AN 1 Thank you to all the reviewers you are awesome – though special shout out to Fay whose review had Otter and I in great fits of giggles at her spectacular renaming of Bellatrix!

AN2 This update is long overdue (you can blame Otter if you need someone to point the finger at) for that you have our apologies.

AN3 (Im almost done then I'll shut up so you can read!) I (wetsoks) used a little bit of artistic license since this is AU anyway and have made Gabrielle the oldest Delacour sister. If this is just too much for you to cope with then let's say there was a time turner accident that caused her to age quicker than Fleur on account of all the time travelling she did (Im sensing there might be a side fic coming – Otter hates that LOL) Anyway warnings are as follows: emotional!Chapter so grab some tissues and Badass!Gabrielle – I hope you like her.

Chapter 31 – A Time to Heal

Fleur softly stroked Hermione's head while quickly taking in her surroundings. "I am 'ere, ma belle," she whispered.

Dobby looked frantically around and then ran towards the office where Madam Pomfrey usually was.

Fleur gently eased herself out from under Hermione, who so far had not responded to anything that Fleur was saying. Fleur slipped her wand into her hand and subtly cast the featherweight spell, then lifted her lover gently onto the bed. As Hermione landed, blood poured from her nose and mouth. Panicking, Fleur turned to call for help. She took a step away from Hermione and as she did so a keening noise began to rise in Hermione's throat. Fleur turned to see Hermione's eyes wide with fear, she was breathing fast and reaching out blindly.

Fleur turned back to Hermione, stepped forward and sank to her knees. The keening noise stopped as Fleur took Hermione's hand and raised it to her lips, gently kissing it. Hermione stared forwards, not looking at anything, not seeing anything... but remembering everything.

"Oh, my dear!" Madam Pomfrey exclaimed as she saw Hermione laying there. She rushed towards the couple but Hermione panicked and pushed herself away pulling her legs up protectively.

"Pas d'arrêt," Fleur shouted then realising her mistake, corrected herself quickly. "Stop, madam, please."

Madam Pomfrey stopped in bewilderment. "Hermione needs help!" she exclaimed as she waved a hand in Hermione's direction and the witch in question whimpered.

Fleur stood and put herself between Hermione and Madam Pomfrey. "Oui, she does but she was attacked." Fleur said as she was careful to keep herself between the older witch and her paramour.

Understanding spread throughout Madam Pomfrey's features as she cast her eyes over Hermione and her heart sank as the injuries told her a story quickly enough. Madam Pomfrey nodded at Fleur. "I need to see the wounds," the nurse said softly. Fleur nodded her understanding and slowly walked around the other side of the bunk Hermione was now hiding behind.

Fleur slowly sat on the edge of the bed about five feet away from Hermione, she washed her face with her hands, trying to dispel the tension she felt and looked at Hermione, her eyes staring blankly ahead though it was now apparent at least, that she was seeing the things that were happening around her. Fleur thought that her heart would break as she examined her paramour. She felt the tears falling from her eyes and she lifted her hands again to wipe her face as though this action might wipe away the memory of what she saw the Black sisters doing.

Fleur was snapped back to reality by the infirmary doors opening loudly, but she did not take her eyes from Hermione as she desperately tried to communicate to her that she was safe and she, Fleur, would protect her. Fleur finally took her eyes from Hermione when she heard footsteps approaching, but only long enough to recognise Madam Hooch and Professor McGonagall being halted by Madam Pomfrey. Fleur turned back to Hermione and fought down the urge to go to her. She knew that Hermione had to come to her, had to trust enough even after everything that had just happened.

"Ma petite," she whispered and she reached her hand out towards Hermione. "Come 'ere, ma belle?" she asked. Hermione looked over at the proffered hand and whimpered until the keening noise began again.

Fleur sighed and turned to the three witches. "Would you give us some space please?" she asked. Madam Pomfrey pulled the other two away in a hush of whispers and Fleur turned back to Hermione. "Ma petite loutre, please come to me?" she begged.

The keening noise stopped and a shaky hand rose in Fleur's direction. Fleur sighed with relief as she took the hand and helped Hermione move towards her. At first it was slow but suddenly Hermione threw herself at Fleur, sobbing with broken abandon. Fleur held her, rocking and whispering soft reassurances.

Finally the sobbing stopped and in silence Fleur helped Hermione to her feet, Fleur stood as well, tenderly sweeping hair from Hermione's face and lightly touching her bruised face with her lips. She turned and signalled to the three witches to come closer but as they did so Hermione stiffened.

"You are safe ma belle, I will not let zem 'urt you, we want to 'elp you," she reassured her and Hermione relaxed a little but huddled close to Fleur shaking. Fleur held her for a moment soothing her, "ma petite loutre, I am going to take your shirt and jeans off so zat we can 'eal you." She whispered tenderly and waited.

Hermione nodded and with shaky hands tried to unbutton her shirt. Fleur felt a tear escape as she reached up and helped Hermione unfasten the buttons on the shirt and then very gently pulled the shirt from her. A sob escaped Hermione's lips as she felt Fleur's hands fumbling with the button of her jeans. "I'm sorry Fleur, I'm so sorry," Hermione sobbed.

Fleur pulled Hermione into her arms and stroked her hair, "Non, non, 'ermione, not sorry. Ma petite, non," Fleur told her.

"I-I-I thought could," Hermione started. "I'm sorry," she tried again.

Fleur took Hermione's face in her hands and pulled her gently so she could look in her eyes. "Zis is not your fault 'Ermione, et iz Bellatrix's, et is Voldemort's but et iz not yours ma petite, never yours." Fleur gently held Hermione's face, using her thumb to wipe her tears away. Hermione lowered her gaze from Fleur's but nodded, Fleur could not expect any better than that at the moment, so she accepted it, she pulled Hermione towards her and softly kissed her lips, then rested her forehead against Hermione's.

Fleur carefully slipped Hermione's jeans over her hips, careful to leave her panties in place. Hermione winced at the movement, Fleur looked at her leg and saw deep purple bruising all the way down her left side from her rib cage down to her knee, and Fleur swallowed bile as she took in the many other bites, scratches and bruises that littered Hermione's skin.

Madam Pomfrey cleared her throat causing Hermione to cling to Fleur. "Shh ma belle, lay on ze bed and let Madam Pomfrey tend to your wounds." Fleur said. Hermione blushed and shuffled to the bed and with Fleur's help got laid down upon it.

Professor McGonagall gasped at the sight of her Gryffindor looking so battered but Madam Pomfrey had her wand out and got to work. "Rolanda, some dreamless sleep potion," Madam Pomfrey said briskly as she began healing the wounds on Hermione. Her eyes were over bright, despite her tone.

Fleur squeezed Hermione's hand to reassure her as Madam Hooch slowly approached with the potion, looking more serious than Fleur had thought it possible for the flying instructor to be. Fleur took it from Hooch and helped Hermione drink. As she lay back down Hermione stared at Fleur, tears slipped from her eyes as she tried to fight the potion. Fleur smiled at her as she rubbed her thumb against her lover's hand as she fought back tears.

Hermione's arm went slack as the potion did its job and only then did Fleur release her tears, Professor McGonagall and Madam Hooch were at her side in a heartbeat, as Hooch pulled Fleur into her arms and Minerva rubbed her back. Fleur was quick to compose herself as she turned back to watch Madam Pomfrey work,

"Madam Pomfrey, I see you are 'ealing ze bruises but ze cuts zey are not 'ealing?" Fleur asked.

"Dark magic," Madam Pomfrey answered sombrely.

Fleur got up and started pacing, suddenly finding herself unable to sit still. "'Arry and Ron?" she asked suddenly as she looked at Professor McGonagall.

"They are safe, dear, I have checked on them," Professor McGonagall answered reassuringly. Fleur nodded and sank back to her seat; she was fraught with worry about Hermione. "Fleur you should get some rest," Professor McGonagall suggested.

Fleur shot to her feet and glared at McGonagall, "I cannot leave 'er, if she wakes and I am not 'ere zen Merlin knows what she will do." Fleur stepped up to Professor McGonagall, "You put ze fate of ze wizarding world on 'er shoulders and she tried to take on Bellatrix Lestrange by 'erself! Thank ze stars zat Narcissa 'elped 'er it probably saved 'er from a rape, but look at 'er. She is young! Did you or Dumbledore even zink about zat when you put zis burden on 'er?" Fleur cast an accusatory glance at Professor McGonagall.

McGonagall opened her mouth and then closed it again but it was Hooch that spoke. "Now Fleur, I am going to give you a pass on that one because of what you have seen and done today and because of her," Hooch pointed at Hermione, "But you watch your mouth when you speak to Professor McGonagall, because she covers your arse six ways from Sunday and she loves that girl like a daughter. Do not think for a minute that this situation is acceptable for anyone in this room but so help me I will not let you speak to her like that." Hooch had a finger pointed at Fleur.

"Thank you Rolanda," Professor McGonagall said as she calmly pushed Hooch's hand down. Professor McGonagall stepped up to Fleur and placed a hand on her face lovingly, "I am sorry."

"Non, I am sorry," Fleur said, a flush of shame creeping onto her cheeks. "I was out of line."

McGonagall smiled tenderly and then took Rolanda's hand, "We all have our own mandrakes to re-pot," she told Fleur as she walked out of the infirmary.

Just outside of the doors McGonagall leaned over and kissed Hooch on the cheek. "Rolanda, I am so hot for you right now." Hooch brightened considerably. The day was already looking up.

Back inside the infirmary Hermione let out a whimper in her sleep and Fleur eased herself onto the bed taking Hermione into her arms. She held her lover and wept for the pain she had endured, pain that she could not stop. Fleur closed her eyes and gently whispered promises of love and safety to Hermione, she knew that she could not hear her but she also knew that the sound of her voice was soothing.

Fleur's foot bobbed in the air as she sat by Hermione's bed, legs crossed as she watched over the only thing that mattered to her in the world. She had maintained this post through three nights and two days as Hermione slept, thanks to dreamless sleep potion. Fleur was hyper alert to any sound or movement from Hermione, but she was also exhausted and knew that she could not maintain this vigil much longer. That angered her, and also the Veela within. She swallowed hard as she felt the beast arise again; feeling her body start to shake, and closing her eyes she forced the beast back down.

Fleur's mistake had been losing control of her emotions. She got up from her seat and began to pace, the image of Narcissa screwing her sister on top of Hermione flashed into her mind, it may as well have been rape, she swallowed again. She could feel feathers under her skin, bristling. Reaching a hand up to scratch the back of the neck, she knew it was fruitless. The itch was the feathers. She could rub until she was raw and it wouldn't appease the urge. Closing her eyes she took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, calming herself as she soothed the beast.

"Ma belle soeur, you have better control than zis," a calm soft voice spoke behind Fleur.

Fleur spun around, tears in her eyes. "Gabrielle?" she gasped, not daring to hope.

Gabrielle approached Fleur and pulled her sister into her arms. "Ma belle, I came as soon as I 'eard," she whispered as she tenderly caressed her sister.

Fleur took comfort in Gabrielle's presence and soft touches for a moment but stole frequent glances at Hermione. Gabrielle turned and considered the recuperating witch for a moment, then turned back to Fleur, smiling.

"Ma belle she is very beautiful." Gabrielle told her sister.

Fleur stepped away from her sister and reached out to gently caress Hermione's head, combing her hair from her face. "Oui, she is my world," she told her sister without taking her eyes from Hermione. "She is my world and I almost lost 'er," she said, her voice shaking as the beast rose once more.

Gabrielle stepped over to her sister, placing her hand on her Fleur's shoulder, closing her eyes she began to mutter under her breath. Moments later she took her hand away and looked at her now much calmer sister and smiled. Fleur turned grateful eyes onto her sister and raised a hand to cup Gabrielle's face; words failed her as she comprehended what her sibling had done to help her. The transference of magical power, while easier for the Veela than other magical beings, was one of the greatest gifts that one could give to another.

"J'adore," Fleur whispered to her sister and the words fell from her mouth so easily.

Gabrielle smiled at Fleur, "bien entendu," she answered and it was natural that Fleur would adore her sister. "Now, do not argue wiz me Fleur, get into zat bed and rest, I will watch over you and your bond mate." Gabrielle was resolute in her command, as much was evident in her firm stance.

Fleur opened her mouth to protest, but Gabrielle raised her eyebrow, and Fleur closed her mouth again and crawled into bed behind Hermione. The brunette witch whimpered and snuggled against Fleur and then sighed as she resumed her potion induced slumber. Gabrielle smiled at the two, she had wanted her sister to be happy and while she was devastated when she had heard that Hermione had been hurt, she had walked straight out of her job, she didn't stop until she arrived at Hogwarts. She smiled as Professor McGonagall greeted her at the front door; the Headmistress was being harassed by owls from the French Ministry, no doubt wondering where their head auror was.

Gabrielle smirked at the thought of the French ministry looking for her, she had never skipped out on her duty, she knew how important it was to keep things running, to keep order. She walked across the infirmary and pulled a privacy screen to shield the bed from prying eyes and then spread a blanket over her sister and her mate. Gabby picked up a chair and carried it to the edge of the privacy screen. She sat in the seat and put her booted feet up on the empty bed beside where her sister and mate were recovering and cast her eyes across the infirmary, then she released her thrall into the room, it spread like smoke across the room and she knew every spider that moved on the walls, every owl that flew past the window and every witch and wizard that came close to the infirmary doors. Gabrielle nodded satisfied that her sister was safe and resting and reached down into the pocket of her combats and pulled out her Swiss army knife and began cleaning her well manicured nails with it.

Some hours later Gabrielle cast her eyes over at the two witches in the bed, she was startled to note that Hermione's eyes were wide open and watching her. Gabrielle froze. Internally she laughed; in her job as an auror she had faced groups of evil wizards but now she was afraid of upsetting this fragile creature snuggled next to her sister. Slowly Gabrielle put her knife in her pocket, got up and walked to the chair by the bed, she sat down and smiled at Hermione.

"'ello 'ermione," she said quietly. Hermione focused her eyes on Gabrielle and smiled a little, nodding her head.

"Hi" she said quietly, she recognised Gabrielle from pictures that Fleur had shown her, but also because of her eyes, "Thank you," she said as tears welled in her eyes. Hermione knew why Gabrielle was here, she knew that the youngest witch to head up the French Auror department did not come here easily, but she knew why she would come.

Gabrielle smiled, she knew that the witch was smart, "You are welcome," she told Hermione and then she got up and walked back to the other chair and resumed her sentry duty. Hermione turned in the bed to face Fleur and rested her head against her, closed her eyes and went back to sleep.

A week later Gabrielle and Fleur were in Fleur's quarters, sitting on the couch talking. Gabrielle was planning on leaving in a few days, she had already missed a week of work, she was receiving owls from the ministry every few hours. Gabrielle was loathe to leave her sisters, but happy that they were safe and that Hermione was on the way to getting better.

They stopped talking, both sensitive to any sound that might come from the bedroom; they both turned their heads in the direction of the bedroom. At the sound of a second whimper, Fleur was on her feet and Gabrielle had her wand in one hand and a knife in the other. Fleur went into the bedroom and hurriedly made her way over to the bed; Gabrielle waited in the doorway and watched as her sister, tenderly brought Hermione into her arms and as gently as she could pulled her from her nightmare.

Even from the doorway Gabrielle could see the sheen of sweat covering Hermione, but more upsetting than that was the stench of fear rolling off of her. Gabby slipped the knife and the wand back to where they were supposed to be and she too walked over to the bed. She sat on the edge of the bed and reached out softly caressing the back of Hermione's head, her heart broke for Hermione and her sister. She was glad that Fleur had killed Bellatrix Lestrange, if she had not then she herself would have hunted the bitch down and killed her.

Hermione calmed in Fleur's arms and Gabrielle moved to get up, but she felt a hand close around her own, she looked down to find it was Hermione, she smiled and turned to face her. The three witches lay on the bed tenderly comforting each other for a moment until Hermione composed herself. Fleur tenderly stroked Hermione's face and Hermione shirked away from the touch.

"Ma belle," Fleur said. "You are beautiful. Zese scars do not make that any less true."

Hermione didn't believe it, but Fleur was going to continue to tell her until she did.

"It may be because she is my sister, but I agree, I zink you look a bit more adventurous, some may even say devil may care, but you are definitely still ze most beautiful woman I ever saw." Gabrielle reaffirmed.

Hermione rolled her eyes, but smiled, "You two tell tall tales." She told them. They were both happy to see her smile; they were both happy that she was calm and safe. They knew that the emotional wounds would take longer to heal.

Hermione was the first to crawl off the bed heading to the bathroom, while she was gone, Fleur and Gabrielle sat up and looked at each other.

"Fleur I swear on Maman and Papa's graves if you let 'er get 'urt again I will beat you myself." Gabrielle told her sister.

Fleur nodded, "I know Gabby, ma belle, I know." But the words covered the worry.

She and Hermione had a mission to complete and thanks to Narcissa Malfoy owling a certain Hufflepuff cup to Harry and Ron, there were only three Horcruxes left; the Ravenclaw Diadem, the snake and Harry. McGonagall had already been to say that Death Eaters had been spotted in high numbers in Hogsmeade and it would not be long before the castle was under siege.

Worry and fear fleeted across Fleur's face, Gabrielle do not miss the emotions, "Fleur you take care of this fantôme Whorecrux, I will 'elp you, we need to keep 'Ermione out of zis." Gabby warned.

Fleur nodded her understanding, "Stay 'ere wiz 'er, I need to go fetch somezing." She told her sister.

Gabrielle agreed and Fleur left without saying anything to Hermione, knowing that this would be best handled quickly.

When Hermione left the bathroom and saw only Gabrielle sitting on the bed she knew instantly that something was wrong.

Gabrielle got to her feet and walked over to Hermione. "Eet is okay, mon cher, she will be back."

Hermione nodded but was not happy, her eyebrows knitted together as she tried to understand what was so important to Fleur that she would leave her. Beyond the door of the quarters the castle was preparing to do battle. Voldemort's voice rang through the castle. Everything was coming to a head. Realisation dawned on Hermione very quickly and she walked towards the door.

"Mon Cher, please stay 'ere wiz me," Gabrielle said in exasperation as she followed Hermione.

"No Gabby, I cannot sit here, now where is she?" Hermione asked.

Gabrielle shrugged, she truly did not know. Hermione threw the door to the quarters open, and stepped out. She had no idea where Fleur had gone but she walked in the direction of the dungeons, figuring she may as well start at the bottom and work her way up. As she walked past a window Hermione noticed the wards outside in the grounds were glowing, a sign that they were being reinforced. It was pretty and she stepped into one of the courtyards to get a better view at what exactly the side of light might be facing.

Hermione walked around the courtyard and tripped over something, she managed to stay on her feet, but looked down at what had tripped her. Horror drained the blood from her face and she stumbled backwards a little. Gabrielle caught her in her arms but she too was stricken by what Hermione had tripped over.

Hermione started sobbing, and Gabrielle held her close, there was nothing to say so Gabrielle just held Hermione and stared down at the dead body of her sister.

Hermione stared at Fleur as she sobbed, her lifeless eyes staring back vacantly and as Gabrielle held her close Hermione thought that her world had just come to an end as she felt her heart tearing apart.

AN4 You may find this hard to believe but I actually hate cliff-hangers...