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Chapter 76 : Bringing Up Baby Snape
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Bringing Up Baby Snape
Looking back on it, Harry had to admit that his fifth year was a very unusual and interesting one, to say the least. For one thing, he no longer had to worry about the shadow of his old enemy hovering over him. There was no need to be constantly on his guard, or worry about crazy Defense professors out to kill or subvert him. The position was no longer cursed, and perhaps this time they might have two professors who would stay for more than a year, so the students could finally become halfway competent in the area. Harry enjoyed Defense immensely when it was taught properly, and he knew Sarai and Remus would do a fine job.
He was also happy, deliriously so, that Binns was gone and Sirius would be teaching History of Magic. Perhaps now he could do something other than just re-reading the text at night and actually learn something interesting. It had never made sense to him why that subject, which provided an introduction to all things magical, should have been taught by someone so utterly boring. It was also a relief to just be back among his friends and hug and kiss his girlfriend without fear of the press making a mountain out of a molehill.
Then, of course, there was the fact that his entire family, except for Petunia and Dudley, were living at Hogwarts. Petunia was at home, since Dudley went to a private school, but not one that boarded, and she would never leave her son home without parental supervision. Plus, Petunia said she liked the comforts of her new home better than she would have living in a drafty old castle with moving stairs and other crazy things. Sirius went to visit her every weekend and wrote endless letters to her almost every day.
But it was Nesmay and Victoria who caused the biggest changes in his school year—especially Victoria.
Nesmay was regarded by some students as a curiosity and by others as an oddity—both for her background and the fact that she had Severus as her guardian, and also because she was not an official student. It helped break the ice a little when Harry and Draco introduced her to the Dueling Club as their little sister. Nesmay demonstrated her skill with Reflecting Hexes and Harry warned, with a smirk, "Don't get on her bad side. She may small but she can fight."
Despite her unofficial status, neither Severus nor Sarai would permit their ward to neglect her studies. Severus made her up a schedule, and she did assignments for him in potions and Defense. Sarai worked out with her three times a week, honing her form in kin-sa-dor while Victoria napped. Severus also acquired assignments and exercises from the other professors, so Nesmay learned Transfiguration, Herbology, History of Magic, Astronomy, Charms and a bit of Arithmancy.
Nesmay became good friends with Luna as well as Ginny, Katie, and Hermione. She and Luna could often be found down at the lake, feeding the squid and talking with the kelpie Duncan Wavestrider, who was officially courting Luna. The couple planned to marry once Luna was finished with school and was of age.
Ron had looked at the Ravenclaw girl cross-eyed. "Why would you want to get married so soon afterwards? I mean, don't you want to have some fun before you make a commitment?" As yet, Ron had no really serious girlfriend, though he dated off and on with Lavender Brown.
Luna just gave him a dreamy smile. "Marrying Duncan won't restrict me, Ron. He's not at all like a human boy. He knows how to have fun and when to be serious. And once he marries me, he is mine for all of my life. He takes his commitments to me very seriously."
Knowing Duncan, Nesmay and her brothers had no doubt that he would.
That first week, everyone from staff to students was trying to get back into school mode, and Harry, Draco, and Hermione were finding out that being prefects wasn't as easy as it appeared. Hermione stopped by Severus' quarters, which had been expanded to include Sarai, Nesmay, and Victoria, to give them a proper greeting. She especially wanted to hold the newest Snape, and brought a small gift for her.
"It's nothing much," the Gryffindor said, looking a tad embarrassed. "I saw it in the window of a baby boutique when I was shopping with my mum near her office." She handed Severus a small package wrapped in brightly colored pastels.
Inside was a baby all-in-one, colored a raspberry pink. Written across it in silver and white lettering was She may be but little, but she is fierce!
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Shakespeare, Miss Granger?"
"Yes, sir. I thought it was appropriate because it was from A Midsummer Night's Dream."
"So it is," the Potions Master agreed. "Would you like to put it on her?"
Hermione nodded eagerly. "Can I?" she moved to take the snuggly wrapped bundle from her teacher. Then she halted. "Oh, no! I forgot . . . I don't know how to . . . to dress her."
"That is easily remedied," Severus said, unfazed. "Here, I will show you." He led the way into the nursery, where Sarai was carefully folding some of Victoria's clothes.
The fae warrior grinned when she saw who had followed her husband. "Hermione, well met! Is he trying to get out of nappy duty again?"
"No, I am not," Severus said, rather indignantly. "I am demonstrating how to dress a baby."
"So I can help watch her if you need me to," Hermione explained. She carried the all-in-one.
Then she watched as the professor competently undressed, changed, and dressed his daughter, noting how Severus always kept a hand upon the baby, even though the little one was too small to roll off the changing table. "Oh! It's sort of like dressing a doll," she remarked, then flushed.
"Only this doll squirms and wriggles much more," agreed her professor. "There, Toria! Look at how smart you look in your new outfit."
The baby squeaked, then giggled when he tickled her. He gently lifted her and handed her to Hermione.
Hermione held her a little stiffly, but then relaxed when Sarai suggested she sit. "Oh, it looks so sweet on her!" she cooed. "You're such a darling thing, Toria."
Sarai peered at her child, a smile creasing her face. "That is a very cute outfit, Hermione. Thank you."
"You're welcome." Hermione began to make silly faces at the baby, who waved her arms and made loud burbling noises. "Harry's so lucky. I always wanted a baby sister." She looked up at Severus. "Do you have her on a schedule? I could follow it when I watch her."
"Of course he does! The man is as mad as regimental sergeant for rules and lists," teased Sarai.
"Babies need schedules," Severus pointed out. "I have it written upon the wall there," He indicated a large piece of parchment.
"My mum always said having me on a schedule saved her sanity," Hermione remarked with a little laugh. "That way I knew when nap time was and could stop pestering her with whys."
"I see. Is that the answer to curbing your endless curiosity—a nap?" queried Severus slyly, rare humor glittering in his black eyes.
"It used to be. But now Ron claims I study in my sleep. Ridiculous, because I've only just started studying for OWLS."
Severus eyed her sternly. "I trust you are spacing out your studies and taking breaks for meals and exercise as I showed you last time? Or would you like me to make up a schedule for you as I did last year, so you don't study yourself into a coma?"
"Oh, that would be wonderful, Professor! It's not that I don't know how to prioritize my time, but with all the extra work I have as a prefect . . . sometimes I forget when to stop studying." Hermione admitted, gently rocking Toria.
"Bring me a copy of your class schedule and I shall work on it tonight." He then said, "The important thing to learn as a prefect is to make sure students follow rules and realize that you will be fair in administering lectures and punishments, no matter who does the rule breaking."
It was something he repeated to his two sons also. It was common sense, but Severus knew that common sense didn't always play a part in a teen's thinking, especially if the one misbehaving was from your own House or a friend. It made him thankful that he had no close friends when he was a prefect, and so never felt conflicted when catching rule breakers, even from his own House.
Toria fussed a little in Hermione's hold and she shifted the baby, holding her up against her shoulder. "There, there. Is that better?" the girl asked softly, she loved how the baby cuddled against her. The tiny girl smelled like vanilla and honey, two of Hermione's favorite scents. "I can't wait till you learn how to crawl and then to talk. Do you think she'll be quick to walk and talk?" She looked over at the two parents.
Severus coughed. "If I said yes, I'd sound like a braggart. It all depends on how quickly she develops."
"Some children are early to talk, but late walking. Others are the opposite. And some do both incredibly fast," Sarai answered. "I was walking before I was a year, I think. And I could speak clearly before I was two."
"I believe that I spoke early as well," Severus said. "As for walking, that I'm not as sure of, I believe I walked soon after my first birthday, which is normal. But just because both of us were early learners doesn't necessarily mean the same will be true for Toria. Babies develop at their own pace. We'll just have to wait and see."
Hermione smiled at Severus' small daughter. "I'll bet a Galleon that she'll do both before her first birthday. And she'll be strong in magic too."
"That goes without saying," Sarai chuckled. "Strong magic is bred into both her lines, and such talent is inherited. I just hope she hasn't inherited her brother's impulsiveness."
"If the fates are kind, she'll have inherited my cautiousness and Sarai's patience." Severus said. "Is she asleep?"
"I think so," Hermione said, peering at the round cheeked face. Toria's eyes were closed, her dark lashes smeared across her porcelain cheek like an ink blot. Hermione held her a bit longer before surrendering her to the Potions Master. "She's adorable, Professor Snape. I'll be happy to watch her anytime."
"Thank you, Miss Granger," he said, cradling his baby close. He did not tell the eager Gryffindor she would have to stand in line behind several Slytherin girls. Not to mention Nesmay, who cherished every moment she spent with Victoria and eyed the other girls as if they were ill-bred crows trying to snatch a sandwich from her.
That evening, all the Houses had a general prefect meeting in the small antechamber off the Entrance Hall. The meeting was something that had been suggested several years ago by Professor Sprout and Severus, and encouraged House cooperation and solidarity. In it, the prefects discussed their schedules, and who would be available to patrol the halls between the hours of eleven and one o'clock each night. After one, Filch and Snape took over, because then it was curfew for the prefects. Matthias Snow, a Ravenclaw, was Head Boy this year, as was Jenny Davis from Hufflepuff.
They discussed what was a fair amount of points to be taken for minor infractions, how much should be taken for major ones, and when it was time to inform a teacher so the repeat offenders got detention.
"Speaking of detention, Professor Snape lets us Slytherin prefects give out small ones, like writing lines or essays, or cleaning the common room, to those of our House who think it's okay to ignore school rules." Draco informed them. "Most of them shape up afterwards, because if not, then they have him to deal with, and nobody messes with my father."
A loud murmur of agreement went around the room. Then Ernie Macmillan said, "Not even you and Harry, Malfoy?"
"Especially not us, Ernie," Harry put in. "He's hardest on his own, right Draco?"
Draco nodded emphatically. "Remember last year, and that brawl we had with Durmstrang in The Three Broomsticks? Harry and I were in the thick of that one, and once my dad found out . . .Dumbledore paid for all the Hogwarts students to be released from jail, except my dad told the Aurors to keep us there overnight. So when everyone else went back to the castle and their nice warm beds, Harry and I froze in a jail cell till morning."
Several of the prefects from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff looked shocked. "Merlin! He really left you in jail overnight?"
Harry nodded. "And he grounded our arses for the rest of the term too. So if you think we get off because we're a professor's sons, think again. But we learned our lesson—never get involved in a public brawl. He told me the other night not to be afraid to take points from our Houses if necessary."
"I suppose it's a necessary evil," agreed Snow. "All right, does everyone have a copy of the patrol schedule? Good. Keep it safe, we don't want it falling into the wrong hands. If there are no more questions, this meeting is adjourned."
As they all filed out, Draco pulled Hermione back into the anteroom to indulge himself in a minute or two of passionate snogging while Harry lingered outside the door. Harry wished Katie were there so he could kiss her that way, but she was busy studying for her NEWTS. Hopefully, they could meet sometime this weekend for a private supper or tea at Madam Puddifoot's.
A few nights later it was Harry and Hermione's turn to patrol the halls. At first, all seemed quiet. They started down in the dungeons, but there was no activity around there, save for the sound of Toria crying.
Harry winced. "I guess it's going to be one of those nights again," he remarked.
"Does she not sleep at night then?" asked Hermione.
"Mostly, she's a good sleeper. But lately, Sarai says she's been having trouble with her stomach. She spits up a lot and has gas, so she's cranky and irritable."
"Aww, poor baby! No wonder your dad looks like his eyes are burnt into his head." Hermione said sympathetically.
"Yeah, I doubt he's gotten a full night's sleep. He's been experimenting with some Stomach Soothers, trying to make one suitable for babies. He can't stand to see her in pain, drives him nuts, and he says the ordinary remedies don't work well enough on her. Katie's been assisting him this past week."
"Oh, is that why you two haven't seen each other?"
"Yeah, that's why." Harry sighed mournfully. "But hopefully there won't be any big homework assignments or crisis this weekend and we can go to Hogsmeade. Thank goodness we have Quidditch practice early, and Angelina's been in a good mood."
"That's 'cause George just proposed to her." Hermione laughed. "She was showing us the ring last night."
"Really? How come Ron didn't say anything to me?"
Hermione shrugged. "Who knows? He's a boy and maybe he forgot."
They continued down the hall and into Hufflepuff territory. All was quiet there as well. The Fat Friar waved as they went by.
Both Harry and Hermione were thinking about their significant others and when the time would be right for them to propose. They headed up the stairs towards Gryffindor Tower. As they rounded the corner near the Room of Requirement, Hermione grabbed Harry's sleeve.
"Shhh! Do you hear something?"
Harry cocked his head. Sure enough, they heard the scuffle of feet and whispered voices.
"Is anyone there?"
"No. C'mon, mate. Hurry and take a peek before someone comes!"
Hermione's eyes flashed and she stalked down the corridor, reminding Harry of a hunting lioness. The voices were coming from the Defense Against the Dark Arts office.
Harry followed, being as silent as he could. The door to the office was slightly ajar, and there was a glowing light from within, made by the rule breakers' wands. Their backs were to the door, so Harry couldn't tell who they were or from what House.
Then Hermione cleared her throat and said, "Breaking and entering in a professor's office could get you expelled!"
The two students jumped like startled deer and spun about.
Harry recognized them as two first-year Gryffindor students. He frowned down on them, looking very like his father, had he but known.
The two flashed them guilty little boy grins. "Uh . . . Harry! And Hermione! We were just . . err . . . trying to get a look at the magical Seeing Stone."
"What Seeing Stone?" Hermione demanded. "You're out of bed without permission, both of you!"
"Yeah, but . . . Josh and I were exploring," explained the smaller of the two. "Having adventures, like you and Harry used to when you found the Sorcerer's Stone."
"And the Chamber of Secrets," added the other boy, he was tall and gawky, like a young giraffe. "We wanted to see Professor Valinek's magical fairy stone."
"What magical fairy stone?" Harry repeated, now getting annoyed. "You're having us on, aren't you?"
"No, honest! I've read all the legends and they say that all the fae have these magical stones they can use to spy on us mortals and I just wanted to see what one looked like." The small boy said. "I wasn't going to steal it or anything!"
Harry rolled his eyes. He wondered if he had ever been so gullible at that age. Then again, considering how he'd grown up, he probably had been. "Look, that's all nonsense. Don't believe everything you read, especially not about the fae. Most of the people who write those books haven't even visited the Faerie Realm, and a lot of what they say is wrong. Professor Valinek's a warrior fae, not a sorceress, so she wouldn't use a scrying mirror."
"You mean, there's no such thing as a secret fairy stone?" the small boy's face fell.
"We came out here for nothing?" cried the taller boy.
"I'm afraid so, boys," Hermione interjected, her hands on her hips. "And now you're in trouble."
"Are you gonna take points?"
"Are you gonna tell Professor McGonagall?"
"Please don't!" begged the smaller boy. "You snuck out of bed lots of times and never got in trouble." He gave them a pleading look from beneath his long eyelashes.
Harry felt a blush creep up his neck. Who would have thought that his checkered past would come back to haunt him? He stared at the two miscreants and groaned silently. Aw, Merlin! They're right. We were damn lucky half the time. But still, two wrongs don't make a right. And I'm supposed to set an example for them on what not to do. He cleared his throat, thinking back on how his father used to look when he caught his sons misbehaving. "You're wrong, kid. Hermione and I lost fifty points apiece when we were caught out of bed once. And even if we hadn't, what we did was wrong and you shouldn't follow our bad example. We tell you to stay in bed at night for your own safety."
"The castle has many secret passages and rooms and it changes all the time. Get caught inside one and you might not be seen again for fifty years." Hermione warned. "What we did then was very foolish and we were lucky to not have been killed. It wasn't brave or heroic—it was stupid. Like what you two did tonight."
"That's all well and good, but it doesn't change the fact that you're out of bed," Harry reminded them. "I'm going to take twenty-five points from each of you."
"But we're Gryffindors!" wailed the blond one.
"You're going to take points from your own House?"
"I am, because you're not above rules. You break them and you suffer the consequences, same as everyone else."
"You're lucky it was us who caught you and not Professor Snape," Hermione reminded them. "He'd have given you detention so fast your head would still be spinning around. Scrubbing cauldrons for a week."
"Or writing three feet of parchment about why you should obey school rules." Harry added. "Now, get back to bed and if we catch you roaming around again, we'll march you straight to McGonagall and she'll put you on the next train home. Got it?"
Both boys paled and hung their heads. Then they scurried back down the hall to Gryffindor Tower.
Hermione looked at Harry and smirked. "The first train home? Isn't that . . . overdoing it a bit, Harry?"
"Better scared than dead, like my dad always says." Harry quipped. Then he sighed. "You know, I never realized what a bad influence I was until tonight."
"Me either. I feel terrible, thinking about everything we did wrong and how some silly kids think we're great for breaking almost all the rules."
"Yeah, well, you live and learn, right?"
"Right. Come on, let's do Ravenclaw Tower so we can get to bed." Hermione nudged Harry in the arm. "Fifty points lost! Merlin, now I have to work extra hard to bring us back to where we were."
"Don't fuss, Hermione. One extra credit paper and we'll be fine," Harry consoled her as they continued their patrol.
"Ron would think it was hilarious," she groused, still upset.
Harry agreed. Ron probably would have said it was no big deal and they should have let them off with a warning. "Yes, so it's a good thing we're the prefects, huh?"
"I wonder if Draco had problems with his House yet?" Hermione grumbled. "We can't be the only House with misbehaving firsties."
"Why don't you ask him at breakfast tomorrow?" Harry suggested. He suspected that the first few weeks were going to be a struggle, as the students tested their new prefects to see how far they could go.
The rest of the night was peaceful, however, and they returned to their common room and fell asleep.
At breakfast that morning, Hermione sat at the Slytherin table next to Draco. Draco smiled and said, "Good morning. How did your first patrol go? It was last night, wasn't it?"
Hermione groaned and rubbed her eyes. "Are you sure you want to know?"
"What happened?" Draco repeated softly, his gray eyes filled with concern.
"It was a disaster. Harry and I found . . . we caught two Gryffindor firsties out of bed, trying to sneak into the Defense office and look for a Fairy Seeing Stone . . ."
Draco goggled. "They were looking for what?"
"A Fairy Seeing Stone," repeated Hermione. "I don't think it exists. We took twenty five points each from them and Harry told them if we ever caught them out of bed again they'd be on the first train home."
"Sounds like something Dad would say."
"But you know what was the worst thing?" Hermione continued. "It was that they were trying to imitate us—Harry, me, and Ron—by going on adventures and breaking rules. What kind of role model am I, Draco?"
"The best kind, Mione," he whispered, hugging her. "The kind that knows from experience what not to do. You think you had problems with your House? How would you like to have found two of yours trying to cast a Withering Curse on Snarling Snapdragon they stole from Sprout's greenhouse?"
Hermione gasped. "Oh, Merlin! They didn't!"
"Caught them redhanded, two brainless oafs with a handwritten spellbook they bought off some shady creep in Knockturn Alley." Draco looked disgusted. "They weren't even using the right inflection or wand movements."
Hermione stared at him. "Draco, how do you know how to cast a spell like that?"
"I know because Lucius taught me," he admitted, his mouth tightening. "And the first and only time I ever cast it, Dad caught me and spanked me with his spoon. He said he wasn't going to see me travel that road if he could help it. I never used any dark magic like that again."
"I'm glad," she whispered. "What did you do to your little snakes?"
"I took fifty points from them, confiscated their wands and the bloody spellbook, and then I went and told my father what had gone on. Any attempted use of dark magic has to be reported to a teacher."
"I'll bet he was fit to be tied."
"You could say that. He gave them a week's worth of detention and I'm sure they're going to have a letter sent home also. Dad doesn't fool around with those who try and practice the Dark Arts. I doubt if I'll have any trouble with them again. And while I hate like blazes to take points from Slytherin, it was deserved. Dad's got a new policy in our House this year—he's trying to ferret out all the Dark practitioners and get them to quit using dark magic. He's also trying to clean up our reputation as the House of Evil. He's talking to all those whose families supported Voldemort during the war, and trying to show those that want to a way to live without using dark magic, to give them goals worthy of achieving. So far, it seems to be working out pretty good."
"You're helping him, aren't you?"
"Yes. Who better than me, who almost walked down the same road, thanks to his Death Eater father?" Draco said bitterly. "I know how it starts. And how it ends. But we can only help those that want to be helped, those that are willing to stand up and say no, I won't do this anymore. I won't be a slave to power. That's the hard part."
"If anyone can change their minds, you can, Draco. I have faith in you."
"Thanks, Hermione. All we can do is our best." Then he helped himself to some eggs, toast, and a slice of ham, putting everything on top of the toast and eating it.
This year was going to be a year of changes. He just hoped everyone would survive it.
As September slipped into October, everyone began to grow accustomed to seeing Sarai carrying Victoria in a baby sling while she went walking about the grounds, or seeing Severus pushing a pram down to Hagrid's hut and visiting with the gamekeeper while Victoria napped in the pumpkin patch. All the students were happy with their new Defense lessons; Remus had them for much of the week, with Sarai teaching mostly on weekends, and letting Severus spend time with his daughter. Both parents were amazed at how fast the baby was growing. Victoria could hold up her head on her own now and her eyes followed everything. She was drinking double the amount of formula and thriving.
The students also agreed that Professor Black was a much better teacher than Binns, then again, a wax effigy would have been better than Binns, as Severus commented one day after listening to several students gush about how much better History of Magic was since Binns was gone while brewing potions. But while Sirius was able to make his subject more interesting and personable, he still had problems when it came to discipline and grading homework. After the latest fiasco with his first and second year class, Sirius decided to seek out the one teacher on staff who never seemed to have difficulty getting his students to mind.
So on a sunny Saturday, Sirius came down to tap on Snape's door. He had to knock hard because Victoria was howling loudly. "Hello? Severus, you there?"
"One moment!" came the Potion Master's voice, sounding rather frazzled.
Then the door was opened to reveal Severus holding his daughter on his shoulder, patting her back and frowning. Victoria was wailing like a banshee. "Black, this better be important. I haven't time to waste with inane questions. Come in."
Sirius stepped in and shut the door behind him. "Hey, what's the matter with the little princess?"
"She won't burp," answered the exasperated father, rubbing harder. "Therefore she's got a stomachache."
"Poor thing! Bet it hurts like a bitch," Sirius remarked.
"Brilliant deduction there!" snapped Severus. He turned and led the way into the den, muttering, "Come on, little one, let it out. Maybe I need to switch formulas."
Victoria was beet red and screaming in his ear as he went to sit down on the couch.
"Snape, let me try something, all right?" Sirius said, his sensitive ears starting to ache from the baby's cries. "Give her to me for a minute."
Severus looked at him askance. "Don't think for a minute you can frighten a burp out of her, Black. It's not like hiccups."
"Just let me hold her," Sirius said, taking Victoria from his arms. Victoria shrieked, her face scrunched up. "Hey, pretty girl. Don't cry, Uncle Sirius us going to make you feel better. Ready? One, two, three . . . up and away!" With that he tossed Victoria into the air.
"Black, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Severus yelled, frantic. "That's my baby, you imbecile, not a Snitch!" He half-rose to his feet.
"Relax, Snape. She's fine," Sirius said, neatly catching the baby, who suddenly let out a loud belch. "Ha! Works every time!" He tickled Victoria under the chin, and she let out a soft squeak. "You feel better now, don't you, sweet thing?"
"Give me her!" Severus growled, giving Sirius a death glare. He plucked Victoria from Sirius's arms and cradled her protectively. "You might have dropped her, you dumb mutt!"
"Calm down, Severus! She was perfectly safe, I used to do that to Harry when he was that age. James never minded."
"I'm not Potter, and I don't like you treating my daughter like a toy! Or my son either!"
"I got her to burp, didn't I?"
Severus returned to his seat, Victoria cradled securely in the crook of his left arm. He picked up her half-finished bottle. "Here, sweetling, let's finish up your lunch." He offered the baby the bottle, but she took it for only a few seconds before refusing. She squirmed, her face crinkling again.
"Looks like she has another one in her," Sirius commented, taking a seat across from the Potions Master in the recliner.
"Obviously," Severus drawled, his lip curling. As if he needed Black to tell him that!
"Do you want me to—"
"No! God forbid you should miss! I'll do this my way." The Potions Master said stiffly. He laid the baby across his knees, then gently began pushing her small legs up and down in a bicycling motion. Not long afterwards, the baby burped again. Severus smiled at her. "There! Much better." He continued the motion for a few seconds more but Victoria seemed to have no more gas. Propping her up again on his elbow, he fed her the rest of the bottle.
As she sucked, he asked Sirius, "What do you want, Black?"
"Advice, if you can bear to part with it," Sirius said, somewhat nettled. "I've been having trouble with a couple of pranksters in my first and second year classes."
"Pranksters? And you've come to me? You should know how to deal with them, considering your misspent youth." Severus declared, raising an eyebrow in disbelief.
"That was different. Yesterday, someone put sapphire moths in my desk, they ate up all my notes and I had to teach the whole lesson off the cuff, not to mention I couldn't hand back any homework because the bloody bugs ate them!" Sirius said, sounding very annoyed. "Today it was a bunch of doxies that someone let loose, and I spent half my class bringing students to the Hospital Wing because some of them got bitten, and the other half trying to capture the damn creatures. Damn it, Snape, it's not funny!" he cried upon seeing Severus' smirk. "You'd be frothing at the mouth if it happened to you."
"Probably. What did you do?"
"Nothing. Well, I asked who was responsible, but nobody came forward, so what could I do? I couldn't punish everyone."
"That's exactly what you should have done. Taken points from each one until the culprit came forward. I'm sure the students know which one of them is responsible, and they would have made the prankster come forward once they realized you were going to keep on taking points until the guilty party was found."
"But that's cruel and unfair!"
"So is disrupting your lesson with pranks. Sirius, they're testing you to see if you can take the pressure and make them behave. You can't let them think you're a pushover, or else they'll walk all over you."
"But Severus, I don't want to be a drill sergeant, like—"
"Like me? Black, being a drill sergeant saves lives. In my classroom, the chance of a student harming himself or someone else is tripled. It's almost the same with Defense. You don't dare teach combat spells unless you're sure you can control your students. Being nice won't help them. You're not here to make friends with your students, Black, you're here to teach them. Take charge and assert your authority. Talk to some of the better behaved students, see if they know who's behind the pranks. Then set a Monitoring Charm across the room. It'll alert you when a student is casting something at you or is unleashing something upon you. Once you've caught your merry prankster, give him the worst detention you can think up. Then issue an ultimatum to the rest of them. Don't give an inch. Make it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated at all. Once they've seen what you do to their fellow prankster, they'll think twice, hopefully, about doing something like that again."
"What if they don't?"
"Then you keep giving detention, and making them worse, until the students learn their lesson. Sometimes it takes a few repeat consequences before it sinks into their tiny little brains that you mean what you say. It's similar to punishing your stepson. You have to be consistent and firm."
Severus gently prized the nipple from Toria's mouth and lifted her to his shoulder, which was covered with a large cloth. He began to pat firmly. Toria fussed, then let out an enormous burp. "Good job!" he praised, then grimaced when he saw she had spit up. He quickly wiped her mouth and cuddled her. She nuzzled his neck and made small sucking noises.
"No, you're done eating, little one. Now it's nap time." He began rubbing small circles on her back, while Summoning her favorite sleepy toy, Lady Snapdragon. He gave her the stuffed rag doll while continuing to pat her rhythmically.
"You're going to put her to sleep right after she eats?" Sirius looked puzzled. "How come?"
"Because she's tired, and if I keep her awake she'll become cranky and scream the walls down," answered Severus. "Now, have I answered all your questions? I need to get her to sleep, and she won't nap if you're here talking."
Sirius considered manufacturing another question just to annoy his brother by marriage, but then decided it was too risky. He didn't want to get on Snape's bad side, because then Snape might refuse to help him. Then he recalled his homework problems. "Uh . . . I do have one more. What do I do about homework that I can't read?"
"Hand it back and tell them to re-do it and you'll give half-credit, otherwise it's a zero."
"Just half-credit? Why not full?"
Severus ground his teeth. "Look, Black, do you want my advice or not? I give half credit for re-done assignments because it teaches students that sloppiness is not an excuse for handing in a poorly done assignment. If the student has a problem with penmanship you should speak to his or her Head of House, and they can get them extra penmanship lessons. But some students are lazy and write sloppily on purpose. That needs to be stopped. That's all I have to say. Take it or leave it."
"Fine. You needn't be so snippy." Sirius stood.
Severus fixed him with a cold stare. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm trying to get Toria to sleep, now do yourself a favor and leave. Quietly. Before I lose all patience and escort you out with the toe of my boot."
Sirius gaped at him.
Severus deliberately turned about and went into the nursery, which was off the den.
Sirius made a face at him and muttered, "Bloody drill sergeant!" before exiting, closing the door quietly behind him. "That poor kid! He's going to make her into a little puppet before she's three. Merlin's arse, but I'm never going to do that to my kid."
November blew in chilly and Quidditch season started. Because of the games, Sarai changed her lessons to Sunday and Friday evenings, and tended to hold them in an empty classroom on the third floor instead of outside on the lawn, because several students complained of the cold. The former Blade taught her students practical as well as magical means of self-defense, though she could not teach them kin-sa-dor, as she had Harry and Draco.
Still, what she did teach was general all-purpose moves that enabled a student to protect themselves even without a wand at hand. "Part of defense is being alert to your surroundings. Always know where you can run to, whether to escape or to call for help. You might not be able to match your enemy spell for spell, but there's nothing wrong with your feet, unless they've tied you up. So, run if you can, and don't think it cowardly—he who runs away lives to fight another day."
"Have you ever run from anything, Professor Valinek?" asked Millicent Bulstrode.
"Yes. My first duty was to protect the Queen, and if I felt it was in our best interests to retreat rather than engage a foe with greater numbers, I did so. It is not always necessary to kill an enemy in order to defeat him."
She had them run laps before her practice sessions, to build up wind and stamina. Most of her lessons focused on unarmed combat. They learned how to dodge, block, and throw a punch. How to kick an opponent in the knee or the groin, to use their fingers to poke an eye. She paired them up in spars with large to small in height and weight, male to female, explaining that most times you would be at an unfair advantage in a real fight, and had to learn how to compensate.
"Surprise is the key. Your enemy may be bigger, stronger, and have more magic, but all that matters naught if you hit him in the head with a big enough rock. It's the one thing that he won't be expecting."
She taught them how to use the spellcraft they had learned efficiently, and that even a simple spell like a Butterfingers Jinx could prove an opponent's undoing. "Cast that upon a swordsman and you've just disarmed him. Cast it upon a witch or wizard with a wand and it's just as effective as a Disarming Charm and a lot less obvious. Above all, never underestimate the enemy. Many a cocky young warrior before you has done so and ended in an early grave. Make sure you don't."
She was strict but fair, and graded according to effort as well as skill. But she tolerated no insolence or pranks, and those who tried either ended up running extra laps or doing thirty pushups for their attitude for detention.
There were few complaints about her lessons, because almost all of the students recognized the value of learning practical ways to defend themselves. By and large, most looked forward to lessons with their half-fae teacher, and respected her more than they had any other Defense teacher, save Lupin.
Usually, when she taught, Severus watched Victoria, he loved watching his baby girl grow. That afternoon, he had placed her on a flowered quilt on the floor of the den, on her stomach, she was wearing the pink all-in-one Hermione had given her, plus fuzzy matching socks and knit pants. Her bright green eyes were focused on her teddy bear, which had been a gift from Filius Flitwick. The bear could dance on command, and was doing so now, back and forth across the quilt.
Victoria was cooing at it and reaching for it as it drew near.
Beside her, close to the fire, rested Cafall. The almost fully-grown mist hound adored the baby, and was always close by. He slept beside her cradle at night, and was fiercely protective of "his" baby, not allowing strangers to come near unless they had been introduced to him first by a family member. The dog had his head on his forepaws, dozing while Victoria played and Severus graded his latest batch of homework.
Severus set down his quill and went to kneel on the quilt, he had been trying to teach the baby to roll over, since she was now three months old. She could already hold her head steady and support herself on her arms for brief periods. As soon as he sat down beside her, Toria smiled happily, her green eyes lighting up. Already she could recognize all her family members, and smiled and laughed when she saw them.
"Toria, look! Here comes the dancing bear," he called softly to his daughter, making the bear dance past her and to the left. "Try and get him! Come on, reach out and get his paw."
Severus made the bear halt, trying to encourage his daughter to reach out for the bear and start to roll over. "Yes! That's it! Now roll over. Roll over!"
Toria kept reaching, but every time she had almost grasped the bear, she stopped trying. Frustrated, she started to cry.
"Hush!" Severus murmured. He patted the quilt beside her. "Don't cry, it's right here. All you have to do is roll over."
Toria whined, her tiny hands reaching.
Cafall woke upon hearing the familiar command to roll over. He had learned that trick long ago. He cocked his head and looked at his alpha and the infant, trying to figure out why Severus kept repeating the command. He sensed that his alpha wanted to be obeyed, but the little one didn't understand. Cafall poked her lovingly with his snout and licked her. When he was sure he had gotten her attention, he demonstrated the "roll over".
The misthound lay on his back, all four paws in the air, grinning.
"Cafall! For Merlin's sake!" Severus rolled his eyes. "Not you! I want her to roll over."
Toria squealed and went to clutch a handful of Cafall's pale fur.
Cafall rolled away from her, fetching up near the hearth. His tail thumped merrily upon the floor.
"Oh, all right! You can play too," Severus conceded with a sigh. But then he had an idea. "Toria, get Cafall! Roll over and get Cafall!"
The little girl grew very excited, and struggled to reach the dog, who was rolling back and forth each time he heard the command. She pushed hard with her legs and suddenly rolled over to her side.
"Yes, very good! Now come all the way about." Her father encouraged, holding out the bear.
Toria plopped down on the quilt, looking very startled.
Severus applauded. "Excellent! You rolled over!" He gave her the bear, and she stuffed a paw into her mouth, gumming it. "Wait till we show your mama what you learned today." He felt as proud as if she had just brewed a perfect potion.
Cafall whuffed happily. Then he looked expectantly at Severus, asking plainly where his treat was. Severus obligingly tossed him a dog sausage. Cafall gulped it down, then waited to see what else might be forthcoming.
Severus encouraged Toria to roll over twice more, and each time he did so, Cafall copied her. The third time, Toria rolled over right on the poor dog, and delightedly pulled his fur out. Then she screamed angrily when her father took the fur away before she could taste it and reproved gently, "No, Victoria! Be nice to Cafall! Nice!" He took her small hand and ran it gently down the dog's side.
But Toria was irritable now and kept screaming, having a noisy fit until Severus distracted her from Cafall by giving her the bear again.
"You're a good dog, Cafall," Severus told him, ruffling the soft fur and scratching behind his long silky ears. "Very patient."
Cafall grunted happily and put his head on Severus' knee. He could have told his alpha that he didn't mind the little one pulling his fur out, she didn't know any better.
When Sarai, Harry, Draco, and Nesmay arrived back from their lesson, Severus told them to see what Victoria had learned today. "Watch what she can do. Roll over, Victoria! Show Mama and everyone what you learned, my clever girl!" he coaxed.
Immediately, Cafall rolled over. A little afterwards, so did Victoria.
Draco and Harry burst out laughing.
"That's great, Dad! It's like a comedy act!" gasped Harry as he watched his baby sister and the dog frolic.
Nesmay giggled. "I've heard that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but I've never heard about a dog teaching a baby a trick before!"
"There's not another dog as smart as our Cafall," stated Draco.
Sarai wiped tears from her eyes. "Or such a smart baby," she crooned, then she picked up Victoria and kissed her and hugged her, loving the way her daughter smelled sweetly of milk, and honey and lavender soap. Toria put her head on her mother's shoulder and yawned, she was now very sleepy and preferred her mother's arms to rest in.
"We have to get a picture of her and Cafall," Harry said, grinning. "Think she'll do it again, Sarai?"
"Yes, but right now she's sleeping."
"Already?" Severus asked.
"You wore her out, Sev. It's a good thing too, for she'll need all the sleep she can get, for tomorrow she had an appointment with Madam Pomfrey for her second round of vaccinations."
Harry made a face. "Ugh! Poor baby! I hate shots."
Draco nodded. "Me too."
"I'm not particularly fond of them either, but it's a necessity," said their father. "Who's going to bring her this time, Sarai?"
"You, because I did last time." His wife replied, going to put the baby down for a nap.
"Wonderful," her husband said sarcastically, looking as unhappy about it as his sons. He hated seeing his baby hurting, but at least once these vaccines were over, all she would need was a booster one at age five and the last at age ten.
He eyed his three older children. "Well, why are you all standing around like dunderheads? Don't you have homework to do?"
"Yes, sir," Harry grumbled.
"Did you have to remind us?" Draco muttered.
"I was hoping you'd forget," sighed Nesmay.
"Only if I'm senile," her guardian shot back. "Nice try, Nesmay."
She pouted a little before going to her bookbag and taking out her folder of assignments. The boys soon followed suit and soon the whole family was gathered about the table, grading tests in the case of the two professors and finishing up homework due the next day. Cafall sprawled beneath the table, his head on Harry's foot, drooling in his sleep.
The next morning:
Poppy smiled when she saw Severus carrying Victoria into the Hospital Wing. "Good morning, Severus! You're here bright and early. And how's your adorable little pixie this morning?" She tickled Toria under the chin.
"She's doing well. I think she's gained some more weight." Severus informed the mediwitch.
"Good! Let's see, shall we?" Poppy indicated Severus should sit on one of the exam tables and hold the baby. She waved her wand about the infant, casting the standard round of diagnostic spells. "She's doing wonderful, Severus. Everything is normal, and she has gained another pound. She now weighs almost 12 pounds and is 23 inches long."
"She was only 6 and one half pounds at birth."
"Yes, well, she was a twin, and twins are often smaller than a single baby. How is she doing with feeding?"
Severus told her about the recent trouble with gas and Poppy suggested making a few minor adjustments to the formula. Then it was time for the injections. There were two of them, one was a combination of three magical maladies—dragon pox, goblin fever, and pixie pneumonia. The other was a combination of some Muggle diseases that wizards were susceptible to—diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus.
Severus removed Victoria's leggings while Poppy busied herself with the cart containing the syringes and vaccine. "It's all right, it'll only hurt for a moment," he whispered to the baby, who was starting to whimper a little. He was trying to sound soothing, but inwardly he was cringing in dread. He wished Poppy would give her a Sleeping Draft before the injections.
Poppy turned about, a long silver needle in her hand. "Severus, hold her tight now. This won't take but a moment—"
Severus went pale and clutched Victoria to him. The sight of that glistening instrument caused him to instinctively jerk away and snap, "No! There's no way you're sticking that in my baby!"
Poppy halted, astonished. "Why, Severus! The vaccine is perfectly safe."
Victoria began to fuss, sensing her father's uneasiness. He narrowed his eyes. "Why can't you give her something to make her sleep through it? Then it won't hurt her as much."
Poppy's eyes widened. "Put a child out with a Sleeping Draft for a few seconds worth of pain? Severus, that's ridiculous! Now stop going spare! We've done this before, you know."
"Not with me. That needle looks too big. She's tiny!"
"It's the proper size, trust me." Poppy frowned. "I must say, Severus, your wife took this much better than you."
Severus scowled. "Sarai would, she's used to getting stuck with shiny metal objects and watching others getting stuck with them too." He was holding Victoria in a protective grasp, his body interposed between her and the mediwitch. "I'd rather you stuck me with it then her."
"Severus, calm down. I promise to put a numbing paste on her skin before I give her the injection, that way she won't feel it that much. But if you're all nervous and alarmed, then she will be too, and it'll hurt worse. Understand?"
Severus nodded. "Give me a moment." He started to take several deep breaths trying to calm down. He knew he was acting like a complete idiot, but he couldn't help himself. The mere thought of someone inflicting pain, even though it was necessary, upon his baby girl made him want to break something, preferably the hands of said person. Abruptly, he rose, and began to walk up and down the infirmary, struggling against his instincts, using every scrap of will and discipline to bring his raging overprotective fatherly instincts to heel.
Finally, he managed to leash them, and get Victoria quiet enough again to sit on his lap. "All right, we're ready," he said, returning to the table. He silently apologized to his daughter as Poppy approached with the numbing paste. He gritted his teeth when she administered the first vaccine in Toria's left thigh.
The baby let out a soft yelp.
Severus hugged her. "Shh. I know it stings. Be brave, you have one more."
Poppy quickly gave the other vaccine in the opposite thigh. Victoria wailed. "There, there! It's all done. I'd give you a lolly, but you're too little." She kissed the top of Victoria's head.
Severus immediately cradled her and rocked her, pale as a sheet, murmuring reassurance into her shell pink ear.
"Severus, you're not going to . . . faint are you?" Poppy queried, concerned.
He shook his head firmly. "Bite your tongue, Pomfrey! I've never fainted in my life." He continued to rock his daughter, whose sobs were dwindling as the pain faded.
"I think those vaccinations hurt you worse than they did Victoria!" Poppy remarked, amused.
Severus grunted, not deigning to answer. What did she think, that he was made of stone, to sit back and watch his baby hurting and just shrug it off? Poppy was lucky he hadn't hexed her.
"You might want to give her some chamomile and a drop or two of Children's Pain Reliever when you get home, Severus. That might keep her from having a reaction to the shots. If she develops a fever or a rash, just Floo me."
Severus nodded, his jaw clenched. Sweat trickled down the back of his neck. He gently wiped the tears from his daughter's eyes and put her on his shoulder. He rose and exited the infirmary, calling a gruff thank you before stalking away, though he really wanted to swear a blue streak at Pomfrey for putting them both through that terrible ordeal.
"Next time, your mother's taking you to the Healer's," he told his daughter.
By the time the holidays rolled around again, everyone was looking forward to the holiday break. Thanks to Draco and Severus' schedule, Hermione managed to avoid her usual stressful pre-exam jitters and still scored at the top of her class. Katie managed to pull off an E in her NEWT potions exam and class, she was so happy she kissed Harry right in front of everyone in the Great Hall. To Harry's surprise, no one seemed to mind, not even Severus.
As for the Snape family, they all received excellent marks for the term, including Nesmay, who was seriously considering attending Hogwarts next year. They all went home to the manor and celebrated Christmas Eve there. It was Toria's first Christmas, so of course she was spoiled rotten by everyone, even her father, though he would never admit to it. But after all the presents were opened, the family quietly went out to the cemetery and placed Christmas poinsettias upon all the graves, and they lit a lantern on Alex's.
On Christmas Day, they were all invited to the Weasleys for dinner, along with Sirius, Petunia, and Dudley. Petunia was now starting to show a lot, and Harry thought she looked like she could deliver any day now.
"Don't say that too loud, Harry," warned Dudley. "I happened to say that she looked a little . . . you know . . . big and she smacked me one with her spoon."
"Boys!" Nesmay rolled her eyes. "What do you expect, telling a lady she's fat?"
"That it's a compliment," Ginny snorted. "Boys are clueless. Come on, Ness, let me show you my new wireless, we can listen to the Weird Sisters on it."
The two girls disappeared upstairs, leaving the boys to fool around with their brooms or eat the never-ending supply of snacks Mrs. Weasley had set out on the porch table for them.
Inside, Petunia was discussing her various stages of pregnancy with Molly and Sarai, while Toria slammed her new goblin-face rattle onto her high chair over and over.
The rattle had been a gift from Fred and George, one side had a giggly face that laughed when you shook it, the other had a semi-scary goblin face that said "Boo!" Toria, as the only baby, was made much of by the Weasleys, and the twins had been delighted to have another baby girl to play with.
"Hey, looky here, Snapey baby!" Fred had cooed when the presents were handed out.
"Looky what we've got—" George began.
"—for you, little honey bee!" Fred finished, pulling out the rattle with a flourish.
The goblin side had been facing the adults, and Severus frowned upon seeing it. "Boys, what do you mean by giving her a rattle with a goblin head on it? You'll scare her half to death!"
"Nah, professor!" George disagreed. "She doesn't scare easy!"
"Watch," Fred laughed, and turned the rattle around.
"Boo!" screeched the gobin face.
Toria blinked. Then she burst out laughing and banged the rattle on the ground. She was sitting in front of Sarai, playing with the strips of wrapping paper, and some of her new toys.
"Yeah! That's our girl!" the twins hooted, clapping.
For once, Severus had nothing to say.
Until Harry suggested he take his baby sister flying with him and Ron. "Please, Dad? She loves it, we flew outside by the manor, and I promise I'll be careful. I want Ron and Dudley to see how she loves being on a broom."
Severus looked at Sarai. "Well? What do you think?"
Sarai considered. "I trust Harry not to endanger his baby sister. You will use a Sticking Charm, won't you?"
"Of course!" Harry said, somewhat indignantly.
Severus eyed his son, and said, "Merlin help you, boy, if there's an accident. Because I'll break that broomstick over your backside."
"All right, Dad! Relax! I'll be careful, don't go off the deep end," Harry growled. He was embarrassed by his father's overprotective streak.
"I'll make sure he doesn't try anything stupid, sir," Ron put in, and got elbowed in the ribs by Harry for his trouble.
"Thanks a lot, mate!"
"And I'll keep an eye out for both of them," Draco added, a tad smugly.
"You're not my keeper, Draco!" snapped Harry.
"Yeah, Malfoy, who died and made you the babysitter police?" Ron groused.
"Now boys," began Molly. "Are you going to sit here and argue over it all afternoon, or are you going to go flying? Because the longer you fight, the more chance you have of that itty bitty baby falling asleep before you come to an agreement." She indicated Victoria, who was looking a little sleepy.
That stopped the argument cold. Harry put Toria in her sling and fastened it around his neck. He then Stuck the baby sling to his chest, so Toria wouldn't bounce around when he flew. Then he went out the back door, where his Firebolt was propped against the railing. Draco and Ron followed.
When Severus would have risen as well, Sarai caught his arm. "Severus, sit down."
"But Sarai, I need to—"
"You need to stop being such a mother hen and trust your sons. You know as well as I do that they'd die before they let any harm come to their sister. Harry especially. Now sit down and enjoy your eggnog and mince pasties."
Severus allowed himself to be tugged back in his chair next to his wife.
"Merlin, but I pity that poor kid when she starts to date," Sirius said, snickering. "The poor boy's gonna need some serious siege equipment to even get into the castle, much less escort the fair lady out of it."
"Just wait, Sirius, until you have your own. Then you'll understand why Severus is the way he is," Molly said wisely. "Arthur was just like him when Ginny was born. Nothing was too good for his baby girl, and every time she cried, he was there to hold her. And none of the boys were allowed to make her cry either. Why, I remember once George—or was it Fred? No, it was George . . . was teasing her with a stuffed lion and scared her by pushing it in her face. She screamed and Arthur came running in bellowing like a Bedlamite. Poor George hadn't meant to scare her, but Arthur spanked him and sent him to bed without supper anyway."
"If I'd done that to Ron, Dad would have laughed, but because it was Ginny, the little princess, I got my bum tanned," George said ruefully. "There's just no coming between-?"
"—a dad and his little girl," Fred grinned.
"Oh, Merlin, I hope I have a boy," said Sirius fervently.
"I don't," said Petunia, putting a hand upon her belly.
Severus took another sip of his brandy-laced eggnog and tried to avoid thinking about all the things that might go wrong with Toria riding a broom with Harry. It wasn't that he didn't trust his son to do the right thing, but Victoria was so vulnerable, so fragile, and he couldn't help wanting to keep her safe. All the time. He sighed and took another drink of his eggnog. Maybe if he were drunk his anxiety would go away. He snorted at his own foolishness. That was his father's style, not his. He had only been drunk once in his life, after Lily's death and it hadn't been worth the hangover the next morning. He forced himself to nibble on a pasty and prayed that Sirius would also have a girl, because that would be the perfect revenge on the former Marauder and ladies man. Severus smirked imagining it.
"What's so funny, Snape?" asked Sirius, noting the gleam in the other's black eyes.
"Nothing. I'm just thinking happy thoughts," answered Severus slyly, and took another mincemeat pasty from the tray.
Meanwhile, the three boys and baby Toria flew around the Burrow and the pumpkin patch, hovering a mere ten feet from the ground.
"See, Ron? She's perfectly safe," muttered Harry out of the corner of his mouth. "I swear, sometimes my dad acts like a bloody girl over my sister. He worries over everything with her!"
Ron covered his mouth with his hand, laughing. "Harry, you'd better pray he never finds out what you just said."
"He won't. Unless you tell him," Harry shot looks at his best friend and his brother.
"Nah. I don't want to have to bury another brother," Draco said, then he went quiet. "Maybe that's why he's like this, Harry. Not just because she's a girl and all fathers are overprotective with them, but because he lost Alex. That hurt him bad and maybe he's trying to make up for it by protecting Toria."
"That makes sense," Ron agreed.
"I never thought about it that way before." Harry said, carefully looping about the corner of the Burrow.
"Or, it could be because you dropped the Snitch during practice last week and he saw it," Ron reminded, smirking.
"Bite me, Weasley!" Harry growled, flushing. Ron would have to remind him of his worst practice ever. He kicked the Firebolt up a quarter of a notch, making his baby sister giggle.
They flew for several more minutes, their teasing banter interspersed with loud high-pitched squeals of laughter from Severus' precious baby girl.
A/N: Okay, so I thought this was going to be the last chapter of the story, but . . . the best laid plans of mice and men and fanfic authors . . . often go astray. I felt that this chapter was getting too long and I couldn't say all I wanted it to say in just one more chapter, so . . . you're getting an extra chapter with more Snape family and the Hogwarts staff and the birth of Sirius's baby. Hope that makes you as happy as it does me! Oh, and there will be an epilogue too!
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