The man's smirk practically became a grin as he observed the twitching that seemed to have possessed the blond's eye. Lucius gave a faint sneer, and then Sirius really was grinning, warm gray eyes glittering with mischief. Merlin, visiting his cousin really was turning out to be one of the best decisions he's made since being exonerated.
"Sirius?" A woman's voice reached the two men, who both turned to face her. "What a surprise," Narcissa said with a small smile for the dark-haired man. Hers was not the bright welcome Sirius had received from her sister Andromeda (who, incidentally, happened to be his favorite cousin). Nevertheless, the man could see that old familiar glint in her eye that she always got when she was amused by his antics but didn't feel it proper to acknowledge as much. Narcissa always had had a soft spot for him.
"Cissy," Sirius responded with a touch of warmth, for despite Narcissa's failings and her detestable spouse, he had a small soft spot of his own for her. "You look well. As beautiful as ever."
She canted her head in regal acknowledgment, smile broadening a bit. "My, Sirius, as charming as ever. Are you trying to butter me up?" she replied. Crossing the entry to him, she looped an arm around his and peered up at him with teasing reproval.
"Me?" the man exclaimed innocently. "Never!"
"Of course not," drawled the woman, sounding amused. "Let us go to the parlor and chat a while, cousin. Lucius?" She turned to look at her husband over her shoulder.
Lucius, whose stony glower had remained fixed on the unexpected visitor, moved his gaze to hers, expression changing to something neutral. "Yes, dear?"
"Be a love and have Mirrin prepare a tea service for us before you return to your study, won't you?" Narcissa requested. When a scowl started to cross Lucius' features, she simply raised a pale brow at him.
"Yes, my love," Lucius finally answered the obvious dismissal, sounding like he'd rather be gargling glass.
Narcissa graced him with a small smile, then guided a snickering Sirius through to the parlor. It was so good to see that even in marriage his cousin had retained the queenly bearing she had nurtured as a daughter of the Most Noble House of Black – so very good, indeed!
"Honestly, Sirius," she tutted him, though her eyes mirrored his mirth. She waved him to a settee before taking the seat adjacent to him. For moment, the blonde regarded him quietly, blue eyes studying his face. "You are still too thin. Azkaban was not kind to you, cousin."
"It was... It was horrible," Sirius agreed soberly. "But I managed to get out. And now I'm exonerated, so no reason to go back."
"Because you were an unregistered animagus, of all things. It's just like you to flaunt whatever rules you can find. Not a wonder you were sorted into Gryffindor as a student." Narcissa did not sound disapproving of this fact. The woman reached out to take his calloused hands in her own, giving a light squeeze. "I'm glad you were proven innocent. Had I only known before... well." She gave a regretful look.
"It's not your fault, Cissy. We weren't exactly close back then," the man said. Were he honest with himself, back then, he hadn't felt a real need to be close to many of his family members, and Narcisaa due to her marriage to the likes of Lucius Malfoy – a union that had been arranged, but nevertheless killed his desire to keep in contact. That is, until he had gotten to know her son while in his animagus form.
"I would like to change that, cousin," Narcissa said, releasing his hands and sitting back in her chair.
"So would I. Speaking of change, though," said Sirius, "I was thinking it was about time to correct some mistakes made to the Black family tree."
Her blue eyes sparked with approval. "You've spoke with Andy, I trust?" she inquired.
"A bit," the man conceded. "She was hesitant to cause more waves."
"Just like Andromeda to be hesitant about something like this. Sometimes it's hard to believe that she was the one to go and marry someone of whom our parents would not approve. I miss her."
"You should see her more often."
"I should, shouldn't I?" Narcissa concurred. "I can imagine the look on Lucius' face were I to invite her and her family to visit. Ah, yes, I most certainly will have to do so, now. My husband becomes so amusing when he must act supportive whilst being displeased as well."
Sirius chuckled. "I'm glad to see that Lucius hasn't changed you much."
"As if he could," scoffed the blonde. "Lucius is not so bad. I know you don't like him – you don't need to like him. The fact remains, he's not so bad, just... very set in his ways and extremely slow to change. Too slow. Sometimes, I do worry about the ideas he might instill in Draco's head. The boy tries so hard to please him."
"Draco reminds me of you," Sirius told her.
Narcissa looked skeptical. "Draco looks nothing like me," she pointed out.
"No," the man conceded, "but while I was pretending to be a stray, I got to know him a little. He acts a lot like you. He's very much your son."
A pleased smile tugged at the woman's lips as she leaned forward a bit in her chair. "So, you bonded a bit with him? With Draco?" she inquired.
"I did," Sirius nodded. "He... He surprised me. In a good way." In fact, he had made the man realize a few things about himself.
"And will you continue to be there for my son, Sirius? Give him another... adult" – she sounded like she was using the term loosely – "to look up to?"
His lips twitched with mild amusement but he answered earnestly. "I'd like to."
Narcissa's eyes lit in that way which had always made him think that the woman wanted to embrace him but felt such a display was beneath her. So she did what she had always done when she was pleased with him, ever since they were children: she plied him with sweets.
Picking up the plate of biscuits that had arrived with the tea service, she held it out to him. "Have a biscuit, Sirius," she told him.
Sirius had four.
An entire section of the library had been taken over by students, as had become routine over recent weeks. Gryffindors and Slytherins, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs – all had gathered together into a massive study group that made the stern Madam Pince downright anxious.
Greg Goyle and a petite Ravenclaw second-year named Teyla Carr were going over a section in one of the workbooks their tutor had given them. Across from them, Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode, and a couple of Hufflepuffs were having a discussion with Hermione Granger about the similarities and differences between the magical and muggle worlds. "Wait, so," Pansy was questioning rather loudly, "people actually pay your parents to drill their teeth? This is normal in the muggle world?" One of the Hufflepuffs was corroborating the story, opening his mouth wide to show one of the fillings he'd gotten when he was younger.
Down at the other end of the table, Vincent Crabbe, Ron Weasley, Cedric Diggory, and Cho Chang were having a hushed, though animated, discussion about Quidditch over their textbooks. Neville Longbottom, Ginny Weasley, and Luna Lovegood were talking about various plants and their care. Near the middle of all this, Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter were half tuned-in to the conversations on either side of them whilst trying to complete class assignments. Harry was painstakingly writing out his essay left-handed, determined to master writing with that hand rather than depend on a dicto-quill. For his part, Draco was trying to locate just where he seen the answer for a tricky astronomy question.
The group was different every night, although there was a handful of regulars who always showed up. Members of the staff still marveled at this turn of events. Classes had taken on a different atmosphere as the cooperation that had begun between a group of third-year Gryffindors and Slytherins spread throughout the student body.
"Hey, Malfoy," someone called from an adjacent table, "isn't it about time for your detention?" Draco started, grabbing for Greg's wrist to look at his watch. Cursing quietly, he began shoving his things haphazardly into his bag.
"Just leave it, Draco," Pansy said, rolling her eyes. "We'll get it for you." The blond hesitated a moment and finally nodded before dashing from the library, earning a stern admonishment from the librarian on his way out.
Harry had long since stopped feeling self-conscious every time Draco had to leave early for a detention. No one held him at fault for the other boy's punishment. Draco himself felt that he deserved it, and it seemed that no one was inclined to disagree, after all.
It was not long afterward that Madam Pince came around to usher them out of her domain so they could return to their common rooms in time for curfew. Vince collected the rest of Draco's things, continuing the friendly debate about which was the best Quidditch team with the others as they departed from the grand room.
The group dispersed gradually, the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws departing up the staircases towards their towers while the Hufflepuffs and Slytherins descended towards the dungeons. Harry fell in with the latter group, finding himself drawn into a conversation about what the muggle equivalent of Quidditch would have to be like.
"Guess it'd be a bit like football, wouldn't it?" proposed one of the Hufflepuffs, whose name escaped Harry.
"But it would be a bit like dodge ball, too," said Harry tentatively, only passingly familiar with either sport. "What with the bludgers."
Pansy's curiosity was piqued. "Now, I know football is the one with the black and white ball, but what's this dodge ball?" The discussion continued until they were forced to disperse further in order to proceed to their different destinations.
Harry walked along with the Slytherins, reflecting on how comfortable he now felt among them when he wouldn't have really trusted any of them a short while before. They left him outside of his father's quarters, waving to him and bidding him good night. He waved back. "See you," he called, then reached for the handle of the door that appeared when he drew close.
"Dad?" Harry called, not seeing the Potions Master upon entering the rooms. He peeked his head into the lab, but Snape wasn't in there, either.
"My bedroom," came the man's voice.
The teen moved towards the room in question, setting his bag by his own door on his way past. He paused in the doorway, massaging his right wrist idly in the absence of the brace straps he'd grown accustomed to playing with. Snape looked up from a box that was sitting atop the bed that he was sorting through.
"Come in, Harry," he told the boy. They were both recalling how the man had once declared his bedroom 'strictly none of Harry's business.' It seemed silly to the Potions Master in hindsight. There was nothing that special about his bedroom. He supposed he still hadn't relaxed his guard around the child back then.
"Your room looks really normal," Harry remarked, noting that not dissimilar to his own room, Snape's was also decorated in shades of blue.
"It does, doesn't it?" Severus asked with a small smirk. He held out an item he'd just removed from the box. "Here. I thought you might like to have this."
Harry ventured closer, reaching out to accept the offering with his left hand. It was a wizard photograph. The teen's breath caught in his throat. It was his mother, Lily, bright auburn hair flowing around her as she twirled, a wreath of yellow and pink flowers atop her head as she laughed for the camera. "You never showed this to me," he said quietly.
"I was not certain I still had it," the man responded honestly.
"I'm glad you did," Harry told him.
"Me, too." The professor placed a hand on the boy's shoulder, squeezing lightly.
For a long moment, Harry continued to gaze intently at the picture, drinking in every detail. Then, he spoke again, nodding towards the box, "Are there... Are there any of you, in there?"
"Of me?" the man echoed. The request had given him pause, but he reached into the box again, shifting through the contents for a moment before drawing out another picture. Lily had stolen the camera and turned it upon him. She had foisted another ridiculous flower crown on him, which had made him feel completely silly. He remembered gazing up at her, rolling his eyes at her admonishment to 'just smile for the camera, Sev!' Despite himself, a small smile had pulled across his lips, and Lily had caught it all on the film.
Harry took the picture, grinning a bit before looking up at the man beside him. "May I have this, too?" he asked.
"If you like," Severus conceded. "Can't imagine why you would."
"So I have a picture of all my parents. To put by my bed," Harry replied.
The Potions Master made a face. "Not in your dorm room, I hope," he declared. "Best stick to having one of your stepfather up there."
"Oh, I do have one of him," said Harry, "and now I have one of you, too."
Snape gave a put upon sigh, making Harry grin some more. "I suppose if you must," he drawled. "Are you certain you want to return to the tower tomorrow? The school year is almost over. You could wait until next year to sleep with your housemates again."
"I'm sure," Harry said. "Why? You going to miss me or something?"
"Very much so," Snape answered sincerely.
Harry felt a warm glow at this. Merlin, how things had changed this school year!
"Come, I'll assist you with your range of motion exercises." He followed the man out into the main area of their quarters, taking a seat across from him at the kitchenette table.
Although the teen knew he was going to miss these moments, he knew that returning to his House dormitory would not be the end of them. Because things were different than they were. No longer was there any doubt in his mind about who he was or his place in the world.
He was the Boy-Who-Had-Many-Friends, both old and new. He was the-Gryffindor-with-Three-Parents and the-Teen-Who-was-Overcoming-Crippling-Injury, the Child-with-an-Animagus-Godfather and a Youth-with-Hope-for-the-Future.
He was Harry Potter, and even though he had lost two parents in his life, he now had a father who was alive and loved him – and that made all the difference in the world.