Chapter 2 : Shut Down
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“You’re finally awake then?” Blaise said softly. Hermione didn’t respond. She couldn’t hear him even though she wasn’t deaf. “Mi?” Blaise called again softly. Hermione didn’t move from her position, she just looked back towards the door and saw Blaise’s dark caramel coloured face poking around the door but her eyes seemed frozen in place as Blaise walked into the room.
“Honey is she awake?” Pansy asked quietly as she poked her own head around the door and came into Hermione’s line of sight.
“She’s awake, I think, but she’s… She’s lifeless,” Blaise whispered. Hermione didn’t even respond to his words, she just continued staring at the dark brown door, blinking every now and again.
“What do you mean by lifeless?” Pansy asked quietly as she walked further into the room and sat on the bed next to Hermione. Blaise was leaning against the wall casually but his expression told the world he was feeling anything but casual.
“Look in her eyes,” Blaise murmured.
Hermione felt Pansy’s soft hand move her knotted hair out of the way of her eyes and then she lowered herself onto the ground so she could see eye to eye with Hermione. What Pansy saw there scared her. Hermione’s usual lively brown eyes were cold, dark, clearly pained, but worse than the pain in her eyes was this look of unawareness. Hermione was never unaware; she was quick as a whip when it came to deciphering clues and their meanings and she was never without that spark of intuition in her eyes, but now it was like Hermione wasn’t even there. Blaise rested his hand on Pansy’s shoulder comfortingly as he moved behind her and it was only then that she noticed she was crying.
“I know I felt like that too. It’s scary, and everything you can’t see there it gets straight to you,” Blaise muttered. Then he helped up his wife and led her out of the room.
Throughout the day, Blaise had his old personal house elf, Ridly, from Zabini Manor deliver food to Hermione at breakfast lunch and dinner, but each time the elf would return with untouched, stone cold portions of what Blaise had sent up. Hermione was a bright girl so why was she starving herself! The thought of Hermione not even present in her body was frustrating him so after closing up for the night Blaise sat in his office and took out a quill and some parchment.
How are you mate, where have you been hiding, cause you’re doing a bloody brilliant job of it man, almost as good as me when that short muggle woman was after me. We seriously need to catch up soon, the three of us me, you and Nev, just like we did at the end of Hogwarts. Although I don’t think I’ll be getting as wasted as I did that night, Pansy was absolutely furious with me but graduating Hogwarts was reason enough to celebrate.
Now the serious part of my letter. Hermione came by the inn last night looking like she’d been running from Dementors, no happiness in her eyes, mud on her, tears everywhere. What the fuck happened to Hermione mate? She didn’t stay long by the way she just simply stayed the night and ran off afterwards.
Ps. Pansy says hi, and she told me she thinks she might be pregnant this morning, I’m absolutely shitting myself mate.
Blaise sighed and then called down Rocky his stone coloured owl from his perch. Rocky floated down and gave him an affectionate nip on his finger as he held out an owl treat for him. Then he folded the letter, placed it in an envelope, addressed it then fastened it to Rocky’s letter harness.
“Take that to Harry wherever his is, although he’s more than likely at the Burrow,” Blaise said. Rocky clicked his beak in acknowledgement and then took off. It was time to check on Hermione again.
When Blaise made his way up to Hermione’s room he saw Pansy leaving.
“How is she?” Blaise asked.
“No better. I covered her back over, closed the curtains and left her to fall asleep. Are you coming to bed?” Pansy replied as she pushed her black hair off the face that puberty had been kind to. Pansy no longer looked like a pug; puberty had sorted her facial features, giving her pouty lips with a perfect cupid’s bow, high cheekbones, and a straighter less pug-like nose that accented her wide dark green eyes that were framed by thick black lashed. Pansy Zabini was a beauty.
“Yeah… Er Pans, did you check?” Blaise rumbled, his fear of the unknown definitely creeping into his voice.
“Check what?” Pansy asked sweetly, knowing that Blaise was feeling uncomfortable.
“Did you check if you were pregnant?” Blaise asked quickly, knowing his wife would only become more persistent the longer he beat around the bush. Pansy smiled at her bashful husband and she nodded. She had taken the opportunity to get a pregnancy potion from the new potions shop down the road, it had indeed told her she was pregnant, but she still wanted to check at St. Mungo’s
“I checked honey. I took a potion on my break. I am pregnant but I do want to have a second check at St. Mungo’s in the morning. But for now, you my dearest, are going to be a father,” Pansy grinned. Blaise’s expression went first to shock, then to fear and finally, finally, a sheepish, very nervous smile and that was all Pansy needed to take the hand of the man she loved, lead him to their bed and make the most of the fact that she still had a flat stomach.
Hermione’s eyes opened the following morning, and as they opened her mind jolted like a muggle being resuscitated using a defibrillator. Her quick mind stuttered and jumped before beginning to run quickly. Slowly Hermione sat up and she pushed her knotted mane of hair off her face and stretched her slightly stiff limbs as she looked around with her dull, half dead brown eyes.
As she looked around her eyes took in the vanilla and lilac coloured walls, the lilac curtains, the dark brown wooden door and dresser, she realised with a jolt that she was in one of the private rooms in the Three Broomsticks. With the shock of recognition she was subjected to an onslaught of memories, from learning that her parents were dead up to the very moment when she had woken up. Alongside her memories Hermione felt this crippling feeling in her stomach due to not having eaten all day yesterday and most of the day before hand.
Just as the pain in her stomach became strong enough to knock her back onto her bed the door opened and Pansy and Blaise walked in cautiously.
“Morning,” Hermione croaked. Blaise and Pansy stopped dead in their tracks and then both of them rushed over to her and enveloped her in a hug. Hermione couldn’t bring herself to smile truthfully but she plastered a smile on her face and hugged them back. As soon as they let go the smile and her arms dropped.
“We were so worried, what happened to you yesterday?” Pansy asked. Hermione looked at Pansy blankly.
“What do you mean what happened to me yesterday?” Hermione asked. Blaise touched Pansy’s hand in a light warning touch.
“Yesterday you didn’t move, you didn’t speak and you didn’t eat one single thing,” Blaise said softly.
“Evidently as my stomach feels like it’s trying to eat itself,” Hermione muttered without feeling. Pansy and Blaise just looked at each other before Blaise called Ridly who appeared and looked up at his master expectantly.
“Can you bring Miss Granger…” Blaise was interrupted by a loud wail from Hermione who suddenly burst into tears. Pansy gasped and rushed over to her friend and held her tightly.
“Master you called,” Ridly reminded Blaise. Blaise looked back towards his house elf and then recalled what he was doing.
“Ridly can you bring Miss Hermione some breakfast and a strong coffee made with some calming draught please?” Blaise asked kindly. Hermione was still wailing into Pansy’s arms and Blaise stood there feeling useless.
“What do you want me to do?” Blaise asked Pansy.
“Nothing at the minute, I’ll help her and then I’ll come and find you,” Pansy whispered over the top of her friends head.
Blaise hurried from the room and stood with his back against the wall breathing heavily and trying to fight the surge of despair that rose up his throat like lava. Being in the same room as Hermione was, as bad as it sounds, like having a Dementor right there sucking your soul and sucking away your happiness. Just then Rocky fluttered in through the open window at the end of the corridor.
“Hello Rocky, you have Harry’s letter for me?” Blaise smiled. Rocky just landed on his shoulder and clicked his beak as he held out the leg with the letter harness attached. Blaise removed his letter and after holding out his arm for his owl to hop down on, he stroked him, and watched him take back off. The letter in Blaise’s hands was calling him like a siren and he quickly opened it.
CONGRATULATIONS! Seriously mate best news I’ve heard in a while. I’ll bet you’re shitting yourself alright, does she know for definite yet. If I know Pansy she would have been and found out as soon as she could of right after telling you her suspicions. But mate congrats.
Nothing will ever stop the memory of that muggle chasing you from making me laugh, that day was a day to remember. As for where I’ve been hiding, I’ve been at the Burrow mate with Ginny. Mrs Weasley is insisting that I stay so I can help with wedding planning but seriously mate I’ve had it up to about here with wedding plans. I don’t care whether the decorations are green, blue, pink or freaking rainbow coloured, I just want my wife at the end of it all. Ginny can see my frustration at it all so she’s trying to be helpful and to be honest her “helpfulness” is not something I would complain about any time soon.
We need to get us all together for my stag night, I’m talking everyone, me (obviously), you, Neville, Theo, Dean and Seamus, but I am not getting rip-roaring drunk again. Ginny was about ready to hex me into oblivion.
As for Hermione, she found out two days ago on Friday that her parents had died in a muggle plane crash. They didn’t even make it to Australia. Hermione was finally healing from the war and Ron’s betrayal for good yano. I think she put off her own healing process when everyone else was mourning to be there for them. Her parents’ death took her back to stage one and then took her past that. She went wild when she left, I tried to stop her and she pulled her wand on me. And you were always a bad liar mate, I know Hermione’s still at the inn but don’t worry I won’t come and chase her down, or let any of the Weasley’s, including Gin, come and chase her either. When she’s ready to come and find us we’ll be waiting with open arms. Just be mindful not to mention anything to do with her parents. So their last name is a big no no, as is the mention of Australia or teeth health, her parents were dentists (muggle version of healers for teeth). I can’t think of anything else to say mate, just be there for her.
Ps. Ginny says Hi and she says congrats for the pregnancy, she’s writing a letter to Pansy and it’s behind this one.
Blaise read Harry’s letter and found himself chuckling under his breath for the first part but then he couldn’t help but stare in horror at the second half. Hermione Granger, 1/3rd of the golden trio, the girl who had been to the end of the earth and back alongside Harry Potter, was one of the prime candidates for a huge dosage of good fortune, but it appears fate had other plans. How much must fate torture the girl who had been fighting since she was 11, was her happiness too much to ask for. Blaise rested his head back against the wall as he heard Hermione’s wails subside into a quieter sob and as he walked back in he saw Pansy rocking her friend with tears streaming down her face. Blaise wordlessly suggested she take a few minutes as he handed Pansy both letters and then he picked up where Pansy had left off and comforted the woman in total despair with his tight embrace.
Hermione was shaking, she was cold, she was hungry and she was all alone. She no longer had any family to love and cherish her and make her feel like she was all that mattered when she was upset. They were dead. Her mother and father were dead and she was never ever going to see them again. Her life was a trick that went beyond cruel. What on earth did she do to deserve problem after problem.
Clinging to Blaise now as opposed to Pansy, Hermione eventually felt her tears still and her shaking recede to only her hands and as if he sensed that it was safe to enter, Ridly re-appeared with Hermione’s breakfast on a tray.
“Ridly has breakfast Miss Hermione,” Ridly squeaked and Hermione sat up straighter and accepted the tray which held a plate of eggs, bacon, beans and toast and a steaming cup of coffee. Hermione reached for the coffee first and when the smooth drink hit her lips she felt herself relax, she was still downright miserable and felt like she’d never be happy again but even so she felt calm and the shakes in her hands had subsided allowing Hermione to finish her breakfast in relative calm.
When she was finished eating Pansy reappeared with a smile on her face and then she sat next to her husband on the bed before handing him back two letters which Blaise tucked into the pocket of his robes.
“How are you feeling Mi?” Pansy asked quietly.
“Calmer. I need something to do though,” Hermione whispered croakily.
“Why not help me waitress downstairs?” Pansy asked. Hermione looked up at Pansy alarm clear in her expression even though her eyes were still empty.
“I don’t want to be recognised,” Hermione whispered as she looked down at her hands that were wrapped around her coffee. Blaise and Pansy looked at each other for a few seconds.
“Do you trust us?” Blaise asked. Hermione simply nodded not trusting herself to speak.
“Your family or mine?” Pansy asked.
“Better be my family, my family is not as well known,” Blaise said. Hermione looked between them quietly.
“Hermione, take a shower, get dressed, comb your hair then come and find us in the office,” Pansy smiled as she waved her wand. Hermione nodded her consent and waited until Pansy and Blaise left the room before exploring the bathroom and discovering Pansy had stocked it.
After a hot shower, Hermione went about the motions of getting dressed and found herself wearing simple non-descript black robes, black tee-shirt, black jeans and black flat pumps. Her hair on the other hand was not so easy to sort as her clothes. Due to the way she had mistreated her hair, it was now a force to be reckoned with and after a few frustrated tried with her brush, Hermione grabbed her wand and forced her hair into submission with a vanity spell.
Moving as if injured, Hermione stepped out of her room and pocketed the key, before making her way down to the office where she found Blaise sat quietly staring at his owl while deep in thought.
Blaise looked towards to door and saw Hermione standing there with a blank expression.
“Right, you said you don’t wish to be recognised, so me and Pans have decided that we’re going to glamour charm you to make you look like a member of my family,” Blaise smiled. “So we’re changing your hair and your eyes.” Hermione nodded slowly and when Blaise asked if she was ready she nodded her head and didn’t say much else. Blaise pointed his wand at Hermione and wordlessly gave her soft, thick sheets of black hair that fell straight down her back to hang near her waist and light hazel almost gold coloured eyes.
“What’s my story?” Hermione asked as she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror that hung in Blaise’s office.
“Well I know you can speak fluent French, so your story is that you went to beauxbatons, your name is Cody Loreté, and you’re my cousin on my grandfather’s brother’s side. You can keep the cover for as long as you like. It’s common knowledge that my grandfather had a brother and ran off to France to escape the pureblood name and upbringing, his family over there is unknown to us. We could say that you came back to start your life over in England, but we need to keep it under wraps. I mean a long lost Zabini family member coming back and with a different last name, claiming to be a Zabini, the papers would be all over it,” Blaise said quickly. His explanation was as short and brief as he could make it while giving Hermione the necessary information in case anyone asked about her faint resemblance to Blaise even though her skin tone was completely different.
“When can I start?” Hermione asked as she pressed her hands to her chest to stop them shaking.
“As soon as you’re wearing your uniform, when you’re dressed meet Pansy out the front. And I have more of the calming draught that was in your coffee. I know how it’s supposed to be given, you can have it 4 times a day so you have to wait a few hours before your next dose,” Blaise smiled warmly. Hermione nodded and then when Blaise handed her a black and red uniform she walked off upstairs with it and changed.
The uniform was made of fitted black trousers, a red apron, and a fitted black tee-shirt underneath deep red robes that cut off at the knee and had sleeves that stopped before the elbows. Hermione then took her hair bobble from around her wrist and tied her hair in a high ponytail which she quickly plaited. Her ochre coloured eyes were still as dull as her brown ones had been and she quickly glanced over her appearance making sure she was presentable before grabbing her no-mess quill and her wand and walking downstairs and finding Pansy behind the bar smiling and serving like the gracious host she was.
“Ahh Cody, here’s you badge, do you want to follow me around the first few times? After that I’m sure you’ll pick it up on your own. Hermione simply nodded and when one of the customers at a table called for Pansy, respectfully calling her Mrs Zabini, Pansy grabbed a quill and a small parchment notebook before walking over to them. Hermione followed Pansy’s lead and plastered a smile on her face as she followed her teacher to the table.
Pansy was all smiles and womanly charm as she served the table of five men, and as she stood there writing orders Hermione copied her, recording the orders as well and then after recording them she cast all the men a dazzling fake smile and wandered back to the bar where Pansy gave the food orders to two more house elves called Winka and Zwink. Pansy then took over making the drinks. All of the men had asked for a butterbeer claiming something about the time of day being too early for strong drinks so Pansy made the first 3 while Hermione watched and then Pansy gave the reins to Hermione on the last two drinks which Hermione got right on her first try.
By the end of the day Hermione felt physically dead on her feet not just mentally, and she’d already been through 3 of her 4 calming draughts. The shakes were coming back and she found herself slipping into a stupor and roaming around on automatic, taking the last orders of the day and getting them correct even when she wasn’t actually present. By the time the last of the drunken patrons had been collected and taken home and Hermione had locked the door, she collapsed into shakes, her entire body vibrating as she gave herself over to her despair. The sobs were back and as she tried to muffle the noise she started making a high keening noise at the back of her throat and shocked, she bit down on her knuckles hard enough to draw blood to stop the noise.
Blaise and Pansy were not back from St. Mungo’s yet, they had left when Hermione had reassured her that she could keep shop and lock up as the last half an hour was looking to be quiet. Pansy had told Hermione of her pregnancy and Hermione had plastered a smile on her face and congratulated her, but her happiness wasn’t genuine, it was the automated response to a friend with good news. Now Pansy and Blaise were gone and she was sat there on the floor right in front of the entrance, biting down on her knuckles repeatedly while shaking hard enough for her to see her shadow quivering.
With determined resolve Hermione crawled across the floor to the bar and then she slowly stood up, before picking up a bottle of firewhisky. She knew it was stupid, hell she knew it was dangerous, but right then Hermione didn’t want to remember, she didn’t want to be able to think straight. Slowly she reached for a glass and with extreme stubbornness managed to grab one but promptly dropped it and wtached it smash as her shaking fingers couldn’t grip the glass. A house elf appeared with a slight pop and when Hermione looked to her left she realised it was Winka, the elder female elf.
During her last year of Hogwarts, Hermione had given up on trying to pay or free the elves, they didn't want it, not after they learned what had happened to Dobby, the free elf. So now when Hermione saw her friends house elves she could only smile at the fact they were treated well and then treat them with respect herself.
“Winka can you pour me a glass please?” Hermione asked. The elf looked at Hermione with almost fear in its eyes and it shook its head. “Why?” Hermione begged through her tears.
“Miss Hermione should not have this when she is like this,” Winka declared as she removed the bottle from Hermione's hands. Hermione moaned and hit her head off the table, she had two hours of feeling like this before she could take another draught, and it was only when Winka appeared on the table and caught Hermione’s head that she realised she had been repeatedly bashing her skull off the hard wood table top. “Miss should not do that!” Winka cried. Hermione shook the elf off and then slipped back onto the floor. Hermione couldn’t take it another second longer, she was slipping off the precipice she had balanced on that morning and so her body did the only logical thing left to it and shut down.
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