Chapter Sixteen

Life went back to normal after settling into the cottage upon returning from their Caribbean honeymoon. Because both Severus and Hermione both felt that the cold and damp of the dungeons would not only be detrimental to Gracie's health, but that Severus could protect her more thoroughly at the family cottage. Rumors of folks sighting Ronald were flying furiously and ranged from the normal sightings of him being holed up at the Shrieking Shack, to the ridiculous as one inebriated fellow insisted on seeing him dining with the Queen Mother herself. Being a close and personal friend, and a doting grandfather himself, Lucius insisted on assisting Severus in placing the most powerful protective spells covering each family member personally, Hermione insisted Sev botected, causing amused glances to be exchanged over her head, and the whole family collectively. Then the cottage, every window and door, and the gardens and beachfront for miles. This part took several hours as each man meticulously covered every possible point of weakness.

Each was exhausted by the time the act was finished to their collective satisfaction, that when they heard Hermione cry out "Lucius, Severus come and eat! You've missed lunch and must be starving!"

Lucius smiled at his old chum, remarking "Severus, does she dote on you like this often?"

Chuckling, he said "All this...and more. I wish...Lucius, I do not deserve her, or to be this happy."

Lucius stopped briefly and placed his hand on fellow survivor of a War neither should've been in. "Sev, listen carefully. We were all of us deceived," here he hung his head, "and some of us became drunk with the promise of power, and fell in love with the feeling of invincibility. He chose you and I for reasons of his own, and although we elected to follow him, we did not do so under our own free will. Severus, we deserve as much happiness as any of the others who've suffered because of Tom Riddle. My advice? Enjoy it...immensely."

"Thank you, Lucius." They shook hands briskly.

A hooded figure watched from the cliff above the cottage and a nasty smirk slowly spread. Those spells will not protect what was his. Hermione was his...the baby was his. The only thing standing between getting what he owned was a washed-up potions professor. He learned patience in Azkaban, he'd use it now. Sooner or later, they'd relax the "security" and he'd be there...and they'd be gone. With one flick of his stolen wand, he disappeared into an oily black smoke, then POP, he was gone.

Author's Note: My sincerest apologies for the briefness of this chapter. I am in so much pain I cannot concentrate. Don't give up on me. I will finish this story. Thanks...and please review!