Chapter 1

In the years following the wars with Voldemort there were many adjustments that had to be made. One such adjustment was the installation of a temporary branch of the Ministry of Magic whose purpose was to address the needs of the thousands of war orphans. Following her graduation from Hogwarts, Hermione Granger was chosen to be the head of this operation. Harry and Ron had both gone straight into Auror training, but Hermione had gone to Wizarding University. She had finished a degree in Transfiguration and was nearly finished with her degree in Education and Child Development when this opportunity arose. You might wonder how she managed to do all of this, but it did take a few years to get the orphan relocation program fully developed.

There was a law on the books that every Wizarding family who had less than two children would be required to take in a war orphan, as well as any single witch or wizard between the ages of 20 and 50. Hermione Granger was in charge of interviewing families and matching them with a child that would fit in well in their household. She had personally adopted a 6-year-old girl named Lilura. Lil, as she was normally called, came to work with Hermione every day to play with the other children. As time passed, the number of playmates she had shrank until there were only two remaining. The morning of what she had expected to be her last day in the business, there were only two children left in the playroom. Before noon, 11-year-old Max had been adopted and Lil was playing with 3-year-old Zoraida. Lil and Zo were very close, despite their age differences. Lil looked out for Zo very much like an older sister. She had asked Hermione if they could adopt Zo if no one else would.

Frankly, Hermione was a little surprised that no one had adopted Zoraida yet. She was young, which was what many of the younger couples were looking for. She was bright and friendly. She was a little mischievous, but not disobedient. Zo was a very good little girl.

Severus Snape had put this whole thing off for as long as he could. He was well within the age range to be required to adopt a child. The problem was that he just couldn't see himself taking care of a child. Sure he taught school and dealt with pre-teens and teenagers all the time, but a child was different. He only hoped that by waiting so long he could end up with a 16 or 17 year-old that barely qualified for the program. That way he would be off the hook after just a year or two. Finally, on a Monday afternoon, he strolled in the door of Hermione Granger's office to pick up a kid. He found Miss Granger herself sitting behind a desk reading a book and occasionally glancing over to a television screen. He cleared his throat to get her attention.

"Oh, Professor Snape! Good afternoon!" she greeted, clearly surprised.

"Good afternoon Miss Granger. I've come to do my civic duty and take in a child. I'd prefer the oldest one you have still available." he said lazily.

"Well, I'm sorry professor, but it doesn't work quite like that. I might have been able to find you a better match if you had come in a month ago, but now I have only one child remaining. And to be quite frank I'm not sure I want to give her to you."

"Miss Granger, you know the rules as well as I do. I am required to take in a child and, given that you only have one remaining, I would imagine I'm the only one that has not yet come to adopt a child. So, if you could please just push through the paperwork, I'd like to get back to the castle before dinner." he snapped.

"I think I should tell you a little more about the child you want to adopt first, professor. If you'll come with me please." she said before placing a sign on her desk and walking down the hallway. He stood to follow her to a viewing area with a large window in it.

"This is the viewing room," she said, "We used to have groups of families in here to watch the children and get a feel for their personalities."

Severus stepped further into the room, straight up to the window and looked around at the nearly empty playroom. It took a few seconds for him to find the two little girls who were currently coloring at a table in one corner."

"Miss Granger, you told me that you only had one child still available, but there are two in this room." he remarked. Looking at the two, he could see that his hopes of getting out of this arrangement quickly were to be dashed. Both of these girls were quite young.

"Yes, well, the older one is my daughter. She comes in with me to play with the kids. Little Zo has always been one of her favorites.

"Zo?" he asked, not even turning his head to look at her.

"Zoraida. She's three." Hermione said.

"Miss Granger, I don't know why I even feel the need to tell you this, but I'm not good with …kids. Especially not little ones. Is she even toilet trained?"

"Of course." Hermione said, laughing "She's not a baby. She uses the toilet and eats about anything you would, just in smaller quantities. She's really not that much different from an older child except that she needs a little help getting dressed and bathing. She also doesn't yet know how to read, but she'll get that quite soon I'm sure."

Severus Snape just stood in silence, looking through the glass. Hermione reached over and flipped a switch to turn on the speakers. There wasn't a lot to hear, but Severus could tell that he would be able to hear talking in the playroom.

"I'll tell you what. The playroom is just the next door down the hallway. I'll go in and play with the girls for a while. You just sit in here until you feel like you might be ready to come in. If you need anything, just hit this button and I'll see it from in the playroom." Hermione explained calmly. She headed out the door. Less than a minute later she appeared in the playroom. Both girls turned when they heard the door open.

"Mum!" Lil shouted and skipped over to her. Zoraida got up as well and ran over to Hermione. She scooped up the little girl and held her against her hip while kneeling down to hug her own daughter.

"Hi girls! Are you two doing anything fun?" she asked.

"We were coloring, but Zo was starting to get bored of it." Lil responded.

"Will you read?" Zo asked somewhat timidly.

"Of course I'll read to you, Zo. Why don't you and Lil go pick out some books while I get settled over there in the bean bags." she said, putting the smaller girl down. She walked over and moved a bean bag to sit facing the viewing room before sitting down. Zo came over with three books in her arms and commandeered Hermione's lap. Just a few seconds later Lil came over and squeezed onto the bean bag beside her mother. Hermione shifted and wrapped one arm around each girl so that they were all sitting very closely. She picked up the first book and began to read.

Severus watched closely for about two books before he decided that he could do that and entered the playroom. All three females turned when he walked into the room.

"Hello, Professor. Girls, this is Professor Snape. Professor Snape, this is Lil and Zo." Hermione said.

"Hello." Lil said quietly. Zoraida just looked at him for a moment before hoping off of Hermione's lap with the book and taking it over to him.

"Do you read?" she asked him, shyly.

"Yes, Zo. I like to read very much. Do you like to read?" he asked, trying his best not to be intimidating. It was a very difficult trick for a man who had spent decades trying to be as terrifying and intimidating as possible.

"Yes. Will you read to me?" she asked. Before he knew it, Severus Snape was seated on another bean bag with a 3-year-old girl in his lap reading some ridiculous story about a puppy. Zoraida listened intently but slowly grew more comfortable with him. Severus had to make an effort not to change the rate of his reading when she surprised him by leaning back against his shoulder or playing with the collar on his robe.

"Professor?" she asked quietly when he finished the book.

"Yes?" he responded, feeling less anxious than he had.

"Are you going to be my Daddy?" she asked with bated breath.

"I think so, Zo. Would that be okay?" he said.

"Yes." she whispered, cuddling into him after handing him a new book.

"I'm going to go draw up some papers in the office. Why don't you stay in here and play with the girls. I'll be back in a few minutes." Hermione said, standing slowly. Severus nodded and turned the page in the new book he was reading. Lil got up too and moved to sit beside him and rest her head on his arm. Hermione smiled as she walked out of the room. Sometimes she really really really loved her job.