Chapter 17 : Chapter Seventeen
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Hermione looked up at her mother in surprise. Ernest was still overcome with shock from hearing the news earlier that day. "What?"
"I said he's your baby brother."
Hermione staggered back from the little bundle whose wild, curious were upon her. There was no way Heather could bring another child into the world and pull the same stunts with him as she had on Hermione. He would end up just like her. She couldn't and wouldn't let that happen.
Now that the initial shock had worn off, Ernest stood in angered silence, glaring at Heather. Something was wrong. Ivan couldn't be his son. He and Heather hadn't had sex in over a year. She had gotten pregnant and given birth while she was away. Heather had cheated on him. Again.
He kept his mouth shut as he watched the baby. His heart warmed at the sight of him, his soulful little eyes watching his older sister - older, half sister - as she conversed with their mother. Ernest walked over and plucked Ivan from Heather's grasp, cradling him into his chest. Ivan turned toward Ernest in the blanket and stared up at him. His tiny hand popped up and Ernest gave him his finger to play with. "Hey, little guy."
Hermione and Heather were too focused to notice the events going on between Ernest and Ivan. Hermione knew the inevitable timeline that Heather was going to follow, just as she had done with Hermione, and was determined to protect her little brother.
Heather was already boiling at Hermione's responses to anything she said. Apparently while Heather was away, Hermione had gotten some of her nerve back when it came to Heather. So, like any good mother would do, Heather planned the night's "activities" accordingly. "Go make dinner, Joie."
"Fine." Oh, that was going to cost her dearly. Heather turned back to her husband and son, watching their bond form. It was a beautiful sight to uphold. She felt a sudden wave of happiness, which she hadn't felt since she had seen Ernest holding Jeremy. The moment was broken when she realized Ernest's glare was set upon her. He continued to rock Ivan, never allowing his gaze to leave Heather.
"How could you do this to me? And our family?"
Heather raised an eyebrow, "Do what?"
"You know what I'm talking about."
"I'm quite sure I don't."
"You went to America, met someone, and had a baby with them. What is wrong with you!"
"So, I'm low because I found someone who loves me enough to have a baby with me?"
"Yes! Don't try to reason behind it! Heather, we've been married for almost 25 years and I have loved you every moment of every year. It's unfortunate that you haven't felt the same. I forgave you for Kaylie, but this has gone too far. Two kids out of wedlock, I can't handle. I won't forgive you again."
"Ernest, I really don't want to talk about this right now. Just give me Ivan and go cool off in the kitchen with Hermione."
"What do you mean no?"
"I mean, no. Let me tell you something right now Heather, if anything happens to Ivan, like the crap you've been pulling with Hermione when I'm not around, I won't hesitate to leave. I'll act now. You will no longer be left alone with these children.
"I haven't defended Hermione as well as I should have, mainly because I've only just put together what's been happening while you were away. But I promise you, if you touch either one of these kids in any way other than loving, you will lose all of us. Including Ivan."
Heather growled, lunging for Ivan. Ernest pulled his out of the way, shielding the baby from her. "You will never take my baby."
"Then don't test me."
"You don't mean any of that. You don't have the guts."
"Heather, I'm not warning you again."
Heather was actually in awe, seeing that Ernest finally was not going to be the pushover she knew him to be. He was firm and refused to compromise. For a moment, the flame she had for him was almost reignited. For a moment. And then it was gone, because Heather could not let Ernest have the upper hand. No, if he had the upper hand, she couldn't satisfy her needs. She had to have Hermione under her control; she needed to get her anger out somehow.
"Alright, Ernest. I can see that you're serious and I won't disobey you. I'll have someone with me for the kids when you're not around."
"Good." Ernest left Heather in the Living Room while he went to help Hermione in the kitchen. He didn't believe her, not a word. She would slip up, one of the kids would get hurt, and he'd be out of there. Maybe soon he could start looking for an apartment.
Ernest set Ivan in his carrier on the counter, sitting on a stool next to him. He watched Hermione as she made macaroni and cheese while heating up leftovers in the microwave. She sat next to Ernest while waiting for the water to boil. She turned to her baby brother, cooing and tickling him. Ernest smiled at the two kids. He had to go to the courts to make sure that Ivan was his as well as Hermione. He'd have to send Jeremy the papers to get Ivan's father to sign over custody.
So many plans were beginning to form in Ernest's head. He stood from the stool, grabbed some paper and a pen, and began tending to the unfinished macaroni and cheese while he listed his legal obligations to come. He stirred the noodles while thinking over his list, wondering what else he should add. He heard Ivan's buckles being undone and swung around, holding the wooden spoon he had been stirring with as a weapon, thinking it was Heather. It was just Hermione, trying to keep Ivan from throwing a temper tantrum.
"Joie, hunny, I'm fine with Ivan being unbuckled but make sure he doesn't leave the carrier."
"Okay, Dad. Where's he going to sleep?"
"I'll have to get your crib out of the attic and put it back together for him tonight. Do you want to help me?"
Hermione smiled at her father. "Of course."
The night progressed slowly, but surely and without complaint from Heather. Ernest hadn't heard a snide remark or false accusation toward Hermione all night. Maybe she had actually taken what he had said to heart.
Ernest almost snorted out loud for such a thought. Heather, his lying, cheating, backstabbing, morally corrupt wife actually listen to something that he threatened? Ha! In an alternate universe, maybe. He knew that her "good behavior" would only last for so long before she exploded. This meant he had to act even faster. He'd have to use some of his personal days and get moving on the custody papers.
Once the kitchen was cleared and cleaned, Ernest brought Hermione and Ivan into the attic, covering their faces with small towels. He didn't want to endanger them with the dust and spores in the attic air, but he couldn't trust Heather to watch them. He removed the cribs and kids from the attic as quickly as possible, moving them all into Hermione's room.
Hermione attempted to help with the crib but eventually gave up and kept Ivan entertained. After an hour, the crib was finished and both kids were asleep in their beds. He kissed them both goodnight, stroking Hermione's hair. "I promise Mum won't hurt you anymore. Soon, we won't ever have to see her again. I'm so sorry for what she's done to you."
Ernest then curled in next to Hermione and fell asleep.
--Martin Luther King, Jr.
December 24, 1986
Hermione was being tugged along the sidewalk by her father. They were in a damp alley in a portion of London Hermione had never been to. "Dad, where are we?"
"We're looking at something."
"Are we moving?"
Ernest was glad Hermione didn't ask any more questions. He walked into the Comfort Apartments Kings Cross with his kids. The teenage receptionist was not at all happy that she actually had to work at her job. "Hello, and welcome to Comfort Apartments Kings Cross. What do you want?"
"I wanted to look at apartments."
Ernest raised an eyebrow, "Does it matter?"
The girl rolled her eyes and dropped her feet from the desk. She pressed the button on the small intercom, asking one of the other employees to come show them to the apartments. Ernest rolled Ivan over to a bench and sat down, allowing Hermione to sit in his lap while they waited for the employee.
A strapping young man of 20 came to the counter and started flirting with the receptionist. She giggled uncontrollably at everything the boy said, which made Ernest imagine Hermione in years to come. He poked her, "Hey, Joie. See that receptionist?"
"What do you think she thinks of that boy?"
"She likes him. A lot. And wants to give him a --" Ernest covered Hermione's mouth, having forgotten that she was "special". She must have heard the girl's thoughts and was curious.
"Do you think she's annoying?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you think the boy likes her?"
"No. Not at all. He thinks she's stupid. And she laughs too much. He only talks to her because she gives him things. What does she give him?"
"I'll tell you when you're older."
"So, do you think she's annoying?"
"Yeah. You can tell he doesn't like her. I wouldn't do that."
Ernest smiled. "Good girl."
Ernest watched as the two kids continued flirting, wishing the employee who was to help them would come soon. Then it hit him. The handsome boy was the employee. Ernest rolled his eyes and brought his family to the desk again. The receptionist spotted him and scoffed. "Yes?"
"Was this the boy you called for?"
The girl hesitated, not wanting the boy to leave. "Uh, no. That employee will be along shortly."
"No, I think I'll have this one."
The girl narrowed her eyes in anger, gritting her teeth, "He'll be along shortly."
The boy was smirking at the exchange before intervening. "It's fine, Rosa. I'll take them up. Just give me the keys."
Rosa reluctantly handed over the keys to the four available apartments in the building. She still had the sourpuss look on her face until the boy grabbed her hand. "Meet me on break and we'll 'talk', okay?"
Rosa nodded so enthusiastically she looked as if she'd fall out of her chair. Ernest shook his head at her desperation. The boy noticed and smiled slightly. "Kinda funny, isn't it?"
"How you lead a helpless girl into believing you like her so that you can get laid? Sounds funny."
The boy laughed, not recognizing Ernest's sarcasm. "So, what're you looking for here, mister...?"
"Granger. And you?"
"Cane? Like, I walk with a cane?"
"Yes, but with a K."
"What brings you to Comfort Apartments Kings Cross. Mr. Granger?"
"Just looking for a change of scenery."
"Okay, well this here is one of the cheaper apartments. Two bedrooms, Living Room, Kitchen, and full bath."
As Kane went to open the door to apartment 3D, Ernest stopped him. "Do any of the apartments have three bedrooms?"
Kane nodded and took the family up three floors to apartment 6H. He opened the door and Ernest knew immediately that this was the apartment. It was spacious, had three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths, a Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, and a room with a balcony overlooking tourist London. "How much?"
"One of these babies usually goes for $1,000 a month, but I'll let you have it for $875."
"Wow, that's wonderful. Thank you. I'll take it."
"Why would you reduce the price so much?"
"Well, I'm Kane Sawaged. One of the Untouchables kids. I recognized you from the parties at the Malfoy Manor. Unfortunately, I also know about your wife's 'habits', so to speak. I kinda put it all together and figured out why you were here."
Ernest sighed, "Well, thank you, Kane. That was very kind of you."
Kane smiled and took the family back to the lobby to start signing papers for the apartment. Ernest was excited. Now all he had to do was start saving portions of his paycheck in another account to buy furniture for the apartment. He'd pay the rent and furnish the apartment so it'd be ready when they had to leave. He signed the papers quickly before thanking Kane again. "Are you going to the party later?"
"Yeah, we'll be stopping by for a little bit."
"Then we'll see you later."
"Haha, yeah. Happy early birthday, Hermione."
She smiled. "Thanks!"
Ernest loaded the kids into the car and knew Hermione would start questioning him as soon as they left the parking lot. Like clockwork, she began to fire away. "Why'd you get an apartment, Dad?"
"Well, Joie, I am aware of what Mum has been doing to you and if anything happens again, the three of us will go and live in that apartment. Mum and I are just not getting along anymore."
"Are you going to get a divorce?"
"I don't know."
Hermione was quiet and Ernest felt awful. These kids should not have to go through this at such a young age. He just couldn't tolerate it anymore. Hermione and Ivan did not deserve this life. Hermione had subtly changed because of the things Heather had done to her and Ernest was finally beginning to notice. She was quiet, less inquisitive, and always watching herself and others. She no longer held a spark of passion to stand out. She was tame and timid.
Ernest was weighted down with guilt for allowing things to have gotten so bad. He had allowed his wife to change his child's personality. Now that he realized the depth of his mistake, images of Jeremy in the same state began to flood his mind. He had blamed sports and hormones for the personality changes. What kind of father was he to not have noticed changes in both of his kids?
This was horrible. The revelations were a MACK truck that was running back and forth over his body. Maybe Hermione and Ivan would be better off with Jeremy and his family. He shook the thought from his head as soon as it appeared. No, he had already done enough damage. He wasn't leaving his son to deal with his siblings and his own family while he and Heather got off scot-free. That wasn't fair to Jeremy. And he wouldn't hurt Hermione and Ivan like that.
"I love you."
Ernest smiled and reached out for Hermione's hand. She grabbed his and Ernest ran his thumb along her hand. "I love you too, Joie."
Lucius was agitated. No, he was more than agitated. He was scared. Hermione still was not in the hands of Voldemort and tonight was the last night that Lucius had to turn her over or sacrifice his family. He paced the foyer while the rest of his family set up for Draco and Hermione's party. Voldemort would be waiting for her tonight and there would be tons of Death Eaters waiting outside of the house to take her to him.
The party started at 7:30. It was 3. Lucius heard a knock on the door through his frantic thoughts and answered it hurriedly. There stood Hermione, Ernest, and a small child. Lucius's stomach tied up in knots at the sight of Hermione but his mind was focused on the baby in the carrier Ernest held. "Who's that?"
"Well, hello to you too."
"Hello, Ernest. Hermione. Who's the bundle of joy?"
Ernest brought the carrier inside and went to the Dining Room, attracting the entire Malfoy family (minus Eric). They all crowded around Ivan. "Everyone, this is the newest addition to the Granger family, Ivan Michael."
The kids played with the baby while Narcissa and Lucius pulled Ernest aside. "Brigit, Celeste. Watch the baby while we talk in the foyer."
"Okay, Mum!" They rang out together.
The three adults went into the foyer to talk about this "new addition". Narcissa was the most shocked, "New addition? I didn't know Heather was pregnant."
Ernest looked at them pointedly, "Neither did I."
Lucius's eyes widened. "You mean--"
Narcissa shook her head. "Not again..."
"Well, the three of us will probably be leaving soon."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, Heather's been beating Joie. And I think she was beating Jeremy before he left for school in America."
Lucius spared a side glance at his wife. "Ernest, you only just realized this?"
Ernest's head hung lower if possible. "I'm a terrible father."
Narcissa tsked, "No you're not. What did you mean by you were leaving?"
"If Heather touches either one of my kids ever, the three of us are leaving. I already got an apartment and I plan on furnishing it with money from my paycheck."
The Malfoy's looked at each other. Lucius almost smiled, "That's a very good thing to hear, mate."
As Narcissa congratulated Ernest on his new found courage, Lucius's mind began to wander. Right back to Voldemort. He winced internally as he thought of his task at hand. There had to be something he could do to change the course of events. He could tell Voldemort that she had moved and he had no idea where she was. But then he'd be sent to find her anyway.
No other plans came to mind as he pretended to listen to his wife and Ernest's conversation. "Ernest, how did you get Heather and Ivan's father to agree to sign over custody to you?"
"Well, Ivan's father was easy. Jeremy dealt with him when Kaylie came under his custody. He never wants the end result, just the cause. As for Heather, I caught her coming home drunk from a friend's party one night, explained everything to her clearly, had her repeat what I said back to me, and then she signed. I even recorded it in case she tries to fight it. She signed over Hermione as well."
Narcissa smiled. "I'm sorry things are like this."
"It happens. I've loved her for a long time and she's ignored me. By the time she realizes, if she realizes, what she's lost, then it'll be too late."
"Well, you've gotten one special little girl and three beautiful adopted children out of it. That's something to be proud of."
"Yeah." Ernest stopped mid-thought. "Did you just say three adopted children?"
Narcissa's eyes widened. She had revealed Heather's monster secret. Jeremy wasn't Ernest's son. "Well? Did you?"
Narcissa nodded and Ernest sank down to the stairs. His mouth was open in shock. Jeremy wasn't his son? How could this be? He looks so much like...Heather. "This can't be happening."
"I'm sorry, Ernest."
"How long have you known?"
"How long have you known?"
"Since he was born..."
Ernest began to think back to Heather's pregnancy and realized that just a few weeks after their honeymoon, Heather had gone to America for "work". When she came back, Ernest had safely assumed that she had gotten pregnant before she left and found out while she was away. Now he knew that she was actually in America screwing, even that early in their marriage. Narcissa rubbed Ernest's back, trying to soothe him.
Lucius was quiet during the entire revelation. He had known that information. He was still set on figuring out how to fix his mission problem. It was now 3:30 PM. "Ernest, we should probably check on the kids. I'm sure they're all dying to hold Ivan."
The adults reentered the Dining Room to find the kids still cooing over the baby. Ernest unbuckled Ivan, who gurgled happily in response and allowed Brigit to hold him first. He showed her the proper way to hold Ivan before sitting down and watching the kids in case anything happened. Narcissa recognized Ernest's inner turmoil and wished she could do something to help. She also wished Lucius would be more concerned about his best friend. "Lucius! Show some compassion to the poor man!"
"Nar, dear, I love you and I understand why you want to show 'compassion' all the time, but all Ernest really needs is a few moments for himself. It looks as if he's been with the kids all day. He just needs to be alone to sort things out."
Narcissa was not happy with this decree from her husband, but obeyed and left Ernest alone. He needed to think for himself, work things out. Well, that's what Lucius needed anyway. He suddenly felt very tired, and needed to sleep. He decided that a nap is what he and Ernest both needed. "Hey, Ernest. Let Narcissa watch after the kids. You come with me."
Ernest was about to protest but neither Malfoy would have any of it, so he was pressured into leaving the room. Narcissa winked at her husband, thinking that he was finally showing "compassion". Nah, he was beat. They were going to have a nice, manly nap. As the two men walked through the varying halls, Lucius noticed that Ernest was quiet and withdrawn. "What's on your mind, mate?"
"Well, I think we both need a break from small people who happen to look a lot like us."
"Or in my case, one who looks like me and three who might not have ever met their fathers."
"Man, you're such a downer. Pick your head up, stick your chest out, and get in Draco's bed for a nice, manly nap."
"I said, go sleep in Draco's bed. We both need a break. We're mentally and emotionally exhausted. Sleep is what we both need."
Ernest sighed, "Maybe you're right. Hey, maybe things will straighten out while I sleep."
"For the love of God, I hope so."
Lucius felt a ball of fluff hit him in the face and he coughed as he swatted it the thing to keep from hitting him again. "WHAT?"
Narcissa stood on one leg, staring at him with her eyes narrowed. "Oh, it's you."
"Don't, 'oh, it's you' me! This is your way of making Ernest feel better? Sleep?"
"It was a manly nap."
Narcissa rolled her eyes, "I've been with the kids for 5 hours. Your turn!"
"Five hours! What time is it?"
"8:37." Lucius's stomach dropped. Less than four hours until his family was toast or he betrayed his best friend's daughter. Narcissa was still standing next to their bed, "We're cutting the cake now. Get up."
Lucius followed Narcissa down the stairs, greeting guests as he passed them. He noticed two Death Eaters among the throng of people and made sure to avoid them at all costs. Hermione and Draco sat behind an Inspector Gadget ice cream cake, waiting for the birthday song so they could dig in.
The crowd sang the song and Lucius's anxiousness made the time tick by that much slower. The cake had finally been passed out among the guests when Lucius felt the presence of two people behind him. He turned and noticed Parkinson and Goyle. Parkinson tapped his wrist, reminding Lucius that he was running out of time. The two disappeared before Lucius had made his decision.
Narcissa came over to bother Lucius again. He was really getting agitated by the woman. "Lucius, Ernest still isn't awake. I think he's brooding. Can you watch the kids so I can go get him? Or actually talk to the man and make him feel better?"
"Hunny, I feel bad for Ernest. I do. But I could be ruining one of two families here and I have to choose which."
"What are you talking about?"
"I have a mission that could ruin the Granger's lives or endanger us and I have to choose which."
"Lucius, no one's going to get hurt." And that's when the idea popped into his head. An idea so cowardly, so unethical, that he thought of nothing else.
Lucius went over and grabbed Hermione, telling her he wanted to talk to her in private. She walked with him as they went outside and towards the forest's edge. "So, what do you want to talk about, Uncle Lucy?"
Instead of answering her, Lucius knelt down and embraced Hermione tightly. His eyes welled with tears as he thought of what he was doing to her. He pulled away and she looked at him curiously. "Now listen to me, Joie. Whatever happens, just know that I, your dad, your family, and us Malfoy's love you and I'm sorry."
He kissed Hermione's forehead and took a few steps from her, leaving her dumbfounded next to the forest's edge. His eyed welled again as he saw the Death Eaters move forward and grab Hermione. She went to scream for help, but was silenced with a charm. Lucius had his hand over his mouth, stifling his cries as Hermione fought harder and harder to get away. Lucius saw her terrified eyes roaming him, full of betrayal and fear as the Death Eaters dragged her away.
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