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Brave New Hope by ARG
Chapter 62 : Cheers
 
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A/N: I cannot believe I am posting this chapter two whole weeks late. it's my own fault this time. Should have warned you I might have gone on vacation, though I was all but set on cancelling because of Dad's surgery. 

Anyway, this is a less action-packed chapter... you could call it the calm before the storm. That could have been the title of the chapter, really...

Thank you for your patience and well-wishes. Enjoy!

There were very few sounds Severus Snape could say actually made his skin crawl. In fact, aside from the sound of students whispering around during his lectures, one of the few sounds he placed in such a category, he hardly had to deal with such sounds in a daily basis, which he was more than happy with. Logics said that if a sound made his skin want to crawl away, the longer he spent without hearing it, the better.

Logics had it wrong.

For the first time in his life, a sound that usually not only made his skin want to crawl away but also made him vaguely wish to combust into flames seemed like music to his ears: Bellatrix Lestrange was laughing. Hysterically so, sounding as mad as they came and as sickening as always.

For once, that didn’t bother him at the least – that actually made him relish. Because she had a good reason to laugh and even better targets to laugh at: Alecto and Amycus Carrow.

“Oh, you’re in trouble,” she mocked, walking around the two Death Eaters as they sat on a couple of chairs at the Malfoy Manor’s dinner table, too weakened to stand – spending over half a day passed out in the woods, no food or water, did that to a person. Snape didn’t pity them for it, just as he didn’t pity them for being in the wrong end of Bella’s mocking. “Big, stinking trouble. Let me see… disobeyed Daddy’s orders,” she started, nodding at Snape, “ruined his plan, got taken down by a lone woman and even managed to lose your wands…” She whistled. “Master’s not going to be happy.”

“Shut up, Bella,” Amycus said under his breath before turning on the chair so he was facing the door. “Is that bloody pepper-up potion going to find its way here eventually, Narcissa?!” he yelled towards it.

Before he could even see it coming, Bellatrix was slapping him. Her wand was on his face before he could even try to reply in the same manner. “Watch your manners in other people’s houses,” she said. Amycus glared but stayed put – he was an idiot, but not enough of one that he’d think he had any chance against Bellatrix Lestrange without a wand.

Snape rolled his eyes from the spot where he stood against the wall. As if she cared anything about manners – she just felt like taking her own jab at them before their master arrived and stole them from right under her nose.

Narcissa strolled into the room seconds later, calmly announcing they’d run out of potion, throwing the least convincing apology he’d ever heard into the statement. Snape had a feeling there was no potion lack of pepper-up potion in that house – Narcissa just wasn’t willing to share it with a couple of idiots who’d been less than gracious with the Malfoys when they’d fallen from grace. He imagined she was enjoying watching them in the same situation now, a thought that was all but confirmed by a little curl of her lips as she moved to join her husband at the table.

“Why didn’t you think to take her wand away, anyway?” Lucius questioned, newly-confident with the new odds of not being at the bottom of the pyramid anymore with the Carrows’ failure. “It’s basic logic – when you take someone against their will, take their weapons first. A Muggle could tell you that,” he stated, as if Muggles made the best example of stupidity other than the Carrows themselves.

Neither Alecto nor Amycus responded – they wouldn’t know what to say, anyway.

“Oh, that’s right,” Bellatrix said with a cackle. “You wouldn’t remember, would you? She obliviated you too. Wonder what else she did…”

“Can’t you just be quiet for one moment?” Alecto snapped. “Why don’t you redirect your little comments to Snape instead? He was the one in charge.”

He,” Snape said, “gave your orders, which you chose to ignore. You were to wait for my signal to take Black and I’d escort her personally into this manor’s dungeon – but what did you do instead? You ventured on your own, didn’t even think of unarming her and Amelia Black ran away. Congratulations.” Of course, he hadn’t been surprised they’d ignored his orders – orders he’d made certain were heard by many other ears in case their amnesia came into question.

Months of handling them had taught him that using just the right amount of insult and superiority when giving an order would set their tempers off. Add a little hint that he’d be taking the credit for the success of the mission and be able to step on them even more than he already did and it would make it irresistible for them to turn the tables and take the credit for themselves. He had, of course, taken into account the possibility that they might not fall for the trap and arranged half a dozen of contingencies but, oh, had they fallen right on their faces…

Everyone got on their feet and stood straight as an arrow once Draco Malfoy appeared in the room, announcing he’d seen the Dark Lord arriving at the gates from his bedroom window. Not a minute later, he was making his way into the Dining Room, all flowing black robes and unreadable expressions.

First, the snake-faced man looked at the two Carrows, then at him – Snape held steady on his feet and kept his mind just as closed at it always was, despite it. Truth was, he wasn’t quite sure part of the blame wouldn’t fall on him. He’d done what he could in what came to turning the Carrows into the main scape goats of their failure to capture Amelia and Isabelle Black – no one deserved that more than them for what they did to harmless children every time his attention had to shift away from them. But he knew, though, that there was no one more volatile than his master – he could easily twist things into him being to blame as well and punish him accordingly.

Snape couldn’t care less about the punishment – not unless it involved stripping him of his position at the school. Protecting the students was his priority and if doing so led to him being on the wrong end of a few Cruciatus curses, it was a price worth paying.

“Severus,” the dark lord called after a few seconds of silence. His eyes were fixed on the Carrows at the moment and they were starting to sweat.

Snape approached him like a good minion, promptly bowing. “My lord,” he responded.

There was another moment of silence – for a second there, Snape was sure it meant his master was holding him responsible for the failure above everyone. He braced himself to take whatever sentence was dictated for that – he’d saved two people that time around… three, counting young Ginny Weasley. As far as he was concerned, it was worth getting punished for.

“I understand Hogwarts has been on break as of yesterday,” the Dark Lord stated, making everyone raised their eyebrows – that was about the last thing anyone was expecting him to say. Was he making… conversation?!

Snape nodded, barely managing to hide his surprise. “Since yesterday, my lord. Classes shouldn’t resume for a week.”

Voldemort nodded. “So, am I to assume you won’t need your co-deputy-headmasters until then?”

The Carrows went blank as a couple of sheets. Snape’s face became expressionless. “I suppose I could manage without them for a week, yes,” he responded, all but offering those two in a silver platter.

“Good. Because Professors Carrow will be spending their break with me,” Voldemort stated.

Carrow’s faces became even whiter, Bella let out some sort of satisfied giggle and the Malfoys just smirked.

“My lord,” Amycus started. “Please… We…”

Their master pointed his wand at the man and sent him flying across the room, violently hitting the stone wall on the other side of the dinner table. No doubt there would be broken bones to fix from that but no one seemed in a hurry to do so – not even Alecto, who seemed frozen in place.

When I tell you to obey someone, you do it even if it turns your ego black and blue!” their Master shouted loudly enough for people to hear him across the channel in France. “I am your Master – what I say is law!”

“Yes, my l…”

“If I wanted you in charge, I’d have put you in charge,” he continued, ignoring Alecto’s words. “But why would I do that? Why would I ever put you in charge?” He turned to Bellatrix. “Tell them why I’d put him in charge.”

“You wouldn’t, my lord,” the mad woman said, looking at the Carrows with a hint of superiority – she seemed to think she was back in their Master’s good graces. “Because they’re stupid enough to get stunned and obliviated by a woman who should have been unarmed in the first place.”

“Good Bella,” their master said, making the woman reel. “And, Lucius,” he continued without turning to the Malfoys. “Say why I would put Severus Snape in charge.”

It was a good thing he wasn’t looking at the malfoys, Snape thought, because if he was, he wouldn’t have missed the look of disgust on their faces over Lucius being asked that question in particular.

“Lucius?” the Dark lord insisted.

“Because he killed Dumbledore,” the other man mumbled through his teeth like someone was trying to pull them.

“There it is,” Voldemort says. “Not all of my disciples seem to be lacking a brain. Now, Severus,” he added, turning to the former potions Master, “I believe that is all I need from you at the moment. You are dismissed – unless you’d like to stay and watch.”

“I would, but I’m afraid I have some commitments back at Hogwarts,” Snape stated. “We’re in need of a new History of Magic teacher.”

His master nodded. “Make sure you search within our circles. And keep an eye on the Blacks’ friends in the school. See if try to get in touch.”

Snape nodded back. “I will, my lord,” he said, bowing before walking out.

He was out of the gates by the time the screaming started.

---

4 April 1998

“Tell me about it again,” Mia requested of her husband once she saw him walking into their room, where she sat at the window seat, looking out.

Sirius frowned. “Mia…”

“Please,” she said. “Just one more time.”

That was what she’d said last time, he thought. To tell her the story just one more time, which he wouldn’t mind, if it was a marginally good story. But it wasn’t – it was probably among the worst he’d ever had to tell: the story of how his wife and daughter had narrowly escaped capture by Death Eaters on the day they should’ve been headed home for Easter break.

It wasn’t hard to understand why he didn’t particularly like telling it, though he couldn’t blame her for wanting to hear it: that whole event was part of a massive hole in her memories that, maybe by making herself hear the story over and over, she was trying to fill up, or at the very least built a bridge over. So far, there were no results and she seemed unable to get past it – to be honest, he was starting to believe there would never be results. She was just torturing herself – he could see the frustration in her face every time he narrated the facts he’d gathered between his and Izzy’s accounts of the escape.

But still, he gave in – for the last time, he promised himself. He couldn’t let Mia stay indefinitely locked in that cycle. He walked over to the window and took a seat opposite her. She looked at him expectantly, as if she’d never heard what he was about to tell her before – she might remember every word of those previous times, but he could see she was still expecting something new: a new detail, a little something that might help her fill the gap in her memory and move on. He felt a pang in his heart because that look of expectation made it so obvious that losing her memory had made her a little broken. And, as much as he wanted to fix her or give her time to fix herself, it didn’t seem to be working. Sighing, he placed his hand over hers on the windowsill.

“On the night before you were supposed to come home, you received a Patronus warning you the Death Eaters were planning to take you, Izzy and Ginny in the morning,” he said, calmly reporting the details he already his daughter had filled him with days before.

He could have lied, he supposed. He could have simplified the whole thing, censored the worst parts and saved himself the trouble of having to tell such a long and complicated story, even though he hadn’t predicted he’d have to be so repetitive about it. Honestly, she probably would have taken it in much better if he’d painted the whole thing much more colourfully and wrapped it with a bow of praising. But he didn’t. Someone had erased the memories of half a day of her life – a rather eventful, certainly important, half day. That seemed like enough of a violation without him adding to it by lying to her about what had happened. So, he told her things exactly the way he’d learnt them, as unbiased as he could, leaving it up to her to judge the meaning of things.

She listened to him with the same focus she’d worn the first time he’d narrated the tale, not interrupting him once. He felt the same pang of regret he’d felt the first time he told her about how she’d tried to contact him and was unsuccessful because he’d failed to carry the two-way mirror with him or give it to someone who could answer it, as well as guilt when he shared that the likely reason for the Death Eater’s sudden interest in taking the girls was the rescue mission he’d rushed Kreacher into.

“When you left the castle, you were just waiting for the chance to get the girls and apparate away,” he continued. “McGonagall was with you at first but the Carrows must have managed to lure her away because somehow you ended up on your own with them. I’m not sure what they said or did from then on but they got you to follow them out of school grounds. From then on, all I know is that Kingsley and your parents found you unconscious on your own several yards off-path. You had your wand on you and the Carrows were nowhere to be seen. I guess you managed to over overthrow them. There weren’t sighs of head trauma or anything, but when you woke up…”

“I didn’t remember any of it,” Mia finished for him, sighing.

“You didn’t,” he said, pausing for a moment. “Did hearing it juggle anything this time?”

She shook her head and pulled her hand away from his and onto her lap, a frustrated look on her face – it didn’t surprise him. He didn’t think it would in the first place. And, honestly, he was starting to wonder if that mattered: maybe her moving on wasn’t so much about remembering what she’d forgotten but rather what she didn’t.

“Love,” he said. “You’ve got to stop doing this to yourself. Everything points to a memory charm being the reason you lost your memory of that day – making yourself hear over and over and over again what happened more than likely won’t bring anything back.”

“No, but it might make me… understand.”

“Understand what?”

She looked away, out of the window, as if she was trying to break the conversation along with the eye contact. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter.”

“Of course it matters,” he replied immediately, taking her hand again. “Tell me. What do you need to understand?”

There was a clear moment of hesitation before she spoke. And, when she did, though her eyes moved away from the window, they didn’t meet his, remaining fixed on her lap, where his hand rested on hers. “What I was thinking,” she said. “What I was thinking that made me let everything go so… wrong.”

Sirius frowned. “What do you mean ‘let everything go wrong’? You didn’t let anything go wrong – things went wrong because Death Eaters tried to kidnap you, not because you lured them to you or anything.”

“No, but I knew they were coming. I was warned. And I wasted it,” she said, that time looking him in the eye.

“You didn’t waste it, you warned us. You got the girls to send a message to the twins and they got us to go there and get you. Which we did. What else were you supposed to do?”

“Get them and run. Start a riot when they weren’t expecting it. Throw the bloody walls around the castle down or dig a hole under them. Anything, just as long as it got us out.”

“None of that would have possibly worked…”

Mia got up, frustrated. “You can’t know that for sure unless you try. And I didn’t – apparently, I just sat there and waited to be saved. Why would I do that? Why would I let us cut it so close, Sirius?”

“But you still made it out in one piece. All of you. Which is a victory in my book. Love, as depressing as it sounds, cutting it close is a good thing these days. It’s a bloody war – anything other than a loss is positive. Plus, there’s ‘cutting it close’ and there’s ‘cutting it close while under the influence of Felix Felicis’.”

“No!” she said firmly, shooting him an angry look – the mention of the potion hit a nerve, though she hadn’t been particularly sensitive about it up until then. “There’s cutting it close. Period. Maybe that was the problem – the potion. There’s a reason why people don’t use it on a daily basis, Sirius, and it’s not just because it’s poisonous in large quantities. The mere idea of it makes you overconfident. You make sloppy plans and expect the potion to make them work. Maybe that’s what happened: I trusted the potion too much. I was lucky, so why try too hard? Everything would work out – and did it work out… I got myself caught by the Carrows and left Izzy and Ginny to fend for themselves.”

Sirius sighed. “Has it occurred to you that maybe it was all part of some plan?” he offered. “Give yourself over to the Carrows so they’d turn their attention away from the girls or something… Sounds like something you’d do – not that I’d approve, mind you.”

“It wasn’t a plan,” she said quickly, starting to pace around in front of her sitting husband.

“How can you possibly sound so sure about that? You don’t remember,” he asked her.

She paused, looking at him. “I wouldn’t have this nagging feeling that I did something wrong if that was the case.”

“What?” Sirius asked in confusion. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Yes, it does, Sirius. I used to be a healer, remember?” she pointed out. “My specialty was spell-damage: I’ve dealt with more people who were obliviated than I can count and, many times, even when the memories were gone, feelings remained. Like… when this auror was accidentally hit with a memory charm and forgot the last ten years of her life. Once she landed her eyes on her kids – kids she’d had during those ten years – she just knew they were hers. If you asked her how old they were, what they were called or what their favourite food was, she wouldn’t be able to tell you. But that feeling that was left behind… she knew they were hers. And I know I failed. I don’t know how for sure, I don’t know why but I know I should have tried harder. I just… know.”

Sirius wasn’t one to give up – Merlin helped him if he ever did. But, hearing that tone, he started to realize that maybe convincing her she’d done nothing wrong wouldn’t be the way for her to move on. No, she didn’t need denial. She needed forgiveness. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s say – for the sake of argument – that you didn’t handle things the best way. Let’s say you got over-confident. You’re not the first and you surely won’t be the last person in the world to make a mistake. And that’s not even the worst mistake ever made – everyone made it out okay.”

“Izzy broke her arm,” she replied.

“She did – but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed. In once pushed my friends to pick a secret-keeper they didn’t want and that got them both killed. How do you fix that?”

Mia turned to him in shock – she couldn’t believe he was bringing that up. “Sirius, you didn’t know…”

“Neither did you,” he replied before she could go any further. “You couldn’t foresee how your plan would turn out, as bad or brilliant as it might have been. And, to be honest, if you could have foreseen it, I wouldn’t mind if you hadn’t changed a thing. Because, maybe it wasn’t the best plan but it led to the best outcome, which is you and the girls being alive and safe. So, you need to forgive yourself for the little things, because it’s the big things that really matter this time.”

Mia sighed. “How do you forgive yourself for something you can’t remember?”

“That goes both ways, Mia,” he pointed out. “How can you blame yourself for it in the first place?” He saw her looking down as she took a seat opposite him again. He imagined it was exhausting, the dilemma, the unknown guilt… “Look, if anyone has a right to do it, it’s you.”

She looked up, confused. “What do you mean?”

“Forgiving yourself, even if you don’t remember. Because whatever you think you did wrong, you’d undo if you thought it would make things better, no matter the price for yourself. It’s just who you are, Mia. I still say no harm, no foul, but if it’s forgiveness you need, so be it. You need to move on, Love. And you need to come home.”

The confusion on her face only grew. “I am home.”

“Not really,” he replied. “You’re here but you’re not really here. You spend your days in this house, either it’s eating or sleeping or just walking around, but you’re still there. Back at Hogwarts, apparently trying to figure out you think you did wrong. You smile when Alex or Mary show you something cute but you don’t really pay attention. You go entire conversations I’m not really sure you even remember just replying with one-syllable words that sometimes don’t even apply – that is, unless I’m telling you about the escape again. And, oh, you’ve apparently missed the fact that for the last four days we’ve been living under the same roof as the pyjama-wearing living dead.”

Mia frowned, completely baffled by then. “The what now?”

“The creature formerly known as Isabelle Black,” he specified, rolling his eyes. “The one that walks around sulking in pyjamas all day… that is, when she decides to grace us with her presence outside of her room.”

“Why? What’s wrong with her?”

“I dunno. I asked her once and she just mumbled something about ‘timing’. My guess is that it’s girl-stuff – no girl likes to talk about girl-stuff with her dad. She needs her Mum, Mia. We need you back.”

His wife looked at him, a little lost. “I… I didn’t even notice. Didn’t think…” She paused, a rather remorseful look on her face. “I’m so sorry, Sirius.”

He shook his head. “Don’t apologize, Love. You needed time – I get it. And you can still have it. Just don’t spend all day torturing yourself for something that, in the end of the day, turned out just fine. Try to spare us a few hours every once in a while. We miss you. Merlin, I miss you. Ridiculously, for someone who’s been sleeping next to you for the past four nights.” He just looked at her for a moment before sighing and stretching his arm towards her. “Come here.”

She took his hand and allowed him to pull her out of her seat to sit sideways on his lap instead. She wrapped one arm around his shoulders, resting her side against his chest and felt her lips curling just a little once she recognized the familiar warmth of being so close to him.

“There’s that smile,” he said, grinning himself before pulling her into a soft, slightly tentative kiss. For the first time in days, she had the presence of mind to respond and it immediately made her feel a little bit better. “Let’s never do this again,” he mumbled once they broke apart.

She looked at him with raised eyebrows. “Kissing?”

“Merlin, no,” he said, mildly horrified. “No one’s keeping me from kissing you until I’m dead and buried. Maybe even afterwards, depending on how the afterlife works out. I meant going our separate ways. Let’s never do that again unless we really, really have to. As in our lives depending on it. Or the kids’.”

“We sort of had to this time,” Mia pointed out.

“Or we could have set our first-born’s wrath by keeping her home, as scary as it was,” Sirius replied.

His wife gave him a look. “You know that wouldn’t be right. We’d be making her turn into a fugitive.”

“She is a fugitive,” he stated. “We all are now.”

“Yes,” Mia agreed. “But she still had those months, maybe not completely free but at least able to be with her friends. It wouldn’t be right to clip her wings sooner than we had to.”

Sirius sighed but didn’t disagree. “Well, it’s done now, regardless,” he stated. “And we’re together. We’re safe. We’re home.”

She just eyes him oddly for a second. “You sound very positive about it, for someone who is resigned to spend his day inside this house for an undetermined period of time,” she couldn’t help noticing. She knew her husband well, and anything but him going stir-crazy over being a prisoner in his own home would be completely out-of-character.

“Hey, don’t ruin it yet,” he warned her. “The whole, ‘we’re under a Fidelius Charm now so we have to sit on our bums for Merlin-knows-how-long’ is still settling in. For now, I’m in the whole ‘glad we’re all okay’ phase. I mean, really – we’re all okay. You and me, Izzy, the little ones and even Harry. He may not be under our roof right now but we know he’s among friends and that he’s perfectly fine. How long has it been since we could say that?”

Mia’s lips curled. “A while,” she agreed, before her face soured again. “But you know it won’t last forever. Harry won’t stay put for long while the war rages – it’s just not him.”

“Oh, hush, woman,” he told her, rolling his eyes. “I know that. Of course I know that. But we’re all fine now and that’s been getting me through the day, even with a zombie-daughter and absent-minded wife. Enjoy it too for a while before it gets old. Don’t ruin the present by worrying too much about the future.”

With a small sigh, his wife rested her head against his shoulder. It occurred to her he had a point there – the present was to be lived, not wasted with regrets and possibilities. “That’s actually a very wise thing for you to say.”

“Why’s the tone of surprise? I’m wise,” he said, sounding more than a bit offended.

Mia looked up at him and smiled. “Of course you are.”

“Hey!” he complained. “No patronising the wise man. I’ll have you know that in all my wisdom, I even designed the perfect method to have our Mary eating her vegetables every meal without a fuss.”

All of them?” she asked, sceptically.

“All of them. Including the broccoli. Impressive, hum?”

She made a non-committal sound riddles with scepticism. “Would you mind sharing how you achieved that?”

He grinned. “By turning them all red – she doesn’t seem to like the colour green very much. No Slytherin for that one, I predict. In fact, there might be a lion roaring in the horizon for Miss Mary, if we take colours into account. She loves red broccoli.”

Mia chuckled. “Do they taste any different than the green ones?” she asked out of curiosity.

“I’ve no idea – you wouldn’t catch me dead eating one of those, either it’s green, red or yellow with blue stripes. Bloody disgusting, they are. All grainy and… mushy.”

She sighed. “Lovely example you make for your children, Sirius Black.”

“What? I can’t help that I’m not a toddler who can get fooled by oddly-coloured vegetables,” he pointed out.

He sounded so much like himself that Mia couldn’t help chuckling lightly before reaching to place a kiss on his cheek. “I did miss you.”

He grinned. “Oh, I know. You go completely bonkers without me.”

“And your ego just gets out of control without me to keep it from swelling too much,” she observed.

He ignored that. “So… done with mulling?”

Mia seemed thoughtful for a second. “Do you know when you have an itch that you can’t stop scratching and even though you know it just makes it worse you just won’t stop anyway?” He nodded. “Well, I know I need to stop scratching and, so far, I’m succeeding, mostly because I keep barking at myself in my head not to do it. But if I let my guard down for even a moment…”

“… you don’t know if it’ll stick,” he finished for her, receiving a nod in return. “Well,” he started, lifting one of her hands to his lips, “I guess we’ll just have to keep those hands otherwise occupied.”

Mia raised his eyebrows at him. “Metaphorical itches usually require metaphorical hands to scratch them.”

He looked absolutely unfazed by it. “Oh, I’m sure if I put enough effort to it, I can keep all of you occupied,” he assured her, moving his kisses from her hand to her lips. “Metaphorical parts or otherwise.”

She smiled against his lips, comforted by his familiar self-assuredness. She used her hand to cup his face and kiss him back, feeling more at home at that moment when he held her so close than she’d ever felt probably since Christmas.

But, being home, there would always be something to interrupt the moment.

Daddy!” they heard an excited little voice calling from the hallway, followed by the sound of little feet running in their room’s direction.

Sirius groaned, recognizing his son’s calling even before he had a chance to burst into the room. “Do you know when you have a very physical itch that you really want to scratch but the universe doesn’t seem to let you?” he whispered to his wife.

Mia chuckled, moving from his lap back to her previous seat after placing one last kiss on his lips. “Be nice,” she told him just as Alex burst into the room, dragging his tiny toy broom behind him by the wrong end.

“Daddy, ’t’s fly time!” the little boy announced.

Sirius raised his eyebrows at his son dubiously. “Do you even know what time it actually is?” he asked the boy.

Alex looked at him in confusion. “’t’s fly time,” he repeated. The look on his face was so affronted, he might as well have said something like ‘Do I stutter, you big dumbo?’

Sirius huffed. It actually wouldn’t surprise him if the kid thought ‘fly time’ was a time of the day that actually showed up on standard clocks – the little bugger was just three, after all.

“Of course it is, honey,” Mia told the little boy ignoring her husband’s frustration. “Does Mummy get a kiss first, though?”

Dumping the broom on the floor, the little boy grinned as he sped towards his mother, climbing onto her lap with her assistance and placing a sloppy kiss on her cheek. Any neglecting she might have done on his account on the previous days seemed completely forgiven – it was just that easy with him.

Mia smiled as she ran her fingers through her little son’s soft hair. “My little boy is getting so big,” she told him, a bit nostalgic.

Alex grinned in triumph, turning to his father with a rather mocking expression on his face. “‘m big,” he stated victoriously.

“Yeah, well, I’m bigger,” Sirius told his son in a competitive manner, making the little boy narrow his eyes, as if saying it was on.

Mia let out a little laugh at their interaction. “So, Daddy takes you flying this time every day?”

“Not every day. And not at this time,” Sirius explained. “He just shows up at random times saying it’s ‘fly time’. I’m still trying to figure out the logic of this timetable. Especially after he showed up here at half past five in the morning the other day saying it was ‘fly time’.” He reached forward, ruffling his son’s hair playfully. “Little bugger.”

Alex giggled in return, turning to his mother. “You cummin’ to see too, Mama?”

His mother smiled. “I’ll tell you what – you go on with Daddy to get warmed up and I’ll join you there in a little while after I have a chat with Izzy.”

“Good,” Sirius agreed. “Level with the zombie. And see if you get her to stop reading books that sound like a brain injury on paper because that’s just disturbing. I mean, the 19-sometthing Encyclopaedia of Merlin-knows-what? The Annual Digest of whatever? Next thing you know, she’ll be flipping through a dictionary or something. I’m starting to think she’s just trying to freak me out.”

“Knowing who she takes after, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Mia observed.

Sirius narrowed his eyes at her. “Not sure what you’re trying to imply,” he affirmed, as if he was the most innocent being in the whole world. Getting up, he gave his hand to his little son for him to hold. “Come along, mate.”

“Can we take Mary?” the little boy asked.

“What? So she can try to chase yon on the broom and keep on falling on her bum?” his father questioned.

Alex giggled. “‘t’s funny. An’ the floor’s soft.”

Sirius chuckled. “I suppose it won’t hurt, then.” Before heading out of the room, Sirius stopped at the doorway and turned around to face his wife. “And this here,” he said, gesturing at the general area they’d been snogging on. “To be continued later on.”

“You won’t hear me complaining,” she assured him.

She stayed in the room for a couple of minutes after he left, more or less testing herself to see if the thoughts of guilt and frustration were coming back to flood her mind. They were still there, considerably less pronounced than before, but they didn’t seem to be fighting their way out too hard. For the moment, at least.

Satisfied enough, Mia got up and headed out of the room, climbing down the stairs to the floor below. She was surprised not to find Izzy in her room, but instead in Harry’s, apparently feeding Hedwig some owl treats.

“I thought Kreacher was keeping her downstairs,” Mia observed, making her daughter turn around to face her. Sirius’s assessment was at least partially true, Mia observed: Izzy was in her pyjamas, although, at first sight, she could hardly be described as ‘the living dead’ – typical of Sirius to make it all sound overly-dramatic, probably as some sort of punch-line.

“She seemed a bit depressed down there, so I brought her back up,” Izzy told her without turning away from the bird’s cage. “I think she misses Harry.”

Mia let out a sigh, approaching her daughter. “Don’t we all?” she mumbled, reaching into the bag of owl treats in her daughter’s hands and feeding one to the owl. “He’s okay, though. For now. Or so I’m told,” she spoke, not particularly to herself, her daughter or the owl – they all seemed to react to it, though, Hedwig with a little squeak and Izzy with a long sigh.

“You look more… relaxed,” Izzy told her mother, changing the subject as she put the treats down on Harry’s ridiculously cluttered desk. “Have you remembered anything?”

She shook her head. “I’m trying to convince myself it doesn’t matter.”

“It doesn’t,” Izzy stated. “The best that could happen there was us making it out okay, which we did. I wouldn’t change a second of it.” Of course, her reasons for not wanting to change it were more related to her own particular rescue than the overall events of that day. Merlin knew a flawless escape would likely not have led to the whole thing with George: the rescuing, the comforting, the kissing, the promises and then… She shook her head, reaching the bitter end to a sweet memory, and headed to the door. “You coming, Mum?”

Mia nodded and followed her daughter out of her godson’s room, closing the door behind her after a last longing look into the empty chamber that she desperately wanted occupied again. When she reached Izzy’s room, she was sitting cross-legged on the bed, holding what seemed to be a blueberry-muffin just about to be eaten.

“Want one?” she asked, nodding at a plane with two or three more of those sitting on her dresser. “I think Kreacher’s on one of his missions.”

Mia chuckled as she shook her head, moving to sit on the edge of her daughter’s bed. There was nothing Kreacher liked more than seeing his young masters happy – Mia suspected there was no one he was fonder of then all four of them – so, at the faintest sign that such might not be the case, the house-elf tended to take it upon himself to try and make them feel better. He did it, of course, in his own way, which usually involved spoiling them with their favourite foods: when Harry was down, they knew treacle tart would be on the menu at least every other day for as long as it took; when it was Izzy, blueberry muffins would just appear out of nowhere for a while. Mia imagined that when Alex’s turn came, chocolate cookies would fly around the house – as for Mary, she still hadn’t made her favourites known. It was sweet of him, Mia thought, though it hardly did anything very permanent beyond giving them a sugar-rush and a few extra pounds. Vaguely, Mia recalled they’d been having butterscotch pudding after dinner for days – she wondered if it was a coincidence that just happened to be her favourite dessert.

“Does he really have a reason for this one?” she asked her daughter.

Izzy didn’t respond immediately. “Maybe he just missed me,” she suggested, trying to deflect the question.

“Your father seems to think you’re acting a little… odd,” Mia pointed out.

“Did he use some sort of undead metaphor to tell you that?” Izzy asked.

Mia’s lips curled a little. “You know he likes his dramatics.”

Izzy rolled her eyes. “I blame it on the telly – he was up watching this film about the living dead a couple of nights ago. Hasn’t shut up about it ever since, no matter how many times I tell him that just because I’ve been wearing pyjamas for a few days – which I change daily, mind you – and have mostly stayed up here, it doesn’t mean I’m sulking or… dead on the inside or anything. It’s just…” she gestured around, trying to make a point, which came out rather underwhelming for all the build-up “…pyjamas are comfortable,” she declared. “Besides, it’s not like we’re going out of this house anytime soon, is it?”

Her mother could see she was trying to make it all sound very simple when it really wasn’t. It was that last sentence that gave it away. “You feel trapped, don’t you? You miss your friends,” she guessed.

Izzy went quiet for a moment before realizing there was no use denying it or trying to ignore the question. “Yes.” Her friends and her… something more, she presumed. That was one of the worst things about having let that conversation with George be interrupted. She wasn’t sure what they were anymore. Still friends waiting to be turned into something more? Or maybe something more just waiting to be defined? Should she even presume the ‘something more’ was really on the horizon? It certainly had felt that way all those days before when they’d basically put it out there but, Merlin, would it crush her if it turned out to be less than she’d predicted…

“If there had been any other way, Izzy, we would have taken it,” Mia assured her. “I don’t like being under a Fidelius Charm any more than you do – Harry can’t find us if he needs us this way, remember? But it was the only fool-proof way we’d be safe: without the charm, if one of us as much as slipped and said the taboo word, they could have stormed the house in the blink of an eye. Now they may show up outside but they can’t see it.”

“I know,” Izzy said. “I know, Mum. But it just…” She paused.

“Just what?” Mia asked.

Izzy sighed. “It just came at the worst possible time.”

There was a pause in which Mia tried to figure out what her daughter meant before she asked anything. “What do you mean?”

“Have you ever felt like you’d just found your balance and then someone pulled the rug from right under your feet?”

Mia took a breath. “More times than I can count,” she admitted. “But you’re going to have to give me a little context here if you want me to understand how this applies to you?”

She eyed her mother for a second and then just went on with it. “George,” she said. Why hide it from her anymore? She’d made it very clear back at Christmas that she was aware of her feelings for him.

“George?” Mia asked, frowning. “He was the one to pull the rug?”

“Merlin, no,” she said immediately. “No, he… well, I’m not very sure what he is in this metaphor. I guess he could be what gave me the balance before the universe pulled the rug on me.” She huffed, not wanting to go into much detail. “I miss him, Mum,” she confessed.

“Aw, honey,” Mia said, scooting a little bit closer to her daughter and pulling her into her arms. “I’m sure he misses you too. And I promise that just as soon as we have a chance to let you to see him safely, we’ll take it.” She kissed the top of her daughter’s head. “You really fancy that boy, don’t you, my love?”

Izzy pulled away a little. Her eyes were dry, but her face was tense like she was forcing herself not to cry – she hated crying. “I don’t… I… It’s not just fancying. It’s… it’s more.” She paused for a second. “Dad has told you how we managed to contact the Order the other day, hasn’t he? Through this roll of papyrus that belongs to Ginny and was paired up with another one the twins had?”

Mia nodded in return. “Yes, it’s very ingenious, actually.”

“It is,” Izzy agreed. “And it was our thing: you and Dad had the two-way mirror; George and I had the papyrus. And we talked… well, wrote, really. A lot – practically every night lately. And it got me through the day – the worst days. I needed someone to talk to – someone who wasn’t inside and just in the same situation as I was – and he was always there,” she added with a smile. “He always made everything sound so easy, always managed to say something that would make me laugh… He’s been the best part of my life for months and now…” She paused, sighing.

“What happened to the papyrus?” Mia asked.

“Ginny had it in her luggage,” Izzy said, sadly. “It was hers, really, and I never did think we’d get separated or that we wouldn’t be able to see each other after we were safe, so I never thought to get it into mine.”

“And now you miss it – talking to him,” Mia concluded.

Izzy nodded. “Now I really needed it,” she said. “We left things… well, unsolved would be an understatement of massive proportions.” One minute ‘next time’ had been days away at the most, the other it had been so far away she couldn’t even see it in the horizon…”

“I know it’s not the same but you can always talk to me,” Mia assured her.

Her daughter smiled thankfully. “I know. But the conversation I have in mind it’s not the kind that can be delegated on someone else,” she stated.

Mia pulled her daughter into her arms again, rubbing her back in slow motions, just to remind her that, no matter what, she still had her. Her family. It didn’t matter in that case, though – her little girl was in love and it wasn’t her she needed that time around. That made her sad and happy at the same time – as far as boys went, George Weasley was a fairly decent one. She couldn’t say she fully trusted him – or really anyone but herself – with her daughter’s heart but he was certainly far above many people she knew. Maybe it was the little bit of Sirius she could usually see on serial pranksters that made her feel that way.

“I can’t fix this one for you, honey,” she told Izzy softly once she let her go, minutes later. “I wish I could but I can’t. All I can do is being here when you need me.”

Izzy gave her a little smile just for the sake of not making her mother feel bad – she was being very honest, after all. “That’s okay. I didn’t think you could. Conversations can’t fix everything, can they? If that was the case, the world would be far less messed up.”

“Well, I can at least talk to your father. Make your case about the pyjamas and wanting to spend time with just yourself,” Mia offered as she got up from the bed. Spotting a book on her daughter’s bedside table, she picked it up and eyed it dubiously. The 1978 Ultimate Guide to Wizarding Travel and Transport. Well, that was just ridiculous. “Alright, I’ve got to ask: are you actually reading this or is this book just part of some scheme of yours to spend the time by messing with your father’s head? Because, if that’s the case, he’s starting to suspect.”

Izzy forced herself to smile cheekily. “It’s fun to watch him squirm and I do need to keep myself entertained,” she said. “He almost had a stroke the other day when he first saw me with it. Started looking around for things I might use to attack him in case I was having a mental breakdown.”

Mia sighed. “You two are far too alike for your own good,” she declared, handing the book back to her daughter. “Do you want to go downstairs and watch your brother fly around on that little broomstick of his?”

“I’ll skip on this one,” Izzy replied. “He made a point of showing me all his moves yesterday.”

“Should I prepare myself to be shocked by the danger?”

“At three feet above the ground and with the floor so padded with charms you could sleep on it?” Izzy asked, sceptically. “You should be more worried about a meteor randomly landing in this very room.”

Mia’s lips curled. “Good,” she said. “Now, be good. And remember I’m always here.”

She gave her mother a little nod before she left the room, leaving her there sitting on the bed with the book on her lap. She took a look at the tome in question and felt just a little bit guilty for not telling her mother the truth: that the last reason why she was reading a book on Wizarding transportation was messing with her father’s head – she just needed a way out of that house.

Not for that day and probably not for the one after. Odds were, she wouldn’t have to use it anytime soon but she knew that, one day, there would come a time when she’d need to leave that house, either it was because she was joining Harry in battle or because she was done waiting for the asylum to end to see George again – and when it did, she needed to know a way to move around quickly and effectively by herself because her guess was that if there was any danger involved, her parents wouldn’t be lining up to give her a ride.

It wasn’t that they were trying to confine her permanently or leave her completely dependent on them. There were several emergency portkeys to safe locations hidden inside the house that proved otherwise. During the previous summer while Harry perfected his own apparitions, they’d even tried to teach her how to apparate ahead of all her classmates. Saying she was bloody awful at it was putting it lightly, she thought, putting some stress on the ‘bloody’ part – after having to fix three not-so-unnoticeable splinchings, her mother had put a stop to it, pointing out that maybe she needed some more maturing, else she might lose some body part she really couldn’t live without for even a few seconds (for instance, her head). Of course, asking them to teach her now wasn’t really an option, not only because it would probably lead to some kind of fight or misunderstanding she really had no patience for but also due to the iron-clad anti-apparition wards around the house – she supposed that put a lid on that type of transportation.

But there were plenty more to choose from, thus the book – some were pretty scary, others frighteningly dark. She might just stick with Portkeys, since they seemed the most accurate and least dangerous, not to mention some of the few she could see herself learning successfully from a book – they were, of course, very illegal without the written consent of the Portkey Office except when used for extreme emergencies. She didn’t care – it was a war and laws barely applied. Hell, they were hardly respected anymore by the Death-Eater-riddled government itself. Besides, odds were she’d use it in an emergency. “What isn’t an emergency these days?” she mumbled to herself.

So, she opened the book again and got to reading – there was no time to lose those days. She knew the time when she’d need that knowledge was coming and Merlin helped her if she wasn’t going to be ready.

---

Not everything was bad news. They were reminded of that later that day.

It all started with a ring of their doorbell.

In normal circumstances, the ring of a doorbell would be an unremarkable thing – when, due to a fidelius charm, less than half a dozen people were supposed to know where they lived, that didn’t apply.

So, it led to, of course a lot of commotion: Sirius running down the stairs, wand in hand; Mia forming a second line of defence midway through the staircase between the door and their sleeping children and Izzy also rushing down, though for less paranoid reasons, mostly centred around the hope the Weasleys had decided to come out of their own hiding and pay a visit.

Later, they’d realize how their reaction was more than a little blown out of proportion: given that the less than half a dozen people who were supposed to as much as be able to see their house just happened to be their closest friends and family, there was little chance anyone with dark motives would be able to ring their doorbell. Especially with Tonks serving as their secret-keeper.

They’d specifically chosen her over equally trust-worthy candidates because she wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon and risk getting herself captured and interrogated: the woman was a hundred months pregnant and could barely walk, not to mention that even after the baby came she would probably be stuck in the safety of her own home for a while like any protective first-time parent. On the other hand, Remus, Lulu and Gabe – the other strongest candidates for the job – spent their time running around with the Order, doing errands for them and cutting it close more often than they’d like to admit. So, while there was always some risk involved when someone showed up on their doorstep, at that moment it was as close to minimal as it could get.

“Who is it?” Sirius shouted at the door.

It’s Remus,” his friends’ voice came from the other side of the door. “I’ll save you the trouble of asking the questions and tell you this right away: seven. That’s the number of different girls I caught you snogging during prefect patrol in our fifth year. I think that’s proof enough it’s me.

His eyes widened and he looked up the stairs at his wife and daughter. Mia seemed amused – Izzy didn’t.

Seven?” his daughter asked. “You get caught snogging seven different girls in one year and whenever you notice a boy as much as looking at me, you get all touchy?”

“Yes, because I know exactly what they’re thinking,” he replied.

She huffed and marched back upstairs, yelling down that she was tired and to tell Remus she’d said ‘hi’, as her father opened the door.

“Thanks a lot for sharing that, mate,” Sirius told his friend sarcastically as Mia joined them at the door. Before closing it, he promptly turned to his wife, a diplomatic look on his face. “Before you exile me to the sofa, let me remind you that what he just mentioned happened over twenty years ago,” he told his wife.

Mia rolled her eyes. “If I wanted to exile you, I’d have done it a long time ago because Lily actually mentioned ten girls in fifth year, not seven. I distinctively remember it.”

“Yeah, well, that’s the three times she reported me for when Remus wasn’t around to talk her out of it,” Sirius pointed out before turning back to his friend. It was only then he noticed the gigantic grin on his face. A grin mixed with a look of mild panic. That could only mean one thing. “Holy crap, Moony, it happened, didn’t it?”

“It happened,” Remus confirmed, a little stunned.

“You’re a dad,” Sirius stated, excitedly turning to Mia. “This guy is a dad.”

“And he’ll be very good at it, I’m sure. Congratulations, Remus,” she said, motioning to hug the new father in question. “How’s Tonks?”

“Amazing. Exhausted. She was out of it when I left – you couldn’t tell where the pillows ended and her face begun or vice-versa,” he said with a tone of pride in his voice.

“Do you have to go right back? Or can you stay for some tea?”

He nodded. “I can stay for a little while longer. Andromeda is looking after her and the baby. And Dora clearly won’t wake up anytime soon.”

“Wait, Andromeda came over?” Sirius asked, a hint of surprise in his tone as they made their way to the stairs that led down to the kitchen, Mia leading the way.

Remus nodded. “She didn’t have much choice – Dora sent her a howler midway through labour, saying that if she didn’t show her face there before her grandchild was born, she’d never speak to her again. I doubt Dora really meant it but Andromeda still came running … and I don’t think she’ll be going anywhere for a while.”

“Took a shine for her little grandson, did she?”

The werewolf narrowed his eyes just as they entered the kitchen, Kreacher nowhere to be seen at the moment. “I didn’t say it was a boy.”

Oops, Sirius thought. “Oh, you know… the way she was standing and the general shape of the bump…” he mumbled, making it up as he went.

“She told you, didn’t she?” Remus asked, sitting down hardly surprised.

“Oh, of course she did,” Sirius admitted, immediately giving up on the lie. “Honestly, as if I’d be able to tell from the shape of her bump… Is that even a thing?” he asked, turning to Mia.

“I’m not sure. I know Muggles think it can be accurate but we really just use the spell around here,” she replied as she put the kettle on and moved to join them at the table. “Have you named him yet?”

Remus nodded. “Ted. After Dora’s dad. We’ve been mostly calling him Teddy now.”

“And will I be flattered when I hear the middle name?” Sirius asked, his tone expectant.

The new father rolled his eyes. “Not unless you secretly changed your name to match mine,” Remus replied, searching in his jacket.

“Come on… couldn’t slip a little ‘Sirius’ in there? I hear having four names is fashionable,” Sirius bated

“Don’t be a pest, Sirius,” Mia told him uncerimoniously. “Teddy Remus Lupin sounds just right to me. Do you have a picture yet?”

Remus nodded, reaching into an inside pocket of his jacket to fetch it. “I’d almost forgotten about it,” he said before placing it on the table so his friends could take a look.

When he laid eyes on the picture, Sirius immediately noted that Teddy Lupin was a tiny little thing, wiggling about in bed as if he was very bothered by all the attention he was getting. There were wisps of light hair on his head and his eyes were the standard newborn blue – it was still hard to tell which parent he took after the most. And it was certainly impossible to see if he’d inherited his father’s more unfortunate traits. But Sirius wasn’t about to bring that up, of course – his best friend didn’t need to be reminded of his furry little problem on what had to be the happiest day of his life so far.

“He’s adorable, Remus,” Mia said. “Makes you want to hold them forever when they’re this little, doesn’t it?”

Remus nodded. “Makes you want to protect them with your life,” he stated with a sigh. “We’ll try to bring him over soon for you to meet him since you can’t come over. You’re basically his closest family aside from Andromeda and us. It feels right that you’d meet him early.”

“Oh, take your time. Don’t worry about us – we’ll do with pictures until you feel like it’s safe enough,” Mia told him. “I don’t think I took Izzy out of the house for about a month after she was born and back then the most dangerous thing outside was the cold. We understand if you want to keep him indoors for a little while longer.” The kettle started to whistle the moment she finished saying that and she got up, heading to check on the tea.

“Well, well,” Sirius mumbled once they were left on their own. “Mr. Moony a dad. This completes the circle for a whole new generation of Marauders, leaving out more rotten branches of the group, of course,” he said, the last part referring to Wormtail.

Remus was so lost in his own wonder that he didn’t even catch the reference. “I guess it does. I’m sure McGonagall will be thankful that not all members of this new generation will be at school at the same time.” That was, assuming there would even be a school when the time came or that their kids would be allowed to attend. That didn’t seem likely if things remained the way they were.

Sirius chuckled. “Oh, I dunno. Mary and Alex will share a handful of years with Teddy there. I’m sure they can play the part even without a proxy from Prongs’s side around.” He glanced once again at the baby’s photo, trying to picture him ganging up with his two little terrors in a few years but something else caught his eye. He took a hold of the photo. “Didn’t he have light hair just a second ago?” he asked, inspecting the photo closely, to make sure the black hair currently on the baby wasn’t just some lighting thing.

“Oh – forgot to mention. He takes after his mother a lot,” Remus stated, a proud grin on his face.

“Another metamorphagus?” Sirius asked in surprise. “Well, look at that. Maybe if you have half a dozen more, you can make up your own rainbow.”

Remus’ grin vanished immediately and he went a bit pale. “Merlin, don’t even say that – Dora would kill you if she could hear you mentioning her having another one this early. She might kill me too for not killing you for saying it.”

Sirius snorted. “What? Was it that bad?”

“Worse. Horrifying. She threatened to kill me. Repeatedly.”

His eyes narrowed a little. “Repeatedly as in saying a lot of times that she’d kill you or as in saying she’d kill you, than find a way to bring you back just so she could do it again?”

Both. She was very graphic about it too, at times,” Moony said, sounding a little traumatized.

His friend chuckled. “Well, I did predict she’d be a nightmare months ago, didn’t I? What about hand-grasping? Anything Mia should take a look at? Possible broken bones?”

“Oh, no – that part actually wasn’t that bad,” Remus replied, showing him perfectly healthy hands without a hint of swelling or reddening. “One of the few occasions when being a werewolf is actually not that bad a thing.”

Sirius glared. “Sometimes I hate you, you know? Mia nearly crushed my hand into mush! I swear it still acts up on a chilly day.”

“I did no such thing!” Mia protested, sounding more than a little affronted as she approached them with their mugs of tea.

“Oh, no, it must have been the other pregnant wife whose hand I held for hours at a time through pain, sweat and blood,” he replied. The nasty glare he received in return reminded him that maybe taking jabs at her pregnant self was probably not a very good strategy if he wanted to ever have kids with her again in the future. So, he tried to change the conversation by handing her back Teddy’s photo. “Hey, look – kid’s a metamorphagus.”

It seemed to work that time as she was suddenly back to smiling at the picture of the now blue-haired child. “Aw. Two metamorphagi in the family – that’s going to be interesting.”

“Oh, Andromeda’s already warned me of it. She says he’s going to be a tricky one to handle – especially when we want to mingle with Muggles. But it will be worth it.”

“Of course it will,” Mia told him. “They give us a lot of sleepless nights, our little ones – not just in theses first few years, trust me – but it’s all worth it when you watch them grow into honest, brave people. Which is of course what your Teddy will be. No chance he won’t with you and Tonks raising him.”

Speaking of brave people reminded Remus of something. “Merlin, I can’t believe I’ve almost forgotten to tell you,” he said. “I’ve just ran into Harry!”

“Harry?! How? Where?” Mia immediately wanted to know, a stunned look on her face.

Remus gave her a sad look. “You know he’d have told me not to tell you, Mia. He still thinks that the less you know, the better for you.”

“But did you just run into him in the middle of the street or something?” Sirius asked, concerned. “We know he was staying at a friends’ house – has he left it already?”

Remus shook his head. “He’s perfectly safe and among friends where he is – that much I can tell you. I honestly wasn’t expecting him to be there: I was just spreading the news about Teddy to some acquaintances. But please don’t ask more questions about it – I don’t want to break the first promise I made to Harry as my son’s godfather less than an hour after I did it. Just trust that he’s doing well. Ron and Hermione too, though she’s still recovering from what happened at the Malfoy Manor. I asked if they had any plans to get back on the road soon, but Harry said they shouldn’t be going anywhere until Hermione’s back to one hundred per cent.”

Both Sirius and Mia sighed in relief – that bought the kids a little more time in safety… and them some more restful nights. “Did you tell him about the Fidelius Charm?” Sirius asked.

“He already knew,” Remus replied. “He thinks you did the right thing. I actually offered to set things up so the secret would reach him – have Dora write it down for him or something – since it seemed like something you’d want but he refused.”

“Why?” Mia asked, frustrated. “That way he could find us if he needed to. And he wouldn’t be able to tell it to anyone, in any case!”

“No,” Remus agreed. “But if, Merlin forbid, something happened and Dora…” He didn’t finish the implication but his friends nodded, indicating they knew what he was trying to say. “If the worst happened, he’d be turned into a secret-keeper too and he doesn’t want to risk that happening.” The new father sighed. “You’ve got to admit he’s got a point: he’s the most wanted man in the wizarding world. He’s aware of the danger he’s in and the danger he poses to those closest to him. It’s not fair but it’s true. It took me about ten minutes of convincing for him to accept being Teddy’s godfather in the first place. He kept saying you were a better option,” he said, nodding at Sirius.

“But he did accept in the end, right?” Mia asked.

“He did – I’ve got a feeling that the fact that Dora thought it would be ‘cute’ to make Ginny godmother along with him may have helped. We haven’t been able to ask her yet but Harry didn’t need to know that,” Remus stated. “I doubt she’ll refuse now that he’s accepted it, anyway.”

“You two sneaky little things trying to play cupid,” Sirius commented with a chuckle. He had a feeling his friend had never really been fooled by Harry and Ginny’s pretend break-up. “Here’s a thing that’s not so ‘cute’, though: I can’t believe you started making your birth-announcement rounds over an hour ago and only showed up here now! What are we? Your last stop?”

“Last but not least, Padfoot,” Remus assured him. “Really, it was just a matter of logistics.”

“Logistics, he calls it,” Sirius said dramatically. “What sort of logistics were those?”

“They were very centred around the fact that you have a history of being eager to get new fathers drunk – it seemed fitting that I’d make my rounds while sober.”

Sirius gaped. “That happened once,” he said.

“Oh, it certainly was worth three or four times more,” Mia pointed out. “You had to call me over because James was acting all lethargic. It took two doses of sobering potion to get him back on his feet and an extra one for him to remember his wife had had a baby. Lily would have killed you if we hadn’t covered it all up.”

“It’s not my fault the guy was a lightweight! Three butterbeers would get him tipsy. Besides, I only served him a glass!”

“A self-filling glass,” Remus pointed out.

“I didn’t notice it was one of those – I was drunk too!” Sirius defended himself. “In any case, no booze for you today. There’s not a drop of it in the house, anyway.”

Remus raised his eyebrows. “How come? Don’t tell me you drunk it all.”

“Of course I did not drink it all,” Sirius stated. “It just vanished. My guess is that Kreacher got rid of it all or hid it somewhere – he may have thought I might hit the bottle during all those months without Mia around. My father did have a special fondness for it… Never mind that if I really wanted it, I could have ordered him to get it back. Didn’t feel like it, though. I suppose it would come handy for a toast now, though…”

“Well, there’s the tea,” Mia suggested. “You can always celebrate it in style another time.”

Sirius nodded. “I guess. Wouldn’t want to get into Tonks’s bad side by sending her back a drunk husband or a splinched one for that matter. She sounds pretty murderous at the moment, that one. Plus, she needs you whole to change the diapers.”

“Yes, because that’s all I’m for anymore,” Remus mumbled sarcastically.

“Oh, trust me – that how you’re going to feel like in a couple of weeks,” Sirius assured him with a knowing chuckle, which Mia agreed with through a nod. “Now, who should we toast to, then? Young Teddy Lupin?”

“Teddy and Dora. She did put herself through a lot of trouble to get him here,” Remus offered.

“Alright, then,” Sirius raised his mug of tea, Mia and Remus flowing shortly. “To the newest marauder Teddy Lupin… and to the mother of my future godchild.”

Remus let out a long-suffering groan – with Teddy as a known precedent, there would be no shutting Sirius up now when it came to ‘his duty of enlarging the Marauder family’. “Cheers,” he simply replied, hopelessly joyful, regardless

A/N2: And so Teddy is born. He may make an appearance next chapter - I'm still pondering it right now. Feedback is ever so welcome. Review!


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Brave New Hope: Cheers

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