For Hermione, staying at the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix was not entirely enjoyable. Ron spent most of his time either methodically cleaning the house from the bottom up or sitting blankly in his room when he was told to take a break. Hermione mentioned early on that he could spend his break-time studying; it had been a half-hearted attempt to get him to do something other than stare at the wall, but he seemed to have latched onto it as something to let his body do while his mind did whatever it was doing in those quiet hours.
And it was quiet. Whenever the twins were not working at their joke shop, Molly had pleaded for her boys to be near, to be with her at Headquarters. It had only been seeing their mother on the edge of a breakdown that had made them agree. However, they seemed to be lacking their spark, their edge, whatever made them the comic relief in these dreary times. They were too quiet.
There had been a bit of an uplifting of spirits when Charlie came along with his news about acquiring a dragon, of all things, for them to use. Hermione had yet to see the dragon, but somehow Number Twelve Grimuald Place had added a large enough room to house the, apparently, small dragon comfortably.
The quiet sense of doom and gloom lifted one day, early in the morning. It was such a change that the twins never even bothered to remember to go to work.
Hermione hadn't seen the twins much during her stay, mostly at the few meal times they were there and in passing. She was getting a little put out by the lack of attention she had been receiving, Molly fretted about everything and everyone; Hermione was fine in her opinion and therefore didn't need to be fretted over as much. Ron spoke in monosyllabic replies only when asked a direct question and sometimes the question had to be asked more than once to get his attention. Hermione found it a little unnerving, but she didn't know what to do about it. Arthur pulled overtime nearly every day, either with his usual job or on Order work. The sparse visitors were on Order business and had no time to spare for a young and unimportant girl.
So she finally got fed up and woke up early enough to catch the twins before they left for work.
"Fred! George! Wait! Please!"
The twins paused, looked at each other, giving mental sighs before steeling themselves against the bushy-haired, know-it-all that had betrayed their friend.
"Yes Hermione?" They inquired in unison.
Hermione hesitated and jumped right in. "Why have you been avoiding me? Do you know what's going on with Ron?"
"Why wouldn't we avoid you?"
"And why should we care what is going on with Ron?"
Taken aback Hermione carefully considered her words. "I am unaware of a reason you should be avoiding me and Ron is your brother."
"With the way you two betrayed Harry,"
"What makes you think we want anything to do with you?"
Hermione stared at the two of them for a moment. They simply stared back.
"How did I betray Harry?"
The twins exchanged incredulous glances. "Uh, does the trial ring any bells?"
"Did you forget the way you testified against him or something?"
The girl's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "I didn't go to the trial, I never knew he had even been arrested until it hit the papers after the trial and he was in Azkaban. How could I have testified if I wasn't even there?"
The twins stared in shock, their mouths not quite hanging open, but definitely not closed.
"—And never testified!"
The twins, not saying another word to the befuddled girl, had run off to Charlie to inform him of this new development. Hermione had followed and finally got to see the dragon everyone had been talking about… well, everyone except her and Ron.
He seemed very docile for a dragon, seemed to be hanging on every word spoken and watching everyone at the same time. The twins and Charlie were all very relaxed, well as relaxed as they could be when excited, in the dragon's presence. She, however, was not. Her attention went between watching the dragon in fascination and observing Charlie in tense anticipation.
He turned to her. "You were not there for the trial and didn't betray Harry?"
She stood up tall and proud, opening her mouth to answer…
… and the dragon huffed white smoke at her, making her squeak in surprise and jump back towards the door.
"N-no. I would never betray Harry." She eyed the dragon that was eyeing her in a very penetrating way and her resolve firmed. Her tone turned to one of confidence. "If he had a good enough reason, I'd follow him to Voldemort."
Salorei chocked and his entire body spasmed in shock. The only one who noticed however was Hermione as the other three males were staring at her in speechless shock.
Salorei snorted and the boys sprung into action. Silence and secrecy wards sprung up in tandem from the twins as Charlie pulled out a piece of parchment and began to scribble on it. As he wrote he spoke in rather disjointed sentences, but got his point across.
"Should never say things like- Need to watch what you're doing- Walls have ears- You're lucky we're all with Harry with the way you spouted that off- Need to teach you how to be paranoid- Mad-Eye could help you there- Oi! Don't do that!"
The twins paused and grinned at the dragon hoisting their brother up by the back of his robes. Hermione gasped.
"Doesn't that choke you?" She exclaimed.
Salorei snorted and Charlie shook his head. "Nah, Blackie here seems to like hoisting people like this so they," here he waved the hand he held his quill in at the twins, "rigged up some harnesses to put under our robes that he can easily grab." He twisted to look up at the dragon holding him captive. "Care to explain why you picked me up?"
He was put down, but the harness was tugged on and then the dragon's head swung towards Hermione.
"You want us to give her a harness too."
Salorei settled down on his haunches, very pleased. Hermione stared and her brow furrowed again, this time in thought.
Charlie sighed. "Fine. Hermione, you stay here. Fred, George, and I will be right back."
As soon as the three of them had left, Hermione set up her own silencing ward and turned to the dragon.
"Hello Harry, you've no idea how glad I am that you didn't eat me when I first came in."