Harry Potter and the Return of the Heirs

By J.C. Vascardi

* * *

Disclaimer: All characters and places featured in this story that relate to Harry Potter are the property of J.K. Rowling, various publishers, and Warner Brothers. No money is being made on this story and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. The only things about this story that I own are the storylines, places and characters that are not featured in the books.

Author's Note: This story takes place during Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts. I will be trying to follow the Order of the Phoenix canon as much as possible. I may however deviate from the canon occasionally if the story I am trying to tell would be better served by doing so. Even though this story takes place in Harry's sixth year, it is mostly AU because it was written before the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Now, I would also like to say that I'm an American, so while I will try to use some of the British terminology that I'm familiar with to make this story more real, there will likely be instances when the characters may sound a little more American then they would otherwise. For those of you who care about such things, I apologize in advance.

Feedback is very much appreciated. You may contact me by email at JCVascardi@yahoo.com or you can contact me at JCVascardi on Yahoo Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger. For updates on my writing progress, check out my writing journal at: http://www.greatestjournal.com/users/jcvascardi/. Also, feel free to check out my website at http://jcv.5u.com/all/jcstories/.

* * *

Chapter Four

* * *

Minutes after the tragedy at Malfoy Manor, Draco emerged from the fireplace in the drawing room of Cromwell Hall, followed shortly there after by a loud pop as Charles apparated into the room.

"Welcome to Cromwell Hall, Draco," Charles said. "I think you will be comfortable here until school starts."

"Thanks... for getting me out of there," Draco said. "And for dealing with father."

Before Charles could reply, Matthew and Oliver walked into the room. They were so busy kissing each other as they were walking, they didn't notice the room wasn't empty until Charles cleared his throat.

Matthew pulled away from Oliver and spun around to see his father standing there, along with Draco Malfoy. "Father! I didn't expect you home so early. What is Malfoy doing here?"

"Draco will be living here now," Charles said and held up a hand to hold off any of his son's questions. "I will gladly give you an explanation, but first, I think you owe me one."

"Oh, well, um... you see dad, I'm gay."

"Yes, I guessed that much."

"Yeah, well, Oliver is my boyfriend," Matthew said.

"Fiance actually," Oliver corrected as he wrapped an arm around Matthew's waist. "I'm sorry we didn't tell you, sir, but we were keeping it a secret because of Matt's mom."

Charles nodded. "Yes, that was probably a good thing. Katrina would have had your head on a platter if she'd found out that you were gay, Matthew. She was mad enough as it was when I refused to pull you out of Hogwarts after your second year, so that you could start at Eton."

"Oh, I remember those fights," Matthew murmured as he thought back. "She was furious with you for weeks. Figured that after two years of education at Hogwarts I'd learned enough to control my powers, and should then go and have a `proper' British education."

"Yes. Well, Matthew, if being with Oliver makes you happy, then, so be it. Welcome to the family, Oliver. Barin!"

A moment later, the house-elf, Barin appeared with a pop. "What can Barin do for you, Master Charles?"

"Please tell my nephew to come down immediately," Charles said. "I have to be getting back to work soon, and I need to tell him something before I go, so please ask him to floo down, its faster than walking."

"Yes, Master Charles," Barin replied and he disappeared.

"Why don't we all sit down?" Charles asked. "Once Ryan gets here, I'll explain what Draco's doing here. I assume Ryan knows about you and Oliver, Matthew."

"Yes, I know about them," Ryan answered as he stepped out of the fireplace. "I've known since yesterday."

"Matthew, I'm wounded," Charles said with a grin to let Matt know that he was only kidding. "Telling your cousin Ryan, who you've barely seen in six years, before your own father?"

"Well, they didn't actually tell me," Ryan interjected as he walked over. "I put it together on my own after I um, well... suffice it to say, that Matthew and Oliver really need to learn to use a silencing charm when engaging in certain activities."

"Ryan!" Oliver and Matthew exclaimed in unison, as they both turned several shades of red.

"I didn't need to know that," Charles mumbled, and sighed. "Anyway, let's get down to business. Ryan, I'd like you to meet Draco Malfoy, he'll be staying with us for a while."

"Pleased to meet you," Ryan said as he sat down on a nearby armchair.

"You might want to rethink that," Oliver mumbled, but loud enough that Charles heard.

"Oliver, if you are going to be a member of this family," Charles said. "I'd really appreciate it if you would refrain from insulting its members."

"Members?" Matthew asked. "Malfoy is family? How?"

"Draco," Charles said, stressing the name to tell everyone they should stop calling him by his surname; "is your second cousin, Matthew, Ryan. You see; your late grandmother Lucinda's maiden name was Malfoy. She was the sister of Abraxas Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy's father and Draco's grandfather."

"I don't recall father ever mentioning an Aunt Lucinda."

"I'm not surprised, Draco," Charles replied. "Your family disowned my mother. They had never seen eye to eye on anything, they were furious when she was sorted into Ravenclaw, instead of Slytherin. The last straw came when she had two brief romances with people that they did not approve of, followed by her marriage to my father, William Cromwell, whom they didn't approve of either."

"Who?" Matthew asked, honestly curious since his grandmother never gave many details about her time as a student.

"Well, the second romance was with Jonathan Potter," Charles answered. "Harry Potter's grandfather. The first one... well, I'm not sure I really want to talk about that one. It turns my stomach to know that my mother was ever involved with him."

"It can't be that bad," Ryan said.

"Oh, it can be... trust me," Charles muttered.

"Come on, dad," Matthew urged. "The way you're talking, you almost make it sound like grandmother was involved with Voldemort."

"She wasn't was she?" Ryan asked when Charles didn't say anything to dispute his son's comment.

"Well, yes. Actually, she was," Charles admitted finally. "He wasn't known as Voldemort then, of course, but yes, as much as it sickens me to say it, your grandmother was romantically involved with him for about a year."

"I can't imagine my family having a problem with that," Draco said. "I mean; he was a Slytherin, right? I would have thought they would have been pleased."

"Draco, have you ever heard the name, Riddle?"

"No, I can't say as I have. It's not a pureblood family name, that much I know."

"You're right, it isn't," Charles said.

"What does that have to do with You-Know-Who though?" Draco asked.

"Well, during his school days, he wasn't known as Lord Voldemort you know," Charles elaborated. "While he was a student at Hogwarts, he went by his real name, Tom Riddle. His mother was a witch, but his father was a Muggle."

"Ah, I see why my family had a problem with it now," Draco said. "Dating a half-blood breaks about half a dozen rules listed in the Malfoy Family Code of Conduct."

"Code of Conduct?" Oliver asked. "You mean; your family actually has written rules that dictate you should act like a stuck-up prick?"

"Oliver, I thought I told you not to insult members of this family," Charles said.

"It's okay," muttered Draco. "I fully admit that I've acted very badly. Oliver has every right to not like me."

"Yes, well, I think under the circumstances, he should show you a little compassion."

"What circumstances?"

"Well, Ryan," Charles answered. "It all has to do with why Draco will be living here now. You see; I've just come from Malfoy Manor, where I was witness to Draco's father, using the Killing Curse on his mother, while Draco was curled up on the floor watching. Judging by his position and mental state, I'm guessing, that not only was he in shock from witnessing his mother's murder by his father's hand, but that he was also recovering from the effects of the Cruciatus Curse."

Matthew, Oliver, and Ryan all visibly paled upon hearing this news, and Draco brought his legs up onto the sofa and buried his face in his knees as he began to cry. Ryan quickly crossed the room, sitting down next to Draco, and wrapped him in a comforting embrace. Draco resisted at first, but finally gave in when he started to sob into Ryan's shoulder, and Ryan gently rubbed his back.

Once Charles saw that Ryan seemed to have the situation under control, he stood up. "Well, as much I'd like to stay, I really have to get back to work and file my report about what happened today. I'll see you all later."

* * *

About three hours later, Molly Weasley was standing in the front parlor of Grimmauld Place when Percy's owl, Hermes, flew through the window and landed on the back of a nearby chair. Molly took a rolled up parchment and what looked like a copy of the Daily Prophet from the owl's outstretched leg, and gave it an owl treat before it flew out the window.

Unrolling the parchment, Molly noticed that it was Daily Prophet letterhead.

* * *

From the Desk of Percival Ignatius Weasley

Assistant Editor, Daily Prophet


Thought you should tell Dumbledore what's happened, if he doesn't already know. Here's a special edition of the Daily Prophet, which will be coming out shortly.

Love, Percy

P.S. Thanks for the dinner invitation; I'd be glad to come over. I'll see you tonight.

* * *

A few weeks after his family had accepted him back, and he had joined the Order, Percy began to seriously rethink his priorities in life and decided that the job of Junior Undersecretary to the Minister, while certainly prestigious, was not for him. So, he asked to be transferred back to the Department of International Magical Cooperation. The Minister refused his request, and even wanted to promote him into Umbridge's old job as Special Assistant to the Minister, but since it was his loyalty to Fudge that had almost cost him his family forever, the thought of becoming Fudge's puppet did not appeal to him.

So, in a move that stunned his family, Percy tendered his resignation from the Ministry, and went to work as a typesetter for the Daily Prophet. It wasn't long after Percy started working there, that the Daily Prophet's Editor, Barnabas Cuffe, took a liking to him and his work ethic, and promoted him to the vacant position of Assistant Editor, since he was highly over-qualified for the typesetter job. Percy was also made the heir apparent to become Editor upon Cuffe's retirement, since Percy was the most qualified person on staff to take the position.

Setting the note from her son aside, Molly unrolled the special edition of the Daily Prophet, and gasped as she read the headline:

* * *

Daily Prophet

Special Edition - August 24, 1996


The list of charges include spousal murder and child abuse.

It came to our attention after nine this morning, that Lucius Malfoy, who had escaped from Azkaban shortly after the mass revolt of the Dementors, was taken into custody at his home after casting the Killing curse on his wife, Narcissa Black Malfoy. We've discovered that his casting of the curse was witnessed by the couple's sixteen-year-old son, Draco, as well as Lucius' estranged cousin, Charles Cromwell, the son of the late retired Auror Lucinda Cromwell, the sister of Lucius' father, who works as an Auror for the Ministry.

According to Mr. Cromwell, he's had very little contact with his Malfoy relatives over the years, and this was in fact, the first time since their graduation from Hogwarts, that he had talked with Lucius Malfoy. He said that there has always been a rift between the two branches of the family, ever since Lucinda Malfoy married his father, the late William Cromwell, a union which the Malfoy family did not approve of.

Young Mr. Malfoy was unavailable for comment, but Mr. Cromwell issued the following statement, "I went to Malfoy Manor because we had received intelligence that Lucius Malfoy was there, and using one of the Unforgivable Curses. I arrived just in time to witness my cousin casting the Killing curse on his wife. I quickly disarmed and stunned him so he could be taken into custody. I later found out from Draco, that his mother had been trying to protect him from Lucius, who had been using the Cruciatus curse on him."

Newly-appointed Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, the former Head of the Auror Office at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, has confirmed that the last two spells cast with Mr. Malfoy's wand were indeed the Cruciatus and Killing curses. As a result, Mr. Malfoy has earned himself a one-way ticket back to Azkaban Prison. Due to the mass revolt of the Dementors, the Ministry has recently acquired two Welsh Greens, a Hungarian Horntail, and a Norwegian Ridgeback to act as guards at the prison.

We here at the Daily Prophet, would all like to extend our deepest sympathies to Draco Malfoy for the tragic loss of his mother.

* * *

"Is something wrong Molly?" McGonagall asked when she entered the room to discover a distraught Molly Weasley.

"Minerva, oh, it's just awful."

"What is it?" McGonagall asked as she walked closer to her former student.

"Percy sent me this advance copy - a special edition of the Prophet," Molly said as she held it up. "Lucius Malfoy was arrested at his mansion this morning."

"Why would you say that was awful?"

"Because he was arrested after using the Killing curse on Narcissa," Dumbledore said as he entered the room.

"Albus!" Molly exclaimed in surprise as both women turned to see the Headmaster standing there. "You knew?"

"I just came from the Ministry," Dumbledore clarified. "I was in a meeting with Minister Scrimgeour when Kingsley brought Lucius in. It seems that Charles Cromwell witnessed Lucius casting the curse on Narcissa, in front of Draco. According to Charles and Kingsley, it would seem that Narcissa was trying to protect Draco from Lucius, who had been using the Cruciatus on him for unknown reasons."

"Oh my, that poor boy," McGonagall murmured. "It's sad to think of one so young having the Cruciatus cast on them, but even worse for a child to witness their mother's murder, especially when their father is the murderer."

"Yes, it is," Dumbledore nodded in agreement. "Charles has taken Draco to his home in Yorkshire. Seeing as how Charles' mother was Lucius' aunt, the Minister has appointed him as Draco's guardian, until he turns seventeen next year."

"Well, as sad as it is," McGonagall said. "This may actually be a good thing."

"How's that, Minerva?"

"Well, Molly, with Draco living with Charles, it's possible that we'll begin to see a new Draco Malfoy. It's also very likely that Voldemort has just lost a potential follower. One less Death Eater to worry about is always a good thing in my opinion."

Molly and Dumbledore simply nodded in agreement.

* * *

"That idiot!" Voldemort screamed as he tossed the special edition of the Daily Prophet into the nearby fireplace. "He knows how short-handed I am right now, and then he goes and gets himself carted off to Azkaban."

"Maybe it's for the best."

"What was that Goyle?" Voldemort asked angrily as he looked over at his follower.

"I just said that maybe it was for the best," Goyle reiterated. "Lucius told me that Narcissa was always undermining his attempts to get Draco to follow you, so maybe now that she's dead..."

"Are you a total idiot, Goyle?" Voldemort shouted. "Draco is living with Charles Cromwell now. Do you expect me to just waltz into the home of an Auror and take him? Not to mention the fact that Charles is the son of Lucinda Malfoy Cromwell. I went to school with that wretched bitch, so I know first hand how powerful she was, even as a teenager. She may be dead now, but I'm not stupid enough to think that she didn't teach her son everything she knew. Raiding the Potters' house in Godric's Hollow was different... they weren't Aurors."

"I didn't know that."

"Of course you didn't, you pea brain," Voldemort yelled as he raised his wand and pointed it at Goyle, before adding, "and for speaking when you aren't spoken to, Crucio!"

Goyle dropped to his knees as a wave of pain washed over his body. Most people might scream from it, but all of Voldemort's Death Eaters had learned not to make a sound when he inflicted pain on them, because it only made him angrier. Or one step closer to St. Mungo's, depending on how you looked at it, considering that most people, including some of his Death Eaters had begun to think Voldemort was quite insane, not that they'd ever dare tell him that. After a moment, Voldemort ended the curse and yelled, "Get out of my sight. Wormtail!"

Goyle quickly left the room, as the man known as Wormtail, or Peter Pettigrew, scurried over to his master's side.

"I want you to arrange a strike party," Voldemort said as he unconsciously clenched and unclenched his bony fingers into fists. "We need to strike the boat taking prisoners to Azkaban, and free Lucius. I don't care if you have to send every Dementor we have, but we must get him before that boat reaches Azkaban. We do not have the resources at the moment to organize a full-scale prison break, now that the Ministry has four dragons guarding the fortress."

"Yes, my Lord," Wormtail muttered, and with a bow, turned to leave.

"Oh, and Wormtail?"

"Yes, my Lord?" Wormtail asked, turning once more to face his master.

"You had better succeed," Voldemort said threateningly, his ominous red eyes flashing with cold fury. "Or I will make you wish you had never been born!"

* * *

Draco's Journal - August 25, 1996

I still can't believe that my mother's gone. She didn't deserve to die. Oh Gods, my mother is dead. Why? Why? Oh, if my jackass of a sire were here, I know he'd probably want to kill me right now, considering I'm sitting here crying my eyes out as I write this. I will not call him my father any longer; I refuse! He is nothing to me other than the one whose seed helped bring me into this world. The Gods as my witnesses, I swear if I ever see that man ever again, I will not be held responsible for my actions. He deserves to die a slow and extremely painful death for what he's done to my mother! I can hear my mother's voice in my head, saying that I shouldn't let my anger consume me and I know that she's right, but right now, my emotional wounds are just too fresh.

I am extremely grateful for my sire's cousin Charles getting me out of there. He certainly seems like a nice person. Ryan, Matthew, and even Oliver comforted me after Charles left for work. Ryan told me that he knows how I'm feeling right now, since he recently lost his grandmother, who had raised him from birth like her own child. He said that he can't possibly imagine how painful it must have been to actually witness my mother's death, but he could understand how painful it is to lose one's mother, nonetheless. Matthew also understands the pain, since he lost his mother about a year ago.

When I watched Lucius kill my mother, I suddenly felt very, very alone; so having Charles, Matthew, Ryan, and Oliver around makes me feel a little better. Well, I suppose I should stop writing now, and get some sleep. Charles brewed up a batch of Dreamless Sleep potion yesterday when he got home from work, and gave me a few vials of it so that I would be able to sleep without any nightmares. I begged him for a Memory Charm, but he refused, saying that a Memory Charm would only be hiding from the truth, and that wouldn't be a good thing in the long run. I realize that he's right, but it's going to be very hard dealing with the memory of watching my mother's final moments. I don't think I'll ever be able to get the look on her face out of my mind.

* * *

Charles had the next day off and decided to stay home with Draco, while Matt and Oliver took Ryan shopping in Diagon Alley. Understandably, Draco was not in the mood to go shopping. Charles wrote a note to the goblins at Gringott's, telling them that he was now Draco's legal guardian, and to allow Matt to collect some money from Draco's vault. So, with the note, Draco's supply list, and his vault key in hand, Matthew and Oliver flooed over to Diagon Alley with Ryan. Matthew and Oliver both had their apparition licenses, but the wards surrounding Cromwell Hall only allowed Charles to apparate through them, so the floo was quicker in the long run, than walking out to the edge of the wards, especially since Ryan couldn't apparate yet.

The goblins didn't give Matthew any trouble about accessing Draco's vault when they made their first stop at Gringott's. Matthew, Ryan, and Oliver were rather taken aback by the huge amount of galleons in Draco's private vault. The Cromwell and Wood families were by no means poor, but the sheer quantity of galleons in Draco's vault alone, was certainly impressive. Matthew was sure that even if he combined what was in his vault with Ryan and Oliver's vaults, Draco would still have more.

Looking at the shopping list that Draco had supplied, Matthew did take a lot more galleons then one would normally think would be necessary for back to school shopping, but he could see from what all Draco had on his list, that the larger amount would definitely be needed.

"Hey, Ry? I see some friends from school I'd like to say hello to. You think you'll be okay on your own, while Oliver and I go over and talk to them?" Matthew asked as they were leaving Gringott's.

"I'm not a baby anymore, Matt," Ryan admonished with an amused grin, and remembered how protective Matt had always been of him before Lucinda had taken him to Asheville. "You two go on, I'll be fine. I'll just go to Madame Malkin's, get fitted for my robes and place Draco's order. If I'm not there when you guys finish up with your friends, I'll probably be next door taking care of our book lists."

"Okay, then, see you in awhile, Ry," Oliver said with a smile as he walked off with Matt, holding hands.

Ryan couldn't help but smile at the two of them. 'Well, I guess now that Uncle Charles knows, they don't really care who knows they're together,' he thought. `It's about time.' Ryan watched them for another minute, before heading into Madame Malkin's shop.

Walking into the shop, Ryan saw Madame Malkin for the first time in almost six years. The shop was empty right now, so Madame Malkin came over quickly when she heard someone coming in. She cocked her head to one side as she looked him over. "Is it? No, it can't be," she murmured. "Little Ryan Cromwell?"

"Not so little anymore, ma'am," Ryan replied.

"My, my you certainly have grown into a fine young man since I last saw you," Malkin said with a smile. "I only wish it was more pleasant circumstances that brought you back. I was so upset when I heard about your grandmother's passing. Please accept my most heartfelt condolences, she was a great woman, and I'll miss her dearly."

"Thank you, Ma'am."

"So, I take it you're here for your Hogwarts robes?" Malkin asked. "I'm assuming the standard robe with the Hogwarts seal, instead of a house seal?"

"No, I've already been sorted into Ravenclaw," Ryan answered. "Professor Dumbledore called me to his office for a private sorting ceremony, because he thought I'd feel too out of place being sorted with the first years."

"Ah, congratulations," Malkin said with a smile. "I was in Hufflepuff myself, but Ravenclaw is a fine house. If you'll just step up on the stool here, I'll get started on your measurements."

"Oh before I forget," Ryan said as he stepped onto the stool. "My cousin, Draco Malfoy is staying with us now. He didn't feel up to coming with today, but here's his list. He said you had his measurements."

Madame Malkin nodded and took the list from Ryan. "Yes, I do. His measurements will have changed within the last few months since his last visit, but a simple Auto-Resizing Charm will handle that. Stand up straight please."

Waving her wand at Ryan, and muttering an incantation, a tape measure appeared from thin air and started to take Ryan's measurements as Madame Malkin began to fill Draco's list. The door soon opened, and another customer walked into the shop. From the angle he was standing at, Ryan couldn't see who it was, but he soon found out when he heard someone say, "Hey Ry."

"Hi Nick," Ryan said when he recognized the voice of Nicolas Delaney.

"I take it you know each other?" Malkin asked as she looked up from Draco's list.

"Yes, we met the other day in Professor Dumbledore's office," Nicolas replied. "I'm transferring to Hogwarts, so he called me over to be sorted. My name's Nicolas Delaney."

"A pleasure, I'm Madame Malkin. If you'll please just step up on that stool next to young Mr. Cromwell, I'll take your measurements. What house were you put in? I can see to it that your house emblem is placed on your new robes."

"Slytherin, ma'am," Nicolas answered as he stepped up onto a vacant stool. Madame Malkin nodded, and then waved her wand at Nicolas, as another tape measure appeared and began to take his measurements.

"In addition to the school robes, I'll pretty much need a whole new wardrobe," Nicolas said after all his measurements had been taken. "I'm sure a good portion of the clothes I have won't be all that appropriate. Hogwarts is in a very different climate then what I'm used to at Beauxbatons."

Madame Malkin nodded. "Well, why don't you browse the racks and let me know if there's anything you like. I can easily change the colors of something you like, if need be."

Nodding, Nicolas began to browse as Madame Malkin started to get to work on Ryan, Nicolas, and Draco's school robes. For lack of anything better to do while waiting, Ryan browsed as well, since he took out a few extra galleons in case he saw something he wanted.

* * *

Meanwhile back at Cromwell Hall, Charles was sitting at his desk in the library, while Draco laid on one of the sofas, reading a book. The sudden pop breaking the silence caused a startled Charles to jump. He looked over to Draco and smiled, noting the boy merely turned a page. `Nerves of steel,' he thought, and shook his head before turning his attention to the house-elf.

"Master Charles, sir," Barin said. "You have company."

"Please show them in, Barin," Charles replied as he relaxed.

"Yes, sir," Barin answered before he disappeared, only to return moments later through the door, accompanied by a tall, black haired man in flowing black robes.

"Ah, Severus, I was wondering when I would be seeing you," Charles said as he stood from his desk.

"I've come for Draco," Severus answered as he walked into the room.

"Now, Severus, you know I can't let you take him," Charles replied calmly as Draco silently watched the exchange.

"I am his godfather," Severus said.

"I am not disputing that fact, Severus. However, the Ministry has granted me custody of Draco until he reaches his age of majority."

"You?" Severus asked. "I'm his godfather, you're just his, what are you again?"

"First cousin, once removed," Charles replied. "I know the Ministry should have named you to be his guardian, Severus, but I think we both know why they didn't."

Severus sighed and then nodded, as he placed a hand on his arm. "The Dark Mark."

"Yes," Charles said. "I know that you're on our side, but as I'm sure you know, it's not something we've told the Ministry about."

"Yes, in case the Dark Lord has spies in the Ministry," Severus muttered.

"Exactly. Tonks, Kingsley and I make sure the other Aurors don't come after you, but as far as the Ministry is concerned, you're still a Death Eater, and they don't know that you're working as a spy."

"You are?" Draco asked, speaking for the first time since Severus entered.

"Yes, Draco, I am," Severus said. "Charles and I are both members of a group that Professor Dumbledore organized to fight against the Dark Lord. I go to all of the Death Eater meetings, and then report to Professor Dumbledore on what the Dark Lord is planning. I trust you can keep my secret?"

"Of course, Sev," Draco said, using the nickname that Severus has grudgingly allowed Draco to call him for the last several years. "I wouldn't do anything to get you in trouble."

"Severus, if it would make you feel better," Charles interjected. "You're welcome to stay here until school starts, and then you can be with Draco. I'll even let you have access to my private potions lab, as long as you don't mind living with three Ravenclaws and a Gryffindor."

"Gryffindor?" Severus asked with a sneer.

"Yes, my son Matthew's boyfriend, Oliver Wood," Charles replied. "Now that they've finally deigned to tell me about their relationship, after being together for seven years and getting engaged, Oliver has moved in."

"Ah, well, I guess I can deal with Wood. He was a fairly decent student for a Gryffindor, though much too wrapped up in Quidditch if you ask me. Nonetheless, I do want to be here for Draco, so as much as it pains me to say, thank you, Charles."

"My pleasure, Severus. Barin, please prepare a room as near to Draco's as possible."

"Yes, Master Charles," Barin said and he disappeared.

* * *

Exiting Madame Malkin's together, Ryan and Nicolas were extremely happy about the existence of shrinking charms, otherwise they would both have had their hands quite full with their recent purchases. Ryan and Nicolas both bought the requisite school robes, new dress robes, and new cloaks more suited to the colder winter season of Northern Scotland. Nicolas found a few items to augment his wardrobe, but ultimately decided that a trip to Muggle London before school started would be in order. Ryan and Nicolas talked while they shopped, finding out more about each other. For example, they found out that they both liked blue and green, both liked reading, and Ryan found out that Nicolas would be reaching his age of majority soon.

"That's cool that you'll be seventeen, soon," Ryan said. "I can't wait until I'm seventeen."

"Yeah, I know, I'm pretty excited," Nicolas replied.

"How was it to start school late?"

"I don't think it was that different," Nicolas answered. "I certainly wasn't the only one at Beauxbatons who started a year late because of my later birthday."

"When is your birthday anyway?" Ryan asked. "Mine is April Twenty-First."

"September Tenth," Nicolas replied.

"So you ended up starting a year late because your birthday was only nine days after the cutoff?"

"Yeah, that's pretty much it," Nicolas said. "Oh well, it was kinda fun in a way, having an extra year off before starting school, but I must admit that it was also kind of lonely, because most of my friends were able to start on time."

Ryan and Nicolas continued walking, although the crowds in Diagon Alley had grown quite a bit while they were in Madame Malkin's so even with Flourish and Blotts being next door, it was taking awhile to get there. As they were nearing the entrance to the bookstore, someone bumped into Ryan and threw him off balance, but Nicolas managed to catch and steady him.

"I'm so sorry," a teenage girl said. "These crowds are making it almost impossible to see where you're going."

"That's okay," answered Ryan, "no harm done."

"I'm Hermione Granger, by the way," the girl said and held out her hand.

"Ryan Cromwell," Ryan murmured as he shook Hermione's hand. "And this is Nicolas Delaney."

"I don't think I've ever seen either of you around," Hermione said.

"Well, I've lived in France until last month," Nicolas replied. "And Ryan has been in the States for the last six years."

"So, will you be going to Hogwarts now?"

"Yes," Ryan answered. "We're just taking care of getting our school supplies."

"Who're you talking to Hermione?" a raven-haired boy asked as he walked up, along with two redheads.

"This is Ryan Cromwell and Nicolas Delaney," Hermione said. "I almost ran Ryan down, and we got to talking. They're transferring to Hogwarts for their... which year are you guys in?"

"Sixth," Ryan and Nicolas said in unison.

"A pleasure to meet you," one of the red heads said. "I'm Bill Weasley. The other redhead is my brother, Ron and this is Harry Potter."

"So, are you going to be sorted with the first years?" Ron asked.

"No, Professor Dumbledore had us come to his office to be sorted," Ryan answered. "He thought we'd feel too out of place among the first years. I'm in Ravenclaw."

"That's cool," Harry said. "What about you Nicolas?"

"Slytherin," Nicolas answered, and couldn't help but notice the sudden look of indifference on Ron's face. Hermione couldn't help noticing it either. "You'll have to forgive Ron, but he thinks all Slytherins are inherently evil, especially since You-Know-Who was a Slytherin."

"Don't forget that insufferable git Malfoy," Ron muttered.

"Ron, would it kill you to show a little compassion?" Bill asked. "The boy did just lose his mother."

"He's still an insufferable git, and an evil Slytherin bastard."

"Personally, I don't find Draco to be all that bad," Ryan interjected. "Though, I haven't known him very long."

"You've already met Malfoy?" Harry asked.

"Yes, he's my second cousin," Ryan said. "Just met him yesterday though, after my Uncle Charles brought him home, right after what happened at his family's house."

"I knew the name Cromwell sounded familiar," Hermione said. "I saw it in the Daily Prophet yesterday. Malfoy has made it his life's work over the last few years to annoy and insult us, but I'm willing to cut him some slack."

"Hermione are you bloody mad?"

"No, Ron, I'm not mad," said Hermione. "It's just that I don't even want to imagine how hard it must have been for Malfoy to see his own father kill his mother. The article also said that Lucius had been using the Cruciatus on him, so I think he deserves some compassion."

Ron opened his mouth to say something, but Harry stopped him by saying, "Ron, I know you don't agree, so just please agree to disagree. I'm not in the mood to watch my two best friends fighting right now."

"Agreed," Bill said, giving his younger brother a look that said 'Don't even think about arguing with me.'

"Well, we were just about to get our books," Harry said. "Would you care to join us, Ryan, Nicolas?"

"Sure," Ryan replied. "Nicolas and I were just on our way there. I have to buy Draco's books, too."

"He didn't come today?" Hermione asked.

"No, he didn't feel up to it," Ryan said. "So, he just gave us his shopping list and his vault key."

"The goblins actually let you into Draco's vault?" Bill asked.

"Well, my Uncle Charles is Draco's guardian now," Ryan answered. "So, he wrote them a note. I'm here with my cousin Matt and his boyfriend, but they went off to say hello to some old friends from school."

Bill, Harry, Ron, and Hermione nodded before accompanying Ryan and Nicolas into Flourish and Blotts.

* * *

To be continued...