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Chapter image by SillyBeee


 Hermione jumped slightly when a loud tapping sounded in the quiet room. She stood up from her spot on the floor and looked toward her bedroom window. Sitting comfortably on the outside window sill was a large, beautiful Boreal owl that she didn’t recognize.

 She stared at the owl briefly, noticing that there was something tied to its leg. Curious as to who had sent the owl, she quickly walked over to the window and threw it open. The owl swooped into the room silently and perched itself on Hermione’s desk. It then obediently held its leg out for her and waited.

 Hermione moved over to the owl and untied the envelope that was attached to its leg. Sure enough, written in beautiful slanted cursive was her name. I wonder who it’s from, she thought, opening the envelope and pulling out the enclosed piece of parchment.

My darling daughter,
 By now, the Grangers will have told you of your true identity, and your betrothal to Draco. All of this is, I’m sure, a shock to you. If you’re anything like me, and I’ve been told you are, there are many questions running through your mind. I promise that your father and I will answer any, and all, questions you have, but for the time being, I must be brief.


 Your father and I are so thrilled that you will be coming home to us after so many long years apart. We will be arriving shortly with your brother, Blaise, to bring you home. We are all so looking forward to getting to know the young woman you have become.

 We can’t wait to see you.

With deepest love,

Your Mother

 

 Hermione stared at the last line for several minutes. Your Mother. Her eyes narrowed as the weight of those words seemed to come down on her like a wave in the ocean. There was no way she was going to stand for this. She had a mother, and a father, that she loved dearly and she wasn’t going to be taken from them!

 With a small grunt of anger, Hermione crumpled the letter in her hand and tossed it onto her desk. She padded across the floor and opened her door, stepping out into the hallway. As she made her way down the hall to the stairs, she heard the sound of crying coming from her father’s office.

 Her feet quietly carried her to the closed door as instinct told her that it was her mother doing the crying. However, as she opened the door and poked her head into the room, her heart broke at the sight that lay before her. Her father was sitting behind his desk with his head in his hands, sobbing.

 Hermione had never seen her father cry before. He had always been so scientific, so rational about things that she had never thought crying would be an option for him. She wanted to be there for him in the way he had always been there for her; wanted to comfort him in some way.

 With all the emotional strength she could muster, she gently pushed the door open further and entered the familiar room. As she quietly padded over to him, Mr. Granger looked up at the young woman as she came toward him. Fresh tears fell from his eyes as he watched her.

 “Daddy,” she whispered, sitting on his lap the way she used to do when she woke from a nightmare.

 He remembered the way she would tiptoe to his office and climb into his lap causing all the stress from his day to vanish as his little girl slept, curled in his arms. “My little girl,” he whispered back, tears falling from his tired eyes with each word.

 He touched the tip of her nose with his finger as he said, “That’s what you are; my little girl and you always will be. Nothing will ever take that away; no distance… no time… no name change… You are my little girl.”

 Hermione felt the warm, wet tears from his face seeping into her shirt, mixing with her own as she looked around the small, dark office. The mantle bore pictures of their family, happy and loving. There was a section of the room that proudly displayed her grade cards and awards from school while another section was splashed with the many vividly colored drawings she had done over the past sixteen years. Handprints walked around the room, each one bigger than the previous, representing her sixteen years of life.

 She stood from her father’s lap while he wiped his remaining tears away. She walked along the wall, touching each handprint, marveling in the love that surrounded her. Turning back to her father’s desk she saw her mother’s petite form wrapped in her father’s arms; he now doing the comforting.

 Hermione made a mental note of how well they seemed to fit together, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. But even then, there seemed to be something that was missing between them… her. She took a small step toward them and suddenly, like a moth to the flame, she was drawn into the familiar embrace; each of them soaking up that tender moment.

 “I’m not going,” Hermione said softly, pulling away from her parents. “It’s like Dad said, I’m yours; not theirs! They have no right to me… none!”

 Her mother turned, dabbing a tissue at the corner of her eyes as she took a deep breath. Hermione knew this to be a sign of a long, civilized conversation and she would not have any part in it. “No!” she cried, quickly pacing around the office. “How dare they think they can just swoop in here and take me away like… like some, some… owl! Well, I’m just not going… I’m not… So there!”

 “Hermione, sweetheart, there’s no option but for you to go. We promised them,” her mother explained quietly, her voice full of the tears she had already shed, and those she hadn’t.

 “You promised them… You! Not me! I didn’t promise them anything!” Hermione stated, “They abandoned me! For seventeen years they left me here, I want nothing to do with them!”

 Her father sniffed and nodded as he said, “You’re right, you didn’t promise… but you’re not an adult yet which is why you have no choice… And neither to do your mother and I.”

 He took a breath and continued, “We made a promise when you came to us that we would take care of you until the day they came to get you. Naturally, we came to love you as our own, and we always will, but you’re rightfully theirs.”

 Hermione glared at them, anger welling up inside her. “So you’re just going to let them take me? Just like that?” she asked tearfully.

 Mrs Granger grabbed her daughter, who stood stiff, refusing to reciprocate the warmth. “Now you listen here, young lady… We’d fight to the ends of the earth for you, don’t you dare think we wouldn’t,” Hermione could sense a ‘but’ coming and felt she knew what her mother was trying to say.

 Hermione rarely saw her mother angry, but this was one of those times and she knew that her mother was right. I’m barely a match for fully qualified Witches and Wizards, she thought, and with a reputation like the Zabinis, they would probably stop at nothing short of murdering my parents and modifying my memory to get me to go with them. It was also obvious that if she was no match for the Zabinis, her parents certainly weren’t.

 Sinking into the chair that sat next to the one large window, Hermione began to cry once more. She felt her mother’s warm, loving arms wrap around her and simply hold her, allowing her to cry for as long as she needed.

 Suddenly, an idea sprung to her mind. Tomorrow! Hermione stood again and paced the floor, noticing the threadbare rug with its familiar pattern etched in where she would pace as she talked things over with her parents. “I’ll be of age tomorrow… I can choose! They can’t keep me there… granted, I’ll look different without the Glamour Charm, and Draco will undoubtedly be uncomfortable coming here to visit but I’m sure he’ll get over it… that is, if we decide to go through with this engagement.”

 Hermione rambled on and on until her father’s hands wrapped around her shoulders, stopping her mid-ramble. “No, Hermione,” he said simply, “As much as it pains me to say this; you need to give the Zabinis a chance. You don’t know what caused them to brings you to us, or what they’re really like; none of us do. We will always be here for you, but it’s for those reasons that you need to go with them.”

 “But that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to make us stop loving you,” Mrs. Granger added. “You’re our little girl… but you’re their daughter.”

 There was no way out of the arrangement. That somber realization hit Hermione like a Stunning Spell. “Well, I guess I’d better finish packing,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.

 With one final, long hug, Hermione Granger left her father’s office for the last time, armed with the knowledge that she was loved deeply by her Muggle parents and grateful to the Mother and Father she hadn’t met yet for giving her to such wonderful people to raise.

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 Twenty minutes later, Hermione was looking around her room, which now stood empty, except for her furniture. Her entire life had been packed away into boxes and trunks that she had taken downstairs. Memories flooded her mind as she scanned the empty room. Sleepovers, the day she got her first Hogwarts letter, the hours her father spent sitting next to her bed reading to her; these were all things that wouldn’t fit into a box, but made all the more cherishable because of that fact.

 She wiped her eyes and sniffed. She looked around the room one final time and was about to walk out when a soft hoot stopped her. Her eyes went to her desk where she saw the owl that had delivered her biological mother’s letter still perched, watching her.

 Carefully, she walked over to it and reached her hand out. The bird hooted softly and stretched its head to meet her fingers. Hermione smiled tenderly at the creature as she gently petted the soft brown, white-tipped feathers. The white tips were so subtle that they gave the appearance of spots. “You’re very beautiful,” she said quietly, “Do you have a name, I wonder? An owner?”

 As if the owl had understood her, it extended its leg. A small gold band wrapped around the elegant leg caught Hermione’s attention. She leaned down and saw the engraved letters. It was the same slanted cursive that her mother’s letter had been in. For you, Love, Your Parents.

 Hermione was in shock, yet again, as she re-read the words. This gorgeous bird was for her? She couldn’t believe it. Of course, disbelief seemed to be the theme of the day. “Well, I guess if you’re mine; that means I have to name you,” she said to the owl, “Let’s see; you’re a girl… How about Callidora, meaning ‘gift of beauty’.”

 The owl hooted affectionately in response. “Yes, I think that suits you beautifully,” Hermione said with a smile.

 Knowing that she would eventually have to tell her two best friends, Harry and Ron, what was going on, she sat down at her desk and pulled some spare parchment out of the drawer along with a quill and ink pot. She then set herself to writing as detailed a letter as she could in the remaining time she had.

 

Dear Ron and Harry,

 I’m not certain that I’ll be able to meet you in Diagon Alley tomorrow as planned, though I will try. Some things have happened and I don’t know exactly how to explain it all. I’m still processing the information myself, to be honest. I’m wary of writing much on the subject as I’ve been told that it’s potentially dangerous. I will tell you what little I can.

 Earlier this afternoon, I found out that I am the twin sister of Blaise Zabini. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. I am Hermione Jean Zabini (boy does that sound strange), daughter of Pietro and Marjorie Zabini. I don’t know the details as to why they brought me to my parents when I was a baby, but I will let you know as soon as I do.

 This new was less shocking than what I’m about to tell you. Apart from being Blaise’s twin sister (that’s going to take some getting used to, no doubt), the Zabini’s have arranged for me to marry Draco Malfoy. I don’t know what could have possessed them to do that, but I can’t see a way out of it at this time. Perhaps, though, given time, it won’t be so bad… I’m really not agreeing with this utterly archaic practice, but I’m not disagreeing with it either. I’m going to speak with the Zabinis about it before agreeing to anything.

 The Zabinis will be here any moment to take me to my new home. No telling how that is going to go. Please send your responses back to me with Callidora, my new owl (a gift from the Zabinis). Ron, tell your family hello for me and that I miss them. Harry, I hope all was well for the few weeks that you had to stay at the Dursley’s and that the Burrow finds you well.

 Love to you both,

 Hermione

 

 Just then, a muffled call came from down the stairs. “I’ll be right there,” Hermione called. She then quickly folded the letter and stuffed it into the envelope. After sealing it, she wrote the address onto it and stuffed it into her back pocket. There wasn’t any time for her to send the letter just then so it would have to wait.

 Hermione took one final look around the room and sighed. Well I guess this is it, she thought as a tear escaped her eye. With a deep sigh, she held out her arm for her owl. “Come on, Callidora, it’s time to go… home,” she said quietly.

 Callidora spread her wings and flew across the room to Hermione’s outstretched arm. The weight on her arm was something Hermione knew she’d have to get used to, being the new owner of a lovely owl. She gently petted the bird’s soft feathers and made her way out of her childhood room.

 Hermione quietly headed down the stairs into the living room. Because of her new found family’s Wizarding status, she assumed they wouldn’t be traveling by floo powder, but she couldn’t be certain. Considering they’re purebloods, they’ll probably not want to get soot all over their clothes, she thought bitterly as she took the last few steps into the living room.

 Mrs. Granger was sitting on the couch, nervously wringing her hands and glancing at the clock on the mantle. “Oh there you are dear! They’ll be here any minute,” she exclaimed. She then saw the small owl sitting on her daughter’s arm, “My goodness where did that come from?”

 “Mr. and Mrs. Zabini sent it to me,” Hermione responded quietly, “It’s an early birthday present I suppose.”

 “Oh, I see… It’s very pretty.”

 “I’ve named her Callidora,” Hermione told her absently, trying hard not to think about what was coming.

 Mrs. Granger blew her nose on her handkerchief and asked, “Are you nervous?”
 Hermione nodded.

 “I’m sure everything will be fine,” Mrs. Granger said with a sad smile. “Oh I do hope your parents are pleased with how we’ve raised you. You’re a fine young woman, Hermione Gra… Hermione Zabini.”

 Hermione Zabini, Hermione thought, walking over to sit next to her mother, it sounds so strange to hear that last name attached to my first.

 “Do you have everything?” her mother asked tearfully.

 Hermione nodded, unable to bring herself to speak.

 Mrs. Granger ran her fingers through Hermione’s hair, attempting to smooth some of the frizziness. She then brushed off Hermione’s sweater, pulling and tugging to get things to sit properly. Hermione knew that this was a nervous habit of her mother’s so she allowed it. Truth be told, she had more important things than her appearance on her mind.

 A knock then sounded at the front door. Hermione stiffened at the sound and bit down on the inside corner of her mouth to keep herself from bursting into more tears. Mrs. Granger, however, allowed fresh tears to fill her eyes as she stood on shaky legs and made her way to the door. “Pietro, Marjorie… What a pleasure to see you again,” Mr. Granger was saying.

 Hermione noticed that her father’s voice trembled, and did not sound at all pleased as he spoke. “Please, come in.”

 “Tom, Jane, it is lovely to see you both,” said a smooth male voice in a thick Italian accent.

 Hermione tiptoed over to the entrance of the living room and peeked around the corner. Three figures dressed in traveling cloaks had just entered the house and were standing with their backs to her.

 The feelings of anger and fear that flowed through her at the sight of Mr. Zabini almost overwhelmed her. It took all of her self-restraint to keep from pulling her wand out and cursing him, then and there. She had always been a logical thinker, though, and because of that, she knew that it wouldn’t be a good idea to use magic of any kind.

 “This is our son, Blaise,” Mr. Zabini said, putting his hand on the shoulder of the tall figure on his left.

 “Oh, yes, we’ve heard about you, Blaise,” Mr. Granger said, shaking his hand politely, “Handsome lad.”

 “Thank you, sir,” he said a little insincerely. It was obvious that he wasn’t pleased about being there.

 Hermione watched as he turned his head slightly, looking at his father as he began to speak. “Is Hermione ready?” Mr. Zabini questioned.

 Mr. Granger looked to his wife. “Ahem, um… Yes, she’s just in here,” she said meekly.
 Noticing that the Grangers were leading them into the living room, Hermione quickly backed away from the entry and walked over to stand near the fireplace. “Hermione, your… your family’s here,” Mrs. Granger said as they entered the room.

 Hermione turned her attention from the fire in the fireplace to the five people walking toward her, particularly the ones that she was to call “family”. The two elder Zabinis beamed at her. Well, Mrs. Zabini beamed. Mr. Zabini gave her what could only be classified as a careful smile. It was obvious that he was not as happy to be there as his wife was. Hermione stood straight and nearly stone-faced as she regarded each Zabini in turn.

 Marjorie Zabini was nothing like Hermione had expected. Her bright smile and soft eyes had all the makings of someone truly kind and loving. Her brown hair hung loosely down to her shoulders in sleek, gentle waves, very unlike the frizz Hermione’s hair often sported. Hermione knew, of course, that a book could not be judged by it’s cover alone. One needed to open the book and read a few pages before forming an opinion. For all I know, she could be just as murderous as her husband.

 Pietro Zabini was standing next to his wife and was as dark as she was fair. His olive colored skin matched nicely with his deep green eyes and jet black hair, which was slicked back majestically, in Hermione’s opinion. Just like Lucius Malfoy, Hermione thought with a mental grimace. As she looked him over with her sharp eyes, she was quite surprised to find that he did not look as evil as he had always presented himself. He actually looks… kind, she thought, although it’s probably an act for my parents so that they don’t try to keep them from taking me!

 At last, Hermione turned to her twin brother.

 Blaise was standing behind their mother, his head clearly visible over hers due to his height looking quite uncomfortable. Hermione quickly noticed that he wasn’t looking at her as their parents were; instead, he was staring fixedly at the hearth of the fireplace behind her. Of course he wouldn’t want to be here, she thought, Muggle hater that he is. He must have felt her stare because, at that moment, his eyes locked with hers.

 Hermione noticed immediately that there was no malice in his expression. He was simply gazing at her in curiosity. It was as though he was trying to figure all of this out as well. Like he was seeing her for the first time. In a way, she supposed he was, although, if her biological parents knew where she had been all this time, it was possible that he had known, too.

 Mrs. Zabini walked forward and pulled her “long-lost” daughter into a tight hug. This action caused Callidora to leave her perch on Hermione’s arm to find another resting place for the time being. “Oh my darling Hermione, I’ve missed you so much,” Mrs. Zabini practically sang.

 Hermione did not return the hug, but she didn’t pull out of it either as she felt this would be rude, and her mother had taught her better than that. Mrs. Zabini loosened her hold and grasped Hermione’s shoulders, holding her at arm’s length so as to get a better look at her. “My, you’ve grown up beautifully,” she said tearfully. She then turned to her husband and said, “Oh, Pietro, look at how beautiful our little girl is.”

 Hermione tensed slightly at those words and her eyes cut to where her parents were standing, looking just as tense and sad as Hermione felt. “Marjorie, let her breathe,” Mr. Zabini said kindly, “Do not forget that she has only really just met us and I am certain that she is overwhelmed with everything.”

 Certainly got that right, Hermione thought, gently pulling out of her mother’s arms.
 Mr. Zabini looked at Mr. and Mrs. Granger and said, “Might we have a moment alone with our daughter before we depart?”

 Mr. Granger nodded and placed his arm around his tearful wife. “Of… of course,” he said, gently ushering Mrs. Granger out of the room, “We’ll just be in the kitchen.”

 Mr. Zabini gave Hermione an expectant look as he gestured toward the couch. “I imagine this has all come as quite a shock to you, dear one,” he said in a pleasant sort of voice that Hermione wasn’t used to hearing from him.

 “I’d say that’s a bit of an understatement, Mr. Zabini,” Hermione said with forced politeness as she moved past him and sat down in the squashy arm chair, “and I’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from using pet names for me, we hardly know each other.”

 Mr. Zabini inclined his head as he said, “Of course, forgive me.”

 “Forgive you?” Hermione questioned, “Forgive you for what exactly, Mr. Zabini? Forgive you for trying to kill my friends? Forgive you for abandoning me when I was just a few days old? Or maybe I should forgive you for waltzing in here after nearly seventeen years and taking me away from the only family I’ve ever known? Tell me, Mr. Zabini, which is it?”

 “Hermione, I understand that you are angry but…”

 “You’re damn right I’m angry,” Hermione interrupted angrily, “I’ve gone my entire life believing that I’m one person, and then I suddenly find out that I’m someone completely different, and betrothed to boot, and then you lot come here and want to take me away from my family; I believe I have a right to be angry!”

 Mrs. Zabini cleared her throat nervously and glanced at her husband as she spoke, “Of course you have a right to be angry,” she said softly, “I’d be rather worried if you weren’t, but please, you must understand that we did what we had to those long years ago out of love.”

 “Love? You call leaving a child in the care of strangers and then coming back seventeen years later as if nothing has happened ‘love’?”

 “Enough,” Mr. Zabini said, “This is not the place or time for this discussion.”

 Hermione stood facing him and crossed her arms over her chest. “Well, I’m not going anywhere until I get some sort of explanation as to why you left me here to begin with.”

 “All things will be explained in due time but we will not discuss this here,” Mr. Zabini said sternly, “This place is not safe.”

 Hermione’s eyes narrowed in challenge as she said, “If you’re thinking my parents are going to rat you out…”

 “It has nothing to do with the Grangers,” Mr. Zabini whispered harshly, “however, were they to know our reasons for leaving you with them, they would surely be in danger.”

 At these words, Hermione quieted and sat back down. She didn’t want any harm to come to her parents so she dropped the topic with a, “But you will tell me?”

 “I swear to you that everything will be revealed.”

 She eyed him carefully for a moment and then nodded, accepting that he was being truthful. “I’m going to hold you to that, Mr. Zabini,” she said.

 He chuckled softly. “Of that, I have no doubt.”

 “Ahem, well, if you can’t tell me, at present, why I was left to be raised by my parents, then perhaps you’ll be kind enough to explain my betrothal to Draco Malfoy?”

 “Arranged marriages are a tradition in the Zabini family,” Mr. Zabini said simply with small smile, “In most ancient wizarding families, actually. Lucius Malfoy and I have been friends for many years and it was decided long ago that my son, or daughter, would marry his daughter, or son.”

 “Yes, and a better match we couldn’t have asked for,” Mrs. Zabini said.

 “A better match? Have you all completely lost your minds? What, in Merlin’s name, makes you think that Draco Malfoy and I are a good match for anything, much less an arranged marriage? I highly doubt the Malfoy’s would even consider marrying their son off to someone raised by Muggles. Isn’t that below their standards?”

 “Raised by Muggles, or not, I assumed you would have better manners than to judge someone based on their blood status,” Mr. Zabini admonished.

 Hermione wanted to scream. How dare he lecture her on judging someone based on blood status! Oh she wanted to strangle him! Instead, she took a deep breath and said, “Leaving my manners out of it, surely you’ve heard of our distaste for one another.”
 Mrs. Zabini shook her head and turned to her son. “Blaise, what is she talking about?”

 Blaise looked up from staring at the floor as he said, “They’ve despised each other since first year, Mum. She’s got the measure of it; we all know how the Malfoy’s feel about Muggles. Draco’s going to put up a fight about this arrangement.”

 Their mother cleared her throat. “You have a point, but I’m sure he’ll be agreeable once he’s heard the full truth.”

 Hermione sighed. “Right, because blood status is all that matters,” she muttered under her breath.

 “He’s really a delightful young man,” Mrs. Zabini was now saying, “I’m sure he’ll be a wonderful husband for you.”

 “Narcissa sent your mother an owl before we left telling her that Draco had sent you your engagement ring…”

 “Oh, do let’s see it!” Mrs. Zabini said excitedly, clapping her hands a little.

 Hermione groaned inwardly but she stuffed her hand into her pocket and pulled the tiny ring out, holding it out for them to see it.

 Mrs. Zabini gasped, “Oh Hermione, it’s beautiful. Come, come, put it on.”

 Hermione shook her head, “No,” she said quietly.

 “Don’t be ridiculous, put it on,” Mr. Zabini said somewhat sternly.

 Blaise cleared his throat when he saw that Hermione was dangerously close to whipping out her wand and hexing them into oblivion at their father’s sternness. “Mum, Dad, perhaps we should consider the fact that Hermione’s only just found out about all of this a few hours ago,” he suggested, “I’m sure it must be difficult learning you belong to a family you didn’t know you belonged to and finding out you’re betrothed on top of that to someone you hate. Shouldn’t we allow her some time to adjust?”

 Mr. Zabini thought for a moment and then nodded, saying, “Yes, I think that would probably be wise.”

 “I’m sure that it will take some time for both of them to get used to being betrothed to someone they hate,” Blaise added as an afterthought.

 Hermione gazed at her brother silently for a moment before saying, “I don’t hate him, Blaise… he hates me. That’s not why I’m refusing to put the ring on, though.”

 Mrs. Zabini placed her hand over Hermione’s cautiously. When Hermione didn’t pull her hand away, she gently squeezed her hand and gave her a questioning look. “What is the reason?” she asked.

 Hermione was quiet for a moment, debating whether or not she should say anything. She didn’t know these people, after all, and it seemed strange to open up to them about such a personal matter, but she knew that this was something they would need to know, so she said, “I’ve always had a very clear idea of what I want in life; attend a good school, get good marks, go to University, things like that,” she explained, “The only thing I’ve ever thought about as much as I’ve thought about school, is marriage.”

 She took a deep breath and continued, “I want a marriage born out of love, not convenience. I want my future husband to put a ring on my finger because he wants to, not because he’s told to. So, please, if you really want Draco and I to marry, please allow us to do things on our own terms, and if we don’t wish to be married, please accept that.”

 Mrs. Zabini wiped at her eyes and gave her a smile. “I can certainly understand your feelings on the matter,” she stated, “and I don’t think your request is too difficult to manage. What do you think, Pietro?”

 They all turned to Mr. Zabini who, in Hermione’s opinion, looked a little angry. “I do not think the request is unreasonable,” he agreed, “Though, I do not think Draco will be disagreeable to the betrothal. He is an honorable young man and knows what is expected of…”

 “Mr. Zabini, Draco is perfectly capable of making his own choices, and I’ll thank you to not speak at me as though you’ve raised me,” Hermione interrupted angrily, “You left me here to be raised by the Grangers; they are my parents and they’ve raised me with certain morals that I will not just give up because I’ve suddenly found out that I’m not their biological daughter.”

 “We should be going,” Mr. Zabini said, looking at his watch and ignoring Hermione‘s statement. “We have much to do. I will just floo your things to the Mansion and then we shall set off.”

 Mr. Zabini and Blaise maneuvered Hermione’s belongings into the small fireplace and then Mr. Zabini pulled a little pouch from inside his robes. He opened the pouch and threw a pinch of green powder into the fireplace and said, “Zabini Mansion.”

 Seconds later, Hermione’s things had vanished in bright green flame. Mr. Zabini held his arm out for his wife and motioned for their children to follow. Mr. and Mrs. Granger met them at the door, tears filling their eyes.

 “Thank you for looking after Hermione,” Mrs. Zabini said, grasping one of Mrs. Granger’s hands, “It means more to us than you’ll ever know.”

 “Yes,” Mr. Zabini agreed, “Please, if there is ever anything that we can do to return this large act of generosity do not hesitate to call on us.”

 The Grangers nodded. “It was our pleasure,” Mr. Granger said.

 Mrs. Granger pulled Hermione into a tight hug and said, “Now you be a good girl and show them what a fine young lady you are.”

 “I will, Mum,” Hermione replied.

 Mr. Granger ran his hand over the back of Hermione’s head. “Oh we’re going to miss you, little girl.”

 “I’ll miss you too. I’ll write all the time and I’ll come to visit so much that you’ll get sick of seeing me,” Hermione told them with a sniffle.

 “We will never get sick of seeing you,” Mrs. Granger said sternly, placing her hands on Hermione’s cheeks.

 “Remember all that we’ve taught you and if there’s anything you need…”

 Hermione gave her father a sad smile. “I won’t hesitate to ask,” she said.

 “There’s my girl,” he said, touching her cheek lovingly.

 Hermione gave him a huge hug, not wanting to let go, and then made her way out into the warm evening. As she reached the edge of the driveway, she paused and looked back at her parents. They were both crying; their arms wrapped around each other as if holding on for dear life. Hermione allowed the tears she had been trying to hold back to fall freely as she ran back to them and hugged them tightly.

 “I don’t want to go!” she cried softly, “Please, please don’t make me.”

 Mrs. Granger petted the back of Hermione’s head soothingly and sobbed as she said, “Hermione, we talked about this. You have to go but they can’t stop you from visiting us.”

 Once again, Hermione realized that there was no way out of going with the Zabinis. “All right,” she said reluctantly while wiping her tears away, “I’ll come see you soon.”

 Mr. Granger kissed his daughter on the head and touched the tip of her nose with his finger. “Now go on, love,” he said, “You shouldn’t keep them waiting.”

 Hermione gave them one last hug and walked back out to the Zabinis. As they walked down the street, Hermione kept looking back at her childhood home. Memories of birthday parties, Christmas parties, and all sorts of other family functions filled her mind. There were so many happy times that she had had in that house and she truly wished there was some way for her to remain there; to build more memories.

 Just then she felt someone’s arm wrap around her shoulders and was quite surprised when she turned her head and found herself looking into a pair of blue eyes. “Dad’s job allows him to set up Apparation points practically wherever he wants,” Blaise told her quietly, “you’ll be able to visit as often as you like.”

 Hermione sniffled as she nodded and said, “Thank you.”

 “I… I know this might not be any sort of consolation to you,” Blaise began nervously, “but I’m really glad that you’ll be with us after so long. I’ve always wanted a sister.”

 Hermione gave him a small smile and allowed him to keep his arm around her as they continued to walk. Blaise gently squeezed her shoulder as she continued to quietly cry. There were so many things that he wanted to say, but something inside him told him that what she needed in that moment wasn’t words. Instead, he just walked next to her, silently lending her his strength.

 He couldn’t even begin to imagine what she was going through at that moment. It was obvious that she was sad. Who wouldn’t be after being ripped away from the only family they had ever known? He honestly couldn’t say what would be going through his mind if he were in her shoes, but he did know that he was going to do everything possible to make his sister feel welcome and comfortable in their family.

 “There is an Apparation point set up just inside this patch of trees,” Mr. Zabini said a few moments later, “We shall be doing side-along Apparation this evening since neither of you is of age or has an Apparating license; Hermione, with me, Blaise with your mother.”

 He held out his hand for Hermione, who took it reluctantly, and smiled reassuringly at her. “Hold on,” he said, and just as she tightened her grip, they were gone.

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