Chapter 6

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I make no money here.

AN: Many thanks go to my betas, Talesofsnape and Shiv5468, who both answered my plea for a beta so I could post to the lm_hgficxchange at Livejournal. And extra special thanks to clairvoyant, for polishing up the final version.

For the next several days, Hermione and Lucius remained in seclusion at her house. Neither seemed to mind the inconvenience, as it afforded them both time to get to know each other better in all manner of ways, not just in bed. Although, of course, they didn't ignore that aspect of their relationship either.

They spoke frankly to each other of their pasts: what their childhoods were like, having lived in completely different worlds, and their time spent at Hogwarts a generation apart. They even talked about the war and of having fought on opposing sides. It was a difficult conversation as Lucius revealed how he had, in the beginning, honestly believed the pureblood propaganda, having been raised by a man who was one of Voldemort's staunchest followers. But he also revealed how, as time passed, he had begun to doubt all the things he'd been taught to believe. By that point, however, he and his family had been caught in the mad wizard's web, unable to escape under penalty of torture and death for all those he held dear.

They shared what they both had been doing in the ten years since the end of the war. Hermione was surprised to learn that Lucius, in addition to managing the Malfoy holdings, had been running a variety of foundations designed to help those on both sides who were damaged by the war; in addition to the all of the harm done to Muggle-borns and their families, there were many pureblood families left devastated by the aftermath as well. Families had lost fathers and sons to Azkaban, and many had lost family fortunes and ancestral estates; some widows and heirs found themselves ill equipped to deal with things like finances and legalities. He helped out on a voluntary basis and anonymously. He told her he did it for his own peace of mind, not to receive accolades.

Tonight, they were sitting in the hot tub which was housed in a screened gazebo in the back garden. Since discovering it, Lucius had enjoyed it so much he swore when this was all over he was going to have one installed at the Manor. They had taken to unwinding in the tub at night with a long soak and a glass of wine or two before going to bed.

Hermione had just finished telling him of her time working at the Ministry and how she'd felt herself at a dead end there, not able to enact the kinds of changes she'd always dreamed of. Instead, she'd been stuck in a job where she was more of a figurehead than anything else. "When I ran into Severus and he suggested that we start a business together, I thought he'd gone round the bend. I'd never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would end up being business partners with Severus Snape. But the more he talked, the better it sounded."

"Hmmm… Yes, Severus can be quite persuasive when he puts forth the effort," replied Lucius, slipping his hand behind her neck to trace his fingers teasingly over her nape.

"Yes, he can. As time went by and we worked closely together, it became easier to see him for the man he truly is, and not just the image he projects."

Hermione hesitated, unsure whether to reveal her thoughts, but she decided to be truthful about her feelings. "Lucius, I feel I should be honest with you here. You already know, of course, of my former romantic relationship with Severus. And although we ended our affair, we somehow managed to remain friends and partners. In all honesty, I do still have feelings for him, feelings of more than friendship. He insisted that I couldn't be happy with just him, that I needed to experience more of life. So I tried to move on. I have been with other men, in other relationships. But those feelings for him are still there, tucked away in a hidden corner of my heart. I would be lying, however, if I said I hadn't begun to develop strong feelings for you, as well."

Hermione paused, unsure how Lucius would react to this revelation. He said nothing forseveral minutes, just continued to stroke her neck, occasionally sipping his glass of wine. Have I ruined everything? she wondered. Will he be angry with me? Will he leave me? Just when she thought she could not take the suspense for one more second, he reached across for her, pulled her over to sit in front of him, and leaned her back against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and spoke softly in her ear, "Have you ever fantasized about the three of us together, ma chérie?"

His words sent a shiver through her body as her mind pictured wanton visions of the three of them together. He whispered, "I know I have."

She moaned, arching into him as his hands slipped beneath her bikini top to tweak her nipples, and he nipped sharply at her earlobe. He described how he had watched her and Severus that night, how he had wanted to be there in that bed with them, how he had gone downstairs and wanked off to mental images of the two of them. He told her that he'd even entertained a fantasy of tying her to the bed as she'd been that night, then making Severus watch as he took her, pounding into her until she came, screaming his name, just as she had for Severus.

His words in her ear and his hands and mouth on her body drove her wild. "Oh, my sweet Merlin! Lucius, I want you to fuck me. I need you now, please," she begged.

He Apparated them directly to her bed, neither of them caring at all that they were still soaking wet. They were on each other in an instant: hands, mouths, fingers, lips, tongues, everywhere at once, touching, tasting, devouring voraciously. It was so intense, and they just couldn't seem to get enough, driving each other to the edge and over. Again and again until, finally, exhausted, they slept, wrapped securely in each other's arms.

The next morning, the boys showed up to give them an update on the case. They had been sending brief messages daily, but this was the first time they had stopped by since the night they'd decided to interrogate Pansy Parkinson and her mother. Things were not going well.

"The problem, so far, is that the plan was easier said than done," explained Harry. "The Parkinsons seem to have left the country several weeks ago. They've disappeared without at trace."

"And it looks as if they've not had contact with anyone at all. No word left with old friends or family, no forwarding address, no nothing. They just seemed to have vanished," added Ron.

"I didn't want to believe it of Pansy or her mother, but it's starting to look rather suspicious," admitted Draco glumly. "Their disappearance coincides with the timing of the first attempt on father's life."

"I still say that Nasturtium Parkinson does not have it in her to try to murder me, or anyone else, for that matter," insisted Lucius. "I have known her since I was a boy. I just can't believe it. I refuse to believe it."

Hermione could see how convinced Lucius was of Mrs. Parkinson's innocence. So she again brought up her idea. "Why don't we ask Severus to attempt Legilimency on that thug? Perhaps he could get some more specific information that would yield other suspects in the case."

"No, at this point I think that finding the Parkinson women is the key," Harry insisted. "I don't want to pursue the other option unless we absolutely have to. Unbreakable Vows are very tricky. I'm not sure even Snape could circumvent it."

Ron had come up with a lead, and he and Draco were heading to Morocco to check it out. They hoped to have new information within a few days. Harry had some ideas of his own that he wanted to pursue in London. But they all promised to let Lucius and Hermione know as soon as they knew anything themselves.

After they'd left, Lucius finished his second cup of coffee and lamented, "Well, that was certainly useless. Nothing really to report at all. I do believe that they came here simply to placate us."

"They are doing their best, my love. They want to get to the bottom of this and find out whoever is responsible as much as we want them to," said Hermione, trying to soothe Lucius' ruffled feathers.

Lucius grabbed her hand and pulled her down to his lap. "Hmm… I like the sound of that, sweet."

"What?" she asked, clueless.

"You called me your love. I like it."

"Well, I must have meant it. It just came out naturally," she teased, running her fingers through his hair. Then standing she took his hand, pulling him to his feet. "It's still early, my love, let's go back to bed." With a grin she added, "I could get used to saying that."

"I could get used to hearing it," replied Lucius with a tender smile.

Their time spent together that morning was totally different from their wildly intense mating of the night before. They took their time together, prolonging the pleasure, enjoying each other.

Hermione led Lucius upstairs and then slowly undressed him as she touched, kissed, and admired him. She then pressed him down onto the bed as she stepped back to remove her own garments.

As he watched her, Lucius couldn't help but think how lucky he was to have found her. If someone had asked him a month ago to describe Hermione Granger, he would have said she was a brilliant but rather ordinary Muggle-born witch with no great beauty—wholesome, perhaps, with her untamed honey-brown hair, a dusting of freckles, and plain brown eyes.

Now… he just couldn't conceive how anyone could see her as average. He'd been surrounded by beauty all of his life, only the best for a Malfoy. The women he'd been with brought to mind words like elegant, graceful, refined, ethereal, classic. And yet, now, he knew they couldn't hold a candle to the woman before him. She was everything he wanted and more.

His marriage to Narcissa had been an arranged one; that's how things were done in their world then and they'd accepted it. And while he'd never been in love with her, he had cared for her. But after the war, when she'd left him after more than twenty years of marriage, it hadn't broken his heart; in fact, he'd felt a vague sense of relief. Just a month in Hermione's company, and little more than a week in her bed, and he knew if he lost her now, he would be devastated. He vowed to himself that come what may, he wouldn't lose her.

She finished undressing. He watched through hooded eyes as she made her way to the foot of the bed and crawled over the end. He wondered what she was up to as she conjured a warm, damp flannel and gently washed his feet. She gave him the most amazing foot massage he'd ever had, working at them until he was groaning with pleasure. Then she began at the bottom of his feet, licking and kissing and sucking and nibbling her way up, stopping to bend his legs so she could nuzzle behind his knees then move on up his thighs. She had just reached the good stuff when he leaned down and grasped her by the arms pulling her up next to him. He rolled over her to pin her down while holding both her wrists together in one hand secured above her head.

"Hey," she said with a pout. "I was just getting started."

"Yes, and it was wonderful, more than wonderful, but at the rate you were going, it was all going to be over in the next minute and a half." Lucius chuckled, kissing her and sucking lightly at her neck. "Keep your hands here," he commanded, wrapping her fingers around the spindles of the bed. "If you move them, I may have to tie you up."

"Ooooh… That sounds kinky. I just may let you," Hermione whispered in reply, a sexy grin on her face.

"Later—we'll try that later, love. For now just keep them there." He kissed her deeply, taking his time to enjoy and savor her. "You are a goddess, my sweet Hermione, my goddess. And I intend to worship you, every single beautiful, delicious inch of you."

Lucius was true to his word. He spent the next hour worshiping his goddess, before he finally relented to her pleas, and they made tender love together.

All was quiet for the next couple of days. Hermione was beginning to go stir crazy. She wanted nothing more than to hop in the Ferrari and take it for a fast spin to burn off her annoyance with the lack of progress. She complained that she was not the target, Lucius was; therefore, it would do no harm for her to leave for a bit. Lucius, however, was adamant that Harry had insisted they both remain hidden since the Diagon Alley incident. This quickly escalated into their first real argument and ended in a bout of hot, sweaty, satisfying make-up sex.

Afterward, they decided to go down to the basement for dueling practice to fight the boredom. They'd barely begun when Draco popped in to deliver an update. He and Ron had discovered more information and were following a lead supplied by none other than Blaise Zabini. Draco wouldn't go into detail on Blaise's tip, but felt fairly confident that the whole thing would be over soon, probably in a matter of days.

Hermione and Lucius were in high spirits upon coming upstairs to begin preparations for dinner. Planning to celebrate the impending end to their exile, they were pleased to find a bottle of Merlot on the counter.

"Oh, look, a gift from Draco. Merlot, he knows it's my favorite," explained Hermione.

Lucius took the bottle from her and examined the label. "Yes, a very nice vintage. He must have nicked it from my cellars, the scamp."

Hermione gathered ingredients from the fridge for a salad. "Open it up, Lucius. Let's have some now before dinner."

Lucius opened the bottle and poured two glasses. Something about the wine bothered him, although he couldn't quite put his finger on what it was. Picking up the bottle, he perused the label again before sniffing the cork. He still didn't know what it was, but something seemed off somehow.

His back was turned, and he didn't notice Hermione reaching for her glass. She took a healthy gulp of wine. He was examining the cork closely for signs of tampering when he realized that she was drinking.

"Hermione. No!" he cried.

"What?" she asked, bewildered by his reaction. She had just taken another swallow of wine when Lucius reached across and knocked the glass out of her hand. "Lucius! What are you doing?"

"The wine," he gasped. "I think the wine has been tampered with."

"Lucius, have you gone mad? The wine is fine, there's nothing wr—"

The pain hit her like a bolt from the blue, doubling her over with its intensity. She clutched her gut as she fell to her knees. She moaned in agony, gritting her teeth to keep from screaming.

Lucius practically vaulted over the table to get to her. "Hermione!" he cried, clasping her to him. "Hermione! Dear Merlin!"

Her only response was a guttural groan as she leaned into Lucius, rocking against him with the pain, tears streaming down her cheeks.

"St. Mungo's! I must get you to St. Mungo's!" he cried as he prepared to Apparate. He then remembered that he was unable to Apparate through her wards. "Fuck!" he screamed in frustration as he realized that he couldn't make a Portkey either because it would require her magical signature.

"What can I do? What?" he asked himself, speaking out loud. "Think, Lucius, think!" He remembered Severus had told him once if someone had ingested poison and he didn't have a bezoar handy, he should induce vomiting if he was sure that the poison wasn't a strong acid or alkali. That could cause burning and possible scarring to the esophagus. He didn't think the wine would cause burning, although he couldn't be sure what the poison itself was. At this point he felt he had no choice. If he did nothing, she could die.

Scooping her up he carried her to the downstairs loo, hoping to find a bezoar in her medicine cabinet there. No such luck. He explained what he was going to do, although she was in such distress he wasn't sure she understood. He raised his wand and cast, "Vomitare."

The result was nearly instantaneous. He helped her lean over the toilet as she began to vomit, and he pulled her hair back out of the way. He kept talking to her, crooning nonsense words, trying to comfort her as best he could. It seemed to go on forever, although it was probably not more than a couple of minutes. Reaching up to the sink, he wet a flannel and gently wiped her face and her mouth. She was limp in his arms and felt cold and clammy; she was still conscious, but barely.

He carried her to the living room and wrapped her in an afghan off the back of the couch and lit the fireplace with his wand to warm up the room as he held her on his lap. He knew she was not out of danger, and he needed to get help quickly.

"Hermione, sweetheart. Stay with me now, dearling. I need your help." He tried to project an aura of calmness and control when in actuality, inside his head, he was screaming in terror.

She mumbled something, but he couldn't understand. "I can't dismantle your wards or break through them. Perhaps I could Floo out."

"No," she muttered. "Floo's blocked, needs me to open." She was shivering now, her teeth chattering. "Too weak… Can't manage… Don't leave me, Lucius. Please," she begged.

"Sweetheart, you need help. Time is of the essence. I must do something, get help from somewhere… somehow."

"P'tronus, Lu… Send your P'tronus to Sev'rus." Her head lolled to the side as she lost consciousness.

"Hermione… Hermione, don't leave me. Fuck it all! Don't you dare leave me, you stubborn witch." Lucius practically wept in frustration. "Gods be damned!"

Send your Patronus, Lucius,, as if it were the simplest thing in the world to do. And for her, it probably was. But for him, someone whose entire life had been influenced by the Dark, it seemed an impossible task. He'd never been able to cast a Patronus before…ever. Oh, he knew the words, knew the theory behind the spell: think of your most 'positive' thoughts. The problem was throughout his whole life he couldn't conjure one purely happy thought. Even the best of times had been tainted. The birth of his beloved son, something he'd believed to be the best thing that had ever happened to him, had been overshadowed by his own father's proclamation at Draco's birth: Here at last was proof of the Malfoy family's loyalty, the beginning of a new generation to serve the Dark Lord's ideals.

He'd tried in the past to cast the blasted Patronus, but it had always been beyond his reach… always. Gazing down at Hermione, he knew he had to try. He pulled his wand and tried to reach deep inside himself to find something to concentrate on. His eyes dropped again to Hermione's sweet face, and in that instant he knew. Thinking of the last weeks with her, he focused all his energy and cried, "Expecto Patronum!"

To his astonishment a Patronus formed. He'd always wondered what form his would take if he ever succeeded in producing one… perhaps a snake, the symbol of his Hogwarts House, or a dragon, or maybe a sly, clever fox, or a beautiful peacock like one of his pets. He'd never in his wildest dreams have imagined his Patronus being the creature hovering in front of him. There before him was a ghostly shaped, pure white phoenix, the symbol of rebirth and new life. Looking down at the woman in his arms, he realized that was everything she represented to him, a chance at a new beginning, a new life.

Looking up with tears in his eyes, he commanded, "Take this message to Severus Snape. Severus, come immediately to Hermione's house. She's been poisoned. We need your help. Please, hurry, Severus… hurry!"

The first time that Hermione woke up in her bed at St. Mungo's, there were just too many worried faces and the clamor of too many voices talking all at once. After tolerating this for all of thirty seconds, she promptly closed her eyes and went directly back to sleep.

The second time she awoke, there were less noises and fewer faces, which was more to her liking, but still not enough to entice her to stay awake for more than a few minutes. Lucius was the only one to notice, but he said nothing to the others as he sat in a chair next to the bed, holding her hand. When he saw she was awake, he lifted her hand to his cheek before pressing his lips into her palm. Severus was arguing with Harry about something, but she couldn't stay awake long enough to figure out what. She fell back asleep with Lucius' kiss clutched in her fist.

When next she roused, the room was empty except for Harry dozing in the chair beside her bed. His hand lay on the sheet next to her, and she reached to place her hand in his.

"Harry?" she asked tentatively.

Harry drank her in with his eyes before practically falling on her to hug her and to snuffle against her neck. "Hermione, I'm so glad you're okay. We thought… it was… I just…" Harry choked back a half sob.

The Boy Who Lived seemed to be at a loss for words. "Thanks, Harry. I'm glad I'm okay, too," Hermione responded with a weak smile.

Harry stood and turned to brush away a tear before he turned back and spoke. "We damn near lost you! Don't you ever scare me like that again, Hermione Granger," he demanded.

"I'll try not to Harry," she replied meekly. Then she asked, "I saw Lucius here earlier, the last time I woke up for a bit. Is it safe for him to be here, so out in the open?"

"Oh, yeah. It's fine. It's over, we've caught the person who was trying to kill him, and you'll never believe the story behind it all."

"Well, I've nowhere to go. Tell me a story, Harry. I'm more than curious to see how it ended."

"All right, but it's a long and very twisted tale—rather hard to believe, but apparently true. Don't interrupt me, or I'll forget where I am and have to start over," he teased.

"It seems our villain, or villainess in this case is a woman named Seraphine Grimaldi, She's had a lot of different last names before that one, but the only one you need remember is Zabini."

"Blaise's mum?"

"The one and only, but you're not supposed to interrupt, remember?"

Hermione nodded, so Harry continued with his tale. "Well, when you asked Lucius if the woman after him was a jealous ex-lover, you weren't far wrong. It seems that a while back he had spent a weekend in the glorious Mrs. Grimaldi's bed, and by doing so, she figured that made her a shoe in for the role of the next Mrs. Malfoy. Lucius disagreed and sent her on her way, thinking that was the end of that.

"That only ticked her off, though. She'd already envisioned how she was going to spend all that lovely money, and she wasn't happy to learn that Lucius wasn't interested. So, she started scheming as to how she could get her hands on the Malfoy fortunes by some other means if she couldn't do it by marriage.

"She'd learned, after the fact, of the relationship between Blaise and you and Draco. And even though you three had already gone your separate ways, it wouldn't be unlikely that you might get back together. So, she figured if she could get rid of Lucius, that would leave Draco as the sole heir to the Malfoy fortunes. And of course, if Draco were grieving over the loss of his father, what would be more natural than for him to turn to his friends and former lovers for support in his time of need? In fact, she was furious that you were injured in the Diagon Alley incident, as it would have ruined her entire plan if you'd been killed."

"You can't be serious?"

"Oh, wait," explained Harry. "It gets better, much better.

"So, Lucius would have died, and Draco would have inherited the Malfoy fortune, and the three of you would have reunited, whether by your own choice or by means of a subtle Imperius, and you would have all agreed to a permanent bonding ceremony, which would have made you and Blaise both Draco's sole heirs. Originally, she thought that after a suitable amount of time she'd just get rid of you and Draco and the fortunes would come to Blaise, whom she assumed she could manipulate to get what she wanted."

"I don't like this bedtime story, Harry. It's much too dark for me," said Hermione.

"Oh, but that's not all. It gets even more twisted," Harry continued. "She found out, we think possibly through Mrs. Parkinson, that the Malfoy estate could only be passed on through a direct line. Therefore, Blaise could never inherit on his own. So, she would have to wait until you produced an heir.

"She planned to make sure that happened, either through natural means, or use of conception potions combined with Imperius, or whatever she deemed necessary. Once Draco's heir was born, she would murder both you and Draco. Her plan was to make it look like some kind of accident. Then, Blaise would be the child's legal guardian… This next part is even worse."

"How could it possibly get worse than that?" demanded Hermione. "Draco and I are both dead."

"Wait. Just listen. She knew Blaise well enough to realize that if he loved you and Draco, he would love and protect your child. He would have been next on the list so that she could ultimately become guardian of the next Malfoy heir."

"Sweet mother of Merlin, she was going to murder her own son?" asked Hermione in disbelief.

Harry nodded. "Hermione, this is a woman who managed to go through seven husbands by the time Blaise was seventeen... and two more after the war. Lucius would have been husband number ten if she'd bagged him. There have been rumors aplenty that she killed them all off, but it's never been proven. I guess after all that, she just figured she could get away with anything. We learned all this by interrogating her under Veritaserum. She's one scary witch, Hermione, on a scale of Bellatrix Lestrange scary, in my opinion."

"Why on earth would she agree to Veritaserum?" questioned Hermione.

"It seems that she believed herself immune to it," explained Harry. "That's how she evaded being charged in any of her husbands' suspicious deaths. She was always willing to participate in questioning under Veritaserum."

"I don't understand, if she was immune…"

"Ahhh, well, it appears she was able to build an immunity to regular Veritaserum. However, she wasn't aware that she had screwed over someone very near and dear to the heart of a certain Potions master. We now have access to a new and improved formula. Unfortunately for Mrs. Grimaldi, and fortunately for us, she was not immune to the new formula, so we now know the truth about all of it," concluded Harry with a smile.

"Poor Blaise. To face the fact that not only is his mother a murderer but she was willing to sacrifice him as well to get what she wanted. How sad."

"Yes, well, if it hadn't been for Blaise coming to Draco and revealing his suspicions, she might have actually got away with it."

Hermione was quiet for a bit, mulling it all over, before asking, "But Harry, wait. What about the wine? How did she manage to get that into my house?"

"She knew we were hiding Lucius, but had no idea where. In fact, if she'd realized he was hidden in your house, she would have never sent the poisoned wine, as she needed you alive for her plan to work. Anyway, she ordered a house-elf to remain unseen and to shadow Draco wherever he went until he found Lucius. When the elf left the wine in the kitchen, it had already been poisoned by Seraphine."

"I thought my wards were tight enough to keep out anything, even house-elves, without my permission," muttered Hermione.

"Severus already checked out your wards. You're right. Under normal circumstances a house-elf could not have gotten in. But I guess since he'd ridden in and out as a stowaway on Draco's coat tails when he used his Portkey; he managed to circumvent your wards," explained Harry.

"A loophole I'll definitely take care of as soon as I get home," stated Hermione. "Speaking of going home, Harry, when can I get out of here?"

"Immediately," said a voice from the doorway. Lucius breezed into the room as if he owned the place. "I'm taking you home right now." Turning to the aide that he'd brought with him, he ordered, "Pack up all of her things, we're leaving."

Harry protested, "I thought the Healers wanted to keep her here another day or two?"

"They are doing nothing that I can't do for her myself," said Severus, entering the room. "They are still giving her a purifying potion to make sure all of the poison is out of her system as well as a strengthening potion, and a healing potion. I can make all of those fresh every day and take care of her myself."

"Ourselves," protested Lucius. "Take care of her ourselves."

Severus ignored him and continued to convince Harry. "Besides, people heal much better in the comfort of their own homes. She'll be more relaxed there."

"Well, all right, if you've got the Healer's okay, I guess there's not much I could do to stop you. She's anxious to get out of here anyway," conceded Harry. Bending down, he brushed a kiss across her cheek and ordered, "You owl me if you need anything, anything at all."

"I will, Harry. Don't worry about me," she assured him.

Later that evening she lay in her own bed, and it felt good to be home. Lucius had tried to convince her to go to the Manor now that the danger was over. But she'd declined, saying she just wanted to go home, to her own bed. Of course, although he grumbled a bit, Lucius had acquiesced to her desires and accompanied her home with Severus.

She'd had all of her potions and a light meal of soup and bread. She was now tucked snugly into bed with a blond bombshell settled in comfortably next to her. They were both reading in bed when the door opened. In strode Severus in a Slytherin green dressing gown.

He laid his book on Hermione's nightstand and, taking his wand, enlarged the bed from a queen-sized to a super king-sized bed. Then, peeling back the corner of the covers, he demanded, "Well, budge over then."

"Severus?" questioned Hermoine.


"Ummm… Lucius is here already."

Lucius smiled and waggled his fingers at Severus.

Severus scowled and rolled his eyes. "Yes, I can see that. I've already enlarged the bed so there's plenty of room for all of us. I'm tired of waiting for you two to be done playing house and ask me to join you. So, here I am. I'm joining, unless, of course, you don't want me to."

"Oh, no, I definitely want you to. Lucius, you want Severus to join us, too, don't you?"

"Of course, it's fine with me," replied Lucius nonchalantly, trying to hide a smile behind his hand.

"Good, because I'm staying. I'm beginning to think you need a keeper, woman. Remember that fiasco in Borneo—"

"That was not my fault. I was only trying to help the boys—" she protested weakly.

"It was all because of those meddlesome boys," agreed Lucius

"I didn't ask you," snapped Severus, sending Lucius a glare that during his teaching days would have frozen any dunderhead dead in their tracks.

Turning back to Hermione, he continued, "And after this last month... well, someone needs to make sure you stay out of trouble, and Lucius doesn't seem able to manage the task on his own. It's obviously going to take both of us to handle the job. Between nearly being sliced in half—"

"Severus, it was just a little cut—"

"And poisoned."

"Well, yes that part was bad. I'll admit that. But it really wasn't my fault there was a madwoman out to get Lucius and I was caught in the crossfire."

"Yes, it really wasn't her fault, Severus," agreed Lucius.

"Shut it, you," he barked at Lucius.

Lucius merely smiled as he turned a page in his book, pretending he was actually reading it.

"And you," he continued, pointing his finger at Hermione.

"Yes, dearest?"


"Budging now, dear." she replied, scooting over to make room.

Severus dropped his robe to reveal black boxers; he usually slept in the nude. After standing there for a minute, unsure of himself, he slid the boxers off and climbed in to settle down next to her. Plumping his pillow, he settled in with his book in his hand.

After a few minutes of trying to read, Hermione sniffled softly and rubbed at her eye.

"What's wrong, now?" demanded Severus, trying to sound gruff, but failing, as he was a bit worried by Hermione's tears.

"I'm just so happy. The three of us here… together… this is everything I've ever dreamed of." Hermione turned into him, sobbing against his chest.

Severus sighed, wrapping her in his arms. Lucius rolled close and cuddled against her back.

"Women," declared Severus, "I swear I'll never understand them."

"I don't think it's necessary to understand," replied Lucius seriously. "As long as we love her and she loves us back. That's all that really matters, isn't it? We're together now, the three of us. Forever."

"Forever," mumbled Hermione through her tears.

"Forever," agreed Severus. "The three of us. Together, forever."


AN This story was written for pokeystar for the 2010 lm_hgficxchange on LJ.

Original Prompt: Someone is trying to kill Lucius Malfoy. The MLE assigns Hermione Granger to protect him in a Muggle safe house. Please to include (somehow): dueling, internet, Ron Weasley.