*Gratuitous Author's Note* I am so sorry to all my faithful fans, readers, alerters etc. I know it's taken a while but things happened to halt my flow, plus a characteristic bout of depressive laziness. so sorry, and I know this is a bit shorter than others but I hope to have more up soon. and thanks to Coffeeonthepatio for being a stern McGonagallesque influence and making me get a move on! love you 3

Chapter 67

April 2000

"Mummy, Mummy! Izzy broke my fire engine!" Hadrian wailed, running into the kitchen.

Sadira looked up from where she was clearing away from breakfast and sighed, rubbing her small bump. The same routine every morning since she and Severus had told him their news. He wanted more attention, now there was to be another baby in the family. Thankfully Isabella was too young to get jealous yet, although the way Hadrian was acting, it wouldn't be for long.

"Hadrian, you know she didn't mean it, she's still very young. Not a big, grown up boy like you." she told him, bending at the knee to pull hjim close.

"Don't want to be big boy. Want to be a baby." he pouted prettily.

"Oh but darling, babies don't get to go to Nursery with Anita and play with the sand and the playdough and get stories from Mrs Eagleston." Sadie urged.

"And Izzy won't come too? Coz she's a baby, right?" Hadrian asked, encouraged.

"Not till next year, no, but you'll be in Reception then." Sadie agreed. "Where is she anyway? Come on, let's go fix your fire engine."

"Daddy's talking to her." Hadrian said as he followed his mum back into the front room.

Sure enough, Severus had the wild haired little hellion on his knee, trying to explain to her that her brother's toys weren't always to share and some special ones were exclusive. As soon as the tot saw her mother, she scrambled out of her father's arms and ran towards her. Hadrian took her place, resting his glum face on his father's shoulder.

"Mummy!" Izzy squeaked, chubby arms aloft for a hug.

"Izzy, you broke Hadi's truck." Sadie said softly but firmly, kneeling to hold her daughter, but not quite hug her yet.

"Want truck." the toddler said stroppily.

"It's Hadi's and you're too little. It's not nice to break other people's things Isabella." Sadie insisted.

"Din' mean to." Isabella pouted sadly.

"Well then I think you have something to say to your brother." Sadie said firmly, patting the girl softly on the rear in her brother's direction.

"Sowwy Hadi" Izzy said mournfully. Hadrian fixed his sister with a scrutinising stare worthy of his father, then hugged her awkwardly.

"Daddy fixed it, it's alright." he said, feeling better. "But don't play with it no more or else." he warned.

Sadira watched Hadrian take the fire engine from his father, and run off into the hallway while she flopped heavily onto the sofa.

"We raised good kids" Sadie smiled happily. Severus raised a brow at her.

"Don't get too smug, we have the teenage years to survive yet." he teased, but couldn't help putting his hand on her recently appearing bump.

"I've been up an hour and already I want to go back to bed." she complained. "I feel so heavy and bloated. I'm sure I was never this bad before."

"Perhaps not, however,, given the circumstances of your previous pregnancies.." he trailed off. "Perhaps you are merely concentrating on the effects more?" he suggested.

"Hmm, maybe." she agreed, as an owl scrabbled impatiently at the kitchen window.

"I'll get it," Severus said, shoving himself to his feet and shuffling into the kitchen with barely a limp.

"It's for you, from the Ministry." He said with a touch of curiosity. Sadira sat straighter in surprise.

"Wonder what they want?" she thought aloud, turning the blue, official looking parchment in her hands,

"well, this is merely a suggestion, but perhaps the best way to discover would be to read the damn thing!" Severus said sardonically, handing her the letter opener.

"Har har, you're a veritable fountain of wit my love." she snarked back as she read the document. Severus' curiosity increased, with some concern, when she stiffened half way through.

"What is it?" he asked, reaching for the letter.

"From Kingsley. You've been exonerated, full pardon. Cleared your name for the kids he says. Order of Merlin third class for me. First class posthumous for you." she told him as he read the words for himself. "Wants to know if I want to go to the Ministry to collect or simply have them owled here."

"Exonerated due to incontrovertible evidence given by Mr H Potter. Well I can just imagine what the little swine told everyone about my bloody business." Severus grumbled.

"Language in front of the children dear." Sadie chided automatically. Severus gave her one of his patented first-year-reducing glares. She ignored it.

"Well, what am I going to reply?" she asked. Severus looked deep in thought, but there was a mischievous glint in his eye and the precursor of a smirk at the corner of his lips. "What are you thinking?" she asked, not knowing if she dared find out.

"Nothing." he answered her. " I think it's about time I answered for myself." he finished, the smirk now full blown in it's deviousness.

Percy Weasley was a busy young man, but happy with his lot in life. He had a young wife, a child on the way and had worked his way up to a respectable position in the Ministry. Of course, this meant an awful lot of work, but Percy had always been of an organised mind and took the challenges of high office in his stride.

His professionalism was shaken however when a familiar owl arrived on his desk with a letter for the Minister. Percy stopped his cataloguing and stared at the letter for a moment, his dedication to duty warring with his curiosity. He sat at the desk and picked the letter up. It was not Sadie's writing, and yet it was familiar. He had been so sure that was Xerxes a moment ago. He turned the letter over in his hands. No 'Top Secret' stamp. No 'Your Eyes Only' charms or anything to prevent him. It was part of his job to filter the Minister's mail after all.

Closing his eyes he decided to just open the damn thing and satisfy his curiosity. The blood drained from his face as he read, making his freckles stand out on the already fair skin. His eyes bugged out and his hands shook. He stood, waving the letter and bolted into the Minister's door.

"Mr Shacklebolt! Mr Shacklebolt, you have to read this!" He yelled.

Kingsley Shacklebolt was a very cool and collected wizard. It was what had made him such an effective Auror and had made him such a landslide choice as Minister. However the sight of his young, officious Undersecretary losing all composure in such an uncharacteristic way gave him cause for concern.

"What on earth is going on Weasley?" he asked, his smooth chocolate tones designed to calm the young man. Percy handed him the letter.

"It's Snape, sir. He's alive." Percy gasped.