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Chapter Image by Ande @TDA

 



Later that night…

 

            Hermione walked along one of the many Sunflower lit paths of the garden, taking in all the sights. The Malfoys had left just over an hour ago so she was taking advantage of her solitude. She had always loved gardens and this one was no exception. She was in awe of such beauty possessed by the Goldenrods and Snapdragons that she couldn’t resist just being among them. Something about them calmed her, helping her to make sense of everything.

 

            Her thoughts seemed to be all over the place as she found a comfortable looking bench and sat down. She leaned forward and rested her head in her hands and sighed. What a night this has been, she thought, First, I find out that I’m the daughter of Pietro and Marjorie Zabini. Then I find out that I’m betrothed to someone who hates me… or at least I thought he did. I’m not so sure now… Then I have dinner with two families that have tried to kill me over the past six years... What is this world coming to?

            Her heart sank as the Grangers flew into her mind. Until this night, Tom and Jane Granger had been the only parents she had ever known. They had been there for her through every moment of her life, great and small. First steps, first words, first day of school, her acceptance to Hogwarts… These were all such special moments and her parents had been there for each and every one of them.

            And she had repaid them by yelling at them.

            She had been so rude to them when they had first told her of her true identity. She really hadn’t given them the chance to explain their side of things. She had just exploded in anger and had spouted off questions selfishly, not really thinking of how they felt or what they needed.

            Silent tears filled her eyes as she thought about how horrible she must have made them feel. The hurt looks on their faces as she had taken her anger out on them flashed in her mind. She knew that they had raised her to be a better person than to just yell at someone because she was angry, but she hadn’t been able to help it. Her anger had blinded her. What a lovely girl I turned out to be, she thought sarcastically.

            The sound of footsteps coming toward her caused to her lift her head. The tall, lean figure of her twin brother now stood just a few feet away from her, concern written all over his face. “Are you all right, Hermione?” he asked.

            “I’m not really sure,” she replied, tears evident in her voice, “I mean; it’s all kind of coming at me so fast that I’m not sure I can keep up.”

            “Listen, I know we really only met tonight, but I’m here if you want to talk.”

            Hermione patted the bench next to her and gave him a small smile. “My thoughts are all so jumbled up I’m not sure where to begin,” she told him.

            Blaise sat down and looked up at the sky. “Must’ve been pretty weird finding out you have a twin brother huh?”

            She thought about that. “Weird, yes, but nice,” Hermione replied with a small smile, “I’ve been an only child all my life… well at least I thought I was… but I always wanted a brother or sister.”

            “Really?”

            “Yeah. I’ve always been envious of people like Ginny and Ron Weasley who have several siblings.”

            “Why?” Blaise questioned, looking at his sister.

            She worried her bottom lip nervously. “I’ve always liked that idea that, even if I didn’t have any friends, someone would always be there to talk to and do things with,” she admitted softly, “Kind of like having a built in friend.”

            “Well, now you’ve got me,” Blaise said, giving her a hopeful smile, “I may not be good at this brother thing, but I’ll sure try.”

            Hermione smiled at him. “You’re doing great so far,” she assured him.

            “Thanks,” he said.

            Hermione looked up at the sky as an owl hooted. “Oh! That’s Callidora. Excuse me, I really need to see what she’s got.”

            “Of course. I’ll be in my room if you need anything.”

            “Thank you,” Hermione said, standing up and kissing him on the cheek, “You know; you’re really not as bad as I thought you were.”

            Blaise smiled broadly and watched as Hermione ran off toward the Mansion. Although he wasn’t sure how he knew it, he knew that they were going to become great friends. With that thought, he stood up and headed toward the Mansion himself.

            Once she had gotten to her room, Hermione quickly changed out of her dress into something more suitable for lounging. She also took her hair out of the French twist it was in and tied it into a ponytail. She then picked up the letters Callidora had brought her, giving the owl a gentle pat, and climbed onto her bed. She was pleased to see that she had not two, but four letters. She opened the one on top and began reading the neatly written note from one of the only female friends she had at Hogwarts.

 

 Hermione,

           I really don’t know what to say, other than; I can’t believe you didn’t include me in your letter to Ron! This is all rather shocking, isn’t it? You must be going out of your mind with racing thoughts and whatnot.

            It seems like you’re seriously considering going through with this arranged marriage. I mean; you haven’t really said anything about trying to get out of it. No matter. You know I will support you no matter what you decide. Just… Be careful.

            Mum’s calling. We’ll talk more later!

Ginny

            P.S. Did you make Head Girl?

 

             As she put Ginny’s letter aside, she felt a small twinge of guilt for not having included her in her letter to Ron and Harry. It didn’t last too long though. Ginny was her best girlfriend, but she wasn’t as close to her as she was to Harry and Ron. How very like her to want to see the ring, she thought, Well, she’s going to have to wait until it’s actually on my finger… If it gets there.

            She picked up the next letter.

 

 Hermione,

           A Zabini? Seriously? And engaged to Malfoy? This has got to be some kind to trick. Are you sure they’re telling you the truth? It sounds sketchy to me. Are you all right? They haven’t hurt you, or anything, have they? Hermione, if they try anything, or you just want me to come get you, send word somehow and I’ll be there. I don’t think I need to tell you to keep your guard up around the Zabinis, and especially the Malfoys. They’re not good people.

Harry

 

             It was just like Harry to be skeptical of anyone connected to the Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort. She was still skeptical herself. Of course, she wasn’t going into anything blind, either. She knew the sort of people the Zabinis and Malfoys were, but after the dinner earlier, she wasn’t completely certain they were as bad as she had known them to be. Well, the Zabinis anyway.

           The next letter she picked up was from Mrs. Weasley.

 

 Hermione,

           Oh such wonderful news dear! Engaged! Arthur and I are so happy for you! (Although I’m not so certain you should fully trust the Malfoys.) I had heard of the Zabini’s having twins, but the daughter was never discussed. Makes a bit more sense now… They must be happy to have you back in their lives…

            Well, I’m sure you’ve got many things to do, spending time with your family and making plans for the wedding and all. I’d love to make your cake for you, if that’s all right. Please, if you need anything, anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask.

            Much love to you,

Molly Weasley

 

             A smile spread across her face as she read Mrs. Weasley’s kind words. She was much like a mother to Hermione with as much time as she had spent at the Burrow over the years. As she set Mrs. Weasley’s letter aside, dread came over her. She had one letter left to read; Ron’s. Although they had only ever thought of each other as brother and sister, he tended to be overprotective of her, much like he was over Ginny.

 

 Hermione,

            You’ve got to be out of your bleeding mind to marry that git, Malfoy. Completely off your rocker. I don’t want you marrying that slimy ferret. He’s bad news and you know it!

Ron

 

             Hermione set down Ron’s letter with a loud sigh. She knew that Ron didn’t like Malfoy; in fact, he hated him, probably almost as much as he hated spiders. At least he hadn’t sent her a howler; she had been worried about that. Knowing Ron, he’s probably skulking about the Burrow, she thought.

           She read over the letters again. Upon her doing so, she found it odd that there was hardly a reference to the fact that she was the daughter of Pietro and Marjorie Zabini. It seemed everyone was more concerned with her pending engagement to Draco Malfoy. If one of her friend were in her shoes, she would be more interested in the newfound parentage rather than the arranged marriage.

            Just then, her attention was drawn to the door when a light knock sounded. “Come in,” she called.

            The door opened and Gripa waddled in. “Mistress Hermione, your parents is liking you to meet them in Sir’s study,” she said.

            Hermione climbed off the bed and slipped her feet into her slippers. “Thank you Gripa. Um… Would you… Would you mind showing me the way?” she asked, not really wanting to, but knowing she needed help finding her way.

            “Gripa would be pleased to, Mistress!” she squeaked.

            “Thank you.”

            Hermione followed the small elf down a flight of stairs and through a series of hallways. Each hallway they walked through bore pictures on the walls, on either side. Hermione wanted to pause and look at them all but she had a feeling that now wasn’t exactly the best time. Her father was waiting, after all.

            It wasn’t until after seeing a portrait of a particularly pretty young woman that Hermione noticed they had come to a stop in front of a door. “Here you are Mistress.”

            “Thank you Gripa,” Hermione said. She then knocked lightly on the door.

            “Come in,” came the muffled reply.

            Hermione opened the door and poked her head in. “You wanted to see me?”

            Mr. Zabini smiled. “Yes, please come in,” he said, motioning to a chair, “Have a seat.”

            Hermione sat down in the comfortable chair opposite her father’s desk and looked at him questioningly, “What’s this all about?”

            “We know you have had a very trying day today,” Mr. Zabini began, “but we feel that the sooner we explain why we took you to the Grangers the easier it might be for all of us to become a family.”

            “We want you to feel comfortable here and we don’t think that will be possible without you knowing the whole truth,” Mrs. Zabini added.

            “However, if you are too tired just now then perhaps…”

            Hermione shook her head as she interrupted, “No, please… I’d really like to know,” she said, “Besides, it’s obviously very important.”

            Mr. Zabini stood up and walked around his desk. “The first thing you must understand, Hermione, is that we love you,” he said as he sat down on the edge of his desk, “Ahem… forgive me; it is difficult to know where exactly to begin. It was so long ago and everything happened so fast.”

            “Pietro, perhaps it would be better just to show her,” Mrs. Zabini suggested.

            “Hmm, perhaps you are right, Marjorie,” he said, standing up and walking over to a cupboard.

            Hermione watched as he opened the cupboard and a bright shining light became visible. Mr. Zabini pulled out a large stone bowl and carefully carried it over to his desk. “Is… is that a pensieve?” Hermione asked in awe.

            “Yes, it was handed down to me by my father,” Mr. Zabini replied as he walked back over to the cupboard and began sifting through some vials. “I plan to hand it down to Blaise one day… Blaise has told us that you are quite the student, no doubt you have inherited that from me.”

            Mrs. Zabini gave her husband a soft smirk, very like the one Hermione often gave Harry and Ron when she knew something they didn’t. “Darling, the Sorting Hat didn’t put you in Ravenclaw.”

            “No, that honor goes to you, my dear.”

            “So why would you say our daughter inherited her intelligence from you?” she teased.

            Mr. Zabini looked at her with twinkling eyes. “Because of the way she always had her head in a book.”

            “Yes; that would be something she got from you,” his wife allowed.

            “I’ve always been told that I have an insatiable curiosity,” Hermione said off-handedly, wanting to bring the attention back to the task at hand, “I’ve read a bit about pensieves; they’re supposed to hold the memories of a witch or wizard.”

            “That is quite true,” he said, picking up two vials and walking back over to his desk. “Now, there are two memories that I am going to show you this evening. The first is by no means happy and I wish now that I had never taken part in such things. However, what is done is done and I hope that you can one day forgive me for the atrocities in my past.”

            Hermione bit her lip in thought for a moment and then said, “I think only time will tell if I’ll be able to forgive you,” she said, believing that honesty would be best, “I’m seeing a side of you that I never thought was possible but I’m not completely certain that I believe it just yet.”

            He gave her a small smile. “Yes, well, I have caused you a great deal of pain so if you were never to forgive me, I think I would understand,” he said. He then looked at his wife questioningly. “Marjorie, will you be joining us?”

            Mrs. Zabini shook her head. “I think not,” she said, “I lived through all of that once already, I’d rather not live through it again.”

            Mr. Zabini nodded in understanding and held his hand out for Hermione. “Very well, Hermione, you must hold tight to my hand.”

            Hermione stood up and walked over to her father, grasping his hand tight. “Good, now, we must lean in close to the pensieve so as to be taken into it.”

            She recalled Harry telling her and Ron about his experiences with Dumbledore and the pensieve during the previous year. She remembered thinking how interesting it would be to actually see someone else’s memories; to know what someone else had seen exactly as they had seen it. The fact that she was about to experience this for herself made her a little giddy, and yet she had no idea what she was about to see. That made her nervous.

            Mr. Zabini poured the silvery contents of one of the vials into the pensieve as the two leaned close to the silvery blue surface, so close that their noses we almost touching the liquid-like substance. Hermione’s eyes widened as she suddenly felt herself being pulled into the pensieve. She gripped her father’s hand even tighter as they fell slowly through the dark air.

            They landed with a soft thud on what felt like a stone floor and Hermione looked around. Well, tried to look around anyway. She really couldn’t see anything because it was severely dark and there seemed to only be a few lights coming from the distance, and getting closer.

            As the light slowly got closer, Hermione could see dark figures all around her dressed in hooded black cloaks and gold masks. A small gasp escaped her lips. “Death Eaters!” she exclaimed, instinctively reaching for her wand. It wasn’t until she had reached for it that she remembered that she didn’t have it with her. She also realized that she wouldn’t need it; this was a memory, no one would be able to see her, or hear her.

            She looked around with much wonder. She could tell that the building they were in was old, however, where they were, she had no idea. The dimness of their surroundings hindered her vision slightly as she tried to make out anything she could. A fair distance ahead of them, a dull patter of footsteps could be heard.

            Mr. Zabini took Hermione’s hand and gently pulled her toward the sound of the footsteps. As they walked, the pitch black hallway became lit, a torch lighting itself as it was passed. With each new source of light, Hermione got a better look at their environment.

            The walls on either side of them were damp and mildewed. Cracks of various sizes were visible and some had what looked like tree roots growing through them. She gave a little shriek as a rat scurried in front of them. “I hate rats,” she muttered at her father’s slightly amused expression.

            Ahead of them, twelve figures crept through the dank hall, each draped in a long, black hooded cloak and their traditional gold skull mask. They each seemed to be walking with a purpose, as though they had been summoned by something, or someone.

            Each of the figures was curious as to why they had been sent for so suddenly and at such a late hour. Though their curiosity was practically killing them, they knew better than to ask questions unless permitted to do so. In their order, to speak before being spoken to was against the law and punishable in any way imaginable; even death.

            The figures stopped in front of a large, iron door. The sound of muffled screams could be heard as the figure in front removed his wand from his robes and tapped the door lightly. It immediately creaked open and the twelve figures that had just arrived, as well as the ones who had been waiting around, filed into the dark room that lay behind the door.

            “Where are we?” Hermione asked as they slowed down to follow two cloaked figures.

            “The basement of Nott’s home,” Mr. Zabini replied.

            “It’s very old,” Hermione noted.

            Her father chuckled. “Yes, it has been in their family for centuries, though no one actually lives here anymore,” he said as they followed the Death Eaters into the room, “Now, pay close attention.”

            The Dark Lord gave a smile that looked more like a grimace. “Excellent. Excellent, you are all here,” his cold voice said, “Come; join me, for there is much I have to tell you.”

            The figures formed an incomplete circle around their master and focused their full attention on him, refraining from looking to the floor to satisfy their curiosity. The Dark Lord stood from his throne-like seat and began walking around in front of them. “I sense that you are all wondering why I have called you here at so late an hour,” he said, “The reason is this… There is tale of a Prophesied being that could destroy your Lord.”

            Whispers broke out among the cloaked figures. “Surely that’s not possible my Lord,” said a voice, louder than the others.

            “Impossible though it may be, I will not take the chance of it coming to pass,” Voldemort said, “As it is, the Prophecy I speak of has already been made and now rests safely in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic.”

            “Then we shall retrieve it for you my Lord.”

            “Yes! Yes, we shall!” came several shouts of agreement.

            Voldemort lifted a pale, white hand and the room fell silent. “There is no need, for I have acquired the only witness to the aforementioned Prophecy,” he said silkily, gesturing to the large stone chest to his left. His cloak swished as he turned and stepped closer to it.

            At a quick glance, it looked like an ordinary chest. However, upon closer inspection, there was nothing ordinary about it. Charcoal gray, so dark it was almost black, with moldy green undertones. Deep red splatters and smears decorated the entire outside. On the front and back were what appeared to be headless snakes entwined as though they were a knotted rope. Every now and then, the torchlight would flicker in such a way that the snakes appeared to move.

            Screams and thumps could be heard coming from the chest, but all fell silent as Lord Voldemort hissed a command in parseltongue. As soon as the words were spoken, the top of the chest began to disappear, revealing the captive inside. The snakes, as it turned out, were not headless. Quiet murmurs of shock rippled around the circle as they witnessed the snakes bite their master’s prisoner one final time before pulling back and becoming stone once more.

            Voldemort waved his wand and the man inside the chest rose into the air and floated forward. With another wave, the man was carelessly dropped to the floor where he lay, broken and crying.

            It was obvious that Voldemort had tortured him. His body was covered in dark bruises and his clothes were drenched in blood and sweat. Deep puncture wounds could be seen as well, the most recent of which were gushing, spilling crimson onto the cold floor.

            The Dark Lord tilted his head ever so slightly. “Zabini!” he called, “Step forward.”

            A tall figure, toward the center of their formation stepped forward and kneeled in front of Voldemort, “My Lord?”

            “You will kill this man.”

            The kneeling hooded figure bowed low and lifted his hood and mask. “Anything to serve you, Master.”

            Hermione let out a soft gasp. Kneeling just mere feet from her was a younger version of her father, looking up at Voldemort in adoration. Although she had known that her father was a Death Eater, she had not known just how close he had truly been to Voldemort.

            Zabini quickly stood up and withdrew his wand from his robes and pointed it at the cowering man at his feet. “AVADA KEDAVRA!” he shouted.

            With a flash of bright green light, the man on the floor was silenced and lifeless. “Let all those who choose to keep things from me know that this is what awaits them!” Voldemort stated loudly, “Lord Voldemort does not tolerate secrets!”

            Murmurs of understanding filled the room. “My Lord?”

            “Yes, Lucius, is there a question burning in your gut?”

            “Yes, my Lord.”

            “You may ask it.”

            “If you please, what is it that the Prophecy states will destroy you?”

            “That is not your concern Lucius,” Voldemort said, “I have already chosen one of you to take care of this matter and it will be done so with no mistakes! Zabini!”

            “Yes, my Lord?”

            “This task is appointed to you. The rest of you may leave. I must speak to Zabini alone.”

            Obediently, the cloaked figures filed out of the room, leaving Zabini alone with Voldemort. “Sit,” Voldemort said, flicking his wand.

            A chair fell silently next to Zabini, who instantly sat down. “How long have you served me, Zabini?”

            “Ten years now my Lord.”

            “And you have served me well… which is why I am giving this task to you.”

            “I am deeply honored my Lord.”

            “As you should be; this task is very important,” Voldemort told him, “However, before I tell you your task, I am going to show you what I saw in that horrid creature’s mind.”

            With that being said, Voldemort touched the tip of his wand to his temple and slowly began pulling it away. Seemingly attached to the tip of the wand was a silvery liquid strand. Zabini knew this to be a memory. Next thing he knew, he was shot with a burst of pain just behind his eyes.

            Suddenly, his head was filled with the vision of an odd looking woman, seeming to be choking on something. Then, he heard it.

 

            And so the Bringer of Darkness shall fall at the hands of The Light.

            Wary should Darkness be for The Bearer soon approaches, Wielder of The Light.

            None such as The Bearer has ever before walked this Earth.

            Only a Crescent reveals her, a mark from her birth.

            Her destiny shall be fulfilled, bringing Darkness’s demise.

            And The Light shall brighten, bringing joy to everyone’s lives.

 

            Another burst of pain shot through him and he was looking at his master again. “What is your will, my Lord?” he asked.

            “You will find this ‘Bearer’ and destroy her,” Voldemort said simply, “If she never comes to possess this ‘Light’ then I shall never be destroyed.”

            “My Lord, are you not worried about the part that said, ‘Her destiny shall be fulfilled’?”

            “Not in the least, Zabini. Now go, you have work to do,” Voldemort said, “You must find out who this ‘Bearer’ is.”

            Zabini stood quickly and bowed his head. “Yes my Lord,” he said. He then turned and left as quickly as he could so as to start doing his master’s will.

            Hermione suddenly felt a floating sensation as her father grabbed her hand. The two floated upward until they finally found themselves standing in the study. “So, there’s something else that’s meant to kill Lord Voldemort?”

            Mr. Zabini closed his eyes, in a sort of flinch, as his wife gasped. “Do not say his name, Hermione,” he said.

            “Sorry. I’ve, sort of, gotten used to saying his name.”

            Mr. Zabini cleared his throat. As he cyphined his memory from the pensieve, he set about trying to answer his question. “Prophecies are tricky things,” he told her, “Some are set in stone and will happen no matter what while others can be swayed in either direction by the person, or persons, the prophecy is about. Still, others never come to pass.”

            He corked the vial and put it back before preparing the next one. “I do believe that there are people, and things, in this world that are far more powerful than the Potter boy, or even You-Know-Who.”

            “The Light?”

            Mr. Zabini nodded. “The Dark Lord does not fear anything that we know of, but he will not stand for anything, or anyone, trying to destroy him.”

            “So, what exactly is this... Light?”

            “I am not certain. It could be anything, I suppose,” he told her as he poured the second memory into the pensieve, “Come, there is one more memory to see. Marjorie, I believe you should join us for this one.”            Hermione grasped her father’s hand tightly again as her mother joined them. During the dark fall, Hermione’s thoughts were hopeful that this next memory would be happier than the one they had just seen.

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