Chapter 15 : Chapter Fifteen
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The ride home was quiet. Too quiet. Ernest seemed fine but Hermione knew Heather was stewing in the passenger seat. Every few moments Heather would turn back to Hermione, narrowing her eyes, staring long and hard at her daughter. Hermione chose not to back down from these stares. She was in enough trouble as it were; she may as well continue defending herself.
Once the Granger's arrived home Heather immediately sent Hermione to do chores. The young girl went into the bedroom with a laundry basket and collected the dirty clothes, putting on a load. Ernest went into the kitchen to do the dishes while Heather complained of a headache and went straight to "bed". Hermione knew that once Ernest was asleep, she would sneak into her room and beat her senseless. Well, tonight was going to be different.
Hermione left the Laundry Room and went into the Living Room, sitting in front of the fire. She stared into it, mesmerized. She heard Ernest in the doorway of the kitchen. "Whatcha doin', hunny?"
"Nothing, Dad. Just looking at the fire."
"I made some hot cocoa for us." Ernest handed Hermione a cup and sat beside her in front of the fire. "Is there something on your mind, dear?"
"Want to talk about it?"
"Yes...but I can't."
Hermione felt a pat on her back. "I understand, hunny."
She looked at him incredulously. "You do?"
"And you're not mad?"
What kind of sick father is he? "Well, what's wrong?"
"Obviously you have some type of girl problem and you think that because I'm your dad, I wouldn't understand."
I'd call it more of a woman problem. "Something like that."
"Frankly, I think you made the right choice. I don't understand women at all. Especially not your mother."
"You and me both, Dad."
"C'mon, let's go up to bed--"
Ernest looked at her oddly but nodded. "Okay, we can stay down here. Let's get you on the couch."
Hermione followed her father and lay down on the couch. He tucked her in and went to sit in the chair across from her when her panicked voice alarmed him once more. She wasn't taking any chances on an attack. "Wait! Daddy, please sleep with me."
Ernest sighed and walked back to the couch, lying next to Hermione so that she was sandwiched between him and the cushions. She wrapped her small arms around Ernest's body for security and he looked down at her. "You're awfully clingy. What gives?"
Hermione looked up at him, masking every fear she had for the night to come. "I just love you, Dad. That's all."
"Well, I love you too. Goodnight, Joie."
-- Swedish proverb
December 25, 1985
The night before had been the best night Hermione had had in a long time. No beating, no threats, no warnings. Just her and Ernest holding each other through the night. He had protected her and didn't even know it. Hermione saw Heather's face the next morning looking ragged and worn. She hadn't had her fix so she was itching for any reason to get on Hermione about something. But the young Granger was smart about her actions. She didn't say anything that could provoke Heather, did everything her mother asked, and made sure Ernest was nearby at all times.
After breakfast and cleaning, Hermione gathered up Crookshanks and sat by the tree in the Living Room to open presents. Heather followed her in with Ernest. She spotted Crookshanks in Hermione's lap and thought she had her daughter cornered. "Hermione, what did I tell you about bringing that filthy vermin up from the basement? Take him back downstairs and go to your room!"
Hermione said nothing as Ernest came to her defense. "Dearest, you told Joie that Crookshanks could come up on holidays only."
"Well, it's not a holiday!"
Ernest stared at her as if she'd grown another head. "Hunny, it's Christmas Day. Just where is your head today?"
Hermione continued to say nothing and Heather took this as smugness instead of what it was, innocence. She growled and stormed away. Ernest shrugged his shoulders at Hermione. They set aside Heather's presents and played "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to see who would get to open one.
After two hours, all the presents were open. Hermione collected all of the paper, going into the kitchen to dispose of it. As she rounded the corner, out of sight of Ernest, Heather stood menacingly before her. She had one of the big porcelain plates poised over her head. Hermione's tattoo began to glow blue and sting. She mentally screamed for help to Draco, hoping he could hear her. The plate came crashing down and Hermione's scream echoed throughout the house.
Draco waited patiently as the rest of his family finished cleaning up the Christmas mess. He chuckled as Brigit and Celeste threw wrapping paper at each other, his parents soon joining in. The fight was not five minutes in when Draco got an immense feeling of danger. His tattoo began to glow blue and it felt as though his skin was ice. It burned and he cried out lightly in pain, attracting his family's attention. A loud, haunting, "Help me, Draco!", resounded in his thoughts and he knew immediately that Hermione needed him.
He jumped up, holding his arm in pain and halting the fight. His family saw the scared look in his eyes and knew something was wrong.
"What is it, Luke?" Brigit asked.
"It’s Joie. She's in trouble. Big trouble. We have to get over there, now."
Narcissa and Lucius shared a look. "Hunny, we know you love Joie as much as we do, but I'm sure nothing's wrong."
Draco glared at his mother, his eyes turning an eerie amber color as the power within him began working. "Mum, we have to go now. She's in danger."
"No, Dad! My tattoo is burning, I feel her in danger, and I heard her call for help!"
The Malfoy's looked to one another and then to Draco. "Please."
Lucius sighed and nodded. "Couldn't hurt to go over and look."
Draco jumped up and bolted to the car. The rest of family piled in and they set course for the Granger's house. They had hardly pulled into the driveway when Draco jumped out and ran into the house. He hadn't even had time to see the ambulance parked in the front of the house.
Once inside, Draco's senses took over. They lead him to the kitchen where Hermione was unconscious and bleeding, strapped to a gurney. Ernest was gripping the counter in shock as Heather sat, sipping some tea. Draco knew that she had done this harm to Hermione, he could feel it. He scampered to Hermione's side, touching her face lightly. She didn't come to. One of the EMT's kneeled next to Draco, patting his shoulder lightly. “You okay, kid?”
"Could be better."
"Sounds like it."
"Well, the girl's mother claims that as the girl, eh, Hermy, Hermonee, Hermyninny--"
"Yeah, Hermione was trying to put the trash away as the mother went for a plate and the plate slipped, cracking this poor girl's skull. Bad accident. Gonna be a pretty bad scar. Well, it'll match the one across her face."
Draco knew this was no accident. Heather had purposely bashed Hermione over the head with that plate and she was going to pay. No longer would Draco stand by. He knew these feelings he'd gotten of Hermione being in danger weren't just feelings, they were reality. He just had to get Hermione to admit it so she could get help.
The Malfoy's entered the house as Ernest, Hermione, and the EMT's left. Heather continued sipping her tea. The entire family was near tears as Draco seethed in rage. He turned and glared menacingly at Heather, daring her to come after him. She looked cool to the Malfoy family, but Draco could sense her fear. The small boy walked straight up to her, glaring hatefully.
"Don't you ever go near my friend again, understand me? Or so help me I will have everyone after you. She is not your punching bag. And we all know what you've been doing to her. That's why it won't be continuing. I won't let it. It's over."
"It's never over. I'm her mother and you're her friend. I have the control. She'll never admit it."
"I'll get her to admit it. And in front of me, my family, and Ernest. I promise you, this is over." Draco then walked away from Heather, out to the car, waiting to go to Mungo's.
The bright lights of Room 826 were strong enough to wake Hermione from her slumber. She blinked a few times, squinting, adjusting to the bright hues. She looked around the room, trying to see past the white haze. A dark shadow came into view and she tried to get a better look at it.
Her curiosity peaked when she heard her name being whispered around her. "Joooiiieee. Joooooiiiiiieeeee. Wake up, Joie."
"Draco?" The figure grabbed her hand and the haze disappeared. Her kitchen came into the view. She saw Ernest leaning against the counter and Draco listening to the story of what had happened. She then watched as Draco angrily threatened Heather, promising vengeance. She felt a sense of relief. Draco knew. She didn't have to hide anymore because Draco knew. She just had to tell him so.
Hermione was jolted from her vision, finding herself strapped to a bed in St. Mungo's. Draco was sitting by her legs, rubbing his arm where his tattoo was located. Hermione smiled when she saw him, struggling against the restraints to touch him. He smiled and slowly pushed on her shoulder to get her to lie back down. She finally stopped resisting and rested. She looked at Draco and sighed, smiling a heavenly smile. “You know.”
She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Of course you do. You were thinking about it when you saw me and you told my mum that you knew.”
“You have to admit it, Joie.”
Joie smiled. “Well, that’s easy.”
Hermione opened her mouth to let the words flow freely but choked. Once again that overwhelming pressure to keep her mouth shut came over her. She was still under Heather’s control. Even if she admitted it, her mother still had a hold over her that Hermione might not ever be able to get rid of. She tried to break free, to force the words past the shield, but her mind refused to budge. It was set on keeping her protected for the time being, even at the expense of her safety in the future.
“Joie, please. You have to do this. This is your chance. Tell everyone! Let her go down!”
She couldn’t do it. Once more the shield forced the words back into the recesses of her mind, not to be brought up before anyone. She cried in agony, wishing she could just let go. Release all that had been done to her and finally turn in the one person who had ruined her life. “I-I can’t.”
Draco sighed heavily. He had to think of something, something that would get her to reveal the secret. He grabbed her hand with both of his, hoping that something from his memory would be shown to her and she would feel safe enough to come forward. He felt her searching his mind and he aided her by bringing forward specific memories. Things his parents had thought about, their worries, their fears, his fears, the scars and bruises that Hermione tried to hide but everyone could see. Once he was done, he opened his eyes and waited for Hermione to feel comfortable.
She shook her head again, the tears welling in her eyes. “I-I can’t…I can’t—”
Draco growled in fury and pounded his fist on the bed, “Why not?”
Hermione cringed at his fierce outburst. “I just c-can’t…”
“Joie, this is your life! Your mum is hurting you! She won’t stop! Not now, not ever! Why can’t you understand that?”
Hermione began to sob, shaking her head. “I don’t know, Luke! I don’t know!”
“Well, figure it out!”
“I just can’t, alright! Leave me alone! I just can’t do it!”
Draco stopped yelling, watching as Hermione’s sobs shrank to small sniffles. When he was sure she was calm, he asked her once more. “Please, Joie. Do it. Save yourself. I don’t know if I can help you anymore than right now. This is the best I can do. I can still be there for you when she hurts you again, but I won’t be able to stop it. She’s too smart for that. You’re the only one who can save yourself, Joie.”
Draco sighed, frustrated, running a hand through his hair. “I really don’t think you do, Joie.”
“I do understand, Luke.”
“If you understood, you would have told me by now!”
“If you pressure me, I’ll never tell you! Stop it! I know what’s at stake, I know what’s wrong, and I know how much danger I’m in! I’m 9-years-old just like you, Luke! I can handle this!”
Draco felt as though it was a blow to his character. She made it sound as though he helping her was a bad thing. As if she didn’t need him. He stared at her in disbelief. How could she be so selfish? “So you don’t want my help?”
Hermione stared at him with fear in her eyes. She looked like a lost puppy that had just been abandoned by her owner. “No! No, that’s not it at all, Luke! I need you! I just need you to be here to be my friend for now. Just stand by my side and support me.”
“I don’t know if I can support you putting yourself in harm’s way.”
“She’s my mum, Luke. What would you do if it was Aunty ‘Cissa?”
Draco was quiet a moment, contemplating the thought. “My mum would never do such a thing.”
“Did you think my mum could?”
“I don’t need to think, I know. I have proof.”
Hermione sighed, closing her eyes for a minute. She felt pressure on her chest and opened her eyes to a small gift wrapped in red paper. She could tell it was Draco’s handiwork as the wrap job was extremely messy and there was tape everywhere. She smiled at the attempt all the same. Draco was already standing by the door. Hermione panicked, feeling abandoned once more. “Don’t go, please.”
Draco lowered his head. “I’m not going anywhere. I promise. I’ll be right outside this door the whole time. If your mum tries to come in, I’ll come in with her. I don’t approve of your choices, but if you want to keep a connection with your mum, okay. I’ll stand by your side and support you because you’re my friend and that’s what friends do.”
Hermione smiled, bringing the present closer to her body. “Thank you, Luke.”
Draco nodded slightly, exiting the room. He sighed once the door was closed. “Happy Birthday and Happy Christmas...”
The hospital released Hermione and she went willingly with her mother, knowing that fighting would only be a waste of time. Heather was silent the whole way home, and she seemed happy. There was a strange excitement to her attitude. Once they got to the house, Heather told Hermione to go into the kitchen and wait for her there. She did as her mother told her and sat beside her father at the kitchen table. Heather came in looking smug in Hermione’s eyes, but hiding it by faking sadness.
“I’ve got something important to tell both of you,” Heather said, laying her palms flat against the table, “I’m leaving.”
Hermione and Ernest stared at Heather with their mouths agape. She was leaving? Hermione’s heart fluttered happily for a moment, happiness filling her body. She would be free. She almost burst out in glee had Heather’s mouth not opened to explain. “I’m going to America on business. I shall be there for a while. As of right now, 3 months. It could be extended, but I won’t know until I’m over there.”
Ernest looked heartbroken as Heather told him this, but Hermione was jumping and screaming in joy. She didn’t have to fear for her life anymore! Everything would be okay. Hermione subconsciously reached down for Ernest’s hand and squeezed it, trying to make him feel better. It was what he had done for her when she was little and scared and so she automatically applied it to him. Heather eyed Hermione skeptically, but said nothing. Ernest was still gaping at her, unable to comprehend that she was really leaving. “When do you leave?”
Heather glanced down at the watch on her wrist, “Soon. About, 4:30.”
“That’s so soon. Where are you going?”
“Who’s getting you?”
“Someone from the agency over there.” Ernest was quiet once more, pondering over everything. He sighed, knowing that Heather wouldn’t change her mind and it was for her job. Ernest squeezed Hermione’s hand back, releasing himself from her grip. He stood and walked around the table, going over and hugging Heather. She reluctantly hugged him back, feigning care. Hermione stood, walking over to her mother as well, keeping her from using any actions against her upon her return. She hugged her mother and felt Heather smother her tightly against her body, crushing her and making the pain erupt all over her body once more.
Hermione did not cry out in pain though. This would only anger her. She needed to be guilt-free while she was away from her mother. Heather’s things were already waiting by the door when she had to leave. A car from her company pulled in front of the house and Ernest helped get Heather’s things. Hermione helped as well, grabbing one of the smaller bags. Everything went into the trunk and Hermione hugged her mother goodbye once more. The excitement was starting to seep through and it took all Hermione had to keep the gigantic smile from filling her face. Heather climbed into the seat, heading out with the driver. Hermione waved once more as the car turned the corner before jumping up and down all over the yard and falling into the grass from her overwhelming happiness.
Ernest looked at her oddly. “Joie, what are you doing?”
“Joie! How could you say that? After everything your mother’s done for you!”
“I’m sorry, Dad, but it’s true. It’s a vacation for all of us. Maybe she’ll come home happier.”
Ernest sighed in agreement. “Maybe.”
Ernest walked over and laid in the grass next to his daughter, watching the clouds roll by. They curled up together pointing out the objects in the clouds. Together, they were happy. There was no down to their hype. Hermione sighed in relief, gratefulness, and ecstasy. She wouldn’t have to deal with Heather for months. It was ideal. Hopefully these next few months would give Hermione the courage to expose Heather and free herself of her oppression. This was it.
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