DISCLAIMER: I own nothing of this except for the plot bunny that attacked me while I slept.
All hail the oh wonderful Sarah who agreed to beta this for me.
READ: This story was started for the Granger Enchanted V-day Challenge. It's going to be a short one because of the fact that I want to have it done by V-day. There's a banner posted for it too... so yeah.
The smoke billowed out of the tiny chimney on the small cottage at the edge of Hogsmeade. Snow was falling steadily from the heavens as the blistery night wind of February blew through the valley.
The man pulled his parka tighter around him as he stumbled through the high snow banks towards the house. He was shaking almost violently, his breath coming out in tiny puffs as he kept chanting, 'Just a bit farther.' He only hoped that someone would be home at this time of night; he doubted he would be able to make it on to Hogsmeade.
The hood fell low over his face, but what was exposed had been chapped by the wind, his cheeks a harsh pink. He just focused on getting to the cottage door. He needed warmth.
Finally he was there, standing before the quaint door that looked so very inviting. He didn't stop to consider the consequences of his actions as he brought his hand up, knocking on the door. He leaned against it, almost as if he hoped to soak in the warmth radiating from the inside.
He could feel his consciousness start to waver on him as he waited. He sent up a silent prayer to the powers that be that someone, anyone, would come to the door to allow him into the sweet, blissful heat.
His vision was beginning to fade in front of him, the world beginning to tilt sideways. He could feel the cold down to the very tips of his fingers and toes. A whispered plea of "Please," escaped his lips an instant before the door opened and he fell into the black night of unconsciousness.
Hermione wrung the cloth out once more, watching as the steam continued to rise out of the bowl. She situated herself on the bed so that she could reach her unnamed houseguest. She mopped his brow with the cloth.
The colour was finally returning to his skin, though his face was still chapped from the wind. After she got his body temperature back to normal, she would go brew a potion to help heal the skin.
She had already stripped him of most of his clothing. She was extremely thankful that he wasn't like most of her male friends who had not discovered the art of boxers, something she had found out quite on accident.
She placed the cloth back into the steaming bowl of water and rose to tend to the fire. It was more important now than ever to keep it blazing so that his body could soak up the warmth. She glanced back towards the couch as she knelt near the fire and was very tempted to floo Harry or one of the twins. The man was a big man and he could easily overpower her if he wanted to. Well…when he was up to it, of course. More than that, though, she felt…weird when she looked at him. She honestly couldn't explain the feeling; it was one she had never felt before.
"Stop being ridiculous," she chastised herself, running a hand through her hair. She glanced once again to the man lying on her couch and frowned. He looked so familiar and yet she couldn't fathom who he could possibly be. He had no wand on his person or anything to identify him as a wizard. She would have to tread carefully just in case he happened to be a muggle.
She shoved another log into the fire and used the poker to stir the flames. She was half-tempted to use magic to make the fire last longer than it would the muggle way. She pushed the urge away, and instead rose to gather some blankets from the upstairs closet.
When she took the blankets back downstairs and started to cover the man, she soon discovered that he was not as weak as she had originally thought. His hand gripped her wrist almost painfully as his eyes shot open. Crystal-clear grey eyes met hers as he jerked her down so that she was at his mercy.
Hermione felt anger boiling up inside of her. "You can just let go of me right now or I'll kick your frost-bitten arse right out in the snow."
He stared at her for a couple of seconds longer, his eyes glazed over with confusion. He blinked and she noticed his gaze softening. His grip loosened on her wrist, though he didn't let go of it, as he muttered a soft, "Sorry."
That stirring in the lower pit of her stomach she had experienced earlier when removing his damp clothing started up again under his intense stare. "Um," she stuttered, "can I…?" At a loss for words, she merely motioned that she wished to stand back up.
He glanced down at where he still held her wrist and instantly released it. "Sorry," he muttered again. He rolled back to get more comfy on the couch as she picked the blanket back up.
He finally noticed that he was almost naked. "Where are my clothes?"
She spread the blanket over him. "In the laundry." She straightened after tucking the blanket around him and pulled down her shirt. "First rule of tending a person out in the cold for too long: Take the wet clothes off and get near heat."
A sparkle lit up his eyes as he looked her over. "Actually, I do believe they suggest that you use body heat to get the person warm…most often by getting naked."
She glared at him before spinning away with an angry huff. "I should have let you freeze," she growled, as she stalked off toward the kitchen. She heard him start to get up to follow her and instantly barked out an order for him to stay on the couch. She ladled out some of the soup she had fixed earlier into a bowl and stuck it in the microwave. Better to play it safe until she learned who he was.
She fixed a cup of tea and placed it on a tray with the bowl of soup. She took it into him and helped him sit up so he could eat better. Taking the chair across from him, she studied him as he ate.
"Thank you," he said as he finished up with his meal. He moved the tray to the coffee table and then leaned back against the couch, studying her. "For everything."
"You're welcome," she said with a slight blush. This man made her nervous. She didn't know why. She could easily just stun him and floo for her friends if he tried to do anything, but she didn't really fear him. No, the only thing she feared was the feeling in the bottom of her stomach every time she looked at him or felt his gaze on her. "Are you warm?"
He grinned. "Very." He pulled the blanket a little lower to rest around his waist, displaying his toned chest. "I am grateful you were home. I honestly don't know how long I had been walking around before I saw your cottage."
She frowned. "Where are you from?"
"Near London," he answered vaguely.
"You're far from home, aren't you? What were you doing in this area?"
She could see the hesitation in his expressions as he studied her. He didn't trust her; not that she could blame him as she far from trusted him. "I don't know exactly," he answered finally. "I just woke up and was out in the woods."
Her frown deepened as she moved her hand further down so that she could grab her wand if need be. "You just woke up in the woods? With no recollection of how you got out there?"
He sensed her disbelief and glanced at her hand quickly. "I think I got hit with something." He decided not to mention that he believed that it had been a spell he had been hit with. The appearance of the cottage and everything inside suggested she was a muggle.
"Really?" Her brow rose slightly as se continue to stare at him. She shook her head slightly, as if to clear it. "Who are you?"
He opened his mouth to answer her but a sudden knocking at the door saved him. He turned towards the sound even as she stood to go over and answer it. He saw that there was nowhere he could hide; he was in direct view of the door. He would just have to hope that it was no one that would recognize him until he knew for sure that he was safe.
"Oh, hello," he heard her say as she stared at the person on the other side. "What are you doing here? It's almost eleven."
"I just came to check on you." The voice was male and someone who knew the woman well from the sound of it. "You didn't join Luna and I for dinner and we were worried about you. It's not like you to miss a dinner."
He watched as she pressed a hand to her forehead and closed her eyes. "Oh Merlin, Harry, I am so sorry. I completely forgot that I was supposed to come over for dinner tonight." She reached out and grabbed one of his hands, her smile beguiling as she said, "Forgive me?"
The male on the other side of the door gave a little chuckle. "Of course, Hermione."
Hermione. He tried the name out in his mind and found he quite liked how it sounded. He was sure it would feel even better to feel the name roll off the tongue.
"So can I come in or are you going to keep me out here in the cold all night?"
He froze at the question and could see Hermione stiffen up as well. She relaxed slightly as she scratched her head. "Harry," she started slowly.
"You've got someone in there, don't you?" The male, Harry, replied. "Who is he?"
"Come on, Hermione, I won't tell. Well, I'll tell Luna of course, but I won't tell the twins. I promise."
"I don't know," she muttered finally and there was an instant silence followed by a loud cry of, "What?"
The door slammed open and her friend stepped into the room. His messy hair made him seem very wild as his green eyes flashed behind the glasses. He had his wand drawn, confirming that this was the household of a witch.
"Harry!" Hermione chastised as he lunged between him and her friend. "Put that away this instant." When he finally lowered his wand, though it took a while, she hissed, "Are you crazy?"
He looked affronted. "Me? You're the one who brought a strange, half-naked male into your home and…Wait. Why is he half-naked?"
"He was out in the snow and passed out at my door, Harry. He was in the beginning stages of hypothermia. I couldn't just let him freeze and die."
"No, but you could have called for someone to take him off your hands. Oh, say, a Healer!" Harry was breathing heavily as he glowered at his friend. "He could be a Death Eater, Hermione. Did you ever think of that?"
"Actually, considering the fact that he didn't have a wand, I assumed he was a muggle," she snapped back. "In which case, now I'll have to perform a memory charm on him to insure that he doesn't go blabbing."
Harry looked slightly sheepish as he glanced down at the wand still held tightly in his hand. "Oh."
"Yeah, oh," she said, still glowering at Harry. She turned back to him and sighed. "I'm sorry, but I will have to erase your memory now…"
"No need, I'm a wizard."
The room instantly froze as the two of them stared at him warily. He decided to ignore the male friend at the moment and concentrated on his saviour. She was staring at him disbelievingly and maybe even a little relieved?
"You are?" she questioned softly. "Where's your wand?"
He didn't have a clear answer to that question so he decided on the truth. "I honestly have no clue. I had it on me when I was hit on the head, but I couldn't find it to apparate when I woke up. Hence I was walking through the snow for a long time."
"Hmm," was the only sound she made. She was still trying to decide whether she should trust him or not. "Are you a Death Eater?" she asked finally.
He froze up. How to answer that one? It was obvious that they were both on the 'good' side from the way they were acting earlier at his possible allegiance. "Not…exactly."
Harry had his wand back up and even Hermione moved her hand down to where she had hers hidden. "Not exactly?" Harry growled.
Hermione once again raised her hand to stop him from throwing a spell at him. "What do you mean, not exactly?" she asked calmly.
"Well, I did join him in the beginning because it was expected of me, but my loyalties don't lie with him anymore. I have a plan to destroy him."
If anything, the room grew more silent at that as they both stared at him. Hermione pressed lightly on Harry's hand, getting him to lower his wand. She had a calculating look now as she took him in.
"Hit on the head, you said?" Harry finally asked, running a hand through his messy hair.
"Yeah," was all he said.
"Must have been an awful hard hit."
He frowned this time, looking between both of them as they stared at him. Harry was looking at him as if he was a complete and total loon while Hermione was gazing at him as if he was something from another world.
He finally took a glance around the room. There were many objects that he recognized, but there were many that he had never seen before. He shifted uncomfortably on the couch as his gaze finally drifted back to the two who were staring right back at him.
"Where am I?" he finally questioned softly.
"Near Hogsmeade," Hermione answered, "but I believe you already knew that. The question is not where, but when."
Harry turned to her. "Hermione?"
She ignored Harry as she stepped closer to him, hunching down beside the couch as she took in his features. He looked so familiar, too familiar. "Who are you?"
He found himself lost in her inquisitive eyes and couldn't help grinning. "You already asked that, love," he purred, noticing how his words caused her to flinch slightly.
"Who are you?" she repeated, this time her tone more demanding.
He frowned ever so slightly at her. She was acting as if the answer just might kill her. "My name is Regulus Black."
Just so you know, I'm getting ready to move so there will be a week or so where you probably won't hear anything from me. Thanks for reading!