The Sugar Quill
Author: Jane (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Hermione's Secret  Chapter: Chapter One: Running Away From Home
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chapter 1 - Running Away From Home

Hermione pedalled faster. It felt good to push her body so hard. Her mind got plenty of exercise, but her body was thin and pale. Though her lungs caught fire, Hermione ignored the pain and concentrated on the rhythm of the bike. For once logic couldn't help her. She was running away.

Earlier that morning she had wandered around her room, brushing her hands across the smooth, white surface of her new dresser, noting the delicate, pink rosebuds painted on the enamel knobs, and its gently curved legs. She stared blankly at the fluttering curtains on her new canopy bed, a fairy's dream compared to the sturdy Hogwarts' beds with their shabby velvet curtains. Her parents had redone her room as a surprise for her when she arrived home from Hogwarts. It was lovely, really. Just as she had described it to them - two years earlier.

Looking around at the soft, pastel prints on the walls, and her collection of stuffed animals cuddling on the bed, Hermione sighed loudly. "If it is just what I wanted, then why do I hate it?" she asked herself.

"Because it isn't you anymore," answered a voice in her mind. And it was right. She had a mad urge to charm the walls an electric shade of blue. With bright orange splashes. No. Not orange. Yellow perhaps.

And it wasn't just her room. It was everything. Hermione knew her parents wanted to believe that Hermione was just going through a particularly virulent form of adolescence. She caught them sneakily reading self-help books behind the Times: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Your Teenage Witch: Adolescence or Possession - 10 sure ways to Tell the Difference.  It was lonely for Hermione. No matter how much she loved her parents, they were still Muggles and they couldn't quite grasp what a wizard like Voldemort could do.

That first night home, when the memories of the Triwizard Tournament and Harry's sudden reappearance with Cedric's body were still fresh in her mind, she tried to talk to her mum and dad about Voldemort. "Your safe now, darling." said her father. As if any place could be immune from such an evil as Voldemort. Even Hogwarts had been penetrated, and if that could happen, nowhere was truly safe. Not even the suburbs.

So Hermione had taken to riding her bike at a furious pace through her neighbourhood towards the outskirts of town. She liked to find quiet country lanes to explore. It was hard work bumping up and down the narrow ruts, and more than once she was bucked off her bike and tossed in a heap in the mud. But riding her bike helped her stay focused, and sane.

The threat of Voldemort hung over her constantly. Her parents had cancelled Hermione's subscription to the Daily Prophet, claiming that it was too costly.  Hermione knew the real reason was because the growing panic in the wizard world was beginning to become apparent in the Prophet's headlines. Voldemort had yet to strike, but his poison was spreading all the same. Accusations against wizards suspected to be Death Eaters appeared in the paper daily. Scandal after scandal hit the Ministry of Magic and it was obvious to Hermione that Cornelius Fudge was unable to respond to the pandemic of fear. Reading his quotes had Hermione gnashing her teeth in frustration. "The rumour that You-Know-Who is back is ridiculous. The death of Cedric Digory was unfortunate, but it was an accident. Umm. Got a nasty bump on the head. Boy will be boys, and all that." What that was supposed to mean. Hermione wasn't sure, but the Minister's vague comments only encouraged speculation. The nervous tick he had developed didn't add to his position either.

Fear. Hermione's parents could read it between the lines of the Daily Prophet, and that was the real reason they cancelled her subscription. Then their Pandoronic Radio disappeared. Her mother and father insisted they didn't know what happened to it, but it was obvious they were lying. Even the Wizard's Wireless had started to broadcast You-Know-Who sightings. That was the last straw.

"You can't pretend that this isn't happening! Please, I know that you love me. I can understand that you are worried about me, but acting as if all this is just a bad dream is not going to make it go away. I've told you about You-Know-Who. You've seen Harry's scar. You know what I've told you it is true. Why can' t we talk about it?" she pleaded.

Her mother burst into tears and ran from the room. Hermione's father exploded. "You aren't really one of them. Why can't you just forget it! Your mother hardly sleeps at night, worrying about what will happen to you. That You-Know-Who isn't our problem, Hermione. Just let it go!"

She stared in shock at her father's amazing feat of transformation: from loving father to total stranger in just a matter of moments. The urge to lash out in anger frightened her. Her parent's had always preached non-violence, and practiced it was well, but just then she wanted to slap her father's red, furious face. Forget Ron? And Harry? Forget Cedric Digory? Never! Rather than give in to her angry impulse she dashed from the room and slammed out the door, leaving her father standing alone in their living room staring blankly at the closed door

A particularly large bump sent the bike into a shaky dance that almost tumbled Hermione into a ditch full of muddy, black water. She took a firmer grip and steered carefully back onto the narrow path leading through a small patch of woods. She blinked back tears as she thought about her parents. They couldn't accept the fact that she wasn't a child who needed to be sheltered from life's harsh truths anymore. Maybe she should have told them more about what went on at Hogwarts than just the classes and the library. Well, she wasn't a little girl any longer. It was time they learned that.

It seemed lately as if everyone expected something of her. Professor McGonagall had sent her an owl with several extra homework assignments to do over the summer, so as not to "waste a brain such as yours on frivolous activities." And Viktor. Viktor was sweet, but he seemed to imagine her as some kind of delicate young lady and his knight errant routine was beginning to chafe. It wasn't just her blouses she had outgrown this summer, it was her skin too. A chrysalis was a safe place to grow but it was still a prison, and she was ready to break free.

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