Disclaimer: I own nothing.

A/N: This was being written for a challenge, but since a) it has vanished into thin air and b) I can't remember what I originally signed up for, this is the result. It's AU, and we can say it's set in seventh year.


she finished at last and deftly flipped the parchment into thirds, creasing it with a couple of flicks of her wrist. She scrabbled for her wand among her books and drew it out from the depths of her bag. "Ceras!" she murmured, and crimson wax flowed from the tip of her wand onto the letter. Hermione tapped her wand on the seal, and an elaborate H appeared embossed in gold.

Waving the letter around to dry the wax, Hermione scanned the common room, but could locate neither Harry nor Hedwig, her real quarry. The Owlery it was, then.

It wasn't a long walk to the Owlery from Gryffindor Tower, but it took Hermione an hour because she had to stop and talk to a portrait of Alys Rheinbolg, the first female professor at Hogwarts. Professor Rheinbolg was a silver-haired old maid who was still a Ravenclaw at heart. She was fond of Hermione and missed her terribly over the summer holidays. Usually, Hermione loved conversing with her, but today she impatiently turned the letter in her hands for the entirety of their conversation. The Headmistress took the hint and waved Hermione on, though not before she extracted a promise of a long chat some free afternoon.

It was the second day of term, so there was no possibility of encountering anyone else in the Owlery. Most students never thought of their parents till November. Hermione was unusual in that she wrote her parents daily for the first week, and twice weekly thereafter. They said they were merely fascinated by the ins and outs of wizarding school, but Hermione knew they worried. She would have fretted, too, if she'd been sending her daughter off to a boarding school she had never seen-could never see. She humored them, taking pains to emphasize the positive aspects of her time at Hogwarts.

The Owlery door was locked, but Hermione ran her wand down the wall beside it, and the stone shivered. The door swung open.

The private owls gazed imperiously down their beaks at her as she walked past them, her feet tapping on the stone floor. Amber eyes all round her made her hurry to fish two Knuts from her purse. "There'll be a mouse at the other end, if you'll take it," she announced to the attentive parliament, and there was a great rustling of wings. Hermione had often wondered how they decided which fortunate bird got to take the letter and the mouse. Were they like cabbies, who rotated? Hermione grinned. Did they have a pecking order?

However the conflict was resolved, a massive grey owl hooted softly and flapped down to her shoulder level. He wasn't wearing a Hogwarts collar, which meant his owner was lending him to the school as a delivery owl, but the birds and their owners went through a vetting process (the former for physical fitness, the latter for purity of motives), and Hermione didn't hesitate to put her correspondence in the bird's claws. She put her money into a pouch round his stout neck and proffered the letter. He took it immediately and took off, taking her by surprise. A second later, he was gone. Soon enough, her mother would know that all was well, even if Professor Snape was the most frightening DADA teacher she'd ever had, and Ron still wouldn't do his homework.

Groffeltimber found his destination easily. He had never been in the neighborhood before, but the house screamed of the same simplicity and practicality he saw in the letter's address (Drs Granger (Mum and Dad)).

The owl settled on the kitchen window ledge, which was handily broad, and tapped until he was noticed by a tall, slender woman with laugh lines around her expressive brown eyes. She stretched cautious fingers to receive the letter, but Groffeltimber found her obvious unease irritating and simply dropped the missive on the kitchen counter. Dr. Granger grinned sheepishly at his annoyance. She had never been sure how much the animals of the magical world understood, but they certainly treated her like she was enough of a fool.

Dr. Granger fished a live mouse out of the tank she kept at one end of her otherwise rodent-free kitchen. Oblivious to the icy claws of fate descending upon it, the animal sat placidly in Lynn Granger's hand as she held it out to the messenger. There was a snap, a crack, and a sudden silence. When Dr. Granger, an animal lover, opened her eyes again and went to wash the disturbing flecks of blood from her hands, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing.

The odd, confused feeling lasted only a moment before Lynn's sharp eyes lighted on her kitchen table. She had put her own letter there. Well, more an epistolary diary. She had never meant to send it.

There was something bothering the faithful owl as he winged his way back towards the castle. The letter had not been sealed, and it bore no name. Owls are not, as a rule, fond of the return-to-sender policy. It implied error on somebody's part, and from there it was a short flight to hexing the messenger. And he couldn't be sure it was intended for the curly-haired girl. Better to deliver the letter to Master, and let him deal with it. After all, Groffeltimber could hardly be blamed for delivering to his owner.

Thus it was that, bright and early the next morning, when the owls made their daily delivery drop in the Great Hall, Groffeltimber bypassed his new acquaintance and soared in an arc around his master. When the perfect time came, the owl let his letter go, and it sailed gently through the air into Master's lap. It was out of his jurisdiction now, and Groffeltimber glided away.

Draco Malfoy raised an eyebrow at the half-open piece of material on his robe. He had never seen anything quite like it. Much lighter than parchment, it had faint, perpendicular blue and red lines on it, and one side had holes at regular intervals. It was not sealed, merely folded into careful quarters. No one Draco knew would send such a letter. Still, Groffeltimber had delivered it to him, so it was his now.

He picked it up with some caution. Nothing singed his fingers, so he used one bony digit to unfold the document.

Dear Hermione...

Pansy was saying something at his elbow, trying to read over his shoulder. He waved her away impatiently and gave his full and undivided attention to the letter.

Dear Hermione,
The first time I watched you get on the Hogwarts Express, I was so scared I could barely breathe. Your father had to stop me from going after you. Then time passed, and even though I heard a lot about trolls, I also heard a lot about new friends. Your letters sounded happier than you ever spoke at home, and the things you said you could do were amazing. I was still scared, but I was proud, too.

Draco's mother had felt the same way.

Now every time you come home, you talk around things. You thought I didn't notice the laceration scar on your wrist, or the burn scar on your neck. They were so small, after all, but I suppose magical healing is far more advanced than ours.I wasn't really worried about it until I asked you how I'd gotten them. You stuttered a bit before you told me about your Potions accident. You'd never lied to me before and you were terrible at it.

I go to church now, every Sunday. I've never been religious, you know that, but I pray a lot. After all, it can't hurt. You won't tell me what's going on, so I can't help in any other way, but then I doubt I could even if you were open with me. I can't kiss this and make it all better.

The thing I fear most is not that you'll do something stupid; it's that you'll do something brave. I know how important your friends are to you, and from the little you've explained, you're pretty mixed up in everything Harry's doing. I just don't want to find out that you took a blow for Ron, or anything of the sort.

The worst part is that I can't tell you any of this, because I know how selfish you'd find it, how small-minded, when your world is at stake. All I can do is tell you here: I know you won't be careful for your sake, because you are your parents' daughter. But if you won't take care for your sake, take care for mine. Stay safe, Hermione. Please be safe.



Lynn was in her kitchen again a week after she'd gotten Hermione's letter. She had come home from work early, weighed down with an unbearable weariness. The solitude of her house was so lonely it hurt, but it was calming, too. If she couldn't have her daughter with her, the facsimile of companionship was just an irritation.

There was a sudden thump, and Lynn turned sharply. The same Dr. Granger took it with trembling hands. The seal was of silver wax, which she cut with a butcher knife. A fleck of tomato transferred onto the high-quality parchment, but she left it and opened the letter. It wasn't in Hermione's hand.

She will be safe.

A/N: Reviews would mean the world to me. Should I end it here or write a follow-up chapter?