Chapter 16 : Chapter Sixteen
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- Samuel Johnston
September 12, 1986
Another new school year. Another new teacher. Another new grade. Another day with Heather away from home. She had been away for a little over nine months. She called home weekly, letting Ernest and her know if she was coming home or if her stay had been extended. Up until this morning, Hermione had been absolutely elated that her mother was gone. Maybe she would stay away forever!
Such was not the case. Heather had called early that morning to inform her daughter and husband that she would be arriving home within the week. Hermione's hope that she would never see her mother again slowly died at this news. Not only would the beatings most likely start back up, there was the possibility that they could get worse.
Maybe Heather had a change of heart. Maybe America had made a difference in her and she'd come back different. Whatever the case may be, 4th grade was her focus for now. Things were going to change this year.
Draco stood by Hermione's side, talking to a few other kids in the class. He had become a social butterfly whilst Heather had turned Hermione into a shell of her former self. Draco was beyond pure joy when when he had heard Heather left. He had gotten his best friend back when she was out of the picture. Hermione was still shy, but she wasn't afraid at every corner, or watching what she said with everyone she was around.
Now that Heather was coming back, he feared Hermione would keep herself in danger and fall back in her old habits. He didn't want that. He loved his Hermione, the one who would play and laugh without a care in the world, not the one who cowered in the corners of rooms and put herself in harm's open, flailing path.
Maybe things would be different.
Draco still talked to Suri, much to Hermione's displeasure, but they were not close friends. He didn't hate Suri, but the horrible things she had done to Hermione in the past to get Draco's attention? Well, they didn't help her case much.
Hermione eyed Draco as he talked to Blaise. She caught sight of Hermione and smiled, waving. Hermione smiled back but said nothing, going back to her contemplative state. Blaise looked at Draco warily. "What's wrong with Hermione?"
"Nothing. She's just thinking about the new year and her mum. Worrying over nothing, like usual. Right?" Draco nudged Hermione and she didn't fall out of her state. He raised an eyebrow at Blaise, "See?"
Blaise looked at Hermione with sympathy. She knew all about the issues with Heather, it was quite obvious when it came right down to it. She looked back at Draco, "What did Heather do now?"
"She's coming home."
"Oh." Blaise smiled slightly, deciding to engage Hermione in conversation to brighten her spirits. "Hey 'Mione, have you heard the new Step Sisters record? It's wicked!"
Hermione cocked her head at Blaise while Draco paled. They were a magic band and Blaise was not aware that Hermione knew nothing of magic. "Who's that?"
"Who's that! Only the most awesome mag--" Draco covered Blaise's mouth with his hand. Hermione looked at him oddly. Blaise shook in his grip and finally burst free, screaming, "WHAT THE BLOODY HELL, DRACO!"
The teacher, Miss Budniak, who had just arrived, stared at Blaise in astonishment. "Young miss, what is your name?"
"Because I asked for it."
"I'm taking attendance."
"Then I shouldn't be a concern of your's yet."
Draco cut in, not wanting to get Blaise in trouble, but feeling the need to get Hermione's thoughts off of questioning Blaise about the band later and Hermione being on the receiving end of a possible magical revelation. "Blaise, just tell her your name."
Miss Budniak smirked and Blaise growled at Draco, leaning back as if she was preparing to attack. Miss Budniak cut in for Draco's safety. "Blaise Zambini."
"Alright, Blaise. March yourself down to the Principal's office."
"And how am I supposed to find the room when I get back from the office?"
"How did you find the room when you got here this morning, Miss Zambini?"
"Touché. And it's, Za-bini.
"Good. Now, march."
Blaise glared at Draco, pointing an accusing finger at him, "You'll pay for this."
"Miss Zambini, now!"
Blaise stomped away and Draco felt relieved that Blaise was such a smart aleck. Hermione was already over the entire fiasco, back to thinking about how her day was going to go. Draco set a hand on her shoulder and Hermione caught a glimpse of the thoughts running through his head. She saw the hallways and heard Draco's worry for her. He wished she would thank him for all that he does for her, but thought it better to not bring it up. She was under enough stress as it was.
Once the kids entered the room, Hermione removed Draco's hand from her shoulder and hardly spoke to him for the time it took for them to find their seats. She felt horrible for making Draco think that he was going unappreciated. It was another thing for her to focus on. Another person she was hurting. Why did she do this to people?
Draco, on the other hand, was completely oblivious to Hermione's gift which had allowed her to access his vulnerable thoughts. He couldn't fathom why she wouldn't talk to him. They told each other everything. Well, almost everything. There was still that one little, itty, bitty abuse thing that wouldn't be spoken of, even though they both knew about it.
Draco sighed as he and Hermione chose their seats for the year. He started running his hands through his hair, a habit he had picked up from his overly stressed father. It was going to be another very long year.
After lunch, the class was permitted outside for recess. Hermione went to sit on the edge of one of the pieces of playground equipment. Draco had followed Blaise to the other side of the playground for a game of tag. As Hermione contemplated what would be happening once her mother finally arrived home, flashes of images started flowing through her mind. Thoughts and memories of things that had happened already. And they weren't just her memories, it was everyone within a 5-mile radius.
Hermione grabbed her ears and shook her head, trying to get rid of the images. There were too many. It was overwhelming. She stood up drastically, not noticing two girls fighting over the slide behind her. All she knew was the these strange images - scary, funny, happy, sad - were flashing through her mind at 1,000 miles per minute. The fight she hadn't noticed escalated and one of the girls pushed the other. That girl proceeded to collide with Hermione, who was still at the edge of the slide, and knocked Hermione off completely.
A scream was heard throughout the playground and Draco's head snapped in Hermione's direction. He saw her falling and seemingly, before he could think twice, he was under Hermione, catching her. They both stared at each other in shock, Hermione seeing the glorious rescue through her contact with Draco. Draco slowly set Hermione down and the two soon became fully aware that the entirety of the playground was watching them in awe. Blaise, who was still on the other side of the playground, voiced everyone's thoughts, "How did you do that?"
The two kids said nothing. A student pulling a teacher by the sleeve arrived and they both stopped to survey the scene. The teacher looked disappointed and cast her gaze down at the student. He opened his mouth and then proceeded to stomp his foot on the ground, "I swear she was falling! Bucky was falling!"
Hermione cringed at the nickname given to her by the mean school girls which had spread around the school like wildfire. Her front teeth were bucked from one of the more severe beatings Heather had administered which had damaged the development of her teeth. Hermione tried to force her lips over her teeth more to hide the bucking and make herself feel better. Draco had growled at the name - a low, guttural sound - and the student gulped.
The teacher rolled their eyes at the child and questioned the entire playground. "Who knows what happened here?"
There was silence for a moment before every kid - excluding Draco and Hermione - rushed at the teacher with an explanation. The two ran from the crowd and into the woods behind the school. Blaise saw the escape and followed them.
Once the two felt safe, they fell into a slow walk, holding hands. It had made them calm as kids and it still worked to this day. They both could feel the magic (for Hermione, a special tingle) coursing through their bodies. Hermione knew who was with her simply by the images flashing through her head. "Hi, Blaise."
Draco's head snapped to Hermione, Blaise, and back before any of them could blink. Blaise was in shock. "Do you two know what's going on?"
The two 9-year-olds looked at each other and shrugged. Hermione pressed her. "Why? Are we different?"
Blaise replayed the chain of events, as did Draco. Hermione could see from both of their perspectives that something was different about the two of them. "You're superheroes!"
The three kids stopped walking and the "superheroes" looked at Blaise skeptically. "What?"
Draco rolled his eyes so fast Blaise wasn't sure it happened. "That's ridiculous, Blaise..."
The three continued walking, "Why is it so ridiculous?"
Hermione scoffed. "Because superheroes aren't real. It's the same thing as magic. Make believe for entertainment."
Blaise sighed. Draco had already warned Blaise, when she came back from the Principal's office, that Hermione wasn't supposed to know about magic. She kept her mouth shut at the insult out of respect for Draco. "Maybe you're right."
The three kids were silent. They had stopped by a creek that happened to be running through that particular part of the woods. Draco started skipping stones. He threw one and it skipped merrily along the creek's surface, continuing on out of sight. He marveled at this new skill, to which he had usually only gotten 2 or 3 skips out of a good rock, and started to skip bigger rocks. He continued on, skipping larger and larger rocks out of sight until he was skipping boulders down the creek.
All of them were bewildered. Something was wrong. This wasn't normal. It was unnatural. They needed to see someone who could help and tell them what was happening, what to do. Mrs. Sventinson was a good friend of theirs and seemed to know a lot about them in the past. Maybe she would know. Until then, they would have to keep their new "gifts" under wraps.
None of them knew how long it had been since they had fled the playground but Hermione was sure someone had to be looking for them by now. It was starting to get dark and cold. The three kids huddled together for warmth and fell asleep there in the woods. No light, no tent, no blankets. Just the ground and the trees. They shivered in the harsh September wind, hoping against all hope that someone would find them.
A sudden, faint, 'Hermione! Draco! Blaise! Where are you?' resounded in Hermione's mind and she used her newly acquired power to find out who this person was. The images were hazy at first, as if they weren't within her reach. They finally cleared and Hermione recognized memories from the person's mind. Images that included her and things that had happened to or with her. It was Ernest.
Hermione jumped up, the rush of cool wind from her rapid movement making her shiver. She turned to wake Blaise and Draco, only to find her best friend already at her side with a snoring Blaise on his back. "I heard someone yelling our names."
"I hear their thoughts. By the way, what are you--"
Draco shrugged when Hermione raised her eyebrow at him, "I didn't want her to wake up."
Hermione sighed, rolling her eyes and heading in the direction of the thoughts. The two altered their paths slightly, according to what they heard. Once they found themselves within voice range, they started yelling back.
In no time, Ernest and Narcissa (Lucius was at a Death Eaters meeting) had reunited with the three kids. Narcissa proceeded to take Blaise from Draco and hug her son at the same time. She then started to scold him for running away from the school.
Ernest looked to Hermione, knowing it was unlike her to run away ever, and wondered what possessed her to do so. "Joie, hunny, why didn't you stay at school?"
"I was getting made fun of so I ran away. Draco and Blaise followed me to get me back to school but we were too far away. It's not their faults, it's mine."
Ernest looked at Hermione with sympathy, knowing what the kids had nicknamed her and feeling her pain. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, guiding her into the pathway he had taken to find them. "C'mon, I have a surprise for you at home."
Hermione thought it odd that bad behavior should get rewarded, but after seeing Ernest's thoughts and memories of being bullied throughout school, she knew that he felt for her. Well, so long as the happy news was that Heather wasn't coming home until...well, forever, any surprise was good with her!
Meanwhile, at the Death Eaters Meeting...
A Death Eaters meeting had convened in Voldemort's lair. Lucius stood in the corner, watching for Voldemort to enter the room. He felt his body shaking, but he wasn't sure as to why. Fear and anger coursed through him. This thing...this, monster, was having a meeting to send one of them on another mission.
Lucius and the other Unspeakables were scattered throughout the circle of Death Eaters, both loyal and unloyal, which was centered around the grotesque being's "throne". The doors of the hall burst open and a shiver traveled from the base of Lucius's neck to the tip of his tail bone. His hood was down, as per usual, and he looked weaker. Like Death himself.
As Voldemort entered the room his blood red eyes searched his followers, trying to syke out the ones who thought he was going to pick them, while hiding the true missionary. As he made his final rounds on the way to his "throne", his eyes landed upon Lucius with a sadistic smile.
Lucius's blood went cold. All bodily functions stopped. Everything. He was next.
"Malfoy, front and center!" Lucius quickly ran to the center of the room, kneeling before his master. The creature smiled. "I have a special task for you. And it involves your son."
If Lucius could have died on the spot he would have. He didn't want his family to have anything to do with this, this, Lord...He was promised his family would not be involved! Lucius cringed. Eric would be extremely upset if he was called upon to enact a duty ordered by Voldemort himself. "Which one, sire?"
Lucius's heart literally jumped into his throat and almost fell out of his body completely. He coughed a little to try and force his heart back into his chest. "M-my lord?"
"Yes. I want you to have Draconus invite his friend over one night. The little brown, bushy-haired one with the buck teeth?"
Lucius shook his head, fearing for Hermione's safety. "I am afraid I do not know who you are talking about, master."
"Hermione Granger, master?" one of the members of the circle suggested.
Lucius almost growled at Peter Parkinson. Smarmy bastard. Voldemort snapped his fingers in acceptance. "Yes! That's the girl! I've been watching her Lucius; she's special. Invite her over and bring her to me in by Christmas Eve or kiss your family goodbye."
"What do you want with her, my Lord?"
"She's powerful. For now, I will train her as my successor. Who knows? In a few years time she could be my concubine."
Lucius shuddered. He had to choose. Obey and sell out his son's friend, or protect her and risk his family. Lucius hung his head in shame.
Ernest wanted to keep the surprise a secret from Hermione because, after all, it was a surprise. Hermione and Ernest had said goodbye to Draco, Blaise, and Narcissa just moments ago as they drove home and now Ernest was positively beaming at the thought of the surprise. "Dad, what is it already?"
"Just wait. I promise, you'll be thrilled." Ernest covered Hermione's eyes and set her on his feet, walking her to the front door. Hermione heard the door open and she felt a shiver go down her spine. Something didn't feel right. Whoever this person was, Hermione couldn't see their thoughts or figure out who they were. It was off and Hermione didn't like it. She had already become accustomed to seeing peoples memories to identify them.
The first syllable that came from the person's mouth sent Hermione into a panic. Her mind, heart, and pulse were racing at 1,000 miles a minute. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god...
Ernest uncovered Hermione's eyes, wondering why she had become so stiff and had started into a cold sweat. The connection of those deep, evil eyes with Hermione's, it was enough to just about send her over the edge. The voice spoke once more, "Hello, Hermione."
Heather cracked an evil smile and a chill ran through Hermione. Everything was so wrong. Things had been going so well, why did they have to change now?
Through her scrambled thoughts, Hermione managed to spot something in her mother's arms. Perhaps it was a present with a concealed weapon that Heather would use upon her later. This was the theory Hermione went with until the bundle started to move. A small arm popped out of the blanket and Heather focused her attention upon it. Hermione, already forced back into her old behaviors around Heather, decided to quietly ask what it was. "Mum, what is that?"
"Oh, you mean who?"
Heather leaned down and an odd motherly twinkle, something Hermione hadn't seen in a long time aimed toward her, was in her eye as she looked upon the bundle. The blanket slipped away from the top and a small face appeared. It was beautiful. Green eyes, a little wisp of dirty blond hair. He was adorable. Hermione cooed and the baby smiled a gummy smile.
"His name is Ivan. Ivan Michael Granger. Your baby brother."
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