake of his head, before silence fell over the table, with the exception of the normal sounds that accompany a group of people eating.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, at Hogwarts, Healer Sarah Delaney got out of the carriage from Hogsmeade to find Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall waiting for her.

"Welcome back to Hogwarts, Ms. Delaney."

"Thank you, Professor. I just wish it was under better circumstances."

"What do you mean?" McGonagall asked. "I must admit that Albus and I were quite surprised when we got the message that you were coming. It's certainly not every day that a St. Mungo's healer shows up at Hogwarts, and as a representative of the Board of Health no less. I do hope there isn't an issue with the school?"

"None that I'm aware of, Professor," Sarah responded. "But, I do need to speak with the Headmaster, sooner rather than later."

"Of course. Please follow me and I'll take you up to his office."

-o-0-o-

Later that afternoon, Harry was in the large tent that had been setup in the backyard for the party, looking around at the decorations. Amelia and the house-elves had gone all out, with red, green, yellow, blue, and gold streamers and several large bunches of balloons. There was also a large red banner that said 'Happy 16th Birthday, Harry' in yellow letters, and was charmed to have little golden snitches flying around the edges of the banner.

As for why she'd picked those particular colors, red and gold were obviously because Harry was a Gryffindor. Amelia had chosen a shade of green that matched Harry's eyes and blue, despite being a Gryffindor, was actually one of Harry's favorite colors, the others being black and silver. Thus, when he'd bought his new wardrobe there was lots of blue, black, and silver among the various articles of clothing. Yellow had actually been one of Cedric's favorite colors, the others being blue and green, so Harry assumed that Amelia must have had some yellow decorations around from Cedric's past birthday parties. Some may have assumed that Amelia had chosen the color due to Harry and Cedric's relationship, but as far as Harry knew, Amos and Amelia didn't know that Cedric and Harry had been anything more than friends.

Harry was looking around at the decorations and thus didn't notice when Noah came into the tent. "Looks quite nice, doesn't it?"

Harry nodded and said, "Yes, very festive. Probably the most festive party I've ever had."

Noah shook his head. "I so want to make the Dursleys pay for not treating you the way you deserve to be treated."

With a smile on his face, Harry turned to Noah and said, "I know, Noah, and you're not alone in that. Cedric wanted to do it, too. But as much as I'd like to hate them, I don't. While it's true that they haven't treated me very well, it is because of them, well, at least because of my Aunt Petunia, that I'm still alive today. I've survived and despite their treatment of me, they played a role in that survival, so I can't bring myself to hate them. Especially now that Dudley is trying to change, I find myself hoping that maybe his parents can too."

"They don't deserve your compassion."

"You're probably right," Harry said. "However, they are my family, so I will refrain from doing anything which endangers my position in their household for now. With Dudley changing, I'm hoping that next summer will be better than previous ones. If he manages to get his parents to change, all the better, but if he doesn't, well, I'll just cut them off when I turn seventeen. At least I'll still have some family."

'I so want to say that I'll always be there for you as your family,' Noah thought. 'But, that wouldn't be appropriate, because I'm not going to push Harry into a relationship with me.'

Anything further that Harry or Noah may have had to say to one another was left unsaid for the moment, as the first of the guests began to arrive.

-o-0-o-

As the guests arrived they all wished Harry a happy birthday, before moving over to the table towards the side of the tent that Amelia had setup to hold the gifts to drop off the presents. Harry had to admit as he watched the number of gifts increasing, he felt a little overwhelmed. He'd never really gotten any gifts to speak of until he started at Hogwarts. Well, any gifts that he actually liked anyway, as there was the year when he was nine that Marge gave Dudley a computerized robot for Christmas, while she gave Harry a box of dog biscuits. Harry still remembered how Ripper had growled at him and tried to bite him when the dog had seen him holding the box. Harry could only assume that Ripper believed that Harry had stolen what was rightfully his. Marge, of course, quickly rewarded Ripper for his behavior.

Speaking of Dudley, Harry had been quite surprised not long before the guests had started to arrive when Hedwig flew into the tent with a parcel. Harry had been concerned for his owl, as she'd gone out hunting a couple of nights previously and not come back, but she’d got back and appeared to be completely unharmed. Opening the parcel, Harry was shocked to find a birthday card and a leather jacket inside - both from Dudley.

The card read:

Happy Birthday Harry,

I hope this card and gift gets to you okay and finds you in good health. Before you sent Hedwig off to the Diggorys, I asked her to come and find me in France, as I was going to sneak off and buy you a birthday present at my first opportunity. I think from the look she gave me she was suspicious of my motives, but when I said she could inspect the gift before taking it to you, she seemed to nod. Wasn't sure if she actually would show up or not, but she did. Sorry I didn't wrap the gift beyond the box it was in, but I didn't have time to buy a roll of gift wrap. Of course, I guess Hedwig must have remembered me saying she could examine the gift before she took it because she bit me when I tried to get her to take the box without seeing its contents. That really is an amazing bird you have, cuz.

I bought it in size large, which I hope is okay. I knew that my size would have been way too big and while I know a large is probably still too big for you, I'm hoping you'll put on some weight and grow into it. Anyway, I hope you have a good birthday, Harry, because you deserve it.

Your cousin,
Dudley

"Nice jacket, Harry," Noah had said when he'd seen it.

"Would you believe Dudley sent it?"

"Your cousin?" Noah had asked, sounding just as shocked as Harry had felt upon seeing the card.

Harry had nodded and said, "Yeah, my cousin. It's probably the single best gift I've ever gotten from a member of the Dursley family in my life. I guess Dudley really is trying to change."

"Would seem so. How'd he even send it here though? Like most wizarding homes, the muggle postman doesn't come here."

"Sent it with Hedwig. Apparently he made arrangements with her before I left Privet Drive."

Harry's thoughts were interrupted as someone behind him said, "Happy Birthday, Harry."

Recognizing the voice, Harry turned and smiled as he said, "Thanks, Oliver. Wasn't sure if you'd actually come or not."

"Not come? It's not every day that my star seeker turns sixteen, Harry. Okay, true, I'm not your captain anymore - I hear you got that job now, so congrats - but I still think of you as my star seeker."

"Thanks," Harry said, and noticing the other two people with him, he added, "Who are they?"

"Harry, I'd like you to meet Matt Cromwell and his cousin Ryan," Oliver answered, as he wrapped his arm around Matt's waist and kissed him on the cheek. "Matt and I are engaged."

Harry's eyes widened at this, as he asked, "To be married?"

"Yes," Matt confirmed. "I asked Oliver yesterday and he said yes."

"I didn't know you were into blokes, Oliver," Harry said. He'd known that same-sex marriage was legal in the wizarding world, as he'd asked Cedric once, not to mention his recent attendance at Charlie's and Alexi's wedding, so it wasn't the fact that two men were getting married that had surprised him. It was the fact that Oliver was marrying a man, because Harry had never pegged his former captain as being gay before.

Judging correctly the source of Harry's surprise, Ryan grinned and said, "Yeah, I had pretty much the same reaction - only I was surprised that my cousin Matt was gay, as he'd never told me that before."

"We kept our relationship secret while we were in school," Oliver explained. "Matt's mother was a muggle and would not have approved. Then we just got so used to keeping it a secret that we kept it up after his Mum died."

"Ah, okay," Harry said. "My condolences on your Mum, Matt."

"Thanks, Harry," Matt said.

At this point, Harry turned his attention towards Ryan and after sizing him up for a moment, Harry asked, "You don't appear to be much older than me, but I don't think I've ever seen you at school."

"I'm transferring to Hogwarts for my sixth year," Ryan explained. "Before now I went to an American school - the Asheville Academy of the Arcane in North Carolina. I was born here in England, moved to the states when I was ten years old and now I've moved back here."

Harry nodded. "Are they going to sort you with the first years?" As far as he knew, he'd never heard of a student transferring into Hogwarts from another school before, so he wasn't sure what the procedure actually entailed.

Shaking his head, Ryan said, "No, I have to go to Hogwarts tomorrow. I'll be taking tests to make sure I'm up to the Hogwarts standards for sixth year and I'll get sorted in a private ceremony."

"Cool," Harry said. "Any idea what house you'll be in?"

"I'm thinking I'll probably be in Ravenclaw," Ryan said. "Matt and his father were both Ravenclaws, so it's sort of a family tradition."

Oliver grinned. "You sure you won't be in Slytherin, Ry? You're certainly sneaky enough." Ryan rolled his eyes and Oliver then filled Harry in on how Ryan had found out about him and Matt being a couple.

"Personally, I'm hoping he ends up in Hufflepuff," Ernie said, as he walked over. With a smile to Harry, he added, "Happy Birthday, Harry."

"Thanks Ernie," Harry said. "I take it you and Ryan know each other?"

Ernie nodded. "Yeah his grandmother is my grandfather's sister, so we've been friends since we were children."

"I hope he gets into Hufflepuff, too," Justin said, as he came over as well, "but, as studious as he is, it'll probably be Ravenclaw."

After Justin explained how he knew Ryan, Harry said, "Well, at least you have an advantage, Ryan. I suspect when people change schools, they usually don't know anyone at their new school. Regardless of what house you're put in though, I'd be happy to hang out with you, as you seem like a nice guy."

"Thanks, Harry, so do you," Ryan said.

-o-0-o-

Journal of Harry J. Potter
Wednesday, 31 July, 1996

The party is over and I had a great time. Once everyone I'd invited arrived, we danced, broke up into groups to play Exploding Snap or Wizard's Chess, and we even played a game of Quidditch. This was followed by a truly delicious dinner compliments of Jazzy and Misty, although Hermione's previously good opinion of the Diggorys slipped a bit when she realized that they had house-elves. Thankfully, she refrained from launching into a S.P.E.W. rant.

After dinner, I started opening my presents. Lavender, Susan, Anthony, Ginny, Noah and Ron all got me various kinds of candy from Honeyduke's. Ron had actually bought a four-pack of chocolate frogs for my gift, but I only got two of them because he ate the others. Whether this was to punish me for not coming to stay at the Burrow or that he was just hungry I couldn't say. Of course, since it was supposed to be my birthday present, Mrs. Weasley made him give me the cards from the two that he ate - much to his obvious displeasure, considering that the cards were Cornelius Agrippa and Ptolemy, the two cards that Ron was missing towards having a complete set. I was tempted to give them to Ron as a peace offering when his Mum wasn't looking, but decided not to when I saw the way he kept glaring daggers at Charlie and Alexi, not to mention Oliver and Matt.

Mrs. Weasley gave me a scarf she'd knitted, in addition to a box of homemade fudge, while Arthur gave me one of his recent Muggle discoveries that had fascinated him: an Etch-a-Sketch. Charlie and Alexi gave me a pair of dragonhide trousers as a gift from both of them, while Bill gave me a pair of dragonhide boots, in addition to a book entitled '101 Useful Spells to Embarrass Your Friends and Get Revenge on Your Enemies.' The book was actually Remus' gift for me, but Bill brought it because with the full moon last night, Remus hadn't felt well enough to attend the party. Bill also brought his girlfriend with him and I was somewhat shocked to see that it was Fleur Delacour, who had apparently moved to England and was working at Gringotts' in order to improve her English. Her little sister Gabrielle also came, as she was in town visiting Fleur and insisted on coming when she found out Bill and her sister were coming to my birthday party. Fleur got me a dragonhide jacket, while Gabrielle gave me a sampler box of various French pastries.

Fred gave me an extra-large box full of various products from Weasley Wizard Wheezes, while George gave me a special unlimited WWW gift certificate that he said was charmed to work only for me. I tried to tell them it was too much, but they refused to listen, telling me that my money would never be good at their store, so if I wanted something, I was to use the gift certificate. Seamus, meanwhile, gave me a bottle of butterbeer, although he pulled me aside later to tell me that it was actually a bottle of Irish Whisky, but he'd charmed the bottle to look like butterbeer so that the adults wouldn't confiscate it. Fred and George weren't the only ones who gave me gift certificates either, although unlike theirs', the others weren't unlimited. Hannah gave me one good for a free lunch or dinner at the Leaky Cauldron, while Cho gave me one good for the same thing at Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop and Katie gave me a voucher for a free butterbeer from The Three Broomsticks.

I also got a number of books, enough so that I jokingly asked my friends if they'd forgotten that I was a Gryffindor, because the number of books I'd gotten would suggest that they thought I was a Ravenclaw. Terry got me a copy of Quidditch Through the Ages, which I already had, but this particular volume was a little different - mainly because opening the front cover, I saw the inscription 'To Harry Potter, Happy Birthday, Kennilworthy Whisp.' Asking Terry about the inscription, he explained that his uncle was the current head of Whizz Hard Books, so getting a special autographed copy wasn't all that hard. Justin got me a book about dangerous snakes, Lee a book on public speaking, Luna a book entitled Hunt for the Crumple-Horned Snorkack, and the Patil twins got me a copy of The History of Magic in India as a joint gift. Amos and Amelia, meanwhile, gave me several books, as they gave me a complete set of the sixth-year Hogwarts textbooks. Reading the card that came with them, I learned that they were actually Cedric's, which made them all the more special to me. And then there was Hermione's gift: a copy of Hogwarts: A History, which she said she hoped I would finally consider reading.

Other miscellaneous gifts included a disposable camera from Colin, a deck of Exploding Snap cards from Michael, a Wizard's Chess set from Ernie, a miniature herb garden from Neville, a Quidditch captain's whistle from Angelina, a broom servicing kit from Alicia, and a birthday card with £25 in it from Dean. Oliver, meanwhile, gave me season tickets for all of Puddlemere United's games, while Ryan gave me season tickets for the Montrose Magpies, and Matt gave me a pass which would allow me to use the Cromwell family's private boxes in the stadiums for both Puddlemere and the Magpies.

It was as I was thanking everyone for my gifts that Dobby showed up and as his gift, he offered to become my house-elf, while also asking that I take on Winky, because he feared that not being bonded to a family was slowly killing her, since her depression and drinking was only getting worse. Hermione, of course, made her opinion known at this point, and wasn't all that thrilled when I agreed to make both Dobby and Winky my official elves. Of course, I found out that as the primary heir of the Black family, I'd also inherited Kreacher, but the less said about him the better. I performed the necessary magical ritual to bond Dobby to my service and it was obvious, even to Hermione, that being bonded had done something. The change was rather visible, as Dobby's skin and eyes seemed to get lighter somehow, healthier, as if being bonded to a family really was an integral part of being a house-elf.

If anyone had missed or chosen to overlook the change in Dobby, well, they would have been hard pressed to ignore the change in Winky after she was summoned and bonded, as she had arrived a truly wretched sight. She'd had deep circles beneath her eyes, her skin held a sickly pallor, her eyes were dull, bordering on glassy and sightless, and she'd been cradling a bottle of butterbeer as if it was the most precious thing in her world. Afterward, however, it was pretty clear to anyone with eyes that she looked a thousand percent better than she had. Nobody had a chance to say anything about the change, however, as that was when a few uninvited guests showed up at the party.

Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall, followed by Tonks, Kingsley, Mad-Eye Moody, and much to my surprise, the new Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour. They each wished me a happy birthday and presented me with a gift. From Dumbledore it was a small pensieve, not quite as fancy as the one I'd seen a few times now in his office, but he assured me it was still just as functional. McGonagall gave me a book detailing Transfiguration techniques which were quite a bit more advanced than what was even taught at Hogwarts, along with the cryptic request that I come to Hogwarts tomorrow at noon. This was a request that she in turn also made of Hermione, Ernie, Katie, Padma, Noah, and Cho, but she refused to elaborate on the exact reason for the request, only saying that all would be revealed at Hogwarts.

Mad-Eye gave me a pocket sneakoscope, which he said had a few modifications of his own to make it an invaluable tool for practicing constant vigilance. Normal sneakoscopes light up, spin, and whistle when they detect someone untrustworthy nearby, but the problem is that anybody in the vicinity, including the untrustworthy person can hear and see this reaction, which could have potentially bad circumstances for the owner of the sneakoscope. Moody, however, had made sure that anyone who actually set off this one wouldn't be able to hear the whistling or see it moving and lighting up. Tonks and Kingsley both gave me books. The one from Tonks was all about the differences between Animagi and Metamorphmagi, while the one from Kingsley was all about silent and wandless spell casting.

As for the Minister, acting like a classic politician, giving something with one hand and trying to take something with the other, he offered me two special dispensations. One would allow me to get my Apparition license a year early, while the other would lift any and all underage magic restrictions upon me, thus allowing me to use magic anywhere I wanted, whether I was in school or not. Of course, these dispensations didn't come without a price, as he said that in return he would need me to make a public statement of support for the Ministry for Magic. After finding out from Dumbledore that such dispensations couldn't be retracted once given and accepted, no matter what, I agreed to the Minister's terms. I did, however, warn Scrimgeour that I would not hesitate to withdraw my public support of the Ministry if I discovered that he or anyone in his administration was conducting business in the same corrupt and inept way that Fudge had before him.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Nine:
Sortings, Tests, and Changes

-o-0-o-

As Harry closed his journal and put it away, Noah came into the room and cleared his throat. "Harry?"

Turning to face his friend, Harry asked, "Yeah, Noah?"

"I have another gift for you," Noah answered and then raised his hand to stop Harry from saying anything. "Just let me explain, okay?" Harry nodded and motioned for Noah to continue. "This gift isn't from me, Harry, it's from Cedric."

"Cedric? But..."

"He bought it before he died," Noah explained. "It was going to be your fifteenth birthday present, but obviously he didn't live to give it to you. I think he'd want you to have it though."

With that, Noah produced a small square box wrapped in shiny black paper with a metallic blue ribbon trimmed in silver. Attached to the ribbon was a tag that said, 'To Harry, Happy 15th, Love Cedric.'

It was with a shaking hand that Harry took the box from Noah's hands, at which point he just stared at it for a few minutes, before he pulled open a drawer on the desk and put it inside. Noah looked confused and asked, "Aren't you going to open it? I can give you some privacy if you want."

Harry shook his head and said, "No, I'm going to hold off opening it right now. I'll open it in time, but right now, I just don't feel ready to do so. I do thank you for giving it to me, Noah. I really do appreciate it."

"You're welcome, Harry," Noah said, before he yawned and added, "Well, I guess we should both be getting to bed soon. We have that mystery meeting at Hogwarts to go to in the morning."

"True," Harry agreed, which was part of the reason why he'd opted not to open the gift right now. After the party, he was pretty tired, and knowing he had somewhere to be in the morning, all he really wanted to do was crawl into bed and get a good night's sleep. And he wasn't sure if he'd be able to do that if he opened Cedric's gift to him.

-o-0-o-

The next morning at 7, by the order of the Board of Health, Sarah was to be given a complete, all access tour of the castle, with no area off limits to her. Opting to start in the Hospital Wing, it wasn't long, however, before she in turn found the twins in the private room off the wing, prompting her to go to the Headmaster's office and confront him.

"Headmaster, what do you mean I can't tell anyone about them?" Sarah asked, after discussing the situation with Albus for a few minutes. "I took an oath to help people and they clearly need help. They need to be moved to St. Mungo's immediately."

Before Dumbledore could say anything, however, a voice said, "No, I won't allow it."

Turning around, Sarah was surprised to see a man standing in the doorway to the headmaster's office, prompting her to ask, "Who are you?"

"The twins' legal guardian," the man answered. "And I refuse to allow them to be moved."

"They need a healer's care!"

"I'm afraid that there's very little that a healer can do for them, Madam," the man said. "As their legal guardian it is my desire that they remain here and thus remain here they shall."

"Forgive me, sir, but if that's your decision I believe that you are failing in your duties as their legal guardian. They need a healer's care and will be much better off at St. Mungo's."

With a shake of his head, the man said, "No, they won't. The staff at St. Mungo's isn't going to be able to do anything for them. They'll just place them in the Janus Thickey Ward and hope for a miracle that I'm afraid will never come."

"The Janus Thickey Ward?" Sarah asked. "But that's for..."

"Long-term patients suffering from spell damage to their minds,” the man stated. "Yes, I know. I don't know if Albus told you this, Madam Delaney, but the twins have been in their current state for nearly ten years now. Do you honestly believe that St. Mungo's will be able to do something for them that the other 39 hospitals, 194 clinics, or 1,510 healers couldn't do?" At Sarah's surprised look, the man nodded and said, "Yes, Madam, I've taken them all over the globe to see some of the world's most renowned healers. They've been patients in the best magical hospitals and clinics in practically every country on every continent. They've seen shamans, witch doctors, tribal medicine men, even the bleeding High Priest of Apollo at the Temple of Delphi. None of them have been able to do anything. As a last ditch effort I brought them here and Albus had Fawkes cry on them. If the world's best healers and all the others couldn't do anything and even phoenix tears didn't work what makes you think that St. Mungo's will be able to do anything to help them?"

Sarah was speechless, at which point the man shook his head and said, "No, St. Mungo's won't do anything. They'll be just like all the hospitals. They'll pretend to care for the twins until they realize that I can't afford to pay the hospital bills. I've spent every Knut of the fortune it took my father and grandfather their entire lifetimes to make on the twins' care and what do I have to show for it? My nephews are still comatose and I've got dozens of bill collectors breathing down my neck wanting payment for services rendered when they didn't really do a damn thing other than provide a bed for the twins to lay in." With a sigh, the man added, "I've taken a job at Hogwarts on the teaching staff and as part of my pay the Headmaster was kind enough to provide free lodging for my nephews in the Hospital Wing. So, no, Madam, I will not consent to them being moved to St. Mungo's, because I'm already in hock up to my eyeballs. The very last things I need are more false hopes and another hospital bill."

-o-0-o-

At 9:15 in the morning, Ryan Cromwell found himself just outside the doors of the office of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, along with another transfer student he'd met and talked to briefly in Hogsmeade, Nicolas Lavoisier-Delaney. Ryan's cousin Matt and Nick's Aunt Sarah had brought them to Hogsmeade, as per the instructions in their letters, but they did not accompany Ryan and Nick up to the Headmaster's office, as they both had other things they had to do at the castle. As they entered the office, Ryan's attention was drawn to the numerous portraits and shining silver objects all over the room for a moment, before he took in the large red and gold phoenix that was trilling softly from its perch. From there, his attention moved to the Headmaster himself, taking in his long silvery white hair and beard, half-moon spectacles and the deep purple robes covered in silver stars and moons.

"Ah, Mr. Ryan Cromwell and Mr. Nicolas Lavoisier-Delaney, I presume?" Albus asked, prompting both young men to nod. "Welcome to Hogwarts." Waving his hand, four plush armchairs appeared out of thin air in front of the desk.

As Ryan and Nick took two of them, Nick asked, "Are there more than two transfer students?"

"Yes, my boy, there are," Albus said. Before he could say anything more, the door to his office opened and a man entered the room along with two boys. They both had black hair and were clearly siblings, but that's where the similarities ended. The elder one, who looked about Ryan and Nick's age, had blue eyes and stood about six feet tall, while the younger one, who appeared to be about fourteen or fifteen, was about four inches shorter than his brother and had brown eyes. Motioning the boys into their seats, Albus looked at the man and said, "Thank you, Professor Delrossi, I'll take it from here. I believe you are expected in Professor Sinistra's office?"

"Yes, Headmaster," the man, Professor Rafael Delrossi, said with a nod, before he smiled at the boys that were clearly his sons, before turning and leaving the office.

As the doors closed, Albus said, "Now, first off, the introductions - please state your full name and age. I'll start: Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, age 115."

"Ryan Cole Cromwell, age 16."

"Nicolas Phillipe Lavoisier-Delaney, age 16."

"Ethan Lorenzo Delrossi, age 17."

"Colin Luciano Delrossi, age 14."

Albus nodded. "Very good, now the four of you are here because you're to start your educations at Hogwarts. You will have to sit examinations, of course, so that we can ensure that you are placed in the correct year levels, but the outcome of those tests will not affect your enrollment and thus I've decided that we will take care of the business of sorting you into your houses first." As he said this, he stood from his desk and walked over to a shelf where he took down an ancient looking hat and said, "This is the Hogwarts Sorting Hat, once belonging to the founder Godric Gryffindor; it has been used for nearly a thousand years now, to determine which of our four houses students belong in." Holding the hat out to Ethan, the Headmaster said, "So, Mr. Delrossi, if you'd be kind enough to put the hat on your head?"

Taking the hat, Ethan put it on his head and instantly felt the hat spring to life upon his head, before a voice said in his head, "Ah, what do we have here? Hmm, I see a strong sense of loyalty in you and that you're not afraid of hard work. I also sense a certain degree of bravery and cunning, and a more than passing degree of intelligence, but I think you'll do best in," here the voice that was only in Ethan's head, shouted out for the whole room to hear, "HUFFLEPUFF!"

Removing the hat from his head, Ethan handed it back to the headmaster, who smiled and said, "Congratulations, Mr. Delrossi. I'm sure you'll be a credit to Helga's house. Now, Mr. Lavoisier-Delaney, it's your turn."

Taking the hat from the headmaster, Nicolas placed it on his head and soon heard the hat talking in his head. "Hmm, let's see here, I sense that while you're not afraid of hard work, you do find it a little intimidating when you're facing lots of it. I can also see that you are quite intelligent, but nervous when it comes to taking tests. Take my advice and calm down, dear boy, I can see you'll have no problems with your upcoming examinations. Now, hmm, I'm also seeing cunning, ambition, and a desire to prove yourself. Yes, I think you'll do best in..."

"... SLYTHERIN!"

Removing the hat, Nicolas initially attempted to give it back to Dumbledore, but he just pointed at Ryan, so, Nicolas nodded and handed the hat to Ryan, who promptly put it on his head.

"Well, let's see, now that's very interesting," the hat said in Ryan's mind. "You have a very bright and disciplined mind, young man. I also sense bravery, cunning, and loyalty to your friends, so, you seem to have traits that are valued by all four houses. So, where to put you?" The hat was silent for a moment as it thought about its options, before it said, "Yes that will be for the best, I think..."

"... RAVENCLAW!"

Removing the hat from his head, Ryan handed it to the only one who hadn't yet been sorted, fourteen-year-old Colin Delrossi. He looked a little nervous as he put the hat on his head. The other three watched as the hat came to life on the boy's head and they could all see the tear near the brim that looked like a mouth moving as it whispered to Colin. After a few moments, the hat yelled out, "HUFFLEPUFF!"

Taking the hat from Colin and placing it back on the shelf; Dumbledore smiled and said, "Well, now that you're sorted, it's time for you to all take your tests. Are you ready Griselda?"

"Indeed, I'll take it from here, Albus," said an elderly woman, as she appeared at the railing of the mezzanine level of the Headmaster's office.

"Allow me to introduce Madam Professor Griselda Marchbanks," Albus said to the four young men in front of his desk. "She's the Governor of the Wizarding Testing Authority and will be administering and grading your exams today." Gesturing towards the stairs near Fawkes' perch, he said, "So, go on up and I'll see you when you're finished."

As the four boys stood up and moved towards the stairs, Griselda said, "I'll be administering your written tests for History of Magic first." As the four boys climbed the stairs, she turned to look down at Dumbledore with a stern look and said, "Was it really necessary for you to tell them how old you are, Albus? It only served to remind me just how old I am, considering that I administered your Charms and Transfiguration NEWTs." More to herself, but loud enough that Dumbledore still heard it, she added, "I still can't believe that was 98 years ago."

Dumbledore looked apologetic, as he said, "Neither can I and I do apologize for reminding you, dear lady."

-o-0-o-

At noon, Harry and Noah arrived just outside the gates of Hogwarts. Since Harry hadn't had a chance to go to the Ministry to get his Apparition license yet, despite the special dispensation from the Minister, Noah brought Harry Side-Along. Having gotten his license in September of 1995, Noah had almost a year of practice with Apparition, but this was the first time he'd ever attempted a Side-Along Apparition of any great distance. Amos and Amelia had confidence that he could do it, however, or they would never have allowed Noah to take Harry alone. Noah would be lying if he said he didn't enjoy it, however, as it had given him an excuse to wrap his arms around Harry.

Not long after their arrival, several more pops could be heard as other people began arriving, some of them with their parents, as they weren't yet old enough to get their licenses. Among these people were Ernie Macmillan and a woman Harry assumed was his mother, Cho Chang, Katie Bell, three boys that Harry recognized as Slytherins but couldn't think of their names, two of whom were accompanied by parents, Cormac McLaggen, Padma Patil and her father, and Neville and his grandmother. Not long after he'd finished looking around, two more pops could be heard, as Draco Malfoy appeared with his mother, and Professor McGonagall appeared with Hermione.

"Thank you all for coming," McGonagall said. "I realize that I was a bit vague when I asked you here, but all will be explained. But, let us go up to the castle and get a little more comfortable." As she said this, she pulled out her wand and waved it at the gates, making them swing open, at which point the group began the trek up to the castle.

Once inside the castle, McGonagall led them into the Great Hall. The house tables weren't setup at the moment and instead there were comfortable looking, plush armchairs set up in a semi-circle in front of the platform that the head table would normally sit upon. That too, however, was currently missing with only the throne-like headmaster's chair, and a few other chairs sitting on either side of it, present. As everyone was taking their seats, Rafael Delrossi arrived along with his elder son, Ethan. The Headmaster arrived soon afterward, along with Professors Sinistra, Flitwick, Sprout, and Snape, and two more people that Harry assumed were also professors, but he didn't recognize them.

Taking a seat in his chair, Dumbledore said, "Thank you for coming, I'm sure all of you are wondering why you were asked here today and that will be explained. First, however, I think a few introductions are in order. I'd like to introduce you to a few new professors who will be teaching at Hogwarts this year." At this, Dumbledore motioned towards a tall, dark-haired young man wearing ocean blue robes and said, "This is Professor Valen Lasinius, who will be teaching History of Magic. Professor Binns, if you're wondering, has been let go."

Several of the students grinned at that, obviously happy to hear that the ghost had been let go because attending his classes made watching grass grow or waiting for paint to dry seem like a fun activity. If Dumbledore noticed the smiles, he said nothing, however, as he said, "And this is Professor Horace Slughorn, our former Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House who retired in 1981, but has graciously agreed to come out of retirement to return to the position of Potions Master."

This, of course, made a few students look confused, which Dumbledore easily picked up on. "Yes, Professor Slughorn will be teaching Potions, meanwhile, Professor Snape, remains the Head of Slytherin House, but will be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts this year."

'Oh Merlin's balls!' Harry thought. 'Why?! My favorite class taught by my least favorite teacher.'

Motioning over Rafael Delrossi, Dumbledore said, "Also, this is Professor Rafael Delrossi, who will be assisting Professor Sinistra in teaching Astronomy. This brings me to another thing that I feel I need to mention. Over the summer, Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout, Snape, and I had a chance to visit Mahoutokoro, Japan's school of magic, which for the last ten years, has been ranked number one in the world. At one time, Hogwarts did hold that position, but I'm afraid it's been some seventy years since we lost it and we've continued to fall further down the list ever since. I, however, want to change that, which is why the Heads of House and I arranged to meet with the Headmaster of Mahoutokoro, so that we could pick his brain on methods we might employ to improve our school."

"One of these methods," McGonagall said, "was to hire additional professors, which we have done. Instead of only seven professors teaching all seven years of our seven core classes, we now have a number of new professors for those subjects. Professors Lasinius, Flitwick, Sprout, Snape, Slughorn, Sinistra, and myself will act as the department heads for our respective subjects and will be teaching only the fifth through seventh year classes. Meanwhile, the new professors brought in this year, Professor Delrossi among them, will be teaching the third and fourth year classes."

There were a few nods around the room, but also a few confused looks. Hermione spoke up and said, "But Professor McGonagall, who’s going to be teaching the first and second year classes?"

Snape looked at Hermione with a withering look as he said, "That will be explained if you'd just be quiet long enough for us to do so."

"Severus," Dumbledore said. "We mustn't get mad at students for asking good questions." Turning towards Hermione, Dumbledore added with a smile, "As for who will be teaching the first and second years, Miss Granger, we've decided to give those teaching duties to a group of fourteen Teaching Assistants, TAs for short. As for whom the TAs are, I would only offer my congratulations to the students present in the hall for joining our teaching staff."

There were several shocked outbursts at this, as the students realized that the headmaster was suggesting that they teach classes. Raising his hands to quiet everyone down, Dumbledore smiled and said, "I realize this may come as a surprise to some of you, however, you were selected because you all received an Outstanding grade on your OWL exams in the subjects we have in mind for you to teach. Those of you who will be sixth years this year will be teaching the first year classes, while those of you in seventh year will be teaching the second year classes. Considering your OWL scores, I have confidence that all of you are more than capable of teaching material four years lower than your current skill levels."

"The TA position," Sprout explained, "will also grant you certain rights. As TAs you will be able to give and take points, as well as assign detentions. There are some limitations, however, as you will not be allowed to give or take points from anyone older than the students you teach. Thus, sixth years, you can take and give points to the first years, but not the older years. For detentions, you will be limited to single night detentions, to be served with the student's Head of House or Mr. Filch, at your discretion. And again, you will only be able to give detentions to the year level that you teach."

"Furthermore, on the matter of points and detentions," Flitwick added, "you can only give or take points or assign detentions for valid reasons arising from teaching your classes or behavioral reasons among the year level you teach. For example, if a student gets an answer right in class, you may award points. If you catch them breaking a rule outside of class, you may take points, and depending on the severity of the rule-breaking, may award detention. You may not, however, take points for reasons such as not liking a specific student, or thinking they're ugly or any other reason not pertaining to school rules or academic performance."

"Please be aware that we will be monitoring the points you award and deduct and the detentions you assign,” Sinistra added, "so we will know if you're doing something you're not supposed to be doing."

"As TAs, you will also be allowed to use the Prefects' Bathroom," Dumbledore said. "As well as having access to a special lounge room on the second floor, similar to the Staff Room on the ground floor, the use of which is limited to the professors. You will have an extra half-hour added to your evening curfews, and be given one extra Hogsmeade weekend per term. Your tuition fees will also be waived and you will be paid twelve galleons per day, five days a week, during the school year, starting on the First of September and ending on the Twelfth of July. You will not be paid on weekends or while school is not in session, which includes both the Winter and Spring breaks."

"Also as a special concession because we haven't used this teaching model before," McGonagall added, "and because some of you may be nervous about teaching, from the Twenty-Seventh through the Thirty-First of August, you will be able to come to Hogwarts for a teaching seminar, in which you will be given an outline of the curriculum and be helped with planning your lessons. Those of you who come on those days will be paid for your attendance. Furthermore, during the school year, all of you will attend daily meetings with the head of your department and the assistant professor for the subject, during which time you can ask any questions you might have and the department head and their assistant may help you in grading the assignments you set for your students."

The professors fell silent for a moment, before Dumbledore said, "Now, before you all find out which subjects you'll be teaching, are there any questions?"

Ernie Macmillan raised his hand, prompting Dumbledore to smile and ask, "Yes, Mr. Macmillan?"

"How are we going to have the time to attend a daily department meeting, teach classes, and still have time to attend the classes we're actually taking this year? There's only four class periods per day, so, even if the department meeting is before an actual class period, then we'd still be losing class periods to teaching."

"An excellent question, Mr. Macmillan," Dumbledore said. "If school was in session, I'd give you points, but since it's not, have a chocolate frog instead." At this Dumbledore produced two chocolate frog boxes, one of which he tossed to Ernie, who caught it with a grin, and the other he gave to Hermione, as a reward for her previous question. "Now as to the number of class periods per day, that is another change we're making this year. As those of you who attended Hogwarts last year know, we had four class periods per day, each one hour long. This year, however, there will be a total of eight class periods per day and they will only be fifty minutes long. The first class period of the day, during which all of you will be having your daily department meeting, will begin at 8 in the morning and end 8:50."

"We're also introducing a new system of A and B weeks," McGonagall continued. "During A weeks, you will meet 3 times a week with a two-house class, so for example Slytherin and Gryffindor. You will then meet with the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw class, twice a week. That will then switch during B weeks, so that you're meeting with the Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw class three times and the Slytherin/Gryffindor class two times. With this setup, only one of your other class periods per day will be used for teaching. With the first period per day being the department meeting, you will all still have the other six class periods each day for the classes that you're actually taking this year."

"Those classes will also be on the same A and B week scheduling," Snape explained, pinching the bridge of his nose as he did so. "As all of you are now going to be in your NEWT years, the classes you take this year require more independent study and thus you will be meeting on a two-one or one-two schedule for each class, both core and elective. So, some of your classes will be meeting twice a week during A weeks and only once a week during B weeks, while some others will be the opposite. The end result, however, is that you will have more meetings of each class this year than has ever been possible in the past."

"This doesn't affect any of you," Sprout added, "although since it does affect the students you'll be teaching, you might be interested to know that the first and second year students will only be attending classes for four class periods per day, thus their first class of the day starts at 9 in the morning and their last class ends at 1:50 in the afternoon. So it works out that they have three classes before lunch and one after. Third through fifth years will have classes starting at 8 in the morning and could be in class until as late as 4:50 in the afternoon, but that's entirely dependent on how many electives they choose to take. Those taking only the minimum of two will get out of classes much earlier and have the rest of each day’s class periods free."

"Because we drew the TAs from the sixth and seventh years," Flitwick said, "all the students in those years have the first period each day free, thus starting their first classes at 9 in the morning and possibly going until as late as 4:50 in the afternoon, depending on their elective load and the number of NEWT level core classes they're continuing with."

"Any other questions?" Dumbledore asked. After waiting a few moments, nobody said anything. "Very well. I must say that I'm a bit surprised that none of you have objected to being selected as TAs, but then I suppose the fact that you will be getting paid for teaching, may have encouraged you not to. Anyway, the core professors will now identify which of you will be working in their departments. Minerva, if you'd care to start?"

McGonagall nodded and then said, "Mr. Harry Potter, you will be teaching 1st year Transfiguration, while the 2nd year teaching duties will fall to you, Mr. Cormac McLaggen."

Harry certainly didn't need the money and he would already have had access to the Prefects' Bathroom, as the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, although, the longer curfew, lounge and extra Hogsmeade weekend kept him from objecting to the idea. The fact that he'd also gained experience teaching the DA last year prevented him from saying he couldn't teach, because he knew that he was capable of doing so. If he could teach 5th, 6th, and 7th year students Defense Against the Dark Arts when he was only a 5th year, he was confident that as a 6th year, he could handle teaching the 1st years about Transfiguration, as the curriculum was much easier than anything he'd taught to the DA.

With his usual scowl in place, Snape said, "Mr. Blaise Zabini, you will teach 1st year Defense Against the Dark Arts, while Mr. Adrian Pucey, you will teach the 2nd years." Both of these students were among the people that Harry had recognized as Slytherins, but couldn't think of their names.

"Miss Katie Bell, you will be teaching 2nd year Charms," Flitwick revealed. "And Mr. Ernie Macmillan the 1st year Charms classes will be yours."

"Mr. Neville Longbottom will teach 1st year Herbology," Sprout said with a smile to Neville. She then pointed at the other boy that Harry thought was a Slytherin and said, "Mr. Erik Pike, you will teach the 2nd year Herbology classes."

"Miss Cho Chang, 2nd year Astronomy," Sinistra spoke up. "Miss Padma Patil, 1st year Astronomy."

"Miss Hermione Granger, you will be working in my department," Valen Lasinius said, "teaching the 1st year History of Magic classes, while Mr. Ethan Delrossi, you will teach the second years." Several people looked over at Ethan at this, as they didn't recognize the name. This prompted Valen to add, "Like myself, Mr. Delrossi is new to Hogwarts this year. I chose him as one of my TAs because he was the only qualified 7th year who hadn't already been chosen as a TA for one of the other classes."

"And finally, Mr. Noah Diggory you will teach the second year Potions classes," Slughorn said. "Meanwhile, the 1st years will be yours to teach, Mr. Draco Malfoy."

Dumbledore gave Draco a stern look and said, "I would only point out, Mr. Malfoy, that we will all be keeping an extra close eye on you in your new position. This is due to your participation in the Inquisitorial Squad that was started last year by Madam Delores Umbridge, who was recently arrested for multiple counts of child abuse due to her illegal use of a blood quill during detentions. While I realize that you didn't participate in the acts of abuse perpetrated by Madam Umbridge, you did grossly abuse the ability to take points from your fellow students. Including taking points from Mr. Ronald Weasley for an untucked shirt, Mr. Harry Potter because you didn't like him and from Miss Hermione Granger because she's a muggleborn, although that isn't the word you used when you took the points and I will not say it, but I think we all know which word I'm referring to. So, because of your history, we're giving you the TA position for first year Potions, but you will be on probation. Hopefully, you will prove that you can be trusted with the authority, but if not, there are other students that can take your place. Understood?"

Draco gulped, not only at being singled out in front of everyone else, but also at the displeased look that was visible on his mother's face and directed at him. He knew he was going to get an earful when he got home. Looking the headmaster straight in the eye, Draco nodded and said, "I will do my best not to disappoint you, sir."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Nine:
Sortings, Tests, and Changes
Part Two

-o-0-o-

After getting out of the meeting at Hogwarts, several of the students chosen to be TAs headed down to Hogsmeade to get a butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks and discuss it. Thus it was that Harry found himself sitting at a corner table along with Noah, Hermione, Padma, Katie, Cho, Neville, and Ernie. Hermione had also introduced herself to Ethan Delrossi and invited him along, figuring it would be a good idea to get to know him since they'd be working together, but he politely declined since he still had both written and practical tests he had to take for his transfer. He'd taken the written tests for History of Magic, Charms, and Transfiguration before the meeting in the Great Hall, but still had to do the practical tests for those subjects, not to mention the tests for seven other subjects.

"Can you believe what just happened?" Ernie asked.

Shaking his head, Noah said, "No. McGonagall was definitely cryptic about why she wanted us to come to Hogwarts and I'll admit I even thought of a few reasons why, but, asking us to teach classes? Yeah, that never crossed my mind."

"Did anyone else notice how all the professors were talking as if we didn't have a choice in the matter?" Padma asked.

"Yeah, I noticed," Neville said. "Maybe they figured that none of us are going to say no to paying jobs."

Cho nodded and said, "True, most people our age don't get jobs. They might be able to do a few odd jobs over the summers to get a little extra money, but a steady job during the school year? That doesn't normally happen considering that we're not allowed to leave the school grounds if it's not a scheduled Hogsmeade weekend."

"Yes, that's true," Noah agreed. "Of course, some of us don't really need the money." He looked pointedly at Harry as he said this. "Right, Harry?"

"What's Noah talking about, Harry?" Hermione asked.

"I suppose I forgot to mention it when you were at my party," Harry mused. "And you weren't at the wedding or I probably would have told you then."

Hermione looked confused as she asked, "Wedding? What wedding?"

Now it was Harry's turn to look confused as he asked, "Charlie's?"

"Ron's brother Charlie?" Hermione asked. "He got married?"

"Yeah on the 28th of July," Harry answered. "You didn't know about it?"

Hermione shook her head and said, "No, I didn't. Ron and I have exchanged a few letters, but he never mentioned that Charlie was getting married."

"Well, you remember that guy Charlie was with at my party?" Harry asked and Hermione nodded. "Well, that was Alexi, his new husband. As for Ron not saying anything, I got the impression from the twins that Ron isn't a fan of Charlie being with Alexi."

"I had a feeling they were a couple when I saw them together," Cho said, "but they never actually said as much. So, why do the twins think Ron was a problem with them?"

"Because he doesn't think two men should get married," Noah answered.

"Well, he's certainly behind the times then isn't he?" Padma asked. "I mean same-sex marriage has only been legal in the wizarding world since before the time of the founders."

'Didn't know it had been that long,' Harry thought. He'd known it was legal, but Cedric had never mentioned that it had been for over a thousand years when they'd discussed it. Shaking his head, Harry said, "Anyway, what Noah meant was that I wouldn't technically need a paying job, since I've inherited more money than I know what to do with."

Neville nodded. "Yes, the Potters are one of the oldest old money families around."

"Yes, they are," Harry said. "And so are the Blacks."

"The Blacks?" Ernie asked.

"Yes, the Blacks," Harry said. "Hermione and Noah already know this, but Sirius Black was my godfather. Long story short, he wasn't my parents' secret keeper; he was framed for the murders, and was sent to Azkaban an innocent man who was never convicted because he was never given a trial. Unfortunately, we weren't able to prove that before he died." Harry paused here for a moment, before he added, "Anyway, he named me as his primary heir, so with the exception of one vault that he left to Professor Lupin, he left me the vast majority of the Black holdings."

Several pairs of eyes widened at this. The only ones who didn't were Noah's and Hermione's, Noah because he already knew this and Hermione because being a muggleborn she wasn't really aware of just how rich the Potters and Blacks actually were. The others, however, had all grown up in the wizarding world and thus knew who the rich families were. It was Ernie who finally broke the silence. "Merlin's beard, Harry, you must be one of the richest wizards in Britain."

"According to the goblin I talked to at Gringotts'," Harry said, "I'm the richest. Of course, I'd give it all up in a heartbeat if I could have my parents back." In his head, he added, 'Or Cedric.'

"Just how much are we talking about here Harry?" Hermione asked in a curious tone.

"Over a billion galleons," Harry answered. "This translates to over seven billion in muggle British pounds." Seeing the shocked look on Hermione's face, he added, "Yes, I said billion with a b and over seven. I'm not ashamed to admit that I fainted when the goblin told me, because I had totally not expected to be told I was worth that much. So yeah, I don't really need a paying job, but it might be fun to teach again. Merlin knows I had fun teaching you lot last year."

"And you were quite good at it, too," Noah said with a grin, as the others all nodded in agreement. "Not so sure about my own teaching abilities though."

When several of the others expressed similar concerns, Harry said, "Oh come on guys, girls, I'm sure you'll be fine. Last year when Hermione suggested that I teach the DA, I was sure that I couldn't do it, but I managed to do it and you all seem to think I did a good job. So, if I could teach 5th, 6th, and 7th years when I was only a 5th year, then I'm sure all of us, as 6th and 7th years, can handle the 1st and 2nd years."

Hermione nodded and said, "Harry's right. We'll be teaching the basics or the foundations if you will. It's all material that we know and are comfortable with or else we never would have managed to score Outstandings in the subjects we've been tapped for."

Ernie nodded, "Yes, I suppose you're right. I do wonder though how our fellow students are going to react to this."

"Oh Merlin," Harry said, as he turned to look Hermione in the eyes. "Ron is going to be a nightmare." Hermione just nodded her head in complete agreement.

-o-0-o-

As expected, when Ron found out about Harry and Hermione being offered teaching positions at Hogwarts he was nearly apoplectic with anger and jealously. Almost immediately he was telling them that they needed to turn down the positions because not only did he think it was ridiculous to have students teaching anyone, but he also thought that it was supremely unfair that Harry and Hermione would be getting salaries for doing so. That was the main sticking point for Ron, of course, the fact that his friends would be earning money and he wouldn't be.

Hermione's argument that they'd be learning important leadership skills and even possible job skills should they decide to go into teaching after Hogwarts, fell on deaf ears as far as Ron was concerned. He then also pointed out that was another reason why Harry should refuse the position, because he didn't need teaching skills, since he was going to be an Auror after Hogwarts, just as Ron himself planned to become one. Needless to say, Ron had another reason to be mad when he found out that Harry had changed his mind about becoming an Auror, to the point that he completely ignored Harry's reasons for changing his mind. Hermione, however, was supportive and understood his reasons as being sound.

Molly and Arthur were both happy for Harry and Hermione and congratulated them on scoring highly enough on their OWLs for the professors to consider them for such positions in the first place. It was rather obvious, however, from the sideways looks that Molly gave her son that she was wishing that Ron had been a better student so that he could have gotten a teaching assistant job, as the extra money would certainly have helped the family. While Molly and Arthur refused to allow Bill or Charlie to help them with bills, since neither of them lived at the Burrow anymore and thus figured that their money should go towards their own households, they would have accepted money from any of their children who still lived with them.

Before the falling out, Percy had put forth a portion of his pay each week towards the household bills and thus things had gotten a bit easier for the Weasleys for a time. They then went back to being strapped for gold once Percy moved away, however. Of course, before they moved to their flat above their shop, Fred and George had attempted to share some of their success with their family, but Molly refused to accept it, as she'd seen it as encouraging them in their deviancy. She could have accepted money earned from a teaching position, but money earned from selling joke wands and other prank items? No, she was much too proud and straight-laced for that.

Amos and Amelia also congratulated Harry, and Noah obviously, on their very much unexpected new positions and expressed their confidence that they were both up to the task. Noah wasn't quite as sure as his parents, but Harry believed that he could do it and for that reason alone, Noah decided to quash his own doubts and do the best that he could. If that meant that he spent a bit more time than usual in the second floor study room re-reading his second year potions text, then so be it. Of course, he wasn't the only one doing some studying as Harry was also to be found rereading his own first year transfiguration book, hoping to refresh his memory as much as possible. And it went without saying that Hermione was probably doing the same thing, although Harry and Noah were sure that she was taking it to an extreme that neither of them would ever consider. Honestly, given the way she studied, she'd probably be able to teach the seventh years, despite the fact that she hadn't started her sixth year yet.

-o-0-o-

Since they were being paid for their attendance, it should come as no surprise that all fourteen of the students selected as Hogwarts' first batch of teaching assistants showed up at Hogwarts on the twenty-seventh day of August for the teaching seminar. Once again finding themselves seated in the Great Hall, which now being so close to the beginning of the school year looked much more like they were used to seeing it with the four house tables and head table present. For this meeting however, most of them were not sitting at their house tables and instead were seated with all of the seventh years at the Hufflepuff table, while the sixth years were seated at the Ravenclaw table. Thus it was that the Slytherin and Gryffindor tables, as far away from each other as possible, were currently empty.

"Thank you all for coming," Dumbledore said. "Now, first off, when last we met I realize that we may have made it seem like you had no choice but to accept your appointments to the staff so, if any of you would like to turn down the offer, please do so now so that we may get your replacement here to train."

When nobody spoke for about two minutes, Dumbledore asked, "Shall I take your silence to mean that none of you wish to turn down your appointments? Please nod if that is indeed what I should assume."

Fourteen heads all nodded as one and Dumbledore smiled. "Very well, then."

Before Dumbledore could say anything more, however, seventh-year Slytherin Adrian Pucey, the new Head Boy for the upcoming school year, raised his hand, prompting the headmaster to ask, "Yes, Mr. Pucey?"

"Professor, I have a question. It was something that I didn't think of until after the initial meeting or I would have asked it then." At Dumbledore's nod that he should continue, Adrian said, "Well, sir, it was said that the TAs would have the authority to give and take points and assign detentions, but only from those in the years they teach."

"Yes, that is true, Mr. Pucey," McGonagall confirmed.

"My question though is what about the TAs who are also prefects?" Adrian asked. "Before now they could take points from any year level, although they couldn't award points, and the head students could assign detentions with Mr. Filch."

"Good questions, Mr. Pucey," Dumbledore said. "Those of you who also hold the rank of prefect will be allowed more latitude in your point taking abilities. So, you will be able to take points from every year level and not just the ones you teach. However, you will only be able to award points to your actual students. As for detentions, the Head Boy and Head Girl retain their rights to assign detentions with Mr. Filch; however, they now will have the option of assigning them with a student’s Head of House as well. Also, as per the standing rules of prefect point deduction, none of you are allowed to take points from each other."

Adrian nodded his understanding, as did several others, before McGonagall said, "Now, there's a few more changes that we're instituting this year that I think will be of interest to all of you. First off, in years past, there's been a blanket curfew of 9 at night for all students. We've decided, however, that's too late for younger students and too early for the older ones. Thus, the new curfew for first and second year students will now be 8. Third through fifth years' curfew remains unchanged at 9, while all of you and your classmates in years six and seven will now enjoy a curfew of 10."

There were, of course, several smiles and nods of approval at this, especially since they all remembered that as TAs, they'd be getting an extra half-hour added to their curfews. Newly appointed Head Girl, Katie Bell, asked for clarification on this point, just to be sure, and indeed, the TAs, prefects and head students would indeed be allowed to stay out one half-hour longer than their classmates.

"Another change that we're implementing is a scheduled lights out policy," Sprout said. "The curfew is as it's always been - the time by which students must be in their house common room. However, starting this year, we will have a prescribed hour by which time students are expected to be in bed. The Heads of House and prefects will be conducting bed checks at this hour to insure that all students are in their beds when they should be. This time will be 9 for first and second year students and 10 for third through fifth year students."

"However, for sixth and seventh year students," Flitwick continued, "it's been decided that you are hopefully all mature enough that you can use your own good judgment as to when you should retire to your beds for the night and thus there will be no set lights out time for you. However, there will be a three strike rule if you're caught out of your dormitories after curfew. The first offence will result in a warning and five points being taken from your house, while a second offense will result in a ten point loss and detention. A third offense, meanwhile, will mean that a lights out time of 11 will be imposed on all of the students of the same year level, complete with a bed check. Thus being caught out of your dormitory after curfew three times is likely to make you very unpopular among your year mates and will thus hopefully serve as a good deterrent."

'I imagine some of the younger years won't like that,' Harry thought. 'Of course, they do need their sleep.' He couldn't help but think back to his own past school years when he'd often stayed up late into the night for one reason or another and then had a hard time concentrating or staying awake in his classes the next day.

Dumbledore smiled, "And now for what is perhaps going to be the most controversial change, although it's not so much a change as it is an addition. Severus?"

Professor Snape nodded, before he went over and entered the antechamber of the Great Hall. He came back a moment later levitating a large box that had the logo of a Japanese company written on it behind him. Walking back over to join his fellow Heads of House and the Headmaster, Severus gently set the box down on the head table in front of Dumbledore, before resuming his seat. Opening the box, Dumbledore reached into it and pulled out what at first glance looked like a book. Only it was much too thin to be a book and it clearly didn't have pages. In fact, as Harry craned his head a bit to get a better look at it, he saw what looked like a screen and realized that it almost looked like a small Muggle television set, only flat.

Ethan Delrossi smiled as he saw it, as he clearly recognized it for what it was, a fact which Dumbledore must have picked up on, as he asked, "Do you recognize this item, Mr. Delrossi?"

Ethan nodded and said, "Yes, professor, sir. My brother and I were students at Mahoutokoro last year and all of the professors and teachers there are issued one of those." Dumbledore nodded, before Ethan added, "It's called a personal data assistant or PDA for short."

"Correct," Dumbledore said. "Now, the reason that I said this would probably be controversial is because this device is based upon muggle technology." Unsurprisingly, several of the purebloods scoffed at that, although there were those among the non-purebloods, such as Hermione, who looked intrigued. "However, I would point out that the ingenious Japanese witches and wizards who created this device used magic to extend its functionality far beyond anything the muggles are currently capable of doing with similar devices that don't have the benefit of magic."

"Perhaps the largest of these changes," McGonagall continued, "is the device's power source. Those of you, who are either muggleborn, grew up in the muggle world, or taken Muggle Studies will know of the existence of batteries. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, they are a container, often cylindrical, which can hold an electrical current inside of them. These containers can be inserted into devices such as these to power the device, which couldn't run otherwise. However, these batteries as they're called have limited capacity in terms of just how much power they can hold and thus a device powered by them is only functional so long as the battery powering it still has power stored in it. Once that power is depleted, the battery needs to be replaced for the device to regain functionality. That isn't a concern with these devices, however, as through the use of magic they have infinite battery power, which is something the muggles can currently only dream about."

"I would caution all of you, however," Flitwick said, "that these PDAs actually run on a large central battery, or magical core if you will, located here at Hogwarts and thus there is an operational limit. They will retain full functionality anywhere in the castle, the grounds, and as far as Hogsmeade, but if you take them beyond there, they will cease to function and a number of protective charms would activate to prevent muggles from being able to access any of the added functionality or from seeing them for what they truly look like. You see this particular design that Professor Dumbledore is holding was designed by a magical Japanese company and looks quite a bit more advanced than anything the muggles currently have."

Dumbledore nodded and said, "Yes, from what I've been told by the manufacturer, if a muggle saw this device, it would look much more akin to an Apple MessagePad 110, which was introduced in March of 1994 and discontinued in April of the following year. However, as I've said, with magic these devices are quite nicer than anything the muggles have. Professor McGonagall and Professor Sprout will now hand them out to each of you and then we will explain their functions to you."

McGonagall and Sprout stood from their seats, rounded the head table and each grabbed seven of the devices, with McGonagall walking over to distribute them to the seventh years, while Sprout handed them out to the sixth years. A few of the pureblood students seemed very reluctant to even touch the things, but, they were in a minority, as the rest of the students seemed very interested in this strange, new addition to Hogwarts. Once each of the students had one, McGonagall and Sprout returned to their seats.

"First and foremost," Dumbledore began, "these devices will keep track of your timetables for you. Thus, they will tell you when you have each class and they can even be set to act like an alarm clock. Thus they will wake you up before breakfast to ensure that you have time to eat and get to your first class on time. This function can also be used to remind you that you have a class. For example, if you get so caught up in studying during one of your free periods that you lose track of time, these devices will trigger an alarm to get your attention and remind you that it's time to pack up and get a move on to your next class so that you aren't late."

"Another feature which will help in getting to classes on time," McGonagall said, "is that all of them have a built-in map of the entire castle, with a 'You are Here' indicator. What that means is that when the device is asked to show a map of the school, it will start in your present location and you will be marked on your map, showing your precise location. You can then ask it to give you directions to any location in the castle. Now, this isn't as much of a concern for all of you, since most of you have been here for five to six years now and likely know where everything is, but it will definitely help the first and second years in making sure they don't get lost. Thus, 'I got lost' will cease to be a valid excuse for tardiness."

Neville raised his hand at this. Prompting Dumbledore to smile and ask, "Yes, Mr. Longbottom?"

"What if a student loses this PDA or they forget it in their dorm?" Neville asked.

Snape muttered something under his breath at this question, but none of the students heard exactly what he said, although they were capable of guessing that he was saying something unkind about Neville and his memory. It was a well-known fact among students of all houses by now that Neville's memory was, at least at one time, bad enough that he often got locked out of his own common room because he forgot the password. Not to mention the fact that his grandmother had given him a Remembrall in first year.

"These devices, once activated, are imprinted to your magical signatures," Dumbledore explained. "So, nobody other than you will be able to use the one that's issued to you. As a result, they also cannot be stolen and they will automatically reappear in the pocket of your school robes if you get more than twenty feet away from them. Thus, it is quite impossible for you to lose it or forget it in your dorm room. They are charmed, however, to not reappear in your pocket if you are not wearing your school robes. So, for example, they won't reappear near you while you're showering, as you would presumably not be wearing your school robes while doing that nor will they appear in your pockets while you are playing Quidditch, as your Quidditch robes do not count as your school robes. If you aren't wearing your school robes, however, and you want it, you can easily call for it with a simple Summoning Charm, however, and because the power for the charm is built into the device itself, even the first years will be able to use it, even though the Summoning Charm is usually not a spell they would have learned yet."

Neville nodded, before Sprout said, "Now in addition to keeping track of your timetables and the mapping feature, they also have the ability to record audio. Thus you will be able to make recordings of your professors' lectures, which you will then be able to playback anytime that you need to. There is also a magical filter installed which will filter out any and all background noise and thus only your professor's voice will be heard on the recording, as it will filter out noises such as other students whispering amongst themselves, pages in books being turned, or birds chirping outside the open window."

"Speaking of books," Flitwick said, "a digital version of all the textbooks required for your year level have been pre-loaded onto your PDA and thus you will not have to carry the books around with you to classes. You will, however, still need physical copies of the books in order to do the homework that's assigned to you over breaks or if you will be outside of the operational area of the PDA when doing an assignment. There have also been a number of basic reference books pre-loaded, although for more advanced or specialized subjects, you will still need to visit the library and use the actual books there. Also, books in the Restricted Section cannot be accessed by or loaded onto your PDA and thus can only be used in the library itself."

Several students nodded their heads in understanding, and even a couple of the purebloods seemed to be starting to accept that maybe, just maybe, these devices would actually be useful. It was then that Snape said, "There is also a messaging function built in, which will allow you to send messages to your fellow students or to your professors. Your professors may also contact you in this manner. It should be noted, however, that the messaging function is automatically disabled during periods when you have a class, so you cannot spend the entire period messaging your friends instead of paying attention. This feature can be unlocked by the professor during class periods, but I can say with certainly that I personally will never be doing that in my classes."

"Another feature that will be locked during class periods," McGonagall said, "is the ability to play games on your PDA. They all have Wizard's Chess and Exploding Snap pre-installed and thus you can play either game with anyone in the castle, even if you aren't in the same room with the person or persons that you're playing with. Like the messaging feature, this can be unlocked by professors during your class periods, but like Professor Snape, I rather doubt that I will ever be unlocking it during my own classes, as it would seem to be a waste of time to allow you to play games in my class when we have a limited number of meetings each week."

"There are a number of other applications installed," Dumbledore said. "The manufacturer called them apps for short. They include apps for checking the weather, Quidditch scores for any recognized professional team in the world, and can also tell you the point totals for all four houses."

"More important than weather or Quidditch scores," McGonagall added, "there is also a translation app installed which can translate many commonly used magical languages into English or assist you in translating English into another language. The languages installed include, but are not limited, to French, Spanish, Arabic, Latin, Ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, and even Gobbledegook and Mermish."

"There is also a complete database of every potions ingredient in existence," Snape added. "This database includes everything you could possibly need to know about them, including how to properly prepare them for use in a potion, as well as the shelf life for each ingredient and how long a potion containing them will retain its effectiveness after its brewed."

"There's also a similar database for magical plants," Sprout said, "which will give you tips on how to handle all of them. This includes how to handle the more dangerous plants without sustaining injury and how to apply emergency first aid if an injury is sustained."

"In addition to all of these features," Flitwick said, "there are also a number of subject-specific apps that will be explained in more detail by your professors as they become relevant in the classroom."

Dumbledore then said, "Additionally, there are a number of special apps installed on the PDAs that we've given to the fourteen of you which are not present on the devices which will be handed out to the other students. These additional apps are specifically geared towards assisting you with your jobs as teaching assistants and include lesson planners, grading scales, and other materials which will make it easier for you to perform your teaching duties."

After a moment of silence, Dumbledore and the other Heads of House stood up and said, "Now, your Heads of House and I will be coming around and begin helping each of you to activate your PDAs and familiarize you a bit more on their use."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Ten:
The Sorting Feast Brings Surprises

-o-0-o-

The fourteen teaching assistants remained at Hogwarts and did not go back to their respective homes after they'd arrived for the teaching seminar. The idea of them going home on the Thirty-First of August did come up briefly, but it seemed rather silly to send them all home, just so that they could all turn around and come back via the Hogwarts Express the next day. Thus it was that Harry, Hermione, Neville, Katie, Noah and Cormac were all seated at the Gryffindor table, while the other TAs were seated at their respective tables, when the rest of the students in second year and higher began filing into the Great Hall.

Seeing them seated at the table and knowing that they hadn't been on the train, Ron stalked over and said, "I take it you didn't turn down your new positions?"

"No Ron, we didn't," Hermione answered.

"What new positions?" Seamus asked, as he and Dean made their way over to the table and took seats with the others.

"Teaching Assistants," Harry said with a grin. "Neville, Hermione and I have been asked to teach the 1st years. Neville is teaching Herbology, Hermione is taking History of Magic, and I'm handling Transfiguration."

"Wow," Dean said. "When did this happen?"

"We found out on August 1st," Neville said. "And we've been at Hogwarts ever since the Twenty-Seventh getting taught everything we'd need to know about teaching."

"Hmm, not sure I'd want the responsibility," Seamus said.

"Well, they are paid positions," Hermione pointed out.

Seamus raised an eyebrow. "How much?"

"Twelve galleons a day, five days a week," Harry answered, "for the entire school year. We won't be getting paid over Winter or Spring break, but it still translates to us making 2,460 galleons for the year."

"That's £12,300 in muggle money," Hermione said, for Dean's benefit. "There's also a few other perks."

"Damn, you're lucky," Seamus said. "What other perks?"

The next few minutes was spent as Neville, Harry, and Hermione filled Seamus and Dean in on the other perks that went with their new positions. Ron, meanwhile, was clearly listening but not looking very happy. He was obviously still angry that his friends had accepted the positions and would thus be earning money when he wasn't.

As the last of the second year and older students took their seats, Dumbledore nodded to Professor McGonagall, who left the room, only to return moments later with the first years following behind her. As the wide-eyed eleven-year-olds walked down the center aisle of the Great Hall, Harry smiled, as he thought back to the first time he'd set foot in the room and remembered the wonderment that he'd felt at the strange new world that he found himself in. That wonderment had soon been tempered by a series of unfortunate and downright scary events, but Harry couldn't honestly say that he regretted ever coming to Hogwarts.

As the first years lined up in front of the Head Table, Harry and his classmates turned their attention to the Sorting Hat, as it began to move and prepare to sing its annual song. Silence fell over the hall as everyone present waited to see what it would sing this year.

Centuries ago when I was brand new
Four witches and wizards of great renown
Came together to found our great school
And to this day their names are still around.

Firstly was Godric Gryffindor of the wild moors,
Who valued those truly brave at heart.
Secondly was Rowena Ravenclaw of the glen,
Who had the most appreciation for the truly smart.

Thirdly was Helga Hufflepuff of the valley broad,
Who valued those who were loyal to their friends.
And fourthly there was Salazar Slytherin of the fen,
Who was willing to do anything to achieve his ends.

These four names have gone down in history
As the founders of our great school.
But there was another, dear students,
Who let the memories of the others rule.

This fifth wizard, Hogwarts' fifth founder,
Is very well known and has plenty of acclaim
But he chose to remain in the shadows
So his role in the school was never proclaimed.

Many of you may suspect I've gone crazy
As I've never mentioned a fifth founder
In all the many songs I've sung
But the time has come to correct this blunder.

Who was the fifth, you ask?
Well wonder not for I will tell.
He didn't found his own house
But in these walls did he dwell.

As I said his name is well known
Even if some of his deeds are not.
He trained the other founders
And they owed him quite a lot.

When they decided to found a school
They all sought his wisdom and advice
He was more than happy to help them
But this did not come without a price.

It wasn't a heavy one, however,
As he only had one simple request.
That his role remain hidden and so
The others kept it close to their breast.

He was the Prince of Enchanters
And the greatest wizard of all time.
I speak, of course, of Merlin Emrys,
Magically powerful, but in a body past its prime.

So why am I telling you this if the
Man himself didn't wish it told?
After keeping it secret for years
My reasons for telling are twofold.

Firstly, Hogwarts is still in danger
From external, deadly foes.
If something is not done soon
I fear the school will close.

Secondly, Merlin foretold of a time
When his role should be revealed.
That time has arrived and that is
Why I'm revealing the truth long concealed.

What did Merlin predict, you're thinking?
He said at the time of the school's greatest need
The Heirs of all Five Founders would arrive
And for the school's continued survival intercede.

Sitting in this Hall, listening to my song
The Heirs of our Founders doth dwell.
The danger to our school is something
Only the heirs will be able to quell.

Everyone else must unite behind them
Or this school will crumble from within.
I have told you and I have warned you
And now let the Sorting begin.

Quite predictably, the sounds of hundreds of students all talking at once filled the Great Hall, as everyone began talking about the bomb that the Sorting Hat had just dropped. Not only had Merlin Emrys helped to found the school, but apparently he'd predicted the arrival of the heirs of all five founders. Those students who were old enough to remember the events of the 1992-1993 school year were, understandably, worried about the idea of an heir to all five founders being in the school; mainly because that meant that the Heir of Slytherin would be present.

Colin Creevey and Justin Finch-Fletchley were both understandably worried about the return of the Heir of Slytherin, fearing that it was only a matter of time before the Chamber of Secrets would be reopened. Hermione, of course, while being one of the students that had been petrified, wasn't worried because she knew that Slytherin's monster had been killed, but she couldn't exactly blame the others for their fear. It's not like a public announcement had ever been made that the monster had been slain and certainly never how it had been done. Yes, there were rumors that Harry had killed it, but always being one to shy away from his unwanted fame, Harry never confirmed the rumors and thus they stayed just that.

Sending sparks out of the tip of his wand to get everyone's attention, Dumbledore waited for everyone to quiet down, before speaking. "I was unaware of the information that the Sorting Hat was going to share this evening, as I enjoy hearing its songs along with all of you and thus I do not ask that it fill me in ahead of time. We will discuss the Sorting Hat's revelations at a future time, but for now, let us continue with the Sorting Ceremony, after which we will enjoy the feast awaiting us, before I make some important start-of-term notices which will affect all of you present in the hall this evening in rather significant ways."

The hall was much quieter now as Professor McGonagall called out, "Addison, Jonathan" as the first incoming first-year to be sorted. Harry, however, was paying very little attention to the sorting as he whispered, "This is a year of surprises it would seem."

Hermione nodded and said, "So it would seem."

"I wonder who the heirs are," Neville said.

"No clue, but I'm sure plenty of people will be doing all they can to figure it out," Noah said. After a moment, he added, "I know there's genealogical texts in the library, so, I imagine those are going to be very popular in the coming weeks."

-o-0-o-

Once the Sorting was finished and the feast consumed, McGonagall tapped her glass with a spoon to get everyone's attention, as Dumbledore stood up to address the students. "Firstly, to those of you just starting their schooling, I'd like to say welcome to Hogwarts, and for those of you who have been here for awhile, welcome back. This year we have implemented a number of changes designed to hopefully improve our school. I know some of you may be confused by that statement, because of the long held belief that Hogwarts is the finest school of magic anywhere in the world, but I'm afraid that hasn't actually been the case in over seventy years now. For the last ten years, that title has been held by Japan's school of magic, Mahoutokoro, which the Heads of House and I visited over the summer to get ideas from its Headmaster that we could implement here at Hogwarts."

Dumbledore then began explaining many of the changes that had already been told to the teaching assistants, from the greater number of class periods per day, to the A/B week scheduling, the changes to the curfew, and the lights-out policy. Wanting to save the potential outcry from the purebloods over the addition of the PDAs, however, Dumbledore decided to refrain from mentioning them until he'd made all the staffing announcements.

"Now, there's been several additions and changes to our teaching staff," Dumbledore said. "Several of you have by now likely noticed the empty seats at the Head Table this evening. They are due to the fact that the new professors were asked to remain in the antechamber until I announced their names. So, firstly, Professor Severus Snape, the Head of Slytherin House, will now be teaching the fifth through seventh year Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, meanwhile, I'm pleased to introduce you to Professor Horace E.F. Slughorn, our former Potions professor from 1927 until 1981, who has graciously agreed to come out of retirement."

Slughorn came out of the antechamber and took his place at the table at this point, as several students began whispering to each other about the change. The non-Slytherins who'd been at Hogwarts awhile and knew what Snape was like weren't all that thrilled about the change, however. At the Gryffindor table, Ron was the most vocally upset, but he didn't make his objections loudly enough to draw the attention of the entire hall. Neville, of course, had already known about the change due to his being a TA, so he'd had time to digest it, but he still wasn't all that happy about it himself, considering how much he disliked and feared the taciturn Head of Slytherin.

"Assisting Professor Slughorn, who will only be teaching the fifth through seventh years," Dumbledore said, "I'm pleased to introduce you to returning former student Assistant Professor Matthew Cromwell, who will be teaching the third and fourth year Potions classes, as well as the third year Herbology classes."

As Matthew came out and took his place at the Head Table, Dumbledore said, "Assistant Professor Rafael Delrossi will be teaching third and fourth year Astronomy and fourth year Herbology, while our own Madam Rolanda Hooch, who many of you will recognize as our Flying Instructor and Quidditch Referee, will be teaching the third and fourth year Charms classes this year. A second former student joining our teaching staff is Assistant Professor Terence Higgs, who will be teaching the third and fourth year Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, in addition to the third year Transfiguration classes."

Dumbledore paused here to take a sip from his goblet, as Rafael and Terence came out of the antechamber, while Madam Hooch briefly stood up and nodded her head, before resuming her seat. Setting his goblet back on the table, Dumbledore continued with, "Now, I would also like to take this opportunity to inform you that the ghost of Professor Cuthbert Binns, who many of you may know has long taught History of Magic at Hogwarts, has been let go. In his place, teaching the fifth through seventh year classes, I'm pleased to introduce you to Professor Valen Lasinius and a third former student returning to Hogwarts, Assistant Professor Roger Davies, who will be teaching the third and fourth year History classes, in addition to covering the fourth year Transfiguration classes."

Several of the older Ravenclaws who remembered him, cheered a bit as Roger came out of the antechamber, along with Valen Lasinius. Of course, the Ravenclaws weren't the only ones cheering, because there were several people at the other tables who were cheering over the fact that Professor Binns had been let go. Although, there were also a few students who were complaining about the ghost being let go simply because they were among the lazier students and thus didn't like the potential loss of nap time that not having the monotone droning Professor Binns might cause. Unsurprisingly, Ron was among this number.

"As you may have already guessed," Dumbledore continued, "Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout, and Sinistra will only be teaching the fifth through seventh year classes for Transfiguration, Charms, Herbology and Astronomy respectively. Now some of you may be wondering who will be teaching the first and second year students, although some of you may already know that due to gossip that has no doubt been circulating among your house tables. For those of you who aren't already aware, fourteen students, seven seventh years and seven sixth years, have been added to the teaching staff this year, with the seventh years teaching the second years and the sixth years teaching the first years. TAs when I call your names, I ask that you come and stand in front of the head table so that everyone will know who you are."

Dumbledore then proceeded to call out the names of each of the TAs, who as the headmaster asked, went to stand in front of the head table. Many of the first years looked quite excited when they realized that they'd be learning about Transfiguration from The-Boy-Who-Lived himself. Once all the TAs had come up, Dumbledore kept them there for about a minute, before telling them they could go back to their tables.

Once they were seated, Dumbledore said, "Another important staffing announcement is that the Matron of our Hospital Wing, Madam Poppy Pomfrey, who also teaches the NEWT-level elective Medical Magic class, has taken an indefinite leave of absence to attend to some personal issues. In the meantime, St. Mungo's has graciously lent us the services of Healer Sarah Delaney, who will take over as Matron of the Hospital Wing and teach the Medical Magic classes."

The truth was that Madam Pomfrey had been relieved of her duties pending the outcome of an investigation by the Board of Health into her performance of those duties. However, since such investigations were sealed matters to prevent the possible ruining of reputations should the investigation turn up no wrongdoing, Dumbledore wasn't about to announce it to everyone in the Great Hall and thus instead said that she'd taken an indefinite leave of absence to explain why somebody else was doing her job.

"Speaking of elective classes," Dumbledore said, "I'd like to take this moment to announce that Professor Rubeus Hagrid has also taken a leave of absence and that Care of Magical Creatures will be taught this year by Professor Charles Weasley-Zeklos."

Charlie came out of the antechamber at this point, to the great surprise of Ron, who had not been told that Charlie would be teaching. The TAs had known, having found out on the Twenty-Eighth of August, but had been sworn to secrecy and thus had refrained from saying anything to their housemates. Unlike Madam Pomfrey, however, the reason for Hagrid's leave of absence was because he was away on an important mission for the Order of the Phoenix, in addition to finding a more suitable place for Grawp to live.

Of course, Ron and Ginny grinned because they figured if Charlie was teaching at Hogwarts and Alexi was back in Romania at the Dragon Reserve, it was only a matter of time before their sham of a marriage fell apart, at which point Charlie could get an annulment and find a nice girl to settle down with. Their dreams of this happening, however, were soon dashed when Dumbledore said, "Also, joining our teaching staff this year is Professor Alexi Zeklos, who will be teaching two new elective classes: Enchanting, which will be open to all third through seventh year students, and Warding, which will be open to the sixth and seventh years."

Alexi joined the professors at the head table at this point, as Dumbledore asked, "Professor Zeklos, if you could perhaps briefly explain the purpose of the classes you'll be teaching?"

Standing up, Alexi nodded and said, "Of course, headmaster," before turning towards the student body and saying, "The Enchanting class will focus on placing a variety of spells and magical effects on inanimate objects. During the course of the school year, all of you who take the class will be creating a magical talisman with a number of protective charms cast upon it, which when worn will apply those charms to the wearer. The Warding class, meanwhile, will focus on the creation and maintenance of magical wards, which you will be able to use to protect yourselves, your personal belongings or on a grander scale, even your homes."

Alexi sat down at that point, as Dumbledore nodded and said, "Thank you, Professor Zeklos. In years past, if the demand was great enough, Hogwarts has on occasion offered a NEWT-level elective in Alchemy, which I have decided will now be added to the curriculum on a more permanent basis, with myself as the professor. Those of you who sign up for the class will be learning a number of alchemical concepts, in addition to learning how to brew a number of more advanced potions and elixirs which are not taught in the normal Potions class. As such, an Exceeds Expectations in Potions is required to take Alchemy and I would also point out that we will not be covering how to make a Philosopher's Stone, so, please do not sign up for the class if that is your only interest in taking it."

Dumbledore paused here to take another sip from his goblet, as McGonagall stood up briefly and said, "Due to the possibility of a number of you needing to make changes to your schedules due to the addition of the new elective courses, the first day of classes has been pushed back to Tuesday, the Third of September, thus giving you tomorrow to make any changes or additions that you wish to make."

"Thank you, Professor McGonagall," Dumbledore said as he set his goblet down and his Deputy resumed her seat. "Due to the current climate of the wizarding world, we are also adding three new electives dealing with subjects relating to combat, two of which will be NEWT-level classes open to sixth and seventh year students only. The first of these new classes is Fencing, which will teach those of you who take it the proper techniques involved in sword fighting and will be taught by Professor Valen Lasinius.

"The second class will be Archery, which as you may guess will teach the proper way to use both bows and crossbows, and will be taught by Professor Firenze. This class will be open to all 4th through 7th year students, as long as you are at least 14 years of age. Please note, however, that on the first day of classes, Professor Firenze will test your ability and you must exhibit enough strength to pull back the string of a longbow far enough to shoot an arrow at least thirty feet, while also being able to be able to load and shoot one bolt from a crossbow in under a minute and thirty seconds. Those of you who sign up for the class who are unable to complete these tests will be dropped.

"Lastly, we are also adding an Unarmed Combat class, taught by Madam Rolanda Hooch, which as the name implies, will focus on unarmed combat techniques which you may use should your find yourselves in the position of having lost your wand and have no other weapons at your disposal. Those of you who are familiar with the various types of martial arts that are taught in the muggle world, such as karate and taekwondo, will be at least partially familiar with the curriculum of the class."

Dumbledore sat down at the point, as he needed a moment to rest his feet after standing in one place for the last several minutes. McGonagall stood up and continued the announcements. "Also, this year we have added a designated extra-curricular activity period to the schedule, which will be from seven in the evening until ten minutes to eight. During this time, you may either attend an extra-curricular activity, your choices of which I will outline in a moment, or you may if you prefer go to the library during this period, where several professors will be on hand for tutoring and homework assistance.

"Professor Bathsheba Babbling has volunteered to assist anyone who needs help with Ancient Runes or History of Magic, while Professor Septima Vector will assist with Arithmancy and Care of Magical Creatures. Librarian Madam Irma Pince will assist with Charms and Divination, Professor Pomona Sprout with Herbology and Muggle Studies, Professor Horace Slughorn with Potions and Astronomy, and I will be on hand to lend assistance with Transfiguration and Defense Against the Dark Arts."

Pausing to take a sip of her tea, McGonagall then said, "Now, as for the available activities, there are five options, two of which will be meeting twice a week and three that will be meeting once a week. As he has in the past, Professor Filius Flitwick will be serving as our Choir Master, with practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the activity period. Assistant Professor Rafael Delrossi, meanwhile, will be leading an Instrumental Music activity, also meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Both Vocal and Instrumental Music will be open to all students of third year and above.

"There will also be an Art activity available on Wednesday evenings, open to students of every year, which will be led by Professor Charity Burbage, with the assistance of Assistant Professors Matthew Cromwell, Roger Davies, and Terence Higgs. Meanwhile, Madam Sarah Delaney, will be leading an activity on Friday evenings called Battlefield Medicine, open to all students fifth year and above, which will teach those who take it the basics of triage and other battlefield related healing. It is basically a pared down version of the Medical Magic class for those of you who wish to learn some healing magic, but do not wish to take the full Medical Magic class. However, those of you who are taking the class are not barred from also signing up for the activity."

McGonagall resumed her seat at this point, as Dumbledore stood back up and said, "Now, those of you who were students here last year may have been members of or heard rumors of a student group called Dumbledore's Army. The purpose of this group was to train its members in practical Defense Against the Dark Arts, which was sadly lacking from the curriculum last year under the mandate of the Ministry of Magic. This group will continue to meet this year on Monday nights and will be open to all students fifth year and above. However, it will now be called Defense Arts and I will personally be taking over as the instructor for the group."

Several members of the former DA looked at each other at that. While it was certainly true that Harry had done a great job teaching them, the thought of the man who was widely believed to be one of the most powerful wizards currently living, not to mention being the only wizard that Voldemort was believed to fear, instructing them was an exciting prospect. Even Harry was looking forward to seeing just what kind of defensive magic the headmaster would be teaching them. He hoped that it would be the extremely useful kind, but only time would tell.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Eleven
The Unexpected Day Off
Part One

-o-0-o-

Since classes had been cancelled for the day, Ryan slept a bit later than he normally would have on a school day, not waking up until seven in the morning. Of course, he wasn't the only one because as he sat up in his bed, after applying his glamours and opening his bed curtains, he took a moment to look around the sixth-year Ravenclaw boy's dorm. He'd had a chance to get to know a few of his new housemates the previous night, but, everyone had been pretty tired from the long train ride and after the longer than normal start-of-term notices, many of the students had just wanted to go to bed.

Looking over to his right, he spotted Terry Boot, lying with his back turned to Ryan, still fast asleep. To his left were the beds belonging to Anthony Goldstein and Michael Corner, while on the wall opposite Ryan's and Terry's beds were the two beds that had been pushed together the previous night by their owners: boyfriends Kevin Entwhistle and Stephen Cornfoot.

Ryan assumed they were still asleep, because from his vantage point it appeared that all the bed curtains were closed. Of course, that had been a request on Michael's and Anthony's parts when the beds had been pushed together. Basically they were fine with Kevin and Stephen doing it, so long as they remembered to close the curtains and put up Silencing Charms if they were going to be doing any couple-like activities.

Pushing back his covers and swinging his legs over the side of the bed, Ryan stretched a bit before he stood up. Walking over to Terry's bed, he gently shook his new housemate's shoulder to get his attention. Terry rolled over and opened his eyes, at which point Ryan said, "It's seven, so, you should probably get up since we only have about thirty minutes to shower and get down to the Great Hall to eat before breakfast ends at 7:50."

Terry nodded and said, "Yeah, thanks, Ryan."

Ryan smiled. "No, problem," as he headed towards the bathroom. Michael was already in the process of getting up himself, while Anthony had his pillow over his face and as he was passing the bed Ryan heard him groan and ask, "What time is it?"

Pulling out his wand, Ryan said, "Tempus!" He then said, "It's 7:02 Anthony."

"Thanks," came the muffled reply.

Ryan did pause outside the bathroom door, unsure if he should attempt to wake Kevin and Stephen or not. In the end, however, he opted to leave them be for the moment, as he went into the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later Ryan, Terry, Michael and Anthony were all emerging from the bathroom, with towels around their waists as they headed over to the wardrobes next to their beds to get dressed for the day. It was after they were dressed and moving towards the door to leave their dorm room when they noticed that Kevin's and Stephen's curtains were still closed.

"Somebody should probably wake them," Michael commented.

"I'm not doing it," Terry said as he put his hands up in a negative gesture. "I don't mind them being a couple or putting their beds together, but I don't need to see anything that they might be doing in there."

Michael and Anthony expressed similar feelings on the matter, prompting Ryan to grin as he shook his head and said, "Okay, well, I guess I'll do it then. I am gay, so, I can't imagine they're doing anything in there that will leave me scarred for life."

"Cool," Anthony said, as the three of them backed away from the bed so that they couldn't possibly see anything when Ryan moved the bed curtains.

Taking a deep breath, Ryan stuck his head inside and felt an immediate twitch in his trousers as he saw a completely naked Kevin laying on the bed, his eyes closed, though obviously awake, while an equally naked Stephen moved up and down on Kevin's morning wood. Their pajamas and underwear were scattered over the two beds, obviously having been taken off at some point after their curtains had been closed the previous night.

Leaning forward, Ryan felt the wave of magic as he passed through the area protected by the Silencing Charm. Reaching out a hand, he tapped Kevin on the nose, prompting him to jump, startled, as he opened his eyes. Ryan just grinned and said, "While I'm enjoying the show guys, I thought you should know that it's 7:18 in the morning, so, you might want to finish up soon so that you can grab showers and get down to the Great Hall before breakfast is over in thirty-two minutes."

A blushing Kevin nodded and said, "Um, yeah, thanks, uh, Ryan wasn't it?"

"Yeah, it's Ryan."

Before Ryan could withdraw, however, Kevin asked, "Wait a minute, enjoying the show? Are you?"

Ryan nodded. "Yeah, I'm gay, which is why I'm the one talking to you instead of our straight roommates." With a grin he added, "They were afraid you two might be doing something that would scar them for life."

Kevin grinned at that, as Stephen moved off of Kevin's cock and said, "Well, in that case, if you'd ever like to join us, feel free."

"Get your mouth back on my dick, Ste," Kevin said, as he pushed Stephen's head down. Looking over at Ryan, however, Kevin gave him a once over and said, "But, yeah, like Ste said, if you ever want to join us, you'd be more than welcome. You're quite hot."

"Thanks, you two aren't so bad yourselves, so I'll keep the offer in mind," Ryan said. "For now though, I'll let you guys be."

Stepping back and away from the bed, Ryan saw that the others hadn't left yet and were instead just waiting by the door out to the landing. It was Michael who asked, "Are they, um, waking up?"

Ryan grinned and said, "Yeah, you could say that. Kevin is really enjoying his wake up call, compliments of Stephen's mouth."

"Okay, okay!" Terry exclaimed. "Sheesh, Ryan, we don't need details, thanks."

Ryan just laughed, as the four of them left the dorm room and headed downstairs.

-o-0-o-

Down in the dungeons, Nick woke up and shivered ever so slightly. This was not only because the heat from the fireplace in the 6th-year Slytherin boy's dorm didn't quite reach the side of the room he was on as much as he may have liked, but also because it was a rather eerie sight to look out the window near your bed and see water outside - not to mention a particularly vicious looking merperson swimming past it. Add the fact that the colder Scottish waters made the local breed of merpeople, Selkies, quite ugly didn't help matters either.

Apparently, the look on his face prompted comment, because in the bed directly across from him, a voice said, "You get used to that eventually."

Nick nodded and said, "Yeah, I think it's just going to take a little time. At Beauxbatons, my dorm room was on the fifth floor of the palace, so, going from that to being in the dungeons and seeing lake water outside the windows is a bit jarring."

The boy across from him nodded. "Yes, I can see how that might be true. I'm Theodore Nott, by the way." After a moment, he asked, "What was your name again?"

"Nicolas Lavoisier-Delaney."

"Lavoisier like the vineyard?"

"Yeah, that Lavoisier," Nick answered. "I actually own the vineyard."

This drew the attention of another boy further down the room, in the bed closest to the fireplace. "You own Lavoisier Vineyards?"

Nick nodded. "Yeah, I do. After my grandfather passed away in July I'm the last living member of the family."

"Interesting," the blond-haired boy said. "My family is from France originally, so, we have a fondness for French wines and Lavoisier is one of the best there is. I'm Draco Malfoy, by the way." After a moment, he added, seemingly almost as an afterthought, "My condolences on your grandfather."

"Thank you," Nick said, as he swung his legs off his bed and stood up. He shivered as his bare feet touched the cold floor.

As he sat up in the bed across from Draco's, a black boy asked, "You have a double-barreled surname, what was the other one again?"

"That's Blaise Zabini," Theo said, before Nick could answer. "And the two lumps who haven't woken up yet are Vincent Crabbe," as he pointed at the bed between his and Draco's, "and Gregory Goyle."

Nick nodded, before he said, "The second name is Delaney."

"Delaney?" Blaise asked. "As in the Delaney family that hasn't voted in the Lordsmeet in almost a decade?"

The Lordsmeet was the popular nickname given to the body that was known as the Concilium Magnas Domos or The Council of the Great Houses, which was the highest legislative body in Magical Britain and Ireland. Also sometimes called the Wizard's Council, it was a body made up of heads of the thirty Great Houses of Albion and Iwernia, oftentimes referred to as the Most Ancient and Noble Houses. Of course, none of the houses had an actual title of nobility like Duke, Marquis, Earl, or the like. Although, the family head, which was usually but not always, the oldest living member of the family, put Lord before their surname, or Lady if a woman.

Anyway, it was this body that created the Ministry of Magic and it was through the Lordsmeet that the Ministry had any power whatsoever, as without it, the Ministry would have no authority to do anything. It had actually been a vote of the Lordsmeet that had resulted not that long ago in Cornelius Fudge being fired as Minister and bringing Rufus Scrimgeour in as his replacement. Of course, it had been a very close vote of 11 for and 10 against. Now, of course, that was only 21 votes, but seven of the families who had seats on the Lordsmeet were believed to be extinct and thus there were no votes cast for those families.

There were additionally two more houses that were not extinct, the Delaney family being one of them, that hadn't cast a vote in a number of years. With a nod of his head, Nick said, "Yes. After my parents, Stefan Delaney and Jean-Luc Lavoisier, died in 1981, my uncle, Christian Delaney, voted the family's seat until his own death in 1987. I've never voted the family seat because I was only 7 when my uncle died and because I was until recently living in France."

"Parlez-vous français?" Draco asked.

"Bien sûr que je fais," Nick answered. "Vivre en France presque toute ma vie, il serait étrange que je n'ai pas."

"Quelle partie de la France viviez-vous?" Draco asked.

"Château Lavoisier est dans la région de Versailles," Nick answered. "Bien que Beauxbatons est à Cannes, j'ai donc passé une bonne quantité de temps dans le sud de la France ainsi."

"Could you please speak in English or not at all?" Theo asked in a somewhat annoyed tone, as he got tired of listening to a conversation that he couldn't understand.

Blaise shook his head and said, "And it never occurred to you to use the translation app on your PDA? You can use the recording function along with it to translate the conversation."

Giving Blaise a withering look, Theo said, "No, it didn't occur to me to use that piece of muggle trash. Unlike some people, I'm a proper pureblood who isn't going to sully themselves by using a muggle device that has no business being in this school. It's bad enough that the professors are basically forcing us to carry the bloody things around with us, since they're charmed to appear in our pockets if we get too far away from them."

"Weren't you listening when they described them, Nott?" Draco asked. "They may be based on muggle tech, but are vastly improved with magic, so using it doesn't make you less of a proper pureblood. Besides that, you already use at least two things based upon muggle technology."

"I do not!" Theo exclaimed.

Blaise shook his head and said, "Yes, actually, you do, Theo. Or are you going to deny the fact that you came here aboard the Hogwarts Express? I hate to break this to you, but the train is a muggle invention. It was improved with magic, yes, but it's still inherently muggle."

"I've also seen you listening to the Wizarding Wireless," Draco added, before Theo could comment. "The radio is another muggle invention that has been improved with magic, so don't sit there and say that you don't use any muggle tech when you clearly do. Now, as for the PDAs, I'll admit, I was quite leery about using them at first, but as a TA, I've been here since the twenty-seventh of August and gotten used to using it. I've found that they're actually quite useful—observe."

Tapping the screen of his PDA, a recording of Draco's and Nick's conversation began playing, except that it was in English instead of French, since the device was capable of recording audio in one language, translating it into another for playback, and magically remaining in the voices of the speakers even though the language was different.

"Do you speak French?"

"Of course I do. Living in France most of my life, it would be strange if I did not."

"What part of France did you live in?"

"Lavoisier Castle is in the Versailles area. Though Beauxbatons is in Cannes, so I spent a good amount of time in the south of France as well."

As the playback ended, Nick grinned and said, "Well that's certainly useful."

"Indeed," Blaise said as he looked at the screen of his own and said, "Well, it's 7:10, so we should all probably get out of bed so that we can shower and get dressed, as with the new schedule breakfast ends in forty minutes."

The mention of food woke up both Vincent and Gregory, which didn't really surprise Draco, Theo, or Blaise, since they'd known for awhile now that the mention of food was pretty much all you had to do to get their attention.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, in an unknown location, a teenage boy with black hair stood with his back against the slimy, stone wall of his prison. The boy was deathly pale and so thin that you could see every bone in his body. His clothes were all ripped and damp. There were also a large number of bruises and scratches, not to mention a thick coating of dirt covering all of his exposed skin. His feet ached from standing too long and he wished desperately that he could sit down, but the cold iron manacles encircling his wrists held him in a standing position.

He had no idea how long he'd been in this prison and it was impossible to keep track of time, as there were no windows. His chin lay limply against his chest as he wished that he could just die and leave this torture. The sound of his cell door opening soon broke the silence of the room and he realized that his captor was coming for his daily visit. For a while, the boy tried to get a handle on how long he'd been here by counting the number of times his captor came to visit him. He lost track quite a while ago though and was never sure if it was really a very accurate measure of time, because while he thought his captor only visited once a day, he couldn't be sure.

“And how are you doing today?” the smooth voice asked.

The boy didn’t bother to raise his head or even reply, which only made his captor angry.

“Look at me when I talk to you, boy!” the man shouted. “I am Lord Voldemort and you will show me the proper respect!”

The boy still didn’t respond to his captor. He knew he would get punished, but he long since stopped caring because he figured out that his captor, this Lord Voldemort as he called himself, enjoyed causing him pain and would still do it even if he did show him the respect that he demanded. So, really, what was the point of doing what the man wanted him to do, if he'd still get treated exactly the same way regardless?

“Idiot boy, now you will feel my wrath! Crucio!” Voldemort shouted as he raised his wand at the boy, who shivered as the immense and oh too familiar pain coursed through his body. It honestly felt as if every single nerve in his body had been lit on fire and all of his bones were simultaneously breaking, but despite the pain, the boy remained silent, enduring it quietly, as he knew that screaming would only please his captor. A part of him did worry that it must be very bad that he'd apparently been a prisoner long enough to become inured to the pain, but he tried to think of that as little as possible.

Voldemort held the spell for a couple of seconds before he stopped, glared at the boy and said, “You’d better start showing me the proper respect or I may just kill you next time.”

Once Voldemort left and the door slammed shut behind him, the boy muttered, in a broken and barely audible tone, "I wish you would kill me and put an end to my suffering, but then that would be being too kind," he paused as his body was racked with a loud, hacking cough. Ignoring the small traces of blood that splattered on the floor as he did so, he finished with, "and you don't have a kind bone in your body."

-o-0-o-

At 7:35, Harry sat down at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall with a big grin on his face, prompting Noah to ask, "What are you grinning about?"

"Ron."

"What about him?" Hermione asked, as she looked up from her plate to Harry.

"Well, as usual waking him was a challenge," Harry explained. "So, I used my PDA and sent off a message to Charlie asking for advice."

"I take it he responded?" Noah asked.

"Oh yeah, he responded all right," Harry said, his grin widening. "It was a simple message that just said, 'Try this.' Honestly, I was a little confused until I realized that he'd attached an audio file to his message."

"What was on the file?" Hermione asked, clearly interested.

Taking out his PDA, Harry slid his finger over the volume indicator to turn it down low enough for Hermione and Noah to hear, without everyone in the hall hearing it, before he brought up the file and pressed play.

"RONALD WEASLEY!" came the clearly irate voice of Molly Weasley. "If you don't get out of bed right now, there'll be no second helpings for you for the rest of the week."

Both Noah and Hermione grinned at that and soon all three of them were giggling. After a minute, Noah asked, "Did it work?"

Nodding his head, the amusement clear on his face, Harry said, "Oh yeah - honestly, I can't say that I've ever seen Ron get out of bed that fast."

"I guess Weasley has something in common with Crabbe and Goyle then," a familiar drawling voice said as Noah, Hermione, and Harry turned to see Draco Malfoy standing there.

"What do you want Malfoy?" Harry asked. "The Slytherin table is on the other side of the room."

With a smirk, he said, "Yes, Potter, thank you but I already knew that." After a short pause, he gestured to Noah and said, "I just thought that I should come over and say hello to Diggory, seeing as how we're both going to be working with Professor Slughorn."

Noah nodded and while it was true that he didn't really like Draco, after everything the blond had done or said to Harry and his friends over the years, he decided to give the boy the benefit of the doubt, for the moment. He was being civil, so Noah figured he may as well be civil, too, at least until given a reason not to be. "Hello, then, Malfoy."

"I've heard that you're good with potions through the school grapevine," Draco added. "Obviously that must be true if you managed an Outstanding on your Potions OWL, so I look forward to working with you."

"Forgive me if I don't return the sentiment," Noah stated, "but I can't help but be a little leery of you, considering your words and actions in the past."

Much to their surprise, Draco didn't have a biting comment to that and simply nodded. "I understand." After a moment, he said, "Well, I'll let you get on with your meal."

Draco turned to leave at this, but he stopped when Hermione asked, "Malfoy?"

Turning back, Draco asked, "Yes, Granger?"

Hermione was slightly taken aback by Draco calling her Granger instead of the usual Mudblood, but shook it off. "What did you mean when you said that Ron had something in common with Crabbe and Goyle?"

Draco actually grinned at that, his eyes shining with mirth, which left the three Gryffindors quite surprised as they'd never seen that look on the blond Slytherin's face before. "I heard that recording of his mother as I was coming over. I'm guessing you were having trouble waking him until his mother mentioned food?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah, that's about it."

"Crabbe and Goyle are the same way," Draco explained. "I swear that a pack of rampaging hippogriffs could run through the room and they'd sleep through it. But, one mention of food and they're up and alert faster than you would think possible."

Draco nodded and then made his way towards the Slytherin table, as the others sat there quietly for a few minutes. Finally, Hermione said, "Well that was unexpected."

"You can say that again," Harry said. "I think that's probably the most civil conversation I've ever had with Malfoy."

"You think he's up to something?" Noah asked.

"He might be," Harry answered. "But, until I know otherwise, I'm just going to go with him trying to be a better person."

"Stranger things have happened," Hermione said.

Harry nodded and said, "Yeah, like Dudley sending me a leather jacket for my birthday. A week later, I went on another shopping trip with Amelia in Muggle London and I found the jacket Dudley bought for me in the store - it had a price tag of £195 on it."

Having already heard about this over the summer, Noah said, "Obviously Harry was shocked that Dudley would spend that much money on him."

"Before I knew how much it cost, I had already figured that it was the single best gift I'd ever gotten from a Dursley," Harry said. "But, after… yeah, I was definitely shocked because not counting all of the hand-me-down clothes I think if you added up the value of all the gifts they've given to me over the years, you'd have to multiply the resulting number by at least twenty, but probably more than that, to come anywhere close to £195."

Since they had today off, very few people were wearing their school robes and this included Harry, who was currently wearing a pair of black trousers and a long-sleeved red silk shirt, with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. The first two buttons from the neck were also undone, giving a small peek at his chest and the small golden snitch on a gold chain that Cedric had given him for Christmas during fourth year.

"Speaking of hand-me-down clothes, Harry," Hermione said, "I'm glad to see you not wearing those horrid things anymore. You look so much better in your new clothes."

Harry grinned. "Thanks, Hermione. I must admit, it does feel good to wear clothes that actually fit." After a moment, he added, "Although, the clothes I'm wearing right now are technically hand-me-downs."

"Certainly nothing of Dudley's, because they fit too well," Hermione said.

"True, they do," Harry said. "No, actually, they're some of Noah's old clothes. On my first morning at Diggory House, he gave me some of his old clothes to wear, before his Mum took me to see a healer at St. Mungo's or to buy new clothes."

Noah looked a little sheepish as he said, "Um, actually, Harry, I have a little confession to make." At Harry's curious look, he said, "Those weren't actually old clothes of mine - I magically resized them while you were in the bathroom."

Harry grinned and shook his head. "Tell me something I didn't know, Noah."

"You knew?"

"Yes, I knew," Harry said. "If you didn't want me to know, you should have picked an outfit that I hadn't seen you wearing several times on weekends during last school year. I recognized the outfit and I knew that you must have resized it for it to suddenly be my size instead of yours."

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"Because I thought it was cute that you wanted to dress me in your clothes," Harry said. "It's also something that Cedric had attempted to do several times, so yeah, it was just such a Diggory thing to do. I also hated Dudley's old clothes, so I wasn't about to turn down the chance to stop wearing them."

Hermione was one of the few people who knew that Cedric and Harry had been a couple. Of course, this wasn't because either of them had told her, no, she had put it together all on her own and confronted Harry one evening shortly before the First Task of the Triwizard. So finding out that Cedric had attempted to get Harry to stop wearing his overweight cousin's clothes didn't surprise her. What did surprise her, however, was that she couldn't remember Harry ever wearing anything other than the grossly overlarge hand-me-downs, a fact which she voiced.

"When he wasn't wearing his school robes," Harry explained, "Cedric had a pretty distinctive personal style when it came to his clothes. I was afraid that people might figure out that we were together if I started wearing his clothes and somebody recognized them as being Cedric's."

Hermione nodded, satisfied with the answer. Noah, however, grinned and said, "Well, so long as we're being completely honest here, Harry did you realize that the clothes you're wearing actually weren't all mine?"

Harry looked confused at this, as he asked, "They aren't?"

Noah shook his head and said, "No, the trousers are actually one of the pairs that Cedric habitually wore under his school robes. They were among the clothes that were in the school laundry to be washed when he passed away, so they were sent home with all of his other things. Being freshly washed they didn't smell like him anymore, so I couldn't put Preservation Charms on them like I did with a lot of his other clothes, but I knew they were his, which is why I started wearing them during the following school year."

"I saw the tag that said Diggory in the waistband," Harry said, "but I just assumed that they were yours."

"Nope, they weren't."

"Wait, if the tag said Diggory," Hermione said, "however did the school laundry tell your clothes apart from Cedric's, Noah? I would have thought you'd have put a C or N in front of the Diggory on the tags."

"No, Cedric's clothes just said Diggory," Noah said. "The laundry never had any issues knowing whose clothes were whose, because loads from Hufflepuff are done in a different room then the loads from Gryffindor. Plus, the tags in my clothes have Diggory hyphenated with my actual surname."

"Your surname isn't Diggory?" Hermione asked.

"It's the name I use," Noah said, "but, surely you must have figured out that as Cedric's stepbrother that I had a different surname before my Mum married his father." The look of dawning realization on Hermione's face, mixed with chastisement that she hadn't thought of it, made both Harry and Noah grin, as the latter added, "Actually, I don't think my surname has ever been legally changed; I just started using Diggory because it was the name my Mum was using after her marriage to Amos. Anyway, the tags in all of my clothes actually read Hawke-Diggory."

"This shirt was yours right?" Harry asked and Noah nodded. "Then why does the tag just say Diggory?"

"Because I changed the tag when I resized it," Noah answered. "Not really sure why, come to think of it. I just did. And don't ask why I've never mentioned what my surname before my Mum married Amos was, because honestly, I don't know why I never mentioned it. I guess it just didn't seem important."

Nothing further was said, as the three friends turned their attention to eating their breakfasts before they got cold.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Eleven
The Unexpected Day Off
Part Two

-o-0-o-

Just as breakfast was ending, Harry heard a beeping noise coming from his PDA which he knew signaled that he'd gotten a new message. Pulling it out and opening the message he saw that it was from Professor McGonagall. It read:

I will be assisting you and your fellow sixth years with your schedules in the Gryffindor Common Room at 12PM sharp. Please think about what classes you'd like to take. There will also be signup sheets on the house bulletin board for the extra-curricular activities, so start thinking about which ones, if any, you wish to participate in.

As he closed the message, he saw that many his friends had obviously gotten similar messages, prompting him to ask, "McGonagall?"

"Professor McGonagall, Harry," Hermione automatically corrected, before she nodded and added, "Yes, scheduling help at 12pm."

"Same here," Noah said. "Only it was 1pm for me, but then I imagine she's probably allotted an hour to helping each year figure out their schedules."

"Well, it's only 10 to 8 right now," Harry said. "Shall we go for a walk down to the lake and think about it?"

"Sounds good to me," Noah said with a smile. "Might as well enjoy the warmer weather while it's still around, because soon it's going to be very cold."

Hermione nodded, before the three of them headed towards the lake.

-o-0-o-

Arriving at the lake, Noah pulled out his wand and conjured a blanket which he spread out on the grass for them to sit on. As Harry sat down, Noah offered his hand to Hermione to help her sit down. She smiled and said, "Why thank you, kind sir."

"You're welcome, dear lady," Noah said with a grin.

Once they were both seated, Harry shook his head and said, "Noah, sometimes you're just too much."

"I don't know what you're talking about, Harry," Noah said. "I was raised to be a gentleman and a true gentleman always assists a lady in sitting down."

Hermione just shook her head. "Really, Noah, I appreciate it, but it wasn't necessary, especially since nothing romantic is ever going to happen between us, what with you being gay and all."

"Well, I might be gay," Noah said, "but that doesn't mean that I should only be gentlemanly to people I'm hoping to shag." In his head, he added, 'If that was the case, I would have offered Harry my hand instead.'

With a shake of his head, a grin firmly in place, Harry said, "So, on the subject of classes, I've been giving it some thought and obviously I'm going to take NEWT Transfiguration and Defense Against the Dark Arts. The latter should be for obvious reasons and the former because I think it would look bad if I didn't take it considering that I'm teaching it."

"Not going to let the fact that Snape is teaching it scare you away, huh?"

"Noah, it's Professor Snape," Hermione said. "Really, you are a prefect, you know."

"Yes, I know," Noah said. "Although school isn't technically in session until tomorrow, so..."

"That's no excuse," Hermione said, although she was smiling during it because she could tell just from Noah's expression that he was joking. It probably also helped that she knew that despite his fun-loving attitude at times, Noah did take his responsibilities seriously.

"Anyway, as a seventh year," Noah said, "I'm already signed up for NEWT Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, Herbology, and Charms and I see no reason why I would drop any of them now."

The conversation continued like this for a few minutes, as Hermione stated her intention to take the NEWT level course of all of the core classes, which did not surprise Harry or Noah one bit. It was as they were gearing up to start talking about electives, that they were joined by Neville, Ernie, Justin, Ethan, Luna, Ryan, and a boy with black hair highlighted with blond streaks that Harry didn't know.

"Whose your friend, Ryan?" Harry asked.

"This is Nick," Ryan said, as he introduced everyone else to Nicolas and explained that he was a transfer for Beauxbatons.

"Well, we've certainly got some interesting transfers this year," Justin said. "Ryan from the states, Ethan from Mahoutokoro, and now you, Nick." Turning back to look at Ethan, Justin cocked his head in a confused gesture, as he commented, "You don't really look Japanese, Ethan."

Ethan smiled. "Well, that's because I'm not. My family is from Italy originally, but we've moved around a lot."

"How much is a lot?" Neville asked.

"Enough that this is my sixth transfer," Ethan answered. "First year, I was at Beauxbatons in France, second year I was at The da Vinci Institute in Italy, Ashville Academy in the US for third year, Durmstrang for fourth year, Salem Witches' Institute in the US for my fifth year, and Mahoutokoro in Japan last year."

"Wow, that's a lot of different schools," Harry said. "Why so many?"

"My father wanted my brother and I to get firsthand knowledge of different cultures, I guess," Ethan replied.

"You said what country all of the schools were in except for Durmstrang," Hermione pointed out.

"Yeah, that's because honestly, I don't know where Durmstrang is," Ethan said and at the confused looks, he added, "They're very big on their secrecy, so, everyone who goes there from visitors to students has to agree to undergo a Memory Charm to erase all memories of how they got there or where exactly there is."

"Interesting," Justin said. "And Salem Witches' Institute? Isn't that a girls' school?"

Shaking his head, Ethan said, "No, it accepts both genders. The name is a bit of a misnomer here in Europe, but you have to understand that in many places in the states, people call all magical people of both genders witches. The school is in Salem, Massachusetts which of course gained infamy for the Salem Witch Trials and despite the name, there were men put to death as witches during them."

"What about Mahoutokoro?" Hermione asked. "I find myself being very curious about that school, since it sounds like many of the changes at Hogwarts this year are based upon ideas that Professor Dumbledore and the Heads of House got from the headmaster there."

Ethan nodded. "Mahoutokoro practices all of the new changes made to Hogwarts this year, but there's plenty of stuff that was not adopted here. For example, we didn't use parchment, quills, or ink wells and instead used lined notebook paper and ballpoint pens."

"What are those?" Neville asked, as growing up in a pureblood wizarding household, his knowledge of anything muggle was very limited.

"For the paper, it's usually white with blue lines on it," Hermione answered. "Basically, you write on the lines, which helps keep each word or sentence you write going in a straight line."

Justin nodded and added, "Ballpoint pens on the other hand are a writing instrument which has the ink inside of it, so you don't have to constantly dip it in an ink well."

"Interesting," Harry said, as he couldn't help but wish that both items would be allowed at Hogwarts, as he was familiar with both since Dudley used them at his school. Harry himself also had some experience with them, as he'd also used them while he was attending a muggle grade school before coming to Hogwarts. "Anything else?"

"Well, Magical Japan on a whole is much more in tune with the muggle world," Ethan revealed. "In addition to the PDAs, they also use a wide variety of other muggle electronics, all specially modified to work with magic. For example in class, we often watched instructional films on various topics and the professors would often use overhead projectors in addition to the blackboards."

As they had before, Hermione and Justin took a moment to explain what films and overhead projectors were to those of the group who had little to no knowledge of the muggle world, before Ernie commented, "School seems to have turned its back on traditional wizarding culture. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing but a lot of that would never fly here - the PDAs are enough of a culture shock. Although, honestly, I've gotta say that even though I am a pureblood, I'm loving my PDA."

"Well, in many ways, yes, they aren't very traditional by normal wizarding standards," Ethan said. "They do still observe some traditions, though. Such as the fact that because cherry blossoms are held to have a particular significance in Japan, all students who possessed a cherry wood wand are held in very high regard at Mahoutokoro. My younger brother Colin's wand is made of cherry and both students and professors treated him with great respect because of it."

"So what were you three talking about before we arrived?" Ernie asked, looking at Harry, Noah, and Hermione.

"We were just going over our plans for classes," Harry answered. "We have to meet with McGonagall at noon, so, we figured we should figure out what we'd be taking."

Hermione nodded. "We were just about to start talking about electives. Personally, I'm going to continue with Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, and drop Care of Magical Creatures. I'm also thinking about adding Alchemy, Enchanting, Warding, Fencing, Archery, and Unarmed Combat."

"Well, at least you're not repeating third year and signing up for everything," Harry said, as his face split into a big grin. "Decided not to take Medical Magic, did you?"

"I was considering it," Hermione said, "but with the Battlefield Medicine activity, I figured I could do without it."

"I would say that you're nuts for taking 15 NEWT classes, Hermione," Noah said, "but, I don't think I really have much room to talk, considering that I'm taking 14, since I'm signing up for all the same electives you are, and continuing with Care of Magical Creatures."

"I've been debating what I should do there myself," Harry said. "I had planned to drop Care of Magical Creatures, although now with Charlie teaching it, I do find myself curious about the class and wondering if maybe I should consider keeping it."

Justin nodded. "Yeah, I was planning on dropping it myself because Hagrid might be nice, but he has a very hard time with the concept of what is and is not too dangerous for students. He's a half-giant, so, yeah the stuff may seem small and not dangerous to him, but to the rest of us..."

Ernie nodded and said, "Yeah, to the rest of us it's usually huge, terrifying, and very dangerous. I still have nightmares about the Blast-Ended Skrewts."

"And what pray tell is a Blast-Ended Screwt?" Ryan asked, as he'd taken Care of Magical Creatures at Asheville Academy and had never heard of such a creature.

"A hybrid between a Manticore and a Fire Crab," Hermione answered. "Hagrid bred them himself, although to this day I do wonder why he was never brought up on charges for so blatantly breaking the Ban on Experimental Breeding."

"The Nargles probably intervened on his behalf," Luna said, in a somewhat dreamy, far-off voice.

'Don't ask,' Harry mouthed when it looked like Ryan was about to ask what a Nargle was. Ethan and Nick also looked rather confused and curious, but had seen the silent warning from Harry and decided it would be best to just do as he said and leave it alone. Meanwhile, Hermione, Noah, Ernie, Justin, and Neville, who were familiar with Luna's strange comments, just grinned, but remained silent.

-o-0-o-

At twenty minutes past noon, all of the sixth-year Gryffindors were in their common room with McGonagall, who had already assisted Lavender Brown, Fay Dunbar, and Seamus Finnigan, and was now finishing up with Hermione. When Hermione finished, she walked over to the bulletin board and Harry was completely unsurprised to see her sign her name on the appropriate sign-up sheets for both Defense Arts and Battlefield Medicine. Having been watching his year mates, he knew that the others before Hermione had also signed up for both activities, although Fay and Lavender also signed up for Choir, while Seamus signed up for Art.

"Longbottom," McGonagall asked, motioning Neville over to sit across from her at the table that she was working at. As Neville sat down, McGonagall tapped the screen of her PDA a few times and said, "Okay, first off, Mr. Longbottom you will have the Herbology Department prep meetings every morning from eight until ten to nine with Professor Sprout and then you will be teaching from eleven until ten to noon."

Neville nodded and said, "Yes, Professor."

McGonagall tapped the screen of her PDA a few more times and then said, "Okay, now, which core classes did you wish to sign up for?"

"Transfiguration and Herbology," Neville answered.

McGonagall looked up at Neville at that, as she said, "Those are fine and you qualify for both, but are you sure those are the only ones you wish to continue with? You did get an Exceeds Expectations in Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Potions on your OWLs."

"I was under the impression that an Outstanding was required for Potions," Neville said. "And grandmother thinks that Charms is a soft option and told me not to take it."

"Well, first off, Longbottom, you don't need an Outstanding OWL for Potions," McGonagall said, noting that Neville hadn't mentioned anything about Defense Against the Dark Arts. "That was true only when Professor Snape was teaching it; Professor Slughorn is perfectly willing to accept an Exceeds Expectations OWL."

"I guess I'll take Potions then," Neville said, after a moment. He did wonder if he would come to enjoy the class more now that Professor Snape wasn't teaching it.

"Very well," McGonagall said, as she tapped her PDA again. "Now, as for Charms, Longbottom, I think you should take it. You qualify for it and from what I've heard from Professor Flitwick, you're actually quite good at it. As for your grandmother, I will make sure to send a letter to Augusta to tell her that it's long past time that she got over the fact that she scored a Dreadful on her Charms OWL and realize that just because she failed the subject, doesn't mean that it's useless."

Neville grinned at the knowledge that his grandmother had failed the subject, while McGonagall shook her head and muttered under her breath, "Soft option, really! Bitter old cow."

After a moment of silence, McGonagall asked, "Now, Longbottom, are you sure you don't wish to take Defense Against the Dark Arts?"

"Professor Snape doesn't like me," Neville answered softly. "Besides I'm sure he's requiring an Outstanding, just like he did for Potions."

"He wanted to, but the Headmaster wouldn't let him," McGonagall corrected. "I think it would be a shame to let your fear of Professor Snape get in the way of your education, Longbottom." At Neville's surprised look, McGonagall nodded and said, "Yes, Longbottom, I know what shape your Boggart takes and while I understand that Professor Snape can be intimidating it's simply not a good reason to forego taking such an important class, especially given the current climate."

Neville was silent for a moment, before he nodded and agreed to take Defense Against the Dark Arts, after which McGonagall turned her attention to electives with Neville opting to drop Divination, since he didn't qualify for it anyway, and continue on with Care of Magical Creatures, while adding Enchanting, Medical Magic, Fencing, Archery, and Unarmed Combat to his schedule. Finished with his classes, Neville stood up and added his name for Defense Arts and Battlefield Medicine, before coming over and sitting down with Hermione and Harry, as Parvati Patil sat down with McGonagall.

"Decided to continue taking Care, huh?" Harry asked.

Neville nodded. "Yeah, I did. I figured I'd definitely drop it this year, but with Charlie teaching, I'm not so scared about what he might be having us do in class."

Harry nodded. "Yeah. I don't think the Hippogriffs were so bad, so long as you paid attention and did what you were supposed to do, unlike Malfoy." Neville and Hermione nodded. "But, no teacher in their right mind should be having any year level student, especially third years, working with an experimental cross-breed between two highly dangerous creatures."

As Parvati finished up with McGonagall and Sally-Anne Perks took a seat with her, Hermione nodded. "Yes, I know Hagrid doesn't mean any harm and that he finds pretty much every magical creature cute, but the problem is that the ones he finds to be the cutest are also usually among the most dangerous. Honestly, I was afraid he'd have us studying actual Manticores next, or Merlin forbid, a Chimaera."

"I would hope not even Hagrid would be that crazy," Seamus said, as he came over and sat down. "I mean Chimaeras take a hundred fully-trained adults to subdue, so, I don't think there's any way he'd be allowed to bring one onto the school grounds." After a moment, he added, "Then again, they did allow four dragons onto the grounds in fourth year."

"True, but that was only for the Triwizard Tournament," Harry said. "And they had an army of dragon handlers with them, including Charlie." After a moment, however, he asked, "You don't think that Charlie would have us studying dragons do you?"

"I don't know," Neville said. "Although gran did tell me once that You-Know-Who used dragons in some of the larger battles during the last war, so I suppose knowing something about them wouldn't be the worst idea."

"True," Harry said, just as McGonagall said, "Potter, I'm ready for you now."

Standing up and joining McGonagall at the table, he nodded as she explained that he'd have the prep meeting with her every morning, immediately followed by his teaching duties during the next class period. "Now Potter, I see from your OWL results that you qualify for all of the necessary classes - is it still your desire to become an Auror?"

"Actually no, professor it isn't," Harry said. "Honestly, I hadn't given it much thought last year until I found myself in career counseling with you and having Professor Umbridge there made me very nervous. I know my father had been an Auror, so it was the first career that came to mind and I just blurted it out."

McGonagall nodded. "Yes, I had a feeling that was the case and I can totally understand how that woman's presence would be unnerving. Last I heard, though, it looks like a given that she'll be found guilty of the crimes she's been accused of and sent to Azkaban, likely for the rest of her life."

"It couldn't happen to a nicer person," Harry said, making sure to say 'nicer' in the most sarcastic way that he possibly could.

"I couldn't agree more," McGonagall said. "Now, what did you want to take for classes?"

"I'll take Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Transfiguration, and Potions."

McGonagall nodded, as she tapped the screen of her PDA and said, "And electives?"

"Enchanting, Warding, Fencing, Archery, and Unarmed Combat," Harry answered. "I've been struggling with whether I should continue with Magical Creatures or not."

"Having some idea what Professor Weasley-Zeklos plans on teaching," McGonagall said, "I think it might be wise for you to do so, as he'll be covering many of the magical creatures that were used by both sides in the last war. I hate to even think about another war, but I think we all know it's inevitable at this point."

Harry nodded. "True. Okay, I'll continue with Care."

"Very well," McGonagall said. "One more class that you didn't mention wanting to take, but Professor Dumbledore actually sent me a message telling me that he felt you should take it and that I should tell you if you didn't bring it up yourself is Alchemy. He said that he plans on teaching several things which he thinks will be useful to you in the future."

"Okay, well, I guess I'll take it then," Harry said, deciding to trust the headmaster. It's true, they'd had somewhat of a strained relationship in the trust department, especially last year with the whole prophecy situation and keeping him so out of the loop over the previous summer. He did, however, have to give the headmaster some credit, because Dumbledore did not have to take credit for Dumbledore's Army, but he did anyway. The fact that he was willing to chance the possibility of ending up in Azkaban to prevent Harry himself from getting into trouble had to count for something, right? "I know he said that an Exceeds Expectations was required for the class and I have that, so I suppose it might be interesting."

Making a few notations on her PDA, McGonagall nodded and said, "Alright then, Potter, we're done. Go sign up for your electives if you haven't already." As Harry stood up, McGonagall said, "Thomas, you're next."

Walking over to the bulletin board, Harry immediately signed his name on the sheets for the Defense Arts and Battlefield Medicine activities. He then hesitated for a moment, before also adding his name on the signup sheet for the Art activity. As a child, growing up at the Dursleys and spending a large amount of time in a cupboard, he had often passed the time by doodling on whatever scrap paper he could find.

He'd then stopped for awhile after coming to Hogwarts but then one night, shortly after he'd started dating Cedric, they'd fallen asleep in the Room of Requirement talking to one another and Harry had woken up first. He isn't sure what possessed him, but he asked the room for pencils and a sketchpad and started sketching his sleeping boyfriend. When Cedric woke up and saw the sketch, he'd said it was very good, although Harry was sure that Cedric was biased. Despite that, he'd continued to sketch when he had a few free moments and had come to enjoy it.

So, when he heard about the Art activity, he figured it might be fun to take it, if only because signing up for it would set aside at least fifty minutes each week for him to partake of an activity that he'd come to find relaxing. And now that Harry knew the full extent of the prophecy, he figured having some relaxation time each week could only be a good thing.

-o-0-o-

Later that afternoon, after all their classes were scheduled, Hermione and Harry headed up to the library, where they met Ernie, Justin, and Ryan. Sitting down at an empty table with his friends, Harry took a moment to look around and see who else was in the room, which is when he spied Nick sitting at a table along with Draco, Blaise, and Theo. When their eyes met, Nick smiled and waved in Harry's direction, prompting Harry to wave back. He knew that Ron would say that he shouldn't associate with Nick because he was a Slytherin, but from their meeting earlier in the day, Harry thought that Nick seemed pretty cool.

"Should we start looking for information on the heirs?" Justin asked. "It would be nice to know who they are."

"Yes, it would be," Harry agreed. "Let's just hope that whoever this new Heir of Slytherin is he isn't as bad as..." he hesitated here, knowing that if he said the name, everybody would flinch and honestly he got tired of it after awhile, so making up his mind, he finished with, "...Tom."

This caused both Ernie, Justin, and Ryan to look confused, as Ernie asked, in a clearly perplexed tone, "Whose Tom?"

Instead of answering verbally, Harry put his PDA on the table and used his finger to trace out the letters that spelled out the name Tom Marvolo Riddle. When he finished, he turned the device so that it was facing Ernie, Justin, and Ryan and said, "He was a Slytherin student at Hogwarts in the 1940's, prefect, Head Boy in his final year; very charismatic and handsome, but he never dated anyone."

Ryan got a strange look on his face at this, as he searched his memory and finally said, "Are you sure he never dated anyone?"

Harry looked taken aback by the question, but said, "Why do you ask?"

"I'm not sure," Ryan said. "The name and description you gave seemed familiar and now that I think about it, I recall a conversation I had with my grandmother a couple of years ago. I'd asked her if my grandfather was her first boyfriend and after she finished laughing, she told me that no, he wasn't. After a little more prodding, she told me that she'd dated one other person before my grandfather, which she described as a charismatic and handsome Slytherin named Tom. She didn't say much else though, only that they'd broken up in the summer of 1943 and she then started seeing my grandfather that autumn.""

"What year was this Tom in?" Hermione asked.

After a moment of thought, Ryan said, "My grandmother was born in May of 1926, so she started Hogwarts, in September of 1937 and finished in June of 1944. I believe she said that Tom was born the same year she was, but his birthday fell much later in the year, after September 1st, and thus he was a year behind her in school, so he would have been here from 1938-1945. Both Tom and my grandmother were Slytherins, although my late grandfather William was a Ravenclaw."

Ernie nodded and said, "Yeah, I remember my grandfather mentioning it once that his parents were a bit upset when their daughter was sorted into Slytherin, as they'd been hoping for Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff, which are traditionally the two houses that Macmillans get put in."

Harry and Hermione exchanged surprised looks at this information, because from what Ryan was saying, it sounded as if his grandmother had actually dated Voldemort. Justin and Ryan, however, having turned towards Ernie when he started speaking, didn't notice the exchange.

"Rearrange the letters," Harry said, drawing the others attention. "The name is an anagram."

Pulling out their own PDAs and putting the name on their screens, Ernie, Justin, and Ryan got to work studying the letters and seeing if they could rearrange them to spell anything else. Justin finished first and said, "Immortal Odd Lover?"

"Never noticed that combination before," Harry said, as he looked at the name on his own PDA. Ernie came up with the same thing Justin did, while Ryan had switched up the words a bit to spell 'Odd Immortal Lover' instead. "But, no, that isn't the significant combination."

"Then what is?" Ernie asked.

Moving the letters around on his PDA, Harry turned it so that his friends could see it and said, "This one."

Reading the screen, Ryan blanched as he read, "I am Lord Voldemort?"

Both Ernie and Justin flinched at the name, as Ernie said, "Don't say his name!"

"Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself," Harry said. "I usually say his name, but honestly, I'm tired of people flinching all the time and figured I'd give you another name to call him."

"So You-Know-Who is this Tom Riddle?" Justin asked.

Harry nodded. "Yes. You didn't think his parents named him Voldemort, did you?"

Ernie and Justin flinched again, as Ryan rolled his eyes and said, "No offense, guys, but grow up. I agree with Harry about what he said about fear, besides my grandmother has never been afraid to say his name and made sure that I wasn't either."

Before Ernie or Justin could say anything, Harry said, "If you're not comfortable saying his current name, instead of calling him You-Know-Who or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, why don't you just call him Tom? He hates that name, but it is still his name, no matter how much he may want to deny it."

"Why does he hate it?" Justin asked.

Turning to Ernie, he said, "Ernie, you're a pureblood, so can you think of any pureblood family with the name Riddle?"

Before Ernie could answer, Draco and Nick, who had gotten up to start looking through the stacks after the departures of Blaise and Theo, walked past and Draco said, "Riddle? No, there is no such pureblood family." After a moment, he added, "I believe there was a pureblood family named Ridley, but they died out centuries ago."

Harry could hardly believe that he was about to say this. "Thank you, Malfoy. Now, Justin that is why Tom hates his name. You see his mother was a witch, but his father was a muggle, which makes his stated desire to rid the wizarding world of all who are not of the purest blood quite ironic when you consider that he himself is a halfblood."

"Who are we talking about here?" Nick asked.

"Tom Marvolo Riddle," Hermione answered. "Otherwise known as V-V-Voldemort."

The look on Draco's face was hard to read as he asked, "The Dark Lord is a halfblood?" Harry nodded. "And how do you know that?"

"He told me himself in the Chamber of Secrets, second year," Harry said, as he showed Draco his PDA with the words, 'I am Lord Voldemort' still on the screen. With a tap of his finger, however, they rearranged to spell, 'Tom Marvolo Riddle.' Harry then proceeded to do something he'd never done with anyone outside of Dumbledore, Cedric, Noah, Ron, and Hermione, and explain just what happened in the Chamber.

Once all of their questions were answered, Nick and Draco joined the group, and they all grabbed some of the genealogical texts from the library shelves to start reading through. None of them expected to find anything about the heirs that day, as that would be too easy, but they would never find anything if they didn't start the search somewhere.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Twelve
First Day of Classes
Part One

-o-0-o-

Bright and early the next morning, all fourteen of the teaching assistants walked into the Great Hall at roughly the same time. It was ten to seven, so breakfast hadn't even started yet and thus they were the first of the students to arrive. Several of the professors, including the four Heads and Dumbledore, were already at the head table, however. Dumbledore nodded his head, a small smile on his face, as the teaching assistants took their seats at their house tables.

When Professor Hiroshi Nakamura, the Headmaster of Mahoutokoro, had first suggested the idea of students teaching, Dumbledore and the other Heads of House had been leery of the idea because they'd been unsure if students could really handle that level of responsibility. Nakamura, however, had been able to show them nearly twenty years of records on Mahoutokoro's own experiments with students as teaching assistants and it wasn't long before the Hogwarts staff began to think that it could work at Hogwarts as well, provided that they picked the right students for the job.

There had, of course, been some debate on who among the students could handle the responsibility and needless to say there had also been a few rather loud verbal arguments. Snape, for example, had automatically sneered at every suggestion of a Gryffindor, but was the most vocal in his objections to Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom, as it was his belief that neither one of them was mature enough to handle the job, nor were they actually skilled enough. When Flitwick pointed out their OWL grades in Transfiguration and Herbology, Snape sneered and said that the Wizarding Testing Authority had obviously made a mistake because in his opinion Potter and Longbottom should have gotten Troll grades in everything.

This had led to quite the impressive verbal sparring match between Snape and McGonagall, as the latter didn't take kindly to anyone besmirching her lions. In the end, however, Snape conceded defeat, as he was clearly outvoted, but he did make sure that all the people who would be teaching in his department were Slytherins. There were a few from other houses that qualified, but Snape refused to even consider them and Dumbledore decided that as Head of the Department, Snape should have final say, even if the headmaster personally believed that the former Potions Master was being unreasonable.

As the clock struck seven, the food appeared on the tables and both professors and teaching assistants began eating. Within a few minutes, others were beginning to file into the hall and take their places at their own tables, as conversations about the upcoming first day of classes started all around the hall. Listening to some of the conversations, Harry could tell that some people were looking forward to classes, while others were dreading it. Among those looking forward to them were obviously the Ravenclaws, and a handful of students from some of the other houses, while the rest, which included almost all of the first years whose first day of school nerves were in full gear, were among those who were dreading it.

Catching more than few of the first years still shooting him looks of awe when they thought he wasn't looking, Harry shook his head and said, "I'm going to have to say something to my classes, I guess."

"About what?" Noah asked, as he took a sip of his pumpkin juice.

"About the looks they've been giving me," Harry replied. "Ever since the feast when it was announced I'd be teaching the 1st year Transfiguration classes, whenever I see any of the first years they seem almost giddy. I really don't want the entire class to be overshadowed by my damn fame."

Hermione had a considering look on her face, before she nodded and said, "Yes, perhaps you should say something, Harry. You're there to teach, not to answer questions about Tom or anything regarding the war."

With a nod, Harry said, "Yeah or answering questions about how I survived the Killing Curse. Or the other usual requests, such as that I pose for pictures, sign autographs, shake hands, and then of course let's not forget the ever popular request to see my blasted scar."

"Yeah, I can see how that would be annoying," Noah said. He'd seen how people treated Harry over the years and how fickle his fame really was in that he could go from vaunted hero one minute to being called a mentally unbalanced liar the next. Of course, now that the Ministry was accepting the fact that Voldemort was back, Harry was back to being a hero that everyone seemed perfectly content to pin all of their hopes upon.

Over the next couple of minutes, Noah and Hermione helped Harry to come up with something that he could tell the first years to get them to concentrate on the class and learn about Transfiguration, instead of focusing all their attention on The-Boy-Who-Lived. When they had worked out what they felt was an acceptable speech, Hermione said, "I would still run it past Professor McGonagall during your prep meeting, Harry, just to be safe and to get her opinion on it, but I think that should work."

Harry nodded, but said nothing, for at that moment several owls began flying into the room. Due to the fact that breakfast at Hogwarts now ended at 7:50 in the morning and none of the owl post offices in Britain and Ireland opened until eight, the arrival of the students' mail to Hogwarts had been pushed back to occur during lunch. However, that didn't mean that owls were never spotted in the Great Hall during breakfast, as some students did send owls with messages to each other, although that was expected to become less common now with the addition of the PDAs. Thus, most of the owls who arrived during breakfast were private family owls owned by a particular student's family or owls from The Daily Prophet, delivering the paper to the students with subscriptions.

"Hmm, it seems Malfoy is still in the doghouse, so to speak," Harry said, as he noticed that unlike in years past, the Malfoy family owl had not arrived with a box of sweets for the blond Slytherin from his mother. "His Mum usually was always sending him sweets, but so far, nothing."

"I'm sure his teeth will be thankful for that," Hermione said, as she picked up her copy of the Prophet and unrolled it to begin reading.

Noah nodded and said, "Yes, I suppose most of his teeth might be - the sweet tooth, however, not so much."

"Hmm, this is interesting," Hermione said as she held up the front page of the paper and showed it to Harry and Noah, who began reading.

AZKABAN SECURITY STRENGTHENED
Ministry believes prison to be even more impregnable than before.
By Barnabas Cuffe, Editor-In-Chief

On a personal tour, led by my good friend, Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour, I had the opportunity to see many of the new security measures being put into place to protect Azkaban Fortress and to guard from both internal and external threats, following the mass desertion of the Dementors. I was shown many of the new security measures and how they make the island even more secure than it already was. Now, obviously I wasn't told or shown everything, as very few people even inside the Ministry itself are aware of every new security measure, but I will detail the ones I was shown and given permission to share with you. I can only hope that this will help to allay some of the fears that many of you have undoubtedly felt since the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

The first of the new protections is that Gringotts' has loaned the services of their best team of curse-breakers to help in the assembly of new and improved wards around the entire island. First off, Apparition to and from the island is now deemed to be completely impossible. In years past, there were two specially warded rooms in different sections of the prison that allowed one to Apparate into the complex: one being for visitors to the prison and the other being for arriving prisoners. Neither room exists any longer, as the Ministry has deemed them to be an unacceptable security risk.

There is also now an Anti-Portkey ward, which will make it impossible to travel to the island via Portkey and any fireplaces in the prison which had previously been connected to the Floo Network, notably the Warden's fireplace and the one in the guards' dining hall, have been disconnected. The staff wing of the prison has been enlarged to provide living quarters for the Warden and the human witches and wizards assigned to guard duty, with none of them being allowed to leave the premises for the entirety of their shift. At present time, the exact length of these shifts was not available, but it's believed that they will be about three months, depending on the time of year.

Speaking of guards, there will now be a constant level of two hundred human witches and wizards maintained on site at all times. In addition to them, the Ministry has also brought in a team of dragon handlers, as ten dragons have been brought in to patrol the outdoor areas of the island. Among these are three Ukrainian Ironbellies and two Swedish Short-Snouts, which are both dragons that are accustomed to colder climates, similar to the type of climate that Azkaban possesses due to its far Northern location. Fifty wyverns, the fire-breathing and equally magic resistant smaller cousins of dragons, have also been brought in to patrol the interiors in groups of two.

Prisoners will now be transferred to the island aboard prison ships, although when each ship is due to leave will be a strictly guarded secret with nobody knowing when it will leave until the day of departure. As a further security measure, there will also be several identical ships leaving port over a span of three days with spells cast on all of them to make it impossible to know which one is carrying prisoners and which one is carrying teams of trained Battle Aurors, all of whom were jointly trained by the famous retired Aurors Alastor Moody and Lucinda Cromwell. For complete histories of their accomplishments and honors, please see pages 2 and 3.

Those wishing to visit the prison for any reason will need to book passage on one of the monthly supply ships with the understanding that the actual time of departure will not be shared with the passengers until such time that the ship is ready to leave in less than ten minutes. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to be ready to leave nearly instantly when the notice is received. It is, also, necessary to note that visitors to the island will be required to surrender their wands and must undergo a security screening to check for the presence of the Dark Mark, glamours, or any other potion or magical effect which would hide their identity.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I wasn't shown or told about all of the new security measures, but I have detailed the ones that I know about. I'm told that in addition to these, there's also at least fifty other new security measures and no one person knows them all. That, in fact, is another of the new security measures that has been put into place, the fact that no one person - even the guards at Azkaban itself - knows all of the security measures that have been put into place in every section of the prison. Thus anyone who decided to kidnap or torture someone for information about the security would get less than a quarter of what they seek. I hope that this allays some of your fears, dear readers, as it does mine.

As they finished reading the article, Noah and Harry nodded their heads and agreed with Hermione that it was interesting. They could only hope that the new measures would keep prisoners locked safely away from Voldemort, as the fewer followers he had at his disposal the better.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, at the former Riddle House in Little Hangleton, Voldemort sat at the head of the large dining room table. Some might have been surprised that he'd pick a muggle mansion as his base of operations, but in truth, the mansion had not been built by muggles. There was a reason that the Gaunt family lived in a shack so close to the Riddle family's mansion and that was that before the Gaunt family lost their once vast fortune, the Riddle House had been Gaunt Manor. So, that was just one more reason, other than them being filthy, good for nothing muggles, that had caused the late Marvolo Gaunt to hate the Riddle family with a burning passion.

Thus, with some redecorating to remove the muggle "improvements" such as electricity, telephones, and television, the house was actually a place that many of the most fanatical of the pureblood families would be more than willing to call home.

"WORMTAIL!" Voldemort shouted. "Where is my breakfast and paper?"

"Right here, my lord," Wormtail said, as he scurried into the room, levitating a pair of silver trays in front of him. One contained a complete silver tea service, while the other had the morning edition of the Daily Prophet, along with the Dark Lord's breakfast. Once the trays were placed on the table within easy reach of his master, Wormtail asked, "Will there be anything else, my lord?"

Voldemort waved the rat-faced man away, as he poured himself a cup of tea, which he drank a mouthful of, before picking up his fork and eating his scrambled cockatrice eggs and molasses-dipped dragon sausages. Taking another sip of his tea, he then picked up the newspaper and began reading, his blood pressure steadily rising as he continued to read the front page article.

When he was finished, he said, "Lucinda fucking Cromwell, that sanctimonious bitch and daughter of a bloody whore! WORMTAIL!!"

Wormtail scrambled into the room and asked, "Yes, my lord?"

Voldemort didn't answer, however, as he roughly grabbed his servant's arm and jabbed the tip of his wand roughly into Wormtail's Dark Mark, before flinging the man away from him with such force that it caused him to lose his balance and fall to the floor.

"Wormtail, I did not give you permission to take a break, so get your lazy arse off the floor this instant!" No sooner did Wormtail regain his feet, than Voldemort pointed his wand at him and shouted, "Crucio!"

When he released the spell from Wormtail, he stood up with such force that the chair he'd been sitting in toppled backwards with a thud. Pacing back and forth, as he awaited the arrival of his Death Eaters, Voldemort was muttering a slew of curses under his breath that would make a drunken sailor blush. As he paced, he was so angry that he momentarily lost control and a wave of wild magic burst forth, causing the flames in the fireplace and on the candles throughout the room to shoot a foot in the air, as paintings rattled on the walls and one section of the mahogany wall paneling actually came off and fell to the floor.

Soon most of the inner circle Death Eaters who had not been captured appeared and Voldemort prepared to launch into a speech about why he'd called them, when two late arrivals hurried into the room.

"Nott!" Voldemort shouted at the two late arrivals, Tristan and Thomas Nott, who were the parents of Slytherins Theodore and Tabitha Nott, "you're both late! Too busy fucking each others' brains out to answer me promptly were you? When I call for you I expect you to drop everything and come immediately! Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, my lord!" Tristan and Thomas said in unison.

"Crucio! Crucio!" Voldemort shouted, shooting the curse off in rapid succession at both of his wayward Death Eaters. "You two had better shape up because thus far your late father served me better than the two of you combined ever have!"

Holding the Notts writhing in pain for almost a full minute, Voldemort finally released the curse and said, "I called you here because the blighted Ministry has put a number of new security measures in place at Azkaban which will make breaking anyone out of it next to impossible, especially with the lackluster expansion rates of our numbers. Yaxley, I blame you for that! Crucio!"

Holding the curse for a second longer than a minute, Voldemort then released the man and said, "They'll be using ships to transport the prisoners captured last spring from their holding cells to the fortress. I want those ships attacked and our people aboard them freed from captivity because we're too short handed right now for eleven of you to get carted off to Azkaban."

After a momentary pause, Voldemort said, "Bellatrix! You will lead this operation. I want you to take every available body you feel you need, as well as every single Dementor we have. And this is very important, Bellatrix, you must not under any circumstances underestimate the security measures in place on those ships for they will have Aurors aboard who have been personally trained by Mad-Eye Moody and Lucinda Cromwell. I know you're familiar with both."

Bellatrix nodded, "Yes, my lord, I am. I will not fail you."

"See that you don't or I promise you, my pretty little vixen, that you'll wish you died trying! Now you all have work to do, so get out of my sight!"

The Death Eaters all scrambled to get out of the dining room as fast as they could, of course, the doorway was only made for just so many people to go through it at one time, so with lots of pushing and shoving, it was only natural that someone would end up bringing up the rear of the group exiting the dining room.

"NOTT!! You simpering fools, I said go! Crucio! Crucio!" Voldemort shouted, causing the two men to stop in the doorway of the dining room, each gripping one side of the door frame, as the pain of the Cruciatus Curse ripped through their bodies. As soon as the curse was lifted and they could move, they quickly left the room, as Voldemort sent a Blasting Hex across the room, where it hit a suit of armor and sent it clattering to the ground in several jagged, fractured pieces.

"WORMTAIL! Clean up that mess and be quick about it before I shove it all up your arse!"

-o-0-o-

Following breakfast, Harry made his way to the Transfiguration Department Office for his meeting with Professor McGonagall and Cormac McLaggen. Assistant Professors Roger Davies and Terence Higgs weren't present because they would only be attending the Transfiguration department meetings during B weeks. Being the first week of school it was currently an A week, which meant that Roger was attending the History of Magic meeting, while Terence was attending the Defense Against the Dark Arts meeting.

Professor McGonagall agreed that Harry should say something to his classes and approved of the speech that Hermione and Noah had helped him work out. Cormac didn't say anything on the subject, although from the look on his face it was clear that he wished that he was famous enough to need to say something like that to his own classes. Of course, having gotten to know Cormac a bit better during the teaching seminars, Harry had the feeling that if Cormac was famous enough to warrant the kind of speech Harry intended to give, he wouldn't give it for all the gold in Gringotts, because he actually wanted people to adore him.

After the meeting let out, Harry made his way to Classroom 1E, the ground floor classroom on the Transfiguration Corridor that was to be Harry's own personal classroom. He and many of the other teaching assistants had been quite surprised when they were all given their own classrooms to teach their students. This surprise then multiplied when they were told that they could each decorate their classrooms in whatever way they wished. They were, obviously, given some guidelines to follow, for example, there had to be chairs and desks present in the room, and they weren't allowed to decorate the room in their house colors, as it could potentially make their students from other houses feel less comfortable.

Harry hadn't really done much to his classroom, figuring that the layout it had when he'd first seen it was fine. He had, however, put Cushioning Charms on all the chairs, since he knew from past experience that the wooden chairs could get a little uncomfortable if one had to sit in them for an extended period of time. True, the classes were only fifty minutes long, but Harry saw nothing wrong with making sure that his students were comfortable, as he felt that a comfortable learning environment would make them more susceptible to learning.

Walking over to the blackboard, Harry grabbed a piece of chalk and took a deep breath as he wrote 'Transfiguration 101, TA Harrison Potter' on the board. Since finding out about his new job, Harry had spent quite a bit of time over the course of August working on his penmanship, since he wanted his students to be able to actually read what he wrote on the board. Not that his penmanship had been all that terrible before, but if he was going to be writing on a blackboard for an entire classroom to see, he wanted it to be a little more presentable then it had been in the past. And he was sure that his professors would also appreciate the effort when he turned in his own homework.

Sitting down at his desk, Harry began to wait patiently for his first class, the first-year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, to arrive, all the while wishing that he had mastered the Animagus transformation because it would have been so cool if he could have done what McGonagall had done in his first year and sat on the desk as a cat before transforming into a human to the awe of the students. Not that he particularly wanted them to be in awe of him, but it was still a pretty cool practical demonstration of the subject he was teaching.

As the students began to file into the room, Harry was once again struck with the looks on their faces the moment they saw him sitting behind his desk. Excited murmurs broke out among them and not a single one of them took seats in the back of the room. In fact, there was a bit of a scuffle for seats in the front row, as if all of them wanted to be as close to the great Harry Potter as they possibly could be. Feeling that he should say something, he said, "Please don't fight over the seats, and the second row is just as good as the first. Besides that, you won't be sitting where you currently are for long, as I will be assigning seats to you before the period is over."

Assigned seats had been a suggestion made by Padma Patil during the teaching seminar, as she felt that it would help her to memorize the names of the students in her classes. Several of the teaching assistants, Harry included, agreed that it might indeed help them and thus had decided to do so. Even some of the professors decided to assign seats this year, although for some of them, such as Snape, it wasn't for name memorization purposes as much as it was for assigning students to sit in seats that would make them the most uncomfortable. For example, having the Gryffindors sit next to Slytherins.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, in room D-14 in the Dungeons, Noah was seated behind his desk, watching as the second-year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs filed into the room. Spotting two familiar faces among the group, Noah smiled at them and they both waved back at him with smiles of their own. The reason for this reaction was because they were Noah's cousins, Carver, a Gryffindor, and Bethany, a Hufflepuff, the adopted fraternal twin children of Noah's late uncle, Aidan Hawke.

'I'm going to have to say something to them,' Noah thought. 'Make sure they know that I'm not going to give them any special treatment just because we're related.'

-o-0-o-

Back in Harry's classroom, the last of the students had arrived and the bell signaling the beginning of the period had just finished ringing. Standing up from his desk and moving around to lean against the front of it, Harry smiled and said, "Welcome to Transfiguration, first years. I'm Harrison Potter, though you can call me Harry, and I'll be teaching you the art of Transfiguration this year."

Seeing that he had their rapt attention, he continued with, "Now, before we begin, I know many of you were probably excited to know that I would be teaching you because of who I am. I would only say that I do not like or enjoy my fame. Some of you might be surprised by that, as I'm sure many of you have grown up worshiping me as some kind of hero because I defeated You-Know-Who. The truth is, I was a baby at the time, so I don't even remember it, although I do know that both of my parents died that night. So, I ask that you put yourselves in my shoes for a moment and think about whether or not you'd enjoy being famous for a night you can't remember that ended with both of your parents being killed. That's all I'm saying on that subject, so now, on to Transfiguration."

There were a few crestfallen looks on some of the students' faces, but most of them were nodding, as if they understood where Harry was coming from. Harry could only hope that was true.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Twelve
First Day of Classes
Part Two

-o-0-o-

About a minute before the bell that would signal the end of the period was due to ring, Harry said, "All right, class, the period will be over soon. Your homework, due at our next meeting on Thursday, is to write an essay on the theory involved in the match into a needle transformation. To earn a passing grade, your parchment scroll must be at least ten and a half inches long and legibly written in letters between 9/32 and 11/32 inches."

Picking up his PDA, Harry hit a button and said, "I've just sent all of you a message on your PDAs which will give you examples of letters in the correct size range, so please size your handwriting accordingly. Also, the maximum length of your parchments is twenty-one inches and no more. So, don't try to impress me by writing more than twenty-one inches, because it'll be an automatic failing grade if you do." As he said this, the bell rang, prompting Harry to add, "Class dismissed."

Once the last of his students had left the classroom, Harry slid his PDA into the pocket of his robes and pulled out the specially charmed key to his classroom. Rather than locking the doors to their classrooms via the Locking Charm, all of the TAs had been provided with a charmed key that had to be inserted into the locks on their classroom doors in order to unlock the door, which rendered the Unlocking Charm useless. Scanning the room to ensure that none of his students left anything behind, Harry then made his way to the door, before exiting his classroom and locking the door behind him.

With his teaching duties done for the day, Harry now had two free periods before lunch, after which he had Herbology, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Fencing, and finally Care of Magical Creatures. Obviously that schedule would change during B weeks, but Harry didn't have to worry about that until next week. Heading to the nearest staircase, Harry began the trek upstairs from his ground floor classroom to the third floor and then over to the Training Grounds Tower, where the lower entrance to the multi-floor Hogwarts library was located.

He was supposed to be meeting Hermione here, as they both had the next two class periods free. Hermione had been teaching History of Magic to the first year Gryffindors and Slytherins while Harry had been with his class and she had all the same classes Harry had after lunch, with the exception of Care of Magical Creatures, during which time she instead had her own History of Magic class with Professor Lasinius. Noah, meanwhile, who had an almost identical schedule to Harry's and Hermione's, except that his A week classes were their B week classes, had one period free. He then had Warding, Lunch, Potions, Ancient Runes, Fencing, and Enchanting.

It had been something of a shock to all three of them when they'd compared their schedules after they'd been messaged to them at about eight the previous evening to see that they all had Fencing with Professor Lasinius in the three to three-fifty timeslot. As far as any of them knew, there had never been a class that students from different years took together, but apparently that was about to change. Not that they were going to complain about having a class together, because they weren't. In fact, Noah and Harry in particular, were looking forward to it. Of course, as it turned out, it wasn't the only class they had together, as they'd also been paired together for Archery.

Arriving in the library, Harry spotted Hermione sitting at a table near the entrance to the Restricted Section. In their first year, the Restricted Section had been separated from the main library only by ropes, which is how Harry was able to sneak into the section under his invisibility cloak to try and look for information on Nicolas Flamel. Sometime over the summer, however, the ropes had been replaced with a wire mesh wall with a locked gate, thus making it impossible to sneak into the section because Madam Pince had the only key. Several times since this change, Harry had wondered if maybe his nighttime trip in first year, and his subsequent encounter with the screaming book that caused him to flee, had anything to do with it.

Sitting down at the table, Harry asked softly, "So, how was your first class?"

"I think it went well, all things considered," Hermione said. "I was a little nervous, but I suppose that's to be expected."

Harry nodded. "Yeah, I was a bit nervous too, but once I got into my groove, I think I did okay."

Hermione smiled. "Of course, you had the extra advantage of already having teaching experience."

"True," Harry said. After a moment, he grinned and said, "I do hope you tried to keep the students engaged and not make them fall asleep."

Hermione shook her head. "I'm pleased to say that nobody fell asleep, but then I wasn't speaking in a monotone like Professor Binns always did."

"Well, that's a good thing," Noah said in a soft tone, as he came over to the table. "While I opted not to take it at NEWT level, History of Magic is still an important class and it's a good thing that Professor Binns is gone and there's living teachers now who are, hopefully, competent."

Hermione nodded. "I have History of Magic last period today, so I'll let you know what Professor Lasinius is like for the subject." After a moment, she added, "Is it just me or does he seem very young?"

Harry nodded. "He does, yes. If I had to guess, I'd say he can't be much older than twenty-one, but then again, Roger is even younger, considering that he just finished Hogwarts this past spring. So, he's only what, like seventeen?"

"Eighteen actually," Noah said. "I talked to him a few times in the Prefect's Bathroom last year and got to know him a bit. His birthday is in August," Noah paused here to grin, before he leaned towards Harry and Hermione and whispered, "and he's gay."

"What?" Harry asked. "He went to the Yule Ball with Fleur Delacour and Cho was his Valentine's Day date last year."

Noah shook his head. "Harry, you do realize that Cho is a lesbian, right?"

Harry's eyes got wide as dinner plates as he asked, "What?"

Hermione shook her head. "Oh come on, Harry, surely you're not that dense. Why do you think Cho was so supportive of Marietta last year, even after she betrayed the DA to Umbridge?"

"You mean they were a couple?" Harry asked, as both Noah and Hermione nodded. "Then why did Cho and Roger go out on Valentine's Day last year?"

"Simple," Noah answered. "Neither one of them was out yet and they were acting as each other's beards. As for Roger taking Fleur to the Yule Ball, I figured that maybe her Veela heritage had something to do with it, but I was wrong. Roger told me last year that the real reason was because he was trying to make his current boyfriend jealous and it worked - they've been together ever since New Year's Eve that year."

"Who is his boyfriend?" Hermione asked.

Noah grinned as he leaned forward again and whispered, "Terence Higgs and yes I do mean the one that's teaching here this year. The year of the Yule Ball was his seventh year, but his birthday is in September, so he'll be twenty in about two weeks."

"Wow," was all Harry could say, because he had totally missed the signs. With a self-deprecating grin, he added, "Guess my gaydar isn't all that good."

"Well, Harry, it's not that bad, either," Hermione said, as she patted his hand in a comforting gesture. "You've just been upset about Cedric, which is totally understandable."

Harry nodded. "Yeah, I have been. Of course, I know that I'll have to move on eventually. Cedric wouldn't want me to be alone forever."

"No, he wouldn't," Noah agreed. "But, he also wouldn't want you moving on until you feel ready to do so."

"You're too patient for your own good, Noah," Harry said with a shake of his head.

"Wait, a minute," Hermione said, "Noah, do you like Harry?"

"Yeah, I do," Noah answered.

Now it was Hermione's turn to say, "Wow. You know, I never thought of the two of you as a couple, but now that I think about it, you'd look cute together."

"Whoa, slow down, Hermione," Harry said. "We're not a couple yet."

"Yet being the operative word," Hermione said with a smile. "Meaning you could be, at some point."

"Maybe," Harry said and wanting to change the subject, he asked, "So, shall we grab some books and do some research on the heirs?"

Noah and Hermione nodded and all three of them headed into the section that housed the genealogical texts. Each of them grabbed one of the thicker volumes that they hadn't looked through yesterday with Nick and Draco and returned to their table. Opening the books, which were laid out like family group sheets that showed a couple, their children, and the names of the children's spouses, along with the page number that child's own children could be found on, and began skimming the lists to see if any names looked promising.

Ten minutes later, none of them had found anything and while Hermione was continuing to read in earnest, sure that she would find something if she just kept at it long enough, Noah and Harry were getting a little sick of pursuing what seemed to be a dead end. It was around this time that Harry looked up and saw Dumbledore approaching. "Headmaster," Harry said, as the aged wizard arrived at their table.

Dumbledore nodded and said, "Mr. Potter, Mr. Diggory, Miss Granger. What are you three researching so intently?"

Noah lifted the volume he was reading up so that the headmaster could see the cover, prompting Dumbledore to say, "Ah, I see, you're researching the heirs. I'm afraid you won't find anything about them in those books."

Hermione looked up at this and asked, "Why not?"

"Because their surnames died out centuries ago," Dumbledore answered. "Slytherin was the last name to go extinct and that was sometime between 1600 and 1650 I believe and I'm afraid none of these volumes go much further back than 1790."

Noah and Harry both closed their books, figuring it didn't really pay to look through the rest of the book if it wasn't going to help them at all. Hermione kept her volume open, but had stopped reading, as she asked, "Are there any books in the library that would go back far enough?"

Dumbledore stroked his beard as he thought for a moment, before he said, "There might be one series of genealogy texts that might go far enough back, but they're in the Restricted Section."

"The Restricted Section?" Hermione asked, the confusion clear on her face. "Why would a genealogy text be restricted?"

"Because the authoress, one Hilda Crawford," Dumbledore said, "was also a famous artist of wizard portraits in the mid fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries and the series of genealogical texts that she wrote included reproductions of a number of her works." Dumbledore paused here for a moment and the three teens were all taken aback when the headmaster's cheeks turned slightly red, as he continued, "Miss Crawford's works, however, were of an adult nature."

"An adult nature?" Noah asked. "You mean she painted people naked?"

Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, Mr. Diggory, she did. She also took a few commissions to paint joint portraits for married couples who for some reason wanted portraits of themselves engaged in carnal relations. Unless I'm very much mistaken, there's examples of both types of her work in her genealogy series, all used with the permission of the subjects of course, but due to their adult nature, they were put in the Restricted Section where young, innocent eyes couldn't find them by mistake."

"Um, okay," Harry said, blushing furiously at the idea of anyone wanting to have their portrait done, not only in the nude, but while in the act of having sex. He just couldn't imagine why anybody would actually want a portrait of themselves having sex, especially when the portrait would be capable of moving and talking.

"And why would a school even have copies of these books?" Hermione asked.

Dumbledore smiled. "Well, Miss Granger, you must remember that at various points in history, there was a time when nudity and sexual expression was considered to be fine art and thus wasn't something to be ashamed of or that had to be hidden away. As opinions on such things changed, however, they were moved to the Restricted Section and put on a high shelf that younger children would not be able to reach."

Hermione nodded and there was silence for a moment, before Noah said, "Professor, could we have permission to access the Restricted Section? I'm not really interested in Ms. Crawford's works," okay that was a lie, "but I am very curious about who the heirs are and if those texts can shed any light on it."

"Well, Mr. Diggory," Dumbledore said, "as you know, normally you need a signed note from a professor to access the Restricted Section and professors can only give you permission to research from books that are related to the topic they teach." Noah nodded at this, before Dumbledore continued, "However, I find myself very curious about who the heirs are myself, so, I will allow the three of you to enter the Restricted Section. I think, in addition to Ms. Crawford's books, there might be some other useful texts in there as well."

Pulling out his PDA, Dumbledore tapped out a quick message to Madam Pince, asking her to join him near the entrance to the Restricted Section. A few minutes later, the librarian came over and asked, "You wanted to see me, Headmaster?"

"Yes, Irma," Dumbledore said. "I'm giving Mr. Potter, Mr. Diggory, and Miss Granger permission to access the Restricted Section to research the founders and who their heirs might be."

Madam Pince nodded and made a note of it on her own PDA, before she said, "As you wish, Headmaster." Turning to the three students, she said, "The restricted books cannot be taken out of the section, so you'll have to do all of your research at the tables in the section. Also, please note that there's a limit of three students at a time in the section, so if all three of you are in there at the same time and another student needs to get in to research something for class, I'll have to pull one of you out."

"We understand, Madam Pince," Harry said, as Hermione and Noah nodded.

Pulling a heavy iron keychain from the pocket of her robes, she walked over to the gate and inserted a key into the lock. Pulling open the gate, she ushered the three teens inside and said, "I'll come and check on you periodically and if you need help finding a specific book, you can always send me a message via your PDAs and I'll tell you where to find it. Remember, that the library closes at 8pm, so if you haven't found what you're looking for by then, you'll have to leave."

Looking at the Headmaster, she asked, "Was this permission to be for multiple days or just today, Headmaster?"

"Permission will last for two months, for now," Dumbledore said. "I may extend it after that, but knowing Miss Granger, I think that should be enough time, especially with Mr. Potter's and Mr. Diggory's assistance."

"Very well, Headmaster," Madam Pince said as she closed and locked the gate behind the three teens. "You might start your search on bookshelves R-15 through R-20, as there's several books actually written by the founders and their contemporaries stored there."

'Well, that narrows it down a little,' Harry thought, as he spied the bookshelf labeled R-15. 'But not by much, considering there must be at least 500 books on that shelf alone.'

-o-0-o-

Later that day, Noah, Harry, and Hermione arrived in Classroom 2C on the ground floor of the castle for Fencing class. Upon arriving, they recognized several people, as like most electives, the class was a mix of all four houses. Harry waved to Ryan, Nick, Ernie, and Justin, who waved back, just as Draco Malfoy walked into the room, with Crabbe and Goyle following behind him. Not long afterward, Pansy Parkinson walked into the room and Draco groaned.

"You again?" Draco asked, as he looked directly at Pansy. "What did you do? Sign up for all of my classes?"

"You know you love being in class with me, Draco," Pansy said, as she walked over, grabbed Draco's right arm and then proceeded to rest her cheek on his shoulder as she batted her eyes at him.

Yanking his arm away from her as if he had just been burned, Draco said, "Pansy, how many times do I have to tell you this?" Motioning with his hand between them, he added, "We are not a couple."

Pansy shook her head and said, "Oh Draco, Draco, stop lying will you? We're going to be married and it's long past time that you accepted that."

Draco usually wore an emotionless mask, but at this point it slipped, big time, and he was clearly angry, as he said, "I'm not marrying you, Pansy! I'm gay!"

Several students turned to watch the argument at this outburst and many of them, Harry, Hermione, and Noah included, had shocked looks on their faces, because none of them had ever pegged Draco as being into blokes.

Pansy, however, looked totally oblivious as she batted her eyes at him again, tossed back a strand of her long hair and said, "Oh Draco, of course, you're gay. How could you not be happy about our future together? Deliriously so, even?"

Draco just shook his head in disbelief for a moment, before he said, "Pansy, when I said gay I meant queer, poof, shirtlifter - in other words, I like cock, which you don't have. So, for the millionth time, we are not getting married!"

"Keep telling yourself that as often as you want, Draco," Pansy said. "It won't make it anymore true."

"AHHH!" Draco screamed, as he threw his arms up and stalked to the other side of the room. When Pansy moved to follow, Draco said, "Crabbe, Goyle, make yourselves useful and keep her away from me."

Crabbe and Goyle moved between Draco and Pansy, preventing the girl from reaching her goal. She didn't look particularly happy, especially when they moved with her to prevent her from going around them, but before she could say anything, Professor Valen Lasinius entered the room. At first glance, he was wearing the same ocean blue robes that he'd been wearing at the Arrival Feast, but upon closer inspection, it was clear that they were not the same robes, even if they were the same color.

"Welcome everyone to Fencing," Valen said. "I am Professor Valen Lasinius and in this class I will be teaching you everything you need to know about the use of a sword." Removing a rapier from a black dragonhide scabbard attached to his belt, Valen expertly tossed it into the air and caught the hilt in his left hand, before moving it into a horizontal position. He then placed a single finger of his right hand under the blade and let go of the hilt, with many of the students surprised to see the sword balanced perfectly on his finger.

"In the middle of a battle, a well-balanced sword can truly be your best friend," Valen said. "I know that statement may surprise some of you, as you probably think of your wands as being your best friends in a battle, but by the end of this year, I aim to prove to you that a sword can be just as, if not more useful than a wand. For you see, a practiced master who knows their art, can use their sword as a wand." To demonstrate his point, Valen took the hilt of his sword in his left hand, before walking over to a rack of swords. Taking one of them from the rack, Valen laid it down flat on the ground before he stood back up and pointed his own sword at the one on the floor, moving it in the same pattern as the necessary wand movement as he said aloud, "Wingardium Leviosa!"

There were several gasps of surprise as the sword on the floor floated up into the air, where Valen grabbed the hilt when it got high enough that he could grab it without bending. Placing the sword back in the rack, Valen sheathed his blade and turned to look at the class.

"Now, I must impress upon all of you that I am a master swordsman and have been studying my craft longer than any of you have been alive," Valen said, which caused quite a few confused looks. Valen apparently picked up on it and said, "I'm not as young as I look, although my age is for me to know and you to guess at. Now, I expect each and every one of you to take this class very seriously. This will be, without a doubt, one of your more dangerous classes and I will not tolerate any of you goofing off or handling a sword in an inappropriate manner. While it is true that for the time being we will be using magically dulled blades that would have a hard time cutting a spider's web, let alone skin, it is still imperative that you act appropriately in this class and follow my every instruction. Because I'm telling you right now that I will have no problems in taking points, giving detentions, or if necessary dropping you from this class permanently if I feel that you are not paying proper attention or if you are not taking the class seriously enough. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Professor Lasinius," several voices said all at once, as heads throughout the room nodded.

"Very well," Valen said as he took a seat in a chair next to the sword rack. "When I call your name, please come over and I'll see about getting you matched with a sword that is best suited to you. Once you have one, you are to keep the point of the blade facing the ground and await further instructions."

Before Valen could call out any names, however, Ernie raised his hand and Valen said, "Yes, Mr. Macmillan?" Ernie had History of Magic at ten on Tuesdays during A weeks and thus Valen had no problems in identifying him.

"Why are there seventh years in this class?" Ernie asked. "We usually don't have classes with the other year levels."

"A fair question," Valen said. "The reason is because only six seventh-year students signed up for this class and I felt that it would be impractical to teach a class with only six students in it, especially when due to the fact that this is a new subject at Hogwarts, many of you are likely to be at the same skill level."

Ernie nodded his understanding, as Valen said, "Now, Miss Hannah Abbott, you're first."

As he assigned swords to each student, Valen made a note on his PDA, recording the details of the sword that he'd awarded to each student. He also waved his wand at the rack, which caused a small parchment tag to appear with each student's name on it, marking the place on the rack where each students' sword would be placed. This was because as the students found out after everyone had one was because they wouldn't be allowed to take these swords out of the classroom. They were only practice swords first off, but there was also the fact that Valen refused to let any of them actually leave the room with one until he was confident in their ability to wield one safely.

Once all twenty-five students in the class had been assigned a sword, Valen stood and with a wave of his wand, conjured twenty-six identical practice dummies, one for each student and one for him to demonstrate upon. The rest of the period was then spent with Valen teaching a few basic movements, which he had the students repeat. Harry and many of the others found themselves enjoying the class, although it was clear that some were enjoying it more than others. Just before the bell signaling the end of the period was due to ring, Valen sheathed his sword and said, "On your way out of the room, please place your swords in the slot on the rack that has your name on it."

The bell rang at this point and the students moved towards the rack to put their swords away, as Valen said, "Mr. Cromwell, a word, if you please?"

Looking over his shoulder, Ryan nodded to the professor, as he placed his practice sword in the rack. He then walked over to Valen and waited for him to speak, which he refrained from doing until it was just him and Ryan in the room.

"Mr. Cromwell, I asked to speak with you," Valen said, "because in watching your performance in class today, I got the distinct impression that unlike many of your classmates this was not the first time that you'd handled a blade. Am I correct?"

Ryan nodded and said, "Yes, Professor. My late grandfather, William Cromwell, started giving me lessons when I was five and he kept it up as long as he could before the magical wasting sickness that claimed his life rendered him incapable of continuing the lessons. In the interim between then and his death, my cousin Matthew and I practiced daily and often sparred with each other."

"I see," Valen said. "Matthew is on staff here, is he not?"

"Yes, he's an Assistant Professor," Ryan confirmed. "My grandmother Lucinda and I moved to the United States when I was ten years old, after my grandfather died. She never said as much, but I think it was too painful for her to stay in the family home, as there were too many memories of her late husband." Valen nodded. "Anyway, while in the states, I was a member of the Fencing Club at Asheville Academy of the Arcane, so, I've kept up my training." Ryan grinned here and said, "Although Matt has gotten a bit rusty over the years."

Valen was quiet for a moment, before he said, "Mr. Cromwell, at some point this year, I'll be partnering each student for practice with a moving target rather than the practice dummies. However, after seeing your performance today, I'm inclined to think that you're too advanced for your classmates. There's also an uneven number of students in the class, so I was wondering if you would like to partner with me for the year?"

"That would be great, sir," Ryan said.

Valen smiled. "Very well, Mr. Cromwell, I'm going to make you my unofficial teaching assistant, although I should warn you that due to the unofficial nature of the position it isn't likely that you'll be paid like the other students who are teaching classes. Since you clearly know what you're doing, however, I would very much like it if you could assist me in keeping an eye on the class and giving pointers to your fellow students."

Ryan nodded and said, "I can do that."

Glancing at the clock on the wall, Valen noted that they'd been talking for five minutes, meaning that Ryan would have only five minutes to get to his next class. "Since you have less time to get there, did you want a note for your next teacher in case you're late?"

With a shake of his head, Ryan said, "That won't be necessary, sir, as I have the next period free."

"If it wasn't for the fact that I have to go and teach a History class," Valen said, "I'd ask if you wanted to spend that free period sparring with me, but alas, that is not possible, today at least, so you may go, Mr. Cromwell."

Ryan nodded and said, "Goodbye, Professor," before he left the room.

When the classroom door closed, Valen waited a moment to ensure that Ryan was out of earshot, before he said aloud, "He's certainly turned into a well-rounded and capable young man since I saw him last."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Thirteen
A New Month Dawns

-o-0-o-

Journal of Nicolas P. Lavoisier-Delaney
Tuesday, October 1, 1996

There's an old muggle saying that time flies when you're having fun and that's obviously true because I have to say that I have been having a lot of fun at Hogwarts. Honestly, it's been more fun than I thought it would be, because I'd come to love Beauxbatons so much that I'd thought that no other school could possibly measure up. However, I must say that Hogwarts has been a very pleasant surprise. Although I can think of several of my former classmates at Beauxbatons who would disagree with me, that's their loss, not mine. I've already made a number of friends, I'm enjoying my classes, and all of the teachers are pretty cool.

Well, okay, most of them are pretty cool, because even though he is my Head of House, I can see that Professor Snape isn't very fair or nice to people who are not in Slytherin House. He's been especially unfair to Harry Potter, taking points and even attempting to give him a few detentions for the most trivial of things. In fact, in our very first Defense Against the Dark Arts class, Professor Snape baited Harry into casting the Patronus Charm, which he was sure that Harry couldn't do and then when Harry not only did cast the charm but produced a fully corporeal Patronus, Professor Snape accused him of being a show off and took five points from Gryffindor.

Now, I say attempted to give Harry a few detentions, because upon reviewing the reasons for them, Professor Dumbledore stepped in and cancelled them, so Harry has yet to serve any of the detentions that Professor Snape has tried to give him. The school rumor mill is also abuzz with gossip that Professor Snape and the Headmaster had a rather loud argument in Professor Snape's classroom in which the Headmaster told him in no uncertain terms that he was to stop treating Harry as if he was James Potter reborn. I do wonder if this actually happened, however, as I would think that if it was true, either Professor Snape or Professor Dumbledore would have put up Silencing Charms before they argued in a classroom that could have any number of students passing by it at any given time.

Of course, that isn't the only thing that the rumor mill is talking about, because another popular topic is that of Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson. Sharing a dorm room with him has given me a chance to hear his side of the story and I've come to the conclusion that Pansy is oblivious and delusional, because she absolutely refuses to believe that Draco is gay and that they will never get married. She's already been kicked out of both Fencing and Archery class, which according to the rumor mill, she only took to be near Draco.

For Fencing, it was because during a class in late September, she broke into a sweat which prompted her to quite vocally complain about how it was wrong for proper ladies to sweat. Professor Lasinius then said that if that's how she felt, it was probably also wrong for a 'proper lady' to use a sword and promptly kicked her out of the class. As for Archery, Pansy didn't even last until the end of the first class because as she was doing the longbow test, she broke a nail, which prompted her to throw down her bow and shriek as if the world was about to come to an end.

She also didn't react well when Professor Firenze decided to kick her out of the class, as it would mean less time that she could spend with her beloved Draco. Grabbing a crossbow away from Goyle she pointed it at Firenze, called him a disgusting half-breed and ordered him to let her stay in the class. When he refused to comply, she pulled the trigger on the crossbow. Fortunately for her continued attendance at Hogwarts, Goyle hadn't loaded a bolt in the crossbow yet when Pansy ripped it out of his hands, so Firenze wasn't injured and it was decided that she would not be expelled. She did, however, get two months of detention. The rest of us are just thankful that no points were taken for her stupidity.

My seventeenth birthday has also come and gone and I've taken over from my Aunt Sarah all the duties and responsibilities that go along with the family businesses, which has given me just one more reason to adore the PDAs that were introduced this year, because it's really helped me in keeping things straight. There is the operational limit to consider, but since I'm a student, I managed to get around that issue by having all meetings that required face to face contact in a private room at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Professor Dumbledore has been very good about letting me go down to the village when I need to, so long as it doesn't interfere with my studies and thus far it hasn't.

-o-0-o-

"You wanted to see me, Headmaster?" Valen asked, as he arrived in the Headmaster's office.

"Yes, Valen, please sit down," Dumbledore said as he motioned towards one of the chairs in front of his desk. "Tea? Sherbet Lemon?"

"No, thank you, Headmaster."

"I just wanted to check in with you," Dumbledore explained. "I've been checking in with all of the professors, to see if the changes made this year have been helping. So, how are your classes going, Valen?"

"Quite well, I think, Headmaster," Valen answered. "Nothing to report on the History of Magic front, other than I'm sure you'll be glad to know that nobody has fallen asleep in my class as of yet. As for Fencing, there have been a few issues with a couple of students that I had to drop, but all in all, I'd say things have been going well."

Dumbledore nodded and said, "Good, good, I'm glad to hear it, Valen. Now, what is this I hear about you naming Mr. Cromwell as your unofficial teaching assistant?"

"Well, Mr. Cromwell, is hands down my best student," Valen answered. "Although that likely stems from the fact that he had past training before taking my class, as apparently his grandfather gave him lessons before he died and he'd been a member of a fencing club at his old school. Anyway, this put him above his fellow students in ability and since there's an uneven number of students in the class, I decided to have him pair with me as a partner to make sure he had a suitable challenge. I also asked him to help me keep an eye on the class and give pointers to his fellow students."

"Very well," Dumbledore said, as he took a sip of his tea. "So, Valen, would you care to explain how you know Mr. Cromwell?"

Valen looked momentarily surprised, before he said, "Nothing gets past you does it, Headmaster?"

With twinkling eyes and a hint of amusement in his tone, Dumbledore said, "When you reach my age, Valen, there is very little that escapes your notice."

'That's what you think, Headmaster,' Valen thought, as he nodded and said, "As for how I know Mr. Cromwell, truth be told, I met him for the first time when he was two years old. Obviously, he doesn't remember that, however, and I've refrained from telling him."

"I see," Dumbledore said, as he studied Valen over the tops of his half-moon spectacles. "And just how did that meeting come about, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Well, I was asked to check on him by an interested party," Valen said. "To make sure that he was being well taken care of and I'm happy to report that I was able to give a glowing report, as William and Lucinda Cromwell did a very good job with him."

"I don't mean to pry, Valen," Dumbledore said, "but would you mind telling me who this interested party was? As Headmaster of Hogwarts, I do stand in loco parentis of all the students and given the current climate of our world, I need to know if Ryan is in any danger from this person."

Valen shook his head. "Mr. Cromwell - Ryan is in no danger, Albus, so you have nothing to fear, as the interested party in question is Ryan's father, who would never harm his only son."

"His father?" Dumbledore asked, obviously surprised. "His records show that he was raised by his grandparents and that his mother is deceased. There's no mention of his father, but I was under the impression that Ryan thinks he's dead."

"Well, he's not," Valen said. "Although, forgive me, Headmaster, but for reasons that I am unable to discuss at this time, I cannot tell you why he hasn't been involved in his son's life thus far."

"Can you at least tell me how you know Ryan's father, then?"

"He's an old friend of my family's," Valen revealed, "so, I've known him since childhood. He's also my brother-in-law, as my eldest sister married him in June of 1987, thus making her Ryan's unknown to him stepmother."

"I see," Dumbledore said. "And do you have any plans on sharing this information with Ryan? I'm sure he would like to know that his father is still alive."

"I'm sure he would," Valen agreed. "But, no, I do not have any plans to tell him, as I've been asked not to. My sister and Ryan's father will decide when the time is right for Ryan to know the truth and until then, he will remain in the dark. I understand that may be confusing, Headmaster, but there are reasons for the secrecy and certain events that have not yet occurred need to happen before the truth can be known." With a shake of his head, Valen said, "I'm sorry, but I can't say anymore, as I've probably said too much already."

Dumbledore was silent for a moment, before he nodded and said, "Very well then, Valen. If you'll excuse me, I have some paperwork to do."

"Of course, Headmaster," Valen said as he stood up and headed for the door. Pulling it open, he was prepared to leave, but decided to look over his shoulder before doing so. None of the portraits were looking his way nor was the headmaster, so lifting his left hand, Valen made a quick gesture in Dumbledore's direction and whispered, "Obliviate!"

After Valen left the room and closed the door behind him, Dumbledore looked up at the doors and said, softly, "Hmm, interesting, very interesting indeed," before he lowered his gaze and went back to his paperwork.

-o-0-o-

Over the course of the month of September, Harry, Noah, and Hermione spent many of their free periods in the Restricted Section researching from the books contained there. They had yet to find the books that Dumbledore had mentioned among the shelves and refrained from asking the librarian, too embarrassed to ask her for the location of books which had nude and pornographic images in them. Of course, they couldn't spend all their free time in the Restricted Section, as they all had assignments for class that they had to do. Of course, in addition to the assignments they had to do for the classes they were taking, they also had assignments that they had to grade for the classes they were teaching.

There were also numerous times when their research was cut short due to the rule about only three students being allowed in the Restricted Section at one time, since Madam Pince had had to pull one or more of them out several times so that other students could go in and do research that was necessary for their classes. The three teens did ask Dumbledore in mid-September if he as Headmaster couldn't just change the rule, but he refused, stating that the rule was one of the oldest rules on the Hogwarts books, laid down in fact, by the founders themselves, and Dumbledore did not feel he was qualified to question or change the founders' rules, especially now that he knew that Merlin was among their number.

Their time away from the library wasn't completely wasted, however, as they were all learning important skills that they were sure would help them in the upcoming war. In the Defense Arts activity, for example, Dumbledore was making sure that everyone in the group could cast the Disarming Charm, Shield Charm, and Patronus Charm. These were spells that Harry had covered with Dumbledore's Army, but extra practice on these vital charms was never a bad thing in Harry's mind and the students who hadn't been part of Dumbledore's Army the previous year, such as Draco Malfoy and Adrian Pucey, would surely benefit from being able to cast them.

Ron, of course, had balked at the idea of Slytherins being allowed to join the DA, but Harry and Hermione both said that it was no longer up to them who was allowed to join. The group was now an officially recognized group taught by the Headmaster, after all, so no student who wanted the extra help was going to be turned away because of their house. Thankfully, while he continued to hate it, Ron didn't complain about it, although when he found himself facing a Slytherin in practice, he did tend to be more forceful and brutal in the spells he'd send their way to test their Shield Charm.

Harry was also enjoying the Art activity, which had been broken up into three different groups. Matthew Cromwell was teaching the first and second years, while Terence Higgs taught the third through fifth years and Charity Burbage taught the sixth and seventh years. As for Roger Davies, he wasn't so much teaching the group as he was acting as a life model for the sixth and seventh years, so that they could master drawing the human form. Thus, hidden from the view of the younger years by a magically charmed curtain, the sixth and seventh years were often to be found gathered in a circle around Roger, as they sketched his naked body.

At first, Roger had been very embarrassed by this task and had spent the first couple of meetings with his skin beet red, but eventually, he got used to it. Obviously Roger only represented half of the human form and thus one of the seventh year girls, whose birthday was after September 1st and was thus eighteen, was chosen to act as a model for the class to draw the feminine form. Of course, of the two, it was perhaps unsurprising that Harry most enjoyed drawing Roger, even if he did find himself often replacing Roger's head and face with Cedric's and increasingly Noah's.

Battlefield Medicine was also turning out to be interesting and many of the students who'd signed up for it were glad they did, as Madam Delaney had already taught them a handful of spells that would definitely be useful. First was a basic diagnostic spell, followed by a spell to mend broken bones and then a spell to staunch bleeding. She was also covering some of the most commonly used medicinal potions, including the Blood Restoration Potion and Magical Restorative Draft. She had also said that in the activity's first meeting of October, she'd begin teaching a spell which was used to enclose a patient in a stasis field that would keep them alive for transport to a healer if the injuries were beyond the basics that the activity would teach.

In their free time, Noah, Hermione, and Harry were often to be found in the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts library scouring the books for anything that might reveal to them who the heirs were. Thus far, they'd come up empty-handed, however, that doesn't mean they hadn't made any breakthroughs.

"Hey, look at this," Noah said, as he beckoned Harry and Hermione over to the table he was sitting at. They'd all sat down at separate tables in the section, as they all had a large collection of books piled on the tables around them.

"Did you find out who one of the heirs is?" Harry asked as he came over to the table.

"No, but I did find out something about the founders," Noah answered, as he tapped a page in the book in front of him. "This book has a copy of the original blueprints for the castle and according to this, there's an entire tower missing."

"A missing tower?" Hermione asked.

Noah nodded and said, "Yes, it was called the Founder's Tower and was situated on the currently empty cliffs near the Viaduct that connects the Viaduct Courtyard around the Great Hall to the Viaduct Entrance over by Ravenclaw Tower. It would seem that the tower was physically inaccessible and could only be reached through magical means."

"What kind of magical means?" Harry asked.

Shaking his head, Noah said, "Unfortunately it doesn't say that."

"Well, does it say what exactly this tower was for or why it's gone missing?"

Nodding in Hermione's direction, Noah said, "Nothing on why it's missing, but apparently, each of the five founders of Hogwarts had their own private offices on the ground level of the tower. Not entirely sure why Merlin had an office, since nobody knew about his involvement in the school, but it's where the other founders each had their office hours where they'd be available if the students needed them. This was, of course, also where they'd discipline students if they wanted to do so in a more private setting. According to these images, it would seem that the five offices were arranged around the outer walls of a large round tower with an indoor garden in the shape of a pentagram in the center of the tower."

"Interesting," Harry commented.

"The tower apparently also held the private living quarters of each founder," Noah added. "Helga's quarters take up four basement levels of the tower, immediately below the ground level, with Salazar's quarters taking up a further four levels below Helga's. Rowena's quarters are then on floors one through four, with Godric's on floors five through eight, and finally Merlin's quarters were on floors nine through thirteen."

"So, Merlin had five floors, while the others had four," Hermione said.

"Well, I guess that makes sense if you think about it," Harry said. "I mean, it's Merlin, only the greatest and most powerful wizard of all time. It makes sense that he'd have more room than the others."

Hermione and Noah both nodded in agreement at this, before they went back to reading. About half-an-hour later, Hermione called the boys over to her table, as she said, "I found out why the tower disappeared," as she pointed at the book she was reading. "This is a logbook of sorts, which was used to record whatever information the Headmaster or Headmistress wished to record. According to this entry by Headmaster Godric Gryffindor, made in mid August of the year 1035, the Founder's Tower was charmed to disappear once it was no longer needed. That is, when the last of the Founders left the school and apparently by 1035, Godric was the only founder still living. It also says that he has a strong feeling that he isn't long for the world and that he isn't going to live to see his 120th birthday in 1036."

Harry and Noah were both quiet and Hermione, screwing up her face in confusion, added, "There's also a rather strange entry a few days later, also by Godric, stating that his death will be a double loss for Hogwarts because for some reason that he doesn't elaborate upon, he expects that the Arithmancy professor will die at the exact same time that he does."

"How could he possibly know when someone else was going to die?" Noah asked. "Unless history somehow missed that Godric was a Seer, I don't see how he could possibly know that the Arithmancy professor was going to die at the exact same time that he did."

"Godric was not a Seer, Mr. Diggory," a feminine voice said from behind a nearby bookshelf, causing all three students' heads to turn in the direction, as the current Arithmancy professor, Septima Vector, walked out from behind it and came over to the three students. "However, I have studied the histories of the past holders of my post and thus I can tell you why Godric knew when Hogwarts' first Arithmancy professor would die."

"How did he know that, Professor?" Hermione asked.

Vector smiled and said, "The very first person to hold my position, Miss Granger, was Professor Cameron Stuart, who in the year 969, upon their marriage, became Professor Cameron Stuart-Gryffindor."

As realization dawned upon the three teens, Vector nodded and said, "Yes, Godric Gryffindor was married to Cameron Stuart and they both died on the Thirty-First of August in the year 1035, because when they got married, they used a very ancient magical ritual to bind their souls together for all eternity. It's considered by many to be a very romantic gesture, but the inherent problem with a Soul-Bonding Ritual is that it will ensure that the bonded partners do not have to endure the pain of continuing to live for a single day without the love of their life. Thus, should one of them fall terminally ill or be fatally injured, the very second that Death claims them, their partner will also immediately drop dead, even if they were perfectly healthy."

"Well that kind of sucks," Harry said.

Vector grinned and said, "Yes, Mr. Potter, I suppose it does at that, although I wouldn't feel too bad for Professor Stuart-Gryffindor if I were you, because from what I've read he was 114 when Godric died, so it's not like his life was being cut prematurely short. Although it is possible that he could have gone on to live at least a few more years if it wasn't for the ritual that he and Godric performed. How many though, well, only the Gods know that."

"Godric Gryffindor was gay?" Noah asked. "I never would have guessed."

Vector smiled and said, "He wasn't the only one of the Founders who preferred their own gender, Mr. Diggory, as I can also tell you that Helga Hufflepuff was a lesbian and Salazar Slytherin, while married to a woman when he died, was bisexual. I did find a reference to the fact that he was married to a man at some point prior to his marriage to his wife, but I couldn't find the name of his husband, only that the marriage ended in divorce in the year 964. From what I've read, it sounds like it was a very bitter divorce on both sides, but it seems like the name of Salazar's ex-husband was removed from any record that mentioned him, as if someone didn't want anyone to know that Salazar Slytherin had married this unknown person, whoever they might be."

After a few minutes of silence, Hermione asked, "You seem to be quite knowledgeable about the founders, Professor. Do you know who the heirs are?"

"I had a feeling you were about to ask that, Miss Granger," Vector answered. "And no, I'm afraid I do not know who the founders' currently living heirs are. I do know how many children each founder had, but I don't know any of those children's names or from which one of them the heirs the Sorting Hat says have returned to Hogwarts are descended from."

"Well, where did you get that information from?" Harry asked. "If we could reference that source then maybe we could find out who the heirs were."

"I had the same thought, Mr. Potter," Vector said as she produced a large black dragonhide book with gilt-gold pages and set it down on the table, where the students could get a look at it. In a fancy calligraphic script the title, The Tome of the Founders, was written across the front of the book, along with another line, in a smaller script that said Written by Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Salazar Slytherin, and Rowena Ravenclaw.

"According to the first page in this book," Vector exclaimed, "it was written by the four founders we previously knew about in the year 976, which would have been six years after Merlin died, and was intended to record their descendants. They cast spells on it so that it would automatically update itself every time that a new child of their bloodlines was born."

Noah looked extremely excited as he said, "Well, this is it then. We'll finally know who the heirs are, because if this book magically updates itself every time a child of the founders' bloodlines is born, then the heirs' names should be in it. It's just a question of finding them."

His face fell, however, when he looked up and saw the expression on Vector's face. With a shake of her head, she said, "Unfortunately, Mr. Diggory, there's a problem, because it would seem that the founders forgot to place a charm on the book to prevent it from suffering from the ravages of time." Opening the book to about the fifth page, she motioned to it and said, "As you can see, this is the listing for Helga Hufflepuff and from this you can see how I knew that she was a lesbian, since you can read her spouse's name as Catherine Aurora van Blunt. You can also see that they had five children together, but as you can probably tell, you can't read much of their names, because the ink has faded too much for it to be legible."

"Is the entire book like that?" Hermione asked.

"Indeed it is," Vector said. "Looking through it, I've found that the names of the founders themselves and that of their spouses, in most cases, are still legible, but from there, the names of their children, grandchildren, and successive generations gets almost impossible to read. You can make out a few letters every now and then but the ink is so faint that you really have to scrutinize some of the lines to do even that."

Looking at the page detailing Helga's family, Harry could certainly see what Professor Vector meant, since while the name and dates for Helga Marie Hufflepuff and her wife were clear, from there, it got extremely hard. It was clear that Helga and Catherine had five children, one of whom had a name that started with the letters 'Wi' but beyond that the ink was so faded that Harry couldn't read it no matter how hard he tried.

"Aren't there spells to restore old books?" Hermione asked. "I'm almost sure I've read about such spells before."

"There are, Miss Granger," Vector said. "I never cast the spell on this book myself because the only spell that would restore damage this bad requires the simultaneous casting power of eight witches or wizards. I could have asked my co-workers to help, I suppose, but until now it never seemed all that important, so I'm afraid that it easily slipped my mind."

"Witches and wizards can cast spells simultaneously?" Harry asked.

It was Noah who nodded and said, "Yeah, for some of the more powerful spells it's necessary. It's an advanced technique though, so Professor Flitwick usually doesn't start covering it until seventh year."

"So you know something about it then, right?"

"Yeah, Harry, I do," Noah confirmed. "I wouldn't say that I'm an expert though, as Professor Flitwick only just started covering it in our last class."

"If you can gather a few of your friends," Vector said, "I can teach you and lend my own power to casting the charm. It won't be instant though, I'm afraid, as it will probably take a month for the spell to restore the extensive damage to this tome."

"Extensive damage? What extensive damage?" Madam Pince asked, as she walked over. She'd come to check on Hermione, Harry, and Noah and heard Vector's comment. Always being very protective of the books in the Hogwarts collection, hearing those words sent her into an immediate state of heightened alert, ready to punish anyone who she felt was mistreating one of the books.

"Nothing that any of the students did, Irma," Vector clarified. "This particular volume is over a thousand years old, written by the founders, minus Merlin. The ink, however, is badly faded."

Taking a look for herself, Madam Pince nodded and said, "Indeed it is. Were you planning on casting a restoration charm on it?"

"Yes, I assume you'd be willing to help?" Vector asked and Pince nodded affirmatively. "Well, then with Messrs. Potter and Diggory and Miss Granger helping, we'll need assistance from three more people. We definitely should cast the spell on this book, however, as it's essentially the family trees of the founders, charmed to automatically update every time someone related to them is born, so, given the Sorting Hat's song this year it would be an extremely useful text."

Madam Pince nodded her head, "Yes, I can see how that would be true. So, does it cover all five founders or just the four who have houses?"

Vector was silent for a moment, before she said, "I'm almost positive that the last time I saw this book last year, it was only the four founders, but now it seems thicker than it did."

Hermione looked thoughtful for a moment, before she said, "Maybe the founders charmed it so that Merlin's family tree wouldn't show up until the secret of his involvement in the school was revealed."

"That's plausible," Madam Pince agreed.

In the end, they found Draco, Blaise, Padma, Ryan, Nick, Luna, Adrian, Katie, and Neville in the library and they all agreed to help cast the charm on the book, as Madam Pince felt that using students might require a little extra magical power, as the eight was based on fully-trained adult wizards, rather than a group of students, most of whom had not even learned the required technique yet. Being very protective of the books, it was almost an hour of instruction and practice before Madam Pince allowed the students to cast the spell on the actual book.

Gathering around in a circle around the book, the two teachers and thirteen students all held hands with the person to their left, as they put their wands out in front of them, touching the tips together, as they said the Old English incantation, "Edníwian Bóc."

As the magic channeled through the casters wands and down to the book, it glowed brightly for a few moments, before returning to normal and everyone put their wands away as Madam Pince said, "Professor Vector is right, it will probably take a month at least for this book to be legible. I will keep an eye on it and let you know when the sections that you're all probably the most interested in are legible."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Fourteen
A Ball is Announced

-o-0-o-

Just because the restoration charm had been cast upon the Tome of the Founders did not mean that Harry, Hermione, and Noah decided to give up on their search for information regarding the heirs. The way they saw it, since they still had Dumbledore's standing permission to access the Restricted Section to search, they might as well do it when they had the time. Some people might have decided to abandon the search, figuring that it was easier to just wait a month and all would be revealed. Ron was of that mind, thinking that his housemates were insane to be wasting their time researching something that wouldn't need to be researched if they'd just wait a month.

"Why are you three still going to the library?" Ron asked. "You said the book with all the heirs' names will be restored in a month, so why don't you just wait?"

"Actually, Ron, we said that it could be at least a month," Noah corrected. "It could take longer and quite frankly, I think we should do everything we can to find out who the heirs are. I mean you heard what the Sorting Hat said."

"Yeah, so?" Ron asked.

"So?" Harry asked. "Ron, mate, the Hat said that the five heirs would return at the time of the school's greatest need. What happens if some pivotal event to saving this school should happen while we don't know who the heirs are? The Hat said that only the heirs would be able to stop whatever this threat to Hogwarts is."

"I wouldn't take what the Hat said so literally, Harry," Ron said. "I mean, Merlin's beard it's a hat for pity sake! It doesn't have a brain, so what the bloody hell does it know about anything?"

"A good deal more than you do apparently, Mr. Weasley," Roger Davies said, as he walked up behind Ron, having overheard the conversation. Hearing the voice of the Assistant Professor, Ron turned to him, as he added, "For your information the Sorting Hat isn't just a normal hat. If that was the case, it would have fallen apart centuries ago. It's true that it started out its life as Godric Gryffindor's hat and it still looks like a hat, but it's so much more than just a hat."

"What do you mean, Professor?" Harry asked, feeling quite odd calling Roger that, not only because he wasn't much older than him, but also due to the fact that through the Art activity, he'd seen the man naked. Obviously that was something he never thought he'd ever see, but he had to admit that if he had to see one of his professors starkers, then he was glad that it was Roger, who was young and quite fit. He shuddered to think about some of his other professors without clothes on.

"Perhaps it's because I'm a Ravenclaw," Roger said, "but I've always enjoyed reading and I can tell you that the only reason the Sorting Hat has remained intact all of these years and in fact the reason that it's capable of talking and singing in the first place is because it's sentient - that is it possesses a human consciousness."

"A human consciousness?" Hermione asked. "How is that even possible?"

"Magic can do a great number of things, Miss Granger," Roger answered. "Although I must admit I sometimes thought that it seemed a bit of a stretch that the four founders, as powerful as they were, would have been capable of binding a human consciousness to a hat. Of course, knowing now that Merlin was a founder, I don't find it so hard to believe that the five of them working together could accomplish it."

"Are you saying that there's a person's mind imprisoned in that hat?" Noah asked.

"I wouldn't say imprisoned, no," Roger said. "According to the multiple sources on the subject that I've read, the person whose consciousness inhabits the hat consented to become the hat's mind and voice. The name of this individual has been lost to time, although I imagine the Sorting Hat would be able to tell you who it is if you asked."

"What sources did you get this information from?" Hermione asked, clearly curious to read about it herself. Ron threw up his hands and stalked away at this point, while Noah and Harry walked a couple of feet away to discuss something without bothering Roger and Hermione, as he gave her several book titles to check out.

-o-0-o-

Later that evening at dinner in the Great Hall, Dumbledore stood and called for silence.

“Attention students,” the headmaster began. “At this time I would like to announce a Halloween Ball for all fifth year and older students here in the Great Hall on Halloween night, following the feast. It is my hope that a night of frivolity will help to take everyone’s minds off of current events. Rather than costumes, the Heads of House and I have decided that this will be a formal event. Those of you in first through fourth years don’t feel left out as your Heads of House will make arrangements for smaller parties in your house common rooms.”

‘Oh great, a dance,’ Harry thought. ‘Just what I need: another opportunity to look like an idiot with my horrid dancing. At least I won't have any problems finding a date though, because I'm sure Noah will jump at the chance. I don't want to give him any false hopes about us getting more serious, but then he has made it abundantly clear that we can take things as slowly as I want to. He's certainly nothing if not patient, which is really a rather rare trait in a Gryffindor.’

‘Just lovely,’ Draco thought, ‘a dance, which Pansy will undoubtedly use as a way of trying to get into my pants again. Honestly, what part of ‘I’m gay’ doesn’t she understand? I'm going to have to ask a guy to the dance to try and drive home the fact that I'm gay, not that I expect it will do much good because Pansy is a psychotic and delusional stalker bitch. Now, who should I ask to be my date?'

‘Poor Draco,’ Nick thought as he looked between Draco and Pansy. ‘Her mind is already working out a new plan for getting into his pants and using this dance to do it. I’m sure she already thinks it a given that Draco will ask her to be his date, regardless of the fact that Draco told her that he's gay over a year ago.’ Turning his thoughts to his own life and plans, Nick looked up at the head table and thought, 'I wonder if he would actually accept if I asked? I don't even know if he likes blokes that way, honestly, and he is a professor. Of course, that isn't an issue since I'm seventeen.'

While he was helping to research the heirs one day last week, Nick had come across a book detailing the Hogwarts rules and regulations and decided to flick through it. He wasn't all that surprised when he read the rule stating that romantic relationships between teachers and students were strictly forbidden. What did surprise him, however, was the amendment immediately following the rule which added an exception in the case of students who were seventeen years of age or older. Nick couldn't help smiling when he'd seen it, as he'd had a crush on one of his professors practically since the first time he'd seen him at the Sorting Feast.

‘Hmm, as much as it pains me to even think this, Dumbledore has actually had a good idea for once.’ Pansy thought. ‘Oh I'm going to look so good on Draco’s arm. I’ll dress up in my best dress, fix up my hair, and I’ll wear some of that special perfume I bought in Paris over the summer. He keeps claiming that he’s gay, but I know he’s just playing hard to get. We’re destined to be together and I intend to make sure we are.’

‘Hmm, well, if I do go to the dance, at least I already have a date,’ Ron thought to himself as he smiled at Hermione, who smiled back. ‘Thank Merlin for the twins taking pity on me and buying me some respectable dress robes that won’t make me a laughing stock.’

‘Oh Ron,’ Hermione thought. ‘I’m sure he thinks it a given that I’ll be going to the dance with him. Of course, what he doesn’t know, is that’s still very much up in the air depending on whether or not he stops being such an annoying prick. His constant complaining about Harry and I accepting the TA jobs and spending time researching the heirs is getting on my last nerve. Honestly, I'm not sure I could handle being with him for an entire night, oblivious and obnoxious little git that he is.’

'I wonder if Harry will ask me to be his date?' Noah thought, as he cast a sidelong glance at the younger man. 'He must think me a paragon of patience by now, because I've made it so clear that he can take things as slowly as he needs to. I can't count how many times I've wanted to jump him, but he knows how I feel. If anything happens between us, I don't want him to feel like I pressured him into it, so he's gotta be the one to make the next move.'

‘Who am I going to ask to the ball?’ Ryan thought from his seat at the Ravenclaw table. ‘I know Nick is gay, but I've seen his lust-filled looks at a certain professor, not that I can blame him, because he is quite hot. I don't have any confirmation, but I'm pretty sure Harry and Noah are also gay, but then again I think they want each other. So who's left? Ernie and Justin are cute, but they're straight and so are Neville, Seamus, Terry, Michael, and Anthony. I suppose there's always Kevin and Stephen, but I don't know. They did invite me to join them for sex if I ever wanted to, but I'm not sure if they'd be interested in actually going out on a date with me. Not that I have any interest in actually dating them, because while I do like them, I'm not really interested in having one serious boyfriend right now, let alone two.’

-o-0-o-

After dinner all the students who had signed up for Defense Arts arrived in the Room of Requirement for the weekly Monday meeting of the group. Once everyone had arrived and the clock struck seven, Dumbledore asked, "May I have your attention, please?"

Waiting a moment for everyone to quiet down and give him their attention, the headmaster then said, “As you know, we have been practicing the Shielding Charm, the Disarming Charm and the Patronus Charm over the last few weeks. I am now satisfied that you all have mastered those charms and I believe we are ready to move on to something new. Now, this charm is very advanced magic, in fact it is not even normally taught at Hogwarts, as the charm I shall be teaching you now is taught during the course of Auror training, but I think it's useful and that it will prove helpful to all of you. Tonight we shall begin studying the Time Suspension Charm.”

‘Time Suspension Charm?’ Harry thought, having never heard of such a charm. He had never even guessed that such a spell would or even could exist. Then again, he should have known by now that with magic, it was pretty much a guarantee that he was going to constantly be surprised.

“Now, the Time Suspension Charm can be used during dueling and depending on the power the caster chooses to put into casting it, the charm freezes time for thirty seconds to a minute, allowing them time to cast other spells without interruption.”

A murmur of excitement went through the students, as they all were excited about learning a spell powerful enough to actually freeze time.

“Now, there is a variant of the charm which will keep it active longer than a minute, however, it achieves that by constantly drawing power off the caster’s magical core. Can anyone tell me the inherent danger in doing so?”

Many hands went up and Dumbledore scanned over those who had their hands raised and after a moment, he asked, “Yes, Mr. Malfoy?”

“Continuously drawing too much power from one’s magical core can result in death, so only the most powerful of wizards would even consider using a charm that constantly draws power from their cores.”

“Correct, Mr. Malfoy,” Dumbledore said with a smile and nod. “Five points to Slytherin. Now, as you are all students, I will not be teaching the variant of the charm that continuously draws power from your cores, as I believe that would be far too dangerous for wizards and witches of your skill level. The wand movement is a deceptively simple swish and flick, which can serve to surprise your opponent, as they won't necessarily be expecting such a powerful charm to result from such a basic wand movement. The incantation is really simple and bears some similarity to the Time of Day Charm: Tempus Subsisto.”

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, in his quarters off his classroom on the ground floor of the Training Grounds Tower, Professor Valen Lasinius sat at his desk, grading assignments for his seventh-year History of Magic class. Concentrating on his task, he didn't notice the shimmer of magical energies as the floor-length mirror in the corner of the room activated until a feminine voice said, "Nehn'vendui, mela'seler."

Setting down his quill, Valen stood up and turned to face the mirror, as he nodded and said, "Vendui, selera."

With a frown, she said, "Oh for the love of Persephone, Valen, drop those ridiculous glamours. I wish to look upon your real face when I speak to you, not that hideous creation of yours."

"Hideous?" Valen asked. "I'll have you know that I've gotten quite a few compliments on these looks. Half the girls in my classes are crushing on me - even some of the boys are obviously smitten."

"Well there's no accounting for tastes is there?" the woman in the mirror asked. "Now, please, Valen, drop the glamours."

"Ma nuvenin, selera," Valen said, as he dropped the Glamour Charms which hid his true appearance from his coworkers and students. "Now, mela'selera, I'm sure you have a reason for this visit?"

With a playful smile on her face, the woman asked, "I need a reason now to check in on my favorite brother?"

Valen quirked an eyebrow at that, as he said, "Asheera, I'm your only brother."

Asheera shook her head, a smile on her face as she said, "Now, now, Valen, aren't you forgetting about Rhyvan and Arathorn?"

"They're your brothers-in-law, Asheera," Valen said. "Well, and nephew-in-law in Arathorn's case, but I'm still your only actual brother."

"That is entirely beside the point, Valen," Asheera responded.

Valen grinned as he said, "There was a point?"

"Valen, do try to be serious for once in your life," Asheera said. "I know that's a challenge for you, but you've already surpassed the age where you can blame it on your youth."

Valen couldn't help cracking a smile at that, before he burst out laughing, which caused his sister to look at him like he'd gone insane. After a moment, he got a hold of himself and said, "I apologize, mela'selera, but your comment about my youth just got me thinking about something the headmaster said to me."

"Oh and what was that?"

"He said, and I quote, 'When you reach my age, Valen, there is very little that escapes your notice.'"

Asheera grinned and chuckled at that, as she said, "Yes, I can see why you would find that funny, considering that we're both older than Dumbledore."

"Well, only by eleven years, for me at least," Valen said. "You on the other hand..."

"Don't you even think about it," Asheera said.

"What? Saying your age?" Valen asked with a grin. "Does it matter? It's not like anyone else can hear this conversation and there's plenty of people back home who know perfectly well how old you are. You look very good for you age, sis, considering that you're over a century older than Dumbledore."

"Alright, Valen, that's enough," Asheera said. "I need a status report on your mission at Hogwarts."

"There's not a lot to report," Valen said. "I did end up telling Dumbledore that Kyrian's father was still alive during our conversation when he said what I quoted earlier. I made him my unofficial teaching assistant in Fencing class and the headmaster was curious how I knew him. Apparently he picked up on the fact that there was something more to my interest in the boy than just impressed teacher and talented student."

Asheera sighed. "Exactly what did you tell him, Valen?"

"Not much, I kept things as vague as possible," Valen said. "I only said that Kyrian's father was an old family friend and that he'd married my elder sister. Obviously that was you, but I didn't tell the headmaster your name. I also obliviated him before I left his office, so, I doubt he even remembers the conversation."

"Forgive me if that doesn't ease my mind, Valen," Asheera said. "While you're talented at a great many things, Memory Charms have never been one of them." With a sigh, she asked, "Now, is there anything else?"

"The Headmaster announced a ball this evening at dinner," Valen said, knowing that would get his sister's attention. "On October 31st, following the annual Halloween feast, all fifth-year and older students will be allowed to attend the Halloween Ball. It's a formal event rather than being a costume party."

With a delighted smile, Asheera said, "Oh I do so love a good ball. Things are almost ready here, Valen, so I think by the time of the ball, His Supreme Lordship and I will be able to pay a visit to Hogwarts and tell Kyrian the truth."

"Oh thank the entire pantheon," Valen said. "I don't mind the Glamours so much, but once the truth comes out I can finally stop using this infernal stick of wood that these people call a wand. Frankly, I'm getting sick of casting spells at such a reduced potency."

"Yes, well, you know why they use wands, Valen," Asheera said. "And why wandmakers put a power dampener in every wand they sell."

"Yes, I know," Valen said. "However, that doesn't mean that I have to like casting spells at the Grand Sorcerer level when I'm capable of casting Magus level spells."

"I feel your pain, little brother," Asheera said with a grin.

"You're mocking me."

"I'm your older sister, it's my job."

"Serena is older than me too and she's never felt the need to mock me."

"Yes, well, she's the middle child," Asheera said. "She's also got too sweet of a demeanor to want to turn all the mocking I gave her until you came along back on you, for which you should be thankful."

"Oh trust me I am," Valen said. "Now, if you'll excuse me, mela'selera, I have papers to grade."

"They trust you to do that?"

"Asheera, please," Valen said. "I know I shall always be cursed to be your baby brother, but will you please accept the fact that I'm a responsible adult now?"

"Maybe once you've actually been one for more than twenty years I'll consider it."

Valen said nothing and just gave his sister an annoyed look. With a shake of her head she said, "Anyway, I should be going myself. His Supreme Lordship and I have to meet with the Circle, before he meets with His Majesty. Namaarie, Valen."

Valen said his goodbyes, before the mirror shimmered again and Asheera disappeared, at which point Valen went back to his desk and his grading.

-o-0-o-

After the activity period let out, Harry and Noah made their way to the library to do some more research into the heirs. Hermione wasn't joining them this evening, however, as Professor Lasinius had called for a late evening History of Magic department meeting as he would be out of the castle the following morning and unable to attend the normal morning meeting.

"Hopefully we can still find something without Hermione's help," Harry said. "Few people are as good at research as she is."

Noah nodded. "True, but I'm sure we'll find something. I just have this funny feeling tonight that our persistence is going to pay off."

"Well, let's hope that you're right," Harry said, as he and Noah entered the library and began making their way towards the gate to the Restricted Section.

On the way there, they saw Ryan sitting alone at a table, doing an assignment for Charms by the look of it. He was clearly concentrating on his assignment, so Harry and Noah left him be, opting not to break his concentration by saying hello.

"Just the two of you tonight?" Madam Pince asked as they approached the gate and she pulled out her key ring.

"Yes, Madam Pince," Noah answered. "Hermione had a meeting with Professor Lasinius."

The librarian nodded as she put the key in the lock and pulled the gate open. Ushering the boys inside, she closed and locked it behind them. Before they could get very far, however, she said, "I expect it's been embarrassment that has prevented you from asking where to find the particular volumes that Professor Dumbledore suggested that you search."

Harry's and Noah's cheeks turned slightly red at being reminded of those particular books, but if the librarian noticed, she didn't say anything and instead continued with, "You'll find them on the topmost shelf of bookcase 12 in row G10." After a moment of silence she added, "I know many of the pictures in that particular series are quite erotic, so do try to keep your hormones in check because if I find even a drop of semen you'll be banned from the library for the rest of the year."

This time, Harry and Noah could both feel their cheeks turning bright scarlet as the mere suggestion that they would actually masturbate in the library was very embarrassing. Apparently, Madam Pince noticed their faces and decided to comment this time, "It wouldn't be the first time that I've had to ban a teenage boy from the library for the same reason and I'm sure it won't be the last. I'm just hoping that you two have more restraint than your housemate young Mr. Finnigan."

Madam Pince turned away at that point, leaving Harry and Noah standing there dumbfounded. Harry broke the silence by asking in a soft voice, "Seamus is banned from the library for..."

"I guess so," Noah said. "Somehow though, I'm not really surprised."

"Yeah neither am I," Harry said after a moment of contemplation. Nothing else was said as they headed deeper into the Restricted Section and soon found themselves where Madam Pince had directed.

Moving the rolling ladder over to the correct place, Noah held the ladder steady as Harry climbed up and scanned the titles of the books. It didn't take long for him to spot 'The Complete Genealogies of Noteworthy Witches and Wizards of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, Volume I, Surnames A-F by Hilda Crawford'. There were also additional volumes for letters G-M, N-S, and T-Z. Removing the books from the shelf, Harry passed them down to Noah one at a time, before climbing down the ladder.

"Well, let's see what we can find shall we?" Noah asked, as they moved over to a nearby table.

For his part, Harry simply nodded and it was by unspoken agreement that Noah took the first two volumes, while Harry took the other two. Opening the books, they were both presented with a plethora of names and dates, all listed in alphabetical order by surname. There were also plenty of pages that had both Harry and Noah blushing, however, as Professor Dumbledore hadn't been lying when he'd said that Ms. Crawford's works were of an adult nature.

One of the first pictures that Noah came across in the books was of a very fit and handsome young man, who was identified as Nicholas Abernathy. The picture depicted him wearing nothing but a smile and a set of Quidditch robes left open to reveal the fact that he was wearing nothing underneath them and thus bearing his considerable attributes for all to see. Nicholas wasn't exactly Noah's type, but he still felt a twitch in his trousers as he looked at the picture, which prompted him to quickly turn the page before he got uncomfortably hard.

Harry, on the other hand, hadn't been so lucky because the first image he came across was of an older man, probably in his forties and carrying a bit too much extra weight engaged in sexual relations with a younger, rather homely woman. Being gay it had to be said that a moving picture of two unattractive people engaging in heterosexual relations did nothing whatsoever for Harry. At least not from the attraction standpoint, as it instead left him feeling a bit sick to his stomach and thus he also turned the page rather quickly.

It was nearly an hour later when Noah said, "Hey Harry, I think I just found something."

"What?" Harry asked, as he moved over to Noah and looked at the page the older boy was looking at.

Noah placed his finger next to the relevant section of text and Harry read the names that were listed.

CROMNVELL, Thornton Edmund - Born 1470, Died 1593
Married 1497 to RAVENCLAW, Fiona Cordelia - Born 1475, Died 1597
one child, CROMNVELL, Edward Charles - Born 1500, Died 1601

"Well, this Edward Cromnvell was presumably descended from Rowena," Harry said.

"Yes, that's what I thought as well," Noah said. "However, I also thought that we know someone whose surname is very similar."

"Ryan Cromwell and his cousin Matthew."

Noah nodded and said, "Unless I'm very much mistaken, Cromnvell is a variation of the Cromwell surname; the question is did Ryan's and Matthew's family ever use it?"

"Maybe Ryan knows," Harry said as he took out his PDA, opened the messaging function and sent a message to Ryan asking just that.

It took a couple of minutes, but Ryan soon replied with, "Not that I know of, but why do you ask?"

Instead of answering him, Harry instead sent a message telling him to meet them near the entrance to the Restricted Section, at which point he sent another message to Madam Pince, telling her the same. Noah placed a sheet of paper in the book to mark the correct page, before closing it and moving with Harry over to the gate where they found Ryan and the librarian waiting.

"Restricted books aren't allowed to leave the section," Madam Pince said, when she saw Noah carrying the book.

"I know, Madam Pince," Noah said. "However, I found an interesting entry in this book that I'd like Ryan to take a look at."

"All right, we can do it at my desk," Madam Pince said as she held out a hand for the book and said, "I'll take that if you don't mind."

Figuring that the librarian probably had the right to take restricted books out of the section, Noah handed it over to her, and then followed her along with Ryan and Harry over to her desk. Once there, Madam Pince opened the book to the page that Noah had marked and scanned it before she said, "Ah, I see, very interesting."

"What is this about?" Ryan asked, obviously confused. "Harry why did you want to know if my family's surname was ever Cromnvell?"

"Because if it was, Ryan, then you and your cousin are Rowena's heirs," Harry said with a big smile on his face.

Before Ryan or anyone else could say anything, however, there was a brilliant flash of flame as Fawkes appeared clutching the Sorting Hat in his talons.

"Ryan is indeed Rowena's heir," the hat said. "His cousin Matthew, however, is not."

Looking at the relevant page for a moment, Ryan asked, "But how is that possible? From the look of this it would appear that the Ravenclaw bloodline runs through the Cromwell family and Matthew is a Cromwell."

"Not by blood," the hat responded. At Ryan's confused look, it elaborated. "Your late uncle, Charles Cromwell, was adopted and thus his son, Matthew, is not a Cromwell or a Ravenclaw, by blood. Your confusion suggests that you were never told this, but something I assume you did know was that your mother, the late Alexandra Cromwell, was a year older than Charles. Thus as the only living blood descendant of Edmund Cromnvell, and through him his mother Fiona who was Rowena's great-great-granddaughter, you are Rowena Ravenclaw's heir. Therefore, it is my duty to present you with this ring."

Fawkes moved the Sorting Hat half a foot to the left at this point to reveal an ornate golden ring lying on the desk that hadn't been there moments earlier. Upon closer inspection, Ryan could see that it bore the family crest of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Ravenclaw. He had seen a similar ring before, as his late grandfather William had always worn the Cromwell family's ring which marked the wearer as Lord Cromwell and head of the family. Ryan had always wondered why he'd never seen Matthew wearing it, but now it would appear he had an answer to that question.

"So, that means that I'm..." Ryan hesitated for a moment, before he said, "Lord Ravenclaw?"

The hat appeared to nod at this and said, "Yes, Ryan, you are Lord Ravenclaw, in addition to being Lord Cromwell and thus hold a fairly significant role in our world, as you hold two seats on the Concilium Magnus Domos. I believe your grandmother has been keeping the Cromwell ring safe for you since her husband passed, waiting until she felt it was time to give it to you. Perhaps now she'll feel the time is right."

Ryan's hand was shaking slightly as he reached out and took the ring, sliding it onto his right ring finger, feeling it resize as he did so.

"When all five heirs have been identified," the hat said, "I will have more instructions for you, Ryan, but until then, my work here is done."

"Wait, does that mean you know who all the heirs are?" Noah asked.

"I do," the hat confirmed. "However, I'm charmed to not be able to reveal that information until each heir discovers the possibility that they're heirs for themselves, so don't bother asking me who the others are, because I can't tell you."

"Can you tell us who you are then?" Harry asked, remembering what Roger had said about the hat possessing a human consciousness.

"That I can do," the hat said. "My name is Dakota... Dakota Le Fey."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Fifteen
Secrets Uncovered

-o-0-o-

"Dakota Le Fey?" Noah asked. "Is that any relation to Morgana Le Fey?"

"Indeed it is," Dakota, the Sorting Hat, said. "Morgana was my sister of sorts. You see we weren't related by blood or marriage and I was never legally adopted, but we thought of each other as sort of an honorary brother and sister."

"Then why do you use her surname?" Ryan asked.

"I adopted her surname when I moved here to England," Dakota explained. "I didn't have one previously and Morgana told me that having one was necessary here. We were already close by then, having helped each other with various goals and even saving each other's lives, so she gave me permission to use her surname."

"Where did you live before moving to England?" Harry asked.

"The Great Plains of the continent now called North America," Dakota answered. "I am what would now be called a Native American. My tribe was living in the area that now comprises the state of South Dakota when I met Morgana."

"I was unaware that Morgana had ever visited North America," Madam Pince commented. "The history books don't mention anyone from England venturing there until centuries after Morgana passed away."

"Her reasons for venturing there will be revealed," Dakota said. "However, it’s not something that I can reveal now, as it has to do with the heirs so it's information that I'm not allowed to give out until all five have gathered." After a short pause, he then added, "And now I must be going."

Before anyone could say anything else, Fawkes grabbed the hat in his talons and spread his wings, at which point both Fawkes and Dakota disappeared in a flash of flames.

"I must admit that I'm rather surprised that you knew about the hat having a human consciousness, Mr. Potter," Madam Pince said. "That’s a tidbit of information that is usually only encountered by the most studious of people, who are usually Ravenclaws."

"Professor Davies told us this afternoon," Noah explained.

Madam Pince nodded and said, "Ah, I see. Anyway, it's almost closing time, so, you three should probably start heading back to your common rooms. I'll put this book and the others away."

Noah, Harry, and Ryan nodded, as they left the library together. Since they were all going in the same direction, at least part of the way, Noah and Harry filled Ryan in on what they'd learned regarding the Founders' Tower, and the Founders themselves. Ryan was interested to learn that Godric and Helga preferred their own genders and that Salazar Slytherin was reportedly bisexual, but it had to be said that not being in Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin House, Ryan's interest in them wasn't quite as strong.

Of course, his thoughts were focused on the fact that he now knew that he was Ravenclaw's heir. Not to mention the fact that his cousin wasn't a blood relation and he couldn't help but wonder if Matthew knew that and if he did, why he'd never said anything. It didn't change the way that Ryan felt about Matthew, because he still loved him, but he wondered why if Matthew had known, he’d kept it a secret? He also wondered why his grandmother had opted to keep the fact that he was next in line as Lord Cromwell a secret. Of course, if there was one thing he knew about Lucinda Cromwell, it was that she could be a very secretive woman who did not believe in telling anyone information that she did not feel they needed to know, even if the person in question would disagree with her on whether they needed to know something or not.

-o-0-o-

Early the next morning, Nick woke up before dawn and found himself unable to fall back asleep no matter how hard he tried. Unable to sleep and never being one who enjoyed just lounging around in bed, Nick stood up and headed for the bathroom to begin his morning routine, taking care to be as quiet as possible so that he didn't wake his roommates. Since it was still very early when he finished in the bathroom, Nick decided not to put on his school robes and instead dressed in workout clothes. Back in France, he did usually go running at least three times a week, although he hadn't done it in several weeks now.

'Perhaps that's why I couldn't get back to sleep,' Nick thought. 'My body is trying to tell me it misses the exercise.'

Picking up his shoes, Nick opted not to put them on until he entered the common room, afraid that walking on the stone floors in his trainers would make more noise than his sock clad feet and wake someone up. He knew that Vince and Greg would sleep through pretty much anything, but the others weren't so sound sleepers. Of course, of his three remaining roommates, Nick suspected that Draco would have the biggest issue with being woken so early in the morning, as he definitely wasn't an early riser. He got up with plenty of time to take care of his morning routine in the bathroom before going to breakfast, but it was still over an hour before the blond usually woke up.

It was as he was crossing the common room to the exit that a voice said, "You're up early."

Turning towards the sound, Nick spotted Adrian Pucey dressed in tight black satin gym shorts and a finely fitted Slytherin colored cotton muscle shirt coming out of the hallway that led to the sixth and seventh year boys' dormitories, as well as the private room that had been given to Adrian as the Head Boy.

"Woke up and just couldn't get back to sleep," Nick explained. "Thought I'd go out for a run and get some exercise. There are no rules against that are there?"

Adrian shook his head and said, "No, you're good. Students are allowed to leave their common rooms as of five in the morning, simply because the headmaster knows that some students like to get in some exercise before breakfast. I'm actually headed to the weight room myself."

"The weight room?" Nick asked. "I wasn't even aware that Hogwarts had one."

Adrian laughed, "It didn't actually, but I got permission from the headmaster to convert one of the old storage rooms in the dungeons into one. It was an old potions store room, but it was pretty much forgotten about for enough years that none of the ingredients stored in it were still useable for potions, but the various jars and shelves transfigured into weights well enough."

"Ah, cool," Nick said.

"You're welcome to join me, if you like," Adrian said. "It's mostly the other seventh year prefects and I that use the room, but being a prefect is not a requirement."

"I think I'll pass this morning," Nick said, "but I'll definitely keep it in mind for the future."

Adrian nodded. "Okay. If you ever want to use it, when you leave the common room, turn left and head down the corridor until you can turn right, then walk past three doors on the left wall, turn right again into another corridor, and then it's the fourth door on the left."

Pulling out his PDA, Nick made a note of the directions and then nodded to Adrian. "Okay, well, enjoy your workout," after a pause he grinned and added, "not that you really need one because you're quite hot."

Adrian smiled. "I'm also straight, but I thank you for the compliment. As for not needing the workout, actually I do, because trust me this body doesn't stay hot all by itself."

"Yes, I suppose that's probably true," Nick said. "Anyway, have fun."

"You too," Adrian said, as they both headed out of the common room with Adrian turning left to head for the weight room, while Nick turned right to head for the stairs up to the ground floor.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, in his ground floor quarters, Valen had just finished applying his glamours and getting dressed. He would definitely be happy once Asheera and her husband came to Hogwarts and he could stop using the glamours, because it was rather annoying to have to remember to use them every morning before he left his quarters. Of course, even more annoying was the need to remember to take his wand and to magically hide the engraving upon the hilt of his sword, as it wouldn't do for any of the students to notice that it read, 'Lord Valen Jorian Lasinius', as that would undoubtedly result in questions that he couldn't answer.

"Well time to get going," Valen said to himself, as he finished up everything he had to do in his quarters. Exiting the room, he made his way out of the castle and headed across the bridge towards the Forbidden Forest for his morning swim. The Black Lake was closer, but the water was much too cold for Valen's tastes and he knew that the merpeople would not take kindly to him swimming in their lake. It was also much too public a location because even early in the morning, it wasn't entirely outside the realm of possibility for students to be out near the lake, as there were some students who went out for a morning run and around the lake was one of the more popular routes.

Intent on his destination, Valen didn't notice the student several yards behind him, but the student definitely noticed him, because this particular student was one of the many at Hogwarts who was crushing on the extremely handsome Professor Lasinius. Finding it odd that the professor would be going into the Forbidden Forest at five-thirty in the morning, the student decided to follow him and find out what he was up to.

After walking briskly for another twenty minutes after entering the forest, Valen stopped at a medium-sized pond with sandy banks and crystal clear waters which was a more secluded location than the Black Lake and thus perfect for Valen's needs. Not bothering to take out his wand, Valen waved his hand in the direction of the pond and muttered an incantation under his breath which caused the water to heat up enough that there was steam rising off of it.

With the water now an acceptable temperature, Valen began to strip out of his clothes, totally unaware of the fact that he was being watched. The watcher meanwhile was getting uncomfortably hard as each new article of clothing was removed from his professor's body until much to his combined shock and total delight the brown-haired, blue-eyed professor was standing next to the pond completely naked and performing several muscle stretching exercises. Quietly moving closer to get a better look at the chiseled muscles, the student was in for quite a shock when Valen sat down on a large rock next to the pond and waved his hand, causing his entire appearance to change.

Brown hair turned blond, while the professor's ears lengthened to form a sharp point, and even at this distance, the now bewildered student could see that the professor's blue eyes had shifted into one of the most vibrant greens that the student could remember seeing, with the possible exception of Harry Potter's eyes. It was the next change, however, that caused the student to gasp audibly, loudly enough that Valen heard it.

"Who's there?" Valen asked. "Show yourself."

Moving out from behind the bush he'd been hiding behind, the student said, "It's me, professor."

"Mr. Lavoisier-Delaney," Valen said, as he looked at Nick. "I'd ask what you were doing, but it's pretty obvious that you're spying on me."

"I'm sorry, sir," Nick said. "I was out for a run when I saw you going into the forest and my curiosity got the best of me."

"I believe there's an old muggle saying about curiosity killing the cat," Valen said. "Fortunately for you, you are not a cat and I'm not in the mood to kill you, even though you now know my secret."

"Um, yeah," Nick said as he stared at the area below his professor's waist that had been his legs up until a few moments ago. "You're, you're a..."

"No, actually I'm not," Valen said. "I'm perfectly well aware that at the moment I look like one, but I'm not. I will admit that I'm not human, but neither am I what you're thinking I am."

"You have fins and a tail," Nick said, as he looked at the vibrant iridescent scales, which in the morning sunlight filtering through the trees currently looked pink, of the fish tail that Valen's legs had merged and changed into moments earlier. "And yet you say you're not a mermaid? Well, I suppose merman would be the more appropriate word."

Valen nodded and said, "Yes, considering that I'm a male, I suppose merman would be the appropriate word if that's what I was, but as I said, I'm not. Although my race is very distantly descended from the Greek Siren variety of merpeople, hence my ability to shift between legs and a fish tail."

"Your race?" Nick asked. "Professor, what exactly are you?"

"I'm afraid I can't tell you that, Nicolas," Valen answered. "Now, if you don't mind, I have to get in the water for my morning swim before my scales dry out. You'll just have to take my word for it that having dry, chapped scales is not an enjoyable state."

Nick remained silent as Valen moved off the rock and dove into the water with a small splash. His eyes never left him, however, as he tried to wrap his head around what he'd just seen. It didn't change the attraction he felt for the man, because if he was honest, he actually liked Valen more now. The blond hair and green eyes suited him much better than the brown hair and blue eyes of his glamoured disguise and the pointed ears were also very interesting.

"I can feel your eyes on me," Valen said as he turned to look in Nick's direction. Being in the water while Nick was standing on shore, Valen's eyes were at a lower level and thus as he turned, he couldn't help but notice the large bulge in the front of Nick's workout shorts, prompting Valen to grin and add, "and you clearly like what you see."

Nick blushed when he realized that his hard-on was visible, but he forced himself to put any embarrassment he might feel out of his mind for the moment, as he wrangled his courage to ask the question he desperately wanted to ask. "Professor, would you, um..."

"Would I what?"

"Would you go to the Halloween Ball with me?" Nick asked.

Valen raised a single blond eyebrow as he asked, "You're asking me out on a date?" This prompted Nick to nod his head. "I'm not sure that would be appropriate, Nicolas, as I am your professor for two classes - people might assume your grades weren't earned the right way."

Nick scoffed at that. "Let them think anything they want, because if they're stupid enough to assume that when I've got similar grades in my other classes that you're not teaching, then they're idiots. As for you being my professor, I don't care about that, because honestly I find you hot, as I think you already figured out."

"Yes, I did figure that much out, funnily enough," Valen said. "Still, I'm not sure it's appropriate for a student to be dating a professor. I'm sure that must be against the school rules."

"Well, it is," Nick said, "but there's an exception to the rule that says that students who are seventeen or older can date a professor if they want to."

Valen grinned. "I'm aware of the rule and the exception, Nicolas, I just wanted to see if you were and you obviously are. You are seventeen then, I take it?"

Nodding his head, Nick said, "Yes, I'm seventeen and legally an adult in the wizarding world."

"Correction, you're seventeen and legally an adult in wizarding Britain," Valen said. "Seventeen is not the age of majority everywhere in the wizarding world. It's nowhere even close to the age of majority among my people, for example."

Cocking his head to one side, Nick said, "I remember in the first Fencing class you said that you were much older than you look. Exactly how much older are we talking about or can't you tell me that?"

"I'm more than a decade older than Professor Dumbledore, Nicolas."

Nick's eyes bulged at that statement, before he said, "But Dumbledore is like 150."

Valen laughed and said, "Actually, he's only 115 years old, although I'm sure you still consider that to be ancient, so knowing that are you sure you really want to date me? I mean, you're 17 and I'm 126, so obviously that's quite a substantial age difference."

"Is there a reason that you don't look anywhere near 126?" Nick asked. "Because I'm sorry, but you don't look your age. All the students were confused after you said you were older than you looked, because everyone thought you couldn't possibly be older than twenty-one at the most."

"Well, my people stop physically aging at twenty-one, so going only by appearances, they actually weren't far off, but as the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving."

Nick remained silent for a moment, before he shook his head and said, "I don't care that you're technically 109 years older than me because you don't look anywhere near your age. So, will you go to the ball with me?"

"You're assuming I'm even into men," Valen said and couldn't help but laugh at the horrified look on Nick's face as he thought that perhaps he'd just made a fool of himself by asking his straight professor out on a date. "Luckily for you, I actually am into men, so, I suppose I could go to the ball with you - on one condition."

"Name it."

"Strip."

"What?"

"You heard me, Nicolas," Valen said. "I said strip. Spying on me as you were, I'm sure you saw me naked before I transformed, so I think it's only fair that I get to see you in all your glory."

Nick just grinned, before he proceeded to pull his shirt over his head, turning slightly red as Valen whistled. Tossing his shirt onto the small pile of clothes that Valen had been wearing, Nick then toed off his trainers before sitting on the rock that Valen had been on in order to pull off his socks. He was pleasantly surprised to feel the warmth permeating through his shorts where Valen had been sitting when casting the transformation charm. Once they were off, he then stood back up and hooked his fingers under the waistbands of both his workout shorts and the jockstrap beneath and pushed them both down past his hips, until they could slide down his legs on their own. Stepping out of them and adding them to the pile of other clothes, Nick posed a bit, flexing his arms as he did so and asked, "So do you like what you see, Professor?"

"First off, call me Valen, at least when we're not around others, and yes, I very much like what I see, so how about you join me? The water is wonderful and maybe I can help you out with your problem."

Knowing which problem Valen must be referring to, Nick just grinned, before wading his way into the pond and over to the older man. Nick wasn't a virgin and hadn't been in years, so he had no problems with the possibility of having sex with his hunky professor. Okay, some might say it was premature being that they hadn't even been on an official date yet, but the way Nick saw it, life was too short for such hang-ups.

As soon as Nick was within arms' reach, Valen wrapped his arms around the younger man and pulled him flush against him. Nick wasn’t surprised to feel Valen’s arousal against his own, although a part of him did wonder where exactly it was because when he'd seen Valen naked, after he'd transformed, he hadn't seen any sign of a penis. Of course, Nick didn't know much about mermen, so he was sure there was a perfectly logical explanation that he couldn't care less about at the moment, as he had more pressing issues to be thinking about. The two simply stared into each other's eyes for a moment, before Nick leaned forward and planted a kiss on Valen's lips, which the professor happily returned. As the kiss continued, however, Valen removed one hand from Nick and waved it in the air behind the teen's back, silently erecting several powerful wards which would prevent anyone from hearing or discovering them.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, Harry was out taking a leisurely walk around the Black Lake, as he'd woken up and felt the need to get out of the castle for a little while to clear his head. He had loved Cedric with all of his heart and honestly, Harry felt that he would always love Cedric, even though he was dead and gone. He knew that Cedric would want him to be happy, however, and would probably have told him that he'd been in mourning long enough and that it was time to find happiness again.

Of course, a part of Harry was scared to move on with anyone, especially now with the war stepping up, as he was afraid of what could happen if Voldemort or one of his minions found out that Harry was dating someone. His boyfriend could then potentially be used against him and he didn't want to put anyone in that position. He also knew, however, that one couldn't go through life not doing things for fear of what might happen, because chances are you would then never do anything.

'And it's not like Noah is incapable,' Harry thought with a smile, realizing that this was probably the first time that he'd put Noah in the boyfriend category. Up until now, whenever he'd thought of the boy, he'd thought of him as his housemate, friend, and Cedric's stepbrother. Or at least that's what he'd consciously thought, but he was now beginning to realize that subconsciously, he was thinking of Noah as his boyfriend, even though they weren't officially a couple.

Broken from his thoughts by approaching voices, Harry quickly pulled out his cloak and disappeared from sight. A few moments later, he was surprised to see Professor Lasinius coming out of the Forbidden Forest with Nick. As they got closer, Harry could see that they were both smiling and Harry couldn't help but wonder if Nick had finally worked up the courage to ask Professor Lasinius to the ball.

Noah and Hermione both agreed that Nick was obviously crushing on their professor, as they'd all seen the sidelong glances that Nick had cast in the teacher's direction. Having been present when Nick came across the rule about student/professor relationships and the exception, Harry had suggested to his friends that perhaps Nick would ask Professor Lasinius to the ball. Hermione dismissed the idea, thinking that it wouldn't happen because even if it wasn't against the rules, she didn't think that a professor would agree to be a student's date or that a student would actually ask a professor out while they were still a student, even if they were crushing on them.

Noah, meanwhile, was more willing to believe that Nick actually would find the courage to ask, but he didn't believe that their professor would say yes. This had resulted in a five galleon bet between Noah and Harry, with Noah saying that Nick would ask but would be turned down, while Harry believed that Nick's invitation would be accepted. Obviously Harry was very interested in whether or not he had won or lost the bet, so he edged closer to the pair in the hopes of overhearing what they were saying.

"As I said in the forest, I'll go to the ball with you, Nicolas," Valen said, as Harry did a quick fist pump, as he thought, 'I win!' "However, until then, I think it would be best to keep our dalliance a secret."

"Dalliance?"

Valen nodded and said, "We haven't gone on a single date, Nicolas. Perhaps I'm a bit old-fashioned, but I'm not going to say that I'm in a relationship with someone until I've gone on at least three dates with them and no our activities in the forest don't count as a date."

"Why not?" Nick asked. "We kissed, which turned into some serious making out, not to mention the sex. And can I just say that having your dick in my ass while we were swimming and you had a fish tail instead of legs was a very interesting experience?"

'Fish tail?' Harry asked in his head. 'Instead of legs? What the...'

"Nicolas!" Valen exclaimed. "You have to be more careful about what you say, lest you slip up in front of somebody and they find out my secret."

As he was speaking, Valen was looking around and while at first glance it would appear there was nobody around to hear Nick's slip of the tongue, Valen's eyes soon fell upon the fact that they weren't as alone as it appeared. As he realized this, Nick said, "I know I have to be careful, but we're safe right now, it's just the two of us."

"More like the three of us," Valen said, as he looked directly at Harry making the teen squirm slightly as he wondered if Professor Lasinius could see through his invisibility cloak like Professor Dumbledore could. With a nod of his head, Valen said, "Yes, Mr. Potter, I can see you."

"Mr. Potter?" Nick asked, confused, just before Harry appeared as he removed his invisibility cloak. "Whoa, Harry? Where did you come from?"

"I was under my invisibility cloak," Harry said.

"How much did you hear?" Valen asked.

"Enough to know that Nick asked you to the ball and you said yes," Harry answered. "Not to mention the fact that you, um, had sex and something about a fish tail?"

Valen sighed. "This is just not my day it would seem." Turning to Harry and giving him a stern look, he said, "Mr. Potter, what I'm about to tell you, you cannot tell another living soul without my express permission, is that clear?"

"Yes, sir," Harry said, very curious what he was about to find out.

"I'm not human," Valen said. "For reasons I can't discuss at the moment, I can't tell you what I actually am, but I can say that my race is very distantly descended from the Greek Siren variety of merpeople, so I have the ability to switch between legs and a tail."

"Not human? Okay," Harry said. He supposed that some people might be more shocked by that statement, but then Harry was a wizard and after meeting goblins, house-elves, centaurs, a part-Veela, merpeople, two half-giants, and a full-blooded giant he just couldn't find the idea of a non-human all that strange. Perhaps he would have if he was a muggle, but that ship had sailed a long time ago. "I must say that you look much nicer than the merpeople I've met."

"I assume you're referring to the ones that live here in the Black Lake?" Valen asked and Harry nodded. "Yes, well, they're Selkies, the Scottish variety of merpeople, who along with the Irish Merrows, are not very pretty looking, mostly because of the cold waters that they live in, whereas the Greek Siren variety live in waters around the Greek Isles which are considerably warmer than the Scottish and Irish waters, which allowed them to maintain a more appealing look. As I told Nicolas, however, I am not actually a merman, although I suppose I do have some Mermish blood."

"You definitely sound nicer, too," Harry said, as he winced at the memory of hearing the Black Lake merpeople talking.

Valen nodded and said, "Yes, Selkies and Merrows have a dialect of Mermish which sounds very rough and guttural, at least when they're above water."

"I'd compare it to nails on a chalkboard personally," Harry said, at which point Nick shuddered and was thankful that he'd never actually heard spoken Mermish before.

"That's a workable description," Valen agreed. "Sirens, however, do not sound like nails on a chalkboard, above or below water. Where do you think the legend of the Sirens came from in Greek Mythology?"

"You mean the three women who lured sailors to their deaths by enchanting them to crash their ships onto the rocks?"

"Yes, Nicolas, the very same," Valen replied. "I would point out however, that the Sirens luring those sailors were just as often male as they were female, because the Siren song is so enchanting that very few people can resist it and it really doesn't matter if the sailor in question is straight and he hears a male Siren singing as the song is powerful enough that he'll still be driven mad with lust. In fact, oddly enough, the male Sirens are actually better at attracting men than female Sirens are."

Harry and Nick were silent as they digested this information, while Valen pulled a pocket watch from inside his robes and looked at it for a moment, before he said, "At any rate, you two need to get into the castle if you're planning on eating breakfast this morning. I'll walk you as far as the main entrance."

"You're not coming?" Nick asked.

"No, I've got a few errands to run this morning before my classes," Valen said. "As I suspect Harry knows, I met with my TAs for History of Magic last night since I wouldn't be able to attend the normal meeting this morning."

Harry nodded, as he did indeed know that, since he was friends with Hermione. The group remained silent, however, as they approached the castle. Just before they arrived, however, Valen threw up a quick privacy ward and said, "Remember, you two can't tell anyone what you've learned about me this morning to anybody. At least not right now, as there may come a time in the future when you can discuss it, but please refrain from doing so until I give you permission."

Blowing a kiss at Nick, Valen said, "Anyway, I'll see you boys later."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Sixteen
A Visit to Hogsmeade,
Part One

-o-0-o-

Despite the fact that he'd made up his mind to do so, Harry didn't ask Noah to the Halloween Ball that day he returned to the castle after meeting Valen and Nick by the lake. The reason for this was that he honestly didn't have the time to do so because when he wasn't in class, he was too busy dodging girls who all seemed to think that if they hung around near him long enough that he'd ask them. Honestly, by the end of the day, Harry was nearing a level of frustration that almost had him ready to use the Sonorus Charm and announcing to the entire school that he was gay, but he kept his cool and refrained from it, if only just, because that wasn't really the way he wanted to come out.

Harry had a feeling that most of his friends would be okay with it, considering the fact that there was nowhere near the same level of stigma on same-sex relationships in the Wizarding world as there was in the muggle world. After all, as he'd recently found out, same-sex marriage has been legal for over a thousand years, seeing as how three of Hogwarts' own founders had married people of the same gender. Still, he couldn't help but have a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach that somebody was going to have a problem with it. Dean, perhaps, being a muggleborn might have an issue with it and then of course there was Ron. Although with Ron, it was way beyond a 'funny feeling' that he wouldn't be supportive, considering his feelings on Charlie and Alexi.

He really didn't understand just where Ron's and Ginny's dislike of same-gendered relationships came from, because they were purebloods and thus had been around magic their entire lives. Since same-sex marriage had been legal for centuries before they were even born, he couldn't understand why they were so vehemently against it. If it wasn't for the fact that both Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were fully supportive of Charlie and Alexi, he might have thought that maybe one or both of the Weasley parents had instilled a dislike for such things in their children and that it had stuck with the youngest two, but that was clearly not the case. In the end, however, Harry decided not to dwell on it, as it only gave him a headache, and instead he decided to contemplate more important things.

Due to security concerns, a list of when the scheduled Hogsmeade weekends were to be held hadn't been provided to the students, for fear that someone in the school might leak it the Death Eaters. It was obviously feared that Hogsmeade would make a very tempting target for Voldemort if he knew that a large number of students would be present in the village on a given day. Thus, nobody knew when the next Hogsmeade day would be, but several people were hoping it would be soon because the ball was now just under two weeks away and many people needed to get appropriate clothes for it.

Thus it was a very well received surprise at breakfast on the morning of Saturday, the Nineteenth of October that Dumbledore said, "If I may have your attention for a moment students." Once everyone quieted down and turned to look at the headmaster, he continued with, "A group of seventh years, including Head Boy Adrian Pucey and Head Girl Katie Bell, have petitioned me to amend the plans for the Halloween Ball and I have decided to go along with their suggestion. The ball will still be for fifth through seventh years only and will still be a formal event, however, it will now be a Masquerade Ball, meaning that you will need to acquire a mask to wear as a part of your ensembles the night of the ball. To that end, I would also like to announce that immediately following breakfast, we will be sending groups of students down to Hogsmeade."

Once the cheering died down, Dumbledore said, "Please note, however, that due to continued security concerns, this will differ from our normal Hogsmeade weekends in that only the fifth through seventh years will be allowed to go down to the village." This was met with groans and boos from the third and fourth year students, obviously. "Also, all students, regardless of their year, will be grouped together in groups of ten students and will be accompanied by four professors and the Head Boy or Head Girl, thus two groups will be going down to the village at once. You will have two hours to do whatever shopping you wish to do and then you will be required to return to the school so that the next group may go down. Also, while you are in the village, I must stress that you are to remain with your escorts at all times, as any student who is found to have wondered off will be given detention with Mr. Filch every night for a month and have their Hogsmeade privileges revoked for the rest of the year."

The expression on the caretaker's face, and that of Mrs. Norris who was currently clutched in his arms, could only be described as fiendishly delighted. He was clearly hoping that several students would do the exact opposite of what the Headmaster had just asked and sneak away from their escorts. Sadly for the caretaker, it was impossible to get to your fifth year at Hogwarts without figuring out that it was in your best interests to avoid like the plague any activity that was punishable with detention with Mr. Filch.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, in the cold and dank cell that had been his home for longer than he could keep track of, Voldemort's raven-haired teenage prisoner hung limply from the wall. While he had never figured out an accurate way to tell time in his cell, he did figure out a fairly regular pattern in how often Voldemort would come to his cell accompanied by a house-elf bringing him food and drink. He could vaguely remember that before he was a prisoner he used to eat quite a bit more than he did now and that he never went hungry, but that was then and this was now. What little food he was given wasn't very filling nor did it really taste very good, but when you're chained to a wall and practically starving you can't be picky.

'He never brings enough to really satisfy my hunger,' the boy thought. 'I suppose it's only enough to ensure I don't die, although honestly at this point I almost wish he'd just let me starve because death would be more than welcome.'

Not long after this, the cell door opened and Voldemort came in, followed by a house-elf who was levitating a tray behind it. Lifting his head, the boy could see the usual on the tray: a cup of water, a bowl of lukewarm broth, and a few small strips of day-old bread.

After a moment of silence, Voldemort said, "I don't know why, since you never show me the proper respect, boy, but I'm going to be nice and let you sit down this time."

Raising his wand, Voldemort unlocked the manacles on the boy's wrists, which caused him to immediately fall to the floor in a heap, as his legs and feet were extremely numb from disuse. Voldemort wasn't finished, however, as he next conjured up a small table and a chair. Turning to the boy who was still laying on the floor, Voldemort sneered and said, "Well? What are you waiting for? A gold-embossed invitation? Sit down at the table boy." When he still didn't move for another minute or so, Voldemort raised his wand at the boy and said, "Crucio!"

The pain coursing through his body was just as bad as it usually was, but it did get rid of some of the numbness in his muscles, as they all felt like they were on fire. As the curse was lifted, the boy finally felt like he could move and began to crawl, slowly, toward the table. The floor was quite filthy, so he was getting dirt on his hands as he moved across the floor and before long there was a ripping sound as his robe caught on a jagged edge of one of the floor bricks and tore.

A cruel laugh filled the room as Voldemort said, "I should have done this sooner, boy! Watching you suffer is so entertaining."

After a few more agonizing moments, the boy finally managed to make it to the center of the room and with quite a bit of effort, pulled himself up from the floor and into the chair. It was the most he had moved in quite awhile and as a result his muscles were very weak. Voldemort waved the house-elf forward, causing it to step forward and levitate the tray up to the table where it landed in front of the boy. He didn't immediately start eating, however, as he chanced a look at the house-elf next to the table. The look on the creature's face was almost sad, as if it didn't like what it was seeing, but the boy didn't know if it was sadness for his plight or the sadness the house-elf felt for itself for having to wait on such a pathetic waste of skin.

In a cold and uncaring tone, Voldemort said, "Eat up boy. We wouldn't want you to starve to death."

Several times over his imprisonment, the boy had considered refusing to eat and had even attempted just that a few times, but he knew that it wasn't an option. If he refused, Voldemort would simply force feed him, so with a shaking hand, the boy reached out and took one of the strips of bread and brought it up to his mouth, bit off a piece of it and began chewing. It seemed like an eternity that he'd been in this prison, but he could vaguely remember when he was first imprisoned and his thought that his food and drink tasted off somehow, although if he ever had any thoughts as to why that was, they had long ago faded from his mind.

As he continued to eat the strips of bread, moving his arms began to get a bit easier, as they became accustomed to the movement. Finishing the bread, the boy grabbed the tin cup of water in both hands and brought it to his lips, however, only half of the liquid made it into his mouth, as the rest spilled out as he was overtaken by a coughing streak.

"Idiot boy!" Voldemort exclaimed. "You must drink every last drop of that water." Turning to the house-elf, who had backed up a few paces once the boy had begun eating, Voldemort pointed at it and said, "You! Get this foolish imbecile another cup of water from the jug outside and be quick about it!"

With a bow, the house-elf popped out of the room, only to return moments later, standing on top of the table with another cup of water. This time, however, the house-elf had taken it upon itself to add a straw to the cup, thus hopefully allowing the boy to drink all of the contents without spilling it. To make doubly sure of this, however, the elf held onto the cup and simply brought the straw to the boy's lips.

Voldemort chuckled maniacally, as he said, "Good thinking you insufferable little whelp. Just for that I won't use the Cruciatus on you today - I'll just use it on one of the other house-elves twice instead."

Once the tin cup was empty of water, the house-elf began to spoon-feed the lukewarm broth to the boy, who after so long as a prisoner couldn't even begin to say what kind of broth it actually was. If Voldemort was at all angered by the house-elf helping the boy, he said nothing and just stood silently until the bowl was empty.

"I should have my head examined for being so nice to you, boy," Voldemort said, as he raised his wand and conjured a small cot in the far corner of the room, "but I suppose it can't hurt anything to give you a few creature comforts. It's not like they're going to help you at all."

Sliding out of his chair, the boy began to crawl towards the cot, quite enamored with the idea of lying on something that resembled a bed for once. As he was quite used to sleeping standing up while chained to the wall it would be a pleasant change. Voldemort, however, didn't think the boy was moving fast enough and thus conjured a whip, which he quickly began to lash the boy with repeatedly, adding to the vast collection of scars and bruises already present on his body.

Voldemort laughed as the boy curled up into a ball, with his arms and legs blocking his face. That didn't stop the Dark Lord from continuing to whip the boy for several more minutes, however. When he finally did stop and banished the whip, the boy stayed where he was, too afraid to move.

Pointing his wand at his prisoner, Voldemort said, "It's good that you fear me, boy, so for that I shall have to reward you. Crucio!"

Voldemort held the spell for a few seconds, as the boy, whose throat was now less dry from having recently ingested liquid, managed to scream in agony, softly, but still what could only be described as screaming. Voldemort then beckoned the house-elf over and told it to tend to the boy’s injuries so that ‘his guest’ wouldn’t bleed to death and then swept out of the room, laughing cruelly.

The elf managed to calm the boy down and then helped him to the cot where it began to clean and dress the open wounds. Of course, the elf could only do so much and the results from the frequent beatings and whippings were beyond its skill to completely heal. Once that was done, the elf helped the boy to take off his robe and then tucked him in under the single thin blanket. Crossing to the center of the room, the elf folded the robe and placed it on the table before leaving. If anyone had been in the room to look at it, they would have seen the silver-trimmed green patch with a snake in the shape of an ‘S’ embroidered on the black robe.

-o-0-o-

It was nearly eleven in the morning before Harry was put in a group to head down to Hogsmeade, along with Noah, Hermione, Draco, Nick, Daphne, Ernie, Justin, Luna, and Ryan, with Charlie, Alexi, Valen, McGonagall and Adrian as their escorts. The other group going down at the same time as them consisted of Ron, Ginny, Kevin, Stephen, Cormac, Cho, Millicent, Pansy, Blaise, and Hannah, with Rafael, Roger, Vector, Flitwick, and Katie as their escorts. Unsurprisingly, Pansy was quite put out over not being placed in the same group as Draco, although Draco on the other hand was thrilled.

The two groups walked down to the village together, but split up upon reaching the village with Harry's group heading towards Gladrags Wizardwear, while Ron's group headed further down the High Street. Entering the shop, the ten students began to peruse the racks of clothes, which Harry was a little surprised to see all contained high-end formalwear. Of course, what he didn't know was that Professor Dumbledore had told the owners of Gladrags ahead of time about the ball and when the students would be coming down to Hogsmeade and so they'd adjusted the stock they had on display accordingly.

Looking over the available selections with a critical eye, Draco nodded in approval and said, "There's actually quite a good selection here; I thought for sure I wouldn't find anything suitable, but I must say that I'm pleasantly surprised."

"Same here," Nick said as he held a black robe with green and silver accents in front of himself and looked at in the mirror. "What do you think, Drake?"

Turning to look at his friend, Draco said, "Hmm, looks nice, but what is your date wearing? You should try to coordinate with them."

Nick hadn't actually told many people yet who he was going to the ball with. Harry knew, of course, as did Noah, but Nick had remained tight-lipped with pretty much everyone else. The only reason that Draco knew that Nick even had a date was because the blond Slytherin had asked Nick, who then had to let him down gently.

Casting a sidelong glance at Valen, Nick was left wondering what exactly he was planning on wearing. If the robes that he wore in class were anything to go by, then Nick knew that Valen was very partial to the color blue. Seeing the look, Valen grinned at Nick, who grinned back. Draco, of course, noticed the exchange, which caused his eyes to widen as he whispered, "No way."

Pulling his friend aside, Draco asked, "Nick, is there any chance that your date is Professor Lasinius?"

"What makes you think that?"

"The look you two just shared for one," Draco answered. "I know you've been crushing on him, but I never thought you'd actually ask him. Or that he'd say yes."

Nick grinned and said, "Well I did and he accepted." After a slight pause, he said, "And before you ask, because I'm seventeen it's not against the rules."

"Wow," Draco said with a shake of his head. "You're a lucky man to snag yourself such a handsome date. I'm jealous of you now because I'm still dateless."

"You could always go with Pansy," Nick said. "I know she's more than willing."

Draco shuddered. "Don't even joke about that! I have absolutely zero interest in going to the ball with that shrew. I don't care if she was the last person left on the planet."

"Can't say I blame you," Nick said. "What about Theo? I've noticed that you two seem to be good friends."

Shaking his head, Draco said, "Yeah, that's true, but Theo has decided that he's straight."

Cocking an eyebrow, Nick said, "Something tells me there's a story there."

"Theo and I experimented," Draco revealed. "In fact, we lost our virginity to each other. It cleared up my confusion and led to me accepting that I was gay. Unfortunately, it also confirmed for Theo that he's straight."

"Blaise?"

Shaking his head, Draco said, "Nope, also straight."

"Damn," Nick said. "Are there any gay guys that you have your eye on?"

Draco was silent for a moment, before he said, "Well, there is one that I've found myself interested in, but I can't ask him."

"Why not?"

"He's muggleborn," Draco answered. "And he's also got a boyfriend."

Thinking for a moment about who at Hogwarts might fit that description, Nick grinned and asked, "Draco, are you saying that you have a crush on Kevin Entwhistle?"

"Shh, not so loud!" Draco said. "I don't think they heard you in China."

Thankfully for Draco, who was not keen on it coming out that he had a crush on a muggleborn because of how extremely difficult that would make his life in Slytherin House, nobody overheard the conversation. Well, almost nobody, as Valen did overhear it, but that was perhaps because he was keeping a close eye on his newest boyfriend. Obviously, at the age of 126, Nick was nowhere near being Valen's first boyfriend, but he was the current and Valen rather hoped the last.

Moving over to Nick and Draco, Valen smiled and said, "Mr. Malfoy, might I suggest that if you can't or don't want to ask Mr. Entwhistle that you might consider asking his roommate, Mr. Cromwell?"

"Ryan?" Draco asked and Valen nodded. "He's gay?"

Valen nodded again and said, "Indeed he is and I happen to know that he doesn't have a date yet. I'm not suggesting that you get together for anything long term, but he is available and you could certainly do worse than escorting Lord Cromwell to the ball."

"Lord Cromwell?" Draco asked, obviously confused. "I thought his cousin was older than him."

"He is, but he's the son of Ryan's late mother's adopted younger brother, also deceased," Valen shared. "So, Matthew isn't eligible for the lordship, but Ryan is."

After a moment of silent contemplation, Draco turned to Nick and asked, "Aren't you Lord Delaney?"

"Yeah, I am," Nick confirmed, as he pulled a silver chain from under his shirt and revealed that the Delaney family ring was hanging from it. "I haven't been wearing the ring, but I've had it on this chain around my neck ever since I turned seventeen."

"Why don't you wear it?"

"I didn't want people treating me differently," Nick answered. "I was afraid they might if they knew that I was the lord of a Most Ancient and Noble House. Although with my trips down to the village to handle family business, I'm sure there's people who have figured it out by now."

Nearby, within sight range but not hearing range, Hermione was perusing one of the racks of dresses and while there were several that she really liked and thought she'd look good in, she couldn't afford any of them. Well, she could, because as a TA she was earning 12 Galleons per day every Monday through Friday and was paid at the end of the school day every other Friday, which left her with 360 Galleons saved.

The problem, however, was that she had placed a rather large book order with Tomes and Scrolls and was planning on picking it up today while she was in the village. The total cost of her order, 200 Galleons plus a 40 Galleon holding fee, was due upon pickup and the cheapest dress that she really liked was 150 Galleons. Unfortunately, paying for her books would leave her with only 120 Galleons and she knew that in addition to the dress she still needed to buy a mask and she wasn't sure how much those would run since Gladrags didn't stock them for her to price.

Running a hand somewhat longingly over the dresses that she really liked, she began looking at some of the cheaper options, hoping to find something suitable, since she felt the books she'd ordered were vastly more important than a dress and mask.

"Is something wrong, Granger?" a familiar drawl asked and Hermione looked up to see that Draco Malfoy was looking right at her.

"Oh, well, it's just that I'm having trouble picking something," Hermione said. "All the dresses I really like are too expensive."

Raising an eyebrow at that, Draco came closer and examined the tags on the dresses that Hermione seemed to be eyeing before he asked, "Too expensive? Forgive me, Granger, but since I'm also a TA, I know how much we've made so far this year so you should be able to afford any one of these."

"Yes, but I have a large order on hold at Tomes and Scrolls," Hermione explained. "I was planning on picking it up while we were here today and well, it's left me short, especially with the added expense of a mask."

"Hmm, well how much do you have?" Draco asked as he began looking over the dresses with a more critical eye.

"After my book order?" Hermione asked and Draco nodded. "120 Galleons."

The look on Draco's face could only be described as surprised. "You ordered 240 Galleons worth of books and you're a Gryffindor? How did you not end up in Ravenclaw?" Shaking his head, Draco said, "Then again, I'm aware of the fact that some books are quite expensive and I'm sure Tomes and Scrolls is charging you a fee to hold those books for you. So, what is Weasley wearing?"

"Why would that matter?" Hermione asked.

"Well, I assumed you'd be going to the ball with him," Draco said. "Was I wrong?"

"Yes, you were," Hermione said. "Ron did ask me, but I turned him down."

"Why Hermione?" Charlie asked, having overheard that conversation. "I thought you and my brother were dating?"

"We were for a little while, but I broke up with him," Hermione said. "There's several reasons, but one of them is because he's been such a jerk where you and Professor Zeklos are concerned."

Hearing his name, Alexi turned and said, "Miss Granger, Hermione, when we're not in class you may call me Alexi. Now, what do you mean Ron has been a jerk where Charlie and I are concerned?"

"He's said some truly awful things about both of you," Hermione said. "All stemming from the two of you getting married. I don't know either of you very well, but it's clear that you make each other happy so for Ron to be badmouthing you behind your backs almost every chance he gets, well, I just can't deal with him and his small-mindedness anymore."

Charlie sighed. "I'd hoped that Ron would get used to it eventually, but I guess he's not there yet."

After a few moments of silence, Draco took a flowing light blue dress with dark blue trim and golden accents from the rack and said, "I think this one would look really good on you, Granger."

Looking at the dress in Draco's hands, Hermione realized that it was the one she liked the most, but had also almost immediately eliminated as a possibility. "I do like it, but I can't afford it, Malfoy."

Shaking his head, Draco said, "Don't worry about that, Granger. Just give me 50 Galleons and I'll charge the rest to my account."

"I can't let you do that," Hermione said, in a shocked tone, because she couldn't believe that Draco would even make such an offer to begin with.

"Yes you can, Granger," Draco said. "I want to do it and besides, we'll be getting paid again at the end of next week, so if you want, you can start paying me back then. Let's say 10-20 Galleons every two weeks until it's paid for?"

"Why so little? I'll be getting 60 Galleons for the week."

Draco nodded and said, "True, but I thought you might want to keep some of your pay for spending money or savings. Roughly a month and it'll be the start of the Christmas shopping season and I'm sure you'll want to have some money saved for gifts for your friends."

"Good point," Hermione agreed as she pulled out her money pouch and counted out 50 Galleons, which she handed to Draco. "Well, alright, Malfoy, thank you then."

"Did Malfoy really just pay for Hermione's dress?" Justin asked, as he watched Draco take the robes he'd chosen for himself and the dress for Hermione up to the cashier's counter.

"Yeah, he did," Ernie said, clearly just as surprised as Justin. "I mean she's going to pay him back, but still it's such an un-Malfoy thing to do."

"Well, he does seem to be acting a bit nicer this year," Harry said, as he picked out a few new robes for himself from a nearby rack. "Haven't heard him call anyone a you know what all year."

"Well, his mother certainly didn't look pleased with him over the summer," Ernie said, as he thought back to when the students who were selected to be Teaching Assistants were gathered and the Headmaster put Draco on notice. "With his father on the run, maybe things are different at Malfoy Manor with just Draco and his mum there. I've certainly never heard any rumors about Lady Malfoy being a Death Eater."

"True," Harry said. "The handful of times that I've met her, she did seem a bit snobbish but I wouldn't say that she was evil. Honestly, I'd say she appears to be a saint compared to her sister."

"Compared to Lady Lestrange, just about anyone would look like a saint," Adrian commented. "Speaking of lords and ladies, however, why don't you wear the Potter ring?"

"The Potter ring?" Harry asked.

"Well, Harry, you are the last living Potter," Ernie said. "That makes your Lord Potter, head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter." After a moment of silence, he said, "And you know, come to think of it, you'd said that Sirius Black named you as his heir, so that probably means that you're also Lord Black."

"Huh, I guess I'll have to look into that," Harry said, as he spied Ryan going up to the counter to pay for his purchases.

"Thank you for shopping at Gladrags Wizardwear, young man," the clerk said with a smile as she took Ryan's purchases and waved her wand over them to cancel out the Anti-Shoplifting Charms. She then made a few calculations on an abacus, before she said, "That'll be 237 Galleons, sir."

Pulling out his coin pouch, Ryan began counting out the coins with his right hand. Of course, doing this made his ring finger visible to the clerk, whose eyes widened as she spied the large dual-crested lord's ring on his finger since the moment he'd slid the Cromwell family ring onto his finger with the Ravenclaw ring, the two rings merged into one large ring which prominently displayed both crests on its larger face.

Ryan realized where the clerk's attention was when she leaned closer to his hand to get a better look at the twin crests. A part of Ryan was tempted to hide the ring, but he knew that was pointless at this point as it had already been seen. After a moment, the clerk looked at Ryan, shock written all over her face, as she said, "You're Lord Cromwell and Lord Ravenclaw?"

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Sixteen
A Visit to Hogsmeade,
Part Two

-o-0-o-

"You're Lord Cromwell and Lord Ravenclaw?"

"Yes, ma'am, I am," Ryan confirmed.

"I thought the Ravenclaw line was extinct."

"Apparently not," Ryan said. "If it was, I wouldn't be able to touch let alone wear the lord's ring."

The clerk was silent for a moment, before she said, "Well, as a former Ravenclaw, I just want to say that it's an honor to meet you, sir, and your new total is 118 Galleons."

"Half off?" Ryan asked and the clerk nodded. "You don't have to do that."

"I want to, however," the clerk, who was actually the owner of Gladrags Wizardwear, insisted. "It's my store, after all, and it's not every day that I meet the direct descendant of my house's founder." Quickly counting out 118 of the gold coins that Ryan had already placed on the counter, she slid the other 20 back towards him and said, "You can take these back and keep the rest of your money."

"Well, if you insist," Ryan said, in an unsure tone.

"I do."

"Well, thank you."

The clerk nodded as she bagged Ryan's purchases, before scooping up the coins and depositing them in a lockbox behind the counter. Ryan meanwhile put his coin pouch back in the pocket of his robes before taking the bag and turning around, which is when he realized that the eyes of everyone on the shop were on him.

"You're Rowena's heir?" McGonagall asked.

"Yes Professor," Ryan confirmed. "As you may know, Harry and Noah have been researching the heirs in the Restricted Section." McGonagall nodded to indicate that she was aware of it, at which point Ryan continued. "Well, a few days ago they hit pay dirt, so to speak, because they found a reference to one of my distant ancestors in the Cromwell line marrying the great-great-granddaughter of Rowena Ravenclaw and having one child, from whom I'm descended."

"Why didn't you say anything?" Ernie asked of Ryan, at the same time that Hermione rounded on Harry and Noah and asked them the same question.

Harry and Noah both put their hands up in twin defensive gestures, as Noah said, "Now, Hermione, you weren't there that night and it wasn't our secret to tell."

"I asked them not to say anything, Hermione," Ryan explained. "I wanted a few days to digest the information for myself before it became public knowledge and I also wanted to talk to my grandmother first."

"Well, I suppose that makes sense," Hermione admitted, as she deflated a bit and didn't look as angry as she had moments earlier. "Which book did you find the information in anyway?"

Harry and Noah shared a look at that question, before Harry replied, "The Complete Genealogies of Noteworthy Witches and Wizards of the 15th and 16th Centuries... by Hilda Crawford."

Hermione blushed at that name, leaving several of the others in the shop wondering why that name would cause such a reaction. Well, some were wondering, as Professor McGonagall seemed to recognize the name and seeing that everyone seemed to be done shopping at Gladrags, she diverted their attention by saying, "Well, I think it's time that we move on. You all need masks I believe and I'm not sure which stores actually stock them."

"Fearn and Theakston's Imports, Ltd. carries a wide selection of Masquerade masks," Adrian called out from the back of the group.

"I hardly think that store is appropriate, Mr. Pucey," McGonagall admonished. "They have a rather, well, risqué reputation."

"Well, I admit they do carry a few risqué products," Adrian conceded. "However, I can tell you from experience that those products cannot be accessed by anyone who shouldn't be accessing them."

"You've actually shopped there?" McGonagall asked in a scandalized voice. "I realize that you're of age, Mr. Pucey, but with the stores' reputation being what it is, I don't see why any respectable person would shop there."

"Well, Professor, the owners understand that catering to a wide variety of clientele is a good way to make money," Adrian said. "And I happen to know for a fact that they're the only store in Hogsmeade that stocks Masquerade masks. The only other one that I can think of is Borgin and Burke's on Knockturn Alley, but going there is pretty much out of the question." With a grin, he then added, "As for shopping at Fearn and Theakston's, yes, I've been shopping there ever since they first opened - when I was five."

"Five?!" McGonagall exclaimed. "Mr. Pucey! And your parents actually allowed that?!"

"Relax, Professor," Adrian said. "Everything I bought was age appropriate - my Uncle Will made sure of that."

"Uncle Will?" Noah asked.

Nodding, Adrian explained, "Yes, Fearn and Theakston's is co-owned by my maternal uncle, Will Fearn and his husband, Scott Theakston, the latter of whom happens to be Katie Bell's maternal uncle."

"And you and Katie were the main ones pushing for a Masquerade Ball," Charlie said with a grin, as Alexi, also grinning, added, "All to drive business to your uncles' store no doubt."

"Well, I admit, Katie and I may have had ulterior motives," Adrian blushed. "But, we also thought a Masquerade Ball would be more fun. Now if that means that our uncles make a few additional sales and that Katie and I get commissions on those sales, then so be it."

"Scott Theakston and William Fearn?" McGonagall asked, as she looked thoughtful for a moment, before shaking her head. "Why am I not surprised? They always were troublemakers in school and inseparable. Honestly, I'd be surprised if they weren't somehow involved with the Marauders."

Harry, Noah, and Hermione shared a private smile at that statement, as the group headed out of Gladrags to continue their shopping. Since Tomes and Scrolls was on the way to Fearn and Theakston's Imports, the group did stop into the store so that Hermione could pick up her book order, before heading down the side street that Adrian's uncle's store was located on.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, a tall and muscular young man with golden blond hair and piercing green eyes adjusted his ocean blue dress robes, as he awaited one of the guards to tell him that he could enter.

'I can hardly believe that the time has almost arrived,' the young man thought. 'After so many years of it seeming hopeless, things are finally about to change.'

Lost in his thoughts, he didn't see the guard approaching until they cleared their throat, "Excuse me, Your Lordship, but His Majesty will see you now."

"Thank you," the man known as His Supreme Lordship answered, as he shook his head to clear it of his recent thoughts, before following the guard through the large and ornate double doors that led into the opulent royal throne room.

Walking down the center of the room, His Supreme Lordship came to a stop a foot from the steps to the throne and got down on one knee, before bowing and saying, "Your Majesty, thank you for seeing me."

"Of course, when the Head of the Circle asks to see me, how can I refuse?" the young king upon the throne asked, before he grinned and added, "Especially when he happens to be the elder brother of my dear queen, not to mention being the identical twin brother of the man who is both my brother-in-law and my son-in-law." Pausing for a moment, the King added, "It's such a complicated family dynamic we have isn't it?"

"As you say, Your Majesty," His Supreme Lordship replied, remaining perfectly still.

"Rise Lord Rhylian, there's no need to be so formal," the King said. "I am your brother-in-law after all."

"As you say, Your Majesty," Rhylian repeated, as he stood back up. After a moment, he added, "Although, brother-in-law or not, you are still my liege and in this room, with you on the throne and the crown upon your head, well, certain pleasantries must be observed, lest my father come back to haunt me for my lack of decorum."

The King laughed at that, "Knowing your father I don't doubt for a moment that he'd try." The King took a moment to compose himself, before continuing, "Anyway, after several boring and tedious meetings with the High Council, in which they once again tried and failed to change my mind, you should know that the laws barring you from leaving the Kingdom have been abolished at long last. So, you and your wife are free to depart for Hogwarts, if you wish, although I do hope that the both of you will stay on for a few days and help Prince Andenar and Princess Alianna settle into their positions as your temporary replacements."

"Of course, Your Majesty," Rhylian answered. "Asheera and I talked about it and we don't plan to go to Hogwarts until the night of the Masquerade Ball that they're holding for the older students on Halloween. So we will do all we can to prepare Their Highnesses to do our jobs, although I don't imagine it'll be hard, as they already have the skills they'll need."

"True enough," the King agreed. "Although mastering the necessary magics and actually stepping into place as a Lord or Lady of the Circle, even on a temporary basis, are two very different things and my son definitely has the harder job."

"You are right, of course, Your Majesty," Rhylian agreed, as he thought back to his first days on the job as a Lord of the Circle, knowing that it would be hard enough to just be a member of the Circle, if it wasn't also for the fact that he was the Supreme Lord of the Circle and thus had to lead the others. "I trust, however, that Andenar is up for the task and I'm sure Prince Arathorn and my brother will have some pointers for him. It'll also be good practice for him, leading people, since one day he'll succeed you."

"Yes, well, Rhylian, as you well know I'm only 346," the King said with a smirk on his face, "and I have absolutely no intention of dying anytime soon, so my son will just have to wait to become King, because his not so old man wishes to enjoy the crown for at least a few centuries before passing it on."

"As you say, Your Majesty," Rhylian replied, a small grin forming on his face.

"Oh cut it with the Your Majesties," the King sighed. "We're alone and we've been best friends for nearly three and a half centuries, Rhylian."

"As you wish, Erevan," Rhylian acknowledged with a slight bow. "I do appreciate your help though. I know dealing with the High Council could not have been fun."

Erevan rolled his eyes. "Sometimes I think they forget who holds the power in this kingdom or that all of their power comes from the crown and that as the one wearing it, I could dismiss all of them before they could say their own names." Erevan sighed, "But, I suppose that getting rid of millennia old laws is enough of a shakeup for now, without also dismissing the entire High Council, even if some of them are secretly accusing me of spitting on my father's grave by abolishing the stupid xenophobia laws that he supported so whole-heartedly so soon after his long overdue death."

"Well, I wonder if they'd change their tunes if they knew," Rhylian speculated.

"You mean about the report that you and the rest of the Circle gave me about the shields?" Erevan asked and Rhylian nodded. "Some of them might, but then some of them are fossils just like my late father was, so I don't see them changing their opinions even in the face of an impending crisis. Speaking of, I realize that you have personal reasons for going to Hogwarts, but while you're there I hope you will find out what you can about that topic we discussed."

"Of course, I will, Erevan," Rhylian said. "You don't even have to question that I will do everything I can for this kingdom. As you said, I do have personal reasons for going to Hogwarts, but that doesn't change the fact that I also have a duty and I take that very seriously."

"I know you do, old friend, I know you do."

-o-0-o-

After leaving Fearn and Theakston's, which Noah made a note to visit again sometime if he managed to get down to Hogsmeade without Professor McGonagall's ever watchful eyes, the group headed to The Three Broomsticks. It was almost noon after all, so McGonagall and the other escorts agreed that lunch in town couldn't hurt, since they still had a little over an hour before they were due back to Hogwarts so that another group could come down to the village.

There were no tables large enough for the entire group, but there were two tables near enough to one another that everyone at both tables could talk to each other if they so desired. Once everyone was seated they began looking over their menus to decide what they wanted. Madam Rosmerta herself came over after a few minutes and took everyone's order, before heading back to the bar, leaving the group to talk amongst themselves.

"So does everyone have dates for the ball?" Ernie asked. "I'm taking Hannah."

"I asked Susan Bones yesterday," Justin revealed. "She said yes."

"Daphne and I are going together," Adrian said with a small grin, as he laid his hand on top of Daphne's hand, who smiled back at him in return. "Of course, we've been dating for just over a year now, so that's probably not very surprising."

"I have a date as well," Nick said, "but you'll have to wait until the night of the ball to find out who it is."

Harry and Noah grinned at that, since they already knew who it was, but they didn't want to ruin Nick's shocking surprise. Obviously Nick wasn't the only one at the tables who knew, as Valen and Draco did as well, but the idea to keep it a secret until the night of the ball had been mutually agreed upon by Nick and Valen and if Nick wanted to keep it a secret then Draco wasn't going to say anything.

"I'm going with Ethan Delrossi," Hermione revealed. "Just as friends, but..." she blushed a bit here, before adding, "...I'm kind of hoping that it'll be something more in time."

"Ron is gonna be pissed," Harry responded.

This drew a stern look from McGonagall as she said, "Mr. Potter, language."

"Sorry Professor," Harry said. "What about you Luna?"

"Neville asked me," Luna answered from behind the pages of The Quibbler, a copy of which she'd taken out almost immediately after Madam Rosmerta had taken her order.

"Oh cool," Harry exclaimed, excited for his friend.

Luna nodded and asked, "So are you going to ask him?"

"What?" Harry asked.

"Are you going to ask him?" Luna asked, as she glanced at Noah. "I know you want to."

"How?" Harry asked.

Luna smiled in her usual far-off way and said, "The nargles told me."

Overhearing the conversation but not knowing who it was about, Charlie asked, "Him? Harry, are you?"

Instead of answering, Harry just grinned and said, "Noah, would you like to go to the ball with me?"

Noah smiled. "I'd love to, Harry."

At this, Harry leaned over and pressed a kiss to Noah's cheek, which had several people around the table grinning.

"It's about time," Ernie said, as Justin, Ryan, and Hermione nodded their heads in agreement.

"I didn't realize you were gay, Potter," Draco drawled. "I had my suspicions about Diggory but, would never have suspected you."

"Same here, Malfoy," Harry replied. "So, do you have a date yet or are you going to make Pansy's year and ask her?"

"As I already told Nick, I wouldn't ask Pansy if she was the last person left on the planet," Draco shuddered. "Not only is she the wrong gender, but she's also too clingy, not to mention insane."

"Still refusing to believe that you're into blokes?" Noah asked and Draco nodded. "Well, Malfoy, have you ever given her any proof beyond your word?"

Shaking his head, Draco replied, "No, I haven't, although until my mother knocked some sense into me over the summer, the thought of giving Pansy any kind of proof would never have crossed my mind."

"Why not?" Harry asked.

"Because of the family rules that my father drilled into my head since birth."

"Family rules?" Ernie asked. "Like what?"

Draco shook his head, "Like Rule #129 - If a Malfoy gives their word as a Malfoy that something is true, it is, and no further proof is necessary."

"I rather doubt that many people outside of your family would agree with that statement," Justin commented. "Especially considering that in French your surname means 'bad faith'. Assuming she knows about it, Pansy has certainly made it clear that she doesn't agree, since you've told her how many times now that you're not interested in her?"

"More times than I can count, Finch-Fletchley," Draco said.

After a moment of silence, Ryan asked, "Malfoy, do you have a date to the ball?"

"No, I don't."

"Would you care to accompany me then?" Ryan asked. "Just as acquaintances and possible future friends mind you. I'm not really looking for a serious relationship at the moment, but I also don't want to go to the ball alone."

"Sure, I'll be your date," Draco agreed with relief. "So long as you realize that Pansy is probably going to hate you."

Ryan laughed. "I'm sure I'll find some way to deal with it."

"I suppose so," Harry said, before standing up. "If you'll excuse me, I just need to visit the loo before the food arrives."

McGonagall looked like she was about to say something, perhaps to remind Harry that the Headmaster had made it quite clear that all the students were to stay with their escorts at all times, but before she could, Charlie stood up, "I actually have to go myself. Anyone else?"

In the end, it was Noah, Harry, Charlie and Alexi who left the table and headed for the bathroom. Of course, Charlie didn't really need to go, but he wanted to save Harry from the embarrassment of having McGonagall suggest that he needed someone to take him. Alexi, meanwhile, accompanied his husband in the hopes that they could have a private moment together, as it had been almost three and a half hours since he'd last kissed Charlie and that was way too long in his opinion. They were still newlyweds, after all.

A few minutes later, after Noah and Harry finished their business in the bathroom, they came out to find Charlie and Alexi standing in the hallway at the end furthest away from the public room near the door to the outside, ostensibly to guard against any intrusion from that direction as they could count on the rest of the party to guard the access from the public room, too busy making out to notice them. Noah grinned, but said nothing, while Harry on the other hand, decided that since he was taking Noah to the ball that maybe it was time they made things a bit more serious between them. Thus it was that a surprised Noah Diggory found himself getting pushed against a nearby wall by a grinning Harry Potter. He couldn't comment, however, because Harry's lips met his in a kiss, as the younger man's questing hands moved around to Noah's backside to squeeze his rear end.

'If I'm going to do this, I might as well go all out,' Harry thought, as he continued kissing Noah, which felt so right that any lingering doubts he had about whether he was ready to move on or not left his head. As the two boys made out, they didn't notice when Charlie and Alexi stopped their own make out session and turned to watch them, both grinning.

When Harry and Noah stopped their kissing, they both grinned somewhat sheepishly at the clearly amused Charlie and Alexi, who just shook their heads, before all four of them headed back to the public room. On the way, Harry bumped into another patron who he figured must have had a bit too much to drink, as he was weaving back and forth on his feet a bit. Putting it out of his head, they arrived at the tables at the same time that Madam Rosmerta arrived with their food and drinks, which she began handing out. Nobody managed to take a bite, however, because just as the innkeeper placed the last plate on the table, there was a loud sound, like an explosion, outside, accompanied by several screams and shrieks.

Moments later, a portly man ran into the inn and said, "It's the Death Eaters!"

From outside, a shout of "Avada Kedavra!" could be heard, at which point the man who had just announced the attack fell to the ground, as dead as a doornail.

The Death Eater who cast the spell attempted to come into the inn at this point, but Madam Rosmerta had her wand in her hand in seconds, as she yelled, "Kill a man in my inn, I don't think so! Stupefy! Incarcerous!"

McGonagall, Valen, Charlie, and Alexi were on their feet, wands drawn in moments, as several of the students also stood and got out their wands. McGonagall didn't immediately notice, however, as she said, "Expecto Patronum!" and sent her Patronus off towards the castle to warn Dumbledore. It was then that she noticed the students, "Oh no you don't! I realize that you all have top marks in Defense, but you're students and you will not leave this building. Mr. Pucey, you will stay here and make sure they don't try to leave. Valen, Charlie, Alexi, with me."

"Yes, Professor," Adrian said with a nod, as the four professors exited the inn to join the fighting outside.

"But we can help!" Harry exclaimed to McGonagall's retreating back. She didn't respond, however, as the door closed behind her and her coworkers.

When Harry moved to exit the inn himself, Adrian stepped in front of him, "You're not going anywhere, Mr. Potter. Professor McGonagall told you and the other students to stay here and you will do that even if I have to put all of you in body binds."

"Adrian, you do realize it's ten against one, right?" Noah asked. "Not really the best odds."

Before Adrian could say anything, however, the temperature in the room dropped several degrees, as the door from the back alley opened and twenty Dementors flew in, followed by a group of Death Eaters. Adrian rolled his eyes and said, "Well, I guess you get to fight, after all." Adrian paused only for a second before he shouted, "Expecto Patronum!" as a silvery kangaroo jumped out of his wand and headed for the nearest Dementor. He didn't pause, however, as he immediately shouted, "Protego! Stupefy!"

The Stunning Spell missed it's intended target, but the Shield Charm did it's work and blocked a spell fired off by one of the Death Eaters in Adrian's direction.

"Expecto Patronum!" Harry yelled as Prongs shot out of his wand, followed shortly after by Hermione's otter, Luna's hare, Noah's lion, Ryan's eagle, Nick's king cobra, Draco's snow leopard, Daphne's gazelle, Ernie's badger, and Justin's collie.

Madam Rosmerta and several other patrons looked momentarily shocked that all of the students could cast corporeal Patronuses, but the innkeeper at least got over it quickly before she cast her own Patronus, although it was just silvery mist. Meanwhile, several of the patrons were cowering in corners or under tables, too afraid to do anything.

As the Patronuses made short work of the Dementors, spells were flying in all directions as the Death Eaters, five more had come in through the back entrance before Madam Rosmerta managed to close and lock it with her special key, fired at the students and patrons, while mostly the students fired back at the Death Eaters. 'Cowards,' Harry couldn't help but think, as he shot off a Stunning Spell at a Death Eater, followed by the Disarming Charm, all while several adult wizards who should be more than capable of defending themselves chose not to.

"Tempus Subsisto!" Harry shouted and resisted the urge to be awed as time literally stopped and instead sent several Stunning Spells with Incarcerous chasers towards as many Death Eaters as he could before time resumed its normal flow. A total of six Death Eaters were stunned and tied up before time started back up, but that still left several more firing spells, many of whom appeared to be hesitant to aim any spells at Draco, although Draco himself had no such issue, as he said, "Petrificus Totalus!" at a tall Death Eater, before he said, "Diggory, watch out! Expelliarmus!"

Noah managed to duck as a blast of purple light shot over his head, thanks to Draco's warning, but just as he was about to shoot off a spell of his own, two jets of red hit him in the chest, causing him to fall to the ground unconscious. "Noah!" Harry exclaimed, as he turned angry eyes on the Death Eaters who'd sent Stunning Spells at his boyfriend and yelled, "Expelliarmus! Stupefy! Incarcerous!"

Meanwhile, the tall and burly Death Eater that Draco had aimed a Full-Body Bind at and missed, rounded on Draco and said, "You're fighting for the wrong side, Malfoy, wait until I tell your father. Crucio!"

Draco fell to his knees, screaming, which prompted Nick to point his wand at his friend and say, "Finite Incantatum!" at the same time that Ernie said, "Expelliarmus!" pointing at the Death Eater.

As the pain subsided, Draco stood and said, "You're the one on the wrong side, Flint," before he raised his wand and said, "Serpensortia!"

Spying the snake, Harry said, "Attack," in Parseltongue and indicated Flint as the target. As the snake slithered towards Marcus Flint, several of the patrons were casting shocked looks at Harry, as they had obviously not heard about his Parseltongue ability before now.

Before the snake could reach Flint, a voice everyone immediately recognized said, "Evanesco! Stupefy! Incarcerous!" As the snake vanished and Flint fell backwards, unconscious, as ropes bound him, Harry turned and saw Dumbledore standing in the doorway, with Madam Delaney visible over his shoulder. The remaining Death Eaters that were still able to walk quickly retreated down the hallway that led to the back entrance at the sight of the Headmaster. A second later, the sound of breaking glass could be heard, making it obvious that the Death Eaters had been unable to open the locked back door and opted instead to break a window to make their escape.

"Professor, sir!" Harry shouted to attract Dumbledore’s attention. "Noah's been hit with two simultaneous stunners to the chest."

Dumbledore nodded gravely as he came in and Madam Delaney rushed over to tend to him. Harry was worried to say the least, but then he knew that Professor McGonagall was quite a bit older than Noah and had survived being hit by three simultaneous stunners, so he was hopeful that Noah would be fine. After a moment, Sarah said, "Rennervate!"

"You should be fine, Mr. Diggory," she stated with authority, "But I want you to report to the Hospital Wing immediately, as I'm keeping you overnight for observation, no if's, and's, or but's."

"Yes, ma'am," Noah acknowledged, his voice a bit weaker than usual, as Sarah conjured a stretcher and levitated him onto it.

"The attack has been lifted," Dumbledore announced, before the twinkle reappeared in his eyes as he put away his wand and added, "And I see all of you have performed admirably - fifty points each to Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. Now, however, I do suggest that we all return to the castle immediately."

-o-0-o-

It was upon returning to the castle that several students got a shock when news of not only the attack, but also the identities of some of the captured Death Eaters began to circulate. Both Marcus Flint and his father, Lord Malcolm Flint, were captured, as was Lord Robert Yaxley and a few other miscellaneous non-noble Death Eaters. The most shocking captures, however, were Cho's father, Shen Chang, and Cormac's father, Lord Bruce McLaggen. Needless to say, the rumor mill at Hogwarts was soon working overtime with the revelations that two non-Slytherin Death Eaters who were also the parents of current students were caught participating in the attack on Hogsmeade.

Both Cho and Cormac insisted that they had no idea that their fathers had taken the Dark Mark and the truth was nobody was certain that Shen and Bruce actually had taken it, because the Aurors hadn't said whether or not they actually possessed it or not, only that they were both being taken into custody in connection with the attack. Almost immediately many people from outside of Slytherin, however, had begun treating Cho and Cormac in much the same way that they treated Slytherins - like something one would scrape off the bottom of their shoe.

A few members of the former Dumbledore's Army were less than willing to give Cho the benefit of the doubt at first, as she had so vigorously defended Marietta Edgecombe after she'd betrayed the DA to Umbridge the previous year. Of course, those who knew that Cho and Marietta were dating at the time, were more able to put aside their anger at the perceived betrayal. Still, it took Harry standing up to someone saying something nasty about Cho to get the rest of the group to come to her defense. Another person who was vocally speaking out on Cho's behalf was Lisa Turpin from Ravenclaw, as she was Cho's new girlfriend.

Nobody was really saying anything in Cormac's defense, however, as he wasn't really the most liked person at Hogwarts, due to his arrogant demeanor. Finally, after Ron had all but accused Cormac of being a spy and traitor in their midst, with his wand drawn, Noah, who had been given a clean bill of health and released from the Hospital Wing earlier that morning, stepped in before things could deteriorate any father and said, "Ron, I can personally guarantee that Cormac is not a Death Eater."

"How?" Ron demanded. "His father is one, so like father, like son."

Noah raised an eyebrow at that. "Are you saying that you are exactly like your father in every respect?" Noah didn't give him a chance to answer that, however, as he pressed on with, "As for how I know Cormac isn't a Death Eater, in case you forgot, we're both 7th year Gryffindors, so he's my roommate, Ron. As such, over the years I've seen him in practically every stage of undress, including completely naked, so I think I would know if he had a Dark Mark."

"Um, thanks, Noah," Cormac said, as he blushed from the tips of his ears to his neck, and shifted slightly on his feet, as despite the awkwardness of the situation, he felt himself hardening at the thought that Noah had apparently been looking at him naked.

"No problem," Noah replied, as Ron just huffed and stomped off.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Seventeen
Secrets and a Howler

-o-0-o-

The day after the attack in Hogsmeade, a special edition of the Daily Prophet was published and delivered to those with subscriptions during lunch in the Great Hall, however, much to Harry's consternation, the attack was not the lead story.

The Daily Prophet
Special Edition - 20 October, 1996
SCANDAL AT HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
The-Boy-Who-Lived: Parselmouth and gay? Also professor misconduct and the Heir of Ravenclaw revealed.

By R. Almeidas, Staff Reporter

In an unexpected turn of events, it would appear that Harry James Potter, 16, better known as The-Boy-Who-Lived, appears to be gay. The Daily Prophet has obtained an exclusive photo, shown to the right, which clearly depicts him locking lips, quite passionately, with another male. This person has been identified as 17-year-old Noah Andrew Diggory, the stepson of Ministry employee Amos Diggory, who earlier this year became the Head of the Being Division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Noah is also the stepbrother of Hogwarts Triwizard Co-Champion Cedric Jeremiah Diggory who died in 1994 following the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament. For more information on Noah, see page 3.

Also during the recent attack on Hogsmeade, only a few minutes after this picture was taken, Mr. Potter fought quite valiantly alongside several of his Hogwarts classmates against several Death Eaters and Dementors in the public room of The Three Broomsticks. During this fight, however, several patrons report hearing Mr. Potter using Parseltongue, apparently to direct a snake conjured by Draco Lucian Malfoy, 16, to attack Death Eater and former classmate, Marcus Octavian Flint, 21, the son and heir of Lord Malcolm Augustus Flint, 44. How is it possible that the person deemed 'The Chosen One' who will save us all from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named could possibly possess such a dark ability? One that You-Know-Who himself is purported to possess?

More disturbing, however, are the two onlookers depicted in the background of the photo who are clearly watching Harry and Noah kissing and obviously enjoying what they're seeing, as both of them have noticeable bulges in their trousers. The onlookers have been identified as Charles Septimus Weasley-Zeklos, 24, former Dragon Handler and recently appointed Professor of Care of Magical Creatures, and his newlywed husband, Alexi Andrei Zeklos, 30, also a former Dragon Handler and recently appointed Hogwarts Professor for two new elective classes on offer this year: Enchanting and Warding. I think we can all agree that it is an example of gross misconduct and impropriety for two Hogwarts professors to be getting turned on by two of the students in their classes.

Another shocking fact that has been discovered by our fact checkers prior to the publishing of this article is that in June of 1994, Professor Weasley-Zeklos posed nude for Playwitch Magazine, in a joint layout featuring him in some very homoerotic images with his elder brother, William Arthur Weasley, 25. See page 7 for some of the less risqué of these images, including a highly edited for content image depicting a completely naked Charles and William in a less than brotherly embrace and looking like they're about to kiss.

In other news from Hogwarts, many of you may know that on 1 September 1996, during the annual Sorting Feast, the Hogwarts Sorting Hat sang a song alleging that not only was Merlin involved in the founding of Hogwarts, but that there was currently an heir of Merlin and the other four founders present at the school. There has been much speculation in the weeks since about who those heirs might be, but we can now report that the Heir of Ravenclaw has been revealed. This heir is recent Hogwarts transfer student Ryan Cole Cromwell, 16, who before this year attended the Asheville Academy of the Arcane in the colonies.

Mr. Cromwell was recently spotted purchasing dress robes from Gladrags Wizardwear in Hogsmeade, an hour before the attack. The owner of Gladrags personally rung up his order and noticed the fact that he was wearing a combined lord's ring, which marked Mr. Cromwell as not only Lord Cromwell, but also Lord Ravenclaw, making him a truly powerful member of the Concilium Magnus Domos, more commonly known as the Lordsmeet, as he's the first person in the history of the body to hold more than one seat, both of which grant him a vote. It will be interesting to see how this young Lord chooses to use his unprecedented power.

Patrons at The Three Broomsticks also report overhearing a conversation in which Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw asked Draco Malfoy to be his date to the upcoming Masquerade Ball, to be held at Hogwarts on the night of Halloween. Mr. Malfoy accepted the invitation, though they are reportedly going as friends only, as Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw stated that he is not looking for a serious relationship at this time.

Harry couldn't bring himself to read anymore, as he threw the paper on the table in disgust. "Hogsmeade is attacked, with several killed or injured, and the Daily Prophet decides that my bloody love life is the more important story?"

The article about Harry and Noah, among other things, had made the front page of the Prophet, and was positioned above the fold, so that it would be the first thing that readers were likely to notice. There was an article about the attack on Hogsmeade, also on the front page, but it was relegated to below the fold with a much smaller headline and was thus not nearly as eye-catching.

Noah was just about to respond, when a clearly angry Ron Weasley, accompanied by his sister, marched over to Harry with a copy of the Prophet clutched in his fist. "Harry, mate, have you seen this trash? You should sue the bloody pants off the Prophet for printing such horrible lies about you."

"Not to mention for publishing fake pictures of you," Ginny added.

Ron nodded, obviously agreeing with his sister, "Yeah, that too."

Harry sighed, as he pinched the bridge of his nose. 'Guess the time has come,' he thought, before he turned to the two redheads and said, "They're not lies and that picture isn't a fake."

Ron and Ginny both did their best goldfish impressions at this point, before finally, Ron asked, his voice deathly quiet, "What are you talking about, mate?"

"I'm gay," Harry answered. "And the picture isn't a fake because I actually did kiss Noah at The Three Broomsticks. We're going to the ball together and as the kiss suggests, it's not just as friends."

Ron rounded on Noah at this point and said, "I don't know what kind of spell you used on Harry, Diggory, but I demand you release him from it immediately!"

"Spell?" a confused Noah asked.

"Obviously," Ron said. "There's no way that Harry would ever willingly kiss you or go on a date with you, because he's not gay. You've clearly used a spell on him to make him think that he is, but we all know he isn't."

"Or was it a Love Potion?" Ginny asked. "You must be good with potions, since you were selected to teach the 2nd years. Whichever it is, you need to release Harry now."

Noah was, by this point, looking both shocked and angry that his own housemates would think that he would resort to enchanting Harry or drugging him with a potion. Of course, Harry wasn't looking any happier, as he said, "For your information, Ron, Ginny, I am not under the influence of any spells or potions. I'm the one who initiated the kiss in the picture and I'm the one that asked him to be my date for the ball, not the other way around."

"Harry, it's okay we don't blame you," Ron said. "You'll be right as rain as soon as Diggory releases you from whatever hold he has on you." Glancing over at Ginny, he added, "Could it be the Imperius? He did stand up for Cormac, after all, whose father is a Death Eater."

Ginny nodded. "That's a definite possibility."

"Oh bloody hell!" Noah shouted, as he undid his school robe and took it off, before unbuttoning the left sleeve of the white shirt beneath it and pushing it up. Holding out his arm to Ron and Ginny, he said, "As you can clearly see, I don't have a Dark Mark. And I swear on my father's grave that I've never cast an Unforgivable and that I have not used any spells or potions on Harry!"

"What is going on over here?" McGonagall asked, as she came over to the group. Harry was so angry with Ron and Ginny right now, that he started to draw out his wand, but the arrival of their Head of House stopped him.

Harry took a deep breath. "Ron and Ginny are under the impression that Noah has either used a spell on me or that he's slipped me a Love Potion, because they can't wrap their minds around the fact that I'm gay." Looking at Ron and Ginny, he said, "I don't care if you don't like it or even if you can't understand it, but that doesn't change the fact that I am gay. I always have been and I always will be. And it's really none of your business, but Noah is not the first boy I've been with, so I'll thank you to shut up and stop blaming him for something that is not his fault."

"Professor, could you maybe scan Harry?" Noah asked. "To prove to them that Harry isn't under the influence of any spells or potions? They even essentially accused me of being a Death Eater and suggested I used the Imperius on Harry, which is why I showed them my arm."

McGonagall looked very reluctant to do so, and asked, "Would that be okay with you, Mr. Potter?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, Professor. I hate that it's come to this, but it seems to be necessary."

McGonagall sighed, as she pulled out her wand. "Very well then." Casting a series of complicated detection charms on Harry, she finally said, "Mr. and Miss Weasley, I can tell you with certainty that Mr. Potter is not under the effects of any form of spell or potion, including the Imperius, as the spells I just used would detect it if he was. So, it would seem that you have no other course of action but to accept that what he's told you is true."

Ron and Ginny were both quiet for a moment, before Ron's face shifted into one of pure hatred, as he said, "There's no room in Gryffindor Tower for faggots!"

"Mr. Weasley!" McGonagall shouted. "Ten points from Gryffindor for your language and you will serve detention with Mr. Filch every night for the rest of the month, including the night of the ball!"

Ron turned shocked eyes on McGonagall, as Harry grinned and said, "I take it Ron, that you were unaware of the fact that Godric Gryffindor himself was gay?"

Ginny's eyes widened, as she said, "He most certainly was not! Just because you're a sick freak doesn't mean that you have a right to malign our house's founder."

"Actually, Miss Weasley he isn't maligning anyone," Dumbledore said, as he came over to the group. "It's a well documented fact that Godric Gryffindor was married twice in his life and both times it was to a man. The name of his first husband has been lost over time, but the second one was Hogwarts' first Professor of Arithmancy, Cameron Stuart-Gryffindor. They both died a few months after celebrating their 66th wedding anniversary and by all accounts they were very happy together."

Ginny looked nonplussed as she looked at Professor McGonagall and said, "It's wrong for you to punish Ron for saying what he believes, Professor. Especially when he's merely expressing an opinion that is widely held - at least by all smart and rationale people."

"Miss Weasley, I find it very sad that you think that," Dumbledore said. "Especially since you are wrong about the opinion being widely held, because unless you're including the muggle world in your statement, it isn't true in Wizarding Britain. However, because you called a classmate a 'sick freak' and because you questioned your Head of House's authority and then proceeded to imply that both her and myself are not smart and rational beings, you will join your brother in detention for the rest of the month."

Ron and Ginny stormed off, as Professor Dumbledore turned to Harry and Noah and said, "I'd like you boys to join me in my office, if you don't mind." At their confused looks, he hastened to add, "You two are not in trouble per se, however, I have to discuss the article in the Prophet this morning with Professor Weasley-Zeklos and Professor Zeklos, and I imagine that conversation will involve you."

Charlie and Alexi had not come down for lunch in the Great Hall, as they often opted to lunch together privately in their quarters. So, it was at this point that Dumbledore pulled a small scroll of parchment from inside his robes and called out, "Fawkes."

A moment later, there was a burst of flame as the phoenix appeared, landing on Dumbledore's outstretched arm. Holding up the parchment, the headmaster said, "Could you please deliver this to Charlie and Alexi?"

Fawkes nodded, as he stretched his wings and flew upwards, grabbing the scroll from Dumbledore's hand in his talons, before disappearing in a flash of flame.

"Now, Mr. Diggory, Mr. Potter, if you'll please come with me?"

Harry and Noah nodded and silently followed the headmaster out of the Great Hall, with Professor McGonagall trailing after them.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, down in Adrian's private quarters, Nick, Theo, Draco, and Adrian sat at the table in Adrian's sitting room eating lunch, which the house-elves were kind enough to bring to the Head Boy's quarters. Adrian usually ate with others from his year, but his friends all had other plans, so when Adrian caught Pansy Parkinson giving Draco a hard time about not asking her to the ball yet, he invited Draco and the other two to have lunch with him. Pansy was obviously upset that she wasn't invited, but she knew better than to argue with the Head Boy, since he did have the ability to take points and give detentions.

"You know Pansy is going to be worse than ever, right?" Theo asked, as he looked up from the Daily Prophet, which was delivered not long ago.

Draco groaned. "Yeah, I know." Shaking his head, he said, "Honestly, what part of I'm gay doesn't she get?"

"I know you said that Malfoys don't believe in providing proof," Nick said. "But, you may have to give her some to shut her up, Draco. And it'll likely have to be something more substantial than accepting a bloke's invitation to the ball, especially since the article makes it clear you're only going as friends and not a couple."

"The Virginitas Charm, perhaps?" Adrian suggested. "I'm assuming you're not a virgin, Draco."

"You're right, I'm not," Draco confirmed. "And I did consider that, however, the problem with it, is that not only will it reveal that I've lost my virginity and that it was with a male, it'll also reveal who that male was."

"Why would that be an issue?" Adrian asked.

Draco gave Theo a significant look at this point. Nick already knew this, of course, but it wasn't his secret to tell. Some might think that it was wrong for Draco to have told Nick without asking Theo's permission first, but telling one person was quite a bit different than casting a charm which would end up telling quite a few people the truth, as the Virginitas Charm had to be cast in the presence of at least ten witnesses.

Theo sighed. "Because it was with me. Draco and I experimented over the summer before fifth year and while it confirmed for him that he's gay, for me it only reinforced the fact that I'm straight." After a moment, he added, "And honestly? I'm not sure that I want Pansy to know that I slept with 'her Draco.'"

"I'm not hers, Theo."

"I know you're not, Drake," Theo said. "However, that is how she sees you and as misguided and stupid as it is, she isn't likely to be happy with anyone who she thinks is trying to steal you away from her."

Now it was Draco's turn to sigh. "You're right. Bloody damn delusional psycho bitch."

Over the next few minutes, nobody said anything as they ate their lunches. After a moment, however, Nick who had continued to peruse the article asked, "I don't know why people are reporting that Harry spoke another language."

Draco raised an eyebrow. "Because he did, Nick."

Shaking his head, Nick said, "No he didn't."

"Actually, he did, Nick," Adrian said. "You might need to think about getting your ears checked if you didn't hear the hissing sounds of Parseltongue." After a moment, however, during which he got a contemplative look on his face, he added, "Unless..."

"Unless what?" Theo asked.

"Unless, Nick didn't realize that Harry was speaking Parseltongue," Adrian hypothesized, "because he can speak it too? It's possible that to another Parselmouth it would sound like English."

Draco cocked his head to one side, and said, "I do seem to recall hearing a rumor that when Potter revealed his Parseltongue ability in second year, that he didn't realize he'd been speaking another language. That to him, it sounded like English, even if it sounded like a snake hissing to everyone else."

"I'm not a Parselmouth," Nick said. "At least, I don't think I am, but then I've never attempted to speak to a snake. How could I possibly speak a language that I never learned? It's not like I'm Slytherin's grandson or something."

Before anyone could answer that question, all four boys jumped, startled, at the brilliant flash of flame as Fawkes appeared, clutching the Sorting Hat in his talons.

"Dumbledore's phoenix?" Adrian asked, clearly confused. "And the Sorting Hat? What the hell?"

The Sorting Hat ignored Adrian's question, however, and turning to address Nick, it said, "Parseltongue is more instinctual than learned, Mr. Lavoisier-Delaney. Only a select few people are known to possess the ability to read, speak, and understand Parseltongue, namely the heirs of Salazar Slytherin. There are other family lines that have the ability, but they are unimportant for it's not from them that you are descended."

"Descended?" Nick asked. "Wait, um, Hat, are you saying that I'm Slytherin's heir?"

"I prefer Dakota if you don't mind," the hat said. "And yes that is what I'm saying and therefore it is my duty to present you with this ring."

Fawkes moved the Hat over a few inches to reveal a heavy golden ring bearing the crest of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Slytherin on its face.

"Dakota? Why would you prefer to be called Dakota?" Theo asked. "You're a hat. Hats don't have names."

"Mr. Nott, I wasn't always a hat," Dakota answered. "I suggest you look it up, but to make a long story short, I was once a human who consented to have my consciousness bound to this hat upon my death, so that I would live on in a useful capacity. And thus, it became my job to sort students into the four houses, but I was also charged by Merlin himself to confirm to the heirs their identities as soon as they realized the possibility that they could be an heir."

"I don't understand, how can I be Slytherin's heir?" Nick asked.

"Your great-great-great-great-grandmother on the Delaney side of the family was Dorothea Byrne," Dakota revealed. "She was the great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Sebastian Slytherin, the first-born son of Salazar Slytherin and his wife, Hogwarts' first Professor of Ancient Runes, Elizabeth Lancaster-Slytherin. However, unlike some of the other lines related to Slytherin, such as the Gaunt line, the Byrnes did their best to ignore their connection to the House of Slytherin, so I'm not surprised that your late father, Stefan Delaney, didn't tell you about the connection, as it is entirely possible that he himself didn't even know."

After a few moments of silence, Dakota said, "Anyway, I shall have more instructions for you at a later date, Mr. Lavoisier-Delaney, but for now, my work here is done."

Fawkes grabbed Dakota and disappeared in a flash of brilliant red-gold flames before anyone could say anything else. A full minute passed before Nick reached out and took the Slytherin ring, which he then hung from the chain around his neck with the Delaney ring.

"You're not going to wear it?" Adrian asked.

"No," Nick answered. "And as the Heir of Slytherin, I'm ordering all of you not to say anything about this to anybody. I will decide when it becomes common knowledge, but until then, it's not to leave this room."

Nick normally might have simply asked the others to swear on their honor as Slytherins that they wouldn't tell anybody, but there were many that would argue there was no honor in Slytherin House. Nick didn't personally believe that, but he figured it was best not to take any chances.

-o-0-o-

Upon leaving the Great Hall, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Harry, and Noah were met in the Entrance Hall by Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour and Hogwarts Governor Amos Diggory, both of whom had seen the article in the Prophet and wished to express their concern over the implications. Of course, Amos was also angered by the implied impropriety being at least partially directed at Noah, because while it was true that Noah wasn't his biological son, in the seven years since Amos had married Amelia, he had come to think of Noah as his son.

"If you'd accompany us up to my office," Dumbledore said, "we were just about to discuss this matter. I've sent Fawkes with a note asking the professors in question to join us, so they may meet us there or arrive shortly thereafter."

"Very well, Dumbledore," Rufus said, as the group headed for the stairs.

A few minutes later, the group arrived at the gargoyle and Dumbledore quietly mumbled his password, prompting it to leap to one side, before the group got on the stairs. Not long after they'd entered the office, Charlie and Alexi arrived, but before anyone could say anything, Dumbledore motioned towards the stairs up to the mezzanine level of his office and said, "Given the number of people in this meeting, I think we'll be more comfortable upstairs."

Leading the group over to the stairs, Dumbledore watched as they ascended, intending to bring up the rear. It was at this point that he noticed that Fawkes was conspicuously absent from his perch and looking over towards the shelves, he also couldn't help but notice that Dakota was missing as well. Dumbledore smiled, as he assumed that meant another heir was soon to be revealed and looked forward to finding out which one it would be. In the meantime, however, he had business to discuss, so shaking his head, he grabbed the railing and followed McGonagall up the stairs.

This was the first time that Harry or Noah had ventured up the stairs in the Headmaster's Office, so they were momentarily in awe at seeing this new area they hadn't known existed before. They'd seen the stairs, of course, and some of the bookcases, but they'd never have guessed that there was also a large table surrounded by plush armchairs. Everyone had just sat down and Dumbledore had opened his mouth to speak, when a truly ancient-looking owl flew through an open window.

Recognizing Errol and spotting the red envelope tied to his leg, Charlie had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, which was also accompanied by pity for Errol, who should have been retired years ago, as the bird lost consciousness midflight and crashed into the middle of the table. "My parents really should retire poor Errol, he's half-blind and loses consciousness on both long and short trips, but unfortunately they can't afford a new owl. I've offered to buy one, but they always refuse to take it because they won't accept charity."

"Might I suggest giving it to them for Christmas?" Dumbledore asked. "Because it really is just inhumane to keep this poor creature working at its age and obviously failing health." Taking the envelope from Errol's leg, Dumbledore read it and said, "Well, it's for you Charlie and Alexi."

"Best not put off opening it," Harry said in a rather smug tone. "It gets worse if you do."

Charlie nodded, "Yeah, thanks, Harry, I'm aware of that," as he took the now steaming envelope from Dumbledore. Taking a deep breath, he then broke the seal and immediately dropped the envelope as his mother's clearly angry voice exploded from within.

CHARLES SEPTIMUS WEASLEY-ZEKLOS, I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO DISGUSTED WITH YOU IN MY LIFE! HONESTLY, I DIDN'T THINK IT WAS POSSIBLE FOR ME TO BE THIS DISGUSTED WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU'VE JUST SURPASSED A LEVEL THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY RESERVED FOR FRED AND GEORGE! I THOUGHT I RAISED YOU BETTER THAN THIS AND I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT ANY CHILD OF MINE WOULD GROW UP TO BE SUCH A DEVIANT THAT THEY'D BE TURNED ON BY WATCHING TWO CHILDREN KISS!

AND DON'T THINK I'VE FORGOTTEN ABOUT YOU, ALEXI ANDREI ZEKLOS, AS I BLAME YOU FOR THIS BECAUSE YOU HAVE CLEARLY BEEN A BAD INFLUENCE ON MY SON! HE'S NEVER GIVEN ME ANY TROUBLE BEFORE NOW, SO I CAN ONLY ASSUME THAT THIS SICKENING AND DEVIANT BEHAVIOR IS ALL YOUR FAULT. YOU SEEMED LIKE SUCH A NICE YOUNG MAN, BUT I WAS CLEARLY WRONG IN THINKING SO.

NOT ONLY HAVE YOU CORRUPTED MY CHARLES, BUT YOU'VE ALSO SOMEHOW GOTTEN YOUR HOOKS INTO WILLIAM, BECAUSE I CAN'T IMAGINE THAT THEY'D EVER DECIDE TO POSE IN THAT FILTHY PIECE OF TRASH MAGAZINE ALL ON THEIR OWN. AND CERTAINLY NOT IN SUCH A WAY AS TO SUGGEST THAT THEY'RE ENGAGING IN AN INCESTUOUS RELATIONSHIP. I WILL BE WRITING TO YOUR PARENTS, ALEXI, ALTHOUGH I DON'T KNOW IF IT'LL DO ANY GOOD FOR A THIRTY-YEAR-OLD DEVIANT.

AND AS IF IT WASN'T BAD ENOUGH THAT YOU'VE SUCKED MY POOR WILLIAM INTO YOUR DEVIANCY, NOW YOU'RE ALSO INVOLVING POOR HARRY IN YOUR DEBAUCHERY AND THAT IS COMPLETELY UNFORGIVEABLE. UNTIL BOTH OF YOU SEEK HELP FOR YOUR SICKENING DESIRES, NEITHER ONE OF YOU IS WELCOME ANYWHERE NEAR MY FAMILY. I'M HALF-TEMPTED TO COME TO HOGWARTS AND REMOVE RONALD AND GINEVRA, SINCE IF WHAT YOU DID WITH WILLIAM IS ANY INDICATION, YOU CLEARLY AREN'T GOING TO LET THEM BEING YOUR SIBLINGS GET IN YOUR WAY, CHARLES.

BUT CHARLES I WILL TELL YOU THIS, IF YOU LAY ONE HAND ON RONALD, GINEVRA, OR HARRY I WILL PERSONALLY COME TO HOGWARTS AND BOX YOUR EARS WORSE THAN YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE! AND WHILE YOU MIGHT NOT BE MY SON, ALEXI, I WILL SEE YOU PUBLICLY FLOGGED AND THEN PERSONALLY ASSIST THE AURORS IN CARTING YOU BOTH OFF TO AZKABAN, BECAUSE DEVIANTS LIKE YOU DON'T HAVE ANY PLACE IN CIVILIZED SOCIETY. YOU BOTH MAKE ME SICK!

Molly's voice finally stopped, as the howler ripped itself to shreds. After a moment of silence, Rufus said, "I wasn't planning on screaming, but I quite agree with everything that Mrs. Weasley had to say and couldn't have said it better myself."

Charlie looked ready to respond, angrily, which prompted Alexi to place a hand on his arm and say, "Calm down, Charlie, before you say something you'll regret." Turning to the others, he said, "There has been a serious misunderstanding here."

"Misunderstanding?" Amos asked. "We have photographic proof of your deviance and photos don't lie!"

"Actually, they can," Alexi responded. "Even moving photographs, when taken at the wrong time, can appear to show something that isn't actually true."

Charlie, who had now taken a few deep breaths and gotten his anger under control, nodded, "Alexi is right, he and I were kissing, as newlyweds often do, and that's what caused us to become aroused. We didn't notice Harry and Noah coming out of the bathroom, but when we did we turned and saw they were kissing also."

Alexi nodded and said, "Yes, unfortunately for us, our arousals didn't wane immediately after we stopped kissing and turned to see that Harry and Noah were doing the same thing we had been. Thus, taken after we stopped kissing, the photograph doesn't show us doing that."

"That's a very convenient explanation. I can't help but wonder if it's just a lie you've spun to get out of being punished," Rufus suggested.

Harry nodded his own head at this and said, "They're telling the truth, Minister. They were making out when Noah and I came out of the bathroom and rather than making them stop, I decided to push Noah up against the wall for a little make out session of our own."

Nodding himself, Noah added, "Yeah, that's exactly how it happened. After a little while, Charlie cleared his throat to get our attention, so Harry and I stopped kissing and the four of us all headed back to the public room of The Three Broomsticks, just in time for our food and drinks to arrive, and for the attack on Hogsmeade to begin."

"I know that Professor Dumbledore has a pensieve," Charlie said and Dumbledore nodded. "I will gladly offer my memories of the event for examination if that helps."

Alexi, Harry, and Noah also indicated that they would be willing to do so as well, which prompted Amos to say, "I'm not sure about the others, as I don't know them well, but if Noah says that's what happened, then I believe him."

"That still doesn't address the issue of Mr. Weasley's centerfold with his brother," Rufus said. "And posing nude for a magazine conflicts with his role as a teacher."

"Actually I was aware of the centerfold when I hired him," Dumbledore said. "There's nothing in the Hogwarts bylaws that state he can't teach here because of it, because if there was I wouldn't be able to teach here, as I posed in one of the early predecessors to Playwitch ninety-some-odd years ago. Professor Dippet knew about it, but never made an issue of it as he felt that it was merely a teenage indiscretion that should have no bearing on my employment, as he deemed me to be the most qualified candidate for Transfiguration professor. Just as I deemed Charles to be the most qualified candidate for the Care of Magical Creatures post."

All was silent in the room after this admission, as seven pairs of eyes stared wide-eyed at the venerable old headmaster, their mouths open in shock, as they tried to comprehend the idea that Albus Dumbledore, Defeater of Grindelwald, Headmaster of Hogwarts, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards had actually posed nude in a magazine in his youth. With twinkling eyes, Dumbledore merely smiled and asked, "Sherbet lemon, anyone?"

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Eighteen
A Trip to Diagon Alley

-o-0-o-

Just as the meeting in the Headmaster's Office was breaking up and the group was descending the stairs from the mezzanine level, the doors to the office opened to admit Professor Flitwick and Lucinda Cromwell.

"Filius, Lucinda," Dumbledore said. "To what do I owe this visit?"

"I wanted to speak to you about my grandson, Albus," Lucinda said. "Filius accompanied me because Ryan is in his house and I needed someone to open the gargoyle for me, as I didn't know your password and I have no patience for guessing games."

"Indeed," Dumbledore said, before he motioned to a pair of armchairs in front of his desk and said, "Please, have a seat and I'll be with you shortly. I just have to finish some business with these people."

Filius and Lucinda nodded and moved to sit down in front of the headmaster's desk, as Dumbledore turned to the Minister and Amos and said, "I'm glad we could come to an agreement about Charles and Alexi staying on in their positions. It would be quite a shame to lose them now, because by all reports they're both doing an excellent job."

Charlie and Alexi blushed slightly at the praise, but remained silent, as Rufus nodded. "Yes, well, while I may not think Mr. Weasley-Zeklos' centerfold was very tasteful, as you pointed out, there are no rules against it, so we can't very well fire him just because someone doesn't agree with all his actions."

Amos nodded. "Indeed and Mr. Zeklos hasn't done anything to warrant being fired. I will stop by the Prophet and see to it that they print a retraction of some of the more incendiary comments made."

"Good, good," Dumbledore said. "Thank you for coming, gentleman."

Amos, Rufus, Charlie and Alexi left the office at this point, but Dumbledore noticed that Harry and Noah were hanging back. So with twinkling eyes, he asked, "Was there something else I can do for you two?"

"Before the attack in Hogsmeade," Harry answered, "just before Ryan was revealed to be Ravenclaw's heir at Gladrags," Harry couldn't help but notice Lucinda turning to listen to him at this, "Adrian Pucey asked me why I wasn't wearing the Potter ring. I didn't know what he was talking about, but then Ernie Macmillan told me that as the last living Potter, I'm Lord Potter and speculated that I may also be Lord Black, since Sirius named me as his heir."

"Ah, yes, this is true," Dumbledore said. "You are indeed Lord Potter and I suppose the time probably has come for you to collect the family ring. In case you're wondering why I haven't mentioned this to you before now, Harry, it's because you have to be at least sixteen to assume a Lordship, so I didn't see much point in telling you until you were old enough. And then with everything that's happened so far this year, I'm afraid it slipped my mind, which is an ever-increasing hazard of getting older I suppose."

Harry nodded and said, "Do you think Ernie might be right about my also being Lord Black?"

Dumbledore stroked his beard for a moment as he thought about that, before saying, "It's possible, although I'm hardly an expert on that sort of thing. I think the best course of action for you to take would be to go to Gringott's and take an inheritance test. That should tell you if you're Lord Black or not, and then if you are, they can see to it that you're given both the Potter and Black rings at the same time."

"What exactly is an inheritance test?" Harry asked.

"It's really quite simple, Mr. Potter," Lucinda said. "Only the Lord of a noble family can touch the family ring that marks them as such. If anyone else tries to do so, they'll receive a low voltage electrical shock as a warning to desist from touching something that doesn't belong to them. If they persist, however, well, the shock will get increasingly worse until it kills them. In the event you touch the Black ring and feel no shock at all, however, well that would mean that you are Lord Black."

Harry nodded, but then screwed up his face, as he asked, "What happens if someone accidentally touches a family ring? Like say if their hand brushes against the ring while they're shaking hands with the Lord wearing it? Would they still get shocked?"

Dumbledore shook his head and said, "No, so long as the ring has been claimed by the current Lord and remains in physical contact with them, the ring will not shock others who accidentally or otherwise touch it."

"And even if the ring hasn't been claimed," Filius added, "it won't shock you if you touch it while wearing gloves. Your bare flesh has to touch it in order for it to shock you. It will, however, react if you attempt to put it on your gloved finger if it doesn't belong to you."

"I'd be more than happy to accompany Mr. Potter to Gringott's, Albus," Lucinda said. "That's actually why I wanted to talk to you, as I wish to take Ryan out of school for a few hours and take him shopping on Diagon Alley. Now that he's been publicly confirmed as Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw, he must present himself better than he has in the past and I'm afraid the robes he bought off the rack at Gladrags simply will not suffice."

"Hmm, yes, I suppose that's true," Dumbledore said. He was silent for a few moments, before he nodded. "Very well, Lucinda, you may take Ryan, Draco, Harry, and Noah to Diagon Alley, however, given the recent attack on Hogsmeade, I must insist that you take Alastor, Kingsley, and Tonks with you for added security. I know you're capable, but you are only one person, after all, and I think it's better to be safe than sorry."

Lucinda nodded, before she got a confused look on her face for a moment as she asked, "Why Draco and Noah?"

"Well, I imagine that Mr. Potter will likely buy some better robes as well," Dumbledore said. "If it indeed turns out that he is Lord Potter-Black, it would only make sense. As for Draco and Noah, they are Ryan's and Harry's dates to the Masquerade Ball, so, I believe they should at least have one new outfit that compliments whatever Ryan and Harry end up wearing to the ball."

"Of course, how silly of me not to think of that," Lucinda said. "It seems you're not the only one who isn't quite as sharp as they used to be." Lucinda and Dumbledore shared a grin at this, before she continued. "Anyway, you are right, of course, so I shall take all four of them with me. As for the added security, I agree that it's better to be safe than sorry."

-o-0-o-

"How can Gringott's help you today, Mr. Potter?" a goblin named Scarclaw asked, once Harry, Noah, Ryan, Draco, and their four bodyguards were shown to a private room.

"I wish to claim the Potter lordship ring," Harry answered. "And I also wish to take an inheritance test for the Black lordship ring."

"The Black ring?" Draco asked. "My mother is a Black, if anyone has a claim to the Black lordship it would be me."

"My mother is also a Black, Mr. Malfoy," Tonks said. "And she's older than your mother." At Draco's confused look, she added, "Your mother's sister Andromeda, although it wouldn't shock me if you've never heard that name, as she was cut off for marrying my muggleborn father."

Draco was silent for a moment, but then said, "I do recall Mum mentioning someone named Andy a few times over the years, but whenever I asked she told me to forget about it."

"I believe you'll find that Mr. Potter has the stronger claim," Lucinda said. "Since the last known Lord, Sirius Black, named him as his heir. Not to mention his own blood ties to the Black family."

Harry nodded. "Yes, Sirius was my godfather and as a result of him naming me as his heir, I've already inherited the bulk of the Black estate." Turning to Lucinda, he said, "I didn't know I was related to the Blacks by blood, however."

Lucinda nodded and said, "Yes, Mr. Potter, you are. Your grandfather, Nathaniel Potter, was my Arithmancy Professor at Hogwarts and his wife, Katherine Burke-Potter was my Ancient Runes Professor. Katherine Burke was the daughter of Herbert Burke and Belvina Black and since Wizarding Britain does not practice male-preference primogeniture, when the line ending with Sirius died, the lordship would pass to an heir in the next available branch of the family, be they male or female."

Tonks nodded and said, "Despite being disowned by them, my mother did teach me about the Black family, so I know that after Sirius died, the lordship would have left the branch that began with Sirius' great-grandfather, also Sirius Black, born in 1877, who had four siblings, three of which have living descendants. Harry's claim is stronger than Draco's claim if he's descended from Belvina Black, because Belvina was born in 1884, while Draco's great-great-grandfather, Cygnus Black, was born in 1889. So if Belvina had no heirs, the lordship would actually pass to the descendants of Arcturus Black, born 1886, before it would pass into the branch that sired Narcissa and Draco."

Clearing his throat, Scarclaw said, "I will go and retrieve the Potter and Black rings for you, Mr. Potter. I'll be back shortly."

Once Scarclaw was gone, Draco turned to Tonks and asked, "So if our mothers are sisters, that means we're cousins, right?"

Tonks nodded, "Yes, I suppose it would mean that."

"I'm not really sure," Draco began, "but I think my Mum would like a chance to reconnect with your mother. She really laid into me about treating muggleborns with more respect than I had in the past. I think with my father not risking coming home, due to being on the run from Azkaban and You-Know-Who's return, she's feeling more free to assert her own opinions. Honestly, it's been a bit of a learning curve for me, as many of them fly in the face of what I've been told my whole life by my father."

"Is that why you've been acting like less of a prick this year?" Noah asked.

Draco looked like he didn't really care for Noah's word choice, but he nodded and said, "Yes, as I said my mother wasn't happy with me. Especially after Dumbledore singled me out and called me on my activities with the Inquisitorial Squad last year. When we got back home, well, suffice it to say that I've never seen my mother that angry."

"I'll ask my mother the next time I talk with her if she'd be interested," Tonks said and Draco nodded, but nothing else was said on the topic because Scarclaw returned at that moment with two small wooden ring boxes, one engraved with the Potter crest and the other with the Black crest.

Opening the box containing the Potter ring, Scarclaw said, "The Potter ring, Mr. Potter."

"Thank you," Harry said, as he reached out and took the ring in his fingers. There was no shock and a sense of rightness washed over him, as he slipped the ring onto his right ring finger, as the ring resized to fit him. On the way to Gringotts Ryan had told him that the lordship rings were traditionally worn on the ring finger of the hand opposite the wand hand. So for Harry, that meant wearing his ring on the left hand. A small part of him wondered about wedding rings, but he didn’t dwell on it long as Harry wasn’t particularly concerned about it. As much as he liked Noah, he didn't feel anywhere near ready to get married anytime soon.

"Now the Black ring," Scarclaw said as he opened the box and held it out in Harry's direction. His hand shaking a bit, as he was worried about the possibility of this ring shocking him if he wasn't its rightful owner, Harry reached out and touched the ring. A moment later, he let out a breath he didn't realize he'd even been holding when he didn't feel a shock.

"It's not shocking me," Harry reported.

"Then I guess you must be Lord Black," Kingsley commented.

"It would seem so," Harry said as he removed the ring from the box and slid it onto his finger along with the Potter ring, amazed when the Black ring merged with the Potter ring so that the new ring had a larger face which prominently displayed both family crests. Not for the first time Harry couldn't help thinking that he loved magic.

"Well, Lord Potter-Black," Scarclaw said, "Now that you're confirmed as Lord to both houses, you've gained access to more vaults."

"More vaults?" Harry asked, obviously confused. "Why didn't you tell me about these the last time I was here?"

"As I explained over the summer," Scarclaw said, "we don't risk wasting our customer's time with matters that they don't raise themselves. During your last visit, you didn't mention anything about lordship, so we refrained from mentioning the existence of the Lordship Vaults."

"Lordship Vaults?" Harry asked.

Scarclaw nodded. "Yes, sir. The family vaults you inherited as the primary heir of the Potter and Black families were the general family vaults that any member of the family can access, although the money and other contents contained within does belong to you primarily and all transactions made by anyone else have to be cleared by you or your representative."

Harry nodded, remembering Scarclaw mentioning this over the summer. He remained silent, however, as Scarclaw continued. "Now, the noble families also have Lordship Vaults, which are bound in an entail, also known as a fee tail, along with extra real estate and land holdings that I refrained from mentioning previously. These bound vaults and other holdings are bound to the family title and cannot be inherited or accessed by anyone other than the lord themselves, in the case of the vaults, or without the lord's permission in the case of the real estate, which includes the Potter family estate, Seacliff Castle, and the Black family estate, Arlington Grange."

"I thought the Black townhouse was the family estate," Harry said, refraining from mentioning the exact address, as he wasn't sure if he could. He knew that Moody, Tonks, and Kingsley were members of the Order and he suspected that Lucinda was, but Noah, Ryan, and Scarclaw obviously weren't.

Scarclaw shook his head, "No, it isn't. All the noble families have townhouses in London, but they weren't included in the entails, so they could be inherited by people other than the Lord. Anyway, these extra vaults and holdings increase your net worth by a fairly substantial amount."

"Define fairly substantial," Harry requested.

"An additional 580 million Galleons for the Potter family," Scarclaw said, "so added onto the previous inheritance you've already received, that's just over 1.4 billion Galleons. Add the Black fortune of 687 million Galleons you previously inherited, to another 480 million Galleons for a total of roughly 1.16 billion Galleons. Adding the two fortunes together, you're at 2,576,000,000 Galleons, which translates to £12,880,000,000."

The last time he'd been at Gringotts' with Amos over the summer, Harry had fainted when he heard how much he was worth. This time, he managed not to, although it was close, as he shook his head and said, "Anything else I should know? About any financial topic under the sun? This is me giving you permission to tell me anything and everything related to the Potter and Black families that you haven't already told me."

Scarclaw shook his head and said, "That's everything, Lord Potter-Black. We can provide you with a precise accounting of the contents of all of your vaults and other real estate holdings, but that'll take a few days to prepare. If you want them, we can send them to you via owl."

"Please do."

Scarclaw nodded and made a notation on a piece of parchment in front of him, as Harry looked around at the various people in the room. Lucinda, Moody, and Kingsley didn't seem all that shocked or at least if they were, Harry couldn't tell from their expressions. Tonks looked amazed, although Harry assumed that was possibly because she was technically a Black herself, on her mother's side. Ryan and Noah both looked awed.

As for Draco, his normal emotionless mask was in place, so Harry had no idea what he was thinking and found himself wondering if he was now richer than the Malfoys or not. After a moment, Draco leaned over and whispered in Harry's ear, "Should you need any help reviewing contracts, wish to discuss investments, or just need some financial concept you don't understand explained, I'm willing to help."

Harry nodded, as he leaned over and whispered back, "Thanks, I'll keep that in mind." After a moment, he grinned and added, also in a whisper, "Just out of curiosity, how much is your family worth?"

Draco shook his head, as he'd expected that question and thus whispered back to Harry, "Less than half of what you are, Potter."

Finishing making notations, Scarclaw now turned to Ryan and asked, "Now, Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw, I believe you had a question?"

Nodding, Ryan answered, "Yes, I was wondering just how much I'm actually worth as Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw?"

"Including the Lordship Vaults, real estate, and other holdings including the ancestral manse, Cromwell Hall," Scarclaw said, "The Cromwell family is worth a total of 397 million Galleons. As for the Ravenclaw side of things, that fortune is more substantial as the line has been believed to be extinct since the 1400's and thus no transactions have been made on any of their vaults. We've continued to manage them, so they've continued to grow all these years, but with no withdrawals in over 500 years now, they've obviously accumulated a substantial amount. Although much of the Ravenclaw wealth is in the form of rare books and tomes, but there is still a large amount of galleons."

"So, hit me, what's the number?" Ryan asked.

Scarclaw consulted some papers in front of him, before saying, "Between galleons, books, real estate, land holdings, a 1/5th ownership stake in Hogwarts Castle, and the Ravenclaw ancestral home, Raven's Rest, as Lord Ravenclaw you are worth a grand total of 732 million galleons. So, adding it all together, you're worth 1,129,000,000 Galleons, or £5,645,000,000."

In the moment after Scarclaw finished speaking, Ryan's eyes rolled back in his head, and he collapsed to the floor in a dead faint. Draco clearly looked like he was fighting an internal battle to stop himself from sniggering, as growing up wealthy, he couldn't understand why anyone would faint from finding out they were rich. Noah looked more sympathetic, at least partially because he knew that Harry had had much the same reaction the last time he was at Gringotts and that was before he'd found out about the Lordship Vaults. As for Harry himself, he couldn't bring himself to snigger at Ryan, when he'd fainted himself during his summer visit to the bank.

Moody, Tonks, and Kingsley all looked concerned, while Scarclaw appeared to be pretending not to notice. Although whether it was because he could detect that Ryan had only fainted or because goblins really don't care that much about the plight of wizards, one can only guess. Pulling out her wand, Lucinda pointed it at her grandson and said, "Rennervate!"

Moments later, Ryan was sitting back in his seat, looking quite embarrassed. Reaching over, Harry said, "Don't worry about it, Ryan. I fainted myself over the summer when Scarclaw told me about the Potter and Black fortunes, and that was before I knew about the Lordship vaults, so, you're not alone."

Ryan smiled, somewhat nervously, as he nodded. "Thanks, Harry."

"All of you will keep this to yourselves," Lucinda said, power literally radiating off of her in waves, as she let go of some of the control she held her magic with. "If I hear one word of my grandson's reaction to his wealth in the press, I will come after all of you until I find out which one of you leaked it and believe me when I say that you will not enjoy the experience."

Everyone in the room was looking at Lucinda with various expressions on their faces. Tonks and Kingsley, being younger Aurors who had joined after Lucinda's retirement, were awed, but at the same time not surprised, as they'd always heard about the great Lucinda Cromwell and her many successful missions. Moody, who had worked with Lucinda several times over the years, wasn't surprised in the slightest, and he could understand her desire to protect her family. Scarclaw looked mildly impressed by the power he felt radiating off of Lucinda, but said nothing, as goblins very rarely if ever said anything complimentary to a wizard.

The teens, meanwhile, were clearly surprised, as they had never seen a display of power quite like the one Lucinda had just given. Even Ryan, who'd lived with the woman all his life, had never seen it and he had to admit that is was scary. Although it also made him appreciate her all the more, that she was so intent on saving him from any potential embarrassment. Clamping down on her display, Lucinda shook her head and said, "Now, I believe that concludes our business here," turning to the teens she added, "So let's get over to Twillfit and Tatting's, shall we? You all need dress robes for the Ball and then the lot of you need to get back to school."

Much to the amusement of the other teens, the corners of Draco's mouth lifted in a sort of pseudo-smile, which was strange for the normally emotion-free mask that Draco had usually worn in the past, as he rubbed his hands together and muttered in almost gleeful tone, "Shopping."

-o-0-o-

Three-and-a-half hours later, the group arrived back at Hogwarts, after they'd been poked and prodded with pins in places they didn't even know they had, as the overzealous tailors at Twillfit and Tatting's did their best to ensure that the new Lord Potter-Black and Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw, and their dates, had only the very best fitting and looking dress robes that could possibly be made for the Hogwarts Masquerade Ball.

Harry, who had never had custom robes made in his life, because even the Hogwarts robes, while fitted to each student, did not qualify as custom, had come away from the experience feeling very overwhelmed. Especially since Lucinda and Draco had pointed out that he'd have to have more custom robes made at some point in the future, because while his everyday robes wouldn't be judged too harshly, anything he wore to fancy dress or formal balls would be and thus he'd need more than just the one robe eventually.

Noah was also feeling a bit overwhelmed, especially after finding out how much the robe he ended up with cost, because it was hands down the single most expensive article of clothing that he'd ever owned in his life. Harry paid for it, of course, and that just made Noah feel even more uncomfortable, because he knew there was simply no way that he could have afforded to buy it himself, even with the savings he'd put away as a TA.

Not long after Harry and Noah arrived in Gryffindor Tower, they were waylaid by Hermione, who said, "Harry, Noah, there you are! Where have you been? I've been looking all over the castle for you two."

As the trip to Diagon Alley had taken place immediately after the meeting in Dumbledore's office, Harry and Noah hadn't had time to tell anyone they were going out, so Hermione didn't know. "I'm sorry, Hermione, Noah, Draco, Ryan and I went with Moody, Kingsley, Tonks, and Ryan's grandmother to Diagon Alley. I was claiming the Potter and Black lordship rings, and then we went shopping for custom dress robes, because apparently the ones we bought off the rack at Gladrags wouldn't be socially acceptable for lords and their dates."

Hermione was silent for a moment, as she digested that, but then shook her head and said, "Well, put your shopping bags in your dorms and then come with me to the library."

"Why?" Noah asked.

"Because Madam Pince sent me a message," Hermione answered. "Apparently one section of the Tome of the Founders has restored enough to reveal a new heir."

"Which one?" Harry asked.

"She didn't say, so the sooner we get there, the sooner we'll know," said a clearly impatient Hermione.

"Okay, okay," Noah said, as he and Harry raced up the stairs, dropped their bags on their beds, and then raced back down to the Common Room, where they and Hermione hustled through the portrait hole and headed for the library as fast as they possibly could without getting in trouble for running in the halls.

-o-0-o-

Arriving in the Hogwarts library, Harry, Noah, and Hermione hastened over to the librarian's desk, as Madam Pince looked up and said, "You're here much later than I figured you would be."

"We were detained," Harry said, as he explained the reason.

"Ah, I see," Madam Pince nodded, before adding, "At any rate, as I told Miss Granger in the note I sent her, one section of the Tome of the Founders - specifically the one dealing with Helga's heirs - appears to have restored enough to reveal pertinent information which should be helpful in discovering a new heir."

"Well, let's see it," Harry said, as the librarian nodded and pulled out the book, opening it to the correct page, as the three teens scanned it.

It took a few moments for them to read through all the names on the page, as the page started in the 1590's, but then towards the bottom of the opposing page that they'd begun reading from, they recognized a few names.

CROWLEY, Selene Anne - Born 1950, Died 1981, Aged 31 years
Married 1975 to DIGGORY, Amos Richard, Born 1948, Age 48 years
two children, DIGGORY, Cedric Jeremiah, Born 1977, Died 1995, Aged 17 years
DIGGORY, Lucille Selene, Born 1981, Died 1981, Aged 1 day

"Cedric was Helga's heir?" Noah asked, in a somewhat astonished voice, as he'd never known that it was even a possibility. Of course, he'd also never met Cedric's mother, as her appendix ruptured while in her seventh month of pregnancy, forcing the baby to be delivered prematurely. Unfortunately, the healers hadn't been able to save either one, as Selene died shortly after the delivery of Lucille, who then died the next day.

"I guess so," Harry said, in a sad voice, as he wondered if his late boyfriend had even known of the possibility himself. 'If he knew, he never mentioned it to me.'

"I don't suppose many people in our generation would know their lineage going all the way back to the Founders," Hermione commented. "Even the Black Family Tree we've seen only goes back to about the mid 1700's."

Harry nodded, as Noah said, "True. At any rate, this doesn't really help us, because Cedric's mother, Cedric, and his sister are dead. So, I guess we don't know who the Hufflepuff heir is after all."

"You could try turning the page," Madam Pince said in a somewhat cryptic tone.

With a curious look, Harry carefully turned the page of the ancient book and found that while the ink was lighter than the ink of the previous two pages, it was still dark enough to be legible, and thus the three teens began reading even more names, until finally, they came across a few more familiar names.

KENDALL, Ariana Lillian - Born 1953, Died 1989, Aged 36 years
Married 1970 to MACMILLAN, Edward James - Born 1953, Age 43
one child MACMILLAN, Ernest John - Born 1980, Age 16

Pulling out his PDA, Noah typed a quick message to Ernie, telling him to drop everything and get to the library immediately. Ten minutes later, a somewhat out of breath Ernie arrived in the library, along with Justin and Ryan, who had been with Ernie when Noah's message was received. "What's the emergency?" Ernie asked.

Harry grinned as he pointed at the book on the librarian's desk and said, "This."

Coming closer to the book and reading where Harry was pointing, Ernie's eyes widened as he asked, "My name is in an old book? You called me here for that?"

"That's not just any book, Ernie," Ryan said. "It's the Tome of the Founders, if your name is in it, that means you're an heir."

"An heir?" Ernie asked. "Of who?"

"Helga Hufflepuff," Noah answered.

"I'm Helga's heir?" Ernie asked, somewhat bewildered, as everyone jumped as they were startled by the arrival of Fawkes and Dakota, in a brilliant flash of flames.

"Yes, Mr. Macmillan," Dakota said. "You are indeed Helga Hufflepuff's heir."

Not long after this, Ernie fainted, saved from hitting the floor by Justin and Ryan who managed to catch him in time. Sitting him down at a nearby table, Madam Pince pulled out her wand and revived him. After a moment of obvious disorientation, he shook his head and said, "Merlin, I just had the craziest dream. I thought I was Helga's heir."

"It wasn't a dream, E.J., you are," Justin said to his old friend, clearly awed by the information.

"Indeed you are," Dakota said, as Fawkes moved him to the side to reveal the Hufflepuff lordship ring lying on table. "Your ring, Lord Hufflepuff. I will have more instructions for you when the other heirs are discovered, only two more to go at this point, but until then, I'll take my leave."

Fawkes and Dakota disappeared before anyone could say anything. After a moment, Harry asked in an obviously confused tone, "Wait only two more to go? But we only know Ravenclaw's heir and now Hufflepuff's."

"Apparently one of the other heirs has been revealed without us knowing about it," Hermione said. "Question is which one?"

"I guess we'll just have to wait until whomever it is decides to reveal themselves," Noah said. "Or the book reveals it, whichever comes first."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Nineteen
The Masquerade Ball,
Part One

-o-0-o-

Classes were cancelled on Thursday, 31 October, 1996 due to the annual Halloween Feast at five that evening, as in years past, the professors had realized that on the day of the feast the students' thoughts were often so consumed by the upcoming feast that they couldn't concentrate on their studies. This year, of course, there was the added issue of having the Masquerade Ball start at eight in the evening, giving the older students who would be attending it even more reason to be distracted. Of course, there were plenty of students in years five and above that had decided to skip the Halloween Feast altogether in favor of using the time to get ready for the Ball instead.

All of the sixth-year Ravenclaw boys were among this number, having decided that they could wait to eat until the Ball, since the Headmaster had made it clear that food and drinks would be available for those who chose to skip the Feast. By 7:30 that evening, all of them had showered, but Ryan was hesitating to get ready as he watched his roommates getting themselves ready. He couldn't help but feel a bit self-conscious because looking at what his friends were wearing, he knew that his new robes would make them look like they were wearing rags by comparison.

"Aren't you going to get dressed?" Terry asked, as he looked over towards Ryan's bed and saw that he was still sitting there in his underclothes and not moving.

"I didn't want to make any of you uncomfortable," Ryan muttered, although everyone else could hear it.

"Uncomfortable?" Michael asked. "How could you make any of us uncomfortable by getting dressed instead of sitting there watching us get dressed?"

"Yeah, Ryan, mate, no offense," Anthony said, "but honestly you sitting there half naked and watching us makes me uncomfortable."

"I'm not checking you out or anything," Ryan responded. "I know you don't swing that way, Tony."

"And I'm not saying that you were checking me out," Anthony retorted. "We're Ravenclaws for pity sake. Give me some credit for being smart enough to know that just because you're gay doesn't mean that you're checking out every guy you see."

"Feel free to check me out anytime you wish, Ry," Kevin interjected with a grin.

"Yeah, me too," Stephen added. "But really, you should consider getting dressed. Ball starts in half an hour."

"Yes, you wouldn't want to keep your date waiting," Terry said.

Ryan sighed, but nodded as he stood up, "Yes, I suppose you're right."

Walking over to his wardrobe, Ryan took a deep breath before pulling out the white garment bag with the name Twillfit and Tatting's embroidered upon the bag, along with the name 'Master Tailor J. Tatting.'

"Mr. Tatting himself made your robes?" Kevin asked, as he saw the embroidered name.

"Yes," Ryan confirmed.

"Merlin's beard!" Stephen exclaimed. "I can see now why you were nervous about getting dressed in front of us. Mr. Tatting almost never makes anything himself anymore. He always leaves it up to his staff to make the majority of the clothes the store sells and only personally works on the clothes of his most elite and exclusive clients."

"Well, Ryan is Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw," Michael pointed out. "I'd say that's pretty elite."

"True," Anthony acknowledged, as Ryan placed the garment bag on his bed. "Well, come on, let's see it."

With a slightly shaking hand, Ryan reached out and grabbed the silver zipper, pulled it down and pushing the bag open, revealed the robes inside. The eyes of Ryan's roommates all widened as they saw the exquisitely cut robes, made from what was clearly only the finest and most expensive materials available in Wizarding Britain.

Removing the robes, which were of a much more formal standard than most dress robes in common use, Ryan's friends could see that they consisted of a long black sleeveless tunic that would likely reach down to Ryan's knees. There was also a pair of deep blue satin breeches, stockings, a shimmering blue silk shirt with billowing sleeves, a long silk cape, a pair of black linen gloves, a black belt and a pair of shoes in the same color as the breeches. Both the tunic and the breeches were covered in detailed embroidery in metallic silver stitching that looked like it must have taken hours to make, but with magic, probably only took a Master Tailor of Mr. Tatting's caliber a few minutes.

"Is that dragonhide?" Terry asked, as he eyed the tunic.

Ryan shook his head. "No, it's basilisk hide. And the stockings, shirt and cape are Acromantula silk."

"Bloody hell!" Stephen exclaimed. "This ensemble must have cost a fortune. Just the cape by itself is probably worth more than most people make in six months."

"Yeah, it was expensive," Ryan agreed. "Too expensive, if you ask me, but my grandmother insisted that as Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw, I should wear only the very best to the Ball. And suffice it to say that my grandmother is just not somebody that you say no to if you value your life."

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, in the sixth-year Gryffindor boys' dorm, Neville, Dean, and Seamus were all in the room putting the final touches on their own clothes for the evening, while Ron had already left for his detention with Mr. Filch. After a few moments, Dean asked, "Where's Harry?"

"Getting dressed in the bathroom, I imagine," Seamus replied. "He took a garment bag in with him when he went in to shower."

"Why would he get dressed in the bathroom?" Dean asked. "We've already seen his robes. He showed them to us the night of the Hogsmeade visit, as we showed him ours."

Neville shook his head. "He's not wearing the ones he bought at Gladrags." At Dean's and Seamus' obviously confused looks, Neville filled them in about Ryan's grandmother taking them to Diagon Alley. "He's Lord Potter-Black now, so, off the rack robes were deemed too inappropriate for someone of his stature in our world."

"So, where did he get his robes then?" Dean asked. "Madam Malkin's?"

"No," Neville answered. "From Twillfit and Tatting's, which is a much higher-end clothier than Madam Malkin's, since both Mr. Twillfit and Mr. Tatting are certified Master Tailors, while Madam Malkin is only a seamstress."

"There's a difference?" Dean asked.

"In the wizarding world, yes," Neville replied. "Don't know about in the muggle world, but in the wizarding world, a Master Tailor starts their career by apprenticing under another Master for a minimum of ten years. After that they're required to go abroad and work in at least six foreign countries over the course of two to three years in order to gain firsthand experience working with the most exotic of materials. They also commonly have connections with other artisans, especially jewelers and metal smiths, as a Master Tailor can provide clothes that use a trade secret magical conversion ritual that actually allows for pure gold, silver, or other precious metals and even crushed gemstones, like diamonds and rubies, to be converted into thread to produce some very exquisitely detailed embroidery."

After a moment, he added, "A seamstress on the other hand rarely if ever makes clothing from scratch like tailors do. They only alter existing clothes that were made by somebody else. So Madam Malkin has suppliers who supply her with already crafted clothing that she then alters to her customers' needs, but there's limits to the kinds of clothing she can make. You will never find her working with expensive, exotic materials like basilisk hide or Acromantula silk, for example. And she doesn't have the connections or training necessary to do the magical conversion ritual that I mentioned."

"How do you even know all this, mate?" Seamus asked.

"My gran taught me. At some point I'll be Lord Longbottom and thus my gran has been teaching me everything I'll need to know in order to represent the House of Longbottom well and that includes knowing from where and from who it's acceptable for me to buy formal robes."

"Didn't you buy your robes from Gladrags, though?"

Neville nodded. "Yeah, Dean, I did, but I'm not Lord Longbottom yet and while I am the heir to the family, heirs aren't held to as high a standard as the Lord of the family. Many lords will insist that their heirs do dress to a high standard and would never even consider letting them wear off the rack, but my gran believes that the higher-end clothes should be reserved only for the lord and their spouse and that includes her, as the Dowager Lady Longbottom."

Before anyone else could say anything, Harry came out of the bathroom wearing an ensemble very similar to what Ryan had gotten, only in red and black, with golden embroidery. Holding his arms out, Harry asked, "Well, how do I look?"

Dean and Seamus were silent, as their mouths were hanging open in shock, while Neville said, "You look very nice, Harry, although you're wearing the cape incorrectly."

Harry looked confused as he asked, "How am I supposed to wear it then? I thought capes went around the neck."

"Not this kind," Neville said as he came over to Harry and asked, "May I?"

"Please," Harry replied.

Unclasping the heavy golden medallion emblazoned with the Potter and Black family crests that served as a clasp for the cape, Neville then untied the two long golden tasseled cords, "The reason for these long cords on the cape is because you're meant to wear it over one shoulder and under the other. You're right handed right?"

Harry nodded, as he watched Neville adjust the cape so that part of it was over his left shoulder, while it then was positioned diagonally across his back so that the right side of the cape was under his right shoulder. Tying the long tasseled cord on the right side to the left cord, Neville finally refastened the clasp about four inches to the right of Harry's neck, rather than directly under it, as Harry had originally been wearing it.

"The reason the cape is worn like this," Neville explained, "is to prevent any choking sensation around the neck, but also to make sure that you have full range of movement with your wand arm. So, when you see a person wearing this style of formal robe, you'll always know which is their wand arm, as one side of their cape will be under their wand arm."

"Thanks for the help, Neville," Harry said, in an obviously grateful tone. "Growing up in the muggle world, I don't know anything about formal wizarding robes and Mr. Tatting never had me put on the cape during the fitting, so I didn't know I was supposed to wear it this way."

"No problem, mate," Neville grinned. "I'm happy to help."

Looking at his watch, Seamus said, "Well, we should probably get going - it's 10 minutes until eight and we don't want to keep our dates waiting."

All the boys nodded, as they headed out of their common room.

-o-0-o-

Thirty minutes earlier, in the sixth-year Slytherin girl's dorm, the occupants were all busy getting ready for the upcoming ball, although Pansy Parkinson was livid.

“What does Draco think he’s doing?” she practically yelled as she sat in front of a mirror fixing her hair. “How could he possibly want to take Ryan Cromwell to the Ball instead of me?”

“I’m going to take a wild guess here,” Tracey replied, “but maybe it’s because he’s gay?”

“I still don’t believe that for a second,” Pansy snarled. "Mark my words, Draco will take one look at me tonight and realize he can't live without me any longer. He'll dump Ryan and beg me to be his date for the rest of the evening."

"Then you're delusional, Pansy," Daphne drawled. "Straight men don't go to formal balls with other men as their dates, even if they're going only as friends. And Draco went to Diagon Alley with Ryan and had custom robes made by Mr. Tatting himself to coordinate with Ryan's robes, so you think he would spend that kind of money for new robes if he planned on dumping Ryan?"

"I'm afraid, Pansy, that I have to agree with Daphne," Tracey added. "Yes, Draco is rich and a clothes horse, but he isn't going to drop well over a thousand galleons on robes that coordinate with Ryan's if he doesn't plan on being his date for the entire night. Not to mention the fact that Ryan is Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw. Your family may be noble, but do you really think that the heir to House Malfoy is going to dump the first person to be the Lord of two Great Houses at the same time, especially when one of them is a Founder's house?"

"You're awfully quiet, Millie," Pansy said, as she turned to Millicent Bulstrode. "What do you think?"

"I'm inclined to agree with Tracey and Daphne," Millicent sighed. "While I agree with you that two guys together that way is sick, it's pretty clear that Draco has no interest in you, Pansy. And I have to agree that Draco is not going to spend a fortune on new robes only to dump his dual-Lord date. The Malfoys have always craved power and influence and you can bet that if Lord Malfoy wasn't on the run from the Ministry, he'd be telling Draco to get as close as humanly possible to Ryan, if only to get his two votes at the Lordsmeet into Malfoy hands."

"Lord Malfoy would never encourage his son to date a male," Pansy sneered. "It's sick."

Daphne rolled her eyes. "And yet it's perfectly legal for two guys to get married and has been since the days of the Founders. Even Salazar himself was openly bisexual and his first marriage was to a man, although history has lost that person's name. As for Lord Malfoy encouraging Draco to date Ryan, are you kidding me? You honestly think that Lord Malfoy would prefer Draco be with you, when you can't even deliver the Parkinson vote since your elder brother is the heir, when Draco could instead be with a person who has two votes? Lord Malfoy wouldn't care that Ryan's a man, because the votes are more important. Honestly what kind of Slytherin are you to not realize the political considerations?"

Tracey nodded and added, "Indeed, Pansy, honestly, grow a brain will you? Slytherins are all about power and influence and doing whatever is necessary to achieve our goals. And with Ryan having two votes in the Lordsmeet, he is the most eligible bachelor in Wizarding Britain and is going to have Slytherin suitors, both male and female, clamoring to get their hooks into him, all hoping to gain the power to influence him on how he casts his votes."

"I don't care what any of you say!" Pansy shrieked. "Draco is mine and mine alone! You'll see, he will dump Ryan and be with me as he's supposed to be."

"Stop embarrassing yourself," a voice said.

“Who said that?” Pansy asked, as she recognized the voice, sounding quite a bit like her own, but she knew that she didn’t say anything.

“I did,” the voice responded and Pansy realized it was her reflection in the mirror talking.

“See, Pansy?” Tracey asked, as she pointed at the magical mirror. “Even your reflection thinks you should give up on Draco.”

“No!” Pansy shouted. “I will never give up on Draco. We are destined to be together and I don’t care what I have to do! We will be together!”

Pansy’s reflection rolled its eyes at her and the other three girls in the room finished getting ready for the Ball and left the room, wanting to put as much distance between themselves and Pansy as possible, considering that she was obviously crazy in addition to being totally delusional.

Stepping away from the mirror and thus making her reflection vanish, Pansy muttered, "Draco, you will be mine," as she walked over to her wardrobe and opened it, before opening the hidden panel near the back and grasping the vial of Amortentia she'd acquired. "I didn't want to do this, but it looks like its time for more drastic measures. They think I'm un-Slytherin, well, I'll prove them wrong. Draco will be mine, because I am willing to do whatever I have to do to get him, even if that means dosing him with Amortentia for the rest of his life!"

Grasping the vial in her hand for a moment, she then put it back in the hidden compartment of her wardrobe, as she thought, 'There'd be way too many potential witnesses at the Ball, so I won't try to slip it to him tonight, but I vow that he will drink it and fall madly in love with me.'

-o-0-o-

Arriving in the entryway outside the Great Hall, Harry smiled at Noah, whose attire was a perfect match for his own, except that the red and gold were reversed, with the embroidery on Noah's black basilisk hide tunic and golden satin breeches done in thread that was magically created from crushed rubies that sparkled in the light. Adding their masks they'd bought at Fearn and Theakston's, which Mr. Tatting altered to match their new outfits, Harry and Noah made quite the striking pair.

"Harry, am I the only one feeling a little out of place here?" Noah asked.

Harry shook his head, "No, you're not. I feel like everyone is staring at me in this getup, because most of them have probably never seen anything like it."

"Well, I imagine many of the people from noble families have," Noah conceded, "but the Diggorys are not noble, nor for that matter are the Hawkes, so I never expected to be wearing this style of robe, especially when it cost more than double what Amos and my Mum make in a year."

"I know, they were crazy expensive weren't they?" Harry agreed. "At least we know we won't be totally alone, because Ryan and Draco will be wearing similar robes."

Noah nodded. "True. Not to mention Ernie and Hannah, since Ryan's grandmother insisted on taking her grandnephew Ernie to get new clothes himself when she found out that he was Lord Hufflepuff, and of course that included Hannah, as his date."

"Yeah, apparently Lord Macmillan met them at Gringotts'," Harry said, who'd talked to Ernie in the interim between his own trip to Diagon Alley and the Ball. "Ernie said he almost fainted himself when he found out how rich he was as Lord Hufflepuff, because that line was believed to have gone extinct in the 1200's and thus it's been about 700 years since the last withdrawal from the vaults."

"Did he say how much he was actually worth?"

Harry shook his head, "No, he didn't. I guess he didn't want to brag or he didn't want people to know how wealthy he actually is, but after tonight I don't think that'll be a problem when he shows up in, as Draco said at the store, a J. Tatting Original."

"Hey guys," Ryan greeted, as he and Draco walked over to Harry and Noah a minute later. With everyone wearing masks, it was a little harder to place some people, as their faces were partially obscured, but obviously Ryan and Draco recognized Harry and Noah as they knew what their clothes looked like since they'd been present when they were bought.

"Hey guys, you two are looking really good," Noah said, as he took in Ryan's and Draco's attire. While blue and silver were the dominant colors in Ryan's clothes, silver and green were the dominant colors in Draco's, with the blue colored items in Ryan's ensemble being silver in Draco's. Much like Noah's attire, all of the embroidery in Draco's clothes was done in thread created from crushed gemstones, only in emeralds instead of rubies. Harry still remembered his shock at the store when he'd found out that with magic it was actually possible to make thread out of crushed gemstones or in the case of his and Ryan's outfits, from solid gold and silver. It was definitely one of those moments where he found himself thinking, 'I love magic.'

"Thank you, Noah," Draco acknowledged, although referring to the boy by his first name still seemed a little odd to Draco, because he almost never used people's first names unless he considered them to be friends and he hadn't known Noah Diggory well enough for a long enough period of time to consider him a friend. With both of them working in the Potions Department as TAs, Noah had wanted to be on a first name basis with Draco since the beginning of the year, but Draco had resisted it. After the attack on Hogsmeade, however, in which Draco warned Noah to duck from a curse that would likely have killed him, Noah insisted that they be on a first name basis and refused to take no for an answer.

It wasn't long after this that Ernie and Hannah arrived, with Ernie wearing robes that were much like the other boys' with a black basilisk hide tunic featuring crushed diamond embroidery in an extremely intricate pattern, and a shimmering yellow Acromantula silk shirt beneath it. The diamond embroidery was repeated in the yellow satin breeches and on the shoes. Hannah, meanwhile was wearing a flowing yellow floor-length ball gown in yellow Acromantula silk that literally sparkled from the diamond floral-patterned embroidery present throughout the bell sleeves and dome-shaped skirt. Her waist, chest, and shoulders were covered in a finely cut black basilisk hide bodice, also featuring the floral-patterned diamond embroidery.

Harry smiled, "You look like a million galleons, Hannah."

Hannah shook her head. "Considering what this dress cost, I'm not surprised. My family might be noble, but I think this is still the single most expensive thing I've ever owned in my life, because the Abbotts aren't extremely wealthy to begin with, as my mother donates a lot of the money she makes each year to various charities. She only really keeps enough to keep food on the table and to maintain the family mansion, so there isn't a ton left over for fancy original clothes from one of the preeminent tailors in Magical Britain."

"Well, if you want fancy clothes from now on, you can have them," Ernie said, a winning smile spreading across his face. "Thanks to my Hufflepuff inheritance, I can easily afford to buy you the best of everything."

"That's really not necessary, Ernie," Hannah argued.

"I know it's not," Ernie said. "But, you will be Lady Hufflepuff one day, so I want to treat you like the beautiful princess that you are."

Hannah blushed at that, as Harry, Ryan, and Noah grinned at their friend who really knew how to lay it on thick. Draco wasn't grinning, but then he rarely did to begin with, as it was hard to break the years of conditioning his father had instilled in him to always keep his face cool and free of emotions, because emotions were a weakness that Malfoys couldn't afford according to both Lucius and Rule #9 of the Malfoy Code of Conduct.

A few minutes later, the bells in the Clock Tower and both of the Bell Towers began to toll the hour. It was just as the final bell had sounded, that the doors to the Great Hall opened and Professor Dumbledore emerged from within, wearing rich purple robes covered in gold crescent moons and silver stars, a motif which was repeated in the mask covering half his face. Even with the mask, however, it was impossible to miss the aged Headmaster, if only because of his long white hair and beard. The woman on his arm, however, was hard for many of the students to recognize and many were unable to identify the purple and lilac silk dressed woman until Dumbledore spoke.

"Greetings, students," Dumbledore said. "Professor Babbling and I wish to welcome you to the Halloween Masquerade Ball."

Many of the students were confused by the fact that they couldn't catch even the briefest glimpse of the interior of the Great Hall, despite the fact that the doors were open behind Dumbledore and Babbling. This lead many to believe, correctly, that there was apparently some magic at work to block them from seeing inside the room.

"Now, if you'll all please line up next to your partners," Babbling said, as she waited for a moment as the students did that, "Professor Dumbledore and I ask that you follow us into the Hall."

All the students lined up next to their partners as Dumbledore and Babbling turned and lead the group through the massive doors into the Great Hall. Only, as many students quickly realized upon crossing the threshold it wasn't the Great Hall they were seeing upon stepping through the doors, but instead a long hallway. Black linen draped the walls and suits of armor from all over the world and many different periods rested on pedestals along the entire length of the hallway.

The students stared in wonder at the collection of armor and weapons on display, as their two Professors walked silently down the hall to the large doors at the other end. Reaching the doors, Dumbledore and Babbling turned to the students behind them and Dumbledore said, “Eat, drink, dance, and be afraid, be very afraid.”

Luckily, even with the mask covering part of his face, Dumbledore's twinkling eyes and smiling face were still visible or else some of the students might actually have been worried about that statement. As it is, they realized that their headmaster was only saying it because it was Halloween. At this Dumbledore and Babbling turned towards the doors just as they opened and lead the group into a large room, very different from the Great Hall that the students had gotten to know so well during their time at Hogwarts.

Directly ahead was a massive stone fireplace, flanked on either side by several French doors, covered in blood red draperies. Instead of stone, the floor now appeared to be made of white marble, with a highly intricate inlay of the Hogwarts coat of arms in the center of the floor. Numerous groupings of candles and carved jack-o-lanterns floated in mid-air ten feet off the ground throughout the room. On the far left end of the room, a marble staircase lead up to a landing on which rested a large pipe organ, with two more stairways wrapping around it on either side.

On the opposite end of the room, a long table of food and drinks was set out, along with several round tables, so that the students could sit down and rest or for those who had chosen to skip the feast, eat dinner. Between the organ on one side and tables on the other, however, there was more than enough space left for dancing as the entire room seemed to be inverted, with the longer portion of the room going east-west instead of the normal north-south.

As the last of the students filed into the room, the large oak doors slammed shut and the enchanted ceiling, the one thing in the room that still looked the same as the Great Hall, burst into life with a display of orange and black fireworks. As the fireworks display ended, what seemed like every ghost who inhabited the castle, and perhaps a few that didn’t, appeared and began dancing, as the organ began playing a melancholy waltz all by itself.

The ghosts waltzed around the room to the organ music for a few minutes, before they disappeared and Dumbledore turned towards the organ and raised his hands.

“And now, let the Ball begin!” he shouted as a shower of orange and black sparks shot forth from his hands and a stage rose up from the staircase in front of the organ, to reveal the Weird Sisters live on stage, as they began playing one of their latest hits.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Nineteen
The Masquerade Ball,
Part Two

-o-0-o-

As the Weird Sisters began playing their first song, there did seem to be some hesitance from all the students to be the first ones to go out onto the dance floor. This led Dumbledore to smile and suggest, "Perhaps the Head Boy and Girl, and their dates would care to lead off the dancing?"

Babbling nodded. "Yes, students, this is a ball, after all, so somebody should start dancing."

After a moment, four people, two boys and two girls, made their way to the front of the room and paired up to begin the dancing. Scrutinizing them for a moment, both Harry and Noah were able to pick out Head Girl Katie Bell, and her date for the evening, Lee Jordan. He'd graduated the previous June, but he and Katie had been dating for the last two years and there were rumors of an engagement, so it didn't surprise Harry, Noah, or any of the other Gryffindors who recognized them that Lee would return to Hogwarts to be Katie's date.

The other couple, meanwhile, were dressed in the fancy, tailored robes, which made Harry and Noah feel a little less self-conscious about their own attire, as there were clearly others wearing clothing that wasn't off the rack. Due to the headmaster's request, Harry and Noah could only assume that the pair was Head Boy Adrian Pucey and his girlfriend, Daphne Greengrass. Having looked over a list of the noble families after learning that he was Lord Potter-Black, Harry knew that the Greengrass family was also one of the so-called Great Houses with a seat in the Lordsmeet, so it made sense that Daphne would dress up and that Adrian would, as her date.

With the two couples now on the dance floor, other couples began filtering out onto the dance floor, so, taking a deep breath, Harry held out his hand to Noah and said, "Shall we?"

"I'd love to," Noah said with a grin, as he took Harry's hand and the two of them made their way out to the dance floor.

Harry was nervous about dancing, as he thought he was terrible at it, but as he began moving around the dance floor with Noah, he realized that maybe he wasn't quite as bad as he thought he was. Of course, Cedric had given him lessons over the summer between Harry's third and fourth year, and then in the Room of Requirement during fourth year. So, he'd apparently gotten better at it, although a part of him couldn't help but wish that it was Cedric he was dancing with. He really liked Noah and was pretty sure he was falling for him fast, but a part of his heart would always belong to Cedric Diggory.

Meanwhile, Ryan was dancing with Draco and looking around the room with a surprised look, which caught Draco's eye. "Is something wrong, Ryan?"

"No, I'm just surprised."

"By?" Draco prompted.

"This room and all the decor," Ryan said with a shake of his head. "I don't know where the staff got the idea to decorate it like this, but with the exception of the Hogwarts crest, house banners, and enchanted ceiling, this entire room, including the hallway with the armor in it, is a perfect replica of the Grand Ballroom at Cromwell Hall."

"You can thank me for that, Ryan," a voice said, causing Ryan to look to his left and see two guys dancing near enough that they'd obviously heard Ryan's conversation with Draco. They were dressed in red and gold robes, clearly off the rack, and had matching masks adorned with red and gold sequins around the edges.

Ryan recognized the voice, however, and grinned. "Hey Matt, Oliver. Draco, this is my cousin, Matthew Cromwell, and his fiancé, Oliver Wood."

Draco grinned. "I'm aware of that, Ryan or did you forget that I work with Matthew in the Potions department?"

"Yes, I did forget," Ryan answered. "Obviously I don't have either of you as a teacher and you're taking NEWT Potions with me, Draco, so I sometimes forget that you're one of the teaching assistants." Turning to Matthew, he asked, "So, how'd the headmaster get the idea of making the Great Hall look like Cromwell Hall?"

"He asked all the professors for suggestions," Matthew replied. "So, I gave him pictures of Cromwell Hall and I guess he obviously liked them since that's what was used. He didn't tell me, so it was just as much a surprise for me as it was for you."

On another part of the dance floor, Nick was dancing with Valen. Looking around the room, he said, "I feel like everyone in the room is staring at us."

"Probably because we're such a hot couple," Valen said with a grin, as his hand brushed briefly against Nick's ass.

Nick blushed and said, "You think anyone has figured out that I'm a student and you're a professor?"

"The masks do make identifying anyone more difficult," Valen answered. "So I suppose there's plenty of people who haven't figured it out yet, but I'm sure there are some who've guessed your identity at the very least." Even with the green and silver mask on his face, Valen could see Nick's quirked eyebrow, prompting him to add, "You're the only male student I can think of that has black hair with blond streaks."

"I did think about removing the streaks to make myself less identifiable," Nick said. "But in the end I decided not to."

"I'm glad you didn't," Valen said, as he leaned closer and whispered in Nick's ear, as he thrust his hips forward into Nick's, "because I think they're sexy."

Nick blushed. "You're trying to get me hot and bothered aren't you?"

Valen nodded. "Is it working?"

"Yes, you horny devil," Nick said. Since their first encounter together in the Forbidden Forest pond, Nick and Valen had met up and had sex several more times. This was their first official date as a couple, so Nick knew there were probably people who would think it very odd that they'd had sex multiple times now before their first date, but Nick wasn't concerned about that, because all he knew was that he was greatly enjoying himself.

As the first song ended, Dumbledore walked onto the stage and said, "Students, at this time, I'd like to make a little announcement." Once he had everyone's attention, Dumbledore pulled out his wand and waved it, causing a small tag with a number on it to appear on every masked person in the room. "You are now all wearing a tag with a unique number on it and the reason for this is because the staff and I decided that we'd have a competition this evening. Over the course of the evening, you're all charged with the challenge to identify your fellow attendees, be they professor or student. If you think you've figured out someone's identity, send a message on your PDA to either myself or the Heads of House. We won't reply back whether you were right or not, but at some point in the near future once we've had time to tally everything up, the two students, one male, one female, who got the most correct will win a prize. I will refrain from saying what, but trust me, you will like it."

Dumbledore paused and then said, "Prizes will also be awarded to those of you who manage to go through the entire night with nobody, other than your dates, figuring out who you are. You may use any means at your disposal to prevent people from figuring out who you are, including charms to change your voice."

-o-0-o-

Over the course of the next hour, during which the Weird Sisters played a few more songs, before taking a break, during which Lorcan d'Eath took the stage, it was not an uncommon sight to see students holding their PDAs as they sent messages to the Headmaster or the Heads of House about their guesses. Everybody was curious what the prizes were and many were hoping that it wasn't Dumbledore's bloody sherbet lemons. Knowing the Headmaster's enjoyment of the sweet, several people thought it would be in his character to give out a pound of them to students as a prize, but he was presumably a smart man who would hopefully realize that his teenage students, while enjoying candy, wouldn't consider it a very good prize and thus he'd likely have a mutiny on his hands if that was the prize.

Taking a break from the dancing, Harry and Noah had sat down at one of the tables, and despite the fact that they'd both attended the Halloween Feast, they each had a small snack in front of them, which they were munching on while talking and looking out over the crowds, trying to identify people. On the other side of the room, Charlie spotted who he believed to be Harry and Noah sitting at a table, as he'd been dancing close to the pair earlier and saw the Potter-Black crest on the medallion that served as a clasp for his cloak. Deciding that a break would be nice, Charlie hooked his arm with Alexi's and the two of them headed in Harry and Noah's direction.

As one couple in particular danced into view, Noah scrutinized them for a moment and then asked, "Hey Harry, is that Nick and his mystery date?"

Looking where Noah was pointing, Harry saw the couple and nodded. "I believe it is, yeah. Nick's hair is rather distinctive, after all."

"Yes, it is," Noah agreed. "Whose that he's dancing with though? It's clearly a guy but I can't really tell who it is." As he said this, Noah glanced at Harry and saw him grinning, prompting him to add, "You know don't you?"

Harry continued grinning and finally nodded, "Yes, I know who Nick's date is. I've known who his date was for a few weeks now."

"If you knew why didn't you say anything?"

"They made me promise not to," Harry answered. "At least before the Ball, however, I suppose now that's in progress, I've kept my promise." Noah nodded in agreement that, yes, if Harry promised not to tell anyone before the Ball, then once the Ball was in progress, he'd kept his word. Harry grinned. "Not saying anything has been really hard, especially because you owe me five galleons."

"Five galleons?" Noah asked, confused for a moment, before a look of realization came over his face and he said, "No, it can't be."

Harry nodded and said, "But it is, Noah," as Charlie and Alexi approached the table from behind Harry and Noah, "Nick's date this evening is none other than Professor Valen Lasinius."

Charlie and Alexi stopped dead in their tracks upon overhearing this bit of information, as they looked over to the nearby couple, with both of them being able to recognize Nick from his distinctive black and blond locks. It took a moment longer, but they also soon recognized Valen, leaving them both stunned that Valen would be so stupid as to attend the ball with a student.

As he remembered the article that the Prophet had run on him and Alexi, Charlie's blood pressure began to rise, especially when Valen lean forward and kissed Nick on the side of his neck, while lowering his hands from the boy's waist to his butt and pulling him a bit closer. Pulling Alexi with him, Charlie walked purposefully towards the couple, doing his best not to look like he was storming towards them as he didn't want to draw too much attention.

Tapping Valen on the shoulder, Charlie waited for Valen to stop dancing and turn to address him, he didn't however, as he instead said, in what was obviously a magically masked voice, "No, you may not cut in, now go away."

Leaning forward so that his mouth was right next to Valen's ear, Charlie hissed in a whisper, "A student, Valen? Are you insane?"

That got Valen's attention and he stopped dancing as he turned to face Charlie and Alexi, with the former being easily recognized this close up, since there was a trace of freckles visible under his mask, not to mention the Weasley red hair, which Charlie had done his best to hide with a tri-corner hat.

"Charlie, Alexi," Valen whispered. "You clearly have something to say, but perhaps we should go someplace a little more private."

"I quite agree," Alexi said in a strained whisper.

Harry and Noah watched as the four people left the dance floor and walked through one of the French doors to the terrace outside the room. While they were curious about the conversation they'd left to have, they knew it wasn't really any of their business and decided to stay out of it. Besides, they still had people to identify.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, with both the Weird Sisters and Lorcan d'Eath on break, Celestina Warbeck was on stage, singing a ballad which was perfect for slow dancing, thus there were mostly couples out on the floor. Of course, not all of them were romantic couples, as proven by the fact that Ryan and Draco were currently dancing in each other's arms, as Draco allowed Ryan to lead him across the floor. It had been a bit of a switch for Draco to let someone else lead, as he usually didn't do it, but he got the hang of it.

Both Ryan and Draco, despite not being a couple, were enjoying the music and had thus closed their eyes as they danced, so they didn't see anyone approaching until it was too late and Ryan felt a persistent tapping on his shoulder. Opening his eyes and turning slightly, he could see Pansy Parkinson standing before him.

"What do you want?"

"I'm cutting in," Pansy said.

"Sorry, Pansy, but I have no desire to dance with you," Ryan said.

"Neither do I," Pansy said with a smirk. "Now release my date."

Ryan quirked an eyebrow, "Your date? Who? Where? I wasn't aware that you even had one. And even if you did, I fail to see why you're bothering me and my date."

Pansy looked coolly at Ryan and said, "Wrong, he's my date. Now release him."

Feeling Ryan tightening his grip on him a bit, Draco decided to defer to Ryan, since he was the Lord of two Great Houses and thus he trusted him to protect him from Pansy. It was something of a knock to his ego to think that he actually needed protection from a girl, but then Pansy had proven to be a neurotic thorn in his side that he wanted as little to do with as humanly possible. He would be perfectly happy never to see, talk, or look at her ever again.

"I will do no such thing," Ryan said. "Draco is my date for the evening, Pansy, and if you don't like it, well, I really couldn't care less."

"Draco is not your date!" Pansy exclaimed, loud enough that several nearby couples stopped dancing and looked to see what was going on. "He's mine! Not yours! He will never be yours because he already belongs to me. Everything is arranged and Draco and I will be married."

Quirking his brow again, Ryan asked, "Are you trying to imply that there's a betrothal contract between the House of Malfoy and the House of Parkinson?"

Before Pansy could say a word, Draco said, "There isn't. My mother insisted that when I got married it would be for love and so she refused to allow my father to have any contracts drawn up."

"Well, then, I suggest you go away, Pansy," Ryan asked. "Before I'm forced to take drastic measures."

"You can't do anything," Pansy said. "Draco is mine, now let go of him!" As she said this she pushed Ryan's left arm hard enough that he stumbled backwards, losing his grip on Draco in the process.

Before Pansy could move in to dance with Draco, however, Ryan recovered and had his wand out, as he said, "That's where you're wrong, Miss Parkinson. In case you forgot who you're dealing with, I am Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw and I demand an apology."

"An apology for what?" Pansy demanded. "You stole my date! You're the one in the wrong, not me."

"You're delusional, Pansy," Draco said. "I was never your date because I wouldn't date you if you were the last person left on the planet."

"What is going on over here?" a feminine voice asked, as everybody turned to see Professors Vector and Delrossi standing there. Both professors had removed their masks so that there could be no doubt about who they were.

"Miss Parkinson seems to think that I've stolen her date," Ryan explained. "Despite the fact that I asked Draco and he said yes. It was even mentioned in the Daily Prophet that we were going together for pity sake."

"Yes, I recall reading it," Rafael Delrossi said. "Now is there a reason that you're holding Miss Parkinson at wand point?"

"She pushed me," Ryan said. "Hard enough to make me stumble and almost fall to the floor. I was just formally demanding an apology from Miss Parkinson."

"As is your right," Septima said. "Now, Miss Parkinson, it's time you apologized."

"Me?!" Pansy shrieked. "I haven't done anything wrong. Draco is mine. He'll always be mine. And anyone who says anything different is lying."

"I'M GAY, PANSY!" Draco yelled at the top of his lungs, which had every head in the ballroom turning to look at him. Even Celestina stopped singing and turned to see what was going on.

"STOP SAYING THAT!!" Pansy shrieked so shrilly that several people in the room winced.

"It's true you bloody stupid bitch!" Draco practically growled, as he grabbed Ryan and kissed him hard on the lips. Ryan was completely caught off guard and thus didn't return the kiss, although in his shock, his wand slipped from his hand, although Rafael managed to grab it before it hit the floor.

"NO!!" Pansy shrieked as she watched Draco kiss Ryan. "You're supposed to be with me!"

"Stupefy!" Dumbledore said, his wand pointed at Pansy when it looked like she was about to start ripping fistfuls of her own hair out, before he cast a spell to levitate her body before it could hit the floor. Looking around, Dumbledore said, "Professors Vector and Delrossi, please take Miss Parkinson to the Hospital Wing. As much as it pains me to say this about a student, I'm afraid she may need to undergo psychological testing."

Rafael handed Ryan’s wand to Dumbledore, before taking out his own wand to levitate Pansy.

Several people in the room nodded, as Septima and Rafael left the room with Pansy and Draco finally stopped kissing Ryan. He looked sheepish, as he said, "I'm sorry about that, Ryan."

Ryan was silent for a moment, before he shook his head. "It's okay." Pausing to catch his breath, he said, "Um, wow, that was intense."

Draco nodded. "Yeah, I've never kissed anyone with such fervor before but I wanted to prove to Pansy once and for all that I'm gay."

"I thought you said Malfoys don't feel the need to prove anything," Ryan said.

"Even a Malfoy has their breaking point," Draco drawled. "And tonight I finally reached mine with Pansy."

"That's understandable," Ryan stated.

"Okay, everyone, show's over," Dumbledore stated, after he'd given Ryan his wand back. "Let's get back to the Ball. Ms. Warbeck, if you please?"

A moment later the crowd who'd gathered to watch the spectacle began to disperse as Celestina resumed singing, opting to start the song over instead of picking up where she left off and couples all over the room started dancing once again.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, finding a secluded corner of the terrace, Valen pulled out his wand and cast a series of Silencing Charms and set a few alarms to warn him if anyone approached. With that done, Valen, who now dropped the charm concealing his voice, said, "Now, what did you want to say Charlie, Alexi?"

Charlie shook his head as he looked at Valen, unable to believe that the man he'd gotten to know over the last two months and had begun thinking of as a friend could be so brazen and stupid as to attend the Ball with a student. A student that he was making it pretty clear was way more to him that just a student.

"A student, Valen, really?" Charlie asked. "Have you forgotten the article the Prophet ran on Alexi and me after the Hogsmeade attack? That's something that could ruin our entire lives and careers. Thankfully the Prophet retracted the story and explained what really happened, but there's always going to be someone out there wondering if it's true. Didn't you learn anything from that?"

"And what exactly do you think I could possibly learn from that situation?" Valen asked. "They're nothing alike."

"Not alike?" Alexi asked. "Charlie and I were accused of getting turned on by two of our underage students, which is tantamount to calling us pedophiles. Now you're actually dating one of your students and you don't see the situations as being alike?"

"No, I don't," Valen said.

"Are you really that thick?" Charlie asked.

"No, Professor, he's not thick," Nick said. "The reason he doesn't see that situations as being the same is because Harry actually is underage, and thus if your situation hadn't been a total misunderstanding caused by an unfortunately timed photograph, one could have called you pedophiles. Obviously you aren't and it was a totally unfair assessment, but that situation has no bearing on me and Valen dating."

"And why not, Mr. Lavoisier-Delaney?" Alexi asked. "You're an underage student and he's your professor who is not underage."

"Except that I'm not underage," Nick said, as he reached behind his neck and undid the chain around his neck, before pulling it out, removing the combined Delaney-Slytherin lord's ring from it and slipped it onto his finger. "I'm Lord Delaney-Slytherin and despite being a sixth year, I'm seventeen and legally an adult due to my birthday being after 1 September - it's 10 September, by the way."

"And Nick's and my relationship didn't start until a couple weeks after his birthday," Valen said. "So, it's perfectly legal for us to be together."

"But you're a professor and he's a student," Charlie said. "Surely that's against the rules."

"I suggest you read the Hogwarts bylaws better, Charlie," Valen stated. "Specifically the section that bans student/teacher relationships. Because if you do, you'll notice that there's an exception, dating all the way back to the time of the Founders, that says that students who are age seventeen and older are allowed to have any relationship they wish with one of their professors, be it friendship, romantic, and sexual."

"Are you saying you two have had sex?" Alexi asked.

"With all due respect, Professor," Nick answered, "that's a pretty personal question and as a result I'm disinclined to answer it, because quite frankly it's none of your business what my boyfriend and I do behind closed doors."

"You're right, I'm sorry," Alexi apologized. "So, you're Lord Delaney-Slytherin?" Nick nodded. "Why are you just now revealing that? And why aren't you wearing the fancier robes like the other heirs?"

"Because I got him dress robes to match mine," Valen answered. "He is my date, after all."

"And just where did your robes come from anyway?" Charlie asked. "I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like them. They're not a style that I've ever seen anywhere in my life and I've done a fair amount of travelling all over the globe for the Reserve."

"I suspect you'll find out about where my robes originate at some point tonight," Valen said. "But beyond that, for the moment, my lips are sealed."

Before anyone could say anything else, however, there was a yell of "I'M GAY, PANSY!" followed by a shriek of "STOP SAYING THAT!" from inside the ballroom.

"What in Merlin's name is going on in there?" Alexi asked.

"That sounded like Draco Malfoy," Nick commented. "So I'm going to assume he's talking about Pansy Parkinson who's completely delusional about her and Draco being a couple. She refuses to accept that Draco is gay and not interested in her."

"Huh, well, let's head in and watch the fireworks then, shall we?" Valen said, as he wrapped an arm around Nick and walked back into the ballroom, with Charlie and Alexi following behind them.

-o-0-o-

About an hour or so later, Dumbledore abruptly stood up, which caught the attention of Professor Babbling, who asked, "Albus, is something wrong?"

"The wards," Dumbledore said, in a barely audible voice that the Ancient Runes professor had to strain to hear, "Somebody is breaching the wards!"

Getting out his wand, Dumbledore planned to do all he could do prevent the breach, but before he could cast a single spell, the doors to the Great Hall burst open as a cold wind blew through the room, which caused the house banners to fly almost parallel to the ceiling for a moment, before the flames in the fireplace and all the candles throughout the room went out and left the room pitch black. A couple of points of light appeared around the room, as a few of the students lit their wands, but before anyone could relight the room's candles, there was a loud rumble of thunder as a bolt of lightning hit the center of the floor right above the Hogwarts seal. Gasps and screams could be heard throughout the room at this, but it wasn't over yet because after another second an inferno of blue flames shot up from the center of the seal to reveal two figures standing there.

A male voice spoke in the darkness, "Well, well, this won't do at all," and with that, the candles throughout the room spontaneously relit, as did the fireplace, at which point everyone could see that the two figures were a man and a woman, dressed in extremely fancy, flowing robes that were like nothing anyone in Britain had ever seen, well with the exception that Valen Lasinius and Nick Lavoisier-Delaney were wearing robes that were very similar. The man's were ocean blue and adorned with what appeared to be actual diamonds and sapphires sewn right into the fabric, while the woman's were white with pearl and diamond accents. They were both tall and slim, with blond hair, green eyes, and most strikingly, sharply pointed ears.

Before anyone could say anything, Valen stepped forward and looking at the man, he said in an angry and exasperated voice, "Rhylian, na mey! These people are at war and your dramatics have probably just scared them all half to death!" Turning to the woman, his expression softened slightly as he said, "Asheera, mela'selera, can you not control nae meytan amada en a deler?"

Before Rhylian or Asheera could answer, Dumbledore strode forward and asked, "Professor Lasinius, do you know these people?"

Turning to the headmaster, Valen nodded and said, "Yes, Headmaster, this is my sister and my overly dramatic fool of a brother in law. I apologize if Rhylian's entrance scared anyone, but you have my word that he doesn't mean to harm anyone here."

"You must be Headmaster Albus Dumbledore," Rhylian said.

"I am and you are?"

"Oh where are my manners?" Rhylian asked with a grin. "I am Lord Rhylian Andenar Laitannen and this beautiful creature beside me is my wife, Lady Asheera Liara Lasinius Laitannen. Now, I'm sure you have many questions, which I would be more than happy to answer if we could go someplace a bit more private."

Dumbledore remained stoic for a moment, before he nodded and said, "My office perhaps?"

"That would be acceptable, Headmaster," Asheera said with a smile, as Dumbledore nodded and said, "Well, follow me then."

Asheera moved to follow the headmaster out of the room immediately, while Rhylian gave a look at Valen and mouthed, "You know what to do."

Valen nodded his understanding, before Rhylian moved to follow his wife and the headmaster out of the room.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Twenty, Part One
The Not So Lost Kingdom

-o-0-o-

Arriving in Dumbledore's office, the aged headmaster removed his masquerade mask and took a seat behind his desk, as Rhylian and Asheera sat down in the chairs in front of it.

"Would you mind answering how you cut through the castle wards so easily?" Dumbledore asked. "Or why you felt it was necessary to begin with?"

"I felt it was necessary to show you that they're not as strong as they could be," Rhylian said. "As for how I was able to do it, despite my young appearance, I'm in possession of considerable magical power and knowledge dating back much further than anyone born in the last thousand years would think possible, considering that it's over ten times older than that. And then there's my position."

"Rhylian, dear, you're confusing the poor man," Asheera said with a grin.

"Confusing yes, but also intriguing me," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling merrily.

"Well, I said my name was Lord Rhylian Laitannen," Rhylian said as Dumbledore nodded. "What I failed to mention was what I was the lord of. I'm afraid you'll probably think me insane when I say this, but I swear upon all the Gods that I'm telling you the truth. I'm Lord of the Cosmos Sphere and Supreme Lord of the Circle of Atlantis."

"I'm also a member of the Circle of Atlantis," Asheera said. "The Lady of the Life Sphere, in addition to my duties as the High Priestess of Persephone."

"Atlantis?" Dumbledore asked. "So, you claim to be Atlantean then I assume?"

"We do so claim," Rhylian said. "Because it's the Gods' honest truth, as hard as I'm sure it is for you to believe that. To the vast majority of humans, Atlantis is a mythical place that never truly existed. The truth is it did exist and still does in fact. It's just very well hidden at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean."

"At one time, the continent was above the waves, like the others," Asheera revealed. "But, unlike the other continents, Atlantis remained an entirely magical society with no non-magical people living there. So, when the muggles began mastering sailing and then exploring past the Pillars of Heracles and into the Atlantic, they began to land on our shores and try to claim them as their own. There was simply no way that Rhylian's and my ancestors were going to allow that, so the entire continent and several satellite islands under our control were sunk beneath the waves in the year 9,564 BCE. So, 11,560 years ago now."

"This is a lot to take in," Dumbledore said. After a moment of thoughtful silence, he added, "The language that Professor Lasinius was speaking in the hall, was that Atlantean then? It has some similarities to the Siren dialect of Mermish, which I recognized since I do speak it, but I've never seen it used in quite that way before."

"Well you're certainly a rare human to learn Mermish," Rhylian commented. "Most people wouldn't even bother with it, especially with the Selkie and Merrow dialects since they don't sound good above water."

"True, but I did learn both of them in my youth," Dumbledore revealed. "I did sometimes feel like my ears were bleeding during lessons, but in time, I got used to it."

"To answer your question, Professor," Asheera said, "yes, the language my brother was speaking was indeed Atlantean. And you're right that it has some similarities to the Siren dialect, because it's a mash-up between Siren and High Elvhen, with a few unique words thrown in. The reason being that Atlanteans are a cross between Sirens and the ancient High Elves."

"Yes, the Sirens still exist on Earth," Rhylian added. "The ancient High Elves, however departed Earth for Avalon over 16,000 years ago now."

"Interesting," Dumbledore said.

Asheera nodded. "To you, perhaps. To Rhylian and myself it's common knowledge, although back home it is rarely discussed. I'm afraid that the reason that many humans believed incorrectly that Atlantis was a myth was because following the sinking, many of our ancestors became extremely xenophobic and thus there's been very little contact between Atlantis and the rest of the world. There are also some who would like to bury the fact that Atlanteans themselves are a cross-breed, as I'm afraid that much like here in Britain, we have our own issues with blood purity. Only in Atlantis it's those without pure Atlantean blood that are looked down upon and are in fact barred from setting foot anywhere in the kingdom."

"Or were, until recently at least," Rhylian added. "Thankfully, our current monarch, King Erevan Rivarendell, has thrown out all of the xenophobic laws of the past. The Atlantean High Council was greatly opposed to it, but then many of them are fossils who few would mourn if they finally kicked the bucket. Well, many would I suppose, but I personally wouldn't."

"Fossils?" Dumbledore asked.

"It's a side effect of our Elven ancestry," Asheera answered. "The ancient High Elves were immortal and eternally youthful, however, when a group of them mated with Sirens, the resulting Atlanteans lost the immortality. We did retain the eternal youthfulness, however, which is why Rhylian and I look as young as we do, even though we're both older than you are, Professor."

Dumbledore looked curious, when he asked, "Just how much older are we talking about here?"

Rhylian smiled. "Well, Professor, my birthday is 10 March 1650. So, yes, I'm currently 346 years old. Ancient by human standards, but actually approaching midlife by Atlantean standards, as we have an average lifespan of 750 plus years. Some live less than that, while others live much longer. There's members of the High Council, for example, who are currently in their upper-900's, hence my calling them fossils."

"Upper-900's?" Dumbledore asked, clearly shocked. "That would mean that some of them were alive at the time of the Hogwarts founders."

"Indeed," Asheera agreed. "They would have been very young children at the time, but alive, nonetheless. One of your founders, the secret one, is partially why we're here in fact."

"I assume you mean Merlin Emrys," Dumbledore said, prompting the other two to nod. "It was quite the shock for many to find out that he was a founder. I had known from some texts that he had trained the founders as apprentices but I had never thought that he had a hand in the founding of the school since his name had never been mentioned until Dakota over there decided to mention it this year." As Dumbledore said this, he motioned his hand towards the Sorting Hat.

"Yes, well, Albus, I was charmed not to reveal the information until the time was right," Dakota said. "In life, I may have been nearly equal to Merlin in power, but without my body or my magical core, I'm just a consciousness bound to an ancient hat. I sing and talk, but couldn't cast a spell if my life depended on it."

Looking over at the hat, Rhylian asked, "Dakota Le Fey, I presume?"

"You presume correctly."

Rhylian nodded. "Then I assume you may have some idea of what I'm talking about when I say that Merlin is partially the reason we're here."

Dakota made a move that might have been a nod, if he had a head, and said, "I believe I might have some idea, but I'm afraid that I'm charmed not to be able to discuss it."

Smiling at Dumbledore, Asheera said, "I'm sure, Professor, that ever since we said it earlier you've been wondering about how Rhylian's and my ancestors could possibly sink an entire continent and several islands beneath the waves of the Atlantic without causing the catastrophic destruction of what they were trying to protect."

"Yes, the thought did occur to me," Dumbledore confirmed.

"Well, the answer is tied to a bit of ancient lore that you may not be aware of," Asheera said. "For you see, Professor, scattered about the globe are four magical focus sites which are tied to the four elements. Every time that anyone casts a spell anywhere on the globe, these four sites gain a fraction of power and this power continually builds up over the centuries, providing a large source of magical power that can be used to cast spells of immense power, the likes of which no mortal could dream of being able to cast, even in groups as large as a thousand witches and wizards working together."

"I doubt any group that large could jointly cast any spell," Dumbledore said, "since using the joint method, the group has to hold hands and touch the tips of their wands together. The logistics involved in gathering together that large of a group and then finding a location large enough to form the necessary circle would be highly unlikely. Not to mention the fact that the resulting circle would be too large for everyone's wand tips to meet."

"Indeed, you are correct, Professor," Asheera agreed. "If you're at a focus site, however, a single wizard or witch can harness some or even all of the stored energy and use it to cast spells the likes of which would be hard to imagine."

"And all four sites are connected via the invisible ley lines," Rhylian added. "This connection between sites allows for the power of the four sites to be harnessed together so that the power of all four can be used to cast a spell and it's using this method that the Ancient Atlanteans managed to create a powerful magical shield which would protect us from the crushing pressures that exist at the bottom of the ocean, in addition to actually sinking the continent and its' satellites."

"Amazing." Dumbledore said. "So what does Merlin Emrys have to do with this?"

"At some point during his life," Asheera answered, "he became aware of the existence and locations of all four sites and for reasons unknown to us, used the power of the sites themselves to magically cloak them so that they were impossible to find. We're really hoping that a method to reveal their locations still exists, however, because the continued existence of Atlantis depends on it."

"What do you mean?" Dumbledore asked.

"The Circle of Atlantis are the magical guardians of the country," Rhylian answered. "We're basically a group of nine powerful witches and wizards who have received advanced training in the nine spheres of magic recognized in Atlantis - Life, Death, Order, Chaos, Fire, Air, Water, Earth, and Cosmos - and we use our power to protect the kingdom from outside threats. Of course, due to the xenophobia of the last several millennia, there haven't been many outside threats. However, the Circle is also charged with guarding the nine ancient artifacts which generate the shield that protects us."

"This is something that very few people in Atlantis know," Asheera said. "In fact, only the Circle, the King, Queen, and Crown Prince have been made aware of it, because we didn't want to cause a mass panic, but those artifacts are running out of power. They have enough power for maybe 6-8 more months and that's a total guess on our part, so if we don't uncover the locations of the focus sites before the artifacts run out of power, the shields will fail and Atlantis will be completely obliterated."

Dumbledore looked grave as he said, "I can certainly understand why you would wish to rediscover the locations of the focus sites."

Rhylian nodded. "Indeed. If the shields fail, the entire Atlantean civilization will be destroyed, which would mean the deaths of about 2 to 2.5 billion people, several unique species of magical creature not found anywhere else in the world, and of course the loss of all of the knowledge and artifacts from bygone eras accumulated in our vaults, museums, and libraries."

"We also can't be sure, of course," Asheera said, "but Rhylian, myself, and the rest of the Circle fear what might happen if the shields do fail. It's certainly possible that they'll just fizzle out and let the water they've held back for over 11,000 years come crashing down upon our civilization. But, it's also not outside of the realm of possibility that they might fail in an explosive enough manner to trigger a high magnitude earthquake that would produce tidal waves on the surface the likes of which have never been seen before and could conceivably kill hundreds of millions of humans and possibly even change the landscape of the world itself."

Dumbledore looked stricken as he said, "So, what you're saying is you can't rule out the possibility that the shields failing might not have catastrophic effects on the countries that touch the Atlantic Ocean and possibly even beyond."

Rhylian nodded. "Indeed, we can't. When the shields were created, the power of the focus sites was used to charge the nine artifacts that power it with an astronomical amount of power, which has successfully held back the ocean above and around our civilization all these years. But even the creators of those artifacts had no idea what could happen if the shields failed, because they never thought that would be a possibility, because with the focus sites, the artifacts could be recharged periodically. And they were recharged a few times over the millennia, but then Merlin had to go and use the focus sites to hide them, so we haven't been able to recharge the artifacts in over a thousand years now and thus they're running dangerously low on power."

Asheera looked grave, as she said, "In fact, my husband's nephew-in-law, Prince-Consort Nekronis Karvalent, the Lord of the Death Sphere, believes that it's possible the artifacts are now so low on power that they can't be recharged. The rest of the circle disagrees that things really are that bad, but if he's right, it's entirely possible that Atlantis's last hope for survival will be to actually raise the continent back above the waves. Which would obviously be a very large undertaking and we can only hope that if it does come down to that, that the focus sites will have enough power stored up to reverse the sinking."

"And reversing the sinking would cause a whole myriad of other issues," Rhylian said. "Our northernmost satellites reach several miles north of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard and thus deep into the Arctic Ocean, while our southernmost satellites reach as far south as the Falklands Islands. So, raising the continent and its' satellite islands would displace billions of gallons of water over a massive area and would most likely cause tidal waves of enormous proportions. Not to mention putting a continent in the middle of the Atlantic which would interfere with the transatlantic sea lanes. Obviously raising the continent is a last resort, but if it does come to that, we can only hope that there's enough power stored in the focus sites to raise the continent and also protect the countries on the surface from the tidal waves caused by the displaced water."

Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, I see that you're caught between a rock and a hard place. I would suggest evacuating Atlantis but even that would be next to an impossible undertaking with the population you mentioned. Not only moving that number of people, but also finding somewhere for them to go."

"Indeed, you are correct," Rhylian agreed, with a shake of his head. "At any rate, on a more personal level, I do have another reason for coming to Hogwarts."

"I suspect I know what that reason is," Dumbledore said. "Professor Lasinius shared some information with me and then tried to Obliviate me as he was leaving."

Asheera shook her head. "Memory charms never have been my brother's specialty, so I can't say that I'm surprised to learn that his charm failed. In fact, one time shortly after he turned fifty he snuck out in the middle of the night and got caught by our mother when he was coming back. He tried to Obliviate her, but his spell backfired and he spent the next nine months with total amnesia. It actually could have been reversed by any mind healer but it wasn't because mother decided he deserved to be punished, not only for sneaking out but attempting to Obliviate her in the first place."

"Why would a man of fifty need to sneak out?" Dumbledore asked.

"I know that must sound strange," Rhylian commented. "The reason is because due to our long lifespans, the age of majority in Atlantis is 120 years, before which you're considered by law to be a minor and thus at 50, Valen had to sneak out, since he was 70 years away from adulthood. You see up until the human age of 21, when we stop aging all together, we grow and mature much slower to the point that in order to actually reach the appearance of a 21 year old human, an Atlantean has already been alive for about 130 years."

"Interesting," Dumbledore said. "So, I guess that means that at 115, I'm still a minor in Atlantis. That's an odd thought."

Asheera nodded. "If you were Atlantean, yes, you would be and I can understand how that would seem odd to you, not having grown up with it. Anyway, if you think we're here because of my stepson, Kyrian Laitannen, you are correct."

"Kyrian Laitannen?" Dumbledore asked. "I'm unaware of anyone at Hogwarts with that name."

Rhylian smiled. "Well, that's because his grandparents changed his name to a more human name, but his birth name is Kyrian Corelian Laitannen. Although it's entirely possible he doesn't know that and thus my son knows himself as Ryan Cole Cromwell."

Engrossed in their conversation, nobody noticed the office door opening or Valen entering with Nick, Ryan, and Draco in tow, until Ryan asked, "You’re my father?"

Turning to the voice, Rhylian nodded. "Yes, Kyrian, I am your father."

Ryan screwed up his face in confusion. "Kyrian, who's Kyrian?"

"Ah I take it you didn't hear that part of the conversation," Rhylian said. "Your name at birth was Kyrian Corelian Laitannen, however your grandparents changed it to something they felt would make you fit in better among humans."

"Kyrian," Ryan said, testing out the name in an attempt to get used to it.

Meanwhile, Asheera noticed Nick and Draco, and turning to her brother, asked, "Valen, you were told to bring Kyrian to this meeting. Who are these other two?"

Wrapping an arm around Nick, Valen said, "Mela'selera, allow me to introduce Nicolas Lavoisier-Delaney, Lord Delaney-Slytherin, and ma'lethallin. The other one is a friend of Kyrian's, and his date to the Ball this evening, Draco Malfoy."

"Your ma'lethallin, Valen?" Asheera asked, as she raised an eyebrow at her brother. "And just when were you planning on telling me that you were dating anybody? Let alone seriously enough to use that phrase?"

"What does it actually mean?" Nick asked.

"My brother hasn't even told you?" Asheera asked.

"No, ma'am, he hasn't," Nick confirmed. "He's called me that, but he hasn't said what it actually means. I just assumed it was a term of endearment."

"One could call it that, yes," Rhylian said. "In the Atlantean tongue, it would be a term of endearment used for male friends, which roughly means kinsman, clansman or trusted friend. However, adding the ma to it, which means my, to make it ma'lethallin changes the meaning to mean what would roughly translate in English to boyfriend, but in Atlantis it's only ever used for serious boyfriends - in other words, ones that the person using it intends to enter into formal courtship with."

"Formal courtship?" Nick asked. "Is that like dating?"

"Not quite, no," Asheera said. "The closest human equivalent would be betrothal or engagement. So, by calling you ma'lethallin my brother is announcing his plans to court and eventually wed you."

Nick's eyes grew a bit wide at that statement, as he hadn't really expected it to mean that. They'd had sex several times now and Nick greatly enjoyed every second that he spent with Valen. The Ball this evening was their first official date, although when they weren't having sex, they had spent time talking and getting to know one another and Nick would be lying if he said that he wasn't falling in love. He'd never thought it was possible to fall in love with someone you'd only known for about two months but there was just something about Valen that drew Nick to him.

Turning to Valen, Nick grinned and said, "A little warning of your intentions would have been nice, Valen. Remember, I don't speak Atlantean and I can't possibly learn it when you don't tell me what the words you use mean."

Valen looked appropriately chastised, as he said, "I'm sorry, ma'lethallin. I hope you're not too angry with me about my intentions."

"No, I'm not," Nick said, as he wrapped his own arm around Valen's waist, before adding, "ma'lethallin."

Asheera shook her head. "I think you two have things to discuss amongst yourselves and Valen can fill you in on anything that might be going on in the meeting Nicolas, so I suggest you two go off for some private time." Seeing them blushing, she added, "I didn't mean that kind of private time. The fact that both of your minds immediately went there when I said that... you're perfect for each other."

"Yes, go, Valen," Rhylian said. "I have much to discuss with my son and his friend, as they're no doubt greatly confused by all this talk about Atlantis."

Valen and Nick nodded, as they left the room. Once the door was closed, Asheera and Rhylian explained some of what they'd already told the headmaster to Ryan and Draco, although they left out any mention of the focus sites and the impending doom that Atlantis was facing.

When they were finished, Ryan asked, "So, if you're my father, where have you been all my life? I told people you were dead, because honestly I assumed as much since you were never around, even though my grandparents never actually told me that you were. So if you've been alive this entire time... what was wrong with me that you didn't want me?"

"Kyrian, don't think that you weren't wanted," Rhylian said. "Because nothing could be further from the truth. I loved your mother more than anything and we were going to be married, but then you were born early and she died in childbirth. I had every intention of staying in Yorkshire and raising you myself, but then word came that my father was on his deathbed and I was ordered to return to Atlantis immediately. And unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take you with me, because you're only half-Atlantean and at that time, the law would have forbidden you from ever setting foot in Atlantis."

"I don't understand," Ryan said.

Rhylian sighed. "Perhaps, it's better if I show you." Turning to Dumbledore, he asked, "Do you have a pensieve, Professor?"

Dumbledore nodded as he stood and retrieved it from where he kept it. He took a moment to remove his own memories from it, before nodding to Rhylian. Standing himself, Rhylian walked over to the pensieve and placed a finger on his temple for a moment, before pulling it away as a silver strand followed after it and was deposited in the pensieve. Turning to Ryan, he said, "This memory should help you understand, Kyrian, although forgive me if I send your stepmother to be your guide. This particular memory is something I usually keep blocked because it's very painful for me."

Ryan nodded, but said nothing else, as he stepped forward along with Asheera. Draco looked like he wasn't sure what to do, until Ryan beckoned him over and said, "We might not be a couple, Draco, but something tells me I might need a friend for moral support. Think you can do that?"

Draco nodded. "Yes, I can do that."

"You can view the memory as well, if you wish, Professor," Rhylian said to Dumbledore, who nodded. Not long afterward, Asheera, Dumbledore, Ryan, and Draco placed their faces in the pensieve and disappeared into Rhylian's memory.

-o-0-o-

Not long afterward, Asheera, Ryan, Draco, and Dumbledore materialized in a large and opulent room the likes of which the latter three had never seen before. Both Ryan and Draco had grown up in mansions and thus were used to fancy and expensive decor, but the sheer magnificence of the place they now found themselves standing in made anything they'd ever seen before now look cheap by comparison. At the far end of the room, everyone noticed a man sitting in a large throne on a raised platform. He was wearing deep royal purple robes and a silver crown upon his head. He didn't look any older than about twenty, although his hair was as white as freshly fallen snow.

"Welcome to the throne room of the Royal Palace in the Atlantis capital city of Atlantica," Asheera said, as she ushered the group closer to the man on the throne so that they'd have a better vantage point of the upcoming proceedings. "This is the former King of Atlantis, His Majesty King Tyriand Isulus Rivarendell, who died six months ago at the age of 937."

If it wasn't for the fact that they'd all already been told about the long lifespans of Atlanteans, they probably would have found something seriously wrong with that statement. As it was, however, they remained silent, as the doors to the throne room opened and Rhylian walked in. As they watched, Rhylian strode toward the throne and bowed before his King, although it was clear from the expression on his face that he was not pleased to be before his monarch.

"Ah, Lord Rhylian, it's good to see you," Tyriand said.

"I wish I could say the same, Your Majesty," Rhylian said.

"I know you're angry with me right now," Tyriand said, "but in time, you'll get over that."

"With all due respect, Your Majesty, I sincerely doubt that," Rhylian responded.

"Now, Lord Rhylian is that any way to speak to your King?" Tyriand asked. "I suggest you show me the respect that I demand and deserve."

"I apologize if I've offended you, sire," Rhylian said. "However, there are great a number of places that I would rather be right now than here. At my dying father's bedside for one, not to mention back in England with my son."

"Don't mention that filthy half-breed to me, Lord Rhylian!" Tyriand shouted. "I will not sit here and listen to you talking about your filthy human whore and the bastard she begat you."

"I realize that my son was born out of wedlock," Rhylian said, "but that doesn't mean that l love him any less and I will not stand here and listen to you calling him and his mother, who I loved with all my heart, those filthy and distasteful words."

"You have no choice, Lord Rhylian," Tyriand said. "I am the King of Atlantis, so if I say that you will stand here and listen to me calling that filthy half-breed a bastard and his mother a whore, then you will do it. My every word is law!"

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Rhylian said and it was obvious that he was trying desperately to hold his anger in check and not attack the man sitting on the throne.

“As long as I draw breath,” Tyriand said, “you will never see that filthy half-breed bastard of yours ever again. You will remain here in Atlantis where you belong and you will banish all thoughts of your bastard and his dead whore of a mother from your head.”

“You can make me stay here, Your Majesty,” Rhylian said. “You can even make me never see my son again, but you cannot ask me to forget about him. He may not be a pureblood Atlantean, but he is still my flesh and blood and I will not forget him. Nor will I ever forget his mother.”

“Fine, if you want to think about them, you may do so,” Tyriand said, with an unconcerned wave of his hand. "Although I will never understand why you would bother to pollute your thoughts with such filthy and worthless beings."

Before anyone could say anything further, the doors to the throne room opened again and another man walked into the room. Asheera nodded at him and said, "That's His Royal Highness Crown Prince Erevan Rivarendell, who succeeded to the throne upon his father's death."

Erevan strode forward, bowed to his father and said, "Father, I've come here to request that once Lord Corelian passes away, that you allow his son, Lord Rhylian, to return to England."

"You're wasting your breath," Tyriand said. "Lord Rhylian will stay here in Atlantis where he belongs, because in case you've forgotten, Erevan, once his father passes away, Lord Rhylian has responsibilities that he must be here in Atlantis to attend to. Or did you forget that upon his father's death he will become Lord of the Cosmos Sphere and Supreme Lord of the Circle?"

"I haven't forgotten, Father," Erevan said. "However, Lord Rhylian does have a brother."

"Really, Erevan, do you think that you need to tell me that?" Tyriand asked. "I'm perfectly well aware of the existence of Lord Rhylian's twin brother, considering that I gave him permission to marry your younger son, Prince Arathorn. And why are we even discussing Rhyvan to begin with, Erevan? He has not had the appropriate training in the Cosmos Sphere to take up that position. Or did you forget that he's been groomed to take Lord Corelian's brother's place as Lord of the Earth Sphere?"

Erevan sighed. "No, Father, I have not. Then, barring promoting Lord Rhyvan to Supreme Lord, why not give the position to my elder son? Prince Andenar has had the necessary training in the Cosmos Sphere to take on the position and seeing as how I'm between him and you in the succession, it'll be centuries before we need to name a replacement so that Andenar can one day succeed to the throne. That's more than enough time to train somebody else to take the position."

"No, Erevan, I will not allow that," Tyriand said. "Or did you forget that Rivarendells in the first two spots of the direct line of succession can only serve as temporary replacement members of the Circle?"

"No, I haven't forgotten," Erevan answered. "And my son would be a temporary replacement."

"Temporary is a few months, maybe a year, Erevan," Tyriand said. "It'll take another thirty years to get another candidate through the Circle Training Academy, not to mention another twenty after that at the School of Cosmos Mastery. Fifty years is way too long of a period for us to have a temporary replacement Supreme Lord. This is all a moot point anyway, though, because even if I was willing to go with your plan, which I'm not, the Laitannen family's 1,000 year appointment to the Cosmos Sphere doesn't end for another 370 years. And as we've already established, Lord Rhylian is the only Laitannen who has had the necessary training for the position."

"Father, please be reasonable," Erevan pleaded. "Lord Rhylian is family, after all."

Tyriand rolled his eyes and said, "Erevan, just because I allowed you to marry Calliara Laitannen and then allowed your son with her to marry Rhyvan doesn't mean that I'm going to give any special treatment to Lord Rhylian, nor will I bend the laws to his benefit."

"Then at least allow his son to come here," Erevan said.

From the look on Tyriand's face at this, you'd think someone had just killed his favorite pet before his eyes. His eyes were burning with cold fury, as he said, "Never will I allow that filthy half-breed bastard to set foot in Atlantis! If you want that worthless sack of skin to come here, Erevan, it'll be over my cold, dead body and I swear that I will haunt you for eternity if you dare to go against my wishes after I'm dead."

Turning to Rhylian, Tyriand said, "And as for you, Lord Rhylian, you will stay here in Atlantis and when your father dies you will take your position as Supreme Lord of the Circle. And if you're entertaining any ideas about trying to sneak back to England, I would quickly banish them from your thoughts. If I find out that you've snuck away, not only will you be permanently banished from Atlantis, I will also strip the entire Laitannen line of their noble rank, annul Erevan's and Arathorn's marriages to Calliara and Rhyvan, and banish both of them and the rest of your family to the work camps on Isla Pruina!"

Before either Erevan or Rhylian could say anything, Tyriand shook his head and said, "Now, I've wasted enough time with both of you, get out of my sight."

"Father, please..."

"I SAID GO!!" Tyriand yelled at the top of his lungs, his voice echoing throughout the massive room.

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Prince Erevan said with a bow and left the room, followed by Rhylian.

Ryan, Draco, Dumbledore, and Asheera followed them out of the room.

“I’m sorry, Rhylian, I tried.”

“I know, Erevan, I know.”

“I swear to you,” Erevan said, “as soon as I’m King, I will get you back to England with your son.”

“Thank you, Erevan,” Rhylian said. “I only hope that when that happens, my son will be able to forgive me for my absence from his life.”

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Twenty, Part Two
The Not So Lost Kingdom

-o-0-o-

Pulling themselves out of the memory, all was silent for a few moments as the occupants of the room returned to their seats. Then, after a moment, Draco commented, "I never thought I'd hear myself say this about anyone, but this King Tyriand seems worse than the Dark Lord."

Asheera nodded. "Yes, seeing as how Tyriand closely resembles the word tyrant, he was aptly named, wasn't he?"

"Very," Dumbledore affirmed. "What is this Isla Pruina he talked about?"

Rhylian winced at the name, "It's the northernmost satellite island of Atlantis and is deep inside the Arctic Circle. The work camps there are manned mostly by prisoners convicted of treason or other high crimes against the Crown or the kingdom. The prisoner population there, however, is quite small because people avoid doing anything that would warrant them being sent there like the plague."

Asheera nodded, "Yes, it's a desolate, freezing cold, snow and ice covered rock of an island where the temperatures very rarely ever go into positive numbers. The prisoners there work non-stop 16 hours a day, with no breaks and are not provided with clothing that really suits the climate. Their magical cores are also blocked so they can't use magic to warm themselves or help with their work. They're allowed to spend 8 hours a day around the fire in their huts, which aren't weatherproofed, and are provided with only one hot meal a day. As such, prisoners suffering from severe frostbite or dying from pneumonia or hypothermia is very common."

"That sounds barbaric," Draco commented, as he glanced over at Ryan. He was clearly thinking hard about something, but was remaining silent for the moment. Draco wondered if he was listening to the conversation or not.

"It is," Rhylian agreed. "As I said, most people avoid it like the plague. Now, as for the threat to banish me from Atlantis, that doesn't just mean that I could never return to Atlantis. Because you see those that are banished from Atlantis are stripped of their magical cores and would thus essentially become muggles. However, for Atlanteans, that's a fate even worse than most human witches and wizards might think it is, because our longer lifespans and agelessness are linked to our magical cores. So, having our core removed would be tantamount to a death sentence, depending on how old you are when it's removed. In my case, I'm 346, well, 330 at the time when the threat was made, which I'm sure I needn't tell you is well past the life expectancy of a human. So without my core, I'd begin to rapidly age to reflect my advanced years and very likely die soon after."

"So, you weren't in my life," Ryan began, "in order to prevent your own death and the rest of your family from suffering on Isla Pruina?"

Rhylian nodded. "Yes, Kyrian. Even if I had been willing to condemn my family and leave Atlantis to spend what remained of my life with you, I would have died long before you’d have been old enough to remember me. I'll understand if you hate me for not being there for you, but do you think you can ever find it in your heart to forgive me?"

Ryan nodded his head. "Yes, I can forgive you, Father. I'd have to be a completely uncaring and unfeeling monster to not be able to forgive you for sacrificing a relationship with me in order to keep both yourself and the rest of your family safe." After a moment, he asked, "They are safe, right?"

"Yes, Kyrian, they are," Rhylian answered. "I never tried to come see you, so King Tyriand never carried out his threats. Although make no mistake, if I had, he would have because he was not a man who made idle threats. His son is on the throne now, who by virtue of his marriage to my sister Calliara, is actually your uncle. Both he and his wife are looking forward to meeting you. As are my mother, brother, and your cousins."

"Speaking of your brother, Rhylian," Dumbledore began, "did I misunderstand the memory or did Tyriand state that he'd given your brother permission to marry Erevan's younger son with Calliara?"

Rhylian nodded. "You didn't misunderstand, Professor. My nephew Prince Arathorn is also my brother-in-law. So, yes, Rhyvan and Arathorn are married, despite the fact that they're uncle and nephew. Rhyvan is also Arathorn's godfather and namesake, since his full name is Rhyvan Arathorn Laitannen-Rivarendell. His first and middle names were switched to name his husband, Arathorn Rhyvan Rivarendell."

"I realize that many humans would be repulsed by such relationships," Asheera explained. "But, in Atlantis, while they're not common, they aren't illegal either. We have spells that completely eliminate the possibility of birth defects caused by incest, so we don't bar people who are in love with each other from marrying. The only incestuous relationship that's illegal in Atlantis would be any pairing that would involve a relative with the word parent in their relationship, so parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, et cetera."

"Well, I suppose it's different," Draco agreed. "But I can't really talk because there's plenty of incestuous marriages on both sides of my family. Mostly cousins marrying cousins, though. Still, with Rhyvan and Arathorn both being men, I guess there's really nothing wrong with them being together. Even if you didn't have spells to prevent birth defects it wouldn't matter anyway, since they're both men, so it's not like they’d actually have children."

"That's where your wrong, Mr. Malfoy," Rhylian responded. "Atlantean men can get pregnant."

"Well, so can human wizards," Draco countered. "Although it requires a prohibitively expensive potions cocktail that very few people in the world can even afford, because several of the key ingredients are ultra rare and so super expensive."

"Atlantean men are naturally capable of getting pregnant," Asheera explained. "So they don't need any expensive potions to do it. Of course, Atlantean pregnancies do differ from human pregnancies in that they last twice as long and there's a greater chance of multiple births because our fertility cycle won't allow us to get pregnant more than once every 20-30 years."

"So, does that mean I could get pregnant?" Ryan asked. "Being half-Atlantean and half-human?"

"Due to Atlantis' previous xenophobia," Rhylian answered, "we don't really have many records on half-Atlanteans to go by, but from what we do have it appears that you might be able to, but only if your mate is at least part-Atlantean themselves. We also know that you don't have as long of a life expectancy as a pure-blooded Atlantean. So, instead of 750 plus years being the average, you can figure on about 500 plus, as your human genes weaken your Elven ancestry. You've also aged on par with a human, so, instead of stopping entirely at the age of 21, your aging will likely slow down to a crawl at 21, so, you'll stay younger longer, but you'll still be aging, just much more slowly."

Ryan was silent for a while, as he contemplated that. Finally he looked at Rhylian and said, "I'm not sure how to feel about that, because it means that I'll stay young and alive for centuries longer than many of my human friends, who I'm going to have to watch grow old and die around me. That's going to be very hard."

"Indeed, I can understand how that would be very hard," Asheera empathized.

"Well, for the moment," Dumbledore said, "how about we return to the Ball and enjoy it while it lasts?"

"Sounds good, Professor," Rhylian agreed. "I know my wife has always enjoyed Balls, so we host them and attend the ones hosted by our friends quite often back home."

"Before we do that," Ryan interjected, looking directly at Rhylian, "are you going to hang around or go back to Atlantis?"

"I do have duties to attend to in Atlantis," Rhylian answered. "As I am the Supreme Lord of the Circle and Lord of the Cosmos Sphere, although for the moment, your cousin, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Andenar Rivarendell is handling those duties for me. I will eventually have to return, but we'll have plenty of time to get to know one another. And because your uncle threw out all of the xenophobic laws of the past, you'll be able to come with me to Atlantis now, if you want to."

"There are still some Atlanteans who will be against you coming to Atlantis," Asheera added, "including several members of the High Council, but, none of them are stupid enough to contradict the King, especially when he has the entire Circle on his side."

"Speaking of the Circle," Rhylian added, "Kyrian you actually are related to all nine members, either by blood or marriage. So, you've got some very powerful allies in Atlantis that will make sure that you're treated well."

Asheera nodded and said, "Yes, the Circle is currently comprised of members of the Laitannen, Lasinius, Karvalent, and Rivarendell families. I'm the Lady of Life, your Uncle Rhyvan, your father's identical twin brother, is Lord of Earth and his husband and your cousin, Prince Arathorn is Lord of Water. Andenar and Arathorn's elder sister, Alianna, is married to Nekronis Karvalent, the Lord of Death, and she's also acting as my temporary replacement while I'm here. Your Uncle Erevan's sisters, Aribeth and Daenerys are the Ladies of Air and Fire respectively, while my sister, Serena, is Lady of Order, and Nekronis's elder brother Viserys is Lord of Chaos."

"There's also my sister, Calliara, the Queen of Atlantis," Rhylian continued, "and my mother, Lady Aralia Laitannen. They're not members of the Circle, but they're still powerful allies for you in their own rights."

"I'd like to meet them," Ryan replied.

"You will," Rhylian confirmed, as he patted his son on the shoulder. "But for now, let's return to the Ball."

-o-0-o-

Later that evening, after the Masquerade Ball ended at about 11, Rhylian and Asheera asked Dumbledore to gather the known heirs and those students who'd been involved in the search for the heirs, and meet him in the Hogwarts Library. Madam Pince was a bit put out by the Headmaster's request to reopen the library to the group after hours, but she wasn't going to deny her boss's request. Thus it was that Harry, Hermione, Noah, Ernie, Nick, Ryan, Rhylian, Asheera, Valen, Madam Pince, and Dumbledore gathered together in the library at about a quarter to midnight.

"What in Merlin's name is that for, Professor Lasinius?" Madam Pince asked, as Valen entered the library, levitating the full-length mirror from his quarters behind him.

"You'll see soon enough, Irma," Valen answered, as he positioned the large and fancy mirror next to Madam Pince's desk.

"Thank you everyone for coming," Dumbledore said. "I will now turn things over to our guests from Atlantis."

"Atlantis?" Several people in the room all exclaimed at once.

"Yes, Atlantis," Rhylian answered, as he gave everyone present a truncated version of what had been revealed earlier in the Headmaster's office. He didn't mention Atlantis's impending peril, as that was a state secret. Erevan had given Rhylian and Asheera permission to tell Dumbledore because as the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, he had international connections which Erevan felt might be useful, if raising Atlantis above the waves did become necessary.

"Anyway, the reason I've called you all here so late," Rhylian started, "is because I know you've been searching for the heirs to your school's founders and I'd like to assist in that search."

Since Rhylian had mentioned knowing a lot of magical lore that wasn't known by most humans, Hermione asked, "Do you know a spell to restore the Tome of the Founders faster?"

"Sadly no, I don't," Rhylian replied. "However, I do know of the existence of a second copy of the book, one that has been kept in pristine condition and thus has not suffered from the ravages of time."

"Where is this second copy?" Noah asked.

"The Royal Library of Atlantis," Asheera answered. "Which is why Valen has brought his mirror." At the confused looks, she explained, "In Atlantis we don't have a Floo Network, like you do here in Britain. However, what we do have are these mirrors, which are specially charmed to act much like your Floo Network, in that they're connected to each other through magic. So, we can call up the Royal Library and ask for an intercontinental book loan."

"Princess Daenerys Rivarendell-Karvalent," Rhylian explained, "is the librarian at the Royal Library and she is very protective of the books in its collection. So protective in fact that she doesn't allow any of the books to leave the library. We're hoping, however, that she will agree to lend the book to the Hogwarts Library for a short time."

"We're hoping that she'll agree since Madam Pince is very protective of the Hogwarts collection," Valen added.

"Well, let's begin then, shall we?" Asheera asked. "Valen, it is your mirror, so if you'd care to do the honors?"

Valen nodded as he stepped forward and surprised many when instead of pulling out his wand, he waved his hands in front of the mirror and spoke an incantation that only Asheera and Rhylian understood, since it was in Atlantean. Within moments, several runes around the face of the mirror began glowing, before suddenly the mirror's entire face lit up and revealed a view of a cavernous room full of books that made the Hogwarts Library look tiny by comparison. Front and center, however, was a woman in flowing white robes with long blonde hair, pointed ears, and brilliant green eyes.

"Good evening, Daenerys," Valen greeted.

"Good evening, Valen," Daenerys responded, and spotting Rhylian and Asheera over Valen's shoulder, she nodded and added, "Good evening, Rhylian and Asheera."

Rhylian nodded. "I know that we told you to expect a late call before we left, so I hope we didn't wake you."

"No, you didn't," Daenerys said. "Of course, it does help that Atlantis is several hundred miles west of Britain, so we're about three hours beyond you as a result. It's nearing 8:45 at night here. Well, as much as we can have night in Atlantis."

Noticing a few confused looks among the students, Rhylian explained, "Being under the ocean, Atlantis doesn't have access to the sun, the moon, or the stars. As a result all light in Atlantis is magically produced and we don't have a day and night cycle. As a side effect, many Atlanteans are sensitive to sunlight, because we're simply not used to it."

"So, to what do I owe this call?" Daenerys asked. "You only told me to expect one, but you didn't tell me what the purpose was."

"We're in the Hogwarts Library," Rhylian said. "I know your very protective of the collection there and that you usually don't allow books to leave, but we were hoping that you'd agree to an inter-library loan, entrusting one particular book to Madam Pince, the Hogwarts librarian."

Daenerys sighed. "And just which book were you hoping to borrow?"

"The Tome of the Founders, written by Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Salazar Slytherin, and Helga Hufflepuff," Asheera answered. "I'm sure you understand the importance of that particular volume."

"Indeed, I do," Daenerys agreed, as she fell silent, clearly deep in thought. After a few moments, she said, "Fine, I will agree to the loan, but the book is to be handed directly to Madam Pince and she is the only one who will touch it. When you're done with it, you will return it through the mirror to me."

"I see no reason why we would need to keep the book," Madam Pince said, as she stepped forward. "Princess Daenerys, I'm Madam Irma Pince, librarian of Hogwarts. We have the original copy of the Tome of the Founders here at Hogwarts, unfortunately preservation spells were not cast on it and thus it's suffered from the ravages of time. Restoration spells have been cast and it should be fully restored in a few months, so I see no reason to deprive the Royal Library of their copy of the book."

Daenerys nodded and said, "Very well, I will go and fetch the book for a temporary loan. One moment, please."

At this, she stepped out of view of the mirror, only to return a few minutes later carrying a large book that looked very similar to Hogwarts' own copy, only in clearly much better condition, as it looked brand new.

"If it wasn't for the fact that my leaving would leave one of the shield artifacts unprotected and unmaintained, I'd come through the mirror and handle the book myself," Daenerys said. "But since I don't have anyone to assume my duties at present, I'm entrusting this tome to you, Madam Pince. Guard it well."

"I will," Madam Pince acknowledged, as she watched with awe, as Daenerys held the book out in front of her and the entire face of the mirror began to shimmer as the book actually began to pass through the mirror. As soon as enough of it had passed through that she could grab onto it, Madam Pince took hold of it and pulled it the rest of the way through the mirror, as Daenerys let go.

Pulling out his wand, Dumbledore conjured a lectern for Madam Pince to set the book on, which she did. Before opening the book, however, Madam Pince walked over to her desk and grabbed a pair of silk gloves, which she pulled on, as an added precaution when handling the interior pages of the book.

"Well, let's see who the heirs are then, shall we?" Madam Pince asked. "We already know who the Heirs of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw are."

"And Slytherin," Nick announced, as a few people in the room turned to him. "Turns out I'm the Slytherin heir, but I've been keeping it to myself."

"How did you find out you were an heir?" Hermione asked.

"Because I could understand what Harry said," Nick answered. "When he spoke Parseltongue in The Three Broomsticks during the attack on Hogsmeade."

"Why keep it a secret though?" Noah asked.

"I didn't want the attention that it would bring," Nick answered. "People started treating Ryan differently when he was revealed to be an heir. Same with Ernie. Almost like they were putting them up on a pedestal, and I didn't really want to deal with that. I knew the truth would come out eventually and I guess I'm ready to deal with it now, if only because I'm hoping the Gryffindor and Emrys heirs might help deflect some of the attention away from me."

Opening the book to the section dealing with the Gryffindor heirs, Madam Pince began scanning the pages and reading over the countless names listed in red ink. She ended up turning a few pages, before she finally came across the names she was looking for. "Hmm, it would seem that there's two living people who are heirs of Godric Gryffindor, although if I'm reading this list correctly, the younger of the two is the true heir, because they're descended from Godric's second-born son, while the older of the two is descended from his fifth-born son."

Before anyone could say anything, there was a brilliant flash as Fawkes and Dakota appeared. Dakota said, "You will find that there's actually two living heirs for the Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin lines. I suspect you all already know who the other heir of Slytherin is."

"Voldemort," Dumbledore said, as a few people flinched.

"Indeed," Dakota agreed. "However, Nicolas is Lord Slytherin because he's descended from Salazar's first-born son, Sebastian. Tom Riddle, however, is descended through Salazar's first-born daughter, Isabella, who was born three years after Sebastian. Between his two marriages, Salazar had a total of six children, but only Sebastian's and Isabella's lines still have living members."

"So who are the heirs of Gryffindor?" Harry asked.

Pulling out her wand, Madam Pince cast a spell that Harry immediately recognized as the spell that the teenaged Tom Riddle had used in the Chamber of Secrets, to make letters appear in mid-air, as she said, "This is for the secondary heir, descended from Godric's fifth-born son."

HAWKE, Garrett Andrew - Born 1945, Died 1987, Aged 42 years
Married 1967 to FAWLEY, Amelia Katherine - Born 1949, Age 47
one child, HAWKE, Noah Andrew - Born 1978, Age 18

"I'm an heir of Gryffindor?" Noah asked, shocked as he'd seen the name Hawke appear and even more shocked as his late father's name appeared, followed by his mother's name and finally his own.

"Indeed, Noah, you are," Dakota said. "You are not, however, Lord Gryffindor, because despite being older than the other heir, as Madam Pince has already said, the younger heir is descended from Godric's second-born son."

"You have two cousins attending Hogwarts, don't you?" Harry asked.

Noah nodded. "Yeah, Carver and Bethany, they're second years. They're my late Uncle Aidan's children, but they're adopted, so if the Gryffindor connection comes through the Hawke line, they're not heirs, because they're not Hawkes by blood."

"I thought your surname was Diggory," Ryan commented.

"I use Diggory because of my Mum's second marriage to Amos Diggory," Noah said. "I told Harry and Hermione this a couple of weeks ago and said I wasn't sure if my name had ever been legally changed. I've since wrote my Mum and she says that no it wasn't ever changed legally, but that Wizarding law allows me to use the Diggory name since Amos is my stepfather."

"Well, this is surprising," Madam Pince said, as she turned the page and scanned it to see the name of the younger heir and with a wave of her wand, the letters revealing Noah as an heir began rearranging themselves.

WRIGHT, Elizabeth Jean - Born 1947, Died 1979, Aged 32 years
Married 1977 to GRANGER, Jonathan Edward - Born 1947, Age 49
one child, GRANGER, Hermione Jean - Born 1979, Age 17

"What? The book has to be wrong," Hermione said. "I'm a muggleborn and while that is my father's name, my mother's name is Victoria, not Elizabeth."

"It's not a mistake, Hermione," Dakota said, as Fawkes moved him aside to reveal the Gryffindor ring and said, "For you are indeed Lady Gryffindor, rightful heir to Godric Gryffindor. As for the book, look closely at the dates and you'll see that Elizabeth Wright, who was a pureblood witch, died the same year you were born. The reason is because she died from complications she suffered in giving birth to you, Hermione."

"But then who is Victoria Granger?" Hermione asked. "The woman who raised me?"

"She's actually your stepmother," Dakota explained. "You were, however, much too young to consciously remember that your father remarried when you were two years old. However, you were at the ceremony, sitting in your father's late mother's lap and thus when you put me on all the way back in your first year, I could see that memory and have known ever since then that you were Godric's heir. It's actually the predominant reason that I chose to place you in Gryffindor, because while I did detect bravery, your intellect was far greater and thus normally I would have placed you in Ravenclaw. I was, however, instructed to always place any children who were descended from the four founders who founded their own houses into their ancestor's house."

"If Hermione's mother is a pureblood witch," Harry said, "that would mean that she isn't a muggleborn, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, it would mean that she's a halfblood," Dumbledore answered. "I must say that this is most unexpected. I would say that it's unexpected, but not unpleasant, however, I'm sure that finding out that one's father has withheld such information for one's entire life can't be very pleasant."

Hermione shook her head and said, "No, it isn't. Obviously I'm going to have to have a talk with my father and moth... er... stepmother... I don't know what to call her now."

"I know it must be hard, Hermione," Noah said. "But I'd still say that congratulations are in order, because as head of the House of Gryffindor, you now have a voice in the Lordsmeet. So, you have a chance to make some of the reforms you've always talked about. Obviously you'd have to convince enough of the other lords to vote with you, but you've got a better chance now then you did before."

Smiling at Noah, she said, "Thanks, Noah, and you're right," as she walked over to the table that Fawkes and Dakota were on, and with a slightly shaking hand, reached out and picked up the golden Gryffindor ring, which she then slid onto her finger. She watched in awe for a moment, as it automatically resized on her finger and the design changed to a more feminine appearance. Turning back to Noah, she said, "I guess this would make us cousins."

"Distant cousins, but yes, I suppose it does," Noah said with a nod, as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a small squeeze.

Carefully turning the pages in the old book in front of her, Madam Pince next turned to the section detailing the Ravenclaw heirs, since Dakota had said that there were two living heirs and to the best of her knowledge, they only knew about one of them. After a moment of scanning the names, she said, "Looks like we'll need to summon someone and tell them about their secondary heir status."

SARANTOS, Pandora Adelphie - Born 1960, Died 1990, Aged 30 years
Married 1978 to LOVEGOOD, Xenophilius Demetrius, Born 1958, Age 38
one child, LOVEGOOD, Luna Pandora, Born 1981, Age 15

"I know several of my housemates have always wondered about Luna's placement in Ravenclaw," Ryan commented, even as he pulled out his PDA and began typing a short message to Luna. "Many of them think that she's too flighty for a Ravenclaw, especially with all of the weird things she believes in like Crumplehorned Snorkacks and Blibbering Humdingers. I guess this explains it."

"Indeed," Dakota agreed. "Personality-wise, Luna might have been a better fit for Hufflepuff, but since she's descended from Rowena's third-born son, I placed her in Ravenclaw instead, as per my instructions." Before anyone could ask him any questions, he added, "Perhaps you should move on now, Madam Pince."

Madam Pince nodded and carefully turned several pages again, only this time she was turning to the section of the book that prior to Dakota's announcement of Merlin as a founder at the Sorting Feast, had originally been hidden in the Hogwarts copy. She had no idea if the section listing the Emrys heirs had ever been hidden in the Atlantean copy, however, and thus looking over at the mirror asked Daenerys, who nodded and said that it had, in fact been hidden until only a couple of months ago.

"For some reason I'm not surprised," Madam Pince said, as she read the names on the page and poised her wand to change the letters floating in midair. "Descended from the first-born son of Merlin Emrys..."

POTTER, James Nathaniel - Born 1960, Died 1981, Aged 21 years
Married 1978 to EVANS, Lily Marie - Born 1960, Died 1981, Aged 21 years
one child, POTTER, Harrison James - Born 1980, Age 16

Harry's eyes almost bulged out of his head when he'd seen the name Potter appear and by the time the letters finished rearranging, he was glad for the fact that Noah had come up behind him and wrapped his arms around his waist, because otherwise Harry was sure he'd be on the floor. Not from fainting, but simply from the weakness he suddenly felt in his knees upon realizing that he was descended from Merlin Emrys, who was easily the most renowned wizard to ever live.

Noah, meanwhile, grinned as he kissed Harry's neck, "I must be the luckiest guy on the face of the planet. Not only am I related to Godric, but I also managed to snag an incredibly sexy boyfriend, who happens to be Lord Emrys-Potter-Black."

Harry blushed bright crimson at Noah describing him as sexy in front of everyone else in the room. His fellow students were all grinning, while many of the adults were shaking their heads, but smiling at Noah's antics.

"Congratulations, Lord Emrys," Dakota responded as Fawkes moved him again, revealing an ornate ring on the table, which Harry reached forward and took, half-expecting it to shock him because he was still having trouble wrapping his head around the idea that he was Merlin's heir. The ring, however, did not shock him as he picked it up and slid it onto his finger along with the merged Potter and Black ring, watching in fascination as the Emrys ring merged into the other one, now depicting the Emrys crest in the center, with the Potter and Black crests to the right and left.

"Looks like someone's about to get even wealthier," Ernie said with a grin. "As I'm sure there's several vaults that accompany the Emrys lordship, Harry."

This time, Harry did faint as he slumped against Noah, who just tightened his grip on his boyfriend to prevent him from hitting the floor, before he kissed Harry's right ear with a smile.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Twenty-One,
Part One
The Founder's Tower

-o-0-o-

Once Luna arrived in the library and was told that she was the secondary heir of Ravenclaw, a fact which she was not at all surprised about, claiming that she already knew because the Nargles told her, Dakota said, "At this time, everyone who is not an heir will please leave immediately."

After the Atlantean copy of the Tome of the Founders was passed back through the mirror to Daenerys, Valen closed the connection, before levitating the mirror, as he, Asheera, and Rhylian moved to leave the room.

"Yes, Albus and Irma that includes you," Dakota added a moment later when it appeared as if the headmaster and the librarian thought they were exempt from Dakota's request.

"I'm the headmaster," Albus argued at the same time that Irma said, "I'm the librarian. You can't kick me out of the library!"

"I realize that," Dakota said. "However, by order of Merlin Emrys, what I have to say is for the heirs' ears only. And no, the fact that he's dead doesn't matter, because he charmed me to not be able to give the heirs their instructions if anyone who wasn't an heir was present in the room. So, if you stay, you're preventing me from giving them the vital instructions that they will need to carry out a task that only they can perform. A task which, I might add, it vital to the continued survival of this school and perhaps even the world at large."

'The world at large?' Harry thought. 'Great more pressure.'

"Fine, fine, I'll leave," Albus said.

"Are we really taking orders from a hat?" Irma asked, as she walked out of the room beside Albus.

"Yes, Irma, it would seem that we are," Albus said.

Once everyone other than the primary and secondary heirs had left the room, Fawkes grabbed Dakota in his talons and placed him on the floor, before Dakota said, "Inseglian gerúm!"

The heirs watched in surprise as the room was bathed in a dim white light and seconds later, all of the doors slammed shut while shutters closed over all the windows and a swirling vortex of light appeared over all the doors and windows.

"What's going on?" Hermione asked.

"I thought you couldn't cast spells, Dakota," Ryan said.

"He can't," a feminine voice said. It took the heirs a few moments to realize that the voice was coming from the Sorting Hat. "But, I can if he speaks the incantation while touching me."

"And who are you?" Harry asked.

"Hogwarts, of course," the voice answered, before laughing at the wide eyes of everyone in the room and adding, "But, you can call me Morgana."

"Morgana?" Noah asked. "You mean as in Morgana..."

"Le Fey, yes," Morgana said. "Much like how Dakota's consciousness was bound to the Sorting Hat upon his death, my own consciousness was bound to the very walls of Hogwarts Castle itself. However, unlike Dakota, I retain the ability to use magic, however, I can only do it when Dakota is touching the floor or a wall or some other architectural aspect of the castle itself, because as I said, he needs to lend his voice for the spells to work."

"In order for Morgana to retain the ability to use magic when her consciousness was bound to the castle," Dakota added, "she had to give up her voice and thus she can't speak on her own. She can speak through me, but only if we're in physical contact with one another. Well, she can also speak through her portrait, as can I, but our portraits are currently inaccessible."

"So, what was that spell?" Nick asked. "I didn't even recognize the language."

"The language was Old English," Morgana revealed. "And the spell's purpose was to seal the room so that nobody outside of it can enter or eavesdrop on our conversation until the room is unsealed. And that includes the Headmaster, who just attempted to adjust the castle wards to allow him to hear what's going on in here. It didn't work, however."

"What do we need to do?" Ernie asked.

"Reveal the Founder's Tower," Dakota answered, and there were a few confused looks because outside of Hermione, Harry, and Noah the other heirs didn't know about the Founder's Tower because they hadn't been present when Noah had found the reference to it and the three Gryffindors hadn't told the others about it because it had honestly slipped their minds until just now.

"It's a magically hidden tower," Noah said. "I found the castle's original blueprints in the Restricted Section while looking for information on the heirs." In his head, he added, 'Never suspecting for a moment that I'd actually be one.' Aloud he continued, "All five of the founders had their offices and private quarters in the tower, but it was charmed to disappear once the last founder left the school, which was in 1035 when the last living founder, Godric, died."

"So where is this tower?" Nick asked.

"According to the blueprints Noah found," Hermione replied, "it's on the cliffs near the viaduct. Although apparently it's physically inaccessible and can only be reached by magic."

"So, what you have to Floo into it or something?" Ryan wondered.

"No, you get there via a form of Apparition," Dakota answered.

"You can't Apparate at Hogwarts," Hermione argued.

"Wherever did you get that idea?" Morgana asked.

"I read about it in Hogwarts: A History," Hermione stated.

"Ah yes the work of fiction written by Rowena's daughter Helena," Morgana said, as Hermione's eyes widened at that description. "There are some facts in that book, but Helena never intended for it to be a true history of the school. As somebody who was alive when it was written, I can tell you with certainty that she embellished quite a few things and completely made up some others. I know it's been updated a few times over the years to include more recent history, but unfortunately, the authors doing the updating didn't realize that much of what Helena wrote in the original was total fiction."

"One of the things that is at least partially true," Dakota revealed, "is the inability to Apparate. However, while the book says that it's completely impossible to Apparate anywhere on school grounds, that's not actually true. You can't Apparate off the grounds or onto them, but the staff members actually can Apparate from one location on the grounds or in the castle to another. Of course, this has been kept a secret for the last three-hundred-odd years known only to the sitting Head. As the current Headmaster, Albus can manipulate the wards so that he never Apparates into an area where he would be seen doing it by anyone and thus it remains a secret."

"Would Teaching Assistants be considered staff members?" Noah asked. "I'm a seventh-year student, but I am being paid to teach the 2nd year Potions classes."

"Things really have come full circle," Morgana commented. "In the Founders' day, it wasn't uncommon for the older students to help teach the younger ones, although they generally weren't paid to do so. Anyway, if you're on the payroll and the Headmaster considers you to be a staff member, then yes, you should be able to Apparate, Noah."

"Well, he did refer to us as staff members," Ernie remembered, "when he originally told us about the Teaching Assistant jobs, he welcomed us to the teaching staff. We were forbidden to use the ground floor Staff Room, but we were given our own lounge room on the second floor."

"And we were each given our own private classrooms," Hermione added.

"One way to find out, I suppose," Dakota said. "Why don't you try Apparating over to the Restricted Section gate, Noah?"

With a nod of his head, Noah closed his eyes and concentrated on the gate to the Restricted Section. A moment later, he Disapparated from where he was standing only to reappear over by the gate. Walking back, Noah had a grin on his face, as he said, "I guess that would be a yes."

"It appears so," Dakota agreed. "Anyway, about the Founders' Tower. Some of you may or may not be familiar with it, but there's a room off the Great Hall. The door is near the staff table."

"The Antechamber," Harry said. "It's where the Triwizard Champions were sent two years ago after their names were drawn from the Goblet of Fire."

"Indeed it is," Morgana said. "And I imagine that all of you assumed, incorrectly, that it was called the Antechamber since there's a door in the room that leads outside to the Viaduct Courtyard."

"Why would that be an incorrect assumption?" Nick asked.

"Because that exit and the Viaduct Courtyard itself," Morgana said, "did not exist in the days of the Founders and yet that room has always been called the Antechamber."

"But that doesn't make any sense," Ryan said. "An antechamber, by definition, is a room that serves as a waiting room or entrance. If the door to the courtyard didn't exist and the only way into the room was through the Great Hall, how could it be an antechamber? An antechamber to what?" After a moment, his eyes widened, as he asked, "Wait, do you mean it's the antechamber to the Founders' Tower?"

"Precisely," Dakota answered. "Or, more accurately, it's the antechamber to another room which, like the Tower, is currently hidden. This other room is called the Statue Room and inside of it are statues of all five founders. Well, in the Founders' day when it was a secret that Merlin was involved, there were statues of Godric, Helga, Rowena, and Salazar along the side walls and directly across from the door into the room was a statue of a large sleeping dragon, with a shield depicting the Hogwarts coat of arms learning against its' body."

"When the founders were still around," Morgana continued, "their individual statues served as the entrances to their private offices. Students who needed to speak with them during their office hours would wait in the antechamber and be escorted into the Statue Room one at a time. The four statues of the founders had their hands held out with their palms facing up, so to visit their office, you put your hands on their statue's hands, palms down, and uttered the word Enter in Old English. That's where the form of Apparition that Dakota mentioned earlier comes in, as it's a special type of Apparition that allows a person to Apparate even if they haven't been trained how to do it yet. Thus even first year students on their first day at Hogwarts would have been able to Apparate into the Founders' Tower."

"You made a point of saying when the founders were still around," Ernie commented. "I assume things are different now?"

"Indeed, they are," Dakota answered. "When the Tower and Statue Room were hidden, the statues of the founders would have changed positions, so that their hands were no longer held out. Meanwhile, the statue of the dragon would have shifted into a statue of Merlin, with his hands held out. Instead of going directly to the Founders' offices, you'll now be going to the Star Garden."

"The Star Garden?" Hermione asked. "What's that?"

"A room in the shape a five-point star," Morgana revealed. "It's magically charmed to allow plants to grow indoors, without water or sunlight. There's a large fountain in the center of the room and the ceiling is charmed the same way as the Great Hall ceiling. The Founders' offices are arranged around the edges of the room, in the points of the star and the entrances to their private quarters are in their offices."

"So how do we reveal this Tower?" Harry asked. "And what did you mean when you were talking about the survival of the school and the world at large earlier?"

"Merlin's portrait will answer your second question," Dakota said. "As for revealing the tower, the five of you, that is the primary heirs, must go to the Antechamber and insert your lord's rings into the slots on the underside of the chamber's fireplace mantle. That will open the door to the Statue Room."

"From there," Morgana continued, "you must enter the Founder's Tower, which will reappear for everyone to be able to see once an heir of all five founders has entered it. To enter the tower, you must, one by one, place your hands palms down upon the hands of Merlin's statue and say 'Enter' in Old English, which is 'infæreld'."

"Only heirs or those you give permission can enter the Tower," Dakota added. "Even Albus will be barred from entering the tower, unless you give him permission to enter. Also, permission can be revoked at any time, if you so choose."

"As the heirs," Morgana said, "the Founders' Tower will be your private domains over which you have full control. Of course, it could be argued that you also have full control over the rest of the school, considering that you own the school, in equal one-fifth stakes."

"Own the school?" Nick asked, his eyebrows raising in shock.

"The primary heirs do, yes," Dakota confirmed. "Noah and Luna, as secondary heirs, you don't have ownership stakes, but you are still related to the founders, so you'll have full access to the Founders' Tower that can't be revoked by the primary heirs."

"Anyway," Morgana said, "I will now unseal the room and you can all Apparate directly to the Antechamber."

"Only Noah, Harry, Ernie and myself are staff members," Hermione pointed out. "And only Noah actually knows how to Apparate, as the rest of us are still underage and haven't learned how yet."

"Ah yes, of course," Dakota said. "Very well, Fawkes can take you."

Fawkes trilled as if to confirm that he could, as Morgana said, "All of you hold hands please and then when Fawkes flies up into the air, one of you grab onto his talons. Dakota?"

Dakota spoke the incantation to allow the room to be unsealed, as the heirs all held hands, while Luna picked up Dakota from the floor. Seconds after the room was unsealed, the doors opened and Dumbledore came in, just in time to see Harry grabbing onto Fawkes' talons, as the phoenix burst into flames and all of them flashed out of the room.

-o-0-o-

Reappearing in the Antechamber, everyone was momentarily dazed from their first experience with traveling via phoenix flash. After a moment, Noah shook his head and said, "Well, that didn't feel that much different from Apparition, except it was warmer."

Harry nodded. "Yes, I could feel the heat washing over me, but at the same time I felt very safe."

Fawkes trilled at that and preened a bit. After a moment, Dakota cleared his throat and said, "Primary heirs, you will have to temporarily remove the rings from your fingers in order to insert them into the slots they need to be placed in."

The heirs nodded and pulled the rings off their fingers and then headed over to the fireplace. Finding the necessary slots, Hermione and Ernie slid their rings in without difficulty, but Harry, Ryan, and Nick were having some. After a moment, Nick said, "It won't fit."

"Perhaps you need to separate them," Luna commented in her normal far-off tone.

"Luna is correct," Dakota said. "I'm sorry, I forgot. The rings won't fit because the slots are meant for the faces of the founders' lordship rings, but all of you are the lords of more than one family, so the faces of your rings are larger than the slots. Press the pad of your wand hand's thumb against the face of the ring and say 'Solvo.'"

Doing as they were instructed, Harry, Ryan and Noah were momentarily awed when their rings split apart into separate rings again, with the latter two each holding two rings, while Harry held three. Looking at the rings to ensure they had the correct ring, they each inserted them into the slots. A moment later, what sounded like stone grating on stone could be heard and turning their heads away from the fireplace, they could see that an archway had just opened up on what had previously been an empty section of wall.

"You may remove your rings from the slots now and put them back on," Dakota said. "Now that it's open, the entrance to the Statue Room will remain open."

Once the primary heirs had all slid their rings back onto their fingers, they all crossed through the archway into the Statue Room and could see, just as had been described, the statues of the founders, along with the statue of Merlin dead ahead. Taking a moment to look at the statues of the founders, Harry said, "Slytherin looks a lot handsomer here."

"What do you mean, Harry?" Ernie asked.

"Well, there was a statue of him in the Chamber of Secrets," Harry answered. "He was pretty ugly though and obviously quite a bit older than he's depicted here."

"All of these statues, with the exception of Merlin's," Dakota spoke up, "depict the founders in their early to mid thirties, although they ranged from their early twenties to their mid forties when the school was actually founded. Merlin, meanwhile, is depicted in his late sixties, as that's how old he looked when the school was founded." After a moment, he added, "All of them, with the exception of Salazar, were over a 100 when they died. Salazar was 95 when he died from a stroke and it was probably within the decade or so before his death that he built the Chamber of Secrets, so the statue there shows him much older."

"When was Salazar actually born?" Nick asked, curious about his distant ancestor.

"He was the youngest of the founders," Dakota answered. "Born 5 May 930 and was the last of the founders to apprentice under Merlin. So, he was only 23 years old when the school was founded in 953. Meanwhile, Helga, the eldest and first of the founders to apprentice under Merlin, was 44 at the time of the founding. Godric was 37, Rowena was 30, and Merlin was actually 123, although he'd used magic to slow down his aging so he looked to be in his late 60's at that point."

"And where do you and Morgana fit in age-wise?" Ryan asked.

"I was born the same year as Merlin," Dakota revealed. "So the year 830 and Morgana was one year younger than us. Anyway, I think it's time you are started heading into the tower. You remember what you need to say?"

All seven of them nodded, before lining up in front of the statue of Merlin, with Harry in the lead. All of them were thoroughly shocked when the statue of Merlin spoke after Harry placed his hands on the statue's hands and said, "Infæreld."

"Your pronunciation is a bit off, Harry," Merlin's statue said. "But we'll work on that. For now welcome."

As Harry disappeared, Noah asked, "That statue can talk?"

Dakota answered, "Yes, Merlin imbued a small part of himself inside the statue. Similar to the process that allows portraits to speak. However, the statue is rather limited in its interactions. Anyway, next."

Each of the primary heirs went first, with Merlin making some comment about their mispronunciation of Old English. Finally, Luna was the only one left and since she couldn't hold onto Dakota and place her hands upon the statue's, she put Dakota on her head and then did what she had to do to enter the tower. Dumbledore arrived in the room just in time to hear Luna speaking and disappear, making him utter, "What in the Nine Hells?"

"Albus!" Minerva called out.

"In here Minerva," Albus called out.

McGonagall's eyes widened as she said, "I don't recall this room ever existing."

"I guess it was hidden," Albus said and then noticing the look on McGonagall's face, he asked, "Is something wrong?"

"A tower has appeared out of nowhere near the viaduct," Minerva said. "It looks completely inaccessible."

"I imagine this room has something to do with it," Albus said. "I just saw Luna Lovegood disappear from here, wearing the Sorting Hat."

Walking over to the statue of Merlin, Dumbledore laid his hands palms down on the statues and said, in perfect pronunciation, "Infæreld."

"Good pronunciation, Albus," Merlin's statue said. "However, you have no right to access the Founder’s Tower. Now go away and stop wasting my time."

-o-0-o-

As Luna appeared in the Star Garden, the others hadn't been there more than five minutes at most. The moment Harry appeared in the room the torches scattered about the room lit of their own accord and the fountain, which had previously been empty of water, suddenly came to life. It would seem that the fountain water was the lifeblood of the garden, as the plants had all been dead looking when Harry first arrived, but within moments of the fountain starting up, all of the plants greened and blossomed in short order to the point that the garden was in full bloom by the time Luna arrived.

Not long after Luna's arrival there was a pop that had everyone turning towards the source to find Dobby standing there.

"Hello Dobby," Harry said with a nod.

"Master Harry Potter, sir," Dobby said with a smile. He looked confused then and asked, "Where are we?"

"The Founder's Tower," Ernie answered.

Dobby looked momentarily awed, before h nodded. "Older elves have long said they could detect hidden tower, but couldn't get in."

"So whatever magic was hiding the tower," Noah said, "was also keeping the house-elves out?"

Dobby nodded. "Very strong magic. Stronger than anything elves ever feel before. Felt it unravel - every elf in castle immediately came here. They is cleaning now."

"Cleaning?" Nick asked.

"Lots of dust and cobwebs in other rooms," Dobby answered.

"Huh," Ryan said. "I suppose that makes sense if you think about it. If this tower has been sealed since the founders died..."

"Godric was the last," Harry added. "Died in 1035."

"So it's been sealed for 961 years," Hermione said. "Makes sense it would need a good cleaning, after all that time."

Dobby nodded. "Rooms directly below this room is clean now. Elves still working on rest."

"According to the blueprints," Noah said, "those should be Helga's rooms." Grinning at Ernie, he said, "So, Ernie, you want to do the honors as our tour guide for the first half of this adventure?"

Ernie grinned. "Sure... um," he looked around, confused, as he looked at the five doors that led off the room. "Which one is the door into Helga's quarters?"

"That one, Master Ernie, sir," Dobby said, as he pointed at a door. "Leads to clean rooms."

"Thank you, Dobby," Ernie said with a nod, before leading the group over to the door that the elf had indicated. The hinges squeaked a bit, probably in protest of being moved for the first time in over 950 years, but it wasn't long before they were all entering the room and taking their first looks around.

The room was rounded on one side, with two more walls meeting at a perfect ninety-degree angle, which made sense due not only to the shape of the Star Garden, but also the tower's round construction. The room was decorated in earth tones, which kind of surprised several of the occupants, as they would have expected Helga Hufflepuff's rooms to be decorated in yellows and black. Of course, then again, just because those were the dominant colors in the house common room, didn't mean they had to be in the rooms belonging to its founder.

The floor was made of dull gray stone, while the walls were paneled in a light-color wood from the floor up to about four to four and a half feet, at which point the walls switched to an off-white stucco like material. Eight feet above the ground, several large wooden beams crisscrossed the room, with the ceiling extending another two feet above them. There was a large stone fireplace on the rounded wall, which had lit upon their entrance to the room, as did the candles held in wall sconces and candelabras interspersed throughout the room.

In front of the fireplace, there was a small end table and two chairs, all three items being intricately carved and in a fashion nobody currently in the room had ever seen before. Of course, it made sense that the furniture used would be very old fashioned, considering that the tower had been sealed since 1035. And assuming Godric hadn't come in and made any changes, this particular room had likely been sealed and unchanged since Helga died thirteen years earlier in 1022. A pair of bookcases flanked the fireplace, while a large desk sat on an angle on the left side of the room.

Walking over and taking a closer look at the desk, Ernie could see that a panel on the front side of it, perfectly centered, was an intricately carved copy of the Hufflepuff coat of arms which appeared on the lordship ring. The desk also featured exquisitely carved badger's heads on the corners of the desk, just below the desk's surface.

After a few minutes, Harry pointed to the stone staircase opposite the desk and said, "Well, shall we go explore downstairs?"

With a nod, Ernie came over and said, "Yes, let's," as he led the way down the stairs and into the room below. Much like what had happened when they'd first entered Helga's office, the candles lit as they moved down their stairs. Reaching the room at the bottom, it took a moment, but then the fireplace lit itself and one by one, the candles throughout the room lit to reveal a larger room which was decorated in much the same style as the room above, with mostly earth tones. This room, did, however have more shades of yellow interspersed throughout, along with the occasional black.

The thing everyone's eyes were immediately drawn to however, where the two life-size portraits hanging above the fireplace mantle, which depicted two women. The one on the right was wearing a very fancy black dress, embellished with silver, and holding an open black lace fan in her hands. She had long black hair, hanging down over her shoulders, and a kind looking face. After some scrutiny, everyone recognized her as Helga Hufflepuff, as this painted image matched the features of the statue of her that they'd seen in the Statue Room. The other woman, meanwhile, appeared to be slightly younger with brown hair tied back in an intricate bun. She was wearing a pair of diamond and pearl earrings, along with a diamond tiara, and wearing a fancy yellow dress accented in silver.

"The woman in black is Helga Hufflepuff," Ernie commented.

Harry nodded. "Yeah and I imagine the other woman is her wife. What did the book say her name was again?"

"Catherine van Blunt," Hermione supplied, just as the occupants of the two portraits, who had until now been dozing, woke up and looked at the assembled group of students.

"So, somebody finds us I see," Helga said, with a smile. "Which one of you is my heir? And just how long has it been since I died anyway?"

"I'm your heir," Ernie said as he stepped forward. "Ernest John Macmillan, although most people call me Ernie or E.J. As for the year, it's October 1996."

"November, actually," Hermione corrected, which caused Ernie to turn and give her a questioning look. "It's after midnight, Ernie."

Looking at his watch, Ernie nodded and said, "So it is."

"1996," Catherine said. "So, we died 974 years ago, Hel. Somehow I didn't expect it to take this long for the tower to be found. Of course, Merlin never did say how long it would take, just that it would be in the future."

Helga nodded. "Yes, he could be annoyingly vague when he wanted to be."

"Forgive me," Hermione said, "but your speech is much more modern than I would expect."

Catherine smiled, "One of the many spells cast on the tower, Miss..."

"Granger, Hermione Granger," Hermione answered. "I'm Godric's heir."

Catherine nodded. "Yes, I thought I saw a slight resemblance. Anyway, Miss Granger, one of the spells cast on the tower was a spell that would allow us portraits to update our speech patterns the moment you entered the room. Otherwise, you likely would have had great difficulty in understanding what we were saying."

"So, who are the rest of you?" Helga asked, as everyone proceeded to introduce themselves.

As they finished, both Ernie and Nick yawned. Helga shook her head at this and said, "I think any further exploring and conversation can wait until you've all had a good night's sleep. I know you said it was after midnight, so it's quite late for students to be out of bed."

"Well, Luna is a 5th year and Noah is a 7th year," Harry said. "The rest of us are 6th years and we were up later than normal because it was Halloween and the older students had a Masquerade Ball to celebrate."

"I'd wondered about your fancy dress robes," Catherine said. "Anyway, I think it's time you all went to bed."

"The house-elves are still cleaning the other rooms," Ryan said.

"There's plenty of room here in our quarters," Helga said. "In addition to the master bedroom, there's ten guest rooms. So, more than enough for all of you to have your own rooms." After a moment of scrutinizing Harry and Noah, she added, "Although from your body language, Harry, Noah, I imagine the two of you wouldn't mind sharing a room."

Harry and Noah blushed, as the others grinned at them. After a moment, Catherine gave everyone directions and they all headed off to sleep, Ernie in the master bedroom, while the others picked from among the available guest rooms. Despite their embarrassment over the comment, Harry and Noah did opt to share a room, falling asleep almost as soon as their heads hit the pillows, with Noah spooning Harry from behind.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Twenty-One,
Part Two
The Founder's Tower

-o-0-o-

It was nearly ten in the morning when Noah and Harry woke up, although considering that it was nearly 2AM when they’d gone to bed, it wasn’t all that surprising that they’d sleep late. After shaking his head and blinking a few times to wake himself up, Harry grabbed his watch from the bedside table where he’d placed it before going to bed and his eyes nearly bulged when he read the time. “Oh damn, Noah, it’s nearly 10. We missed the classes we’re supposed to teach.”

“Relax, Harry,” Noah said, as he sat up and wrapped his arms around the other teen. “Classes were cancelled today, remember?”

It took a moment, but then Harry relaxed and said, “Oh, yeah, I remember now. They thought because of the ball, we might all be up too late to have to get up and teach.”

Noah nodded, but remained silent, as he instead opted to start kissing Harry’s neck. Harry turned his head to the side to give Noah better access and things might have progressed further if it wasn’t for the pop that signaled the arrival of Dobby.

“Oh good, Master Harry Potter sir and his Noah are awake,” Dobby said, as the two in the bed quickly separated, as Harry discreetly checked to make sure that the blankets were covering their more intimate areas, since neither had any pajamas to wear to bed and the formal robes they’d worn to the ball were traditionally worn without underwear, they’d both opted to sleep naked. “Breakfast ready. In dining room. Through archway across from Helga’s portrait in living room.”

Dobby popped out again before either boy could respond. A moment later, however, Noah asked, “His Noah?”

Harry grinned and said, “I think I kind of like it, actually.”

Noah shook his head, as he said, “Trust me, I’m not complaining about being called yours, Harry. The comment just threw me a little is all.”

Leaning forward and placing a chaste kiss on Noah’s lips, Harry said, “Good, because complaints or not, you’re mine now, Diggory. I suggest you get used to that.”

“You won’t hear any complaints out of me,” Noah said, as his stomach chose that moment to growl, causing both boys to grin, before Noah added, “I guess that means we should get dressed and go eat breakfast.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah, although the only clothes we have are our formal robes.”

Before Noah could respond, however, there was a pop as two complete outfits, including underwear, which Noah and Harry recognized as their clothes, appeared at the foot of the bed in two neat piles. Noah shook his head and grinned. “Well, I guess that solves that problem.”

“Indeed,” Harry agreed, briefly kissing Noah on the lips before both of them got out of bed and started getting dressed.

-o-0-o-

Twenty minutes later, after Noah and Harry had gotten dressed and used the bathroom, they headed into the dining room, where they were met by the aroma of a delicious-smelling brunch, which several of the other heirs were already enjoying. Sitting down at the table, Noah and Harry filled their plates and began eating.

“Morning, Noah, Harry,” Ernie said. “Sleep well?”

Harry, who had just taken a bite of his eggs nodded, waiting until he finished chewing and swallowing before responding, “Yes. You?”

“Quite well,” Ernie said. “Although I was a little disoriented this morning, as I woke up and didn’t know where I was for a moment.”

“Same here,” Nick said, as both Ryan and Hermione expressed similar issues. “And can I just say that I was very surprised to see that my room had a modern bathroom? I would have thought that they would have used chamber pots in the founders’ day.”

“We did, Nicolas,” Catherine said from her frame. “However, much like how there were spells to update our speech patterns, there were also spells cast to make sure that the bathroom and kitchen facilities here in the tower were updated to reflect the standard in the rest of the school.”

“Kitchen?” Hermione asked. “There’s a kitchen in the tower?”

“There’s five of them actually,” Helga revealed. “Each founder’s suite has its own kitchen, as we all used to entertain from time to time and figured it’d be easier if we each had our own kitchen facilities instead of using one large kitchen or the kitchens in the school.”

“Makes sense, I suppose,” Ryan said, before taking a bite of his toast. As tempted as he sometimes was to go with his normal breakfast of tea and toast, since coming to Hogwarts he had started eating more, simply because all the food that the school’s house-elves prepared looked and smelled so good that he couldn’t help wanting to sample it.

“So when do we get to meet the other founders?” Noah asked. “And find out what this potential threat to the school and the world at large is?”

“Threat to the world at large?” Catherine asked, clearly confused. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr. Diggory.” Helga nodded her head to indicate she wasn’t aware either.

“According to Dakota, the heirs have to unite the school against some threat that could not only close the school but also possibly save the world at large,” Nick said. “Talk about pressure.”

“Now you all know how I feel,” Harry said, after swallowing a mouthful of pumpkin juice. “Ever since the Ministry accepted that Voldemort is back, I’ve started being referred to as the Chosen One and it seems like the vast majority of the populace expect me to defeat Voldemort again. Never mind the fact that the time I’m famous for defeating him, I don’t even know how I did it, considering that I was only just over a year old.”

“Who is this Voldemort?” Helga asked. “And why do several of you flinch when his name is mentioned?”

“He’s Salazar Slytherin’s descendant,” Noah answered. “And the most powerful and feared Dark Lord of the last century.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Nick said. “And no I’m not saying that because I’m apparently related to him. It’s only here in Britain though that Voldemort is thought to be the most powerful and feared Dark Lord of the last century. Having lived in France most of my life, I can tell you that the rest of Europe still views Gellert Grindelwald as being the most powerful and feared Dark Lord, mainly because Voldemort’s activities were mostly limited only to Britain, whereas Grindelwald terrorized most of Europe and even some parts of Asia and Africa, and for several decades longer than Voldemort.”

“There’s people in several places on the continent who wouldn’t even know who you were talking about if you mentioned Voldemort,” Luna revealed, in a less far-off tone than she usually spoke in. “They’d know who Grindelwald is though.”

“Huh, interesting,” Harry said, before shaking his head. “Anyway, Voldemort has killed or tortured numerous people, many of them muggleborns. He believes in the pureblood dogma that only purebloods are worthy of studying magic and that all others should be killed in order to get back the magic they stole. He personally killed my parents and tried to kill me when I was a year old, but somehow the Killing Curse rebounded against him, leaving me with only this lightning-bolt shaped scar and destroying his body, although not his spirit, since he performed a ritual in June of last year to restore his body.”

“I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of anyone surviving the Killing Curse,” Catherine said. “Or it getting rebounded against the caster for that matter.”

“Neither have I,” Helga said. “Although what I’m more curious about is where exactly this idea that purebloods are better than muggleborns came from. The idea that muggleborns stole their magic from purebloods is such a ludicrous idea that I can’t believe it ever became so entrenched in people’s minds that they’d be willing to kill others because of it.”

“You can blame Slytherin for that,” Ernie said. “He’s the one who started all of the purebloods are better nonsense, after all.”

“And where pray tell did you get that idea, Ernie?” Helga asked.

“From all the history books I’ve ever read?” Ernie answered. “Not to mention almost all of the songs that Dakota has sung at the Sorting Feast every year, in which he says that Slytherin believed only purebloods should be accepted at Hogwarts and that the rest of you disagreed, which caused a rift that eventually led to Slytherin building his Chamber of Secrets.”

Helga shook her head. “Well the history books are wrong then and I have no idea why Dakota Le Fey would say those things about Salazar because they’re not true. Trust me, as someone who actually knew Salazar when he was alive, I can tell you that he never once uttered the belief that only purebloods were worthy of studying magic.”

“Then how do you explain the Chamber of Secrets?” Hermione asked. “Or the basilisk inside of it which was bred for the purpose of purging the school of everyone who wasn’t a pureblood?”

“I don’t know anything about a basilisk,” Helga answered, “and I find it highly unlikely that Salazar would have bred one, but as for his Chamber of Secrets, that was hardly unique to him.” At the confused looks from everyone at the table, Helga added, “I have my own Chamber of Secrets, as does Rowena, Godric, and even Merlin. Most of the powerful witches and wizards of our day built such a chamber towards the ends of our lives to act as repositories for our accumulated knowledge, in an attempt to insure that it wasn’t lost when we died.”

“So you mean there’s actually five such chambers at Hogwarts?” Noah asked.

With a shake of her head, Catherine said, “No, as far as I know, Salazar is the only one of the founders who built his at Hogwarts. I know, for example, that Rowena’s and Helga’s are at their family ancestral homes, Raven’s Rest and Badger Hill, respectively.”

Helga nodded and said, “Indeed. Godric’s and Merlin’s are also at their family’s ancestral estates, so Gryffin’s Grove for Godric and Nyth Ddraig for Merlin.” After a moment’s pause, she added, “The name of Merlin’s estate is Welsh for Dragon’s Nest, if you were wondering.”

Before anyone could comment, a new voice said, “Lady Hufflepuff is correct in that my father, Salazar Slytherin, never believed that purebloods were better. In truth, you can blame my other father for starting that nonsense.”

Looking around the room, it took a few moments for the occupants to figure out who was speaking, and for a moment they couldn’t figure it out, until suddenly a silvery mist passed through one of the walls near the fireplace and coalesced into the form of a young boy, who couldn’t be much older than twelve or thirteen. Helga and Catherine both gasped when they saw him, before finally, Helga asked, “Alaric, is that you?”

“Yes, my Lady Hufflepuff, it’s me,” the ghostly boy said.

“I didn’t know that you’d become a ghost,” Catherine said. “None of us ever saw you around the castle after your untimely death.”

“I tended to stay out of sight,” Alaric said. “A few of the other ghosts knew about me, of course, but I asked them not to tell anyone about me and they agreed. Being the late son of two of the founders had its advantages. I considered crossing over once everyone I knew in life had died, but I didn’t, because I was afraid that if I did, certain truths that the heirs should know would never come out.”

“I’m sure Merlin will tell them everything they need to know,” Helga said.

Alaric nodded. “Yes, I’m sure he will tell them everything he knows, but he can’t tell them about things that he doesn’t know about.”

“What doesn’t Merlin know about?” Harry asked. “And who exactly are you?”

“My name is Alaric and as I’ve already said, I’m Salazar Slytherin’s son, but I’m also Godric Gryffindor’s son.”

“Godric’s son?” Ernie asked, clearly surprised. “Salazar and Godric had a child together?”

“Oh yes, they did,” Helga said. “Godric, Rowena, Salazar and I all apprenticed for seven years under Merlin. I was the first, then Godric, Rowena, and finally Salazar. Our apprenticeships didn’t overlap, as Merlin only trained one of us at a time, so it took 28 years for all of us to finish our apprenticeships, but we all stayed close to Merlin and assisted him in his studies and other projects. It was in this way that Godric and Salazar met and fell in love.”

“Fell in love?” Hermione asked.

“Yes, Godric and Salazar were very much in love in their younger years,” Catherine confirmed. “In fact, they married as soon as Salazar turned seventeen and finished his apprenticeship with Merlin. That would have been in the year 947. Alaric was born two years later.”

“What happened?” Noah asked, very curious about how Gryffindor and Slytherin had come to be such bitter enemies if the houses’ founders had in fact been married to each other.

“I died,” Alaric said simply. “Salazar was giving me a private potions lesson over the summer before my third year at Hogwarts. I had always excelled at Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts, unsurprising perhaps considering that my two fathers taught the subjects. On that particular day, however, I disobeyed him and mixed dragon’s blood with phoenix tears. I died in the resulting explosion and Godric blamed my death on Salazar. Their marriage didn’t survive my death, as they divorced only a couple of months later, and as much as they had loved one another before I died, that was how much they hated each other afterward.”

Helga nodded, a very sad look on her face, as she said, “Yes, Godric and Salazar could barely stand to be in the same room with one another after their divorce.”

“As for Dakota’s songs regarding Salazar and purebloods,” Alaric revealed, “he sang those songs because he was charmed to do so by Godric, after he was the only founder still living. He also changed several school records to create a false history which said that Salazar had clashed with the other founders on numerous occasions regarding his beliefs. Godric himself didn’t believe any of it, but he wanted the successive generations to believe it, as he figured it would ensure that Salazar would be universally reviled by everybody. It was basically his ultimate revenge. Of course, he never counted on the fact that it would backfire in that people would actually start to believe that purebloods were better.”

“So they’re not better?” Ernie asked. “I’ve never really believed that they were, but coming from a pureblood family, it is something I’ve heard a lot from some members of my family.”

“No, they absolutely are not,” Catherine said. “Blood purity has zero effect on one’s ability to use magic, as every type of witch or wizard, whether pureblood, halfblood, or muggleborn, has the same potential to become powerful witches and wizards. In life, Godric, Salazar, Helga, and Rowena were all purebloods, but Merlin was a halfblood, as his father was a wizard, but his mother was a muggle. And yet, Merlin, even in our day, was widely accepted as the greatest and most powerful practitioner of magic who ever lived. It wasn’t actually true, as there were others who were his equal, including Dakota and Morgana Le Fey, but Merlin was the most popular of the three, undoubtedly due to his position as Camelot’s Court Sorcerer and Chief Advisor to King Arthur Pendragon.”

“Not to mention his later positions,” Helga added. “The ones he inherited upon Arthur’s death.”

“And what positions were those?” Harry asked, very curious about his distant ancestor.

Helga smiled. “Before he died, Arthur chose who his successor should be in the event that he died without an heir to take his throne. As the co-architect of Camelot and the Kingdom of Albion that both Arthur and Merlin had championed, in the absence of his own child, Arthur could think of no other person who he would rather take his place, so he named Merlin as his heir.”

“Wait, what?” Harry asked. “Are you saying that Merlin was King of Albion?”

“In all but title, yes, he was,” Helga answered. “Merlin didn’t particularly want the title of King, so he was never officially crowned and he refrained from calling himself King, although he still retained all the rights, powers, and responsibilities of the position. It was also Merlin who founded the Concilium Magnus Domos, of course, due to his position, he was the undisputed Master of the Council.”

“What does that actually mean?” Noah asked.

“It means that Lord Emrys is the single most powerful person at the Lordsmeet,” Alaric answered and noticing the confused looks on Helga’s and Catherine’s faces, he added, “The Concilium Magnus Domos is popularly called the Lordsmeet these days.” Helga and Catherine nodded in understanding, before Alaric continued, “Anyway, there are thirty-five families with seats and each family has one vote and can propose laws or other measures to be passed. However, Lord Emrys must vote in favor of anything that’s proposed in order for it to pass, thus, even if it came down to a vote of 34 in favor and 1 against, if that 1 was Lord Emrys, the measure would not pass. Of course, the reason for that is because crowned or not, after Arthur died, Merlin Emrys was still the King of Albion and thus his royal assent was required on any law or measure for it to be legal. In other words, he had to sign the proposed legislation in order to put the force of law behind it. So, if he votes against something in the Lordsmeet it’s a fair bet that he’s not going to give the royal assent.”

“It’s important to note, however, that doesn’t work the other way around,” Helga added. “So, Merlin couldn’t propose something to the Lordsmeet and then give it his royal assent if a majority of the Lordsmeet voted against the measure. That was a compromise that he gave to the other lords when he founded the council. Of course, there were possible ways around that limitation in the form of the other powers held by Lord Emrys.”

“And what powers are they?” Luna asked.

It was Catherine who answered. “Well, Merlin also agreed that he would never add any additional families to the council, so it was capped at a maximum of 35 with nobody allowed to be added after the founding, even to replace families who had been on the council. Thus, if ever a family line is believed to have gone extinct, then Lord Emrys can vote that family’s seat. Also, if a family is without a lord and the heir to the family is under the age of 16 and thus can’t vote, Lord Emrys can vote the seat for them and is not required to vote said seat the way the heir might if they were voting. And finally, Lord Emrys also has the authority to reassign the voting power of a family to someone else in the same family. So, basically, if he loses confidence in one of the lords, he can strip them of their voting power and give it to their heir or anyone else in the same family.”

“Hmm, that could be very useful,” Noah said. “One lord that comes immediately to mind would be Lord Malfoy, who as a Death Eater, would undoubtedly vote in favor of measures that would benefit Voldemort. So, Harry, if you could strip Lord Malfoy of his voting power and perhaps give it to Draco, who seems to be rebelling against all of his father’s beliefs, then that’d be one more vote against Voldemort and his Death Eaters.”

“I guess it’s something to consider, at least,” Harry said, not entirely sure how he felt about this. The last thing he wanted was more fame and if he was actually royalty, then he was afraid that more fame is exactly what he was going to get. “The fact that Merlin was never crowned, does that mean that I can’t be?”

Shaking her head, Helga said, “No, Harry, if you choose to be, you can be, as the Emrys family still retains full rights to the crown of Albion. In addition to the crown of Iwernia.”

“Iwernia?” Ryan asked.

“Modern day Ireland,” Alaric said. “Only the magical parts of the country, of course. It’s the same with Albion, as you’d only be King over the magical areas and people of England, Scotland, and Wales. Of course, the rest of the holdings came after Merlin died, but there’s a magically irrevocable agreement in place with the muggle governments involved that places all magical subjects in all realms formerly or currently part of the muggle British Empire under the jurisdiction of the Emperor of Camelot, which is a title held by the King of Albion. Of course, the Emrys line was believed to have gone extinct in the 1500’s, but the British Minister for Magic has carried out all the duties of King of Albion and Emperor of Camelot since that time.”

“So, I’m both a King and an Emperor?” Harry asked, his voice wavering more than a little as he asked it.

Alaric nodded. “Yeah, that’s the gist of it. You can choose not to use the titles as Merlin did, but given the current climate of Albion and even some parts of the empire, I think you should take up the titles, as it would make you one of the most powerful people on the planet and thus greatly enhance your ability to act as a unifying force against Voldemort.”

“How did you get so knowledgeable, Alaric?” Catherine asked. “You were only thirteen when you died, but you seem to have a much stronger grasp on the particulars of politics then I would expect of someone that age.”

Alaric grinned. “Well, I may have only been 13 when I died, Catherine, but I did celebrate my 1,032nd deathday this past May. Suffice it to say that lurking around Hogwarts for over a thousand years now has done wonders for my education in a great many areas that I never learned about while I was still alive.”

Everyone was quiet for several minutes, as they digested all that they had just learned. Finally it was Noah who broke the silence, when he said, “I still can’t believe that it was actually Godric Gryffindor who created the pureblood dogma. It goes against everything that I’ve ever learned about him.”

“It goes against everything I thought I knew about him,” Helga said. “I knew he hated Salazar after Alaric died, but I never thought that he hated him that much that he’d seek to invent lies to malign Salazar’s name for centuries after he’d died.”

“Yes, I always thought that Cameron brought out Godric’s good side,” Catherine said. “They were very much in love and I guess I hoped that Cameron’s love would be able to heal Godric’s broken heart, but I guess some wounds run too deep.”

“But I still don’t understand the basilisk in Slytherin’s Chamber of Secrets,” Hermione said. “If all the muggleborn hatred was Godric’s creation, then why did Slytherin breed a basilisk to begin with?”

“The one Harry killed was the second one, actually,” Alaric revealed. “The first one was bred mostly to see if he could and then after he succeeded he realized that it provided a number of very useful potions ingredients. This was before he’d finished the charms on his private potions lab which allowed for the magical, infinite replication of any non-plant ingredient. So, when that first basilisk was killed by the crowing of one of the Hogwarts’ roosters, he set out to breed another one so as to not lose access to the ingredients. Only, he resorted to drastic measures in an attempt to breed one that would be immune to a rooster’s crow.”

“What kind of drastic measures?” Nick asked, who was for some reason almost afraid to hear what Alaric was going to say, because he had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that he wasn’t going to like it.

Alaric looked grim as he said, “He tried many different methods, all without success. Finally, he crossed a line that should not have been crossed by turning to the art of demonology and actually summoned a demon from the Nine Hells. He took every precaution, so the demon was bound to his will and couldn’t escape the Chamber of Secrets, but I’m sure I needn’t tell you that demons can’t be trusted. The demon helped Salazar overcome the crowing weakness of the basilisk, but it also corrupted him to the point of making sure that the basilisk would remain alive, centuries longer than a basilisk should have been able to be, in order to carry out the task of purging the school of all of Godric’s heirs.”

“Purge the school of Godric’s heirs?” Noah asked, obviously looking quite pale at this revelation, since he was one of Godric’s heirs. He knew the basilisk was dead, but that did little to make him feel better.

Alaric nodded. “Yes, although after the basilisk was born and he confirmed that it was immune to a rooster’s crow, Salazar banished the demon he’d summoned. Without the demon’s influence, he began to regain his sense of self and in time he realized just what the demon had caused him to set in motion. Horrified by the prospect, he sealed the Chamber of Secrets, hoping that nobody would ever find it and open it to release the monster within. Of course, what Salazar didn’t know was that the demon had secretly added a few spells to make sure that Salazar couldn’t interfere with the demon’s plans and one of those spells is actually what caused Salazar to suffer the fatal stroke that killed him.”

“Do you have any idea what this demon’s plans were?” Luna asked.

“I wish I didn’t, but I do,” Alaric answered. “And in fact the demon’s plans are the threat to both Hogwarts and the world at large that Merlin foresaw in the year 955 and set about trying to prevent. Of course, he never foresaw that it would be his own former apprentice that set the events into motion. Merlin had been King of Albion since Arthur died in 897, but then in 960 the king of the magical realms in Norway began trying to overtake the Hebrides Islands, with the aim of gaining control of the native Hebridean Black dragons, which he intended to use, in conjunction with Norwegian Ridgebacks, to conquer Albion. Thus, Merlin’s attention was distracted from the threat he’d foreseen in the future in favor of more pressing matters of the present. That doesn’t mean he stopped working on the problem entirely, however, as he did put several contingencies into motion that would ensure that even if he died before he could put a stop to the problem, that the founders’ heirs would be able to be trained and given all the tools they needed to do it instead.”

“So what exactly is this threat that Merlin foresaw?” Ernie asked.

“I think I’ll let Merlin tell you that,” Alaric said, as he disappeared from the room.

As everyone had finished eating at this point, Harry stood from the table and said, “Well, in that case, I vote we head up to Merlin’s rooms and find out just what exactly is going on and what he expects us to do.”

“I second that,” Noah said, as he too stood up. The other heirs all agreed and it wasn’t long before they were saying their goodbyes to Helga and Catherine before leaving the Hufflepuff suite.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Twenty-Two
Merlin Emrys

-o-0-o-

Leaving the Hufflepuff Suite, the heirs made their way into the Star Garden and found the door that would take them into Merlin’s office. They all wondered why Merlin had an office and how its presence was explained to the students in the founders’ day. Of course, then again in the founders’ day, students coming to the Founders’ Tower never saw the Star Garden, as they used the Apparition feature of the founders’ statues to go directly to the office of the founder they were going to see, so in this way it was possible that the students never realized that there were five offices on the ground floor of the Founders’ Tower.

Entering the office, the heirs looked around at the dark paneled walls and floors, and the richly hand carved mantelpiece of the large fireplace that dominated the curved wall of the room. Everyone immediately noticed that dragons seemed to be included as a major decorative element everywhere they looked, from the dragons engraved on the fireplace, to the ones that featured on Merlin’s desk, with the heads just under the desktop, with their bodies going all the way down to the floor, where their curved tails acted as the legs of the desk.

“He certainly likes dragons doesn’t he?” Harry asked, as he looked around his distant ancestor’s office. “Charlie would love this room.”

Noah agreed. “Yeah, he would. Of course, Helga said yesterday that Merlin’s ancestral estate was called Nyth Ddraig, or Dragon’s Nest, so I guess the dragon motif in the décor makes sense.”

For a few moments, everyone paused to continue looking around the room, as their collective attention had been drawn to the large tapestries hanging on the walls which depicted several different breeds of dragon. Every breed that they were familiar with was present from the Hungarian Horntail and Norwegian Ridgeback to the Peruvian Vipertooth and Chinese Fireball. What they immediately noticed, however, was the presence of a few breeds that they weren’t familiar with, such as the Catalonian Fireball and Portuguese Long-Snout, which they assumed had gone extinct in the many years that had passed since Merlin had decorated his office and now. The most prominent of these dragons that they didn’t recognize, however, was identified on the tapestry as the High English Gold, which in some respects looked similar to the Common Welsh Green, only its scales were metallic gold and it was quite a bit larger than all the others, putting even the Ukrainian Ironbelly to shame.

“Well, I guess we should head up to Merlin’s suite,” Harry said after another moment, as several of the others nodded and Harry took the lead over to the stairs and started going up.

One thing everyone noticed was that there were quite a few more stairs here than there were to get from Helga’s office to her suite. Of course, Hermione said that made sense since Helga’s suite was on the basement level immediately below her office, while Merlin’s suite was on the topmost floors of the tower, above both Rowena’s and Godric’s suites.

When everyone finally emerged at the top of the stairs, having just climbed up eight flights of stairs, they were all a little out of breath, although it had to be said that the non-Gryffindors among the group were more out of breath than the others. Of course, this made sense when one considered the fact that the entrance to the Gryffindor Common Room was on the seventh floor of the castle and thus the Gryffindors routinely climbed a number of stairs and were thus more used to it than the members of the other houses, whose common rooms weren’t quite as high up.

“Wish the founders had the stairs like Dumbledore’s office,” Ryan said, a little out of breath, even though the entrance to Ravenclaw Tower was on the fifth floor and thus not that far off from the entrance to Gryffindor Tower.

“Yeah, that’d be really nice,” Ernie agreed.

“The tower that Dumbledore’s office occupies wasn’t used as the Headmaster’s Office in the founder’s day,” Hermione revealed, as she’d perused the blueprints after Noah had found them and noted several differences between the castle today and the original blueprints. “That tower was used as the Astronomy Tower back then, until the current one was built in 1438. The gargoyle and moving stairs weren’t added to the Headmaster’s Office until 1671, so long after the founders were dead and gone.”

“I would point out that ‘living challenged’ would be the more politically correct way to refer to us, young lady,” a male voice said, in a somewhat teasing tone.

Not expecting this new voice, several of the heirs jumped slightly, clearly startled, which prompted a feminine voice to say, in a chastising tone, “Merlin, now you’ve gone and startled them. You couldn’t wait a moment until they noticed us to speak?”

Looking around the room, the heirs soon found the source of the two voices in the form of the large portraits hanging above the fireplace. One depicted a man in rather plain looking black robes with long graying brown hair and an equally long beard of the same color. In some respects he reminded several of the students of Dumbledore, whose hair and beard was quite similar, although this man, presumably Merlin, did look a bit younger than Dumbledore, which made sense since Dakota had mentioned that Merlin, despite being over 120 years old when Hogwarts was founded, had magically slowed down his aging so that he looked like he was in his late 60’s at the time.

The other portrait depicted a younger woman who looked to be in her early to mid-thirties, although many assumed she was older despite her appearance, as they figured that Merlin had likely used the same spells he used to slow down his own aging to also slow down his wife’s aging. The woman was quite kind looking, however, with long reddish gold hair, and was wearing a much fancier wine colored dress with intricate filigree in gold and platinum thread. Shimmering metallic green silk foresleeves studded with rubies in a geometric pattern covered the pearly white silk sleeves beneath which were strung with fine diamonds. Around her neck was an intricate necklace with a large flawless emerald, with the mount and chain in a red gold color that matched her hair.

“Welcome children,” the man said. “As you’ve probably assumed by now, I’m Merlin Emrys, and this is my wife, Professor Margaret Hastings-Emrys, Hogwarts first Professor of Charms.”

“May I ask which of you are Merlin’s and my heirs?” Margaret asked.

“That would be me,” Harry said, as he stepped forward. “My name’s Harrison Potter, although everyone calls me Harry.”

Merlin cocked his head to the side, a slightly confused look on his face as he asked, “There’s only one of you?”

Harry looked equally confused as he said in a hesitant tone, “Yes…”

“Well, it seems one of my spells didn’t work as I’d intended,” Merlin said with a sigh. “As I’m sure I cast a spell that would ensure that there would be two living heirs for each of the founders, including myself when the time came for them to return.”

“As far as we know, I’m your only living heir,” Harry said. “I’m also the last of the Potter family line, as I was orphaned when I was just over a year old.”

Margaret looked stricken at that, as she asked, “Oh my dear, how awful to lose your parents so young. What ever happened?”

“They were murdered,” Harry answered.

“And you can thank my relative for that,” Nicolas said, as he stepped forward. “I’m Nicolas Lavoisier-Delaney, Lord Delaney-Slytherin. My relative, Tom Riddle, known to most these days as Voldemort, is the most feared Dark Lord in Britain for the last century. There was a prophecy that Harry would defeat him, so he tracked him down and murdered his parents and tried to kill Harry, too, but the Killing Curse backfired somehow.”

Shaking his head, Merlin said, “Well, I’m glad to see that the spell I cast to protect the founder’s heirs worked. I had certainly hoped that it would, although I must admit I was unsure if even with the power of the focus sites that any spell could protect against the Killing Curse. Although, unfortunately, it seems the spell didn’t work completely, as one of your parents was also clearly an heir and yet it worked for you but not for them.”

“Are you saying that you knew what was going to happen to Harry?” Hermione asked, after which she indicated to the portraits whose heir she was.

“I did foresee that at least one of my heirs would find themselves on the wrong end of a Killing Curse,” Merlin admitted. “Although, I’m afraid divination is not an exact science, so it’s impossible to pinpoint exact dates or names. Of course, most people would have said that seeing things that would happen over a thousand years into the future was impossible, but then in life I was often hailed as doing the impossible. A reputation that I didn’t always enjoy, as it caused quite a few people to come to me for things that truly were impossible, such as raising the dead as anything more than a mindless Inferius.”

Shaking his head, Merlin added, “In fact, my abilities to foresee the future led some people to the extremely ridiculous notion that I was living my life backwards, becoming younger with each passing year instead of older, and thus all I was actually doing was remembering the events that had happened when I was much older.”

Margaret smiled, as she said, “Yes to hear some people tell it my husband was born in the year 8300 as a fully grown and extremely old man who was essentially time travelling backwards through time, witnessing the events of the future as they happened and then claiming his memories of those events were him foreseeing the future. It truly is ridiculous that anyone would believe that, especially since he didn’t know most of the details of the events he foresaw, which wouldn’t make much sense if he’d lived through them. One can’t even use the excuse of old age affecting one’s memory if you’re getting younger with each year instead of older.”

An obviously amused Merlin then added, “The only plausible explanation I can come up with as to how such a ridiculous notion came to be accepted is that some extremely tired scribe added an extra zero to my year of birth, which was 830. At any rate, while it seems that some of my spells didn’t work as I’d intended, I do find it hard to believe that the other living Slytherin heir is a Dark Lord.”

“Well according to the ghost of Alaric Slytherin-Gryffindor, his father, Salazar, is actually to blame for the threat that you want us to face,” Noah revealed. “He didn’t say what that threat was exactly, but he did say that Salazar had summoned a demon.”

“He did what?” Merlin asked in a thunderous tone. “My boy surely you’ve made a mistake. No apprentice of mine would ever consort with demons.”

“Noah didn’t make a mistake, Merlin,” Alaric said, as he floated into the room through a nearby wall. “My father actually did summon a demon to help him with a project of his, after which he banished it back to the Hells, but not before the demon was able to trick him into helping him put certain plans in motion. Once the demon was banished and Salazar began getting his mind back, he realized what he’d done and tried to put a stop to it, but the demon had taken precautions against Salazar interfering in his plans and one of those led to father suffering a fatal stroke.”

Merlin was quiet for a moment, before he said, “Oh Hecate preserve me and give me strength. I knew Salazar could be a bit impulsive at times, but I never thought that he would be so damned foolishly idiotic as to think that it was ever a good idea to bring a demon to the Mortal Plane.”

“What exactly is it that we’re facing here?” Ernie asked.

Merlin sighed and muttered something under his breath about his foolish former apprentice, before he said, “If that demon gets his way, the school will close, as there will no longer be a need for it or any other institution of learning in the Tenth Layer of Tartarus, otherwise known as the Tenth Hell.”

“The Tenth Hell?” Ryan asked. “But I thought there were only Nine Hells.”

“There are only nine,” Merlin answered. “It’s been that way for several millennia, but there was a time when there were only Eight Hells. And before that Seven Hells. All the way down to there being only one Hell. For you see each one of the Hells, except for the first, was at one time what’s known as the Mortal Plane, which is the plane of existence occupied by mortal beings such as yourselves. Earth is obviously the current Mortal Plane, but if the demon that Salazar brought here has his way, it will begin its descent into the Hells and become the Tenth and deepest of the Hells, which as the demon responsible for its creation would make him the new ruler of all the Hells, because he who rules over the deepest Hell, rules all of them.”

“How is that even possible?” Nicolas asked.

“Trust me it’s very possible,” Merlin said. “As I’ve said, it’s happened eight times previously, as Lord Xavideus of Nessadorna, the Ninth Hell, could tell you. For you see, evil when worked on the Mortal Plane by a demon is much more potent and once enough of it has been worked, the Mortal Plane can begin its descent into the Hells. Although it would take tremendous amounts of evil in order to surpass even the First Hell, Avenarius, let alone to surpass Nessadorna. Still, it’s a commonly cherished wish of almost every demon in the Hells to one day rule on high as the leader of the deepest Hell and thus be able to order Lord Xavideus around as he’s ruled over all the other demons for over forty millennia now.”

After a few moments of silence, Merlin added, “So, as I’m sure you can all figure out, the threat that I gathered all of you together to fight is not just a threat to this school, but is in fact a threat to the entire world as you know it. For if Earth becomes the Tenth Hell, then every living mortal will immediately forfeit their souls to the Lord of the Tenth, which will only add to the considerable power that he’d already wield as ruler of the deepest Hell.”

“Forfeit their souls?” Ryan asked, clearly trying not to panic at the mere idea of that.

“How are we supposed to fight a demon?” Nicolas asked. “We’re all still students.”

Noah nodded. “Yes, I know Gryffindors are supposed to be brave, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to fight a demon.”

“I know I’m certainly not,” Ernie said.

“I may have faced the Dark Lord a few times now,” Harry said. “And dealt with a basilisk and a dragon, but a demon? That’s way beyond me.”

“Children, relax,” Merlin said. “I’m not suggesting that you face this alone and I certainly wouldn’t suggest that you go into battle right this second without first taking the time to train yourselves up in such a way as to better ensure your success in this endeavor. Now, I understand that you’re afraid and rightly so as I would think you all quite barking mad if you weren’t. Still, trust me when I say that before I died I took great pains to put tangible plans into motion that would assist you in this fight.”

“What sort of plans?” Hermione asked.

“Merlin made sure that each of the founders built a specially charmed room in their quarters, for one,” Margaret said. “For example, in Rowena’s quarters there’s a large library that would put even the main Hogwarts library to shame. It’s equipped with a revolutionary magical indexing system that can search the entire library in a matter of seconds and produce every tome, book, or scroll that has anything relating to the information that the seeker desires. All you have to do is write down what you’re searching for in the master book and the library will do the rest. It will even open all the books to the necessary pages and highlight the desired text.”

“Well, that would certainly make researching things a lot easier,” Ryan commented as both Luna and Hermione nodded in agreement. Ryan and Luna were both Ravenclaws, after all, so they could appreciate anything that made research easier and Hermione, well, she was practically a Ravenclaw herself, despite being put in Gryffindor since she was its founder’s heiress.

“Helga’s and Salazar’s rooms work in concert with one another,” Merlin revealed. “For you see, Salazar built a potions lab which is magically charmed to have an infinite supply of every non-plant based potions ingredient, no matter how rare or expensive. And if there are any non-plant based ingredients that it doesn’t have, the charms on the lab will be able to duplicate them in infinity with the addition of only a single sample to the lab’s stores. The lab has a further benefit in that it’ll shorten the brewing time of any potion brewed in it. A good example would be the Polyjuice Potion, which would usually take thirty days to brew, but only take thirty hours in Salazar’s lab. Helga, meanwhile, has a greenhouse which is capable of growing any plant from seedling to maturity in a matter of minutes. There’s also an extensive supply of seed stock for a variety of useful plants, including a few which went extinct centuries before even I was born.”

“Well, that certainly sounds useful,” Nicolas said, as several of the others nodded.

“It would have been really useful in second year,” Hermione said, “when Slytherin’s Chamber of Secrets was opened. Colin and Justin wouldn’t have had as much schoolwork to catch up on if they hadn’t had to wait almost the entire schoolyear for Professor Sprout to grow the mandrakes. Penelope and I got lucky that we were petrified much later in the schoolyear and thus didn’t miss as many classes as Colin and Justin did.”

“A basilisk?” Merlin asked. “I didn’t say anything when Harry mentioned it earlier, but are you saying there was a basilisk in the school?”

Alaric nodded. “Yes, Merlin. The project that my father originally summoned the demon to help him with was to breed a basilisk that could survive with little to no food for centuries. However long it took for his heir to find and open his Chamber of Secrets, release the basilisk and use it to purge the school of all of Gryffindor’s heirs.”

Merlin closed his eyes and began muttering something, as Margaret said, “Oh sweet Circe, please tell me that you’re joking. I know Godric and Salazar had a very antagonistic relationship after your death, Alaric, but turning to a demon for help to essentially wipe out Godric’s heirs?”

Alaric shook his head, a rather grim smile on his face, as he said, “I wish I could say that I was joking, Lady Emrys, but I’m not.”

“Do I even want to know what Godric did?” Merlin asked after a moment. “Knowing him, I’m sure he must have put some plan in motion.”

Harry nodded. “Yes, he did.”

Noah sighed and said, “He charmed the Sorting Hat, Dakota, to lie about Salazar and say that he believed only purebloods are worthy of studying magic. Which has led us to a culture in which muggleborns and halfbloods are looked down upon as having dirty blood by the purebloods who believe that they’re superior and that they have to keep their blood pure by marrying only other purebloods, which has resulted in many of the pureblood families being grossly inbred.”

“Oh sweet Circe’s sagging tits!” Merlin exclaimed. Normally Margaret would probably have chastised him for saying such things in front of the children, but they were all teenagers who’d probably heard the expression before, and she couldn’t blame Merlin for saying it because she was thinking the exact same thing. After a moment, Merlin said, “Well, I guess that means the demon isn’t the only issue that you’ll have to deal with because that culture cannot be allowed to continue because it’s wrong in every possible respect. Not to mention the fact that inbreeding over several generations can and does have a negative effect on a witch’s or wizard’s ability to use magic. Not to mention on their intelligence.”

Ernie, a pureblood, even if his family wasn’t one of the supremacist families, asked “So does the inbreeding have anything to do with lower birth rates? With a few exceptions most of the pureblood families these days only have one child.”

Merlin nodded. “Yes, rampant inbreeding can effect fertility. In the first generation that inbreeding occurs the possible negative side effects on magic, fertility, and intelligence aren’t as bad, but if one keeps practicing it and raising their family’s level of inbreeding, the damage can build up over time and can only be reversed by several generations of getting outside blood into the line.”

Apparently nobody had anything to say to this, which surprised Harry, as he’d expected Hermione at the very least to have something to say, but perhaps she was too deep in thought about everything Merlin had already told them to verbalize. Seeing the pause in the conversation, Merlin cleared his throat and said, “Anyway, Godric’s special room serves two purposes, as it’s both an armory and a training room. On the armory side it is magically stocked with every weapon or piece of armor that was available when it was built and has charms similar to Salazar’s potions lab which will duplicate any weapon or armor that’s added to it. The training side, on the other hand, is charmed so that you can train without fear of injury. The charms are powerful enough that you could literally impale yourself through the stomach with a sword and not be harmed.”

“I can’t imagine anyone actually wishing to do that, of course,” Margaret added. “However, it does provide a good example of how strong the enchantments on the room actually are. Now, as for my darling husband’s special room, he actually built two of them here in our quarters. The first being a magically charmed classroom which greatly effects learning and comprehension rates to the point that you could literally study an entire year’s worth of material in a week’s time.”

Merlin nodded. “Yes, originally, like the other founders I’d intended only to have one special room in my quarters which did get built and charmed, but then I foresaw that some of the heirs might have chosen not to take subjects as electives that would be vitally important to them in the upcoming fight, so I devised the classroom to assist with that issue.” Pausing only for a moment, he added, “As for my other special room it’s essentially a war room that’ll serve as command central for the upcoming war. I’ve charmed it with every spell I could think of that will assist all of you in planning and strategizing for the war, plus a myriad of intelligence gathering charms which will give you access to enemy troop movements, plans and other useful topics.”

“So, we’re expected to actually run this war?” Harry asked. “I can’t imagine that many of the adults will like that. Mrs. Weasley—my friend Ron’s mum—for example, I can practically guarantee will not be in favor of anyone under the age of seventeen participating in the war. Honestly, I think if she had her way, nobody under the age of thirty would participate.”

Merlin grinned. “Well, Harry, my boy, she’s just going to have to suck it up and deal with it, because I didn’t spend the last forty years of my life preparing for this conflict to see all of my plans tossed aside. I’ll admit that it’s possible I may have overlooked something, however, I sincerely doubt that there’s anyone currently living who could, in a reasonable amount of time, develop better plans than those that I already have come up with for combatting a demon hell-bent on taking over both Earth and Tartarus.”

“Well, my father might have a few thoughts,” Ryan volunteered. “My Ravenclaw connection comes from my late mother’s line, but my father is Lord Rhylian Laitannen, the Supreme Lord of the Circle of Atlantis, and the brother-in-law of Atlantis’s King.”

“Atlantis?” Merlin asked. “Surely you jest.”

Shaking his head, Ryan said, “No, Merlin, I’m not joking.”

“Indeed, he’s not,” Rhylian said, as he stepped out of the shadows. “Merlin Emrys, I presume?”

“Yes, I’m Merlin. I take it you’re Ryan’s father?” Rhylian nodded. “And just how did you enter the tower? It’s charmed so that nobody but the heirs can enter. They can give other people permission to enter, but I wasn’t aware that any of them had done that yet.”

Rhylian smiled. “As my son said, I am the Supreme Lord of the Circle of Atlantis and the Master of the Cosmos Sphere, which makes me one of the ten most powerful practitioners of magic in all of Atlantis, along with my fellow members of the Circle and His Majesty King Erevan. As such I have access to magical knowledge which has been long forgotten by everyone outside of Atlantis which allowed me to get past both the Hogwarts wards and the wards on this tower. And before you say that Atlantis is just a myth, I assure you that it isn’t. However, seeing as it’s been hidden away on the bottom of the Atlantic since the year 9564 BC and my people have become rather xenophobic, I’m not surprised that you or anyone would think it a myth. Of course, thanks to you, Merlin, its continued existence is currently in peril.”

“And how is that?” Merlin asked.

“Because you hid the focus sites,” Rhylian said. “Very few people are aware of what I’m about to say, as I haven’t even told Ryan this yet, although His Majesty has given me leave to share this with the Founders’ portraits and their heirs. You see, Merlin, several times over the millennia, we’ve used the power of the focus sites to recharge the shields which protect Atlantis from the waters of the Atlantic, but since you hid them, we haven’t been able to recharge them and they’re now running out of power. A total guess on the part of the Circle is that the shields have another five to six months of power left before they fail completely, which would mean the deaths of two-and-a-half billion people, the extinction of several breeds of magical creature not found anywhere else in the world, and the destruction of magical artifacts and knowledge going back twenty-thousand years.”

“Piling on the guilt a little thickly aren’t you?” Merlin asked. “Not that I really feel guilty about it, considering that I didn’t know Atlantis was anything other than myth. Plus, the reason I hid the focus sites was so that they could be used against a demon intending to turn Earth into the Tenth Hell. While I would certainly mourn the Atlanteans if they perished, two-and-a-half billion is far less than what would be lost if Earth became the deepest Hell.”

“Well, on that much, Merlin, we can agree,” Rhylian said. “I can safely say that the entire Circle and King Erevan would be unanimously against Earth becoming one of the hells, however, we would also very much prefer that Atlantis wasn’t sacrificed in order to prevent that. Besides, just think for a moment about what my people and I can offer. Atlanteans are a cross-breed between the Greek Siren variety of merfolk and the ancient High Elves. From our elven ancestors, we inherited several powerful magical artifacts and have libraries detailing magical knowledge that’s been forgotten on the surface for countless millennia. Knowledge I might add that allowed me, as I said earlier, to bypass the Hogwarts wards and the wards on this tower. I can tell the wards were created, at least in part, with power from the focus sites and yet I got past them as easily as a first-year might levitate a feather.”

Merlin was silent for a moment, before he said, “Well, I’ll admit that having that knowledge could certainly be useful in the upcoming war, especially since as a denizen of the Hells, it’s possible that the demon might be aware of some of it, considering that the Hells operate on a different timescale to our own.”

“A different timescale?” Noah asked.

Rhylian nodded. “I’m not exactly an expert on the Hells, Mr. Diggory, but I believe that every year here on Earth is a little over a dozen years in the Hells. Additionally, demons are immortal, so they can possess knowledge that’s well beyond the capacity of most other species to possess because they have unlimited time in which to learn things.”

“Wait, if demons are immortal then just how are we supposed to win this fight?” Nicolas asked.

“There’s only one way to defeat the demon,” Merlin said. “Send it back to Hell before it can carry out its plans. Once there, I guarantee the Lord of the Ninth will make sure he never gets out again and will probably make him wish that he could die. From what I’ve heard, Lord Xavideus is quite good at such things, which probably explains why he’s been the Lord of the Hells longer than any demon in history.”

“Indeed,” Rhylian said with a nod of his head.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Twenty-Three, Part One
A Tour of Atlantis

-o-0-o-

“There’s only one way to defeat the demon,” Merlin said. “Send it back to Hell before it can carry out its plans. Once there, I guarantee the Lord of the Ninth will make sure he never gets out again and will probably make him wish that he could die. From what I’ve heard, Lord Xavideus is quite good at such things, which probably explains why he’s been the Lord of the Hells longer than any demon in history.”

“Indeed,” Rhylian said with a nod of his head.

Silence fell over the room at this as everyone thought about what they’d just heard. Several of the heirs gave each other significant looks as they were all feeling way more than a little out of their depth. Finally, Harry cleared his throat and asked, “What exactly is a focus site?” Looking at Rhylian he said, “Both you and Merlin have mentioned them now a few times, but unless I’m missing something you’ve left out the part about what they are.”

“I apologize for that,” Rhylian said. “Do you want to answer this Merlin or should I?”

“Go ahead,” Merlin said with a wave of his hand. He didn’t say it, but in truth he wanted to test Rhylian’s knowledge of the focus sites, because he honestly still had his doubts about the man’s claims that he was from Atlantis. On the surface, it would seem that he was clearly knowledgeable since he was aware of the existence of the focus sites in the first place, which to Merlin’s mind shouldn’t have even been possible, since he’d gone to great pains after hiding them to erase all mention of them. But being knowledgeable and being believable when you say you’re from a mythical continent are two very different things.

“In a nutshell,” Rhylian said, “a focus site is a convergence of magical energies. There’s four such sites in the world, each tied to the four elements—air, water, fire, and earth—with each site tying into the power of two of those elements. Anytime a spell is cast anywhere on the planet a fraction of the power that’s put into the spell is collected by the focus sites and overtime they buildup power. That power can then be harnessed to cast spells of immense power, such as the creation and recharging of the shields that protect Atlantis from the ocean.”

“And those shields are in desperate need of recharging now?” Ryan asked, as he wondered if he’d ever even be able to see Atlantis before it ceased to exist.

Rhylian nodded. “Yes, Kyrian, they are. According to the usual recharging schedule that we’ve adhered to since the sinking, they should have been recharged about two hundred years ago, but since Merlin hid them, the Circle at the time couldn’t find them in order to carry out the recharging. And now, it’s feared by at least one member of the current circle that the strain of not being recharged has put on the artifacts that generate the shielding means that they’ll no longer be able to be recharged.”

“And what happens if they’re not recharged?” Hermione asked.

“Then Atlantis ceases to exist,” Rhylian answered. “Assuming that Merlin gives us access to the focus sites, the plan is still to try recharging the shields, but if that doesn’t work, the only way to save Atlantis will be to raise it back to the surface.” Rhylian sighed. “And honestly I’m not entirely sure if that’s even possible. When Asheera and I told Professor Dumbledore about this we led him to believe that it was the power of the focus sites that was used to sink Atlantis, but that’s not actually true. They were used to create the shields, but it was actually Poseidon himself that actually sank the continent and its satellites.”

Before anyone could comment on the idea of a god being the one who sank Atlantis, there was a pop as Dobby appeared in the room and said, “Begging your pardons, Master Harry Potter, sir, but Headmaster Dumbledore wants to know if you and other heirs is being okay. You’ve been here in Founders’ Tower over twelve hours and he and rest of staff is worried.”

“You can tell him we’re fine, Dobby,” Harry said.

Dobby nodded. “Yes, Master Harry Potter, sir,” before he popped back out.

“We probably should be getting back soon,” Ernie said. “Classes were cancelled today because of the Masquerade Ball last night, but we’re still students.”

“Indeed you’re right, Mr. Macmillan,” Margaret said. Merlin looked like he wanted to object, but one look from his wife and whatever he might have been about to say died on his tongue. “There’s plenty of time for additional conversations at a later time. I suggest all of you go check in with the school staff and let them see for themselves that you’re all okay.”

With a sigh, Merlin then said, “Yes, I suppose my darling wife is correct. However, I would like to request that all of you move into the tower now that you have access to it.”

Noah grinned. “I’m certainly not going to complain about having a private room.”

Nick raised an eyebrow at this and asked, “Not entirely private though, right? I assume you want to continue sharing with Harry, after all.”

Harry and Noah blushed, before Harry said, “Maybe.”

Margaret smiled at the two boys and said, “Oh, young love. Isn’t it lovely, Merlin?”

“I wouldn’t know as I never really bothered with such things when I was a young man,” Merlin answered. “I was ninety years old when we got married if you recall, Margaret.”

“Yes, Merlin, I remember,” Margaret said with an indulgent smile. “However, I don’t believe for a moment that you never loved anyone other than me in your life. Your sixty years older than me, after all, so you surely had relationships prior to meeting and marrying me.”

Merlin grinned. “That’s for me to know and you to keep guessing at.”

Margaret rolled her eyes. “Oh for pity sake, Merlin, we’re dead. As are any of your past lovers, so it’s not like I’m going to be jealous or anything.” With a shake of her head, she turned her attention to the heirs and said, “Off with you all. Go check in with your teachers, but do tell the house-elves to move your belongings into the tower if they haven’t already.”

None of the heirs commented, but a few nodded, as they headed for the stairs. As they descended, however, more than one of them was thinking that they definitely needed to see about getting the stairs charmed to move like the ones leading up to the Headmaster’s office.

-o-0-o-

About ten minutes later, the heirs appeared in the Statue Room off the Antechamber to find Professor Dumbledore and the Heads of House waiting for them. All but Snape looked concerned, with the latter saying, “Finally! There they’re all present and accounted for, Albus.” Looking at the students, however, he then added, “10 points from all of you for disappearing without a word. And 15 more if your name is Harry Potter, because the disappearance was surely your idea in the first place.”

Dumbledore sighed. “Severus, that was totally unnecessary.” Turning to the heirs, he asked, “Where have you all been?”

“In the Founders’ Tower,” Hermione answered. “We met with the portraits of Helga and Merlin, and their respective wives.”

Ryan nodded. “Yes we haven’t met with any of the other founders’ portraits yet, but there’s time for that since we’ll be moving into the tower now.”

“Moving into the tower, Mr. Cromwell?” McGonagall asked, beating Dumbledore to the comment by only seconds. “And what gives you the idea that you’ll be allowed to move out of your house dormitories?”

Ryan smiled. “With all due respect, Professor, it’s not Mr. Cromwell anymore, as I’m Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw now. And Merlin himself asked all of us to move into the tower.”

Snape made a disapproving noise as he said, “You honestly expect us to believe that you spoke to Merlin or that he asked you anything?”

Before any of the heirs could comment, the head of Merlin’s statue turned to look directly at Snape, as it said, “Yes, Severus Snape, I do expect you to believe that since its true.”

“Indeed, I can say that the heirs are telling you the truth,” Rhylian said. “As I was also in the Tower until a few minutes ago and talked with the portraits of Merlin and his wife Margaret.”

“Yes, well, according to the Morning Prophet, your word isn’t worth much, Mr. Laitannen,” Snape said in a derisive tone.

“What are you talking about?” Rhylian asked.

“The Morning Prophet was delivered while you were in the tower dear,” Asheera said as she entered the room. “There’s a lovely article in it calling you, me and Valen idiotic fools who clearly need to be locked up in the mental health ward at St. Mungo’s if we truly believe that the mythical and non-existent Atlantis actually exists.”

Dumbledore nodded and said, “Yes, the Prophet has quoted an expert on the subject whose been studying Atlantis over the course of the last sixty years who insists that it’s not real.”

Rhylian rolled his eyes. “Considering that I was born there 286 years before this so called expert began studying my country, it’s my word and not his that I’ll be believing.”

“286 years?” Hermione asked.

Ryan grinned. “Atlanteans are very long lived, Hermione, and they stop aging at twenty-one, so I know he doesn’t look old enough to be my father, but at 346 he’s more than old enough.”

“Standing right here, Kyrian,” Rhylian said with a grin. “And 346 isn’t old by Atlantean standards. Not when the average life expectancy is 750+ years.” He then went on the explain about how Atlanteans were a cross-breed between the ancient High Elves and the Greek Siren variety of merpeople and how the mating of the two had resulted in children that were extremely long-lived and eternally young, but not immortal as the High Elves had been.

“Kyrian?” Flitwick asked.

Ryan nodded. “Due to circumstances I’d rather not get into at the moment, my father was unable to be a part of my life until now so my grandparents raised me and they changed my name to Ryan Cromwell as they thought I’d fit in better among humans with that name than with my birth name which is Kyrian Laitannen.”

“So what should we call you?” Nicolas asked. “Ryan or Kyrian?”

“Either one is fine, really,” Ryan answered. “I’m used to Ryan though since I’ve only known about my name being Kyrian for less than twenty-four hours.”

“I contacted Erevan and Calliara after reading the paper,” Asheera revealed. “They suggested that we bring a contingent of people from here at the school and perhaps a few other influential people from around Wizarding Britain to Atlantis and give them a tour in order to prove that the expert is wrong about it being a myth.”

“Well, I don’t think we really need too many people from outside of Hogwarts,” Rhylian said. “As just among the heirs we’ve got the heads of several of your country’s Great Houses since three of the five hold multiple headships.”

Ernie grinned at Harry for a moment, before he said, “Including the most important one, considering that as Lord Emrys, even without being officially crowned, Harry is the King of Albion and Iwernia and Emperor of Camelot, which includes all of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, part of France, Canada, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Australia, New Zealand...”

Noah looked at Harry as Ernie kept naming countries and could see that with each new country Harry looked ever more panicked. Moving behind Harry and grabbing his shoulders, he gave them a squeeze before he said, “Ernie, please, be quiet, you’re scaring my boyfriend.”

Seeing the look on Harry’s face, Ernie said, “I’m sorry, Harry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s okay,” Harry said. “I know eventually I’ll just have to get used to everything that goes with being Lord Emrys, but it’s still in the very new and not quite real category. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, honestly.”

“What in Merlin’s name are you talking about, Mr. Macmillan?” Snape said. “Potter is not royalty.”

“First of all, Professor Snape, I would ask that you refrain from using my name in that manner,” Merlin’s statue said. “Secondly, I must question the quality of your History of Magic education if you were not aware of the fact that when King Arthur Pendragon died without issue the crown passed to the Emrys family where it remains to this day. I chose not to use the title and founded the Concilium Magnus Domos, but that doesn’t change the fact that as Lord Emrys, Harry is the King of Albion and Iwernia and Emperor of Camelot.”

Snape was fuming and looked ready to retort, until Dumbledore held up his hand and said, “Now that I think about it, I do recall that being discussed in my own History of Magic classes, which were before Cuthbert’s tenure.” With a sigh, he said, “I see now that I was remiss in not firing his ghost years ago. I’d certainly heard people saying he was bad, but I didn’t realize until recently just how bad. I’d always attributed the complaints to students looking for any reason to disparage their teacher, so I continued giving him the benefit of the doubt.”

“Yes, from the reports I’ve heard from my badgers,” Sprout said, “it’s the consensus that Valen is a much better teacher than Cuthbert.”

Flitwick nodded. “I’ve heard the same from my house.”

McGonagall added, “As have I.”

Snape on the other hand chose not to comment on the subject of Cuthbert Binns, as he muttered under his breath, “If Potter ever thinks I will call him ‘Your Majesty’ he’s got another think coming.”

“Severus,” Dumbledore said, as he gave him a warning look. After a moment, he shook his head and said, “I’m inclined to agree with you, Lord Rhylian. Although I would suggest that we still include a few people from outside of the school. Perhaps Minister Scrimgeour and Lady Bones? And Barnabas Cuffe, as Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Prophet, would probably not be amiss.”

Asheera nodded and said, “Those sound acceptable to me, so how about the Minister, Lady Bones, Mr. Cuffe, the four Heads of House, the heirs, the teaching assistants, and yourself, Albus? I think that should be a good enough group to provide proof of Atlantis’s continued existence.”

Dumbledore nodded. “That’s fine by me, although I imagine the Prophet might want to send one of their photographers with Barnabas.”

Rhylian shook his head. “That won’t be possible. While I understand that photographic proof would be very useful in proving the continued existence of Atlantis, I can say with certainty that King Erevan and Queen Calliara will not allow it. We don’t use cameras in Atlantis and many Atlanteans are very sensitive to bright light, such as the flash of a camera or sunlight. I’m afraid that’s a side effect of millennia under the ocean with no access to the sun.”

Asheera nodded, “Yes, all light in Atlantis is artificially created and we tend to prefer lower light levels then what’s common up here on the surface.” Since the Heads of House were not aware of it, Asheera added, via her telepathic link to Rhylian, ‘Which will undoubtedly cause issues if we end up having to raise the continent.’

Rhylian smiled at his wife and nodded, before he said, “Well, I think we’ve got a plan in place, so let’s get moving shall we?”

-o-0-o-

Awhile later, King Erevan and Queen Calliara were seated in the Throne Room of the Royal Palace when all the lights in the room suddenly flickered for a moment before dimming, prompting Erevan to grin and say, “Calli, dear, I do believe your brother is coming.”

With a grin of her own, Calliara asked, “And what makes you think that, my dear husband?”

It wasn’t Erevan who answered, however, as Prince-Consort Rhyvan entered the room, along with his husband Prince Arathorn, and asked, “His flair for dramatic entrances perhaps?”

Erevan nodded. “Indeed. He’s always had a flair for that, which I’ve noticed you don’t have, Rhyvan.”

“We may look identical,” Rhyvan said, “but Rhylian always was the more dramatic one.”

“Yes, Rhylian can be rather flamboyant when he wants to be,” Calliara said. “I suppose many on the surface would be shocked that he’s the straight twin.”

“Probably,” Rhyvan agreed, as he wrapped an arm around his husband’s waist and said, “But I think Thorne is happier that I’m the gay twin.”

Arathorn smiled and said, “Indeed, I am. I like Uncle Rhylian and all, but I never had any desire to marry him and that has nothing to do with the fact that he’s not into men.”

Erevan smiled at his son and asked, “Didn’t Rhylian ask you to stop calling him uncle when you married his twin brother?”

Arathorn nodded. “Yes, he did, but I’m still getting used to that. After all, he’s only been my brother-in-law for fifty years, but he was Uncle Rhylian for a hundred and twenty years before that.”

“Fair point,” Calliara said. She sometimes found it hard to believe that her son had married her brother, but she could see how happy they made each other and thus she couldn’t begrudge them that happiness. Besides, there wasn’t even a word for incest in High Atlantean, as they didn’t consider it wrong, owing to the fact that since time immemorial they chose to practice the marriage customs of the Olympians that they worshipped. Thus Rhyvan’s and Arathorn’s marriage was no worse than that of Hades and Persephone.

Any further conversation was halted when a strong wind suddenly blew through the room, upsetting the banners and flags, before a moment later a bolt of lightning struck the center of the floor about thirty feet from the thrones. All the lights in the room extinguished at this, as an inferno of blue flames erupted from the spot the lightning had struck. When the lights came back on, Erevan, Calliara, Rhyvan, and Arathorn could see Rhylian, Asheera, and Valen standing there, along with a small group of adults and a larger group of teenagers that none of them recognized.

With a smile, Calliara said, “Nehn’vendui, leth’seler.” In deference to the humans in the room, she added, “Dramatic as always, I see.”

Rhylian smiled. “Well, I have to keep things interesting, leth’selera.”

“You certainly do that,” Erevan said with a smile of his own. “In the over three hundred and forty years I’ve known you, Rhylian, I can honestly say that I’ve never known a dull moment when you were around.”

“Three-hundred and forty years?” Rufus Scrimgeour asked. “That’s impossible.”

“By whose authority were we kidnapped and brought here?” Barnabas Cuffe asked before anyone could comment.

“Now, Barnabas I would hardly call it kidnapping,” Dumbledore answered. “You were invited to come, just like the rest of us.”

Turning to Dumbledore, Barnabas said, “Professor, invited suggests a choice, which is something I don’t recall being given. What I do recall is this woman,” as he motioned towards Asheera, “appearing in my office uninvited and proceeding to tell me that we were going to Hogwarts and then on to Atlantis. She never said I was being invited anywhere and proceeded to Apparate us without even so much as a by your leave.”

“Ignoring for a moment that she shouldn’t have been able to Apparate anyone onto the grounds of Hogwarts,” Rufus said, “I refuse to believe in Atlantis, because everybody with a brain knows that Atlantis is just a myth and never actually existed.”

Erevan shook his head. “Well, as the King of Atlantis I can personally assure you that it’s not a myth and it does in fact exist, as that is where you currently are.” Holding up his hand to forestall any further comment, he added, “However, I do not expect you to take my word for that as I know that you humans tend to think that seeing is believing, so you will see, shortly. However, first, I do believe that some introductions are in order. I am Erevan Rivarendell, the King of Atlantis, and this lovely woman beside me is my wife, Calliara.” Motioning towards Arathorn and Rhyvan, he added, “And this is my youngest son, Prince Arathorn, and his husband Prince-Consort Rhyvan, who I’m sure you can figure out is Rhylian’s twin brother.”

Rhylian smiled, as he motioned towards Rufus and said, “This is Rufus Scrimgeour, Your Majesty, who is the Minister for Magic of Britain and Ireland.” Motioning towards each in turn, he then added, “Her Grace the Lady Amelia Bones, Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Bones, and the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Mr. Barnabas Cuffe, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Prophet newspaper, and Professor Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and a member of the International Confederation of Wizards.”

Asheera took over at this point, as she introduced the Heads of House, followed by the teaching assistants, leaving only the heirs unintroduced, as Rhylian took over once again and said, “And, Your Majesty, this young man,” as he rested his hands on Ryan’s shoulders with a big smile on his face, “is my son, Kyrian Laitannen, although in Britain he’s known as His Grace the Lord Ryan Cromwell, Head of the Most Ancient and Noble Houses of Cromwell and Ravenclaw.”

Barnabas puffed up with pride at this, as he said, “As exclusively revealed by my paper only a few short days ago.”

Ignoring Barnabas, Erevan said, “It is very agreeable to meet you, Ryan. I only wish that you could have visited us here or even lived here much sooner than now.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you as well, Your Majesty,” Ryan said with a bow.

“No need to be so formal, Ryan,” Calliara said with a smile. “You are our nephew, after all.”

Ryan nodded, as Rhylian motioned towards Luna and said, “And this is Miss Luna Lovegood, a distant cousin of Ryan’s and until he has children, the current Ravenclaw heiress presumptive.”

Barnabas’s eyes widened slightly at this, as he was totally unware of the fact that any additional heirs had been discovered. Patting his pockets for a moment, he pulled out a pen and a notepad with which to make a note, because obviously he’d need to get a new article into production as soon as he got back to the Prophet. Rufus remained relatively calm, but Dumbledore could tell that he was surprised, nonetheless.

Motioning towards Nicolas next, Rhylian said, “And this, Your Majesties, is His Grace the Lord Nicolas Lavoisier-Delaney, Head of the Most Ancient and Noble Houses of Delaney and Slytherin.”

Cuffe scribbled more notes, as Nicolas bowed to the Atlantean royals, who nodded, before Rhylian motioned towards Hermione and said, “This lovely young lady is Her Grace the Lady Hermione Granger, Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Gryffindor.”

“What?” Rufus asked at this, even as Hermione curtsied to the royal couple. “I was under the impression that Miss Granger was a muggleborn.”

“Yes, Rufus, that was until very recently a widely held belief,” Dumbledore agreed. “However, it would seem that the woman Miss Granger was raised to believe was her mother was in fact her stepmother and that in reality she’s the daughter of the late pureblood witch, Elizabeth Wright, who herself was a direct descendant of Godric Gryffindor’s second-born son.”

“Indeed,” Rhylian said, as he motioned towards Noah and said, “And this young gentleman is Noah Hawke-Diggory, who through his late father is descended from Godric’s fifth-born son and is thus, until such time that Hermione has children, the heir presumptive of the House of Gryffindor.”

“When did you learn the identities of all of these new heirs?” Barnabas asked. “I was under the impression that only Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw’s identity had been discovered.” What he didn’t say aloud was, ‘And why didn’t you contact the Daily Prophet immediately?’

“They were only discovered very late last night, Barnabas,” Minerva answered. And even though he hadn’t mentioned it, Minerva was astute enough to know that he’d undoubtedly thought it and thus added, “It was much too late at night to inform the Prophet as there’d have been no way for you to stop the presses in time for it to be placed in the morning edition.”

“We also didn’t have their permission to share that information,” Filius added. “Which is something you really should have sought from Lord Cromwell-Ravenclaw before you printed it.”

Barnabas flushed slightly at that admonition from his diminutive former professor, but said nothing, as Rhylian motioned next to Ernie and said, “And this is His Grace the Lord Ernest Macmillan, Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Hufflepuff and Heir Apparent of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Macmillan.”

Ernie bowed to the royals, who once again nodded their heads, but remained silent until Calliara said, “Well, I do believe that leaves only one person in your group who has been unintroduced to us.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Rhylian said with a nod, as he finally motioned towards Harry and said, “It is my honor to present to you, His Imperial and Royal Majesty Harrison Potter, Head of the Most Ancient and Royal House of Emrys, Head of the Most Ancient and Noble Houses of Potter and Black, King of the Kingdom of Albion and Iwernia, and Emperor of the Empire of Camelot.”

Since Rhylian had warned him ahead of time that he was going to introduce him as royalty, Harry had known that it was coming and thus he’d had time to get ready for it and not be completely caught off guard by the introduction. He also remembered what Noah had told him before they left the school which was that monarchs do not bow to other monarchs and thus Harry should instead respectfully nod his head to King Erevan and Queen Calliara rather than bow.

It was just as Harry was doing this that it looked like Rufus was about to have a heart attack, as he practically shouted, “What are you playing at, sir? That boy is no King!”

“Oh I assure you, Rufus, he very much is,” Dumbledore said. “I strongly urge you to look it up in the history books, but when you do you will find that King Arthur Pendragon signed legislation before he died which dictated that should he die without issue, that Merlin Emrys would inherit the throne, which he did. So, as the however many times great-grandson of Merlin Emrys, Harry is the King and thus your superior, Minister. Of course, it could be argued that he was your superior anyway as the head of three Great Houses, since it was a decision by the Council of the Great Houses that created your office to begin with and it’s from that same body that the Ministry derives all of its authority.”

Barnabas was hurriedly scribbling away on his notepad and thus didn’t say anything, but before Rufus could say anything further, Erevan smiled and said, “Well, now that the introductions are out of the way, shall we move on with the tour?”

A few people nodded their heads in response, as Erevan took Calliara’s hand as the latter said, “This way please.”

-o-0-o-

After they left the Throne Room, the group moved through the palace and into a gallery of sorts, where several works of art and various artifacts were on display. The group spent a few minutes in the room before moving on, but Cormac McLaggen hung back as he’d spotted something on one of the pedestals that piqued his curiosity. Once he thought everyone else was out of the room, he walked over to the pedestal and looked at the item for a moment, before he grinned and picked it up.

“Mr. McLaggen, what do you think you’re doing?” Dumbledore said, as he walked back into the room, having noticed the absence of his student from the tour group.

“Professor, I…” Cormac began, but fell silent as Dumbledore stopped in front of him and gave him a severe look over the tops of his half-moon spectacles before he reached out and touched the cylindrical object in Cormac’s hands and said, “You should know better than to touch unknown objects, so I’ll take that, Mr. McLaggen.”

As Dumbledore’s hands joined Cormac’s upon the object it suddenly began to glow brightly. Before either of them could comment on this, however, Valen, who’d also noticed Dumbledore’s and Cormac’s absence, walked into the room, saw what the two of them were holding and sighed. "You two really shouldn't have touched that.”

“Why not?” Cormac asked. “It looked interesting.” After a moment, he added, “And why has it started glowing?”

Valen shook his head. “Mr. McLaggen, touching something when you don't know what it is or what it does, is a very bad idea. I must admit though that I'm very surprised that you would be so reckless, Headmaster."

"I told Cormac the same thing," Dumbledore said, in his own defense. "And I touched it only to take it away from him before he broke it, intending to return it to its pedestal."

"I wasn't going to break it!" Cormac exclaimed, his tone indignant.

“The fact remains that you both touched it at the same time,” Valen said. “Which by the way is why it’s glowing because it’s a magical artifact and you’ve just activated it. That, I’m afraid, has some very serious consequences that I highly doubt either one of you is going to enjoy.”

"Why?" Cormac asked. "It's just a stone quaffle, so I really don't see what the big deal is."

"I'm afraid you're wrong, Mr. McLaggen, as that is not a quaffle," Valen said. "Quidditch was developed several millennia after Atlantis sank and thus never caught on here, so while it may resemble a quaffle, that's not what it is."

"Then what is it?" Dumbledore asked.

"That's the Stone of Forced Peace," Valen explained. "It's been used here in Atlantis for centuries to put a permanent end to feuds between two warring families through marriage."

"Marriage?" Both Cormac and Dumbledore said at the same time.

Valen nodded, a grave look on his face, as he said, “Indeed and the two of you have just activated it which means that you now have six months in which to get married to each other or you will both permanently lose all access to your magic as your magical cores will be irreversibly bound. Additionally, you will also lose all of your memories. So if you don’t get married within the allotted time frame, I’m afraid that you will both essentially be muggles for the rest of your lives, in addition to forgetting every second of every day of your entire lives, which includes forgetting every single person you know and love.”

-o-0-o-

To be continued…

Chapter Text

The Knights of the Founders
Written By: J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Twenty-Three, Part Two
A Tour of Atlantis

-o-0-o-

"That's the Stone of Forced Peace," Valen explained. "It's been used here in Atlantis for centuries to put a permanent end to feuds between two warring families through marriage."

"Marriage?" Both Cormac and Dumbledore said at the same time.

Valen nodded, a grave look on his face, as he said, “Indeed and the two of you have just activated it which means that you now have six months in which to get married to each other or you will both permanently lose all access to your magic as your magical cores will be irreversibly bound. Additionally, you will also lose all of your memories. So if you don’t get married within the allotted time frame, I’m afraid that you will both essentially be muggles for the rest of your lives, in addition to forgetting every second of every day of your entire lives, which includes forgetting every single person you know and love.”

“What!?” Cormac practically screeched, as he pointed at the Headmaster. “I can’t marry him! He’s bloody ancient!”

"Well, Mr. McLaggen, you really have nobody to blame but yourself, as you really should have thought about that before you went and touched something without knowing what it was or what it did," Valen said in a tone that brooked no argument. Turning to the Headmaster, he added, “Although you are also not entirely blameless in this situation, Headmaster, as you said that you’d told Mr. McLaggen that it was a bad idea to touch unknown objects, but then you went ahead and did exactly what you were telling him not to do.”

Dumbledore looked ready to object, but Valen held up a hand and said, “I remember your explanation so there’s no need to repeat it. I would only say that instead of touching it yourself, perhaps you should instead have just told Mr. McLaggen to put it back.” After a moment, he added, “Or here’s a novel thought: you could have used your wand and levitated it back to its pedestal. You are a wizard, after all—although that will no longer be true in six months if you don’t marry Mr. McLaggen. And before either one of you asks, the binding that the stone creates is just as unbreakable as an Unbreakable Vow, so I’m afraid there really is no way out of it.”

Both Dumbledore and Cormac were silent for a moment and Valen couldn’t help but think that the looks on their faces closely resembled that of a pair of goldfish, before Dumbledore cleared his throat and said, “Fine, we’ll get married.” At Cormac’s look, the Headmaster added, “I sincerely doubt that you want to lose your magic and memories any more than I do, Mr. McLaggen. Or am I wrong?”

“No, you’re not wrong,” Cormac said, his tone dejected.

“How long do we need to remain married to satisfy the stone?” Dumbledore asked.

“Oh dear, you’re asking about a divorce, aren’t you? Or perhaps an annulment?” Valen asked, prompting Dumbledore to nod. “I hate to tell you this, but in order for the marriage to count, you’ll have to be wed here in Atlantis using the ancient Atlantean marriage rites, which means your marriage will be subject to Atlantean law. All marriages here in Atlantis are until death do you part, quite literally, as we honestly don’t even have words for ‘divorce’ or ‘annulment’ in High Atlantean. Thus it should go without saying that if there are no words for those concepts, there’s also no provision for them in our laws.”

"This marriage doesn't need to be consummated does it?" Dumbledore asked, which prompted Cormac to first shoot a horrified look at Dumbledore, before turning pleading eyes to Valen, no doubt praying to every god and their mother that Valen's answer would be no.

Taking some small degree of pity on the two men before him, Valen shook his head and said, “No, it doesn’t, fortunately for the both of you. The only requirement is that you remain married until death parts you, since divorce and annulment are not options.”

After a moment, Cormac took a deep breath and said, "Well, I guess as long as we don't have to... I can't even say it... then I could maybe handle it. I mean, no offense, Headmaster, but you're very old, so, the marriage isn't likely to last very long and then I'll be free."

“How nice of you to assume that I’ll be the first to die, Mr. McLaggen,” Dumbledore commented. After a moment, he added, “Considering that it would appear that your father is a Death Eater, your reckless disregard for your own safety on the Quidditch pitch and your tendency to try and play every single position because you apparently don’t trust your teammates’ abilities, I’d say that you have just as much chance as I do of dying sooner rather than later. If not in a Quidditch accident then by your own teammates getting fed up enough to do away with you.”

Valen shook his head. “I wouldn’t be so sure about the Headmaster’s impending death due to old age, Mr. McLaggen, because you see as I’d previously said you will need to be wed using the ancient Atlantean marriage rites. Now, neither one of you is Atlantean, which means that an Atlantean will need to sponsor your marriage and donate some of their own blood to be imbued into the wedding jewelry. That blood, by the way, will grant both of you all of the benefits of being an Atlantean, which includes our much longer lifespan. Thus, I would point out that even at the age of 115, Professor Dumbledore is quite young by Atlantean standards. In fact, according to Atlantean law, he’s still five years away from his majority.”

“How can someone who’s over a hundred bloody years old not be an adult?” Cormac asked.

“Since he’s human, Dumbledore isn’t subject to the Atlantean Age of Majority,” Valen answered. “As for Atlanteans, we don’t consider people to be adults until their 120th year due to the fact that our average lifespan is 750 plus years. Some do live for a shorter time than that, although others can live quite a bit longer. We have members of the High Council that are in their upper 900’s and were small children when the Founders of Hogwarts were still alive.”

After a moment’s pause, Valen added, “Obviously this means that you, Cormac, by Atlantean standards are still a toddler. Not that it really matters much since you won’t be consummating your marriage to the Headmaster, but you might be interested to know that you’re also well beneath the Atlantean Age of Sexual Consent, seeing as how it’s 50 and you’re only 17.”

“I am not hearing this!” Cormac exclaimed in a hysterical tone. “First you tell me that I need to marry my school Headmaster, who’s nearly a hundred years older than I am. Then you say that we can’t get divorced or have the marriage annulled, and that because of the marriage, we’ll likely live for bloody centuries. Then you tell me that the legal age to have sex in your country is fifty fucking years old! Not that I want to have sex with the Headmaster, because I really do not, but that means that if he doesn’t hurry up and die it means that unless I break my marriage vows that I’m going to die a bloody virgin!”

“Oh do calm down, Mr. McLaggen,” Valen said, as he waved his hand and mouthed the incantation for a Calming Charm under his breath. “First off, ten points from Gryffindor for your language. I would also deduct points for your stupidity in touching an unknown magical artifact, but I think you’re getting punished enough for that by being forced into a marriage you clearly don’t want. Secondly, just as Dumbledore isn’t subject to the Atlantean Age of Majority, since he’s not Atlantean, neither are you subject to our Age of Sexual Consent.”

Cormac visibly relaxed, although whether that was because of the charm he’d cast or because of what he’d just said Valen wasn’t sure although he suspected it was a combination of both.

“Now, as for breaking your marriage vows, I assume you’re referring to the fact that human marriage vows often make promises of fidelity, but that isn’t an issue. Our vows do not include any language about monogamy and fidelity, because in all honesty it’s expected for people to stray from their spouses and take several lovers in their lifetimes. In fact less than 10% of Atlantean marriages are completely monogamous with neither partner ever straying outside of the marriage bed, because we’re honest enough to acknowledge that staying faithful to one person and one person only over the course of a marriage that could last over five centuries is very unlikely."

“Well, there you have it then, Mr. McLaggen,” Dumbledore said. “We get married and you can cheat to your hearts content. I promise not to hold it against you.”

“You’re not helping, Professor,” Cormac said. “My mother raised me to believe that cheating on your spouse was wrong, so I don’t really want to do it, because seventeen or not, I don’t doubt for a moment that she’d tan my hide if she found out I’d done it. And yet it’s a risk I’m going to have to take if I don’t want to be a virgin for the rest of my life.”

“Not necessarily,” Valen said. “As I would say that it isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility, Mr. McLaggen, that you may at some point find yourself more than willing to actually have sex with Professor Dumbledore.” Cormac looked like he was going to be sick at this statement, but before he could dispute it, Valen added, “I realize that you find his current appearance unappealing, but you’re forgetting something which I would have thought was blatantly obvious.”

“And what’s that?” Dumbledore asked, as he could see that Cormac was clearly keeping his mouth closed out of fear that he was about to lose his lunch. “And you’re assuming, Professor Lasinius, that I would actually be amenable to having sex with Mr. McLaggen. While I’ll admit that in my youth I did prefer the male gender, I put that aspect of my life behind me many years ago and really have no interest in revisiting it, as I doubt I’m still in possession of the necessary stamina. If I was with someone my own age it would be one thing, but I think I can practically guarantee that Mr. McLaggen would be too much for me to handle.”

“I’m 126 years old, Professor, Mr. McLaggen,” Valen said, as he waved his hand again and cast an Anti-Nausea Spell on Cormac, who was clutching his stomach and looking more than a little green. “Rhylian, Rhyvan, and His Majesty King Erevan are all more than twice that age, as they’re 346. And yet, in case you’ve missed it somehow, none of us look as old as you would expect someone of those ages to look.”

“So?” Cormac asked as the spell kicked in and his stomach settled enough that he felt comfortable speaking.

Valen shook his head. “When I said that your sponsored marriage would confer all of the benefits of being an Atlantean upon you, I meant all of the benefits. And since you’re clearly not getting it and need me to spell it out for you that includes our eternal youthfulness. Atlanteans stop aging when we reach the age of 21, which means, Mr. McLaggen, that you only have 4 more years of aging left before you will be basically frozen in time. That eternal youthfulness, however, will also extend to Professor Dumbledore.”

“What?” Dumbledore asked. “My youth is long past, Valen.”

“I noticed, Professor,” Valen said. “However, as soon as your marriage to Cormac is complete, your aging process will reverse and you will revert to looking and feeling like a 21 year old man once again. At which point, I suspect that Mr. McLaggen will no longer have any issues with going to bed with you.” After a moment, he grinned and said, “In fact, I think I can almost guarantee that he won’t because I saw your layout in that old predecessor to Playwitch, Professor. If Cormac doesn’t want that I will be very, very shocked, because you were smoking hot in your younger years, Professor.”

Cormac’s eyes widened at this and he asked, “Professor Dumbledore posed in Playwitch?”

Valen shook his head and said, “Not Playwitch since that didn’t debut until the early 1960’s, but he did pose completely nude in one of its predecessors. In fact, he was the cover model of the May 1900 issue of Hot Wizards Quarterly, which ceased publication in 1910 after its publisher passed away. That issue, by the way, was one of their most popular issues ever and the only issue in their history to require ten print runs in order to meet the demand. I have a copy in my quarters that I can give you if you’re interested to see what he looked like at the age of 19, Mr. McLaggen.”

“You will do no such thing, Valen!” Dumbledore exclaimed before Cormac could answer.

“Oh come on, Professor,” Cormac said. “I’m of age and we’re going to be married inside of six months. I see nothing wrong with me getting to see exactly what it is I’m getting.”

Dumbledore actually blushed, as he said, “You can bloody well wait until our wedding night, Mr. McLaggen.”

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, the tour group, despite the absence of Valen, Dumbledore, and Cormac, continued on the tour and had now entered the Royal Library of Atlantis, which had several eyes widening in shock, as it was hands down the largest library any of them had ever seen. The main room was circular in shape and had a massive domed ceiling above it. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lined the walls and held a wide variety of books, tomes, and scrolls in a wide variety of sizes. Harry noticed more than a few books that were wider than his school trunk, which surprised him as he’d never seen books that large in his life. Chancing a look at Hermione, Harry wasn’t surprised to see that her eyes had glazed over and she appeared to be salivating.

“Your Majesty,” Daenerys Karvalent said with a curtsy when she noticed the group entering the library. “Welcome.”

“Hello Dani,” Erevan said with a smile to his little sister. “What have I told you about formality? I know I’m the King, but you’re my sister, so there’s no need to be formal with me.”

Daenerys smiled and said, “I apologize Van,” causing Erevan to nod approvingly at her reciprocal use of his childhood nickname, as he’d used for her. “I guess old habits are hard to break, however. It has only been a few months now since King Tyriand died and I think we both know that father or not, he expected formality of the highest degree.”

“True enough,” Erevan agreed. “I swear it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if he insisted that mother call him Your Majesty while they were in bed together.”

“No that wouldn’t shock me, either,” Daenerys agreed, before she looked at the group behind the King and Queen, and said, “Anyway, as I said, welcome to the Royal Library of Atlantis. I recognize some of you, as I saw you through Valen’s mirror in Hogwarts’ library, but there’s definitely a few of you that I don’t recognize.”

At this a round of introductions were made, during which Valen, Dumbledore, and Cormac entered the room, although nobody noticed since Valen had cast a spell which would allow for them to sneak back into the room without it being noticed, just as he’d previously cast a spell before leaving the group to follow Dumbledore and Cormac that would prevent them from noticing their absence.

“This library is huge,” Ernie said.

Daenerys smiled. “Yes, it is, isn’t it?” As the Head Librarian of the Royal Library for over a century now, Daenerys took great pride in the collection. “It is by far the largest library anywhere in the world and that includes both the magical and muggle worlds.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Hermione said. “Yes, I can tell that there’s multiple floors, but the British Library in the muggle world has 170 million items in its collection, and there simply isn’t enough space here to store that much.”

“Looks can be deceiving, Lady Gryffindor,” Daenerys said. “There’s seven floors in this main room, with the ceilings of each reaching twenty-one feet. Contained on the floor-to-ceiling bookcases there’s a total of about five hundred thousand items. However, this is only the main room which houses only a very small fraction of the total collection, which is in excess of 400 million items, so more than double the amount you quoted for the British Library.”

Calliara nodded. “Our ancestors were very meticulous record keepers and we have extremely detailed histories and genealogies going back twenty thousand years. Not to mention books and scrolls on every topic you could possibly think of, in addition to some you probably couldn’t. We also have spells on the library which provide it with copies of every single book produced anywhere in the world and that includes the muggle world.”

“Although, to be perfectly honest,” Daenerys added, “I can’t say that I recall anyone checking out any books that are part of the muggle collection in my time here and I’ve been Head Librarian of this library for over a century now and worked here for roughly a century before that. Atlanteans by nature have a voracious appetite for knowledge, although for many, the xenophobic attitudes have resulted in most people not really caring about any material that wasn’t produced by an Atlantean or at the very least a respected magical person.”

“I wish you people would stop being so preposterous,” Rufus said. “You claim you’ve been working in this library for over two hundred years and yet you don’t look a day over twenty-one. How can you honestly expect us to believe anything you say when you’re so obviously lying through your teeth?”

Daenerys looked at Rufus for a moment, before shaking her head and turning towards the students as she asked, “Lady Gryffindor? After we last saw each other through Valen’s mirror I dug up some additional information that I think you’ll find very interesting.”

“What sort of information?” Hermione asked, as she came forward. Of course it had to be said that she was still getting used to being called Lady Gryffindor as she was much more used to Hermione or Miss Granger.

“Information about your family tree,” Daenerys said. “I believe until you saw your entry in the Tome of Founders you were under the impression that you were muggleborn, correct?”

Hermione nodded. “Yes, I thought that both of my parents were muggles, only it turns out my mother was a pureblood witch.”

“Yes, well, it would seem that your father isn’t as muggle as you thought,” Daenerys said. “I’m not saying that he’s a pureblood wizard, as by Britain’s definition of the term pureblood he’s most definitely a muggle, however, in the strictest sense, he’s actually a squib.”

“A squib?” Hermione asked, her interest clearly piqued.

“Indeed,” Daenerys answered with a nod. “I found a direct link between your father, Jonathan Granger, and a very noteworthy wizard by the name of Hector Dagworth-Granger, the founder of the Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers. Hector had a squib younger brother named Victor Dagworth-Granger, who is in fact your father Jonathan’s great-great-great-grandfather. The Dagworth part of the surname was dropped by Victor’s son, as both he and Victor faced quite a bit of prejudice due to carrying a respected wizarding name and having no magic.”

Snape shook his head. “It’s obvious that Hector’s skill in potions wasn’t genetic, as Miss Granger will never be an even halfway competent Potions Master.”

Draco rolled his eyes and said, “And with all due respect, Professor Snape, you can blame yourself for that.”

Snape turned cold eyes on Draco, as he asked, “Excuse me, Mr. Malfoy? How exactly is it my fault that Miss Granger is horrible at Potions?”

“Because she had a horrible teacher,” Draco said. “The only reason that Noah and I got high enough grades in your class to even have our positions as Teaching Assistants is because both of our families got us private tuition in Potions.”

Noah nodded. “He’s right, Professor. The very first day back in first year, you simply wrote all the ingredients for the Boil Curing Potion on the blackboard and told us to start brewing. When Draco and I told that to Professor Slughorn during our first prep meeting he was shocked, because he couldn’t understand how one of his former students could be in his words so incompetent.”

Snape looked ready to retort, but before he could, McGonagall shook her head. “Severus, we both had Horace as a Professor, so if what Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Diggory are saying is true, I’m not surprised that Horace would call you incompetent.” At Snape’s cold gaze, she added, “Because perhaps you’ve forgotten, Severus, which by the way would be bad considering that you’re young enough to have had me as your Transfiguration Professor, but Horace didn’t have his any of his first-year classes do any Potions brewing at all for the first month. As he instead focused on teaching all of the basics, such as how to properly prepare the ingredients and the differences between cauldrons of different thicknesses and materials.”

“A serious student should know all of that before they ever set foot in class,” Snape argued.

“Really, Professor?” Harry asked. “Would that be like how you expected me, a person who was raised by muggles and didn’t even know that I was a wizard until I got my Hogwarts letter, to know sixth-year material on my very first day of school as a first year?”

“What are you talking about, Mr. Potter?” Dumbledore asked.

“On the very first day of classes,” Harry answered, “Professor Snape singled me out in order to put me on the spot with a series of questions, because he thought that I wasn’t paying attention to him. Although if he’d bothered to look down at the parchment in front of me, he would’ve noticed that I was copying what he was saying word for word. At any rate, he proceeded to ask me the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane, where I’d look for a bezoar, its use, and what I’d get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood. I couldn’t answer any of those questions because as I later learned, almost all of them were NEWT level, so how exactly he thought that a first year student should be able to answer those questions on the first day of class, I’ll never understand.”

Blaise Zabini nodded and said, “He’s right, Headmaster. I remember Professor Snape doing that. At the time, my fellow Slytherins and I thought it was funny, especially when Professor Snape proceeded to take points from Harry for not knowing the answers, although in hindsight, it really wasn’t very fair since he was pretty clearly setting Harry up to fail from the very beginning.”

“Mr. Zabini, your services as my teaching assistant are no longer required,” Snape said angrily.

“Disregard that, Mr. Zabini,” Dumbledore said. “Severus, I am disappointed in you. I’d heard the rumors that you were a bad teacher and that your teaching had turned many students off of pursuing Potions NEWTs, but I always tried to give you the benefit of the doubt. I know that students like to talk badly about their professors, so I figured what I was hearing was exaggerated, but it appears I was mistaken. So, for you own sake, Severus, I do hope that you are a better Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher than you were a Potions teacher, because I will not hesitate to dismiss you if I find out otherwise and you will not be getting the Potions position back if that happens.”

Snape looked rather like a fish for a moment, before he simply glared at the students who’d spoken against him and walked a few feet away from the group, clearly needing some time to cool down.

“Anyway, as I was going to say before that interesting tangent,” Daenerys said, “after I found the connection between Lady Gryffindor and the Dagworth-Granger family, I did some further digging and I found out that Hector’s and Victor’s mother was a direct descendant of Antioch Peverell, which if my research is correct, should mean that Miss Granger is also Lady Peverell.”

Before anyone could say anything, Daenerys added, “As a side note, Tom Riddle is also descended from the Peverell family, although he’s descended from Antioch’s younger brother Cadmus Peverell, while Mr. Potter is also a Peverell descendant, although he’s descended from Ignotus Peverell, the youngest brother of Antioch and Cadmus. And yes, if those names sound familiar to any of you it’s because they’re the names of the brothers in Beedle the Bard’s Tale of the Three Brothers. Despite their inclusion in a children’s nursery story, however, they were all living, breathing people.”

“Indeed they were,” Rhyvan said, as he looked at Rhylian and asked, “Didn’t mother say that she’d actually met the Peverell brothers?”

Rhylian nodded. “Considering that her sister was Cadmus Peverell’s fiancé that is mentioned in the story, yes, she did meet them.”

“Oh for pity sake,” Barnabas said, beating Rufus to the punch by only seconds. “You people really are insane if you expect any logical person to believe any of this rot that you’re spouting. There’s no way that your mother’s sister could possibly be Cadmus Peverell’s fiancé because if that story is true, Cadmus Peverell lived over 700 years ago.”

Arathorn shook his head and said, “You two are really starting to get on my nerves, you know that? I understand that you’re skeptical but you’re both taking it to an unnecessary extreme.”

“Indeed, I agree,” Rhylian said, “By your leave, Your Majesty?”

Erevan nodded, knowing instinctively what Rhylian was asking. “Go ahead, Lord Rhylian.”

Rhylian nodded and pulled a coral horn out of the folds of his robes. Daenerys, Rhyvan, Arathorn, and Asheera all quickly moved to stand together in a half circle, as Rhylian put the horn to his lips and blew. Seconds later, there were several pops, as six additional people appeared in the room. One of them was clearly Arathorn’s twin brother, who along with a girl that many guessed was his sister due to her resemblance to Erevan and Calliara, hung back, while the other newcomers, along with Rhylian, moved to complete the circle.

“Welcome my fellow Circle members,” Rhylian said. “We’re joined today by several guests from the surface world, who our most gracious King has deigned to lead on a tour in order to prove the existence of Atlantis to them. Two among their number, however,” Rhylian glanced over at Rufus and Barnabas, “are being particularly obstinate in their refusals to believe that Atlantis truly exists. So, with King Erevan’s permission, I’ve called you all here so that we might prove once and for all that Atlantis does truly exist.”

“I assume you have a suggestion as to how we should go about doing that?” Lady Serena Lasinius, the Mistress of the Order Sphere and sister of Asheera and Valen, asked.

Rhylian nodded. “Yes, indeed, Serena, I do. We shall have to enclose their entire bodies in a powerful variant of the Bubblehead Charm, seeing as how more than just their heads will need protection since we are in the hadopelagic zone of the ocean and we don’t want them to be flattened like pancakes. Once that’s done, however, my suggestion is that we teleport them outside the shields and let them see the city from outside of the shields. The artificial atmosphere is only visible from the interior of the shields, so once they’re on the exterior side of the shields, they’ll have no trouble seeing with their own eyes that Atlantis truly does exist.”

“A workable suggestion,” Lord Viserys Karvalent, the Lord of the Chaos Sphere and Daenerys’s husband, said. “However, we may also need to provide some additional lighting as I’m not certain that the lighting of the city will be enough to make up for the absolute darkness of the depth of ocean that we’re in.”

“We’re cross that bridge if and when we come to it, Viserys,” Rhylian said. “Now, Circle, are you ready?”

There were nods all around, as Prince Arathorn, who was Master of the Water Sphere, said, “I would only add that they won’t be able to stay outside the shields for long. Even our most powerful magic won’t be able to create a full-body protection charm that will hold against the crushing pressures of the ocean for more than a couple of minutes. I’d suggest tying their protection into the continental shields, but we shouldn’t strain them anymore than necessary.”

“Indeed, Your Highness,” Rhylian nodded, before each member of the Circle raised their arms and began chanting in High Atlantean as spirals of magical energy began encircling them and moments later, Barnabas, Rufus, and the others from Hogwarts—who had all been placed under a Silencing Charm by King Erevan so that he didn’t have to listen to any complaints from Rufus and Barnabas—all found themselves enclosed in shimmering shields that were very similar indeed to the Bubblehead Charm, only their entire bodies were covered instead of just their heads.

At this point, Princess Alianna Karvalent, the daughter of Erevan and Calliara, who had been acting as the temporary Supreme Lady of the Circle in Rhylian’s absence, said, “Enclose me, as well. I’ll go with them, as I can communicate telepathically with Nekronis whether or not additional lighting is necessary.”

Obviously worried for the safety of her only daughter, Calliara asked, “Alianna, dear, are you sure?”

Alianna nodded. “I trust the Circle, mother, and it isn’t right for us to ask our guests to take any risks that we ourselves are not willing to take.”

“Very well,” Erevan said, as he motioned to Rhylian, who nodded.

Moments later, Alianna also had a shimmering shield around her. The Circle was quiet for a second, before they began chanting again, as the spirals of magical energy got more intense and then an instant later, Alianna, and the others disappeared from the room.

‘Ali, honey, are you okay?’ Nekronis Karvalent, the Lord of the Death Sphere, asked his wife via their telepathic link a moment later.

‘I’m fine, Tarron,’ Alianna said, calling her husband by his middle name as she often did. ‘We’re definitely going to need some extra light, by the way, as while we can see the city lights, they’re not bright enough to cut through the darkness. I’ve closed my eyes so you can use my body as a beacon if you wish.’

‘Very well,’ Nekronis said, as he said aloud, “Alianna says they need more light and has given her permission for us to use her body as a beacon.” Holding his left hand out towards the center of the circle he said, “So if each of you grab onto part of my hand or arm, we should be able to use my connection to Alianna to channel the necessary magic into her.”

“That won’t harm her, will it?”

“No, Your Majesty,” Nekronis answered his father-in-law’s question. “I would never do anything to hurt Alianna.”

The other eight members of the circle all grabbed onto part of Nekronis’s hand or arm and began chanting once again. Nekronis’s hand glowed for a moment, and Nekronis asked, ‘Is that enough, Ali? We added a charm that should protect your eyes from the brightness.’

‘Yes, it’s perfect,’ Alianna said after she rather hesitantly at first opened her eyes. ‘The city is very clearly visible.’ After a moment, she said, ‘It’s definitely very interesting seeing the city from this side of the shields.’

‘Do you think the others have seen enough to believe now?’

Alianna was silent for a moment as she looked over at the others, before she said, ‘From their expressions I’d say yes, so you can bring us back now.’

“Let’s bring them back,” Nekronis said, as the other members of the Circle nodded and they all began chanting again. Seconds later, the group that had been sent out beyond the shields reappeared and it was clear that they were brought back not a moment too soon as there were stress fractures visible in some of their shields.

Once the shields were dropped, Erevan dropped his Silencing Charm and looking at Rufus asked, “I trust you believe us now?”

“After seeing a huge city on the ocean floor?” Rufus asked. “I don’t really have much choice, Your Majesty, so if you’ll accept it, I’d like to offer my sincerest apologies for my earlier skepticism and attitude.”

“Apology accepted,” Erevan said, as he took a step forward and offered his hand to Rufus, who took it and they shook.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.