What does he think he’s doing? Hermione wonders as she watches the tall, silver-haired man walk across Hogwart’s grounds. “And who is he?”
The last she says aloud, but of course, no one pays her any attention. Whatever Harry and Ron are doing, it’s certainly not related to their assignment for Professor McGonagall.
Curiosity – and perhaps a touch of worried protectiveness toward her friends, Harry in particular since he is a magnet for trouble and life-altering events – makes Hermione straighten her shoulders with determination and hurry along after the stranger. Her wand is in her hand as a wise precaution, and she follows the silver-haired man who is heading straight toward the Whomping Willow of all things. Does he not know it’s dangerous?
Hermione gasps. Perhaps he’s a new student and has no idea what he’s doing. She hurries, though a part of her maintains some suspicion. Voldemort’s followers have snuck in under the guise of professors before, and everyone knows he has his spies among the students.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Hermione calls out. “That tree isn’t friendly.”
“I didn’t know trees thought fer themselves” the stranger says with good humor and a weird accent. Like he doesn’t naturally speak English. But he does pause to turn and look at her, and Hermione has a moment of surprise, because his eyes are a very bright amber, practically red actually, and in her experience, red eyes aren’t a good thing.
“You’re here at Hogwarts,” Hermione points out intelligibly.
The stranger looks all around, at the huge castle behind them, toward the Forbidden Forest, over his shoulder at the Whomping Willow and then down to the grass at his feet. He even lifts up his arms and looks under them.
“So I am,” he says, and sounds surprised about it, though this can’t be news to him.
Hermione tries not to huff. “Exactly,” she says, and tilts her chin upward. “Magic shouldn’t be so surprising to you then.”
“I’m used ta a different kind,” the stranger replies with a wide, unnerving smirk.
A different kind of magic? “What kind?” she asks eagerly, all suspicion forgotten.
She looks away for only a second, noticing that Harry and Ron are huffing and puffing their way toward her, looking worried. “I’m fine,” she says crossly, and turns back toward the stranger, but he’s gone. Like he was never there at all. “Drat.”