A/N: This for all of you who wanted to know what Albus' reaction was to the news of Harry's adoption by Severus at the end of The Christmas Guardian. Hope it is all you hoped for. This is the end folks - no more after this!

Albus Dumbledore peered down over his glasses at the great grand-children playing around the Christmas tree at his nieces' house. It had been a wonderful morning, full of squeals of gladness as stockings and piles of presents were ripped into with abandon by the little ones. Now the adults were sitting back and enjoying cups of coffee and tea while the kids played with their new toys and admired each other's new togs they had received. Aberforth was seated on the settee next to his brother, reading the Daily Prophet that had just been delivered. Albus was just in the middle of sipping his tea when his brother let loose a guffaw, then started laughing uproariously, slapping Albus on the back in his enthusiasm and causing his older sibling to spew the contents of his mouth down his beard. This only caused the younger wizard to laugh even more.

"What in blazes, Abe?" Albus sputtered as he raised his wand to dry his whiskers.

"Oh, you're going to love this, Al," Aberforth chuckled and handed his brother the paper after folding it to the correct section.

"Why would I want to read the section on 'Births and Adoptions'?"

"Third one down," the man said helpfully. He silently counted to three before his brother let loose with a barrage of questionable language. It was a good thing he had cast that silencing charm before Albus had read, or else Phyllis would have both their heads for swearing in front of the children. He loved his daughter, but she could sometimes give Molly Weasley a run for her money in the strict mother category.

He waited until he was sure Albus was done with his tirade before cancelling the charm.

Albus rattled the paper at him. "How could they do this? Don't they know that boy needs the blood wards? Don't they understand he has to look to me to..." he choked as Aberforth silenced him with a word, grabbing his arm to forcefully move his brother out of the room and into a quiet study, closing the door behind him and warding it thoroughly.

"Albus, you better not say what I think you were about to say," he warned as he removed the spell from his older brother. The Great Mugwump just glared at the other man.

"I'm serious, Albus, if I find out you've been deliberately ignoring something, I will withdraw my support this time around," he threatened.

"I don't know what you are talking about," Albus declared.

"Oh, really. So, the fact that your teachers went behind your back to secure alternate guardianship for the Boy-Who-Lived, doesn't indicate to you that you may have missed something vital in his previous guardianship?" he enquired.

"I missed nothing," the older mage declared.

Aberforth narrowed his eyes; his brother was deliberately obfuscating. "I see. So, you knew that something might not be right? Did you ever check on the lad? Did he ever complain to you?"

"He might have mentioned that he didn't want to go home..."

"And that didn't set off warning bells?"

"He had Lily's protection guarding him from the Death Eaters and Voldemort's return. It was the safest place for him," Albus insisted. Aberforth shook his head, wondering at his brother's blindness.

"Albus, when will you ever learn that sometimes we need to guard against those in the home, as well the outside threats? It wouldn't have done the Wizarding world any good to have their saviour murdered by his own kin, now would it?" He saw his brother flinch at that, but that was the only reaction he received. "Well, it is a done deal now. He's not going back to his relatives, Severus has control of him." He heard his brother growl in irritation. "Face it Albus, you blew it. Somehow you managed not to see the forest for the trees and it got to the point where your staff had to step in and correct it. I wonder what was actually going on in that house..." he mused.

"Find out."

"Beg your pardon?" He looked at his brother incredulously.

"Find out what happened. Talk to the Dursleys, or Severus, but find out."

"Albus, I am not going to do your dirty work for you. Forget it. If you want to know what went wrong, ask them yourself. Go ask the boy, I'm sure he could give you an earful. Or, talk to Minerva – I'm sure she had something to do with this." His brother perked up at this last suggestion.

"Alright, I'll do that; but I won't forget that you refused me, Aberforth," he said as he stalked out of the room, shattering Abe's wards as he left with a wave of his hand.

"Like I truly care, Albus," the wizard mumbled to himself.

Albus had tried Minerva's floo at the school and found it blocked, so he had tried Flitwicks. He had found the diminutive professor at home, playing with his pet cat.

"Albus, what can I do for you?"

"Filius, I was looking for Minerva, have you seen..."

"She's at her grand-niece's house. Major outbreak of dragon-pox and with the fifth child on the way, the girl needed some help," Filius over talked his superior.

"Oh, of course, thank you." He quickly pulled his head out of the fire then cast more powder into the fireplace. "Moira Donaghal," he called out, sticking his head back into the green flames.

"Well, that was quick, Albus," Minerva said. She was seated in front of the fireplace with a two-year-old happily playing on her lap with a bright toy that jingled as the toddler tilted it around. There was no sign of spots on the youngster and Albus narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

"May I step through?"

"Of course. Tabitha, go find your mother, please." The young girl took off down a nearby corridor giggling the entire way. McGonagall smiled indulgently after the youngster as Albus stepped through, brushing the soot off his robes. "Have a seat," she said motioning him over to a chair. He gratefully sat down before attempting to pierce her with his eyes.

"That won't work, Albus. I thoroughly agree with what Severus has done, so you can stop right there."

"Minerva, Harry has to stay behind the blood wards; they are the only thing keeping him safe..."

She snorted, causing him to blink rapidly. "Safe. You know he wasn't safe there. I warned you when you dropped him off that they were the wrong kind of Muggles to leave him with, and I was proven right when he got to school and Poppy scanned him. I know you've seen the reports, Albus, that child was abused! How could you send him back there this last summer? Wards only work to keep those wishing him harm from getting in the house, but what if the house already contains people who are harming him – possibly worse than the Death Eaters? What then, Albus? Harry was beaten, starved, verbally and physically abused; Severus was more than willing to take him in, and Harry agreed. They took the blood bonding potion – which Pomfrey said took like wildfire, in a spectacular fashion, better than any she has ever seen – and it is done, documents signed." She sat back in her chair with a smirk on her face. "You'll just have to accept it, Albus. Harry belongs with Severus, now. The guardianship is complete."

"This changes everything, Minerva. Harry was supposed to count on me to lead him. I am supposed to be his mentor in his destiny. He must fulfil that future!" he ranted.

"Albus Dumbledore! That child is only a twelve-year old boy. He needs to live his life as best he can, with support from the adults around him – not be manipulated into following some prophecy! No, I stand with Severus on this one. Get that stuff and nonsense out of your head right now, Dumbledore, none of us are standing for it. If you want Harry trained, then Severus can train him. I would approach him with your heart on your sleeve, though. He was quite put out with you when he discovered you knew about Harry's home life all along. He had promised Lily years ago to protect her son, and now he feels like you deliberately lied to him. Merlin, even I feel like you lied to us!" she snapped at him.

Dumbledore sighed, resignation setting into his face. He momentarily covered his eyes with his hands then wearily drew them down his face.

"You're right, Minnie, there is nothing I can do, now. Heaven help us. I truly thought Harry was safest there, despite the unhappiness there for him. At least he wasn't raised to be spoiled..."

"No, far from that. You are very lucky they didn't go and kill him with their brand of kindness." She crossed her arms across her chest, still glaring at him.

"I suppose." He stood up from his chair and crossed to the floo, taking a handful of powder from the box on the mantle. "I'll see you next week?" She nodded curtly and he sighed before throwing the powder in and speaking his destination.

Filius Flitwick took his time traversing the length of the school from his quarters to Severus'. He didn't want to let the Potions Master know about Dumbledore, but felt it wise to prepare the man, nevertheless.

He walked down the stairs to the dungeons, greeting students as they passed him on their way to the Great Hall for breakfast. He already knew that Severus planned on dining in that day, so he continued towards the corridor that housed the Slytherin Head of House quarters.

Stopping in front of the tangle of Runespoor, he announced his presence and watched as a lone snake detached itself from the writhing ball and wriggled off the frame. A moment later the door opened to reveal Harry Potter still in his night clothes.

"Professor! Come in, can I get you some tea or coffee? We were just sitting down to breakfast."

"No, no Mr Potter, I just came to speak with Professor Snape. Hello, Severus," he stated as he came around the corner of the couch and finally spied the tall gangly man seated at the table sipping some coffee. In contrast to Harry, he was already fully dressed sans teaching robes.

"Filius, what brings you here?"

"Have you read the Prophet yet?" he asked as he sat across from the dark man, accepting the cup that Harry had poured for him anyway.

"Just got it, why?"

"Page thirteen, Announcements," was the Charms professor's reply and he watched as Severus quirked an eyebrow then snagged the paper off the table, quickly opening it to the correct page and column. It only took him two seconds to discover the pertinent notice.

"Ah, I see. We've been outed, Harry," he said calmly.

"Sorry?" came the reply from across the table as Harry spread marmalade on his scones.

"I forgot that it is customary for changes in legal status of anyone to be announced in the paper." He handed over the paper to the young man, pointing with a long finger to the area in question. "This is going to be awkward," he murmured to himself, already seeing the wide-spreading ramifications. How could he have forgotten such an important piece of taking over Harry's guardianship?

"It already is," piped up the small professor. "Dumbledore just contacted me looking for Minerva. He was not happy."

Severus snorted before resuming the consumption of his daily dose of caffeine. "Too bad," he declared. He gazed at Harry who was pensively looking at his partially finished breakfast. "Harry?" he asked quietly.

"He can't stop this, can he?" whispered the teen, whose face was suddenly leeched of all colour.

"No, he most certainly cannot. We have a legally binding agreement that has been enforced with magic. With the blood bond, it is as if you were my natural son. He can't break it short of killing one of us and trust me; he needs both of us too much to attempt that." He snorted to himself as he warmed up his cup.

Harry looked a little better after Severus' explanation, but his appetite had still been killed. "Erm, I think I'll just take my presents and put them away and take a shower. It was nice seeing you, professor," he said to Flitwick. "I hope you've had a nice holiday." He grabbed his presents and departed to his room, the quiet snick of his door closing, echoing in the silent quarters.

Filius got down off his chair. "I'm sorry, Severus, but I thought you should know before Dumbledore takes it in his head to come hunting after you."

"No, it's alright, Filius. The cat was going to be let out of the bag soon enough. I was just counting on later rather than sooner." Severus shook his head as he escorted his colleague to the door. "I'd say I'd see you tonight; but I think, under the circumstances, that we'll be eating down here tonight."

"I understand – let the hubbub die down. I'll see you later then. Happy Christmas," he said as Severus opened the door.

"You too, Filius." He watched as the dwarfish man disappeared around the corner before closing the door again. He turned back to the room, sighing as he Evanesco-ed the rubbish from the present opening and cleared the dishes with another wave of his wand. Hearing the water still running from Harry's room, he retired to his own rooms to prepare for the day.

Minerva McGonagall cast a warming and drying charm on herself as she entered the entrance hall of Hogwarts. It had been a very satisfying two weeks at her grand-niece's house and she had gotten her yearly dose of hugging the little ones and playing games with the older children. Now, she was home at Hogwarts and the students were due back from break tomorrow. She just hoped that her lone Gryffindor student was still intact. Not that she doubted he was, but Severus had never had to have a pre-teen live in his chambers. The man was an avowed bachelor, and had never let students beyond his office doors unless absolutely necessary – and never more than for a few hours in order to clear up some problem or another. Every time that had happened, he'd had another teacher present. So, alone with a ward was something novel.

She stopped her musings and started across the entryway after making a check of the amount of rubies in the Gryffindor counter. Ah, Harry had managed to lose some points – not too many, it appeared. She grinned to herself as she continued walking but came to a halt when she nearly ran into Severus coming up from the dungeons.

"Severus!" she exclaimed. "I see the school is still standing, didn't have much trouble then?"

The dour man actually let a smirk grace his features as he espied the older witch. "No, not much trouble at all. No Gryffindors to stir things up for once. Just quiet Hufflepuffs, studious Ravenclaws and manipulative Slytherins. And the last I can handle with my eyes blindfolded and my wand hand tied behind my back."

She huffed good-naturedly. "That's only because you're ambidextrous, Severus. Come, walk me to my rooms. How's Mr Potter?"

"Doing remarkably well, considering," he stated as he escorted her up the stairs, relieving her of her portmanteau.


"Besides being worried about the Headmaster and his friend's reactions, he also managed to lose points yesterday for being bold enough to talk back to me."

She chuckled at the sour look on his face. "Well, that's promising. He must be getting comfortable enough with the situation to risk your wrath. What was the impetus, if you don't mind me asking?"


"Quidditch? How...?" she stared at him as they came to the top of the stairs, not paying attention.

Severus sighed as he took her elbow to steer her around the corner before she knocked herself silly on a pillar. "Minerva, as you are the one who got him so enamoured with the subject in the first place – placing him on the team his first week in the wizarding world – you should understand that Harry lives and breathes Quidditch when he isn't trying to get himself killed by hunting down the Dark Lord. In this particular instance, I caught him attempting to sneak out of our quarters, under that damn invisibility cloak, in order to 'get some night practice in'." He sketched some quotes in the air as he set the luggage down to await her opening of her door.

"I thought you said he talked back to you?" she queried as she walked in and Severus set the trunk against the wall. He wandered over to her fireplace, starting a blaze with a flick of his hand while his colleague hung up her wrap and removed her gloves and scarf. "Call for some tea, Severus," she ordered while checking her desk and gathering up a number of letters awaiting her attention. She joined him on the settee as he placed a tray with a steaming pot of tea and a plate of biscuits on her table. He poured out before resuming the conversation.

"He talked back to me when I told him in no uncertain terms that he was not permitted to go flying about in a snowstorm, unattended, in the dead of night – Quidditch match next weekend or not!" He sipped his tea, savouring the flavour and warmth as it flowed over his tongue. Orange spice; one of his favourites.

"What did he say?" she was curious, abandoning the stack of mail in her lap.

"Oh, he called me all sorts of names and stated how I obviously wanted Slytherin to win this match and so on. He was quite upset – but I think it was more that he was embarrassed he'd been caught. Then he threw a fit when I confiscated his cloak. He knew that was coming, I'd warned him the first night that it would happen if he used it for nefarious acts."

"Nefarious? Severus!"

"Then he stormed back into his room slamming the door. All in all, a most inauspicious ending to an otherwise relatively peaceful winter break."

"Alright, what are his punishments besides the points loss – how many did you take?" she asked, settling back against the cushions.

Severus raised his hand and began ticking off the reprimands. "Thirty points for talking back and throwing a tantrum; a three-foot essay on the dangers inherent in running around the castle grounds alone, at night, and during a storm; confiscation of the dratted cloak for the semester, and no Quidditch for the week. He will have that privilege restored just in time for the match. If I was truly evil, I would have grounded him from the match as well – but he managed to keep quiet."

"Where is he now?"

"Writing his essay – it is due tonight before dinner. Would you like to join us? He should be on his model behaviour by then." He grinned at her as he finished his tea and set the saucer on the table.

She chuckled slightly. "I'd be honoured. Really, Severus, besides last night – how has it been with Harry?" she pressed.

"Quite satisfactory. He is a typical little hellion, but with an atypical background. We actually get along quite well and I will admit it to you and Poppy only, he has managed to capture my heart in just these few short days. He is mine, Minerva, just as if I was his true father. The bonding was very strong."

"So Poppy told me. I'm happy for you, Severus. Have you heard from Albus yet?"

"No," he said, shaking his head. "I know he knows about it – who doesn't? However, he hasn't approached me yet, nor sent a letter."

"Well, I gave him an earful when he came to me on Christmas day. Hopefully he took it to heart. Has Harry told his friends?"

"Not that I know. I think he was planning on telling them later, although if they get the paper they already know and just haven't communicated that with him yet. We'll see tomorrow. I'll send him back up to the tower in the afternoon before the train arrives. Oh, your present idea was brilliant – he loved the pictures. He looks at them all the time."

"I'm glad to be of help." She arose to escort him to her door. "I'll see you tonight, six o'clock."

"That will be fine, welcome back," he said before gliding out the door, robes in full billow as he strode down the hallway back to the stairs.

Harry Potter, ward of Severus Snape, sat wearily at his guardian's dinner table working the cramps out of his right hand before finishing up his punishment essay. Really, couldn't the man have set him some chores, or scrubbed some cauldrons? Or even prepared ingredients? He hated writing essays – especially ones assigned as a punishment.

He had worked out the cramp in the pad of his thumb and resignedly dipped his quill in the ink pot.

In conclusion, I understand that what I did was wrong and that it was very dangerous. I was not thinking things out to their resultant end, not aware that it was storming last night and that it would have endangered my health. I regret what I said to you in anger and in the future will try to curb my tongue and come to you first with my requests, and try to act in a more mature manner.

There, all done. Just in time too, as he heard the door open behind him. He turned in his seat and watched as Snape came towards him.

"I'm all finished, sir," he said contritely. "I – I'm really sorry about last night, sir. I don't understand what got into me."

Severus sat down across from his ward, gathering the roll of parchment towards him. "Harry, you are a boy of twelve on the verge of adolescence. You are allowed to have off nights. However, it is my duty to remind you that you need to think before opening your mouth – or you will regret what spills out. It is a learning process, just like this essay was. It caused you to stop and think, did it not?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then I have done my job correctly. You tend not to repeat offences when they are pointed out to you, and I expect to not have a repeat of last nights idiocies. Am I clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Come here, Son." He could see the absolute misery written on Harry's face and he felt the need to relieve it. Harry slowly got up and walked the few steps to stand in front of his guardian. Severus reached out and placed a hand on the boys shoulder, using the other to lift Harry's chin so that he could look into his eyes. "Just because you did something wrong last night does not mean I will stop the guardianship, or think you are a bad child. You're not, and I never will do that. I wouldn't want to do that. You are my son now, I can't ever give that up." He was surprised as a tear trickled down the boy's face. He rubbed it away gently with his thumb. A sniffle from Harry was all he heard before the boy had thrown himself onto the older man's lap and his arms.

A few moments – and a few wet handkerchiefs – later, Severus was able to give Harry a squeeze on the shoulders, and a reminder swat to the butt, to send him on his way to get ready for dinner. With a grateful grin, Harry gathered his things from the table and went to go pack them away in his trunk in preparation for returning to the tower the next afternoon. He grabbed a stack of clean clothes and went to go take a quick shower before he was due back in the main part of the quarters.

"What is the headmaster going to do?" Harry asked during the pudding course.

"He can't do anything, Mr Potter," his head of house pointed out. "Your blood adoption was perfectly legal and the case is airtight. If he had paid attention in the first place, you would never have been placed there. As it is, he can't break it."

"Professor McGonagall is correct, Harry. Albus may storm about, twinkle his eyes, and act like he never knew this was going on, but we all know the truth; and now, so does the rest of the Wizarding world." Severus grimaced in ruefulness; he was still castigating himself over the forgotten obligatory publishing of announcements. Well, it was water under the bridge, and he could do nothing about it now. Tomorrow, and Albus, would come soon enough.

"Harry, are you ready for classes to start on Monday?" Minerva asked before taking a sip of her after dinner coffee.

"Yes, Ma'am. Severus has been helping me understand my holiday homework, and it is all done."

"He is worried about Mr Weasley's reaction to the news," Severus explained to his colleague. He received a pointed glare from his son as a reward for spilling the beans, so to say.

"Well, I'm sure he'll understand soon enough," she said, patting Harry's hand. "Especially, if he's as good a friend as he seems to be." She finished her coffee and stood up from the table, heading towards the door. "I must be going, things to get ready before tomorrow. Harry, Severus, thank you for a wonderful meal. Harry, you may return to the tower any time after lunch tomorrow."

"Thank you, Professor. And again, thank you for the clothes – they're perfect," Harry intoned as he watched her leave. He jumped as a thin hand landed firmly, but gently all the same, on his shoulder.

"Let's play a game of chess – get your mind off of things," his guardian suggested. Harry sighed, but still managed a smile.

"You're going to smash me," he mock-whinged.

"Perhaps, but you will still learn, and it will take your mind off of matters that you have no control over," the man pointed out.

Harry conceded the point and they headed over to the chess table in front of the fire where Snape did proceed to trounce the young Gryffindor. However, the game lasted long enough that Harry was exhausted and slept away the rest of the night with nary a dream to disturb him.

Harry had put his belongings away in his dorm, tramped around the outer edges of the forest with Hagrid and taken a shower and changed into his school robes in preparation for the beginning of the term feast. Now he was seated at the Gryffindor table awaiting the arrival of his friends... well, he still hoped they were his friends. Frankly, he wasn't sure. After the announcement, he and the Professor had received hundreds of Owls and many of them had included howlers. Severus had gotten to the point that the minute he saw a red envelope headed his way, he evanesco-ed the offending missive. He even taught Harry the charm.

So, now Harry was sitting at the table in anticipation. His stomach was roiling and all of the scenario's he could imagine, most of them bad, tumbled through his head at the same rate as his gastric juices. He didn't have long to wait, the steam train had puffed through the valley as he had made his way to the Great Hall, and he knew the carriages would be soon arriving. Sure enough, just as soon as he was sure he was going to sick up if he had to wait any longer, the doors burst open and the students who had spent their holidays in the castle were joined by their housemates.

The cacophony was overwhelming and Harry sank further into his seat as Gryffindors began filling in the spaces around him. He warily began to sit up straighter as it seemed that his house was not going to grill him about his change of status until a lone voice cut across the hall.

"Potter! Hey, Potter – is it true what the Prophet reported? Our Head of house adopted your runty arse?" Malfoy cat-called, hushing the room as effectively as a Silencio. Harry wanted to sink into the floor – everyone was looking at him. Apparently they were all waiting to hear what he said, but had been too polite to say anything outright. Leave it to Malfoy to be rude and state what everyone else was wondering.

"Mr Malfoy, I do believe that piece of news is old. Unless you have something more recent to relate to the entire school, I would advise you to take your seat before I have to dock points. From my own house. Do I make myself clear?" Snape said clearly as he snuck up behind Draco, causing the boy to jump in startlement.

Draco hastily mumbled an apology and took his seat as Severus swept his baleful gaze over the rest of the Great Hall causing everyone to return to their previous conversations and find seats. He gave one more glance to his son, who returned the look with grateful eyes, then strode up to the head table where he took his seat next to Minerva. The rest of the teachers filed in and took their seats as Severus kept an eye on Harry. The redheads arrived en masse and were soon surrounding the young boy, along with a head of frizzy brown hair that quickly enveloped Harry in a hug before taking her seat next to him.

Harry was thankful that Hermione had taken the news well, but then she always had appreciated Snape for his intellect. He acknowledged the back slaps the twins gave him in greeting before they joined their own friends; then Ron came forward. His face was as red as his hair and he shuffled a bit before sticking his hand out for Harry to shake.

"I'm not sorry to say I was gobsmacked when mum read the announcement in the paper Christmas morning," Ron began as they took their seats. "And it took me all of last week to get my head around the idea, but mum says she thinks you could do much worse than the professor. I have to admit, you look better." He brought his head up to look Harry in the face.

"Yeah, it's been good between us. Surprisingly so, actually. Let me tell you about this ceremony we had to go through..." and the two boys were off, waiting for the food to arrive. Severus and Minerva heaved twin sighs of relief.

"One down, one to go," she predicted darkly. Severus nodded in agreement, settling his serviette in his lap as he waited for the headmaster's appearance.

When all was said and done, Albus had behaved pretty much the way the teachers had expected. He had finally walked in from a side corridor that opened onto the teacher dais and after welcoming the students back, had announced dinner and sat down. He totally ignored the Heads of Houses and rarely spoke to anyone during the repast. He barely even gazed at the students, much less his second-year wonder boy whom he treated as if the boy didn't exist. When the pudding course was done, he made a few announcements and left the hall immediately through the door to the side, leaving McGonagall to dismiss the confused students.

Ron leaned in toward Harry and Hermione to whisper "What's up with the headmaster?" Hermione shrugged but Harry had a knowing look on his face. "Harry?" Ron pushed.

"He's pissed at Severus and the other heads for taking me away from the Dursleys without notifying him first. They essentially did it without his blessing – because they were sure he knew about my treatment," he whispered back. He really didn't want to expand upon it, but Hermione's curiosity was piqued and she tried to get him to talk about his past home life.

"Hermione, I don't want to talk about it, okay? It's over now, Severus is my father and I'm trying to just forget about the Dursleys."

"But you can't forget it, Harry! They were horrid to you, you have to talk about it and get it out of your system or it will all just fester." Harry just stared at her. "What?" she asked.

"Are you sure you're parents are Dentists? You're sure they aren't Psychiatrists?" he spit at her as they entered the Common Room after Ron mumbled the new password 'Glumbumble'. "Hermione, I'm fine – I've talked to Severus already, and that's really the only person I'm obligated to tell. Pomfrey knows, but only because she's a Medi-witch. Dumbledore knows, but he didn't do a damn thing about it except send me back there last summer. I figured he knew anyways so that is nothing new. So, pardon me if I ask you to please just forget about it. I'm going to go nutters from people pushing me to talk about it rather than trying to put it in my past, alright?"

She sniffed, trying to keep tears back, but nodded her head in agreement.

"Good. I don't know about you guys, but I'm tired, and we have a long day tomorrow. Let's get some sleep," Harry suggested as he headed for the stairs up to the dorms. Ron and Hermione reluctantly followed.

The traditional Head of House meeting was like none other in the recent memory of Hogwarts professors. Albus had stormed in, slamming the door behind him. Sprout had jumped but the other three had expected the ire and had only pursed their lips as Dumbledore took his seat at the head of the table, staring over his glasses at each of them.

"So, am I to be overthrown by my own staff? Is this the beginning of the mutiny?" he spat.

"Oh, please, Albus. Don't pretend you didn't know what was going on." Severus snorted as he crossed his arms over his chest. "Pomfrey told me you knew from the day he entered these walls how his relatives treated him, don't deny it. You should have removed him right then and there. But no, you wanted him to be beholden to you, so you could lead him to the slaughter later. Well, this is one lamb that will not be sacrificed for the 'Greater Good'. Harry is my son now and forever and I will thank you to leave him alone."

Albus leaned back in his chair as Snape tiraded at him, his eyes watching the younger wizard. "He must learn, Severus. He must be prepared to meet Voldemort and duel him to the death."

"Ah, yes, the bloody prophecy. Dumbledore, I don't care a shrivelfig about the prophecy. I care about my son, and the fact that you left Lily's child to those misbegotten sons of..."

"Severus!" Minerva warned.

"Well, you get my point. We are not going to sit back and let you ruin that boy's life any further. If you want to believe this is a mutiny, so be it. I can offer my resignation now, as will the rest of us – and hide Harry from you. It doesn't have to be that way, though."

Minerva cut in across him before his twitching hand actually shook his wand down into his grasp. "Albus, you know we were right to do what we did. It actually places Harry under much better wards. He never thought of that house as his home – how could he? I checked the wards earlier this fall and they were extremely weak; they couldn't have stopped a mouse, much less a Death Eater intent on finding Harry." Albus paled slightly at her words. "You didn't know that, did you?" she realised. "You never checked on him to make sure the wards were intact! Albus, I'm ashamed of you. Have you totally lost your perspective?" She shook her head in amazement.

"I... I never knew the wards were that weak." He sighed in resignation. The others were quiet as he sat in reflection. He finally looked up at Severus. "I shall respect your decision, Severus. I would understand if you wish to leave and take Harry with you; I had lost my perspective as you so rightly pointed out, Minerva. But I ask that you stay here, where I believe Harry is the safest and I shall support any decisions you make for him, as his father. How can I do otherwise? You'd obviously have my entrails for catgut if I did anything else!"

This caused the other teachers to smile and they relaxed. Severus nodded slightly to acknowledge the headmasters round-a-bout apology.

Albus was true to his word, and he stayed away from Harry, smiling to the boy when he saw him in the hallways, but otherwise leaving the child alone.

Harry had a talk with his new father one evening that first week back.

"How has your week been, Harry," Severus asked as Harry came into their quarters Friday evening, dropping his book-bag on the floor next to the settee and himself onto the cushions. He was home, and he revelled in the feeling. He was also exhausted, Wood having pushed them to the limits that afternoon preparing for the match the next day.

"Not bad," he finally answered. "Wood is really fanatical about this game – can't understand why, it's only the Hufflepuffs." Severus grinned at the slight to the lesser team.

"Well, I'm sure you'll do fine. How were the rest of your classes – anyone bothering you?"

"No... well, some comments have been made – but nothing I can't handle. They'd never understand anyways. Dumbledore has been weird, though. He just smiles at me – it's kinda creepy, actually."

Severus snorted. "He's keeping to the letter of what he agreed with me. He's leaving you alone, however?"

"Yeah, but like I said – that smile is creepy. It's more of 'I know a secret, and you're not going to like it when you find out' smile than a pleasant one."

"Ignore him. If he does bother you, come to me directly."

"I will, Severus. Lockhart is still a fool – I see the holidays didn't improve that. He has us reading all his autobiographies and answering questions about him, rather than anything on DADA. How am I supposed to learn defence if we can't get good teachers?"

"Hmm, we'll just have to work on it on our own then. I'll test you on Sunday to see what you've learned so far."

Harry beamed at that. "Thanks, Dad!"

Severus felt his heart warm at the title. Harry rarely used it, usually calling him Severus in their quarters.

"You're quite welcome. Shall we have dinner? Or, do you want to clean up first?"

Harry looked down at his uniform, realising he was filthy, sweating up a storm. "I better take a shower first. I won't be long," he begged, as he grabbed his bag and hurried to his room. Severus quirked his lips in amusement and cast a scourgify on the settee before heading over to the floo to order dinner. Yes, he and Harry were making a family – odd as that would have seemed several months ago. But it worked for them and that was what counted. He began to plan in his head what spells they would go over on Sunday...