She never expected to get a reply. Not an intelligent one, at least.
In fact, Hermione never even expected that anyone would find her little notes within that year, let alone that century. Hogwart's library was vast, the towers crammed full of nearly ancient texts and information. There had to be thousands upon thousands of books in that room - and yet someone had picked up the very book she'd planted her first letter in. Three someones. Someone had looked at the very section, the very pages in which she'd inserted a few small bits of parchment, folded only once in half. She'd written them on a whim - in whatever desperate attempt she'd made to make a new friend in her sixth year. It was almost a joke, really, just bookish, boring Hermione Granger stepping out on a limb for a stranger - no, for the possibility of a stranger. There had been two from obviously young students picking up sixth and seventh year books out of curiosity - the grammar alone was enough to make her cringe. But the third was beautiful - whoever took the time to reply was well spoken, intricate, and dare she say - charming?The very thought made her feel so insignificant, so pathetic, that in very nearly also losing her friends this year, she decided to do something she'd never dreamed of. She took a chance.
She wrote back.
"Honestly, the both of you are going to fail your classes if you don't at least attempt to study... Harry, Ron, are you even listening?"
Ron nodded, though she knew it was for show. Harry snapped his head up, intent on trying to beat Ron at Wizard's chess for the ninth time that evening. They'd been at it since they came back from Quidditch tryouts. It had gone relatively well - Hermione had made sure of it - but since then they'd been so wrapped up in 'friendly competition' that at this rate, they wouldn't finish their ten inches on sleeping draughts by the next day. Harry looked down again and Hermione sighed, looking around at the common room in which they sat. High ceilings, the roaring fire, the plush chaise she herself was leaning on, quill and parchment in hand. It wasn't a terrible place to be, but lately attempting to spend any quality time with Harry and Ron in the room had been a disaster. She sighed again, this time louder, hoping that either boy might take notice. They didn't.
"Well if neither of you care about being expelled for poor grades, fine. I'll be - "
"In the library, we know." Ron's snide remark about her whereabouts stung - more than she'd have liked. She turn on her heel and left, nearly in tears again.
What was it about Ronald Weasley that could make her burst out crying nearly at any minute? She knew, of course, that it was partially due to the fact that she cared about him - probably much more than she should - but what else was it? His hurtful tone? The fact that Harry almost never backed her up? She loved them both dearly - Harry as a brother and... well, she'd hoped that Ron had grown enough in the last few months to finally make his move, but he hadn't yet. He hadn't matured a bit, obviously. He -
Whatever bitter thoughts she had cleared as she stepped through the library doors. The smell had reached her from a foot or two before she reached the inside, musky and musty and dry, but it was the feeling she got inside, too. It was almost warmer somehow in the library than in the rest of the castle, more inviting perhaps. It sent her staggering for a minute or two but - no, that was just Malfoy bumping into her on his way out of the library.
"Watch where you're going, mudblood. Can't take up the whole doorway with... all your bloody hair."
She ignored the jab - it was a typical Malfoy smack, of course. She'd actually managed to tame her hair quite a bit over the summer - something Draco likely noticed as he stammered out the last few words of his insult. It fell softly just below her shoulders now, in neat curls, and she was proud of it. He noticed. It made her smirk all the way into her corner cubbyhole, setting her bookbag on the desk and sitting down straightaway to begin her work. She nearly laughed at the fact that she could now say she'd left Draco Malfoy nearly speechless. But it would have been ridiculous behavior, of course, to laugh so loudly in the library.
It was nearing ten o'clock when she was finally preparing to leave. Her essay - twice as long, twice as detailed, and twice as good as anyone else in her class would do - was rolled and tucked neatly into the side of her bag, her quill and ink beside it. It satisfied her - it wasn't her best work, by far, but with a subject as broad as sleeping draughts, it was impossible for her to write everything she knew without writing an entirely separate textbook. It would have to do.
She stole a quiet minute to herself - everyone else had cleared out nearly an hour ago, done with their studies for a day. Hermione however, had stayed. As usual. She took this minute to think of what was going on around her - her best friends too wrapped up in Quidditch and conspiracy theories to bother with her, Ginny was mysteriously missing to visit 'friends most nights, and Neville was almost constantly in the Herbology greenhouses. Hermione hadn't bothered trying to find Luna. It was hopeless, the girl was always lost somewhere.
She came upon the decision that she'd have to make a few new friends - but because of how people saw her, would she be accepted by anyone? She knew she irritated a great deal of those around her - though perhaps it was a bout of jealousy that no one ever did as well as her in classes - but couldn't think of anyone else to speak to. The idea came to her in a flash, as if someone had whispered in her ear - she'd write letters. And leave them in books. She pulled a few scraps of clean parchment from her bag, scribbled messages, and wandered around the library for a few moments tucking them into books that students may be needing soon, based on what they'd be learning that month. Someone was bound to find one of them, right?
It was only when she was nearly back to Gryffindor tower that Hermione realized she'd forgotten to think of a way for anyone to reply to these anonymous little notes. Ironic, of course. She thought. The brains of our entire school can't remember something as necessary as a return instruction.
The next day, ten notes - with return instructions - were exchanged for the very notes she'd left the night before. Hermione took pride in her little experiment - was anyone else at Hogwarts enough of a bookworm, a student, to find her letters? She would have to wait and see.
Dear Student of Hogwarts, she began. I won't tell you my name, but I will tell you who I am, in time. I am just a student looking for someone to talk to - a friend, if you will. I left these in carefully chosen books in order to target those I might like to befriend - those with brains, with a need for knowledge (none of these letters were left in necessary reading, so you know.) I am a girl - if my handwriting doesn't give that away, I don't know what will. I am above fourth year, but I won't say which year. I'm doing this mostly for fun - though usual correspondence is not unwanted. If you wish to reply, please do so between pages three hundred and three hundred and one of the Handbook of Hippogriff Psychology. I look forward to your reply.