A/N: Right. So here's the deal: I've been writing for the QLFC as Beater #2 for the Falmouth Falcons. I have had all kinds of crazy plot bunnies, but very little time to work on any of them. This is a test sample. MistraRose PMed with the idea of Keepers. She wanted a story with Hermione as a Keeper for the House of Black. We ping-ponged ideas back and forth, and I think I've definitely put my own stamp on the concept, but the original idea was MistraRose's. I'm leaving this up as an example for her to look over. If this is what she wants, then we move forward. If she thinks I've lost my damn mind… well… this will go bye-bye.

Just so we're all clear—this story would be Cygnus, Orion, Sirius and Regulus AND Hermione. And YES this is one of those "let's pull out some dead wizards, brush them off, and have them shack up with our female lead character (who happens to be Hermione)".

I also have several other stories that my fellow Falcons have been browbeating me to write. My only problem is that my time is somewhat limited. So if you don't mind being tortured by slow updates I'll just go ahead and post everything. :D


"And the Keeper shall always be a Grove-Born Witch, and all shall remark on Her Beauty, Her Intelligence and Her Power. And the Keeper of a House shall be the Redeemer of Its Honour, and the Salvation of that House. The Keeper is the greatest treasure of any House, and every courtesy will be afforded Her."

Grimmauld Place June 28, 1979

Merlin take it, why did Sirius have to be right about everything? Regulus paced anxiously in his room. He had listened to his mother and to his cousin Bellatrix. He had done everything that he thought he was supposed to do. He had been convinced that everything was for the glory of his House, but he had been so wrong. He glanced at Kreacher who was moaning fitfully in the little nest that Regulus had made next to his own bed.

"Bloody hell," Regulus whispered and closed his eyes tightly. He would not cry. He wouldn't!

A single tear traced its way down Regulus' cheek, and he took a deep, shuddering breath to keep the rest of them at bay. If only the House of Black had a Keeper. She would help him, and together they would figure out how to salvage his House's honour. A choked noise escaped his throat that was halfway between a sob and a laugh. As far as he knew, and it was difficult to tell because each House kept the legends of its Keepers close to their chest, the last Keeper had lived over four hundred years before and she had belonged to House Longbottom. He wasn't sure if the House of Black had ever needed a Keeper before, but they sure as hell needed one now.

"Please," he whispered to the surrounding air. "House Black needs you my Lady."

For an hour or more he stood there and watched Kreacher. Despite his brief lapse in control, Regulus was a practical wizard. He knew that a Keeper wasn't going to sweep down out of thin air to rescue him and his House. No, he was going to have to do the best he could to salvage his family honour by himself. He nodded to himself and then moved closer to the little nest.


Grimmauld Place June 30, 1979

The study had become Orion's favorite place to hide from Walburga. He had never wanted to marry her, but the Patriarch had commanded and Orion had no choice. His mother had suggested that in the fullness of time they would come to an understanding. Mother was right, we have come to an understanding. We understand that we loathe one another. He had raged at her when he found out that his idiot wife had tried to disown Sirius. They only had two sons, and Cygnus hadn't managed to produce any. Was the woman completely mad? The short answer appeared to be yes.

When had Walburga become so unstable? She had always been short-tempered and arrogant. She had insisted that the only person that she could possibly marry would be another Black. She had sworn that her glorious, sainted blood couldn't be sullied by other, lesser families. Truly, that should have been the first clue, but the Patriarch had refused to see it.

Now Orion had but one son; one hope for the future. What sort of idiot put their entire House at risk like that? He sipped at his Firewhiskey and glared at the tapestry on the wall. His eyes strayed toward the blackened, burn spot where his eldest son had been. Orion smirked to himself. Only he could see the faint, teasing edge of the glamour that he had cast on the tapestry. He had repaired the tapestry, secretly reinstating his son. Sirius had no idea, of course, but Orion was hoping that after this war he would have a chance to speak to his son, to beg him to return.

His eyes shifted and a slight smile ghosted over his lips as he looked to Regulus. The boy was doing everything he could to live up to the family's expectations. Orion was ridiculously proud of him, but at the same time he worried. What if the pressures of the House warped his only official son, corrupting him and turning him into another Walburga or another Bellatrix? As Orion watched, Regulus' picture changed. Horror swept through him as he watched Regulus' death date stitch itself into the tapestry.

"NO!" The shout was ripped from his throat as he fell to his knees in front of the tapestry. "Dear Merlin, no," he whispered and touched the tapestry with shaking fingers.

The House of Black was teetering on the brink. The only official heir had just died, and he couldn't bring Sirius back at the moment. The Patriarch and Walburga wouldn't allow it. The destruction of his family was imminent.

Walburga ran into the study and stared at the tapestry in shock. "NO!" She screamed. "No, not my son! Not Regulus!"

The weeping and wailing went on for hours, and Orion managed to tune her out. When the Patriarch arrived to offer his condolences Orion tried to speak to him. Surely, he could see the need for Sirius' return to the family. They had no heir!

"Absolutely not Orion," Arcturus drawled coldly. "The boy ran away from his responsibilities and duties."

"Then our House had no heir," Orion reminded him in desperation.

Arcturus shrugged. "You and Walburga are young enough. You can try again."

Revulsion crawled over Orion's skin. His heart pounded erratically in his chest. He had not willingly slept with his wife since Regulus was born. His duty had been fulfilled. The thought of bedding her made him ill. He moved quickly through the house and locked himself in his youngest son's room.

"Regulus." It was almost a sigh. He touched his son's photo with his fingertips and ignored the numerous clippings regarding the Dark Lord.

If only the House of Black had a Keeper. Orion could not bed his wife again. He couldn't. His left arm tingled and ached, but he ignored it. Regulus' death was the nail in the coffin for his House. The family would fail without an heir, and there was no way that he could stomach providing one, especially not with his House in its current state. At the moment his House was in willful denial of its precarious status. The Ancient and Noble House of Black was teetering on the edge of utter destruction.

"Please," he whispered. He knew that there was no way for his plea to be answered and the pain in his chest grew exponentially. He fell to his knees again and slumped across the floor of his son's room. "Please."


September 19, 1979

The idea of a relaxing day trip had seemed like a good idea last week, but now Miranda Granger wasn't so sure. She was heavily pregnant, the baby was actually overdue by a week, and Miranda's lower back had been aching for a couple hours now. She shifted in the passenger seat and her husband Eric glanced over at her with concern in his mild brown eyes.

"Miranda?" He touched her knee gently.

A whimper escaped her. She needed to get out of this stupid car. "Stop the car," she commanded.

Eric blinked at her. "Er, hang on. At the next possible spot I'll pull over."

Fidgeting restlessly Miranda kept an eye on the road. "There! Pull over there!"

As soon as the car stopped, Miranda was out of the car and pacing restlessly. Eric got out of the car slowly and watched his wife with a wary eye. He had been warned about pregnancy by his family and friends. He had loved every phase with Miranda, but this behavior was decidedly different to anything he'd experienced so far.

"Miranda? Are you all right?" He asked cautiously.

Miranda turned to glare at him. "Do I look all right?" She demanded.

Eric wasn't certain what he ought to say so he kept silent. Miranda paced for several more minutes before she turned her head and looked toward a small vineyard. Eric started when his wife clambered over the low stone wall and began to walk through the vineyard. She moved so quickly that Eric was hard-pressed to keep up with her.

"Miranda? Miranda! Where are you going?" Eric called, but his wife ignored him. He vaulted the wall and raced after her.

By the time Eric caught up to Miranda she was deep within the vineyard and she had found a strange circular, gazebo-like structure made entirely out of vine. She was sitting on a strange vine bench and she was panting for breath.

"Are you okay? Do you want me to see if I can find a phone?" Eric asked. He moved forward and gently touched Miranda's shoulder.

"I'm fine," she panted.

"You're leaking!" Eric stared in horror at the growing puddle under his wife.

She glanced down at it. "I think my water broke."

"You think? Come on, we have to get you to a hospital!" He tugged at her arm.

"Too late." Miranda panted a little more. "We'll just have to have it here. Go get the blanket from the trunk."

Several hours, and a lot of swearing, later Miranda and Eric Granger welcomed their beautiful baby girl into the world. As both were Muggles they did not notice the strange golden glow that surrounded the vine grove in which Miranda had given birth. Their daughter gave her first, lusty cry and both parents laughed.

"She's beautiful," Eric murmured.

Miranda smiled down at her daughter. "Of course she is. She's going to be smart as a whip, too."

"Of course," Eric agreed and watched his wife and daughter with a besotted smile.


Black Family Ancestral Estate, August 1992

He was the last. Pollux had died two years ago, and Arcturus the old bastard had died last year. Orion… poor Orion had lost everything when Regulus died and his heart had given out on him. Cygnus had heard the rumors, of course. He knew that Orion had begged Arcturus to reinstate Sirius, and that the Patriarch had refused. He knew that Arcturus had planned on Orion and Walburga 'trying again'. Cygnus shuddered reflexively. Walburga had been everything that was wrong with his House personified and he could only imagine Orion's reaction to that news.

Still, that left Cygnus in his current position. There was no heir their House. He had one daughter in Azkaban, one married off with an heir for another House, and one who had been disowned for marrying a Muggleborn wizard. If Andromeda had born a wizard Cygnus would have claimed the boy for their House, but she hadn't. Frustration welled within him and he punched the wall.

"Violence won't solve anything Cygnus," Melania chided him.

Cygnus glared at her. The widow of Arcturus Black had been born a McMillan, and she rarely understood the House that she had wedded. His own wife, cursed be her memory, had died years before. Cygnus had suspected Cassiopeia, but he could never prove it. So instead he had sent her the largest, most impressive flower arrangement he could fine. Cassiopeia hadn't said a word, but she seemed amused by his gifts.

"Nothing can help us now," Cygnus retorted.

"Not after so many years of mismanagement, no," Melania agreed softly.

Cygnus turned to frown at her. She laughed at him.

"I know what they did to you, boy," Melania informed him. Her lips twisted bitterly. "And to me. Did you know that Rosier promised Arcturus sons?"

"And he got a passel of daughters," Cygnus muttered and shook his head.

Marrying at twelve had not been Cygnus' plan. He was only a second year student. It was 1950 for crying out loud. People didn't get married at 12 anymore. Well, discounting his parents. Still, he had no desire to get married so young. It had not been his idea at all. No one had been willing to listen to him anyway. When his bride's wedding dress showed off the small swell of a baby bump, Cygnus had protested vehemently. He had never even met Druella Rosier. She was 17 for Merlin's sake! None of that had mattered. He was forced to marry his Patriarch's mistress. After Bellatrix was born, Arcturus urged Cygnus to try with Druella hoping that the resulting child would be a boy. After Narcissa, Cygnus refused to try anymore.

"It's shame," Melania murmured softly.

"All of it is," Cygnus agreed.

Melania snorted and shook her head. "That's true, but what I meant was that if any House desperately needed a Keeper, it's yours."

A Keeper. They were legend. There hadn't been a Keeper in centuries. They were rare at the best of times—no one knew how they came to be called. In times past, families tried to keep track of Grove-born Witches, but Keepers, when they were called, could come from anywhere: pureblood, half-blood, or Muggleborn. Merlin, what he would do for a Keeper. The chance to redeem his House, to restore its Honour, for that prize he would move heaven and earth.

"May your words have wings," Cygnus murmured automatically.

Melania sighed and patted Cygnus on the arm. "Stranger things have happened. Remember, with magic all things are possible."

"Hmph." Cygnus moved to the window to look out over the estate. Possible, yes. Probable? Not really.

Hogwarts, January 1993

The focus of Sirius' life might have been protecting his godson, but he wasn't so gormless that he'd not noticed the tiny witch who was his godson's best friend. She seemed to be governed by some sort of geas to protect Harry—so fierce was her determination to keep him safe. That sort of loyalty and dedication was commendable, but it was also unusual. Sirius wondered if Harry and the little Muggleborn witch realized how strange her behavior was. It was almost as if… he shook his shaggy head and whined. No, surely not. Harry was still alive, and capable of redeeming his House. If any House needed to be redeemed it was his own.

What was even odder was the witch's familiar Crookshanks. Such help from a familiar was usually only extended to that familiar's witch or wizard, and yet Crookshanks had proved invaluable to Sirius' mission. Later, when he didn't have so much to worry about—when Harry was truly safe—then he would worry about what all of this might mean to him, and to his House.

Grimmauld Place, Summer 1995

Despite frequent announcements to the contrary by Molly Weasley, Sirius was not an idiot. Harry was still the center of his world, but he had noticed the way his home responded to Hermione. Grimmauld Place didn't like her. It wanted her out, out, out. He wondered if that was because it was the house his mother had chosen as her residence. It was not the ancestral Black estate, and it had never been used by any of the Patriarchs. It was just a little house that had been given to Walburga as a gift when she married Orion. His mother's portrait certainly enjoyed screaming obscenities at the poor little witch. She didn't like being here, he could see it in the way she held herself, but she stayed for Harry. Sirius was convinced the witch would walk through Hell with a smile if it were for Harry. There was a strange feeling in his chest at that thought, and he shoved it down ruthlessly.


He turned and saw the witch of his thoughts standing uncertainly in the doorway. He smiled tightly. "Yes Hermione?"

"When will Harry be able to come here?" She wrung her hands nervously and looked up at him with worry in her cinnamon brown eyes.

"Soon poppet," he told her gently. "Just be patient and he'll be here soon."

"What were they thinking!" Hermione bit her lip and began to pace. "Dementors! And Harry! Oh!" She turned to look at him again. "You're going to throttle Mundungus Fletcher, aren't you?"

Sirius growled. "When I get ahold of that man… he'll wish he'd never left his post."

Hermione nodded. "Good."

Sirius blinked at her in surprise. He hadn't been expecting that at all. He grinned at her. "You like the idea of me throttling Dung?"

"He deserves far worse." Anger made her eyes glow for a just a moment.

"I won't argue there." Sirius gave a dry, bitter laugh.

"He is a man without honour."

The pronouncement rang out in the small library. It sounded almost like a proclamation of some sort. Sirius couldn't help the skittering feeling that raced over his spine. He shivered and moved toward his tumbler of Firewhiskey. He had it halfway to his mouth before she spoke again.

"You shouldn't drink so much," she chided.

Sirius' lips twisted in a bitter, self-deprecating smile. "You're not my Keeper, sweetheart." He tossed back the Firewhiskey and welcomed its burn. He turned back to Hermione to see disapproval shining in her eyes. Something twisted in his gut, but he ignored it.

"I'll just go see if Mrs. Weasley needs help," she murmured.

It must have been some urge of masochism that made him continuously compare his godson's friend to a Keeper. Either that or it was the longing for the redemption of his House. That must be it. His desire was making him see Keepers where there were none. Being trapped in Grimmauld Place had forced him to read through far more of the library than he had ever willingly done when he was a boy. As near as he could tell, while his family had always favored a darker sort of magic they hadn't been as bad as the last couple of generations. A bit taciturn, a bit rigid in their views, but not the hate-spewing venom his mother had favored. It made him unbearably sad to see what his House had once been, and to see it now. He was trapped... the last of his House.


The Burrow, Summer 1996

"You know Sirius spoke to me a couple times," Tonks murmured to Molly. She paused and glanced about the kitchen before leaning toward the other woman. "About the family, I mean. He said... a couple hundred years ago the Blacks weren't that bad."

"They weren't," Molly agreed.

Tonks nodded and lowered her voice to just above a whisper. "He said that he wished that there was a Keeper for the House of Black."

Molly sighed and patted Tonks' hand. "There's no shame in that, dearie. He merely wanted to redeem his House, and who can blame him? Still, it isn't as though you find a Grove-born Witch under every bushel, now is it?"

"I was born in a grove," Hermione offered as she wandered in to the kitchen with Ginny.

The two women seated at the table turned and stared at her with wide eyes.

"What do you mean... you were born in a grove?" Molly whispered.

"It was the funniest thing. My parents decided out of the blue to go on a car trip when Mum was past her due date. Mum made Daddy stop the car by a vineyard. He said it was so strange-she ran so fast that he couldn't keep up and when he found her she was in labor in this strange vine-made grove," Hermione explained while she poured herself a cup of pumpkin juice. "Why?"

"Your birthday is in September, isn't it dear?" Molly asked.

"You know that it is Molly," Hermione laughed. "You sent me cookies last year."

"A Vine Witch," Tonks whispered.

"What?" Hermione looked from woman to woman.

Molly cleared her throat. "If a witch is Grove-born she is identified by the type of grove. You were born in September, in the Vine month, in a grove of vines. You would be considered a Vine Witch."

"Oh." Hermione blinked. "Is that, er, is that common?"

"No," Molly said firmly. She glanced at Tonks who appeared to be stunned and then bit her lip. "Look, Hermione, I can't really explain everything right now, but this is something that you should keep to yourself. Don't tell anyone at school that you're a Vine Witch. Ginny, don't you dare tell anyone either."

Hermione paled. "Is it considered to be a bad thing? Like being Muggleborn?"

"No, of course not dear," Molly rushed to reassure her. She frowned thoughtfully and then looked to Tonks. "Moody wondered about that didn't he?"

"Well, it was a bit odd," Tonks admitted.

"What was odd?" Hermione demanded in a slightly shrill voice.

"Your protectiveness over Harry," Molly explained with a soothing pat on the arm. "It was a bit more than your average young girl would usually exhibit."

Hermione frowned. "But... Harry is so important to the war, and he's already lost so many people in his life. His parents... Sirius. To be honest, I think Sirius' death almost hurts him more because he got a chance to know, he had a glimpse of what his life might have been like if he had a different family."

"Hermione...," Tonks said slowly, but stopped when Molly glared at her.

"That's enough of that, Tonks," Molly said firmly. She looked up at both girls and gave them a bracing smile "It will be fine, Hermione. Just please keep this to yourself for now."

"Okay," Hermione said reluctantly.


Hogwarts November, 1996

"I can't find anything here on Grove-born witches," Hermione muttered to Ginny in disgust. She closed another, large dusty tome and scowled across the table at her friend.

"Don't look at me," Ginny protested. "I have no idea what she was talking about-I've never heard of a Grove-born witch."

"Do you think it might be in the Restricted Section?" Hermione asked with a worried frown.

"I don't know." Ginny gave a small shrug. "I don't think so? When you asked if it was considered a bad thing... I don't think Mum was shining you on. She's a terrible liar."

"So I can't find anything on it in the Hogwarts Library, which is massive, but I probably shouldn't worry?" Hermione snorted.

Ginny sighed "If you hadn't overheard what Tonks and Mum were talking about you wouldn't be worried now."

"I know! I just...," Hermione wrung her hands. "What if it's something that could help Harry? Oh! Or what if it's something that hurts Harry?" Hermione turned pleading eyes to her friend.

Ginny rolled her eyes. "Right... because Grove-born Witch Goes on Rampage and Slaughters Innocent Wizards wouldn't have made the headlines somewhere. Come on Hermione! Even if it was rare that's the sort of thing that people would remember and remark on."

"I suppose that's true," Hermione admitted reluctantly.

"Look," Ginny said firmly. "You want to protect Harry. I get that. I think everyone knows that."

"He's my number one priority at the moment." Hermione appeared solemn and determined.

"Let's just try and make it through this war in one piece. We'll worry about everything else later." Ginny nodded for emphasis.

"That seems reasonable." Hermione sighed and began gathering all of the books up. "I suppose I should put these away. They were absolutely useless anyway."

Shell Cottage, April 30 1998

"What do you mean, you let her leave?" Tonks was glaring with all of her formidable power at Bill Weasley.

"I didn't let her do anything!" Bill glared back at Tonks. "They just up and left!"

"Is it true?" Tonks demanded.

"Bellatrix tortured her with zee Cruciatus," Fleur told Tonks proudly. "But she would not break. She refused to tell her anything."

"Sweet Nimue," Tonks whispered. Her dark eyes were wide with horror and all the blood had drained from her face. "What will Mother say?"

"Hermione will be all right," Bill reassured Tonks. "She's a tough little witch."

"I have to go," Tonks muttered with an air of distraction. "I must go speak to my mother immediately."

"Tonks, wait!" Bill called after her, but the witch hurried away from him. "Well, that was odd, wasn't it?"

"Oui," Fleur murmured. She frowned as she watched her friend walking so quickly that she was almost running.

A loud crash alerted Andromeda Tonks to the entry of her daughter through the wards. She sighed and rolled her eyes heavenward for strength. When she turned to see her ashen-faced daughter all of those thoughts fled.

"Nymphadora! What's happened!" Andromeda demanded. She knew that it was bad when her daughter didn't complain about the use of her given name.

"Mother," Tonks whispered. Her eyes filled with tears and she wrung her hands.

"Spit it out, child!" Whatever had happened, they would deal with it. They would have to do.

"Bellatrix… she… she tortured the Keeper." Tonks could barely push the words past her lips without throwing up. She had told her mother about her suspicions regarding Harry Potter's best friend. Mother hadn't met Miss Granger yet, but she tentatively agreed with her daughter's assessment.

"Sweet Nimue." Andromeda unconsciously echoed her daughter's earlier oath.

Tonks' lips twisted into a grimace. "I said the same thing. Mother, what if she rejects her calling?"

"We can't know that she's meant for our House," Andromeda countered.

Tonks made a frustrated sound. "Mother! Who else could she redeem?"

"Oh, I don't know. Rosier? LeStrange? Nott? Any of the Death Eater families, really. There must be a desire for a Keeper. One must wish to make amends. I don't know if any of my House ever expressed a desire to restore their Honour and save their House," Andromeda explained.

"Sirius did," Tonks countered. "He told me himself!"

Andromeda bit her lip. "Then we must protect the Keeper. I will come with you."

"What about Teddy?" Tonks turned toward the small guest bedroom where her son was currently napping.

"Bloody hell," Andromeda cursed in frustration. "Is there anyone we trust?"

"That won't be fighting? No, not really." Tonks pointed out drily.

"Fine! I will stay here with Teddy," Andromeda growled. She glared at her daughter. "Guard her. She is the only hope of our House."

"I promise," Tonks swore fervently.

Andromeda gave her a short, sharp nod. "Go."


Hogwarts, May 1, 1998

The Battle of Hogwarts was terrifying for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that Narcissa did not know where her son was. She searched frantically, and in her searching she noticed the bizarre behavior of Nymphadora Tonks. The witch would not leave the side of Hermione Granger. The fierce determination on her face, and the slightly confused glances being sent her way by both Granger and Remus Lupin made Narcissa pause in her search for Draco.

No matter which way the younger witch went, Tonks tried to maneuver herself between Granger and the worst of the fighting. The resolve on Tonks' face frightened Narcissa because she recognized it. That look of resolve was the same that Andromeda had born when she quit their House. Nothing would break Tonks' determination. Nothing would make her falter.

The Slytherin in Narcissa frowned. Why? Why would the daughter of Andromeda care about Harry Potter's pet Mudblood so much? What would make Granger any more special than anyone else? What would make her more important to Tonks than the Boy-Who-Lived himself? More important even than her husband? Narcissa's frown grew deeper. She couldn't puzzle it out. It made no sense to her at all. With a sigh, she went back to her search for Draco.

Later, when Potter was playing dead, and Narcissa was putting her life on the line to protect her son, she spotted the Granger girl again. She was utterly devastated at Potter's supposed death. It was as though her purpose had disappeared. Narcissa paused. She knew the rumors about Potter and his Mudblood—Rita Skeeter still maintained that their relationship was suspect. That was not the face of a witch who had lost her lover. That was the face of someone who was adrift… who had no focus. A movement drew Narcissa's eyes and she watched Tonks hover protectively over the witch, glaring at the Weasley brat when he attempted to comfort the witch.

There was a possessiveness in Tonks' eyes that Narcissa recognized. That was a peculiarly Black look… it said mine. Now Narcissa knew that her niece was no follower of Sappho. The chit wouldn't have run off and married the werewolf Lupin if she were. So that look, that possessiveness, must be for her family. Not the Tonks. They were what they were, and they weren't a House. No, that look was for the Ancient and Noble House of Black. Narcissa almost choked on her tongue. No. No, it wasn't possible. Still, her niece's actions spoke volumes, and they said that the Granger girl belonged to the House of Black. She stared at Tonks until the other witch turned and frowned at her. She nodded almost imperceptibly toward Granger and quirked one white-blonde brow. Tonk's eyes widened and then she nodded once.

Sweet Mother of Merlin, Granger was a Keeper. She was their Keeper. Despite her marriage, Narcissa recognized the importance of a Keeper for the House of Black. The redemption of her House—even the thought of it was enough to make Narcissa's chest ache. She experienced the same burning possessiveness that Tonks must be suffering. Granger belonged to them. All the blood drained from Narcissa's face. Granger belonged to them, to the House of Black, and her own sister had tortured her. Bellatrix had dared to raise her hand to the Keeper of her House. Fury burned in Narcissa's veins. Bellatrix would pay.


Hexes flew through air creating a clash of colours and magic that made Hermione's eyes itch, but she couldn't bring herself to care. Harry was alive! Who cared about anything else? The driving need to protect Harry was slightly muted at the moment and Hermione could only theorize that it was because Voldemort was dead. Just as in the last war, Voldemort's death didn't seem to stop his Death Eaters. A few were smart enough to flee—Hermione caught a glimpse of Lucius Malfoy dragging his son from the battlefield. Narcissa was conspicuously absent from his side.

Shock and confusion warred within Hermione when she spied Narcissa Malfoy fighting tooth and nail to get near Hermione. There was a light in Narcissa's eyes that should have terrified Hermione, but it didn't. Somehow, some way, she knew that Narcissa wouldn't hurt her. She turned away from the blonde witch and focused on casting hexes at the Death Eater that was trying to attack Luna.

It had not escaped Hermione's notice that Tonks hadn't left her side during the entire battle. Now Narcissa was fighting like a wildcat to get to her side. To say that the Battle of Hogwarts had become slightly surreal for her was an understatement. Once Narcissa arrived at Hermione's side she looked to Tonks.

"She's taken no hurt?" Narcissa demanded.

Tonks glared at her over Hermione's head. "No, nor will she as long as you keep your wand out."

Hermione was now flanked by Narcissa Malfoy and Nymphadora Lupin. All three women continued to fight despite the strange looks they were getting from both Death Eaters and members of the Order of the Phoenix. Harry came near at one point.

"All right Hermione?" He bellowed over the noise.

She nodded. He gave her a thumbs-up sign and moved back toward Ginny and Ron. Sweat ran down her face and she rubbed her sleeve over her eyes. When she pulled the sleeve down Bellatrix Lestrange was standing in front of her. She sucked in a breath, and before she could credit it Narcissa Malfoy and Tonks were standing in front of her—a united wall between her and Bellatrix. She stood on her tiptoes to peer over their shoulders. Bellatrix was frowning at them.

"Cissy? What are you doing with the werewolf's whore and the Mudblood?" Bellatrix demanded.

"I am standing with the House of Black," Narcissa growled furiously. "And we are protecting what is most precious to our House."

Bellatrix snorted in derision. "A Mudblood bint will never be precious to the Ancient and Noble House of Black. Move Cissy, and I'll let you live."

"No," Narcissa snapped. "I will not yield."

"Fine. Die then." Bellatrix's smile was chilling and venomous.

The two witches were well-matched and they fought one another viciously. Narcissa Malfoy was pulling no punches today. Hermione notices that several Order members seemed stunned that Narcissa had placed herself in front of Hermione Granger, of all people. Hermione also noticed that Mrs. Weasley didn't look surprised. The Weasley matriarch seemed more resigned than anything else. Hermione narrowed her eyes at the older witch. She was going to have a chat with Mrs. Weasley later.

"Sectumsempra!" Bellatrix shrieked.

At the same time Tonks and Narcissa shouted hexes and shot them both at Bellatrix. Hermione couldn't quite hear what the two witches had said, but she saw the two hexes hit one another and crash into Bellatrix. Narcissa crumpled in front of Hermione while Bellatrix sort of… exploded in a shower of blood and gore. Hermione dropped to her knees next to Narcissa and frantically cast the counterspell to Sectumsempra.

"Accio Dittany!" Hermione poured dittany liberally into Narcissa's healing wounds. She hoped it wouldn't scar too badly. She supposed that scarring would bother a witch like Narcissa.

Narcissa's eyelids fluttered before they snapped open. She stared up at Hermione with an intensity that was disturbing. "You took no harm?"

"No, Mrs Malfoy," Hermione told her. She pressed down on the older witch's shoulders when she tried to get to her feet. "No, don't move just yet."

Narcissa ignored her and turned to Tonks who smiled at Mrs Malfoy. "It's all right. It appears to be over."

"Thank Merlin," Narcissa whispered and sagged back to the ground.