Hermione Jane Granger lay awake, blinking away tears as she heard her mother and her latest boyfriend arguing downstairs – if you could even call the shouting and screams and cries arguing. Hermione rolled over and pulled the pillow over her head. Why won't Mum just leave him, she thought as tears stung at her cheeks. As she shut her eyes she thought about tomorrow. Tomorrow would be her first day back at Hogwarts since Summer Holiday and she could hardly wait to see her two best friends Ron Weasly and Harry Potter. She smiled as she thought of Hogwarts. To her, Hogwarts was the one place she could ever truly call home. Her fondest memories, since her father's death, were behind the iron gates of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Tomorrow she would board the Hogwarts Express and start her seventh year – her last year – at Hogwarts. Hermione bit her lip and fell wistfully asleep dreaming of tomorrow.
"Hermione!" Hermione jumped awake at the sound of her name. Was it morning already? What time was it? She glanced at her alarm clock. It was eight o'clock. Suddenly, she remembered last night. She remembered her mother and her boyfriend's fight. She remembered that he had probably stayed the night. Her stomach lurched at the thought.
"Yes?" she answered shakily.
"Get your ass down here. Your mother is taking you to that freak school of yours in thirty minutes!"
"Alright," Hermione answered groggily.
"Don't take that tone with me girl or I will come up those stairs and…"
Hermione tuned him out. She was used to his threats. However, she was also used to his fists and she knew she had better start getting ready. She tied her hair back into a bun and began to put brush foundation over her cheeks. She bit her lip and tilted her hand and examined the bruise creeping around the bone around the bottom of her eye. She put extra foundation on that. She also put on a thick coat of eyeliner. She stepped back and looked at herself in the mirror. She could hardly see the bruise and smiled; she was getting better at hiding. After her makeup was perfect, she pulled on a tight black t-shirt and a pair of black jeans. She grabbed her robes and stuffed them into one of her bags.
"Hermione!" she heard him shout.
"I'm almost ready," Hermione said, choosing her tone carefully.
"Girl, you best be!"
Hermione grabbed her bags and looked around her room. She smiled and whispered, "Goodbye," and headed down the stairs to where Seth, her mother's boyfriend, was standing. He glared daggers at her. Hermione ignored this and walked past him to the living room and placed her bags by the door. She went into the kitchen and it was then she saw her mother. She bore fresh bruises and black eyes. She had a cut on her cheek and wasn't lifting anything with her right hand.
"Good morning, sweetie," Hermione's mother attempted a smile, "Did you sleep well?"
"Yes," Hermione lied. It came so naturally.
"That's good. I did too," apparently her mother had also become good at lying. Hermione wanted to smile at her mother but couldn't bring herself to it.
"Good," was all she could say.
"So are you excited about going back to school? I know you are excited about seeing your friends again. And besides, you got chosen as Head Girl; that is a fine achievement, Hermione."
"Thank you," Hermione said, grabbing an apple out of the basket on the counter, "I am excited. I can't wait to go back and see everyone," she tried to sound chipper as she talked about school, "I have missed them so much…"
"You miss those freak friends of yours, huh?" Seth stood in the doorway, his face was twisted more so than usual into an angry smirk, "You can't wait to go back, huh? Don't you appreciate all your mother and I have given you?" He roared. Hermione's stomach churned. What had he done for her? All he had done for her since her mother started dating him two years ago was make her life, as well as her mother's, a living hell.
"I do appreciate it," Hermione said gently, "I appreciate it very much. It's just…"
"Just what, girl?" Seth barked.
"It's hard not seeing my friends for three months."
"Those freaks? You call those freaks your friends? Who would want to be your friend? You are nothing but a no-good bitch who needs to learn her place," Seth slapped Hermione harshly across the face. Her head whipped around.
"Seth…" Hermione's mother began.
"Stay out of this, Elizabeth. Take her! Get her out of my sight! I do not want to see her until Christmas Holiday, is that understood?"
"Yes," Elizabeth Granger bowed her head and lead Hermione to the door. Hermione picked up her bags and looked around the house one more time. She couldn't stand the thought of leaving her mother in this horrible place, especially since Seth was moving in next Saturday.
Once they were in the safety of her mother's car, Hermione began to ask, "Mum, are you sure you will be alright here by yourself?"
"Baby," Mrs. Granger smiled warmly at her daughter, "Don't you worry about me. I will be fine. More people in a house puts more stress on some. I am sure Seth will be fine when it is just the two of us…"
"Mum, I don't want him hurting you."
"And I don't want him hurting you. The fact is Seth cares for us, Hermione. I know that may be hard for you to comprehend but he does. Since your father's death, he has done nothing but help. He fixed the roof last summer, he paid for the new air-conditioning system to be installed, he does a lot, Hermione. I know he cares about both of us. Sometimes…well…he just gets stress. We have got to not put stress on him. Understand?"
Hermione nodded but wondered how her mother could be so ignorant. Couldn't she see the pain Seth was causing both of them? Hermione bit her lip and realized there was nothing she could do about it. This was her mother's choice and if she chose Seth, so be it.
After about ten minutes of driving in silence, they reached the train station. Hermione grabbed her bags from the back and walked to the platform with her mother. They found the wall and disappeared to the other side. Hermione located the Hogwarts express. Her heart pounded faster and faster and she felt as though she had swallowed a bunch of butterflies.
"This is it, Mum," Hermione said excitedly.
"I will write to you every day, I promise," Elizabeth looked at her daughter with tears in her eyes, "Write me back."
"Of course, Mum," Hermione gave her mother a hug. As they stood there embracing each other, Hermione felt her mother's shoulders heave. She was sobbing, "Mom, promise me you will be alright."
"I will baby, I will. Go on, you don't want to miss your train," Hermione glanced back at her mother and boarded the train. As the conductor stamped her ticket, Hermione waved goodbye and walked down the isle to find an empty compartment.
When she had found one, she opened the door and got settled in. She placed her bags on the shelf over head and took a seat. She looked out the window and saw her mother waving again. Hermione waved back and fought back tears.
"Hey!" The familiar voice shattered her thoughts.
"Ron!" Hermione shouted eagerly.
"Hermione!" He mocked.
"Oh shut up!" Hermione giggled, "How have you been? How was your summer? Where is Harry?"
"Whoa, I can only answer one question at a time, Mione," Ron sat across from his friend and smiled, "First off, my summer was good. Did you get my letters?"
"What letters?" Hermione asked.
"Harry and I wrote to you…"
"I…I didn't get them," Hermione instantly thought of Seth. Had he taken her letters? She knew he hated her and her friends.
"Hermione, I owled them to you…"
"They…they probably got lost on the journey. You know, your owl isn't the most reliable animal out there, Ronald," she smirked.
"Do you want to know how my summer was or not?"
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry. How was your summer?" Hermione tried not to laugh.
"It was good. Harry stayed with us in the burrow. We had a great time. Fred and George didn't even cause him too much trouble, shockingly. Harry will be here in a moment. He is telling Mum thank you for her hospitality. Tell me, how was your summer?"
"Fine," Hermione said quietly. She didn't dare tell him how since she had returned from Hogwarts her life had been hell. She didn't tell him of the beatings she had received at the hands of her mother's lover the night she had returned. She didn't dare tell anyone.
"That's it?" Ron asked.
"Hey!" Harry interpreted his best friends, "Hermione!" He greeted her with a hug, "Alright, I want to know everything. Tell me about your summer."
"Alright. Ron told me you stayed with them. I am glad you two had a wonderful time. My summer is going well. My mother's boyfriend is moving in next Saturday…"
"That's great!" Ron exclaimed, "You said he was such a blessing to you and your mother!" Yeah, Hermione thought, was.
"Yes," Hermione tried to smile, "It is."
"Hey," Harry spoke up, changing the subject after sensing how uncomfortable the talk of her mother's boyfriend made Hermione, "I heard McGonagall say that the two Heads for this year must ride in Compartment A. I wonder who our Heads are."
"Oh!" Hermione stood up and grabbed her things, "I completely forgot!"
"Forgot what?" Ron asked.
"I…I was appointed Head Girl. Surprise!" Hermione smiled as she grabbed her things off the shelf.
"Bloody hell!" Ron gasped, "Congratulations!"
"Yes, Hermione. Congratulations!" Harry smiled at her.
"Thank you. I wonder who my head boy is. I promise I will find you guys when we get to Hogwarts."
She turned and quickly tired to find Compartment A. After a few moments, she came to it. Hermione opened the door and gasped when she noticed who was already there. It couldn't be!