Despite the revelations and confessions of that day, it wasn't all smooth sailing from that point on. Severus was still prone to anger; Harry to disobedience; and Shadow to timidity. But even though there was still a lot unsaid, they managed to fall into step with an ease which surprised everyone but themselves.

Severus tasked Albus with arranging and explaining everything with the other staff at Hogwarts. For once, he was content to leave the responsibility in someone else's hands. His and Albus' guilt over what they'd done to Shadow was never voiced – you don't burden a child with that kind of emotion beyond a sincere apology and a promise to do better – but it was shown in one hundred different ways that they doted over the younger boy. Harry didn't mind; he knew they cared for him too and would have been indignant had they treated Shadow as being any less special than Harry knew he was.

Harry himself handed Salem over to be Shadow's familiar with great ceremony; he already had Hedwig and the snake had always had more of an affinity with the 'mirror boy'. Shadow had been delighted, but still experienced anxiety over the idea that he was separate from Harry and would now have to make his own decisions in the world. Salem's warm presence curled tightly around his arm helped a little with that.

And so the family settled; it was too early to speculate over what the new term at Hogwarts might bring for them all. Far better to seize the moment and make it count…


Snape had left the making of the Christmas cake up to Harry this year, which was turning out to be a less than brilliant plan. Aside from the fact that he'd never made a Christmas cake before, he had also discovered that Shadow – despite having many memories to the contrary – couldn't cook to save his life.

"D'you think you're not supposed to be able to stir it?" the younger boy asked, poking the immobile wooden spoon with interest. Harry repressed the urge to sigh.

"Somehow I don't think so."

"Hmm, how about you hang onto the bowl and I try to stir it again?"

Harry glanced up at the blob of cake mixture on the ceiling. "Let's do that... only, you're the one holding the bowl this time."

Another five minutes later and Harry was ready to admit defeat.

"I give up! It has all the ingredients in it, so let's just shove it in the oven," he said grumpily, wiping an arm across his forehead.

"If we can get it out of the bowl..." Shadow agreed dubiously. "Maybe we shouldn't have added so much treacle."

Harry gave him a look as if to say 'you think?' and glanced over at the empty tin on the sideboard.

Shadow flushed. "Well... The lid fell off... and it all sort of poured in."

"Treacle doesn't pour, it gloops!"

"So sue me; I wanted to see what happened!"

"I figured. Hand me that spatula would you? It looks sturdy enough to get all this into the cake tin. At least, I hope so. I don't want to be the one explaining to Dad why his cake has a wooden spoon in it."

Shadow perched on a chair, wisely staying out of the way, as Harry hacked at the mixture. "Don't you think it's weird how we can have the same memories of how to make something, but completely different approaches to actually doing it?"

Harry grinned at him – he'd just managed to lever most of the mess in the bowl over to where it was supposed to be – "You'll get used to it. Like I got used to only having half of my magic."

"Technically it wasn't yours in the first place, but a mixture of both yours and mine."

Harry rolled his eyes, flushing with pleasure at the memory of Snape allowing them to view the scene with Lily's final words to him. "Yeah, yeah, I heard what Mum said too, but you've got to admit, it was mine first."

His brother sniffed haughtily, trying to unsuccessfully stop his lips from curling into a smile. "I admit nothing."

"Tch. Come over here and hold the paper while I tie the string."

Shadow obliged. "Why do we have to wrap the tin up in paper anyway? It's just another cake, albeit a seasonal one."

"'Cos the recipe says so, that's why. There we go, all done. Now, I wonder what we could do for the four hours it needs to cook..."

"Let's go flying!"

"Just what I was thinking! But I get the Firebolt this time."

"Fine, fine... But it's my turn when Ron comes round. Should we get Dad to tell Mrs Weasley or surprise them when they come?"

"Surprise them of course! Come on, I'll race you."

"You're on!"

The two boys dashed out of the room without a backward glance, not even noticing the deep chuckle that rang out from behind them.

Severus cancelled the Disillusionment spell and shook his head in amusement. His sons had been so intent on making a complete wreck of his kitchen that they hadn't even noticed him come back from Diagon Alley. Still, he knew he'd made the right decision by not announcing his presence – watching his boys have so much fun together was a joy in and of itself... Now there's something he wouldn't have thought a year ago!

With a few casual flicks of his wand, he Banished the mess they'd left behind, and the monstrosity in the oven. Much as he appreciated the work that went into it, there was no way in hell he'd suffer through that on Christmas day and pretend to enjoy it.

Taking out his own premade cake in its tin from one of the many cupboards, he efficiently wrapped a funnel of brown paper and put it in the oven. Harry would probably work out what had happened once he discovered it didn't taste awful, but in the meantime he could look forward to seeing their apprehensive faces on Christmas day when each told they had to have a piece of their own creation...

Severus shook his head. Let it never be said that his malicious streak had completely deserted him even though he was now a father. He did have standards to live up to after all.

A happy yell redirected his attention out the window and a smile found its way onto his face before he even thought to check it. Two sons. And both of them Lily's. Truly he was the luckiest man in the world.