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Selene gazed tenderly down at her consort, her violet eyes full of a love so vast that she felt not even the stars could contain it. She had made the Great Marriage before, but none of her previous consorts, not even her beloved shepherd, had managed to touch her heart the way this one had. There was something about the tall wizard that drew her like no other being ever had, he was loyal and temperamental, stern yet compassionate, and yet there was a touching emotional vulnerability about him. He had courage and stubbornness, and could be proud and inflexible on occasion. But he had an untapped passion within him, and he loved her with all that he was. She stroked his cheekbone with a fingertip. Despite all he had endured in Her Name and in the name of his duty, when he slept, he displayed a serene innocence that touched her deeply.

Sev. My Endymion. She smiled and kissed him lightly. He stirred, but did not wake. She gently cupped a hand over her stomach. The purpose of the Great Marriage was to renew the ties between the land and sky, between mortal and immortal, and when it was done properly, a child was born as a result. And that child was blessed by the magic of the rite.

The goddess knew it was too soon to tell if she had quickened, and she preferred to be surprised by the outcome. Her lover stirred in his sleep, and she murmured soothingly and he drifted deeper into slumber as the first rays of dawn touched the sky.

Selene rose then, and flicked her violet and silver robe over herself, peering out between the pillars of the temple to catch the rising of the sun. Though Her province was the moon, Selene still appreciated the beauty of the sunrise. Back in ancient Egypt, in Her first incarnation as Isis, She had always loved the dawn hymns Her worshippers serenaded her with at first light.

Her gaze returned to the sleeping wizard and She sighed softly. "Ah, Severus, how I love you! You touch my heart in a way that no other, mortal or immortal, has ever done before."

"And here I thought you had put away such silly girlish fancies, sister," came a musical baritone from behind her.

She turned, having felt the quiver in Her blood that announced another immortal before She replied. "Greetings, Apollo, my brother. What brings you here?"

He gave Her a fond smile, his bronzed features devastatingly handsome, his sunstreaked blond hair casually falling in waves to his shoulders. He was tall, rangy, and muscled like a perfect Greek sculpture, a living work of art. He was dressed in a simple white and gold bordered tunic and golden himation and matching gilded sandals. His blue eyes were both knowing and sorrowful, as he looked at his immortal sister and the man She had chosen for Her consort.

"You, Selene. Walk with me a bit." He extended his arm in an old courtly gesture.

She took it and followed him from the cozy bower into the main precinct of the temple. "What troubles you, Apollo? Have you Seen something ill befall my consort?"

"No, but . . .you know well the perils of binding yourself too closely to one mortal, even if he is your Chosen consort."

She pursed Her lips. "Brother, must you always harp on that tired old theme? You're a fine one to talk, considering your own folly in loving your mortal sons too much."

He ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. "That's precisely why I'm talking to you. To stop you from committing the same errors I did. My indulgent love for Phaethon nearly toppled the Balance and caused his death. My pride in Aesclepius resulted in my showing him too much divine secrets and once again the Balance between Life and Death was threatened and he paid the price."

"You paid a price too. Zeus cast you out of Olympus for seven years and sentenced you to live as a slave and shepherd for King Admetus. And all because you protested the murder of your son."

Apollo nodded. "It was done for more than that, Selene. I gave Aesclepius forbidden knowledge, power no mortal should have, because they have not the wisdom or foresight to use it properly. I thought myself above the Law of the Balance. But I was wrong. That punishment was done to humble me and to teach me that not even an immortal is above the Law. I don't want to see you make the same mistakes I did."

"Zeus has no authority over me, Apollo."

"Not anymore, but Selene, think about it. What if you Saw that the only way to keep the Balance was to sacrifice your consort? Could you do it? Could you give up the one you loved best for the sake of the universe?"

"I did that once already, with Osiris," Selene pointed out.

"And look what it did to you," Apollo pointed out. "You were devastated by his loss. Selene, guard your heart. This one is even more dangerous to you than Osiris. And at least Osiris was one of us."

"There is nothing wrong with me loving Severus!" Selene cried. "He is My Ordained Consort, sanctified by the rites of the Great Marriage. As were Ban and Jack before him."

"But you said yourself, you love this one more. That's dangerous, Selene. We're supposed to be above such things . . ."

She snorted, sounding most inelegant and very human. "Don't tell me you've bought into that "human emotions are weakness" claptrap too! You know better, Apollo! Zeus ruled his followers with an iron fist, out of fear and awe they worshipped him. And where is he now? Wasting away in his own sky palace for want of mortal homage! Mortals don't want to worship a dictator who uses them as he sees fit, and is manipulative and petty. One who sneers at them from on high and when he sees fit comes to sleep with a pretty maid that catches his eyes, regardless of how it insults his legal wife. And when he is tired of them, he casts them aside, unmindful of the heart he breaks. I will not follow that example. I will not turn my heart to stone because that is how my elders think it should be! I am one with the land and with my people. And because of it I am still a power in the world and not a faded legend."

Apollo laid a hand upon her shoulder. He was warm, as if flushed with fever, though she knew he was always so, the power within him blazed as fiery as the sun he associated with. "Selene, I would not see you weep over yet another whom you loved. For the sake of your sanity and the sake of the newly restored Balance, do not forget yourself. Love too deeply and you leave yourself vulnerable to Set."

She opened Her mouth and then closed it. Apollo meant well. She knew that. She also knew that Her greatest weakness was that She cared too deeply about the mortals under Her protection. They were Her children and Her lovers and She adored them. In that She was vastly different from Her immortal kin, who usually remained aloof from their worshippers, except in certain cases. They might lie with a mortal for a night, to sire a child, but they formed no bonds, it was strictly a casual affair. But for Selene that was not so, had never been so. Even as a young goddess She had loved more passionately and felt more deeply.

Yet She knew Apollo was right to caution Her. Set was always sniffing about and scheming, he would be gnashing his teeth at his defeat this time and waiting for the chance to strike back. Could She be objective where Severus was concerned? Could She sacrifice him if She had to? She turned her violet eyes upon her brother, who was closest to her in age and opinion. "If need be, I can do what I must. Thank you for your advice."

He laughed, a sound as rich and sweet as honey poured directly from the hive. "Thank you for taking it. After what our dark brother did . . ."

"He'll be a long time recovering from that . . .and finding another to take Tom's place."

"Maybe. There's no shortage of selfish and cruel people in the world, especially those who think they're always right and do not realize that such an attitude leaves one wide open for the whispers of the dark . . .But I digress and the morning lengthens. Farewell, little sister. I wish you joy of your consort and hope you present me with a new niece or nephew to spoil soon." He winked at Her.

"You need more of your own. Then you wouldn't spoil mine so much," She teased.

"It's more fun to spoil yours. And when they get on my nerves, I can give them back." His blue eyes twinkled, a deep cerulean blue shot with gold flecks.

"Rogue!" she gave him a playful swat.

Grinning, he hugged her and then kissed her lightly on the forehead. "I must be off. Don't forget what I told you!" And with that, he vanished into a thousand golden sparkles. It was pure conceit to do so, since immortals can appear and disappear at will without a trace, but her brother had a bit of the actor in him and enjoyed flashy exits.

She turned and made Her way back to the bower, where Severus was sitting up, looking about for Her.

His anxious expression faded when he caught sight of Her. "You're really here! I thought, when I woke and found you gone, that it had been a very vivid dream."

She chuckled and curled up beside him. "No, not a dream, my love, unless it is the best kind of dream, which does not fade upon waking." She kissed him passionately, and soon the kissing led to other things.

When they lay quiet again, She told him of Apollo's visit, trusting him as She never had any other. He looked grave and said, "Then I . . .I'm no good for you. Perhaps you should just . . .forget me . . ."

"Forget? Never! And do not ever say such about yourself, Severus Snape! My immortal kin think me a fool for entwining my life with mortals, they believe that such as I should be above such things, that mortals are there to worship them only. Apollo worries too much. I have waited millennia for one like you. The Balance is My concern, and I know when I tread to close to it. We do not. Trust me on that."

"Promise me you shall not risk the future of the world for me." His black eyes bored into hers, pools of urgent determination.

"I promise. I know well the cost of maintaining the Balance. But this time together, Sev, is for us alone. Where, for a few moments in time, we can shed the cloak of duty and just be ourselves."

"I will be very happy to do that, my lady." He said, and kissed her fiercely. "I am surprised you would be willing to admit to any sort of . . .weakness to me. Not that loving me is weak, but it is . . .well . . ."

"It is, as my immortal brothers and sisters are forever reminding me, my number one flaw. I love mortals too well." She kissed him back. "I can reveal to you that simple flaw because I know you shall never use it against me. I trust you, Sev. And that is not something I say lightly. In all the millennia I have lived, you are the first mortal I have ever said that to. You are a rare and special man, beloved, and I shall love you till the stars crumble and the universe turn to dust. And when your mortal span is done, you shall come to dwell with me in my realm, and be my Consort of Eternity."

He stared at her. "You would do that . . .for me? But the other immortals, would they permit it?"

She smirked wickedly. "I would not consult them. In my realm, my word is Law. And I do as I please. But that day is far off. Best to not dwell upon it. Instead let us enjoy the moment."

So they did, immensely, until at last Selene had to leave and so did Severus, for it was almost eight o'clock and he needed to get back home before Harry and Hermione woke up.

He bid farewell to his goddess and lover, then blurred into Moon Fire and galloped the mile and a half back to his home. He shifted back into his own shape and headed inside to take a quick shower before breakfast.

HPSSHPSSHP

Harry opted to take a short run about the pasture after breakfast, he needed to feel the wind in his mane and the earth beneath his hooves. Hermione would have joined him, but she felt she needed to write Ron first and tell him about her true origins. She hoped that Ron would take the news well, but she wasn't holding her breath. She knew that the impulsive volatile Weasley might well react first and think later.

She worded the letter carefully, trying to ease the shock as much as possible, though she knew that nothing really could. Still, what had happened, happened, and there was no sense in pretending it hadn't. She was still a bit in awe of the fact that she actually had living parents again, even if they were unicorns. And the fact that she too was one of them. At last the mystery of her past had been solved. For that, she was profoundly grateful. She had never cared for mysteries, especially not in her own life.

Finally, she signed the letter and summoned Nighteyes to deliver it. Then she decided to join Harry outside and go for a brief gallop. She bit back a giggle recalling her riding lessons on Moon Fire. Then she recalled Draco and wondered how the blond wizard was taking the death of his father. And what would he say about her new origins? She could just picture his face!

As soon as she neared the paddock, she removed the pendant from her neck and immediately transformed into Imara. She picked up the pendant with her horn, and carefully placed the necklace within the special pouch. Then she raced to join the black unicorn grazing at the far end of the field.

In this shape, she was as quick as the wind and could see very far on either side of her. Colors were sharper, sounds were crisper. Her sense of smell was amazing. She could smell the sweet tang of water from miles away and the heady scent of thyme and mint from the herbs in the garden. The grass had its own scent and so did Nightblaze.

She paused in her run to assimilate all the new smells and sights. Then she had fun running about with her beloved.

Maybe we ought to go and see Draco? She mused. Won't he be surprised to see my new shape? Imara whinnied.

I'll say. Should we go now?

If you like. But first we need to tell Severus where we're going. The filly reminded him.

Oh. Right. I'll go. Wait here.

Imara waited patiently, nibbling upon some delicate summer shoots and purple wildflowers.

Soon Nightblaze returned. It's okay. He says we can go over to Andromeda's, but just be back by supper.

Imara gave a low whinny of approval. Then she followed the ebony unicorn, as he raced down the road, tail streaming behind him like a black banner.

Just at that moment, a tall man with black hair and a red and gold robe emerged from the forest, and began to walk purposefully towards the farmhouse.

Severus had just settled down with a cup of tea and a scone, a copy of a recent issue of Brews and Stews—a potions recipe book, when he heard a knock on the door.

Frowning, he had been in a wonderful mood until he was disturbed, he rose and answered the door.

Sirius Black stood there, looking a little uneasy.

"Black, what are you doing here? Couldn't find the way to Danae's tree? Must I draw you a map."

"Hardly, Snape. I found her, all right," Sirius gave a long sigh. He already missed his fiery dryad. "What I came here for is personal."

Snape raised an eyebrow. "Ah. Well, come in then." He stepped back to allow his former nemesis to enter.

Sirius glanced about curiously, Snape's home looked cozy and comfortable, not the rotting hovel he had expected. He immediately felt ashamed of that thought. He had come here to make peace. Not to open old wounds. They had both done enough of that last time they had met.

He followed Severus into the kitchen and then sat down at the table when Snape gestured he should do so.

Severus took a seat opposite him and looked at him expectantly. "So, what was so important that you had to see me directly instead of sending an owl?"

Sirius looked uncomfortable. He tapped his fingers restlessly upon the table and examined the whorls of the wood grain before replying. "Part of the reason I came is so I could ask you about a house and property. Are any houses and property for sale that you know of? Danae and I . . .we need to be close to each other, so I need to find a house nearby to the forest. She can only be away from her tree for a week at a time."

Severus smirked knowingly. "The bond between you is strong, is it not? When you are away from her, you ache."

Sirius flushed and glared. "No need for you to act so . . .supercilious. It's not like I can control it. What are you smirking about anyhow, Snivellus?"

Severus frowned. "Temper, Black. Remember what you owe me."

"Figures you'd bring that up. I'm not your slave, Snape, even if I do owe you my life!"

Severus' obsidian eyes glittered. "Selene's Grace, Black! Shelve the melodrama. As if I would ever desire you as a slave in any way, shape, or form. You would be utterly useless. Now then, as far as a property and house goes, you need to look in the classifieds section of the local newspaper. I happen to have a copy of it here." Snape made a beckoning motion and the local paper came zooming over to him.

"You can do wandless and silent magic?"

"Obviously."

Sirius clamped his mouth shut. He would not ask Snape how he learned it. He would not reveal to his archrival that he could not do wandless magic at all, much less both at the same time. He caught the paper Snape tossed him. "If I do find one that's for sale, how do I go about purchasing it?"

Severus bit back a groan. Selene save him from clueless purebloods. "You'll need to make an appointment with the realtor or person selling the house. Come and see me if that happens. I shall instruct you on what to wear and how to behave at the meeting."

"What do you mean, how to behave? I'm not some ignorant sod from the mountains, you know!"

"Black, you don't know anything about Muggle customs. I do. End of discussion. Unless you wish to be fleeced of all your money and end up owing the bank? No? Then do as I say. Or else you may find yourself living in a mud hut in Sherwood."

Sirius bristled, but couldn't deny that Snape was right. He didn't even know what Muggle clothing looked like these days. "Fine." He pretended to study the paper for a few moments, trying to put off the other reason he had come. Just say it, Sirius. Just say it. It needs to be said. You'll never have peace until you do. If only it were not Snape. Anyone but Snape. He nearly got up and started to pace. But it was Snape, and the fact was he did owe the other wizard. He had misjudged him, had treated him unfairly when he was younger. Just get it over with. Grit your teeth, hold your nose, and just swallow your pride and say it.

"Snape, I . . .I've come to apologize."

There! It was said. The words left a bitter taste in his mouth, like a nasty Pain Reliever, but in a way, he now felt better for having said them.

"For what, Black? Annoying me on holiday?"

Sirius shook his head. Snape was determined to make this difficult. "No . . .err . . .for . . .for . . .what I did during school."

"That's a bit vague, Black. You did many things to me during school. You and your mate Potter conspired on a weekly basis to humiliate and embarrass me." Severus reminded sharply.

"I know. Damn it all, why do you have to make this so difficult, Snape?"

"Me? I am not the one demanding an apology of you. In fact, I am shocked that after all this time, you finally realize that I deserve one. How did that occur? Did a rock fall from the sky and hit you in the head? Did Selene send you an epiphany? Because I was under the impression that everything you did to me was—according to you—a mere prank, something to be laughed off by you, Potter, Lupin, and Pettigrew."

Sirius squirmed guiltily. "I . . . was wrong. Okay? I never . . .we never thought about what we were doing . . .it was just . . . you were a greasy Slytherin and you had no friends and it was fun to get you mad . . .and make fun of you . . ."

"Ah. Fun to destroy hours of work by tossing a dungbomb into my cauldron. Fun to hang me upside down and rip apart any dignity I ever had left in front of half the school. Fun to trick me into going down a tunnel where a werewolf waited. Did you even once think about what could have happened if Potter hadn't grown a conscience at the last bloody minute and pulled me away from the door?"

"No," Sirius admitted. "I'm sorry. I should have done. It was . . .inexcusable. All of it. At the time we thought it was amusing. But looking back on it . . .it doesn't seem funny anymore. It just seems . . .stupid and mean."

"And well it should be. What made you see that? Some kind of near death vision?" Severus pressed. He couldn't help being suspicious. He wondered if Selene had anything to do with it.

"No. It was . . .after you healed me from the Fiendfyre . . .and I was lying there . . .I saw you go over to Harry and Hermione. They were all shaken up and sick over the battle and whatnot . . .I saw you help them. You . . .were kind to them. You held them and they . . .they trusted you. Albus told me you were their guardian. I couldn't believe it at first. I thought you must have made them do it, but then I didn't understand why you would choose to make two kids you hated your wards. There wasn't time for me to ask Albus any more questions. Then the battle happened and I almost died . . .and then I saw the way you were with them. That you cared. And it was then I realized I had misjudged you. Badly. You were the last person I ever would have picked to save my life, but you saved it. You were the last person I would ever think of being Harry's guardian, yet you did that too. And Hermione also. It changed me. Mind if I ask why?"

Actually, Severus did mind. He didn't owe Black any explanations, and yet . . . better to tell the story now than leave the mutt wondering. "That could take awhile. And you may not like everything I am about to tell you. However . . .know that what I tell you is the unvarnished truth. I swear it by Selene, whose Initiate and Consort I am."

Sirius nodded. "Go on. I'm listening."

Severus began. "One night after midnight, I was running in my horse form in the Forbidden Forest . . ."

HPSSHPSSHP

While Severus and Sirius tried to bury the hatchet somewhere besides each other's backs, Harry and Hermione were sharing lunch with Draco and Andromeda. Both Harry and Hermione expressed their condolences over Draco losing his father, not because they cared that Lucius was gone, but because it was the polite and proper thing to do.

Draco himself did not seem particularly grieved. "I always hated the bastard," he said frankly. "I'm not sorry he's dead. Now at least Mother and I can quit hiding our allegiance to Selene and worship Her openly. And we don't have to worry about whether or not he comes home in a pissy mood and starts on us. Whoever killed him during the battle did us a favor. I'd thank them."

Harry hesitated. Should he tell Draco that he had killed Lucius in his unicorn form? In the end, he opted not to. It was not something he wanted to discuss, it had been done out of necessity, and despite what Draco had said, he did not want the other boy to feel uncomfortable or anything around him. He found that he actually liked Malfoy now that he understood more about him. Admitting to killing Lucius might jeopardize their new friendship. So he kept his silence. Severus had once told him that not all actions should be spoken of, even among friends.

"What will you do now?" asked Hermione.

Draco shrugged. "Go back and live at the manor again. Without Father it's not so bad. I'm still amazed that Uncle Sev was the one to kill Voldy, not you, Potter. After all the hubbub over the prophecy . . .Father was livid when he learned about it . . .or so Mother told me."

"I can imagine." Hermione laughed.

"Why did you just call Severus "uncle"?" Harry wanted to know.

Draco looked amused. "You mean he never told you? I'm more than just his student. I'm his godson too. Mother insisted. She wanted another Selenian just in case . . .so I could be taught the Mysteries. But I don't usually let people know at school."

"Oh. That's interesting. About the prophecy . . .Severus always believed it wasn't something that would come true, only might come true. He said that the future was always in motion, always changing, and it wasn't fair to make me responsible for killing a crazy wizard. I'd already done enough. Selene agreed, because She made him Her avatar. And that's how he killed Old Moldy Shorts."

Draco laughed. "Moldy Shorts! I like that, Potter! Very clever . . .and true."

"What will happen at school?" Hermione asked. "I mean, now that you don't have to pretend to be an arrogant spoilt brat?"

Draco shrugged. "Who knows, Granger? It's a brand new world now. Everything's turned upside down. I wouldn't mind being your friends . . .if you still want me to?"

Once again, Harry saw that odd flash of vulnerability in the other's gray eyes. Draco was insecure, he realized. And lonely. He had never really had any friends, for Crabbe and Goyle weren't really his equals, they had been ordered to be his friends and Draco had not chosen them. Harry nodded. "Of course we do, Malfoy. When you're not acting like a git, you're all right."

Draco gave him a small smile. "Same goes for you, Potter. And you too, Granger."

"Terrific! Now that's settled, why don't we all go outside?" Hermione suggested. "You see, Draco, we have something rather unusual to show you . . ."

Draco was suitably impressed by both Harry's Animagus form and Hermione's revelation. "Selene's bloody Eye!" he exclaimed. "That's simply . . .incredible! You're a unicorn and Harry's Her mortal descendent." The Slytherin whistled. "Father would have had a conniption if he knew. It's a pity he never learned of it before he died."

"Well, if there's any justice in the realms beyond, Set will let him know just to punish him for his failures," Hermione said philosophically.

"Ha! Now there's a wicked justice for you," Draco said, grinning. Then something else occurred to him. "Hey, what's Weasley think of all this? I'll bet he was frothing when he found out Uncle Sev was your guardian, huh? And about you being a unicorn, Hermione?"

"Uh . . .well, he doesn't actually know yet that I'm a born unicorn. Well, he does now that I've sent him a letter explaining it, but I don't know how he took it, since I haven't heard back from him yet."

"He's probably fainted dead away." Draco predicted.

"Mmm . . ." Harry murmured.

"Perhaps there's a letter from him now at the house?" Hermione remarked. "Would you mind dreadfully if we went home and checked?"

"No. Go ahead. But promise you'll tell me what he said later, all right?"

"As long as it's repeatable," Hermione agreed.

Draco chuckled. "Good one, Granger. You know, you're much more interesting now that you're a unicorn. I could almost wish Selene had granted me that form."

Harry looked at him askance. "Has She granted you a different shape then?"

"Yes. Yesterday She came to me in a dream . . .and She gifted me with this form."

There was a sudden flash of light and then a large white viper with red eyes was lying upon the ground in front of Harry's sneakers. The viper was actually not pure white, but an iridescent cream color. He was about seven feet from nose to tail and he lifted his head and opened his mouth to display two long fangs.

An instant later, the viper became Draco. "Not a bad form, huh? I mean, it fits since I am a Slytherin. And snakes are sacred to Her also."

"I don't normally care for snakes, but you looked very impressive," Hermione said.

"You looked scary as hell," Harry added.

Draco looked pleased. "Good. A viper shouldn't look cute."

"What are you called in that form?" asked Harry.

"Stryker."

"That fits, all right." Hermione nodded. "And now, if you'll excuse us . . ."

"I'll see you next term," Draco said, waving.

He watched as the two unicorns galloped away down the road, their hooves chiming musically upon the tarmac. Weasley was in for a hell of a shock.

HPSSHPSSHP

"And that was how I became Harry and Hermione's guardian," Severus finished. During the tale his throat had become dry, and he had called over his forgotten cup of tea and partially eaten scone, which of course meant that he had to offer Sirius some refreshments as well.

Sirius, who had always had a hearty appetite, finished off the pot of tea and three scones. Then he asked, "So what happens now?"

Severus' brows knitted. "I'm not following you, Black. What do you mean?"

"Well, I am still Harry's godfather. So am I . . ." The words stuck in his throat. He tried again. "Is Harry . . .allowed to visit me?"

Severus was silent for a long moment. It was on the tip of his tongue to say no, but then he recalled that Harry had a penchant for doing the forbidden. And the last thing he wished was for Harry to start sneaking about and going over to see Black on the sly. But at the same time he was leery of Black's influence upon his impressionable ward. He cleared his throat. "If he wishes, I shall not prevent it," Severus said at last. "However, I will require you to follow certain rules while he is over, Black. I have a curfew that he is to observe, you are not to refute that. I also want you to not encourage any sort of . . .impulsive behavior."

"Impulsive behavior? Just what is that supposed to mean?"

"What I said. I also want you to promise me that you will not encourage him to rebel against my dictates. It is my responsibility to keep him safe and you should encourage that."

"Fine. Anything else?" Sirius asked through gritted teeth. How dare Snape imply he wasn't responsible? Just because he had been a little immature in his youth and careless of the rules . . .

"Just one other thing. Do not attempt to glorify your misspent childhood. Don't tell Harry about how you and his father had such a bloody good time at school pranking people and all that rot. Tell him the truth."

"Just what are you implying, Snape? I haven't ever lied to my godson!"

"Haven't you?" Severus hissed. "You deliberately left out what you did to me after our OWLS in fifth year. Omitting something is as bad as lying."

"Oh, like you can talk! You're no saint either, Snape!"

"I never claimed to be!" Severus shot back. "I have never liked you, or Lupin, and I hated Pettigrew and detested Potter as well. I make no secret of that. Unlike you, Black, who paint Potter as some heroic do-gooder!"

"He saved your sorry arse!"

"Under duress! And if it weren't for you, there would have been no need for it to be saved. Both of you knew what you were doing that night, Black. The only innocent party was Lupin. Potter was no saint either. Both of us know it. He was as flawed as anyone."

"What are you saying? That I can't talk about my best friend to his own son? How much have you omitted, Snape, about the past?"

"Talk all you wish, Sirius Black, but tell Harry that you made mistakes. As for my omissions, there are things that I have seen and done in my years as a spy that I shall take to my grave, they are not fit for anyone's ears, but especially not Harry's."

"What about Lily?"

Severus gave him a chilling stare. "You will not mention that, Black. What was between us stays between us. There is no point in bringing it up, it ended long ago. Will you abide my conditions?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"Yes. You can refuse or agree."

Sirius sighed in exasperation. He was tempted to tell Snape to take his rules and shove them up his arse. But then he controlled himself. There was no sense in antagonizing Harry's guardian. "All right. I promise."

"Good."

"Is that all?" Sirius asked, standing up.

Severus nodded.

"Then I guess I'll be going. Where is Harry anyhow?"

"Visiting a friend," Severus replied vaguely.

"Oh. Well, tell him I said hello. Good afternoon, Snape."

"Apology accepted, Black." Severus said dryly.

With that, Sirus walked out of the farmhouse, not sure who had gotten the better of that deal. But he had meant what he said. Though Severus had been supremely irritating with all his rules, Sirius supposed it was only because he cared for Harry, and he could respect that. He didn't like it, but he respected it. But next time he sent a letter to his godson, he would ask Harry if he really liked living with Snape.

Soon after Sirius departed, a small owl flew in the open kitchen window and perched upon the back of a chair, awaiting Hermione's arrival, which occurred some three minutes afterwards.

"Pig!" she cried upon seeing Ron's owl. "Do you have a letter for me?"

Pig hooted an affirmative and held out the envelope.

Hermione took it and looked extremely excited.

Severus looked up from the table and observed Hermione. "What has gotten you so jittery?"

"Just a letter from Ron." Hermione replied breezily. She opened it and began to read. Her face went from excited to irritated. "What an idiot!" she exclaimed.

"What did he say?" asked Harry, concerned.

"He thinks I'm having him on! As if I would joke about a thing like that! He doesn't believe me." She snapped.

"He doesn't?" Harry blinked.

"No. I suppose I'll just have to go and show him." Hermione declared exasperatedly. "Severus, may I borrow the Floo powder?"

"Certainly."

Hermione stomped over to the fireplace and grabbed a handful of Floo powder from the small ceramic urn Severus stored it in. Then she tossed it into the fireplace and shouted, "The Burrow!" before jumping in after it.

Harry and Severus exchanged glances.

"I don't envy Mr. Weasley," Severus said wryly.

"Me neither." Harry said. "Maybe I ought to go over there, just to make sure she doesn't . . .well . . .trample him accidentally or something." Then he added belatedly, "If that's okay with you?"

"It would seem the day for you to be visiting friends. Go." The Potions Master waved him towards the fireplace.

Harry quickly grabbed up a handful of Floo powder and followed Hermione.

Yes, I know I'm horrible for ending it there! But I felt that the trio deserved a chapter all their own, they have a lot to discuss, after all. And something tells me that Ron won't be very reasonable at first.

Hope you all liked what went on in this chapter.

I still haven't decided who should be the new Headmaster/mistress. Please help me out by picking one of the following choices:

Minerva McGonagall

Remus Lupin

Filius Flitwick

Arthur Weasley

(I didn't put Sev down because I'm already doing one series with Headmaster Snape-that would be Broken Wings, and I feel that in this one he has enough to handle with being Potions master and Head of Slytherin plus guardian to Harry and Hermione. So sorry for all you disappointed Snape fans.)

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