FROM THE DEAD
This is a non-profit tribute to the works of JK Rowling who, together with her publishers and licensees, owns the characters and situations elaborated herein.
A/N: Spoilers, character death. BTW, the title is meant to read "Post-mort" but ffnet won't allow the hyphen.
The letter took Hermione by surprise. It was the morning after the NEWTs and she was deep in study of "Dirt and Diplomacy; A History of the Ministry of Magic", her curly hair caught in a butterfly clip at the nape and a slice of cold unbuttered toast in her free hand.
She didn't look up when the post-owls came and didn't notice the tawny owl hovering over her until Ron called it to her attention just as it released its burden with a plop into her porridge. She startled then and dropped her toast but her dependable index finger kept her place in chapter 14, "Gasmasks and Grindelwald". The owl gave a disgusted hooo-hoo-hooo and flew away.
Hermione fished out the letter, tapping it on the side of the bowl and wiping it one-handed on her napkin. She laid it down unopened and turned back to the absorbing account of the policy discussions between then-Minister of Magic Blunkett-Smythe and his Muggle counterpart.
"Aren't you going to look at it?" Ron demanded. "It might be important."
"I don't see how it could be," Hermione shrugged. "It's too early to be NEWTs results or offers. Besides it's obviously not a Ministry envelope. I'll get to it later."
"Aren't you even curious who it's from?"
Hermione sighed. She might as well look now as after ten minutes of nagging. That way she'd get back to her reading quicker. She picked up the envelope and turned it over. The address was written in a spiky black scrawl. Her eyes narrowed under a suddenly furrowed brow and her voice was incredulous.
"That's odd. If I didn't know better I'd say it was Professor Snape's handwriting."
"Don't say he's come back from the dead to take off more house points."
For once they wouldn't need a last-minute points infusion by Dumbledore to win the cup. They were comfortably 140 points ahead of Ravenclaw and another 13 over Hufflepuff. Slytherin had lost heart after Snape's death.
"That'd be just his style, wouldn't it?" Ron joked. "Giving detentions from beyond the grave." He drew out the last word in a deep low sing-song that spread the laughter to their neighbours.
Hermione frowned at both of them.
"Honestly, you two! Can't you give him at least a little respect after the way he died?"
He'd been cut down in the first assault against Hogsmeade seven months ago fighting off a dozen Death Eaters in an almost successful attempt to get a mixed group of students to the safety of Honeydukes. The last three students had seen him fall, head split open and blood spurting from his thigh, but his body had never been recovered. Malcolm Baddock had been the only other loss.
"Doesn't change the fact he was the nastiest teacher the school's ever had," Ron sniped.
"Oh, as if you'd know!" Hermione was incensed. "According to 'Hogwarts; a History' he wasn't even in the top ten!"
"Bet that was a major disappointment," Dean smirked to a chorus of sniggers.
"Yeah, he certainly tried hard enough," Ginny agreed.
Hermione humphed and studied the letter more closely. It was certainly for her. The address was "Miss H Granger, after her NEWTs". She turned it over but there were no other markings. Come to think of it, that sounded rather strange. She could almost imagine it had been written some time ago and purposely kept back.
She laid her book face down on her lap to keep the place and applied both hands to tearing open the letter. One quick glance turned her pale and shaking. Her book slid unheeded to the floor as she jumped up from her chair.
"I don't believe this!" she cried, crumpling the letter and throwing it down.
It wafted slowly to the floor to land not quite touching her book. Her fiery glance swept the table.
"Ron, if this is one of your brothers' pranks -" she huffed and dashed her hand across her eyes, "When I find out who thought this up I'll hex their ears to their eyelids!"
There was a momentary silence of incomprehension as she spun on her heel and dashed out of the Hall. Ginny stood up with a patient sigh.
"I told her she was studying too hard," she muttered, ignoring her brother's interjection that they'd all told her that. "Never mind. I'll go after her. She'll want her book back when she calms down."
She bent to pick up the letter, smoothing it and folding it twice before replacing it in its envelope. If she froze curiously still for a moment no one noticed. None saw the widening of disbelieving eyes or the hard gulping of her throat. As she slipped the envelope between two random pages of the book and stood to leave Ron turned to Dean and shrugged.
"Girls!" he said.
A/N Please don't panic.