CHAPTER FIFTY-FOUR


Summary: Following the death of Voldemort, for her protection against the fugitive Death Eaters seeking revenge, Hermione is sent into hiding along with Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. Forks was said to be the safest place on earth for her, but they didn't plan for a family of vampires or a pack of shape-shifters worming their way into their lives. Or for three of them, in particular, being exactly what Hermione needed to heal and live. Rated M for bad language, violence and sexual content. Poly fic!

Disclaimer: I don't own any canon events or characters, only those that I create. All rights go to J.K Rowling and Stephanie Myers. I don't make a profit writing or posting this fanfic. As for the descriptions of appearances for the Twilight characters, all my research is based on the books and not the movies.

AN

So, erm, I don't know why, but I actually cried writing this. Twice. And once during editing. Let me know if you have the same reaction, or am I just an over-emotional crybaby?

If I can do this right, there's only two more chapters left and then we'll be completed. Finally.

Q&A

Stille und regen – No, I don't have tumbler. I used to but I always forgot about it and so I deleted the account a while ago.

Catzandbookz8 – They are completely different storylines set in different parts of the MCU, so these particular fics won't become a triad pairing, but I may write one in the future.

ora1186 – Edward and Hermione won't be having biological children because that would mean introducing a completing new plotline/point and this is almost complete with only two chapters left, so I'm in the stage of wrapping everything up.

Deana4403 – Hopefully soon.


Page count: 17


Thursday 11th January 2006

She didn't believe it was him. Him, of all people.

Needing to be sure her eyes weren't deceiving her and her mind playing tricks on her, her eyes analysed him closely, looking for any tell or sign that he, a) wasn't real, and b) was an imposter sent to lull them into a trap.

She started at his dragon-hide boots, dark trousers, and a leather belt that had a silver buckle encrusted with emeralds. Raising her gaze higher, she saw a dark silk shirt that fit tightly around his body. The cuffs were unbuttoned, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and showing off his forearms and unblemished skin, and the first two buttons of his shirt also unfastened, showing the perfect skin beneath.

She swallowed as she finally reached his face, taking in the defined jaw-line, perfect nose, indigo-tinted eyes, thick eyebrows and dark curls atop his head, being longer than she remembered them being.

She observed his confidence, arrogance, as he looked to those surrounding them challengingly and curiously before his eyes were drawn to her once more, and then, he gave her the smile. Her smile.

It was him. She knew it was.

His mocha-coloured skin almost helped him blend into his surroundings.

"Hermione?"

She swallowed for the third time, her heart pounding in her ears as she turned her gaze to her father, seeing his worried, suspicious expression, his gaze flying between her, him, and stealing a glance over his shoulder at her boyfriends.

Her extremely jealous boyfriends.

She gave a brief, stuttered nod before clearing her throat and tightening her grip on her raised wand.

"What was the last thing you said to me?"

"We're really doing this?"

"Yes, we are," she replied firmly.

He sighed softly, slipping his hands into his pockets before his gaze locked with hers, unflinching.

"You're looking well."

"Answer the bloody question," she scowled.

His mouth twitched. "Ah, still got that temper, I see. I always did love it when you showed your fire."

"Hermione?" She heard Paul's voice rumble with a growl from behind her.

She closed her eyes. He knows, she knows he does. He'd caught on. She wasn't sure how, but he had.

"What was the last thing you said to me?" She repeated, ignoring the growing tension and stifling silence of their audience.

"I asked you to leave with me... I asked you to marry me."

Her throat tightened and her eyes closed, feeling a tear escape. It was him. Her ex-boyfriend. The one and only... Blaise Zabini.

She heard the tearing of clothing as it ripped from the bodies of the phasing wolves, and heavy thuds sounded as their large paws hit the ground. She spun on her heel, aiming her wand in the direction of the two snarling wolves.

"Stop," she instructed softly, ignoring the surprised glances the Pack and Cullens shared, as well as her family.

Sirius was the only one that knew about her relationship with Blaise Zabini. At least, he was the only one she'd told. She wouldn't be surprised if the twins had suspected anything beforehand; they were remarkably intuitive and observant, more so than people realised.

"I said stop," she said louder, her tone more commanding like an Alpha, it pulling their focus. "Do not harm him. You both knew I had dated others in the past, and you have no reason or right to threaten or harm him." Her eyes briefly moved to Edward, and despite it being evident he wasn't happy with the newest arrival, he was surprisingly calmer than she'd been expecting. "During the course of our relationship, he never once harmed me, did anything inappropriate, and he treated me with respect. Do not move, or I swear, I will hex you both into the grave," she warned, pinning the two large and grumbling wolves with a threatening expression, daring them to argue with her. She looked to her family and lowered her wand. "It's fine," she told them, seeing Fred, George, Bill and Charlie hesitantly lower their wands, and Sirius did so immediately.

"Hermione..."

"It's fine, Alpha," Hermione interrupted, ignoring the flashing amber of his eyes at her ignorance and challenge. "He's not a Death Eater. Blaise is a lot of things, but he's not capable of murder; he'd be too worried about dirtying his acromantula silk robes."

"You know me so well, amora."

Hearing his voice, she turned back to Blaise and despite what he'd just witnessed, he showed no confusion, fear or upset, simply arching an eyebrow.

"Care to explain?"

"What are you doing here, Blaise?" She responded with a question of her own, hearing the muttered voices of Jared and Embry as they moved and attempted to calm Paul and Jacob.

"Why so hostile?"

"I'm not," she denied.

"No? Then why are you treating me like Nott."

"I'm not."

"You are," he argued.

"What are you doing here? How did you find me?"

"I wanted to see you, I missed you."

"Try again," she folded her arms.

"Stop being a bitch," he rolled his eyes. "I heard through the grapevine there was a plan to capture the remaining Death Eaters. I went to Shacklebolt and volunteered."

"Why?" She probed. "You weren't willing to fight before; you wanted me to run away with you, to hide from the war. You're not a fighter, Blaise. You avoid conflict. What's changed?"

"My mother."

"What?" Her folded arms dropped immediately.

"Dolohov cursed her."

"Why?" She blinked slowly.

"She refused to marry him and join the cause. Remaining neutral didn't work. She couldn't be cured."

"Is she...?" She trailed off in a horrified whisper.

"Six months ago."

She felt her stomach twist. Valentina Zabini had been Blaise's entire world and his only family.

Fighting back the tears, she crossed over to him and immediately pulled him into a hug, feeling him stiffen before he relaxed and his arms folded around her tightly, his head burying in her neck.

"I'm so sorry, Blaise. I know how much you loved your mother."

"I really did miss you," he muttered in admittance. "I wish you left with me."

"I couldn't do that, Blaise, I had to stay."

"We could've been married by now, living the life in Milan and spending weekends at the villa in Almalfi or the Maldives."

"That's not the life for me, and you know it."

She drew back from him, hearing her wolves' snarling and growling growing louder and more vicious. It wasn't right of her to make them any more uncomfortable than they already were. When she made to step away, Blaise caught her hand, lifting it so he might better see her wrist and the bracelet that adorned it. His eyes darted up to hers in understanding.

"You're engaged," he said knowingly, his eyes automatically moving to the two large wolves that had drawn closer to Hermione, now being but a few feet behind her.

"Yes, I am."

"Shape-shifters? Two of them?"

"Yes, and Edward, too; he's a vampire. They're my soul bonds."

Blaise's eyes widened before he smiled sadly.

"We weren't written in the stars, were we, amora? I was hoping that we might try again, but now I see it's not possible."

"No, it's not," she agreed. "You'll find someone, Blaise. I'm sure of it."

He chuckled mirthlessly. "No one is ever going to compare to you. You're one of a kind, and I shouldn't have let you go so easily." Shaking his head, he stepped closer to her and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "You deserve happiness, and that's all I want for you. Ti amo, bella."

Her throat burnt and her eyes stung as he smiled down at her, giving her her smile despite his broken heart. And although it wasn't her fault, she'd never felt more guilty.

"Where are you going?" She managed to keep her voice calm as he turned his back to her and walked away.

"Back to my hotel," he responded, halting and looking at her over his shoulder. "Honestly, Black, don't you know me at all? I was made for a life of luxury; camping's not my style. I'll see you later," he winked at her.

"But what about the battle? You don't know the plan."

"I'll speak to Auror Ferry later, he knows to expect me."

And then she watched him slip into the dark cover of the trees and heard the crack, signalling his departure.

Sniffling, she turned around to the stunned looks of the audience, and she couldn't take the stares or judgement. Gripping her wand in her grasp, she spun on her heel and left without offering an explanation.

"Hermione, don't..." Sirius began, but she was already gone.

~000~000~000~

They'd been searching for her for over an hour; vampires, wolves and wizards all scouring the woods, La Push, First Beach and Forks, in hopes of either finding her or picking up a trace that might help them track her. As the minutes continued to tick by, the worry and panic slowly grew until Remus was a pacing mess, his eyes steady amber with his wolf refusing to retreat, and Sirius was moody and snappy.

Tracking her by scent for the vampires and wolves was too difficult; Hermione's scent covering almost every inch of the woods, the salt air interfered and her scent was covered by that of others' in La Push and Forks public areas. The wizards couldn't trace her magical signature; it was a habit for all of them to cover their tracks with false trails, doing so subconsciously and without realisation. All they could rely on was their sight, hearing and knowledge of her favourite spots and hideaways.

Paul had checked the meadow where they'd shared their first kiss, Jacob had tried a little-known cave on First Beach he and Hermione had snuck away to a couple of times before, and Edward, in a final desperate attempt, decided to head to his house. The moment he stepped through the door, he knew. Not only was her scent stronger in the house than usual, but he could hear her heartbeat and the sniffly cries.

As he headed upstairs to his room, he sent a quick text to Carlisle, Jacob and Paul, letting them know that he'd found her and the message could be passed onto the others, her fathers and her brothers, preventing them from worrying any further that something might have happened to her.

When Edward pushed the door open, he saw her shoes on the ground by the foot of the bed and she was curled into a ball beneath the covers, tightly hugging a pillow against her as she lay in the centre of the mattress and cried.

His heart ached and broke for her. He hated seeing her so upset, and now, he could sense it, feel it, almost like it was his emotions. Jasper had told them that before she'd run away, she'd felt distressed, guilty, sad and sickened. All powerful and negative emotions. She was in emotional turmoil, she was hurting, and the battle was tomorrow.

Even if he was silent in his approach, she'd felt that he was nearby and so she didn't startle when the mattress dipped.

"I hurt him. I broke his heart."

"No, you didn't," Edward responded.

"I did."

"Not intentionally," he argued. "Did you expect to see him again?"

"No," she sniffled.

"And the break-up?"

"Difficult but amicable. Blaise isn't one for violence or conflict. When the war became too real and dangerous, he wanted me to leave with him and wait it out in safety. He's a Pureblood; he remained neutral, not wanting to be seen favouring one side over the other. I couldn't do it, Harry needed me, Ron needed me. I needed them. And if I had left with him, the Death Eaters would've searched until they found us. By not leaving with him, I thought I was protecting him. I thought he'd forget about me and move on, and that when we did see each other, he'd be happy with someone else. To be honest, I never expected to survive long enough to see him again. I've hurt him and I hate myself for it."

"Hermione," he began with a sigh, his hand coming up to press against her shoulder, "It's not your fault," he stated. "How were you to know that he would come here with the hopes of getting back together? How were you to know that you'd be mated to three others and engaged? Everything happens for a reason, right? So perhaps him coming here and discovering what he did is what helps him to move on and find closure."

"But he's hurting and it's because of me."

"How long were you together?"

"I'm not sure," she shrugged weakly. "A year and a half, two years, maybe?"

"He didn't seem like the type of guy to catch your interest," he remarked.

"No, I wouldn't have thought so, either," she agreed, finally turning to face him, showing her red, puffy eyes, stained cheeks and chapped lips.

Before she could wipe her eyes, Edward did it for her, his cold touch helping to cool her burning face. And after kicking off his shoes, he laid down beside her, facing her and giving her his full attention.

"Blaise wasn't like the other Slytherins. They were bullies, they thought they were better than everyone else, and around ninety-five percent of the students were Purebloods from known families. Most of them went out of their way to find students to terrorise, especially those that were younger than them, but Blaise... Despite his arrogance, he was quiet and although he did hang around with his house and year mates, from what I remember, I never saw him bullying, threatening or harming anyone, and he was always the one to step in if things went too far. I rarely saw him around the castle, only in our shared classes and in the great hall at mealtimes. In five years, I think we only interacted twice, and it was no more than a few words when we were forced to partner in Potions."

"We didn't really speak to one another until we returned to Hogwarts for our fifth year. I was in the library searching for a specific book and I didn't know he was there until he snuck up behind me. He'd overheard me speaking Italian, something I wasn't aware I was doing until he pointed it out."

Edward's mouth twitched. He'd heard her do it, too. Though it had been with Mandarin and French, and sometimes, Spanish when she was with Jacob. She lapsed into different languages without even realising she was doing it, leaving most confused.

"He wanted to know why I spoke Italian. He was the only person he knew besides himself and his mother that could speak it or understand it without a Translator Charm. And from there... He'd annoy me by following me in the hallways or through the book stacks, and he wouldn't leave me alone until I spoke with him, in Italian, no less. It was good practice, and he was able to help me correct my pronunciation or fill in areas I was unsure about. He started meeting me in the library and I'd help him with his Ancient Runes homework, and one day, he shoved me headfirst into an abandoned classroom and point-blank asked if there was something wrong with me."

Edward arched an eyebrow, expressing his wish for her to continue.

"He'd been flirting with me for weeks and I had no idea; despite my relationship with Viktor the previous year, I was oblivious to wizards and their interest in me. And then he kissed me, and from there, our relationship grew. We kept it a secret, knowing it wouldn't be received well given that I was a Muggleborn and he a Pureblood, and although Blaise wasn't all that arsed about blood supremacy, if the others had found out about us, they would've made our lives a living hell. I came clean to Sirius but told no one else, but I'm sure Harry might've suspected, I mean, he did have the Map and he always had this look in his eye whenever I returned to the common room after meeting up with Blaise."

"He asked you to marry him?"

"Yes, he did," she lowered her gaze.

"How old were you?"

"Seventeen, and it might sound young given the modern muggle practices, but as I've told you before, my people tend to marry young, most within the first three years of graduating. And given that he's a Pureblood and I'm Lady Black, it would have been expected had people discovered our relationship. It's one of the reasons I told Sirius. I didn't want him to be blindsided should it have come out..." She paused, looking at him curiously. "Why didn't you react like Paul and Jacob?"

"You don't like it when I get jealous, and I thought you had enough to deal with without adding to it."

"You've changed a lot since the bonding," she remarked, her brow furrowing.

His mouth twitched and he reached up with his hand, smoothing the wrinkles out of her forehead with his finger.

"The bonding hasn't changed who I am as a person, only the way I think, feel and react. I'm still me, only more mature. I have a better understanding of our relationship and what you need, but that hasn't changed my personality. The bonding's made me grow up, I suppose. Whilst I can and do feel jealous, now I know to contain it, even when your ex-boyfriend arrives unexpectedly, saying he asked you to marry him and was hoping you'd get back together."

"Jacob and Paul didn't."

"They're idiots," he quipped, chuckling when she slapped his arm in admonishment. "And they haven't been set on fire by you. I've learnt my lesson," he added. "Why did you reject his proposal? Did you love him?"

"Did you love Bella?" She retorted.

"No," he answered instantly, and Hermione blinked in surprise at the quickness of his response. "I thought I did but then I met you and I realised that what I felt for her wasn't love. I think it may have been obsession influenced by her being my Singer. Did you love him?"

"Yes, I did," she admitted, lowering her gaze so she didn't have to witness his reaction. "He was arrogant, quiet, narcissistic... But when he was with me, he was kind and thoughtful. He treated me like I was the only girl in the world, and he never harmed or disrespected me. Of course, we had our arguments and fights, we even duelled once, but he never let me leave until we sorted things out. He didn't want us going to bed being angry or hating each other. And for all of his negative qualities, he was a really good boyfriend. I've been lucky in that department. Viktor, Blaise, Jacob, Paul, you... I hated having to break up with him but it had to be done. We had to go our separate ways, and deep down, no matter how much I loved him or how much it hurt to decline his proposal, something told me it wasn't right and that I should wait. Now I know what that was."

"And do you still love him?"

"A part of me does," she lifted her eyes, getting locked with his gaze immediately. "He was my first love, an important person in my life for two years. He was with me for a lot of important and difficult milestones, including my parents' deaths. I can't believe I wasn't there for him when he lost his mother, or that she suffered under the hands of Dolohov. It makes me hate the bastard all the more."

"It wasn't your fault and you didn't know," he tried to soothe her. "And his father?"

"Died when he was a toddler. His mother remarried six times; she was a bit of a Black Widow. No one knew if she married them for their money and killed them off, or if she just had really bad luck. Nothing was ever proven, and it's always been a touchy subject for Blaise, but no matter the relationships, his mother always adored and doted on him. Blaise swore he'd never get married... But he asked me anyway, and that was when I knew I had to end things with him."

"You're not a bad person and you're not responsible for his feelings or his reactions, and you've no reason to feel guilty or upset."

"But I do."

"I know," he nodded. "And there's nothing I can do or say to stop that."

"You being here helps," she said quietly, shifting closer to him and burying her face in his soft shirt when he folded his arm around her. "How bad was it?"

"Not pleasant," he told her, knowing what she was referring to. "Everyone was out searching for you until I found you here and let them know you were safe. They're all on edge, your fathers, in particular, with the battle being tomorrow."

"I had to leave. I needed time. I couldn't breathe; it was too suffocating feeling all those eyes on me, feeling them judging me."

"No one was judging you, they were just surprised."

"Remus will be furious, he's always been protective of me, and more so since the adoption. If he'd have found out about Blaise, or that we were having sex, his wolf wouldn't have taken the news well. You saw his reaction to the bondings, now imagine if it had been with a Pureblood Slytherin, regardless of their neutral standing and lack of a Dark Mark. He'd probably believe that to be worse; refusing to pick a side."

"I'm not going to lie, he did seem more rattled than I've seen him, full moon behaviour included, but I think he's more focused on worrying for your safety than your past relationship. Especially now that you're bonded and engaged, and he knows that we'd never harm you; it goes against our nature to protect you. But we really should be getting back."

"I'm not ready yet."

"You can't hide from this, and the battle is tomorrow," he reminded her. "There are a few last minute details that need to be considered and discussed, and you need sleep. Uninterrupted sleep, which I know you haven't had for the last couple of weeks."

"Just a few more minutes, please, Edward," she whispered.

"Fine, a few more minutes, but then we're going," he acquiesced, hearing her soft sigh when he pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

~000~000~000~

"Don't."

"Hermione..."

"No, Alpha," Hermione interrupted firmly, ignoring the tense silence in the room and the stares that took in her still-red nose, puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks, whilst she stared down the flashing amber eyes unflinchingly. "This is the reason I didn't tell you about Blaise, he may have been a Slytherin, but he was kind to me and he never harmed me. He remained neutral in order to protect his mother, he didn't wish to show or give favour to Voldemort or the Order, hoping he'd be forgotten about and his mother would be safe. Regardless, my relationship with Blaise is in the past and you do not get a say in whom and I do and do not date."

"Moony," Sirius stepped closer, clasping his hand on Remus' shoulder and tightening his grip in warning. "Leave it be."

"Did you know?" Remus looked down at him.

"Yes, I did," Sirius admitted, receiving a look of betrayal. "I've always known."

"And you didn't tell me?"

"We weren't together at the time, and after, I didn't tell you because I knew you'd react this way. I was protecting not only Hermione but your relationship with her. You know as well as I Moony can be an overprotective pain in the arse, and I didn't want his influence over you to jeopardise your relationship. Had anything happened, I would've told you but when they broke things off, I didn't see the point in bringing up the past, especially when it wasn't my secret to tell. Calm down," he warned before looking to Hermione, his expression grave and clearly unhappy with her. "You shouldn't have left like that, Hermione. It was dangerous and stupid."

She scoffed. "As you tell me every day, Papa, I'm an adult and you can't tell me what to do. I'm not stupid, no matter my emotional upset or distress, I'm always careful, as I'm certain you realised when you couldn't track me. I'm not the stupid-leap-head-first-into-danger type of person; that was Harry's forte."

Sirius pursed his lips and held her gaze a moment longer before sighing and brushing his hand through his dark hair.

"What do you want to do?"

"Sleep."

"We could all do with some sleep, and now that you're back and we know you're safe, regardless of what's happened recently, I think we should call it a night and head to bed."

"But we haven't had dinner yet," Quil protested, hissing when he was slapped upside the head by both Embry and Leah, the latter giving the younger wolf an impressively frightening glare.

"Shut it, you idiot," she whisper-hissed which was useless given that the majority of the tent's occupants all had super hearing.

"Well, you're welcome to stay, but I'm going to bed," said Hermione. "I'll see you in the morning."

Without a second glance, she headed to her room and took a seat on the edge of the mattress, bowing her head and burying her face in her hands. She heard the door shut moments later and after taking a steadying breath, she lifted her head, seeing Jacob and Paul stood before the door and Edward was stood by the couch, watching them carefully.

"I'm not in the mood for an argument," she told them.

"Why didn't you tell us?" Paul said regardless of her words.

"How was I to know he'd show up here? I never thought I'd see him again, I didn't even think I'd survive the war long enough to after our breakup."

"Why didn't you tell us he asked you to marry him?"

"I didn't think it mattered."

"Of course it matters," Jacob scowled.

"Does it?" She challenged. "Why? Tell me why it matters? He is a part of my past, and yes, he asked me to marry him, but I declined and ended the relationship to protect him. He wanted me to leave with him but I couldn't. You don't see me throwing hissy fits over your past relationships."

"Besides you, I haven't had a girlfriend since I left middle school," Jacob argued.

"And I've never had a girlfriend," Paul added.

"That's worse," she replied. "Anyone I walk past in the street could've slept with you, for all I know. And Blaise didn't come to cause trouble, he didn't know about you and when he found out, he backed off."

"Has he?" Paul arched an eyebrow.

"Yes. You heard him, he just wants me to be happy. Blaise doesn't like conflict and confrontation, and he's not one to get involved with another's relationship. He doesn't like sharing."

"That won't stop him from trying to take you from us," Jacob pointed out.

Hermione made a noise of frustration and stood to her feet, throwing her hands up in anger.

"He wouldn't do that; Blaise is a wizard, he understands the important or soul bonds just as the rest of the pack understands the importance of imprints. And we are bonded. For you to even contemplate the idea that I'd leave you for him is hurtful and disrespectful. I would never think that of you. Don't you trust me?"

"Yes, it's him we don't trust."

"He's not going to be an issue."

"And you know that?" Paul challenged.

"Yes, I do," she growled. "And right now, you're causing me more stress and harm than Blaise ever did. Leave me alone."

She stormed past them and into her bathroom, seeing their horrified expressions just as the door swung closed and slammed shut. Her back pressing to the door, she slid down it until she sat on the ground, her hands fisting in her hair and her head bowing, trying to calm her magic and her anger whilst ignoring Edward's snarls of reprimand to the two shifters.

Edward's flare in temper was usually caused by his jealousy and having to share her with Paul and Jacob, but this time, it was caused by them hurting her feelings. Usually, she would step in to prevent an argument or injuries, but as she heard raised voices arguing back, this time, she wasn't going to stop them. She didn't have the energy.

She already felt bad and she didn't need Paul and Jacob to make her feel even worse. She closed her eyes and did her best to block out the noise, drawing on her Occlumency training in an effort to decompartmentalise and shut down the emotions that made her feel so terrible. She didn't have time for a distraction; they would be fighting for their lives in less than twenty-four hours. She had to be on top form and ready to dive in headfirst.

A knock on the door startled her back to reality and that's when she realised the lack of raised voices coming from the other side of the door. How much time had passed?

"Hermione? Please come out, we need to talk to you," said Jacob, sounding guilty and shameful. "We didn't mean to upset you. We let our jealousy get the better of us. We love you; you're our life, you know we'd never intentionally hurt you."

"It's easy to discard our jealousy with each other, especially since the bonding, but we hadn't expected for your ex to come back and reveal what he did," Paul added. "Discovering our girlfriend had a marriage proposal wasn't something we were expecting, what would you have done if it had been the other way around? We were idiots and we're sorry. Of course we trust you and we know you'd never leave us."

She sluggishly climbed to her feet before opening the door, seeing their immediate expression of relief whilst Edward stood behind them, glaring at them murderously.

"When we completed the bonds, we sealed a lifetime bond. You gave me this bracelet, knowing what it meant should I accept it," she began, moving her eyes between them. "Blaise is not a threat. No man, wizard, vampire, werewolf... Will ever compare to you and I will never want, need, love, look at or feel for another the way I do for you, all of you," she peered over at Edward, seeing his expression softening when she caught his gaze. "No one or thing will take me away from you. I am yours and you are mine, forever. That's the way the bond works."

"We know," Jacob nodded, "And we're so sorry, we really are. I guess we were just feeling a little off-balance, insecure."

"Speak for yourself," Paul scoffed. Hermione speared him with a glare. "I didn't feel insecure," he denied. "I didn't!"

"I don't believe you," she responded.

"Fine, maybe a little," he shifted on his feet uncomfortably. "I mean, did you see the guy? He was fucking Italian."

"And?" She asked flatly. "Viktor was Bulgarian. You're Native American."

He grinned, "Sorry, Eddie," he peered over his shoulder at the glowering vampire, knowing Edward hated the nickname and Paul had picked it up from Emmet, "You're boring."

"Paul," Hermione chided.

"Sorry," he cleared his throat. "Knowing that we hurt you, it sucked, really bad. I wanted to kick my own ass. But I'm not comfortable leaving things as they are, not with what's happening tomorrow and we won't have time to talk things through."

She sighed and rubbed at her tired eyes with the palms of her hands.

"Look, I'm exhausted and I'm terrified of the outcome of the battle, I don't have time for shit like this. Blaise will be on the battlefield and I can't afford to worry about one of you losing control and getting jealous should he get too close to me."

"We won't," Jacob promised. "The shock's wore off and we know you love us. No more jealousy... But..." He paused, looking a little nervous. "You don't have any more boyfriends that might turn up out of the blue, do you?"

She snorted. "Only Viktor, but the last I heard, he's married with a kid on the way and he lives in Bulgaria. He's much too busy being an international Quidditch Star to show up in this little known town in America."

"Right, good," he breathed a sigh of relief and nodded once.

"Are all concerns settled now?" Hermione checked, and they both nodded. "Good, because I'm so exhausted, I don't even know how I'm still standing."

"You need rest," said Paul, eyeing her with concern. He couldn't remember the last time she had more than four hours sleep, and that included when she'd drift off on the couch or whilst reading a book before startling awake. Since before her brothers arrived, he thought.

"I do," she agreed, "And you need dinner."

"Not hungry," he declined.

"Since when aren't you hungry?" She said in disbelief.

"When we realised we'd hurt you, we lost our appetite," Jacob answered. "Can I have a hug now?"

She sighed softly as she finally stepped out of the bathroom and into his waiting arms, being pulled against his chest tightly as he buried his face in her neck, whispering his apologies against her skin. When she drew back, Paul snagged her wrist and pulled her into a hug, refusing to let her go until she was capable of mustering a smile, even if it was sleepy.

As she crossed to the mirrored doors so she might retrieve her pyjamas and ready for bed, she reached up on her tiptoes and kissed Edward softly.

"Thank you."

He smiled down at her. "Well, someone's got to be the voice of reason. Get ready for bed, you need sleep."

She nodded and slipped inside, unsurprised to find Odin and Hope both contently sleeping in a pile of blankets in the corner. When she stepped out dressed in a matching set of red silk pyjamas, Edward was already on the couch with a book in hand, Jacob was already in bed, and Paul just exited the bathroom.

Climbing into bed and being surrounded by their body heat, Hermione extinguished the candles and settled down for sleep, and just as she was drifting off, there was an obnoxiously loud banging on her bedroom door.

"Oi, Hermione!" Called George from the other side. "What d'you think you're playing at dating a Slytherin and not telling us? D'you know the mischief we could've caused had you let us into their common room."

"Betrayal!" Cried Fred. "Betrayal, I say! You're no sister of mine!"

Hermione couldn't help it, she giggled. Fred and George always knew how to make her feel better and they never failed to make her laugh when she needed it the most.

"Let us in so we can say it to your face!" Said George.

"They're not going to go away, are they?" Paul grumbled tiredly, peeling a single eye open and glaring at the door.

"Eventually, just ignore them," she replied, snuggling further into his warmth.

"Easier said than done," muttered Jacob from behind her.

"Will telling them to fuck off and let us sleep work?" Asked Paul.

"No, they can't hear you," she reminded him.

"Hermione! Open up and let us is in or we'll apparate in there," George warned.

"The door's open," Jacob pointed out.

"Ah, probably not a good idea," she heard Fred say. "Who knows what we'd find?"

"Merlin, probably some strange shit like Jacob howling whilst Hermione scratches him behind the ear, or Edward sucking on six dragon pops whilst hanging upside down from the ceiling, or Paul letting Hermione ride around on him whilst in wolf form..." George paused. "I regret saying that."

"You're right though, put a saddle on and you can ride them into battle... I also regret saying that," said Fred.

"Fuck's sake, I'm going to kill them," Paul growled, reluctantly shifting out from beneath the covers and crossing over to the door, hearing Hermione's attempt to fight back her laughter but sniggers broke through. When Paul opened the door, the twins grinned unabashedly, bathed by the light in the corridor. "I will bite you," he warned.

George looked to Fred smugly, "Told you he was the kinky type."

"Yeah, but I would've put my galleons on Edward,"

"What!" Edward spluttered.

"What?" Fred asked innocently. "You're a vampire, it's what you do!" He defended.

"Why are you talking about kinks?" Charlie injected, appearing behind the twins.

"Paul or Edward? Who would you put your galleons on being the kinky type?" George asked.

"Neither, I'd say Jacob," the Keeper folded his arms over his chest confidently. "It's always the quiet, innocent ones."

Hermione burst into laughter when Jacob released a horrified whine and his cheeks filled with colour.

"Oh, and whilst I've got you alone," Charlie began, his tone and expression darkening considerably as his eyes moved between Paul and Jacob, "I saw your little freak out earlier on. If you ever do anything to upset my little sister, I'll kill you. I don't care how big or strong you are in your shifter form, I'm not scared of you; I tame dragons for a living."

"Yeah, ya do!" Boomed a deep voice from the living room.

"Emmet, I don't care how many times you ask, I'm not taking you back to Romania with me!" Charlie called down the corridor.

"Please take him," Hermione heard Rosalie shout.

"He's your husband, don't try to palm him off on me," Charlie responded before looking back to Paul and Jacob. "Understand? Good." He then looked to her. "Hey, before you doze off, settle an argument for me?"

"What?" She pushed herself up onto her elbows.

"What came first? The dragon or the egg?"

"Ask Sirius, he's old enough to have witnessed it," she shrugged.

"You cheeky little witch! You're grounded!" Sirius barked over the loud laughter of the shifters and vampires that hadn't yet left.

"Now it's our turn," George pulled her attention. "Who has to fork out fifty galleons? Who's kinkier; Edward, Paul or Jacob?"

Edward spluttered, Jacob whined and Paul sighed tiredly.

Hermione's mouth pulled into a smile. "That is entirely dependent on what I'm wearing at the time," she offered innocently.

"Oh for Merlin's sake," Fred gagged, George wretched and Charlie grimaced, Hermione hearing the loud, chorused laughter once more from the living room.

"You're own fault," she smiled sweetly. "Paul, shut the door and come back to bed, I need a cuddle."

"You disgust me," George said.

"And I'm conflicted between pride and shame," Fred added, just as Paul shut the door.

"Fucking hell, they're annoying," he grumbled, crossing back to the bed.

"And embarrassing," Edward muttered.

"But they know how to liven the place up," Hermione laughed. "You think it's bad now? Just wait until we're no longer under threat, they'll be relentless."

"You can't wait, can you?" Jacob said knowingly.

"I really can't," she grinned. "I've missed them and they'll be going home to London once this is over, I'm going to take as much as I can get. But before that, we have to survive the battle."

"We will," her soul bonds chorused.

"Get some sleep," Edward ordered.

"Yes, Dad," Hermione snorted, lying down once more and making herself comfortable.

"Okay, now I'm curious," Paul said unexpectedly. "Who's kinkier? Eddie or Jacob?"

"I fucking hate you," Jacob grumbled from behind Hermione, and Edward shot him a withering glare.

"Go to sleep, Paul," Hermione muttered, not bothering to open her eyes.

"No, the twins have a point. Is it Jacob 'cause he was all innocent and quiet until we corrupted him, or is it Eddie 'cause of the fangs and old fashioned traditions?"

"I will bite you," she mumbled tiredly.

Paul smirked. "Baby, I know you're kinky, you're not who I was asking after."

Hermione lightly slapped him on the chest at the same time as Jacob reached over and punched him in the shoulder.

"Fucking hell, that hurt," Paul hissed.

"Be grateful it wasn't your face."

"Boys, I will make you sleep outside," Hermione warned. "Settle down."

This was what she would be dealing with for the rest of her life.

And she loved it.

Now, she just had to see to it that she and her loved ones survived the coming battle.