Hermione was exhilarated by her sneaking around. She was always doing it with Ron and Harry, but this was the first time she was doing it all by herself. Classes were over and the trio was packing back onto the Hogwarts Express. Hermione pulled her trunk behind her and checked again that her dad’s letters were in her jacket pocket.
Severus had held off seeing his daughter almost all year because Draco Malfoy was still suspicious, and snooping around his office, even if everyone else’s worries had died away. To make up for the time lost, he decided to ask Hermione to visit him for a week at his cottage. They had planned out how to get Hermione away from her friends without notice, and the instructions were tucked into her pocket just in case she needed to check something, though she knew the directions by heart now.
Hermione couldn’t sit still the whole train ride. Neville and Harry looked at her oddly, though Ron didn’t seem to notice. She had never been to her dad’s cottage before and she couldn’t wait to see what it was like and how he lived on his time off. This was going to turn out to be the best summer ever. On top of visiting her dad for a week, Hermione was also going to see Harry and Ron and all of the Weasleys at the Quidditch World Cup near the end of the summer. That would leave her with about a month in the middle of the summer to see her mom and dad – step dad, that was, and maybe visit some cousins. For once, she’d be able to see everyone she wanted to see in the summer and everything would go off without a hitch.
Soon the train ride was over and Hermione was hopping off the train with everyone. She hugged Ron and Ginny good bye and waved to Mrs. Weasley who came to pick them up. Neville left soon after, leaving Hermione and Harry alone.
“Well, bye then. I’ll see you soon, Harry.” Hermione moved to hug him.
“Where are your parents?”
“I’m sure they’re around,” Hermione turned toward the pillars her dad was supposed to hide behind.
“I can help you look.” Harry said, putting his trunk on a trolley.
“No, no. I think you should go meet your Aunt and Uncle.”
Harry sunk, “But I don’t want to.”
Hermione pulled Harry into a hug. “You have to. We’ll see you in no time at the world cup, and I’ll write you all summer. Besides, they’ll be more angry if they have to wait for you.” Hermione said in his lecture voice.
Harry finally wandered off after another hug and Hermione made her way over to her dad, who was still hiding behind the pillars. Severus grabbed her wrist without saying a word, and they apperated to Loch Cottage.
Hermione was blown back as they entered the fields. The sky was dreary and the wind was howling. Overlooking the loch was a small cottage a little ways up. Behind it, fields rose up into the hills. Hermione followed her dad to the cottage before the rain hit. There was no fence around the property, as there didn’t seem to be any neighbours. At any rate, Hermione couldn’t quite decide where the wilderness ended and the yard began. All was covered in overgrown grass, just beginning to green up. Poppies and thistles tangled between the grasses and wound right up to the base of a large oak tree not far from the house.
The cottage was a small, double story place, that looked like it used to be a single story, until someone lifted it up and slid a few more rooms underneath of it. It had a shallow grey roof, white washed exterior, and twice as many windows as one would expect, all of which were covered by their storm shingles.
Severus stopped, drew his wand and flicked it harshly a few times, then drew a large brass key from his pocket. Through the front door, he pulled Hermione’s heavy trunk and beckoned for her to follow before the rain began. Waves were already being whipped up on the surface of the loch.
The cottage was open, making it seem smaller than it would otherwise. The front door open directly into the living room, which was attached to the kitchen and the dining room without a wall to separate them. A stair well stood against the back of the room, leading to the second floor. The doors of all three second floor rooms could be seen from the living room, hiding just behind the old banister. There were two more small rooms tucked away below the banister on the first floor.
Everything was coated in a layer of dust and mildew from the abandoned winter nights. The smell of stale air rose as Severus closed the front door, and Hermione could tell the place had no caretaker as her father was at school.
“It will be right as rain once it’s opened up and aired out.” Her dad promised, though Hermione kept her doubts.
Severus waived his wand a few more times to open all the shutters and windows in the house. A small amount of sunlight came through the openings, but it was so dreary outside, there wasn’t much to come through.
“This is the living and dining room.” Snape said, leaning against the fire place. “Over there is the kitchen. It’s empty now, but I’ll get some things to put in it tomorrow. Down on this level is the bathroom and my office.” He pointed at the doors as he spoke. “Upstairs are the bedrooms. I can show you yours if you’d like.”
“Yeah.” Hermione said, her arms still folded.
Her trunk was levitated up the stairs in front of them. Snape opened the furthest door and set the trunk down in the middle of the floor. “It isn’t much.”
Hermione looked around. The room was small and barren. A single bed was pushed against the furthest wall, under the window. The mattress was bare and old. The hardwood floor was scratched and dusty like everything else. The walls looked like they used to be cheerful when they had been painted, but that was ages ago. The sunshine yellow had cracked in a few places and faded to mustard. Purple and pink butterflies painted then enchanted on the walls to fly around, were now flapping their wings as if out of breath. They avoided one whole section of the wall because of a water stain. The rest of the house looked as if it hadn’t been dusted since Severus had left for the year at Hogwarts, but this room looked like it hadn’t been dusted or cleaned in a decade.
“I’ll find some spare bedding around the place.” Severus said, cleaning off the dresser. The top was covered in paper clippings and photographs he was now sliding into a large leather bound book. “I suppose you’ll need a few shelves or a book case as well.”
Hermione smiled half heartedly, but could think of nothing to say.
Severus tapped his fingers on the leather book he was now clutching to his chest. “I should, should I let you unpack?”
“Yes, I can do that.” Hermione said. She was standing in the very center of the room, as if trying not to touch anything in it.
Her father walked out of the room, then turned in the door frame. “Feel free to look around the rest of the house. I’ll be downstairs if you need me.”
Hermione surveyed the room. She moved to sit on the bed, looked at the mattress, and sat on her trunk instead. It was a beautiful gesture for her father to leave a whole room devoted to her. But she couldn’t convince herself to focus on how nice it was. The smell of mildew was too strong in the room.
It was raining lightly outside and a little was coming through the small open window. Despite the wetness, Hermione stood and opened the window further to get more fresh air. This would be much easier if Hermione was allowed to do magic while away from school. She sighed and left the room, deciding to explore the rest of the house.
Beside her room was her father’s bedroom. It was slightly larger than her own and had a closet, which hers didn’t. The walls were dirty white and the bed was made of dark wood and covered in deep brown fabrics, nearly black. Apart from a shelf full of non-fiction books, the only personal touches were a few picture frames on the bedside table. Two were of a red-headed girl, one as a child standing next to a scraggly bean-pole of a boy and another as a teenager in a portrait. The other frame was a photo of Hermione, the one her parents had taken at Christmas during her first year. All of these were muggle photos.
The next room was forest green, and the paint looked fresher than the other rooms. Apart from that, it was identical to Hermione’s room. A small bed, stripped of its blankets was against the window and a dresser was near the door. This room was completely bare, save for a few novels balanced on the window sill. It must have been a spare bedroom.
Hermione’s favourite room by far was the kitchen. It had a huge pantry with shelves floor to ceiling, lined with mason jars full of everything from mouse tails to marjoram to marmalade. At some point her father must have run out of room, because two book shelves were leaning outside of the pantry and were also filled with jars and containers of various sizes. More containers lined the counter tops, intermixed with cauldrons, utensils, and cooking implements Hermione had never seen before. Cast iron pots and copper kettles and pans hung from the ceiling, over the old wood stove. Severus was right that there was no actual food in the house, not a grain of rice or leaf of produce to be seen, but Hermione couldn’t imagine where he would put the food with so many jars of spices and preserves.
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