AN: With chapter 77 a guest left the 4000th review on this story. Thanks to your constant support I was able to keep writing even on days I didn't feel all that inspired ;). Thank you all!

oooOOooo

Childish

Thursday, 11th of January 1996

"So, you have found her?" Sirius asked, his heart suddenly stuttering in his breast, hope rising. He had done his best to keep himself occupied, distracted from what was happening with the search for his twin daughters. But now with the wizard he had tasked with finding them and their mother standing – well, sitting – before him, he no longer could hide behind empty flirtations and the obligations of being Lord Black.

"It's likely." The man answered with a nod, accepting a cup of tea from Remus. "The file on her at the university in Paris points to her place of birth being on Martinique. That's an island in the Caribbean that belongs to France. I went to the magistrate to check if I could get her current address, but it'll take several weeks until I get an answer from them."

Remus sat down on the last empty chair, placing one of the muffins Kreacher had made onto his plate, before sitting back to ask a question. Sirius was so glad his best friend was living in his house, helping him with all the difficult stuff. "And travelling over there will help find her quicker?"

Sam nodded again. "It's usually easier to go directly to the source, so to speak, then relying on others to go through several layers of bureaucrats."

Sirius took a muffin as well, slowly nodding. It probably was true, bureaucrats were a pest. "You think she still lives there?"

"And if she doesn't, I probably can find family of hers, or friends. Which would help locate her." Sam sounded confident, and Sirius had to agree that he had a point.

"Did you make a copy of the file?" Remus wanted to know. He always had been the most sensible of the four of them.

"I did." With a flick of his wand Sam enlarged a small stack of paper he got out of his robe pocket, floating it over to where Sirius was sitting.

With a funny feeling in his guts – was he nervous? Surely not! – Sirius captured the floating file and opened it up so he could read it. "Marine Biology?" What could they even talk about when they would meet? It was bad enough that Sirius couldn't remember a thing about that night. But that they would have nothing in common was just as bad. Wasn't there a way that they could avoid meeting each other?

"Thank you, Sam, please start arranging everything you need to go to Martinique." Remus interjected while Sirius started to panic. "Either by plane or portkey is fine. I think the magical community isn't all that big on the smaller Caribbean islands."

Sam quickly finished his cup of tea and stood. "That's probably true. Not enough magicals to warrant regular international portkeys. I'll have to inquire when the next connection by portkey is available. But I guess by plane should be faster. I'll send word once I know for sure when I'll be travelling."

And then the private investigator was gone, and Remus sat down next to Sirius, placing a calming hand on his shoulder. "Deep breaths, Sirius. You want to meet Nawel and Enora. And I'm sure Miss Moreau will be willing to tell you all about the girls you have missed. There alone is weeks of topics for conversation and a basis to build from to get to know her. You'll be fine."

"Will I? We don't even know if she will allow contact between me and her daughters. And look here." He gestured dramatically with the opened file in his hand. "She finished her dissertation. Despite the fact she had just become a mother! Can you imagine how that had to have been? Working on a dissertation and caring for two babies?" Sirius shook his head. That sounded almost impossible to manage for him. It had been hard to comprehend how James and Lily had managed to be parents to one child, together!

"That certainly wasn't easy, I give you that. But there is no need to panic before Olivienne is even found. You managed to successfully complete Auror training. You're now working to bring order back to the assets of the Black family, and on top of that you're working in the government. I'm not sure how it happened," Remus teased, "but you're an adult now."

To a claim such as this, there was only one possible reaction. Sirius gave his friend an unimpressed look and then cast a charm at Remus that would have turned his hair bright blue, if the infuriating man hadn't managed to dodge it.

It engendered a duel through the whole house between Sirius and Remus, using only prank spells. It worked wonders to clear Sirius' head from gloomy thoughts, and ended with them both coloured in odd combinations, with hair standing on end and their voices sounding decidedly off.

The day ended on a happy note. Pranks and silliness were simply what Sirius needed in big doses at least once a week.

oooOOooo

Sunday, 14th of January 1996

"Have you taken your potion, Albus?" Aberforth stood in the door to his own small kitchen and patiently asked the question for the third time. Just as he had done every morning, noon, and evening since his brother had been released from the hospital.

Looking very much distracted, Albus finally looked up from the book he was reading, turning a little so he could make eye contact with the very much annoyed Aberforth. There was no way he could be paid enough to put up with his older brother. And he wasn't being paid at all!

"I'm sorry, did you say something?" Albus smiled his charming grandfather smile, and Aberforth had the sudden urge to go open a new bottle of the strongest firewhiskey he had in the bar.

"Yes, Albus. I did say something." He did not sound as calm as he would have liked. "Have you taken your potion?" Enunciating each word as clearly and slowly as he did whenever one of his patrons got a little more drinking in than was properly wise.

"I did take my potion. You gave it to me with the plate of scrambled eggs." Now Albus sounded as if Aberforth was the one not paying attention.

Aberforth rolled his eyes and walked over to where he had stored the potions. "It's noon, Albus. Time for another dose. Do I need to feed it to you? Or did you just get lost in a book again?"

Aberforth couldn't see his brother's expression, with his back turned, while he got out another phial of the potion from behind the wards he had set.

"I have to confess I greatly enjoy having the time to catch up on my reading. It's something I didn't really get to do the last few decades. I'll take the potion and then will call one of the Hogwarts elves to provide us with some food."

Aberforth didn't comment on Albus' continued insistence on getting food from the Hogwarts kitchens, instead checking on the wards he had put up mostly so he would know if his older brother tried to tamper with the potions he needed to take. So far everything was fine. He did indeed seem to get better from day to day. Maybe come February Aberforth would be alone again.

Setting down the phial on the table next to his brother, Aberforth gruffly turned around to leave again. "I'll have to check on my stores, see what I need to order more of. I'll be back for food." Seeing that Albus was recovering was good. But at the same time Aberforth wished his brother would show a little remorse for his actions. It probably had been too much to hope for from the beginning.

oooOOooo

Wednesday, 17th of January 1996

They'd been back at school for barely a week, and Harry felt in need of holidays again.

OWL year was intense.

With a slight umpf, and the sound of a heavy object placed down on the floor, Harry sat his bag down next to the table his group had claimed in the common room to study. The girls had objected against using the boys' dorm for further study. Pansy had claimed that they never did clean their room. Harry wasn't really sure if that was accurate – he strongly suspected the elves cleaned under the mess with magic – but no one had been in the mood to argue with Pansy.

So their study group was meeting in the common room. After the seventh years had admonished the younger students to please refrain from speaking above a whisper just at the beginning of the week, it was much quieter in here than in the library. Add the fact that there was no fear of losing face before students from any other House, it seemed that the Slytherins actually preferred to study here in what could be called privacy.

Sometimes one just needed to express the frustration of trying to remember all those details about a plant, or the names of all the many moons of Saturn.

Without prompting Theo moved over to make room for Harry. "What did Weasley want?"

"He was playing owl for the twins." Harry answered, diving under the table to get out his cards with dates of various important points in history. "I think he wants to save up some money for the next Hogsmeade weekend, and the twins make a joke out of it." Harry tossed the scrap of parchment that had been sealed when Ron had handed it over, waiting for Harry after his last day of classes, over to Theo. The slender boy caught it with ease, his eyes then moving quickly over the short text.

After a snort Theo tossed the note back, managing to make it land first on Harry's head before it fell down to come to rest on the floor next to where Harry still was searching for his notes. "Must have been like living among doxies, growing up with those two as brothers."

Harry nodded distractedly. The twins basically had only told him that their market research was going well and that they simply loved sending their brother around for no reason at all. Remembering the story about the transfigured teddy bear, Harry hummed in agreement. "From what they've told me, and what their family tells, they were right horrors. Ahh! There they are!" Finally successful, Harry emerged from his quest to settle back into the pillows stacked on their seats.

Draco was deeply entranced in his notes a few seats over, Daphne was patiently explaining something to Vincent and Gregory, who both had the expressions on their faces that harry associated with them concentrating. Most of the others were either rewriting their notes or reading various textbooks. This time between the last lesson and dinner quickly had become time for either homework to be finished, or revision, quietly in their common room, sometimes in the library taking advantage of Hermione's extensive notes and reference list.

Both activities had taken over every moment of spare time they had. It was taxing. Harry had decided to use the Friday Defence club meetings to work on his practical defence, reducing the needed preparation by a lot. It didn't bring him any actual free time, as the Slytherin Quidditch team was still insisting that he help them train.

With a resigned sigh – there was no way Marvolo would allow him to slack off – Harry turned the cards so the names of battles, treaties and stuff was facing him and started on his attempt to remember as many dates as he could.

Their table descended into the silence of concentration, only disturbed twice by younger students creeping by on the way to their dorms, and Harry distractedly placed the cards either on his left or right depending on whether he had remembered them correctly or not.

"Harry, I think your bag is buzzing." Theo said, eyes trained on a diagram of a half-section of some plant stem.

"My bag is buzzing?" Which year had it been that Albert Boot had resigned as Minister for Magic in the aftermath of a goblin rebellion?

An elbow to the side startled Harry enough to make him take note of the world around him. Theo gave no indication that he had been the one wielding that sharp, pointy elbow, but Harry had no time to complain about that because the buzzing was indeed coming from his bag.

Marvolo was calling on the mirror!

Only seconds later – history notes forgotten on the table – Harry was heading for his room, mirror in hand, accepting the call. "Sorry, was studying and didn't notice the mirror right away." Harry said by way of a greeting, only to startle when a high pitched giggle reached his ear.

"You have ink on your nose!" Two faces were grinning out of the mirror, bringing a smile to Harry's face.

"Thanks for pointing that out. I'll have to wash it off before I go to dinner. Remind me?" Harry reached his room and walked over to the desk. "Here, Marcus, I put the picture you sent me up next to my desk! I had to ask around to get a little Spell-O-Tape. If I remember, I'll buy a roll when we get to go to the village the next time."

"Look, Marvolo! There it is! Harry put it right there next to his desk!" Harry shared a moment of fond exasperation as Marcus obviously felt the need to repeat what just had been said for Marvolo, who had heard everything anyway. They both had noticed that tendency while they had cleaned out the snake enclosure. It seemed to be something pretty normal for the kid.

"And I see that there's lots more empty space right there next to the picture of .:Slithering Darkness:. Maybe Nagini will be willing to pose for another picture?" Marvolo suggested, using the Parseltongue version of the snake's name.

With an excited shout and no parting words, Marcus vanished from the mirror – Marvolo's flinch indicating that he might have hurt the man in some way in his enthusiasm – and only his running steps could be heard as he moved away from where Marvolo was still sitting.

"I think it's almost certain that you'll get a new picture soon," Marvolo said with a smile. "How's school?"

"Exhausting," Harry answered with feeling, walking over to his bed to sit down heavily. "I didn't notice before, but I have to repeat, fifth year is really hard. And I mean it! Really, really hard. And what I can see of the seventh years, NEWTs aren't any easier. I have no idea how anyone was willing to enter that blasted tournament of their own free will while also preparing to take those exams. It's madness!"

Harry gave Marvolo a half-hearted glare as the man had the audacity to actually chuckle. "Keep an eye out for the trade in illegal and mostly fraudulent offers of mind-enhancing substances that surely will start up soon enough. At least there was a market for that stuff back when I was a prefect. Dragon claw was sought out frequently. I'm still appalled that it was so easy to sell basically chalk dust or powdered sugar, claiming it was powdered dragon claw. I'm sure that many a busy entrepreneur managed to make a pretty Knut with such trades."

"Does that actually work?" Harry sighed, leaning back against one of the posts of his bed. He would forego his scheduled reading of his transfiguration notes today in favour of a little more sleep.

"If it's real powdered dragon claw it does. But that would be cheating, which is forbidden, and in all three years of being involved with the prefects at Hogwarts there never was any actual powdered dragon claw confiscated. So, don't risk it, Henry."

"Hadn't planned on it. But I'm sure Hermione will have a little breakdown once the trading starts. She still doesn't approve of the twins' selling of prank products, and their tests with various volunteers." Harry smiled a fond smile. Hermione and her love of rules could be infuriating at times. But that she had bent, or broken, those rules for him in the past only made her friendship that much more precious. What had she said back in first year? They could have been killed, or worse, expelled!

"Go eat something, Henry. And then go to bed, you look as if you haven't slept at all since going back to Hogwarts." There was actual concern in Marvolo's voice, Harry was pretty sure of it. "Did you have trouble sleeping? Odd dreams? Out of place feelings?"

Now Harry sat up straighter with surprise. Why would Marvolo inquire after symptoms of their odd connection bleeding through again? "No, nothing of the kind. Just too much homework, panicky friends, and long hours studying. And Professor Snape checked my shields first weekend back. He said they were adequate, but there was still a lot of room for improvement." Harry tried for a fair impersonation of Snape, only earning himself an eye roll. "Did you have troubles?" The question was out before Harry's mind could catch up with his mouth. He had asked out of concern, but it was too easily interpreted as Harry doubting Marvolo's capability to maintain strong shields around his mind. It probably wasn't the best idea to go around questioning the wizard's ability.

"No, I didn't have problems. But I haven't slept as much as I should either. Flimm has taken to starting to clean where I can see him when it's getting really late. I never noticed before how passive-aggressive house-elves can be if they think their masters are being unreasonable." Marvolo smiled again. "I wanted to remind you that the January Wizengamot session is soon. We'll bring in the changes to the adoption laws and procedures, just to give you a heads up. I think we should be successful. Too many from different blocs agree with us. But one never should be too sure. Now, you go eat dinner, and I'll check in on Marcus and Nagini. It looks as if one of the other kids might be taking an interest in what Marcus is drawing. Have a good evening and see you tomorrow!"

The mirror suddenly only showed fabric – probably Marvolo's robes – and Harry could hear Marvolo asking someone what they were doing. Deciding that he should indeed go to have dinner, Harry ended the call, slipping the mirror into one of his robe pockets.

It wasn't long until the weekend, and at least then he would have the opportunity to sleep in a little. It sounded like heaven. Having a room to himself had definite advantages in that respect. No early risers to disrupt his sleep.

Humming to himself, Harry returned to the common room where he gathered the others around him so everyone would get a decent meal before returning to homework and revision.

oooOOooo

Thursday, 18th of January 1996

It had been a successful breakfast meeting. In preparation for the Wizengamot session the next day, Marvolo and his allies in this particular matter had met at Nott House to work out what they needed to do on the next day to achieve their goals.

It had been a rather unusual gathering. Beside his usual allies – Lucius and his political following, Xerxes, Benjamin and the others – Madame Longbottom had been there, bringing quite a few of her friends. One of them Black, who had made sure Marvolo knew that he was still watching what went on at Griffin House and whenever Marvolo interacted with the public. It had been amusing for a few moments.

There had also been others who usually were to be found in the groups labelled light and grey, or sometimes neutral and liberal, willing to listen why they proposed the changes they were about to introduce.

The Minister had been absent, as had Madame Bones, but in the end it was better not to show their hand too soon. That two of the most important members of the Wizengamot because of their position in the Ministry were on their side wasn't something that they needed to be talked about widely before it became obvious during the session.

They still hadn't managed to find who had cleared roadblocks for Miss Summers so the disastrous, half-baked changes to the adoption procedures could have been enacted. And as long as they hadn't found whoever had taken over from that pink cow Dolores Umbridge, they couldn't really look out for where the attempts to hinder them might come from.

Marvolo walked at Xerxes' side until the old wizard had to take another path up to the building which held the offices, teachers' lounge and other such rooms. He had to finish up some paperwork as he had explained before, and now parted only with a nod to his Lord and friend.

Marvolo himself had come by because he wanted to visit Marcus. It was early still, so the child would be in school. But at this age quite a bit of the day was spent with crafts, games, or story time. Xerxes had been sure that Marvolo would be welcome to read the students a story – Marvolo was sure he hadn't imagined the humour in Xerxes' eyes – and had sent a note to the school before the meeting had started.

Seeing the young Marcus without Henry around was different, but just as he had promised his son, and as he had promised himself, he wouldn't be scared away by the unknown. If he could confidently make an old ritual work without complete information, which hadn't been performed successfully in hundreds of years, he could manage to do something people all around the world did every day.

He would be a father to the best of his abilities.

When Marvolo stepped into the classroom where Marcus and the other kids his age where sitting, all the children were colouring something. Or maybe drawing. It was hard to say from where he stood, trying to catch the eye of the teacher who currently was crouching next to a kid, probably explaining something.

So Marvolo walked over to have a better look over the room, searching the bowed heads for Marcus, finding him moments later, looking unhappily down onto the picture before him. Marvolo felt a smile tug at the corners of his mouth. Marcus looked kind of cute – just as small cats did – with a frown on his face.

In the wake of that thought came a wave of horror. How could it have happened that he, the Dark Lord, thought something or someone looked cute?

He took a deep breath.

The last returned piece of soul had once again brought another piece of humanity back to him. It really wasn't as dramatic a change as he had experienced after the ritual giving him a body. But the small things still managed to startle him.

Marvolo was brought out of his thoughts by the teacher coming over to him with a smile on her face. "Lord Slytherin, welcome! The children are drawing their favourite animals at the moment. I want to include stories and information on them over the next few weeks. After that a bit of playing in the yard is planned." She was speaking hurriedly, or maybe she always talked at that speed. Marvolo wasn't sure he cared either way. "After that will be lunch. Are you willing to help me keep an eye on the children during playtime and lunch?"

Marvolo really would have liked to spend time with Marcus alone, as the other children weren't all that important to him. But he supposed that wasn't something that charming, young Lord Slytherin could say out loud. He had to appear as the young wizard willing to be social with everyone if he wanted to get Marcus into his family. "I have no prior experience with keeping so many children safe at the same time. But I'm certainly willing to help you out." Best to make sure the woman knew he had no real clue how to handle a bunch of young kids. Surely keeping bloodthirsty adults in line didn't count as previous experience for this?

"You won't be alone with them, Lord Slytherin. So I see no possible problems."

If he had been superstitious, her assurance would have fit really well in that moment, because from where the children were sitting a stirring of wild, raw magic caught Marvolo's attention.

"Give me the green one!"

"No!"

"But I need it! NOW!"

"I had it first!"

"You've had it too long!"

"I need it this long!"

Two children were arguing about something. And they were getting agitated enough that at least one of them had started to let their magic lose. With a worried frown the teacher started to walk over quickly, already speaking while she approached. "What is the matter here? There's no need to shout. You know the rules. If there's a disagreement, we inform an adult."

Marvolo refrained from scoffing. He remembered well enough that informing an adult would be considered tattling, and those who tattled were not well received by the others. If one wanted to fit in, you either learned to resolve problems quietly, got others to just do as you asked, or always gave in.

Maybe that wasn't the way it always was, but nothing he had seen or heard since his own childhood in the company of too many children and too few caring adults, had led him to believe his view was anything but right.

While the situation was steadily sliding into total chaos, Marvolo noted that Marcus was the child who desperately wanted the green pencil – or was it a crayon? – and the other seemed to be an equally stubborn girl.

"No you don't!"

"Do! I'm drawing a dragon! A Welsh Green! See, they're green!" She seemed obviously smug with her deduction, and convinced that she was safe with that.

Marcus did not seem inclined to let it go this easily, and grabbed to take the pencil from the girls hand. "I've waited long enough! I'm working on a snake, I need the green too!"

Before the teacher had managed to squeeze through the group of other children who had turned to watch and didn't really listen to her demanding they make room, magic exploded out from the two fighting children, blowing papers and drawings into the air, pencils flying around, paper ripping.

It was a mess, and on instinct Marvolo let his magic rush out to suspend all the flying objects in the air. The image of a pencil burrowed in a kid vividly painted itself in his mind.

Gently lowering the art supplies to the floor, Marvolo wondered which of the children was responsible for this strong display of accidental magic. And while he contemplated the ramifications of someone so young displaying such a strongly destructive magical force at such a common thing as simple frustration, the teacher was berating Marcus.

"That was naughty of you, Marcus! Attacking another like that! You'll stay here with Lord Slytherin, cleaning up the mess you made, while the others get to play outside in the snow. And you'll apologize for all the pictures you have destroyed after you're done! No dessert for you today." Without even asking Marvolo if he was agreeable to watching over the punishment she just ushered the other children out of the classroom leaving Marvolo alone with a Marcus who was sitting rigidly in his small chair, his small hands balled into fists, and his face turned towards the ground.

Marvolo sighed. That was oddly familiar. Maybe the teacher had seen something he didn't, but at the moment Marvolo couldn't have told if the girl or Marcus had caused the mayhem. And even if Marcus had not reacted the best way to his frustration over having to wait so long, the girl hadn't helped at all in defusing the situation. Putting the blame solely on Marcus seemed rash to Marvolo.

He carefully walked over to where Marcus was still sitting, lowering himself onto the much-too-small chair next to the young wizard. "Are you hurt, Marcus?" Marvolo hoped that the teacher would look the other children over while they were outside. He was reasonably sure that he had caught everything in time. Before the flying objects could hurt anyone, but he wasn't sure.

As the only reaction he got from Marcus was the boy's turning away a little bit more, stiffening his posture, Marvolo sighed again.

This would be anything but easy. With all the practice he had in manipulating people by promising them what they thought they wanted, he wasn't really prepared for a situation like this.

What had he wished to get when he had been this young? Harassed by the other children, experiencing accidental magic?

Marvolo noticed the picture Marcus had worked on still was on the desk, unharmed. "What are you drawing, Marcus?" First step: get the child out of the pouting and general uncooperative mood.

"Nagini," Was the mumbled reply.

Nodding solemnly, Marvolo moved a little closer, surveying the picture. "I certainly can see the resemblance." And he did. It also explained why Marcus had been in need of the green pencil the girl next to him had been using. "Do you want to finish it, before we start picking everything up?"

Marcus gave a tentative nod, relaxing a little. With an over dramatic wave of his hand, Marvolo made the pencils all over the room hover up into the air, forming a line so they could dance over to them. Eyes round with wonder, Marcus lost the last traces of his defensive body posture. "I don't think any of those pencils have the right green to match Nagini's scales. What do you say?" Maybe he would be able to point out better ways to get what one wanted than just exploding the whole room. Marvolo wondered what would have been different if he had been shown different avenues to get what he wanted besides brute force and thievery. He certainly had learned that if you were willing to do what was needed, you could get whatever you wanted. But the finer points of manipulation, or simply working inside the rules, had been things he had learned much too late.

"That one is close." Marcus pointed to one of the pencils, the only dark green. It was the only one even close to a Welsh green as well, and probably the one the confrontation had been about.

"Well, why use second best, when we have magic?" Marcus looked sceptical, but Marvolo didn't let himself be deterred by that. Step two: showing other ways to solve the problem. It didn't cost him but a moment of concentration to change the colour of the lead inside one light blue pencil to the exact shade of Nagini's scales. This kind of colour changing wasn't all that hard to do. But normally Marvolo didn't often have a reason to do so. "Use this one. I can turn it back once you have finished."

Marcus eagerly took the pencil and started to fill in the scales on the snake he had drawn. While the boy was occupied with that activity, Marvolo looked around to inspect the damage done. There were a few pieces of paper strewn around which obviously had been drawn on. Most likely they were the remains of pictures destroyed in the wave of magic. If they could manage to gather the right pieces a Reparo might be able to restore the images enough to make them presentable again.

"Look!" Marcus got Marvolo's attention by shoving the picture almost in his face. So Marvolo took the picture and carefully held it at a distance where looking at it was more feasible. "That's a good drawing of Nagini. I'm sure she'll be pleased to learn that you regard her as your favourite animal." It looked as if Marvolo had managed to sufficiently distract the child, now they should start cleaning everything up. "Let's pack the pencils back into their cases. And then we'll gather the picture pieces. Do you like puzzles?"

Bringing the cleanup – the punishment – back to the boy's attention his face clouded over like a storm brewing. But he did as he had been told. Maybe there was more at work than simple resentment against being punished unfairly. Because Marvolo was sure Marcus felt unfairly punished. Was he working with Marvolo so easily because he was willing to go to great lengths to ensure the continued goodwill of an adult looking into adopting him? Or did he resent that particular teacher? Either way, Marvolo would have to speak with Xerxes before he could leave. For one thing, he wanted to make the suggestion to have two people in each class at all times. It would be safer to have a wizard or witch with good reflexes in each class to prevent harm when accidental magic got volatile enough to cause harm.

And then he needed to find out if Marcus was prone to violent displays of magic, and if the teachers always were so quick to judge the guilt of one child over another.

"Well done, Marcus." A big pile of torn and shredded paper now was resting on one of the tables. "Let's sort which pieces belong together and then I'll try to repair them with magic." Not all that eager Marcus started sorting, but quickly got more enthusiastic. It seemed a jigsaw puzzle would be a good idea for a present.

It didn't take all that long to fix the pictures that had been damaged, so Marvolo helped Marcus into his cloak, as it was clear looking through a window that the other children still were playing in the snow. "Don't forget your scarf, hat, and mittens, Marcus!" The boy, who had been almost to the door turned and ran back, seemingly unable to stand still while Marvolo bundled him up for playing in the cold. Once Marvolo had applied a warming charm for good measure, he followed the running child outside at a more sedate pace.

"I hope you didn't clean up all by yourself, Lord Slytherin." The teacher's tone held a hint of a reprimand, at which Marvolo felt his hackles rise.

His answer accordingly was almost painfully polite. "Of course not. I helped him realize that there are better ways to solve such a situation with magic, which would make force unnecessary. He gathered the paper, and sorted it, so I could repair the images." Before the teacher could react – probably with a rant defending her teaching approach – Marvolo injected the question he really wanted to know the answer to. "Is this the first time Marcus has had such a violent outburst of magic?" If it had been, it would only be more urgent to find the time to show the boy how to direct his magic into more productive avenues. The parenting books he had read all said the same thing about frustration and how children learned to cope with it. If they didn't find good ways to work with frustrating situations, they would get into trouble a lot in later years.

From his own observations, especially of himself, adding magic into the mix, good coping mechanisms were essential to avoid some of the more dangerous pitfalls. Henry seemed to have turned to sports and avoidance prior to his start with therapy. Marvolo himself had turned to torture and vengeance and now had to work hard to find other ways. It would be best for Marcus to let him find something better now, than forcing him to relearn later in life.

oooOOooo

Friday, 19th of January 1996

The Headmaster's office looked exactly as it had done the day the old man had been forced to go to St. Mungo's, Severus noted when he came in to confirm once again with Minerva, who was acting in her capacity as Deputy Headmistress, how Sonja would take over his classes for the day. It wasn't really that surprising that she would display her loyalty to the old manipulator in such an obvious way.

On second glance, one might see a hint of Slytherin underhandedness in her refusal to allow any of her own things to be visible in the office. She didn't need to remind visitors that she was standing in for the actual Headmaster when the office looked like he could walk in any moment.

"Looking forward to spending the day in the company of distinguished adults instead of the dunderheads you would have to put up with otherwise?" Minerva asked with an impish smile on her face, setting her quill down.

Severus rolled his eyes – he wished – and drawled in answer. "I'm not sure bickering politicians are an improvement over teenagers not paying attention in the potions classroom."

That made Minerva chuckle. "Well, I'm sure you'll manage to enjoy your day spent not teaching. And I only heard positive things from the students over your lovely wife teaching about ingredient freshness and storage. I'm sure her lessons will be well received today as well." Severus refrained from commenting, only giving a short nod.

"I should be back by dinner. But if the session runs longer, Septima already agreed to keep an eye on my Slytherins this evening." It felt odd that he was going to be somewhere else than the classroom on a normal Friday during term. But it was important that he attend this session. It was only his second one, and the matter they wanted to pass today was important to his Lord.

And to himself. Seeing what some muggle-born children suffered, leading to their never getting their acceptance letters. Opening up the way for young, suffering witches and wizards to find a home in their world felt really important. It was great if the muggle parents were as supportive as Miss Granger's, Heiress Lestrange's, parents were. But sadly that wasn't always the case.

"Do you want to use the floo in the office here?" Minerva offered. "You won't need to walk all the way down and out of the wards that way."

Already having said his farewells with Sonja, and wearing the pretentious robes he had acquired after he had claimed the title of Lord Prince, Severus nodded. "Thank you, that would be helpful indeed."

"Go on then, Lord Prince, I'll see you in the evening." As she knew how little he loved the political bickering, there was a slight teasing tone in her voice, prompting Severus to repay her in kind with a smirk on his face.

"I wish you the time to make a dent in the stack of parchment waiting for your attention." Minerva huffed at that jab, waving him away with an imperious gesture. They both enjoyed their banter which they had gotten new fodder for with the positions they both had found themselves in this past year.

Getting a pinch of floo powder from the jar, Severus threw it down, stepped into the green flames, and called out his destination. "Ministry of Magic!" He was sure this would be a long day.

ooOoo

Augusta had decided to be early, coming alone, as she did every time since she had taken the position as regent for her grandson and now regent for the Potter seat. She had made sure on the last weekend to meet with Harry to get a feeling for what he wanted to happen with his own vote this session.

Not surprisingly, he had fervently argued in favour of the changes to the adoption process they had worked on with the Minister since Lord Slytherin had stumbled upon the mess Miss Summer had made of it. The boy's stance on werewolf rights hadn't changed – no surprise there either – and after she had explained the few changes on import taxes and regulations for the import of common potions ingredients, he had tentatively agreed with her stance that dragon products needed to have some parchments for verification that they hadn't been hunted from the wild, but harvested at one of the reserves.

She was satisfied to see that he didn't just go along with what she suggested, but had asked for how that should be set up and controlled. If they actually made it to that part of the agenda, Augusta would have to bring forward the suggestion to include something like that into the law before they could vote on it in her capacity as the Potter regent.

"Augusta, good morning my dear." Elphias slowly walked over to her, smiling kindly. They had a habit of talking with one another before the sessions. And they had lots of time to do so.

"Elphias, how are you this fine day?" It had been raining, temperatures just above the freezing point, when she had left the Manor, but these pleasantries were nothing but pretence anyway.

"Needs must, needs must, I'm sure you know only too well, my dear." He spoke in a way Augusta remembered well from her own grandmother, words picked to play down the problems age brought, but the voice asking for soothing words and pity to be heaped onto the one speaking.

She had refused to give her grandmother such when she had been just out of school, and she wasn't about to give it to someone insinuating that she would have to suffer from stiff joints and constant aches as well, therefore knowing what he was speaking of. "Getting old isn't for the faint of heart," she simply offered before changing the topic, "Have you heard from Albus? Last I was told, he was going to stay with his brother for the rest of his convalescence."

Doge wasn't all that happy with her brushing off his attempt to gain some sympathy – what had he expected calling her old? – but jumped at the opportunity to talk about his good friend.

Only listening with half her attention, Augusta watched as a group of Lords – well, mostly Lords – came in, drawing the attention of most of those already in attendance. There in the middle and slightly to the front of the group walked Lord Slytherin. As always in the signature green and silver colours of his house. He was talking with Lord Lestrange at his side, and around them were Lord Malfoy, Lord Nott, the newly installed Lord Yaxley – from one of the lower houses – and Lord Greengrass. After them the stream of people arriving didn't stop. There was the new Lord Prince. She never would have thought that the small runt in Slytherin from James' year would turn out to be such an imposing figure. Just one more proof that, given enough effort, everyone had the potential to rise above their origins.

"Let's settle down," Augusta interrupted Elphias' rambling about the books he was going to bring with him on his next visit to Dumbledore. "Seems as if everyone will be on time for a change."

And indeed the benches were filling rather quickly, even the number of plum coloured robes indicating that most of the Ministry-appointed members were already here.

Doge looked around, surprised by her rude interruption. "Seems that way." He nodded. "Well then, let's see how this year will start." With another nod in her direction, he walked off to find his own seat.

Augusta cast a cushioning charm on her bench of carved flowers before she sat down. This was going to be interesting.

But first the announcements. Abbott called the room to attention, causing everyone to fall into a hushed silence. After he had called Lord Yaxley forward to give his oath, Abbott turned to a list of notices one of the scribes had handed him. "Before we come to the agenda for today, let me inform you of a few important items of interest." He unfurled the short list – Augusta thought that it was unusually short – and started to read from the top. "The wizards responsible for the abduction and torture of three witches last year, were sentenced to life in Azkaban." There wasn't really a reaction to that. Some of them had been in that trial and the news had been in the Prophet right after the day the sentence had been announced. "Suggestions for the cause of the annual spring fundraiser should be handed in before the end of February." The scroll snapped shut with a sharp sound the moment the Chief Warlock released the bottom edge. "Is there anyone else who needs to make an announcement?" He waited a breath, looking around the room "No? Well, then let's start with a motion to change the laws governing adoptions brought in by Minister Fudge. Minister, if you will."

"Thank you, Chief Warlock." The Minister rose from his seat, giving a small bow to the head of the Wizengamot. "As we have seen a rise in the number of adoptions since the past summer, it has come to the Ministry's attention that the procedures were in severe need of an update. A first attempt to do so within the confines of the current laws proved unsuccessful, so my advisers and I have come up with the following changes to the law." A flick of the wand and Arthur's middle son was sending out copies of the law they had been working on for the past weeks. Augusta caught the copy sent to her and unfurled it. Her grandfather had always told the story of the one ancestor of his who had been swindled into supporting a law going against his direct interests by changing what was actually written in it between negotiations and the actual passing in the Wizengamot. It had been a good lesson to ingrain in her the habit of always reading anything she was supposed to sign or vote on just before she did so.

The Minister gave them all a moment to read before he started on his explanation of what exactly the changes were. "As you can see, the best interest of the child to be adopted is still the most important concern." Cornelius started on his speech, sticking to the highlights just as they had decided was the best approach. As Augusta already knew what the law was about and how they thought it should work, she let her eyes roam over the assembly. They still didn't know who had been the one behind the scenes, pulling the strings so that Miss Summers could enact all those half-baked measures. This was their opportunity to watch all those Lords and Ladies who might have been involved.

To be effective, the Wizengamot chambers had been split into several segments, each containing a few individuals, each of them watching only those individuals in their assigned section. She had picked the section of the Ministry bench where all the Department Heads were seated. The Minister hadn't openly communicated the work that was going on, but rumours always happened. And as Percival Weasley had been involved, Augusta wasn't surprised that Arthur only nodded when he read over the proposal. Most others had known that adoption procedures would be a topic today – not everyone made a habit of reading the agenda before a session – but from all those in Augusta's portion of the hall, Amos Diggory was the one person showing the most obvious displeased reaction.

During the discussion picking up after Cornelius had finished with his presentation of the new law, Augusta divided her attention between what everyone said and Amos' reaction to what was said.

When Griselda Marchbanks asked one of the questions they had expected, Augusta saw Amos nodding with a grim expression. "This sounds as if it would make it possible to take children away from their muggle parents. Surely you can't want that?"

"May I point you to the clause we specifically added to prevent that exact scenario from occurring?" Cornelius answered with a charming smile, clearly agreeing with her that this was a concern that needed to be addressed. "Here under the definition of what an unsuitable guardian is, it clearly is stated as point a, let me quote, 'the lack of personal ability to wield magic never can be grounds for being declared an unfit guardian'. Just because the parents of a child are Squibs or Muggles, there is no cause to remove the child from their custody."

There was more back and forth, questions digging deeper, people trying to find the edges of the rules, questioning the viability of the procedures they were proposing be put into place. And all the time Augusta watched the face of Amos Diggory getting darker and darker. He obviously wasn't happy with the way this was going.

But why was Amos so set against children in need of a family being adopted? As long as Augusta had known him, he had been in Albus' corner, or at least close to it. One of the few supporters the old Headmaster had had in the Department for the Regulations and Control of Magical Creatures. Sure, he had been dealt a hard blow when his son had died in the third task of the Tournament… her thought process came to a sudden halt.

Was that possible? Could it really be that?

Was Amos Diggory so grief stricken that he would do anything to get revenge on who he had to see as the one who killed his son? Was Amos against children's being adopted, just because Lord Slytherin was advocating for such adoptions to take place?

It seemed petty. But then she herself still had trouble speaking to Xerxes Lestrange for any length of time, because he had always been adamant about not disowning his sons. It was no longer that important with the death of those two after their escape from the prison. But she could understand holding a grudge. And she had held one for many years against the father of those responsible. Lord Slytherin was in many ways still the wizard they all had fought against. So working against him for what a Death Eater had done… she could understand that. But she still thought – hoped, really – that she never would have condoned the suffering of children in the name of revenge.

Augusta offered no arguments or questions during the debate, closely watching Amos, sneaking short glances to the others in her section. After all, his being upset about the changes of laws hundreds of years old, was no proof that he had been involved in the manipulations which had made the changes necessary in the first place. There might still be others involved.

Finally the Chief Warlock called for a vote. "Those of you in favour of the law light your wands." Augusta held her wand high, as did all of those allied with Lord Slytherin – they had managed to overcome their wariness around the man since he had first claimed his title – and a lot of those who hadn't been in on the plan from the beginning. If Augusta was right, those clearly were more than half of their numbers.

"Those against enacting the changes proposed, please light your wands now." Amos was among the first to raise his glowing wand. Only a few others followed his example. As Lord Slytherin had promised, his allies had worked hard to make those most conservative dark families realize that it was a good idea to include those young wizards and witches into their families, and into their culture early on. Augusta wasn't sure she could trust their motivation.

"Those that don't want to decide either way, please light your wands now." Since Abbott had become chief Warlock, changing the question for abstaining members slightly, the number of those had dropped quite a bit.

"With a clear majority the law brought forward by the Minister has been accepted. The Wizengamot instructs the Ministry to enact the changes needed to make the necessary adaptations." The gavel came down with a loud bang. "The Wizengamot will break for tea. Session resumes in a quarter of an hour."

With a sigh Augusta rose from her bench. This was a good opportunity to let the others know that she suspected Amos Diggory might be behind, or at least involved in, the framing of Miss Summers. Maybe one of the others had made another observation that she needed to know about. Working together with such a large group of people was beneficial, but probably short-lived. There weren't that many topics it was so easy to agree on.

Augusta reached the break room, selected a small cucumber sandwich from one of the floating trays, and let herself drift over to where Amelia was standing, talking with Lord Slytherin.

oooOOooo

Saturday, 20th of January 1996

Coming to the Caribbean was a real blessing after the dreary January weather in France and England. After searching the records of births in the year 1959 – luckily there only were a few hospitals on the island, and the city of birth had been listed in the files of the university – Sam was now walking through one of the smaller settlements in the centre south of the island.

He hadn't been able to get the address of Olivienne Moreau's own home, but asking an older man owning a small odds and ends shop in the centre of the nearest town had given him an address for the woman's mother.

As he was walking down the street, greeting the curious neighbours looking over from their windows or gardens, he looked out for the house which he had been directed to. Sam didn't feel bothered by the interest of the locals. As a man obviously from Europe so far from the usual tourist haunts, he was bound to be noticed.

A few more minutes down the steep street Sam came to the house, painted in bright colours and sitting in a small but neat garden. Taking a deep breath he opened the small gate in the fence and walked up to the front door to knock.

"Un moment, s'il vous plait!" was called not from inside the house, but from the garden out of sight of where Sam was standing. He scolded himself, there really wasn't a reason to be this nervous. It wasn't as if he hadn't prepared a good story to explain his presence and why he was searching for Olivienne Moreau.

A woman emerged from around the corner of the house. She wore shorts, a loose blouse of some delicate fabric, and a straw hat on top of her unbound hair. She would fit what he knew of Olivienne Moreau – African ancestry, mid thirties – but that applied to a lot of women he had meet since the airplane had touched down on the island. "Bonjour. Qui êtes-vous?"

"Bonjour. Je me présente, Samuel Jacobs. Est-ce bien le domicile de la famille Moreau?" Sam really was glad that he had taken the time to learn a few different languages. Translation spells were known to fail when local dialects, accents, and the like came into play. And they did nothing that would help him speak the language.

But seeing as the woman switched over to an accented English once she had heard him speak, his accent probably was worse than he had realised. "It is, Mr. Jacobs. My mother is in the garden. If you'll follow me."

What a coincident! It seemed he would need to deliver his news earlier than he had expected. But his only task had been to find her and establish communication. Everything else would be Lord Black's job. Sam decided to pay attention to both women's reactions and actions to maybe make the whole easier on his employer. This was going to be interesting.

oooOOooo

AN: I know, it's a mean place to end the chapter, but I wanted to give what comes next a proper stage ;) And this chapter was filled already.

Here are the translations for the few phrases used earlier in the chapter:

One moment! - Un moment, s'il vous plait!

Hello, who are you?" - Bonjour. Qui êtes-vous?

"Hello, my name is Samuel Jacobs. Is this the residence of the Moreau family? - Bonjour. Je me présente, Samuel Jacobs. Est-ce bien le domicile de la famille Moreau?

Thanks to DiagonAlleyParis for the help with the French translation.

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

First published on the 6th of July 2018
Next chapter planned for 20th of July 2018