Hermione hadn't really wanted to come, but she knew she had a responsibility. No matter where she went in the room, she saw smiling faces, people celebrating. There had been a time when she wanted to be noticed, but now, she would have given anything to remain anonymous.
She had tried standing still, but a crowd had quickly surrounded her, everyone wanting to congratulate her. When she walked around the room, people would stop her as she passed by. There was no anonymity. Looking around the room, she tried to find Lucius, but could not see him. She heard his laugh, but it came from the center of a small crowd, and he seemed to be enjoying the attention.
As more and more people came to congratulate to her, it felt as though the room was closing in around her; she knew she needed some space. Carefully excusing herself, she made her way to the terrace. Standing by the railing, she closed her eyes and took several deep breaths, forcing her heartbeat to slow.
"Couldn't take it either?" asked Harry from her left.
Facing him, she smiled weakly. "No. I just don't understand how they can celebrate."
"I know what you mean," Harry replied simply.
Now that she had started talking, her anger took control. "All the horrible things that happened a year ago, and now, they celebrate it? We lost so many good people that night." The horrors she had seen that night would never be surpassed. She had seen friends and mentors slain and wounded that night. For a while, she had thought she had lost Harry, too. He had spent two weeks in St. Mungo's after his duel with You-Know-Who, and it had taken another month before he seemed more like his old self. The Healers were never able to say exactly what was wrong with him. Over time, she had come to believe it had been something to do with his scar as it had faded until it was barely noticeable anymore.
Most of the wounded had recovered, but not all. Neville, Ron, McGonagall, Luna… She had to stop thinking about it. Once the battle had ended and the wounded were treated, the hidden chamber had drawn the surviving Protectors back to itself. There they had returned the medallions to their places on the pedestal. Hermione assumed that, one day, when the castle was again in danger, new Protectors would be sought.
Harry placed his arm around her shoulder. "I know. But I think they need it…"
She sighed. "And they expect us to be here. I know. Lucius and I discussed that." It still didn't make her feel any better. She would have rather had a quiet night at home. Hopefully, they would not insist on a big celebration next year. She wasn't sure that she could do this every year. Deciding to change the subject, she asked, "How's Ginny doing?"
The smile faded from Harry's face. "She's still down. That's why she didn't come."
Hermione knew how hard it was to lose a child. Harry and Ginny had been so excited about having a baby, but Ginny had miscarried last week. "Would she mind if I came over for a visit tomorrow?"
"I think she'd like it, though you should leave Wulfric at home. Well, I really should be going. Molly's with her, but I told her I wouldn't be long." He kissed Hermione on her cheek.
Lucius was in his element. There were very few things that he enjoyed more than being the center of attention. While others had been surprised at how readily the wizarding world had accepted his redemption, he was not. As much as they might not like to admit it, they needed him, and more specifically, his money.
As he chatted, he tried to keep an eye on Hermione. He knew that she had not wanted to attend the Anniversary Celebration. For her, there was little worth celebrating, and this only served to remind her of those that could not be here.
Realizing it had been quite some time since he had seen her, he excused himself from his conversation with the Head the Department of International Cooperation to find her. When he couldn't locate her in the ballroom, he pulled Remus away from the crowd. "Have you see Hermione?"
Remus glanced toward the door to the terrace. "I saw her heading outside a few minutes ago, but I don't know if she's come back in yet."
"Thank you," Lucius replied and started to walk away, but was stopped by Remus' hand on his arm.
"In case I don't see you again before you leave, I'd like to meet with you tomorrow morning to discuss a new marketing idea."
"Come by the office at ten o'clock." One of Hermione's many political projects had been to secure better living conditions for werewolves. The Ministry had been forced to admit that their current treatment of werewolves had led to a segment of society that was only looking for a reason to revolt, something the Dark Lord had exploited. They had been quite open to providing werewolves with the Wolfsbane Potion and creating incentives for businesses willing to hire them. Lucius had led the way by hiring Remus as a Marketing Director. Once Remus realized he was not going to be ostracized, he thrived and was quickly promoted to the head of marketing for Wizard Gate Books.
As Lucius walked onto the terrace, he could see Hermione standing by the rail and Harry walking away from her.
Harry gave Lucius a friendly nod. "Lucius."
"Harry. Calling it a night?"
"If I can sneak out without being noticed." He leaned closer to Lucius and whispered, "I think you should get Hermione home. She's quite upset."
"Thank you for looking after her." Lucius crossed the terrace and stood behind Hermione, wrapping his arms around her. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm sorry. I couldn't take it inside that ballroom anymore."
"There's nothing wrong with that. Do you want to go home?"
"I do, but Harry just left. What will people say?"
"I think they would understand us wanting to get home to our son."
Gazing into the night, her voice took a distant quality as she asked, "It is over, isn't it? I mean, he's not coming back this time?"
"No, darling, he's really gone this time. You, Harry and Ron made sure of that." He leaned forward and kissed the side of her cheek. When he noticed the tears running down her cheek, he turned her to face him and gently brushed them away. "Come, let's go home."
He wrapped his cloak around her and led her along the periphery. Whenever someone tried to approach them, he glared in a way that encouraged everyone to ignore them.
Once at home, they checked on Wulfric, who was sleeping peacefully. Lucius smiled at the sleeping bundle. His son had thick, curly blonde hair, taking after his mother in that regard. Looking down into that innocent face, it was so easy to forget the cruelty in the world.
Before they could leave the room, he started fussing, and Hermione picked him up to feed him. Lucius watched the two of them and could feel a contended grin spreading across his face.
Two years ago, he had set out only to gain his release from prison. He had carefully orchestrated a plan to earn the trust of members of the Order of the Phoenix, and most specifically, Hermione. When he had set that plan in motion, he had never imagined this was how it would end. She had merely been the only attractive, single witch that he wasn't related to. Now, she was something so much more. Even though he was quite a bit older than she, he found he enjoyed her company far more than he had enjoyed Narcissa's.
Watching her with Wulfric, he was suddenly struck by how incredibly lucky he was. His release from Azkaban had been made permanent when the Minister of Magic pardoned him due to testimony provided by Hermione, Harry, Severus and Ernie. As he had suspected, Severus was readily exonerated. Dumbledore had left a memory behind, one that proved beyond a doubt that everything Severus had done had been in the service of the Order. This had actually given Severus' testimony some weight in Lucius' defense.
They had even awarded him an Order of Merlin Second Class. Though he believed his actions were worthy of First Class, he would never complain. After the pardon was finalized, he outlined a recovery plan to the Ministry that showed it would be best for him to retain his position of prominence in the wizarding world. Of course, that had also entailed donating an obscene amount of money to various philanthropic entities, but that was only a minor setback. After all, he had assets of which the Ministry had no knowledge.
Once he was secure in his position, he and Hermione had planned their wedding. Deciding there was no point in delaying it, they were married less than a month after his pardon. He could remember it as if it were yesterday…
It was a lovely summer's day, and the garden looked magnificent. The centerpiece of the ceremony was a delicate arch covered in flowering vines. Lucius waited nervously, Remus at his side. Severus had politely declined duties as best man, preferring to remain out of the limelight and resume his quiet life at Hogwarts, albeit under a new headmaster.
Even though he knew that Hermione would be wearing his mother's dress, he had not expected her to look so stunning. Her hair had been tamed and was laced with flowers. The ivory dress was covered in intricate lace and hugged her curves quite nicely. From the moment she began walking down the aisle, she became the sole focus of his attention. Even now, he could remember little of the actual ceremony.
The reception had been a moderate affair. Most of the guests were friends and family, but Hermione had realized the importance of making a few political invitations. Of course, everyone wanted to be at any event that Harry Potter attended, and there were those who were curious to see the marriage of a former Death Eater to a heroine of the War. Thankfully, the magic protecting the manor had kept out uninvited guests.
During the reception, something rather odd had occurred. Harry had approached Lucius and apologized. Lucius could only ascertain this odd behavior had been a result of Harry's near death experience. While the two of them had not become friends, they were at least on amicable terms with each other. Which was good since Hermione liked to invite Harry and Ginny as guests for the weekend.
A little over nine months later, tiny, perfect Wulfric had been born. He did not think he had ever seen a more beautiful child. He had not argued when Hermione told him she wanted to honor Albus Dumbledore when she named their son. Of course, there would be advantages to naming the boy after a man who was being lauded as a hero.
Once Hermione placed Wulfric back in his crib and was out of the room, he pinned her against the wall and kissed her hungrily. "I have been waiting all evening for that."
"Have you?" she asked playfully.
"Indeed I have. While you look absolutely stunning in your robes, I have been thinking of little else besides getting you out of them."
"Oh, really? You seemed quite enmeshed in conversation." She ran her hands down the front of his robes, unfastening the clasps.
"It was all mindless and left me plenty of time to think of you." Leaning down, he nibbled at her neck.
"You speak with a silver tongue," she teased.
"That's not all I do with my tongue." To emphasize this, he slowly ran his tongue along her ear and was quite pleased when she quivered at his touch. Sweeping her into his arms, he carried her next door to their bedroom.
He placed her gently on the bed, and she asked, "So, what else can you do with that tongue?"
Shoving her robe over her head, he grinned mischievously and decided to show her rather than tell her. Picking up her foot, he released her garter strap, slowly removed her stockings and then kissed his way up her now bare leg. He was quite pleased to see that she hadn't worn any knickers.
Once they were both sated, he collapsed atop her, showering her with kisses, before he rolled next to her and pulled her close. He liked the way she fit next to him. As she drifted off to sleep, he realized that he finally had everything he wanted.
A/N: First and foremost, thanks to Owlbait and Mimy for betaing this chapter. With their help, I was able to make sure the holes were filled in. If you are interested in a more explicit version, check my web site, address in my profile.
Second, tremendous thanks to all who have stuck with me and read this story, and especially those that have taken the time to review. Reviews are very important to authors and give us the drive and desire to continue a story.
I'd also like to thank ksevfansd and ShilohDarke for getting me hooked on the LM/HG pairing and getting my muses motivated to write my own tale of this pairing. The stories the two of you have written about LM/HG are truly wonderful.
As for the future, now that this story is over, I hope to finally be able to get the last half to third of "The Price of Glory" finished. It will be about the same length as "To Regain Glory", so I want to complete it before I begin posting it. After that, who knows. I have a friend that has already started tossing me ideas for a sequel to this one. It's not enough for a complete story yet, and I doubt it would be this long. For the statistically minded, this story was 222 pages with double-spaced paragraphs and about 87,000 words once you take out all the Author's Notes.
Again, thank you all for reading.