December 25, 1984

Hermione repositioned herself so that she was facing Draco head on. Both kids noticed the other's scars and injuries. Draco pulled his eyes from Hermione's gash. "What is it?"

Hermione opened her mouth to explain, but nothing would come out. She kept trying to tell Draco what was happening, but it only came out in squeaks. Draco was looking at her with concern. "Are you okay?"

She nodded. Again, the words of confession refused to break free of her body. All the things that wanted to explode and escape from her were hiding. Nowhere to be found when she needed to reveal herself. She could feel the words on the edge of her tongue, but could not figure out what was holding her back. "So, are you going to tell me what's wrong or not?"

She looked at Draco. He seemed so bogged down with whatever had happened before she arrived. His thoughts were obviously not on her or her problems at the moment. She sighed, catching Draco's attention after he drifted away again. He looked so desperate and upset. He was trying to hide it, Hermione could tell. Her problems could wait, she couldn't see him in that state.

"Nevermind, what hap--" Hermione had placed her hand on Draco's arm and was hit with a vision.

"Eric, you're in no danger!"

Eric growled frustratedly and snorted, walking over and grabbing Draco from his sisters' grips, holding him in his parents faces. He was using Draco's scar to prove his point. "Look at his face! He's
eight-years-old and he has to live with that for the rest of his life! Sounds like he's got a great life here!"

Both parents were silent. There was no arguing with Eric's logic. They should have taken more steps to ensure the protection of their children. Narcissa understood this.

"Eric, I understand." Eric didn't say anything back, knowing that leaving was something he needed to do. He was scared, he needed time to think and heal. He walked over to Brigit and Celeste who were still shaking from what had happened. He smiled slightly at them, making them feel better. He hugged Brigit first, then Celeste, squeezing his love into them individually. He whispered quietly to the two of them.

"I love you guys."

They both answered, sniffling, "We love you too."

He smiled into their tiny, scared faces. "I'll miss you guys."

Brigit and Celeste both began to cry profusely. "Eric!"

The back and forth started. Brigit began, "Please don't go!"

Celeste followed. "We don't know what to do without you!"

"We'll be unprotected without you!" The Malfoy parents winced.

"And then mum and dad will send us back to school!"

"And we won't know if you're okay!"

They finished together, "AND WE'LL MISS YOU!"

Both girls flew to their older brother, hugging and crying on him. He managed to pry them off, smiling more than he had all night.

"I will always be with you guys. Just wave your wands like this," he showed them a simple flick and twist hand movement, the distress spell. "And I'll be right there."

The girls nodded and he kissed both their heads, hugging them in a group before moving on to Draco. He grimaced as his little brother smiled through his scar. It hardly phased him. Eric smiled at his brother's courage, knowing that the scar would most likely never bother him. Draco smiled excitedly, jumping at his brother, "Eric!"

Eric smiled despite himself, picking Draco up and hugging him tightly. Draco looked confused, though he had a vague idea of what was going on. Eric checked to make sure. "Draco, do you know what's happening?"

Draco nodded slightly. "You're leaving."

It hurt Draco to admit this, but he knew he had to be strong. Hermione could feel his fear and hurt. Eric nodded. "Yes, do you know why?"

Lucius opened his mouth in protest, but Eric was turned away from him. Narcissa laid a hand on his chest to stop him. "Because you're mad at Mum and Dad because of Voldi."


Draco was thoughtful for a moment, playing with the dragon pendant Lucius had given him for his fifth birthday. He never took it off. Draco looked at Eric, his gray-blue eyes filled with a sudden, child-like innocence. Hermione could hear his thoughts racing,
What do I do? How can I make him stay? He's my brother, I need him. Oh, what do I do?

"You know, Eric. Mum and Dad weren't trying to hurt us. They wanted to protect us. I know they did."

Eric looked puzzled. Draco explained, "I heard them say it."

"Draco, they never said anything." Even the Malfoy parents looked confused. Hermione was watching Draco with intent.

"I heard what they were thinking. Mum was trying to think of a defense spell or something and Dad was trying to think of a way to distract Voldi before anything happened to us. They didn't mean to have us get cut up."

The family was quiet, Draco continuing to play with his pendant.

Eric interrupted the moment, "Aren't you mad at Mum and Dad for what happened? For the cut on your face?"

These words cut Draco and Hermione could feel that. She was so bothered by his thoughts and façades that she had to turn away from the scene. Draco was suddenly vocal again, resting his head on Eric's shoulder, "No, I love Mum and Dad. They're sorry, Eric. You need to forgive them. I do."

Eric understood Draco's innocence, as did Narcissa and Lucius. They looked at their eldest child, wondering what his choice would be. He was still conflicted, but there was a finality in the fact that he was going to leave. Draco suddenly wrapped his arms securely around Eric's neck, hugging him tightly. Eric hugged Draco back, no sign of emotion on his face. He was hiding them.

"I'll miss you, Eric. I love you," Draco's tiny voice whispered to his brother.

Eric's strong façade began to break as he realized what leaving his family meant. He was not going to see them again. It became too painful. "I'll miss you too, Luke. I love you, too."

Eric's voice cracked as he told his brother he loved him for the last time, as far as he knew. Who knew what the future held? He dropped his brother to the ground, looking toward the two people who had caused his pain. He knew that he loved them and was going to miss them, but he had to leave, for his sake. He couldn't bear to think that he could be put in that position again. He feared for his siblings, but maybe his parents learned from this. Keep the kids away when Voldemort was visiting.

Hermione could hear the family's thoughts, all of them trying to think of different ways to keep Eric in the house. Unfortunately, each of them knew that nothing would make him stay. That was the problem with Malfoy stubbornness, it kicked in when it mattered most. Tears were flooding Hermione's eyes as she heard Eric's thoughts.
It doesn't have to end like this...

But it does. You can't continue living here with your parents. You're not safe...

That's not true...My parents are extremely responsible...

What does the scar on your brother's face tell you?

Hermione watched as Eric's mental debate stirred deep feelings within him. Not once did he look in Draco's direction. He didn't need confirmation on things he already knew. He knew which side had won.

Eric walked past his parents, not hugging them goodbye or even speaking a word. He simply stared at them, his pain emanating from every pore on his body. Once he reached the door, he turned back for a brief moment, scanning over his family's faces. His gaze ended on Draco, who looked the most heartbroken and the strongest of all of them. Eric turned back around and apparated away, not letting his family see the tears budding in his eyes.

Hermione went and stood next to Draco, trying to rest a hand on his shoulder, but only passing through him. She could see how the rest of the family would think that Draco was being strong. How they could fall for the trick. But Hermione could see past all that. Draco was beyond broken, he was destroyed. Everything was telling him to yell at his parents, scream at them for hurting the two of them and letting Eric leave. He was trying so hard not to cry, he was shaking. Hermione couldn't take it anymore. She suddenly felt herself drifting away and the vision fading.

Draco got scared when Hermione had suddenly stopped talking, going into a trance. Tears were in her eyes and she kept wincing, as if she were watching a movie only she could see. Draco shook her slightly, color returning to her face. She quickly removed her hand from his arm and held it over her mouth, tears still spilling from her eyes. She suddenly jumped on Draco, hugging him tightly.

"I'm so sorry! Why didn't you tell me Eric left?" Draco loked at Hermione as if she was crazy. He hadn't told her, and neither had his family.

Mum probably called Aunty Heather and told her. She must have told Joie...

"You seemed upset, so I didn't say anything."

"That's no excuse! You could have at least had Aunty 'Cissa call us and let us know! We would have been here yesterday!"

Now, he was confused. "Didn't my mum call you? Isn't that how you knew?"

"No! When I touched you a minute ago, that's how I found out."

"That's not possible."

"Well it happened."

"It couldn't have."

"Are you calling me a liar?"

"No, that's just not possible."

Hermione scowled. "Fine! Let's ask our mums, then!"

The two kids stood, walking from the room and down the stairs. As they walked, Hermione's hand brushed Draco's and another vision flashed before her eyes.

Within seconds of the first blow, more were crashing down upon the scared, huddled boys. Narcissa worked as fast as she could to put a shield around Eric and Draco before too many of the blows landed upon them. The Malfoy family winced as the last two cracks of the switch landed across Eric's back and Draco's tiny face. They would be scarred forever.

The spell managed to hit the boys, saving them from the pain, but Eric continued to handle the blows silently, making Voldemort believe the spell had not worked. Eric was smart enough to realize that Voldemort had noticed Narcissa cast the spell to protect her children, but he was not smart enough to know whether it worked or not.

Once the twentieth blow landed across Eric's spine, licking at Draco's face, he handed the switch back to Peter, turning toward Lucius and Narcissa, who had been watching their sons endure this torture for the past five minutes. Voldemort smirked at the parents, knowing the pain of watching their sons be tortured was much more satisfying than hitting the boys. He smiled at the pair, "
Thank you for this lovely get together, Malfoy. Although, I do believe it is time for us to take our leave."

Hermione cringed throughout the beating, though the vision only lasted a few seconds. She looked at Draco, seeing the white streak across his face. She could see the whip licking at him and the wounds reopening. The sight was horrifying worse than experiencing her own beatings. Seeing Draco and his family with such tortured expressions was too much for her to handle. She began to cry and ran through the rest of the path until she reached her dad.

All but the two kids were sitting in the Dining Room. The Malfoy's had managed to keep Eric's departure on the down low. No one had asked, so no one told. The baby and his parents life had managed to keep up most of the conversation.

Lucius was smiling at the baby, letting Drew play with his finger. "Wow, Jem. I can't believe your boy's almost one. How many words does he know?"

"5. Mama, dada, eat, sleep, and uh-oh." Everyone but Heather laughed. She was glad to finally see her grandson since his birth, but being near her family irked her. She was itching to get on Hermione about something just to get a beating fix. She felt her dreams were coming true when Hermione ran into the room crying, Draco entering after her. Hermione ran to her father for comfort. He was holding Drew, so Hermione couldn't sit with him. She ran to Jeremy who picked her up and held her close. "What's wrong?"

She sobbed into his chest, unable to tell him why she was so upset. He simply rocked her until she calmed enough to speak. When he was sure she was okay, he asked again, "What's wrong?"

"I saw Eric and Luke being whipped and they had cuts and bruises and Eric was trying to protect Luke and Aunty 'Cissa and Uncle Lucius were upset and scared and Brigit and Cel--"

Hermione babbled on and on about this horrifying whipping by a tall man in a dark robe. The Granger's looked at the Malfoy's disbelievingly, but the Malfoy's were too shocked to acknowledge them. Narcissa's mouth was hangnig open and Lucius was unusually pale. Brigit, Celeste, and Draco were crying together, the two girls holding Draco.

"How did you know that?" Narcissa looked expectantly at Hermione.

"I saw it in the hallway."

"What do you mean you saw it?"

"My hand went like this against Luke's," she demonstrated what happened, "and I saw what happened."

Heather glared at Hermione. "Stop telling lies for attention!"

"I'M NOT LYING!" Heather's glare hardened and she smirked. There was her reason.

Jeremy looked at the Malfoy's, "So, is it true?"

Narcissa and Lucius glanced at each other before nodding. Esther took the baby back from Ernest. "What's he going to do? Didn't he graduate? How's he going to live?"

Lucius held onto Narcissa's hand as she began to tremble. "He told me he was accepted into the American Auror Program (AAP) and had managed to function through his first semester already. He went back to continue it."

"Does he have a place to live?"

"Yes. He said he has an apartment."

"Well, let him know that he's welcome to stay with us if need be."

"I would, but he broke all contact." Narcissa broke down and cried into Lucius' shoulder. He patted her back, holding in his own emotions.

"I'm so sorry."

"Don't worry about it. You couldn't have known."

"Things will get better." Esther grabbed Jeremy's hand, squeezing it lightly.

Lucius looked around the room at the two families. The Granger's were downtrodden and quiet. His own family was crying. He continued to pat Narcissa's back. He looked to his daughter's and cringed at their faces of anguish and pain. When he looked to Draco, he found him staring back. His son's small blue eyes bore into his aged ones. What he saw scared him.

His son, the one who had been the strongest and most understanding when Eric left, was staring at him the most broken of all. From his tiny brow, to his small chin, his face gave away the pain of losing his brother. And that scar. That damn scar. It would forever be a constant reminder of how he failed as a parent to protect his child. Draco's penetrating stare became too much to handle. Lucius looked away, turning back to Esther.

"I hope so."

"One who looks for a friend without faults will have none."
--Hasidic Saying

Chapter Thirteen

September 12, 1985

Hermione barely registered that the teacher had called her name. Three times. Draco nudged her before she finally answered Mrs. D’Alessandro. “Here.”

The teacher continued calling names. Her attention span was short for that day. She was tired, Heather’s beatings taking a toll on her small body. Everything was hidden in excellence, but the mental pain was wearing her down. She honestly had no idea how much longer she could handle Heather. Draco’s “here” awakened her mind once more.

Mrs. D’Alessandro was addressing the class and Hermione tuned her out. She was babbling on about something in the classroom and weird rules, things Hermione didn’t care about. Mrs. D’Alessandro sensed that Hermione wasn’t listening and called her out on it. “Miss Granger, are you listening? These rules are important.”

“Sorry, Mrs. D.”

“That’s quite alright. Just pay attention.”

Hermione nodded, feigning attention, but her mind was drifting again. The line started to move and she felt Draco push her to get her moving. She followed the kids in front of her to the classroom, but once she arrived, she honestly forgot what had just happened. She had no idea how she got to the room without falling over and had no idea how to get back if she needed to leave. Mrs. D’Alessandro was addressing them again. Hermione continued to tune her out until her name was called again. “JOIE!”

Hermione started and stared at Draco angrily, “What, Luke?”

Mrs. D’Alessandro was looking at Hermione sternly. “Miss Granger, you must pay attention or you will miss instructions. You’re in third grade now, you must remember these things.”

“Sorry, Mrs. D.”

“Just go sit down.” Mrs. D’Alessandro pointed to Hermione’s seat and she sat down, unfortunately being placed behind Suri Cruise. The small, cocky girl turned to face Hermione, a malicious smirk on her face.

“This year, Draco’s mine.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, focusing on looking out the window at the playground. It was a dark day, not raining, but not sunny. The clouds were rumbling; a storm was brewing. Hermione sighed loudly, interrupting another rant of Mrs. D’Alessandro’s. “Hermione Granger!”

Hermione’s head snapped in the teacher’s direction and she cowered under her stare. Mrs. D’Alessandro angrily stomped toward her desk and Hermione flinched with each angry click of her heels on the floor. She held her hands up, afraid the teacher was going to hit her. “No! Please, don’t!”

Hermione opened her eyes after a few moments of nothing. Mrs. D'Alessandro was watching her with a curious look on her face. She waiting a moment, giving Hermione another calculating stare, before 'tsk'ing. "Miss Granger, go to Mr. Homer's office, please."

Hermione began to whimper, knowing that Mr. Homer was one of the men her mother saw. If Mr. Homer saw her, she would never survive the night with Heather. She began to plead with Mrs. D'Alessandro. "Mrs. D., please don't send me down there. Please. I can't go down there."

"Hermione, I don't know what else I can do. You aren't focusing, you won't listen, what am I to do?"

"Just give me another chance. Please."

"Hermione, I've given you three. Three strikes, you're out. Had you been listening when I announced the rules, you would know that."

Hermione's eyes began to well with tears and she could feel her face becoming congested. "Mrs. D., please. You don't understand, I can't go down there."

"You should have thought of that before you decided to stop listening in my class."

Draco was doing what he could to protect Hermione and save her from Mr. Homer's office. He didn't understand why she was so upset, but she was his friend. He had to help her. She would do anything for him, and he had to do that for her. If getting in trouble with her was what needed to happen, that's what would happen. "Mrs. D., please give her another chance."

"Mr. Malfoy, please do not intervene. Hermione did not listen to me, she needs to go to the principal's office."

Mrs. D'Alessandro grabbed Hermione's arm and picked her up, starting for the door. Hermione was crying, but silently. There was nothing she could do, she was doomed.

"Mrs. D., please!" Draco noticed that his tattoo was glowing a very light green. Every time he wasn't looking at Hermione, it would get brighter, but dimmer when he did look at her.

"Mr. Malfoy, do not try to protect her! She misbehaved, she shall be punished!"

"Well you have a big butt!"

"Excuse me, Mr. Malfoy?"

Draco smirked. It was starting to become a part of him. "I said, you have a big butt."

Mrs. D'Alessandro marched over to Draco, grabbing his arm as well, pulling him with Hermione to the office. Draco smiled, hoping Hermione would feel better because he would be with her, but that wasn't the case. She looked horrified. Her face was white and tear-stained, her usually bright, beautiful honey-brown eyes staring at him with dread. He made to grab her hand and she allowed him to hold it. She needed the most comfort she could get at that moment. That could be the last time she ever held his hand.

Heather's beatings had made Hermione paranoid for death beyond anything anyone had ever seen. She wanted the pain to stop, the beatings to end, but she didn't want death to be the answer. She was too young, there were things she wanted to see and do. She wanted to stay with Draco forever, she felt safe with him. She squeezed his hand a little, scared he would let go. He turned and smiled at her, flashing his teeth. He made a funny face to try and make her feel better. She smiled a little, but it didn't make much of a difference.

The three arrived at Mr. Homer's office and to no surprise of Hermione's, she found her mother with him. Draco was confused, but Hermione was just scared. She ripped her hand from Mrs. D'Alessandro's and ran behind Draco, holding onto his hand tighter than before. He was in pain, but Hermione's fear made the pain leave his mind. She was more important. Mrs. D'Alessandro made the two sit down outside Mr. Homer's office while she went in to tell him what happened.

Hermione was cowering in fear outside of Mr. Homer's office, and Draco couldn't do anything to calm her down. She just kept whispering the same phrase over and over again. "You don't don't understand..."

"Don't understand what?"

"You don't don't understand..."

Draco pretended she wasn't saying those things, it was scaring him. Mrs. D'Alessandro came back out, unsatisfied, but she didn't make the disciplinary actions. "Draco, come with me back to class. No recess for the rest of the week for the thing you said to me. Mr. Homer is going to call your parents later. Hermione, he wants to see you in his office."

Draco was confused and Hermione began to sob harder, shaking her head. "Joie didn't do anything wrong! I called you a mean name! I should see Mr. Homer and Hermione should get no recess!"

"Draco, that is what Mr. Homer said. You follow his rules because he is the principal. Come. Hermione, they're expecting you."

Mrs. D'Alessandro grabbed Draco's arm and pulled the unwilling 8-year-old from the office, taking him to the classroom. Hermione gulped a few times before she heard a low, snarling, "Hermione", from the office. She tried to calm herself as best she could before going into the office that would surely be her doom.

Inside she was greeted by her mother and Mr. Homer. Her mother was quiet and smiling, which made Hermione cringe inside. What was she so happy about? Mr. Homer pointed to the chair in front of his desk and Hermione climbed into it, looking into her lap the entire time. Hermione could see Heather's smile widen from the corner of her eye. Her mother's voice filled the room with a certain sweetness that Hermione hadn't heard in a long time. "Hermione, look at Mr. Homer, please."

Hermione shivered. Her mother's voice may have sounded sweet and convincing to any child but her. Hermione could feel the ice and malice hidden beneath. This sweet woman was not her mother, but an imposter. Hermione followed orders though, hoping the beatings would be lessened because she cooperated. Mr. Homer looked at Hermione sternly. She could see the signs of romance from her mother in his face and clothes. He looked ruffled and his thoughts were jumbled simply by Heather being in the room.

"Hermione...what...what made yo-ou, um...heh..." Mr. Homer loosened his tie, unbuttoning the top of his shirt two buttons. His display was making Hermione sick while her mother's smiled continued to widen.

"Just, don't do it again. Next time, it won't be suspension, it'll be expulsion. I don't need a troublemaker in my school. Go back to class."

Hermione let out a breath she had been holding in. Heather held her hand up to Mr. Homer. "Mr. Homer, sir, I believe I'd rather take Hermione home. She needs a parent's discipline in order to get through to her. Idle threats are not frightening enough."

"Yes they are, Mum!"

"Silence, Hermione!" Heather's eyes blazed with a sense of satisfaction and greed Hermione had never seen. This was Hermione's first dose of real addiction. She thought the drinking and men was bad, but the beatings had gotten to Heather as well as Hermione. Heather was addicted to Hermione's pain. And that was frightening. The breath the young girl had let out was being held again. She couldn't release it, couldn't breathe. Just the look in her mother's eyes told her that this could be her end.

Her beatings had been getting fiercer. Heather was beating harder and more frequently. She was no longer lenient, allowing a few beatings to slip by. She was getting more and more addicted to the feeling of power and satisfaction. Hermione didn't stand a chance at this rate. Things were going to continue going downhill, and she couldn't stop the ball from rolling. Everything was beyond her reach, beyond her control. She was too young, too small to be handling these big issues.

Heather's mad glint was still present when she took her daughter from the office, leading her to the car. She was gentle, holding her hand with care, buckling her into the car, seeming as though she was a caring parent. Hermione's nerves were getting the best of her. She was flinching and the blows had not even started. She wanted to cry, to scream and yell until someone realized what was happening. Instead, her mouth was glued closed.

Heather drove the two of them home, walking Hermione into the house. She sent her up to her room, going into the kitchen. Hermione breathed for a moment, Heather wasn't coming after her. If she was going to beat her, she would already be in Hermione's room before she could reach it. Hermione went into her room, flopping onto her bed. She breathed, calming herself down.

Her heart rate began to speed up and she began sobbing as footsteps were heard on the stairs. Heather was coming for her, she was done. Her breaths were short, she began to hyperventilate. Her body was shaking uncontrollably and her face was so red with pressure her brain hurt. Heather stood in the doorway, the sickly sweet smile back. She held a wooden spoon, letting it fall and slap against her hand before picking it up again and letting it fall once more. Hermione twitched at each 'SLAP!' of the spoon against her mother's hand. Heather stood before Hermione now, her eyes glinting madly, the spoon still slapping. With a loud scream from her tiny mouth, Hermione was immersed in darkness.

Please rate and review! I'm sorry it's late! Yesterday was my birthday, btw!

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