If Sirius was surprised, the sunglasses hid it extremely well. He sipped carefully at his coffee for a long moment. Hermione tried hard not to fidget, unable to stop staring at Draco who, ashen and scared looking, wouldn't lift his gaze off the table. It was a remarkable change from the boy she'd met at the Quidditch World Cup. All of his usual armour had been stripped away from him and Hermione almost felt sorry for the Slytherin.
"By all accounts," Sirius drawled slowly, "The Malfoy-Black marriage has been prosperous for everyone involved. The Black's got a tie to the nouveau riche and Malfoy got an heir…"
"Draco is my son too." Narcissa Malfoy spat, losing her grip on her calm expression for a bare instant. "And I will not see him enslaved the same way my sister was."
Sirius put down his cup and smirked.
"So that's what this is about." He murmured.
The lady across the table wasn't the sort to roll her eyes, but she projected the desire to do so remarkably clearly.
"My husband," She pressed carefully, neatly folded hands going white at the knuckles. "Went out into the night on June 24th and returned fervent. He gleefully informed me that the Dark Lord had returned and that he would once again raise the Malfoy's to their righteous place. All of the Malfoy's."
Sirius straightened. All mirth had long since vanished from his face. He dropped a ten-pound note onto the table and stood.
"We're going to Gringotts." He ordered darkly.
Narcissa relaxed infinitesimally.
"Thank you, Lord Black."
"Don't thank me yet, I still don't know if you're going to be allowed to keep him."
Narcissa paled and gripped her son's hand tightly. Hermione let Sirius take her shoulder and lead the group away from the cafe.
Sirius kept a tight hold on Hermione as she recovered from the side-along apparition. Draco seemed to be faring slightly better, she noted bitterly, but then he must be used to it.
"You alright, sweetheart?" Sirius murmured to her.
Hermione nodded nervously.
"What's going on?" She asked in a whisper.
Her adopted father shrugged and led the way down the street without saying anything.
Diagon Alley was busy enough that the four of them didn't draw any notice as they made their way through the crowd towards the wizarding bank. More accurately it was so crowded that people didn't realise they were travelling together. Sirius drew more than enough lingering glances.
Sirius strode straight up to the nearest free teller and bent to converse quietly with them leaving Hermione to hang back with the Malfoys.
"What are you doing here?" Draco hissed suddenly, rounding on her.
"Draco!" His mother admonished instantly.
Hermione shrugged, too nervous to be drawn into a fight.
"I don't know." The boy scowled at her. "What? I don't. Dad just brought me along!"
The boy glanced up at his mother, who was narrowing her eyes at him.
"But her name is Granger," He breathed. "Mother…"
"And that," Sirius announced rejoining them, "Is a matter for another time. C'mon. Cart's waiting."
Hermione had never been down to the vaults in Gringotts before and eyed the tiny cart with wide-eyed trepidation. Sirius picked up on it immediately and gave her a reassuring smile, He pulled her down so she was sitting on the seat next to him and tucked her against his side, as the Malfoys' dropped into the seat behind them. The goblin, grumbling under his breath, shoved the cart into movement and Hermione closed her eyes tight, unwilling to see the cave-like walls rushing past her at great speed. The cart travelled for several minutes before it slammed to a halt. Sirius had clearly been anticipating this because he tightened his grip so she didn't crash into the front rail.
"Vault 711." The goblin barked. "Black Family."
The door was enormous, large ornamental stone gargoyles on either side with grotesque faces, which seemed to glower down at the four of them as they got out of the cart. Hermione tried to ignore the large drop just behind her, with no visible bottom, feeling the familiar sense of vertigo wash over her.
"Your key, Lord Black," The Goblin grumbled.
Sirius pulled a large. rough key from his pocket and inserted it into the lock, wincing slightly. The key turned on its own volition and as it did so, Hermione could see it glistened slightly with a wet liquid.
"Stupid blood mad family," Sirius muttered, clenching his fist.
There was a series of clunks, clicks and ticking noises which slowly rose in tone until when it seemed that the crescendo would surely lead to something terrifying, it stopped. And the door swung silently open.
Sirius beckoned them all through the doorway as Hermione gaped at the sight in front of her.
Mounds of gold were piled neatly against one corner, taller than Hermione or even Sirius stood. Shelves were overflowing with boxes, some left open to expose jewellery and gemstones to the open air.
Draco and Narcissa appeared unmoved, stepping quietly into the room as Sirius made a beeline towards a small set of drawers in the left hand side of the vault. There was enough room for all of them to comfortably stand inside, but it was still small enough that Hermione could hear Sirius muttering to himself as he rummaged through sheets of paper.
"Marriage of Black to Black. Black to Lestrange. Black to Black, this family is disgusting...Black to Potter," He held that one up and waved Hermione over. "See this?"
She peered down at the parchment, which appeared to be a handwritten contract, faded but still visible.
"This is your brother's grandparents' marriage contract," He smiled faintly. "Dorea, his grandmother, was my...Great cousin?"
"Great Aunt." Narcissa correct gently. She was standing demurely in the middle of the room, one hand holding tightly onto Draco's shoulder.
"Ah, yeah. On my Mother's side. Been dead a long time though." He sighed and replaced the contract. "Here we go. Contract for Narcissa Black and Lucius Malfoy, drawn up by Cygnus Black. Let's just hope my Uncle was feeling traditional."
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked. She was feeling tremendously unfooted, in the middle of a world in which her brother and cousin operated seamlessly. Sirius smiled and seemed happy to explain.
"The Black's have always been a bit...obsessed with blood. Not just obsessed with purity of blood but also where the Black blood specifically went. It became practice a long time ago to include clauses about the rights of witches who were being married into different bloodlines. Each family has its own set of crap that they bring with them. See," and here he beckoned Narcissa over, "Here it states that Narcissa is required to provide a magical heir to Lucius. That's classic Malfoy." He scanned the cursive print and Hermione risked a glance at Draco. He was busy watching his mother peruse her marriage contract with a look of terror on his face.
"Here we are," Sirius squinted at the page. "The Black clauses. Any non magical children cannot claim Black heritage, any children which marry into non-magical bloodlines may not claim Black heritage," Sirius snorted. "If only my father could see me now. And, I never thought I'd say this, but thank Merlin for Cygnus' prejudice."
"What is it?"
Sirius handed the contract to Narcissa and sighed, looking at Draco.
"The Black family retains custody of any and all magical children in the instance of a contract annulment." He turned back to Narcissa. "He's yours. Malfoy can't touch him."
Narcissa slumped, the parchment crinkling in her hands as she lost her composure, relief visible as her expression crumbled.
"Does he know what you're planning?" Sirius asked gently. "Where does he think you are, right now?"
"He believes I have taken Draco on a weekend break to Paris. I told him I wanted to go shopping and he didn't question me." She straightened. "Will you do it, Lord Black?"
Sirius didn't respond, turning back to Hermione.
"Did you and Aunt Amy agree to all that stuff as well?" She asked, helplessly curious.
"Hell no. For one thing I already have an heir and a spare. As does she. For another, Amelia and I got married. We didn't have a betrothal contract, we just got married." Narcissa looked faintly shocked. "Our marriage doesn't depend on the fulfillment of certain obligations. We just love each other."
"Heir and a spare?" Hermione asked confused.
"You and Harry." He paused, catching the surprise on her face. "You didn't know? Shit. We will talk about this." He promised, before turning back to Narcissa. He straightened to his full height , shoulders thrown back, dark eyes narrowed. "Lady Malfoy, you seek to dissolve your marriage with Lord Malfoy?"
The vault seemed to charge with nervous energy, as Narcissa visibly steeled herself.
Sirius seized one corner of the contract, the parchment held taught between the two adults. He'd drawn his wand, Hermione hadn't noticed when, and he rested it firmly on the contract.
"I call you and your get back to this house, Narcissa daughter of Cygnus. Toujours Pur." Sirius spat darkly.
The contract blackened and smouldered and as it did so Narcissa cried out. Draco rushed forward to help her as she held out her left hand. Her wedding ring, an ornate and heavy thing began to melt, dripping from her finger to the floor like so much worthless slag. She screamed, the sound echoing around the Vault, as her flesh reddened and then blackened, the heat from the melting metal irrevocably scarring her.
The last drips off metal hit the floor and Sirius burst into a flurry of movement.
"Hermione!" He ordered loudly, "Get your cousin." He wrapped one arm around Narcissa helping the sobbing witch from the vault. With shock, Hermione realised Sirius meant Draco. She grabbed him and hauled him from the room just as the door swung shut behind them. The goblin handed her the key and she pocketed it, without paying attention as they got back into the cart.
"Mother!" Draco cried, reaching for the witch in the front of the cart.
Hermione held him back.
"It's okay." She promised. Sirius was muttering under his breath, his wand pressed to Narcissa's ruined finger. "He knows what he's doing."
Draco scowled at her furiously but didn't reach forward again.
The ride back to the main part of the bank seemed to take less time and soon Sirius and Hermione were tugging the Malfoy's... no, the Black's from the cart.
"We need to use your private apparition point." Sirius asked the goblin, who nodded and led the party down a side corridor.
"Where are you taking us?" Narcissa gasped.
Lord Black scowled.
"You came to me for safety. This is me, keeping you safe."
The dissolution of marriage contracts is a practice not often seen these days. Mostly because even the worst marriages wouldn't dream of admitting to the public shame of a divorce. Sirius' haste wasn't unnessecary. Lucius Malfoy would have been aware the instant the contract was destroyed. By all reports Malfoy, a haughty and short tempered man even as a student, arrived at Gringotts a mere ten minutes after the Black's left, clutching his hand and demanding to know where his wife was. Unfortunately for Lucius goblins are extremely literal and so told the wizard that they hadn't seen his wife.
A cousin of mine later related the story to me with no small amount of glee in his voice. Wizards, he said, don't understand goblins, they just happen to be stupid enough to bank with us.
They landed in an ungraceful heap outside of Potter Manor, Sirius helping his cousin to her feet.
"'Mione, sweetheart, go and get Remus and Amelia."
Hermione took off at a flat sprint.
"Twist?" Remus peered at her over the top of his book. "You all right?"
"Sirius...Malfoy's….He wants you outside." She grabbed at her knees, gasping for breath. "Take...Amy…"
Remus and Amelia exchanged a wary look and left the room quickly, leaving Susan who'd been carefully cutting sections from the Daily Prophet alone with her cousin.
Hermione choked out a laugh.
"I think we just got another player for exploding snap."
Susan stared at her.
The Black family waited until the Malfoy's were carefully ensconced in a room upstairs before they reconvened. By that point Sirius had managed to sort out the wards and Hermione had explained her day to Susan. Even Harry had been drawn down from his room upstairs, while Amelia placed desperate fireplace calls to the rest of the family.
"Are you out of your mind, Sirius?" Remus demanded.
The dark hair wizard scowled.
"I'm sorry, what was I supposed to do?" He snapped. "Turn her out into the street? She's family, Remus!"
"And a Dark sympathiser!" Remus snarled. "Don't you think it's a little suspicious that she would just turn up asking help from the man who happens to be guardian of Harry Potter!"
"I think she was just trying to save her own skin." Sirius yelled back. "You didn't know her like I did, Remi!"
Remus scowled, pacing backwards and forwards in front of them all. Amelia pulled her head out the fire and got to her feet, a dark look on her face.
"And what do you think she'll do when she realises the Heir to your Noble and Ancient house is muggleborn?" Amelia demanded furiously.
Susan and Harry turned to face Hermione who shrugged, nonplussed. The three teenagers kept to the side of the room, watching their assembled parents yell at each other.
"I think if it bothers her," Sirius bit out between clenched teeth, "She'll have enough sense to keep it to herself. Narcissa is…"
"Narcissa?" They all turned looking towards the door where Andromeda Tonks was staring at them all. "She's here?"
"Upstairs," Sirius sighed. "The fourth bedroom, but don't…" He trailed off as the witch vanished. "Run off.." he grumbled.
"Why did you take Hermione anyway?" Amelia demanded. She had her arms folded and was scowling so deeply her monocle appeared in danger of cracking. "To meet the wife of a Death Eater?"
"Because she is Heir to this House and it was an important thing for her to learn!" Sirius snapped. "I don't tell you what to do with Susan, do I?"
Amelia's hair started to spark.
"Merlin forbid Lord Black doesn't run his house the way he wants to!" She snarled.
"What the Black's do is of no concern to you, Lady Bones!" Sirius roared furiously, advancing on his wife who didn't yield an inch.
The room froze and then turned to stare at Harry. He glowered at them.
"Don't fight! I HATE it when you fight!" He was visibly trembling, eyes looking suspiciously damp. Susan wrapped her arm around his shoulder. "Look, I don't want Malfoy here at all but he's here now. So just get over it!"
Amelia and Sirius looked at each other for a long moment before Sirius sighed heavily.
"Sorry, Amy." He murmured.
"It's…" She dropped into a nearby chair. "Not fine but...I just wish you'd consulted me. This is my family too." Sirius winced.
"The real question," Remus said still visibly seething and pointedly not looking at Sirius. "Is what are we going to tell Dumbledore?"
Everyone froze and the werewolf continued. "I don't know about Narcissa, but Draco is a prime candidate for a spy if ever I saw one. He recalling the Order, Sirius. We can't keep this from him forever. He's already asking for permission to use Grimald."
Sirius seemed to loom where he stood, a vicious, dark look crossing his face and Hermione began to see where his family's reputation for madness came from.
"I've already lost James and Lily to his stupid plans, I refuse to lose anymore of my family."
"Well, in that case, we need to move house."
"Are you doing okay?" Hermione asked awkwardly, some time later.
Harry gave her one long sullen look and then turned back to the chess game he was playing with Susan without answering.
"Oh, he's the picture of health, our Harry." Susan made an appalling move and Hermione realised she was deliberately losing. Or she was suffering from a concussion, whichever was more likely. Harry scowled at her and took her rook.
"I'm going to see Malfoy." Hermione murmured and left them to it.
She eyed the door, twisting the bracelet around her left wrist as she did so. She wasn't nervous exactly...She just wasn't sure she actually wanted to do this. Malfoy had been a source of torment for her and her friends since first year and had only gotten worse last year when the Twins hadn't been speaking to her. He was a cruel, malicious boy...who had watched his family fall apart and his father willingly bring back an evil wizard.
She opened the door.
Draco Malfoy now Draco Black, was slumped in the window seat of the third best guest bedroom, glaring at the grounds of Potter Manor for all he was worth. He turned to see who it was, a sneer on his face and Hermione could visibly see the boy remembering his situation as he quickly shut his mouth. Either Narcissa had said something extremely effective to him, or Draco was actually smart enough to work it out on his own, but the boy hadn't said a single thing that was derogatory or mean to anyone in the last three days. In fact, he had hardly said anything spending the majority of his time in his room hiding.
This didn't stop him from glaring at Harry during meals however.
"Miss Black." He said eventually.
"Don't call me that." She complained. "Can't you just go back to being nasty or something?" This polite act, when she knew he actively despised her, was starting to make her twitchy. When Hermione got twitchy things tended to catch fire.
Draco stared at her.
"You've got no idea what it means to be heir of this House," He asked, looking slightly irritated. "Do you?"
Hermione shrugged listlessly and cross the room to sit on the other end of the window seat. Draco looked like he dearly wanted to shove her off, but could quite risk it.
"Did your mum tell you what she was going to do?" She asked bluntly.
The blonde clenched his jaw.
"Yes." He muttered.
"Okay." Hermione sighed. "For what it's worth, Draco, I glad she took you away. No one should have to become something like that."
Draco said nothing and went back to staring out the window.
The silence hung around them for almost half an hour before the boy said,
"I miss my father."
And Hermione sighed and replied with,
"Yeah, me too."
Amelia sat down heavily, staring at her husband across their bedroom. Sirius was pacing a trench into the thick carpet as he tugged furiously at his hair, consumed by his own thoughts and doubts.
"Why did you take Hermione to see Narcissa?"
Her question clearly startled him and he stopped, looking at her with dark grey eyes. "It was about time I started educating her in all this shite." He scowled. "What does it matter? You started drilling Susan in etiquette when she was four."
Amelia folded her arms. She was tired, tired of the war, of the strain it put on her family. Of not being able to protect her children.
"I thought she was Minerva's Heir?" She pressed.
"She is. If my mother could see what this House is turning into…" He trailed off, scowling. "Harry was my Heir, you know that. To both Black and Potter." She nodded. "When Minerva came to me with the option to adopt Hermione I knew that she was older than Harry. I knew if I adopted her, Harry would go back to just being the Potter Heir. And...this was before we got married."
Amelia had a sinking feeling she knew where this was going. Sirius settled next to her on the bed, wrapping his arms tightly around her.
"House succession means that my biological children take precedence over my adopted ones." He sighed, looking much older than a man in his mid-thirties should. "And I always assumed that she wouldn't have to worry about it. But after…"
...the visit to the healer, Amelia filled in. The verdict had been blunt: too old, too pure blooded, too much stress. They hadn't told the kids.
"I realised that I'd landed her with this House she knew nothing about." Sirius groaned. "And it's not like Minerva was ever going to teach her, Clan McGonagall has all but died out. There aren't any left for her to in be charge of. Unless she has a lot of children." Sirius froze suddenly and shared a worried glance with his wife. "They're Weasley's!" He breathed horrified.
"Have you spoken to Hermione about this?" Amelia asked softly as Sirius leaned against her, trembling slightly.
"Not had a chance." He laughed. "You know the goblin just handed her my vault key? The slippery bastards always know. She just passed it back when we got home like it was nothing."
The plan unfolded over the next couple of evenings.
The Black-Bones family would relocate to the new headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, Grimmauld Place. Narcissa and Draco would be staying in the Bones' Dower house for the remainder of the summer and avoid public places until Draco had to return to Hogwarts and Hermione...Hermione would be going somewhere else.
"You understand, sweetheart, right?" Sirius asked.
The man had taken a break from the packing and the almighty tantrum Harry was having upstairs. He wasn't taking kindly to the relocation or the fact that his sister was being shipped off again. To be honest his sister wasn't taking it too well either
Hermione shrugged listlessly.
She would be going with Professor McGonagall to the continent to attend several conferences.
"It would have been nice to be consulted." She grumbled, unhappily shoving clothes into a rucksack.
"Yeah, I bet. You'll have fun."
She glowered at him.
"Why don't you just tell people? Are you…" She paused as a horrible thought occurred to her. "Ashamed of me?" She asked quietly.
"What!" Sirius stared at her. "Of course not, sweetheart. I am incredibly proud to have you as a daughter." He sighed, smiling unhappily. "It's not that. If I announce you as Hermione Black a lot of people will start paying attention to you. Which will make your Bond with the Twins that much harder to hide." He paused, looking slightly awkward. "How are you three anyway?"
That was something of an overstatement. There had been several letters sent between the three of them, but they were mostly assurances that everyone was fine. The Bond was a quiet, relaxed buzz in the back of her head. The distance and the fact that the Twins were likely still asleep this early in the morning was helping it stay calm.
"Uh huh." Sirius smirked at her. "That's comforting. So do you know who Susan's been kissing?"
Hermione gaped at him.
"No! How do you even know about that?"
He shrugged elegantly.
"I have many sources. Also I have a bet on with Amy that I can find out before she can."
"Have either of you tried asking Susan?" Hermione pressed.
"That girl is surprisingly closed lipped." He shook his head in admiration. "Look, 'Mione, it's just for a month. We'll have you back with us soon."
Despite the wealth of bad news and the untold volume of stress Minerva was under, Minerva looked positively giddy as she packed up her rooms to spend a month in Europe.
I had only come to visit her to confirm some repairs that were being done to Ravenclaw tower over the summer and I'll admit, I stared in shock.
She was humming.
"I was under the impression that you disliked these conferences." I asked.
She paused and smiled at me.
"Sirius is giving me custody of Hermione while I go to Europe. She can't stay with the Black's if Dumbledore is going to be visiting all the time. Not without arousing suspicion."
"I wish you the very best then." I smiled at her, which she returned for a moment before scowling.
"Don't think for a moment you've gotten out of coming up with an explanation of those children! They need to know what the Bond really is!"
I threw up my hands and left.
"Are you ready?"
Hermione was sitting on the foot of the stairs, trying to write a letter to the Twins. So far all she'd managed was,
"Going Abroad. Don't worry."
But she didn't think that was really good enough. She looked up and sort of grimaced at Minerva who smiled back.
"Almost," Her pencil stabbed a hole in the paper. She added, "Love Hermione." and rolled it up, handing it to Sirius' raven which was loitering nearby. "For Fred and George Weasley." She told it. It croaked and hopped off to the nearest window.
"Where are we going?" She asked as she got to her feet, grabbing her rucksack and hoisting it onto her shoulder, over her cloak.
"Nice initially," Minerva led her out of the building, Hermione had already said goodbye to everyone earlier so they were free to leave. It was just as well, Hermione didn't think she could deal with tearful farewells. "Then onto Vienna and Berlin."
Minerva's presence in Europe was twofold. Firstly, to actually attend the Transfiguration conferences and deliver several presentations of her own. Secondly, something I only found out much later, Minerva was part of a broad plan to begin collecting allies in Europe. Whilst Rubeous and Madam Maxine were making a treatise towards the giants, Minerva was tasked with identifying powerful witches and wizards who would be sympathetic towards our cause.
Hermione was, surprisingly, enjoying herself. The transfiguration conferences were interesting, and no one questioned why McGonagall was dragging a fifteen-year-old girl around with her. In fact, several representatives had brought their own children and a vast majority of the Transfiguration Masters had brought their apprentices with them, the youngest of whom was thirteen. Although Transfiguration wasn't Hermione's favourite subject (she would always have a talent for charms) she learned a lot of interesting theory. She also knew Minerva's speech by heart as she'd heard her rehearse it so many times.
Today Hermione had to herself, Minerva having released her to look around the town and do some souvenir shopping. Her adopted mother would be having long dry conversations with rather old wizards, so Hermione wasn't put out at being abandoned. She was contemplating which incredibly tacky keyring to buy for her brother when there was a quiet cough behind her and a voice said,
Hermione turned and blinked twice.
Fleur was as staggeringly beautiful as she had been some months ago, blonde hair braided loosely over one shoulder as she smiled gorgeously at Hermione.
"Ah, I had thought it was you, 'ermione."
Hermione gaped and then, for some reason she couldn't quite fathom, blushed.
"Fleur?" She managed.
"'es!" Fleur hugged her tightly. "Ah, it ez good to see you, 'ermione!" She held the younger girl at arms length and looked her over. "You do not look well." She announced bluntly.
"Stress," She managed.
"Ah, well zen," Fleur linked arms with her. "Come, I will buy you lunch and we shall talk, 'es?"
Hermione, now thoroughly swept off her feet, blinked several times and followed helplessly.
Fluer, as it turned out, lived nearby with her family and was enjoying her last summer off before she went to join Gringotts Curse Breaker program. The two of them discussed the minutia of the course and the benefits of working for goblins, who really couldn't give a damn who your parents were.
"And your bracelets," She took Hermione's wrist gently so she could examine the metal. "Ze are goblin made, no?"
"Er, yes?" She offered awkwardly. Fleur twisted the bracelet around her wrist examining the runes.
"Your boys have zeese, also. yes?" Hermione, now feeling rather terrified, nodded faintly. Fleur looked up and grinned. "Ah, I 'ave an eye for these things. ma mère…" She waved vaguely at the bracelets. "She makes…"
"She's a jewellry designer?" Hermione offered.
Fleur nodded and showed her the large dragon's eye opal pendant that hung around her neck. "She made me zhis for surviving ze first task."
"It's lovely." Hermione offered. It was too. Simply set, the large stone glittered with hidden depths and looked different from every angle.
"Zhis though," She tapped Hermione's bracelet again, "Goblin jewellry ees always functional, did you know?" Hermione shook her head and resisted the urge to wrench her hand away. "Zho what are you three hiding, I wonder?" Hermione felt a flush of shame overtake her. Fleur had been chosen out of all of the Beauxbatons students, not because of her looks, but because she was an extremely clever and powerful witch. Hermione had forgotten that.
The half-veela looked up and took in Hermione's expression.
"Ah, non. I did not mean to scare you!"
Their waiter came by and the two witches leaned back in their seats so he could set down their meals. Fleur thanked him in French and Hermione took a moment to collect herself.
"Are you safe?" Fleur asked suddenly. Hermione glanced up at her suddenly. "Zhis thing you hide, will it place you in danger?" Her eyes were intent and merciless.
"Yes." Hermione breathed, trying to stop her voice from breaking. "Yes, it will."
Fleur's eyes narrowed and Hermione could actually see the truth coming together as her expression changed.
"Ah, to both of zhem?" She breathed, abandoning her cutlery and seizing Hermione's hands in her own, looking the picture of sympathy and worry. "You poor girl."
Hermione just stared at her, wide eyed and horrified.
"Are you going to tell anyone?" She asked.
Fleur released her and turned back to her lunch, shaking her head dismissively.
"Non. If you 'ave hid it, zhen you 'ave done so for a good reason. Also, ma grande-mère was…" She waved her fork expansively in Hermione's direction.
"Bonded?" Hermione offered.
"Oui." Hermione watched enviously as Fleur somehow managed to eat spaghetti without getting the sauce all over her face, or looking like a chicken choking down a particularly long worm. "She did not 'av an easy life." She paused and seemed to consider something. "My family 'av books if you would like…"
Hermione stared at the witch as though she had just handed her the key to destroying Voldemort.
"Yes!" She cried, desperately. "Please."
"May I see?" Fleur asked bluntly. "Not in exchange… but I am curious?"
Hermione, after some brief hesitation, removed her bracelets and showed her the bond marks on her arms. Fleur turned her hands this way and that, examining them in the light.
"Z'hese are not healthy." She announced, looking Hermione directly in the eye. "And zhat is not good for you."
There was nothing Hermione could say to that.
Fleur delivered her back to the hotel several hours later, with the promise to write and to send the books when Hermione went back to school in September.
"Was that Fleur Delacour?" Minerva asked as they watched the witch walk away.
"Don't ask," Hermione groaned.
The rest of the tour passed uneventfully, except for the incident in Vienna where, after Minerva's presentation of her latest piece of research, several rather ancient and academically inclined wizards actually formed a que to propose to her. Minerva turned them all down and then spent the afternoon laughing with Hermione about it. They headed back to England on the 5th of August, both weighed down with luggage, research papers and Hermione's collection of truly awful souvenirs for Harry, Susan and the Twins.
"Can we stop somewhere first?" Hermione murmured, as their boat docked at Dover. They were both quite tired but Minerva listened patiently to her idea and agreed to go along without question.
The storage locker was in an industrial estate in a back end of London. The security guard waved them through without looking up from his paper and Hermione followed the numbers on the doors until she found the one that matched her key.
"The house got sold," She explained quietly. "It was part of the will, the lawyers took care of it." The lock was stuck with disuse so Minerva cast a careful Alohomora to open it. The door rolled up with a loud clatter and Hermione let out a quiet pained noise.
It was quite clearly not an entire household. There wasn't enough furniture, although the room was full to the brim. Most of it was packed away in brown boxes, neatly labelled with fading lettering.
Minerva watched as Hermione started to go through them. Some of them were clearly of no interest to her, boxes labelled "kitchen" and "garden" went uninvestigated. Others she opened and rummaged through. She started a pile of things next to her: a jewellery box, a knitted blanket, a scarf and several books. The items didn't seem to be related, but then, Minerva reasoned, how was she to know what was and wasn't important? These were the remnants of a life long since over for Hermione, all she had left of her parents and her home. She didn't speak about it very often, whether it was too painful or she had simply dealt with the loss, Minerva didn't know. She was glad the girl felt safe enough to share this with her at least.
Her attention was grabbed again as Hermione let out a low sob and sat back on her heels, pulling something out of a box. It was a large parcel, wrapped in bright paper which proclaimed "Happy Birthday." over and over again, in bright metallic writing.
"Hermione?" Minerva asked, moving closer and crouching down next to her, cursing, not for the first time, the impracticality of robes..
"I never got to open it." Hermione breathed, eyes growing wet, voice think. "Pettigrew attacked the day before my birthday and…" She hugged it to her chest and sobbed.
Minerva let out a sympathetic noise and wrapped her arms around the girl until she cried herself out. This explained a great many things.
"Open it." She encouraged eventually, when the sobs had died down.
Hermione unwrapped the package and a large, white leather bound book fell into her lap. She opened it and choked.
"To our dearest Hermione,
May you always see the magic in life,
Love Mum and Dad."
Hermione stared at it, looking utterly...well Minerva wasn't sure if that was shock or misery.
"I don't believe it." She whispered.
"Hermione?" Minerva asked gently. "What is it?"
"It's my…" Hermione smoothed one hand over the cover reverently. "It's my book. I was saving up for months and months to buy it and...they got it for me." She hugged it tightly to her chest. "We can go now." She managed. "I've got everything I need."
Minerva sighed heavily and got to her feet.
"Oh Hermione!" Hermione choked loudly as Mrs Weasley hauled her off the front step and hugged her tightly.
"Mrs...Weasley!" She managed. "What are you doing here?"
"Please put Miss Granger down." Minerva added sternly.
Hermione was dropped back down onto the front steps gently and Mrs Weasley ushered her in the door.
"Are you staying for dinner, Minerva?" The witch asked, in an almost hushed voice.
"No, I need to get back to Hogwarts. I'll see you at the next meeting." Minerva raised an eyebrow when Mrs Weasley let out a pointed "Shush". "Miss Granger, I imagine I'll see you soon."
The door to Grimauld Place had barely closed behind them when there were a set of CRACKS and the Twins appeared on either side of her.
"Boys!" Mrs Weasley snapped angrily. "Just because you have your license doesn't mean you need to aparate everywhere, honestly..."
Hermione missed the end of that tirade because Fred and George grabbed her by the arms and disapperated.
"Urgh." Hermione managed, the nausea of unexpected apparition washed over her. "Urkh!" She added as the breath was rapidly squeezed out of her for the second time in under a minute. The Twins hugged her tightly and for a moment she let herself relax, breathing in their presence that soothed the ache of the bond at the back of her mind. For a moment she let herself pretend that everything was all right between them. Then she sighed and wriggled free of their arms.
"What the…?" She asked, staring at them. Fred and George were, for once, not identical. "What happened?"
Fred grimaced as she gently touched his bruised jaw. George stood still enough for her to get a good look at his black eye.
"You can thank your darling brother for that." George murmured.
Hermione frowned at them.
"Harry? What did he do?"
They exchanged tense looks.
"He's...not in a good place right now. Lost his temper a few days ago because we were…" George faltered.
"Moping around because we missed you." Fred said bluntly. George kicked him.
"Anyway, he said we had no right no miss you after what we put you through last year." George sighed.
"Amazon, we swear we didn't know anything how people were treating you last year."
"Although, Harry's right." Fred murmured. "We should have noticed and put a stop to it."
"We're sorry." George pressed.
Hermione stared at them.
"I don't need you two to protect me." She said at last.
"You don't need to fight every battle on your own. C'mon," He added when she moved to say something. "You need to see your brother."
Harry was sitting alone in his room, staring mindlessly out the window. He had not, it seemed, improved in the month she was away. His eyes were sunken and bruised as though he hadn't been sleeping and his hair was flat, uncared for. She could actually see his scar for once.
"Harry?" Hermione asked quietly, aware of Fred and George's presence behind her. "I'm back."
George reached out and patted her shoulder once, before the Twins vacated the room, leaving the Blacks alone.
"Hey, 'mione." Harry murmured, glancing up at her. "How was France?"
"Warm." She settled next to him and sighed as her normally tactile brother stiffened. "Are you alright?"
"Nightmares, you know how it is."
Hermione laughed darkly.
"Yeah, I do."
Harry looked at her, green eyes only hidden by his finge.
"Do they ever go away? 'Mione I keep seeing him die over and over again and I don't know what to do and…" Hermione opened her arms as he dissolved into grief-stricken tears, hugging him tightly.
"Yeah," She told him later when the tears had abated. "It does go away. Not entirely, but it gets better."
"Do you still get nightmares?" He asked, still curled into her.
"Yes, I do. When I'm scared or really stressed. I got a lot last term." Harry let out a grumpy growling sound, only stopping when Hermione started stroking his hair. He was ludicrously like Sirius sometimes. "Somethings help. You remember in first year when I used to stay with the Twins a lot?"
"Don't tell Dad about that." Harry murmured.
"I can stay with you if you like?" She offered faintly. "See if it helps you sleep."
"I'm sharing a room with Ron," he muttered unhappily. "Bad enough I have to deal with his snoring at school, now he's living with us."
"Why are the Weasley's here?" Hermione asked frowning slightly. The Twins hadn't mentioned anything about that to her. Although, the Twins hadn't sent her any letters over the last month.
Harry sighed heavily, then coughed when he got a mouthful of her hair.
"Urgh...Dumbledore made this place the head of the Order of the Phoenix and the Weasley's just...moved in? I dunno. We're a bit cramped, I'm pretty sure Remus is sharing a bedroom with Dad and Amy. You're in with Susan and Ginny."
"Oh joy." Hermione managed, scowling. Ginny still glared whenever she saw Hermione. "Tell you what, we can sleep on one of the sofas in the library. See if that helps."
Harry blinked up at her.
"How do you know the library has sofas?" He asked.
"I used to come here to research with Remus, remember?" When he still brought me? She added internally and not at all bitterly.
"Oh, yeah. That." He rubbed at his scar irritably. "You seen Dad yet?"
"He can wait a minute." Hermione murmured as she shook her head. "Let's just stay here a moment. You know I bought you some souvenirs?"
Harry perked up slightly.
"Yes." She smiled at him. "They're hideous."
Hermione left Harry upstairs to have a shower before dinner and went to find Sirius. On her way down Crookshanks made himself known and leapt up onto her shoulders to drape himself around her neck. Hermione stroked him gently, glad to see he'd made it to Grimmauld in one piece. She'd been sad not to take him with her, but he didn't really like travelling. Susan had promised to look after him for her. She should thank her when she finally found her cousin in this maze of a house.
Sirius, she discovered after sticking her head into various rooms in the house, was in the drawing room, reading the newspaper. He too didn't look like he'd been sleeping well, but at least his hair was in better order than his son's. He'd returned to the pureblood clothes, a velvet waistcoat fitting him neatly over dark trousers.
"Hey, Twist." He looked like he was considering hugging her but didn't want to disturb the cat. He patted her hair awkwardly when she approached. "You travel okay? How was Europe?"
"It was okay." She looked around her and frowned at the far wall. "What is that?"
"That, sweetheart, is the Black family tapestry." He looked at the door and then flicked his wand at it. "Muffliato, C'mon, I want to show you something."
The tapestry itself took up the entire wall and glowed with the gold thread that picked out the names in neat tiny stiches. It seemed to ripple slightly in some nonexistent breeze as though it was alive.
"This is the Black family tree." Sirius murmured. "Goes back generations. My mother used to enjoy blasting people off it when they "betrayed the family"." He scowled and Hermione noticed that the tapestry was indeed singed in places and certain patches were definitely newer than others. "I've been restoring it. I discovered it updates itself. Which I luckily found out when no one else was in the room because when I put myself back on the tree, this happened." Using his wand, Sirius moved a dresser aside so she could see the part of the tree, quite near the bottom that had been obscured.
Underneath Orion Black and Walburga Black were two children. Regulus Black, who's death date was already listed, and Sirius Black who was joined by a double line to Amelia Bones. From that double line, a dotted line led to Harry James Black. Next, to him a single dotted line led solely from Sirius to form Hermione Jean Black.
"I hadn't realised the tapestry would automatically accept you as Black children, as you and Harry are adopted. Although," He squinted. "Harry's grandmother was a Black so…"
"But why does it think my name's Black?" She turned to stare at him, suddenly really concerned. "It's not, is it?"
Sirius frowned at her.
"No, of course not. We didn't change your name when we adopted you. Besides then you'd be Hermione Jean Granger Black McGonagall and that's a hideous mouthful if ever I heard it." She smiled faintly. "You remember Narcissa's marriage contract?" He nodded towards a section of the tapestry where Andromeda and Narcissa's names were, next to Bellatrix. Narcissa had a single dotted line underneath her name which lead to Draco Black. "The Black names takes precedence in all things. You really have to understand how completely arrogant my family was." He flicked his wand so the dresser slipped back into place, hiding her name from view. "Which reminds me, you need to be careful in this house." He started to lead her from the room. "It tends to react...differently to Black's and you're the heir so Merlin knows what it might do to you."
He led her into the hall before she could ask any more questions.
The dinner table was crowded as the Weasley family, the Black-Bones family and Remus sat down together. Hermione smiled at Mr Weasley as he greeted her excited and automatically took her seat between Fred and George. The conversation was already loud and boisterous when Harry appeared in the doorway, hair still wet from his shower and almost recoiled at the noise. Hermione waved him over and George moved up the bench a bit so the siblings could sit next to each other. Hermione took a moment to send a wave of gratitude through the bond and received bemusement in return.
Ginny, sitting across the table from them, scowled deeply as Harry rested his head on her shoulder.
"Yeah, Ginny's still not gotten over that crush of her's," Fred muttered in her ear, mouth barely moving.
"Wonderful." Hermione murmured back.
Tonks, apparently thrilled to have a new audience, was changing her nose which each bite of food she took while Susan propped her book open in front of her. Remus and Sirius were discussing something serious, heads bent together. Amelia and Mr Weasley appeared to be grumpily going over the Ministry's latest policies and Molly was lecturing Ron on his table manners.
"Is it always like this?" Hermione asked, feeling slightly overwhelmed. She'd spent the last month enjoying quiet conversation and meals with just Minerva. This was a startling contrast.
"Well Sirius and mum haven't started fighting yet, but otherwise yeah."
"Why would Sirius fight with Mrs Weasley?" She asked. Harry, who was almost sitting in her lap by this point, snickered.
"She thinks Dad's a bad parent." He muttered.
"She's mad Sirius won't let her boss everyone around." Fred corrected, almost as quietly.
"It's both, I think. Just you wait until they get started, honestly."
Hermione frowned and focus on eating her stew and not dripping it onto Harry's head by accident. Ginny looked about ready to snap her fork in two.
As dinner was cleared away, Hermione looked up and entirely unintentionally addressed the elephant in the room.
"So what's the Order been doing to stop Voldemort?"
The kitchen froze as Sirius lifted his head to stare down the table at Molly, who'd narrowed her eyes.
"Oh," Molly said. "You don't need to worry about that, dear."
Hermione frowned at her.
"There's a genocidal maniac on the loose and you don't want me to worry about it?" She asked dryly. Next to her Fred went very still. Hermione wasn't sure if he was scared or just trying really hard not to laugh.
"You've got enough on your plate," The older witch smiled jovially as she started handing out mugs for tea. "What with school and everything. You don't need to…"
"But I want to know." Hermione scowled. "What's going on here?"
Molly put the teapot down on the table with a thump.
"You're too young! Leave it to the adults…"
"What?" Hermione snapped, furiously. "Was I too young when I got petrified?" She demanded. "Or when Pettigrew murdered my parents? Or how about when one of his Death Eaters set fire to my bed curtains two years ago?"
She could sense, more than see, the twins growing stoney on either side of her and Harry flinching away from the table as he curled closer into her side.
"She deserves to know what's going on," Sirius announced.
"What are the Order doing?" Hermione pressed and she could see the Weasley family growing restless around her. It seemed she wasn't the only one being kept out of the loop here.
"No!" Molly snapped. "You don't need to hear this, Hermione!"
By this point, Sirius and Amelia were openly glaring at Molly from the end of the table.
"Knowledge is power, Molly." Amelia intoned solemnly
"Why can't we tell her everything?" Sirius was smiling but it wasn't a happy look. "She's as much, if not more, involved in this war as we are." He added decively.
Molly's eyes shot sparks.
"Why? She's a child, Sirius! You cannot expect her to be burdened with this."
Her adopted father slammed his fist into the table, whatever grasp he'd had on his temper clearly lost.
"She is not a child, Molly, if you're too blind to see that then..."
"Blind!" She screeched, pointing at him with a dripping teaspoon. "If anyone's blind it's you. She's not your daughter, Sirius. She's not Lily! You don't get to say what's right for her."
Sirius went white and narrowed his eyes. George reached over Harry and rested his hand on Hermione's shoulder, only just keeping her from exploding.
"She's not your daughter either," he growled. "And it's no business of yours what I tell my family!"
"Because clearly, you don't care if your children ever sleep again!" She gestured vaguely to Harry who flinched and got up from the bench to sit next to Susan. George shifted closer to Hermione. "And she's as good as my daughter!" Molly was sparking with fury and Arthur took a wary move back from his wife.
Sirius chuckled and leant back into his chair as though he'd already won and was just waiting for Molly to realise.
"And why is that?" He asked cheerfully
She gestured with the spoon at Fred and George, who were watching the drama unfold.
"Can you honestly tell me that in ten years time her name will not be Weasley?"
The room froze and Hermione felt the Twins flinch. They had been very, very careful not to bring up anything about the last term with her and their mother had just brought it screaming back to the forefront of their minds again.
"Enough." Hermione stood and the Twins stood with her as she glowered at Mrs Weasley, her hair sparking in her fury. Molly looked slightly shocked, face blotchy and red. Amelia was polishing her monocle and smiling slightly, and Sirius was chuckling as he smirked at Molly.
"You've done it now Molly." He goaded.
"Firstly Mrs Weasley, while I appreciate the concern and hospitality you have shown me I must stress..." Hermione ground her teeth slightly and a nearby glass shattered. George's grip on her shoulder tightened as he tried desperately to ground her. "That it is not your concern. Voldemort," Molly gasped. "Oh, get over it. He'll be after me because I'm muggleborn because my best friend is his mortal enemy." Harry winced slightly and Susan hugged him tightly. "And because I mutilated one of his followers when I was a girl." Amelia grimaced. "Now if Sirius trusts Harry enough to tell him this news then I don't see why I can't be told as well. Besides if you don't tell me, I'll just find out another way. You can't stop me. Secondly..." She smiled tightly at Sirius and Amelia who gave her quick smiles of support. "As I am a muggleborn orphan my legal guardian is one Minerva McGonagall who also believes that knowledge is power. If you have a problem with me then I'd suggest that you take it up with her. You are not my mother!" She spat furiously. "Finally." Hermione drew herself up to her full if meagre, height. "Don't you dare presume that I will be a part of your family. I'm never changing my name, I will never walk down a bloody fucking aisle and it's none of your wretched business anyway. Got it?"
She didn't need to turn to know that Fred and George were flanking her and giving her their unwavering support. She'd felt a slight twinge of shock through the bond at her last statement but she ignored it. Sirius burst into applause and grinned at her. The trio turned on their heels and stormed from the room.
It must be said that Hermione stood by those statements. She never did walk down an aisle and her name never became Weasley. I'm not sure Molly ever forgave her for that.
"Don't think anyone's spoken to mum like that in a long time," George said, after the echo from Hermione slamming the bedroom door had faded.
"It's none of her business." Hermione seethed furiously. "How dare she!"
"Would you really not change your name?" Fred asked, apropos of nothing.
Hermione stopped pacing to stare at him.
He shifted uncomfortably and leant against the wall with his arms folded.
"If you got married, would you really not change your name?"
Hermione stared at him.
"Actually," George murmured, "I was wondering that too. Is it a Muggle thing?"
Hermione kept staring, anger fading. She let out a soft laugh and dropped down onto the bed, one hand shoving her hair out of her face.
"Yes. I really wouldn't. But no, it's not a muggle thing."
"My name's all I've got left." She said, looking up at them. Hermione swallowed, looking sad. "After my parents...died, I lost a lot. I lost my family, my home. And then I came to Hogwarts and I met you and Harry. I became your," Her jaw clenched for a moment, "Bondmate at twelve years old. I got adopted not long after. I became "Fred and George and Hermione". I became "Hermione, daughter of Sirius Black and Minerva McGonagall". Draco will only call me Miss Black to my face. I'm on the bloody Black family tapestry, for the love of...I love Sirius and Amelia and Minerva dearly, and Harry and Susan are the best siblings I could ever want and sometimes…" Her voice faltered and she stared at them helplessly. "Sometimes I don't remember what it was like to be Daniel and Emma's daughter anymore. My surname's all I've got left." Her gaze turned dark and determined. "I won't change it."
Fred and George exchanged one long look across the small, dark bedroom.
"Okay." They whispered.
Hermione explained her plan to Susan, who agreed to run interference with Ginny. Apparently, she'd been fielding a hundred and one questions about what it was like to live with Harry full time and was already going spare.
"As if she thinks she can turn his head away from Luna," She said scornfully. "Here," She handed her a spare pillow and duvet, "You'd better get going before Ginny gets done with her shower. But we need to talk sometime."
Hermione thanked her and, ignoring that slightly cryptic warning, headed down to the library, thankfully only meeting Remus on the way down. He gave her a slightly confused look and then seemed to silently wash his hands of it and continued upstairs muttering something about Black's under his breath.
"Cedric!" Harry sat bolt upright, bruising Hermione's shoulder on the way up with his elbow. Hermione blinked blearily in the darkness of the library before grabbing onto her brother and hugging him.
"It's okay," She promised, still half asleep. "It's okay. You're not there."
She whispered platitudes and empty promises until he relaxed and fell asleep in her arms again.
"Uh…" Remus murmured. He frowned at the sight in front of him, bit his lip and went to fetch Sirius.
"Er…" said Sirius.
They went to fetch Amelia.
"Ah," said Amelia. She frowned at the two wizards both of whom were only dressed in their pyjama bottoms. "What's wrong?"
"Don't you think it's a little weird that two of our children are asleep together in the library?" Sirius whisper-shouted.
Amelia rolled her eyes.
"I think it's cute actually." She murmured, smiling at the two fondly.
"Cute?" Sirius shrieked, quietly. "They're fifteen!"
"Not every fifteen year old is doing what you were at fifteen," Amelia commented dryly. Remus shifted uncomfortably. "It's fine. I imagine they were just trying to fix Harry's nightmares. It's the first time I've seen him sleeping properly in months."
Sirius sighed, suddenly looking a lot older.
"I'd give him dreamless sleep, but…"
"It's not really a healthy solution," Amelia acknowledged gently. "We know. Look, just leave them to it. And maybe ward the door so Molly can't wander in. If I have to hear another lecture about propriety, so help me…"
The door to the library clicked shut behind them as they left.
There was silence for a moment then,
"Why does everyone think we're dating?" Harry mumbled, somewhere in the vicinity of Hermione's collarbone.
"The fact you turn into a bloody octopus at night probably isn't helping anything," Hermione grumbled in response. "Go back to sleep,it's not even daylight yet."
The house tends to react differently to Blacks, as Sirius had put it was something of an understatement. When Harry and Hermione finally got up it was to discover that the sofa they'd been sleeping on was now a foot longer and a half foot wider. Doors, previously locked, sprung open when Hermione approached and there were several incidents were lamps turned themselves on and then off again as she passed. Harry and Hermione would be impossible to find if they didn't want to be found and Tonks admitted that the entire house creeped her out. Although Tonks also kept tripping over things, because the house kept startling her, so her bruised shins may have had something to do with this.
"How come Potter Manor doesn't do this?" Hermione asked. They were trying to eavesdrop on an Order meeting using the Twins' extendable ears and the door had suspiciously opened a jar just as they lowered the ear into place.
"Oh, it does." Harry murmured. "But the House elves stop it getting out of hand. It's part of their magic."
"So if we got Filly here…"
Susan, sitting on Hermione's other side, shook her head.
"No, it would need to be a Black Elf and there hasn't been one of those since Sirius dismissed the last one when Walburga died.".
"Our elves are either Potter or Bones elves.".
Hermione gaped at them.
"You've no idea how ludicrous you two sound right now, do you?"
Life at Grimmauld Place mostly consisted of amusing themselves in the room and trying to fix the garden. While the House Elves had removed anything dangerous and cleaned the place before the Order had moved in, they hadn't touched the garden. So Harry, Hermione, Susan and the Weasleys spent a lot of time trying to remove the weeds outside and avoiding the various dark creatures which…
"OW!" Hermione yelled, staring at the wooden dart protruding from her upper arm.
The Twins appeared on either side of her. They took one look at the dart and screamed,
"ERKLING!" The teenagers began scrambling backwards across the narrow garden towards the house as the Twins practically lifted Hermione back towards. Ron and Susan were yelling, Harry started shouting for Sirius and Ginny had lifted her wand.
Sirius and Molly spilt out of the back door at the same time, wands drawn and staring around at their assembled children with wide, terrified eyes.
"What?" Sirius gasped, looking towards Hermione, whose arm was starting to bleed sluggishly.
"Honestly Sirius!" Molly roared, as though this entire thing was his fault. "Bombarda." She sent the curse to the bush where the Erkling's infamous music was starting to pour out. There was a loud bang as the bush exploded and the music stopped.
The assembly stared at the smoking creator and then as one turned to stare at Molly. She had rested her hands on her hips and was scowling at Sirius.
"They're not even native to England!" She roared.
Fred and George rolled their eyes.
"C'mon," George said gently to Hermione. "We'd better get you fixed up."
"How'd you know?" Hermione asked, trying not to look at her arm. The dart was still sticking out and it throbbed hotly. George spread out the contents of the Twin's very well stocked First Aid kit on the kitchen table.
"Know what?" Fred asked, distractedly.
"That I was in trouble?" She winced when George experimentally poked the dart. "Ow,"
They stared at her, both frowning slightly.
"We always know." Fred murmured.
"Yeah," George used his wand to carefully cut Hermione's sleeve away around the dart. "'Sides, ever since you opened up to us again, we've been paying a lot more attention. We can usually tell when you're hurt."
Hermione stared at them.
"But you were there in seconds…" She pressed, confused.
"It was a reaction thing."
"Lucky we didn't splinch actually," George murmured. "Fred, this need to come out."
"Hey, 'Mione." Fred moved to her other side and she turned her head to look at him. "Hey, sorry about this."
He darted in and kissed her cheek gently and Hermione's eyes went wide as she stared at him shocked. There was a sickening squelch and George held up the wooden dart.
"See, easy." Fred grinned. His brother scowled at him.
"Wait, what?" Hermione managed to look between the two of them, wide-eyed and confused.
"Couldn't have you tensing up when I removed it. Needed to distract you." He started smearing a blue salve over the wound, which stung faintly. "Wasn't quite what I had in mind though, brother."
Fred grinned, entirely unrepentant.
Molly was quite surprised when she came into the kitchen to find Hermione already well looked after, a neat bandage wrapped around her upper arm as she drank a cup of tea.
"The Twins." Hermione explained shortly, still rather pink in the face.
There was a loud crash from upstairs and the distant sound of someone yelling out in pain.
"Also the Twins," Hermione added, trying to look as innocent as possible.
"I can't believe we're having this conversation!" Susan whined pathetically. She had gone so deeply red that she had started clashing violently with her hair. Hermione, who had sunk down so far in her armchair that she couldn't see over the tops of her knees, groaned sympathetically.
Amelia tried to share a long-suffering look with Tonks, but the younger witch had dissolved into silent giggles and was rocking backwards and forwards in her chair.
"Yes, we do." Amelia's lips pursed. "Tonks, stop laughing."
Tonks fell off her chair.
"I've kissed one person!" Susan shrieked, hysterically. "You're...This is…"
Amelia crumpled up the piece of parchment she'd been using to draw male genitalia on and tossed it into the fire.
"Look, I'm a pretty shit parent, Susie, but this is one of the things I actually agreed to do when you were born," Her eyes lost focus for a moment. "My brother was such a prude." She murmured quietly and Susan, usually so stoic, winced.
Tonks sobered enough to clamber back onto her chair.
"Now," Amelia reached for another piece of paper and began sketching another diagram. "We've covered men so onto women."
"Why isn't Harry here for this?" She demanded.
"Remus and Sirius wanted the dubious honour of that conversation," Amelia said dryly. "I can't wait to see how they cock it up." Tonks started laughing again. "Oh, grow up."
"And why does Hermione need to sit through this bit anyway?" Susan was probably asking in an attempt to free Hermione from the horror of this conversation but Tonks stopped laughing and frowned.
"Aye, I was wondering 'at. Ain't she with the Twins?"
Hermione flushed and groaned louder.
Amelia set her jaw.
"Firstly, life is full of surprises and we never know where we might end up, or who we might end up with and it is always best to be prepared. Secondly, just because of Hermione's…" She paused, glancing at Tonks, "relationship," She said eventually, "that is no reason to assume that she might end up with them."
"We're not dating!" Hermione added, glaring at Tonks through her fingers.
"I know, I know!" The pink haired witch assured her.
"Now, we've still got to get onto contraceptive charms before dinner, so… Things to remember when you're shagging a woman…"
Susan let out a high pitched scream.
Fred frowned at his brother.
"What's wrong with her?"
For some reason, Hermione and Susan had ensconced themselves at the end of the dinner table and seemed unable of looking at them without blushing deeply and giggling. Fred wasn't sure he'd ever seen Hermione giggle before.
"No, idea." George murmured, too busy watching Lord Black and Lady Bones. Sirius and Amelia appeared to be having a silent conversation across the dinner table, which involved a lot of changing facial expressions and complex eyebrow movement.
Amelia scowled deeply and Sirius snapped.
"Well, I'm sorry, but I think the spell to remove objects from your arse is an important thing for a boy Harry's age to know!"
There was dead silence for a moment before Amelia, Tonks and Remus (the latter of whom was blushing deeply) roared "SIRIUS!", while Hermione, Susan and Harry (who was sinking below the table in humiliation) whined, "DAD!".
Sirius, eternally immune to embarrassment, merely took a swig of his butterbeer as the Twins' mum started ranting about appropriate dinner conversation topics. The rest of the Black-Bones family excused themselves without asking, all red-faced.
"Try lacewing flies." Hermione murmured, looking over their notes.
Fred stirred twice and added the offered ingredient.
"I really think this will do it, this time," George said hopefully. They'd been working on their skiving snackboxes. The issue wasn't with creating the illness, it was with trying to cure it again.
The potion turned a deep green and they all frowned.
"Does anyone know if that's a good sign or not?" Fred asked.
Hermione and George shrugged.
"Thanks for giving us those presentation documents by the way," George nodded towards the stack of hand-outs Hermione had accumulated travelling with Minerva.
"No problem." Hermione murmured and made a point of not blushing when Fred winked at her.
"Ah, boys," Sirius leant into the hallway from the door to the drawing room. "Can I have a word?"
Fred and George were instantly wary. Sirius had the kind of smile of his face that reminded them that he used to be, and still very much was, a Marauder.
"Sure," Fred said warily.
The Twins realised the trap as soon as they stepped into the room properly and Sirius pulled the door tightly shut behind them. Remus Lupin and Amelia Bones were sitting in an armchair in front of the fire and Sirius dropped down into the third seat. Fred noted there was nowhere for either he or his brother to stand and began to wonder if this is what people on trial felt like. He shifted uneasily next to George.
Remus smiled wolfishly and steepled his fingers.
"So boys," He stared them down. "What are your plans for after Hogwarts?"
The Twins stared at them.
"Huh?" Fred said cleverly.
"We're going to open up our shop." George frowned, slighter quicker off the mark. "As soon as we get enough money together."
"Uh huh," Amelia said, scorn dripping from every dismissive syllable. "And what about the Order? Are you planning to join?"
"As soon as mum can't stop us we'll join." Fred admitted. "We want to help."
Sirius stared at them mercilessly.
"And what about the Bond?" He asked. "What are you two intending to do about that?"
The Twins froze and Sirius continued without waiting for an answer.
"Because we," He gestured to the other two adults, "Have something of a common interest. Keeping my daughter safe." Sirius' eyes were dark and cold and incredibly frightening. "Something you two have not been doing a terrible good job of recently. In fact you've been hurting her almost as much as this war has."
"We…" George started, but Amelia cut across him.
"We also realised that you two might not realise quite how powerful your friend is going to be. Hermione is Sirius and Minerva's legal Heir. Eventually that will make her a Lady of her own House. Do you understand what that means?"
Fred and George exchanged a look. They didn't. The Weasley's had never been high in the social standing, the closest they'd gotten was when their great grandfather had married a Black who had promptly been struck from the family tree.
But they were also willing to bet Hermione didn't know what it meant either.
"And then we thought about the war." Remus said, deceptively lightly. "And how the first thing two young men like yourselves would do when free from school would be to join the fight. And that presents us with a problem."
"You can't just stop us from fighting! We want to help!"
"We won't. We just want you to remember that the two of you carry a potential crisis on your wrists at all times." She nodded towards their bracelet. "A crisis which has our Hermione right in the middle of it. You cannot just go rushing into fights. I refuse to have a repeat of your Uncles."
They stared at her and Amelia sighed.
"I was the first Auror on the scene." The witch removed her monocle and rubbed at her eyebrow. "I found them. Damn shame."
Fred Gideon and George Fabian let out duel sighs.
"What's your point?" George asked.
"We want you to be careful." Remus told them seriously. "I know you want to help but if something happens to you…"
"You want to make sure Hermione's going to be okay." Fred realised.
"Sorry. I mean we like you two, but Harry and Susan and Hermione are always going to be our first priority."
"And on that subject," Sirius leaned forward in his chair. "If you two ever cock it up with my daughter again like you did this year, I swear on this House that you will never see her again, because my revenge will be swift and merciless." He smiled darkly, looking utterly furious. "Do you understand me?"
The Twins swallowed heavily and nodded.
"So boys," Remus pressed. "What are you going to do about the bond?"
Fred and George didn't need to look at each other to speak as one.
"That's up to Hermione." They said.
Amelia finally smiled.
"PREFECT?" Fred bellowed.
"Fred, be quiet." Molly beamed at her son. "Oh, I'm so proud of you."
Ron grinned at his mother, shiney new prefect badge in his hand.
Fred and George pretended to wretch into their breakfast, mostly to see if it would make Hermione smile. She was reading her book list, but also seemed to be finding it funny enough to giggle quietly.
"I wonder who the other one is, Hermione dear?" Molly asked, looking at the girl hopefully. Hermione looked up and made a point of turning her envelope upside down. Nothing fell out. "Oh well," Mrs Weasley rallied quickly. "I'm sure there's a very good reason."
"Yeah," George murmured quietly while his mother fussed over Ron. "Why aren't you prefect?"
"Minnie said she wasn't stupid enough to make a daughter of the Black House prefect, particularly with you two as my best mates."
Fred, on her other side, cackled loudly.
"I'm sure your dad is very proud." They looked up at Sirius who winked at them over his morning coffee.
"So who is it?" George pressed.
"Parvati Patil," Hermione murmured. "It'll be good for her. 'side's Lavender was too daft and Fay is too shy."
"You're bloody magnanimous aren't you?" Fred teased as Amelia walked in off the night shift and collapsed into the chair next to Sirius.
"Love of my life!" Sirius crowed. She groaned, clutching at her temples "None of our children have become prefects!" He beamed at her. "I'm so proud."
"Actually," Susan murmured from further down the table. "That's not true." She held up her yellow prefect badge and Sirius changed tack comically fast.
"And I am so proud of you, darling!" He got up as Amelia made supportive noises in the general direction of her niece. "I must inform the portraits." He flounced out dramatically as Hermione dissolved into snickering.
There was a small party that evening, organised mostly by Mrs Weasley, but helped with (or possible hindered by) Sirius. There was cake and food and Sirius brought the record player down to the kitchen to play music.
Most of the Order was in attendance, although that was probably because people wanted an excuse to party, rather than caring about the large banner which read "Congratulation to Ron and Susan".
"I'm so glad we've been a bad influence on you." Fred muttered in her ear, as he looked around the room disgusted.
Hermione snickered into her pumpkin juice.
"Do I want to know what you two did to that cake?" She asked quietly.
"No, no you do not." George murmured. "But maybe warn your brother?"
"And Susan." Fred added.
"And Amelia…" George frowned, taking in the room full of Order members, Aurors and people they genuinely liked. "We may have not thought this through, 'cuse us Amazon."
Hermione shook her head ruefully as they darted off, wearing slightly strained smiles.
She smiled up at Tonks, who was a statuesque blonde today, not unlike Aunt Amy, but considerably younger.
"Tonks." She frowned. "New look?"
The older witch shrugged.
"Trying a new tactic." She said determinedly. Hermione gave her a weird look which she ignored. "Can't believe we've got another prefect in the family." She grinned. "Professor Sprout always said I lacked certain abilities necessary to being a prefect."
"Like the ability to behave." She smirked devilishly and then slopped her drink onto the floor. "Bugger. Oh no, Moody's here. Excuse me before he starts lecturing about Constant Vigilance." She scurried off, losing two inches in height as she went.
The Twins eventually made their way back to Hermione, have disarmed whatever spellwork they'd set up around the cake, just in time for Molly to start serving it.
"Can we talk to you for a minute?" Fred asked suddenly, as people began moving towards the food. He didn't wait for an answer and slipped out the kitchen door and up the stairs to the entrance hall. Hermione exchanged an eyeroll with George, but followed him anyway.
"What's wrong?" Hermione asked, warily.
"You know how mum really doesn't want us to join the Order?" Fred started, frowning. He was pacing across the small space, coming worryingly close to Mrs Black's portrait. George leant against the banister and folded his arms, apparently willing to let his twin handle this by himself.
"I may have heard something about that," Hermione deadpanned, "Yes." Hermione had sat through at least seven lectures on the topic. She, and the rest of the house, was well aware of Mrs Weasley's views on the Twins plans.
"Oh, no." George corrected, "You're digging this hole by yourself mate."
Fred glared at his twin.
"Fine. I was wondering what you thought about that."
"About you joining the Order?" Hermione clarified, slightly confused. He nodded. "I think it's something you're likely to do?" She offered. Fred stared at her blankly. "What? I'd join if I thought they'd let me."
Her bondmate let out a low growling sound and George sighed.
"Amazon, I think he's asking if it would bother you."
"Bother me?" Hermione frowned. "Lots of things bother me at the moment. You two wanting to do something about this stupid bloody war that's threatening everything we've ever known and may actually cause the deaths of my entire family, is the least of my problems." She glared at him fiercely and took in a long breath before releasing it slowly. George rubbed her back, murmuring soothingly.
Hermione sighed and stepped away from him.
"It's your life, Fred. Do what you like with it." She rubbed at her eyes. "I'm going to congratulate Susan. Night boys."
George glared at his brother.
"Are you happy now?"
"I've had enough of this!" Susan announced. "I admit defeat. It's too much for me."
"I warned you." Hermione, who was straddling a chair, deftly untangled her hair from the braid Susan had been trying to wrestle it into. "It's impossible!"
"No!" The Hufflepuff drew herself up. Apparently Hermione's practical approach to hairstyles had been infuriating the girl for some time and Susan was determined to find something more flattering. "Nothing is impossible. We just need to bring out the Battle Magic!"
"Do you mean "big guns".."
"Sirius!" Susan yelled over her. There was a pause and then the sound of running footsteps as Sirius bounded down the stairs. Walburga Black's portrait started to scream and the footsteps paused long enough to wrench the curtains closed again before Sirius threw open the door to the sitting room.
"You called?" He asked, only looking slightly annoyed. He frowned slightly as he took in his step-niece and adopted daughter. "What are you two doing?"
Susan waved her hand dramatically at Hermione's hair and then whined, "Help!" in the most pathetic manner Hermione had ever heard.
Sirius rolled his eyes, but he was smiling.
"Fine. What were you trying to do?" He asked as he took up the hairbrush Susan had been using.
"Wait? You can braid hair?" Hermione asked, amazed.
"Lucky for you, yeah. Black's are either blessed with hair that behaves or hair...well like this actually." He started running the brush gently through Hermione's curls. "I got lucky. My little brother did not, he had hair like our mum and she wouldn't let him cut it until he want to Hogwarts. So I used to have to braid it for him." He paused and let out a hissing noise between his teeth. "Susan, sweetheart, go and get us some tea. This will take a while and I want to teach both of you how to do this properly."
Hermione resigned herself to the realisation that her family was utterly mad.
While Susan was down in the kitchen, Sirius paused in brushing her hair.
"I know what you're doing for Harry," He said gently. "And I just want to say thank you for taking care of him like that."
Hermione twisted to frown at him.
"I wanted to help." She told him honestly. "And he is my brother."
She heard more than saw Sirius smile as she turned back around.
"Yeah, he is."
"Where are you sleeping every night?"
Hermione glanced up from her book to stare across the library. The teenagers had been banished there after they'd been caught trying to listen to the Order meeting going on in the kitchen. Hermione was well aware that what Sirius told her and Harry was far from the full story.
Ron was frowning at Harry who was lounging on the floor trying to win a chess game against Susan. Susan had at least stopped losing out of sympathy, Hermione noticed.
"I sleepwalk," Harry said instantly. "Mysterious forces take control of me in my sleep and I go wandering around the house."
"Yeah, didn't Sirius find you in Charing Cross a few weeks ago?" Fred supplied easily. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief as the twins took up the lie. She hadn't spoken to them about her staying with Harry, as it was none of their business as far as she was concerned, but it was nice to know they were on her side.
She looked up just in time to catch the thoughtful look on Ginny's face and quickly went back to her book.
"Sirius, you cannot seriously be okay with this! They're fifteen!"
Hermione frowned slightly as she drifted awake. Then she winced as Harry elbowed her in his sleep.
"Molly, you're completely delusional…"
"Wha.." Harry managed.
There was a soft crack and George appeared in the corner of the library. He rushed over to them, looking worried.
"Quick," He breathed, helping Hermione to her feet. "Ginny ratted you out, we've got to get you out of here before Mum gets passed Sirius."
"What?" Hermione insisted, exchanging a confused look with her still mostly asleep brother. She couldn't say much more before George disapparated again, taking her with him. "Oh, urgh!"
She automatically grabbed the bundle Fred shoved at her, fighting her nausea.
"You need to get dressed." He ordered, as the two of them turned their backs. "It'll look too suspicious if you're in your pyjamas too."
Hermione was starting to piece everything together now, so she dressed as quickly as she could, keeping on eye on the Twins to make sure they didn't look.
They resolutely stared at the door.
"We're lucky we were up early this morning." Fred muttered to his brother. George sighed,
"Tell me about it. Mum's on the warpath!"
"Why?" Hermione asked as she struggled into her jumper.
The Twin's shoulders hunched.
"She thinks you're stepping out on us?" George offered.
Hermione rolled her eyes.
"She doesn't know you and Harry are related." Fred explained, "And she's got opinions." He added, ears flushing red.
Hermione kicked her pyjamas under Fred's bed as a knock came on the door. Susan burst in without waiting for a response.
"Hair!" She hissed, gesturing for Hermione to turn. "You look like you just woke up."
"That's because I have!" Hermione snapped, annoyed. "This is ridiculous.."
"She's interrogating Harry right now," Susan murmured around her mouthful of hair pins. "We've only got a minute."
Hermione scowled as Susan accidentally stabbed her with a pin, but stood still long enough for her hair to pinned back.
"Huh," The twins had turned back around and Fred was considering her hair. "We wondered how you'd been doing that."
"Looks nice." George added and winked at her.
Mrs Weasley burst into the Twins room thirty seconds later, Sirius right behind her.
"Look, I told you there was nothing to worry about." He announced, gesturing at the scene before them.
Susan and Hermione were listening raptly to an explanation about Fred and George's latest Skiving Snackbox and looked, for all intents and purposes, as though they'd been there for sometime. Molly stared around the room with narrowed eyes.
"Breakfast is in ten minutes," was all she said, before storming out.
Sirius waited until she was well and truly gone before he collapsed onto the carpet, gasping for breath.
"I haven't done anything that ridiculous since I had to smuggle Lily out of James' room the first time she stayed at Potter Manor." He gasped. They all stared at him. "Oh, we levitated her out a window." He added, as though that explained anything.
"Thank Merlin we're going back to Hogwarts tomorrow." Susan muttered.
Draco was delivered to the station by Amelia, it had been considered too dangerous for Narcissa to go out in public like that. He didn't draw much attention to himself and Hermione had almost forgotten about him by the time she'd gotten settled in a compartment with the Twins and her family. And Luna who was admiring the holographic fridge magnet Hermione had got her in Vienna by holding it right in front of her eye and swaying slightly.
There was a soft knock and they looked up to see a bloody nosed Draco watching them through the glass.
"What does he want?" Fred asked, scowling.
Hermione opened the door and frowned.
"What happened?" She demanded.
"What the bloody hell do you think happened?" Draco snapped furiously. "No one wants anything to do with a blood traitor…"
"Episki." Hermione muttered, tapping his nose with her wand. The bone snapped back into place with a sickening crunch. Draco glared at her. "Sit down." She ordered.
"Yes, Miss Black." He grumbled and dropped into a spare spot. Luna looked up long enough to smile brightly at him. Draco looked faintly horrified.
"What?" George demanded.
"Yeah, I second that." Fred scowled. "What?"
Hermione closed the compartment door firmly and then sat back down in the now slightly crowded compartment.
"Interesting story…" Harry started and then explained the whole thing as though he had been there.
"You know you can't call me that at school," Hermione asked, as Harry embellished the story to include Sirius' daring fight against Gringotts dragons. The Twins listened raptly.
Draco glared at her over the top of his potions book.
"I'm serious," She pressed. "People can't know about that."
He rolled his eyes, which seemed to be as close to an agreement as Hermione was likely to get.
"So, he's just...a part of the family now?" Fred asked, amazed.
"Yep." Harry grumbled. "Although I'm guessing the snakes don't want anything to do with him now. Not that I can blame them."
"Harry," Susan warned, glaring at him. He subsided into quiet muttering. "Do you know who the new Defense professor is this year, Luna?" She added, apparently keen to change the subject.
"Dolores Umbridge." Hermione supplied when Luna shook her head. "Dad said she's some prejudiced witch from the Ministry." Actually Sirius had called her "That toad skinned cow who tried to have Moony rounded up". Remus had scowled at him and told him to watch his language in front of impressionable children, so Sirius had started listing every swear word he knew, just to piss him off. Susan had taken notes.
"That doesn't sound good." Fred murmured. "I wonder what Dumbledore thinks about that."
"No one else would take the job," Harry pointed out. "I imagine he hasn't had much of a choice."
"She used to date Barty Crouch Jr."
They all turned to stare at Draco, who seemed to shrink on himself slightly.
"My dad told me." He muttered. "Apparently, she was so awful even the Death Eaters wouldn't go near her."
Let me tell you, the staff were as shocked at Umbridge's appointment as the students. Those of us who were muggleborn or half-blooded like myself were concerned this marked the beginning of something terrible at Hogwarts. We just had no idea at the time how right we were.
"..I'm sure we'll all be the best of friends." Umbridge smiled sweetly at the students, several of whom visibly recoiled.
Hermione, sitting between Fred and George felt them tense next to her. She pitched her voice just loud enough so that they could hear her.
"Whatever you're planning," She breathed. "I want in."
The smirks that cross the Twins' faces were truly frightening, Harry thought to himself.
This chapter was supposed to go all the way up to Christmas. But I realised it was already 14,000 words longs so...
Hope you like it.