Chapter 2 : Chapter Two: The Zabinis
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Hermione waited in her room, fiddling with the hem of her purple capped sleeve dress. She wasn't very comfortable in the garment due to it being, well, a dress, but she had had no other choice as it one of very few items of clothing that actually fit her now due to her change in appearance. Thankfully the dress now reached her knees whereas it had once rested on her mid thigh. Paired with a thin black waist-belt, tights and ballet pumps she looked very nice yet respectable which is the exact image she had wanted for when she met her new family. She knew the Zabinis were well off though and nothing she wore would be up to their high standards but she hoped that they would appreciate the effort all the same. They were due to arrive any minute and although she knew it was rude not to greet your guests when they arrived, Hermione didn't think she could stomach the awkward moment which would surely ensue once the Zabinis made their entrance. The thought of their first encounter may have made her nauseous but she couldn't help but wonder what her parents looked like. Did she look like her mother or her father? Who did she inherit the sparkling blue eyes from? And her ash white skin? She knew she looked like Blaise. After finding out he was her twin and gazing at herself for another fifteen minutes in the mirror it was startlingly ovbious they were twins. The had the same black hair, the same pale complexion and the same dazzling eyes. The only differences were that he was rather tall whereas she was rather petite and his nose was a little more pointed than her small button nose. The call of her name then interrupted these thoughts and Hermione knew that the Zabinis must have arrived.
"Hermione! It is rude to keep your guests waiting, come along", Jane called again from the bottom of the stairs.
Slowly and cautiously, she made her way out of her room and down the steps. She was nervous. More nervous than she had ever been in her life, and she had fought Death Eaters! However, curiosity urged her to continue forward and towards the Zabini family. A sharp intake of breath, a gasp and an 'Oh my merlin' were what greeted Hermione's ears when she entered her spacious living room. Taking her gaze from the floor, her eyes rested on 3 people. On the right, a tall man with large shoulders and dark ebony hair stood with his arm wrapped lovingly around a petite woman. He almost looked italian with his dark hair and high cheekbones but his skin was slightly lighter than one would expect. His green eyes sparkled as a thin coating of tears covered his irises. Hermione could see that many of her facial features and her hair came from the man who was undoubtedly her Father but her porcelain skin, bright blue eyes and height must definitely come from her Mother. This thought was confirmed as her eyes glided over to her. She was small, yet a good 2 inches taller than Hermione, with smooth chocolate locks and the same beautiful eyes and button nose that graced her pretty porcelain face. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she gazed longingly at her lost daughter. Her plush pink lips parted as a sound slipped out.
Hermione looked away at this. Uncomfortable with being addressed different from the way she had all of her life. She may not have liked her upbringing but she had been brought up being called Hermione and she couldn't fathom being called anything else. This was the name her friends called her. This was the name the people she loved called her. Actually, it was the name the whole wizarding world called her as it had been splashed across the Daily Prophet along with Ron and Harry's ever since the war ended. No. She would not respond to Sofia. She did not know Sofia and until she did she would not accept the name.
"Erm, i - it's, er, Hermione actually", she mumbled.
This seemed to sober the Zabinis up a little as they quickly cleared the saddened looks from their faces in an attempt to appear accepting of Hermione's decision.
"Of course... Hermione", the gruff but polite voice of Andre Zabini spoke. "It truly is wonderful too see you. We've been waiting for this day for 18 years. You could not possibly understand how thankful we are of you for allowing us into your home. Now, you must have questions or some things I am sure you would like to say to us and please do not fear, just speak from your heart".
"Maybe we should all sit down first. There is no use in us standing around now is there. I have laid some tea and biscuits on the table if you would like to indulge", Jane interrupted whilst leading the group to the couches and small coffee table.
The Zabinis took up the three seater sofa while Jane and Collin sat on the two seater and Hermione on the arm chair. After tea had been served all eyes turned to Hermione expectantly. She had so many thing she wanted to say, so many questions to ask but for the life of her she could not get them out of her mouth. She couldn't even make a sound. For the first time Hermione Granger, smartest witch of her generation, was stumped. It was then that she felt a concerned gaze on her and she turned towards its source. To say she was shocked was an understatement as she saw none other than Blaise peer at her. Anxiousness and pleading evident in the eyes that were identical to her own. All Hermione could do was grimace and turn away from him. After all, this boy had been part of the daily ridicule she had had to endure at Hogwarts by the Slytherins. He may not have said anything directly to her but he had been there when his fellow idiots did. He may not have come up with the scathing remarks that lead to her endless tears at night but he had laughed when the other Slytherins had and that she would not forgive. Everyone seemed to notice Hermione's display of dislike towards her twin and confusion donned their faces.
"Hermione, do you know Blaise?", came the voice of Andre Zabini.
At this Hermione turned back to Blaise, disbelief evident on her face.
"Seriously? How many Hermione's do you know?".
"Granger?!" Blaise exclaimed.
"Wait, you're Hermione Granger?". This was the first thing her Mother had said to her since she had arrived.
Hermione looked to her and nodded.
"But, everything you have done. Everything you have been through...", Seline whispered.
Looking at the three Zabinis all Hermione could see was grief and guilt. She had thought this might happen. She had guessed that they would feel like this, especially her parents. Harry, Ron and her's 'adventure' during the war had been repeated many times in the Daily Prophet and so they knew the heart ache, the pain and the loss she had suffered. They knew of the fight that the three teenagers had taken on and what it took from them. They knew how together they had rid the wizarding world of the cruelest evil their ever was.
"I don't want you to feel guilty", Hermione started, "You weren't to know and I'm sure if you did you would have helped or been there. What Harry, Ron and I did, what we went through, was a decision we made together and whether you were in my life or not I still would have done it and I would do it again in a heart beat. Ron and I would never leave Harry when he needed us and it was evident from the age of 11 that it would come to what happened. So, don't feel bad. You couldn't have done nothing to stop it". She looked specifically at her parents when she said this, hoping to convey the honesty she was feeling when she said these words.
"That means a lot, it really does. But I can't help the guilt at knowing how my baby, how my little girl, suffered so much and I could not do anything about it. Anything at all", Seline said. "However, I am also very proud. Proud of what you have achieved. Proud of what an amazing young woman you are and proud of how very talented a witch you are. I am proud of how extremely loving and strong you are as to do that for your friend takes great courage and strength and a vast amount of love and compassion. Most importantly I am proud that you, Hermione, are my daughter. I just hope that you will let me be your Mum".
The words were so raw and so emotional that they touched Hermione's heart in a way words never had. She was so touched that she could not help but to run into her Mother's arms and be enveloped into a bone crushing hug. A hug that spoke volumes. A hug that showed them that all was forgiven. A hug that showed them that they all had a future together. Together as a family. As they pulled apart, tears glistened on their cheeks. Both Mother and Daughter knew that they had just bonded in a way that was so real and so beautiful, even if it was due to Hermione's pain and triumphs in the war. The pair jumped apart as they heard the clearing of a voice.
"Sof- Hermione. I just want you to know that I'm sorry. So very sorry. I know that what my friends said and did hurt you and whilst I didn't say any of it I know that me being there and just going along with what they said was just as bad. I'm really not into any of the pureblood mania or anything like that. I never ever cared what blood anyone was but I was instructed to stay neutral during the war and before. Therefore, that meant blending with my environment and that is what I did. I didn't mean to cause anyone any pain, especially you, my sister. My twin. Please, please forgive me?"
Hermione turned to look at Blaise. She already had a cutting remark ready to launch at him about his obvious pig headedness at the fact that he thought she would just forgive him like that but the sight she was met with stopped her from voicing it out loud. His eyes were filled with so much emotion; regret, helplessness, love, sadness and anticipation. It astounded her how much feeling he could convey through them. She had forgiven him just by looking into them and seeing the real Blaise. Her twin, Blaise. So she smiled at him. Hoping that this gesture showed him that she had forgiven and forgot. The gesture was clearly enough as he strode over to Hermione in a second, engulfing her into his arms. It was strange at first, but she had to admit that after a while she felt safe with Blaise. Safe and loved.
"Well, now that is settled, I guess it's time we start to talk about Hermione's living arrangement and plan the big move", said Collin, rubbing his hands together as if to signal that they were ready to get through some business. It was disgusting really. That along with with smile on his and Jane's face made it seem as if they were excited to finally be free of Hermione.
"Wait, are you saying that you do not wish for Hermione to stay with you? Surely, you want to be part of her life still?", questioned Seline.
"We were under the impression that you would want her back once she turned 18, actually. Don't you think we have done enough letting her stay with us for the last 18 years. I would expect you both to be slightly more greatful of me and my wife for giving her a home?".
Hermione could see Andre Zabini connecting the dots on how Hermione had been raised from what Collin had just said and the fury that was crawling on to his face could have put Voldemort to shame.
"Do you mean to say that you have treated our Sofia, our little girl, as if she has just been a tennant for the last 18 years? That you have shown no love or affection for her? That she has been brought up questioning why her parents do not love her like they're supposed to?! I will always be greatful to you both for keeping her safe but you were asked to RAISE HER LIKE YOU OWN! TO SHOW HER LOVE AND RESPECT! TO GIVE HER THE LIFE THAT WE COULDN'T BECAUSE OF THE DARK TIMES OUR WORLD WAS IN!", Andre thundered.
"It's ok", Hermione began. "I can sort something out for where to go. I half expected this if I'm honest. Collin and Jane -".
"COLLIN AND JANE! YOU DON'T EVEN LET HER CALL YOU MUM AND DAD! MOTHER AND FATHER! LIKE YOU WERE ASKED TO DO! YOU TWO ARE DISGUSTING! LETTING A YOUNG GIRL GROW UP THINKING HER PARENTS WERE LOVELESS PEOPLE! IT IS SICKENING!".
Collin and Jane paled significantly at Andre's outburst. Hermione would have laughed if she had not been slightly scared herself. She was even more scared when he turned to her with fury still in his eyes.
"Sofia, go upstairs and pack your things. You are coming home".
Despite being ordered around and the slip of name, Hermione immediately went upstairs. She clearly got her temper from her Father and now knew what her friends were talking about when they said it was scary. At her surprise, she also began to pack. She had never felt like she belonged in this house so when Andre had said she was coming 'home', she couldn't deny the longing to go. She had never had a proper home and so she was excited to finally have one and most importantly, excited to have a home with a family that had quite obviously missed her and that loved her unconditionally. It only took her ten miutes to pack what she wanted. Her clothes didn't fit so there was no point in taking them. All she had was her toiletries, her photos and of course, her beloved books. All of which were packed into the small beaded bag which had been her constant companion on the horcrux hunt. She walked back downstairs into the silent, tension filled room.
"Well, we shall be taking our leave. Goodbye, Mr and Mrs Granger", spoke Seline Zabini. "Andre, Blaise, Sofia. Come.".
Hermione went to stand beside her new family, holding onto her Father's arm ready to apparate. She took one last look at Collin and Jane. She didn't have any words for them so she just nodded. After a moment they nodded back. Whilst hers was a thank you for taking her in, she took theirs to be an apology of what they didn't and couldn't give her. With a loud crack the Zabinis disappeared from sight and it was from this moment that Hermione knew her life had changed forever. Whether it was for the better or worse she did not know.
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