Chapter 44

A/n: I'm so sorry this has taken so long to get up. With COVID hitting my family suddenly went from having 4 children in school 5 days a week to having all my children home all the time. And THEN we went to homeschooling 3 of my 4 school aged children. So I'm just a bit... overwhelmed. Unfortunately writing has ended up coming in last place. I'm so sorry to those of you who were waiting for updates faithfully and now have to wait longer amounts between updates. I appreciate all of you so much.

Thank you to my amazing, long suffering beta AlaskanAppaloosa, you are a hero.

I don't own Harry Potter. Anything you recognize isn't mine. Please leave a review, it feeds my muse!

Hermione threw herself into her studies, shared between Augusta and Lucius, learning about the Wizengamot, magical law, and tradition. She threw herself into the tutoring with a gusto, her sense of Gryffindor justice front and centre. These creatures, drackens and orphans alike, needed her, and there was nothing that could stop her.

Charlie and Severus had gotten used to finding Hermione and Lucius in the library, pouring over two hundred year old tomes, Hermione so completely enraptured with the unplumbed depths of a book that she was scarcely able to be distracted from it even for such simple concerns as food or sleep. Little by little though, they began to see a change. No longer was it simply studying. It was an insane dedication to the act of reading and note taking.

Only Severus had seen something like this, in the most intense of Ravenclaws during NEWTs. Even Lucius was shocked by what he had helped create.

No amount of sarcastic comments from Severus, or pleas for sanity from Charlie, or even bossy orders from Tippy could pull Hermione from the texts. She wasn't eating. She wasn't cleaning herself. She wasn't changing her clothes, and frankly, her mates were equal parts frustrated and worried. It had been days.

Finally, in a fit of desperation, Charlie floo-called Harry and Sirius, begging them to help shake Hermione from this academic hole.

When they arrived, Harry gasped at the frizzled, chaotic mess that was Hermione. "You should have called us days ago. It hasn't been this bad since NEWTS." The young woman had been sitting in the same spot reading a tome called 'Regarding Magical Creatures and the Regulation Thereof' for at least twelve hours, and her mates told them it had been at least three days since she had showered or brushed her hair. Severus had been able to get her to eat a bit, but the most they got from her when they asked her to stop was 'they need me', and a brush off.

Thankfully, Harry and Sirius had seen this before, though granted, not this serious. A quick glance at each other set the plan into motion. They plopped down into the stiff library chairs on either side of Hermione, getting barely a flicker from her in return. When Sirius flopped himself back first over the book dramatically, Hermione nearly screamed, until Harry said "Mione! I miss you. Sirius is being mean to me and it's too quiet around the house and oh my gosh what is wrong with your hair?!"

Hermione looked over at Harry through blurry eyes. "They need me, Harry. I need to help them."

Harry sighed gently as Sirius reached up to push some of Hermione's hair out of her face. "I know, love, but your mates need you too. Heck, Mione, you need to need to care for yourself before you can care for others. We talked about this right?"

Hermione nodded slowly. "What day is it?"

It was Charlie who spoke up from across the room. "It's Friday. The last time you asked that question it was-"

"Monday." She whispered, her hands flying to her hair. "It's been five days. How did that happen? I swear I wasn't that... involved in..." Her voice drifted off as around the room's heads nodded, indicating that indeed, she had been that involved in her research. A rumble in her stomach made it painfully clear that the passing of time wasn't the only thing she had been neglecting.

"I'm hungry." A grimace crossed her face for a moment, "And I smell. I think... I think I might need to take a break. For a bit."

"I think that might be wise." Lucius said in exasperation.

Tippy popped into the library, "Little Miss is awake! Are you hungry? Tippy will get food." The little elf didn't bother waiting for a reply before popping to the kitchen and back with a platter of pastries and fruit for Hermione. "Here, Missy. Eat." For a moment Hermione resisted, but the smell of the pastries were too much for her starved self. Within seconds she had inhaled one, and was happy to see that Severus, who had been hovering over her shoulder, had already prepared her favourite biscuits with butter and jam, just like she liked.

Sirius glanced over at Lucius, glaring at him. "Aren't you supposed to care for her? As her lead dominant? Aren't you supposed to pull some... I dunno, dracken crap and make her care for herself?"

Lucius gave the kind of imperious sneer that only a Malfoy could fully master, "Yes, dog, I did. As you may have guessed, Hermione doesn't take kindly to being ordered around. All the normal 'dracken' things did precisely nothing, and it's not like I could do what most dracken males would do and threaten corporal punishment. She'd rip my head off, mate or no."

Sirius got a shit-eating grin on his face at the idea of the damage Hermione in her dracken form could do to Malfoy. "Oh that's so true. I'd love to see that. Your pretty face needs some rearranging."

It was only the fact that Hermione would never forgive him for it that kept Lucius from rearranging Sirius' face in that moment. For his part, the Marauder knew this, but having wiggled under Lucius' skin for the day, he moved on. Standing and letting Severus take his place next to Hermione, who was still inhaling insane amounts of food, he made his way to Charlie and Lucius.

"So what prompted the sudden need for her to snap out of it? I mean, it's been going for five days... what made you stop it now, besides you know, she wasn't eating?"

Charlie sighed, his hand coming up to rub the back of his neck. "My mother had invited us for family dinner tomorrow. All of us."

Harry piped up from the table "Us too! From what I understand, she invited... well, everyone. The whole Weasley clan."

Lucius whipped around to glare at Charlie. "You said it was a quiet family dinner with your parents."

Charlie sheepishly smiled and shrugged, "Lucius. We've been avoiding going over for over a month. The fact that the twins and all their inventions weren't called to drag us there is a victory all on its own. You know that as soon as Hermione finds out that's why we pulled her from the fog, nothing will stop her from going. And Merlin knows you're not going to let her go without you."

Lucius grumbled and complained to his snooty little self for another few minutes before conceding that Charlie was, in fact, correct.

Once Tippy was content that Hermione had eaten enough, she allowed Charlie and Severus to escort Hermione to a washroom, where they gently 'helped' as she showered and cleaned her hair for the first time in ... well, longer than she cared to admit.

By the time Hermione left the shower, she was feeling almost herself again. Unfortunately, the exhaustion hit soon after, and she fell into a deep nap on their ridiculously large and fluffy bed. Her mates and best friends stood over the bed, all sighing in unison as they watched her finally settle.

"Never again." Lucius whispered, to the nods and grunts of agreement of the others.

"You need to head it off. Don't appeal to her need to keep herself healthy. Appeal to your need for her." Harry whispered. "Now. We're gonna head home, see you tomorrow. Don't be late, Molly will never let you forget it."

Hermione's mates all nodded as Sirius and Harry made a quiet exit.

None of them were quite sure who got in bed with Hermione first, but soon Tippy was quietly popping into the room to cover them all with a fluffy duvet.

"Silly Masters and Mistress. Can't make babies for Tippy to hold if you all so tired." She clucked softly to herself before apparating back to the kitchen to prepare dinner. When they woke they would get some baby making practice in... and then they would be hungry again.

It turned out, Bippy was correct. They were hungry.

As they ate in bed- Hermione in the middle, surrounded by a horrified-they-were-eating-on-the-bed Lucius on her right, and a very happily stuffing his face Charlie on her left, with Severus beside Charlie- they chatted.

Hermione was thrilled to find out that Molly had invited them for dinner. "I love the Burrow! It's so... homey. It's filled with people and laughter, and so much love. I want our house to be like the Burrow."

Lucius wrinkled his nose at the idea of living somewhere so common, but Charlie was nodding along happily.

Severus pondered for a moment before speaking. "The idea of a home filled with care and love for one another is something I long for as well. I was an only child, and it was often a very lonely existence. I am very happy that our children will not grow up so alone."

Hermione snickered, "So alone? I suspect that our children will struggle for a single moment alone. Potentially ever."

Charlie nodded along, "There were only seven of us, and we rarely if ever had a minute to ourselves. I can't imagine it would be any different for our children."

Lucius on the other hand was unconvinced. "This is a very large house, unlike the hovel you grew up in. Our children will have space to grow into themselves."

Feeling Charlie tense up beside her, Hermione headed off the budding argument. "I suppose we will just have to wait and see then, won't we? Who knows! Maybe all of our kids will be ridiculous extroverts and drive Severus crazy with how much they always want to be in each other's lives."

Severus shuddered dramatically. "Merlin's beard, don't curse me like that!"

"With our luck, they'll all be Weasleys and have bright flaming red hair." Lucius sneered playfully, to which Charlie retorted "Oi! That'd be a beautiful day! Weasleys are the best!"

Hermione giggled and threw her arms back, encasing both of her mates in a hug. "Whoever their father is, we will love them all the same. I personally am hoping for a good mix. Blonde, red, and black hairs are all welcome here."

Severus reached over and tweaked one of her own unruly curls. "Don't forget brown."

Hermione nodded solemnly. "Never."

The rest of the day passed with lots of snuggling and reaffirming the mating bonds, and a lot of naps. By the next morning all four of the drackens were feeling much more able to meet the craziness of a Weasley gathering. Lucius and Severus were still trepidatious, but Hermione and Charlie knew that a couple minutes of Molly would loosen them both up.

Hermione bounced around by the fire place in her muggle jeans and a simple grey t-shirt, her hair pulled back into a loose braid which bounced right along with her. "C'moooon, it's time to go!" She hollered to Charlie, the only one of her mates who was taking his sweet time getting ready. Lucius and Severus were both waiting with her, dressed comfortably, but perhaps a bit formally for a Weasley gathering. Ah well. They'd figure out that whatever they wore there would get stained soon enough.

Charlie came through, wearing a Weasley sweater in green and some vaguely clean looking jeans. At Hermione and Lucius' eye brow raises he shrugged. "I haven't been home in a month. Mum's gonna be mad. I figured I'd do my best to get on her good side, wear something she made me, brush my hair, wear pants that she won't hate..."

Both Lucius and Severus seemed skeptical that this was appropriate dinner wear, but Hermione just giggled. "If you think for a second that that is gonna sway Molly from lecturing about how you've been away too long, you don't know your mother a single bit." With that she stepped into the fireplace, throwing the floo powder already in her hand and yelled "The Burrow!" In a puff of green smoke, she was gone.

Lucius and Severus shared one more look before they each followed, with Charlie bringing up the rear.

The Burrow was everything Hermione remembered and everything her two older mates were dreading.

As soon as she stepped out of the floo she was met with hugs from Ginny, Fred, and George. Bill and Fleur's little girl Victoire took the time to come over and give her a hug as well, asking her solemnly where Aunty 'Mione had been. Lucius and Severus exited the floo to see Hermione kneeling down speaking to the very sweet blonde pixie of a girl. "Well, you see, I had something a little bit special come up. I met my mates. Your daddy told you about mates, remember?" Victoire nodded slowly, glancing back at Lucius and Severus. Hermione smiled and nodded, "Yes. Those are two of my mates. The other is Uncle Charlie, which makes me your official Aunty now. Isn't that the best?" Victoire jumped up and down with the enthusiasm only very small children can muster, hugging Hermione frantically. What really stunned them all was when Victoire ran behind her to hug both of her mate's legs, then ran off to tell her mummy the exciting news.

Lucius stared down in shock at the sticky jam marks left by Victoire's mouth on his trousers. "I... I..." Hermione just laughed and shook her head.

"I told you they wouldn't stay clean."

"Of course they won't!" Molly exclaimed as she pushed her way through the crowd of people into the living room, drying her hands on her apron. "Hermione! Let me look at you."

Hermione dutifully stood still for Molly's inspection, and laughed as Molly, as always said, "Still too thin. But I guess you'll do.", then wrapped her in a warm bear hug. "Welcome back, daughter."

Hermione vowed she'd never forget this feeling. It felt like coming home.

And then Charlie stumbled out of the floo, and the atmosphere was broken as Molly hollered over Hermione's shoulder "Charlie Weasley! You come here right this instant and don't you think for a moment that sweater will save you from the ear blistering I'm going to give you." Charlie carefully ducked away, hiding behind Fred and George as he moved towards the kitchen, while Molly waved her wand and her wooden spoon moved from her pocket to follow her son, lightly smacking his arms and shoulders as he ran.

With a smile she turned to Lucius and Severus. "Hello, dears. Welcome to the family, make yourselves at home, dinner will be done soon. Don't let the rest intimidate you. You'll fit in just fine."

Neither man seemed very convinced.