Dear Professor Dumbledore,

I received my Hogwarts letter today. After the death of my parents in December, I have been spending my summer at The Burrow, with Harry and Ron.

Hermione took a deep breath. They'd been dead for almost seven months, and it had yet to stop hurting. Biting her lip, she continued.

They've been very supportive about it all, but there is one problem that no friendly sympathy can solve. My parents were never very wealthy: they got along with their dentistry practice, but there was very little extra money around.

Her parents had tried so hard, but they had always been rather generous with their money. They had often treated some of their less affluent patients for only a small portion of the actual cost of the procedure. The reality was that money was often a bit tight. Hermione blinked suddenly misty eyes and continued.

The crux of the matter is, I cannot possibly afford Hogwarts this year. The books and materials alone would suck up the greater portion of the funds I have remaining. Tuition is an impossibility. I am writing to ask if there are any scholarships available for people in my situation. I haven't told Harry and Ron. Ron would invariably feel guilty, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would try to pay for things that I know very well they don't have the money for. I know Harry would offer me any money I need, but he will need that money some day, and I don't know when I would be able to pay it back.

Please respond as soon as possible.

Yours truly,

Hermione Granger

Hermione bit her lip, then sealed it and gave it to the owl before she could change her mind.

Severus Snape slouched into his chair and wished devoutly to be anywhere other than a staff meeting. He hated staff meetings. Rolanda Hooch invariably attempted to hit on him, Sybil Trelawney always foretold a fresh painful way for him to die, and the Headmaster insisted on twinkling incessantly at him the entire time. He was in the midst of mentally reciting all the ingredients for a Deflating Draught when a name caught his attention.

"Miss Granger," Albus was saying, "wrote to me this morning asking about wizarding scholarships. Apparently the deaths of her parents have left her in dire financial straits. I couldn't think of any. I was hoping one of you might have a suggestion?"

All the other teachers shook their heads. Severus knew very well there weren't any scholarships available to Hermione—any scholarships that did exist were sponsored by blatantly elitist groups violently opposed to muggle-born students at any wizarding school.

The Headmaster looked grieved, shaking his head sadly. "A pity," he said inanely, "that something cannot be done. A very great pity, to lose such a powerful witch for such a reason."

Severus was outraged. One of the most brilliant students in Hogwarts' long history to be denied an education for something as trivial as money? It was intolerable. Something had to be done. In his distraction, he completely missed the knowing glance shared between Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall.

Two days later, an owl fluttered into the kitchen at The Burrow. Hermione took one look at it and tore upstairs to the room she shared with Ginny, hastily ripping it open.

Dear Miss Granger,

I'm afraid that there are no scholarships available, even to a witch of your abilities. However, there is a solution to your problem. An anonymous benefactor has come forward and offered to pay for your tuition, any school books or materials you may need, and a generous allowance to cover any other expenses you may have. His only condition is that you write to him at least once a week and tell him of your progress. He will not write back; he has "no time to waste writing foolish letters," as he put it. He also would prefer that you not bother thanking him, as he has little patience for such nonsense. If this is acceptable to you, please respond immediately and the arrangements will be made.

Sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore

Hermione didn't even stop to think. She picked up her quill. Dear Professor Dumbledore…