AN: Because I have something to write that has a set deadline, I'll have to postpone the next chapter after this (which is number 84) for longer than two weeks. The next planned update for this story is the 19th of October 2018. This hopefully will free my mind so I can concentrate fully on the other project. If I get that one done quicker, I'll return to writing chapter 84 and may be publishing that sooner, returning to usual update schedule after that.

Please don't be disappointed ;) and now have fun with the current chapter!

oooOOooo

Relationships

Thursday, 1st of February 1996

"Father said that OWL year is hard, but I never thought it would be this hard!" Daphne slumped down into her seat, dropping her quill to her parchment, a scowl of frustration on her face.

The whole group of fifth-year Slytherins was sitting around one of the bigger tables in the common room, working on various homework assignments or revision. Something, Harry had noticed, they did more and more. Between classes, meals, the Defence Club, and Quidditch training, there wasn't much else but studying.

Just yesterday evening Marvolo had laughed when Harry had complained over the workload. But then he had commiserated because he himself was preparing to take several OWLs and the transfiguration NEWT during the testing period in late spring. Dumbledore's move to get Marvolo's records wiped had proven to be an annoyance.

"I think we all can use a break!" Draco declared, setting his own quill down before capping his inkwell. Murmured agreement, the rustling of parchment rolling up, the sound of books being closed, and a few relieved groans echoed around the table.

Harry slid a piece of parchment he had used to practice drawing runes into the herbology text he had been reading, closed the book, and slid back onto the loveseat until he could rest his head on the backrest, rubbing his nose. All this studying was going to kill him. Harry idly wondered how bad it had to be for Ron staying around Hermione all the time.

"Do any of you have plans on whom to take on the next Hogsmeade weekend?" Pansy wanted to know, bringing back up one of her favourite topics of the last weeks. Theo rolled his eyes behind Pansy's back and Harry stifled the giggle that wanted to break loose. Especially the boys in their group were unhappy about Pansy's persistence with the topic.

"I'm only sure that Hermione and that Weasley boy won't go together." Theo remarked, neatly sidestepping the question Pansy had asked in many variations by now. The public rejection of Ron's question by Hermione had been the talk of the school for a few days. A good reason to ask such a question in a more private setting.

Harry himself hadn't yet managed to ask Luna if she wanted to go with him. It truly wasn't an easy task to find the time and the right words to ask.

"Do you remember the farce that oblivious idiot Lockhart made of Valentine's day? Those dwarves?" one sixth-year who had been walking by suddenly asked into the room, drawing the attention of almost everyone present.

"Dwarves?" little Tabitha Smith asked, abandoning her game of chess to turn in her place on one of the rugs in front of a fireplace.

Septimus Yaxley laughed, turning carefully so as not to disturb his boyfriend, who was resting with his head in Septimus' lap, reading in Quidditch through the Ages. "He had the whole castle decorated with hearts in different shades of pink. And he had paid a bunch of dwarves to dress up as cupids, and carry singing messages to students and teachers alike."

Harry wondered which professor had received one of those singing valentines – excluding Lockhart of course – and didn't notice the slight smirk on Draco's face as he started to add his own little titbit of information for the younger students.

"I remember that there were quite a few horrible examples among the valentines. A few people would have been better severed if they hadn't written their messages themselves." The moment Draco turned to catch Harry's eye the green-eyed teen felt himself flush. Please no! "Did you ever learn who compared the colour of your eyes to that of a pickled toad?"

Harry groaned and wished he could have just vanished under the table or his cloak. "Don't be such a prat!" Draco sniggered. "I didn't know any professors beside that blond fraud got any valentines."

"I heard that Professor Trelawney got a few. But I think that was on a dare," Millicent answered Harry's not-really-asked question, starting a recounting of different slightly horrifying retellings of dwarves barging into classrooms, waylaying people in the halls – in one case sitting on the person they had a message for – and singing terrible poetry in off key voices.

It was a much-needed and much-appreciated break in the ongoing study frenzy.

oooOOooo

It was the second time that Lucius was on his way to the Hogshead. Or rather the second time he went there after he had graduated from Hogwarts. It had been a bit of a game among the students of his time to go there and order some hard spirits. To this day he wasn't sure if Aberforth Dumbledore – not really noticeably younger back then – had given them stuff because he didn't really care or because he deliberately tried to get them in trouble.

Anyway. Since he had been old enough to be beyond such silly games he hadn't purposefully sought out the lacklustre establishment. That is, until the Board had sent him as their owl to deliver the warning to Albus Dumbledore.

Now the time was up, and they hadn't received a letter of resignation of the former Headmaster of Hogwarts.

And so it was that Lucius Malfoy, Lord and Head of House of his family, was walking through the cold February weather, crushing old snow under his boot's heels, once again playing owl.

Not that he really minded this duty all that much.

Getting to fire the old meddler was something he had tried more than once in the past. But this time his charges were so much better, he was certain that there was nothing the old man could do to dodge this spell as he had dodged so many others.

Once again the owner of the pub greeted him and gruffly led him into the private rooms. "Albus, a visitor for you."

Lucius stepped in, steeling his mental shields and reminding himself not to meet the eyes of the old man. The tendency of a Legilimens to take a peek was dangerous, especially if the one in question was of questionable sanity. "Good day, Mr. Dumbledore," Lucius greeted the old man sitting in an armchair, a book in his lap. It felt good to deny the wizard any kind of title. He waited a moment for a reply, but he wasn't really sure the old man had heard him until he closed his book and raised his head.

The odd thought that the once so powerful wizard seemed incredibly old struck Lucius where he stood in the doorway to the modest living room. Well, modest if he was generous.

"I had wondered when one of you would show up."

Getting the official parchment out of the expanded pocket of his warm fur-lined winter cloak, Lucius prepared for his little speech. "Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, as a representative of the Board of Governors for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I, Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, am here to inform you that you are permanently removed from the position of Headmaster. This decision was made after due consideration based on the declining health and lack of judgement on part of the former Headmaster observed in the last months." Lucius spoke with the practiced ease he always displayed on such occasions – he practiced such speeches before he had to give them – but felt slightly disappointed by the fact that the old man wasn't reacting as Lucius had thought he would.

"Have you any counter-arguments to make?"

The long white beard moved slightly with the shaking of the old wizard's head. "No, that's quite all right, Lucius, my boy."

Only long practice in not showing his thoughts to those watching kept Lucius from gasping at that calmly presented proclamation. "I'm not yet sure where I stepped away from my path. Or when. But these last days have shown me that I might be in more need of help than I would have thought when you last were here." A wave from the old hand sent a letter over to Lucius, where it hovered effortlessly. "Am I right to assume that you'll go to the school after your visit here?"

Lucius gave a terse nod. This wasn't going even remotely like he had envisioned it. "Then might I impose on your time by asking you to take a letter to Minerva? She'll be offered the position of Headmistress, won't she?"

Lucius nodded again, getting his wand out of his cane, casting a series of strong detection charms at the letter. Only when each of them had come up clean, not detecting any potions, mundane poisons, curses, or charms on it, did he take it with his gloved hand. "She'll be offered the position." Lucius wasn't really happy with that, but his old Transfiguration professor had always been a stern and capable witch.

The sad, sage smile was almost too much for Lucius to tolerate. "Thank you for making the effort to deliver the letter in person, my boy. All the best for you and your family, should we not meet again."

Some time later, a confused Lucius strode through the early evening up towards the gates of Hogwarts. That had been a strange visit. He had expected a lot more resistance, but maybe he should be happy that the worst scenarios that had been brought up hadn't come to pass. Duelling the wizard who had defeated Grindelwald on his own – as weakened as he might have been – wasn't really something he had wished to do this day.

Now to see if Minerva McGonagall would be willing to take over the position of Headmistress of Hogwarts. If she declined, a long discussion would follow. Too many candidates had been offered up for the Board to be able to decide on one single candidate anytime soon.

oooOOooo

Saturday, 3th of February 1996

After another letter, Amelia Bones and Marvolo had arranged a date and place to meet. And so here he was in a set of his best casual robes – wool with subtle embroidery along the edges – over a suit from equally expensive material but of a muggle style, walking down Diagon Alley towards the small high-end restaurant they had agreed upon.

Marvolo had tried to get a feeling for why the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement wanted to meet with him. And why she had used her private stationary and not the official one. But it hadn't worked. She simply had ignored the subtle hints he had added throughout the letter in an attempt to get more information.

And because of that fact, Marvolo felt a little apprehensive about the meeting that was to be happening in a few moments. The question why she wanted to meet with him – here – just wouldn't let him rest.

All the cues given – the stationary, the meeting place – pointed to a private reason for the meeting, but for the love of the gods Marvolo had no idea why Amelia Bones would want to meet with him privately. Different reasons had come up in his thoughts running in circles, whenever he hadn't been distracted by the endless administrative tasks required to pursue his political goals, training, research, or talks with his son. The most plausible of the lot was that maybe she was aiming to get a marriage contract set up between her niece – a girl in Hufflepuff and Harry's year as far as he knew – and Harry.

But despite it being the most plausible idea, it didn't really feel right either. Why should Madame Bones, who had lost family to the Death Eaters, want to tie her niece to the heir of Slytherin? It just seemed so unlikely.

When Marvolo stepped into the restaurant, he didn't need to give his name, or ask for Madame Bones. The moment the owner – or at least the witch currently minding the entrance – spotted him, he was greeted with a warm smile. "Lord Slytherin! Welcome to the Floating Candle. Madame Bones is already here and waiting. If you would follow me, please."

And so Marvolo did, getting an impression of the food served here when they walked past the alcoves set into the walls where he could smell what had been served at the respective tables. From the fragrant curries inspired by Indian dishes to more classically English dishes, a range of options was being offered.

Speculations over the possibility of getting a chocolate-heavy desert vanished from Marvolo's mind the moment he followed the witch in her dark blue, silken robes into an alcove where Madame Bones was waiting for him, idly browsing the menu.

"I'll be back to get your orders in a moment." And with a small courtesy, the witch was gone. It seemed she had perfected the move, maybe taking inspiration from a house elf.

"Madame Bones," Marvolo greeted with a bow in the woman's direction, feeling a little awkward. Another instance he had to confront feelings he wasn't used to. Normally he knew what he wanted out of a meeting, or knew a probable reason that another wanted to meet him. Going into a meeting with someone as influential as this woman practically blind wasn't something he did enjoyed.

At all.

In the past he always had declined meetings where he either didn't know what he wanted, or what the other wanted. But this time something was different. A mix of his wish to be part of society, his need to appear agreeable, some weird sense of obligation he couldn't place, and simply his curiosity had compelled him to agree to the meeting.

"Lord Slytherin, please take a seat." Madame Bones waved towards the richly upholstered armchair across the table from her. "I can recommend the roast, but the curry is really good as well."

Marvolo sat down in the armchair, smoothing down his robes so they wouldn't impede his movement, and using the opportunity to take in Madame Bones. She had selected casual clothes, going for good quality and a more modern style, just as Marvolo had. Her posture belied a little tension, but more of the kind indicating nerves and not the tension usually hinting at someone being ready to fight at a moments notice.

"Is the chef known to make good recommendations? I might just leave the fate of my meal in his hands." Marvolo picked up the topic of meal selection that Madame Bones had selected as their starting point. An obvious choice for a meeting held in a restaurant, which didn't make it any easier for Marvolo to get a feel for what would be the real topic of this meeting.

"I usually take the roast with vegetables matching the season when I'm here. So I sadly have to say that I don't know if the recommendations from the kitchen are usually well received by the guests." Madame Bones' smile was easy, polite, and maybe a tad warmer than her usual professional smile.

"Well, maybe I'll take a risk and ask for a recommendation then," Marvolo decided. Not having to search the menu would give him more time to analyse his companion's behaviour. "Do you come here often?"

"Not really, no. From time to time, but there isn't a reason to eat out all that often."

Sighing in his head, Marvolo realised that Madame Bones, for all that she hadn't been a Slytherin during school, wasn't going to let him simmer over a small flame. In an attempt to fill the time until she would tell him why she had wanted to meet with him with something more interesting than the usual stock of small talk – the weather, the food, and Quidditch results – Marvolo seized their one mostly neutral common ground. "How does your niece like the current professor for Defence Against the Dark Arts?"

"Susan wrote that she fears Professor Slinkhard has a much too theory-centred lesson plan. Especially in her OWL year she would love to practice more. But judging by what she wrote, Professor Slinkhard is an improvement over Dolores Umbridge." Something dark entered the eyes of the witch across from Marvolo.

He ignored it even as he was fascinated and wanted to see if he might be able to fan that darkness into something more, instead he nodded knowingly. "Harry has voiced many of the same concerns, and the same approval. I think his exact words were: At least he lets us ask questions."

It was easy to fill the time with talk about their own experiences with their OWLs and the respective reports they had received from the children in their care about the Defence classes since they had come to Hogwarts, and especially this year. Marvolo felt as if he was dancing at the edge of a volcano. There were some topics he needed the discussion to stay away from, but he couldn't be obvious about it.

It was fun, if a little frustrating, because he really wanted to know what Madame Bones wanted to talk about.

When their food and wines had been brought to their table – levitated by a young wizard – Madame Bones fixed Marvolo with her gaze. "Do you have any objections to raising some privacy charms?"

"None," Marvolo said, picking up his glass of red wine, swirling it around to get a whiff of the scent. It seemed the verbal fencing and evasion of dangerous topics was over.

She got her wand out and set up a flurry of different privacy spells – including one to prevent people from reading their lips – with efficient wand movements speaking of extensive practice. Marvolo sat back, watched her spellwork looking for possible weaknesses, and sipped his wine, which truly was excellent and would work quite well with his lamb roast and the side dish of various root vegetables baked in a sauce of cream and excellent spices. The fragrant smells were mouth-watering.

Once Madame Bones was finished with her casting, she put her wand away and picked up her knife and fork to take the first bite of her curry with rice. "I know that I was rather evasive regarding the reason I wanted to talk with you, Lord Slytherin." She began to talk, rolling her eyes and smirking when Marvolo hummed in confirmation of her admission. She truly had made him wait.

She took another bite and after she had chewed – certainly longer than was necessary, it seemed she was trying to kill him – and swallowed her bite, she took a fortifying breath.

What could be so nerve-wracking that she had true trouble talking to him about it?

"During the Yule season I happened to be nearby when you, Lord Slytherin, were speaking to a few of your… acquaintances. Maybe I should have moved on, or made my presence known, but I stopped to listen."

Marvolo's mind was racing. Had he been careless enough to have talked about delicate matters where others could have heard? Where Madame Bones had listened in?

But no.

That made no sense.

If she had heard him talk about something truly incriminating, they wouldn't have met here. In private. She would have had him arrested. Weeks ago.

Despite the fact that Marvolo had concluded that whatever she had overheard, it hadn't been related to any of his less legal activities, Marvolo's heart was racing with the adrenaline of fear of discovery. He hadn't felt this way since the first few times he had sneaked a book in the restricted section of the Hogwarts library that he hadn't had explicit permission to read.

It was exhilarating!

"That's the way I learned that you think of yourself as asexual and feel the pressure of society to see a young wizard married and with a few children." She stubbornly was holding his gaze, not looking away but blushing in embarrassment.

Marvolo blinked in shock. That was not what he had thought might happen. This possible line of conversation hadn't even crossed his mind once. Madame Bones offering him a position as Auror had been among the ideas his mind had supplied, but his lack of interest in sexual acts never had come to mind. Maybe he needed to remember himself how much importance the different kinds of human relationships he had always regarded as a weakness had to others.

Before Marvolo could think on his obvious obliviousness in regards to human attachments and their importance in the eyes of others, Madame Bones got even more uneasy and ploughed on with her confession. "I know that it would have been proper to walk on, or make my presence known. But I couldn't make myself miss the opportunity to listen in on what looked like it was a private conversation… I want to apologize that I…"

Marvolo held up one hand to stop her and the unnecessary apology. "Please, Madame Bones. There is no need to apologise. Luckily I no longer suffer under curse-induced paranoia, but I was a Slytherin in school. And am Lord Slytherin now. If I had felt the need to keep this private and a secret I would have set up wards. Or, more likely, never spoken at such an event where others might be near enough to overhear."

She had asked him to meet her because she wanted to confess that she had eavesdropped on one of his more private conversations?

That didn't make much more sense than any other ideas either.

Her smile was wry. "Maybe I don't need to apologise then, but that's not the main reason I asked for a personal meeting away from the curious eyes of the Ministry." Their food stood before them largely ignored, but Marvolo didn't care, the conversation was much more entertaining than the delicious smelling food. "I also wanted to offer you my support. Our society doesn't really acknowledge the existence of those not interested in… well, sex." Marvolo felt a small smirk tug at his mouth over the blunt nature of the witch even as he had trouble guessing what exactly she was offering.

"I know how hard a time most have envisioning even the possibility of someone not interested in any sexual acts. I guess it's such an integral part of most people's lives that it's easier to accept that the interest might be aimed at someone other than they would feel attracted to than missing altogether." She took a deep breath and seemed to gather herself. "What I'm trying to tell you, Lord Slytherin, was that it took a while before people accepted I wasn't going to marry. But even now the rumours say that I'm just am more interested in my career than in a family, or that my one true love was killed in the war."

Tilting his head to the side, Marvolo couldn't resist asking, "And who are they claiming was your one true love?" It was daring, considering that Death Eaters had killed people of the Bones family, but he was pretending only too gladly pretend to forget the past, and his own part in it.

"The names vary." Madame Bones waved the question away, literally, and gave him a searching look. "I thought about your tentative idea of finding someone for a marriage of convenience. Are you still following that plan?"

Taking a sip from his wine, Marvolo picked up his utensils, they should eat and not just talk. Cutting into his roast he thought about her question. "I have not discarded the plan yet. But considering that I think our inclination isn't all that common and I can't see myself being happy with just anyone… I think it unlikely that I will find someone willing to marry me and be happy. Added on top of that is the fact I'm older in experience than in looks, but in some ways considered younger than I am, father to a teenager and soon a child barely of school age. Managing everything is demanding enough. Others tell me a relationship is hard work if one wants it to work well." Marvolo shrugged. "I'm not sure I have the energy left to invest in a relationship I can do without."

Conceding his point with a nod, Madame Bones picked up her knife and fork as well. "Nonetheless, my offer stands. If you need someone to talk to who has had some of the same experiences, I'm willing to lend my ear and give advice as well as I can."

The rest of their meal was once again spend in friendly banter and superficial conversations. Topics starting with the newest development of wand holster fashion – some versions were purely aesthetic and made drawing a wand even harder than keeping it in a simple pocket would be – to the differences in Hogwarts' curriculum of the present compared to both Madame Bones' and Marvolo's times, and not stopping as the Auror training program was brought up.

They took the wards down once they had finished their main course, and then ordered coffee and a dessert apiece.

Marvolo still was confused over why exactly Madame Bones had felt the need to offer him support by the time they parted ways and he returned home. Maybe Harry would be able to shed some light on this strange evening.

With the resolve in mind to ask his son if he could figure it out, Marvolo apparated back home.

If nothing else, this evening had managed to give him a few new things to ponder while distracting him effectively from his usual worries, currently mostly centred around the adoption and the slow progress on that front, as well as his stagnating search for a way to bind a soul piece to another container once he had removed it from the one he had originally stored it in.

Soon there would be another day suited to powerful rituals, and until then he had to have finished the next iteration of the ritual.

Deep in thought, Marvolo walked up the stairs, listening distractedly to Nagini prattling on about the rat she had hunted through the whole house.

ooOoo

On her way home Amelia thought back over the meeting she had had with Lord Slytherin. It had been strange. But when was anything involving Lord Slytherin not strange?

She wasn't really sure if her offer had been appreciated, but she felt better for offering her assistance. At first she had considered giving in to society's demands and help Lord Slytherin do the same.

But in the end, that wouldn't change anything.

So she had decided to help Lord Slytherin weather the storm that was society's expectations, and find his way to a way he could live.

She would support him in this, regardless of his choice. If he either found a partner for a marriage of convenience or went down the path she herself had chosen. She would help him and with a little luck he would be able to change the way society saw people like them. Just as he was currently changing the way their society saw werewolves.

Shaking her head at her own foolishness, Amelia apparated home and, once she had arrived there, started to walk towards her own room.

All these grand wishes to change what others thought about asexuals. It was a naive teenager's dream. One she had thought to have buried a long time ago. The only thing that really mattered was that she had offered her support and was determined to keep her word, should her support ever be needed.

ooOoo

Bent over his latest essay for Astronomy, Harry tried hard to concentrate. But it wasn't easy with a few first years playing exploding snap a few tables over.

He had tried to work in the library, but a few furiously studying Ravenclaws had laid claim to each of the tables. So he had come down to the common room. He supposed he could go into his own room to finish his homework – listing all the moons around the planets of the solar system – but sitting with his friends was better and worth the distraction caused by the loud noises of the explosive card game.

"I can't work here with this racket in the background!" Pansy exclaimed, jumped up from the cushion she had placed on the floor, and stormed over to the group of first-years.

"Poor little sods," Theo whispered as they all had to listen to Pansy sending the younger students packing.

Before Pansy had made her way back to their table, and before the first-years had packed all their stuff and left for their dorm, Harry felt the mirror vibrating. With a nod to his friends he stood and answered the mirror, walking over to one of the cosy corners to have a little more privacy.

.:Father. The meeting with Madame Bones is already over?:.

Marvolo nodded, sitting in front of a bookcase, probably in his office at Griffin House. .:It was surprising. And short. Not one of my theories was even close to the truth:.

Harry felt a tension leaving his shoulders he hadn't even known had been there. So the theory with the engagement hadn't been true either. What a relief.

.:So what was the reason she wanted to meet you?:. Just this morning Marvolo had contacted Harry to get his opinion about a possible engagement contract and other possible scenarios, and since then Harry had sat on pins and needles. Marvolo's reassurance that she had asked for a meeting in a private setting and not in her capacity as Head of Magical Law Enforcement hadn't really helped matters.

.:I think she just wanted to offer me moral support:. Marvolo hissed with surprise clearly written on his face.

.:Moral support?:. Harry answered, surprised at how well sarcasm translated into Parseltongue.

Marvolo laughed and started to recount the meeting while Harry listened attentively.

oooOOooo

Sunday, 4th of February 1996

The usual din filled the Great Hall, and the moment the food appeared on the serving plates the big room filled with delicious smells. Only listening with half an ear, Harry picked his favourites – roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, and grilled chicken leg – and filled his plate to a reasonable amount. He would probably never be able to load his plate as high as Ron was wont to do, as a plate piled that way reminded him instantly of Dudley and his disgusting eating habits.

"That can't be!" a girl exclaimed somewhere not too far away, clearly to be heard over the general level of noise. Harry tried to ignore the spreading unrest as a colourful magazine was handed around. By what Harry could catch of the cover, he suspected that it was the newest edition of Witch Weekly, which had been delivered this morning.

There weren't that many subscribers at the school – it was aimed more at adult witches like Ron's mother – but it seemed they once again had published something scandalous enough to stir true unrest.

Remembering the unfortunate article about Hermione and a supposed love-triangle, Harry decided to pay more attention. But that was no reason to abandon a perfectly fine dinner. Maybe whatever had been written would kill his appetite. He wasn't about to skip meals now that he finally was rid of the not-really-pleasant-tasting nutrient potion.

The comfortable Sunday evening stupor was broken the moment Susan Bones came to stand beside Harry – he hadn't really noticed her approach, maybe he was more tired than he had realised – slapping down something just next to Harry's plate, pointing at it and demanding in a commanding tone. "Did you know about this?"

Putting his utensils down, Harry took a closer look at what had been placed so forcefully beside his plate. It was indeed Witch Weekly, opened to a page with small snippets of text with various short claims and facts about different celebrities. Harry had seen similar pages in those terrible magazines Aunt Petunia had read, always complaining about them and their tendency to exaggerate, but buying them nonetheless.

Susan's finger pointed to one snippet relatively close to the middle, right next to the moving picture of a quidditch player being walloped by a bludger. And it started with Lord Slytherin courting Head of DMLE?

Suddenly all his sleepiness was gone, and Harry carefully took the magazine in his hands sitting up a little bit straighter.

Mysterious, handsome Lord Slytherin and tough Head-Witch of the DMLE have been spotted dining together in an intimate booth at the Floating Candle. They were talking behind silencing wards for hours. Is this the start of a most intriguing relationship?

For a moment Harry closed his eyes. It was a wonder this hadn't come up in the gossip sooner than dinner. The magazine had been delivered with the morning mail. Maybe the fact that it was buried between all those other snippets near to the end of the pages had helped prevent it from being spotted sooner. But in the end that wasn't really all that important.

"I take it your aunt didn't tell you she had asked my father for a meeting?" Harry asked, handing the magazine back to Susan.

"You knew?" Susan seemed taken aback and truly confused. Not all that far from reacting unreasonably as far as Harry was able to guess.

"He told me because he suspected she might have an engagement contract between you and me in mind. And he called me again yesterday evening, telling me that Madame Bones had wanted to talk with him about something she overheard at one of the many functions this past season. Offering him moral support or some such. Not that I had expected to see their meeting mentioned in this… magazine." Harry shrugged. He wasn't really sure what to think of this. The only thing he was certain of right now was that this probably would dominate the rumour mill for at least the next week.

Susan had her brow furrowed, gazing questioning down to where Harry was sitting on the bench. "Moral support? Why would he need that?"

Harry sighed. That really wasn't something he felt he could talk about to others. It wasn't his kind of secret to share. "Something personal. That's all I'm willing to say. Okay? It's not my place to share. Ask your aunt if you want to know more. Not sure if she'll be more willing to talk about it, though." Once again Harry shrugged, suddenly reminded of Draco's mother berating him for this habit. "But of one thing I'm certain: there's no courtship going on, or anything of that kind."

Before either of them could talk more about this piece of journalism, Professor McGonagall stood from where she was sitting right next to the empty seat of the Headmaster at the head table and without any serious effort had the attention of most of the students.

Susan quickly made her way back to the Hufflepuff table, taking the magazine with her.

"Good evening. I have an announcement to make." Those few words were enough to shut the rest of those students up who still had been whispering. "You all have noticed the absence of Headmaster Dumbledore. I have the sad obligation to inform you all that he will not be returning to Hogwarts, as he is retiring." That proclamation had the whole Hall filled with distressed voices. Mostly from three tables in the room. The Slytherin's were either not willing to make their opinion heard or were simply too refined to show their feelings so openly.

Harry suspected that most of the Slytherins would have liked to cheer but were aware how bad that would look, so they had tried for politely blank instead.

One of the worst reactions they could have chosen, according to all the lessons he had gotten in negotiations over the summer, both from Marvolo and his grandfather's portrait. If one showed emotions, the sudden absence of them almost always hinted at something they wanted to keep hidden.

"The Board of Governors has offered me the position of Headmistress, and after thinking about it, I have decided to accept." The Gryffindor table drowned out her next words with deafening cheers, whistling, and clapping. The more modest clapping from the other three tables didn't make a lot of difference among all that clamour. A stern – yet somehow still amused look – from their Transfiguration Professor managed to calm the Gryffindors down again. "Until we have found another professor for Transfiguration and it has been decided who will be Head of Gryffindor from now on, both Professor Snape and Professor Flitwick will act as deputy so the burden is distributed over more people."

While all around him the students began speculating who might become the new Transfiguration professor, and who the Head of Gryffindor, Harry mused that the meeting between his father and Madame Bones might not be interesting enough to be top of the talk after that revelation.

oooOOooo

The wind was howling around the house, the heavy rain against the windows filling the room with a lot of noise, almost drowning out the sounds of the merrily burning fire in the fireplace. The heavy cloud cover prevented the light of the full moon from reaching the ground, which was getting muddier by the minute.

Sirius sat on the floor of the south parlour on a thick woollen blanket, a few letters next to him, his back to the fire. "Thanks for translating the parts of the letters for me that were French, Remus." Sirius said, his eyes trained – again – on one of the two letters his daughters had send him.

The werewolf gave a small huff and placed his head down on his front paws, his amber eyes trained on his friend's form.

"It's impressive how good their English is." Sirius felt pride for his daughters' academic accomplishments. Going by what they had written about their schoolwork, he had every right to be. That they had learned English as well only added to that. "I'm not sure why their mother still insist on writing in French, though. I know that she can speak more than just French."

Remus gave a small wuffing sound that Sirius knew to be one of agreement.

Frowning, Sirius looked up from the letter he currently was holding and directed his gaze to where Remus had made himself comfortable on a small mound of blankets and pillows. The reason for his frown wasn't the fact that the blankets and pillows would be covered in wolf fur by the end of the night. No, the reason was the massive cage Remus had insisted on putting into the room.

"I think that you are overly dramatic, Remus. And I will repeat this several more times this night." The small sound Remus made clearly was one of resigned frustration with his friend. "You have taken your wolfsbane. And even if it should inexplicably fail all of a sudden, I still could transform into Padfoot and be safe. There is no need to keep you in a cage just because I wanted to write letters to Nawel and Enora."

Remus had decided to stay indoors because of the terrible weather that had been forecast for the region of Potter Manor, and Sirius had happily agreed. Rain, sleet, and strong winds in February wasn't really fun to run around in. Not if the alternative was a place in front of a warm fire.

Remus stood, turned a few tight circles on the blanket – in a move Sirius knew all too well from trying to make himself comfortable on a cold stone floor with only a threadbare blanket – and then let himself fall to the ground with his back turned towards Sirius.

Sirius snorted. His friend didn't need words to clearly communicate that Sirius' opinion on this wasn't appreciated. "Sulk all you want, Moony, but you know that I'm right. There is no danger here." The big wolf – looking so much healthier with every moon he was in Slytherin's employ – just continued to ignore Sirius, who gave a theatrical sigh, preparing to make a draft for the first letter he wanted to write.

Of course Sirius knew the exact reason Remus had insisted on the cage, which Sirius had to transfigure. The woods outside the Manor had been warded to make sure the werewolf could run there in the marked stretch of grounds, adhering to the law that demanded a werewolf had to make sure he or she was in a secure place during their transformations. Said secure place had been defined as a space either closed with locks and structures strong enough to hold a rampaging wolf, or wards designed to do the same.

The decision to stay indoors had left them without a warded space – Lord Slytherin only had warded the woods – and Sirius' objection to locking Remus in the wine cellar had ruled out the only structure strong enough.

This was Remus' attempt to comply with the law, making sure that his actions would never be grounds for overturning all the improvements that had been accomplished. But Sirius still felt it was silly.

"Do you think I should send Kreacher over to France and the summer home now? Or should I rather wait a bit? Or even arrange for a wizard or witch to clean things up? It has been quite some time since the house was last visited by anyone from the family, as far as I know," Sirius mused. He never had been the most patient and wasn't prepared to out wait his friend.

Hearing the rustling of fabric and a big animal moving, Sirius looked up again. He laughed because his friend was wearing his you-know-I-can't-use-words-in-this-form expression. Lily had once argued with James for more than an hour over the fact they all had named a few expressions they knew from Moony, while she claimed a wolf couldn't actually make such an expression. Something about muscles missing that would be needed. The three of them had laughed it off – Remus staying neutral if amused at the whole discussion – and Lily had left with a frustrated huff.

Turning his thoughts away from this painful recollections, Sirius repeated the questions in a way that Remus could answer them in their long established pattern of one small wuff for yes and two for no.

"Sending wizards probably really is better," Sirius mused, having started another parchment to make notes for his preparations. He would have to ask Lord Slytherin if Harry could come visit for a few days during the holidays. "Maybe I should hire some curse-breakers. If the house is even remotely like Grimmauld Place… Maybe Bill has the time." Sirius hadn't seen the curse-breaker often, but the few times he had it had been obvious that the oldest Weasley son was planning to propose to his girlfriend. A little extra money to start them out probably would come in handy.

"Do you think it's too much if I ask them to stay the whole holidays?" Remus wuffed one time, and Sirius felt frustrated by the lack of words cutting short on what Moony could communicate easily. "Maybe I should get you some letter cards or something along those lines for nights with really bad weather," Sirius sort of asked, tilting his head to the side.

Moony shook his head, huffed, and curled into a furry mound, clearly ending his participation in the conversation.

Laughing, Sirius let the topic drop, instead concentrating on his letters. He needed to write three, and he'd better hurry up to make sure neither his daughters not their mother would have to wait long.

oooOOooo

AN: I'm not all that sure about the long part between Marvolo and Amelia… only one thing is certain: she isn't ambitious and ruthless enough to marry a man for political gain who she doesn't really like, especially as Lord Slytherin isn't really able to offer her much in that regard. And Marvolo is too intelligent to risk letting someone get that close who has as strong moral convictions as Amelia Bones has.

Maybe I'll manage to write it so they become friends. Only time will tell.

On another note: any suggestions for Transfiguration Professor and Head of Gryffindor? I'm currently combing through canon to find candidates for both positions and haven't really found someone yet.

After a long pause I want to recommend another story to you all! It's "Letters to everybody" by Siebenschlaefer which can be found on and AO3. She asked me a while ago if she could use the "Law of Haxby" I made up for this story. That's how I started to read her stuff. It's good!

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

First published on the 14th of September 2018
Next chapter planned for 19th of October 2018