Chapter 1 : Mrs Zabini
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“We’ll see you later, ‘ermione,” Ron said through a mouth full of the leftover desert.
My laughter resounded off the walls and floor. From the corner of my eye I saw Harry’s emerald green eyes sparkle with amusement.
“We’ll see you at the game right?” He asked playfully, already knowing my answer. “It’s against the Irish and the French.”
I laughed again. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world, Harry.”
“Of course you won’t. We’ll be there to entertain you.” George grabbed an astounded Ron into a headlock and ruffled his fiery red hair. Of course, it didn’t feel or look the same as when he did it to Fred, but who could feel let down on an evening like this?
“I’m sure you will,” I nodded at him, pulling my poker face—it didn’t last very long.
George winked playfully as he slipped an obscure sweet into Ron’s half-eaten apple pie. Harry’s and Ginny’s muffled laughter could be heard as they stepped into the living room, getting ready to leave for The Burrow.
“Ze food waz delicious,” Fleur complimented as she kissed me on both cheeks. What can I say? Old habits die hard.
“Thank you, Fleur,” I replied; my answering hug was awkward and short.
“We hope to see you soon, Hermione dear.” Molly Weasley gave me one last bone crushing hug before she stepped into the green flames.
“Goodnight.” I waved as I watched the Weasleys and Harry disappear from my apartment. I smiled at each of their grinning faces as they bade me goodnight.
I sighed and sat down on the cold, white, marble floor. Sleep was nagging at my eyes and my muscles had locked themselves down. And before I knew it, I had slipped into a deep sleep with dreams so vivid that one would think that they were memories being relived.
I took in the view outside the hotel window. This must be a dream, I repeated over and over to myself. I closed my eyes before opening a small crack in them; I caught a small glimpse of the already familiar, panoramic Australian scenery. In the near distance were the white, sandy shores and the aqua blue and green coloured sea of Cairns. The sunrays danced with the hoods of the cars below, creating shimmering little rainbows every now and then. The cool windows of the hotel shielded me away from the heated air outside. I breathed in deeply.
I felt an arm snake around my waist. “Hi, there.”
“Hello, beautiful, how do you like your honeymoon so far?” I felt his warm breath tickle my neck.
“I love it, Blaise. And you?” I asked.
He kissed my bare shoulder blade and sighed. “As long as I can spend the rest of my life with you, I wouldn’t care where I have my honeymoon.”
I chortled at his comment and leant my head against his.
“I love you,” he mumbled against my hair.
“What was that?” I grinned playfully out the window.
I felt him lift his face from my hair. “I said I love you.”
I spun around in his arms and pressed my lips to his soft ones in a slow, tender kiss. As I pulled back, I saw him smile. I grinned back in response.
“I love you too,” I whispered before he captured my lips in his in a kiss so sensual and feverish that my knees gave way. Those traitors.
“I don’t want to have to take you to the emergency room and explain that you fainted due to my expert snogging,” he mocked against my lips as he caught me right before I crumbled to the ground. I was a puppet on strings and he was my puppeteer.
“Oh, you won’t have to.” I tried to sound as confident as I could but I didn’t fool him. I had meant for my voice to sound firm, but it came out as a weak gasp. “When I’m with you, I couldn’t be happier.”
“Be careful for what you wish for, love.” His laugh sounded lighthearted and so angelic that it made my giddy giggles sound clumsy. Ah well, this is what happens to a sensible person when they fall in love.
He connected his lips with mine once more. Sheer pleasure erupted from me and spun out towards him in waves so strong and vigorous that I could almost see them.
“For what it’s worth, I’ll take my chances,” I reminded him.
“As will I.” He grinned down at me and followed me through a day of pure ecstasy.
Everything paused for a short moment. Then with a sudden lurch, my surroundings were moving at an incredible speed, making my head go around in circles. Suddenly, my head felt like a really heavy burden for my shoulders and neck, and my knees started to wobble unsteadily. It was like everything else was moving on—progressing—but I was stuck in the moment, unable to control or manipulate my own actions.
It soon got to the stage where I had the sudden urge to vomit. Way to control your dizziness, Hermione. I covered my mouth with both my hands. You’re so pathetic, I mentally scolded myself for being so feeble. But before the situation got too out of hand, everything came to a screeching stop, as if indicating that this was the place where the next part of my life would begin.
I looked around and noticed that almost everything was white. Snow? No, it couldn’t be…And why is someone using my stomach as a punching bag? I glanced down and noticed that I was wearing a hospital gown and that there was a beeping machine near my left arm. I couldn’t be anywhere but at St. Mungo’s…
My hands were cold and clammy; my body was weakening with every scream that emitted from my lips. One last push, I kept thinking to myself, one last push. I screamed again when a sharp stabbing pierced through my rounded abdomen. It was like that unforgettable night at the Malfoy Manor all over again. I glanced quickly at Blaise, wishing for him to make the pain go away but he just sat there, holding my right hand in both of his. His eyes mirrored my pain though his voice was strong and steady.
“Everything’s going to be fine, love,” he repeated over and over again. “You’ll make it through.” Whether he was saying it for his sake or mine, I was not sure.
And Lord, did I want to believe him. The future was just too unpredictable for me to see even a few seconds ahead. I took a glimpse at the shiny six carat diamond ring on my fourth finger, and I knew that I had to keep fighting, even if it’ll cause me greater pain than the Cruciatus curse ten times over.
The baby inside of me kicked me enthusiastically and my initiate reaction was to howl in pain—I clenched my fists into balls so tight that my veins had formed plains on my otherwise smooth skin. But feelingt his little human being living inside of me, made me fill up with parental joy, I wanted to be a mother. Maybe kicking was their way of encouraging their mothers to quickly get through the painful hours of labour so that they could live their life in this world. I almost laughed but stopped myself just in time. Oh Merlin, how can I be thinking up theories at a time like this? I grimaced as I thought about the hours that were more to come…
I don’t know what had triggered Blaise’s reaction—maybe he took my grimace as a grimace of anguish—but suddenly he was cooing in my ear. He placed a loose strand of my wet hair behind my ear and kissed the top of my forehead. “Just breathe, love. Just breathe.”
Another jab of pain erupted my few precious seconds of numbness, I felt my consciousness slowly slipping from my grasp. Darkness was just around the corner now but I didn’t want to succumb to nothing, I wanted to be there when my future son or daughter comes out, I want to hold my newborn baby.
“You’re almost there,” the mediwitch smiled at me. She patted my arm gently.
With all the strength left in me, I pushed. Within a second the pain was gone, it was replaced by my euphoria.
“I’m a mother.” It was more of a question than a statement.
I heard Blaise let out a low chuckle. “Yes, and you’ll be a wonderful one at that.”
I gave him a weak grin and turned my head towards to mediwitch.
“It’s a girl,” she said, immediately catching on to what I wanted to know. “Do you have any ideas for names?”
Blaise smiled at me, we had gone through this conversation more than enough times.
“Erin Claire,” he said, staring at me with so much intensity and love that I almost fainted.
“Can I hold her?” My voice broke twice throughout the sentence.
“Always so eager.” I heard Blaise mutter.
The mediwitch walked towards me with Erin Claire wrapped in her arms. She smiled as she gently placed my baby in my arms. “She’s all yours.”
I gasped when I felt a powerful surge of love swell up in my chest. “She’s beautiful.”
I woke with a start. Beads of sweat were trickling down my neck and into my night gown. That dream seemed so real, but how could that be? I wasn’t married and I certainly didn’t have a daughter last time I checked.
“Hermione, are you alright?”
I felt a warm hand stroke the length of my back. “Blaise?”
“Am I married?”
Blaise chuckled and kissed my nose. “To me, remember?”
“Right, of course.” I smiled at him and laid my head back on the soft pillow and pulled the silky satin sheets up to my chin. I check my left ring finger, and there it was—the diamond ring from the dream. But how is it possible that I’ve missed what is supposed to be the most important moment of my life? I paused on that thought. Oh sweet Merlin’s second cousin thrice removed, I barely knew him and now he’s telling me that we’re married? But there was still one part that had gone by unanswered but I wasn’t sure if I wanted it answered. There was a moment of silence before I interrupted it with my questions.
“Do I have a daughter?” I blurted it out before I could stop myself.
There was a pause. I turned around in the bed to face him. I saw him frowning in the darkness.
“You’ve had a daughter for almost 15 years. Are you sure you’re alright?” He asked, suddenly anxious.
“I’m fine, really. I was just curious,” I said in a wavering voice.
“You were just curious.” He mirrored my uncertain tone.
I gulped audibly. “Blaise…Is her name, Erin Claire?”
He reached out for me and placed his hands on either side of my face.
“Look me in the eye and tell me honestly, what is going on,” he demanded. He’s beautiful blue pools held me in an intense stare.
“Nothing’s going on. I told you, I was just curious,” I replied truthfully. I had been curious about this life, this me.
His frown deepened; he didn’t look convinced at all. His lips were pulled down at the corners and his eyes narrowed. He stared at me in disbelief. Well, at least it’s not the first time. “You are curious as to whether or not you got married and had a daughter.”
It wasn’t a question but I answered it anyway. “Yes.” I smiled at him and continued when he made no comment. “Hey…is she in Gryffindor?” My voice sounded too enthusiastic even to my own ears.
“St Mungo’s now.”He got up from our ornately decorated king sized bed and pulled out a crisp, white button-up shirt and a pair of khaki slacks. He quickly combed his rich, black hair and waited for me at the doorway.
“What’s wrong? What did I do?”
“Nothing,” he replied in a more dulcet tone. “Just get dressed; I’m taking you to St Mungo’s.”
I sighed as I got into an elegant looking argyle, sweater dress that didn’t look as though it was something that fitted in with the rest of my wardrobe…or should I say old wardrobe?
“This really isn’t necessarily you know,” I sulked as I pulled my night gown over my head and replaced it with the sweater dress.
He didn’t answer; he was still frowning with obvious concern.
“I doubt they’ll waste their time checking up on someone that has clearly not lost her mind,” I muttered to myself as I neared the doorway. “Don’t you think you’re overreacting a little?”
“No.” His voice was firm and swimming with worry. He grabbed my arm and literally dragged me down the grand staircase despite my many weak protests.
On the way to the front door, I saw a girl with sleek, waist length brown hair and shocking green-blue eyes, curled up on the couch reading a thick volume of Merlin knows what. She stopped us right before we got the door.
“Father, mother, why are you up so early in the morning?” Her voice sounded like she was born a singer; a sweet nightingale. Her auburn hair flowed down her back in soft waves; her eyes glittered like diamonds from afar. She was inevitably…undeniably beautiful.
She smiled as I looked around the room to see who she was addressing as mother and father. When I saw no one present in the entrance hall but the three of us, I came to a sudden realisation. Could it be?
“I can ask the same for you,” Blaise said, with the authority that only a father would have when speaking to his daughter. “Go back to bed, Erin.”
OK, that says a lot.
“I was reading, dad,” she replied fluidly, clearly not disturbed by her father’s stern voice. “Why sleep when you can read?” She gave me a wink before turning on her heels and walking away. She took her position on the couch again and opened her book. “Besides, I’m on holiday.”
I smiled at her tranquil figure. She reminded me so much of myself—the brown hair and the passion for reading—but her over-the-top-confidence was definitely not inherited from me.
“When will you start acting like her mother instead of attempting to be her best friend? Not to mention the consistent ogling of your eyes at her.”
Blaise’s amused voice brought me back to the current situation. I grinned giddily at him and took an attentive step towards my daughter.
“Is a mother not allowed to fawn over her child?” I questioned with a playful tint to my tone. “And as for the attempting to be her best friend part, I have no clue as to what you’re talking about.” I jutted my chin out stubbornly.
I felt him roll his eyes behind my back. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about.”
I turned back around to face him; the giddy grin was replaced by something I had hoped to look like a mischievous smile. “Are you sure?”
He rolled his eyes again but his face softened despite his effort. “Prove me wrong.” His lips turned up in a soft but challenging smile.
“Don’t mind if I do.”
Erin cleared her throat loudly in the background. “Mum, dad, if you’re going to flirt, please do it somewhere where I can’t hear you. Thank you!” She added the last bit a quieter voice, but it was not so quiet that I couldn’t hear. “Some people never change…”
“You just wait, missy,” I called out to her from across the spacious, entrance hall. “Your kids might say that you some day.” I took a few small steps away from the front and towards the grand staircase.
Erin laughed. “You wish, mother.”
Blaise sniggered and grabbed me by the hand and pulled me to his chest. “Nice try.”
“Aw, come on,” I groaned. “I’m completely fine.”
“We’ll let the healers decide that.”
I caught a glimpse of him smiling smugly before my surroundings were replaced by
“See? I told you I was fine,” I said with a hint of smugness marring my voice. “You were overreacting.”
Blaise looked straight ahead as we walked up to the massive front gates of a glorious manor. His lips were tight and his eyes refused to flicker to mine.
“Where are we going now?” I asked.
He came to an abrupt stop and frowned.
I sighed and threw my hands up in the air. “What did I do this time?”
“You don’t even know your own home!” he cried out in exasperation.
I glared at him but that glare didn’t last long when I registered what he had just said. “This is my home?”
“You were here this morning.” His frown deepened and his eyes hardened into ice. “How can you not remember?”
I ignored him and gaped at the three story-high beauty in front of me. The last few rays of the evening sun were just hitting the west side of the building, casting a delicate glow around the edges. My words of shock were stuck in my throat.
“For heaven’s sake, Hermione quit playing this game of yours. It’s not funny,” Blaise uttered quietly. “You’re really getting me worried.”
I peeled my eyes away from the glowing manor reluctantly and looked into his pained eyes. The ice in them was melting, replaced by a warm pool of blue liquid.
“Please, Hermione,” he pleaded again, his voice softening with every syllable. “Just tell me what’s wrong. I can handle the truth, love.”
“You want the truth?”
I sighed and sat down, leaning my head against the cool metal of the entrance gate.
“I don’t remember my life at all,” I began. “Yesterday, I went to sleep in my apartment and today I woke up as Mrs Zabini. I just feel like there’s a part of my life that I’m missing, Blaise, I don’t know what to do.”
“You can’t remember anything about your life?”
“No…I just can’t seem to remember how I ended up with you.” I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed again.
He was confused at first and then hurt slowly dawned on his face. “I don’t understand, Hermione, we’ve been so happy together…”
“It’s not you, it’s me. I’m the one with the mental instability right now.”
His face relaxed into a smile, it didn’t reach his eyes. “Tell me what you remember.”
I sniggered. “It’s a long story.”
“We’ve got time.”
Taking a few deep breaths, I started. “I remember having dinner with the Weasleys and Harry the night before, I remember Mrs Weasley hugging me and telling me that she’ll see me soon. After they went home, I was alone and tired. I sat down on the floor of my apartment and I think I eventually fell asleep there…” I took another deep breath.
He nodded in understanding. “Anything else?”
“Are they alright? Harry and the Weasleys, I mean.”
Blaise reached out for my hand and stroked it with his thumb. “Hermione, you haven’t talked to them in ten years. You stopped owling them after that horrid fight.”
I gasped in shock; my heart pumped loudly in my ears. “I got into a fight with them?” My voice was barely a whisper, “What about?”
He bit on his bottom lip and glared down at the ground. “Me.”
Oh, of course. “Did we make up for it though? I’ve never gotten into a fight with them so big that they’d never speak to me again. It must’ve been serious.”
“Hermione…you told them not to speak to you again—not the other way again.” The words parted from his lips in a rush, it was like he was trying to get rid of a lost and angered spirit that was haunting him. “I’m sorry.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“I’m sorry,” he repeated quietly.
I switched the position of our entwined hands; it was my turn to comfort him. “It’s not your fault. If they don’t respect my decision then it’s their fault. I’m just glad you told me.”
“We could drive over there this weekend if you like?” He asked hopefully.
I laughed at his eagerness, but his caring for my feelings and friends touched my heart. Blaise Zabini—I had never expected him to be the one suggesting to pay the Weasleys and Harry a visit. “You hate them, Blaise.”
He shrugged indifferently; the hopeful glint in his eyes was still presentbut his nose with scrunched up as if he had just eaten something revolting. “Your friends are my friends.”
“I don’t think they consider me as a friend anymore,” I chuckled bitterly.
“We’ll see—now, back to you amazing life story.” His smile blew me off my feet and into the clouds.
“Well, I had a dream last night?”
“And you’re asking me?”
I laughed—he makes me laugh more than anyone else has ever had.
He waited patiently as I gathered up the scattered pieces of my story, his eyes were analysing my every movement.
“Have I ever been to Australia before?” I asked after much deliberation.
“Yes, we went there for our honeymoon,” Blaise replied, a dreamy expression took over his face.
“Were you there when I was in labour?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“You say that so enthusiastically.”
“Well,” he chuckled. “I was going to be a father. What did you expect me to do? Screw up my face in disgust? Leave you when you were in labour because it was too much for me to handle? Not a chance.”
I laughed with him. “I’m glad to know.”
“Now, are you going to tell me your dream or not?” A smile was still on his face and it would feel like a crime to wipe it off.
“That was the dream,” I said, just loud enough for him to hear.
“I left you when you were in labour?”
I laughed—again—but he looked serious.
“No, silly, I was dreaming—actually, the term reliving would be better suited—about our honeymoon and the time I having Erin.”
He frowned. “You told me you couldn’t remember anything about your life!”
“Those were just dreams, Blaise, dreams.”
“No, Hermione, they weren’t just dreams. They actually happened…” His voice trailed off towards the end.
“This is such a mess,” I buried my head in my hands. “Maybe we should’ve stayed at St Mungo’s this morning though I doubt they have a cure for sheer stupidity and memory loss.”
“You? Stupid? Hardly.”
“You’re just saying that to make me feel better,” I grumbled through the small gap between my thumbs.
“You may have a case of memory loss, but you’re definitely not stupid.”
I inhaled and exhaled a couple of times before raising my head. “I just want to sit here for a while.”
“Take all the time you need.”
I smiled absent-mindedly at the scenery, taking in every little detail of the Zabini Manor. My fingers traced the patterns of the cool, metal gates and the friezes on the tall marble posts. I noticed that there was a small crack there the bottom. My eyes wandered across the grounds. There was a white, wooden swing near the back corner of the manor; small vines had weaved themselves to the pearly posts, creating intricate patterns. The flowers that were dangling from the tops of the posts were swaying gently with the breeze.
Everything about this place left me breathless.
“Beautiful,” I whispered, my brain was still quite incoherent and even managing one word at a time seemed to be a challenge when standing before this glorious panorama.
I heard Blaise change his position and lean his head against the gates. “Beautiful it may be, but a lot of things have happened here, some of which are not so pleasant.”
I rolled my eyes. “Way to ruin a moment.”
He patted me on the back and stood up. “I’ll be in the study if you need me.”
“Why is this happening to me, Blaise?” I asked in a small, broken voice. “Those dreams, according to you, are real but what about the things I do remember like the dinner with Harry and the Weasleys? Is that real?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied, his beautiful face screwed up with uncertainty. “Don’t worry, it’ll get sorted out.”
“What do you suppose I do in the meantime? Throw garden parties and act like this never happened?”
“I never said that.”
I set my lips into a small pout and hugged my knees to my chest. “I know—I just can’t get a grip of everything. It’s like one minute I’m fine and pieced together but the next I’m like a glass bottle with all its contents drained and its exterior shattered.”
He glanced briefly at me and with one swift movement he had his arms around me.
“We could always ask Potter and the Weasleys what happened all those years ago. I’m sure they’ll understand what you’re going through,” he whispered. “We’ll work it out.”
I glowered down at my hands. “That’s just another way of saying that we’ll never figure out what’s wrong with me,” I muttered more to myself than Blaise.
“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Blaise replied through gritted teeth.
“Oh sure there isn’t.” I got up and pushed the gates open with the force and strength I never thought I possessed and stomped up the long and wide, pebble driveway (Not that we ever used it, I don’t think...Except he did mention something about a drive).
“Don’t be difficult about it, Hermione.”
I paused in my tracks, considering the offer but my pride kept my feet moving one after the other.
“You wouldn’t be so cool about it if you were the one with a screwed up life!” I shot over my shoulder.
“You are my life!” He called out from behind me. I could hear the crunching of his footsteps as he sprinted up the driveway towards me.
I spun around and put my hands on my hips. “Well, it sure doesn’t look like it!”
“You’re being irrational, Hermione.What did I do to make you so mad at me?”
“I’m not mad at you.”
“Then who are you mad at?”
“You can’t keep torturing yourself like this!”
I ran up the few remaining steps to the large double doors and kicked them open, my temper flared. “You think?!” I yelled as I grabbed the handles on both doors and swung them closed with one mighty swing.
“Mum?” A small voice protruded the silence. “Mum?” She repeated. “Are you alright?”
I look into Erin’s surprised eyes and felt tears sting my own. “Who am I?” I slid down to the floor and buried my face in my hands.
The doors opened again, this time it was gentler and much quieter. I felt a small gust of wind when the doors closed again.
A pair of warm hands kneaded my tense shoulders.
“Hermione, life will go back to the way it was. I promise.”