Snow drifted from the stone gray sky, stray flakes falling onto Hermione's windshield melted, smearing the landscape beyond it into a blurred kaleidoscope.
I hope it doesn't snow too hard. She fretted, silently.
Another bend in the road and a cabin came into view; a low one story stone building surrounded by frosted fields and a yard partitioned by stone walls and framed by the looming monolith of blue-white mountains in the distance. Hermione pulled up the gravel drive just as the snow picked up. She furrowed her brows at the absence of other vehicles and unhooked her seatbelt. Grabbing her duffle bag from the passenger seat, she swung open her car door. Outside the car, snow was blurring everything in a haze of white. Hermione hurried into the house, lest she become soaked through by the strengthening storm.
Inside, the interior was dim but the crackle and pop of a fire could be heard in the next room.
As Hermione shred her winter coat she called out, "Hello?"
There was no reply as her voice echoed off the entry way.
She padded down the hall, flipping on lights flooding the small living room and hall with light. It off set some of her ill ease. It was childish really but it helped her peace of mind. She continued through the house into the kitchen. The harsh electrical lights hummed as they came to life seemingly juxtaposed in the rustic kitchen. Her eyes were drawn to the modern fridge, on which was a note pinned by a magnet. Hermione spotted her mother's hand writing from across the room and striding over, she plucked the letter from the fridge. It read:
Dad and I went to the village to do some last minute Christmas shopping back soon.
Lots of love,
If we're not back in time for dinner there's some soup in the fridge, just heat it up in the microwave.
Hermione smiled before folding up the note and meandering back into the hallway. At the end of the hall there were two bedrooms, glancing into the larger of two, on the left, Hermione saw her parents luggage and took the one directly across from it for her own. It was tiny, consisting of only a single bed and dresser. She tossed her bag onto the end of the bed and sat down beside it.
While staring out across the snowy landscape outside the window, Hermione let her mind wander. Maybe I should have put off that research paper, professor said it could wait until after Christmas break. Now I've missed time with Mom and Dad and we see little enough of each as it is. She Sighed. What am I thinking, of course it couldn't wait then I wouldn't have had time to triple check my references. I could have brought my laptop to the cabin and worked on it here though. She cast about for an electrical outlet. Perhaps not… Hermione shook herself and settled on unpacking things instead of worrying over the-could-have-beens.
Once he clothes were unpacked and settled in the proper drawers, Hermione removed her text book and laptop and snuggled into one of the leather couches beside the roaring fireplace in the living room. For several hours, the only sound in the cabin was the crackle of the fire place and the turning pages. It wasn't until she was interrupted by the shrill ring of her cell phone that Hermione was drawn back to the present. She fished her phone from her pocket and answered.
Her shoulders relaxed upon hearing her mother's voice on the other line.
"Mom, I was just wondering where you got to-"
"Oh…" She frowned.
"No, it can't be helped."
"I don't mind really, it's not as if you can control the weather."
"I'll be fine on my own. I'm by the fire and by morning the plow will have come through and we together in time for Christmas Dinner."
"No, I'll wait to decorate the tree with you just like always."
"Love you too."
Hermione disconnected the call and leaned back staring at the ceiling for a few minutes. I knew I shouldn't have waited until Christmas Eve to come. The fire sizzled having died down to a few glowing embers. May as well build the fire back up. She glanced towards the empty fire wood basket. I'll have to get some more fire wood though. She slid off her comfy chair and shimmied into her house slippers and headed for the entry way.
Outside, the storm had picked up; the wind whipped her hair across her face and stung her formerly warm skin. Her breath came out in clouds hallowing around her head as she trudged around to the back of the house where she had noticed a wood pile. She passed her car and noting the banks of snow building up around the tires and on the hood, no wonder her parents were snowed out for the night. She hoped the snowplow came out early in the morning, something about being trapped, alone, out in the country made her feel… not scared necessarily, few things scared her, just uneasy like something was bound to happen.
The wood pile was leaning against the house with a shawl of snow covering it. Hermione was selecting a few choices pieces when a pop, like a back firing engine, rent the silent night air. Startled, Hermione whirled in place dropping her load of wood onto the ground with a dull thud.
Was that a gunshot or a car engine? But this far out in the country?
Hermione steadied her breathing and a grabbed a log off the ground. It wouldn't do much against a gun but it was better than facing a threat unprepared. Hermione edged around the cabin and towards the front of the house, the snow was pristine and all was quiet but for her own labored breathing and the steady howl of the wind. Cursing her nerves, she turned back to the wood pile when she saw a black mass lying on the ground. And then it stirred and her heart sped up its frightened pace. One pale hand clutched at the snow and from beneath it an alarming red stain was growing. It was a person, paying no mind to how they got there at this time of night in this storm; Hermione cast aside the log and ran to help.
"Are you hurt? I'm a doctor." Almost. She chided herself mentally. "I can help..."
The man, she could see that clearly when his profile turned towards her, stared at her through dark curtain of hair and black eyes widened in shock. He was sheet pale as Hermione assisted him to roll over; the bleeding was coming from a wound on his leg. She tried rolling up the pant leg and he hissed in pain as she revealed a gash on his thigh.
I have to get him inside and call an ambulance.
"Sir, can you stand? We need to get you out of this storm."
He didn't respond and she was concerned from the force of his trembles he would go into shock if not hypothermia.
His mouth downturned as he attempted to speak but nothing comprehensible came out all she could make out was a strangled "Lilly?" before he lost consciousness.
A gothic castle emerged through the flurry of snow just as a hooded figure appeared outside the iron gates followed by two others who manifest from thin air.
"W-w-what are w-w-we g-going to t-t-e-ell the dark lord?" The shortest and roundest of them sniveled.
"I am not going to tell him anything, it was not my doing, Pettigrew." A second said, loftily.
"Shut up both of you," A woman snapped. "I'll report to my lord, myself." She stomped past the two of them and up towards the castle.
"How brave of you, Bellatrix, surely telling the dark lord of the missions failure will reflect poorly upon you." The tallest man remarked snidely as he strode beside her.
She stopped and turned to the other two, and though he couldn't see her through the flurry of snow or the pressing darkness, they all knew she was scowling at him.
"Pettigrew, this was your mistake, you must tell the dark lord." Bellatrix pointed at Pettigrew.
"M-m-my m-mistake, n-n-no!" Pettigrew stuttered as he halted in his tracks.
"It was you; if you had killed Black, when you had the chance, the day would have been won and the rebel threat, a distant memory." The second man scoffed.
They continued their harried pace towards the castle.
"W-w-hat about S-s-severus?" Pettigrew scrambled to keep up with the other two who seemed to levitate over the snow while he fought every snow drift.
"Severus was taken, isn't it obvious? That is why you will report to the dark lord." Bellatrix sneered over her shoulder as they reached the double doors of the castle.
Before Pettigrew could make further protest, a chill voice cut through the silent hall as they entered.
The three fell to their knees. Lord Voldemort loomed over them, glaring at each in turn. "You left with four and return to me three, where is Severus?"
No one answered but the howl of the wind in the distance.
The second man raised his head to his master. "We're sorry, master, Severus has been taken by the rebels, they have…"
"Have what?" Voldemort prompted icily.
"Dumbledore has return, my lord," Bellatrix interrupted, "and he has the Longbottom boy with him."
There was a lengthy silence in which the three feared in which direction their master's mercurial mood would sway.
"It seems the 'Chosen One' has arrived at last." Voldemort said with a sinister laugh.