Hermione Granger shot up in bed. Her hand clutched the front of her nightshirt in a panic as she glanced around the room, searching for anything out of place.
After a few minutes of gazing around a room full of sleeping sixth-year girls, she was satisfied that whatever was wrong, it wasn't in the room. She took a deep breath and willed her heart to stop racing, then grabbed a robe and slid her bare feet into her shoes. For the thousandth time she muttered a prayer of thanks that she had gotten the bed closest to the door. Then, with a quickly murmured "lumos", she was out the door and down the narrow passageway that led to the common room.
The common room was dim, as it usually was at this time of night. The only light came from the dying fire. In a few months the students would begin staying up later and later as they prepared for their end-of-year exams, but for now Hermione was glad for the privacy. She strode to a window and drew back the crimson curtain, peering into the night.
A recent storm had left the grounds covered in glittering snow. The moon lit up the grounds with a pale shimmer that was both beautiful and creepy. Not a single gust of wind disturbed the scene below. And there-on the edge of the forbidden forest- a hooded figure was moving slowly through the edge of the trees.
Without a second thought Hermione turned and made her way through the entrance passage, down the stairs, and out of a secret door that had shown up on the Marauders map a few days ago.
She cast a glamor on herself so that anyone looking out of the castle windows would see only snow, and made her way carefully towards the edge of the forest. On her way she berated herself for her stupidity. She should have woken the boys up and changed into proper clothes! But it was too late now, the robe would have to do, and she wasn't foolish enough to try and duel anyone on her own. She'd find out what she could first and then get Harry and Ron and decide what to do.
Then she laughed at herself. She was probably heading out here in the freezing cold to find a couple seeking some privacy. Possibly a younger student captivated by the mystery of the Forbidden Forest. It was her job as a prefect to set them straight and send them back to the castle. With that thought she began to feel a little bit better as she reached the forest's edge.
Hermione began searching, determined not to walk too far into the forest. Eventually, however, she became engrossed in finding the figure. The trees rose thickly from the undergrowth, and while there were large patches of snow here and there, for the most part there was only a small dusting here and there. Every once in a while an animal moved, causing Hermione to stiffen in fear.
She had never been to the forest alone, and as she stood there, her back against a tree, listening intently for any sound of danger, she wished that she had stayed in her warm bed, or at least thought this out before she decided to dash out and play the hero. Mindless reactions were Harry's expertise, not hers.
Her eyes swept across the darkness, taking in any possible dangers. Exhaling with relief, she decided that there was nothing here. Stepping away from the tree she did another scan through the trees, looking for any sign of another person. A frown fixed itself across her face. There was no one.
With a sigh she realized that she had to go back. She'd need to wake up Harry and Ron to let them know what was going on. Her feet were painfully cold, and the robe was not nearly enough protection for her bare legs. Clutching the robe tighter around her neck, she turned to head back the way she had come.
"It's been a long time" Said a voice from beside her.
With a start, she jerked away from the sound and brought her wand up. The light from the end illuminated a once-beautiful woman, now made sharp by years of pain. Dark hair was caught up in a loose bun, but strands had come down to curl gently around her face. A face Hermione would know anywhere.
"Bellatrix Lestrange" She stated, certain that this was her last moment alive on earth. She gripped her wand tighter, at least she'd go out fighting.
Bellatrix stepped closer, allowing the wand to graze the edge of her hood. "You know me." She looked almost happy at the thought, and Hermione swallowed the knot of grief that had formed in her throat as she thought of the last time she saw Bellatrix. The last time she saw Sirius. She nodded angrily.
Bellatrix smiled, and her face seemed to grow more peaceful. Then she jerked her own wand up and a jolt of deep blue light flowed from it, enveloping Hermione and thrusting her into darkness.
When she came to, the first thing she noticed was that she was no longer cold. It was no longer night, and she was no longer in the forest. Soft green grass brushed against her in the dying light. The sound of water lapping against a shore reached her ears, and when she turned her head in the direction of the noise she realized with relief that she was still at Hogwarts, on the lawn by the lake.
She sat up and groaned, grabbing her head as a powerful headache erupted inside her skull. A queasy feeling began in her belly, and she rolled over just in time to empty her stomach contents. With a groan she wiped her mouth on the edge of her sleeve and looked up.
A stately black haired with was standing a few feet away, her wand in hand but not aimed. After a few minutes it became apparent that the girl lying on the ground was not going to be a threat anytime soon, and the woman stepped closer, green eyes peering through her spectacles at Hermione.
"Young Lady, will you please explain to me how you just appeared out of thin air in the middle of my evening stroll?"
Still holding her head, Hermione blinked up into the woman's face. "Professor McGonagall?"
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling and her publishers; not me. No money is being made from this fanfic.