Disclaimer: I own very little.

A/N: This chapter got longer than I'd expected. Some people had wished for some baby bonding, but I couldn't find inspiration for that, so instead I gave you a flash of when Keith and Mariah are both four years old, and that gave the chapter extra length. Well, I don't think anybody's going to protest.

Warning: Severe OOCness from Severus and Lucius in this chap. Oh, and I'm very well aware of the fact that Lucius is in fact six years older than Severus and the Marauders. But this is an AU anyway, so who cares.

Happy Schoolday, Keith Lupin

Chapter 6

During the Christmas break, a new scandal hit the headlines. Severus Snape had asked his parents for a permission to take his sister -- who was in essence his own daughter, Mariah Snape-Malfoy, taken from him as soon as she'd been born -- with him as he did some last-minute shopping. They'd agreed to that, albeit grudgingly, giving him her baby bag containing anything he might need being with the baby for the evening. Unknown to them, young Severus had told the house-elves to pack all his and Mariah's most important possessions, shrunk this package, and put it into his pocket.

The Snapes waited for their two offsprings to come back in the late evening. Nothing was heard of them. Instead, they got a message from Albus Dumbledore, who told them that Lucius and Severus had just got married, Remus and Sirius Lupin as their only witnesses. Under the name of Snape-Malfoy, Severus and Lucius had been marked Mariah's only parents and guardians, and they would stay at Hogwarts until they graduated.

The young parents were happy, and at least as happy were the younger Lupins, who'd become the couple's best friends. Keith and Mariah soon became friends in the way only little babies can -- they learnt everything together, tried everything new together, explored their surroundings together.

And the teen parents watched their children with pride and amazement. Severus and Lucius were learning the art of taking care of a child, with their more experienced friends as excellent teachers.

It had been a great shock to Sirius and Remus to discover that Lucius Malfoy, though snobbish and distant at times, was a pretty good guy underneath it all. He still looked cool around about everyone else, just like Severus did, and he was snappish and very Slytherin-y in the end. However, whenever his eyes fell to his dark-haired husband or their tiny daughter, they were filled with a warmth and love that well rivalled the one they felt for each other or their son. This fact, if nothing else, made it easy to them to befriend Lucius.

And time rolled by, and soon, they noticed that the spring was getting nearer, they had the NEWTs hanging over their heads, and their time in Hogwarts was about to end.

"Ave Maria..."

Sirius smiled slightly as he heard the familiar words echoing quietly from the tiny nursery. Remus had learned a lot from his Muggle mother, including Ave Maria. Even though Remus hardly had any use for it as a prayer, he claimed that it made a fine lullaby. And, seeing how well their son always seemed to fall asleep listening to the quiet words being sung in the slow tune Remus had created himself, he could do little but agree.

"...Gratia plena..."

The song was lovely, even if he missed the real meaning of it. If there was something Muggles were definitely better at than wizards, it was the area of arts. Sure, there were wizards and witches with artistic talents, great talents, even. But they also had magic. Muggles didn't have that, and thus, they'd created their own magic -- their ways to put words together and create lovely poems and exciting novels, to put colours or lines or just little points together and create pictures more wonderful than the best illusions, to put sounds together and create something more beautiful than Veelas singing or the most magnificent incantations. And even if Remus had a talent with music, Sirius was wholly ready to count that on the Muggle blood in his husband's veins.

"...Domine tecum..."

Maybe Keith would inherit his Dad's lovely singing voice, or the way he just seemed to pour melodies out, not having to plan or practice them. Yes, that would be more than wonderful.

"What's the song he's singing?" asked Severus with a hushed voice, being careful not to startle Mariah, who had just fallen asleep on his arm. They should have been in their own quarters by now, but for some reason, neither had made a move to leave, and Sirius didn't want them to, either.

"...Benedicta tu in mulieribus..."

"It's not really a song," Sirius explained with the same quiet tone the Slytherin had used. "It's in fact a Muggle prayer, he's learnt it from his mother -- she was raised to be Catholic. Then, he just created a tune to go with it. Keith seems to be fine with that as a lullaby."

Severus nodded slowly, clearly listening closely to the song. After a moment, he raised his eyes again at his former nemesis. "D'you think he'd teach it to me, too?"

"...Benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus..."

Sirius smiled, a warm, genuine smile. "I think he'd love to teach you his so-called song," he whispered in response.

Lucius has listened to their interaction without a single comment. Now, however, he did something - although not much, or anything remarkable. He simply extended his hands towards the baby in Severus's arms. The darkhaired Slytherin took the hint and handed their daughter to his husband.

And, to their great surprise, Lucius then began to quietly sing along with Remus. True, he was a bit behind the werewolf -- how otherwise? He didn't know the tune, he couldn't, as Remus had created it himself -- but he obviously knew the words better than well.

"...Santa Maria, Mater Dei..."

"How do you know that?" hissed Severus curiously, but shut up at the first glance at Lucius's face. Sirius and he both watched in amazement as the usually so cool and reserved Slytherin seemed to slowly relax.

"...Ora pro nobis peccatoribus..."

Remus emerged from the nursery, obviously having put his little son to sleep. In a perfect unison with Lucius, he sang the last words very quietly.

"...Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae."

"Where do you think I found the name 'Mariah?'" asked Lucius from his husband, raising an eyebrow. "By the time it became clear they wouldn't let us keep her, I begged your parents to let us name her at least. I wanted to annoy them, and so I did some research to find a name that would be as important to Muggles as possible. And what would be a better way to piss your parents off than to call the illegitimate heir of the family after the greatest of all Muggle saints? And, well, during my research, I stumbled over that prayer."

"Well, there would be worse reasons for a name," Sirius said, smirking a bit. Then he glanced at Remus. "Now, however, it's time for all little werewolves to go to bed," he said lightly. "And don't you dare to try to argue with me, Rem. I know you stayed up half of the last night studying. This time, you're going to sleep properly, even if I have to tie you to the bed to ensure that."

"A rather considerable option," said Lucius amusedly, casting a brief glance at Severus, who glared at him in response. The dark-haired Slytherin could at times be as bad with his studies as Remus was. The other times, he was even worse. "So we bid you a good night, gentlemen. It's the time for us all to go to rest."

"Waaah!" shrieked a little girl as she ran to her father. "Father, Teith is nasty! Tell Teith to stop!"

"And how exactly is Keith being nasty, my dear?" asked Lucius, smirking as he picked his eldest daughter up. He couldn't help but be amused by the way Mariah spoke. She'd never had any problems with r's or s's like most children, but she still couldn't find a satisfying way to pronounce 'k'. Instead, she just replaced it with 't' whenever it was needed in her four-year-old-talk.

"Teith is pulling my hair," the girl sniffled. "And Teith begun, Father! I did not begin!"

"Did too!" argued another child's voice from behind the corner. "You puzhed me ovew and took my horze! You took my favouwite play horze, you -- you cow!"

"Okay, that's quite enough," the tall blond sighed, rolling his eyes towards the ceiling. "Now apologize to each other, both of you. Do not take Keith's toys anymore without a permission, Mariah dear -- and don't you hurt my girl either, young man," he added to the little boy who'd come to sight.

"Will not," the boy replied. "Sowwy, Mawiah," he then said. "I'll do bad to you no mowe."

"Better be that," sniffled the girl, snaking out of her father's arms. "Sorry, Teith. I will not tate your horse again." And a bright smile now adorning her face, she ran off to start a new game with her best friend.

Lucius shook his head as he watched the children running away. Mariah and Keith had become the best friend the very moment they saw each other, when they'd been just half a year old. Ever since, they'd remained that, and he truly hoped it would stay that way, too. There were very few he would have thought worthy to ever approach his daughter, but Keith Lupin was definitely one of them. In his mind he had even decided that if the two ever begun dating, he wouldn't threat Keith with anything nasty -- well, not much, at least. Of course he would have to say something, he was Mariah's father, after all.

"Such adorable kids they are," a happy voice said behind him. As he turned around he saw Sirius, who was carrying little Harry Potter on his arm. "It's nice to see how much they like each other."

"Truly it is," replied Lucius, chuckling slightly. "You would think they're joined at the hip. I just fear the day they'll both attend to Hogwarts." Then he turned serious. "Is everything all right?" he asked with a low voice, hoping that the Animagus would answer positively. He couldn't bear it if it was otherwise.

To his great relief, Sirius nodded. "His condition is steady right now," he replied soothingly. "You'll be the first one who gets informed if the things start to develop."

Lucius nodded, understanding. That was the reason why the Potter baby was in the Malfoy Manor, anyway. Lily Potter was a wonderful healer -- almost as good as Remus, who had got the opportunity to become one after both Lucius and Sirius pressured the Ministry enough. He was the first werewolf ever to be allowed to work in St. Mungo's, and nothing could have made him happier.

Now the expertise of them both was sorely needed. Severus, who was currently pregnant for the third time -- the first time being with Mariah, and the second one with their other daughter, Hannah -- had got some complications. Remus and Lily had assured Lucius that his husband would survive, as would the baby, but that it might cause a premature birth. Then, they had driven him away and begun their work with the dark-haired Potions Master, who'd been unconscious the last time Lucius had seen him.

Merlin, he hoped Severus would be all right. Wait a minute. What was he thinking? Of course Severus would be all right, and so would their baby boy -- he might be premature, but a great child all the same. Nobody would be hurt, not anybody he loved, for he would never allow that.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly as he heard the happy shouts of Keith, Mariah, and Hannah from the nearby playroom. "I'm sorry that you can't have more children. It truly is not fair."

"Don't be sorry for us," replied Sirius with a faint smile. "Remus already has more than most werewolves ever get. He has a son who is really his, a husband, a job he loves, and great friends. We hardly can complain. And besides," he then added with a conspirator tone, "I'm working on it all the time. There's no spell ever invented without a counter-spell somewhere. And once I find it, then..."

Lucius nodded in confirmation. "And if the Ministry wants to say anything about it, they can deal with me," he said coolly. His father had passed away two years earlier, around the time Hannah had been born. Now the head of the Malfoy family -- and the one who possessed the power of that family -- was Lucius himself. And he did not hesitate to use it to further his own ends or those of his friends.

Sirius nodded. "And I thank you for it," he said quietly. Then, his expression turned more cheerful. "Let's go see what our kids are doing, then, shall we?" he suggested. "I'm sure that Remus and Lily will inform you as soon as possible of whether you're going to become a daddy once more today or after a month."

Lucius nodded in a perfect agreement with the Gryffindor. Nothing would happen to Severus, he knew it. Their friends would not let anything happen to him.

And as he walked towards the playroom, his friend -- Gryffindor friend, of all things! -- walking happily on his side with the child of James Potter on his arm, he suddenly found himself humming an old song. He had learnt it what seemed a lifetime earlier but had really been only some years, and it was the same his both daughters had always fallen asleep listening to. The song he'd named his eldest daughter after.

'...Gratia plena...' the words of an ancient Muggle prayer echoed through the corridors of the mighty fortress of everything Slytherin and Pureblood, sung by the last son of the most Pureblood family ever. The mighty, snobbish wizards and witches shuddered once more in their frames. Remus's sharp ears caught the tune when he hurried to tell Lucius that both his husband and unborn child were safe, and that the unborn would just stay that for the last month lacking of the full term. And Severus, somewhere up in a tower, deep in sleep under Lily Potter's watchful eyes, turned slowly in his sleep, a slight smile curling his lips.

Lucius had denied his family and inheritance to be with his loved ones. He'd never had to regret that decision, and, like he decided as he walked on, humming quietly, he never would. Never, for it had given him so much happiness that he felt like he could just sing forever, sing these words that finally underlined the difference between him and his father, for not a Muggle prayer would have ever crossed his father's lips.

'Benedicta tu in mulieribus...'

Well? Should I write yet another sequel to my Happy Holidays -series, or would it be better to just leave it be?