Art by Jilly James
Hermione stood to one side watching the frenzied activity of Bill and Fleur's wedding. It wasn't every day that people got to celebrate the bonding of a Alpha Sentinel and his Guide.
Sentinels and Guides had become rare over the last 200 years in the Wizarding community. The inbreeding among certain Pure Blood lines that had been implemented to secure such talents had actually caused it to die out in many bloodlines. If it hadn't been for Squibs carrying the genes for both Sentinel and Guide, passing those traits on to the children they had with their Muggle mates, it might have died off entirely.
Some families realized this and actively sought out Halfblood or Muggle born mates to strengthen their own bloodlines with their diversity. The Weasleys were one such family and they were fortunate with how often both Sentinels and Guides were born into their family. Even those members that never came online often carried the genes to be passed on to their offspring.
Arthur himself would never be a Sentinel but he did carry the recessive gene, as did Molly, and it showed in their children. Bill was a strong Sentinel who came online the moment he met his Guide, Fleur. Hermione was still angry when she thought of how Molly tried to prevent their bonding. Any fool would know that their meeting wouldn't have brought Bill online if they weren't a perfect match.
Charlie wasn't a Sentinel but he did carry the recessive Guide gene, and while he would never be a Guide himself he was a strong empath, using those skills among the dragons he worked with. If he ever chose to have children, there was a strong chance that they would inherit the gene and be Guides themselves.
Percy did not inherit the gene. This might explain his rigid behavior and need to prove himself. Molly certainly pushed her children to succeed and was obvious in her disdain of anyone that did not carry the genes for either Sentinel or Guide.
Ginny would have been a strong Guide. Her experience with Tom Riddle's diary ruined those chances though. While she still carried the genes, and could pass them onto her children, she would be forever dormant. The wounds to her mind and soul during her possession would never allow her to come online.
Hermione's gaze drifted over to where Ron was trying to chat up several of Fleur's bridesmaids. He had been rather vocal in his claims that he would “bed a Veela” before the wedding was over. The “wrongness” of him made her skin crawl.
Having been a online Guide since she was 11 and a strong empath made it uncomfortable for her to be around some dormant Sentinels. Ron wasn't dormant due to injury or trauma, there was just something wrong with him on a fundamental level. He displayed a level of greed, selfishness, and disregard for the Tribe that no Sentinel would be capable of.
That might not be a problem for much longer though if Fleur caught him trying to chat up Gabrielle. She was very protective of her baby sister and wouldn't hesitate to castrate Ron in front of everyone present in her defense. The look on Gabrielle’s face though said that she was more than capable of defending herself and that Ron was just seconds from receiving a knee to the groin.
Dismissing Ron from her mind, she glanced over at Harry who looked rather bemused as he talked to Luna. Luna, like Hermione, had come online at a early age. In Luna's case it was the death of her Mother that caused her Guide abilities to activate. Strong, beautiful, and otherworldly, Luna was a natural Seer and spoke of taking up The Way of the Shaman after Hogwarts. She was already in tune with the spirit world to an amazing degree and Hermione felt she would do quite well with a bit of training.
Harry on the other hand, was a latent Sentinel. The Potters at one time had been a line known for producing strong Sentinels, but James was the first Potter to come online in several generations It was said that he came online the first time he held his son Harry in his arms, vowing to die in the defense of his son. A vow that he sadly kept.
This made Hermione think of that old fool Dumbledore and the meddling of both he and Molly in Harry's life. Dumbledore knew that Harry carried the Sentinel gene. That was one of the reasons he placed him with the Dursleys and directed them to often isolate Harry. Dumbledore hoped that this would bring Harry online early, although what he thought he could do with a 5 year old Sentinel that didn't have a Guide with him Hermione would never know.
The times Harry had been tested and put in danger along with the rest of the students were more attempts to force Harry to come online. Dumbledore finally seemed to realize that it was entirely possible that the abuse and neglect Harry had suffered as a child had the opposite effect and that he might never reach his full potential. Dumbledore's last desperate bid to force Harry to come online had been the night Snape killed him. He had apparently thought that losing his influence would finally trigger Harry's Sentinel abilities.
He had planned on forcing a bond between Harry and Ginny whether they were compatible or not. Molly had even tried to dose Harry and Ginny with love potions to force the bond but had been found out by Bill before she could carry out her plans. Ginny had been horrified that her Mother would attempt something like that. In the resulting argument it came out that Molly had been dosing Arthur with love potions for years.
Unlike Arthur's family, Molly's had long practiced inbreeding to try to produce more Sentinels. It had failed and the only ones born to her family had been her brothers Fabian and Gideon who had died shortly after their Muggleborn Guide Marlene had been killed.
The family had been appalled that as identical twins they would share the same Guide as bonding was genetic and they were genetically identical. That their Guide was also Muggleborn was just another strike against the match as far as the family was concerned.
Molly carried the Sentinel gene and so she had looked for a man that also carried the gene in the hopes of producing an army of Sentinels to fight for the light. When she was unable to attract such a man on
her own she resorted to the use of potions.
She seemed incapable of seeing that what she had done was wrong. Arthur was as furious as anyone had ever seen and had ritually cast Molly from the family, stripping her of his name and familial magics. She was very shocked when none of her children took her side. Most were disgusted by her actions. Ron though, Hermione had the feeling that he hadn't protested merely because he wasn't willing to give up living in the family home to live as an outcast with his Mother.
From behind her came the comforting herbal scent of the twins with undertones of pine from George and rosemary from Fred. Forewarned to their presence, she was able to calmly greet them when they each flung an arm around her shoulders with a cry of “Save us! Save us!”
“George, Fred,” she greeted them with a nod. “If you've pranked your Great Aunt Muriel again there is no power on earth that could save you.”
“Hermione, you wound us greatly,” George said, smiling down at her from her left.
“Would we prank our beloved Aunt at our own brother's wedding?” Fred asked from her right with faked innocence.
“Yes, and often. You have already pranked her on three separate occasions that I know of in the last two days.”
“Besmirching our good character it is.”
“How can you wound us so?”
“Doubting us like that and all.”
Hermione could feel her lips twitching. Fred and George seldom failed to put her in a better mood.
“Why do you need saving if it's not from the wrath of your Great Aunt?”
“It's our virtue that needs saving, dear Hermione,” said Fred.
“From them.” George tilted his head toward a group of Fleur's bridesmaids who saw him looking at them and giggled.
“They've been following us around saying things...”
“...in French and giggling. The older one has even been..”
“...pinching our bums when she thinks she can get away with it.”
“She's offered to strip search us to see if...”
“...the carpet matches the drapes. Whatever the hell that means.”
“Oh. Oh my!” Hermione couldn't help laughing at that, and covered her mouth with her hands to try to
stifle her laughter. “It means she wants to see if you are both naturally ginger or if you color your hair.”
The look of surprise on George and Fred's faces did nothing to help Hermione get control of her giggles.
“Well that's just stupid, isn't it George?”
“Right you are Fred. What possible reason would we have to color our hair?”
“Just because gingers are naturally superior to mere mortals in a thousand different ways.”
“Smarter, faster, better looking...”
“Much more virile than your average bloke.”
“So much stamina you see...”
Hermione could feel her grin threatening to split her face. She really shouldn't encourage them but she couldn't seem to help herself. There had always been something about them that always made her smile and laugh. She really had been a rather solemn child before they had landed in her life. She had certainly smiled and laughed more in their presence in the last 6 years than the rest of her life combined.
"Enough you loons!"
“Ah Hermione,” they chorused, “you know you love us.”
That, thought Hermione, was part of the problem. Having lived 7 years online without bonding, 6 of those years while living in a community that had a larger than normal concentration of Sentinels, had her fearing that she'd never find her perfect match.
She couldn't go and fall for the two of them. Sure they were her friends, and wouldn't intentionally hurt her, but if she allowed herself to get close with them only for them to come online and find their true Guide, well she wouldn't stand a chance against that.
No use hoping that it would be her either, they would have someone stronger, talented, beautiful. Having them would be like living a faerie tale and she had given those up by the time she was 3.
“I'm not sure why you two have come to me with this. It's not like you both aren't capable of defending yourselves.”
Fred shrugged. “We are trying to stay in our new sister-in-law's good graces.”
George nodded. “No one in their right minds angers a Veela, especially on her wedding day.”
“Under the circumstance she will understand. Anyone that won't take no for an answer and stop for an order will find no sympathy from her.”
“Besides that's her cousin Lisa and they can't stand each other. She only included her in the wedding party to keep peace in the family.”
Fred looked surprised. “How do you know all of that?”
“Because I felt horrible about how Molly was trying to alienate Fleur so I befriended her. It was nice for both of us to have a female friend in the sea of males.”
George looked at Fred. “Are you picturing the two of them kissing too?”
“I'm not answering that on the grounds that I want to live and either one is dangerous when crossed but together they'd be unstoppable.”
Hermione just sighed. “Look do you want my help or not?”
“Of course we do!” They chorused, “give us your plan, oh wise one.”
“Lisa is deathly afraid of rodents. Fred, your transfiguration is the best, you create a rodent to drop down her top. Preferably a very lively mouse or small rat.”
Fred looked at her in awe. “Where have you been hiding this evil streak? It's sexy as hell.”
Hermione just rolled her eyes before turning to George. “George, you're on potions. If you don't have something to add to her drink that won't make her either burp or fart continuously or better yet both then I'll eat the floral centerpieces without salt.”
“I think the centerpieces are safe. Fred is right, this evil streak of yours is dead sexy.”
George grabbed her hand, twirled her in a circle, and pulled her in kissing her soundly before twirling her toward Fred. Fred grabbed her, dipped her over, and laid a passionate kiss on her as well. She told herself the only reason she grabbed onto him was from fear of falling, but that excuse sounded thin even in her own mind. Fred then righted her up before he took off with his twin to wreak havoc on one pushy Veela.
She could only stand there blushing helplessly as she watched them split off from each other to stalk their unsuspecting prey. So much for staying emotionally detached from them both. She was in so much trouble.
Hermione shook herself. There was no sense in standing there staring after them like a love-struck 12-year-old. She decided to go rescue Harry from Luna's well meaning attention. Suiting action to her thoughts she cut through the crowd, snagging three glasses of sparkling juice from one of the tables George hadn't gotten to yet.
When she joined them, Luna was talking about the annual Flobberworm migration. Hermione had noticed in the past that Luna tended to work Flobberworms into the conversation when she was worried about something she had Seen.
Luna and Harry both smiled in greeting as they accepted the glasses of juice from her.
"That was quite a pair of kisses Fred and George laid on you," Luna said with a dreamy smile.
"It was at that," Harry frowned. "Do I need to give the twins the shovel talk on how to treat you right?"
“Shovel talk?” Luna asked.
“As in 'They will treat Hermione with the respect she deserves or I'll hit them over the heads with a shovel and then use it to bury them'.” Harry said. “It usually falls to a male relative like a brother to give that talk to a woman's prospective suitors and since Hermione doesn't have any siblings I'm more than willing to step in that role to make sure she's happy.”
Hermione wanted to be stern with Harry, but she was secretly pleased that he cared enough about her to be willing to face the twins in her defense.
"No need for that Harry. The boys are just my friends and were thanking me for a bit of help."
"Really?" Luna asked. "I'm your friend as well and have never tried to snog you senseless. Have I been remiss in my duties as a friend?"
Hermione looked at Luna and saw the amusement sparkling in her big blue eyes. Luna's sly humor really shouldn't surprise her after all this time.
She glanced over at Harry she noticed his eyes were glazed over. Luna and Hermione shared an amused look as they both reached over and slapped the back of his head.
"Ow!" Harry yelped, "what the blazes was that for?"
"You were picturing us kissing, weren't you?"
Harry's blush was answer enough.
"What is it with boys imagining two women kissing? George was going on about how hot it would be if I kissed Fleur earlier."
"Well Fleur does have really nice lips," Luna mused. "So Harry, when you were picturing Hermione and I kissing, were we naked? Hermione has bigger breasts than I do, but I do think mine are perkier. More than a handful is wasteful I always say."
Hermione really shouldn't find Harry's blushing and sputtering as amusing as she did. Still, he didn't get this much, being teased by someone who wasn't trying to be cruel. Just getting to joke and laugh with someone without every single thing he did and said being analyzed by a harsh public quick to judge. As his spluttering turned to genuine laughter she decided that he needed this and smiled at Luna.
“That was well done Luna, Harry looks a lot less tense now.”
“Breasts seem to have that effect on boys. They never quite get over that infantile obsession with them.” Luna grinned before once more looking solemn.
“What is it Luna? Have you Seen something that has upset you?”
Luna blinked at her. “How can you tell?”
“You tend to talk about Flobberworms when you've Seen something disturbing.”
Luna looked away for a moment. “I have, and I haven't. Something is coming, something big, but so much depends on the smallest of actions. Past a certain point the future fractures into dozens of possibilities, each with their own possibilities. Branching off wildly. I see bits and pieces, like reflections in a shattered mirror.”
“I also can't See my own part in what is to come past a certain point. It is so hard to see one's own actions even for a trained Seer, and Hogwarts doesn't provide that training.”
It was true enough. Hermione had been appalled when she realized that Luna had constantly active mage sight since the death of her Mother when she was 9. Realizing that Dumbledore had not even noticed or tried to help Luna was what had finally got her to take a closer look at the supposed Greatest Wizard and she hadn't liked what she had seen.
“Is there anything that we can do to help you? Anything you can tell us?”
"Not without overly influencing the future. I have prepared for certain possibilities but they may or may not come to pass. The only thing I can tell you is if the opportunity presents its self, follow the white rabbit."
Luna then smiled dreamily and skipped off to where a group of children were listening to a storyteller. She sat among the children in the grass in a total disregard for her gown which made a puddle of rich color around her.
"White rabbit? Does that make you Alice and if so am I the Mad Hatter?"
"No Harry, you're Alice. You have better legs to go with that blue dress."
"That's just a wee bit disturbing don't you think?"
"No I'm imagining you with shaved legs and it works surprisingly well."
“You're a twisted Witch, you know that right?”
“That's what I like about you Harry, you always say the sweetest things.”
He just laughed and put an arm around her shoulders.
“It's selfish of me, because I know what you went through when you came online. How your parents were forced to send you to the United States for a year to train with a Wolf Guide to gain control of your empathy. You would have been in Fred and George's year if that hadn't happened, but I'm very glad you were in my year instead. I don't think I could have survived this long without your help.”
“I'm glad we were in the same year too Harry, but the answer is still no.”
“I could have sworn I didn't ask a question.”
“Of course you didn't. You were just planning on going off by yourself yet again you self-sacrificing idiot. Not going to happen. We're together in this thing until the end.”
“It could get you killed Hermione.”
“No place is safe in this Harry. Even if I fled the country, which isn't happening either, I wouldn't be safe. Like you said you wouldn't have survived this long without me, why break that trend now?”
Harry just sighed. “I can't help wanting to keep you safe. Hermione you are the closest thing to family I have in this world and it would just about kill me if you were hurt just for helping me.”
“Harry if something happens to me, no matter what it will not be your fault. If you need to blame someone blame the bigoted power hungry idiots that are forcing a bunch of teenagers to fight this war. You are family to me too, but I'm not fighting for you. I'm fighting for a better future for us all where talent and hard work are the deciding factors, and blood status doesn't decide a person's fate.”
Harry could only gaze at his best friend in admiration. Hermione's compassion and bravery were always amazing to see. As a empath she couldn't help but work for the greater good of the Tribe. Not Dumbledore's twisted version, but a bright future where everyone from the lowliest of House Elves to the loftiest of the Pure Blood were all treated equally.
“And that right there is why the brightest witch of our generation was sorted into Gryffindor instead of Ravenclaw."
Hermione ducked her head and blushed at the praise and Harry just grinned and kissed her on her forehead.
“I always wanted a brother you know, but Mum was in labor for 2 days with me and was determined not to have anymore children. I thought if I had brothers and sisters that maybe they would be my friends, that they would have to like me if we were siblings. Who knew that all it would take was magic, a bit of luck, and a mountain troll to get me the brother I always wanted?”
“I always wanted a big family too. I'd lay in my cupboard and pray that I'd wake up far from there, someplace safe, surrounded by family that wanted me. Now look at me. I have sisters in you, Luna, and Ginny and brothers in Neville, Bill, Charlie, and the twins. We may not share blood, but we chose each other and I think that's even more important.”
Harry didn't often express his emotions like that and she could tell he was slightly uncomfortable so she just smiled and leaned against him. They both turned and gazed out over the dancing party guests.
There was a shriek and Lisa went running past, her bridesmaid dress billowing behind her.. She was belching cheese scented clouds of glitter and from the sound of it was farting God Save the Queen. She was being chased by a hoard of mice who were wearing hats, wee boots, and waving miniature swords. The leader squeaked out, “Charge!” and Lisa fled belching, farting, and screaming toward the Burrow just ahead of an outraged rodent army leaving only the vague scent of cheese behind. George and Fred were nothing if not inventive.
Hermione couldn't help laughing so hard that tears streamed down her face. Served the bitch right for putting her hands on what belonged to Hermione. Wait? What? Where did that thought come from? Hermione shook her head trying to suppress that thought. Fred and George weren't hers and never would be.
Those thoughts were broken by the feeling of Harry trembling beside her.
“Are you alright there Harry? You're looking a bit pale and you are shaking.”
“I'm not sure Hermione. I feel strange, like when you're alone in a spooky house and get the feeling that something is coming up behind you but nothing is there. I'm jumpy and I don't know why.”
Sounds of surprise drew their attention to the middle of the dance floor and a white glowing cat of some kind. They heard Auror Shacklebot's voice issue from it's mouth.
“Alpha, the Ministry has fallen, the Minister is dead. Prepare yourselves, they are coming.” **
There were screams, shouts of fear and denial, and frantic rushing about from many of the guests. The only exceptions being the Order members, Guides, Sentinels, and a few of Harry's students from the DA. Luna immediately took charge of the children, herding them together, conjuring a few toys to comfort the littlest ones and placing them all within a strong shield.
Bill's amplified voice rang out through the crowd, “All Sentinel's and Guides within the range of my voice and magic to me. Do your duty. Protect the Tribe.”
His eyes shone with power as he released his spirit animal with a swoosh of his wand, his wife and Guide following suit a second later. The spirit form of a huge male lion burst forth it's red mane bristling as it roared. From over head there was the scream of a bird of prey. Fleur's giant eagle voicing its fury before swooping down to join the lion. A bright light burst forth from them as they joined together forming a large gryphon.
Hermione gasped in surprise. She had heard of this but never witnessed it before. In some Sentinel and Guide pairs their spirit animals were capable of blending together to form a new magical creature. It was the mark of a true pairing. No one could now doubt that Bill and Fleur were soul mates.
Luna also swished her wand calling forth a beautiful and delicate gazelle of some sort that bounded away through the milling people. Hermione followed suit calling forth her own spirit guide, a black and white border collie. It cocked it's head to the side before also bounding off into the crowd. Spirit guides couldn't do much during a battle but distract and warn, but they did have a calming effect and she hoped they would help with crowd control to keep panic born madness to a minimum.
That would come in handy sooner than expected as the crashing thunder of Death Eaters apparating around the wedding party sounded loudly.
The talentless showoffs.
They were either barely trained or using the sound to strike fear.
Hermione would bet on both as the shear numbers of black robes had to mean that Voldemort was recruiting heavily from the barely trained masses as canon fodder. Self trained Wizards that didn't have the power or money to be invited to one of the established Wizarding Schools. They'd be all the more dangerous for their unpredictability.
With Harry pale and shaking the way he was Hermione stayed by his side to defend his back. Not that she would have run off during the fight anyway; Harry had been training the DA to work in pairs so that they would always have someone they could trust to guard their backs.
Defending Harry's back as she was, Hermione could only look on helplessly as several Death Eaters rushed Luna's position.
Luna stood calmly in front of the children she was protecting and with a delicate swish of her wand shouted, "FLOREM IMBRI!". Causing a stream of exotic flowers to flow from the tip of her wand, draping the four attacking Death Eaters in garlands of flowers.
The Death eaters looked at each other in surprise and then began to laugh. “What are you trying to do little girl,” the biggest of the lot asked, “trying to defeat us with sunshine and flowers? I'll teach you a thing or two you pathetic... ACHOOO! Blood tra... AAACHHOOO!”
All four of the Death Eaters that had been hit by Luna's spell began sneezing uncontrollably, their whole bodies jerking with the force of their sneezes. Two of them managed to knock each other unconscious as they hit their heads together as they both bent forward violently from the force of their sneezing. Their skulls hitting together with such force that their masks shattered driving shards into their faces.
Hermione and Harry shared a quick grin as they each fired off spells at the opposing fighters. Trust Luna to come up with an unorthodox yet incredibly powerful spell like that. The dreamy smile and little girls voice caused many to underestimate her much to their woe.
Time seemed to slow for Hermione as she saw several spells heading toward Harry. She managed to deflect two of the spells, being hit by the third, a beam of dark purple as she shoved Harry out of the way.
The force of the spell pushed her back, slamming her into on of the tables. The purple of the spell danced over her skin like lightning leaving numbness in it's path. She felt herself being jerked back up, her arms held tightly behind her by rough strong hands as her wand fell from her suddenly nerveless fingers.
It was not just the spell and impact that held Hermione immobile. Instead it was the feeling of not one or even two, but FOUR Sentinels coming online nearby. It felt as if gravity had just stopped for a moment before slamming back into her.
She tried to absorb the emotional shock of it, but it was difficult because all four seemed to be in a near feral state. Coming online suddenly was never easy but having it happened in the midst of a life or death battle was far worse. If they were lucky the Guides for the new Sentinels were online and present. If not... well the bloodbath would be legendary.
If they came online only to lose their Guide during the battle one could only hope that they held onto enough sanity to warn the innocent off or to apparate to a secluded area. The blast as their magic released in waves of grief would be devastating. The last time something like that occurred was in 1908 in a remote area of Russia. The Muggles referred to it as the Tunguska Event.