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Unlikely Fathers

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Part 1 - Going Home

Hogwarts
May 28, 1997

"Albus, I'd like to inform you that I won't be available for the summer. I have decided to take some personal time." The Potions master delivered his speech while standing at the threshold of Dumbledore's office. Severus didn't have any intention of waiting for tea and sweets, and for some reason why he needed to stay at school during the summer.

Voldemort had been killed on Easter Sunday of that year. Harry Potter had survived once again, and he now had his godfather, whose name had been recently cleared after a new trial, to take care of him.

Severus felt that he no longer had any obligations toward the war, Albus, Potter or the damn world. He had stayed at Hogwarts since Voldemort's return after the Triwizard Tournament and thereby done his fair share of work toward the cause.

"My dear Severus, I don't think that..." Albus was never able to finish. The Slytherin walked in and sat in front of the headmaster.

"I don't care that the school will be partially open in the summer. There are enough teachers to baby-sit those brats. I am not available for the summer and nothing you can say will change my mind."

"Dear boy, I was going to say that I don't think that my heart will survive such shock. I am more than pleased with your decision. Merlin knows how much you deserve it." The Potions master scowled at the headmaster's jovial expression, but decided to leave before Albus could come up with something that would ruin his day.

Italy
July 3, 1997

Severus apparated to the outskirts of Naples. From the gate, he stared at the magnificent 18th century villa. It rested on one of the many hills of the area. Centennial olive trees covered one part of the estate, while orange trees stood near the gate, their flowers emanating an inviting scent. The villa had a vista on the Mediterranean Sea and the bright sun was reflected in those blue waters.

Many people would be surprised to learn that the evil Potions master had spent most of his summers in this idyllic place.

A beautiful girl greeted him. She was tall and walked with elegance. She had long hair, bright blue eyes and a perfect tan. She was wearing a yellow sundress with spaghetti straps and a hem that barely touched the middle of her thighs. She was a Mediterranean beauty and no one would ever suspect that she was the daughter of two English wizards.

"Hello, papà1. I missed you." She practically threw herself at Severus, who was more than happy to pick her up and swing her around like he used to do when she was a child.

"I missed you too, Victoria. How are aunt Livia and Luciano?"

"They are both fine. They're been waiting for you."

Severus led his daughter toward the house where a woman was waiting for them. Livia Snape-De Crescenzo, black sheep of the Snape family, looked remarkably like her nephew. She was tall, with black hair and eyes, and an aquiline nose. The scowl on her face was also very similar to the Potions master's own expression.

"Severus, how can you stand that awful robe?" She kissed him on his cheek. Victoria threw a smile at Severus' direction.

"Nice to see you too, aunt Livia. Yes, I'm truly happy to be here. I'd be delighted to go to my room and get changed," Severus answered the questions that had not yet been asked. His sarcasm was lost on his aunt.

"Of course, you're happy to be here. We have seen you once a month for brief lunches for the past three years and not even once since Easter. It's about time that you spent time with us."

There simply had not been time to spare after the defeat of Voldemort. There were so many lose ends that the members of the Order had worked round the clock to ensure that as many Death Eaters as possible were captured. There were trials to attend. Severus had to deal with the many Slytherins who were orphans because their parents had either been killed or imprisoned at Azkaban. He had missed his monthly visit with his family, but he would never tell his aunt that.

"Aunt, you've been living in Italy for too long if you consider a five course meal that lasts two hours a brief lunch."

"I've just adopted Luciano's outlook on life." The older witch shrugged.

Livia had married Luciano De Crescenzo when she was still a teenager. The Italian wizard was everything that a Slytherin despised. His ambitions revolved around good food, good wine and a good life. Livia Snape hadn't cared about their different personalities, but she paid for it by being ostracized by her family.

"Come on, papi1a. Let's go upstairs and you can change your clothes. There is so much I want to know."

Severus and Victoria arrived in the Potions master's old room. He had spent the last few months of his pregnancy in this very room. He could still picture the white crib standing next to his bed with this tiny baby sleeping peacefully inside it.

He sighed as he tried to let go of the memory. He had a grown daughter who had spent her life hidden away for fear of what Voldemort could do to her. Now, it was time to be a real father, Severus thought.

Victoria could sense that something was wrong, but they had spent more time apart than together and she couldn't determine what was the problem. "Papà?"

Severus turned around and a softness foreign to his face appeared. "I'm fine, Vicky. Just thinking about you as a baby." He kissed his daughter on her forehead. "I better start unpacking and get into Muggle clothes before aunt Livia calls us for lunch."

The Potions master disappeared into the adjoining bathroom and reappeared after a few moments dressed in simple jeans and t-shirt. Victoria approached him and traced his left arm with awe. The Dark Mark was no longer there.

"It's gone. We're really free, aren't we?" The joy in her voice was evident. "Good, because I have some ideas for our future." Severus thought that the sly tone in her voice was ominous. For the time being, he was happy to have a peaceful lunch with his family.

Italy
August 20, 1997

Severus had missed his daughter's past two birthdays and planned to make this one special for his little girl. He had promised that he would do anything she asked. He should have known better than to say that to a girl who came from a long line of Slytherins.

Victoria had informed her father that she didn't want a big party, but wanted to stay with her family. Severus respected her wishes. Their aunt made sure that an even better than usual meal was served, showcasing the best of Italian cuisine.

They ate al fresco. The majestic trees provided the shade while the sea breeze kept the humidity at bay. It took them over two hours to eat through all the different courses. When they finally got to the espresso and bab, Victoria was fidgeting, wanting to open her gifts.

"Is there something in particular you'd like to do now, Victoria?" Severus teased, knowing full well what the answer would be.

"Che stronzo!" 2 Victoria exclaimed good-heartedly.

"Watch your language, young lady. I might not have been around much, but you're still my daughter and you will not speak to me in such disrespectful a manner. Is that understood?" Severus was outraged at his daughter. He was also uncertain at how to proceed. It was difficult to act like a father when for twenty years someone else had done all the work.

"Calm down, papà. I was only joking. Everyone says it here in Italy," Victoria informed her father in a calm tone. She wasn't in the least bit disturbed by Severus' outburst.

"That may be, but I'm English and I'm not too keen on hearing my daughter use such a vocabulary," Severus snapped back.

"You're so stuck up, Severus. " Luciano admonished. "When in Rome, do as the Romans. Don't you know that? Vicky is right, we Italians like to put a flowery touch in our vocabulary." Victoria smiled at her great-uncle. The man had never denied her anything and always took her side.

Severus shot Luciano his patented evil glare, but the Italian wizard laughed it off. "I've seen you pregnant, Severus. There is very little you can do to scare me."

"Okay, enough! I'm going to open my gifts now and you two can continue this battle." Victoria smiled at the two wizards and reached for the first box.

She had no words when she saw the diamond and emerald necklace that her great uncle and great-aunt had given her. Livia took the necklace from the box and fastened it around her niece's neck.

"This was my mother's, and her mother's before her. You're like a daughter to us and we want you to have this."

"Madò zia, grazie."3

"You're welcome, gioa.4" Livia hugged her niece, while her husband looked on with a smile.

Victoria dried a few tears and went to the next box. "What did you put in this box, papà? It's huge."

"You'll find your answer quicker if you just opened it."

Victoria knew better than to curse twice in five minutes, so she stuck her tongue out to tell her father he was being a prick. When she opened the box, she found a silver cauldron.

"Che bello!5 This must have cost you a fortune." Victoria, like her father, loved potions and was studying to become a Potions mistress.

"Look inside. There's more." Severus smirked at her.

Her eyes widened when she saw the pure crystal potions bottles nestled inside the cauldron, but she was even more surprised when she picked up a book.

"Moste Potente Potions. I thought it's a Dark Magic book. Papà?"

Severus snorted. "There is no such thing as evil information, it's how you use the information that matters. Besides, I got special permission to give you the book. The people at the Ministry are a lot more helpful since I've helped kill Voldemort."

"Severus, in Italy, that's called favouritism, but maybe you English wizards are more civilized." Luciano never missed a chance to tease the younger wizard.

"Oh, I don't care how you got it. I'm sure I'll spend hours pouring over this book. Thank you." She threw herself on her father's lap and kissed him on his cheek. She batted her eyelashes and said, "You promised me that you'd do anything I asked today."

"And what would you like me to do?" Severus asked suspiciously.

"Just answer a few questions for me. Would you do that, papà?" Severus nodded, cursing himself for making such promise. "Remember when I told you that I wanted to live with you?" Severus nodded again. "Can I comeandstudyatHogwartswithyou?" She breathed out in a rush.

Severus looked at his daughter, trying to process what she had just asked. When the words 'Hogwarts' and 'you' finally were processed by his brain, he asked, "Are you certain? I'm not an easy man, Victoria, and you won't get any special treatment. I'll treat you the same way I treat all my students."

"Papà, I have no idea what kind of teacher you are, or father for that matter, but I want the chance to finally get to know you. From everything I've heard, you are one of the best Potions masters in the wizarding world. I will be getting a father and a great teacher all at once," she stated with conviction.

"I'd love to have you as my student and especially as my daughter. That's not a gift I'm giving you, it's something you are giving me, Vicky." Severus couldn't contain his joy and had to stop talking when his voice started to crack.

"Well, you won't say the same about my next question." Victoria dropped her voice. "I want to know how I was conceived -" at the shocked look on her father's face, she quickly added, "- Not that. I'm twenty years old. I have a pretty good idea about how children are conceived. I want to know about what happened, how did the pregnancy go, who my other father is," she added in a whisper.

The De Crescenzos held their breath. Severus had never spoken of how he had become pregnant or who the father was. The De Crescenzos weren't sure that he would ever reveal the information.

"I will tell you about the pregnancy, but not the identity of your father, Victoria. I despise the man and I can assure you, the feeling is mutual. Our meetings consist of insults and threats."

"This means you still see him," Victoria interrupted.

"Yes, he was a member of the Order," Severus explained.

"Am I going to meet him at Hogwarts?" His daughter was obviously thrilled at the idea.

"Maybe." Severus knew that his daughter was intelligent. With Sirius now teaching at Hogwarts, it was only a matter of time before she found out the truth. The Potions master was starting to regret his decision to bring his daughter back to England, but he wouldn't be denied the opportunity to be with Vicky because of Sirius.

Victoria sensed the inner battle her father was going through and decided not to press the subject at the moment. "So, tell me about the pregnancy."

"I don't know where to start. I've never told anyone the story. Not even aunt Livia and Luciano know the story." Severus turned and smiled at the two people that had helped him throughout his pregnancy and had taken care of his daughter.

"I was stupid, I guess. I was involved with this boy. In our sixth year, I found this potion that allegedly enhanced sexual endurance. Well, I knew I was the best at potions and decided to try it. When I took it, nothing happened and I completely forgot about it. Unfortunately, I learnt of its consequences later on."

Victoria lay back against her father, her back resting against his chest. Severus brushed her black, silky hair, while his mind went back to the night of November 1976.

"We weren't really a couple, we met in secret. We had sex in the dark, and spent our nights in each other's arms, except once a month when he would disappear. We fought and insulted each other in the light of day. No one ever knew, not even our closest friends. I hated it, but I couldn't break it off."

"Gioia, you don't have to tell us. I'm sure that Victoria will understand." Livia approached her nephew, trying to show emotional support.

"It's fine, aunt Livia. It's been long enough. You know, I never realized that the potion was wrong. After a few days, I started to get sick, but never connected the two things. Each morning, I would puke my guts out. I would feel better during the day and I would forget about it, then the next morning it would start all over again."

"Then, I started peeing all the time. I practically lived in the bathroom. I still didn't know what was wrong, but I never suspected that I was pregnant. I guess a woman would have noticed the symptoms. I was scared. I didn't have anyone to talk to. Your father and I didn't really talk about our problems," Severus directed the last part to his daughter.

"Then, my body started to change. My nipples became so sensitive that the mere brush caused pain. Other parts of my body felt different-" Severus saw the smirk on Victoria's face. "- and I'm not going to tell you more about that. The result was that I didn't feel comfortable with him anymore and I started to find excuses why I couldn't meet him at night."

"I was so happy when the Christmas holidays arrived. I spent the entire break in my father's library, trying to find the cause of my sickness. I must have used hundreds of revealing spells on my body with no results. One day, a friend of my mother's arrived. She was pregnant and she was complaining about the pregnancy. A doubt formed in my mind; a simple spell confirmed that doubt."

"The fear lasted only a few minutes. I was soon ecstatic. I wanted you so much, Victoria. I never had any doubts about having you. When I went back to Hogwarts, I couldn't wait to tell him about the pregnancy."

"He avoided me for weeks, but one day I cornered him. He told me that we had nothing to talk about, because he had found someone else since I'd been avoiding him. I begged him to meet me so we could talk. He agreed to meet with me later on that night. I was supposed to meet him at the Shrieking Shack. He gave me instructions on how to go through the Whomping Willow."

Severus had to stop. Even after twenty years, he couldn't control his emotions when he thought about that night. He felt his daughter's soft hand caressing his face and gave her a weak smile before continuing.

"When I entered the passage beneath the willow, I saw a werewolf. I froze when I thought that the child inside me would die along with me. James Potter saved me. I learned that my lover knew of the werewolf. I was so angry that I could have killed him. He sent me to my death and never looked back. I was forced to see his smug expression every day and it didn't help my temper."

"I knew that night that I couldn't trust anyone with this pregnancy. Fortunately, the nausea ended and my body seemed to go back to normal. Of course, it didn't last long. I began to eat anything on sight and the weirdest combination of foods ever imagined. My stomach began to swell. I put hiding charms so that no one would notice and I was successful."

"The timing was fortunate. School was out for the summer when you were born. I thought about going home to deliver you, but I knew my parents would reject us, or worse try to give you away. I managed to convince father to let me stay with aunt Livia."

Severus was interrupted by his aunt. The witch also remembered those months.

She picked up the tale where Severus had left off. "I remember picking him up at Kings Cross Station. He walked strangely and was panting after walking a few meters. I couldn't understand why a boy his age was in such state."

"We used a portkey to reach the villa. The moment we arrived here, Severus removed the concealing spell. I could see that he was afraid of our reaction, but I had no idea what to say or do to comfort him. We were fortunate that Luciano was here, weren't we, Severus?"

The Potions master nodded and looked warmly at the older wizard with warmness. "Only Luciano could be so philosophical. You know what he told me?" he asked his daughter, who shook her head in the negative.

"Too late to close your legs now." Both Severus and his aunt smiled at the recollection. "Aunt Livia and I just looked at each other and started laughing at the absurdity of it all. Then they took me upstairs and kept me there until the delivery."

It was Luciano who interrupted Severus this time. "You should have seen your father, Vicky. He was usually so arrogant and pretentious, but those last days, he went around bitching the entire time. It's too hot, it's too cold, I'm hungry, I can't eat a thing, I'm sleepy, I'm not tired. I wanted to strangle him."

Victoria laughed at her great-uncle. "You're lying. You never even get angry, zio6."

"That should tell you what a pain in the ass your father was. I almost sent him back to his father. Let that stuck-up bastard deal with his son! But alas, I'm too nice and put up with him." Luciano winked at Severus, who smiled back.

"The day you were born was the happiest day of my life. With magic and family, the pain was more than bearable and I had a brand new baby in my arms. You were my victory over those bastards at Hogwarts. I didn't want to leave you. I was ready to give up school."

"Aunt Livia was able to convince Dumbledore that I was ill and couldn't return to school in September. I stayed here an extra month. By then, they managed to convince me that I had to go back. We decided that you would stay with them until I finished school. Then, I got involved with Voldemort." Severus looked away. He was still ashamed that he had put himself and his daughter in such terrible peril. Fortunately, things would change now. "Aunt Livia and Luciano agreed with me that it would be better if no one else knew of your existence. So we kept the secret until now."


Part 2 - Surprises

Naples, Italy
September 1, 1997

"Good Lord! Victoria, are you stealing aunt Livia's property?" Severus looked at the twenty or so boxes sitting on the floor.

"Papà, don't be ridiculous. These are the barest essentials needed to survive on an everyday basis. I guess I'll have to apparate back if I need more things." She laughed at the shocked expression on her father's face. He needed to get used to a woman in his life, she thought.

"Fine, as long as we go. We can apparate to the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest and walk up to the castle." Severus began to shrink the packages and put them in his pockets.

When they had finally spelled every box, they said goodbye to their aunt and her husband and disapparated.

Hogwarts
September 1, 1997

Father and daughter walked from the Forbidden Forest to the school. To anyone looking on the surface, they might seem like completely different people. Severus wore his trademark black robe that swirled with each step. He was not as pale as usual after two months spent under the Italian sun, but he was still pale. His stance was guarded and rigid.

Victoria had on a white suit that showed off her tan. She wore an unzipped black robe, giving a full view of her perfect figure. Her hair was swept in a high ponytail.

Severus had complained that her skirt was too short. She told him something about lawyers and Ally McBeal, but the wizard had no idea who this Ally girl was.

"I'm so happy that the headmaster agreed that I could study with you." Severus chuckled at that. "What haven't you told me, papà?"

"Oh, I may have forgotten to mention who my new apprentice is. I couldn't miss the opportunity to see his face when he realizes that he doesn't know everything." Severus gave an evil smile at the thought.

When they entered the conference room, all the teachers turned to focus on Severus and his new apprentice. Dumbledore had informed them of this new development and everyone was curious to see who was the mysterious wizard that had convinced the secluded Severus to become his teacher.

Surprise turned into shock when they saw the beautiful young woman standing behind him. Her clothes had never been seen at Hogwarts before and some of the teachers blushed at the sight. She flashed a smile that only increased their surprise.

Severus went around the table and introduced all the teachers to his daughter. He conveniently forgot to mention Lupin and Black who were standing farther away. He finally reached the headmaster.

"Victoria, this is our headmaster, Professor Dumbledore. Albus, I'd like you to meet Victoria Snape." Severus looked at the reactions on the faces of the wizards around the room. He could see the older teachers mentally going through their knowledge of his family tree.

"You forgot to introduce us," Sirius said sarcastically. "Of course, keeping up with your young wife might have destroyed your brain cells. By the way, what curse did you use to convince her to marry the likes of you?"

"How dare you!" Victoria raised her wand to hex the man, when her father stopped her by grabbing her arm.

Severus saw the fury in his daughter's eyes. He hadn't expected anything else. Between his and Sirius' temperaments, Victoria could be nothing but passionate.

"I haven't forgot you; I merely chose to ignore you. And for your information, you nitwit, Victoria is my daughter, not my wife." Severus' smirk only grew at the gasps he heard around the room.

Albus, who had gotten up to approach them, collapsed on the nearest chair, white as their resident ghosts. "How did this happen, Severus?"

"Do you need a biology lesson, Albus? I would think that at your age you would know." Severus told him seriously.

"The Headmaster is just surprised that you could find a woman to sleep with you," Sirius spat out.

"More a girl," whispered Minerva. "How old were you, Severus, when Victoria was born?"

"I was seventeen, Minerva."

"And her mother?" the deputy headmistress asked.

"There is no mother. Victoria is my daughter and mine only. I hope that I have satisfied your curiosity."

The little banter was enough for the headmaster to regain his usual calm. Albus knew that if Severus had been able to keep his daughter secret for all this time, he was not going to pour his heart out now. He turned to the young woman. "Miss Snape, I'm pleased to meet you. I hope that you'll enjoy studying at Hogwarts. However, I must ask you to dress in a more fit manner in our school."

Victoria smiled brightly at the older wizard. She looked down at her clothes and said, "Papà said something about my skirt being too short, but I thought he was being..."

"A pain in the arse," Sirius interrupted her.

She gave him a fake smile and continued on as if she hadn't heard him. "Being a father. Things must be really different here in England. I know many Italian wizards who would like the way I'm dressed."

Remus, who was still standing next to his long time friends, looked at Victoria appreciatively. "I know that some English wizards like it just as much."

"Keep your eyes and paws off my daughter, or you might find some arsenic in the next cauldron of Wolfsbane potion." The threatening tone chilled the room. Victoria was the only one who ignored it.

"Silver powder would be more effective. United with the arsenic, it would bring death and the most excruciating pain, caused by the gradual decay of the internal organs. Hypothetically speaking, of course." Everyone was shocked at her words, but Severus chuckled at his daughter.

"Merlin, she's just as sour and evil as her father," Sirius told his friend, loud enough to be heard by all.

"Oh I don't know. I've always liked Severus and she looks a lot better than him," Remus answered, never taking his eyes off of Victoria.

Victoria had noticed the look she was receiving and decided to take advantage. Her father and Remus seemed to know each other very well. Chances were that he was the same werewolf that her father had faced while pregnant. How many werewolves could Hogwarts accommodate after all? Maybe he knew who had sent her father to the shack.

She surely hoped so since it was unlikely that the teachers would know. They would have surely expelled the person if they had known, but her father had said that he had continued to deal with his ex-lover.

While the headmaster led the teachers to the Great Hall, she moved away from her father and lingered back so she could talk to Lupin, unfortunately she had to deal with Black as well.

"You and my father seem to know each other rather well." She hoped that the open-ended statement would lead to more information.

Sirius snorted and Remus chuckled. "You can say that," the werewolf answered.

Merda7, I have to get him to talk, she thought. Outwards she didn't betray a single emotion.

"How long have you been friends?" she asked casually.

"We're not exactly friends," Remus said with a sad expression.

"Well, my father doesn't like werewolves. He had a bad experience with one." Her tone suggested that she knew exactly what she was talking about, hoping that it would get her more leads.

"Oh! He told you about that night. I guess he'll never forgive me for that." Victoria didn't hear the sadness in Lupin's voice nor did she notice how quiet Black had become. She only knew that she was getting closer to discovering her other father's identity. However, now was not the moment to push. She had waited twenty years; she could wait a little longer.

When she finally entered the Great Hall she felt all the students' eyes on her. Maybe the headmaster was right, she needed to zip up that robe, but she refused to do it in front of everyone.

She went to the head table and sat near her father. Her eyes fell on the Slytherin table. She pointed to one of the students. "Who's that blonde?"

Severus lowered her arm and raised an eyebrow.

"Please, he's just a kid." She smiled at her father. "He just seems different than the rest."

"That's Draco Malfoy, and kindly refrain from pointing at people."

"What can I say? I grew up in Italy. I speak loudly, move my hands a lot and curse more than I should."

"You live in England now," Severus growled at her, but Victoria dismissed her father with a wave of her hand.

Severus realized how difficult this was going to be. Until now, he had been more like a distant uncle who showed up in the summer, brought gifts and tried to dispense knowledge, than a real father. Victoria never had to obey him. She always had aunt Livia and Luciano as parental figures. Now, they both needed to adjust and Severus knew that a twenty-year-old would not take kindly to threats and warnings.

The sorting ceremony started and fragments of conversations could be heard over the clapping hands of the students.

"Draco, do you know who's the woman sitting next to Snape?"

"No, Vince, but I'm sure he'll tell us when he meets us in the common room after the feast."

"He seems really friendly with her. Do you reckon they're involved?"

"I don't know Greg. We'll soon find out."

More claps and more children were sorted into their houses.

"She really looks good."

"Ron, that's so superficial of you. How can you judge her from her looks?"

"Easy Hermione, Ron doesn't have a brain."

"Do shut up, Harry. Even though you like guys, you can still see that she is really good looking. Although Sirius doesn't seem happy to have her there." Harry looked up at Ron's words and noticed that Remus was sitting in between the mysterious woman and Sirius. His godfather wasn't pleased.

"I think it's because he's sitting only two chairs away from Snape," Harry joked.

The Ravenclaws discussed the possibility that the woman was a new teacher. The Hufflepuffs agreed that she had a nice smile.

Finally the last of the children was sorted. Dumbledore rose and an eerie silence fell on the room.

"As I'm sure you have noticed, we have a new addition at the head table. I like to introduce Victoria Snape. She will be studying with her father." The headmaster stopped speaking until the murmur died down. "We haven't had an apprentice at Hogwarts for over two centuries. It is a tradition that the apprentices be sorted. Regardless which of the houses Miss Snape will be sorted into, she will not be able to earn or lose point for that house."

The headmaster gestured for Victoria to move to the stool. The young witch sat gingerly, crossing her legs and McGonagall rested the Sorting Hat on her head. Victoria heard the hat speaking in her head.

My, oh my what a powerful witch, from such pure bloodlines. Generations of Slytherins on one side, powerful and ambitious. A lineage of Gryffindor on the other side, brave and well-liked.

My father slept with a Gryffindor, that's disgusting, she thought. She might not have gone to Hogwarts, but her aunt was still a Slytherin and so was her father. Tales about the idiocy of the Gryffindors were recounted on a daily basis.

You don't like the Gryffindors, it seems. Since your father is the Head of the Slytherin House, then it better be

"SLYTHERIN!"

Victoria let out a breath when the hat finally shouted her house affiliation. Fortunately, the clapping from the Slytherin table masked her tension.

She sat next to her father and whispered in his ear, "The hat said that my fathers are a Slytherin and a Gryffindor. How could you?"

Severus looked at the hat with hatred. His eyes would have incinerated the magical sorter if they could. "That proves that hormones will make even the most intelligent man behave like an idiot," Severus replied, hoping that his daughter would be a lot more careful than he had been.

After the feast, Victoria walked with her father to the dungeon. Their first stop was the Slytherin common room. Her father greeted each new member of their house, asked a few questions to the ones who were returning. The older students seemed happy to have him in the room.

"If anyone has any problems with any of the other houses and the Gryffindors, in particular, I want you to come directly to me. No hexing, no potions, and no fights. You don't want to give anyone an excuse to expel you. Understood?"

Severus looked around at his children. Everyone was nodding. The newest students looked like they were trying to memorize his words. The older ones had heard the same speech every year since they had arrived at Hogwarts.

"Feel free to come to my office at any time and I'm sure my daughter would love to help you now that she is a Slytherin too." Severus smiled at Victoria and she nodded in assent. "Now, if there is nothing else, I'll leave you so you can settle down."

When no questions came, Severus moved to leave. Victoria stopped him and whispered to him, "Can I stay for a while? I'd like to get to know them."

When her father agreed, she sat down on one of the huge green couches and began chatting with the students. She answered all the questions she could, limiting her answers when she knew that her father would have hated the information to become public.

After an hour, Victoria and Draco were the only one left. They were sitting on opposite couches and studied each other while they spoke.

"So, what you think of the Slytherins?" Draco asked.

Victoria shrugged. "Don't know yet. Is it true that most of you would have become Death Eaters if they hadn't killed Voldemort."

It was Draco's turn to shrug. "Probably. It wouldn't have been a choice, but more the result of a pre-determined life. Now our parents are dead and we won't become Death Eaters. Do you hate us now?" Draco stared straight at the young woman, daring to say yes.

"No, I don't hate the students, but don't expect me to feel sorry for Voldemort or his followers. I lost my father for twenty years because of Voldemort. I understand what you and the others must feel at the loss of your own parents, but I don't regret that those people are dead or in jail."

"I understand. I wouldn't expect anything else."

The two Slytherins stayed up a while longer, until Victoria left to reach her father's rooms. Had she returned earlier, she would have witnessed a very interesting discussion.

"What are you doing here, Black? Feel the need to bother me on the first day," Severus had barked when he had seen his former lover standing in front of his door.

"You're a cheating bastard, Snape. You swore to me that you had been faithful, but I can do the math. Your daughter was conceived while we were together."

Severus was furious. He was ready to kill the bastard. How dare he come down here and insult him. It was all Sirius' fault, anyway.

Severus was at Sirius' throat with his wand out. He spoke to the Gryffindor in a low tone, but Sirius knew that he shouldn't push Severus at the moment. "You're one to talk. You slept with everything in sight, but you know what? It doesn't matter anyway. We both made our decision and there is no reason to rehash the past after twenty years. Now leave before I do something I'll regret."

Severus let go of the Gryffindor, disgust and hate in his black eyes. For once, the animagus decided not to push the issue. The emotions radiating from Severus convinced Sirius that he would be risking death at the moment. However, he was going to find out what had caused this extreme reaction. Sirius would prove that he wasn't the one at fault in their breakup.

Severus went to his office and sat in the dark. Neither Sirius nor Victoria witnessed the tears of anger and frustration that Severus shed that night.


Part 3 - Matches and Flying

Thursday - October 9, 1997

"You're saying that if I use Erumpent horns with the Asphodel, I'll have an exploding fluid in my hand, but if I use Erumpent tails with the Asphodel, I'll have an explosion. Is that correct?" Victoria asked her father, careful not to stop her stirring.

"That's one way of putting it, yes." Severus looked over at the potion his daughter was preparing. He was looking forward to a relaxing evening and cleaning up exploding potions was not his idea of relaxation.

Before the Potions master could explain further, they heard an insistent knock at the door. Draco Malfoy breezed in with self-confidence.

"Sorry to disturb you, Professor-" It was obvious that the seventh year Slytherin wasn't in the least bit sorry. "- I wanted to let you know that we'll have to forfeit the game against the Gryffindors. Most of the players left because of Voldemort or because they finished school. We had try outs, but we are one beater short."

"Can't you get someone to sit on a bloody broom?" The Potions master couldn't disguise the irritation in his voice. Severus didn't care about Quidditch, but he'd be damned if his Slytherins would have to forfeit a game against the Gryffindors.

"Right!" Draco's voice dripped with sarcasm. "So they can beat us with an astronomical score. They would never let us forget it."

"Can I play?" Victoria asked. "I was a chaser, though, when I was at school."

"That would be a wonderful idea. Greg can play as a beater and you can take his place as a chaser. Besides, Greg is probably better as a beater anyway." Draco turned to the Head of his House. "Can they find any reasons why she can't play since she is not officially a student?"

"We'll find out." Severus walked over to the bookshelves and took out Hogwarts' rule handbook. He flipped through a few pages and looked up at Draco and Victoria. "It seems the only difference between apprentices and regular students is that apprentices can't earn points for their houses. For all other purposes, they have the same rights and duties as regular students. I see no reason why Vicky can't play."

"When is the game?" Victoria inquired.

"On Saturday," Draco answered quickly.

"So we have two days. Get the team together and tell the players that we'll practice during meals. This way no one will know that I'm playing. We can put a spell on the field and play at night. This way there's less of a chance that we'll have Gryffindors spying on our moves." Victoria spoke rapidly while the two wizards looked on with amusement.

"Anything else, your majesty?" Draco asked sarcastically.

"No, you may go." Victoria gestured with her hand that Draco had been granted leave. The two young Slytherins looked at each other and started laughing. It was good to see Draco laugh again, Severus thought.

Draco was almost at the door, when he turned around with false innocence in his eyes. "You know that they will all hate us. They'll say we're being sneaky and underhanded."

"Your point being?" All three smirked at Severus' remark.

Saturday - October 11, 1997

After two days of practice, the Slytherin team was ready for the match. The Slytherins had practiced in perfect secrecy. Severus had helped with a few spell and wards to guarantee their privacy.

The stands were filled as usual. The annual Gryffindor-Slytherin match was watched by the entire school. It was considered more a battle than a game by many. The fact that Harry Potter got to humiliate Draco Malfoy on an annual basis was an additional motivation for many students to be present.

Severus was thrilled by the idea of seeing his daughter play. He had never had the opportunity while she was studying at Ecate, the Italian wizarding school. Aunt Livia had recorded all the games with her omnioculars and he was able to rewatch the games, but it wasn't the same as being there in person.

Remus and Sirius had been in the Gryffindors' locker room before the game. When they reached the teachers stand, the only two seats available were on each side of Severus.

When the Potions master saw the two Gryffindors, he cursed under his breath. He quickly moved one seat over so that he wouldn't be sandwiched between the two. Severus thanked Salazar Slytherin that Remus was the one who sat next to him.

Loud roaring and clapping overwhelmed the stadium as the Gryffindor team arrived on the field. Their red and gold scarves and banners covered three fourths of the stadium, the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs also showing their support for the House of the Lion.

In sharp contrast, there was a deadly silence when the Slytherins arrived. The team hadn't revealed the identity of their new player even to the members of their own House. Everyone was surprised to see Victoria Snape walk inside the stadium, side by side with Draco. However, the students of the House of the Snake recovered quickly and began cheering their housemates.

Ron Weasley, captain of the Gryffindor team, immediately went to Madam Hooch's side. Severus suspected that he was complaining about Victoria. Draco, captain of the Slytherin team, joined them. The stadium held its collective breath while the animated discussion went on.

Madam Hooch mounted her broom and flew to the teachers stand. Severus immediately moved to the headmaster's side. He was always ready to fight for his team and his House, whenever necessary.

"Headmaster, this is quiet irregular. The Gryffindors say that the Slytherins are cheating," Madam Hooch explained, "and they don't want to play."

"Then tell them we'll be more than happy to take the victory," Severus snapped back.

"Let's not be hasty, Severus. They might have a valid point," the headmaster replied.

"They do not. I have checked the school's rules and Victoria can play." The Potions master reached under his robe and into his trousers' pocket and pulled out a piece of parchment. "I so happen to have a copy of the rules with me and they clearly state that an apprentice can play."

Severus smirked while Dumbledore and Hooch read the rules. "You're right, Severus. I'm glad you are so prepared and we can avoid any irregularity." The headmaster's blue eyes were sparkling. "Of course, you were thinking about the game, not suspecting that anyone might think this to be unfair."

"Of course, Albus. You know how much I expect people to follow the rules." The Potions master's lip curled and moved back to his seat.

"Trying new ways to steal the Quidditch Cup?" Sirius accused as soon as Severus neared his seat.

"Unlike the Gryffindors, Slytherins always adhere to the rules. We don't steal; we merely find creative ways to attain our goals." Severus' tone indicated that the discussion was finished.

Professor Hooch reached the center of the field and informed the players of the headmaster's decision. Ron complained but told his team to get ready. The snitch was released. Draco and Harry flew above the field to take their positions. Madam Hooch waited until the small golden ball was out of sight to release the quaffle and the bludgers. She blew her whistle and soon the game was on its way.

After fifteen minutes, the Slytherins were winning 70 to 10. Victoria flew between players and bludgers with ease and elegance. years of practice and a body of a twenty-year-old woman gave her the advantage over younger, less powerful and less experienced players. Victoria also took advantage of the fact that some of the boys were also distracted by her good looks.

Severus couldn't take his eyes off of his daughter. The replays through the omnioculars couldn't show the magnificence of her style. Of course, Severus Snape wasn't in the least biased in judging his daughter.

"She's really good," Lupin commented. He too couldn't take his eyes off of the raven-haired beauty.

"Yes." It sounded more like a hiss, but Severus couldn't be bothered to answer properly.

"I don't think she is anything special." Remus and Severus finally lowered their eyes to glare at Sirius.

"How can you say that, Padfoot? She...she is...she flies like you used to, confident and graceful."

Severus paled when he heard the words. He decided to focus on his daughter in order to find a way to rebut that statement, but he had to admit that Lupin was right. She looked as beautiful in the air as Sirius used to.

The Potions master knew that he could fly well. A broomstick had been on occasion the only way he escaped the Death Eaters. But Severus didn't enjoy flying, for him it was a means of transportation.

Victoria, on the other hand, truly enjoyed the sensation of cutting through the air with only a piece of wood to sustain her. Flying was almost a necessity in her life, just like it had been for Sirius.

Severus closed his eyes, exorcizing his demons. He could not afford to make Sirius a real person, with connection to him or his daughter. Life was much easier if Sirius remained the hated Gryffindor who tried to kill him, a one-dimensional image of the person who had once been Severus' lover.

Remus noticed the tension in Severus' body. The werewolf didn't understand the cause. It certainly couldn't be the game since the Slytherins were now winning 100 to 30 and it couldn't be his daughter's performance since she scored eight out of the ten goals.

Lupin would have paid closer attention to his schoolmate if he weren't so attracted to Miss Snape. He told himself that he was sick. He wanted a girl who was young enough to be his daughter. Worse, she was the daughter of a man he tried to kill, a man who despised him for being a beast.

Victoria would never be interested in him after all that Severus had probably told her. Even if she were so inclined, Severus would make sure that she didn't get involved with a werewolf. Remus sighed. Sirius raised an eyebrow, silently asking what was bothering him. Remus shook his head and remained silent.

Sirius looked at Severus' daughter. She was beautiful, but her beauty seemed more a reflection of her father's qualities, her arrogant stance, her black locks, and her cutting tongue. All qualities he had loved in his schoolmate, not that he would ever admit that.

Instead, Sirius kept playing the game that they had played since they had broken up. Or if he were honest, since the night he had tried to kill his former lover. A game made up of insults and indifference. Sometimes, he wondered if Severus ever thought back about the nicer moments they had shared together, but from the way the Slytherin treated him, he doubted it.

In the air, Victoria was unaware of the inner turmoil raging inside the three wizards. Her mind was focused on flying and winning the game. She had heard about Harry's ability as a seeker. She was determined to have at least 160 points difference in the score by the time the snitch appeared so that the Slytherins would win the game no matter who caught the snitch.

When the golden ball appeared, the score was 210 to 60 for the Slytherins. The two seekers flew up, high into the sky, reaching for the little ball. When the snitch reversed its direction, both players dove after it.

Victoria had watched the two seekers, aware that they had spotted the snitch. There was only 150 points difference and if Harry caught the snitch it would be a tie. The players in the field had stopped to see the action. House pride and personal arrogance mandated that she do more.

"Greg, Robert, get those bludgers toward the chasers." Victoria started to yell orders. "Millie, stay in front of the hoop. Vince and Tom keep close to me. Let's keep playing, people."

With the Quaffle under her arms she moved toward the Gryffindor goal hoop. The other two chasers were moving next to her, resembling bodyguards instead of players.

"Seekers coming this way," Vince screamed.

"Let's make sure to get out of Draco's way." The implied meaning in Victoria's words was that they should be in Harry's way and so they did.

The three Slytherins timed it perfectly, slowing down enough to interfere with Harry's descent, but not enough to have a foul called against them. Having accomplished their task, they moved toward the hoop. Victoria saw Ron coming at her. She threw the ball to Tom, who sped to the hoop and scored. His goal was lost in the sea of voices celebrating the end of the game.

The three Chasers turned around to see Draco sporting the snitch in his hand and a smirk on his face. They dove and surrounded their seeker, who was soon blanketed by the other six players.

"You stole the game, you do know that?" The angry question shouted by Weasley silenced the stadium.

"Why is that, Weasel?" Nothing could dampen Draco's joy. His team had won against the Gryffindors only in his second year because Potter had been injured. This time there would be no excuses.

"Those three interfered with the game." The redhead was confident of his position and wanted to press it in front of the entire school.

"Mr. Weasley, if you want to be captain I suggest you read the rules of the game." The sarcasm in Victoria's voice rivaled her father's. "The rules establish that the game will continue while the seekers are going after the snitch. If your idea of strategy is to freeze all plays while the wonderful Potter catches the ball, then don't blame us for actually doing what we are supposed to do: play. I'd also like to point out that even if by some miracle you'd gotten the snitch, with Tom's goal we would have still won the game. So go cry in your high and mighty tower."

The Slytherins clapped and yelled their support. Severus curled a lip. He was going to enjoy the next few days. The Gryffindors would be especially angry and stubborn and that would lead to plenty of lost points and detention. Their morale would be even lower than his dungeon. He loved being a Slytherin in moments like this and he owed it all to his daughter. Severus mentally blocked the fact that his daughter's talent had come from a Gryffindor. Better not think of that. He would focus on humiliating Potter and his friends.


Part 4 - Discovery

Monday - October 27, 1997
Slytherin Common Room

The Slytherins were lounging on the comfortable couches in their common room. Having had supper, they prepared to spend an uneventful Monday night.

"Draco, do you have any assignments to finish?" Victoria's accent was easily identified.

The blonde raised his head from the book he was reading and looked at his new friend. "What do you have in mind, Miss Snape?"

He was already anticipating their next adventure. Since they had won the Quidditch match, Draco and Victoria had been inseparable. The fact that he was openly gay now that his father no longer controlled his life helped quench any rumors that might have risen about the two.

Draco had learnt to appreciate Victoria's ability to get people to trust her regardless of her house and parentage. Victoria loved the way Draco's mind worked. Nothing was ever done in a direct manner. Subterfuges and sneakiness were a way of life for young Malfoy.

"Let's walk outside. It's still early and you won't get in trouble if you're with me. We can always say that papà sent us out to look for herbs." Victoria knew that no one would question her, but it didn't hurt to be ready.

The two Slytherins walked out of the castle and through the grounds. Draco waited silently. He sensed that whatever Victoria wanted to say was important. Finally, they reached the lake.

They sat down on the sand, looking at the water. This was not the Mediterranean Sea, but the water always relaxed Victoria, nonetheless. Silently, they pulled their robes off as they had been doing for the past two weeks. Draco wrapped his robe around both of them, and then Victoria did the same. The two robes and their body heat provided a barrier against the cold night.

"I have two fathers." The statement came out of nowhere and Draco didn't know what to make of it.

Victoria took a deep breath and began recounting the story that her father had told her on her birthday. When she was finally done, she laid her head on Draco's shoulder and closed her eyes.

"Promise you won't tell anyone." She knew that Draco would never betray her. The Slytherins were family and you don't betray family. That value was instilled in every Slytherin since the day he or she was born. Even after many of their parents had been sent to Azkaban, not a single accusation had been heard from members of the House of the Snake.

"Of course I wouldn't. I'm not keen on having my stones chopped off by your father." Victoria smiled at the reply. "Why did you tell me all of this?"

"I want you to help me find out who my other father is. I discovered that the man my father was shagging is a Gryffindor. I also know that the man tried to kill him by sending my dad after Lupin during a full moon. I was thinking of going through the school records, starting with the sixth and seventh year Gryffindors and work by exclusion."

"I have a much better idea." The wheels in Draco's head were spinning at incredible speed. "You want to know about the Gryffindors, you go to Mr. Gryffindor himself, Harry Potter. The guy was probably a friend of his father's. He could actually be his father," the blonde added teasingly.

"That's disgusting!" She shivered at the thought. "But not possible, thank Merlin. Papà said that Potter saved him while his lover never looked back. I know that it wasn't Remus. We have to find out who else was in Gryffindor at that time. I hope he doesn't suspect anything."

"Don't worry, Vicky. That's when the Gryffindor stupidity becomes dead useful. We'll find out what we want and he won't even know."

The next day, Draco and Victoria walked outside as they had planned. Their little walk enabled them to 'accidentally' run into Potter and his two sidekicks.

"Hello, Weasel. Still licking your wounds after that loss?" Draco never lost the opportunity to pester the annoying redhead.

"Ron, don't answer him. He probably wants you to say something in front of Snape's daughter so you can get into trouble," Harry told his friend calmly. His eyes never wavered from the two Slytherins.

"We don't want to cause any trouble for your friend. I actually wanted to talk to you about an incident involving my father and Remus when they were in school together." Victoria noticed that the three Gryffindors tensed at her words.

"What is it? Are you collecting proof to send Sirius to Azkaban for that prank? Are you as vindictive as your father? Sirius has suffered enough and you should leave him alone!" Harry was screaming by the end of his answer. He couldn't believe that, now that his godfather had been cleared, the Snape family wanted to find another reason to ruin his reputation.

Although Victoria felt as if she had been punched in the stomach and drained of all her blood, she maintained a stoic face. Draco's hand resting on the small of her back gave her some comfort.

"I see we have nothing to discuss. Thank you, anyway." Victoria's words did not reassure Harry. He glared at the two Slytherins while they walked away.

Victoria and Draco continued to walk until they were sure that there was no one around.

"Don't get in a flap, Vicky! I'm sure Potter is wrong." Draco stared at Victoria who had lost all composure. She had her knees apart and slightly bent, her hands on her knees and her head bent down.

The witch took Severuseral deep breaths before standing up again. All traces of her earlier discomfort were gone. "Bugiardo!"

"What?"

"Liar. You know it's true. God, I not only have Gryffindors as ancestors, but I have Black's genes in me as well. Jesus, what a nightmare!" Victoria sat down on the grass, all her energy drained from her.

"Well, it's not so bad. He is a good looking bloke." Draco sat next to her friend and shoved her with his shoulder.

"Draco, can't you think of anything besides looks? And I thought that you were after my papà." She added with a smirk.

"What can I say? I'm attracted to the 'tall, dark and dangerous' thing. Now that I think about it, both of your parents fit the description." Draco smirked back.

"Shut your trap, Draco. Go after Potter. He fits that description, too." She thought about it for a moment. "Okay, so he's not as tall as papà or Black, but he's cute enough. Maybe you should really go after him."

"You're mad, woman. I think the recent discovery had fried your brain. Me, Draco Malfoy with Harry Potter, that's too disgusting to even imagine." Draco made a face to underline his point.

"Not as disgusting as my papà with Black. At least Potter didn't try to kill you."

"Still not happening, Vicky."

"I tried." Victoria rested her head on Draco's shoulder. "So what do I do now?"

"Time turner? Memory Charm? I suggest that you forget about the whole thing." Draco wrapped his arm around his friend and pulled her closer. "If Professor Snape wanted you to know, he would have told you. Besides, you have a better chance to see me snog Potter than to see you parents be civil to each other."

"I guess." Victoria sighed.

Victoria spent the rest of the day avoiding her father and Black. She couldn't really think of Black as her father, only as a biological donor. However, she didn't think that she could maintain her composure if she had to face the two, especially if they were together.

By nighttime, she was so tense that she decided to go flying. She swirled through the cold air with ease. The tension trickled out of her together with the sweat from the exertion.

Remus Lupin sat on the grass looking at Victoria. The woman was unaware of everything and everyone. The Gryffindor couldn't believe how similar her style was to Sirius'. Of course, she was a lot more attractive than his schoolmate.

Victoria finally touched down to the ground a few hours later. Remus was still there watching her. He moved toward the witch, but was uncertain about what to do or say once he reached her.

"Hi, Remus." Victoria didn't feel like talking. She kept walking toward the castle. Remus moved to her side.

"You know I really enjoy the way you fly. You remind me of Padfoot." The werewolf had intended it as a compliment, but it wasn't taken that way.

"A mistake that can be easily fixed," Victoria hissed and moved quickly away.

Remus froze for a moment. Her tone and her posture reminded him of Severus at his worst, but he also saw a bit of Sirius in her response. I must be going mad, he thought.

The wizard woke up from his stupor and ran after the witch. Remus grabbed her arms and forced her to stop.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. If you tell me what made you so angry, I shall avoid it in the future." A shy smile spread across Remus' face.

"We can avoid speaking all together and the problem will be solved." Victoria didn't need to listen to Remus at the moment. He was Black's best friend after all.

"I thought that we were becoming friends, or even something more." The wizard shouldn't have pushed at the moment, but Victoria had been flirting with him since she had arrived.

"Why would I want to be your friend? You're a Gryffindor, you almost killed my father and your best friend despises my family."

"Your father has kept enough grudges for the both of you. Don't ruin your life over something that happened before you were even born." There was a lot more that Remus wanted to say, but if Victoria was anything like Severus, she wouldn't want to hear it at the moment.

"Don't you dare pass judgment on me or my father. I won't ruin my life if I stay away from you or Black. Actually, it will improve by not having around me two Gryffindors who can't stand me or my father!" Victoria screamed at Remus.

"I don't hate your father. I trust him with my life and the life of the students every month." Remus moved closer until they were eye to eye. "And I don't hate you. I more than like you."

Remus pressed his lips over the witch's. Victoria closed her eyes and let herself relax into the kiss. The warm tongue seeking entrance into her mouth brought her back to reality.

Victoria pushed the wizard away with her free arm. "If you're looking for sex, I suggest you find someone at Hogsmeade."

"This is not about sex, it's-"

"It's what? Love?" Victoria laughed. "Please, don't insult my intelligence. We've only just met. The only thing you Gryffindors seem to want is sex."

Victoria reached the castle and walked directly to the dungeons leaving behind a very confused Remus.


Part 5 - Secrets Revealed

Saturday - November 7, 1997

Severus and Victoria swept by the Gargoyle with their usual sense of belonging. Victoria was annoyed at the abrupt summons from the headmaster. Severus, having known Albus for a longer time, had an ominous feeling. However, neither betrayed their feelings as they entered Dumbledore's office.

"Please, sit down. Would you like some tea?" The headmaster was looking at them with an amused smile.

"No!" the two Slytherins said a tad too quickly.

Severus sank into one of the chairs in front of the headmaster's desk. He had a bad feeling about this. Whenever Albus wore that cozy little smile, things went bad for the Potions master. His daughter sat down beside him and ignored both wizards.

Before either one could relax, the door opened again. Severus and Victoria turned around to see who was entering, they both kept their masks of indifference as Sirius and Remus walked into the office.

The werewolf looked around the room in obvious discomfort. "We thought you wanted to see us. We'll come back later, when you're not busy, Headmaster."

"Nonsense, my dear Remus. I wanted to speak to the four of you." The headmaster waved his wand and two more chairs were transfigured. "Please, sit down." No matter how polite the request, it was still an order.

"What is this all about, Albus?" Severus spat out annoyed. "I'm sure we all have better things to do than pretend we like each other over a cup of tea." Severus kept his eyes focused on his friend. He wouldn't look at Sirius; he couldn't afford to let any emotion show in his eyes or voice.

The headmaster ignored the request and materialized five cups filled with steaming liquid. "There have been numerous fights between the students in the past week or so." Dumbledore looked at the three teachers and the one apprentice, she was the only one who seemed uninterested. "I believe this is because of the four of you."

Severus scowled. Of course, it would always be the Slytherins' fault. "You know very well that I would never push those imbeciles to fight. They don't have the brains to pull it off with only minor injuries." The Potions master relaxed a bit, verbal sparring always put him at ease.

"As reassuring as your words are, -" Severus snorted at Albus' words. "- the situation is a little more complicated than that. Your dislike for each other has become so obvious that the students are taking sides. They aren't fighting their own fights, but yours."

The cup in Severus' hand threatened to shatter under the tight grip. Was Dumbledore asking him to stop the display of hatred? The Potions master simply couldn't do it. If he stopped the insults, then he would have to acknowledge how sad those blue eyes were. He would have to admit that his daughter was as much a part of himself as she was of Sirius. He'd have to face the fact that sometimes, in the dark, while his hands traveled over his body, bringing him to orgasm, his mind would conjure up the image of Sirius Black lying on top of him.

The Potions master would not play Albus' game. He had done it over twenty years ago and had paid dearly for it. He remembered how happy and carefree he was before he got pregnant, and how many plans for his life with Sirius he had made when he discovered that he was pregnant. Of course, his dreams were shuttered quickly.

Severus had turned from an open, albeit ambitious wizard, to a secretive person who didn't trust anyone, with the possible exception of his fellow Slytherin Lucius. The friendship had led him to join Voldemort. The teachers might not have noticed the change since they never paid attention to the Slytherins, but the evidence was there if anyone had bothered to look.

The Slytherin had fought long and hard to right his decision to become a Death Eater. He had worked hard to be a good father to his daughter. He also had spent a good amount of time to mend his heart. He simply needed to continue fighting and insulting Sirius as a mean of self-preservation.

Sirius looked at the headmaster ashamed, but the spark returned to his eyes as soon as his gaze fell on the Potions master. The Slytherin appeared to be in complete control. Sirius damned himself for his feelings toward Severus. He chuckled inwardly at the name. He hadn't referred to Snape as 'Severus' since that infamous day, when he sent his lover to the shack.

Victoria sensed how tense her father was. She felt bad for him, but couldn't forgive him for keeping this secret. He should have told her and prepared her for the hate she would feel from her other parent. Because in the end, Sirius Black hated her, like he hated her father. He would never be part of their lives.

Unfortunately, Black happened to be Remus' best friend. Any feeling that Victoria might have harbored for the Gryffindor had to be suppressed. She couldn't risk getting too close to the werewolf and revealing any personal secrets. She also didn't think that she could be near Remus and, at the same time, deal with Black's hatred for her.

Remus looked around the room and felt the tension. The headmaster was playing with fire when dealing with Sirius and Severus' complicated relationship. Victoria didn't seem to be any more complacent. The werewolf believed that Dumbledore, for once, was out of his depth with these three.

The Gryffindor was well aware that something was happening among them, but he had yet to find the reason for the increased numbers of fights. Severus and Sirius had never been best friends, but they had learned to work side by side in order to destroy Voldemort. Victoria was even more of an enigma. She simply hated Black and she refused to be near Remus simply to avoid the possibility of meeting the animagus.

"We'll stop fighting in front of the students. May we go now?" Severus put down the cup and rose from the chair. He sighed inwardly. He hoped that Albus would let it go, but he knew his friend would not be satisfied with his promise. The Potions master forced himself to be his usual nasty self until he left this room.

"Severus, I would rather find out why you four are at each other's throats."

Sirius snorted and put down his own cup. He stood at the opposite side of the room, sending evil glares to Severus, who was reciprocating with some of his own.

"We all know why I hate you. Attempted murder doesn't have a statute of limitation. Why don't you tell us the reason you dislike me and my daughter?" Severus drawled mockingly.

"I didn't try to kill you. If I did, the headmaster would have expelled me. I simply didn't think," Sirius retorted. Victoria recoiled when she realized the teachers had done nothing to protect her father.

"Salazar forbid if you actually used that head of yours," Severus spat back.

"Merlin forbid if you developed a heart and used it to forgive," Sirius practically screamed, only the headmaster's presence prevented him from doing so.

"Oh, I have one. I've learned never to give my heart to a Gryffindor. For all their nobility, they have a very cavalier attitude toward other people's feelings." Severus was losing all control.

"That's a load of crap and you know it. You're being a vindictive bastard."

Before Sirius could continue, Victoria jumped out of her chair, causing it to fall backwards. "That's it. Shut your trap, both of you!" she screamed.

The young witch hit Dumbledore's desk with her palms. She looked straight at the headmaster. "Do you really want to know what this is about? I would think that the almighty Dumbledore would have known what was happening in his school and used that knowledge to protect his students, but I guess I was wrong."

Dumbledore was taken aback by the anger in the young witch's voice, but said nothing. Her father, however, spoke up. "Victoria, that's enough!"

"No, it's not, papà. I haven't even started. I want to know how you could let this-" she looked with disgust toward Sirius. "- filth fuck you."

Sirius and Severus froze. They had kept this secret for so long and had convinced themselves that it would never come out.

She turned around and faced Sirius. Her words were delivered in a calm tone but full of enmity. "I want to know how you could get your lover pregnant and send him and his child to a certain death without looking back, how you could pretend to be this noble Gryffindor when you almost killed your lover."

Like her father, she refused to show any weakness in front of these wizards. She directed her anger at the headmaster. "And I want to know how you could turn your back on a student. You left my father, alone and pregnant, practically telling him that his life wasn't worth anything when compared to a Gryffindor's. You people talk about his joining Voldemort with shock. If it were me, I would have killed the lot of you that night."

Severus fought to keep his stoic mask of indifference on, while his heart cried for his daughter. He moved closer to his daughter and enclosed her in a warm embrace.

"It's all right, Vicky. It's all in the past. It can't hurt us." Severus continued to speak softly until her anger decreased.

"It's not all right, papà. You shouldn't let them win." Victoria was shocked to see her father giving in so easily. In her mind, they should pay for how they ruined their lives.

"They haven't won, Vicky. I have you in my life and no one can take you from me."

"What the hell is going on?" Severus' head shot up at Sirius' angry question. The Potions master glared at the animagus, who smartly decided to keep quiet.

Severus' expression softened when he looked at his daughter. He raised her chin with elegant fingers. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you everything. I should have known better than to keep a secret from you."

Victoria chuckled. "I have to thank Draco and Potter for the information." At her father's raised eyebrow, she continued, "Draco knows and he gave me the idea to speak with Potter. The boy never knew what kind of information he was giving me."

Severus nodded in understanding. "I need to speak with the headmaster and Black."

"No, you don't. Black hates us and doesn't deserve any explanation after what he did." Her voice was cool and controlled, but the hatred was tenfold.

"He doesn't hate you, Vicky. He doesn't even know you. He hates me and me alone. I don't want you to get involved in this. Now, go back to the common room, or better yet go for a walk. I'm sure Remus would love to keep you company."

The Potions master looked at the werewolf, who nodded his head happily.

"I want to be by myself. I need to fly." Victoria wasn't ready to deal with this other problem, but her father refused to change his mind.

"Last time you were upset and flew to relieve tension, you left Italy and we found you in France. You're staying on the ground. Is that understood?"

"Fine." Victoria stormed out of the room.

When Remus reached her and pulled her closer to him, she didn't resist. Now that the secret was out, she had no reason to avoid the werewolf. Besides she needed the comfort at the moment.

As the door closed, Severus sank back into the chair. Sirius sat down also, picking the closest chair to the Potions master.

"More tea, Severus?" Dumbledore wanted to calm the man and perhaps alleviate some of his own guilt.

"Scotch, if you please."

"Of course, child." Albus magicked a glass of scotch and waited until the Slytherin sipped a good portion. "Severus?" The black eyes focused on Dumbledore's. "Was Victoria telling the truth?"

Severus nodded. "He didn't know about the pregnancy. Neither did I for that matter. When I found out, I tried to tell him. We were going to meet at the Shrieking Shack, but you know what happened after that." Severus refused to give a name to the man who had caused all his problems.

Sirius had been ready to accuse Severus of stealing his daughter, of keeping the pregnancy a secret. Then, he remembered what happened that infamous February. Severus had returned from Christmas break elated. He had tried to speak to Sirius Severuseral times, but the Gryffindor had given him the brush off.

Sirius had been convinced that Severus wanted to break up with him. He never realized how much the Slytherin needed to speak with him. Hurt and annoyed, the animagus had sent the Slytherin after Remus during the full moon.

"You spent seven months in this school while being pregnant and we never noticed." The headmaster's comment was made to himself more than to the younger wizards.

"I was a Slytherin, Albus. The teachers never paid attention to us. I pulled off the deceit pretty easily." Severus took another sip of his scotch, letting the warmth fill his body.

Albus' eyes glistened with unshed tears. He was at a loss for words. A student, a child, had gone through a pregnancy with no one to help him, without any medical attention or any emotional support. The child had grown up to become his friend, but the Potions master had never trusted him enough to tell him about Victoria.

"Severus, I truly don't know what to say.'" Albus felt grossly inadequate.

"You don't have to say anything. I understand how negatively this will affect the school if it becomes public knowledge. Victoria and I will leave the school at the end of the school year or as soon as you can find my replacement." Severus got up and moved to leave.

Sirius stood quickly. "You can't do that. You can't." Sirius' mind went back to that day, long ago in the corridors, when Severus had begged to speak with him. If only he had listened to Severus. His daughter would have grown up loving him. Severus wouldn't have joined the Death Eaters. He probably would have trusted himself enough to be James' secret keeper and Harry's parents would still be alive.

Sirius felt overwhelmed by his thoughts and the endless possibilities. He crumpled onto the floor. Strong arms prevented him from hitting the stones with much force. He opened his eyes to see Severus kneeling next to him. Sirius was amazed that Severus had helped him and was even more shocked that the Potions master had his arms wrapped around him still.

"It's a bit overwhelming at first." The Potions master finally sounded at peace. He had finally revealed his secret.

"At least when you found out, you didn't have to worry about what an idiot you'd been for the past two decades." Sirius sounded defeated. He wasn't ashamed to lean against his former lover seeking comfort, even if he didn't deserve it. "You must have hated me."

"When I found out?" Sirius nodded. "On the contrary, I loved the idea of a child. I couldn't wait to tell you. I was so excited." Severus' expression softened. He was obviously lost in the memories. The man couldn't look more attractive in Sirius' eyes than he did at that precise instant.

The memories continued to flow through his mind. Severus relived his return to school, his encounter with Lupin after the transformation, the hurt afterwards. When he returned to the present, he felt how close physically and emotionally he was to his former lover. This was not acceptable.

"Get up, Black, humility doesn't become you," Severus barked.

Sirius shook his head. Miracles didn't happen, at least not for him. What had he expected, anyway? A happily-ever-after ending like a Muggle fairytale? This was real life and he had a lot of work before him if he wanted Severus and Victoria to accept him into their lives.

"Gentlemen, I take my leave. I'm sure my daughter needs to talk to me." Severus finally released Sirius and got up.

The headmaster neared the two younger wizards. "Severus, please reconsider. Your departure would be a loss for the staff and the students. I shall miss you dearly." The last words were tentative. The old wizard didn't feel he had the right to make any demands on Severus.

"I know I have no right, Severus, but please, -" Sirius' voice cracked. "- please don't take her away from me. Give me a chance to make it up to the both of you."

"I'll have to discuss it with our daughter before I can make a decision." Severus walked out. He never saw Dumbledore's hand on Sirius' shoulder. He never saw Sirius' smile.

"He said 'our daughter'," Sirius whispered happily. Things were not so bad after all.


Part 6 - Relationships

Tuesday - November 18, 1997

Victoria and Remus walked outside. It was cold, but both liked to be outdoors. To the students watching, this was no more than a friendly walk, however in the past week, the two had become closer.

After her outburst in Dumbledore's office, Victoria had relied on Remus for comfort. The fact that he was a Gryffindor became irrelevant once he showed her how supportive he could be. The platonic friendship morphed into a physical one.

"Sooner or later, you and Sirius will have to talk to each other civilly." Remus tried daily to fix the conflict between his best friend and Sirius' daughter.

"Black and I have nothing to talk about. The few times we've spoken, it's turned into a shouting match," she snapped. Her voice softened as she continued, "Remus, I know you're doing what you think is best, but please, let it be. Between your classes and all the work I have to do for papà we spend little time together. Let's not waste it on Black."

Remus quickly brushed his hand against Victoria's. They were careful not to raise suspicions about the true nature of their relationship among the students. Therefore, public displays of affection were avoided.

Victoria smiled at the tender gesture. "Maybe we should go inside. It's getting cold and we could see if your room is warmer than the dungeons," she said suggestively.

"Don't even try it, Vicky. I'm not making out like a teenager while your father, who happens to be my best friend, is in the room next to mine."

"He's not my father and I was planning on doing a lot more than simply making out." Victoria laughed and ran around Remus, who shook his head. No matter how mature Victoria sounded, she was merely twenty years old.

Her laughter died down when she heard some students arguing. Victoria recognized Draco's arrogant drawl immediately. She turned around and saw that he was talking to Potter, Weasley and Granger.

She started to run toward them, when Remus grabbed her arm.

"Just because Severus is the Head of the Slytherin House, it doesn't mean that you have to take care of all of them."

Victoria's hot temper showed in her blue eyes, but she relaxed before answering. "The Slytherins have gone through some rough times, but that's not the reason why I'm getting involved. Draco is my friend and I'll help him whenever he needs me."

She ran toward the four students while Remus followed at a slower pace. When she reached them, Victoria wrapped an arm around Draco's shoulders. "Is everything okay, gioia?"

"I'm fine, Vicky. We were just talking about the Quidditch game we won," Draco pointed out.

"The game you stole. If it weren't for your girlfriend's dirty tricks, Harry would have caught the snitch," Ron yelled. "You needed to shag the teacher's daughter to win a game."

Victoria and Draco looked at each other and started laughing. "Where have you been for the past year, Weasel?" Draco asked still laughing. "The whole school knows I'm gay. Now, if you accused me of sleeping with the teacher..." Draco trailed off suggestively.

"A rumor like that might cost Severus his job and reputation," Remus, who had reached them, warned the blonde Slytherin.

"Please Remus, you know Draco was only joking." Victoria rolled her eyes at the mere suggestion of Draco and her father sleeping together.

"Right, he was joking," Harry said sarcastically. "We all know how he got such high grades in Potions."

"You little ungrateful brat. You should drop to your knees and thank Merlin that my father has protected you all this time. He has sacrificed our lives to save yours. He hasn't spent Christmas with me in three years so that he could stay near you." Victoria was furious and it took all of her self-control not to hex Harry.

"What's going on, here?" Everyone turned at the deep voice that belonged to Sirius Black. Remus sighed and braced himself for the new battle that would certainly erupt.

"Don't worry, Professor." Victoria invaded her father's pesonal space. "We haven't done anything to your precious godson. I know you can't trust the evil Slytherins, but Remus can confirm it."

"I asked a question, Victoria. I didn't accuse anyone," Sirius tried to remain calm.

"I don't remember telling you that you could use my first name, Professor. As for your questions, you can fuck off." Victoria pushed her father and walked away towards the castle.

"Go after her, you idiot." Draco wanted to shake Black until he realized that Victoria really didn't hate him. She was angry and the animagus was the easiest target.

"What did you just say, Mr. Malfoy?" Sirius was looking for the excuse to yell at someone.

"Go. After. Her. You. Idiot." Draco stared challengly at the older wizard. "You can either stay here and take points from me or you can go after her and try to fix this mess."

"I think that should be twenty points to Slytherin for such useful suggestion." Sirius smiled at the young Slytherin who relaxed and smiled back.

Sirius followed his daughter leaving behind a smiling Draco, an amused Remus, a flabbergasted Ron, a confused Hermione and a very curious Harry.

"Well, we better get back inside." Hermione wanted to avoid another confrontation.

"Why don't you and Ron go ahead? I need to speak with Remus." The two Gryffindors nodded at Harry and left.

"So what was so urgent, Harry?" The smirk on Remus' face was very uncharacteristic for the good-mannered professor.

"I...I wanted to speak to Malfoy...and Ron...You don't mind, do you?" Harry smiled at the teacher.

"What makes you think that I want to speak with you, Potter?" Malfoy stood, arms crossed in front of his chest and a smirk spread across his face.

"I'll let you two solve this in private. Just don't make me regret that I left you two alone." Not waiting for a reply, Remus left the two boys. He wanted to reach Victoria and Sirius. He knew that one or both would need consoling.

"What do you want, Potter?"

"I want to know what's going on with Sirius. I've noticed for a few weeks that something is wrong." Harry sat down on the grass and gestured for Draco to sit next to him.

"What does that have to do with me?" Draco sounded annoyed, but sat down.

Harry sighed and played with a blade of grass. "You seem to know more than I do. I don't understand. Was Sirius involved with Snape's daughter? Did they fight?"

Draco burst into laughter. He lay down, unable to remain sitting upright, tears in his eyes. "By Slytherin's balls, you have a wicked imagination, Potter, but no power of observation. They've been fighting each other since the moment Vicky arrived."

"Fine," Harry hissed out. "Don't help me, Malfoy." The Boy Who Lived moved to get up, but Draco grabbed his arm and forced him back down.

"Look, I can't tell you what I know. It's personal and I don't think they would appreciate me telling you. It does involve Vicky and Black, but it's not what you think. Talk to your godfather. Tell him that you want to know, that you two are family."

Harry nodded.

"And Potter, once he tells you, if you need to talk, I'll listen."

The Gryffindor got up, confused by the other boy's attitude. Harry never really had a conversation with Malfoy before and the Slytherin seemed mature and caring, completely different from the image he and his friends had conjured. "Why would I talk to you, Malfoy?"

"Because you don't want to betray your godfather and I already know the situation. Besides, you know that I can keep a secret."

Harry moved toward the castle. Then, he stopped and turned around, "Hey, Malfoy?"

"What, Potter?"

"Thank you, Draco." The Gryffindor directed his first smile toward the blonde.

Draco smiled back. "You're welcome, Harry."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Severus looked up when someone slammed the door of his classroom so forcefully that it bounced back. "I've had cauldrons explode, floors eroded, and horrible fumes invade my nose, but my door has never been destroyed. I'd like to keep it that way, Victoria."

"I can't stand him. He's just so...so..." Victoria stomped her feet.

Severus put down the mortar and pestle he was using. He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his index finger and thumb and he sighed. "What happened this time?"

"Oh, nothing. He was worried that I would hurt his little godson, the poor little lamb," she spat out sarcastically.

"Merlin, this means I'll have another visit. Can you two stop this incessant bickering or at least take a day off? I'm tired of going through this every day."

"It's not my fault," Victoria whined.

"Victoria, I don't care whose fault it is. You're an adult and so is Black. It's time you both started acting like it. You two will have to find a way to solve this problem between you. It's unacceptable that you quarrel every day and I have to mediate." Severus looked straight at his daughter, hoping that she could understand his distress. "You can just stop talking to each other and we'll all be happier."

"I won't be." Severus looked up and saw Sirius standing by the open door. The Potions master sighed again.

"Why don't you come in and get comfortable? It would be a shame if we missed our nightly chat." Severus had meant it to sound sarcastic, but he sounded tired instead.

Sirius went to the worktable and began crushing whatever was in the mortar. He didn't care about what he was doing, but it helped him focus on something other than strangling his daughter.

"He really didn't mean it, you know?" Severus cringed at his daughter's hateful tone.

"Victoria, leave. I will deal with this."

"But papà." Victoria didn't care if she sounded like a spoilt brat.

"Leave, now." Severus' tone left no room for argument. "Close the door on your way out," he added when she began walking toward the door.

"I need those fangs crushed, not pulverized. It's first year knowledge." Severus informed Sirius, breaking the silence after a few minutes.

Sirius put down the mortar and smiled sadly. "Sorry. For everything," he added after a while.

"You do know that she is spoilt rotten." It came out of nowhere, but Sirius had wanted to say it for a long time.

"She's not. She's scared, she's jealous and she's looking for some sort of normality, but she's not spoilt." Maybe she was a little, Severus thought. Growing up with his aunt Livia, Victoria was allowed a lot more freedom than she would have with Severus, Luciano loved her and gave in to her demands a little too often, and Severus wasn't there long enough to provide rules for her. But to admit this meant that Severus had to admit what a failure he had been as a father and he wasn't ready to do that, especially in front of Black.

The rude answer Severus had expected never materialized. "I don't understand her, Severus. When I met Harry and I explained about Peter, he accepted me without questions and our relationship has developed with little complications. But she is so angry with me."

Severus laughed softly. "If you try to compare Potter with Victoria, you'll just make things worse. Harry is not your son. He was so starved for affection that he would have been happy if I had decided to adopt him. Victoria was the center of attention of three adults. I spent all my free time with her. She started brewing potions with me when she was four. I thought her to fly at five. I apparated to the villa every weekend and we would go to different cities. She never had to share me with anyone."

Severus slowed down to give Sirius time to digest the words. "When your godson arrived at Hogwarts my time with her decreased. She resented Harry's arrival in my life. Now, she sees you as another rival for my time."

"Of course, it's all my fault." Sirius got up angrily.

Severus closed the gap between them and put a hand on his former lover's shoulder. "It's not, but a child lashes out to the one closest. You have to be patient."

Sirius turned around. He was so close to the Slytherin that it would be so easy to give in and kiss Severus. The animagus shook his head. He was going mad, he thought, but somehow once he found out the reasons for Severus' action, his hatred disappeared and the old feelings of love and respect resurfaced.

Naturally, Sirius couldn't expect things to go back to the way they were in a few weeks. He knew that if it pushed Severus, his dreams for a united family would be destroyed. However, he couldn't help leaning forward until their foreheads rested against each other and Sirius' hands lay on the Potions master's hips.

"I know that I'll never be a part of your family, but I had hoped that we could at least be friends." The admission brought tears to Sirius' eyes.

"That's where you're wrong. You have to tell her that you want to be her father, not a friend, not her equal, but a parent," Severus advised him, allowing the contact to continue.

"You would let me?" The surprise was obvious in Sirius' voice.

"No matter what happened between us, she needs her parents and I will do my best so that she can obtain that."

"Thank you." Sirius did kiss Severus this time. The kiss was not sexual, but poignant and tender, a mere meeting of lips that meant the end of twenty years of hatred.

Severus held the Gryffindor close. The Potions master could taste Sirius on his lips and it took all of his control not to attack that inviting mouth. This was so wrong but felt so right. The man who had almost killed him, the man he had loved so long ago, was once again in his arms.

"You need to go now." Things were happening so fast that he was reacting more than acting. Severus needed time to think. "I need to concentrate and finish this potion. If you want to talk, know more about Victoria, come to tea on Saturday. I'll make sure that Victoria isn't in my chambers."

Sirius nodded and left.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Remus arrived in front of his chamber's door and found Victoria waiting for him. "Hey!" He brushed her hair and smiled before opening the door to his room and ushering her inside.

Victoria took off her pumps and sat down on the bed, her head resting against the headboard. Remus sat next to her and pulled her close. The witch rested her head on his chest and sighed.

"What happened?" Remus asked her.

"Papà sent me away."

"You're cute when you pout," the werewolf told her, touching her bottom lip with his fingers.

Victoria got up on her knees. She hitched her robe up slightly, and straddled Remus' lap. She rested her head on the wizard's shoulder. "I can't take this anymore, Remus."

The werewolf traced small circles on her back. "Vicky, you're the only one who can make it better. Sirius hurt both Severus and me that night, but if we can forgive him you should try to do the same. You're only going to hurt yourself if you don't."

When Victoria didn't answer, Remus lifted her chin with his finger until they were staring at each other, blue eyes fixed on hazel orbs. "Are you all right, love?"

She shook her head and she unzipped her robe. "I don't want to think, Remus." She took her robe off. She was wearing a lace bra and a matching thong.

"Sweet Godric, you've been running around through school with nothing on." Remus sounded out of breath. "I thought that Dumbledore had asked you to be more respectable."

"I am fully covered and no one knows what I wear or don't wear, in this case, under my robe, except you. Are you going to report me to the Head of my House?" She asked with false innocence.

"Oh yes, I can just picture that conversation. 'Sorry, Severus, but I'd like to inform you that your daughter is not wearing any clothes beneath her robe. How do I know? She might have taken her robe off in my presence. No, no, I had no intention of shagging her at the time, but she forced me into it'. Yes, I'd love to have that discussion with your father." By the end of Remus' speech, Victoria was laughing so hard that she was in tears.

When she finally could breath again, she took Remus' hand and pressed it against her breast. She closed her eyes and savored the sensation. "Can we get to the shagging now?"

Remus forgot about his best friend, Severus and the whole world. He only felt soft flesh and tender lips. He let his animal instincts take over as he made love to his girlfriend, leaving all his doubts and moral objections for later.

Their lovemaking was tender and needy. They lay in each other's arms, finally sated. For the first time, Victoria spent the night with her lover.


Part 7 - Understanding

Saturday - November 22, 1997

Sirius knocked on the door and peeked his head inside the room. "Is it safe?"

"If you're inquiring about our daughter, Victoria is not here. I believe she went to London with Remus," Severus informed the animagus.

"London? When has London become part of the weekend for Hogwarts students?" Sirius didn't like the idea that his daughter was given so much freedom.

"Do relax. She's with Remus and she can take care of herself. She's been spending every Saturday in a different city since she passed her apparators test. Even before she had her license, she was allowed to visit different cities during her Christmas break by using a portkey." Severus magicked some teacups. He poured some brandy in the tea and handed it to Sirius.

"Merlin, is there anything she is not allowed to do?" The Gryffindor sat on the couch with the teacup clutched in his hand.

"I did what I thought was best. I taught her to be independent and strong. I know that I can trust her." Severus sat down at the other end of the couch, leaving a physical and emotional emptiness between the two wizards.

"Sorry, I guess you know her better than I do." Sirius sighed and leaned against the back of the couch. "I don't really know her at all."

"That's why we're here. I can tell you about Victoria and it'll be easier for the two of you to get along."

"You're more optimistic than I am." Sirius turned around and put his bent leg on the couch. He leaned forward and laid his hand on Severus' thigh. "I know I have a lot to make up for, especially to you. I hope you believe me when I tell you how sorry I am for everything."

"Words won't change the past, nor will they take the pain away, but I am willing to pretend for our daughter's sake." Severus knew it would be difficult to convince Victoria to give Sirius a chance.

"That's not enough, Severus." Sirius cut Severus off. "I can't have a real relationship with Victoria if the two of us still hate each other. She knows you so well that she would know your true feelings. She adores you and you'll have to accept me before she ever will."

"I don't think we hate each other." Severus wasn't rightly sure what he felt for the animagus. He still couldn't forgive Sirius for that night at the shack, but old feelings were reemerging. Severus was torn between wanting Sirius to bugger off and wanting to bugger Sirius.

The physical attraction was not the only thing that clouded Severus' judgment. As his hatred for the Gryffindor diminished, Severus remembered the things that made him love Sirius in the first place: Sirius' charm that allowed him to get away with murder, literally or close to it in some cases, the conspiratorial grin when they got away with something and his honest outlook on life.

"Right!" Sirius exclaimed sarcastically, waking Severus up from his reverie. "After all the pranks, after sending you after a werewolf, we're now best friends."

"Don't be stupid. Is it possible that for you things are either black or white? I don't think I can forget that night. When I saw the werewolf I was terrified. I couldn't move."

Sirius interrupted before Severus could say anything more. "I never understood that. I knew you well enough to know that you'd find a way out, but you didn't. I felt horrible when James told me. Why? Why didn't you do anything?"

"Because I saw Remus transform. You all thought that I hadn't seen the transformation, but I did. Uncertainty took over me and I froze. If I didn't use my magical powers, I knew that he, or better yet the werewolf would have hurt my child and me, but if I did, I could have killed Remus."

"That's crap. You were one of the best wizards of our year. You knew more spells than anyone else in school. You could have immobilized the wolf," Sirius rebutted, clearly reluctant to accept the story.

"Oh, I knew the spells all right. I just couldn't perform them. Remember that time in Charms, when I set fire to over half of the Gryffindors' robes. I know you thought that it was payback for the trick you and your friends had played on the Slytherins the day before, but it wasn't. I had no control over my magic. The pregnancy affected my powers." Severus had never explained this to anyone, except his Aunt Livia and her husband. Dumbledore had been satisfied with his word that he hadn't done it on purpose, but had never asked for the details.

"That night, I was afraid that any spell I cast, no matter how harmless, would end up hurting Remus. I was afraid that I'd kill him, and I couldn't risk that. The idea of running away never even entered my head." Severus stated with conviction and bravery, running away was for cowards.

Sirius smiled at Severus' tone. "That's right. You were braver than most Gryffindors."

"If I were, I would have cursed you that night. But alas, I was too afraid to go against the headmaster. Instead I planned a painful revenge that never occurred." Severus felt calm. He had been dreading the usual rash of emotions that came up when he thought about that terrible night, but they never surfaced.

"It's taken me a long time to understand that you had no way of knowing what my reaction would be. I could have stupefied the wolf or immobilized it. I could have run away. You couldn't know that I would freeze because I couldn't use my powers." Severus put down the cup and closed his eyes.

"What exactly are you trying to tell me, Severus?" Sirius held his breath. The possibility that he could be forgiven was a dream for the animagus.

"I'm saying that although it hurt, although you were wrong for doubting my faithfulness, and although I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to forget, I've been able to forgive you for things you had no knowledge of."

As soon as the words were spoken, Severus felt Sirius' hands close around his neck and soft lips press against his. The Potions master pushed the animagus away before the kiss could deepen. "We're here to talk, not so you can jump me."

"Would I sound extremely boring if I apologized again?" Sirius joked.

"Anything in particular that you'd like to know?" Severus swiftly changed the subject.

"Actually, yes. Why couldn't you control your powers? I don't remember Lily going through that when she was pregnant with Harry." Severus' pregnancy had been an abstract concept for Sirius, but each detail made it seem more real and tangible.

"During the prenatal care, the mediwizard performs a spell to block the baby's magical power from colliding with those of the gestating parent. Unfortunately, I didn't find that out until I arrived at Aunt Livia's."

"I remember that name. You used to talk about her. What made you go to her?" Sirius wasn't sure how much Severus would reveal, but the animagus planned to ask as many questions as he could until the Slytherin threw him out.

"I knew my parents wouldn't help me. Aunt Livia and I were very close before she got married. I knew I could trust her." Severus' gaze was fixed on the wall, while his mind traveled back in time. "After Victoria was born, Aunt Livia contacted my parents to inform them of the birth. I haven't spoken to them since that day. Luckily for me, the Snape fortune was bequeathed in an irrevocable trust with all descendents named as trustees. I was financially comfortable and didn't have to worry about my future and Vicky's."

Great, the Gryffindor thought, another reason to feel guilty. Severus hadn't spoken to his parents in twenty years because Sirius had gotten him pregnant.

"Don't bother apologizing." Severus seemed to have read Sirius' mind. "It wasn't your fault. I brewed the potion and I made the decision to keep the baby even though I knew of the possible consequences." The Slytherin smiled sadly. He had indeed foreseen his parents' reaction, but he never regretted his decision.

"How was the delivery? I wish I could have been there."

"You were better off not being there. It was long and painful, and if you had been there, I would have killed you."

Sirius inconspicuously moved closer to Severus and rested his hand on the Slytherin's shoulder. "What happened?" he asked softly.

"When I told the mediwizard about the potion, he did some research. It turned out that the potion was considered Dark Magic and had been banned in the fifteenth century. Its ingredients and its unknown side-affects, and the fact that the baby's and my powers had been connected since conception, made for a very unique situation."

Severus drank some more tea. Sirius wanted to ask more questions, but he felt that his former lover needed time to gather his strength and finish the tale.

"The mediwizard was afraid to use any spells during the delivery, because we didn't know the consequences they would have on the baby. I refused to put my child at risk."

"Wait! How did you actually have the baby? I mean..." Sirius couldn't find the right words and gestured at Severus' stomach.

"I know what you mean. A canal between the embryonic sac and my bellybutton developed during the pregnancy. The bellybutton dilated much like a vagina would in a regular birth. Victoria literally popped out of my stomach." Severus chuckled lightly at the memory.

Sirius paled during the narration. He now had more details than he wanted. The idea of all Severus had gone through made him sick. Only pride prevented him from throwing up.

"Maybe, we should change the subject. You look a little green," Severus joked, not missing the changes Sirius had gone through during his tale.

"You're getting a kick out of seeing me so sick over your story."

"I didn't think that I could get revenge simply by retelling my delivery. Maybe I should have used one of those Muggle video cameras and recorded the birth for you to see." Severus laughed. "Did Remus ever get his revenge?" The Slytherin asked curiously.

"What do you mean?" Sirius asked, truly surprised.

"Well, the way I see it there were three possible outcomes if Potter hadn't interfered. One, I would have fled and told the whole school. Two, I could have hexed the werewolf and hurt or killed it. Three, Remus could have bitten me or killed me and he would have been sent to Azkaban. If I were Remus, I wouldn't be so forgiving."

"Merlin, I never...Remus was upset for a few days, but he acted like nothing happened after that." Sirius covered his face with his hands.

Unable to control himself, Severus ran his fingers through Sirius' black hair in a soothing motion. "Why did you cut it?"

Sirius looked at him in surprise. "My hair? I don't know. I guess when I escaped from Azkaban, I wanted to change my appearance. Later on, I thought it made me look more respectable."

Severus continued touching the silky locks. "I loved the way it felt. I loved to play with your hair when we made love."

"You always said that it was just sex." Sirius looked at Severus, interested to find out what his former lover would say now in hindsight.

"What was I supposed to say to Hogwarts' very own Rudolph Valentino?" Severus snapped back, but his usual bite was missing.

"We did have fun, though. I'm amazed no one ever suspected." Sirius smiled at his own memories.

"I think Albus would have had a heart attack if we had told him. I remember the many times we fought so we could get detention together." While Severus talked, Sirius lay down and rested his head on the Slytherin's lap. The animagus stared into those black orbs waiting for a nasty remark, but Severus kept brushing his hair, lost in the pleasant memories of the past.

"Do you remember at the end of fifth year when we started that duel in front of Binns?" Sirius asked. "We lost enough points for both Houses that the Ravenclaws won the House Cup. James wanted to kill me for that." The joy of the memories was tapered by the thought of James Potter.

"Lucius threatened to lock me up for the entire sixth year if I didn't stop fighting with you," Severus recalled. "It was worth it. We got to spend every night for a month together without any of our Housemates around."

"Did you mind about all those pranks I played to keep our cover?" Sirius knew that curiosity killed the cat, but he couldn't help himself.

"If you thought those were humiliating, you haven't dealt with a teenage daughter. I remember one night, when she was sixteen, she came to my room and informed me that she got her period and ran out of tampons. Since all the stores close at eight in Italy, I had to apparate to different pharmacies to find the one that was open at night." Sirius was laughing already at Severus' tale.

"Don't laugh. It may still happen to you." Sirius made a face. "Anyway, I told the woman that my daughter needed tampons. She asked me if she inserted them manually or with an applicator. You can imagine my answer, but the woman was totally oblivious to my sarcasm. She showed me different brands and pointed out one preferred by virgins, and would I happen to know if she's still a virgin?" By then Sirius was laughing so hard that he had tears in his eyes.

"Shut up, Sirius, or I won't tell you anymore." The animagus feigned seriousness. Severus rolled his eyes, but continued his tale.

"Then, she asked me if she used light, regular or super absorbency. She finally took pity of me and gave me a few different brands and told me to return the ones that she didn't need. I got back home and found Victoria lounging on the couch. She kissed me on the cheek. She looked at the boxes, took the one that the pharmacists had recommended for virgins, showed it to me and made a face."

Severus shivered at the memory. "I was ready to find the boy who took her virginity and show him what a Death Eater was capable of doing." Severus sighed. "In the end, she informed that she had found an unopened box, but that she loved me for going out for her. I kissed her back and we spent the night talking."

"You do realize that she has the evil, greasy, and mean Potions master wrapped around her little finger, do you not?" Sirius teased.

"I'm none of those things when she is around. I'm not a former Death Eater, not a former spy, and not an evil teacher. I'm her father. I'd do anything for my little girl." Severus shrugged his shoulders.

The two wizards continued talking about their past and their daughter for most of the evening. Sirius' head remained on Severus' lap while the Slytherin sporadically caressed his former lover.

When Victoria and Remus waltzed into the room, the two wizards were still on the couch, laughing together at old memories. The witch tensed when she saw her parents. Sirius quickly sat up.

"I invited Remus for supper, papà, but I see you have other plans." The jealousy was obvious in Victoria's voice.

"Don't be stupid, Vicky. We can all have supper together." Severus got up and embraced his daughter. "I love you, Victoria, but stop throwing temper tantrums."

"Fine!" she said a little too loudly. She softened her tone and began playing with her father. "But you'll have to make something I like for supper if you want me to play nice with him."

"He is your father and you'll give him the courtesy of calling him by his name. Am I understood?" Victoria nodded. "And I'll make you whatever you want, because I enjoy seeing you happy. So what do you want?"

"Spaghetti carbonara."

"Do you think the house-elves know how to make that?" Sirius asked.

"Of course not. Papà is going to make it. I don't like English food and papà cooks for us. After the meals in the Great Hall, we come back here and eat real food." She smiled at Severus, her love for her father showing clearly in her features. "Papà even apparates to Italy to buy fresh prosciutto and parmiggiano."

Sirius was amazed by the extent to which Severus went to make their daughter happy. He thought that Victoria needed a good spanking and a dose of reality, but he wasn't in a position to give parenting lessons to Severus. At least, not at the moment.

"Help me out in the kitchen." Severus told the animagus. The Potions master didn't trust his daughter and the animagus in the same room without his supervision.

"Kitchen? You have a kitchen in your chambers?" Sirius felt like he had entered an alternate dimension.

"Of course, I have to keep my princess happy." Sirius rolled his eyes and Victoria's smile got even brighter. If people could see Severus, the doting father now, his hard-arse reputation would be ruined, Sirius thought to himself.

"Victoria, you and Remus set the table," Severus instructed his daughter.

Remus stood on the side laughing at the strange scene evolving before him. Victoria could clearly get Severus to do anything she wanted without any complaints. And it seemed that Sirius would go along with whatever Severus desired. This was going to be fun. After twenty years, he would finally get his revenge on Sirius through his girlfriend.

Sirius walked into the little kitchen and found that Severus had already put on the water. The Slytherin was dicing an onion and some pancetta with the same skill he cut potions ingredients.

"Can I do something?" Sirius asked.

"Yes, beat four whole eggs." Severus moved deftly in the kitchen, taking out a bowl and whisk, handing them to Sirius.

"Do you cook all her meals?" Sirius was incredulous.

"She likes the breakfast that the house-elves prepare. I try to limit my cooking to once a day if I can, but if she really dislikes what Hogwarts is serving, I'll cook both lunch and supper."

"You're out of your bloody mind, Severus." The words were out of Sirius' mouth before he could stop them. To Sirius' surprise, Severus merely smiled and continued cooking.

"Who are you and what have you done with the real Severus?" Sirius half joked. Severus merely raised an eyebrow and gave a crooked smile in return.

When the pasta was finally ready, the four sat down to eat. Severus sat between Sirius and Victoria, acting as a buffer. The witch sent evil glares to Black, who tried his best to ignore them.

"Did you enjoy London?" Severus tried making conversation.

"Oh, we never went. I took Remus to le Caf de la Paix in Paris. I went there last year with Piero and I fell in love with it. Then, we apparated to via Condotti in Rome and went to Armani's. I needed some new clothes since the headmaster doesn't like any of the clothes I wear now. I bought some pant-suits from the new collection." Victoria recounted excitedly.

"I want to see them before you wear them around school. Understood, Victoria?" The witch nodded to her father, knowing that her papà would approve of her purchases.

The supper went amazingly well with Remus and Severus preempting any possibility of a fight between Sirius and Victoria. When they were done, Victoria went to her room to try on her new clothes.

"Aren't you going to ask her how much she spent?" Sirius asked, trying to understand who Severus was when their daughter was around.

"Considering that it's the latest collection from Armani, I'd rather not know. Between the money she gets from the trust fund, what I give her and what Aunt Livia gives her, Victoria's clothing budget could support a small country. I try to stay out of the shopping part, though." Severus sounded like he was telling them the most normal thing in the world, but Remus and Sirius, who had been forced by circumstances to survive on a tight budget and live their lives on a day-to-day basis, were shocked.

Victoria chose that moment to walk in. She wore grey trousers and a single-breasted jacket that she left open. Instead of a shirt, she wore a matching waistcoat with a plummeting neckline.

"You can't let her wear that! I don't care how much it cost." Sirius was shocked. The slightest movement would leave their daughter fully exposed.

Severus felt a headache and a new fight coming on. He massaged his temples, hoping that their daughter would ignore the outburst. He should have known better.

"Tell him that he has no right to dictate what I can and can't wear. He lost that chance when he tried to kill you." Victoria only spoke to Severus, ignoring Black.

"What happened between Severus and me is none of your business. You're nothing but a spoilt little girl, who has no right to interfere in her parents' lives." Sirius was rapidly losing his patience. He refused to be treated this way.

"Chi si crede di essere 'sta testa di cazzo? Mi sta rompendo i coglioni, ora!8"

"That's enough, Victoria!" Remus and Sirius cringed at the tone. They didn't know what the witch had said, but from Severus' reaction it couldn't be anything good. Suddenly, the stern and intimidating Potions master that many feared was back, with a vengeance. For the first time since her birth, Severus was truly upset with his daughter.

"What papà? Are you going to take his side now?" Victoria spat out the words, her voice dripping with venom.

"I told you before that he is your father. You needn't like him, nor must you become his friend, but you will show some common courtesy. And you're not to use such language in my presence for any reason," Severus hissed out the words.

His daughter wasn't used to seeing her father upset. Had Victoria spoken to his students, they would have told her to stay quiet when the Potions master used that tone of voice. Instead, she chose to push her father. "Or else?"

Severus got up from the table, turned around, and sat down on the couch. He calmly looked at his daughter, while Sirius and Remus held their breath. "Or else, you can pack your things and find a new Potions master to instruct you. I've given you more latitude than an apprentice should have, but if you can't follow one simple rule then you will no longer stay here with me. I cannot instruct an apprentice who is unwilling to listen and to follow the rules."

"You can't be serious, papà! You'd send me away to make him happy." Victoria pointed a finger at Black. She was on the verge of tears.

"No, Vicky, I would send you away if I thought that I was doing you more harm than good." Severus got up and closed his arms around his daughter. "You can't live with this hatred. I know it's my fault that you feel so strongly, but you and I have to give your father a chance."

"He's not my-" Severus put a finger on his daughter's lips. "Sirius is your father, Vicky. Try to develop a relationship with him. I lost my parents when you were born and I know how much it hurts, but you have a second chance. Don't throw it away."

"I don't need another father. I have the best papà in the world." Victoria left the three wizards and went back to her room. She didn't come out for the rest of the evening.

In the following days, Sirius and Severus met Severuseral times. They spent their time talking, recreating a relationship that had been so important to them in the past. On a few occasions, Victoria saw them. She was polite, but always distant with Sirius. Her relationship with Severus went back to normal the day after their fight.

Severus was happy with the situation. He knew that his daughter needed time to get to know Sirius. This newfound truce would be a start.


Part 8 - Breakfast Conversations

Thursday - December 4, 1997

"Can I sit here?"

Draco raised his eyes and was surprised to see Harry Potter standing in front of him. He gestured for the boy to sit down.

"I spoke with Sirius, yesterday," Harry whispered. He didn't want the other Slytherins to listen in.

"Took you long enough. Two weeks before the brave Gryffindor could find enough courage to talk to his godfather." The sarcastic remark caused Harry to question his decision to talk to his long-time rival, but the sincere smile on Draco's face told him that he had made the right decision.

"Yeah, well, you know me. I'm brave when I do things that can get me killed. I leave the rest to mere mortals." Draco genuinely laughed at Harry's self-deprecating joke.

Draco became serious. "So how are you dealing with it?"

"If he had told me in my fourth year, I would have freaked out, but now -" Harry shrugged. "- I'm gay, so the homosexual part of it doesn't bother me. Snape has saved me more times than I can count, so Snape is not a problem. Besides, it was a long time ago. Sirius doesn't seem like he's going to forget about me and spend all his time with Victoria, not that she would let him, so I'm not worried that he'll suddenly abandon me. I guess I'm not worried. But I can never keep a secret, so I figured if I talk to you, I won't blurt it out to Ron and Hermione."

"You mean you're using me. I'm hurt, Harry," Draco said with mock outrage. "You do know that you'll have a lot of explaining to do when your friends see you sitting with me."

"At least, I'll have something else to discuss." Harry grinned.

"Since you're so talkative, I'd like to ask you a question." Draco looked straight at Harry. "Why did you throw the match last month?"

"I didn't throw the match. I...Quidditch was my revenge against the world. It was the one thing I was good at and no one could take that from me. Now, it's just another reason why people like me. They expect me to catch the snitch; they expect me to win."

Harry played with his breakfast. He was telling his nemesis more than he had told his friends, but it was easier to unburden himself on someone who had no expectation whatsoever from him.

After a few moments, Harry continued his explanation. "Quidditch doesn't interest me as much. I didn't really lose on purpose, but I am not willing to go the extra mile. Victoria and the other two chasers were in front of me. Maybe I could have forced them to move, but considering Victoria's dislike for me, she probably wouldn't have. We both would have gotten hurt. It wasn't worth it." A sly smile appeared on Harry's face. "Besides, you played better than usual and you deserved to catch it."

Draco lowered his gaze, uncharacteristically shy. He knew Harry was probably the best seeker that Hogwarts had ever seen and the compliment acquired a special meaning. "Thank you. That game meant a lot. I wanted to win for my father. He always wanted me to beat the Gryffindors. I'm sorry that he wasn't here to see it."

"I'm sorry, Draco. I know you loved him. I know this may sound cruel, but at least you had a father for seventeen years. I don't remember mine."

Both boys fell into silence. Neither wanted to rehash the past. Their eyes roamed to the head table, where Severus sat in his usual chair. Sirius arrived and took the seat next to the Potions master, which was usually occupied by their daughter. "Good morning," Sirius greeted Severus cheerily.

"You're too chipper in the morning, Black."

"You're never chipper enough, Severus." Their verbal quips had lost their sting in the past weeks, but they continued to argue out habit.

Remus and Victoria arrived at that moment. The werewolf inconspicuously forced his girlfriend to sit next to Sirius while he sat on her other side.

Severus looked at the two, and turned to his daughter. "You could at least pretend that you're not coming from his room, Victoria."

Sirius turned to his left and looked at his daughter and his best friend, then he turned to his right to see the perfectly calm Potions master. "You can't be serious?" Sirius looked completely shocked.

Severus rolled his eyes. "She is not sleeping in her room. Unless she has found better sleeping arrangements, I assume that she's staying with Lupin."

Harry and Draco couldn't hear the discussion at the head table, but their eyes were fixed intently on the foursome.

"Victoria and professor Lupin seem to spend a lot of time together," Harry stated, trying to gauge Draco's reaction.

"You're not too subtle nor observant. They're together, as in shagging. Not that I can blame her, he is good looking for a straight bloke." Draco looked at Remus with dispassionate objectivity.

"You're joking, are you not? There is no way that Snape would let his daughter get involved with a werewolf." Harry sounded shocked at the mere possibility.

"Please, Harry. I bet professor Snape would shag Lupin if it weren't for that nasty case of heterosexuality with which Lupin is affected."

"Merlin, Draco. Can you think of anything but sex?"

Draco pretended to think about it for a few seconds. "No!"

"You certainly must be busy at night," Harry answered, jealous of the other boy's easy-going and natural approach to sex.

"Now, you're the one joking. I'm gay if you hadn't noticed. None of the Slytherins are gay or so they tell me. None of the boys in the other houses would get involved with a Slytherin, in general, and me in particular. Please, intelligent Ravenclaws or loyal Hufflepuffs involved with the evil Draco Malfoy?" The Slytherin shook his head. "I don't think so. I spend my nights all by my lonesome."

Draco raised his grey orbs to stare directly at Harry. "You, on the other hand, must be really busy. Everyone wants the Boy Who Lived."

Harry laughed. "Yes, all the young girls want the Boy Who Lived. Problem is, I'm gay too, if you recall. The boys seem too intimidated to even approach me, let alone get involved with me. They probably think I'm too picky. Truth is, I'm so desperate that I'd say yes to the first boy who asked me."

"Do you want to shag?" Draco asked seriously.

Harry dropped his spoon. "What?"

"You said that you'd say yes to the first person who asked you, I'm asking. I'm seventeen years old and horny. You're good looking and quite possibly the only one who isn't afraid of my House or my name." Draco looked pointedly at the speechless Gryffindor.

"This is...this is rather sudden. I'll have to think about it." Draco smiled. Harry hadn't dismissed the possibility.

"So, what do you think they're discussing?" Draco decided to change the subject to make Harry more comfortable.

"I have no idea, but at least they're not yelling."

At the head table, there was no screaming, but Sirius was ready to hex his friend, his former lover and his daughter. Just to keep things fair.

"Black, calm down." Severus closed his eyes and cursed inwardly. He couldn't believe that he was the one who had to placate Sirius' anger toward Lupin.

"Calm down. It's enough that I haven't cursed the two of them. How can you tell me to calm down?" Remus smiled at the interaction. The two dark-haired wizards sounded like an old married couple.

"First, don't raise your voice. Second, they're both adults and they're free to do what they will. I don't like it; I have Severuseral reservations, but it's still not my decision."

Sirius turned to face his daughter and best friend, ready to go off again. When he felt Severus' hand caressing his back, Sirius closed his eyes and relaxed into the touch. "Fine, but we'll talk later, Moony."

"Of course, Padfoot, as long as it's not during the full moon. I have a tendency of attacking people at that time of the month," Remus deadpanned.

Sirius lost his breath. "Remus! I...After all this time, you decide to bring it up now?"

"I guess knowing that I could have killed my girlfriend upsets me a little. But you're right this is not the time and place to bring it up, just like my involvement with Victoria is not going to be discussed in a room full of students. Now let's eat, we have classes to teach soon." Remus loved Sirius dearly, but he wouldn't let his friend interfere with his love life, not even if his girlfriend happened to be Sirius' daughter.

"Papà, have you seen the sign up sheet for Christmas Break? " Victoria tactfully changed the subject. "Are there any Slytherins staying?" Victoria had remained silent during the fight. She didn't care what Black thought of her relationship with Remus.

"We found blood relatives for all of the Slytherins. Draco is the only exception. I've already informed Albus that we'll take him with us." Severus sounded all business, but did care about the Slytherins as if they were all his own children.

Victoria smiled. "That's wonderful. Remus, we have to get Draco something special. He's so lonely."

"Of course." Remus answered curtly. He did not want to start discussing his plans for the holidays.

"This means that we can't apparate," Victoria seemed to think about that.

"We'll take the express to London and then use a portkey. This will give me a chance to supervise the Slytherins," Severus explained.

"I have a better idea. You can stay with Draco and Remus and I will meet you on platform 9 3/4. This will give us a chance to go shopping before going to Naples," Victoria casually said while eating her breakfast.

"Why would Lupin be going back to London?" Severus felt a headache coming on and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"Didn't I tell you? Remus is spending Christmas with us. I already checked with Aunt Livia and Uncle Luciano and they said yes." Victoria sounded bright and innocent, but she knew that Severus wouldn't be too happy.

"Excuse me? When were you thinking of telling me? You're bringing one of my old schoolmates to my house and you conveniently forget to tell me." This time it was Sirius' hand on his thigh that calmed Severus.

"Papà, don't get melodramatic! What difference would it have made? You still wouldn't have said no." Victoria dismissed the entire argument waiving a hand.

"What difference? What difference indeed? You know what, Victoria? Sleep with Lupin, sleep with Albus, sleep with Draco. You'll still do what you wish."

Victoria's chirpy laugh was heard by everyone. "Papà, you know I can't sleep with Draco. He's gay and he fancies Potter."

"You have a wicked sense of humour," Sirius murmured.

"She is not joking," Severus whispered to him and moved his head toward the Slytherin table where Draco and Harry were sitting.

Severus' hand covered Sirius', which was still on the Potions master's thigh. "Nothing has happened. I've kept my eyes on both of them. But stranger things have occurred."

"I guess we can't control what happens." Severus wasn't sure if Sirius was talking about Harry or something more.

Draco felt like he was being watched. He looked around and noticed that professor Snape was looking at him. Draco smiled at him and Severus nodded at him.

Draco kicked Harry under the table. "Do they even know how close they're sitting?"

"The rest of the students must think they're ready to fight." Harry laughed at the idea.

The two wizards in question were doing anything but fighting. Their hands seemed to search for each other under the table, providing reassurance and comfort.

"Do you have any plans for Christmas, Sirius?" Severus asked.

"Umm, not really. I thought Harry and I were going to stay at Hogwarts. I assumed that Moony was going to be here, and you and Victoria."

"I'm sorry, Padfoot. I didn't think of letting you know. I'm so sorry." Remus felt ashamed that he hadn't thought about his friends. This was going to be their first Christmas without Voldemort. The first Christmas after Sirius's name had been cleared.

Severus was having similar thoughts. He knew all too well how it felt to be alone, especially during the holidays, but he didn't think he could express his feelings anymore than he had in the past few weeks.

Severus was a bastard, everyone knew that. So why did he feel so bad for Sirius? Why couldn't he keep quiet? Instead, he said, "I know you'd like to spend Christmas with Lupin and there is enough room for you and Harry if you'd like to come home with Victoria and me."

"I'd love to," Sirius answered a tad too quickly. "To be with Moony, of course." A huge smile appeared on the animagus' face. Severus' expression remained neutral, but his fingers closed even more over tightly Sirius' hand and Sirius' smile got even bigger.


Part 9 - Back to Naples

Saturday - December 20, 1997

Severus and Sirius were the only ones in the head car of the Hogwarts Express. The Head Boy and Girl, together with the prefects, had practically run away the moment they saw the Potions master sitting there.

"They are still afraid of you," Sirius noted amused.

"Pity! And here I was looking for stimulating conversation with the fine young men and women that make Hogwarts proud." Severus snorted at his own words. "I see enough of those brats during the year. Dunderheads, the lot of them."

Sirius was starting to think that Severus was suffering from what Muggles called split personality: the doting father and the evil teacher. He sighed knowing that Severus would never show any of his students the love he was capable of.

"If you'd be nicer to them they would like and trust you," Sirius suggested.

"They don't have to like me, they simply have to learn from me. As for trust, they should know better than to trust others, especially their teachers." Severus tried to pretend that the past didn't bother him when Victoria was around, but when she wasn't, he felt no qualms about letting people know exactly how he felt.

"Haven't you trusted anyone in your life?" Sirius asked, the sadness for the lonely life that his former lover had led reflected in Sirius' eyes.

"Aunt Livia and Luciano." Severus thought for a moment. "And one other person." The last words were so soft that Sirius almost missed them.

"Albus?" Sirius ventured a guess.

Severus snorted again. "With my life, yes, but with my emotions, not a chance in hell."

"So who is this person that earned Severus Snape's trust?" Sirius was now intrigued.

Severus looked out of the window and his gaze was lost in the rapidly moving journey toward the past. "Lucius!"

Sirius had not expected that name, but after he thought about it, it made sense. Malfoy and Severus were inseparable in school.

"Remember I told you that I couldn't control my magic?" Sirius nodded. "And remember I said that I used concealing spells so people wouldn't discover my pregnancy?" Sirius nodded again, but still didn't understand what any of this had to do with Lucius.

"For Merlin's sake, don't you understand?" Severus snapped at the Gryffindor. "Let me make it easy for you. One day, Lucius saw me naked. I was about four and half months pregnant. The robes hid most of the bulge and no one noticed. Lucius walked in the showers while I was getting out. I couldn't put a warning spell up and I didn't hear him until it was too late."

"How much did you have to pay Malfoy to keep quiet?" The words were out of Sirius' mouth before he even thought about them. The animagus shrank under the fiery black eyes.

"I didn't pay Lucius. He offered to help me. He did the concealing spells necessary through the year and performed all the magic that was required for our classes. I tried to repay him by doing research, brewing potions and writing essays. Nothing seemed enough for what he was doing for me, though."

"It was just helping a friend, Severus. That's what friends do." Sirius tried to imagine what Remus and James would have done for him, probably the same.

"Maybe, but it was strange. Lucius, poster child for straight men everywhere, was the one sitting behind me, rubbing my back when I couldn't move anymore. He was the one holding me when I cried for no reason except hormonal imbalances. Lucius was the one whose hands rested on my stomach as Victoria kicked, looking at me with awe in his eyes. Lucius and only Lucius." Severus tried to shake loose the knot in his throat. He lost the one person he had trusted in the damn fight against Voldemort.

"It's my fault. I should have been there, in his place." Sirius was fighting with his own emotions and guilt. To find out he had a daughter had been shocking, but to hear everything he had missed had a bigger impact on him. Maybe, he was finally growing up.

"Are you helping Draco because of what happened then?" Sirius asked after a moment.

"Yes and no. Lucius and I didn't speak about Victoria when I returned to school. He never asked me where she was or with whom. In 1980, Lucius was in charge of a mission for Voldemort. The Order stopped him. At the Death Eater meeting, he spent hours under the Cruciatus Curse for his failure."

Sirius scowled. He couldn't see what this had to do with their daughter, but Severus continued, still lost in his memories.

"A few days later, I was invited to his house. Dinner was pleasant. Narcissa was eight months pregnant at the time and Lucius doted on her. After dinner, she excused herself and Lucius and I were alone. I still remember that night like it was yesterday."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

"You have the most penetrating black eyes, Severus."

I laughed. "I didn't think you were interested."

"Not in that sense, but I would recognize your eyes anywhere. Even when hiding among Aurors."

I stared at him. "Lucius..."

"Don't bother. I saw you during my mission, trying to save the Muggles. I'm not going to say anything."

I knew it to be true. He could have betrayed me in front of Voldemort and saved himself hours of torture.

"Make me a promise, Severus. If your side wins the war, you will take care of my baby." I looked at him dumbly and nodded.

"If Voldemort wins, I'll find your daughter and raise her as mine. I can promise you that."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

"Potter stopped Voldemort and life went back to normal. Voldemort reappeared and I returned into their midst. Not once, did Lucius betray me. We never spoke about that pact we had made years before, but we knew it was still there. That's the reason I'm taking care of Draco." Severus smirked. "Yes, Slytherins can be more loyal than the Gryffindors. Surprising, is it not?"

Sirius looked bewilderedly at the Slytherin. "You went back to the Death Eaters when you knew Lucius could betray you. Are you insane? Did you tell Albus? How could you risk your life like that? Did you think about Victoria?" The rant had began in a soft tone and escalated until Sirius was practically shouting.

"Breathe, Black. Albus never knew. The Order needed someone inside Voldemort's circle. It was a calculated risk. I knew Lucius wouldn't betray me. I trusted him." Severus was firm in his edict.

Before Sirius could say more, Draco and Harry busted into the compartment. They stopped laughing abruptly when they felt the tension in the car.

"Sorry, it's...we're almost in London." Harry wasn't sure what to say. He felt uncomfortable around the Potions master and he really didn't know if he liked the idea of spending Christmas at Snape's house, even if Sirius and Remus would be there.

"It's alright, Mr. Potter. Do come in and close the door. We wouldn't want more students to bother us, now would we?" The boy was so jumpy that even Severus couldn't suppress a sigh. After all they had gone through together to destroy Voldemort, Potter was still convinced that Severus was out to get him, which he was, in a 'hate all my students' way, but nothing more than that.

Draco smiled at his teacher, pushed his rival-turned-friend in the compartment and closed the door behind him. "Where's Vicky? She wouldn't tell me where she was going."

"Allegedly, she went to London with Remus to buy gifts, but knowing her, she's probably apparating through the globe as we speak." Severus' tone never softened, but his eyes did when he looked at Draco.

"And you let her," Sirius breathed out, accusation clear in his voice. The scowl that he received from Severus let him know that he had been heard.

"Maybe, the charming Sirius Black can stop her," Severus said sarcastically.

"Right!" Draco snorted. "She is a Slytherin and a Snape and you want a Gryffindor to stop her."

"How can you say that? You are a Slytherin and a Malfoy," Harry promptly defended his godfather.

"Exactly! I'm like Victoria and that's why I know that she wouldn't give up a privilege she has had for years to please someone she hates." Draco had been taught etiquette at a young age, but people's feelings were rarely considered in his parents' circles. Therefore, he totally ignored Sirius' hurt look.

"Sirius is still her father," Harry shot back.

"And Narcissa is my mother, but I still can't stand the bint." Draco shrugged.

Sirius looked at Severus. He had never cared enough to ask about Narcissa's fate. The Gryffindor had assumed that she was dead since Draco was being treated as an orphan and Severus had obtained temporary guardianship until the boy's eighteen birthday.

"Don't look so confused, Professor Black. Mommy dearest left us as soon as it became clear that Voldemort was going to lose and my Father would be implicated. She cut all ties with the Malfoys, including me. She didn't come to Father's funeral and none of her relatives will contact me, not even my grandparents. As you can see, blood ties don't mean much." Snape looked at the boy with pride in his eyes. Draco had remained strong through the entire ordeal. Lucius would have been really proud of the inner strength Draco was displaying.

The train came to a stop. The four wizards were already in Muggle clothes and didn't need to change. Severus got up, shrank his trunk and Draco's and pocketed them both. He fleetingly put a hand on the back of Draco's back. "Shall we go?" The blonde smiled at him and nodded.

Harry gave Sirius a look that clearly said that he couldn't believe that professor Snape could be so nice to anyone, even Draco. Sirius smiled at his godson and put an arm around the boy's shoulder as the four wizards left the train.

"Papà!" Victoria ran to her father and locked her hands behind his neck. Severus grabbed her waist and spun her around like he had done every time they had met.

"I saw you this morning, Vicky. Don't you think this is a little too much even for you?" Severus mocked his daughter, but kept her close.

"I love you, papà. You know I can't be without you," Victoria replied.

"Now, I know you want something." His daughter smiled at him sweetly and Severus knew he was right.

"I'm just happy. We went to Paris and London and Rome. You know I'm always happy when I shop." Victoria tried to quash her father's doubts. Severus saw Remus wink at his daughter. The Potions master wasn't sure he liked this complicity between the werewolf and Victoria. His baby was growing up and he couldn't control her any longer, if he ever could before. He sighed

"Fine." Severus pulled out a mirror. "Vicky, gentlemen, if you will." Severus motioned to the mirror.

The five wizards and the witch touched the mirror that was acting as a portkey. Soon they materialized at the gate of the Snape-De Crescenzo villa. Harry was glad for Sirius' steady arm around him. He still hated to travel by portkey. He glanced at the other student and noticed that Draco looked poised and cool as usual.

Sirius looked around trying to reconcile the soft Mediterranean panorama with Severus' cold exterior. The man would never stop surprising him.

Severus opened the gate and led the group to the house. His aunt was waiting for them at the front door.

Livia smiled at her nephew and niece. "I know it's a lot colder at Hogwarts, but it is still cold for us here. Let's get inside."

She ushered all of them inside before hugging Victoria. The young witch then went and hugged her great-uncle Luciano.

"It's good to see you, Severus." Livia gave her nephew a quick hug. "We got your rooms ready and your lab as you requested. I still don't understand why you should be working during Christmas vacation."

"I need to prepare a potion, Aunt Livia." Severus didn't elaborate.

"Dumbledore couldn't wait until you went back, could he?" Having been a Slytherin when Albus was the Head of the Gryffindor House, Livia wasn't too fond of the man. The fact that he hadn't helped her nephew was another reason to dislike him.

"It's not for Albus. It's for a friend." Severus knew that the entire group was watching the exchange. He wasn't sure how much Victoria had told his aunt about Remus. So every word was guarded.

"And what sort of friend can't wait?" Livia was still prodding. To her, Severus was like a son and no one would take advantage of him.

"It's the Wolfsbane potion, Aunt Livia. Obviously, he can't wait," Severus retorted.

Livia, like most Snapes, had a special predilection for Potions and had kept up with newer potions. "I see. And when will this friend come to pick it up?"

"I'm already here, ma'am." Remus fixed his chocolate eyes on Livia, an apologetic smile on his face.

"Aunt Livia, this is Remus Lupin," Severus made the introduction while his daughter was being surprisingly quiet.

The witch looked at her nephew and then to his daughter. "You have a lot to explain, missy. You failed to mention a few important points such as the fact that your boyfriend is a werewolf and that he is old enough to be your father."

Severus chuckled and Livia gave him the Evil Glare that he used so well on his students. "Actually Aunt, Remus and I went to school together."

Livia thought for a moment. "And you discovered that he was a werewolf in your sixth year, did you not?" She shook her head before Severus could answer.

Luciano, who had been standing on the side with Victoria, started laughing. "I tuoi nipoti sono dei pazzi rincoglioniti."9

"Thank you for your input, love," Livia said sarcastically. She turned to her nephew. "But I agree with Luciano's assessment. You must be out of your mind to allow her to date him."

Severus stood there, staring as his aunt made proclamations, moving her hands like a very Italian woman, her English cool thrown out of the window.

"You are the one who said he could spend the holidays here, so don't blame it on me." Severus was ready to go back to Hogwarts. Even Peeves wasn't so difficult, Severus merely needed to call the Red Baron to deal with the petulant poltergeist.

"She never told me," Livia pointed out.

"And she never asked for my permission. Now, shall we drop this? We have guests if you hadn't noticed," Severus replied.

Livia turned to the rest of the group. Her eyes fell on the blonde boy and her face softened. "You must be Draco Malfoy. Severus speaks fondly of you."

The Slytherin smiled and shook the extended hand. "Nice to meet you, ma'am." His eyes darted quickly to the Potions master before returning to the witch.

"Be careful, Aunt Livia, he's a charmer." Victoria waltzed back now that her aunt was calmer and hugged both Draco and her aunt.

"Your Uncle Luciano already charmed me." Livia patted Vicky on the hand. "And we still need to talk. You can play that innocent act with your father, but not with me."

Livia looked at the two wizards remaining. "Who would these two gentleman be?"

Victoria sneered and went back to her uncle's side, intent on ignoring the two as much as possible.

"That's Professor Sirius Black and the one with the scar is his godson, Harry Potter, otherwise known as the Boy Who Wouldn't Die." Breaking the silence, Draco made the introductions. "Needless to say, they're both Gryffindors."

Harry blushed. Even after seven years, he still wasn't used to people referring to him as the Boy Who Lived or any other variation that the Slytherins could come up with.

"Mr. Potter, I must say that I have heard a lot about you." Harry shrank even more. She sounded exactly like professor Snape, the contempt clear in her voice.

"I promise not to live up to anything professor Snape might have told you," the young Gryffindor answered.

"That would be quite good, since I'd like my house to be standing when you leave," Livia replied and turned to Severus with a raised eyebrow. The Potions master smirked at her, but he was not looking forward to explaining why Harry Potter was spending Christmas with them.

"Professor Black, it is a pleasure to meet you as well. Although I must admit that I don't recall Severus mentioning you."

Sirius gave a smile that he used successfully to charm men and women. "I'm sure it's on oversight that we can fix easily, ma'am."

"Of course, we can," Vicky interrupted. "You see Aunt Livia, Black is my other parent."

"Sweet Lord, Vicky, can't you give them a break?" Remus' voice was soft and Vicky ignored the implicit reprimand.

"Why Remus? I'm only telling the truth." Madò10, she really wanted her aunt to throw the bastard out.

"Vicky, call Stefi. She was waiting for your call. Arrange to meet her somewhere that is not here. You'll take your boyfriend and the boys with you." There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Livia was not making a suggestion.

"I'm not taking Potter with me, because..." Victoria never had time to finish.

"You will take him with you, because I'm telling you. Now, show everyone their rooms," Livia told Victoria. "You two-" She pointed at Severus and Sirius. "- In the living room. I want to speak with you."


Part 10 - New Friends and Old Photos

Severus was serving bourbon to Sirius, Luciano and Livia. He suddenly felt ten years old again, playing the perfect little boy at his parents' tea parties. He had the same urge that he had back then to crawl up somewhere and hide.

Instead, Severus sat on an armchair. Sirius neared him and sat on the armrest of the chair the Slytherin was using. Severus looked up into those blue eyes and smiled resignedly.

Victoria barged into the room, smiling, as if nothing had transpired. "We're leaving. Ciao."

"Wait right there, young lady. Where are you going, with whom and how are you getting there?" Livia was not in the mood to play with her niece, not today. While Victoria usually had great freedom, Livia wasn't about to let the young girl take control of the situation.

"Taormina. Stefi, Piero, Roberto, Sere, Chiara, Ema, Adri e Claudio. And we're using a portkey since Draco and Potter can't apparate. Happy now?"

"Victoria don't be cheeky with your aunt," Severus interjected, but sounded more tired than assertive.

"Va bene, papà.11 Can I go now?" Victoria was getting upset that her aunt had still not thrown Black out, while she was forced to leave. Not that she would normally stay home, but it would have been her choice.

"Gioa12, while you're on Corso Umberto, get me some marzapane and some pasta di mandorla13." Victoria nodded at Luciano.

The older wizard smiled at Victoria. Most of her anger dissipated when faced with such warm affection. Victoria kissed her aunt and uncle, kissed and hugged Severus and ignored Sirius once more. Severus put a hand on Sirius' thigh, showing support, while he held the bourbon glass with his other hand.

As soon as Victoria closed the door of the living room, Sirius let out a long sigh. It had taken all of his self-control not to bend his daughter over his knees and spank her.

"I'll talk to her when she comes back," Severus told Sirius. "She was getting better. I don't know what happened."

"We'll deal with Vicky later. Now, I want to know what is this all about, Severus?" Livia's voice left no room for argument.

"What do you want me to say, Aunt Livia? Vicky discovered that Sirius is her father. Only the people here and Albus know about this. We're trying to convince her that she should give Sirius a chance." Severus really wasn't sure what else there was to say. Anything that was happening between himself and Sirius wasn't anyone's business.

"Why should she? He has never been responsible for her. He wasn't here when she got her first tooth, when she took her first steps, when she started school. What right does he have to now want to be part of her life?" Livia wanted to make clear that this man, biological father or not, would not be taking away her little girl.

"He has no right, Aunt Livia, but Victoria has a right to know her parents. I don't want her to regret her choices in the future." Severus stayed calm, knowing that emotions played as much a part of discussion as reason did.

Sirius kept his eyes on the witch as his hand moved to cover Severus'. Their fingers interlaced on their own volition.

"Are you certain this is for her and not for you, Severus? You seem to have, shall we say, reacquainted yourself with your former lover." Livia's implication wasn't very subtle.

"Sweet Slytherin, Aunt Livia! You let Vicky do just about anything she wants and you're sitting here questioning my sex life." Severus wanted to shout, instead he stayed in the chair, his fingers closing tighter around Sirius'. "Not that it's any of your business, but we're trying to be friends for Victoria's sake."

Livia got up and started pacing. "None of our business. Did you hear that Luciano?" Her husband nodded at her, knowing that she needed to vent before she started reasoning again. "We are the ones who took care of you, Severus. We were here, praying that we wouldn't lose you and the baby during the delivery. We are the ones who stayed up at night when Vicky was sick and when you were off to meet Voldemort."

Livia closed the gap between her and the two wizards. She lifted Severus' chin with her finger. Her features softened when she met eyes so much like hers: black, impenetrable, but if you looked hard enough, full of love. "You are our business because you're like a son to us. And while I don't care who you sleep with, I do worry when you get involved with him." Livia pointed her long, elegant finger with disdain at Sirius.

"Can you please, please use his name? I already have to fight Vicky on this."

"Once again, your daughter is displaying more sense than you," Livia snapped back and resumed her pacing.

"Enough, Livia. I'm sure that Severus has his reasons for doing what he's doing." Luciano went to his wife, hoping that she would come down.

"He had his reasons when he joined Voldemort," Livia hissed out.

Severus leaned back in his chair and tried to block out the discussion.

"He had his reasons back then, even if misguided. And we agreed that will not discuss Voldemort or anything associated with him any longer." Gone was Luciano's quiet and relaxed demeanor. "Not now that he's gone. I know you love them, Liv, but Severus is Vicky's father and he should be able to make decisions for his family without us second guessing him."

Livia stared at her husband. Sirius noted that some sort of silent discussion was going on. Not that he believed that the two were mind linked, no, it was more like years of being together allowed them to communicate through their eyes and small gestures.

Finally, Livia nodded at her husband and turned to face the two wizards again. "We have all of Vicky's photos, school records and trophies in her room. You may want to show him -" Severus glared at his aunt, "- to show Sirius those albums. It might help him understand our baby."

Severus got up and hugged his aunt. He planted a kiss on her head. "Thank you, Aunt Livia." Then, he turned toward Luciano. "I...thank you, Luciano."

"Prego, piccirillo14. And Sirius, don't make me regret helping the two of you. Livia would kill me if you hurt our Severus."

"Will you ever stop embarrassing me? I'm thirty-seven years old. I think I can take care of myself," Severus teased his relatives, not really upset.

"Of course, you can. We simply can do it better," Luciano joked.

"I'm never going to win with you two." Severus sighed dramatically. "Come on, Sirius. Let's get out of here while we still can and I'll show you those photos."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

In the meantime, Victoria and the others were sitting in a small caf in Taormina. She had introduced her boyfriend to her Italian friends, earning a few raised eyebrows.

"I don't see what's wrong with the age difference," Stefi, Vicky's best friend, was telling everyone.

"That's because you're lusting after Vic's father," Serena retorted.

"Cazzo, me lo farei anch'io15!" Emanuela replied. While the three straight men snickered at the comment, Adriano, the sole gay man, and the women present agreed with her.

"What exactly did she say?" Remus asked Vicky. "It didn't sound too promising."

"Nothing much. Just that they would all be glad to do the horizontal dance with papà."

"Oh yes, horizontal, vertical, upside down. I wouldn't particularly care," Stefi interjected.

Draco laughed. "Told you your father was hot." He smirked at Vicky.

"You must be mad, all of you. You're talking about professor Snape, evil Potions master and bastard extraordinaire." Harry shook his head in disbelief.

"Potter, keep your mouth shut or I'll leave you here," Vicky hissed.

"I only know that when I think about professor Snape, I can't help thinking about 'master', dungeons and his fine ass," Adriano added.

The women and Draco laughed again. Harry looked about ready to throw up. Remus sighed. Vicky looked smug that her father was the target of so many praises.

"Are you spending Christmas' Eve at the Snapes, Stefi?" Chiara asked.

"Yes, I am. Maybe now that his daughter is dating his schoolmate, he won't mind dating her schoolmate," Stefi said with a huge smile.

Remus blushed at the tone the discussion was taking. But when he heard Victoria say, "Hey, I could brew a potions to make papà fall in love with Stefi," the embarrassment became fury, an emotion that Remus was not accustomed to feeling.

"Leave your father alone, Victoria," Remus practically growled. His werewolf instincts taking over, protecting his friend.

"Are you referring to papà or Black?" Victoria quipped back, annoyed that he would interfere with her matchmaking. Anyone would be better than Black for her papà. It would be even better if Severus dated one of her friends.

"Both. Leave them be, Vicky. They deserve to be happy. Besides, Severus is gay," he added softly so that she was the only one to hear.

"So? I should match him up with Adri, instead of Stefi." Her Christmas wish was that her papà could find someone who wasn't Black to fall in love with.

"Maybe you two should simply stop talking about professor Snape," Draco drawled out.

The werewolf realized how upset Severus would be if he ever found out about this discussion. With Draco's help, Remus steered the discussion toward more mundane topics.

The young witches and wizards began talking about Christmas gifts, cities they planned to visit, and new fashions. Draco felt at home. He was used to this type of conversation.

The blonde noticed that Harry was getting quieter by the second and understood that the Boy Who Lived had no idea how to relate to these wizards. Slowly, Draco drew Harry into the conversation. As soon as he realized what Draco was doing, the Gryffindor grinned at the blond.

Remus was amazingly enjoying himself. He had expected the whole experience to be torture. Vicky could get childish enough at times, but the thought of eleven youngsters had almost made him claim sudden illness. However, these kids seemed to know the world better than himself and his coevals, who had spent their time fighting Voldemort.

Soon, all thoughts of age difference, Voldemort and Vicky's parents disappeared and Remus found himself involved in the discussion.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

While Severus went down to the wine cellar and nicked a bottle of Serpico dei Feudi di San Gregorio16 from Luciano's private reserve, Sirius followed the directions Severus had given him and found Victoria's room.

Sirius walked around the room, stopping at the huge bookshelf, his finger skimming through book covers and photo albums. The De Crescenzos must have immortalized every moment of Vicky's life from the sheer number of albums.

Sirius noticed that the albums were clearly divided by year. He found one dated 1977. He grabbed it, together with the next two years, and walked to the queen size bed.

Severus entered the room to find Sirius casually lying on his side, on Vicky's bed. His arm bend at the elbow and his head rested on his hand. He used his free hand to flip through the pages.

Severus walked to the bed. He opened the bottle of wine, poured it into two glasses and sat on the bed. Sirius sat up and rested his head against the headboard. Finally, the Gryffindor reached for the offered glass.

"What did you find? You looked so caught up." Severus asked while sipping his wine.

"You." Sirius smiled as he showed Severus a picture of the Slytherin with an obvious bulge where his washboard abs usually were.

"I see. Making fun of me after twenty years doesn't have the same impact," Severus answered, his tone guarded.

"I'm not making fun of you. You look...you look beautiful."

In the picture, Severus was years younger. The wrinkles caused by too much scowling and worrying had yet to appear. He lounged in a reclining chair, tall glass filled with a colorful liquid and lots of ice in his hand, and beach umbrella protecting him from the sun's harmful rays. He smiled and got up. When he stood, a skimpy bathing suit was his only clothing. Severus moved toward the pool and dived in.

"Beautiful is not the word I'd use to describe the whale I had become, but thank you." Severus relaxed a little. He hadn't expected kindness. He remembered how embarrassed he had felt every time he looked in the mirror.

Sirius inched closer until their legs were touching. He laid his head on Severus' shoulder. Severus wrapped his arm around Sirius' shoulder, pulling the Gryffindor even closer. The album now rested perfectly between them, one half propped on Severus' thigh, the other on Sirius'.

"You could have found more fabric for your bathing suit, though," Sirius teased.

"Hey, those were the 70s. Minimalism was trendy and maternity clothes for men were not in vogue yet," Severus said good-naturedly.

Sirius turned the page and drooled at the picture. Severus wore seventies disco clothes. The huge stomach only added to his sensuality.

"I can't believe Aunt Livia hasn't destroyed these pictures." Severus let out a chuckle. "God, I looked horrible."

"Are you kidding? You looked...bugger! You looked perfectly shaggable." Severus raised an eyebrow. "Don't believe me, but it's true." Sirius grazed the photo with his fingertips, tracing Severus' face and moving down to the swollen stomach.

"We were going to the Flakab, a famous disco in Naples. Aunt Livia had decided that I would enjoy my last days before giving birth even if it killed me. I remember how the Muggles stared at me. I thought the conceiling spell hadn't worked, but Aunt Livia assured me that they were drooling over me."

"I agree with your aunt. You looked perfect." Sirius leaned over Severus and put down his wine glass. He sat up and looked into those black eyes. He raised a hand to cup Severus' face.

Sirius leaned forward, slowly, eyes closed, giving Severus time to turn, to pull away, to do anything to stop him. But Severus couldn't move. He saw Sirius move closer, and the only thing left to do was to close his own eyes.

Lips touched, softly and tenderly, for mere instants. When they separated, they stayed a mere breath away. Their breathing was the only sound in the room. They leaned forward again until their foreheads touched.

"More photos?" Severus' voice was hoarse and unsteady. Sirius sounded much the same. "Yeah." Neither moved nor opened his eyes.

Sirius' hand crawled over Severus' arm and held onto the Slytherin's shoulder like a castaway holding on, desperately, to a lifesaver. Severus' breath quickened. Sirius licked his bottom lip. Their eyes stayed religiously closed.

Fingers knotted into Severus' jet-black hair. "You were gorgeous." Sirius wasn't watching the photos anymore. Sirius wasn't watching anything because he couldn't open his eyes. If he did, he would not be able to keep his hands off of Severus. Not that he was doing such a great job with his eyes closed.

"So were you." Any pretense of looking at the album was gone. Severus trapped Sirius' face between his hand and his own cheek, nuzzling and moving, knowing that they'd both end up with beard burns, but not caring.

"So bloody passionate. Never holding back." Sirius' other hand traveled from the Slytherin's shoulder to his chest. Fingers splayed over firm pecs and beating heart.

"Wanted you so much." No shame. Severus was stating a fact as he placed gentle kisses along Sirius' jaw.

"Want you now." Sirius used his grip on the black locks to force Severus close, closer, no amount of contact ever being enough. Ardent kisses were shared. Tongues met, wanting to taste each other. Teeth scraped soft lips, too hungry to care, too needy to be tender.

Sirius swiftly unbuttoned the crisp white shirt Severus was wearing, never breaking their contact. Severus' hands slipped under Sirius' soft pullover, tugging at the garment until Sirius got the hint and raised his arms so Severus could take it off.

The albums were roughly thrown on the floor. They lay down. Sirius was propped on one elbow and rested partially on top of Severus. They sighed in unison when their bare chests touched each other.

Sirius touched every centimeter of naked skin, pinching a dark nipple, tugging on black, curly hair. But it wasn't enough. His hand slipped lower, over the still clothed cock.

Severus hissed and moaned. He missed Sirius' touch. His lover could always make his body sing. The Slytherin thought he was going to die when he felt his trousers being opened. As deft fingers dipped under his trousers and pants and closed around his erection, Severus knew he was in Heaven.

This time, it was Severus who grabbed loose strands of black hair and pulled Sirius close for a burning kiss. "Don't stop, Sirius." Severus breathed out when his lover pulled away.

Sirius was in Heaven, too. Severus hadn't called him by his name in twenty years and when he'd finally done it, he used his nickname. The Gryffindor felt a warmth spring inside of him. "Never again, Severus."

Both wizards were so wrapped up in themselves and each other that they never saw the four people appearing in the room. They never witnessed Remus' discomfort and Victoria's shock. They never paid attention to Harry's embarrassment and Draco's amusement. They didn't know they weren't alone until they heard their daughter scream.


Part 11 - Reflections

Sirius froze, his hand still down Severus' trousers and his head buried in Severus' neck. Severus sighed and tightened his grip around his former lover. He ran his free hand through his own hair before grabbing Sirius' wrist, pulling his hand out, kissing it and holding it on his chest.

"We need to get dressed," Severus whispered to the Gryffindor. Sirius nodded.

"You shouldn't be half-naked in the first place, papà." The minimal control Victoria had was shattered by her father's whisper to Sirius and she began yelling. "Ma che cazzo pensavi di fare, con sto stronzo, nel mio letto per di pi. Ma che cacchio, ti si e' dato di volta il cervello?17"

"I don't know what the hell she's saying, but she's right," Harry interjected. "Sirius, how could you just..." Harry motioned at the two supine wizards. "I can understand when you were kids, but you hate each other." Draco chuckled at the last remark.

Luciano reached the room before there was anymore yelling. He looked around. It wasn't difficult to understand what had happened. Sirius and Severus were still on bed, the Gryffindor half lying on Severus. Two glasses of wine and a bottle rested on the nightstand. Photo albums were scattered on the floor. Victoria looked ready to hex them both.

"No more screaming from anyone." Luciano looked around the room, making sure that he had everyone's attention. "You two know where your room is. I suggest you go there," he told Harry and Draco, who quickly followed the not too subtle order.

"Sirius, Severus, get up now." He waited a moment to make sure they were following his instructions before turning to his niece. "I won't have you worrying your aunt. Get some sleep, Vicky, and we'll discuss this in the morning."

The young girl nodded, but was clearly upset and ready to go off on her father once more. She bit her bottom lip in anger and frustration.

Severus got close to her and kissed her forehead. "I'm sorry, Vicky." She turned around and refused to look at him.

"Severus, let's go." Luciano ushered the younger wizard toward the door. He noticed that Lupin was still in the room. "Where were you planning on staying, Mr. Lupin?"

"My bedroom, maybe?" Remus answered. He couldn't suppress the blush.

"Very good choice." Luciano waited until all three wizards left the bedroom before walking out. "Night, Vicky."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Harry and Draco were sitting on their respective beds in the room they shared.

"I can't believe he did that." Harry leaped off his bed and paced around the room.

"For once, I have to agree with you, Potter. That was pretty stupid. They could have used one of their rooms and no one would have been the wiser." Draco lay on the bed examining his nails.

"That's not what I meant, Malfoy. They can't stand each other. They despise each other and now they are..."

"They were trying to have sex, Harry. Nothing wrong with that. They're young, gorgeous, and they have feelings for each other. I'm just sorry that Vicky had to see her parents make out in her room."

"That sucks." Harry sat down on Draco's bed, one foot resting on the mattress, the other on the floor.

"I think Sirius wanted to do the sucking." Draco giggled at his own comment.

"Stop! Please. I mean Snape and Sirius, it's just so, so..."

"Normal," Draco suggested. "Every time they're close you can see the fire spark, and the air fills with tension."

"That's what happens with us, too." Harry bit his tongue as soon as the words were out.

"Right again, Harry. And when you have a situation like that, the two people involved either curse or screw each other to death. What would you rather do?"

Draco cupped Harry's face and kissed him. When recounting the story later on, Harry would swear that it was the shock that made him open his mouth and forced his tongue to snake into Draco's warm mouth, licking soft lips, pressing against sharp teeth and embracing in a tongue dance.

Draco didn't care what passed through the Gryffindor's head. He just knew that Harry was kissing him back passionately. The Gryffindor demanded submission and Draco wasn't about to question him, lest Harry changed his mind.

When they finally parted, Harry stared at the blonde in disbelief. "What the hell are we doing?"

"Taking our cue from our teachers," Draco drawled out, smirk firm in place.

Harry thought about the statement and the situation, and then grinned. "For once, I think I don't mind doing my homework."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Remus followed Sirius to his room. If the animagus had expected his friend to comfort him, he was in for a rude awakening.

"What the hell were you thinking, Padfoot? That was pretty thoughtless even for you."

"We didn't plan for it to happen, Moony. We were only going to look at Vicky's photo albums."

"Right! And between 'look at how cute Vicky was' and 'she was so pretty when she was a lass', you decided to give Severus a hand-job."

Sirius kicked the wall. Since Italian houses are made of concrete, the result was not a damaged wall, but lots of pain on his part, which he vented by screaming. "I told you that I didn't plan it. I didn't think you four would walk in on us."

"Just like you didn't think I could have killed Severus when you sent him after me," Remus replied calmly. "I had hoped that you had grown up," the werewolf added sadly.

"Look, Moony. I'm sorry for what I did back then. I was hurt and I wanted revenge. Not that it justifies what I did. I'm sorry that you had to witness what happened tonight, but I won't let a spoiled brat come between me and Severus."

Remus shook his head. "You're willing to lose a daughter for a fling? I can't believe you, Sirius."

"I'm not losing Victoria over a fling. One, she isn't mine, at least not in any meaningful way. She hates me. No matter what I do, she'll always hate me. The best I can hope for is that she'll eventually tolerate me because I'm with her father. Secondly, this is not a fling. I'm not looking for a quick fuck with Severus. I want to be with him." Sirius sat down in a chair and hid his face in his hands.

"Sirius, think for a moment. Do you truly expect Severus to be with you if it will cause a rift between him and Vicky? Have you seen how close they are? Even if he agrees to go against Vicky's wishes, it'll be short-lived. He'll grow to resent you for their problems." Remus put a hand on the animagus' shoulder. "Think carefully, Padfoot, or you'll lose both of them."

Remus left Sirius alone with his own thoughts.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Luciano didn't want to leave Severus alone. He gently steered the younger wizard toward his room. When they got inside, Luciano sat on the bed next to the Potions master.

"It'll pass, Severus. Just give her time."

"You truly believe that? I can't. Victoria hates Sirius and I don't think she'll forgive me for what happened."

"Of course, she'll forgive you. She's your daughter. But satisfy my curiosity and tell me exactly happened."

"Not much. There were pictures of me during the pregnancies. We were drinking and talking." Severus rested his head on his hands. "We just started making out like those randy students I punish on a daily basis."

Luciano chuckled. "Wine and nostalgia can have strange effects on your libido." The older wizard grew serious. "You know this can't continue. Not until she accepts Sirius."

"What a surprise!" The sarcasm was as thick and velvety as honey. "My life has been directed by the needs of Hogwarts, Voldemort and Victoria. When do I get to do something I want, something I need?" The last words were whispered.

Luciano sighed and hugged him. "You've always acted like a wise old man, even when you were a teenager. Sometimes, I forget that you're still so young." Luciano tightened his grip around the young wizard. "She'll understand, Severus. Give her time. I'm not telling you to cut Sirius out of your life, just ease up a bit until she's ready."

Severus nodded into the embrace. He couldn't look at the older man. Too many emotions were stirring inside him. Seeing the compassion and pity he knew he'd find in Luciano's eyes would break him.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Harry and Draco lay on the blonde's bed, bodies entangled. Clothes had been discarded, leaving both boys in nothing but their Y fronts. Their appearances were remarkably similar: disheveled hair, bruised lips, and lust-filled eyes.

"Stop, Draco." The blonde looked inquisitively at the Gryffindor.

"We're going too fast. I don't think I can..." Harry tried to explain, but failed miserably.

Draco laughed. "I haven't asked you to do anything. Must you always assume that I have some evil plan in mind."

Harry grinned. "I don't know if it's evil, but I have a pretty good idea of what you have in mind."

"You're wrong," Draco informed him with seriousness. "Don't assume that I'm just looking for sex. The past few weeks have been nice. I spend so much time alone, it's...it's pleasant to have someone around."

"I feel the same." Harry snuggled closer to his former rival. Draco bit his earlobe and the Gryffindor let out a satisfied sigh. "It seems like every Gryffindor has paired off except me. Besides, I don't think they really understand what it's like to be so famous."

Draco turned until Harry was spooned against him. "Name, money and fame, things everyone wants. They don't know how lonely your life becomes when you have them."

"Yeah. I'm glad you understand," Harry whispered. "Can I sleep with you? For tonight? I mean just to sleep. I've never had anyone hold me."

Draco kissed the Boy Who Lived on the neck. "You can stay as long as you want."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

"Are you asleep?" Remus quietly walked into Victoria's room.

The witch smiled even though the werewolf couldn't see her in the dark. "No, Remus. I'm still up."

Remus walked cautiously to the bed and lay next to his girlfriend. "I wanted to make sure you were all right."

Victoria snorted. "I always wanted to see my papà getting a hand-job from a man I despise."

Remus couldn't stifle a laugh. "Vicky, I won't even discuss your relationship with Sirius, but think about Severus. Doesn't he deserve to be happy?"

"He can be happy without Black. He's young, intelligent and handsome. I don't see why papà should be stuck with him." Not even Remus could convince her that Black could make Severus happy.

"Listen to me, Vicky. You know how gossip travels at Hogwarts." The werewolf felt, more than saw, Victoria nod while she rested against him. "There has never been a single rumor about your father. No traces of a long-term relationship."

"That's because of Voldemort. He wouldn't get close to anyone, but now, he can pick and choose anyone he wants."

"Exactly my point, Vicky. Don't you think it's meaningful that after twenty years, the first person he gets close to is Sirius? The same is true for Padfoot. Obviously, there is something between them that we don't see or understand."

"I still don't think Black is right for papà, but I'll think about what you said. Now, kiss me."

Remus was more than happy to comply.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

"Come in." Sirius shyly entered Severus' bedroom.

"I saw Luciano leave and..." Sirius ran his fingers through his hair. "I don't know. I guess I wanted to talk to you. I wanted to apologize for what happened."

Severus smiled sincerely. "For once, it's not your fault. We did nothing wrong, Sirius."

"I know, but I spoke with Moony and I realized that I don't want to ruin your life more than I already have. I won't come between you and your daughter."

"Our daughter. Victoria is ours."

Sirius sneered. "Physically speaking yes, but she hates me. She'll never accept me as her father. Anyway, I wanted you to know that I'll do whatever you think is best, even if it means staying away from you."

"Maybe we should slow down a little, not spend quite so much time together." Severus chose his words carefully. For once, he was at a loss. He wanted to have Sirius in his arms again, but if he did, he would never let Sirius go.

"Right, slow down." Sirius fought all the emotions that were threatening to overcome him. Instead, he got up and walked to the door. "Goodnight, Severus."

"Goodnight, Sirius."


Part 12 - Farther away

Sunday - December 21, 1997

The next morning, Severus and Victoria met early and reached an agreement. Victoria agreed to be friendlier toward Sirius if her father promised to stay away from the animagus. While Severus longed to continue his reconciliation with his former lover, he knew that his daughter's friendship with her other parent was more important.

When father and daughter finally went down to the living room, they found everyone else already at the table, having breakfast. Livia noticed the tension radiating from everyone even though she didn't know the reason.

Severus hid his head behind the pages of the Italian wizarding newspaper while Sirius mirrored the action with the Daily Prophet.

"What are your plans for the day, dear?" Livia asked her niece.

"We're going to Athens with Stefi and the rest of the gang. I don't know if Claudio is coming, but the rest is. We'll have lunch at the Psaras Fish Taverna. Don't wait for us for lunch," Vicky told her aunt while munching on a piece of toast.

"What about you, Severus?" Livia tried to get her nephew involved in the conversation.

Severus elegantly folded the newspaper and looked straight at his aunt as if he had been aware for the first time that there were other people in the room.

"You could come with us," his daughter ventured.

"I have work to do in my lab," Severus answered curtly.

"But you don't have to start my potion for a while," Remus said timidly.

Severus scowled. "I know very well that the full moon is not until the 12th of January and I also know when to start the potion. However misguided your ego is, my work does not revolve around you."

The Potions master got up from the table and left the room, his food still untouched on his plate.

"That went well," Draco stated.

"What about you, Sirius? Would you like to come with us?"

The Gryffindor in question lowered the Daily Prophet and stared at Harry in disbelief. 'Are you insane?' he wanted to say. Instead, he tried to be polite. "No, thank you. I believe I'll start on the curriculum for next term. If you'll excuse me." Sirius didn't give anyone a chance to object, leaving swiftly.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

"God, I'm so tired." Draco dropped on the couch the moment they got back to the villa. Harry sat next to him and found himself in the Slytherin's arms before he had a chance to protest. Livia and Luciano looked at the pair with interest.

"Victoria made us walk the entire day. After lunch, she and her friends decided to pop into a few Greek islands. I can't move anymore," Harry told Livia and Luciano, who looked amused at the boy's outburst.

"You two sound like old men. I bet Dumbledore has more energy than the two of you," Vicky accused the two students. "Where is papà?" she added when she noticed his absence.

"He hasn't come out of his lab," Luciano explained. He looked straight at his niece for a reaction. "Sirius has been in his room all day. Aunt Livia brought them lunch in their rooms. Someone should let them know that it's time for supper."

"I'll get papà." Remus smiled at how worried Victoria sounded. Maybe she was starting to see the consequences of her action.

"Don't get up you two," Remus told the two boys who hadn't moved an inch. "I'll get Sirius."

Supper was another tense event. Seats were mysteriously rearranged around the round table so that Sirius and Severus would not sit next to each other like they had done the day before.

The two wizards never looked at each other through the meal. Vicky kept sneaking side-glances at her parents, both of them. Sirius and Severus were monosyllabic at best, at worst they ignored all conversation around them.

Remus tried his best to coax either one of his schoolmates to talk, but he was running out of ideas quickly. Livia was ready to explode. Luciano had given her a brief recount of the previous evening. She knew her husband had probably edited out what he thought would upset her, but nothing could be more upsetting than the scene in front of her.

Harry felt like he was back at the Dursleys, where anything he said might get him in trouble. For this reason, he decided to keep quiet.

One member of the group was not used to keeping quiet or to being ignored.

"Just because Vicky is acting like an arse, doesn't mean we have to suffer from it," Draco drawled out.

Severus smiled at his student. "Thank you, Mr. Malfoy for your candid opinion, however, I am certain that your parents taught you better manners than you are currently displaying."

"Bugger my manners, Professor! You have been like a second father to me since I arrived at Hogwarts. I want to see you happy even if Vicky has her head so far up her arse that she can't see what's right in front of her."

"There is nothing to see, Mr. Malfoy." Sirius got up and left the room.

"Stubborn Gryffindor," Draco muttered.

"They don't have the hegemony on that particular trait." Severus threw his napkin on the table. "I don't seem to be hungry anymore. If you'll excuse me."

They watched silently as Severus left the room. Vicky felt bad for her father, but she was convinced that it would work out for the best.

"You're being an idiot, Vicky," came Draco's solemn announcement.

"Thank you, Draco. I thought I could at least count on you."

"I supported you ever since you came to Hogwarts, but this is insane. You have the chance to have two parents who love you and you're throwing it away because you don't like Black." Draco sounded incredulous.

"I don't just dislike him; I hate him and I have good reasons."

"They're not your reasons," Harry murmured as he chewed.

"What the hell would you know about my reasons?" Vicky's voice was low and dangerous.

"We might not know what your motivations are, but we know what it means to lose one's parents." Draco came to Harry's defense.

"And what it means to be willing to do anything to have them back," Harry added.

Draco smiled warmly at his rival-turned-friend.

"I think they may have a valid point, Vicky." Livia hoped that her niece would see how much damage she was doing.

Monday - December 22, 1997

"You can't avoid her forever, Severus," Livia told her nephew while they were having lunch.

"I'm not avoiding her. I had things to do and I couldn't come down for breakfast. I'm sure I'll see everyone at supper." Severus was eating more rapidly than usual, having practically skipped three meals in the last twenty-four hours.

"You know very well that you won't see them. I told you Vicky, Remus and the boys went to Magic World."

"What exactly is Magic World? Anything to do with wizards?" Sirius asked as he entered the dining room.

"No dear, it's a Muggle theme park," Livia explained, but Sirius seemed even more confused.

The witch explained what a theme park was. Sirius asked a few question making sure he never looked or directed his question to Severus.

The Potions master was grateful for Sirius' actions. They had discussed the situation the day before and had jointly agreed that it would be better if they avoided each other. Neither was very certain that they would be able to keep their hands off of each other otherwise. However, Sirius had agreed to stay at the villa hoping that Victoria would somehow warm up to him.

After lunch, both wizards returned to their respective rooms. Neither came out until the next morning.

Tuesday - December 23, 1997

"I'm not going country hopping with a portkey today. I'm tired," Draco whined when Vicky suggested going to Casablanca.

"Please, I've never been out of England for seventeen years and I've visited more countries in the past three days," agreed Harry. "No more."

"You should drive down to Naples. It's Christmas and you have to walk around San Gregorio Armeno," Luciano suggested.

"What's that?" Draco was curious. He had never heard that name.

"It's a road in the heart of Naples where the craftsmen sell their statutes for the nativity scene. There are the traditional ones next to the more inventive ones with faces of actors, politicians. You can't go back to England not having seen it," Luciano explained.

"Can you take us, Professor?" Draco looked hopefully at Severus.

"You'll have to ask Victoria. She's the one with the driver's license," Severus replied curtly.

"Of course, we can go. We'll have so much fun, papà." Victoria feigned enthusiasm. She was still aware of her father's surly mood.

"What about you, Sirius?" Harry could see the sadness in his godfather's eyes.

"I've decided to return to Hogwarts. I'm sure that Severus won't mind if you stay here." Sirius didn't look at his former lover or his daughter.

"I'm sure the Headmaster will be happy to spend Christmas with you," Vicky said with false sweetness. Inside, she was doing summersaults at her victory.

"Sirius is not going back to Hogwarts. He's going with you to S. Gregorio." Severus' tone left no room for discussion. Both Sirius and Vicky stared at him.

"But, papà, I want you to come with us." Victoria pouted, something that had always gotten her what she wanted in the past.

"You promised that you'd give Sirius a chance if Sirius and I didn't talk to each other, look at each other, or be close to each other. Your words. Now deal with your decision. He goes and I'll stay here, that way we don't break any of your rules and you get the chance to get to know your father."

Harry and Draco shrank at the sound of Severus' voice. In school, it usually meant the beginning of extreme discomfort for all involved. Victoria wasn't too impressed.

"Papà, you're acting childish. I never meant that you couldn't talk to each other."

"Yes, you did, Victoria."

"Severus, it's probably better if I go," Sirius interjected.

"No!" For the first time in days, they looked at each other. "You're staying. Okay?"

Sirius was divided between running away from this unbearable situation and doing what Severus wanted. In the end, the animagus nodded. "Okay."


Part 13- Christmas Eve

Wednesday - December 24, 1997

"Can I come in, papà?"

"Of course, Victoria."

The young witch went straight to her father's arms. She missed their close relationship. She had blamed Black for all of their problems, but now she was going to change things. She would not let Black win and she was ready to use all of her cunning to achieve her goals.

"I'm sorry, papà. I can't stand knowing that you're angry with me."

"I'm not, Victoria. I could never be angry with you, at least not for long. I needed some time alone."

"Don't lie. I know you're upset because I asked you to stay away from Black." Vicky stepped back from the embrace and looked at her father. "Maybe, I was too impulsive and I demanded too much, but you have to admit that finding you in my bed was not conducive to clear thinking."

"If that's an apology, I accept it." Severus smiled at his daughter.

"I love you." Victoria gave Severus a quick peck on the cheek. "Everyone else went out for last minute shopping. We can have a picnic lunch. We can do that spell you used to do to keep the cold out. What do you think?"

"Anything you want, Vicky."

The two went into the kitchen and filled a hamper with bread and cold cuts. While usually lunch was their main meal of the day like every Italian family, today things were different since they were having a huge dinner for Christmas Eve.

They had almost reached the door when they practically ran into Sirius who was coming down the stairs.

"I'm sorry." Sirius ran a hand through his hair. "I thought... Livia said...I thought I was alone. I was just...getting some food." Sirius felt like a child again, unable to form complete sentences to save his life in front of his daughter and ex lover.

"Aunt Livia told me that papà and I would be the only ones here. I guess she did the same with you. She is a Slytherin after all," Vicky said. "We were going out for a picnic."

Victoria turned to look at her father and saw the look of longing in his black eyes. She mentally sighed. She would have to put up with Black if she wanted to show her father what a creep the man was.

She prepared herself for the sick feeling she would get once she said the words, but she needed to do it if she wanted to get rid of Black. "Would you like to come with us?"

Both wizards stared at her in shock. Sirius was ecstatic at the invitation and accepted before the question was even finished. Severus was more cautious, trying to figure out what his daughter was up to. He finally gave up, knowing that he would eventually find out.

Sirius walked behind Severus and Victoria. Severus had his arms around his daughter. They found the perfect spot under a tree and put up a weather bubble.

The three lazed under the bright sun, the spell blocking the cold out. Victoria lay on the grass, her head resting on her father's lap. Severus would occasionally caress her cheek or brush her hair. Sirius thought that the two looked so sweet together.

Victoria spent her time studying Black. The man was being frustratingly polite. She hadn't caught the animagus in any faux pas. She was waiting for anything, anything at all, that would convince her father that she had been right all along.

Unfortunately, it never came.

"See, your father can be really charming when he wants to be," Severus whispered in her ear as they returned inside.

"Don't call him that," she hissed. "But I'll admit that he acted like a normal human being for once."

Victoria melted when she saw the hopeful look on her father's face. She was amazed that people thought that he was a cold bastard when his emotions were always so close to the surface.

"I don't mind if you talk to him as long as he keeps being civil," she finally told him. Then, she stared at Severus with a pleading look. "Just don't let me find you two making out again."

"I think that can be arranged."

"Good! Now I have things to do." She kissed her father, nodded at Black and ran up the stairs to her room.

"What was that all about?" Sirius asked as soon as she was out of earshot.

"We've been given her blessing. To talk to each other, at least," Severus quickly added.

"More than I had expected," Sirius commented with a crooked smile.

"Of course, we can't..." Severus' hand lay on Sirius' jaw, while his thumb traced the animagus' lips. Sirius snaked out his tongue to wet his lips and caught Severus' thumb also. Severus moaned and closed his eyes.

"For Merlin's sake, stop. Severus, we can't."

"This is worse than being a student. At least at Hogwarts we had detentions to cover for our clandestine meetings," Severus drawled out in his usual timber, but there was a sparkling of amusement behind the frustration.

Sirius chuckled. "Our daughter is scarier than Dumbledore," he joked. He leaned forward and kissed Severus' lips tenderly. "I'd better go before we do something extremely foolish. I'll see you tonight."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Sirius walked into Severus' room. He wore soft navy trousers and a matching single-breasted jacket, a silk electric-blue shirt. He held a tie with cartoon characters in his hand.

Severus stared at the man in front of him. The animagus was gorgeous. Then again, Severus thought, the man was gorgeous even in rags. His eyes eventually focused on the tie.

"I can't seem to get the knot right," Sirius said sheepishly.

"You never could." Severus took the tie in his hands and looked at it with disgust. "Mice and ducks. Truly, couldn't you find anything more appropriate?" However, he began knotting the tie around Sirius' collar.

Remus came in through the open door and looked at the two wizards. They looked perfect together. Even the werewolf, who was as straight as the Big Ben, could see how handsome the two men were.

Severus was dressed completely in black: slim trousers, long jacket with high collar, silk shirt and tie. On anyone else, it would have been too much, but on the Potions master it was absolutely perfect.

Severus was fixing Sirius' collar after having knotted the tie. He carelessly smoothed the animagus' jacket while looking at Remus with a raised eyebrow. Remus wore tan trousers, a light beige shirt and a soft leather jacket. The earth colors matched his complexion beautifully.

Remus raised his hand and showed a dark tie that contrasted with the rest of his clothes. "James used to do this for us in school."

Severus moved to the werewolf and proceeded to knot another tie. "Vicky will be impressed, Remus." He shook his head. "I can't believe I just said that."

Sirius and Remus chuckled. The animagus grabbed Severus from behind and held him close. "Who would have thought that Moony would be our son-in-law?"

"Merlin, that sounds even worse!" Severus exclaimed.

"I never thought I would see Padfoot hugging the Slytherin git," Remus said smiling.

"Right, and I expected to get pregnant. I think I win on the 'shocking surprises' score." Severus moved toward the door. "As much fun as this is, we have to go to dinner."

The other two followed Severus still laughing madly.

They reached the dinning room and looked around. Luciano was sitting on the couch with his wife. He wore a very conservative blue suit, while Livia had a black, knee length skirt and a cashmere red sweater.

Victoria, much like her papà, was clad in black. She wore long, flowing black trousers with a tube top that showed off her well-endowed dcollet. Remus drooled at the sight, while her parents had remarkably similar thoughts of locking her in a convent.

Victoria was talking with her best friend, Stefi. The other girl had a long black dress on, with a single strap on her left shoulder. The girl looked up at the three wizards and smiled when she saw Severus.

Harry and Draco were standing near the fireplace, talking animatedly. Harry wore loose pearl trousers, matching open jacket over a cotton sweater a shade darker than the suit. The lightness of his clothing showed off his dark mane.

Draco wore a formal suit, light grey, tight single-breasted jacket and trouser, a smoky black shirt and tie. The contrast between the dark colors and the light skin gave him a more angelic look.

"Should we sit down for dinner?" Luciano rhetorically asked.

"Just get ready for the longest meal ever," Severus whispered to his schoolmates as everyone soon sat around the table.

The table was set with crystal glasses, the finest china dishes and silver cutlery. With a quick wave, Severus replaced the silverware with plain stainless steel cutlery before anyone noticed.

"That wasn't really necessary, but thank you," Remus told the Potions master softly.

"I couldn't risk that my son-in-law would be accidentally killed by a sharp silver knife, could I?" Severus smirked.

"You're really enjoying this?"

"If you're Vicky's choice, the least I can do is to have a tad of fun. Of course, I can also hope that she changes her mind."

Remus shook his head, but kept smiling. It was nice to see Severus acting so childish in sharp contrast to his usual behaviour.

True to Severus' words, the meal went on for hours. They started with oysters and smoked lox. The first course consisted of risotto with lobster, shrimps, mussels and clams. The second course was grilled salmon and a radicchio salad. They paused for a moment before moving to the fruit, the dessert, the espresso and the Amaretto.

Harry was mesmerized by the food. He had never eaten so well in his life. The feast at the beginning of the school year came close, but this surpassed all of his expectations.

Draco ate everything with refined elegance, but he had a nagging question. Finally, he asked, "Why isn't there any meat?"

Luciano's sparkling blue eyes reminded the blonde Slytherin of the headmaster. "It's an old Catholic tradition that on the 24th there would be no meat on the table. Not everyone respects it and it's not even mandatory anymore, but we like to respect our traditions. They give us a sense of belonging."

Draco thought about the statement and nodded.

"Let's clean up because it's almost time to go to Mass," Livia told everyone.

With the quickest display of magic in a single household, dishes were cleaned and put back in the cupboard. Crystal glasses were back on this display in the display cabinet. Forks and knives were in their drawers.

They traveled by portkey to reach 'il Duomo'. They walked from the dark alley where they had arrived to the square in front of the church.

"I have never been inside a church," Sirius whispered in Severus' ear.

Remus hadn't heard, but he could guess the subject of the conversation, since he was having similar thoughts. "What do we do?" he asked Severus.

"Why are you two acting like a couple of first years in front of the Sorting Hat? You're not going to be struck down the moment you walk in. Just get in and sit, stand and kneel when everyone else does."

"Right! Sit, stand and kneel. I can do that. Do I kneel in front of you?" Sirius had an amused smile on his face.

Severus cuffed the back of Sirius' head. "Do something blasphemous and Luciano will kill you. He might be a wizard, but he's very Catholic."

Mass was an unusual experience for the four visiting wizards. Draco and Harry kept looking at each other, but neither had any idea of what was happening. Sirius and Remus took Severus' advice and did what everyone else was doing.

The best moment of the Mass for Severus was the exchange of the sign of the peace. Victoria, in a surprising show of goodwill toward all men, shook Sirius' hand. The Potions master hoped that the symbolic gesture would carry over to the light of day.

While walking out of the church at the end of the Mass, Sirius stopped his daughter and sat on a pew with Vicky at his side.

"What is it? Everyone must be waiting for us." Vicky was trying to be civil, but that didn't mean that Black had now free access to her.

"They can wait a moment. I just wanted to tell you that I love you. I know this may sound strange since I don't really know you, but you are my daughter and I'm just looking for a chance to get close to you."

"I told papà I would be nice to you, but this doesn't mean that I trust you."

"Look, Vicky, I was young and stupid. I hurt a lot of people that night: Remus, Severus and you, even if I didn't know at the time. I'm just trying to fix what I can. I don't want to come between you and Severus. I simply wish to be a small part in your lives."

"You have convinced papà of your honesty, and maybe, he knows you better than me, but you'll have to prove it to me with your actions. Words are not enough."

Sirius dared to kiss her on her head. "I don't ask for more, Vicky."

Sirius and Vicky found the rest waiting for them in the alley. When they returned to the house, they sat in the elegant sitting room. A huge artificial tree filled with fragile and colorful ornaments and hundred of blinking lights overpowered the room's dcor.

"Finally, we get to open the gifts," Vicky informed Draco in a conspiratorial tone.

The young witch sat on the floor, next to the tree and began to magically hand out the gifts. The first two went to Livia and Luciano.

"They're from me and Remus," she announced.

The two lovebirds had gone to Paris to find an exquisite pearl necklace for Livia and a rare philosophy book for Luciano. Livia also received a silk shawl from Harry and Sirius, and Coco Channel from Stefi. Knowing her love for animals, Severus and Draco had given her a baby phoenix that had been kept secretly in Severus' room.

Luciano discovered that Sirius and Harry had given him Cuban cigars. The older wizard knew that Severus had something to do with that choice. Stefi bought him a box of exotic sweets, knowing Luciano's love for candies. Severus and Draco gave him a rare bottle of wine.

Stefi and Vicky exchanged gift, both having gotten the other jewelry, noting that there was no such thing as too many accessories.

Stefi got up and neared the armchair where Severus was sitting. She handed him a package. He carefully opened it and gasped at the sight.

"This is too much, Stefi. I can't accept it." Severus' fingers traced the old leather. The book was from a famous Italian Potions maker of the 15th century.

"A first edition Bernino. Where did you get that book, Stefi?" Victoria asked.

"It was in my parents' library. They were going to give it to a museum. I know the book will be more useful in your capable hands, professor Snape," Stefi said with a mix of admiration and adoration.

Severus was fighting contrasting feelings. He loved the book, but he didn't want to raise the girl's hopes for romance.

Sirius made the choice for him. "I'm sure you'll enjoy the book," the animagus said, placing a hand on Severus' thigh and kissing the Slytherin on the lips. The girl blushed at the obvious proprietary gesture. Victoria cleared her throat at the disgusting display.

Severus flickered his wand and two envelops materialized in front of Remus and Victoria. He hoped that his gift would divert her attention from Sirius.

"Cazzo18! Two weeks at Hedonism II. Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Vicky practically threw herself at her father.

"What exactly is that?" Remus asked with skepticism.

"It's a Muggle resort in Jamaica. It's gorgeous," Vicky explained.

"Yeah, and its nudist beach is really famous," Stefi added.

"You're sending them to a place called Hedonism. Are you mad?" Sirius blurted out.

"Calm down, Sirius. They can do the exact same things at Hogwarts, or here for that matter." Severus turned to face the werewolf. "One week is during Easter break. I told Albus that I'll cover your classes for the second week."

"Thank you, Severus. I truly don't know what to say." Remus was speechless.

Sirius used the moment of calm to give a small box to his daughter, who was still sitting on Severus' lap. When she opened it, she took out a gold bracelet with a charm shaped like a four-leaf clover.

"This was my mother's. The Irish are just as superstitious as the Italians and this was supposed to bring good luck." Sirius timidly clasped the bracelet around Victoria's wrist.

"I love it. Thank you." Then she did the unlikeliest thing for her. She kissed him on his cheek.

Sirius was overwhelmed. He closed his arms around the young girl and began caressing her hair. Victoria tensed at the embrace, but stayed in his arms.

Sirius finally let go. "Sorry."

Victoria smiled at him. "I can survive a hug." Those words were Sirius' best gift.

Harry and Draco watched the scene with a smile. They were sitting in an armchair and Draco sat between Harry's legs. Harry leaned forward to address the blonde. "She's lucky."

"I know, Harry. Sometimes, you don't appreciate what you have until it's too late. I'm glad she is figuring it out."

In the meantime, Severus had shoved his daughter out of his lap and neared the two boys. He kneeled in front of them and gave a package to Draco.

The blonde opened it to reveal a replica of a golden snitch with open wings. On one wing, there was an inscription: May our friendship soar through the skies. Lucius and Severus, friends forever. On the other wing, a newer inscription was carved: Draco, May your destiny know no limit, with love, Severus.

"Your father gave me this and I want you to have it."

Draco traced those words and felt the tears well up inside him. The blonde fell into Severus' arms. "I miss him. No one cares that he's gone."

"I miss him too, Draco. I loved your father very much and I will never forget what a great man he was," Severus told the boy he loved like a son.

Draco dried his tears and sat back in the chair. He was soon enveloped by Harry's arms. Severus stood up and moved toward the bar to get a drink. Sirius followed him and hugged him from behind.

"Your memories and Draco's will keep Lucius alive. It's not the same, but it's what you can do to honor him." Sirius' temple rested against Severus'. "It's the only way Remus and I have kept James alive for Harry."

"It doesn't seem enough."

"It will be, in time." Sirius lightly touched Severus' hair. "Come on, Severus. Let's join the others."

When they returned, Victoria had already opened all of her gifts, which unsurprisingly consisted of clothes and accessories.

The rest continued to open their gifts.

Remus received more clothes from his girlfriend than he had ever owned. He swore the woman was a shopping machine. Draco and Harry gave him Muggle CDs, knowing that he had discovered the beauty of classical music. Padfoot gave his best friend a seven-locks trunk after he had accidentally destroyed Moony's one suitcase.

The De Crescenzos gave Remus and Sirius a bottle of limoncello19, while Harry and Draco received sweets to rival Honeydukes'. Stefi received a leather Gucci handbag.

Harry had bought Draco an invisibility cloak. "We're going to need them if we don't want to get caught," the Gryffindor confided with the blonde.

Draco, with his pureblood upbringing, decided to do something uncharacteristic and had bought Harry Muggle clothes to replace the Dudley's hand-me-downs he still wore.

Severus looked at the other people opening their gifts. He really didn't care about material things. In the past, he'd had his potions and his daughter. Now, Sirius was with him also. He didn't need anything more.

Sirius sat on the couch next to Severus. They tried to keep their promise to Victoria and not touch, but they sneaked a few caresses when they thought no one was looking.

After most of the gifts were opened, Harry and Draco gave Sirius and Severus two matching boxes. The blonde was smirking, while the Gryffindor was grinning.

Severus looked at Sirius and then opened the box to reveal... "A ring?" Severus scowled at the boys.

"They're Claddagh rings," Sirius explained with a smile, looking at the twin ring in his box. The rings had a solid golden heart and a ruby and an emerald on each side. "Thank you, both."

"Yes, since Sirius is Irish, we thought that you might like them." Harry sounded nervous and was biting his lip.

"What the not-so-eloquent Gryffindor is trying to say is that Claddagh rings are supposed to represent love and friendship and we thought that you would appreciate having them." Draco drawled out in his silky voice.

Severus put the ring on the ring finger of his right hand; an action mirrored by Sirius. "That's very thoughtful. I shall cherish it." The Slytherin smiled at both boys, causing Harry to almost have a heart attack at the sight.

"Open mine," Sirius urged.

Severus opened a large box and began laughing. Everyone else looked at the two wizards with curiosity. Severus pulled out a toy, a plastic snake that moved toward a realistic looking mouse and ate it, just to spit it out and start again.

"Impressive, Sirius. Where did you find it?" Severus asked.

"Oh, I had to make a few changes, but I knew you'd like it."

To say that everyone was gobsmacked would have been the understatement of the millennium.

"Here, open this." Severus flicked a box to Sirius.

The animagus unwrapped and pulled out a rawhide bone, a collar and a leash. "How long have you waited to give me this?" he asked good-naturedly.

"Since the day I found out you were a mutt in your animagus form."

Sirius simply kissed the Potions master.

"Are you two mad? Should we call St. Mungo's?" Remus was staring at his schoolmates.

"When we were in school, we couldn't show off each other's gifts, so we decided to exchange more, shall we say, interesting gifts." Sirius played with his toys while he explained the nature of their gifts.

A sudden realization dawned on Remus. "By Merlin, Severus' exploding cauldron was your idea." Sirius smirked.

"Perfectly horrible idea, but I got him back for that one," Severus replied. "Remus, do you remember right before Easter break in fifth year when all of Sirius' charms backfired?" Remus nodded.

"The bastard replaced my wand with an enchanted one. A week later, I found my wand with a note: 'I think you misplaced something valuable'," Sirius said with mock anger.

"Wait! Backtrack a moment. Severus just said Easter of fifth year. How long were you actually together and how did you manage to hide it so well?" Remus felt a little betrayed that Sirius had been able to withhold such an important part of his life from the rest of the Marauders.

Sirius and Severus looked at each other. Severus gestured for Sirius to tell the story.

"We became close friends at the end of fourth year, but didn't get together until November of fifth year and we stayed together until the shack's incident." Sirius' voice lowered during the last part.

"That's not possible. You were dating that witch during our fifth year. What was her name?"

"Jennifer," Severus supplied.

"Right, Jennifer, cute, fourth year."

"Oh yes, lovely Jenny," Severus said with sarcasm.

"Shut up, Severus. I told you a million times that nothing happened with her. I can't believe you're still jealous after twenty something years." Sirius sounded upset.

"I know. I simply didn't like her; she attached herself to you like a leech. I never minded the others."

"Excuse me." Vicky's voice interrupted Sirius and Severus' memories. "He slept around and you still care for him. Am I the only one to see how sick that is?"

"He didn't sleep around, or at least not too much." Sirius interrupted the Potions master before he could say more. "I never cheated on you, even if you didn't believe me."

"Fine, he never cheated on me. He simply dated annoyingly cute witches so that no one would suspect that Sirius Black, Gryffindor God, was involved with a Slytherin."

"You should have told us, Padfoot. We would have understood."

"Maybe, but then you would have had to lie to all the other Gryffindors. Besides, I had promised Severus to keep it a secret." Sirius would never purposely betray a friend.

"Sirius and I made some questionable choices back then, but I don't like to dwell on them, if you don't mind." Severus looked at his schoolmates who nodded in agreement.

Stefi yawned and looked at her watch. "It's already 4:30. I better go and get some sleep or I won't wake up for lunch tomorrow. Vicky, are you and Remus still coming to my house?"

"Of course! Have I missed a single Christmas lunch for the past nine years?" Vicky got up and hugged her friend before Stefi disapparated.

"I think it's time we all get to bed," Luciano said, while getting up. The wizards and the two witches followed his example.

"I have something for you in my room," Severus whispered to Sirius. The noise from wrapping paper being collected and gifts being hoarded blanketed his voice.

When Sirius was certain that the hallway was clear, he sneaked in into Severus' room. He had taken off his jacket and tie before reaching the Slytherin's room. As soon as he got in, Sirius took off his shoes and jumped on the bed.

"This is worse than school," Sirius said affectionately.

"Don't remind me. If Vicky finds out, she'll kill me."

"Oh, I don't know. I think she'd kill me first." Sirius stared at Severus while he was taking his own jacket off. "Come here and show me what you have for me."

"What a horrible line!" Severus stated in his aristocratic cadence. Nevertheless, he picked up a book and lay down on the bed next to Sirius. Severus grabbed his wand and made sure that no one could get in by any means nor could they be overheard.

Sirius flipped quickly through the pages. "You had a diary?"

"Not a diary. A journal. I kept track of my pregnancy."

Sirius skimmed through it, stopping occasionally.

'Today was a good day. I didn't feel any pain'. 'A castle is not a proper place for a pregnant person. I was out of breath before I left the dungeons'. 'I am powerless without my magic'. 'Hormones are acting up again. I spent the afternoon crying in Lucius' arms. I don't understand why'. 'Got detention because I wouldn't do the transfiguration charm in class. Lucius picked on some Gryffindors so he could get detention with me'. 'Tomorrow, I'm going home. I shall miss Lucius, but I'm glad it's getting to the end. I can't even see my feet anymore'.

Sirius put down the book and straddled the supine wizard. The animagus leaned forward and kissed Severus slowly, first his mouth, then his jaw, up to his ear and down his neck.

"You couldn't have given me a better gift. I'll read every page. I want to know everything you thought and felt." Severus smiled at the animagus. "And I have something for you, too." Sirius fished for something in his pocket and showed the object to Severus.

"My tiepin!" Severus took the gold pin. It featured a snake wrapped around a lion in a seductive, but dangerous manner. The Potions master touched the two animals. "It still works," he exclaimed surprised.

During the secret affair, the two had made two tiepins to go with their school uniforms. Severus had transfigured the gold to take the shape of the two animals, while Sirius had charmed them so that when one of them touched the object he could feel where the other was. After that night at the Shack, Severus had literally thrown the pin in Sirius' face.

"I couldn't leave it on the floor. I saved it. It's time it's returned to its rightful owner." Sirius smiled.

Severus' fingers interlaced around Sirius' neck and pulled him close, their chest touching, their cocks tantalizing each other. "I missed you. I missed us." The words were whispered, a stream of warm air caressed Sirius' neck. Sirius shivered at the sensation.

"I missed you too, Severus. Can I..." Sirius buried his face on the pillow, next to Severus.

"What is it, Sirius?" The Slytherin drew circles on Sirius' back, coaxing him to answer.

"This may sound stupid and selfish after all that I've done, but...can I stay with you tonight? I want to wake up in your arms."

"I'd like that, Sirius, but Vicky..." Severus sighed. He made a promise to his daughter, but he longed for the warmth that Sirius could give him. He finally relented. "I'll put wards up, but you'll have to leave early enough that she'll still be asleep."

"Anything you say, Severus."

The two wizards cuddled together. For the first time in decades, they found the physical affection they craved in each other's arms.


Part 14- New Year's Eve

Sirius had not expected Harry to corner him, at least not while they were still in Naples. However, he wasn't so lucky. On December 31, while his daughter had dragged Remus and Draco shopping, Harry had decided to stay behind and 'talk'.

"Harry, I thought you were okay with all of this."

"With Victoria being your daughter, yes. With you and Snape having a thing when you were fifteen, yes. With you and Snape being friends, yes. But with you and Snape making out, heck no!" Harry shivered remembering how the two wizards had been caught in flagrante delicto.

"We didn't plan it," Sirius snapped at Harry. He paused and tried to regain his composure. "I'm sorry you had to see that. Neither Severus nor I had expected that surprise, but I will not justify myself for wanting him."

Harry began pacing around Sirius' bedroom. "I don't want you to justify yourself. I want to understand. You have insulted him since I've known you and now, all of a sudden, you're in love with him."

Sirius chuckled. "It really sounds weird when you put it that way."

"How should I put it then? Not too long ago, you were insulting him and Victoria. He was a greasy git and she was a flirting slut. Now, he is God and she is a sweet girl." Harry was losing his patience. He didn't really hate Snape, at least not anymore, or Victoria, but he was already confused about his attraction to Draco and Sirius' actions weren't helping.

"Vicky is anything but sweet," Sirius said with a dry smile. "Look, I know it might be confusing, but you have to understand that there is a history between me and Severus that we have buried for so long and now it's all coming out, really quickly."

"Right! You fought for six years, couldn't help but insult each other every time you meet in the corridors. You thought you were enemies and then everything changes and you fall in love."

"Are we still talking about me and Severus or are we discussing a certain blond Slytherin?" Harry blushed when he realized just what he had said.

Sirius stared at his godson for a few moments. "Oh Merlin, Severus and Victoria were right. You are interested in Draco." Sirius was gobsmacked. Friends yes, lovers maybe, but to be in love. No, that was ridiculous. "You can't be in love with Malfoy. You hate each other."

Harry exploded at the last words. "What a hypocrite! Isn't it what you're doing? Besides you seemed to be fine when you thought I was simply shagging him. Unlike you, my dick doesn't control me."

"That's not what I meant, Harry." Sirius passed his fingers through his hair. "Okay, so maybe it is," he conceded. "You're only sixteen, Harry-" a pause, "-and I wanted Severus at sixteen. Jesus, I'm more confused than you are."

Harry smiled, his anger dissipating in the face of Sirius' uncertainty. "I guess it's not only a hormonal thing, then."

Harry sat on the bed and stared at Sirius, who was pacing, lost in thought. "You know Harry, I'll probably regret saying this, but..." a deep breath. "If Draco is who you want, go for it and don't listen to anyone else."

Harry didn't have a chance to reply. Instead both wizards stared at the door when they heard a sharp knock. Severus entered without waiting for an answer. He moved directly toward Sirius, never noticing Harry's presence.

Severus framed Sirius' face and kissed him. Sirius wrapped his arms around the Potions master and forgot about anything else. Severus' hands slipped down, over Sirius' back and rested on his arse.

Harry stayed quiet at the beginning, but the two wizards showed no interest in breaking the intimate contact. He cleared his throat, but the two continued to ignore him. He tried again, louder this time.

Severus looked toward the source of the noise and sighed and rested his head on Sirius' shoulder. "Potter, weren't you supposed to go with Vicky?"

"Changed my mind, sir."

"Obviously! How could we have survived the afternoon without your presence?" Severus' sarcasm was back in place.

Another knock on the door. "It's worse than King's Cross Station today," Sirius said while opening the door.

Draco smiled at him. "I'm looking for Harry."

Sirius stepped aside and let Draco in. Severus sighed once more and slumped down a chair. "What happened to your shopping trip with Vicky?"

"Oh, she and Lupin began fighting. I decided to use the portkey and they'll apparate back when they stop shouting at each other."

"What was the reason, Draco?" Severus was even afraid of asking.

"Something about marriage, but I wasn't paying attention," Draco said while moving to sit next to Harry.

Severus stared at his student and shook his head. His daughter was going to be the death of him. Not even Voldemort could do as much damage as Vicky.

Sirius looked at the Potions master, who seemed as perplexed as Sirius felt. Before the animagus could ask for more details they heard the shouting in the stairway.

"I am not marrying you!" Vicky's voice echoed through the house.

"I didn't ask you to." Remus sounded angry and dejected at the same time.

Sirius opened the door and found the two people in question staring daggers at each other. Victoria turned to face her father and sneered when she saw him.

"I'm sure he'll console you," she told Remus and walked away.

"Come on in, Remus." The werewolf followed the advice, happy for the comfort. He didn't expect to find three more wizards staring at him. He certainly did not want to face Severus. Remus was well aware of the man's love for his daughter and couldn't bear to hear him declare how right Victoria was.

"Don't you have to get ready for tonight, Draco?" It probably wasn't Severus' most subtle approach, but Draco got the hint and pulled Harry out of the room.

Remus watched the two students leave the room. "Before you say anything, Severus, I didn't mean to hurt her in any way. I don't even know what I said."

Severus laughed. The two Gryffindors stared at him like he'd grown a second head. Noticing their looks, he sobered up. "I've been dealing with Victoria a lot longer than you have. I know how temperamental she can be, Remus."

"She hates me."

"It can't be that bad. Just remember she's Sirius' daughter, too. You know how he can be angry one moment and you're best friend the next. Just give her some time."

"Thank you, Severus," Sirius said sarcastically. He looked at Remus. "How exactly did you go from a fight to a marriage proposal or vice versa?"

"I have no clue, Padfoot. We were talking about couples and I said something about marriage. She started going on about being too young and enjoying life. I told her that when people are made for each other, then it doesn't matter. She told me I'm a foul and a chauvinist wizard, how witches are the ones making all sacrifices, and how they are chained to their husbands, stuck at Hogwarts. Then I got upset because there is nothing wrong with teaching at Hogwarts."

Severus stifled a chuckle when Sirius glared at him, but tried to reassure his colleague. "She is only twenty, Remus. She is used to her freedom. On one hand, she can have her carefree life as single witch. Or she could get married and be stuck in a boarding school, tied to other people's needs. I think the simple idea of marriage scared her."

"But I didn't mean it like that." Remus was loosing his temper. He was known for his calm no matter what the occasion was and he was not used to feel so out-of-control.

"Don't worry, she won't remember in a few hours," Severus stated, knowing his daughter.

"But I'll remember. She doesn't want to marry me." Remus sighed.

"Oh, get a grip on yourself, man. She is twenty years old, she is a woman and she is spoiled rotten. And don't you say anything," he added noting Sirius' I-told-you-so look. "She will change her mind a hundred times and that's just in the next hour. You either accept her or you don't. Just don't mope around, for Salazar's sake."

"You're your usual sensitive self, Severus," Sirius remarked.

"What do you want me to say, Sirius? I know Victoria. She has our temper, she is just as stubborn and she can charm your pants off. If he plans to be with her, he should expect a lot more than a simple shouting match." Severus was trying to stay calm, but it was easier to fall back on old patterns and scream at Sirius.

"What was I thinking?" Remus shook his head. "She is young and beautiful and I'm...I'm not."

"Stop being melodramatic, that's Sirius' department. Yes, she's young and beautiful and she wants you." Sirius stuck his tongue out at Severus.

"Does she? Or am I only the only suitable man at Hogwarts?"

Severus threw his hands up in the air. "Are depression and self-doubt Gryffindors traits I wasn't aware of?"

"Moony, you know Severus is right. If you want to be with her, you have to be ready for more outbursts. It might be easier if..."

"Just like it would be easier if you and Severus were nothing but friends, but I don't see you doing what's easier."

Severus smirked. Gryffindors were so predictable. Question their courage and they made decision without thinking about the consequences.

Remus and Vicky could have provided hours of entertainment were it not for the fact that Severus would have to listen to one or both complain. Severus sighed, resigned to his fate. Victoria would create more heartache for Remus and he would be there to help.

"I should go and talk to her." Remus sounded tentative, but Severus and Sirius encouraged him to find Victoria.

The moment Remus left the room, Severus murmured locking spells and silence charms. Then, he threw Sirius on the bed and lay on top of his former lover.

Sirius never had time to speak. Severus' tongue was so far down his throat that he was amazed that he could even breathe. And when had Severus grow an extra pair of hands? Severus was touching him everywhere and nowhere at once.

Severus could hear Victoria's radio blasting some techno-music, pumping rhythm and lyrics consisting of only five words: sex, anytime, anywhere, right now. His sentiments exactly.

"Stop, Severus."

The Potions master groaned. He did not want any more interruptions. "What?"

"They are going to come back soon and I don't want to rush this. I want our first time after decades to be special."

"Sirius, we have waited over twenty years. I don't care about special. I'm ready to fuck you in my classroom while Longbottom is making a potion. And that's tantamount of risking my life."

"Please, Severus. I've done so much to ruin our lives. Let me do something right, for you, for us."

Severus sagged over Sirius' body. He began to nuzzle Sirius' neck, planting light kisses, licking his ear. Then he stopped. "Okay, Sirius. Anything you want."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Hours later, the entire household was hustling with activity. After dinner, they were going to the Piper Club in Rome to celebrate the New Year. Everyone, minus Livia and Luciano, was getting dressed to the nines for the night.

Luciano thanked all saints that dinner was an uneventful affair. He could feel the tension between Vicky and Remus, but everyone ignored it. Severus looked like he was ready to jump Sirius, but fortunately their daughter was too worried about her own problems to notice. The two boys were making puppy eyes at each other. Oh, to be young again!

The Italian wizard gave a sigh of relief when their Christmas guests used the portkey and disappeared from his house. Luciano didn't want his wife to get upset, especially on New Year's Eve. No, he had a special night planned for Livia and no one was going to interfere with it.

Almost midnight and the Piper Club was pulsing with music. Thousands of people of different ages were crowed in the dark discothque. Bodies moved to drumming rhythm of techno music. Lights flashed around creating a surreal atmosphere.

Vicky had quickly found her friends at the main bar, just like they had prearranged. If she was still angry with Remus, no one noticed. She had her arm wrapped around his waist while Remus' arm rested on her shoulder.

Draco and Harry were standing next to Remus. Harry was leaning against Draco's front and they were sipping strangely colored cocktails that Sirius hoped were not alcoholic.

No one was really talking. The music was too loud for any discussion. Instead bodies moved suggestively close to each other and words were whispered in over sensitive ears.

Severus looked around and smiled. Yes, his aunt and Luciano had dragged him to similar places often enough that it felt familiar in an odd sort of way.

Sirius was feeling out of place. It was too loud, too crowded and too impersonal. He glanced at Severus and was astonished at the calm reflected on the Potions master's face.

"You like this place?" Sirius asked. When it was obvious that Severus hadn't heard, he moved closed. The heat from Severus' body felt wonderful. He tried to ignore it and asked the question again.

Severus' hand grabbed the back of Sirius' head and pulled him even closer. "More than you do," Severus shouted back in Sirius' ear.

Sirius shook his head and started to move toward the bar. Severus grabbed his arm and the animagus turned to face the Slytherin. Severus was smirking.

Sirius didn't resist when Severus pulled him close once more. The soft breath on his neck made his hair stand up. Well, it made something else stand up, but as Harry said he wouldn't let his cock rule his life.

"We don't have to spend the night with them. I'm sure Vicky will appreciate if her parents aren't around."

Sirius nodded. He would have agreed to anything, but the idea to be alone with Severus, surrounded by the anonymity of the crowd, was more than inviting.

Severus dragged him to a quieter area. The Potions master found an available armchair and sat, pulling Sirius on top of him. The noise was not as loud as the bar, but Sirius felt the vibrations ran through the furniture.

The Slytherin seemed oblivious to the crowd, or maybe he simply didn't care. He grabbed Sirius' face and their lips met again. Hungry and sensual. Sirius was the first to break the contact. Severus couldn't hear the panting, but he could see the fast movements of Sirius' chest.

"People will get upset to see two men kissing." Severus saw the words on Sirius' lips more than heard them.

Severus shook his head. "Not at Piper, they won't." Without any further explanation, he delved into Sirius' lips once more.

Time had no meaning for the two wizards. Together in a dark room. Lips touching. Hands exploring. Music beating in time with the heartbeats. The sense of isolation brought peaceful perfection.

Things were not quite so simple for everyone. Remus had seen his friends making out like randy teenagers in front of everyone, unaware that there was a world outside themselves. He also knew that Victoria would not appreciate the fact that her papà had chosen to spend his night with Sirius instead of her and her friends.

Victoria stared at Remus. She was seething that her boyfriend and her parents obviously thought she was stupid. She knew perfectly well what those two were up to. Her anger from the afternoon resurfaced, but found a new outlet. Oh yes, she could put up with Remus' grand ideas of love and marriage, but she would be damned if her papà would renegade his promise to stay away from Sirius.

The witch left her group and started to move toward her parents. When she felt a hand grab her, she was ready for a nasty retort against whoever was trying to flirt with her. Victoria was less than happy to find Draco pulling her close so they could talk.

"I don't like him, Vic, and you might not like him, but Severus does." Few words since the ambient was not conducive to long discussions.

Draco was not intimidated by the fury in Vicky's eyes. He had seen it plenty of times in Severus' eyes in his six years at Hogwarts, although it had never been directed at him.

"It's almost midnight. Spend the time with Remus."

"Why?" she shouted back.

"Because he survived Voldemort, because he has been alone for too long, and because you love him and want him to be happy," Draco told her, looking at the Head of his House.

Victoria stared at Severus. The smile on his face was something she has rarely seen directed at anyone but her. She sighed, put her arm on Draco's shoulder and led him toward her friends once more.

In the meantime, Sirius was fighting to breathe. Severus was intent on kissing him to death.

"Severus, I'm going to die if you don't stop." The Slytherin chuckled, not that Sirius could really hear the sound.

"There is something I want to ask you," Sirius yelled once more. Severus nodded to proceed.

Sirius saw the conflicting emotions running through Severus' mind reflected in his fiery eyes as a reaction to his question. Maybe, he rushed things, but he really wanted Severus to know that he was serious. This was not about old flings or sex.

The music stopped and the D.J. started the count down to midnight.

Five...four...three...two...one...

Music blasted over the speakers. Confetti were falling from the ceiling. People were kissing and hugging. No one but Sirius saw the black haired man disappear from the disco.

Sirius spotted Victoria and Harry amongst the crowed. He moved through swaying bodies until he reached them. He wished happy New Year to all present and hugged Harry, Draco and Remus.

Victoria looked around, expecting to see her papà at any moment. When she realized that he wasn't there. Her eyes became ice cold and her hand went to the wand that she managed to hide beneath her skimpy dress.

"We need to talk." Sirius pressed his daughter close to him so that he could be heard over the music. Of course, it was a perfect excuse to hug her.

Victoria grabbed his hand and pulled him toward a corridor that led to the bathrooms. The music was not as loud in there and soft lights created a penumbra ideal for the many couples making out.

The witch rested against the wall and her father moved closer so that could talk. A young man walked by them and laughed sarcastically. "Guarda quello che se la fa con la ragazzina.20"

"E' mio padre, stronzo!21"

Sirius was not sure what he had said but his daughter's tone in her reply informed him that it wasn't anything he wanted to know.

"Now, tell me what the fuck you did this time?"

Oh yes, Victoria was not one for preambles just like himself, Sirius thought. He took a deep breath. "I asked him if...if he wanted to be bonded."

"Madonna, you sure don't pull punches, do you?" Victoria stared at her father's blue eyes. She could see the confusion and pain in there. She really didn't want to like this man, but it was becoming harder and harder with each passing day.

"Look, I know you think that I'm a spoiled and stupid girl."

"Not stupid," Sirius told her. Victoria managed a small smile.

"As I was saying, I might be spoiled but my objections to your relationship with papà are based on knowledge and not whim. I've heard enough through the years to know how much damage you have done. I didn't know your name, your House, but I knew that there was a man that had destroyed my papà's happiness."

"I know, I'm..."

"Don't apologize. I don't need it nor want it. You're the reason that papà became reliant on Lucius and all the consequences that came with that reliance. You made him question his self-worth. Now you turn around and you want to be bonded to him. You realize that if you go through with it, you are linked for life? There is no divorce, no legal or magical way out."

"Of course, I know. I didn't think that he would react this way." Sirius closed his eyes, remembering the hurt look that Severus had given him.

"What did he say?" Victoria laid gently a hand on his arm.

"That I never think of the consequences and how could I ask him that? What consequences? I love him and want to be with him."

"You really are a Gryffindor." Victoria shook her head and chuckled. "Maybe he was surprised that you would make such a step when only three months ago you were still insulting each other. Maybe, he meant that you didn't think about my reaction."

"Oh!"

"Very eloquent, Professor." Both her fathers and Remus thought she was the baby, but she had a better grasp of relationship than any of the three. "Do you love him?"

Sirius nodded.

"And you're not going to hurt again, right?"

Sirius nodded once more.

"Is everything okay?" Sirius and Vicky turned and faced Remus.

Sirius, who seemed to have lost his ability to speak, nodded for the third time. Victoria gave her boyfriend a sly smile. "Yeah. We're fine. Sirius was just leaving." She leaned and kissed her father for the first time. "Go find him and take him to Cabo Verde. They are two hours behind. You can still celebrate the New Year with papà," she whispered in his ears.

"You two are scaring me. You're being too friendly." Remus looked at his girlfriend and his best friend, knowing that there was a lot more than what they were telling him.

Vicky laughed, but kept her eyes on her father. "Just go and...take it slow...and tell him that I just want him to be happy."

Sirius stepped away, ready to leave, when she called him again.

"Yes, Vicky?"

"Good luck, dad." Victoria couldn't breathe, so tight were Sirius' arms around her. "Papà won't be happy if you suffocate me."

Sirius had to laugh, because if he didn't he might have to cry. A gentle touch of his daughter's face, before he whispered, "I love you too, Vicky." Then, he disappeared.

Sirius apparated outside the gate and moved quickly to the house. A few stops in the kitchen and his room to organize everything and then, he finally went to Severus' room.

"Get out, Sirius." The Potions master didn't even open his eyes. No one else would totally disregard his privacy and waltz into his room without knocking.

"I will, but you have to come with me." Severus opened his eyes and glared at the other man. "Please, come with me," Sirius said a little too loudly.

"Be quiet, you idiot. I don't want aunt Livia to know that I'm here. She'd give us the third degree."

"Fine, I'll be quiet if you come with me."

"Oh very well, just keep your mouth shut." Sirius smiled. He collected Severus' coat and they walked back outside before apparating again.

"Why are we on a beach?" Severus sighed, waiting for the foolish explanation that was sure to follow.

"We're on Brava, an island part of Cabo Verde. I was told that there is a minus two hours difference with Italy. So, in about an hour, we get to celebrate the New Year. Hopefully we can get it right this time."

Sirius reached into his pocket and enlarged Several object. He started with a huge sheet that he laid down on the sand. Several throw pillows were followed by an afghan. An ice bucket with a bottle of champagne and two flutes came next.

"You were supposed to do this before you proposed," Severus told him sarcastically.

"You can tell me how stupid I am later. Now, we are on a tropical island, warm weather, warm water and we're alone. Let's go swimming." Sirius began to shed his clothes.

"You've lost your mind, Sirius." Severus was rewarded by a huge grin. He shook his head but began undressing.

Severus stared at his companion. The animagus was jumping the waves on moment and trying to dunk Severus the next. Severus wondered how Sirius could remain a child even after twelve years in Azkaban.

Of course, the fact that Severus was skinny-dipping with an overgrown child didn't say much for his own maturity, but for once he didn't let that bother him.

" Come on, let's get out." After having spent the better part of the last thirty minutes in the water, Severus was not about to fight with Sirius on the subject.

"So what shall we do now?" Severus lay down on the sheet next to Sirius.

"Since talking always gets me in trouble..." Sirius never finished the sentence, instead he took Severus' cock into his mouth and began to coax it to hardness.

The Potions master gasped in surprised. "You don't plan to stop claiming that we need to wait until the wedding night or such other nonsense."

Sirius laughed and planted a kiss on Severus' hip. "I plan to make love to you until you can't walk anymore. I want to make you scream until the ghost at Hogwarts can hear you. Unless you have a problem with that?" Sirius added with mock innocence.

The Potions master grabbed by his shoulders and pulled him up until they were face to face. The usually impenetrable black irises were burning like molten lava. "I want you, Sirius." The intensity of Severus' voice left no doubts about the veracity of the statement.

Sirius was suddenly on his back. He wasn't sure when he lost control, but suddenly Severus' mouth, tongue and hands were all over him. Tiny bits left a tingling sensation on his overheated skin. Wet tongue cooled him down, while little pinches teased him elsewhere.

How in Gryffindor's name did he think that their first time would be romantic and slow? They were both so aroused after months of teasing and self-denial. Sirius pinched the base of his cock to avoid the orgasm he felt raising within his body.

"Severus, please, I can't wait."

The evil grin on Severus' face scared him for a moment. Severus wouldn't be so cruel to leave like that. Would he? Obviously not, he answered his own question when two slicked fingers pressed into his body. Blessed the man's paranoia, which caused Severus to have his wand always at arm's reach, because in his euphoric state, Sirius had forgotten about lube.

"Inside. Now!"

"You're not in a position to give orders, Black. I'm the one with the big wand." Severus nudged Sirius' entrance with his cock.

"That wasn't funny when we were fifteen and it's even less now." Severus moved away in mock hurt. Sirius grabbed his arse and pulled him forcefully.

"Now, now, Black. We want to play nice. We wouldn't want anyone to get hurt, would we? A sore arse is difficult to explain to your godson."

"I don't give a quaffle about giving explanations. And you have become even a worse tease with age."

Severus laughed while he began to push into Sirius' welcoming body. Blue eyes went wide. The Slytherin loved to look at Sirius while they made love. Every emotions and every feeling were always on the surface for him to see and cherish.

"What can I say? I'm an evil bastard." The words were hissed while Severus enjoyed that tightness that surrounded him.

Sirius couldn't answer. He had dreamed to be with Severus for months now, but the dreams and the memories paled compared to reality.

Severus moved in and out of him with a care that was missing when they were students. There was love and tenderness in the gentle touches. There was a need to satisfy in the powerful kisses they shared. This was nothing like the quick and almost violent encounters they shared in school.

The hunger and lust in Severus' eyes was not diminished. On the contrary, Sirius would wager anything that the emotions were stronger than ever. Even Severus' carefully built walls couldn't prevent them from shining through.

The movements increased in tempo and Sirius stopped thinking. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to be swept away from the sensations his lover was creating.

Severus wanted to say so much, but he didn't trust himself to speak. Merlin knew what sappy declarations of love he would make! Instead, he continued moving, bringing them to the bittersweet end of their lovemaking.

Severus stayed on top of Sirius. Both wizards were panting. Sirius ran his hands down his lover's back, not wanting the moment to end. He kissed the cascade of black hair softly.

Severus smiled, although his hair prevented Sirius from seeing him. "You weren't one for post-coital affections," the Slytherin said gently.

"And then I grew." They both laughed at the self-deprecatory comment.

A sudden noise startled them. Severus rolled next to Sirius and tried to locate the source of the sound. Fireworks were lightening the sky. Red, white, blue and green streaks of light gave a magical hue to the world around them.

"Happy New Year, Severus."

"Happy New Year, Sirius."

Sirius stared at his lover, knowing that the silence wouldn't last. "Just spit it out. I know something is bothering you."

Severus took a deep breath. "Sex can't solve all our problems nor will it make me change my mind about the bonding."

"I told Vicky about it."

An eerie silence fell over the two wizards. Anger shadowed Severus' obsidian eyes before he regained his control. "You're still alive, so I'm assuming that things didn't go to badly."

"She's the one who told me about these islands," Sirius said with a cheeky grin.

The Potions master uncorked the champagne bottle, filled two glasses and handed a flute to the animagus. "What happened?"

Sirius propped up the pillows and snuggled close to his lover. Severus put his arm around Sirius and pulled him even closer. The Gryffindor used the afghan to cover both.

Sirius sighed and began playing with Severus' chest hair. "You mean after she pointed out that I'm an idiot? She didn't seem against the idea of the bonding in principle, just that I asked too soon."

"She's right. I can't forget the past twenty years in a few weeks. I'm unwilling to be bonded without thinking about the possible consequences."

"I don't need that lecture again. I know. 'Think before you act' and all those clichés."

"I wouldn't tell you that. I've given up trying to change you. Besides, I've become fond of who you are."

Severus' voice was low and intense, but Sirius laughed sadly in response. "Right, you like the childish, unthoughtful, and inconsiderate idiot."

Raising Sirius' chin with his fingers, Severus laid a gentle kiss on those luscious lips. "I meant the honest, care-free and charming man I've fallen for. Yes, I had feelings for you back then, but this is different, Sirius. I'm not trying to recreate what we had because too much has changed, but I'd like to build something stronger. I'm just afraid that you think that we can just pick up where we left off."

"Sometimes, I try to forget the past twenty years. It makes things so much easier." Sirius gently tucked an errant lock of hair behind Severus' ear before lacing his fingers with Severus'. "But I know we can't. It's just...I'm afraid that if you see the man I am and not the sixteen year old you cared about, you will not want to be with me."

"You make too many assumptions and bring them to their unnatural conclusion." Severus was being sarcastic again, but the snappiness wasn't there. "Only you could use your fear to propose a bonding."

"Why? If we went through, you wouldn't be able to leave me." Sirius' shocked tone became softer. "Next time I ask you, it'll be for the right reasons."

"You won't give up, will you?" The mock annoyance covered unrecognized fear.

"You won't get rid of me so easily, Severus. I plan to spend the rest of my life with you, even if it kills us both."

Severus laughed. "I think I might get used to that."


Part 15 - The Day After

Sirius went through the house looking for the rest of the residents. He was surprised that he couldn't find anyone. It was January 1st and the sacred rule was to sleep late. He finally decided to check the one room he hadn't checked: Victoria's bedroom.

Sirius knocked hesitantly. He hoped he wasn't waking his daughter. Laughter from the other side of the door reassured him for an instant, then he thought about the possibility of interrupting Victoria and Remus and wanted to run away. Before he could do anything, he was invited to enter the room.

The animagus didn't expect to find everyone minus their two hosts in the room. Severus was standing on the side, leaning against the bookcase that contained the infamous photo albums. Remus and Vicky were sitting on the bed with their backs resting on the headboard. Harry and Draco were also on the bed, Draco resting his head on a pillow laying on Vicky's legs and Harry using Draco's stomach for a pillow. Sirius decided not to question this newfound intimacy.

"What in Merlin's name are you all doing in this room?" Remus snorted at his friend's question. After seven years sharing the same dorm, the werewolf was well aware that Sirius was not a morning person and two o'clock on the first day of the new year was, for Sirius, still morning.

"Well, we had breakfast and lunch and Remus and I were trying to spend some time together, but everyone enjoyed our company so much that they followed us," Vicky replied. Her tone wasn't exactly friendly, but the fact that she was still talking to him was extremely good news.

"Breakfast and lunch, God, but it's so early." Severus laughed at Sirius' expression. When the animagus turned to face his lover, the Potions master pointed to the chair in front of him and Sirius gratefully slumped into it.

"So, what's so fascinating that it's keeping you locked up in this room?"

"We're discussing wizarding customs and their implication in the post-Voldemort era. Remus and Harry want to show us the importance of Muggles in our customs," Draco explained. Sirius shook his head. At Harry's age, he was discussing sex, pranks and more sex. These kids were really strange.

Victoria continued flipping through a book. She raised her eyes for a moment and asked casually, "What exactly is a bonding?" Sirius paled and Severus glared at her.

"You don't want to get married and you are asking about bonding?" Remus was still none too pleased with Victoria's reaction to the idea of marriage, but he was willing to give her time and space.

"I don't want to be bonded, but I was trying to understand why it's never practiced anymore," Vicky quipped back.

"Well, bonding is an ancient tradition in the wizarding world. It would unite two people in every sense of the word. One could not live without the other. Their separation, whether voluntary or not, would eventually lead to their death. Bonding ceremonies have always been a rare occurrence for this reason. When the Muggle wedding traditions started, wizards and witches got married and went through a bonding ceremony." Remus thought back about all he had learned. Reading had always been one of his favorite activities and he had a photographic memory.

"Why would they use a Muggle tradition when the wizarding one was more powerful?" Draco asked.

"Oh they didn't for quite some time, but then with the witch hunts, it was easier to conform than to be singled out. A man and a woman living together without being married would have condemned them twice. They would have been considered immoral and it would have led to suspicions of witchcraft. However, marriages had become commonplace even before."

"Why?" Harry was warming up to the subject. If only Binns could be so interesting.

"While parents were willing to arrange marriages, they were unwilling to subject their children to a bonding ceremony. I suspect that they knew that a forced bonding might have killed the parties involved and destroyed their chosen heirs." Draco snorted at Remus' explanation. It seemed to the blonde that things hadn't changed that much.

"Yes, the Middle Ages were not known for civil rights. Anyway, by the time we get to our century, marriage was an integral part of the wizarding world. With the divorce laws, bonding became just part of our traditions. No one is willing to pledge his or her life to someone else with no possibility of escape when the modern institution of marriage gives you so many outs."

When Remus was finished, Victoria stared at her parents. Sirius was the first to look away. He knew that both Severus and Vicky thought that he had been hasty in his declaration the night before, but he was willing to pledge himself and his soul to his lover.

Sirius felt Severus' hand on his shoulder and he leaned back, grateful for the sign. Harry stared at the two and frowned.

"What is it, Potter? You look like you're ready to explode when a mere thought occupies your otherwise empty brain." Vicky couldn't suppress a chuckle at her papà's words.

"You seem so comfortable with each other. Why didn't either of you try to fix things? You had all of your seventh year together." Harry was still frowning, just to figure out the answer for himself.
"Your stupidity never ceases to amaze me, Potter. Did you expect me to try and fix things with Sirius after he had tried to kill me?"

"Hey, there is no need to be so sarcastic. Fine, then why didn't Sirius do something?" Harry's voice got louder than he really wanted. He never was good at controlling his emotions.

All eyes rested on the animagus. Sirius got up and started pacing. Maybe he could explain his story once and for all. "I was upset, Harry. I thought that Severus was being spiteful. I knew him and his power. I was certain that he could have gotten out of the situation without getting hurt. How was I to know that he was pregnant and couldn't use his powers? So when he acted all scared and upset, I thought that he was doing it to get me expelled. The next year, he walked through the school like he owned it, always surrounded by Lucius and the other Slytherins. We all knew that they were Death Eaters. So I stayed away from him."

Severus stopped the agitated animagus and pulled him close. "You are an idiot, Sirius Black. I was not a Death Eater when I was in school and neither were the other Slytherins." The Potions master kept his voice soft, not wanting to upset Sirius more, but refusing to lie.

"But we all thought..." Remus was speechless. The rumors had been rampant through the school. "You and Lucius always walked around with a squad of Slytherins around."

Severus lowered his eyes. "I did something stupid and Lucius found out. Lucius was extremely intelligent and he put one and one together and got three," he said pointing at himself, Sirius and finally Vicky.

"He didn't ask me if Sirius was the one to get me pregnant, but he knew that each encounter upset me. Lucius developed his own plan to protect me. He made sure that there were always Slytherins around me to protect me and others if my powers went out of control."

"Do I want to know what you did and what caused it?" Sirius said softly.

"No! Let's just say that postpartum depression is even stronger in men than it is in women and the consequences if the man in question knows the Dark Arts can be extremely lethal."

"You and my dad were really good friends, weren't you?" Draco loved to hear stories about his father. His professor was the only one who even mentioned his dad.

"Yes," Severus answered with a wistful tone. "We shared so much. I don't think I would be here without his help and friendship."

"Did you carry a torch for him?" Sirius teased.

"No," Severus answered seriously. "It wasn't a crush. I loved Lucius. Had he been gay, I would have tried to be with him."

"What made him so special?" Sirius tried to keep the jealousy from his voice, but failed miserably.

"Let's see. He loved me. He took care of me. He protected me when no one else would. We shared all the important moments of our lives. We spent our birthdays together, no one else was invited. He was there through my pregnancy. I supported him when his father arranged his marriage. He was the only one waiting for me when I took my master's test. He pushed the ministry to give me my license even though I was a former Death Eater. And then there was Draco's birth."

Severus looked at his student with a smile. "I still remember that day. I was teaching, and Lucius ran from the gates to the dungeon. He told me that Narcissa's water had broken. He took my hand and we ran like two schoolboys until we left the school ground and we could apparate. I don't even know what the students did."

The Potions master was back in time and he didn't feel the tension building in Sirius' body. "We were both in the room when Draco was born. I looked at him and he reminded so much of Vicky. The only difference was that Draco had no hair and Vicky was born with a black mop on her head."

"We spent the day playing with this little human being. The nanny told us that we were going to spoil him. I guess she was right. I kept thinking that Draco and Vicky should have been friends. It took twenty years, but it happened." Draco turned his head to look at Victoria. The witch offered a hand and he took it smiling.

"You mean to say that the bond you had with Lucius is stronger than what we have." Sirius' voice was cold.

"You don't want me to answer that, Sirius." Severus was just as dispassionate, but the sparkles of tension between them were evident.

Sirius moved away and began pacing again. "I think I do. After all, this might be the reason why you told me 'no'."

The other people watched the scene unfolding in front of them. They sensed that there was more going on, but only Vicky knew that Sirius was referring to the bonding.

"We were together as teenagers. I hated you for decades. We had only started speaking when we needed to destroy Voldemort and we've only had real conversation for a few months. This can't compare with my friendship with Lucius."

Sirius felt a knot in his throat, but it was soon replaced with anger. Severus sensed it, but continued with his explanation. "However, I'm sure that you can't honestly say that what we have is as strong as the friendship you had with James and Remus."

"I wouldn't know, would I? James is dead and I spent twelve years in Azkaban!" Sirius exclaimed.

"And that's not my fault." Severus' voice became even quieter and colder. "I warned Albus, but that Potter was his usual idiotic self. He wanted to hide in a house named after Gryffindor. That wife of his refused to hide with Harry at Hogwarts. A lot of good that did."

"She couldn't leave him," Sirius whispered. All eyes went to him.

"Why?" Harry said softly.

"They were bonded when they found out that Lily was pregnant." Sirius had never told this to anyone. Only he and Albus had known as the two witnesses.

"They were bigger fools than even I had thought possible. They had the strongest Dark wizards after them and they decide to give him more power." Severus couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"The bonding didn't put them in danger." Even to Sirius' ears, his words seemed hollow.

"Right, and that's the reason it was kept a secret." Severus was furious, especially when he realized that Sirius was ready to be bonded so that he could fulfill some fairytale notion. "I risked my life to keep them alive and they go and do something so stupid. And in your brilliancy, you decided to follow in their footsteps. Call me when you grow up, Sirius." Severus marched out of the room, banging the door in the process.

Sirius stared at the closed door, not knowing how to make Severus understand that his decision had nothing to do with James and Lily. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with the Potions master.

"Didn't you think I should know?" Harry's question caught Sirius off guard. "I mean my mother risked my life as well as hers. It seems natural that I would want to know the reason."

"I never thought about it, Harry. I didn't know if you even knew what a bonding is."

"Then, you should have explained it to me. I can't believe that you would withhold such a thing from me. What else haven't you told me about my parents?" Harry got up from the bed. "Forget it. I can't listen to you right now." He left much like Severus had done.

Draco followed the Gryffindor with a sad gaze. Sirius saw the disappointment in the Slytherin and sighed. "I'll make sure he's all right," Draco told him, not wanting to create even more friction between Harry and his godfather.

If Sirius thought his problems were over, he was wrong. Remus was pacing and glaring at him. "Tell me, Padfoot, did you try to discourage them? Did you tell them that they were risking Harry's life? Did you point out that if they had been separated while Lily were still pregnant, their child would have died?"

"They loved each other. Nothing I could have said would have made a difference."

"But did you even try? What about the other witness? Was it Peter?"

"For Merlin's sake, no, it wasn't Peter. It was Albus. He didn't think that it was such a horrible idea."

"The man is stupid and blind when it comes to love. I'm starting to understand Severus' frustration." Remus never stopped pacing. He didn't look at Sirius directly, because he knew he would explode if he did.

"Come on, Moony. The bonding wasn't dangerous."

"No! Right! And if it weren't for the bonding, Lily might still be alive. Harry could have had a mother. If you thought that the bonding wasn't dangerous, why didn't you tell me?"

"James didn't want anyone to know. We weren't sure..."

"You weren't sure if I was a Death Eater. All our friendship and in the end you turned your back on me without needing proof, just like you did with Severus. He is right. Talk to me again only when and if you decide to grow up."

Victoria stayed quiet as she watched her boyfriend leave the room much like the others had done before him. "Next time I want to clear a room, I'll be sure to call you."

Sirius snorted. "It's only fair that you get your say. Everyone else has."

"I don't give a crap about the Potters. I couldn't care less if they had decided to jump from the Gryffindor tower while she was still pregnant."

Sirius smiled. "At least, you don't pretend to love them."

Victoria shrugged. "Sit with me." She patted the bed next to her. Sirius tried to hide his surprise while sitting down.

She surprised him even more when she rested her head on his shoulder. Sirius put his arm around his daughter and kept her close.

"You shouldn't have asked the question if you couldn't stomach the answer." To Victoria, the entire discussion about the Potters was meaningless. Sirius could straighten out the situation with Harry and Remus. She was concerned with her parents' happiness only.

"You're right, but...I have no one to talk to. You don't keep in touch with schoolmates when you're looked up at Azkaban. Harry is only seventeen and shouldn't have to deal with my problems. James and Peter are dead. Every time Moony and I have a serious discussion, more problems crop up. And let's face it, I'm not your favourite person. Severus is the only adult with whom I share my thoughts. It hurts that he could rely on someone else."

Victoria squeezed his thigh in support. "Sirius-" she closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, "-dad, you have to understand that papà shared most of his life with Lucius and he will always be part of his past, but Lucius isn't here anymore. Even if he were, papà would still not be romantically involved with him. You can't live in the past. You have to try and create a future. If you stay in the past, you'll lose because the only thing you have shared for a long time is hatred."

Sirius closed his arms around his daughter, his chin resting on her head. "And I thought you were a spoiled brat."

Victoria pretended not to notice Sirius' choked voice and tried to lighten the mood. "You were right. I am spoiled." She raised her head, smiling and kissing him on the cheek.

Blue eyes fixed on a twin pair. "I want papà to be happy. I told you that I wouldn't oppose your relationship if you don't hurt him, but he is none too happy at the moment."

"I should be the one upset. He practically told me that he would have rather been with Lucius than me."

"Oh, you really can't think like a Slytherin, can you?" she said in frustration. "He's upset because he thinks that the only reason you asked him to be bonded is because you wanted to relive the past, imitate your friend. He can't accept that you asked because you want to be with him. Honestly, I have my doubts that you even know why you asked him. Think about it and if you need someone to talk to, I'll listen."

Sirius beamed at her. He might not have convinced Severus of his love, but he was gaining a daughter while trying.


Part 16 - Back at Hogwarts

Saturday - January 10, 1997

The next day, they would return to Hogwarts for the beginning of the new term. So in their last night of freedom, Draco, Harry, Victoria and Remus went dancing at 'Il Capriccio', one of the biggest discos in the northeast region of Italy. Vicky's friends were also there.

The night passed in a blur. Loud music, colorful drinks and good company were the right ingredients to have fun. Harry forgot about secrets, Sirius and anything else that had been bothering him. He let the night wash over him and for the first time in his life, he felt completely free.

When they returned home, it was almost dawn. Draco jumped on his bed with his clothes on and watched sleepily as Harry shed his clothes until he was completely naked.

Adrenaline still running though his body, Harry threw himself on top of Draco. "I had fun tonight."

"So did I, Harry, but you're way too hyper at five a.m."

"Party pooper." Harry pouted, but when he didn't get any reaction from the other boy, he began kissing the blonde.

Draco's arms instinctively wrapped around Harry as the kiss deepened. One hand slipped down Harry's back and cupped his arsecheek.

"I want to have sex," Harry said breathily.

"You're drunk, Harry."

"I only had non-alcoholic drinks; I'm not drunk."

Draco stared into the green eyes and could see the veracity of Harry's words. He frowned. "What is it, then? The last hurray before saying goodbye." Harry looked affronted, but Draco didn't care. He knew that Harry wouldn't want his friends to know about them. So Draco was playing along until Harry decided to break it off.

Harry didn't quite understand Draco's trail of thoughts, but he felt the need to reassure his boyfriend. "I want to have sex at least once before having to worry about Housemates, professors and curfews."

"So you don't want to break up with me?" Draco asked suspiciously.

"No, silly." Harry chuckled. "Enough talk. Me want sex, now."

Draco laughed at the light tone, but he could hear the unspoken need. He flipped them around and quickly took off his clothes.

Having made his wish known, Harry was happy to let Draco take the lead. He was surprised, however, when the blonde left the bed and began ransacking their closet. "What are you doing?"

Draco came back, grinning, and raised a phial. "Lube."

"Spell," Harry countered.

"Oh no! Not our first time together."

The kisses resumed, while their hands explored each other's bodies. Draco's oiled fingers brushed against Harry's erection, past his balls and played with his opening.

Harry bucked at the sensation and moaned. He would have sworn loudly if Draco's mouth hadn't been covering his. When one slender finger pushed into his body, he did scream.

"Yell all you want; they can't hear you," Draco whispered to him, but Harry couldn't care less who heard him.

Draco used another finger, coaxing Harry to relax, tongue licking the tension. God, Harry was so tight and Draco couldn't wait to be inside him. The Gryffindor seemed just as eager, moaning and pushing down on Draco's hand.

Harry poured the oil in his hand and gripped Draco's erection. The Slytherin moaned at the sensation and pushed forward. He couldn't wait anymore. They had flirted, petted and masturbated during their stay in Naples, but it only left Draco hornier than before. "Are you ready, Harry?"

The Gryffindor nodded and turned around. He settled himself on his stomach as Draco pushed a pillow under his hips. Draco lay on top of Harry and began pushing his cock. Harry screamed. Draco froze. "Harry?"

"Don't...don't move. It's..."

"I know it's been so long for me too." Draco petted the midnight hair. "Tell me when you're ready. I'll go as slow as you need."

Harry nodded again. He didn't think he could speak without crying. He breathed deeply and relaxed. Draco, true to his word, didn't move until Harry told him to. After the first painful moments, new sensations took over Harry's body and soon he was thrusting back to meet Draco's movements.

Being typical teenage boys, they were both lost in their pleasure and it didn't take long for them to cum. Afterwards, they lay, panting, too tired to move.

The late hour, the fatigue and post-coital relaxation were making Draco extremely sleepy. He closed his eyes and was succumbing to Morpheus when he heard Harry say, "This was my first time."

Draco's eyes flew open. He rolled off and spun Harry around until they were facing each other. "You tell me now?" Draco was fighting to stay calm.

"I didn't want things to become weird," Harry confessed.

Draco sighed and pulled his lover closer. "Nothing would have changed, Harry."

"Then, it makes no difference that I didn't tell you."

"It makes a big difference. We would have still made love, but I wouldn't have been so impatient, maybe...Salazar, I don't know what I would have done different, but I wouldn't have had you screaming in pain."

"It didn't really hurt." Draco raised an eyebrow. "Okay, so it did, a little, but I don't regret it."

"I didn't say you did. I just-" Draco sighed again. "Forget it, I know you won't listen to me. Just promise me that you won't withhold information from me ever again." Draco raised Harry's chin with his finger so that he could look at Harry's eyes.

Harry thought about it for a moment. "I promise, but you have to do the same."

"I wouldn't be nearly as selfless to keep that piece of information from you," Draco said affronted. "But I promise. Now let's sleep; we have to be up in a few hours."

bSunday - January 11, 1997

Sirius entered the boys' room while they were packing. "Lunch is almost ready, guys, and then we leave. Do you have long before you finish?"

"No, we're almost done, Professor." Draco's eyes moved between the two Gryffindors.

"Are we okay, Harry?" Sirius ventured.

Harry looked at his godfather and nodded. "It's just, I know so little about my parents that you withholding such an important fact hurt."

"I'm sorry, but...It's not that I didn't want to tell you; it's just that I have the memories, but I can't always tell their emotional importance."

"The Dementors," Draco stated. Sirius looked at the boy sadly and nodded. "My dad talked about them. I think that's one of the reason he is dead."

"Draco, your father died of a heart attack."

Draco laughed sadly at Sirius. "Let me tell you a story, Professor. There was a man who was a Death Eater. He realized that most of his associates were being killed or arrested by the Aurors. The man's master wanted new blood and told his loyal subject that their children should join. The man didn't want his son involved. He knew that if he refused he would die, a Death mark would appear over his house, he would be investigated and his fortune would be appropriated by the Ministry. Even if his master didn't kill him, eventually the Aurors would catch up with him much to the same result."

Draco sat down on the bed, in fingers laced. He raised his head and stared at the older wizard. "The man had a friend who was a great Potions master. While his friend wouldn't help him kill himself, his friend believed that knowledge shouldn't be kept from anyone and gave the man the directions to a potion. So the man prepared a potion that would cause his heart attack. He made sure that all his financial affairs were in order. He took his wife's name out of his will. He left everything to his son. He made sure to take the potion when his friend and his son were at school, so that even if something were to be discovered, they wouldn't suffer."

"That's a nice story, Draco, but how do you know that it's true? Did Severus say something?" Sirius' voice was soft as he regarded the young man.

"No. Dad sent me a letter before he died. He explained everything he had done. Then, he went to great lengths to instruct me on the family business as if I was paying attention by that point," Draco said sarcastically. "Severus got a similar letter, minus the business part."

"Your father tried to protect you the best way he knew how." Sirius patted Draco on the shoulder. The boy smiled at his teacher and then turned to face Harry. "I promised that I wouldn't keep things from you." Harry sat next to him and kissed him on the head.

"That's very sage. Maybe when we return to Hogwarts, we can set a time to spend together," Sirius told his godson. "It would help me remember. Now, finish packing because Livia will call you soon."

"I can finish packing, if you want," Harry asked when the two boys were alone again.

"No, it's fine, but thanks for the offer."

"I wonder what Ron would say if he saw us like this."

Draco snickered. "Oh, I'll enjoy watching his face when we tell him about us."

"You want to tell him?" Harry sounded surprised.

"Harry, I've seen what secrets have done to Severus and your godfather. If making it public will save us a tenth of what they went through, I'm going to tell the entire world."

"All right, we'll tell them."

Finally ready, the five wizards and Victoria used a portkey to reach Hogwarts directly. They all split up to get ready for the arrival of all the students. The return to Hogwarts was scheduled on Sunday, so that classes would resume regularly on Monday.

Having found Ron and Hermione, Harry dragged them outside and toward the lake.

"Harry, it's bloody cold. Can't you tell us whatever it's going on inside?" Ron was keeping his cloak securely around his body.

"Ron, Harry must have his reason," Hermione rebutted, but she looked skeptical.

When they reached the lake, the trio saw seven Slytherins leisurely sitting on the ground, completely unaffected by the cold.

"Move closer. You must be bloody freezing out there," Draco drawled. His friends looked at him and tensed waiting to see what would happen.

Harry moved forward pulling Ron and Hermione by the hand. "Weather bubble," he explained as they entered the magical protection. "Victoria taught us to do the spell."

Hermione started to think that Ron was right: Harry had lost his bloody mind. Must have been the two weeks that he spent with Professor Snape.

"Harry, what's going on?" Ron looked suspiciously around.

The Slytherins shared the sentiment, but didn't question Draco in public, limiting themselves to sending glares his way.

"Shall we tell them, Potter?" Draco raised an eyebrow and Harry found it difficult not to laugh.

"I think we should show them, Malfoy." He kneeled in front of Draco and kissed him. When they broke the kiss, Draco winked at him before turning Harry around so he could sit between the Slytherin's legs.

A stunned silence reigned between the students. Draco looked around waiting for the outburst, but everyone seemed too shocked to speak. He sighed. "Granger, Weasley sit down."

The two obeyed unconsciously. Draco wanted to laugh. If only he had known that it would be so easy to get them to follow his lead.

Harry turned around and looked at the Slytherins. Draco had told him that Greg was dating Millie, while Vince was going out with Pansy, much to Harry's relief, but he didn't remember the girl who was sitting next to Blaise. "Hi, I'm Harry," he told her.

The girl smiled unsure. "I'm Rosemary, Blaise's girlfriend. I guess you're Draco's boyfriend."

Her admission seemed to wake the rest of the group. Cries, questions and catcalls were spurted out at the same time. Harry and Draco sat calmly, letting the questions die out.

"Draco and I have become friends in the last months and we are together now. I hope that's not a problem for any of you," Harry said when things quieted down. "Ron, Herm, I love you like family and I hope you accept Draco because he is important to me."

"We don't have a choice, do we?" Draco was unpleasantly shocked at how calmly Weasley was taking this. The Slytherin had dreamt up ways to tease the redhead without breaking his promise to not insult Ron. Harry shook his head as Draco's arms closed around him.

"What about you guys?" Harry asked the Slytherins. Draco had told him not worry, but Harry didn't think it was so easy.

"Draco wants us to kill you, we'll help; Draco wants to shag you, then he's on his own." Everyone laughed at Greg's words.

"What my boyfriend is not so eloquently trying to say is that we'll accept any of Draco's boyfriends," Millie added.

"Besides, we should be proud that Draco snatched the most eligible bachelor after Draco himself," Pansy added with a smile.

"As if anyone but the Boy Who Lived would be brave enough to sleep next to Draco. He probably keeps a dagger under his pillow," Blaise teased.

"Oh, I don't have to. If he kills me, he'll only have his right hand for company. Draco is Slytherin enough to know what's in his best interest." Everyone laughed.

Victoria had seen the three Gryffindors sneak out and had followed them to see what they were up to. When they had reached the Slytherin group, she had stayed hid to observe the developments. When it was clear that everything was well, she approached them.

"You two are lousy wizards," she told Harry and Draco. She waived her wand and made the bubble bigger and warmer.

"Show off," Draco told her smiling.

She ignored him and lay down on the ground. Draco stared at her before getting comfortable on his side and resting his head on her stomach. Harry moved closer and leaned against Draco.

"What are you doing here, Vicky? I would think that you'd be busy." Draco wanted to know.

"Dumbledore called a staff meeting before supper." Harry and Draco nodded understandingly.

Ron wasn't similarly inclined. "And this gives you the right to bother us? Are you spying for your father?"

"You're an idiot, Weasley. My papà doesn't need me to take points off the Gryffindors."

"Right, we all know what a bastard he is. I'm amazed he ever found someone to sleep with him. He must have since we have the dubious fortune to have you here," Ron spat back.

Harry choked at the statement. He successfully changed the subject before Victoria hexed his friend. At the moment, he wasn't too thrilled with Ron either.

The youngsters continued their discussion. For the first time in years, Slytherins and Gryffindors were finding that they were not so different once old prejudices were ignored.

"There you are. Minerva was worried when she couldn't find you. It's almost time for supper," Sirius told the three Gryffindors as he approached the weather bubble with Remus at his side.

The Slytherins tensed immediately. Only Draco and Vicky remained unmoved.

"We lost track of time. Sorry," Harry answered but he looked anything but apologetic.

"I guess we better go. Papà is probably looking for us." Victoria moved Draco's head and stood up, brushing the dry leaves and twigs from her clothes.

Remus looked at his girlfriend with a smile. "That really looks good," he told her pointing at her outfit.

Sirius blanched. Victoria had on a tight white top that barely covered her breasts. The trousers were low cut and hugged her hips well below her navel. "Close your robe immediately. I thought you were going to dress appropriately."

"Look," she stated calmly, "we have had this discussion once before. Only the headmaster and the head of my House can tell me how to dress. You are neither."

"I don't give a bloody damn about the headmaster or Severus. You will zip that robe up and won't open it until you are in your room. Do you understand, Victoria?" Sirius ignored the curious looks he was getting. Merlin only knew what these kids were thinking.

"And why should I listen to you?" She fought back.

"Because I'm your father!" Sirius exclaimed. The students looked between father and daughter in silence.

Victoria smiled. "Okay!"

Sirius was even more surprised that the students. "Okay?"

"Okay!" Victoria shrugged. She moved closer. "You do realize what you just said, don't you?"

"I don't care. You are my daughter and I don't care who knows it." Victoria smiled at her father and he grinned back.

"You should all be inside getting ready for supper." Severus' voice could have frozen hell. Looking at his daughter, he added, "I thought we agreed that you could wear that top with your pleated blue trousers or those trousers with your green leotard so that your clothes could accomplish the goal they were intended for, i.e. cover your body."

"Papà!" Victoria rolled her eyes, while Hermione giggled.

"And what do you find so funny, Ms. Granger?" Severus was not in a good mood. He hadn't been in a good mood since the new year and having any type of discussion with a Gryffindor didn't improve his spirit.

"I'm sorry, Sir. It's just that the idea of you knowing about women's clothes...it's just unusual," Hermione answered timidly.

"I can name any clothing article you can think of and some that you don't even know they exist. I did raise a daughter, after all."

"Professor, are you Victoria's father?" Vince was curious and brave enough to ask.

"Of course, I am, Mr. Crabbe. What inane notion made you even doubt it?" When Severus was so sarcastic with his Slytherins, it never bode well for anyone.

"Professor Black said that you aren't..."

"That's not what I said," Sirius interrupted Vincent. However, his resolve died when he saw the rage in Severus' eyes.

"What exactly did you say?" The words were hissed through gritted teeth.

"I just told them that Vicky is my daughter." As much as Sirius wanted to make peace with his lover, he would not back down on the subject. Victoria had finally accepted him and he was not going to disappoint her.

Victoria rested her hand on Severus' arm. "I don't mind, papà."

"I mind. I do not share my life with students." Severus turned and began walking. "You all have detention for being late for supper. And Remus, you better remember your potion or you won't be teaching for long," he added without looking at the group.

The students groaned and began walking toward the castle.

Remus sighed. "Oh well, it couldn't last forever. Severus just isn't sweet."

"It's more than that, Moony. Unfortunately, it'll take a warm day in hell before Severus will simply say what's bothering him." Sirius frowned. He just knew that there was something that he had missed.

"Come on, dad. I'm sure we'll figure it out together. Papà can't stay angry with the both of us forever." Sirius nodded at his daughter, but he wasn't so sure. Severus was good at holding grudges. Twenty years later, Severus still twitched every time that the shack was mentioned. Sirius hoped that Vicky was right.


Part 17 - The Anniversary

February 4, 1997

The evil Potions master came back with a vengeance. Since the start of the term, students had learnt that running away was their only form of self-preservation. Even the seventh years knew better than to mess with Professor Snape.

While things had gotten progressively bad, this day had been particularly cruel. Victoria sat in the teachers' room with Remus and Sirius. The other teachers were also hiding in there, since Severus never came in unless Albus called a meeting.

"What's going on with papà? He gave detention to 7 Ravenclaws, 4 Hufflepuffs and half of Draco's class. He almost gave me detention. I heard from the Red Baron that he gave another 15 detentions while roaming through the school and all of this before lunch."

Albus laughed, having overheard Victoria's outburst. His laughter, however, was short-lived. There must have been a reason for Severus to go back to his old habits. "Sirius, what did you do to Severus?" the Headmaster inquired. His eyes were still sparkling, but his voice was colder than usual.

"I haven't done anything," Sirius answered affronted. "And if I did, I have no idea."

Minerva snorted. "Right, and I just turned 35 yesterday. Of course, you did something. You're just too stupid to see it."

Remus laughed. "And I thought you and Severus hated each other."

Minerva's smile was tightlipped. "We don't hate each other; we respectfully dislike our Houses."

Albus chuckled. He was well aware that for all their differences, Severus and Minerva enjoyed each other's company and wit.

The Head of Gryffindor collected her books from the table and stood. She neared Sirius and put a hand on his shoulder. "Think about it. I'm sure you'll remember what you did."

Sirius stared at her. It finally dawned on him. "You know what's upsetting Severus so much."

"I have my suspicions," she said kindly. "Remember that the past has a bigger impact than we would like to admit." She left without any further explanation.

For once, even Albus was confused. The master in riddles had no idea what she was talking about. Sirius didn't seem to be doing any better until his eyes became as big as saucers.

"Sweet Merlin! Remus, Vicky, I need you to do me a favor. Can you take care of the detentions?" Sirius was already planning what to do to fix things with Severus.

"You have got to be kidding, Padfoot. What am I going to do with almost fifty students?"

"Of course, we'll help," Vicky answered, swapping Remus on the head. "We'll just have a study period. I think we should also return the points he took off today. I think we are using negative numbers to keep the score."

Albus snickered. "You're right, my child. I think at the moment Hufflepuff is leading with minus 50 points." There was general laughter around the room. Sirius didn't pay attention as he left the room to put his plan in motion.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Sirius walked into Severus' office without knocking. The Potions master raised his head from the parchment. Surprise at the rude intrusion turned into anger when he saw the source of the intrusion. "What do you think you're doing?"

"I want you to come with me. There is something that I must show you."

"Go away, Sirius. I have detentions to supervise." Severus kept straightening up his desk without bothering to look at the other man.

Sirius snickered. "Detentions. I hear that the total for the day is close to one hundred and thirty."

"That's none of your business. I will discipline my students any way I see fit," Severus snapped back.

"I'm not judging you." The animagus raised his hands, to show that he was backing off. Somehow, his daughter had rubbed off on him and he was constantly communicating with his hands.

"Just come with me. This won't interfere with the detentions." Sirius neared his lover and crouched in front of him. "I know you're upset with me, but if you still don't want to talk to me afterwards, then I'll understand."

Severus pondered the request. It was a rare treat to see the animagus so serious. The least he could do was to see what Sirius had planned. He got up silently and moved towards the door. When he reached the entrance, he turned and stared at the Gryffindor. "I assume that what you want to show me is not in my office."

Sirius hid a smile. He must be going insane, but he truly thought that Severus looked adorable when he was so grouchy. However, he was not mad enough to say that aloud.

The animagus got up and led Severus out of the castle and onto the grounds. Walking southwards, Sirius moved toward the Whomping Willow.

When they reached their destination, Severus eyed his lover with suspicion. "What kind of game are you playing?"

"No games, Severus. Just trust me." Sirius took Severus' hand and pulled him even closer to the violent tree.

Sirius prodded the knot of the Whopping Willow with a long stick. The branches quieted down and they were able to safely enter the secret passage.

The animagus led Severus through the narrow passage. Their hands joined. Sirius hoped that he wasn't making a big mistake.

Severus, on the other hand, was having completely different thoughts. He was back in time and each step brought him closer to that night. The Slytherin's breath became ragged. He tried to focus on Sirius' hand closed around his, but it was in vain. The muddy walls seemed to cave on him. He started to pant, breathing faster and faster. His hearth was moving faster than a speed car on a closed circuit. He needed air. He needed to breathe.

And suddenly the world went blank except for a familiar voice. "Severus! Severus, calm down. You're hyperventilating. Just concentrate on me."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

I never thought you were a fool
But darling, look at you
You gotta stand up straight, carry your own weight
These tears are going nowhere, baby

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it
Don't say that later will be better now you're stuck in a moment
And you can't get out of it

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Severus wasn't sure how long he had sat on the damp ground. His cheek burned; he could barely remember the slap that Sirius had given him to wake him up from his breakdown. He opened his eyes and focused on the other man.

"We're almost there Severus. Look!" Sirius pointed to the wood pegs attached to one side that led up to the Shrieking Shack.

"That's what I'm afraid," Severus mumbled.

"There is nothing there, Severus. You need to face this, for yourself and for us." Sirius kept brushing his lover's hair, trying to calm the Potions master.

"I can't if you don't let go so I can stand," Severus snapped back.

Sirius smiled at him. "Silly me! And here I thought I was helping." He stretched an arm; the Potions master grabbed the proffered hand and pulled himself up.

"You could have helped by leaving me alone. I was doing fine before you dragged me down here." Severus knew that he was being unreasonable, but this place didn't conjure pleasant memories. Their destination was even more intimidating.

Sirius closed the gap between then and kissed his lover. "You weren't doing fine, Severus. You've been miserable for days. I'm trying to help." His voice sounded calm and certain, but Sirius was afflicted with doubts. He wanted his lover back. He also wanted the carefree person that Severus used to be. Of course, that might never happen. His only certainty was that they needed to get past that night if they had any chance to be together.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

I will not forsake, the colours that you bring
But the nights you filled with fireworks
They left you with nothing
I am still enchanted by the light you brought to me
I still listen through your ears, and through your eyes I can see

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Severus left the warmth of Sirius' arms and moved toward the trapdoor. Every fiber of his body told him to turn around and go back to the safety of his dungeon. Only his pride kept him moving. He quickly reached the wooden ladder that would lead him to the shack, but hesitated once he got there. He touched one peg as if ready to climb up.

Suddenly, he snatched his hand back as if he had been burned.

Sirius noticed, but refrained from commenting. He suspected that anything he said would have been taken as an insult. Instead, he smiled his million-watt smile. With an 'I'll go first, Severus', Sirius began to ascent, turning his head to make sure that the Potions master was following.

The animagus climbed out of the passage and into the hall of the Shrieking Shack. He waited for Severus to come out with trepidation. Sirius knew that this was probably the final test to their relationship.

Severus entered the hall and closed the trapdoor. He stared at Sirius for a few moments. "Well!" he snapped, holding on to the last strand of self-control he possessed. "It's still the same horrible place it was."

"Minus the werewolf," Sirius murmured. He knew that Severus had every right to be upset, but the strain in their relationship was getting to him as well. He resisted every impulse to shout back and return to their bickering.

Severus raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment.

"Few more moments and then you can hex me into oblivion." Sirius grabbed his lover's hand and pulled him toward a closed door. Butterflies flew in his stomach. He closed his eyes and wished to all deities that his plan would work. Releasing a breath, he slowly pushed the two wooden panels.

The hinges squeaked for years of disuse and rust. Severus unconsciously held his breath as the door swung open. He finally let out the air trapped in his lungs as loving arms wrapped around his waist from behind.

"So, do you like it?" Severus detected a note of uncertainty.

Severus looked around the room. It looked like a setting from a fairy tale. Candles lit the room. Flowers were spread around the room and in the air. The enchanted ceiling showed the constellations at their brightest. The floor felt like clouds under each step. "How could I not?" Severus sounded out of breath.

"Good!" Sirius beamed with joy.

Severus frowned. "I don't understand. I haven't been..."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

And you are such a fool
To worry like you do
I know it's tough, and you can never get enough
Of what you don't really need now... my oh my

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it
Oh love look at you now
You've got yourself stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

"You've been a total prick, one phenomenal pain in the arse. You have terrorized every student and our daughter." An understanding smile took the bite off the harsh words. "I also know why you've acted this way."

The Gryffindor walked Severus toward a couch. They sat side by side, a contact that they hadn't experienced since New Year's Day. Sirius sighed.

Severus instinctively put his arm around the animagus. "I'm sorry. I'm not used to talk about what I feel. I've been self-reliant for so long that it's difficult to open up again.

Sirius rested his head on Severus' shoulder. "I know, Severus, and I'm not upset. I just couldn't understand for a while. Then, Minerva told me that the past is never buried and I made the connection. Today, it's the anniversary. Twenty-one years since the night I sent you after Moony." Sirius took a deep breath, mentally praying that things would go his way. "I know I've apologized numerous times and you have accepted them, but the truth is that you are still hurt."

"Sirius..." Severus was shushed by a finger on his lips. Sirius had a speech ready, because without it, he would never have the courage to say what he needed to tell the man he had loved since he was a teenager.

"I have thought about what I could do to fix this, but I realized that there is nothing that anyone can do, except you. I know you can't forget, but I hope you can see past it and we can be together."

He was trying to finish his speech when Severus interrupted him. "That sounds really easy, but it's not." The Potions master sighed. "I thought I was over it, but the closer we got to this date, the more upset I got. The news about the Potters, the fight, the jealousy. Then you decide to announce our past to the students. I felt like I did back then: out of control, my life depending on others. It brought many feeling to the surface."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

I was unconscious, half asleep
The water is warm till you discover how deep...
I wasn't jumping... for me it was a fall
It's a long way down to nothing at all

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Sirius moved quickly until he was straddling Severus' lap. He held the Slytherin as close as physically possible, stroking his hair, nuzzling his cheek. "I'm sorry, so sorry." The words became a litany until Severus relaxed into his arms.

Sirius kissed his lover with a passion sprung from over a month of celibacy. Their warm tongues lavished in their joint exploration. Teeth scraped against each other in a rush to be as close as possible. Only their need for oxygen broke the kiss.

"I thought we could start a new tradition. Remember this date for something pleasurable," Sirius whispered.

"You seem to think that we can solve all our problems with sex." It wasn't an accusation, but a simple observation.

"Maybe, but if you have a better suggestion, I'm all ears. I'll do anything to put this behind us. As much as it hurts me, we can't be together if it makes you suffer so much. I'd rather see you happy than..." The knot in his throat silenced Sirius. The night was leading up to this moment, either they could get past it or he would have to set Severus free.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it
Don't say that later will be better now
You're stuck in a moment and you can't get out of it

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

"Than what?" Severus raised Sirius' chin until they were looking at each other. "Than stay with me? Do you truly think that I would be happier with someone else?" Severus wrapped his arms around his lover, trying to give love and reassurance. "Sirius, I don't have a quick solution, but I don't want to lose you. I gave birth to your daughter, I love you, and I can't think of anyone else with whom I would rather be."

Sirius raised his eyes. A shimmering veil of unshed tears covered his blue eyes. "So where do we go from now?"

"First, I should go back and take care of all those students showing up for detention," Severus sighed.

"Don't worry about them. I asked Vicky and Remus to meet them." When he saw the scowl on Severus' face, Sirius quickly added, "They won't cancel the detentions. They are going to turn them into a study period. No other way to deal with all those students."

Severus chuckled. "Actually, I was going to send them to Argus. Let him deal with those demonic brats. I guess I avoided a few trips."

"You were going to come back?" Sirius sounded incredulous.

"Of course. After everything you've done-" Severus gestured to the room. "It's the least I could have done."

"Gratitude is what motives you," Sirius said dejectedly.

"Don't be such a prick." Severus cupped his lover's face. He lightly kissed a cheek and then the other, before caressing Sirius' lips. "Every time I've thought of this place, I've relived that night; I've seen a werewolf with bared teeth ready to kill me. Maybe now, for the first time in twenty-one years, I'll see flowers and stars. I won't feel like I've been betrayed, but I'll feel your love."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

And if the night runs over
And if the day won't last
And if your way should falter
Along the stony pass
It's just a moment
This time will pass

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

They never had sex that night, but they stayed in each other's arms, talking and kissing, laughing and petting, sharing their love.

"You were wrong, Sirius. You did fix this with your patience and understanding."

"No, Severus, we did it together."


Part 18 - Family

March 18, 1997

If Sirius had expected his revelation about Vicky to the students to remain confidential, his hopes were crushed pretty quickly. By the beginning of February, every student knew that Sirius and Severus were Victoria's parents.

Discretion became useless. Sirius decided to take advantage of the situation and he moved in with the Potions master on Valentine's Day, without discussing it previously with his lover.

A month later, he was still alive, and that gave him hope that Severus would eventually agree to be bonded. For the moment, he was happy to share every second of his life with the other wizard.

On this night, Sirius lay sated on their bed. Severus, however, was still restless.

"Would you like to tell me what's wrong or are we going to wait until you throw a temper tantrum?" Sirius joked. Severus had been on edge since he had been summoned to Albus' office and the animagus tried his best to lighten the situation.

"My father is dying."

Sirius had no way of transforming that statement into a joke. "I thought you and your father didn't talk."

"We don't." Severus turned to face his lover. "He sent a letter to Albus. He'd like to see me. He's sick and he's in need of a Potions master to find a cure. He's tried until now, but he's too sick to continue." The speech was delivered with unnatural calm and detachment.

Sirius pulled the Slytherin close. He began to run his fingers through Severus' hair. "Will you go?"

Severus closed his eyes and sighed. "I haven't decided."

Sirius nodded. The internal conflict was obvious and the Gryffindor knew that any choice would be painful. "Maybe you should go. You thought that Vicky should get to know me, although you considered me a bastard."

"I know my father and he is a bastard," Severus interrupted.

"You may never see him again. Can you live with that?"

Severus buried his head in Sirius' neck. "I don't know." The words were whispered, the voice unsteady. Sirius didn't push.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

The next evening, Severus was sitting in his living room with his family. The werewolf was there, but the Potions master considered Remus part of the family.

"Vicky, there is something you should know." Sirius rubbed a hand on his back. It felt so good to have such an intimate contact with no strings attached. Severus smiled at his lover in appreciation.

"My father has contacted the school. He needs my services to find a cure for his terminal illness." Severus got up and began to pace. "I haven't made a decision, but if I accept, I would need your help. You'll meet him and my mother."

Father and daughter stared at each other. Victoria ran a hand through her long hair and sighed. "I want to meet my grandparents, but I don't want you to feel forced to do this. However, you're the one who told me about giving fathers a second chance. Maybe grandfather has changed. You won't know unless you talk to him."

Severus took a deep breath. "I haven't decided, but if I go, I'd like to go as a family." He looked at his daughter and Sirius pointedly. "If the sod can't accept the people I care about, he can rot in hell."

"If you go with that attitude, you'll never reconcile with your father." Sirius got up and wrapped his arms around Severus' waist. "I'll go with you if you want me to."

Severus rested his temple against Sirius'. "Thank you."

Victoria laced her fingers through Remus' and looked at him with a raised eyebrow. Her boyfriend smiled. "I'll come if Severus wants me to."

"It's your decision, papà."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

March 21, 1997

A very subdued house-elf opened the front door, granting them entrance. Severus walked into the sitting room with Sirius by his side. Vicky and Remus walked behind them, holding hands.

"Mother," Severus said tersely to the woman sitting on a very expensive sofa.

"Severus, you shouldn't have brought guests. This is not a social call." Sirius could hear Severus grinding his teeth, trying to calm himself. Maybe this had not been a very good idea, Sirius thought.

"Vicky, Sirius, Remus, this is my mother Patricia Snape. Mother, this is Sirius Black."

"I've heard of you," she said interrupting the introductions.

"Almost everyone in England has heard my name at one point of another," Sirius responded politely.

"Yes, you might not have been so bad if..."

"If he had truly betrayed the Potters," Severus finished for her. "But he didn't." He hoped this would end this line of conversation. Severus went on with the introductions. "This is our daughter, Victoria, and Remus Lupin, her boyfriend."

"What a lovely family." Everyone turned to the source of the sarcastic statement. Sirius noticed that Severus tensed even more.

"Everyone, this is my father, Nero Snape. Good morning, Father. You seem well for someone who is allegedly at death's door."

"And you are so concerned about my health," Nero replied sarcastically.

"I am here, am I not?"

"That you are, and you brought an entire entourage to embarrass your mother and me."

"They are here for very specific reasons and embarrassing you is not one of them. Victoria is my assistant and a very capable potions maker. She is here to help so that we can find the cure as quickly as possible. Sirius and Remus are here to alleviate the ulcer that I will develop simply by being in your presence for three days." Severus remained impassive.

"What makes you think you'll find a cure, and in three days no less? I've been working on a cure for three years."

"I have to return to school. I'm hoping to have a base from which to work by Sunday. I will owl the different serums as we modify them." Severus looked pointedly at his father. "If you don't believe in my abilities, why did you contact Albus?"

The elder Snape sneered. "I contacted as many potions makers as I could. I didn't think you would have appreciated a direct owl. I never expected you to accept. No one else has."

"Must be your charming personality, Father. However, I'm a Potions master and I feel it's my responsibility to find a possible cure."

Nero snorted. "Such noble sentiments. Wait until you find a cure before you start bragging."

"If a cure exist, we will find it," Vicky said with conviction.

"Your daughter is as arrogant as you are," Nero told his son.

"I'm not," Vicky put in. "I am damn good at research, but papà is the best. If you read the Potions Journal, you would know that he doesn't need this to become famous. He already is."

Nero ignored her once more. "Severus, at least you have one supporter."

Sirius wanted to hex the man, but he chose a less violent approach. "Vicky is not the only one. Severus is respected as a brilliant potions maker, a powerful wizard and a wonderful man."

Severus smiled and relaxed when he felt Sirius' hand pressed against his back.

"You forgot a perverted faggot."

Severus tensed again, ready to retort, but Vicky was quicker. "You are a nasty man and I don't like you. I now know why papà never speaks of you. I'm glad that I had uncle Luciano and aunt Livia to take care of me. I'm sure papà wants to leave as much as I do, so tell us what the problem is so we can start working on a potion."

"Feisty, your little one," Nero told Severus. "Very well. I did some experiments for the Ministry. The fumes from all the argentum I used have cause my lungs to deteriorate. It's similar to Muggle lung cancer, although this is not caused by a virus." He sighed. "I have been working for a potion to clear the damage, but I haven't been successful."

"How long were you exposed to it and what other substances were mixed in the potions?" Severus kept his mind focused on the problem. It was easier than dealing with his parents on an emotional level.

"We started the experiments in 1979. It was mostly used in conjunction with aconite," Nero said impassively.

"Wolfsbane!" Severus shook his head and closed his eyes. "When did you discover the Wolfsbane potions, Father? How long did you keep it a secret?"

Nero smiled evilly. "Oh, we had the formula back in 1975. We just wanted to modify it to make it possible for the werewolves to control the transformation at will."

"Sweet Lord, Father! You were trying to control the werewolves," Severus whispered.

Nero looked pointedly at his son. "I was not doing anything of the kind." His voice was cold. "I was doing what our Lord asked me to, and that's what you should have done."

"You continued working on this even after he was gone," Severus stated pointedly.

"But how did you prevent the silver in the potion from killing the werewolves?" Vicky asked, trying to see if they could find a solution to lycanthropy while helping her grandfather.

"You didn't, did you, father?" Severus' black eyes were fixed on his father. "I'd be surprised if they knew the risks or if they did it voluntarily. After all, your friends at the department for the regulation and control of magical creatures were more than willing to supply the names of the werewolves. And maybe, the werewolf capture unit helped you find your 'volunteers'. Kidnapping and murder are naturally small deeds to further Lord Voldemort's goals. You disgust me."

"Oh, don't give me that sanctimonious attitude. So a hundred werewolves or so died, but think what we could do if we found a potion to control the transformation." Nero's voice had a dream-like quality.

"You can't kill people in the name of science, Father. I could have condoned it, if they had truly volunteered and knew the risks. You're not a potions maker, you're a killer," Severus accused his father.

Nero neared his son and invaded Severus' personal space. "You killed and tortured people just like me. The fact that you changed sides to save your arse doesn't make you any different than me."

"I changed sides when I realised the crap you'd been feeding me. Voldemort was no better than Hitler and I wanted no part in his plan," Severus spat the words out.

"Cazzo, mi sto sentendo male.22" Vicky sat, her head resting on her hands, a cascade of black hair covering her face.

Her fathers moved close to her immediately. Severus kneeled in front of her and brushed her hair. "Go back to Hogwarts, Vicky. Remus will come with you," the Potions master said softly.

The witch held her hair with one hand in a tight ponytail and stared at her father. "No, we said together. I'm not leaving."

Sirius chuckled. "What else did you expect from your daughter? Stubborn like you and brave like me."

Severus smiled softly to the two of them, before standing up and facing his father again, the cold expression back in place. "Give me all your notes on the experiments and the potions you tried to find a cure. I'll take them back to Hogwarts immediately and we'll work from there."

"Very well. However, I doubt she can help you if she is so weak."

Remus had been silent, but couldn't control his instincts anymore. "She is your granddaughter and her name is Victoria." Remus neared the older wizard and wished that he could let the werewolf out to tear into the flesh of this man. "And for your information, she is one of the strongest people I know."

Nero Snape snorted. "Yes, I can see that."

"She is reacting like that, because I am a werewolf, sir, and Victoria and Severus have spent their time preparing the Wolfsbane potion to ensure that I don't give in to my more animalistic instincts. However, at this very moment, I would do what I have never done in my life: kill a man." Amber eyes were fixed on Nero's black ones. Remus refused to look away first. He waited patiently until the other man lowered his gaze and left the room.

"You're going to let him die, won't you?" Patricia asked her son, only curiosity colouring her voice.

"Unlike him, I'm not a monster. I'll do everything in my power to find a cure." His mother nodded.

Nero returned with rolls of parchment. Severus quickly took them. Remus was already leading Vicky outside. Sirius stood by his side until they left the house to go back to their home.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Sirius was sitting in their living room. Vicky and Remus were sharing the sofa, while Harry and Draco were sprawled on the couch. Severus would have killed them if he saw them with their shoes on his furniture. But Severus wasn't there; Severus hadn't been there for weeks. Sirius sighed.

"What's wrong, Padfoot?"

"Severus." Sirius sighed again. "I haven't seen him in weeks. I'm asleep when he comes to bed. He's gone when I get up. I doubt he even comes to bed. Since he's been working on that potion, he hasn't stopped a moment."

"You know Severus. He feels his duties strongly." Remus smiled at him, while his arms tightened around Victoria.

"This is not his duty," Sirius said angrily. "That son of a bitch doesn't deserve any help."

"Possibly, but Nero is still his father," Remus explained.

Draco sneered. "And what a father he is!"

At the moment, Severus appeared from his lab and moved toward the fireplace, ignoring everyone. He opened the floo connection and contacted his father.

"I think I've got it." Severus' voice had that excited quality that indicated his commitment to and passion about potion making. "The potion is too volatile. We can't risk moving it through the floo system."

The other people present stayed silent, imaging what were the possible comments being made at the other end. After a few minutes, Severus murmured a few passwords and stepped aside. His father appeared from the fire.

Nero looked around the room. His eyes fell on Sirius. "Do you even have a room or do you live off my son's wealth?"

Severus hissed. "These are his rooms as well as mine, not that it's any of your business, Father."

Nero grunted noncommittally and continued the scan of the room. He stared at the blonde boy sitting on the couch. "You must be Lucius' son." Draco nodded. "Your father was a great man."

Draco smiled but said nothing. He understood perfectly why Nero Snape held his father in high regards.

"Why are you in my son's rooms?" Nero asked.

"Vicky and I are friends and Professor Snape is my legal guardian until I become an adult." Draco kept the bright and very fake smile on his face.

"Let's just hope for you that he doesn't corrupt you. Living with a man!" Nero shook his head, more talking to himself than anyone else.

"Oh, I don't think Professor Snape could corrupt me, sir," Draco said politely. "You see I've been corrupted since birth." Draco planted a kiss on Harry's mouth. "This is my boyfriend, Harry Potter."

Nero shot a look of pure hatred at the two boys. "Your father is rolling in his grave," he finally said.

"Father, leave Draco alone. He knows very well how proud Lucius would be to see what a fine young man he is." Severus' voice remained cold, but there was a soft glow in his eyes as he looked at the young Slytherin. "Now, I'm going to scan you and see the damage. You can take the potion and I scan you again."

"Right, the quicker we do it, the quicker we can see how badly you ballsed it up," Nero said sarcastically.

Severus remained silent as he moved his wand over his father's chest. When he was done, he gave his father a phial. "Sit down and drink it."

His father did as told. Everyone looked on in absolute silence. If anyone expected sparks and lights, he would be disappointed.

Severus moved to his father's side and began scanning again. He stayed silent through the process. Finally, he stood up again. "Your lungs are clear. I'm sure you don't believe me. You can have the school mediwizard check or you can see your own mediwizard. You should check in another few weeks to make sure that the effect is not temporary. I will send you the formula as soon as I register it with the Ministry. Now, kindly leave my house and my life. I never want to see you again." The speech was delivered in a low monotone voice, as if reciting potions ingredients to First years.

Nero looked stunned. Whether because Severus had found a cure when he had not or because he was being thrown out, no one knew.

"Wow, Professor. Even I know that what you did is pretty impressive," Harry said what everyone was thinking.

"He is right, son. To find a cure and in three weeks. It's..."

"As Vicky has previously explained, I am good at what I do, much better than you could ever dream to be. Now leave and have a nice life." Severus motioned to the fireplace.

"Yes, I'd better be going. Goodbye, Severus." Nero disappeared into the flames.

Sirius neared his lover immediately. Severus stood silently with his eyes closed. Sirius brushed the black hair from Severus' face. "Severus?"

Severus' eyes blinked open and focused on his lover's face. "I need some air."

"No, you need some sleep. Come on, off to bed. I'm sure you'll feel better when you wake up." Severus glared at Sirius, but let the animagus steer him toward the bedroom.

As soon as they were inside, Sirius locked the door and put a silencing charm up, to ensure their privacy. He turned the blankets and helped Severus take his clothes off. The Potions master lay down on the bed and curled up in a foetal position.

Sirius sat on the bed and began running his hands through Severus' hair. "Do you want to tell me what's wrong?"

Severus swallowed. "What have I done, Sirius? I've saved a monster, who will spread even more evil. The world would be a much safer place without him."

Sirius felt his heart go out to his lover. He lay next to Severus and pulled him closer, his hands caressing gently his lover's face. "You did what you had to, Severus. You would not have been able to live with yourself if you had let him die. And that's because you're an honourable man."

Severus turned around and buried his head in the Gryffindor's chest. "I'm sorry, Sirius. I'm acting..."

"Human? It's just the two of us in here. No matter what you want people to think, I know that you have a big heart and an even bigger sense of duty."

Severus raised his head and stared at his lover. "Make love to me," he whispered.

"Are you sure?" Sirius asked with a raised eyebrow. "You said..."

"I know what I said, but I want you, I want to feel you in me. Please?"

"Merlin, you don't have to ask twice." Sirius was naked and back in bed in seconds. Severus chuckled at the alacrity, but couldn't blame Sirius. Until now, Severus had always been on top, needing to retain some control in their relationship. Now, another barrier was being destroyed.

Their lovemaking was slow and sensual, a confirmation of their love and trust for each other. Bodies joined as their soul met until they both rode the waves of ecstasy. Finally spent, they rested close together, until they both fell asleep, uncaring of the world outside.


Part 19 - Together

May 2, 1998

"You seem to have moved in with us," Severus told Remus.

The werewolf raised his head from grading students' assignment and smiled softly. "It feels like home, but I'll go if you mind."

"No, I was simply making an observation. Where is everyone else?"

"Sirius is supervising detentions and Vicky had to go to the Slytherin common room. I didn't even want to inquire what she and Draco were up to." Remus shook his head.

"Good, we're alone."

"Planning to kill me?" Remus asked with a smile.

"I thought we had established that I can kill you on a monthly basis." Severus smirked. "I have a more important reason for wanting to be alone with you than your possible demise. I want to throw a surprise birthday party for Sirius."

"Oh, no!" Remus released the quill he was holding and began pacing. "Last time we celebrated Padfoot's birthday in school, we ended up being sick for weeks. The cake was soaked with a potion that shrank our stomachs. Professor Green swore that not even a seventh Year could have had the knowledge to prepare such a potion, but we know better, don't we?"

"I was quite pleased with that ruse. No one was ever able to pin it on the Slytherins." Severus smirked unabashedly. "However, I promise I won't poison anyone. I just want to make it special for him. He hasn't celebrated a birthday since before Azkaban," he added seriously.

Remus sighed and then nodded. "All right, Severus, I'll help you."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Thursday, May 22, 1998

"Wake up, Sirius. We're already late for breakfast." Severus shook his lover.

"Go away. I'll just go to class."

Severus chuckled. "Professor, you're supposed to set the example for the students." The Potions master lay down next to Sirius and began tracing the animagus' earlobe with a quill.

Sirius swatted the quill away. "Leave me alone," he groaned.

Severus leaned forward until his lips brushed against his lover's ear. "Happy birthday, Sirius." He planted butterfly kisses down Sirius' neck.

The Gryffindor turned to face Severus and smiled. "Thanks." He stretched and hugged the Potions master. "Can we stay here?"

"Nice try, Sirius, but no. I promise I'll make it up to you tonight."

Sirius sighed, but got up and began his day.

The Great Hall was as loud as always. On a normal day, no one would have noticed their entrance, but today the students were staring at the Head table. Harry was standing in front of the table to wish his godfather a happy birthday.

"I'll stop by after tea and I can give you my gift." Harry hugged Sirius and went back to his table.

Remus and Vicky walked in at that moment. They hadn't been in their rooms, so Sirius assumed that they stayed at Remus' chambers.

"Happy birthday, Padfoot." Remus patted his back.

"Happy birthday, Father." Victoria kissed him on the cheek.

After that, everyone proceeded to ignore the birthday boy for the rest of the day.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Sirius walked into his bedroom after supper. Not that he had had time to eat. No, the entire day had gone from bad to worse faster than a snitch. He knew he shouldn't have got up that morning.

Today was the first sunny day after a week of constant rain. It had made the students jumpy and excitable. Not that his lover had any problem with the students. He had been told by numerous Gryffindors how orderly the Potions classes had been, even more than usual, thanks to Severuseral strategically given detentions. Maybe, Severus' art of discipline was not so horrible.

If the students weren't bad enough, the ghosts were even worse. The Red Baron disappeared while Peeves managed to create complete havoc in his classroom: the ink on his students' assignments disappeared, the desks became multicolour, and glue covered the floor. Supper had been a quick sandwich while he tried to fix his classroom.

Now, he reached his quarters and Severus was nowhere to be found. He was ready to return to bed when he heard Victoria yell his name. He sighed and walked back to the living room.

"Good, you're here. I need you to come with me. I've had some problems with two Slytherins, but I can't find papà. Please, help me." She pouted and batted her eyelashes. She knew that her father couldn't resist her. As much as he criticize her papà about spoiling her, he was just as bad.

"Let's go. After this, I'm going to bed and not getting up until Monday." Victoria laughed at her father. She grabbed his hand and began leading her father through the castle.

Sirius was getting dizzy as his daughter led him through passages and corridors. He wasn't even paying attention to where they were going and his mind was back in his bedroom. He almost ran into Victoria as she stopped in front of a door. She opened the door slowly.

"Lumos," Victoria murmured.

Sirius blinked as the fifty or so people present shouted 'happy birthday'. Harry was there with Draco, Ron and Hermione. They were the only students. All the teachers were present and he idly wondered who was keeping an eye on the students. Sirius was soon enveloped in hugs. He politely thanked each person, but his blue eyes were fixed on his lover.

Severus was standing at the far side of the room, leaning against the stonewall. He had an enigmatic smile on his face. His black eyes were following Sirius through the room.

Sirius couldn't get to Severus' side fast enough, but at each step, a new person stopped him. He was finally able to get to Severus' side after having been hugged by everyone in the room.

"Did you plan this?" Sirius asked.

"I might have. Do you like it?" Their eyes were fixed on each other. No one else existed at the moment.

"I love it. Thank you." Sirius' hand brushed against Severus' arm.

Severus traced Sirius' lips with his thumb. "Happy birthday, Sirius." Their lips met. The contact was soft and brief, but Sirius was on cloud nine: their first public kiss. He sighed and leaned into his lover's body. "I love you, Severus."

"Don't get sappy on me." Severus pushed him away, but smiled warmly. "You should do what you do best: charm everyone present."

"I don't seem to enjoy that as much as I used to. I'd rather go back to our bedroom, just the two of us."

Severus smiled. "Later, I promise." Whatever he was going to say next was interrupted by loud music. They both looked up and heard Minerva say, "What is that infernal noise?"

"Victoria has taken upon herself to enlarge our musical knowledge," Draco explained over the music. "She seems to be rather fond of techno and house at the moment."

"Stop being an arse, Draco. You know you love this. You enjoyed going dancing every night when we were in Italy." Victoria stuck her tongue out at the boy. "Come on, dance with me."

Draco grabbed Harry's hand and forced his boyfriend to join him and Victoria. "You can't leave me alone with her," he whispered in Harry's ear.

The Gryffindor laughed, but followed Draco in the corner of the room where Vicky was already dancing uncaring of the people staring at her. Harry had to admit that she was good. Her self-confidence made her move naturally and seductively. He would never move like that.

Vicky felt a body move against her back. She turned her head and smiled brightly at Draco. She looked around and found Harry. She beckoned him to approach her. Soon, the three were dancing together.

"You know they all think we're crazy," Harry told the other two. The two Slytherins smirked at him.

"I'm more worried that Lupin decides to kill us." Draco pointed at the werewolf who was coming their way.

Vicky disentangled herself and approached Remus. Her hands went to his hip and she began to rub herself against her boyfriend in time with the music.

"I don't think so, Vicky," Remus told her with a smile. "Try Sirius. He was the dancer in the group."

"Father?" Sirius looked at that bright smile and knew why Severus could never say 'no' to their daughter. "Dance with me?" Sirius smiled and nodded.

Soon, Hermione and Ron joined them as well. The witch was trying to get his boyfriend to follow the rhythm of the Muggle music, but Ron was not a patient student.

Never one to pass up the opportunity to insult a Gryffindor, Severus said, "Mr. Weasley, your potion-making skills are better than your dancing skills. That gives you an indication of what a horrible dancer you are."

"Don't pay attention to him, Mr. Weasley," Minerva intervened before her student could answer back and lose points for their House. "I'm sure Severus is just as bad if not worse."

"Can you imagine Severus dancing to a Muggle song?" Professor Sinistra said.

"Are you saying that I would be worse than a Gryffindor?" Severus asked icily.

Poppy Pomfrey snorted. "I think you'd rather be under the Cruciatus than make a spectacle of yourself."

Sirius was following the discussion from the impromptu dance floor, a smile creeping on his face. "Your father wants people to think he's a cold bastard, but he's such a drama queen," he murmured to his daughter.

Vicky bit her lip to stop from laughing. She too began to follow the little banter between her papà and the other teachers.

"Leave Severus alone. He shouldn't be pestered over Muggle music," the Headmaster was telling everyone.

"Thank you, Albus. However, I am still offended that they think that I am worse than a Gryffindor, and a Weasley to boot," Severus said indignantly.

"If you're so good, then put your money where your mouth is. I bet you 4 Galleons that you can't do as good as Mr. Weasley," Professor Hooch told him. A chorus of agreement was heard and the bets began rolling.

When everyone was done, Severus smirked. "I believe it's time to prove you wrong."

Severus waived his wand and the room was transformed. The room became dark, psychedelic lights pumping at rhythm of the music. The music got louder. Another swirl of his wand and his and Sirius' robes were transformed in Muggle clothes: tight trousers and even tighter white shirts that became purple under the lights.

The Potions master stalked toward his lover. Sirius smiled mischievously, an amused glimmer in his blue eyes. Severus smiled back and then, they were dancing, their bodies swaying to the beat, their eyes focused on each other as the pumping of the bass imitated their heartbeats, hips grinding against each other. Soon, there were no Slytherins nor Gryffindors, no professors nor students, just two men who wanted each other and each movement underscored that want.

When the song was over, Severus kept his eyes on his lover while he undid the spells. The room returned to normal, but everyone's eyes were focused on them.

Severus turned around and faced his colleagues with his usual calm. "It's time for me to collect my wins." He took all of his self-control not to burst laughing when he felt Sirius tremble with laughter behind him.

"Oh my, Severus. You are a man of mystery." Albus was the first to recompose himself. "You've shocked us more this year than all your years at this school."

"There aren't many secrets left." Severus blindly grabbed Sirius' hand. "It's time to open the gift."

"Are you rushing a bit?" Sirius asked.

"The sooner we get through this, the sooner we can go back to our room," Severus told him. The heat in his eyes clearly indicated the reason why the Slytherin wanted to go back.

"Opening the gifts, it is," Sirius said with a big grin on his face.

The four students witnessed the discussion with a mixture of awe and revulsion. Draco was the least affected. He wanted Severus to be happy, regardless who his choice of partner was.

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but they do look good together," Ron commented as Sirius approached the table where all the gifts were laying.

"It's more than looks. They love each other. Sirius lights up the moment Snape walks in the room. It's almost sickening," Harry noted with a shake of his head.

"Why exactly is that?" asked Draco seriously.

"It's Snape for Merlin's sake," Ron exclaimed. "What other reason do you need?"

"That's a pretty childish explanation, Weasley. He obviously cares for Black, they share a daughter and he has gone so far as to be nice to Harry to make Black happy. I don't understand why you are so reluctant to accept it." The blonde kept his voice neutral, but his eyes fixed on Harry.

"Because not too long ago, he despised every Gryffindor, and Sirius and Harry in particular," Ron pointed out.

"He didn't always hate the Gryffindors; Vicky is proof of that. He had very good reasons to be less than pleased with the Gryffindors," Draco rebutted.

"You're never going to agree, so why don't you drop it?" Harry told them.

"What do you think about this, Harry?" Draco asked.

"I know everything you said it's true. I understand that Sirius is as much to blame, if not more, but sometimes I look at him and I remember how he treated me for six years. Knowing that there were reasons doesn't make the memories go away." Draco nodded, obviously satisfied with Harry's answer.

Sirius' voice interrupted their discussion. "Harry, Draco, thank you very much." Sirius pointed at the Muggle clothes that they had given him. Both boys smiled at him.

"He's really going quickly with those gifts. He is almost done," Hermione noted.

"Snape must be really good if he's in such a rush." Ron blushed at Draco's comment. "Now, shush, I want to know what Snape and Vicky have gotten him. She has been so mysterious," Draco added.

The students' eyes focused on Sirius. Victoria was standing next to him, and Remus was behind her. Albus stood on the other side; he looked more excited than Sirius. Severus stood a few steps behind Sirius.

"Open this," Vicky said, handing Sirius a box and a card.

Sirius tore the wrapping paper and opened the box. He took out an old-fashioned gate key. He looked questioningly at his daughter.

"Look at the card," she told him, refusing to explain.

Sirius opened the card and pulled out a sheet of paper and a photo of a villa. "And how should this help me?"

"Idiota.23" Vicky shook her head.

"Victoria." The witch knew her papà's warning tone only too well.

"I'm sorry, but he could have read what's in his hands," she stated.

"I tried, but it's in Italian." Victoria chuckled at her father.

"It's a deed to our house, mine and yours," Severus explained calmly. "Vicky and I decided that staying in Italy, close to aunt Livia, was the best solution."

"You bought me a house? In Italy?" Sirius said incredulously.

"Yes, but if you don't like it, we can buy another one, in any country you want."

"No, Merlin, I love it." Sirius hugged his daughter, knowing that nothing he could say would express all that he was feeling.

"There is more," Victoria informed him. She gave him another envelope.

Sirius was speechless when he saw the document and read its contents.

"Would you like to enlighten us, Sirius?" Harry teased.

"It's Vicky's birth certificate." Sirius choked on the words. Severus pressed a hand against his back in support. Sirius blinked the tears away. "My name has been added." Sirius looked at his lover first and then at his daughter. "Thank you, both of you. This means so much to me."

"It was time," Severus said with a smile. "You have one more gift to open." The Potions master handed him a box.

Sirius removed its cover and picked up what was inside: silver and green silk threads braided into two delicate ropes. The animagus stared at them speechless while Severuseral people gasped at the sight.

"Severus, are you sure?" The Headmaster asked gravely.

"No offense, Albus, but sod off. It's none of your business." Severus' eyes stayed on Sirius as he answered.

"What are those?" Hermione asked timidly. She wasn't used to not knowing, but from her teachers' reaction, those ropes were important.

"Don't be upset, Miss Granger. As a Muggle-born, you would have no way of knowing what they are. I dare say some purebloods wouldn't know them," Severus said. "Those are bonding threads."

Hermione was ready to ask what that meant, but Ron elbowed her. "I'll tell you later," he whispered to her.

"Sirius?" Severus said softly, hoping to regain his lover's attention.

Sirius blinked, raised his eyes and smiled. Severus looked uncertain, almost scared, but he had not doubts in his heart. "Yes, yes, I want to be bonded. Now, tomorrow, whenever you want. Yes."

Sirius wrapped his arms around Severus' waist. He didn't bother to hide the tears of joy. Severus kissed one of his cheeks, then the other, and finally their lips met. Sirius was on cloud nine. They would be together. Forever.


Part 20 - Forever

Sunday, June 29, 1998

Albus' POV

Severus and Sirius have decided to hold the bonding ceremony here at Hogwarts. Tomorrow, the students will board the express to return to their homes, but today we are here to celebrate their love.

I'm standing here, getting ready to perform the ceremony. Sirius and Severus are before me with Remus and Victoria as their witnesses. I still can't believe that they asked me to perform it. After what I've learned in this past year, I started to doubt that Severus wanted anything to do with me.

Just a year ago, I would have told anyone that Severus would never be bonded to anyone. Secondly, I would have sworn that my Potions master trusted me implicitly. I would have been wrong on both counts.

I refrain from sighing. I shouldn't dwell on the past. I'm old and my errors in judgement are many. No, I have to concentrate on the present, on the two handsome men standing in front of me, ready to spend the rest of their lives together.

I wonder if they know how similar they truly are. Physical appearance is the most obvious. They both are tall, lean and muscular. They have their long black hair tied in a clean ponytail. Their eyes, although of very different colours, have the same intensity and dark shadows that are lifted only when they look at people they love.

Their mannerisms are also remarkably identical. I've caught Severus grin just like Sirius does. And my impetuous Gryffindor has learned to smirk and glare like my Potions master.

Their union has improved their teaching skills. The students have stopped seeing Sirius as their best friend who is willing to overlook missed homework and who is always ready to join in their pranks. Those same students have changed their minds about Severus. Oh, they are still afraid of his tongue, but they see his human side as well.

What truly astonishes me is the fact that although their personalities are completely different on the surface, they share the same traits. They are intelligent, loyal, brave and caring.

I regret not having seen this sooner. They could have had a much happier life, if I had acted properly. But I am confident that nothing can separate them now. The light in their eyes is proof of that.

I look at Severus' side and see Victoria. She is a beautiful girl. She is strong like her fathers. I pray that her happiness will arrive without all the pain her parents had to endure.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Vicky's POV

Dumbledore is reciting the opening verses of the ceremony, but I can see in his eyes that his thoughts are a million kilometres away.

He is staring at my parents. They are both so handsome, but they look even better with the love that glimmers in their eyes.

They want and love each other so much that they are pledging to be together for the rest of their lives. It sounds romantic, but I shiver at the thought. To me, it feels more like a jail sentence than a declaration of love.

I spoke with papà about the bonding. I told him about my doubts and my fears. I wanted him to be sure of what he was doing. He told me that he couldn't imagine his life without Father. He has done it once and never wants to do it again.

Papà also told me that one day I might feel the same. I doubt it. I love Remus, but this commitment...I don't think so. Papà said that I'm too young. I still have to enjoy my freedom. I pointed out that spending ten months in a dungeon to prepare for my master's test is not exactly freedom. He laughed at me.

Maybe, he is right. My apprenticeship will last another two years. In the mean time, I'll let my relationship with Remus develop. Then, we will see. If I'll ever commit to someone, I don't think I could find a better person than Remus. He is so loving and caring. He is simply Remus.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Remus' POV

Vicky is smiling at me. I wonder what she is thinking.

I know what I'm thinking. I'm aware that Victoria wants me, but she is so young and I fear that one day she might tire of me. I hope that I'm wrong and that our relationship will last, but at the moment, I look at my friend and want what Sirius has. It might sound petty, but I'd give anything to be in his shoes.

I shouldn't begrudge him his happiness. Padfoot has had a hard life, but he seems to have everything now. He has a partner, who loves him unconditionally. Severus has seen him at his best and his worse, and I know that nothing will destroy what Severus feels for him.

Sirius has a daughter who has learned to love him. I don't think anyone would have predicted that. Victoria is so possessive and protective of Severus that I was sure that Sirius would end up losing both. I'm glad I was wrong, for his sake.

Sirius also has a family. Livia and Luciano arrived here this morning. They told him that he was now part of their family. They also warned him that there is no such thing as privacy in an Italian family, so he better get ready to have other people minding his business. Sirius laughed jovially. I wonder if I'll ever hear those words from them.

And finally, he has Harry. Harry who adores him and who considers him like a second father. Harry who found happiness with another Slytherin.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Harry's POV

Remus is staring at me with a confused look. Then his eyes go to Draco. I guess we are difficult to explain.

Draco is a Malfoy and I am a Potter. He's a Slytherin and I'm a Gryffindor. He's the son of a Death Eater and I'm the son of two aurors. But for all our differences, we are remarkably alike, just like Sirius and Severus.

He told us today to call him by his first name since he is not our Potions professor anymore. It shouldn't surprise me but it still feels a bit strange.

It really shouldn't. Severus has become a surrogate father for both of us. He knows that we have no place to go. Draco doesn't want to stay at Malfoy manor and Godric Hollow is still in shambles. We were discussing renting a house and he told us that we should be with family. He invited us to spend the summer with them in their new home, if we so desire.

Severus didn't stop there. He helped us in planning our future. When we told him that we wanted to go to a university outside of England, he didn't ask us the reason; he simply knew that we were trying to escape our fame. He contacted a few friends and we were both accepted at the Florentine University of Wizardry. He also told us that we could stay at their house during the school year. He noted that Livia and Luciano would be close by if we needed help or simply a hug. When he told us that, I thought Sirius was going to cry from the joy.

As much as I like to think that I'm a nice person, I know that Severus is doing this for Sirius. He loves my godfather so much that he is willing to put up with 'famous Potter' simply to see Sirius happy.

I hope that Draco and I can be like that. We didn't have to face the obstacle they faced, but I pray that our love would be as strong as theirs if it were tested. Because I can finally admit, if only to myself that I love Draco.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Draco's POV

Harry gets closer to me and leans into my chest. I wrap my arms around him and kiss his neck. I want this day never to end. I'd like for Harry and me to always be in each other's arms.

We are going to face new challenges together. University in a foreign county with strangers all around us won't be easy, but I am hoping that it will bring us even closer. However, I know that we would have never been happy in England.

The British wizarding world is already in an uproar because of Harry's decision to leave the country. Everyone expected him to become an auror, but Harry doesn't want to fight, at least not physically. He plans to study law and fight in a courtroom.

I haven't commented on his choice. I do hope to convince him to specialize in corporate law. I would love to have him involved in the family business. Yes, because Draco Malfoy is not going to study DADA or Potions. No, I will study magical economy and finance so that I can run the Malfoy enterprise.

Of course, I don't know if Harry would be pleased to work with three Slytherins. Greg is specializing in Muggle Studies, while Vince will study marketing. We have decided to keep the joint business venture that our fathers had started. Each of us will help with one aspect of the business, so that we won't have to rely on anyone else.

Now, if I could plan so precisely my private life, I would be a very happy pureblood.

I raise my eyes to the happy couple and realise that if Harry and I have a tenth of the love Sirius and Severus share, then we will be last through eternity.

"They look amazing," I whisper to Harry. He nods.

Everyone always talks about Sirius' looks, and they are right. He is handsome in a royal blue robe with silver trimmings. Most people expected him to wear the Gryffindor colours, but he surprised them. He confessed shyly to me and Harry that he chose this colour because Severus told him once that it brings out the colour of his eyes. That's the sappiest thing I've heard, but also the nicest.

If Sirius looks good, Severus takes your breath away today. His robe is silk just like Sirius'. It's form fitting and elegant. The Slytherin green with the silver trimmings contrasts his black hair. But his confidence and inner-peace are what make him irresistible.

Dumbledore begins to fasten the bonding threads over their joined hands and Severus has this look of pure love on his face. I look around and most of the teachers look surprised, but not the Slytherins, his Slytherins, the only students besides Ron and Hermione, who have been invited.

The Slytherins know how much love he has inside. Severus might mask it with sarcasm and few strategically delivered insults, but he would do anything to protect and care for his loved ones.

As the ceremony moves to a close, I see Livia frown. I follow her gaze to stare at a woman who is standing in the shadows.

"Who's she?" Harry shrugs at my question. "Sirius doesn't look too happy to see her."

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Sirius' POV

I wanted everything to be perfect for Severus. Then, Patricia decides to show up. I am holding my breath through the last moments of the ceremony, hoping that Severus won't see her.

The threads disappear under the power of Albus' magic. Severus cups my face and kisses me. I close my arms around him and I never want to let him go.

"Relax, Sirius, my mother won't ruin our day." I shake my head and smile. I should have known that he wouldn't miss anything.

"Are you going be all right?" I ask him. He nods.

I don't have time to ask anything as the people present begin to congratulate us. His Slytherins are the first to shake our hands, always polite and proper. I hug most of the younger ones. Severus chuckles at their outraged faced.

"Professor, you're now married to Professor Snape and I respect you, but you hug me and I'll have to punch you," Greg tells me seriously. I start laughing.

"I think I can refrain myself from touching you, Mr. Goyle."

"Good, I don't think I want to fight with Professor Snape." He smirks at me.

Crabbe is right behind him. He crushes my hand in his hand. "You know he is family. You hurt him and you have to deal with all us." His smile doesn't falter. I shiver knowing full well that he means it.

Severus stands behind me in seconds. "Are you trying to scare Professor Black, Mr. Crabbe?"

"Do you think I would do that?" he asks innocently.

"Of course, you would," Severus smirks at the Slytherin. "I would be disappointed if you didn't try, at least."

Patricia nears us. Crabbe sees her with the corner of his eyes. It amazes me how perceptive the Slytherins are. Vincent looks at us. "We'll take the younger ones inside. May your lives be filled with happiness and love," he recites the traditional greeting and bows. How does he even know the words is beyond me.

Any thought of the Slytherins and their upbringing is washed away as Patricia approaches us. As if by magic, Vicky, Remus, Livia and Luciano are by our side. If Patricia is bothered by that, she doesn't show it. Instead she focuses her eyes on her son.

~*~SS~*~SB~*~

Severus' POV

"Hello, Severus."

My mother almost sounds happy to see me, an emotion I haven't encountered in a long time.

"Mother." It's much better to keep things formal; it'll create fewer problems when the shouting starts. "I'm surprised to see you here."

"Professor Dumbledore owled us and informed us of the ceremony." Yes, the old coot wouldn't be able to resist from mingling in my business. I try to remember why I love him, although he infuriates me.

"I'm still surprised that you would come."

I see my aunt ready to intervene, or maybe punch my mother out. I know aunt Livia is more emotional than she would like. I think Luciano and her Italian life have had a bigger impact on her personality than she realises. I look at my aunt and she stills.

"I just wanted to congratulate you and..." she is searching for the right words - lover, partner, beloved - I don't think those are words that my mother associates with marriage or bonding. "Sirius," she finally says.

"Thank you, Mother."

"Mrs. Snape, it means a lot to me and Severus," Sirius tells her with a smile.

I snort. The man is such a liar. He doesn't even see it as lying, but just part of his charm. Gryffindors are really good at deluding themselves.

"My son might not agree with you, Sirius, however, I am truly happy for the both of you. I know it's too late, but your father and I have made many mistakes and you are the one who suffered the most. I hope one day you can forgive us," she tells me.

Aunt Livia sneers. "You and my brother should be ashamed of what you've done. You're not his parents; you're just genetic donors."

Luciano quiets her with a hand on her shoulder. Aunt Livia looks at him and nods.

"I'm going to speak with your colleagues." My aunt kisses me on my cheek and hugs me. "I'll see you later." She proceeds to do the same with Sirius. I know if she stays she'll hex my mother. Luciano walks away with her.

"We should go to," Vicky tells Remus. He nods to her.

My mother grabs her hands. "Victoria, you are a beautiful woman and from the little I've seen of you, I know you are strong and intelligent. It might not mean much to you, but I am very proud of you, of my granddaughter."

Vicky actually blushes. I don't think I've ever seen her do that. "Thank you." She practically runs away.

"I meant what I said. I'm proud of you and you did a great job raising her, much better than what your father and I did," my mother tells me.

I don't blush. I've gone through too much not to have learned to control my reaction, but I'm extremely and unjustifiably pleased by her admission.

"Well, I should be going. I know you don't really want me here." My mother is uncertain. I raise my eyebrow in question. "You are my son. If you ever need anything, come to me. I don't care what your father wants or says." She touches my cheek. I unconsciously realise that I was ten years old the last time she showed any physical sign of affection. "However, I know you won't need me or anyone else. I can see how much you and Sirius love each other."

"Thank you, Mother." I don't know what else to tell her. I will never go to her. Too much has happened for me to trust her. I don't want to deal with my father and his prejudices. But she is right about one thing: Sirius and I love each other. We are a family.

Together.

Forever.


1 Dad
1a Father
2 There is no perfect English translation, but it's stronger than calling someone an idiot, but less rude than using asshole. The closest translation would be bastard.
3 Mad is an abbreviation of Madonna, which is often used instead of God. Zia means aunt. Grazie means thank you.
4 Gioa = Dear
5 How Beautiful
6 Uncle
7. Shit
8. Who does this dickhead think he is? He's busting my balls, now.
9. A very lose translation is "your nephews are two crazy idiots". However, rincoglionito is a lot stronger than idiot and not a word you want to use in polite conversation.
10. Abbreviation of Madonna. Used like "God".
11. "All right, Father."
12. "Sweety"
13. Pasta di mandorla is almost paste, which is used to make Italian ices and a very sweet summer drink: almond milk.
14. "You're welcome, little one." Piccirillo is Neapolitan dialect and not proper Italian.
15. "Fuck, I wouldn't mind having a go myself."
16. Expensive red wine of the Neapolitan area.
17. "What the fuck were you thinking of doing with this asshole, in my bed, no less. Did you fucking go insane?"
18. Literally it means dick, but it's used as an exclamation, e.g. Bugger!, Fuck!
19. A traditional Neapolitan liquor.
20. "Look at the old man, screwing the girl."
21. "He's my father, you piece of shit."
22. "Shit, I think I'm going to be sick."
23 "Idiot."