A Gift of Love
AN: Sorry it has take me so long to post this last chapter. RL, personal family issues have taken precedent and I simply haven't had time to do this. I also have not had time to respond to reviews, I do apologize for this and appreciate each and every one. Chances are I still won't be able to respond but please know that I do thank you all for reading and for showing your support and even if I don't respond I do read all of the reviews. Thanks so much! m.
Disclaimer: I do not own HP, I make no money from this work.
A/N: Many thanks go to my lovely helpers, my beta and Brit-picker: talesofsnape, and my alpha: morethansirius, their help and input were invaluable.
By the time Severus pulled out of Hermione's mind she was exhausted. He took her right hand, which was covered with bandages, and held it gently in his.
"You are going to fall asleep. Don't fight it. You badly need the rest. I'm going to give you a strengthening potion to counteract the draining effects of the Legilimency. Then the healers can do whatever needs to be done." He pulled a potion bottle out of the deep pockets of his robes and, uncorking it, held it to Hermione's lips.
She drank it without question, but before he could withdraw, she grabbed his hand, pulling him close. She motioned for Lucius, and he leaned close on the other side. She could barely keep her eyes open. Severus had been telling the truth. She was totally drained, but still, she felt compelled to speak.
"When you find them," she said, her voice barely a whisper. "If they have harmed her... if anything has happened to her... Azkaban is much too good for them."
Severus patted her hand solicitously. "Oh, my dear, I highly doubt they shall ever live to see the inside of Azkaban."
Lucius agreed, "I can assure you that Severus speaks the truth."
She nodded as she collapsed back against the pillows.
Lucius looked worried. "Is she...?"
"Just exhausted, both from her ordeal and from the Legilimency."
"What did you learn? Do you have any leads?"
Severus smiled slyly. "If my first inclination is wrong, then I shall show you her memories in a pensieve and we'll go from there, but I don't think that will be necessary. I can't believe it might be this easy," he said, as he gently unwound the bandages from Hermione's right hand.
"What are you doing?" asked Lucius.
Severus carefully opened Hermione's fingers to expose the mark on her palm, branded deeply into her flesh. "Is the medallion that made this mark what I think it is?"
There in the center of her hand was a permanent impression of the Malfoy family crest, one inch in diameter.
"Yes," choked Lucius. "It's the Portkey medallion I used for my safe house. This is from the one I gave to Elise, years ago. I wondered what had become of it; it wasn't in her jewelry box. She must have given it to Hermione." Lucius' fingers hovered above Hermione's palm, wanting to soothe and comfort her damaged flesh. Instead he bent and kissed her wrist, and then began to carefully re-wrap the dressing over her palm.
In a deathly voice he asked, "Which of those bastards did this to her?"
"Avery," replied Severus.
"When we find them, he is mine," vowed Lucius.
"Not if I get to him first," said Severus.
Lucius softly laid Hermione's hand back on the bed. "How does this help us?"
"I am hoping, since the Portkey is of your design, you will be able to trace the last destination from which it was activated. I know that she had it with her when she arrived, so it had better be with her belongings when we talk to the healers."
"Brilliant! Severus, you're right." Lucius paused with a frown and turned to his friend. "I don't understand, though, how Hermione was able to activate it. I keyed it to Elise, but other than that only a Malfoy should be able to make it work."
"It was activated by a Malfoy," Severus responded grimly.
"I don't underst... Orrie? How?"
"Spontaneous magic. They'd sent her with a servant girl out of the room, but she must have been able to hear Hermione's cries. She burst into the room, upset, her magic pouring from her, and cried, 'Go... safe house... go Mummy!' Hermione realized what was happening. She tried to get to Orrie, but before she could reach her, she was transported away."
Lucius braced his hands on his knees and took a deep breath. Looking up, he confirmed, "Safe house was the password for the Portkey, but it could only be activated by a Malfoy, or Elise."
"We need to talk to the Healers and get that medallion. I'm hoping Potter is listed as her emergency contact in the magical world and they will allow him access since she is unconscious. "
Harry, Pansy, and Draco had stepped out of the room while Severus was searching Hermione's mind for clues, both to give them the needed privacy and to keep anyone else from interfering with them. Lucius called them back into the room now and explained quickly what they had learned.
Harry agreed to go with them to talk to the healers. Draco and Pansy stayed in the room to keep watch over Hermione.
Upon talking to the manager of the ward Hermione was on, they were referred to an administrator, Healer Wakefield. She proved to be a curmudgeon of an old woman, who was not entirely agreeable with their request. She was not at all impressed by the one and only boy-who-lived.
"Explain to me, Mr. Potter, why it is you think I will give Miss Granger's personal effects to you?" asked Healer Wakefield, looking at all of them over the tops of her glasses, very much a St. Mungo's version of Minerva McGonagall.
"I am her legal next-of-kin here in the wizarding world," repeated Harry.
"Miss Granger is neither dead nor incompetent to handle her own affairs, Mr. Potter. She is merely temporarily incapacitated."
"We can't afford to wait until she is awake and able to grant us permission, ma'am," said Harry through gritted teeth.
Lucius, sensing that Severus was on the verge of merely taking the necklace and Obliviating the old biddy, spoke up. "Healer Wakefield, I'm sure you know from the recent gossip in the papers that Miss Granger is the adoptive mother of my daughter." At her nod, he continued, "What you don't know—what no one knows, and it is of the utmost importance that it remain so—is that our daughter Orrie has been abducted."
The old woman's eyes grew big at this news. "Go on, Mr. Malfoy."
"The kidnappers are the ones who caused Miss Granger's injuries and they still have our child. We three believe that necklace may be the key to finding her, as it is a Portkey designed by me years ago. I think, with access to it I may be able to reverse the charm to take us to the location where she was held."
She studied the necklace and then looked up at the three men before her. "Will you swear to me this is the truth, and not part of some nefarious plot to take her child from her?"
"Ma'am, I am her best friend," protested Harry, "I would never do that to Hermione."
"Yes, I will swear," Lucius cut in. "I'll take an Unbreakable Vow if that is what it takes."
Healer Wakefield frowned. "I don't deal in such magics, sir. Your word will be enough."
"Then you have my word, madam," said Lucius.
With a sigh, she removed the necklace from the box of Hermione's personal effects. "Then in good conscience, if it might save the life of a child, I cannot deny you. I give you my word, sir, that no one shall hear of this from me. I understand the need for secrecy," she said as she handed him the necklace.
Thank you, healer. Please take good care of my... of Miss Granger."
"We do our best to take care of all our patients, Mr. Malfoy, but your concern is duly noted."
They had no sooner left Healer Wakefield's office than Lucius was confronted by Ron Weasley.
"Mr. Malfoy, just the person I've been looking for. I'll need you and Draco to come with me down to Auror Headquarters."
Harry stepped out from behind Severus. "Ron, what's this all about? We have something important to do. We don't have time for this right now."
"What's this about? Surely you realize that Draco Malfoy can't show up at St. Mungo's with a beaten and battered Hermione Granger in his arms and not have the Aurors notified."
"My son was not responsible for Hermione's injuries," stated Lucius.
"Lucius, let me talk to him privately for a moment."
Harry led Ron aside.
"Lucius? Since when are you so buddy-buddy with Malfoy, Harry?"
"Since Orrie is his daughter, as everyone now knows. I guess it comes as no surprise that Pansy and I have spent a lot of time with all of them lately."
"From what I hear down at the Ministry, Malfoy's trying to take Orrie away from Hermione."
"Yes, that's the rumor, but that's all it is, Ron, just a rumor."
"Are you positive about that?"
"Yes, and he had nothing to do with what happened to her either."
"I don't know, Harry. It would be awfully convenient, for him if Hermione died. Who do you think would get custody of Orrie then, if not her natural father?'
"Ron, I know it looks bad, but I know the truth about what happened to Hermione and I can swear it wasn't Lucius. In fact, I think the she fancies him a bit."
"Ewww...! Hermione and Malfoy's dad. That's just wrong," declared Ron vehemently.
"I'd have agreed at one time, but I think it's true, Ron. It's either him or Snape, or maybe both of them."
"Snape! Both of them! Now I know you're pulling my leg. You really had me going for a min..." Ron looked up to see Harry shaking his head with a grin. "Oh gods! You aren't kidding, are you?"
With a sigh, Ron continued, in full Auror mode now. "So what's going on with all this? Someone beat Hermione up really bad; I'd say this is a job for the Aurors. Harry, you could get into big trouble for withholding evidence or for aiding and abetting a couple of characters like Malfoy and Snape in breaking the law."
"Ron, I'm trusting you with this. The men who did beat up Hermione, they have Orrie. We have to get her back."
"Still sounds like a job for the Aurors to me, Harry."
"The kidnapping didn't happen here, Ron. They took them in Bulgaria, so it's outside the department's jurisdiction. All you're going to accomplish by taking us in for questioning is to slow us down. We need to get to Orrie as soon as possible."
Ron seemed to be considering. He glanced up over Harry's shoulder. Snape looked about ready to explode, which was unusual, considering how much he'd kept hidden behind his cold facade with ease, during the war. Malfoy, on the other hand, looked cool, calm, and collected, but when he glanced up at Ron and Harry, Ron could see the deadly determination in his eyes.
"I could lose my job over something like this. I'm going to have to report to my superiors..." Harry opened his mouth to protest, but then Ron continued. Looking at his watch, he said, "Is it really that late already? It's way past time for me to take a dinner break, and now that I think of it, I must have missed my break time earlier, too. Oh well, I guess I'll probably take a really long dinner break, and by that time my shift will probably be over, I suppose. So, I guess I won't be able to file a report until the morning. Yeah, I'll definitely have to report it though, Harry."
Harry clapped his friend on the back. "Thanks, Ron. I owe you, big time."
"No, Harry, you don't owe me anything. You three do what you have to do. If you run into trouble and need back up, you call me. I mean that. Job or no job, you know that I'd do anything for you or Hermione."
"Thanks Ron," Harry repeated, hugging his friend.
As Harry joined Lucius and Severus, Ron took off toward the cafeteria. "I told him about Orrie."
Lucius asked, "What did he say?"
"He said he'd have to report it."
"Damn it all, Potter!" cursed Severus.
"Calm down, Severus. He just noticed its dinner time; you know how Ron Weasley feels about his food. By the time he's done, his shift will be over until tomorrow morning."
"He's giving us a head start?" asked Severus disbelievingly.
Harry nodded. "Let's get out of here before we run into another delay."
They stopped back at Hermione's room to let Pansy and Draco know what was going on. Lucius arranged for, Healer Mumford, the Malfoy family healer to oversee all of Hermione's treatment. Pansy promised to stay with her and to arrange for some of her other friends to take turns when she had to leave.
Draco wanted to go with them to rescue Orrie, but reluctantly agreed to stay when Lucius pointed out that he needed someone he could trust at home to run things, and pass on communications. This was reinforced when a Malfoy family house-elf, Perky. showed up with a letter and a package that turned out to be a ransom demand. The four of them Apparated back to Malfoy Manor to examine the contents of both.
Inside the package was Foxy Lucy, in two parts. Her little plushie head had been severed from her little plushie body.
Lucius read the note aloud:
Old friend of mine, how the mighty have fallen. First, siring a half-blood brat off some filthy Mudblood slut? What would our Lord think if he could see you now? Seems more like the actions of a blood-traitor than a pureblood, and to publicly acknowledge the brat, what were you thinking?
At any rate, all the better for me. If you want to see your little bastard again alive, you will bring one hundred thousand galleons in gold as a good faith deposit. Once I have proof that you are willing to deal with us, you will be sent the numbers of a protected Gringotts account in which you will deposit an additional three million galleons.
If you choose not to deal with us, your filthy spawn will end up like poor little Foxy Lucy. Oh the poor dear did cry and carry on so, as she witnessed us slice up her beloved toy. It was music to our ears. Act soon or she will be the one to suffer.
Meet me in three days' time, where it all began. Or it will be sweet irony that the girl will die where her grandparents did.
"What should we do?" asked Severus. "Continue with the plan? Or wait until they show up for the meeting?"
Lucius considered as he cradled half of Foxy Lucy in each hand. He then cast a 'reparo' on the toy, putting it back together as good as new, and, shrinking it, he slipped it in his pocket. He answered,
"Just because they have arranged the meeting here in England doesn't mean that they are here. They may still be where they were holding Hermione. We have three days. We will trace the Portkey and try to find Orrie. If we don't find her within three days, I will meet Avery in Ellswick."
"Ellswick? Why Ellswick?" asked Harry.
"As the letter says, it's where it all began. It's where I first met Elise, the night her family was murdered by my comrades."
The three spent several hours studying the Portkey. Although none of them had ever traced a Portkey to its last point of origin, theoretically it should be possible to do. Lucius had a similar one of his own that he had created after he'd given his first one to Elise. Not wanting to risk damaging the original one, they practiced on Lucius' copy. After using it several times from different locations to Portkey back to the cottage, they managed untangled the path back to the last location successfully. They repeated the process to be sure they could replicate it consistently before trying it with Hermione's Portkey.
"I just hope that the trail doesn't dissipate with time," worried Harry.
"It hasn't been all that long," said Draco. "Maybe twelve hours total since she popped in at the cottage and Twink found her."
"I don't think it will be a problem," said Severus, "but we'd best get busy and be on our way before morning arrives and Mr. Weasley is forced to file his reports with his supervisors."
The three gathered around the Portkey as Lucius cast the reversal spell. Draco watched helplessly, wishing that he were going with them, as they winked out of sight. "Travel well, and bring her home safe," he whispered.
Having anticipated everything that could go wrong, in reality it seemed almost too easy. Their arrival would be the most dangerous, they had agreed, because they could be somewhat disoriented and would have no idea who might be present when they arrived.
Once they had swirled into being, the three immediately moved into a defensive stance in a tight circle, backs together, and wands drawn. They surveyed the room and quickly realized it was empty. Severus looked around and confirmed it was the room from Hermione's memories. They stepped toward the door, which they could see was shut but unlatched as the knob was now broken.
Severus got to the door first and slipped it open just a crack to listen. After a couple of seconds he whispered, "I can hear voices. Someone is here. Whether it's Avery, Crabbe, and Macnair I'm not sure.
They widened the crack so they all could listen.
Harry said, "I hear at least two different voices distinctly, and I'm sure that I heard them mention your name, Lucius."
Lucius nodded, frowning in concentration. After a moment he said, "I'm positive I hear Macnair."
Severus nodded in agreement. "He's with Avery. I recognize his voice now."
Just then they heard the crack of a loud slap and a decidedly female cry. Lucius nearly bolted through the doorway then, but Severus hauled him back. He whispered loudly, "Stop! That's not Orrie. In Hermione's memory there was a servant girl; she took Orrie to the room next door. That's probably her down there with Avery and Macnair. If Orrie is still locked up next door, Crabbe may be guarding her. Let's see if we can get in there."
Lucius looked divided. He wanted to get Orrie, but he also wanted a chance to make Avery pay. Finally he acquiesced; of course, Orrie was the most important thing.
They opened the door quietly and slipped into the hallway, which was deserted. The room they exited from was at the end of the hall. There were three other doors, one directly across the hall. Harry checked for wards but found none, he carefully tried the door and surprisingly it was unlocked. With a nod to Lucius and Severus he swiftly opened the door and stepped inside, wand drawn. The room was unoccupied and was nothing but a very messy bedroom with two narrow beds. He stepped back out. "Nothing," he mouthed with a shake of his head.
Lucius checked the next door, finding it similarly unwarded and unlocked. There was nothing inside this one but a linen closet.
Severus checked the last door. No wards, but the door was locked. Harry moved past him toward the head of the stairs. Severus frowned and hissed at Harry who just put his finger to his lips for silence. He began casting a series of wards to keep those downstairs from hearing anything from above and to keep them out, at least for a while, should they attempt to come up.
Harry stepped back from the stairs and Severus grudgingly admitted, "Good job, Potter."
Severus prepared to open the door when Lucius stepped up to his side. "Wait," he whispered. He aimed his wand at the door and cast the spell Hermione had used to monitor Orrie at home while she'd stood outside on the step with him. It worked. The top half of the door turned invisible, just like a window, and they could see clearly inside. Orrie sat on the bed. She appeared to be playing or talking with Malfoy Bear. Across the room, apparently sound asleep in a chair, was Crabbe.
They all smiled at each other. Severus cast a simple "Alolomora" and the door opened with a slight click. Crabbe didn't move, but Orrie turned frightened eyes toward the door. When Severus poked his head around the edge, she looked as if she were going to squeal his name, but he put his finger to his lips just as Harry had done moments earlier. Orrie nodded in understanding.
Severus cast a quick "Incarcerus" and an even quicker "Silencio" at Crabbe. Orrie's eyes got even bigger when her Uncle Harry slipped through the door, and when Lucius followed she couldn't stop herself.
"Daddy!" she cried, running to Lucius and jumping into his arms. "I knowed that you'd come get me. I just knowed it."
Lucius held her tight, overcome with emotion, as his little girl called him daddy for the very first time. She buried her head in his neck and hugged him hard. "You were right sweetheart. I did come to get you and I always will. I love you, Orrie."
"I wuv you too, Daddy."
"Are you alright, Orrie? Are you hurt?"
She shook her head and turning in Lucius' arms toward Severus she cried, "Sev'wus, my other daddy!"
"What?" They all looked at each other in confusion.
"When Mummy telled me about Woocius being my daddy, I was sooo happy, but I kinda wanted Sev'wus to be my daddy, too. So I telled Mummy that I was gonna ask Sev'wus to be my other Daddy. First Mummy said you kin only has one mummy an' one daddy, but I telled her I has two mummie's, her and my 'other' mummy, so I wants two daddies, too. Will you be my daddy, too, Sev'wus."
"Errr... Orrie, I don't know—"
"Of course, he will, Orrie," interrupted Lucius, "but we will have to work out all the details later. Right now, we need to get you out of here to somewhere safe."
Suddenly tears began to slide down Orrie's cheeks.
"Oh, sweetheart, what's wrong?"
"I done something weally bad, Daddy. They was hurtin' Mummy and I wanted her to go somewheres safe, an' when I said that, she dips-a-peered" Orrie sobbed, "I dips-a-peered my Mummy and I doesn't know where she went!"
"Oh, lovey, it's all right. Shhh... Don't cry. You didn't do something bad; you did something very, very good. You saved your Mummy from the bad men and you did send her somewhere safe. She's hurt, or she'd be right here with us, but the healers are going to make her all better."
"Weally? She's weally okay?"
"I promise. Isn't she all right, Severus?" said Lucius, turning toward his friend.
"Yes, Poppet. It's true, and you'll get to see her soon. Right now, though, you need to go with your Uncle Harry."
Harry protested, "I think Lucius should take her home. She should stay with her dad."
"No, Severus is right," said Lucius, quickly passing Orrie to Harry without giving him a chance to object further. "Here, love, I have something for you," said Lucius, pulling Foxy Lucy out of his pocket and enlarging her.
"Foxy Lucy! You saved her and you fixted her! Fank you Wooci... I mean, Daddy."
Severus slipped her Blinky and Malfoy Bear into her backpack and shoved it into Harry's arms as well. "Lucius and I have to stay for a bit and clean up the mess downstairs. We'll both see you soon."
Lucius quickly slipped the necklace over Orrie's head and whispered, "Go to the safe-house, my love."
"Daddy, I doesn't likes Portkeys!" Orrie yelled as she and Harry blinked out of sight.
"Lucius!" They heard Harry's cry, as well, as the two disappeared.
"Down to business then, Severus?" asked Lucius.
"Down to business, old friend," agreed Severus.
They headed downstairs, wands drawn.
No one ever knew for sure what really happened there that night. Well, no one except Lucius and Severus and they weren't talking.
By the time the team of Bulgarian and Romanian Aurors showed up, Avery was dead. He'd broken his neck falling down the stairs in an attempt to escape. That's what they were told, at least. There were no signs of any magic, any curses, or hexes, or jinxes. The man looked as though he'd been beaten to a pulp, though.
"It's possible that he may have fallen down the stairs more than once," admitted Snape with a shrug. "The damn, stupid, bastard just kept trying to get away, and he kept falling down those stairs a time or two... or twenty."
One of the Aurors held up Avery's hand to reveal a golden galleon burned into the flesh on the palm of his hand. "I suppose he fell on this on one of those trips down the stairs?"
Lucius simply nodded with a grim smile. "Yes, I suppose it could have happened that way."
It turned out that although Crabbe had kidnapped Hermione and Orrie in Bulgaria, he had then transported them across the border to Romania; therefore, both countries had an interest in prosecuting the former Death Eaters.
After Lucius explained the circumstances, and details of his daughter and her mother being kidnapped and held for ransom, the Bulgarian authorities went wild. Apparently, they bore a particularly strong grudge against kidnappers. It turned out Bulgaria had extremely harsh punishments for kidnappers on the books, due to an incident in the sixteenth century when a high ranking noble wizard's son had been abducted and murdered by his kidnappers.
On the other hand, Romania was known for its exceptionally bleak and desolate conditions in the prison system. They were said to make Azkaban look like a girls summer camp. Lucius was content to waive extradition back to England and have them tried in either Bulgaria or Romania—whichever one won the fight over them—as long as they went to prison somewhere, he would be satisfied.
They'd spent a full two days giving statements and answering questions before the officials had finally finished with them. They were just preparing to leave when one official informed Lucius, "All right, then Mr. Malfoy, as soon as your wife is able, we will need to get her statement—"
Severus interrupted, "She's not his wife."
"Well, not yet, at any rate," shot back Lucius.
"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Severus, his brows drawn down into a frown.
"I've decided to ask her to marry me," declared Lucius.
"Not if I get there first," countered Severus and with a twist he Disapparated.
"Damn you, Severus!" He handed the official his business card and told him to contact him for anything. "I really must go now, sir, before my best friend steals my future wife." Lucius, too, disappeared with a 'pop'.
The two looked at one another and shrugged. The one man twirled his finger by his head, while the other nodded in agreement and said, "The English... they're crazy."
Lucius arrived at St. Mungo's half expecting to find that Severus had already whisked Hermione away to Gretna Green. Instead, when he walked into her room Severus was merely standing by her bedside looking down at her.
"How is she?" asked Lucius as he approached the other side of the bed.
"Much better, she's sleeping peacefully." Severus sat on the edge of the bed and smoothed the hair back from her face. "The swelling has gone down and the bruising is nearly healed. She's going to be fine. I want to kill Avery all over again for what he did to her, and for what he was willing to do to Orrie. I wish we'd taken Macnair and Crabbe out, too."
"They'll suffer longer. It's better this way. Avery had to go though." Lucius held her hand, and turning over her palm he grimaced to see the mark of his Portkey still there, faded but clear. "They couldn't remove the scar," said Lucius, grimly.
"I didn't want them to."
"Hermione!" They both said at once.
"Orrie?" she asked, looking afraid to hear their answer.
"She's fine," assured Lucius.
"She's with Pansy and Potter. They are taking good care of her," assured Severus.
Hermione nodded and sighed with relief. "You're both all right, too?"
Lucius smiled. "As fine as can be, don't we look it?"
She smiled shyly at both of them. "You both look absolutely wonderful."
"Well, I wouldn't go that far," rumbled Severus as he stroked her cheek.
"I would," replied Hermione, reaching up to hold his hand to her face as she turned to kiss it.
Lucius was holding her right hand and kissed her palm reverently. "Why didn't you want them to remove this scar?"
"It's a reminder. When I start to get cocky, and think I know all the answers, I'll look at it and remember what I almost lost. I don't just mean Orrie, either.
"I'm a little confused, though," she said, and then she giggled.
"Hmmm... good confused as in 'oh I feels so silly', or bad confused as in 'I'm seeing things that aren't really there'?" asked Lucius.
"Good, I think, but I'm not entirely sure that I'm really awake. I think I might be dreaming all of this. They've been giving me some very strong potions. The last thing I remember was Severus mucking about inside my head. Oh, and I think at one point I threatened to hex some Healer named Mumford when she wouldn't let me go help find Orrie. I think that's when the potions dosage started getting stronger."
Lucius leaned down to nuzzle the side of her neck. "What can we do to convince you that it is real?"
"I'd really like a kiss. You nearly kissed me twice and then didn't. I've been thinking of that kiss forever and wondering how it would feel. I'd like that very much."
"Your wish is my command, love," replied Lucius as his lips slid from her neck to her mouth. He toyed with her at first, teasing her. His lips ghosted lightly over hers before he ran his tongue across her bottom lip. Then as if he could deny himself no longer his lips closed over hers in a searing kiss. When he finally pulled away he smiled at her befuddled look and asked, "Was it everything you'd imagined?"
"Mmmm... Yes, that and more."
Hermione turned toward Severus. "Now you."
"Now me, what?"
"You... Now you. I want a kiss from you, too," she demanded. "I've been dreaming of that even longer than of kissing Lucius."
Severus looked surprised. "Really? Since when... Not since you were my stu—?"
"Ewww... No! The very idea of the kissing the great and terrifying Professor Snape would have scared me silly. No, it was last summer at Harry's birthday party, just before Rose was born. Pansy and I were talking about babies, and she asked me if I might ever want one. I said I might, but there were no prospective daddy types in my life so I didn't really see that happening. She said I should consider you."
Severus eyes grew wide at the very idea.
"I thought she was joking, at first, but the more I thought about it, I found the idea really intriguing—"
Severus lunged. There was no toying, no teasing; he just jumped right to the heart of the matter, kissing her deeply and passionately.
"Mmmm... that was so good, too," Hermione sighed. "Are you sure I'm not dreaming? This seems too good to be true."
"It is absolutely true, my dear," assured Lucius. "When we decided that we both wanted you, we agreed to put our differences aside and work together to bring you and Orrie home. Then later we realized how close we had come to losing you, and it became less important for one of us to be the victor and more important to coexist. Something surprises me, though. You don't seem to be at all shocked by the type of relationship being proposed here. You seem very accepting of the whole concept of a triad."
"That's because she is."
"Severus, you were supposed to be looking for information about Orrie's kidnappers, not checking out my past liaisons," complained Hermione.
"I didn't intentionally, sweet. You were thinking about Krum being your Secret-Keeper and bits of your past with him and Weasley crept in."
"Weasley, do tell. Which one? Not Ronald, he doesn't seem the type. Not Percy either, too stuffy. The older son, the curse breaker?"
"Lucius! Bill is a happily married man." She added shyly, "It was Charlie."
"Ahh... the dragon keeper. I can see the attraction there, certainly. Well, good to know that at least one of us three will know what she'd doing, so it won't be the blind leading the blind," said Lucius with a smirk.
Hermione eyed him slyly. "You mean you've never...?"
Lucius shook his head. "Only in my fantasies."
"How about you?" she asked Severus.
"A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell," he replied with waggle of his eyebrows. "I will say I've never in this particular configuration."
"Oh my! This is going to be fun, this time I get to be the teacher," she said with a grin. She twisted to lean toward Lucius and grimaced in pain. "I suppose, though, that it will have to wait until I've healed completely," she said as she clutched her side.
"Are you all right, love? Should we call the Healer, or get you a dose of pain potion, perhaps?"
"I'll be fine, I'm still a little sore is all. Most of all, I just want out of here and I want to see Orrie. I want to go home. Will you two take me home, please?"
"You are not leaving here, until the Healer clears it," Severus scolded.
Lucius agreed, admitting that Healer Mumford had been the Malfoy family healer for decades and he was just a little bit afraid of her. "She rules with an iron fist, but she's the very best there is. I won't sneak you out without her approval."
Hermione pouted. "Well, at least stay here with me then. I don't want to be alone anymore." She pushed back the sheets and patted the bed on either side of her.
"Hermione, this is St. Mungo's—" objected Lucius.
Hermione interrupted, "I don't care. It isn't as though we're going to be shagging in the bed here, I just want to cuddle. Please?"
"This bed is too small for all of us," said Severus.
She gave both of them a look. "Are you wizards or what?" she asked. "I don't have a wand or I'd do it myself. Just fix it and get in here with your witch before she starts to think that you don't want her."
"Our lady commands, Severus." said Lucius, as with a flick of his wand the bed expanded to a size that would accommodate them all easily.
Severus was already toeing off his boots and removing his outer robes. They both climbed in and held her, making her feel safe and secure and before long they had all drifted off to sleep.
They were awakened by a screech from the morning shift nurse entering the room. Healer Mumford was right behind her. "What is wrong with you, girl?" she asked at the nurse's outburst.
Upon seeing the three in the bed she commented, "Oh, for Merlin's sake, they're both fully clothed. It isn't as though you'd just caught them in flagrante. Get out of here, you silly thing and let me talk to my patient."
By the time she had shoo'd the nurse from the room, Severus and Lucius had both risen from the bed and were presentable.
Ignoring the two wizards, Healer Mumford addressed Hermione. "I take it you are feeling better now, Miss Granger?"
"Yes, Healer, I am. I'm still a bit stiff and sore but other than that I'm fine. Now that I know my daughter is safe and my wizards have returned unharmed, I just want to go home. Please could I go home?"
"Well, let me examine you, young lady, and I will give you my answer." She turned to Lucius and Severus. "If you gentlemen will wait outside for moment, while I check my patient."
She held her wand over Hermione's body and cast several Diagnostic Spells. She then set her wand down and proceeded to gently prod and poke Hermione. She had her move her arms and legs, looked at her eyes and down her throat. Finally she gave her opinion. "You are better, but you are not completely well. Right now you still need rest and I do not think you are ready to take on the care of an active toddler."
Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but Healer Mumford held up her hand. "I am not saying you have to stay here. I will discharge you today, with the understanding that you will rest for at least another week and you will have someone with you to help with the child and to care for you as well."
Hermione smiled broadly and nodded her agreement.
"I take it that Lucius and Mr. Snape will be taking on the duties of caregivers?"
Hermione blushed and responded, "Yes, I believe they would be willing."
Healer Mumford patted her hand and commented, "My dear, I have always heard that you were a bright witch and I would have to say it's true. To have captured the attention of those two you are a very clever girl indeed."
Hermione cast her eyes downward and answered. "It's entirely because of Orrie, really. They both care very much for her. She's the real reason they were attracted to me."
Healer Mumford studied the young woman before her for a moment. "Hermione." the Healer used her given name for the first time. Hermione looked up at her. "You are very mistaken if you believe that is true. I have seen how they both look at you. The child may have been the catalyst, but both of those wizards care for you deeply. It's quite obvious to me."
"Thank you, Healer," said Hermione, beaming with happiness.
"Well then, I will go speak to your caregivers and give them your discharge orders. You are to remain here until they come to get you."
"Yes, ma'am," she responded obediently.
Healer Mumford stepped out into the hall to find Hermione's two wizards hovering outside the doorway. She quickly explained the situation. "Now if I discharge her, she must continue to rest, and she will need help to care for the child. She will not be allowed to resume her work until I have seen her for a follow-up visit to make sure she is fine, and in the meantime no strenuous activity."
"Don't worry, Healer. We will follow your instructions explicitly. We will be sure to keep her in bed," promised Lucius.
"You know how stubborn she is," muttered Severus. "We may have to tie her up to keep her there."
Healer Mumford eyed them both with a smirk. "You two did hear me say no strenuous activity, right?"
At their reaction she laughed loudly. "I do believe I am the only person alive who is able to claim they have actually made both Lucius Malfoy and Severus Snape blush." She chuckled again as she walked away to fill out all the discharge paperwork.
They took her back to her house. She had insisted on it, although Lucius wanted her and Orrie to come live at the manor. For now, she felt it was better for Orrie to go home. "We will move to the manor eventually, Lucius, I promise. For right now, though, I think she should be where it's familiar. She's been through a very traumatic ordeal; we all have. I just want to bring her home to what she's used to."
On this point, Severus agreed with her, so Lucius was overruled. Severus took Hermione home and got her all settled. She insisted on remaining downstairs for the day, so Severus transfigured the sofa into a day bed.
Meanwhile, Lucius had gone to the Potter's to retrieve Orrie, who was equally as excited to come home as the three of them were to have her there. When they arrived it was a joyous reunion with many hugs and kisses and tears and laughter. Orrie rambled on and on about everything that had happened, and how happy she was to learn that she hadn't dips-a-peered her mum away forever.
Later on that night Severus volunteered to read Orrie her bedtime story. Hermione snuggled with Lucius on the day bed which had since been enlarged. She was more tired than she wanted to admit from the busy day and was leaning against his shoulder dozing.
Hermione heard his muffled 'Accio' and she stirred as the picture of Elise and Orrie flew to his hand. She watched him for several minutes from beneath her lashes as he studied the photograph. Finally, when she couldn't stand wondering any longer, she asked, "Lucius? What are you thinking about?"
Looking down at her, he smiled and shifted so he could put his arm around her shoulders and pull her closer to his side. "I was just thinking how fate works in mysterious ways, my love," he said bending to kiss the tip of her nose.
"Take the two of us, for instance, and now Severus too. Having Orrie in our lives has changed us all, and made us better too, I think. I never would have thought that me finding my daughter would, in turn, lead to me finding a whole new family, but it has and I'm grateful for that. Above all else, I guess I was wishing that I could thank Elise for everything that she has given us. She gave each of us not only Orrie to love, but through it all, it has helped us to find our way to each other. That is the greatest gift there is, and it was truly a gift of love."