She woke with a start and looked around the room, bewildered. It took her a few seconds to remember where she was and, more importantly, when it was. A glance at the clock told her it was 11.43pm. She jumped up, the snow that had been resting on her back flying wildly into the air like confetti. She began throwing things into a back pack. A torch, a paper and pencil, her lucky key ring. Once upon a time she would have been scared to have left the house alone at night but not anymore, not since the accident. Now she was used to being alone.
Within a few minutes she was packed and dressed and had crept down the stairs into the kitchen. Rhea’s garden backed onto the woods and The Great Oak was minutes away from the gate. She had come to know both the woods and the oak very well in the last few months; they were her playground now and she knew she could make the short walk to the oak with her eyes closed. It almost felt as though she were walking with her eyes closed, so dark were the woods at night. Soon, though, her eyesight adjusted and she began to see shapes and silhouettes of branches around her. Within minutes she had reached the oak. It was still a few moments before midnight at she appeared to be alone so she went and sat in one of the nooks formed by the old oak’s massive roots.
The oak was ancient; hundreds of years old, who know what stories and secrets it kept? Rhea ran her hand over the gnarly bark and smiled. She had always believed this was a magic tree, always fantasised it would come alive and tell her its stories. She always felt safe and protected in its presence. More recently it was the only thing she felt safe touching – her powers seemed unable to chill the heart of something so ancient and mighty.
Suddenly, she heard a noise. She froze. Silence. Had she imagined it? She hardly dared to breath as her ears strained to listen for the sound to come again. She was just about to breath out when she heard the sound again. A dull thud. Then, within seconds, another. It seemed to come from the other side of the clearing, right in front of the oak. She very carefully and very slowly stood up and peered around the tree. There in the clearing were three figures standing together, holding in their hands what could only be broomsticks. They were here.
She left the safety of the tree and tiptoed towards them. The figure nearest to her swung round to face her and as he turned light shone into her face and blinded her temporarily.
“H-Hello?” She said nervously.
“It’s her!” A voice said excitedly.
The light was suddenly dropped and she saw in front of her the familiar faces of her childhood heroes – Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. She smiled stupidly.
“You’re here!” She exclaimed, grinning. “And you said you can help me!”
The bespectacle face of Harry Potter appeared in front of her. He smiled briefly then said, “Actually, we were hoping you could help us.”