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~wonderful chapter image by chiQs09~

Nyah nodded and said, “Hurry back, Hermione.”

And with that, Hermione left the Stewart Manor to apparate to the Ministry of Magic … to the new mystery of Nyah’s parentage … and to request an authorized Ministry meeting with none other than one Lucius Malfoy. 

Chapter 8 – Change Is Often Frightening

Nyah watched from the second-story landing as Hermione walked towards the tall row of hedges near the road. 

Where is she going?
Nyah thought, curious why her future teacher would head that way. The young girl watched intently as Hermione brushed the strands of hair from her face as she glanced around, as though looking for something – and then turned just a small amount and was gone!

Nyah jumped, a bit afraid of what she just witnessed. Her feet couldn’t move fast enough down the steps, taking her to the spot where Hermione vanished. She reminded herself not to run, as she knew Headmistress McGonagall was in the dining room with Catherine.

As she quickly, but quietly, stepped out the front door, Nyah was struck at how odd it sounded – Catherine – no longer Mother. Nyah’s steps grew slower and slower as the realization of what happened earlier truly began to sink in. She twirled her hair, absentmindedly, creating more tangles to add to the ones already residing there.

“I’m an orphan,” Nyah mumbled to herself. She came to a complete stop near the giant oak tree and leaned onto it, looking for support. Thoughts of Anna, Father, and Mrs. Cleary sprang to the front of her mind. Anna and Mrs. Cleary were here, now – and she knew there was time to say goodbye – but Father, he was away, and she didn’t know when he might come back. “I can’t leave – not yet. I need to see Father,” she whispered to the wind.

Conversing with the breeze, she continued, “Maybe I could stay, just another week or so, to finish up school and say goodbye to everyone.” Nyah sat, chewing her nails, deep in thought, ignoring the beetle running a lazy course over the top of her sandal.

She also hadn’t noticed the small shadow behind the tree, eavesdropping on her thoughts. The boy reached up and brushed his mousy brown hair from his eyes, as the wind wrapped around the massive trunk. His riding boots made no sound in the earth as he tip-toed around, glancing at Nyah as she sat in the comfort of the tree.

Alexander contained a laugh as he thought of all the nasty tricks he could play on the girl he used to refer to as his little sister. But no more – Anna had told him of the school officials that had come to take Nyah away with them.

Knowing this may be the last time he could torment her, Alexander decided his final prank had to be a good one. An evil smile played across his face as his choice was made. He crept away to a dark corner of the Manor – wicked, dark feelings unleashed in his heart.

The hard compacted earth was making it presence known as Nyah’s backside was beginning to go a bit numb. She shifted a little, still deep in her thoughts, as she scratched at the scab on her knee. A small shuffle on the ground nearby brought Nyah from her thoughts. She glanced around as she stood and leaned against the bark.

The large oak tree had an enormous trunk and Nyah had to take three rather large steps to peek around the back. Nervously picking her nails, Nyah was certain she hadn’t imagined the sounds.

Since Hermione could disappear with a small turn, Nyah now wondered what other types of magical creatures might be hiding here-and-there, just out of sight. She took a step backwards and turned around as blood-curdling scream burst from her mouth.
There, dangling directly in front of her were two very large, hairy spiders – their legs reaching for her face as she struggled to get away.

Nyah lost her footing and fell hard to the ground. Before she even had a chance to move, the terrible realization that the spiders were now crawling on her was sending her into a spasm. She stood up quickly, as one of the brown hairy creatures dropped to the ground. Nyah jumped away and turned quickly, desperately looking for the other spider.

Her scream had brought the occupants of the house out into the yard. Headmistress McGonagall was quite confused as to why the young girl would be twirling about in the yard, screaming… that was, until she saw a boy hiding in the tree, laughing as he watched Nyah struggle.

Nyah was getting desperate. It was as though she could feel spiders crawling all over her body and couldn’t get them off. A billowing, black cape was racing to her side as she continued to scream.

Headmistress McGonagall grabbed the young girl as she continued to squirm, tears running down her face – the electricity building.

Please – the spider – it’s on me!” Nyah cried, gasping for air, and unable to stay still.

The Headmistress quickly turned the young girl around and spied the hairy legs just under Nyah’s black hair. With a flick of her wand, the spider was sent sailing… up into the tree limbs… directly into the face of one very surprised Alexander.

The yells transferred from the ground to the tree, as Alexander struggled to get the spider off of him without losing his balance. Angered that his final prank had been turned on him, Alexander threw the spider to the ground where it lay – finally still.

He lowered himself from the tree, shooting daggers from his eyes at Nyah, as the young girl sought comfort in the robes of her savior. The Headmistress wasn’t soft and soothing, but more like a tower and force to be reckoned with, and in that, Nyah drew strength.

Typically, Mrs. Stewart hadn’t even been bothered enough to leave the comfort of the porch. Calling down, she said, “Alexander, dear, don’t hurt yourself in that tree.” And with that, she turned back into the house.

Bringing herself up to full height, Headmistress McGonagall looked down her nose at the scrawny boy who was glaring at Nyah. “Young man, I believe you owe your sister an apology,” she demanded of Alexander.

Unaffected, he snorted and rolled his eyes at the tall woman before him. Staring directly at her, he shook his head. “Apparently, you’ve not heard… this – freak,” he spat towards Nyah, “is not my sister, so no apology is required. Now, if you’ll excuse me… it looks like Halloween has come early. I should go and locate my costume.” He smiled smugly and turned to walk away.

Headmistress McGonagall’s breathing had quickened and her face was extremely pink with anger. “I’ll save you the trouble of looking,” she stated, and with a quick flick of her wand, Alexander was dressed from head-to-foot in a frilly, hot-pink smock. His hair was sticking out at all angles in rainbow colors, his face full of makeup.

Alexander turned and his mouth dropped open as he took in his new apparel. With a right girly scream, he hiked his skirt and ran for the house, whining for Mother.

Nyah’s mouth hung open as her eyes danced with laughter at what she just saw. “That,” she gasped at the Headmistress, “was brilliant!” The elderly woman managed a small snicker in response, quite pleased with the payback.

It was then that both Nyah and the Headmistress heard another laugh – loud and clear. Recognizing the familiar sound, Nyah ran around the tree and lunged into the open arms of Anna. The girls fell to the ground in a fit of giggles, and each committed that moment to memory.

McGonagall walked determinedly to the Manor, eager to finish her conversation with Mrs. Stewart and be on her way – gone from this place. 

Nyah contentedly stared at the clouds passing by, her heart floating with them. She looked over at Anna, whose face bore a completely different set of emotions. A single tear escaped the older girl’s eye, and Nyah followed its course as it lost its way in the blonde hair.

Taking a deep breath, Nyah sat up, pulling her feet under her knees. She preoccupied herself by picking at her knee again, not wanting to ruin this moment – but time was slipping by. Nyah opened her mouth to speak, but nothing but broken words came out. Sighing, she finally said, “I’m leaving soon.”

Anna refused to acknowledge the statement and continued to look to the sky. Another tear escaped her eye, following the same path as the one before. Strained silence between them, Anna sat up and looked to the ground, unwillingly to make eye contact. Finally letting out a deep breath, she whispered, “I know.”

The girls picked at the grass and small stones beneath the tree, hoping this time would last a bit longer. The sound of the front door closing brought them looking to the house. Headmistress McGonagall was approaching the tree, a kind smile on her face.

“Anna, your mother would like to see you,” the woman said, smiling at Anna.

“Thank you, Ma’am,” Anna said while she straightened her clothing. With a glance towards Nyah, she obediently ran to the house.

The tall, commanding woman watched as Nyah stood and faced her. “And you,” she started, “have some packing to do.”

Nyah began biting her bottom lip as she glanced nervously towards the spot where Hermione had disappeared earlier. Ashamed at her own thoughts, she looked to the ground.

Quietly whispering, Nyah asked, “What if they say no - the Ministry people? What if I’m stuck here? And what if I don’t know how to leave?” Nyah shook her head, as though scolding herself for sounding odd. “I mean...” she started again, but was cut off as the headmistress pulled her chin up, looking in her eyes.

“Change is often frightening. But you must ask yourself, isn’t the adventure worth the risk?” the Headmistress asked her.

Taking a moment to think about it, Nyah smiled, her heart lifting again. “Yes," she said, "I guess I have some packing to do,” she said looking at the large, looming windows, Nyah added a soft, “Thank you – for earlier. I really hate spiders.” With a gentle smile, she bolted from the safety of the tree, heading towards the house – the path clear before her.

The Headmistress watched until the young girl was safely inside, and then turned to face the tall hedges, taking a seat on a concrete bench.  After a few moments, a small ‘pop’ resonated and Hermione appeared out of thin air.

Barely taking time for both feet to feel the ground beneath her, Hermione walked hurriedly towards the Manor, completely unaware that her presence was being monitored.

“Hermione,” the older woman called from a bench nearby, smiling at the young woman.

“Professor – I mean Headmistress,” exclaimed Hermione as she altered her course a bit. A bit out of breath, Hermione sat down, smiling to herself. “Sorry… well, I was granted temporary custody.”

“Wonderful,” breathed McGonagall.

“Yes,” Hermione began, “but only until the formal hearing, which is actually set for Monday.”

“Monday?” the Headmistress cried. “How do they expect you to find anything out in that amount of time?”

Hermione sighed, looking out at the lush front gardens. “It’s not going to be easy,” she spoke to the wind.

The Ministry hearing was a bit daunting, as the notices were owled out while Hermione was signing the custody papers. Emergency meetings were rare, now that there was a somewhat-established peace since Voldemort’s fall, so to be summoned to a meeting such as this would be well-attended, more out of curiosity than concern.

Brought out of her contemplation as the Headmistress rose from the bench, Hermione stood as well. “Thank you for coming today,” she said to her former Professor. Glancing at the house on the hill, she said, “I don’t think I could have quite managed this one alone.”

McGonagall's eyes twinkled with vast knowledge and laid a hand on Hermione’s arm, “I’m happy to help. Now – I believe there is a little girl waiting to be freed from this gloomy place. I’m sure we’ll meet up later.”

Glancing about to ensure she was not being watched, McGonagall turned on the spot, and with a small ‘pop’, she was gone.

Nyah met Hermione at the front door nearly bursting with anticipation. After a quick hug, Nyah took a breathless step back and beamed up at Hermione, welcoming her. Hermione laughed, reminding Nyah that she’d only been gone an hour.

“It’s been an hour and a half,” she stated with an edge in her voice, placing her right hand on her hip. She reminded Hermione of another witch, who at Nyah’s age, was quite the spit-fire.

Nyah walked Hermione into the house, and quietly closed the door behind them. Catherine was resting, and it wouldn’t do to wake her, Nyah explained in a whisper.

“Well,” Hermione asked in her quietest voice, “are you all packed?”

“Nearly,” Nyah replied, “Would you help me?”

With a nod, Hermione took Nyah’s small hand in her own and they walked up the three long winding staircases. Hermione’s smile fell from her face as she walked into the attic. The room was old and dusty with the barest of furnishings. The only cheerfulness in the room was hand-drawn pictures pinned to the walls. She thought a well-placed howler to Mrs. Stewart was called for about now ….

“Hermione … hello,” Nyah said, waving her hand in front of Hermione, gaining her attention once again. “Like I said, do I need to bring everything, or do I get different things when we are there?”

“Nyah,” Hermione gently reminded her, “you may not be coming back here for a while, so I think it best to take everything you think you’ll want.” Hermione wondered if the young girl would ever be allowed to come back.

“Hmm,” Nyah said, scratching her head in thought, “I guess that’s it then.”

“What about all of these?” Hermione asked, pointing to the many drawings scattered around the room.

Nyah looked around, a broad smile, coming across her face. “These should stay… maybe if Anna or Father starts to forget me, they can come up here,” she said, looking around. “Except this one… this should come with me,” she whispered as she tucked the hand-drawn picture of a mother, father, and little girl flying on a giant broomstick into her travel sac.

“Ready now?” Hermione said, a bit sad for Nyah.

With one last look around, the young girl simply shook her head and took Hermione’s hand.

A few moments later, and a tearful goodbye to Mrs. Cleary, Hermione and Nyah set out for the front door. They stopped briefly at Anna’s room where the two girls sat crying and hugging one another. Anna had been one of the warmest lights in Nyah’s life, and they weren’t quite ready to part ways.

Hermione was prepared for this. She gave Anna a set of rather simple-looking stamps that when placed on an ordinary letter would be magically sorted and delivered to Nyah at Hogsmeade. This small favor was enough to make their departure bearable – knowing they would be able to communicate.

“Would Anna be allowed to visit me at your house?” Nyah asked, holding her sister’s hand. “Perhaps for my birthday next week?”

Hermione smiled and promised, “I’m sure we can arrange something, as long as Mrs. Stewart agrees to it. Birthdays in the Weasley family are a lot of fun, and I’m sure one more will be quite welcome,” she said, looking between the girls.

With a last hug, a couple of more tears, and the promise to write every day, the girls said their goodbye’s … not realizing how soon it would be before they met again.

Once outside, Hermione realized that she had overlooked one not-so-tiny detail … getting Nyah to Hogsmeade. Normally, students wouldn’t be arriving until September 1st when the Hogwarts Express train ran, but this was June, and the train wasn’t running. That left the option of Floo powder or apparition, and neither one was, in Hermione’s opinion, a good option.

To save the time of searching for a wizarding home to Floo from, Hermione decided it was easiest to apparate. After explaining the basics to Nyah, she took a firm hold of Nyah’s suitcase in one hand, and Nyah in the other – who clung for dear life to Hermione’s arm.

Hermione concentrated on the cottage at Hogsmeade, and turned on the spot.

Nyah felt like someone was giving her the biggest bear hug ever – and wouldn’t let go. As her feet felt solid ground, she stumbled and gasped for air. 

Coughing, Nyah said, “I do not want to do that ever again!”

“I’m sorry,” Hermione explained, “but it was the best option at the time.” She reached down and picked up the suitcases while Nyah adjusted the travel bag on her shoulder. “You’ll get used to it eventually.”

Nyah shook her head and looked up as Hermione opened the gate and walked up to a small cottage.

“Coming?” Hermione asked.

Nyah stood and took it all in … the Weasley home was such a contrast to the stark, cold Stewart Manor.

The cottage looked like something on the front of a postcard. It was a lovely shade of pale yellow with white shutters. Flowers were in full bloom and the lush, green grass just needed to be mowed. There was the hum of bees nearby, and in the distance, the sounds of children laughing. The walkway was made of small, red bricks that made your shoes click when you walked on them. Nyah had never seen such a charming home and she couldn’t wait to go inside.

Stepping through the doorway, Nyah was struck by how comfortable she felt. The familiar tugging sensation somewhere behind her stomach was coming on again. She moved from room to room taking it all in. It was as if she knew what was beyond each turn and behind each door before reaching them.

The windows were open in the front rooms letting a warm breeze to flow through the house. The dining room table was littered with books large and small – the sitting room beckoned you in to take a seat with its comfortable sofa and chair.

As they walked through the home, Hermione chatted about her husband, Ron, their children; Rose who was 6, and Hugo who was nearly 4. Hermione had begun to go on about the rest of the Weasley family, which sounded incredibly large, when Nyah felt very dizzy and her head starting to throb. She wandered over to the fireplace and reached out - clinging onto the mantle, hoping the pain would pass quickly, but instead of passing, the pain was building.

Nyah heard Hermione telling her to breathe … something about water …

Hermione pulled her wand from her pants pocket and with a small wave said, “Accio glass,” as a small glass flew in from the kitchen. “Aguamenti!” The glass filled with water and she coaxed Nyah to take a sip.

Nyah’s breathing was coming faster and faster … she turned and looked at Hermione whose lips were moving, but no sound got to Nyah’s ears.

It was coming …

Nyah felt the electricity rise from somewhere near her toes traveling through her entire body … she closed her eyes, willing it to stop, afraid of this feeling … not here, not now … her hair was rising off her shoulders as though caught by a fierce wind. Her skin burned … everything hurt so badly … Let go …it won’t hurt if you let it go … she told herself. No! Make it stop! 

As the room went black, a scream rang out …

Author's Notes:  I'd love to know what you think of this chapter - I've actually rewritten it now twice and  would like to know your thoughts... of this or other chapters, the characters, the plot, etc.

Just click the little box below.  I ALWAYS respond to my reviews so check back too! =]

Thanks to everyone who have left reviews up to this point!!!!  I appreciate your feedback!

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