Hermione's Second year
I heard about the question you asked Binns, regarding the Chamber of Secrets. You might find this book more useful than Hogwarts: A History, or Binn's abbreviated lecture. This tells a bit more about Slytherin's motivations. He wasn't evil, just cautious, even if some of his descendants insist on misinterpreting him. It was a different world then.
There was nothing else, just the note without a signature. The book in question had been tucked away in Hermione's favourite study desk in the library, which suggested whoever had left it there knew her routines, and that was just a bit . . . disturbing. Leaving the note to hold the place, she opened the book to the title page: Myths, Legends and Ghosts: the hidden history of Hogwarts, by Margaret Infidea.
Huh. She frowned. What did she need with myths and legends? A monster was loose in the castle under the command of the "Heir of Slytherin," whether Draco Malfoy or someone else. That wasn't a myth. But she opened the book to the page the note had marked:
Pre-Inquisition Persecutions and the Legend of The Chamber of Secrets
And as much as it bothered her to think about it, Hermione had to admit his fear was not unfounded -- 1000 years ago, the medieval world had been facing the millennium, fearing the End of Time and the Apocalypse. Persecutions had heated up against Jews and gypsies and anybody different. It couldn't have been a comfortable time to have been a witch. Then, people had believed in magic. Now, they didn't, and so they tended to dismiss what was right under their noses. But it would have taken only one Muggleborn, Church-raised student, fearing for his or her immortal soul, to betray them all.
In any case, whatever monster Slytherin had hidden in his chamber, it had been deemed terrible enough to defeat an entire attacking Muggle army -- according to this book, its original purpose -- which suggested it was not only magic, but quite, quite deadly.
She closed the book with a lot more to think about. Whatever use the 'heir of Slytherin' was making of the monster, perhaps Salazar himself hadn't been as much of a 'twisted old loony' as Ron had named him. The founders had all been living in a different world and time, and had prepared accordingly.
Hermione didn't share her new knowledge with Harry and Ron. For one thing, she didn't think the boys would appreciate a less condemnatory view on the Founder of Slytherin House. For another, whatever Salazar had feared and intended -- and however reasonable in that age -- his descendant clearly harboured an irrational hatred of Muggleborns based on prejudiced notions of blood purity. She wouldn't be surprised if it was Malfoy. So she continued brewing her Polyjuice Potion, but turned her mind to the puzzle of what sort of monster fit the few clues they'd been given -- and was powerful enough to stop an entire medieval Muggle army.
She didn't give much thought to whoever had left her the note until after Colin Creevey was petrified and a second one appeared tucked in a corner pocket of her book bag:
Please be careful. You spend too much time alone in the library. Know that somebody's keeping an eye on you. Also know that not every pureblood thinks Muggleborns don't belong here.
It was written in the same hand as the first note. She blinked at it, then shoved it into a pocket of her robes before Ron or Harry asked her about it. She wondered who on earth was leaving the notes, and why he or she didn't just come out and tell her these things. Maybe it was Neville? He was odd and shy like that, but when she questioned him, he denied all knowledge, and while he might have been lying, Hermione didn't think him good enough to pull off such frank confusion..
Between the marked article that clarified Slytherin's original intentions and the comment about purebloods, Hermione began to wonder if it might be somebody in Slytherin House. And that, in turn, made her all the more determined not to tell Harry or Ron.
But she felt a little better, to think that somebody might be watching her back. Or she felt better until Justin Finch-Fletchley and Nearly Headless Nick ended up petrified as well. She wondered if she'd receive another note, and sure enough, the very next day she found one in her book bag again -- and wondered how this person managed to slip them there, but in the busy halls between classes, people did jostle up against her. This time the note said only:
I know he's your friend, but Hermione, please beware of Potter. Avoid being alone with him. He set that snake on Justin and now Justin's in hospital.
That annoyed her. On the one hand, she could hardly blame the person. It seemed that most of the school believed Harry had something to do with the attacks, but Harry was her friend, and she knew him innocent.
And now, she definitely wasn't going to show the notes to Harry and Ron.
She received no more messages from her secret correspondent until after the disastrous (for her) Polyjuice episode. She'd never been so humiliated in her life and wasn't especially happy to find a note tucked into her bags that read:
Glad you're out of hospital devoid of pointed ears and a tail. I heard you've been asking about a T.M. Riddle. Check the list of old Head Boys.
As it turned out, the hint told her nothing she, Harry and Ron hadn't already discovered, but it cheered her to know that her mystery correspondent was still keeping enough of an eye on her to overhear what she was asking about.
That was the last note she received before being petrified herself.
When she woke at the end of term, among the gifts and well-wishes by her bed, she found a little bag that contained two new quills and some especially fine parchment -- no candy -- and a note scrawled on the top page:
So much for watching your back. I feel awful. Of all the days for you to be wandering in the library alone, that one I had a commitment I couldn't escape without letting down a lot of people. In any case, I can't tell you how relieved I am that you'll be all right, or that's what I've been told. I considered getting you sweets, but you seemed to have quite enough of those, so I bought you something in Hogsmeade that I think you might like better. Have a good summer. I'll see you next autumn.
-- A friend
P.S. I'm sorry I doubted Harry, but at the time, he did seem the most likely culprit.
Smiling, she refolded the note and added it to the short stack she'd hidden away in her trunk. He (and she was fairly certain it was a he, although she couldn't be exactly sure why) was right; she preferred the parchment and quills. But she really wished he'd signed his name. She knew only that he was at least a third year to have been able to visit Hogsmeade, apparently read as many obscure books as she did, was a pureblood, and might be in Slytherin.
And that he had nice handwriting.
Hermione's Third Year:
Hermione didn't hear from her mystery correspondent immediately upon her return to Hogwarts, and feared that perhaps he'd lost interest in her over the summer. A full month of school went by before she found a note in the familiar, elegant handwriting:
I know what you have from McGonagall. Don't fool yourself. It doesn't actually add more hours to the day. Your body is still awake all that time and you're going to be much more tired. Be sure to eat well; food makes up for sleep. And do sleep. If you make more hours for studying, you'll be that much more tired.
It's not a good plan.
She snorted. Who did he think he was, lecturing her on what she should and shouldn't do? But at least he'd been paying more attention than Ron or Harry -- although just how much attention worried her. She really, really wished she knew who he was, so she could give him a piece of her mind. For several days, she pondered how to leave a note for him in turn, and finally decided to try leaving it at her library study desk. If he really was watching her, perhaps he would find it there.
First, I know exactly what I'm doing. Professor McGonagall forewarned me of all the dangers, thank you. Second, I can take care of myself. Third, if you were really so worried about me, why persist in these silly anonymous notes? Come and talk to me.
She left the folded up bit of parchment on the desk with 'Mr Anonymous' written on the outside. Then she hid behind a stack and waited to see who went to pick it up. If anyone.
All afternoon and even into the dinner hour. No one came. Finally giving up -- hungry -- she went down to the Great Hall to eat, then hurried back to the library.
The desk was empty.
Frustrated, she tore her hair and stalked out, back to Gryffindor Tower.
The next day, a note appeared in her book bag:
Dear Bossy -- McGonagall warned me about it too. I still caught a terrible flu the winter of my third year because I didn't eat enough nor get enough sleep. So I know the wherefore of which I speak. As for my anonymity, suffice to say that it's better this way.
So. Whoever it was had been as concerned about his education as she was, although perhaps that shouldn't surprise her. When McGonagall had first given her the Time-Turner, she'd implied that Hermione wasn't the first student who'd been granted that privilege. And even if her mystery correspondent was an annoying git for lecturing her, she couldn't help but approve of his scholarly diligence, and wondered if perhaps he were in Ravenclaw instead of Slytherin. That evening at supper, she studied the faces of the Ravenclaw boys a year or two above her, but none of them looked her way.
Extra homework as well as the threat of Sirius Black preoccupied her autumn. First Black broke into the castle, then Harry fell off his broom during the game against Hufflepuff. Hermione was leaving the ward with Ron when they nearly ran down a startled Cedric Diggory on the way in. Ron muttered something nasty under his breath and red-faced, Diggory opened his mouth to reply, but Hermione grabbed Ron by the arm and propelled him out and down the stairs. The older boy had looked miserable enough. Hermione force-marched Ron all the way back to Gryffindor Tower, where they found a worried Percy Weasley waiting on them. For all he could be a self-important prat, he really did seem concerned about Harry's well-being, and patted both she and Ron on the back, then asked questions. Hermione didn't think him so bad. He was a good student, conscientious.
Later that same day, she found a third note tucked into her robe pocket.
As you're a friend of Harry's, I don't think I need to tell you to take care, with Black on the loose and dementors everywhere. And remember what I said about eating and sleeping
She pursed her lips, but that evening at dinner, she watched Percy from beneath her eyelashes. A time or two, she caught him glancing her way. In fact, at one point, he pointed his fork at her plate and said, "Eat up, Granger."
Which convinced her that her suspicions were right.
Her mystery correspondent was none other than Percy Weasley. It all made sense. Percy was in her house, knew her somewhat well from her time at the Burrow, was a good enough student to frequent the library and conscientious enough that he might have borrowed a Time-Turner too -- not to mention, she'd been talking to him earlier that same day. Yes, it all fit together perfectly.
So she bought some parchment and two quills on the next Hogsmeade weekend and late that Saturday night when Ron and Harry were otherwise occupied, she handed them to him with a note scrawled on the top piece:
I'm returning the favour. You knew exactly what I'd like. But you don't need to be coy any longer.
The next day before breakfast, Percy pulled her aside to ask what on earth that note had meant. His face was such an earnest puzzle that she doubted he was lying, just as Neville hadn't been the year before. Annoyed and frustrated, she decided she'd catch her mystery correspondent if it was the last thing she did, and she began to leave notes of her own at the desk in the library. She assured him she was eating. She asked what he thought of Sirius Black, and Professor Lupin.
Lupin is the best Dark Arts teacher we've had since I started.
She replied: What year did you start?
And he answered: Ah, ah -- that would be telling, Miss Nosey.
She wrote: I thought I was Miss Bossy? And I know you're at least a year ahead of me. And in either Slytherin or Ravenclaw. Have you noticed anything . . . odd about Professor Lupin?
It took a few days for a reply to return and she feared that perhaps her telling him how much she did know had scared him off. But then he answered: I've noticed that he tends to miss classes around the time of the full moon. And you are bossy. You're also rather clever. Are you thinking what I'm thinking about Lupin?
She took his remark that she was clever to be a tacit confirmation of her guesses. She wrote back: I don't know what you're thinking, but if it has to do with lycanthropy, then perhaps it's the same thing I'm thinking. He's still a good teacher.
He replied: Not everybody is what they seem. St Augustine once wrote, 'They cannot lay their ears to my heart, but it is in my heart that I am who I am.'
So you're a church scholar now?, she answered.
No, he replied, I just always liked that quote. The surface doesn't tell us much, does it? Maybe that's why I prefer to remain anonymous. If you knew what I looked like, it might get in the way.
After that, Hermione studied the faces of the less than attractive boys, wondering who he could be? She wrote: What makes you think I'd care what you looked like? That's rather insulting, you know. After all, I'm the girl with the frizzy hair and buck teeth.
He replied: Let's just say that I'm projecting your reaction based on previous experience. And I like your hair. It's not frizzy, it's curly.
Their correspondence continued thus to the end of that year, and she learned a great deal about her Mystery correspondent but was not really any closer to uncovering his identity. He told her about his earliest memory (diving headfirst into a big bucket of strawberries when he'd been perhaps 3 and winding up covered with juice), his favourite Christmas present ever (his first racing broom), and the old black lab who'd played babysitter to him until too decrepit to move, and how he'd cried for three days when the dog had died. He liked peanut butter fudge, the colour green and dandelions (Why do people call them weeds?). Hermione told him things too, things she'd never told even Harry or Ron.
The last week of the school year, she left him a last note: Please just tell me who you are! You can't really think that after everything, I'd still judge you harshly if I knew your name? You're my friend. But maybe it's you who's ashamed of me? Maybe it's you who doesn't want to admit to knowing me? Can't a pureblood Slytherin be friends with a mudblood Gryffindor?
She didn't receive an answer at all to that.
Hermione's Fourth Year:
In fact, she didn't receive another note from him until almost halfway through the next year. She tried leaving a few on her study desk, but they went unclaimed. Whatever she'd said, she must have pushed too hard. Either that or he'd left school, but if the latter, why hadn't he forewarned her? She looked more closely at all the older boys -- in Slytherin, in Ravenclaw . . . And she began to question some of her own assumptions. What if he wasn't older than her at all? What if he'd been right under her nose the whole time in her own year and he'd had somebody buy the quills and parchment for him?
It couldn't be Crabbe or Goyle or -- heaven forbid -- Draco. But what about Blaise Zabini? She didn't know very much about him, but he did seem to spend a lot of time in the library. Once, she tried asking him a question, but he only looked at her as if she were a peculiar bug that had crawled out from under a rock.
She could feel eyes on her, and thought he might still be out there watching her. Or she thought it was him until she realised the eyes belonged to Viktor Krum, of all people. But at least he wasn't hiding behind anonymous notes. He was kind and quiet and spoke to her as if she were an equal; she liked that. But she tried -- one last time -- to contact her mystery correspondent.
Where are you? I miss you.
She left it on her study table.
The next day, she found a reply tucked into her book bag, as before. The familiar sight of his handwriting sent off low bursts in her tummy.
I was angry with you. I told you not to assume things, but you did anyway. And you wondered why I haven't told you who I am.
The excitement turned to shrinking embarrassment. She wrote back: I can't help but wonder, and guess, and try to sort you out. I like mysteries, and I don't. I wish you'd just tell me. Do you have a date to the Yule Ball? I'd go with you, if you asked.
Later that same day, Viktor approached her in the library and -- with charming shyness -- asked her to attend the ball with him, and what could she say but 'Yes'? She couldn't hurt his feelings waiting on somebody who'd been playing hide and seek for two and a half years.
She found a note in her bag the next day: I hear somebody beat me to the invitation.
She wondered how he'd known? There had been hardly anybody in the library when Viktor had asked her, just his friends from Durmstrang and some third year Hufflepuff boys -- and she knew very well it couldn't be one of them.
At least ask me for a dance, she wrote.
Maybe, he replied.
But he didn't ask. She only danced once each with the other male champions, Harry and Cedric, because it was expected.
But they returned to writing after that. And if they never called their odd correspondence anything but friendship, the exchange about the ball told her that she wasn't the only one who thought it might have become more. Maybe, for him, it had been more all along. He'd obviously been watching her before ever leaving a note, but she'd been over nearly every older boy it could possibly be and even those in her own year, and still came up blank. Obviously he was right, and people weren't what they seemed.
So she gave up trying to guess. She just wrote to him. And he wrote back. Their letters grew longer and longer until they were writing pages, not notes. It was near the end of the year, not long before the final task that she finally mustered up the courage to write: If I said that I think I love you, would you tell me who you are? I've stopped trying to guess. I have no idea. There, I said it. I've no idea at all.
With trembling fingers, she left that letter and hurried out of the library before she changed her mind and went back to fetch it.
She had an answer the next morning.
Do you only think you love me, or do you know? I'd prefer not to be just a possibility.
She left her answer in large, glowing words on the desk in the library:
His reply came on the morning of the last task when she was (futilely) trying to get breakfast into Harry: Meet me tonight after all the hoopla in the prefects bath. I dare say you know the password.
Hermione blinked at that note a long time. He knew she knew the password? And he was a prefect? But that meant . . . It couldn't be --
Her head whipped around, but not towards the Slytherin table, or Ravenclaw.
No, she turned to look at Hufflepuff and the other Hogwarts Champion.
He was watching her, face serious, and nodded once, faintly. 'I know too,' he mouthed across the distance, smiling a bit shyly, then he turned away.
She didn't see him again until that evening when he arrived in the arena to enter the maze with Harry. And if she shouted Harry's name, it was a stack of Cedric's letters that she clutched to her heart under her robes.
And when, some hours later, Harry returned with the body of Cedric Diggory in his grasp, she dropped those same letters all over the steps of the stands in shock. They were trampled by stampeding students racing to see the horror of a dead boy lying on the grass.
She didn't want to see. She'd missed seeing him for three years. Just as he'd warned, she'd seen only the surface, the handsome face, the popularity, the house colours -- and it had never crossed her mind that a Hufflepuff and a Quidditch captain had been the studious, observant boy behind the letters. She'd never said a word to him beyond brief passing greetings and a thank you for the dance at the ball.
He had danced with her after all.
She put a hand over her mouth, torn between laughing in sick amusement or shrieking in grief.
Gathering his letters finally, she sat in the stands and watched the milling anthill of people in the arena crying out and bewailing the loss of Cedric Diggory, Hogwarts Champion and golden boy of Hufflepuff. Hermione wept too, for the shy but kind young man she'd loved by parchment.
Notes: Many thanks to Naomi and Muridae-X for editing and brit-picking.