Hermione screamed as the two Death Eaters assigned to subdue her dragged her off deeper into the forest. Voldemort appeared from the shadows soon after, the rest of his minions filling in behind him. They circled around Lucius. He chose not to fight the tears in front of his master, instead dropping to his knees in front of him and allowing himself to succumb to the pain of betraying someone he saw as a part of his family. Voldemort became disgusted with the display of emotion, kicking dirt into Lucius’ face. Lucius choked on the silt, spitting it back onto the earth. Voldemort pulled out his wand and aimed it at Lucius, “Crucio.”
Lucius didn’t yelp or cry out as the blinding pain struck him and he began to writhe on the ground. He didn’t make a peep as Voldemort circled him and tried to force even the smallest noise. He soon lifted the curse, unsatisfied that Lucius had not screamed in pain, “Do you understand why I did that?”
“No, my lord.”
“Because you are a fool! I said ‘by Christmas Eve’, not on!”
“CRUCIO!” Lucius suffered silently again, enjoying the pain. It took his mind off his moral corruption. Voldemort lifted the curse once more, “What shall I do as your punishment?”
“Whatever you’d like, Master.” Lucius knew anything was better than what he had done. No wonder he was sorted into Slytherin at Hogwarts. Voldemort’s torture session was then disrupted by a loud “BOOM!” from within the woods before little Hermione came running toward them. She stopped just outside the congregation wondering why Lucius was kneeling before the man who had taken her. “Joie, come here.”
Lucius called to Hermione. She still had the betrayal and fear in her eyes when she looked at him, but he didn’t cower away. She was in danger and only he could protect her, not matter how ironic that seemed. She glanced around the circle before looking at Lucius again. She no longer trusted him. “I won’t hurt you. Nothing will hurt you.”
Voldemort became enraged that no one took charge of the situation, “What are you all staring at? Get her!”
Hermione began running to Lucius, to what she felt was the safety of his arms. The rest of the Death Eaters still had not moved, frozen in bewilderment as to how she had escaped in the first place. Voldemort raised his wand, preparing to curse them both, when a great power welled up within Hermione. The energy was released in a giant blue burst that, though shielding Lucius and herself, blew apart or severely injured the majority of the Death Eaters in the circle. Even Voldemort was bleeding profusely. He growled before disapparating.
Lucius hugged Hermione tightly and before she could ask any questions, he placed a charm on her so that she believed it was all a dream. Hermione fell asleep peacefully and Lucius knew that it was time to change things. He was going to start a career as an Auror. He couldn’t pretend to be one of “them” anymore; he had to back out of the mission. This was getting to be too much. He felt a soreness in his body from the Cruciatus curse but he didn’t complain. His lungs hurt to breathe and he coughed heartily. As he rid his throat of phlegm he noticed that there was a bit of blood in it. He rubbed his fingers through his mouth and spit again. He found no blood in his mouth, but his spit was red. He shrugged it off as nothing and picked Hermione up, walking back inside.
It wasn’t nothing.
”True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it be lost.”
--Charles Caleb Colton
December 25, 1986
Hermione awoke with a start. She shook her head, trying to remove the offensive images from her mind. She looked to her surroundings, finding herself in Draco’s bed. The clock on his nightstand read 3:27. She yawned and stretched, leaning back into Draco’s pillows, just staring at the ceiling and thinking about the horrifying dream. She had been captured. Worse yet, Lucius had given her over.
“BOO!” Draco, Brigit, and Celeste all jumped on Draco’s bed at the same time, attempting to scare Hermione.
“Hi, guys.” Hermione continued to stare at the ceiling.
Brigit sighed, “You’re no fun to scare anymore.”
“Sorry to spoil your fun.” Hermione tore her gaze from the ceiling and looked at Draco. He was staring at her intently and she knew that he was reading her. They could decipher each other impeccably well at this point in their friendship. He could see her fear; fear that she didn’t even know was showing.
“What’s the matter, Joie?”
Brigit and Celeste watched the two kids as they silently communicated. They both knew what Hermione was going through and that Ivan was her half brother. They knew about Heather’s abuse and knew that even after everything that had happened, even with Heather’s extended departure, Hermione was still unable to give up her mother. What they were immensely proud of was Ernest finally taking a stand. “Luke, there’s nothing wrong with her. Let’s just let her get cleaned up and join us to open presents.”
“Thank you, Brigit.” Hermione smiled at the three as they got off the bed and went down the hall to wake their parents and Ernest. She, on the other hand, went into the bathroom and splashed some water on her face to wake herself up more. Her dream was still flashing through her mind, the images so real. It felt like it had really happened. As Hermione washed her hands, she noticed that there was dirt under her fingernails.
“How did that happen?” She didn’t remember playing in the dirt at any point recently. An image from her dream flashed before her eyes and she felt as her fingers clawed at the dirt as the men in black dragged her into the forest after Lucius had handed her over. She shivered at the memory and continued to clean the dirt out from under her nails, ignoring the feeling of reality from the dream. She heard Draco call for her from downstairs and did her best to try and feign happiness.
Draco had placed himself in front of the tree and waited patiently for Hermione to join him in their traditional roles of doling out the gifts. She sat herself down next to him and handed out the gifts. Ernest held Ivan who was still sleeping and sighed as the pile under the Malfoy tree continued to dwindle and Hermione and Ivan still had no gifts. Ernest had spent all of his time and money trying to protect his children. The last gift was handed out and Ernest held his breath, waiting for Hermione to ask him why she had no presents. Instead, the Malfoy kids had handed over some of their gifts and Hermione helped open them. Ernest looked to Lucius and Narcissa, so thankful that he had such generous friends who were so accommodating to him and his children.
Everyone turned and looked when they heard knocking on the door. Narcissa got up and came back a few moments later, arms laden with gifts. She laid them all on the floor, returning to her seat next to Lucius with two gifts. She handed him one, “They’re from Eric.”
Lucius sighed as he looked down at his gift, fumbling with the paper. “Dad, wait. There’s a letter.”
Draco unfolded the paper and read it aloud:
Dear Mom, Dad, Brigit, Celeste, and Draco:
Hello all and Happy Christmas! I hope all is well. I, myself, am spending holiday with Jeremy, Esther, Kaylie, and little Andrew. They all say hello and wish you a Happy Christmas as well. I sent you all some things that I picked up at home in California. They’re just little knick knacks. I couldn’t afford much this year what with all my expenses. I hope you enjoy them.
Mom, Dad, I know that I tried break connection completely with both of you but I want you both to know that I do love you and I do miss you. I’m sorry for what I said. In the time that I haven’t been able to see all of you, I have been thinking about you. Please accept my sincerest apologies for my actions and my ignorance.
Since I know the Grangers are there, or at least most of them, I also included gifts for them. I also heard about the new Granger, Ivan. Please send me a picture, I would love to see him. As for any reunions in the near future, I want to take this slow. I can’t wait to see you all again but I think I just need a little bit more time.
I hope you all have a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year
Love you lots,
Draco passed out the remaining presents and everyone opened them in silence. Just as Eric had said, they were all little trinkets from California, mugs for the adults and assorted key chains for the kids. Everyone was still quiet, unsure of how to react to the surprise. Ivan broke the silence by gurgling happily as he played with Ernest’s finger. For a moment, all eyes were trained on the innocent little baby. As the families watched Ivan giggle and cuddle against Ernest, they all felt that there must be some hope in the world for them to be as happy and carefree as this little boy.
“Alright, Joie. Hold on for just a moment for me. I’ve got something for you upstairs.” Narcissa ran to her bedroom quickly and grabbed a small box off of her dresser. She ran back down to the Living Room and had Hermione join her on the couch with Lucius. Lucius became noticeably uncomfortable with Hermione next to him. What he had done was stilling haunting his every thought and he hoped that she truly believed it was a dream. She showed no qualms about joining the two on the couch so he played it off and wrapped his arm around the two. Narcissa handed the box over, “I hope you like it.”
“You really didn’t have to get me anything, Aunt Cissa.”
“Oh, nonsense! Just open it.” Hermione shrugged and pulled off the wrapping paper, opening the box and pulling the smaller velvet box out. She opened it to reveal a thin silver chain with a plain silver cross on it. Next to the cross was a thick swirly silver ring with two stones, both blue zircon. It was the most beautiful ring Hermione had ever seen. Narcissa smiled as Hermione turned and hugged her, “Oh sweetie, do you like them?”
“Of course! But it’s too much.”
“Oh, Joie, stop it! When you’re older you’ll be able to wear it. It doesn’t quite fit right now. It was my mother’s ring. It has been in the Black family for a century.”
Hermione’s eyes grew wide, “This ring is a hundred years old?” Narcissa nodded and Hermione let her put the necklace on her. Hermione smiled and hugged Narcissa again, “Thank you so much, Aunt Cissa.”
“It was nothing, sweetheart. You’re one of the Malfoy’s.” Hermione joined the other kids on the floor, cleaning up the paper. Ernest and Narcissa looked at each other and he mouthed a “thank you”. The two families spent the rest of the morning talking and looking at all of their gifts. Any and all non-magical gifts were taken out while the rest were thrown back under the tree. Hermione and Draco built fortresses out of empty boxes and began fighting each other across the Living Room. Brigit and Celeste were too busy writing letters to their friends and playing their new video games in the other room.
Around 7 AM there was a loud banging on the front door. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked in the direction of the door. The pounding continued, becoming louder and more frenzied as the seconds ticked by. Brigit was the closest so she decided to answer it. Lucius warned her before she opened it, “If it’s someone for me, shut the door immediately.”
Ernest piped in, “Or if it’s Heather.”
Brigit obeyed and opened the door slightly so she could peer through the crack in the doorway. She spotted a hand and the door immediately flew at her, knocking her directly in the eye. She yelled out and stumbled backward, falling onto the floor. The door continued to fly open, an extremely irritated Heather barging her way in and stepping over Brigit, plowing her way into the Living Room. Lucius and Narcissa had bolted at the sound of Brigit’s scream, but were blocked by Heather at the entrance of the room. Ernest handed Ivan over to Hermione and stood, “Heather, what the hell do you think you’re doing here?”
Heather said nothing, fuming in the entrance, her angry glare trained on Hermione and Ivan. Brigit appeared behind Heather, her eye swollen and red, a cut on her forehead that was gushing blood. Narcissa ran to Brigit, rushing her into the kitchen to stop the bleeding. Lucius began screaming in outrage, “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO, HEATHER?”
“She was in my way.”
Lucius made a move toward her and Ernest grabbed him, holding him back, “HOW DARE YOU HURT MY DAUGHTER! GET THE HELL OUT OF MY HOUSE!”
“Not until I get my kids back!”
Ernest glared at Heather, “You don’t get your kids back! They’re legally mine! There’s nothing you can do!”
Heather smirked, beginning to make her move toward Hermione and Ivan. Draco immediately placed himself protectively in front of the two, guarding them as best he could, “Don’t worry, Joie. I’ll protect you.”
She placed a hand on Draco’s shoulder, “I know. Thank you.”
“Ernest, I will not leave this house until those kids are coming with me.”
“Then I guess we’ll have to force you to leave.” Narcissa had the house phone in her hand and began to call the police.
“None of you will keep me from my children any longer!” Heather kicked Lucius between his legs and threw a mean left hook to Ernest’s face, knocking them both out. Ivan began to cry and Hermione tried to calm him down while Draco still stood in front of them. The three kids continued to back away from Heather until they were backed into the corner of the room. Celeste ran over and grabbed Heather’s arm, punching and kicking her as a distraction. Heather, already pumping with adrenaline, shoved Celeste to the ground and she hit her head on the corner of the coffee table.
Ivan continued to scream as the noise built up around him. Brigit and Narcissa tried to double team Heather, but Brigit ended up thrown against the wall while Narcissa earned herself a punch to the stomach and was pushed over Lucius’ crumpled form on the floor. Heather turned, wiping the blood from her split lip after Narcissa had managed to sneak in a quick jab. Draco was Hermione’s last defense against her mother. They braced themselves against the wall, Ivan screaming the loudest they had ever heard. Narcissa had grabbed the phone and continued with her call to the police in the background.
“Draco, move and all of this will go away.”
“Draco, I promise that nothing is going to happen to Hermione or Ivan. I just want my kids back.”
“I don’t believe you!”
Heather was dangerously close now. Draco could feel her breath on his skin. Hermione huddled close to his back and he kept his arm around her. Heather continued forward, her hand hovering over his shoulder. “This is your last chance, Draco. Move or you will be moved.”
Draco stood tall against Heather’s threat, holding his ground. Heather grinned evilly and gripped Draco up by his shoulder, trying to toss him across the room like a rag doll. He was a lot more solid than she had expected, managing to whip himself out of her grip and get himself positioned back in front of Hermione and Ivan. Heather took a swing at him and he dodged it, kicking her in the shin. Heather took another swing and Draco dodged it again, punching her in the stomach. She buckled a little and Draco managed to sneak another punch to her face. Hermione watched as Draco became increasingly more enraged and began hitting Heather harder and harder.
“Luke, stop! Stop! You’re becoming just like her!” Hermione grabbed Draco’s arm, pulling him from her mother’s crumpled body. They skittered around her and Hermione went to the door. Draco kept his eye on Heather as he became checking on his family. Ivan was still screaming when Hermione opened the door and found two police officers. “Oh, thank God!”
One of the police officers bent down to Hermione’s level as she continued to try and soothe Ivan, “Sweetie, we got a call from a Mrs. Malfoy. Is everything alright?”
Hermione’s breath caught in her throat again as she went to explain to the police officers about her mother. She felt the words sliding back down her throat as the confession faded. Ivan was still screaming and instead of answering the officer, she looked at him. Ivan’s tears continued to flow as he took breaths between screams. The terror in his big eyes overwhelmed Hermione. Heather was already destroying him at 3˝ months old. He continued to scream and tears appeared in Hermione’s eyes as she realized that she needed to finally give her mother up. She had to overcome this fear that Heather was going to attack her and finally hand her over to the police like she belonged.
“Sweetheart, do you understand me?” The officer placed a hand on Hermione’s shoulder and she re-cradled her brother.
“Yes. Yes, I understand. No, everything is terribly wrong. Please, you have to help. My mother, she attacked everyone.” The officers nodded and pulled out their batons, heading into the Living Room. Hermione followed them, finding Draco and Heather squaring off again. Lucius was next to his son, trying to protect him while Ernest was trying to get the bleeding to stop on Celeste’s wound while Narcissa was helping Brigit. Heather spotted Hermione and Ivan behind the officers and shoved Draco and Lucius to the side, barreling toward the officers.
They raised their batons to swing when Heather punched the one in the stomach and clothes-lined the other. She wrapped an arm around Hermione and Ivan, making it nearly impossible for them to move. Ivan was still crying. Hermione tried to struggle against Heather, but the more she tried, the harder Heather squeezed and Hermione just couldn’t risk it for Ivan. The police as well as the two families stood in front of Heather, trying to stop her. “Alright, ma’am. You don’t need to do this. Let’s not do anything crazy now.”
“Shut up! Shut up or so help me I will kill these kids!”
“Ma’am, just calm down. Stop. You need to think about this. This is way too dangerous. You don’t want to do this.”
“SHUT UP! THESE ARE MY KIDS! THEY WILL NOT BE TAKEN FROM ME!”
“HEATHER, YOU BROUGHT THIS ON YOURSELF! YOU DID THIS! THEY’RE MY KIDS! YOU SIGNED THEM OVER TO ME!” Ernest was at his breaking point. “Joie, sweetie, everything will be okay.”
The officers kept their eyes trained on Heather, “Heather, come now. Let the kids go. You can make this all really easy.”
“NO! THEY’RE MY KIDS!” Hermione felt Heather’s grip weaken a bit and took the chance to bite her mother’s arm, making her yell out in pain and let go of them, giving her a chance to escape. She took a few steps before being yanked back. She almost dropped Ivan but one of the officers managed to grab him out of her hands. Now all Heather had was Hermione. She wrapped her arm tightly around Hermione’s throat and began backing toward the front door. The officer passed Ivan off to Ernest and they both advanced on her, one managing to fit himself between Heather and the door. She began to panic as the officers continued their advancements.
She dragged Hermione down the hallway toward the kitchen. The officers followed her as Hermione kicked and fought against Heather. She continued to drag her and ripped drawers open in the Kitchen. She eventually found the knife drawer and grabbed the biggest one, holding it against Hermione’s neck. “Don’t come any closer! I’ll cut her! I’ll do it!”
Hermione stopped fighting against Heather when she felt the cool metal against her neck. She began to shake in terror as the police tried to negotiate with her mother. “Heather, put the knife down. You don’t need to do this. You’re just aggravating the situation.”
“Screw you! You don’t know what’s going on! They all attacked me!”
“No they didn’t, Mum! You attacked us!”
“Shut up! Just, shut up!” She pressed the blade into Hermione’s neck.
“Mum! MUM! STOP! SOMEBODY, PLEASE HELP!” Hermione’s tattoo began to glow bright blue and she heard Draco hiss from behind the officers. A light began to shine and the officers moved to the side, looking upon Draco whose eyes and tattoo were glowing yellow. Heather looked upon him in fear and kept her hold on Hermione. Draco lifted his right hand and a beam of yellow light hit Heather directly in the face making her scream and drop the knife, letting go of Hermione. She immediately ran to Draco and pulled him away from the Kitchen, letting the officers do whatever they needed to do.
Draco’s glow began to fade as Hermione led them away from the room. When they reached the front door, the glow was completely gone. Hermione pulled Draco to herself, hugging him tightly. She began to cry into his shoulder and he patted her back. “It’s alright, Joie. Don’t worry. They’ve got her. You’re safe now. You and Ivan are safe.”
Ernest came over and hugged both kids, letting them lean on him. They rejoined the rest of the Malfoy’s who had called an ambulance while Heather was in the Kitchen. They had bandaged Celeste heavily and had her on a gurney. Everyone was headed to the hospital to take pictures, x-rays, and get treated. The officers came out from the Kitchen with Heather handcuffed. She didn’t seem to be fighting so Lucius went and stood in front of her as they walked to the front door. “I hope you burn in hell, bitch.”
Heather fought against the cops and got free, turning and kicking Lucius directly in the chest, and hard. He flew back and Narcissa screamed, the police tackling Heather and subduing her once more. They threw her in the back of the car and made sure that she wasn’t going to get out. Once she was secure the police went back to the two families, ” We’re taking her down to the station to be detained. When you’re all finished at the hospital, come down to the station and file your reports.”
“Thank you,” Ernest said.
“I’m sorry we didn’t get here sooner.”
“You did what you could.” The police took off as well as the ambulance with Celeste and Narcissa. Lucius was sitting on the floor wheezing and unable to catch his breath. Everyone gathered around him and Ernest called for another ambulance. Lucius’ wheezing continued to get worse and he began to cough. Blood began to drip from his mouth before he turned and vomited onto the floor. This continued to happen until the ambulance arrived a few moments later. The medics strapped Lucius to the gurney and he began to seize under the straps. Ernest made the kids get into the car, not wanting Brigit or Draco to see their father in such a state for the entire ride to the hospital.
Once there, the five went straight to the emergency room to be treated and find Narcissa, Celeste, and Lucius. Hours passed with many x-rays, pictures, and bandaging before the five were allowed anywhere near Celeste or Lucius. Celeste was doing much better after 10 staples to her head and a few blood transfusions. Her color had returned and she was already talking and pleasant again. Ernest was still holding Ivan, coddling him as he slept through the hustle-bustle of the hospital. He couldn’t look at any of the Malfoy’s, feeling entirely responsible for Heather’s attack. He watched as Hermione, Draco, and Brigit hugged Celeste and Narcissa, talking lightly with them. “Oh, Celeste, what did they do to your hair?”
“Don’t worry Bridge, they had to shave it to put the staples in. They’re wicked awesome, wanna see?”
“No! Ew, that’s gross!”
“Oh, lighten up, Bridge. ‘Sides, I think I like this look. I may keep it shaved.”
“You will not,” Narcissa answered.
“Aw, come on Mum!”
Narcissa sighed, “Ugh, do whatever you want, Celeste. You will anyway.”
“Thanks, Mum. You always understand.”
“Where the hell is your father?”
“They didn’t tell you?” Ernest asked.
“Tell us what?” Celeste asked.
Ernest looked down, “Right after you left, after Heather kicked Lucius, he started to wheeze and couldn’t catch his breath. He kept wheezing and started to cough up…he coughed up…”
“What was it , Ernest?”
Narcissa and Celeste looked horrified, “Where is he?”
“I don’t know. I think he may be in surgery. Let me go ask the nurse.” Hermione took Ivan as Ernest went to the nurses’ desk to find Lucius. He returned a few moments later. “He’s in surgery. Something with his lungs. They’re going to come in and tell us when we can go see him.”
Narcissa held a hand over her mouth to try and stifle her crying, but Ernest broke her. He pulled her into a hug and began to cry on her shoulder. She patted his back, “Ernest, hunny, calm down.”
“N-no! This is all-l my fault-t! I should have stopped-d her!”
“You tried. She hooked you in the face and knocked you out. There wasn’t much you could do.”
“I could have fought harder! I could have protected the kids better!”
“I think we taught them all well enough that they protected us. They’re stronger than all of us.”
“Oh God, Narcissa. I am just so sorry.”
“I know, Ernest. I know.” Another two hours passed before Jack the Healer appeared in the doorway of Celeste’s room. He had a distressed look on his face and blood all over his robes. He wiped his hand over his face before facing all of them. Narcissa clung to Ernest, Brigit clung to Celeste, and Hermione held Ivan tightly while Draco kept his hand on her shoulder. Jack looked sadly from one person to the next and it was killing Narcissa, “Out with it, Jack!”
“I have bad news. It’s the cancer. From what we’ve found, the lump has been growing in size lately and the blow that Heather administered broke one of Lucius’ ribs, puncturing his lung and, in turn, puncturing the lump. The cancer has already started to spread throughout his body.”
No one moved. No one made a sound. None of them reacted because none of them knew how to react. Lucius was really sick now? Was he going to die? When was he going to die? How much longer did they have to spend with him? Hermione heard all of the thoughts and emotions of the others racing through her mind. She felt all of it and did the best she could to block them out and focus solely on hers and Draco’s.
“How long does he have?”
“At the rate it’s spreading, probably three, maybe four months at best.”
Please rate and review! My sincerest apologies for the wait!