"Grandmother, what sharp teeth you have"

"All the better to eat you" the wolf growled. - Little Red Riding Hood

One day a wolf found a sheep's skin. He wrapped himself in it and sneaked into a sheep pen. He ate a lamb. He was sneaking up on a second lamb when the shepherd caught him. -Aesop's Fables

It was almost midnight; the Gryffindor common room was quiet and dark except for the light of a candle on the table between Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. A chessboard sat on the table, Ron studying it intently before making his move. There, he thought, that ought to do it. Ron had deliberately lost the last three games, though it took more skill to do this than to win, for Hermione was not concentrating.

She sat across from him, her legs curled under her, gazing out the window into the inky darkness. The night was humid and dark clouds had rolled in. Though she could see nothing through the darkness, still she gazed.

He was worried about her. She had taken Harry's disappearance harder than he had. Though he had constantly told her, "if he was dead Hermione, someone would have told us, honest, they wouldn't keep that from us," it just didn't seem to sink in. She had withdrawn and he could not remember the last time he saw her eat, or sleep for that matter. How he wished she would be the bossy Hermione he knew and loved.

Harry had vanished four days ago, the final day of exams. Professor McGonagall had taken he and Hermione into her office and told them that Harry had to leave unexpectedly and not to worry about him. No amount of pleading or badgering had made her reveal anymore than this to them. He had to admit it sounded fishy, but he knew that whatever had happened, Harry was okay. For some reason, Hermione couldn't accept that. But then again he hadn't been the one to find the body.

It had been two weeks ago, but Ron could still feel the eerie shiver run down his spine whenever he thought about it. The three of them had been in the edge of the forbidden forest with Hagrid, working late into the evening, helping him collect some roots that he said he needed for his next Care of Magical Creatures Class. They had heard Hermione's scream, and had ran to find her. He had reached her first, standing there glazed eyed, her mouth in a frozen scream as she stared down at the crumple body of Alicia Greenberg, a sixth year transfer student in Ravenclaw whom Harry had been seeing since term began. Hagrid had grabbed Harry and swung him around before he could see the body. Ron wished he had been so lucky, as he still saw the mutilated naked body in his dreams. A skull with a snake protruding from its mouth, the Dark Mark, had been cut into the white flesh of what remained of her torso. Shivering he pushed the memory away quickly.

Ron sighed, running his hand through his hair. He was about to remind Hermione it was her move when the sound of the portrait door opening made them both turn.

Professor McGonagall, headmistress of Gryffindor entered looking grim. Ron gave Hermione a nervous glance, watching her pale.

"Miss Granger, I need to have a word with you, if you will excuse us, Weasley." Hermione gave Ron a look of intense fear before she arose, following Professor Mcgonagall out the portrait into the hall, her heart thumping loudly.

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Entering into Dumbledore's office, Hermione's knees went weak. Dumbledore arose from his seat from behind his desk as they entered, as did the other two men in the room, Professor Snape and another man who looked familiar.

"Professor Lupin?"

"Nice to see you again Miss Granger," he said pleasantly.

She had not seen Remus Lupin since he had taught DADA in her third year. Still dressed in shabby patched robes, he looked as tired and thin as he had when she had first seen him on the Hogswart's Express. His light gray eyes held her gaze for a moment before she turned her attention to the Headmaster. He was as sober as she had ever seen him.

Fear clutched at her heart, as she began finding it hard to draw breath. Harry was dead, she just knew it, she thought wildly, her nerves on edge, imagining his body torn, mangled. No it was her parents, something had happened to them. She swayed, their faces swimming in front of her.

________________________(____________________________

"She's coming around."

"I can always trust you to arise to the occasion Poppy"

"Miss Granger?"

She opened her eyes to see the professors gathered around looking down at her with concern.

"Just exhaustion I would say," broke in Madam Pomfrey's voice, "and lack of nourishment."

Strong hands helped her into a comfortable high backed armchair. Madam Pomfrey handed her a glass with amber colored liquid. "Drink this," she commanded.

Hermione sipped the potion and felt her face go hot. Pepperup potion.

"All of it."

She gulped down the spicy hot liquid.

"Poppy dear, thank you for reviving our Miss Granger, but it is getting rather late."

Madam Pomfrey frowned at Dumbledore, taking the hint.

"Very well, put see that she gets something to eat and soon." She patted Hermione's hand and then left the office.

"Has something happened to my parents?" she asked abruptly.

"Of course not dear," Professor McGonagall said gently.

"Then Harry's dead," she said dully, expecting the words to make it so.

"Oh no, my goodness no," Dumbledore said kindly, "Harry is fine. Circumstances arose and we had to send him to a safe place for awhile," he paused, "as we are going to have to do to you."

"Me?"

Nodding Dumbledore looked at her kindly.

Her mind raced. A safe place? It sounded as if she was being put into the witness protection plan by the government. Change your name, alter your looks, no contact with those you love, she recited panic starting once more.

"Its all been arranged and you will be completely safe until the next school term."

All summer, she felt her heart sinking.

"Is that really necessary?"

"It is best for all concerned. You must trust us Hermione."

She opened her mouth again but Snape spoke.

"There is a bounty on your head Miss Granger." Snape's voice cut icily through the air silencing her protests.

Not needing to ask why, she could tell he was enjoying every moment of her discomfort. She could hear Draco's lazy voice as he told Harry, "I warned you Potter, to chose your allies carefully. I warned you." Now she heard it directed to her. "You will be next mudblood. Especially since you and Potter are so close."

But she needed to go home. She realized now with desperation, she wanted her mother, to feel safe, to forget the girl she had found.

"Couldn't I be under a protection spell like Harry is at the Dursleys?"

The room went silent for a moment and Dumbledore busied himself by plaiting a strand of his beard.

"Hermione," said Lupin kindly," the type of protection that Harry has been afforded at the Dursleys is mostly do to the fact his aunt is a blood relative of Lily's."

She understood partly what he was saying but it did not keep her silent. "But my parents, they can protect.."

"And how exactly are Muggles going to protect you, as they will probably be writhing on the ground under the Cruciatus Curse, watching as those who come for you torture and rape.."

"Severus!" McGonagall shrieked.

"Though Professor Snape's comment was a bit tactless, I must agree. I am afraid that returning you to your parents will only cause their demise," Dumbledore said quietly. "You will be spending the holidays at a safe place we have arranged for you. I know it will be hard for you, but there is no other option." There was no room for disagreement in the finality of his voice.

"Where will I be going?' she murmured looking down at her hands, trying to squelch the tears threatening to explode.

"Ah, yes" Dumbledore spoke, "where is better left unsaid, but you will be spending your time well protected. Professor Lupin has kindly agreed to be your protector."

"How truly fitting," Snape's sneering voice broke in, "sending the sacrificial lamb to dine with the wolf."

Lupin flushed.

"Severus!" Dumbledore rose from his seat. "Your attempt of humor is not helping the situation."

Professor Mcgonagall took the opportunity to give Snape a scowling look.

Unperturbed by them Snape rose. "Then I will take my leave if you have no more use of me, Headmaster."

Dumbledore waved him off muttering what sounded like "boys".

Snape started to the door, then turned and strode over to stand in front of Hermione. Eyes glittering as they fastened on hers, he reached into his robes and withdrew a long thin box and handed it to her. "You will have need of this more than I do. Safe journey, Miss Granger," he said with sarcasm. Turning on his heel he left the office, robes billowing behind him.

She stared down at the box wondering what in the world he had given her.

"If we are done with everything," Professor McGonagall said standing, "Remus, you and Miss Granger need to be leaving." The words made her forget about opening the box.

" Now?"

"Yes, dear, quickly. The sooner you are in the safe house, the sooner we can all breathe easier."

Except me, she thought.

"But my things, Ron."

"Your belongings are already being packed by the house elves and will arrive within the day. And as for saying goodbye to your friends, they have already been informed that your mother has taken seriously ill and you had to leave immediately."

The mention of her mother sobered her and she stood up resolutely, sliding the box Snape had given her into her robes.

She thought of Crookshanks but McGonagall answered her question.

'Your cat will be staying here. He will be well cared for," she said as color rose to her cheeks.

"I am afraid that is my fault," Lupin said quietly. "I don't believe he would be very comfortable in close proximity of me during certain times."

The silent question hung in the air. Could she?

"Well then, " Lupin said brightly, "it was so good to see both of you, Albus," he strode over and shook Dumbledore's hand then moved to Professor Mcgonagall, "and Minerva," he said kissing her on the cheek.

"I wish it had been under more pleasant circumstances" she said her voice cracking, giving him a swift hug. "Take care of our girl won't you," she added in a whisper. He nodded, smiling at her.

Shall we go, Hermione?" he asked offering her his arm.

"Goodbye Professor, Headmaster," she said quietly putting her hand into his arm, feeling as if she was being escorted to Azkaban instead of a safe house.

They walked across the Hogswart's grounds in silence. Just outside the gates Lupin stopped and turned to face her.

"I know that this is hard on you, Hermione," he said gently, "however time is important and I ask you to trust me and do as I tell you, alright?" She nodded, too miserable to answer.

He smiled at her and moved closer to wrap her in his arms. Feeling a bit uncomfortable with this, she started to speak.

"Shh," he said and she looked up at him, and saw his eyes were closed, as he seemed to be concentrating.

They Disapparated into the night.