After much deliberation and arguing two and throw, it was decided to withhold occlumency sessions with Hermione for at least a week or so. The moon was set to take its full form once more, and neither Sirius or Remus wanted to be away from Hermione should any revelations be made.

A plan was put in place to ensure that Hermione was at least semi content during the night that they were away, and an answer came in the form of an infamous pink haired Auror and equally eclectic French Veela, who had endless promises of an exciting day that would undoubtedly keep Hermione's curious mind occupied.

"The key is to tire her out," Remus explained seriously, as Tonks and Fleur arrived around mid morning. "She'll probably get a bit upset around night time, but I've left her favourite book on the bedside table"

"I was actually thinking of telling her a few ghost stories instead - or maybe chuck a few horror films on the TV" Tonks said innocently, "Merlin's beard Remus, I was only joking," she laughed at his immediate concern. Truthfully, she'd been looking forward to the day for weeks; work had been utterly relentless, and a day spent herding little Hermione about with Fleur seemed like just the cure - even if Fleur would have to ditch them for a shift at Gringott's in the afternoon.

"Where is le petit tresor?" Fleur asked airily, as Remus continued to give them instructions in extraneous detail.

As it turned out, Hermione was in the middle of an incredibly high-stake pretend game with Dobby and Kreacher (the type that involved her raiding Sirius's wardrobe and shuffling the floor in his boots), when her attention was redirected to new people arriving downstairs, and she immediately went about running down the stairs.

"Tonks! Fleur!" she called out happily, she'd been told that they were taking her on a witches-only day out, which excited her greatly.

"Thought I heard a little monkey clambouring about" Tonks replied, throwing her in the air, "want to know what we're doing today?" she asked, and Hermione nodded instantly, "Well, we're going to pay a visit to a dragon sanctuary -"

"Dragons!" Remus choked, and even Sirius's eyes widened as he entered the room.

"I promise you Remus, it is completely safe" Fleur assured, sincerity painted across her porcelain features, "I take my sister all 'ze time. You know how passionate Charlie is about - how do you say in English? - reducing the stigma around those creatures"

Remus sighed, truthfully he would have preferred that they could "reduce the stigma" from behind the pages of a book. However, he knew that Fleur had at least some experience with the beasts, but more importantly would never dream of putting her little sister of Hermione in any sort of danger - equally, Tonks was a trained Auror who'd sent enough hardened criminals to Azkaban to make her a force to be reckoned with.

"Are you sure I can't come?" Sirius asked theatrically, in a very risky use of reverse psychology. Fortunately, Hermione fell for the bait.

"No! It's only for witches!" she said pridefully, her button nose upturned.

"You tell him Hermione" Tonks laughed, "then when we come back we're going to have a sleepover, and Fleur is going to do our hair" she said, and promptly made her own buzz cut hair flash between different neon colours.

"I want green hair! Please can I?!" Hermione exclaimed, jumping up and down with excitement.

"Don't you want to see the dragons first?" Fleur teased lightly.

"Oh yeah! Can we go now?!" she said with childish disregard.

"Charming" Sirius muttered under his breath, sharing a look with Remus. In reality, both of them were filled with relief that unlike in previous months, Hermione was entirely comfortable with them going away from the night, meaning they had nothing to worry about - well, other than coming home to her with green hair.

"Only if you show me how fast you can put your jacket and hat on," Tonks said. It wasn't a surprise to anyone at how naturally she acted around Hermione - with her carefree and joyous nature, she was a natural around children, even if she didn't have that much experience.

"Okay, I'm the fastest" Hermione boasted, and scampered out the room.

She returned moments later wearing a knitted bobble hat from Mrs Weasley, and a pink puffer jacket that she'd buttoned up unevenly.

Grinning, Remus knelt down and redid the buttons for her.

"I'll see you tomorrow, alright? Have fun with Tonks and Fleur" he said, hugging her tightly. He knew that she would occupy his thoughts for the majority of the torturous night ahead.

"I will. Love you!" she said

"I love you too," Remus replied. The ache in his chest had yet to cease every time she said those words, and as he watched her hurry to hug Sirius and repeat the same sentiment, he knew that he felt the same way.

After all farewells were said, the three witches hurried into the fireplace and consumed by brilliant blue flames.

000000000000000

The Mulisine's Sanctuary for Old and Mistreated Dragons was tucked between the rolling cliffs of the devonshire countryside, and although it was still a fairly new venture, proudly homed no fewer than thirty six dragons; ranging from Common Welsh Greens to Ukranian Ironbellies.

Naturally, the sanctuary was guarded by a powerful sheath of protective magic, as well as an illusion charm similar to that used on the castle of Hogwarts, though

could be easily accessed by witches and wizards simply by stepping across the golden gates.

"Ready?" Fleur asked Hermione, who's enthusiasm was rolling off of her in waves. Fleur had always found herself drawn to the joyful nature of children, it reminded her pleasantly of her own youth spent hidden away in the French countryside. Her parents would have taken her on a day out such as this, not because they didn't love her, but because Veela children were the most sought after by traffickers - meaning time spent in the public eye was simply too dangerous. It was largely what inspired Fleur to become trained in self-defence and duelling, so that she could confidently allow her little sister to have all the carefree experiences that she was denied. Equally, the few details that she gathered about Hermione's childhood made her want to offer her the world.

"Yep!" Hermione affirmed, and with a glance at Tonks, the three of them crossed once more into the magical realm.

The sanctuary was divided into two main sections; there was a vast arena in which the majority of the dragons communed in peace, and a row of individual "kennels" with a glass wall taller than a skyscraper in order to house the more timid or injured creatures.

Both Tonks and Fleur watched Hermione's jaw drop in shock, as her brown eyes widened almost comically to take in the scene around her.

"Wow!" she breathed after many moments.

"Pretty cool, huh?" Tonks agreed, ruffling Hermione's hair, "come on, let's get a closer look"

Gradually, the three of them made their way across each kennel, where Hermione greeted each dragon individually, and Tonks read out the placard of information that was attached to each creature.

"Look, it says 'zat this one here is nearly eight hundred years old" Fleur pointed out, having spotted the golden inscribed number among the paragraph of text.

"Does it say when her birthday is?" Hermione asked randomly, as Tonks hoisted her on her shoulders to get a closer look.

"I'm afraid not love, she does look ancient though bless her" The Auror observed. The dragon in question had clearly once been of a deep purple complexion, but age had worn her scales to a pale pink shade; her body was littered in deep set scars, and as she stretched out a limb it became noticeable that she was missing many claws. Even so, if this ancient beast decided to destroy a few sizable towns, she could do so in the blink of an eye. "I reckon she might be older than McGonagall"

"Is P'fesor McGonagall eight hundred years old?" Hermione gasped, and Fleur hid a laugh.

"At least - but don't tell her I told you, alright? She doesn't like people knowing" she warned, peering up at the child on her shoulders. Hermione nodded solemnly, although something told Tonks that she would definitely live to regret that statement sooner or later.

"Fleur, can you read the words on this one?" Hermione asked as they neared the next enclosure. Fleur felt a steady blush rise to her chest, although she'd been living in Britain for upwards of two years and her spoken English had taken great strides, she still balked at the thought of reading such an impossible language. Her mind flashed back to the many evenings spent with Bill as she paced his living room and vented about the absurdity of english grammar, throwing flashcards about the place helplessly.

"Oh… I am afraid I don't know 'zat many words, my sweet" she admitted.

"That doesn't matter! You just have to sound them out" Hermione said confidently.

"Honestly Fleur, I just make up the words that I don't know," Tonks admitted subtly, and Fleur smiled. As the youngest two women in The Order, she'd come to see Tonks as not only as both a friend and an ally, and despite her clumsiness, Tonks did always seem to know what to say.

Sufficiently encouraged, Fleur hesitantly read the tiny script on the placard, stumbling over the occasional word and inevitably twisting some of the pronunciations, but overall found it far less painstaking than she'd feared, perhaps because neither Hermione or Tonks gave her any impression of being inpatient or exasperated with her.

"You've got a lovely reading voice" Hermione said brightly, and Fleur blushed with pride and adoration for the sweet girl.

"Not as lovely as you, mon chou" she doted, "do you want to say hello to 'ze Chinese Fireball?" she asked, indicating to the infamous beast in the enclosure.

"I wish I could" Hermione said mournfully, "but I can't speak Chinese"

When Tonks and Fleur eventually stopped laughing, much to the confusion of a very serious Hermione; the three of them explored the remainder of the enclosures and eventually came to the main arena where a tall mixed-race woman with animated tattoos and long braided hair was giving a speech on dragon welfare.

When it came time to ask questions, Hermione's hand was the first to shoot up. She wanted to know what made dragons able to breathe fire without getting burned from the inside.

"Brilliant question" the dragon-tamer praised, and Hermione beamed, "well fortunately fire-breathing dragons have a protective layer of rough skin on their insides which protects their nerves and muscles from damage from the fire. It's an incredibly unique genetic mutation that allows them to adapt to all sorts of environment, and the only time we see that type of thing in humans is with something called metamorphagus"

"That's what Tonks is!" Hermione cried, still on said woman's shoulders, "she's a metamor - er - metamorphosis"

Tonks could almost hear Mad-Eye's angry growl telling her to, "keep a low profile, and don't give anyone your names", and wondered how he would react if he saw that every set of eyes had turned to face her, and were eyeing her curiously.

"Cheers for that one, Hermione," she said, and gave a sheepish grin to the onlookers. There was still a lot of suspicion regarding her kind, the power to be able to change one's appearance at will often evoked more fear than it did admiration. The only person who looked purely intrigued rather than judgemental, was the dragon tamer.

"Well that is very special" she said, and Hermione nodded in agreement.

Once the speech was finished it was time for Fleur to leave to attend her shift, and she promised to meet them back at Grimmauld Place with a hoard of sweets and jewels to play with. In the meantime, Tonks took Hermione to a nearby cafe, which was located beneath a large glass dome at the far side of the sanctuary.

"Can I have pudding first?" Hermione asked sweetly, her legs dangling off the seat.

"Sure" Tonks agreed easily, aware that no other responsible adult would permit such a thing - however she'd already decided that she was going to establish her role as the fun cousin before anyone else could. "Just promise me you'll eat all your lunch"

"I promise" she replied instantly, eagerly scanning over the pictures of various icecreams and brownies. In the end she settled for a mixture of cookie dough and vanilla, while Tonks chose raspberry and mint - with extra sprinkles.

"Look! It's the dragon lady!" Hermione said in an awed whisper, and sure enough Tonks caught sight of the athletic brunette, who was walking confidently across the hall with a brilliant smile across her face. Tonks must have looked for a moment too long because the next words out of Hermione's mouth were, "you fancy her"

"What? No I do not" Tonks said defensively, slightly unnerved by the fact that Hermione was so observant.

"Do so" Hermione said smugly, "can she have lunch with us?"

"No absolutely - "

Except Hermione was already waving animatedly towards the woman, who waved right back and began to approach them.

"Hermione!" Tonks said in an urgent whisper, "don't tell her your name alright? Remember what Mad-Eye said". Honestly, the last thing Tonks wanted to do was have to obliviate some random woman because Hermione had tried to set them up.

"I won't!" Hermione insisted, and instantly turned to the fast approaching dragon tamer. "My name's George" she said confidently, and Tonks didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

"Right, yeah, our Georgina hates her full name - her parents are very progressive" Tonks fumbled, reaching out to shake the woman's hand, "I'm Tonks" she introduced.

"Pleasure to meet you two again, I'm Ivy" the woman said, "I don't believe I've met a metamorphagus in the flesh before" she grinned.

"Well I'm glad to be your first" Tonks said brazenly, she allowed her eyes to flash different colours.

"Do the beak face!" Hermione urged.

"I don't think Ivy wants to see my beak face, doll. Maybe another time"

"I definitely do want to see that," Ivy said instantly, and winked conspiratively at Hermione. "I mean, only if you're willing I don't want to - "

She was silenced into awe when Tonks morphed her mouth and nose into the shape of a beak, and crossed her eyes for comedic effect, much to the glee of Hermione.

"That's incredible," Ivy breathed.

"Not as cool as working with dragons, I'd say" Tonks rebuked.

"Even so"

Ivy ended up joining the pair of them for lunch, and tirelessly answered every one of Hermione's questions about dragons ("where do they go to school? Can they fly in space? Do they have dreams? Can they make fire underwater?"). Tonks found herself equally as fascinated with the answers as Hermione - or rather, fascinated with the way that Ivy's dark eyes shone with knowledge, or how she moved her hands in sporadic gestures as she spoke.

"What time do you get off work?" Tonks asked, wondering at how to hint that she was very much interested in getting to know Ivy more.

"About forty five minutes ago" she replied, looking a tad bashful.

"Oh! Well I was thinking about taking -er - Georgie for a walk along the coast if you'd like to join us" she offered.

"I'd love to," Ivy replied instantly, "only if I take you both to the gift shop first" she winked.

Sure enough, tucked away by the exit of the sanctuary was a vibrantly coloured gift shop with the same decor as Tonks recognised from muggle establishments (except without the hopping chocolate frogs or charmed sugar quills that floated about the place. It was fair to say that Hermione was equally enchanted with the nic-naks than she was the actual dragons, and eventually set her eyes on a stuffed dragon toy with rich green eyes and dark pink fur, which was charmed to fly about a foot away from it's desired owner, when not perched on their shoulder.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Hermione uttered gratefully at the checkout, hopping from foot to foot.

"Anything for you sunshine, consider it an early christmas present" Tonks said agreeably.

"Hey, this is my treat" Ivy interrupted, and quickly passed a handful of galleons to the shopkeeper (another similarity with Muggle establishments, is that gift shops were always overpriced).

"Don't be silly I - "

"You paid for lunch," Ivy reminded her, raising a brow.

"Well then it's Ivy you can thank Georgie, looks like I still owe you a christmas present" Tonks said with mock annoyance, "cheers mate" she nodded to the shopkeeper.

"Enjoy the rest of your day, sir" the shopkeeper said back. It wasn't a common occurrence for Tonks to be mistaken for male, even when she identified as otherwise. Despite the pink hair, her strong jawline, broad shoulders and even the way she walked tended to throw people off. Still, she didn't think anything of it until they had left the shop.

"Tonks" Hermione began in an imploring tone.

"Yeah?"

"Are you a boy or a girl?"

Tonks laughed at the innocent curiosity in Hermione's voice. To say that her relationship with gender was loose would be an understatement - particularly when she was younger. For the most part she felt most comfortable when she was androdgynous, and swayed between either sides of the binary.

"It changes" she said simply, "today I'm a girl, but tomorrow I might feel like a boy". Hermione paused to process this information. "Are you a girl or a boy?" she asked teasingly, already imagining the headache Remus and Sirius would give her for deconstructing the gender binary to their kid.

"I'm a girl, silly" Hermione said matter-of-factly, "but tomorrow I think I want to be a dragon".

The three then made their way out of the sanctuary and into the bracing cold of the late afternoon, where the sun had already gone down and the sound of crashing waves from below the cliffs filled the air.

"So what do you do for work?" Ivy asked as they watched Hermione dart in front of them, the stuffed dragon swooping above her head. It was at this point that Tonks noticed that Mrs Weasley had charmed Hermione's hat to glow in the dark, and couldn't help but laugh as a neon pink shape zig-zagged ahead of them.

"I, er" she began, don't say Auror, don't say Auror, "I'm a tattoo artist" she said, glancing at the shadowed flowers that crept up Ivy's neck.

"No way!" Ivy exclaimed, and Tonks felt guilt creep up her spine. Obviously if things ever got serious between her and this girl - which she doubted they ever would - she would tell her, but right now it was too dangerous.

"Yeah, it's a family business" she said (well, her father had always dreamt of owning a tattoo parlour).

"Are you parents muggles?" Ivy questioned.

"My dad is, how about yours?"

"Yeah, they live over in Hawaii"

"That's wild, I always thought that dragonoligists were all pureblood" Tonks admitted, as it was such a private industry.

"I do stand out a bit" Ivy laughed, "but I don't mind"

"Yeah, standing out is ... good" Tonks agreed, her eyes flickered to Ivy's full lips, and she felt herself blush, but when she glanced up at her eyes, she saw that Ivy was gazing at her intently. It had been so long since ….

The metal bracelet on Tonk's wrist vibrated into life, and she resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Of all the times for work to "call" her as it were, it was never at a convenient time.

"Do you mind if I take this?" she asked, her eyes darted to where Hermione was still merrily playing with her new friend.

"Go ahead," Ivy said easily.

Tonks spun around and brought the bracelet to her mouth. "Hello? I'm already on a mission that I can't -"

"Nymphadora" the warbled voice on the other end spoke, and her heart stopped in her chest when she recognised it as belonging to Mad-Eye. He already knew that she was out with Hermione and wouldn't have a reason to call her unless it was a catastrophic emergency. "There's been an attack at the Ministry, there's still a chance he's here so I need you here at once -"

"An attack?!" she repeated incredulously, she'd not known there to be of such an incident at the Ministry since the first War, "what do I do about Hermione? There's not anyone at Headquarters who can -"

"Drop her off at St Mungo's, a few of the Order will be headed there now" Mad-Eye demanded.

"St Mungo's? Why?" her mouth went dry, "did something happen to one of our own?" she felt heavy with dread at the answer.

There was a pause in which Mad-Eye sighed, exhausted, "They got to Arthur, Dora. I don't think he's going to make it".

"Hermione!" Tonks shouted against the blazing wind the moment Mad-Eye ended the call. She swallowed the overwhelming panic that had risen in her throat, knowing that the Dark Lord had most likely orchestrated such an attack made her nauseous with fear. She didn't think, but sprinted to where Hermione had frozen on the spot and hauled her into her arms.

"Ow, you're hurting me" she said worriedly, confused by the sudden change in atmosphere.

"Sorry, my bad" Tonks apologised, lessening her grip on the child.

"What's going on?" Ivy asked breathlessly, having chased after her, "what did you just call Georgie?"

"Oh shit" Tonks hissed, "I'm really sorry. Something's just come up and we really have to go. If anyone asks, you're better off saying none of this ever happened. I'll try and find you when I can and I swear I'll explain everything" she hurried.

The last thing Tonks saw as she apparated barely a second later, was Ivy's furrowed in confusion.

"Ow! My ears hurt!" Hermione hollered once they'd transported into the deserted London pavements outside of St Mungo's. "And I didn't even get to say goodbye!" she complained sadly.

"I know, that's my bad and I'm really sorry about that, doll" Tonks ushered, she eased Hermione to the ground and knelt before her before bringing her hands to cup the girl's face. Jesus, all she'd wanted was a carefree day out and now she was responsible for navigating an impossibly fragile situation. "There's been a change of plan" she began steadily, assuming that the best way to handle it was to show unwavering confidence.

"Are we not having a sleepover anymore?" Hermione asked mournfully, and Tonks felt her heart break - how on earth did Remus and Sirius manage it?

"Not tonight, angel, but we will really soon - I promise" she said fervently. "Mr Weasley is feeling a little bit poorly, so we're going to pay him a visit in the hospital. I need you to be a very brave girl for me even if things are a bit loud and scary, I promise you nothing bad will happen. Then someone will come and pick you up and take you home. Can you be a brave girl for me?" she asked, trying not to let her desperation leak into her voice.

Hermione's eyes had widened as she listened, and she took a while to deliberate an answer.

"I can be a brave dragon" she said after a moment, and Tonks felt her love for this kid expand like an endless desert around them.

It was very rare that Mrs Weasley felt alone. Obviously, while Arthur was at work and the children at Hogwarts she was the only one at home, but then she had a tireless list of chores to complete, clothes to knit and shopping to do, meaning that she barely had a moment to sense that she was alone.

Now, however, as she sat in the waiting room across from where her husband of almost thirty years, she was overwhelmed with a crippling sense of loneliness.

She felt selfish. Arthur was on death's door and all she could think was, "what would I do without him? How could I provide for the children without him? How would I pay off our debts, for the house, or food and clothes or any number of things that they needed? How could any of them suffer the heartbreak of such a loss if Arthur didn't make it?" Molly knew that she would survive it, of course, she didn't have a choice, but she couldn't live without Arthur, he was the only person who knew every inch of her soul as intimately as his own, who had seen her in the darkest of moments, been there during every second of each pregnancy and labour, and showed her nothing but undying love for every moment that she'd known him.

She pressed her hand to her mouth to stifle her sobs, but instantly turned when she heard the door slam open, revealing a wide-eyed Hermione and a scattered looking Tonks.

"Molly I'm so sorry" Tonks said instantly, rushing over to hug her, "Mad-Eye called me minutes ago I came as soon as I could".

For some reason, seeing another person so distressed triggered something in Molly. It was her job to reassure others, not the other way around.

"It's alright pet, it's fine" she assured, "what are you doing here I thought -?"

"Fleur had to go to work, Mad-Eye needs me over at the Ministry he told me he'd send someone over to get Hermione" she explained hurriedly, and Molly instantly turned to the small child, who was half hidden in Tonks' robes and looking increasingly scared by the minute.

"Oh sweetheart, come here" she said gently, and the moment she was able to hold Hermione in her lap Molly felt instantly calmer, as though decades of muscle memory from her child rearing years were once again activated, and that nothing bad could truly happen with the grounding weight of an innocent child close to her. "Please be careful Dora, love" she said, uneasy at the thought of Tonks going to the Ministry, "send me a patronus when you're home safe".

"I will," Tonks said instantly, "are you sure you'll be alright?"

"Of course, I'll send word to Minerva in a bit and the children should be here soon" she said.

"I'll be back as soon as I can," Tonks said, and after hugging Molly once more and ruffling Hermione's hair, darted out of the building.

"Are you crying?" Hermione asked softly, and Molly gave her a watery smile,

"Just a bit, angel. I was a bit worried, but I feel better now that you're here with me" she said truthfully.

"I feel better that I'm with you, too." Hermione admitted, and wrapped her arms around Molly's neck, who promptly buried her face in Hermione's hair.

"Is Mr Weasley really poorly" the child asked, her face resting on Mrs Weasley's shoulder.

"I'm afraid so" Molly replied in a whisper, willing herself not to cry. She couldn't think about it, she refused to remember the look on the Healer's face as he'd asked about next of kin.

"It's okay, he'll get better really quickly - he's super strong" Hermione said confidently, her mind flashed back to Mr Weasley pushing her on the tire swing for hours and never getting tired.

"He is, isn't he?" Molly agreed, and felt a twinge of hope alite inside her.

Severus stormed through the corridors of the hospital in auto-pilot and tried to suppress the steady panic that lodged itself in his chest. He'd known that the Dark Lord had been planning an attack of some kind, but not one that involved maiming a member of The Order. Arthur Weasley was a good man, he went to work every day at a menial office job, listened to the petty teenage drama of his brood, and was disgustingly in love with his wife - all such information Severus had learned against his will throughout the many years that he had known the Weasley clan. He also knew that if Arthur was to die, his hospital room would be crammed with adoring and heart broken family; his funeral would be attended by hundreds of teary-eyed witches and wizards, all mourning his death. Fleetingly, Severus wondered that if he was to drop dead at that very moment, who would attend his funeral? Hagrid and McGonagall perhaps, out of politeness. He brushed the thoughts aside, knowing it was useless to dwell on such pointless matters.

He needed to get to Hermione. Although he knew that the incident was angled to target Harry rather than her, he felt that she could only be safe enough with him, where he could keep an eye on her. Suddenly he heard Dumbledore's voice echo in his mind.

"You've really grown attached to the girl, haven't you Severus?"

"Oh fuck off, you old fool" Snape muttered under his breath, turning a corner and arriving in yet another generically painted ward. He hastily cast a tracking charm, and followed the sparkling trail to the room in the furthest room of the corridor.

The scene that greeted him made him halt in his tracks. Mr Weasley was almost unrecognisable as he lay paralysed in the hospital bed, his kind face disfigured by ugly purplish bruises, his usually ruddy skin an unnatural shade of palid green. Beside him, Mrs Weasley clutched his lifeless hand in her shaking ones, her swollen eyes trained on her husband. On the other side of the bed was Hermione, who was half leaning on Mr Weasley's side while she kneeled on the chair, and also had her brown eyes trained devotedly on Mr Weasley. Severus wasn't sure what they'd told her, but she looked remarkably calm considering the state of the man she cared for so dearly. Still, he felt almost weak with relief at the sight of her, and already the panic in his chest had begun to subside. She was safe, everything was going to be fine.

He tapped lightly on the door frame to announce his presence, and both inhabitants spun around.

"Oh Severus, I'm so glad you're here" Molly said, and Snape couldn't help but be confused by her sincerity.

"I came as soon as I heard what happened, I'm so sorry about Arthur" he said seriously, nearing the hospital bed. He was never quite sure how to deal with the emotions of others, particularly when they expressed them so freely - as Gryffindors often did. Molly however didn't hesitate when she flung herself into his arms and gripped him tightly, as though he was the only thing keeping her afloat. He stiffened for a moment, before forcing himself to gently place his arms around Mrs Weasley's shaking shoulders.

" - Just worried about the children" she rambled, wiping stray tears from her eyes.

"They are remarkably resilient young people, Molly, particularly as they have each other to rely on" he said evenly, "but don't tell them I said that" he wanted to add. He'd taught every one of the Weasley children, and while it positively pained him to admit - particularly as the youngest four irritated him entirely with their recklessness and disregard for the rules - they were good kids. They were well-liked by other students for no other reason other than being themselves, Fred and George had taken to looking out for those who had fallen victim to Umbridge's detentions, while Ron was protective to the point of idiocy, and Ginny befriended the outcasts of every group. Moreover, those siblings looked out for each other - as a Professor you couldn't give one a detention without the other three knowing about it.

"You're right of course" Molly sniffed, "I'm just being silly. You should take Hermione home, it's safer for her there"

At the mention of her name, Hermione perked up.

"Can't I stay and try to make Mr Weasley feel better?" she asked in a polite tone, "I promise I'm really good"

"I think we should leave Mr Weasley to get some rest" Severus said, "and perhaps you can come and visit when he's feeling better".

Hermione glanced at Molly, apparently waiting for her approval.

"Yes, you go with Severus dear, and thank you for being my little helper" Mrs Weasley gushed, bundling the girl in her arms. Snape had to look away - the moment was so tender he felt as though it would tarnish it to be seen by his eyes.

After goodbyes were said, Snape took Hermione in his arms - as well as the stuffed dragon that she clutched to her chest - and shielded her protectively with his cloak, as it was still a risk for her to be seen by so many people.

"Mr Weasley is going to get better, won't he?" she asked in a small voice.

"Yes he will" Snape replied steadily, and she relaxed against him. Severus wasn't lying, because he knew that if the Dark Lord had wanted to kill Arthur Weasley, then they'd already be planning his funeral.

A/N

Hello! Quite the chapter! I covered quite a few perspectives so I hope it's not too jumpy, it was really fun to write.

It's funny how some phrases or characters just insist on being written - regardless of what had been planned. Namely, Ivy very spontaneously came into existence while I was typing, so here she is.

I had quite a few requests to see Tonks and Fleur interact with Hermione, and I promise that they will get their sleepover in the near future. (In fact, the next few christmas chapters are going to be filled with absolutely tooth-rotting fluff).

Also, I'll use this space to shamelessly self promote the other short works that I've been working on. If you liked reading Tonks and Fleur, definitely check out "jailhouse rock" on my profile. Or if reading about McGonagall comforting an incredibly distraught and injured teenage Sirius, have a look at "Black and blue".

Okay, enough rambling! Thank you for your brilliant reviews, praises and ideas, and let me know your thoughts on this chapter and what you want to see.

Keep safe!

Lucy