Hermione finally finished her tale and fell silent, waiting for the Headmaster to respond. As he seemed in no hurry to do so, she took a moment to examine her own condition. Physically, she did feel much better. Between whatever the Nurse had done before she'd woken up and the tonic she'd given her after learning about the Cruciatus...it no longer caused agony to breathe deeply, or move her right arm...and her hearing seemed fine. Although she did still get a bit dizzy if she turned her head too quickly, and she was terribly weary - everything seemed to take five times more effort than normal. All in all, it was only slightly worse than that one year she'd put forth a desperate effort to accomplish something on Sports Day and ended up in the nurse's office for heat exhaustion.
At the time, it had been guilt, she recalled - that, even if they were nice about it (which, typically, they were not), whatever team was saddled with her presence was inevitably dragged down. Hermione frowned, reminded of the dreams she'd had. She couldn't remember all of them - her otherwise splendid memory rarely worked as well on dreams - but they'd been unpleasant enough that certain bits were sticking with her. She suspected they might have played a part in prompting her to finally share everything with Professor Dumbledore.
While she'd had uniformly bad results from bringing infractions of other students to the attention of teachers in previous schools, the Headmaster had made a decent point, that she should try to give the Staff here the benefit of the doubt - her prior experiences could've been the result of individual failings the Hogwarts Professors did not share, or perhaps the cultures were different enough for teachers here to have avoided some systemic problem in non-magical schools. Still, she'd had to force herself not to leave out the bits about Mr. Odious and Tracey Davis - it felt a bit like avoiding responsibility, which was anathema to her. But upon consideration she'd decided her reluctance was 'storybook logic' - a contradiction in terms - heroes in stories tended not to ask for help not generally because it was wise, but because if they did, much more capable people might actually solve the problems for them, and then what would there be for the hero to do?
Whereas it felt abundantly clear to Hermione that someone who actually cared about problems should not care who got the credit, only that they got solved as quickly and efficiently as possible; that conclusion was only reinforced as she felt a weight of responsibility lift when she'd finished relating everything. Just as the Professor had said, her responsibility was to learn. Let experienced adult witches and wizards deal with Dark Lords and Time and even petty blackmail attempts.
Though she still felt she should address Azkaban somehow. Perhaps it was a matter of lack of public awareness - a good proportion of magical society were born to non-magical parents, maybe the details had been glossed over? Or it was just the sort of thing not discussed in polite company? It seemed telling that the details of Dementors' use at Azkaban weren't well documented in the books she'd had access to, that even people who supported the status quo knew on some level it was not something to proudly display. To the point that from her reading Hermione had presumed they were yet another fancy magical title, rather than Dark creatures. Maybe she could distribute a survey on public awareness. Or write a letter to the Daily Prophet...
"Thank you for recounting your rather astounding experiences, Miss Granger - your candor and attention to detail is commendable," the Headmaster finally said, emerging from his quiet contemplation. "I shall have to give these matters a great deal of thought, and further investigation as well." Hermione nodded.
"Is there anything I should do - or not do - in the meantime?" He considered this.
"With respect to Time, I feel you should try to act much as you might have if you'd remained unaware of such magics, or of any of the events revealed to you that may - or may not - yet come to pass. I admit that such things are still poorly understood, and if there are to be...deeper consequences from what has occurred, I hope through my own investigations to glean at least some measure of warning and will act as necessary." The young Ravenclaw frowned at this, but nodded. It wasn't as if there was much alternative. It was against the law to talk about it, after all.
"As for Mr. Nott," he continued, "I am afraid that given the specific details of the situation, he has - technically - not yet broken any school rules. Further, his father is on the Board of Governors, and without firm evidence such an accusation could cause complications." Hermione thought this was a rather narrow reading, but not entirely wrong - she had "given" the notes away, and whoever found them was under no strict obligation to follow her instructions. "Further, for me to act precipitously might actually put you in greater danger, by lending credence to the information in your notes. If he does make an explicit demand - and I assure you that blackmail is against school rules - you should, again, act as you would have if I were not already aware of the situation. Going to your Head of House would not be amiss, for instance. Whereas I will take certain steps to make wider disclosure of the notes exceedingly difficult, regardless of Mr. Nott's intentions." Hermione wondered how he'd manage that - presumably with magic, but the implications were somewhat troubling. Still, she didn't ask for elaboration, as it sounded like he thought it better she did not know. "Whereas if you should happen to notice anything newly concerning about Miss Davis' behavior, please bring it directly to my attention - but for now it is my hope that with any luck, she has avoided difficulties similar to your own.
"There is one last thing that must be discussed. You do not need to make a decision immediately, but it would help if I knew how you wished to proceed before, say, tomorrow evening." Hermione raised an eyebrow. "The, ah, scope of your activities today was somewhat extreme for a student, even by magical standards. As I mentioned, there is a distinct possibility that if your parents become aware of these events, they will attempt to withdraw you from Hogwarts, out of concern for your safety."
"When you say 'if', and 'attempt'..." Hermione began, her brow furrowing. The Headmaster held up a hand.
"I do not mean to say they do not have the right to do so, or imply they would not be successful, at least in the long run. But given your Sorting, I fear that you would not be satisfied to abandon the study of magic indefinitely, whereas parents of muggle-borns who take steps such as these rarely engage private tutors that would allow you to continue to study safely. Such services are both expensive, and still arguably less safe than Hogwarts itself, even considering recent events."
"So...what decision do you mean?" Hermione asked, slowly. Professor Dumbledore paused, clearly choosing his words.
"It is part of Hogwarts standards of educational independence that specific details of events within are...not routinely distributed to parents in a formal manner. Most learn some fraction of what goes on here via their children. You may find it more prudent simply not to inform yours of the full story." All of Hermione's doubts about the Headmaster's judgement came flooding back in a rush.
"Professor Dumbledore...you are telling me to lie to my parents?" The wizard lowered his nose and peered at her over his glasses for a moment.
"I understand your reaction, and given your forthcoming disclosures to me I admit there is an element of hypocrisy in this...but I think you are old enough - and intelligent enough - to recognize that a policy of absolute honesty in every situation is neither wise nor kind. That said, I am not advocating a specific position, I ask only that you weigh the consequences, both to your future education, and to your parents' happiness." He looked sad, and weary, but Hermione's mild outrage was only barely held in check by her sense of decorum.
"Thank you for the advice," she said, primly. "Though I don't think it matters much what I want - I arranged for my parents to receive a subscription to the Daily Prophet, and considering there was a murder, I can't imagine that…" she trailed off as Professor Dumbledore awkwardly dropped his eyes to his folded hands for a moment, and she realized why. "This...isn't going to be in the newspaper. You're going to hush it up," she said, her voice flat.
"Not I, but there are...aspects of this matter which, if they became widely known, would cause a great deal of embarrassment to certain others in powerful positions. Given how few individuals know the full facts of the matter, I strongly suspect they will effectively discourage further distribution of the details, let alone public disclosure. I confess, I would not oppose them in this case, as it will enhance your own safety as well, at least in the short term." Hermione thought that sounded an awful lot like rationalization, since one of the people who would certainly be discredited by the truth coming out was the very wizard speaking to her. How long had Scabbers been at Hogwarts, as a pet of one or another of the Weasleys? But even in the depths of her stress-born cynicism, she couldn't quite bring herself to directly accuse the Headmaster of her school of manipulating the press to serve his own ends. Still, she couldn't say nothing.
"So after everything, people will just go on thinking Madam Pomfrey died from carelessness?"
"Under the circumstances, I do not think she would mind. Despite being appalled at the danger involved, I suspect Poppy would be proud of you for seeking justice on her behalf. But she would be vehemently opposed to anything that would unnecessarily increase your risk after the fact. The health and safety of students was ever her overriding priority, even, I believe, at the expense of a mar to her professional reputation - given the unusual circumstance in which we find ourselves where those concerns are not aligned." Hermione let her head fall back to the pillow.
"I think I need to rest," she said, wearily.
"Of course," agreed the Headmaster, in a kindly tone. "I will do what I can to help you, whatever your decision. Oh, and lest I forget...50 points to Ravenclaw, for quick thinking in the face of mortal danger, and other 'unspecified special services' to Hogwarts." Even if she knew the points might well be objectively deserved, Hermione vaguely loathed herself for the instinctive rush of pleasure she'd felt. She was like Pavlov's dog, a hint of positive attention from a teacher, and her mouth started watering - metaphorically, at any rate...her mouth was actually quite dry.
Hermione considered asking him to take them back, but the sounds and sights of the room returned as Professor Dumbledore quickly undid whatever he'd done to ensure their privacy, then quiet murmurs as he spoke to Madam Wainscott briefly, and departed. It felt like she'd unwillingly accepted a bribe. Having no desire whatsoever to have to talk to anyone else at that moment, when the Nurse approached her bed to check on her, Hermione kept her eyes fixed on the ceiling and her breathing regular.
She had a lot to think about. As cross as her instinctive reaction had been, she couldn't say the Headmaster's analysis of her situation was entirely inaccurate. If she told them what she'd gotten into, her parents were nearly certain to pull her from Hogwarts, and despite the stress and danger of the past week, Hermione agreed that she couldn't give up magic - it was simply too important, too interesting. But based on her family's shopping and casual conversation with housemates, non-magical wealth did seem to translate over favorably, so tutoring probably was within her parents' means. And as far as safety went, when there wasn't an emergency, Hermione was confident of her own ability to draw up protocols that would help...connecting her home to the Floo network for quick access to St. Mungo's, buying an owl to send for help if transport wasn't possible or convenient, making a point to try to learn that 'Expecto Patronum' spell.
So the question was, did Hogwarts offer anything unique, that was worth lying to her parents, even by omission?
Her memory duly delivered up a slideshow. The Libraries, both the main one and the other in Ravenclaw Tower. The view from her dorm at the top of the Tower. Then, faces. Padma, Roger Davies, the rest of her Ravenclaw Housemates, Ronald Weasley, Harry Potter, all her Professors (save Binns)...even, save her, the Weasley Twins, Tracey (for whom she still felt rather sorry) and Morag (who for all her attitude, had done nothing to her that even approached the refined cruelty of her former classmates).
Before coming here, her natural gifts had set her apart, and she'd had little help then from her peers or teachers, and no real friendship at all. They still set her apart here - and the 'Time thing' hadn't helped at all - but somehow in spite of that it felt like she was genuinely starting to connect with people other than her family. She imagined losing all of that just as suddenly as she'd gained it, and then had to quickly calm herself to quiet the sudden chiming of one of Madam Wainscott's monitoring spells.
But surely if she just explained all that to her parents - minus the time travel - they'd see how unlikely and unusual all this had been, understand how important Hogwarts had become to her, and let her stay?
Oh yes, whispered her newly-discovered cynical side, because everyone knows how rationally parents behave in the face of danger - real or imagined - to their children, don't we? An image of her parents crying at her funeral abruptly offset the other faces. But it wasn't just what Hermione wanted...there were very serious problems coming to magical Britain - some of them were already here - and she had actual evidence that, if she applied herself and learned enough, she could make a difference. Emotional reactions aside, she thought what the Headmaster had said was true...they really did need her and people like her - maybe not her right now, but certainly the best version of her she might eventually become. Would she actually become that version, tutored at home in isolation from the rest of the magical world?
Hermione tried to come to terms with a world where what was right was not necessarily the same as what was best, but had made scant progress before deep weariness pulled her eyes closed and sleep took her again.
Though Madam Wainscott released her Saturday morning, Hermione was still not completely recovered, and found for now she had to limit her walking speed lest she become winded. Even accounting for that, her walk from the hospital wing to the Great Hall for breakfast took a little longer than she expected.
"Hermione!" called a voice from behind her, and she paused and turned to see Roger Davies jogging lightly to catch up to her. Hermione hadn't been to her dorm yet, and was thus in the laundered robes she'd once again found on being discharged, but the older Ravenclaw boy was in casual dress - only NEWT Astronomy had classes on weekends, because proper viewing hours were limited, and even those students only wore their school robes for the class itself. Thinking of this reminded her that she'd missed the first Astronomy class, and she immediately made a mental note to find Professor Sinistra and arrange to make it up. "I just heard you were getting out of the hospital wing...how are you?" the boy asked as he arrived, mildly out of breath. Hermione marveled at the efficiency of the school's rumor mill - she hadn't even passed anyone in the halls yet, and as far as she knew only the Healer knew she'd been released.
"As well as I have any right to expect, I'd say," she answered, deprecatingly. "I've gained even more respect for actual Aurors, and lost some for myself…I could've easily been killed - I can't imagine what I was thinking."
"Oh. Well, yes, I suppose," said Roger, sounding a bit awkward, "it was kind of cracked of you to try the whole thing yourself - why didn't you ask anyone for help beyond a couple of first-year Gryffindors? Unless...did they put you up to it?" Hermione shook her head.
"No, they...well, they are Gryffindors, so it wasn't hard to talk them into it, but this was all my idea. All I can really say is that I didn't want to put anyone else in danger, and it seemed like a good idea at the time? It's clear at this point that it wasn't, even if it somehow turned out alright."
"Well, I just wanted to say thank you, for what you did. It means a lot to me to know it wasn't Madam Pomfrey's fault, and that she's going to get justice." Hermione broke eye contact, embarrassed.
"In a general sense, yes. But I've...heard...that all the details might not be in the Daily Prophet…" she admitted, darkly. Roger blinked at this, and frowned slightly, with a little shrug.
"My mother says half the things in the Prophet are 'blatant Ministry propaganda', so I guess it's not all that surprising. It is rather scandalous. But you can be sure that at least at Hogwarts, people will know the truth." Hermione frowned at this casual acceptance of a not-free press. But then, aside from an odd tabloid she hadn't been able to get a copy of yet, there was only one magical newspaper in Britain, which would presumably make it much easier and more tempting for the government to interfere. She saw Roger had noticed her frown, and deliberately changed it to a grateful expression.
"Thank you. It's...the least she deserves." Roger nodded.
"Are you headed to breakfast? I can walk with you if you like..." For a moment, there was something in his body language or his voice that gave Hermione the sudden - and bizarre - sense that the invitation wasn't entirely casual, but she quickly quashed the notion. Don't be silly. He's two years ahead of you, and he's just grateful because he really liked Madam Pomfrey. Her heart, which had begun to race a bit in an uncomfortable mix of excitement and panic, calmed down - though not entirely.
"Thank you, though I'm not entirely recovered yet, so I'll be a bit slow…?" Roger smiled, and shrugged.
When they entered the Great Hall, the food was already out and breakfast well under way, but there was still a lull in conversation followed by a round of scattered applause - mostly from the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor tables, with a smattering of Hufflepuffs as well. But it was by no means unanimous even there, by far most of those cheering her were from the earlier years. Though Morag's face looked like she was chewing rocks. Hermione felt distinctly uncomfortable, which Roger quickly noticed and he tried to wave down the clapping with minimal success.
"They saw the hourglasses," he said, apologetically. Hermione nodded - he meant the enchanted hourglasses filled with colored gems that displayed gains or losses of house points, and which must've registered her 50-point windfall from the Headmaster - apparently there'd been a lot of assumptions about the cause. Since it was only the end of the first week, she'd more than tripled Ravenclaw's total, putting them rather unfairly far into the lead.
Hermione made her way to the Ravenclaw table and Roger, after a moment of hesitation, nodded to her then moved further up to where most of the third-years were sitting. Hermione took her own seat.
"Good morning," she offered, with deliberate casualness, selecting a croissant for herself and pouring some orange juice. Morag sniffed sharply.
"You must be well enough, since they let you out of the hospital wing," began Padma, with a brief dark glance at Morag, "but are you...I mean...okay?" Hermione nodded. She looked around at the faces at the table, most of which looked desperate for information, but whose owners, by some common agreement or reluctance, weren't yet peppering her with other questions. Her gaze lingered on Morag, who was pointedly not looking at her, and Hermione's gut tightened a bit. But she took a couple of deliberate breaths - she'd anticipated this, and had decided to do something unexpected, if embarrassing.
"I'm extremely lucky. I did something very foolish, and by all rights I should probably be dead." A collection of surprised expressions greeted this declaration. Even Morag was looking at her now, though a bit suspiciously.
"Er…did you blow yourself up with deenay?" asked Stephen Cornfoot, hesitantly.
"I already told you that DNA doesn't explode," Kevin complained, rolling his eyes.
"Well we don't know, do we? If she made some discovery in Transfiguration, maybe she discovered something muggles don't know about D-N-A too," shot back Stephen, taking extra care to enunciate the letters this time. Hermione blinked at this. She'd been so absorbed in trying to learn everything she could about magic, it hadn't occurred to her that magic might make new science possible as well. She made a mental note to add that to her list as soon as she was done with breakfast.
"As far as I know," Hermione explained patiently, "DNA does not explode. Nor can it actually be distinguished or tracked by smell with a Supersensory Charm - though I haven't actually tested that. All the DNA talk was a trap...I was hoping, if there was a murderer and he thought he might be discovered, he'd try to cover his tracks more and make a mistake." Morag narrowed her eyes.
"Yes, that does sound stupid," she agreed. "Obviously if he thought ye were the aenly person who could find him, a murderer would just kill ye as well." Hermione clenched her teeth for a moment and stilled her face.
"I did take some precautions, but I admit, they were mostly inadequate. I should've tried harder to convince a Professor, even with that 'hex'."
"Wait, was that the murderer too? He found out you were on to him and was trying to discredit you!" breathed Padma. Hermione hesitated, then shrugged.
"I...like I said before, I don't actually remember being hexed, but that...would be a reasonable conclusion," she responded, choosing her words carefully.
"So...who was he, and why did he kill Madam Pomfrey?" asked Su Li. Hermione started to answer, then stopped. She wasn't sure if Ronald even knew the truth about his pet yet, or what Professor Dumbledore intended to reveal. It would certainly be as much an embarrassment to the boy and his family as to the Headmaster, that they'd been unwittingly harboring a violent criminal for years. Hermione settled for an edited version.
"His name was Peter Pettigrew, and I gather he was a criminal of some sort. I think Madam Pomfrey discovered he'd been hiding in Hogwarts - somehow - and he killed her to keep his secret. But I don't know all the details, and I believe the matter is still under investigation, so I probably shouldn't say anything else until I know I'm allowed to." Everyone nodded, albeit with varying degrees of disappointment. Morag peered at her.
"So...if ye were an idiot, what were the paents for then, and fifty, nae less?" Hermione shook her head.
"'Special services to the school', and 'quick thinking in the face of mortal peril'," she quoted, embarrassed. "It did work out in the end, so maybe the first part is deserved, but honestly it doesn't feel like it." Particularly since she had caused the whole problem in the first place, one way or another.
"On that, we can agree," Morag said, with an air of dour satisfaction.
"Look, Morag," Hermione snapped, "I don't know what I've done to offend you, but with everything that's happened, it's possible my parents will pull me out of school, and until then, I was hoping to at least pretend like I actually had friends for once, is that too much…too much to..." She felt her throat tighten and her face grow hot and closed her eyes to count powers of 7 for a moment. I won't cry, someone tried to kill me yesterday, Morag belittling me shouldn't even register on a properly calibrated scale of distress, just relax, it doesn't matter.
"Yeah, maybe give it a rest, Morag?" agreed Padma. Hermione opened her eyes in surprise - it was the first time anyone had publicly challenged the Scottish girl. Morag seemed just as shocked as Hermione, and from her expression, Padma was almost as surprised herself, along with most of the other first-years at the table. Hermione's tormentor said nothing, and focused on her own breakfast. Whereas Hermione mouthed 'thank you' silently to Padma, and received a nod in exchange.
"So, what was the first Astronomy class like?" asked Hermione to the table at large, once she was sure her voice would be steady. "I'm quite upset that I missed it." Her house-mates began a scattered review of what the midnight class had entailed, and while Hermione listened intently, she also wondered if maybe she didn't have to pretend that she had friends.
After breakfast, Hermione dutifully updated her list, got a copy of Padma's Astronomy notes, then met with Professor Sinistra to arrange a make-up class. The Professor suggested that the notes were probably adequate since they hadn't done much practical work, and had just gone over the syllabus and familiarized everyone with basic terminology and the operation of their telescopes, but Hermione insisted, and the Professor wrote her a note with permission to attend the open NEWT Astronomy session at midnight. The NEWT students were largely self-supervised, and the Professor was only present to clarify specific details or questions, so she should have sufficient free time to review the first first-year class for Hermione.
That took long enough that she'd have to hurry to make her first scheduled appointment with Professor McGonagall for her science tutoring. But as seemed to happen more than half the time she was in a rush to get somewhere, she was interrupted on the way. On this occasion, by Theodore (Mr. Odious) Nott. The grin he wore was probably calculated to seem predatory, and under other circumstances Hermione likely would have found it a bit frightening. But despite a few misgivings, she apparently did trust the Headmaster, and thus discovered herself facing him with a calm, unworried expression. The Slytherin boy apparently noticed the discrepancy, as his grin vanished, but he persisted nonetheless.
"Miss Granger," he greeted her, and a hint of his grin returned.
"Mr. Nott," she responded, tonelessly. "I have an appointment, so please make this quick?" His expression said he was skeptical, but he chose not to comment on it. Instead, he held out the small sheaf of papers. The dual-fold marks and Hermione's handwriting identified them as her notes.
"It seemed you did want these back, so in the interests of inter-House friendship and cooperation, I'm returning them to you," he said. Hermione stared for a moment. This was not what she'd expected at all. His smile broadened as she accepted the notes, and quickly flipped through them to ensure all the pages were present.
"Thank you?" she said, uncertainly. Maybe he'd decided that goodwill was more valuable than blackmail? Hermione reminded herself that just because he was a Slytherin didn't mean he was forced to be awful-
"And I've made sure to tell all the people I gave extra copies to for safe-keeping, as you suggested, to destroy them without reading them, of course." Hermione would have truly liked to discover that the boy actually had a conscience, but something about his delivery again made her think he wished he had a moustache to twirl.
"I...appreciate that very much," she said, slowly. Theodore nodded.
"So, since we're such good friends, I was wondering...I'm very curious about what actually happened to you last night...would you be willing to share every little detail with me?"
"I can tell you a few things, but there's an ongoing investigation...I wouldn't want to get into trouble with the Aurors." He frowned darkly at the mention of Aurors, and shook his head.
"Fine, fine," he said, waving a hand. "Forget I asked. But there is one other thing...Transfiguration is one of my favorite classes. I know McGonagall didn't want you to share your...insights with anyone, but I would consider it a personal favor if you explained them to me. In strictest confidence, of course, purely as an academic exercise. Surely as a Ravenclaw, you know how irresistible the lure of knowledge can be?" Hermione remained confused. Had he simply changed his mind and instead was trying to nice-mail her?
"But as you said, the Professor told me not to. I don't want to get into trouble, and besides, it really could be dangerous." At the word 'dangerous', the boy's eyes lit up, and Hermione instantly regretted having said even that much. He shook his head in theatrical dismay, making sad 'tsk' noises. Hermione waited, her heart sinking.
"Well, some of the people I gave those copies of the notes to...they're not really as conscientious as you and I are. They might not have gotten around to destroying them yet. And while I would never dream of telling them to do such a thing, if they somehow deduced from my sadness that we haven't become as good friends as I expected, well, they're not overly fond of mudbloods, they might do something rash." He paused, and his grin was back in full force. "Wouldn't it be simpler if we were good friends?"
Hermione skipped right over the unfamiliar word he'd used - she presumed it was a pejorative that applied to her somehow - and just reviewed what he'd said. He'd vaguely admitted in the original conversation that he was going to blackmail her, but now he wasn't saying anything right out, just implying. He could claim he was just joking before, and it'd be hard to prove otherwise. If Hermione had been a Professor hearing that, she would have judged the case on its obvious merits, but the Headmaster's talk about Mr. Odious not having technically violated any school rules made her wonder. But even then, she still trusted Professor Dumbledore's assertion that he would somehow make sure the notes weren't actually distributed.
"It probably would be. I'm not used to friends yet, but it certainly seems like it's better to have them than not. Unfortunately, unless you give up trying to blackmail me, I don't see how we can be friends," she said, pointedly. His grin wavered.
"Who is trying to blackmail you? I'm just trying to be friends and letting you know what the situation is...I can't help it if you're twisting everything to look bad."
"You admitted it yourself, the first time you showed me the notes!" The boy waved a finger.
"Ah, ah...I think if you recall that conversation, you'll find the word did not come up - you just asked me what I wanted." Hermione thought back, and was startled to find he was right...but at the same time, the conversation had still not been entirely innocent.
"You said 'leverage'," Hermione noted. Theodore shrugged.
"Friendship is a kind of leverage, especially in Slytherin. Nothing nefarious about that." She slumped. If she hadn't had the Headmaster's protection, she would've lost this encounter. She and Padma hadn't had time to find any counter-blackmail on him, and with lives genuinely in the balance, Harry's, hers, her family's...she'd have no choice but to give in. But did she really have a choice now? Was she that confident in Professor Dumbledore's abilities that she could risk it? Wouldn't it still cause complications with Nott's father, since the evidence was all subjective? He didn't even have a copy of the notes anymore, and even if the school managed to confiscate all the other copies, they couldn't produce them as evidence, because what was in them couldn't be revealed…
"I...can I have some time to think about it?" Mr. Odious' grin was broad, as he relished his apparent victory.
"Of course, Miss Granger. I'd never dream of pressuring you. Though I had hoped to hear about it before our next Transfiguration class Monday afternoon. If I didn't before then, or if something unpleasant happened to me, who knows what conclusions my friends might draw?"
"You're vile," Hermione declared, and he winked at her.
"Since we're becoming friends, I'll take that as I would from a fellow Slytherin - as a compliment - and just say thank you. Hope to speak to you again soon, but for now I won't keep you any longer." He sketched a deep bow, flinging one arm wide, and passed by her, a spring in his step.
She resumed her path towards Professor McGonagall's office with considerably less positive feelings about Hogwarts than she'd had earlier. Maybe being pulled out of school wouldn't be all bad. It solidified a vague idea she'd had to put that responsibility where it belonged, and she drafted a letter in her head as she hurried through the corridors.
Dear Mum and Dad,
It's only been a few days since my last letter, but since I didn't get a reply, I'm assuming the owl wouldn't wait for one? I will try to arrange for something more reliable for non-magical people. Anyway, I've been very busy since then. I don't think it will go well if I try to explain in a letter, but you should expect to receive one from Deputy Headmistress McGonagall or Head of Ravenclaw Flitwick, or even a personal visit. I'm not in trouble or anything, but...what happened was pretty serious.
I hope we'll find a way for you to talk to me before you make any major decisions. Despite everything, there are a lot of positive things about Hogwarts, not the least of which is that I have friends here, and even if things are complicated, I think I still would prefer to stay. But I know whatever happens that you only want to do what's best for me.
A/N: (edit) Thanks to /u/chevron for some punctuation clarity, and /u/HermioneGPEV for catching a couple doubled-word typos and some confusing wording!