February 2009, somewhere in the Low Tauern
Exhausted in body and mind from her demanding, often less than satisfying work, Hermione Granger decided on a winter holiday in the Alps. Her decision was fuelled by hazy images of skiing-holidays with her parents and memories of clear skies and pleasant exhaustion. Mainly by chance did she discover the small village in the county of Salzburg where she was staying now.
Hermione soon found out that thirty was by no means ancient, but that as a child — even though she hadn't been an overly sporty girl — winter sports had been easier for her. She decided that downhill skiing was not her cup of tea, but she enjoyed walking, snow-shoeing and now cross-country-skiing a lot. She would have enjoyed it even more if she had had the technique already down like that fellow over there: seemingly effortless he tackled the upward slope that would bring him to another cross-country ski run, known for its remoteness, difficulty and beautiful sights. The young woman trudged on. Tomorrow she would soak her protesting muscles in the nearby spa in Eben and then, the day after tomorrow, take another private lesson.
Coming down for dinner after a much-needed shower, she stuck her head into the bar as it was still early. A tall man in a tight cross-country-skiing outfit in the same colours as the much envied stranger in the valley was standing at the bar, his back to her, talking to George, the officially retired owner.
Hermione started when hearing the stranger’s voice, which reminded her of her old Potions professor with its deep, cultured tones. But alas, the man was speaking the local dialect. And Snape was dead. His portrait had never woken, but she had attended his funeral. Venturing into the dining room with her book she never noticed the dark eyes following her.
Dinner had been pleasant, as always, if a little bit on the heavy side. Hermione was finishing her glass of wine along with her book and then decided to call it a day. Back in her room on the second floor it took her a while to notice the note and the little jar on her pillow. As the maid had left chocolate, a scented lavender sachet and a small glass of honey the previous days she thought nothing of it until she unfolded the note:
The balm will be beneficial for your undoubtedly sore muscles. I have found out that a sparingly applied Equilibrium Charm on oneself helps a lot during the first days of cross-country skiing.
PS: An owl would find me.