AN: Another chapter. It is brought to you with the help off all those writing reviews keeping my momentum alive! Special thanks this time to DreamOn. Your review came at a moment where I desperately needed some encouragement. So thanks very much to you all for the support.

This is the edited version. I hope that there are now quite a lot less errors ;)

oooOOooo

Growing Family

Saturday, 18th of November

As Dean had asked Harry to accompany him to the meeting with Sirius, and as Snape had insisted that he – as at least a somewhat competent student, able to follow directions – was to prepare and conduct the test, Harry was walking down to Hogsmeade together with the other Gryffindors. Theo and his other friends in Slytherin were walking on their own, planning to meet up for lunch at the Three Broomsticks later on.

"And what's in there?" Dean asked, pointing at a small satchel Harry was carrying over one shoulder.

They just had reached the big gates to the Hogwarts grounds where two adult wizards, bundled up against the cold, were waiting for them, silently falling into step behind the small group without a word.

Harry ignored his bodyguards in favour of answering the question, while Ron scowled. The redhead was unhappy with what he claimed to be Death Eaters following Harry around. If only the other had known how close to the truth he truly was.

"That's everything we'll need to test if my godfather is your father or not." Harry wiggled the satchel a little, resulting in the sound of glass and metal tinkling against each other.

"Why are you the one to conduct the test?" Hermione asked, turning back for a moment to look questioningly at Harry and the others. "Wouldn't it be better to ask an experienced potioneer? Like the one working at the apothecary in Hogsmeade?"

For a moment Harry wondered if she was miffed about the fact that Harry had been asked, and not her. She had been consistently better at Potions than Harry had been in the last few years. But that wasn't really the point here.

"Not sure." Harry shrugged, because he really wasn't. "Sirius asked Professor Snape to help do the test today. But as the Professor had other duties to attend to, he got me out of bed early this morning, dragged me down to his potions lab, and made me do this test a half dozen times." Harry snorted. "I'm absolutely sure that he isn't my father after that." In a way, this was some kind of twisted compliment. Or maybe Snape had done it to make sure Sirius wouldn't come complaining should the test not produce the outcome the man wanted.

Harry's disgruntled expression must have looked quite comical, as the Gryffindors walking with him started to laugh before they all hurried up. They were to meet Sirius at the Three Broomsticks, where he had planned to rent a room, and it wasn't getting any warmer, so they had all reason to make haste for their destination.

ooOOoo

They had decided to walk down to the village as an opportunity to enjoy the weather. It wasn't snowing any longer, but the white stuff covered everything, making for a nice landscape to wander through. Draco was walking up front next to Astoria, followed by the girl's older sister Daphne, while Theo walked fast enough to avoid Pansy and Millicent, who were following closely behind him.

"Have you heard the rumours about Lord Black?" Millicent asked with a squeal in her voice. The girls were much too excited about those stories told at all the tables in the Great Hall, and between lessons in the corridors. After some Gryffindors had started to speculate about Dean Thomas and the possibility that the boy was a half-blood, as he didn't know much of anything about his father, the story had quickly made its way around the school. Combined with a few old stories about Sirius Orion Black going after anyone even only remotely interested while he was at Hogwarts, and during his Auror training, it made for prime gossiping material.

Theo tried to ignore the giggling and whispering, concentrating on his plans for presents he wanted to find during the day in the village. He needed something for Aidan, his younger brother. Theo grinned. It was something new to get regular letters from a younger brother, to have someone to care for. Maybe a pack of Exploding Snap cards, or a few pranks from Zonko's would be the right thing for him. At least Theo was sure he wanted to get something obviously magical that would be fun to play with. Something he had had fun with when he had been Aidan's age.

It didn't take long for them to reach their destination, where they split up into pairs, to go search the shops around the village for presents to give to friends and family. Draco walked through the snow at Theo's side, and they both were silent when they made their way over to one of the smaller stores offering books and assorted little trinkets.

"Do you think that Lord Black will find an heir from one of his many affairs?" Draco asked without preamble.

Theo slipped out of his gloves, folding them and storing them in his cloak pocket, and started to sort through the children's books stacked on a table just past the entrance. Maybe he would find some fairy tale for Aiden among them. "Well, if there is anything to the stories, he might find someone. And considering the puzzle presented by Henry's mother and Heiress Lestrange, he might even find some descendants from a squib line and a likely heir among them." He shrugged. Draco was the heir to the Malfoy family. Why he still thought about the possibility of becoming the heir to the Black family as well... True, Draco was one of the last Blacks left, but only in the maternal line, so Sirius Black had a greater claim on the title. And he was still young enough to have children, might even already have a child somewhere.

Draco growled low in frustration, "Can you be any more evasive, Theo?" as he looked at small trinkets on a shelf near the table Theo was searching for a book. "How is it, being a big brother? It seems that I will become one soon, and I think it would be best to prepare…"

Seeing the insecurity and honest curiosity on his friend's face, Theo started to relay the few things he had learned about being a big brother. After all, Aiden hadn't been part of their family for all that long, and a lot of the time Theo had been at Hogwarts and therefore away from home.

They managed to find a few little tokens for their friends, and a book for Aiden, before they made their way to the Three Broomsticks to meet up with the others for lunch. The number of presents to get this year was somewhat larger than in years past. Getting to know Henry and his friends in Gryffindor had expanded the circle of people he was obligated to give something to. As well as the group of people he wanted to give presents.

Would it be all right to get them all some generic sweets? Or did he need to get something more? It always was a rather delicate balance the first few times.

oooOOooo

After a rather quick breakfast, Minerva had made her way up to her quarters to gather the two clothing bags containing Severus' and her own formal robes. Today was the day her erstwhile student was going to marry. And she was one of the few people invited. The whole secretive cloak-and-dagger routine around it somehow made it even more thrilling.

Chuckling a little to herself, Minerva wondered how old she really was to entertain such young-girl thoughts about drama. But she suspected it was better to enjoy the secrets as if it were a good prank, than be sad about the fact that it seemed necessary to use secretive means in preparation.

Severus had sent his robes to her and asked her to bring them along to the Leaky Cauldron so he would be able to claim gathering ingredients as the reason he would be away the whole weekend. So the animaga checked if she had everything before she stepped up to her floo in the office. She already had told the Headmaster that she would be out for the day, for a nice family gathering in London. As she considered Severus something like a nephew, it wasn't a real lie.

At least she didn't intend to keep up the pretence for long. She would see to it that Severus and his bride would be welcome at Hogwarts. She understood why Severus deemed it necessary to keep the marriage from the Headmaster before it was set in stone, but after this there would be nothing the old meddler – always thinking he knew best – could do to dissolve it. Then she could give the man a piece of her mind.

ooOoo

After changing in a room up in the Leaky Cauldron – if the owner didn't do something soon, it would start to resemble one of the better establishments down Knockturn – Severus briskly walked down the stairs into the main room, where Minerva was waiting near the bar.

She smiled warmly up at him, causing an uncomfortable feeling in his stomach. In a way he wished his mother would be standing there, proud over the fact that he had found a lovely woman to marry. But imagining that situation quickly brought back reality. If his mother were still living, she would be a bitter old woman by now and probably wouldn't be smiling, might not even be here if his father were still alive too.

Pushing those thoughts away, Severus smiled a little, feeling shaky with the enormous undertaking he would embark upon today. Sharing his life and all it entailed with another person. It had been a long time since he last had made such a life-changing decision.

With a deep breath Severus stepped up to his friend, offering her his arm, and walked them both over to the Floo. "Sonja and her father will meet us in the Entrance Hall of the Ministry. Thank you again for agreeing to be my witness." To avoid adding any sappy comments to that, Severus fell silent and allowed his older colleague to precede him through the Floo network.

ooOoo

She spotted him nearly the moment he stepped out of the floo. He was wearing robes in a deep forest green with delicate embroidery at all seams and hems, resembling different leaves and plants used in Potions. The colour looked wonderful on him, and they matched wonderfully with her gown and robes of different shades of lavender, decorated with tiny embroidered flowers. They had selected leaves and flowers of the same plants in an attempt to express their desire to belong together and complement each other from this day forward until the end of their days.

Next to Sonja, her father – in dark blue silken robes of his own – gave her arm a reassuring pat, before he moved to greet his soon-to-be son-in-law and the elder witch behind Severus, in tartan woollen robes.

"I never would have thought that I might say this. But Professor Snape looks dashing!" her friend whispered in Sonja's ear. They were close in age, and when it had become clear that Sonja wouldn't be able to come to Hogwarts, they had fought to stay in contact. It hadn't always been easy to write letters via Sonja's father, or find topics they could talk about to each other, but they had persevered.

"I think so too, Loretta. But I guess you'll have to keep to just looking at him. After today, he's mine." They both chuckled. Loretta had gone to Hogwarts shortly before Severus had started teaching there. In fact, Loretta had only escaped being one of his students because she hadn't been taking Potions at NEWT level. So his first year teaching and her last year at school might have been the same, but they never had interacted in any meaningful way.

They had no time to talk more before the other three came over and a round of introductions followed.

"Shall we move to the family department?" her father asked before he started to walk in the direction of that department, Severus and Professor McGonagall falling in behind him, followed by Loretta and Sonja. On both sides people made room, most of them smiling at the small procession. It was a rather traditional approach to a marriage, so they were getting some of the traditional well-wishes from all sides as they walked through the thinner Saturday morning crowd in the atrium around the rather disturbing fountain in the middle.

It felt as if almost no time at all had passed before they suddenly were standing in front of the office of the official who would lead the ceremony and fill out the forms needed to register their marriage.

After Severus had knocked, it didn't take long for the official to open the door, bow, and wave them into the office. Sonja looked around the small room and found it quite pleasant. It was lightened by a window showing sunshine through fluffy white clouds – something she knew to be charmed to look like this – giving the impression of a nice summer day. The furniture was of high quality, and there was nothing standing around that would distract. Sonja had seen quite a few magical homes over the past years, and more than one had at least some items on display that were either tacky in their grandeur or silly in one way or another.

When she had been a little girl, Sonja had dreamed about what her marriage ceremony would be like, going overboard with unicorns being present and things along those lines. But now that she stood here next to the wizard she loved – even after such a short time, they really had worked on getting to know each other – all her childish dreams paled against reality. The trappings of the thing weren't all that important anyway. What was really important was the man standing at her side, and she couldn't have dreamed up a better one.

"If the bride and her witness could please move over here." The official started to arrange them into their places with a few guiding hand movements and friendly pushes. "The groom over here please." And not a minute later they were all where they should be.

Severus stood turned towards her, a smile in his eyes and even a hint of it around his mouth. Their witnesses stood behind them and slightly to the side, the official to Severus' right, Sonja's father on his left.

They reached for each others hands, and clasped them tightly in the space between them.

"Today we have gathered here to witness the promise between Severus and Sonja, to go through life together. To master all hardships, share all joy. To stand by each other through whatever may come." The official was speaking clearly, his voice smooth with practiced ease, the words flowing without stutters. While the promises were spoken, the man wound a silken ribbon – a white one – around their joined hands and bound it with a complicated-looking knot on top of them.

"Are you willing to keep working on your relationship, hold the promise in your hearts, and provide and take strength for and from each other?"

"I am," they both spoke at the same time, and the ribbon vanished in a bright flash of light.

A little dazed – maybe the magic was somehow responsible for that? – Sonja followed the instructions on where to sign to complete the paperwork, and then they were outside the office again.

The whole ceremony hadn't taken longer than a quarter of an hour.

Loretta hugged Sonja, who was clinging to Severus' hand with all her strength, before she took a step back to beam at her friend. "And now let's go and eat. Shall we?"

Not paying any mind to the world surrounding them, Sonja walked by Severus' side – arms hooked around each other – back to the entrance hall and the floos in there. As the father of the bride, her dad had arranged for a table in a restaurant, and therefore he was the first to leave, shortly followed by the rest of their party.

ooOoo

Over the excellent soup – seated around a small table in a corner of the room, shielded by privacy wards Severus had erected – the five of them held a quiet conversation.

"So have you decided where you want to live?" Sonja's friend asked of him and his bride.

Sonja shook her head, while Severus smiled, relishing the happy feeling caused by the fact that they were now married. "Not yet."

Severus placed his spoon in the now empty plate. "Most of the year I need to be at the school. Sonja works here in London. We're still searching for the best solution." In fact they hadn't really spoken about it. When he claimed the title of Lord Prince, he would get access to at least some old houses, that much he knew. He had made tentative plans to make one of those inhabitable for the both of them.

Minerva cleared her throat. "Well, I checked, and the Deputy Headmistress is in charge of organizing the accommodations of all students as well as the staff of Hogwarts. It's traditional for the spouses of professors to live in the castle, even if they work outside the grounds. And as the building wasn't built only with a school in mind, but to be a safe haven during times of war, there is space in abundance. Plainly, we have many more rooms than we currently need. I'm quite sure that the rooms of the Head of House of Slytherin are big enough for two, or even a family with children." The old witch gave Severus and Sonja a brilliant smile. "If you feel comfortable travelling by floo, you could use the public floo in the post office in Hogsmeade to travel between London and the village for work."

Sonja nodded with a small smile. "That sounds like a good idea, Minerva." The Head of Gryffindor had insisted that Sonja – as the wife of one of her colleagues – use her first name. "I have no trouble travelling by floo, and the walk to the village and back is a nice one."

"Then it's decided. I'll make all the arrangements needed, so everything will be ready when you two come back Sunday evening. And don't worry about the others. I'll make sure they know that you have every right to live together. It won't stop the normal gossip, but it should curb the worst."

Severus rolled his eyes at Minerva, who chuckled. They both knew that the gossip among the staff and student population was one of the few things that never seemed to change. If something was a secret, it typically was known by everyone in a matter of hours. And on top of that, blown horribly out of proportion. Maybe Severus should think up a small speech for an announcement for Sunday evening. The stories the students would come up with could only be worse.

But they wouldn't think about that today. Today was dedicated to celebration, not worrying. There would be enough time for that tomorrow evening.

After the soup, there followed a roast with potatoes and different vegetables. The last course was a trio of different desserts with chocolate and cream. They all enjoyed the food, and the conversation. It was a nice November afternoon in comfortable company.

oooOOooo

When Harry and his friends from Gryffindor stepped into the big hall of the Three Broomsticks, Sirius was sitting at a table near the entrance, waiting for them. The older wizard was obviously nervous and jumped up the moment he spotted the group of teenagers. "Hello! Harry, Ron, Hermione! You have to be Dean Thomas, right?" Taking a few steps towards the dark-skinned boy, extending his hand in greeting, Sirius seemed even more nervous than before.

A little unsure, Dean took the last step to close the gap and took the offered hand. "Nice to meet you too, sir."

Harry nervously shifted from one foot to the other, causing the things in his satchel to make noises when they collided with each other. This was a rather uncomfortable situation all around. That the whole village and large parts of the school got to watch wasn't improving anything.

Blushing, Sirius took a step back. "Please call me Sirius. Snape said Harry would perform the test?" Grey eyes looked questioningly towards Harry, who nodded in confirmation. "And I have a room upstairs reserved for us just for that reason. It's a rather small room, so I guess it's best if only Dean, Harry, and I go upstairs. The rest of you, sit down, order something to drink, I'll pay."

That met with Ron's approval, who had been about to say something – probably something less than ideal, judging by the expression quickly draining from his face – but now he just got out of his patched cloak to slump into one of the chairs. With a roll of her eyes Hermione took one of the other chairs, while Neville, who had been mostly silent, sat between the other two. "I think I'll get a butterbeer, that'll help me get warm again. It's really almost winter now, don't you think?" Ron broke the silence between the Gryffindors now settling in to wait.

While his three friends started to discuss winter-like weather and when the seasons really changed, Harry followed his godfather and Dean up the stairs. The moment he was four steps up, he felt a heavy person follow him and had to roll his eyes, because the two wizards tasked with protecting him on this outings were so determined to follow him everywhere. But if getting tortured for failure was a real possibility, they were probably really motivated to avoid failure.

Or maybe the two working as professional guards just were dedicated to not lose a client on a job. How was he to know their real reasons without asking questions he really didn't want to know the answers to?

When the three of them went into the room Sirius had reserved, the two guards took posts on each side of the door. Somehow Harry felt like he was some kind of prince, and in a way he was, as the heir to two important families... at least close to what a prince would be in the wizarding world.

Sirius closed the door behind them, and Harry walked over to the stone-topped table near a window to set up the equipment he had carried all the way from Hogwarts.

"Your mother and I met the day before yesterday. We didn't recognize each other, but that doesn't mean much. We talked for quite a while and noticed that we were frequenting the same clubs and bars during that time. If you are truly my son," Sirius blushed a little at that, fidgeting nervously in the chair he had selected, before getting up again to pace in the space in front of the fireplace, "we most likely were more than a little drunk when we met. But this will clear the question right up. You'll see."

After that, Sirius' awkward rambling suddenly stopped, and an equally awkward silence filled the room, only broken by the sounds Harry made during his preparations.

He had placed a tiny cauldron over a small burner, and started a flame to heat the container up to the right temperature before he added the first ingredient.

The flame flickered and illuminated the small parchment Harry unfurled next to the cauldron. There was a base of several essences already mixed in a small phial Harry placed on top of the table right above the other ingredients, before he got out a small cutting board, a pair of scales, a blade, and a small mortar and pestle.

He would need to have everything prepared so he could add them in quick succession once the cauldron had reached the right temperature.

"I'll need a hair from each of you," Harry informed Dean and Sirius, who both were avoiding looking at each other. It really was rather uncomfortable to be here with the two of them. If Professor Snape had done this before, he might have come up with an excuse only to not be required to stay in such a situation for any length of time.

Maybe letting Hermione do this would have been better. She never seemed to feel awkward in such situations. Maybe her eagerness for new knowledge helped her to ignore the tension. Busying himself with the preparations, Harry worked on ignoring the rising tension in the room.

As the right temperature was reached, Harry was distracted quite thoroughly by the steps needed to create the potion. It was a quick brew, and took no more than fifteen minutes before a dark, opaque liquid slowly rolled in the tiny cauldron.

"I will first add the hair from Sirius. The potion should become clear with that step. Then I will add the hair from Dean. The potion will change colours again. Depending on what colour it turns you either are father and son, or you're not." Finishing that short explanation, Harry let the dark, straight hair from Sirius drop into the cauldron, continuing to stir in even circles.

"And what colour stands for which result?" Dean wanted to know, leaning forward in the direction of the potion, his hands pressed against the table edge.

"It'll turn the colour of blood – a deep red – if you are related that close, but will turn a pale, almost white if you're not." Harry had dared to ask why the potion turned those particular colours during the preparation in the morning, but had capitulated rather quickly partway into the Potion Master's explanation. For all the work he had invested into getting better in Potions, Harry held no illusions about his ability to gain a NEWT in the subject. It was highly unlikely that he ever would get above the level of a merely competent brewer. He never would reach the understanding of the subject needed to gain a Mastery.

"Now we'll see." Three pairs of eyes followed a curly, dark hair on its way into the potion, where the calm, steady stirring motion quickly dragged it under the surface. One, two full circles the colour remained unchanged, but then it started to change from the dark, clear potion it had been to something lighter.

Three more circles later the whole content looked like milk, proving beyond a doubt that Sirius was not Dean's father.

"Well, that's not what I had been hoping for." Sirius drawled with an embarrassed smile. "I hope we'll get to know each other regardless." Waiting for Harry's nod, Sirius then vanished the potion, so they could pack everything back into the satchel.

"Would you like to have an old prankster at your side today? I've kept the day free, for the other possible outcome." He rubbed his hand along his neck, looking sheepish and undecided.

"I for one would like your help in selecting presents for my friends, and those acquaintances I have to give something, Sirius. You surely remember some of those totally illogical rules that I have to follow," Harry said, while cleaning the tools he had used. Since the summer he had tried to get all those unwritten – and some written – rules into his head, but who could get what for whom still felt like a totally foreign concept.

"I can't promise to know all those rules, but I'm willing to muddle through this challenge together with you," Sirius said with a big grin. "Do you have a list?"

Before Sirius opened the door again, he turned to Dean, who looked a little lost. "I'm sorry that the test came to this conclusion. I'll gladly help you to discover who your father is or was. And if you ever need someone to help you in the wizarding world, I would be happy to be of assistance. You're a good young man, I'm sure you'll reach your goals."

Dean nodded a little stunned, but smiled. "It would have been cool if you had been my father, Sirius. But I guess I'll just have to continue searching."

In good spirits, despite the un-wished-for result, the three made their way down to where the others were waiting, followed by Harry's silent but imposing shadows.

oooOOooo

When the afternoon neared its end, Minerva stood next to Severus and Sonja. "Before you go off for the evening, I think I should transfigure your robes into something that will not stand out so much where you are going. All right?"

"Yes, thank you, Minerva." With a wave of her wand, Severus' robes changed into a suit of black wool, over a shirt of green silk. Getting comfortable in his changed clothes, Severus watched as the Transfiguration Professor changed Sonja's robes into a warm dress. They kept their cloaks the way they had been, bundling up against the cold.

Turning to look at their guests, Severus took his wife's arm – feeling a happy warmth deep inside his heart – and gave a small bow. "Thank you for being part of our wedding. Have a safe journey back home. We're happy that you've been here and look forward to seeing you again soon."

They exchanged words of goodbye before going different ways. Severus and Sonja watching before they turned on the spot, Severus taking them both to an alley near the hotel he had reserved a room in. It was in muggle London, one of the best, and he didn't plan to leave the room at all until they had to return to the castle the next evening.

"If you would follow me, Mrs. Snape," Severus murmured into her hair, eliciting chuckles from her.

"Lead the way, Mr. Snape," she answered, a smirk on her face.

Before he started to walk, Severus bent forwards and captured her lips in a kiss. He was so very happy that she had said yes, and was willing to share her life with him, despite the ugly past he had to carry.

No longer delaying, Severus turned around and led the way into the hotel and up to the receptionist. "Hello, I've booked the honeymoon suit, Snape is the name."

ooOoo

Sonja looked around appreciatively, taking in the exquisite woods, fabrics, and décor. If she hadn't known that her father was rather rich, and Severus would get control over the fortune of an old family in the near future, she would have felt the room more than a little extravagant.

There even was a bowl of strawberries and a bottle of champagne waiting for them. The berries looked good, but considering the time of year, their quality was questionable. Or did magically produced fruits make it into high-end muggle hotels?

Severus tossed their cloaks over an armchair right next to the entrance before he sauntered past her to open the bottle of champagne, expertly filling the two glasses with the bubbly liquid.

With a smile she accepted the glass and stole a kiss before she kicked off her heels. Her feet were killing her, even with the cushioning charms her friend had put on the shoes, they weren't made to be comfortable for this long.

"What do you think, my love, a nice hot bath to get warm, before we take a look to see if the bed is as good as the price for the room suggests?"

Sonja had trouble not giggling over Severus' exaggerated, suggestive tone. It was a good plan, she wasn't really cold, but a warm bath together with her husband sounded wonderful. She gave him a heated look and a slow smile. "I think this plan of yours is perfect, love. But I will need help to get out of this dress. Do you think you'll be able to provide the help needed?"

Her dark wizard sipped on his glass, and smirked at her. "I guess I can do that." He suddenly got a serious expression, and got a small phial out of a pocket with one hand, offering it to her.

"A contraceptive potion, Severus?" she asked him. Until now she hadn't bothered to take one regularly, and the two of them had used the charm when they had had need of it. They hadn't really talked about it, but when they had tested Severus' attempt to create a potion to test a couple for their combined prospect of having magical children, he had told her that Lord Slytherin was determined to shore up the magical population. She had somehow assumed they would try for children from the start.

"We haven't even found a home for us yet. I thought it should be up to you to decide when…" A little flustered, and blushing, Severus wiggled the phial at her.

So she took it, turned it over in her hand, and sat it down next to the bowl filled with ice cubes and strawberries. Then she looked up to Severus, taking in his calm expression. He left the decision to her, even when she knew that Lord Slytherin still had quite some sway over those who had sworn themselves to him.

She gave him a smile. "I don't want to wait, Severus. There isn't really an ideal time for starting a family. But you and I have everything we really need. And there is no guarantee it'll work out with the first try. So I won't need that, darling."

Taking their glasses of champagne with them into the bathroom, the two of them started on Severus' plan for the evening. There were no long conversations that evening. But they came to the agreement that the bed was as good as the price for the room had suggested.

oooOOooo

Sunday, 19th of November

Watching his deputy during lunch – quite a few students who had missed breakfast were eating with fervour at their house tables – Albus came to suspect that she was up to something. She was a really good Head of House and Transfiguration professor, but first of all she was a Gryffindor and not used to scheming. It was obvious she was up to something, the question was, what was it she was doing?

Well, there wasn't a real reason not to ask her. "Minerva, what has you so distracted today? Is there something to be done I have been neglecting? Some parents asking for special lessons? One of the professors asking for new equipment?" She had tried once or twice in the past to handle such requests without involving him, when she thought he was bogged down with other responsibilities.

It was a trait useful in a deputy, but her tendency to only inform him after the fact was something he really didn't like. He might not need to do everything himself, but he liked to be informed about everything going on in his school.

"Nothing like that, Albus. Just organizing some changes in accommodations for one of the professors. It will be done before dinner is served. The elves are eager to help, but have had more than one question so far, so they keep interrupting me to get their answers. No need for you to get involved." She patted him on his arm, before she took another roll from the basket sitting between their plates.

Albus furrowed his brow. Why would one of the professors need changes to their quarters? And that in such dimensions that the elves had to work more than a few minutes at them? It was rather curious. "Oh, what a curious thing." He knew he wouldn't be able to let it rest, and normally Minerva wasn't inclined to keep something like this from him once he had noticed. "What have you ordered them to do? Is one of ours moving quarters?" He took a sip from his red wine, it went rather well with his roasted chicken breast.

The dark, almost furious look on Minerva's face took Albus by surprise. But before he could react, she gave him a caustic reply. "Severus needs a few changes finished before he comes back this evening. I agreed to oversee their execution. And frankly, it's none of your business, Headmaster. These matters fall into my responsibility, and I'm more than capable of seeing them done. If he chooses not to inform you of the specifics, that's his right."

Severus? Now Albus was truly surprised. What could his young Potions Professor need changed in his quarters? And why wouldn't his spy inform him? There weren't many reasons for the young wizard to keep something from him, ever since the day Severus had come to beg for protection for Lily and her family, he had been open with everything.

But thinking back to everything that had changed in the months since Tom had not only regained his body but also claimed the title of Lord Slytherin, and managed to get back into society, it was entirely possible that Severus wasn't any longer as tightly bound to him as he had been in the past. There was no doubt Severus was still determined to protect Lily's son, but as the boy was now the legal son of Tom, this was a rather dangerous shift in the dynamics.

Slowly continuing his meal, Albus was aware that Minerva was silently fuming beside him. It seemed she wasn't happy with him, but what exactly her problem was remained unclear. But if he knew Minerva at all, she wouldn't keep silent for long. She had a tendency to speak her mind, even if she was mature enough to not do so in the middle of the Great Hall in front of the whole school.

And true to his expectations – he really knew all his employees rather well – she huffed once they both rose after finishing their meal. With silent amusement, Albus noted that she barely restrained herself from ranting at him.

They were walking up the stairs in the direction of the Headmaster's office when she prevented him from asking her by letting that rant lose.

"After this evening it will no longer be a secret, so I will warn you now, Albus Dumbledore. If you make life for Severus and his new wife harder than it already will be, just because they didn't ask for your approval first, I will make sure that you will regret it. Do I make myself clear? There are some of the finest pranksters in my House, and I'm sure some of Severus' Slytherins would be happy to help as well. Leave him be. Or bear the consequences!" She stormed off and changed into her animagus form before Albus had a chance to react.

Severus was married? If that was true, the whole situation was rather more out of control than he had thought. When Severus had told him that Tom was determined to do something about the current state of their population, Albus had wondered what methods he would use.

Was this part of Tom's plan? Or had Severus finally let go of his guilt? It seemed rather far-fetched to assume Severus was even capable of forgiving himself for his past errors. Had the man turned against the light? Had he nurtured a viper in their midst? Considering that Severus was a Master Occlumens, there were no easy ways to make sure of his allegiance.

What a mess.

Deep in thought, Albus made his way up to his office, where he walked slowly over to stand by Fawkes to look out over the snow-covered grounds. How could he make sure that his only spy in the enemy's camp was still truly his? It was imperative that he manage to find a way. Maybe Alastor would be able to provide some ideas on how to achieve this. Minerva certainly didn't seem to be on his side in this.

oooOOooo

It had been a nice day in the village yesterday. Today they had stayed indoors, finishing up homework and redoing notes so they wouldn't have so much to do in preparation for revision before their OWLs next spring.

Now Harry was sitting in his room on the floor, surrounded by all the small things he had bought on his tour with Sirius, and his friends. The groups had changed frequently during the day, as they all tried to not let their friends see what they were getting for them. Now Harry was checking his list of people he had to give a gift to with the things he had bought to get a list of those he still needed to find something for.

He just had finished attaching small scraps of parchment with names to the things he already had, when there was a knock on the door. "One moment!" Harry called out, quickly dumping everything into the two charmed burlap bags he wanted to use to store the things in until he could wrap them closer to the holidays.

When Harry made it over to the door and opened it, Theo was standing there, his chess set in hand, smiling. "Do you have time for a game of chess? Some third-years are making a fuss in the common room, and Crabbe and Goyle are doing something in the dorm I don't want to think about. Can I ask for shelter here with you?"

Harry snorted. "Sure, come in, Theo. What exactly are Vincent and Gregory up to?" He wasn't really sure he wanted to know, but his curiosity had always been a force to be reckoned with.

"It looks like they're sorting out their trunks. Maybe for the first time in ever. I don't really want to know." Theo walked in and over to the rug in front of the fireplace, looking at the burlap bag sitting on the chair there. "Have you found something for everyone?"

Harry followed and shook his head sadly. "No. I managed to get most of it, but I have serious trouble with what to get for my godfather or my… father. You know his birthday is during the holidays as well. Do you give something to your father for his birthday?"

Theo nodded, sat down, and started to set out the chess board. "I do, actually. I think it's customary. Most of the time I find something that Father collects and get him one of those. At least I have done so since I was old enough to owl-order on my own. But it's really not easy. You still have a few weeks, though. White or Black?"

"I have an idea for Sirius. He was a real prankster, so I guess I'll get something from the Weasley twins for him, maybe arrange a contact between them so they can work together on some pranks. I think the three of them would love that. But for… Father… well, it's rather hard, it's not like I really know him that well." Harry sat down opposite his friend, pushing a stack of catalogues under the love seat. "I guess I'll have to search for a bit. I'll take white, I can use any advantage I can get."

Laughing at his friend, Theo turned the board so the white chess-men were standing near Harry, and then waited for the green-eyed teenager to make the first move. "That's true, but you are getting better."

They spend a nice afternoon playing a few games of chess. Theo won two out of three games, to Harry's secret glee. Against Ron he never managed to win. To win even one game was so much better.

oooOOooo

It was a rather odd request that brought Malcolm Greengrass to Griffin House today. His Lord had asked him to gather and deliver some rather special literature. When the Dark Lord asked for this, Malcolm had been rather shocked. Something like that wasn't even talked about in polite society, that he would ask for his Healer to procure and deliver such was unusual at the least.

So now here he was, different shrunken books and magazines of what amounted to pornography in his pockets, still guessing why his Lord wanted them and hadn't bought them himself.

Malcolm smirked because he certainly had had a fun afternoon, searching through the family's rather extensive collection of moving photographs, animated artwork, and texts on this topic, to find a broad selection just as his Lord had instructed. But while the search had been fun, the thoughts now circling around his mind were rather less so. Because he certainly hadn't wanted to think about his Lord in such a context. That he had been asked to provide not only material showcasing different witches, but also wizards, and to provide material geared to different interests and preferences, had sparked the question if maybe the Dark Lord had never found a sexual preference.

The thought of being caught thinking over the possible scenario of the Dark Lord's still being a virgin wasn't one Malcolm liked entertaining.

When he reached the door – bundled up in his best travelling cloak over warm woollen robes – an elf opened the door, waving him into the entrance hall. "Flimm will be informing Master Marvolo about you being here, Healer. Please wait." And before he could react in any way, the elf had popped out of the room, most likely to wherever the Dark Lord currently was.

Before Malcolm had managed to banish his speculations from his mind, the Dark Lord walked into the hall, coming from deeper in the building. Without a seconds hesitation, Malcolm went to one knee, bowing his head in proper greeting.

"Malcolm, you have what I asked for?" The question was asked in such a normal tone of voice that the younger wizard could forget for a moment what it was he had stashed in his pockets.

"I have, my Lord. I hope what I have found will meet with your approval." But the scandalous nature of those books was not forgotten for long, causing him to blush, to his mortification. The chuckle coming from the Dark Lord at the same moment only served to deepen his embarrassment.

"Follow me." Without further instruction the Dark Lord turned to walk down the corridor to the study Malcolm had seen the other times he had been in this house. Aware that the powerful wizard wouldn't wait for him, Malcolm hurriedly got up from his knee and walked quickly so as not to fall behind any farther.

Once inside the study, the Dark Lord waved his hand at the table between them as if to demand that Malcolm present his findings. So that was what the Healer did, getting out the stacks of parchment, bound books, and framed sensual images, to enlarge them so they were once again easy to see.

With reluctant curiosity Malcolm watched as the Dark Lord started to sort through the items with an expression of almost horrified fascination almost hidden behind a mask of indifference. Only another little fact sparking Malcolm's imagination. He really would have preferred to be able to pretend that his Lord didn't have a sex-life, and wasn't interested in one at all. But as he was the man's Healer, he probably wouldn't be able to do that. It was a little ridiculous that he was so embarrassed by this topic.

"I assume that there is a way to ascertain if a person has a body capable of all normal reactions pertaining to procreation?" the Dark Lord asked delicately, carefully selecting his words to formulate his request.

Malcolm now was sure that his Lord had no real experience with sex. Hopefully the man had at least an academic understanding. Having the Talk with his Lord as the one explaining would be mortifying. "There are several diagnostic spells to make certain that these bodily functions are healthy." He took a deep breath, he was a Healer, the Dark Lord's personal Healer, he had tortured in the past. There was no reason he should blush like a young schoolgirl or a prudish old maid over this topic. "Have you experienced problems in this area, my Lord?"

With a contemplative look the Dark Lord made a vague gesture. "I'm unsure. When I was a teenager I noticed certain reactions. But they never were connected with circumstances typically associated with them. Since I regained a body, there haven't been any reactions at all." Suddenly deep red, blazing eyes were focused on him. With a suddenly dry mouth Malcolm had trouble swallowing.

"These," the Dark Lord waved his hand once over the materials laid out on the table, "will help me in the exploration of this matter. But as this body might still be faulty, I guess it would be wise to ascertain there are no… health problems involved."

Hiding behind his professional education in everything regarding the body, Malcolm got out his wand and silently asked for permission to cast the diagnostics needed, which was given with a small nod.

About twenty minutes later a relieved Malcolm was on his way home. The diagnostics had proven that the Dark Lord was perfectly healthy in that regard. But he had to ask the man to endeavour to eat a more diverse diet, adding more vegetables and whole grains, to make sure it stayed that way. With a lighter heart and a mind full of disturbing ideas, Malcolm headed to the nearest point he could apparate from. Maybe he could search for some company tonight. There still was this order to find a partner, maybe he should spend more of his time trying to follow it. With his mind made up, the young Healer decided he would search in earnest this winter season.

oooOOooo

AN: I have the feeling that a few of you will be happy with the outcome of the paternity test, and some will be not. To see if Sirius has a child or children already we will have to wait some more time. Finding an expert isn't easy ;)

I hope my take on a marriage ceremony is plausible, it's the first time I have written something like this, and it's unlike some of the wizarding ceremonies I have read in different stories.

Thanks to Jordre and Jake for helping to improve my spelling!

First published on the 11th of August 2017 (it is where I live ;) )

Next chapter planned for 25th of August 2017

last edited 12th of August 2017