Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge.

William Shakespeare

The wind blew through the trees, whipping branches into a frenzy and creating an unnatural howl. The moon peeked out from behind silver clouds, casting shadows and making everything seem more menacing than it really was.

The Auror held her wand at the ready. She had been sent to capture the last remaining Death Eater, holed up on the top of some mountain in the north. With every sense heightened, she picked her way through the brush. The path in front of her darkened further as the moon hid behind heavy clouds. Snow began to swirl around her. It hadn't been nighttime when she had started out, but she had come too far to go back when the sun had started to set. She questioned the wisdom of that decision now, pulling her cloak tighter around her with a shiver. She tried to tell herself it was simply because it was cold and snowing, but there might have been more to it.

A branch cracked under her feet, the sound of it echoing into the distance. Or maybe not. Every little noise seemed amplified to her. She thought the fugitive might even be able to hear the thumping of her heart from his ramshackle shack that was supposedly at the top of this hill. She paused to make sure no one was following her. But there was another noise, the crackling of dry leaves as someone walked over them. She put out the light in her wand, every muscle in her body tensed in anticipation.

Closer and closer it crept. The sounds getting louder until…

"Stupefy!" she yelled. A blast of red light leapt from her wand and something let out a muffled shriek. Relighting her wand, she saw she had successfully Stunned a small rabbit. She sighed in relief and marveled at her own silliness. She wasn't usually this twitchy, but her instincts told her that something was out here tonight, something evil.

Leaning down, she stroked the silky softness of the rabbit's fur. It probably would be out cold for several hours. That hex was meant for humans not small animals. She Disillusioned it with a pang of guilt, hoping that the Concealment Charm would keep any predators away until it awoke.

She was standing when she heard another branch crack behind her. This time, she knew it was no rabbit. She wheeled around to face whomever it was, only to come face to face with a bright light. Green with a bit of orange, her mind processed, before everything went dark, very, very dark.

She awoke to a pounding headache. She peeked through heavy eyelids, but then shut them again, the bright glaring light proving to be too much. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she vaguely recalled someone spooning soup to her, the hot liquid burning as it slid down her raw throat. Cold compresses were pressed to her brow and soft words mumbled.

Finally, she ventured to open her eyes fully. She was in a small room with bare walls. A fire blazed in a hearth, its heat filling the room. A fuzzy red rug covered the wooden floor. A desk covered in parchments and quills and a couple of open books sat in one corner. It was all very quaint, but homey.

And then her caretaker stepped into view. She gasped.

"I see you've finally woken up, Miss Granger," he sneered. It had been many, many years since she had her name spoken with the same quiet disdain.

"You!" she accused. Her voice was barely a raspy whisper and burned from the effort, but she tried to pour as much indignation into it as possible.

"Yes, me. Though you really should show more respect for the person who has saved your life…once again," he added.

She shut her eyes, trying to will him away. But when she opened them again, he was still there, only closer. The same greasy black hair, the same hooked nose and sallow skin, the same scowl. She was at the mercy of Severus Snape.