A/N Before we get started I'd like to state that I don't own or make any claims to J.K Rowling's wonderful Harry Potter. Her characters are simply a sandpit for me to create small stories with her characters. I also don't profit from anything I write here. It's simply just for fun (and reviews)!

It should also be noted that I've altered the original story a little bit to fit my story. What's the fun in fanfiction if you can't play God and stir things up a bit? ;)


Chapter One

19th of September, 1997

Friday

In hindsight, she probably should have expected this. Her and Ron's relationship had been going downhill since they both seemed to realise that the chase was more appealing than the final catch. Sure, it was all well and good to have a childhood crush. It's all grand until it's realised that it was just that: a crush. This idea had been planted in her head for as long as she could remember. Marrying Ron and being welcomed into the red headed brood. It was always part of their unspoken plan: Harry marries Ginny; she marries Ron. That way Harry and herself were officially part of the family.

It was strange to think that this was her plan right up until ten minutes ago. Right up until she decided an afternoon stroll sounded lovely to clear her head and wake her up. A walk around the gardens and if she were lucky she'd find a nice place to do a bit of homework before the Birthday celebrations began in earnest. It was almost compulsory to have the parting celebration after dinner. An excuse for Fred and George to send whatever mischievous creations they'd been plotting as a form of celebration, she was sure.

Looking back on it, perhaps she should've just confronted them. But she just felt so angry and upset that she just didn't have anything to say. How could you convey the years of trust that were betrayed in that single moment? Although it wasn't all-consuming, she still cared for him. He still meant everything to her. Even though she knew he was losing interest, it still hurt to be cheated on.

She felt like she couldn't blame him. She hadn't been, by any means of the word, a particularly good girlfriend lately. Everything had been a strain lately, and not just her sleeping habits. She hadn't even the energy between all she'd been planning and plotting. It felt stupid, too. He'd finally asked her out at the Valentine's Day ball in sixth year and she'd so hastily accepted. Everybody tells you about crushes, but nobody tells you how fast you can get over them when familiarity seeps in; when everything isn't quite so interesting as it first appears.

Hermione pushed through a bunch of third and fourth year students and made her way to the library, hair crackling and eyes bloodshot. All the students in her way parted with furtive glances, stumbling over each other in an attempt to not awake the Head Girl's ire.

After her analytical pondering over her current dilemma, Hermione found that her sadness had morphed into anger. How dare he, really? As if she wasn't suffering too. Why was it that she had to make the effort constantly? Why couldn't Ron move his timetable around to accommodate her schedule for once? It wasn't as if he had any more on his plate than she did. She wouldn't even be surprised if the majority of his "being busy" contributed to shagging Lavender in rose bushes, talking Quidditch and groaning over not doing his homework.

The library had always accommodated Hermione throughout the years. It seemed like an infinite source of knowledge that would guide her through all her problems. There's a book on everything, so everything can be solved with a book. Well, nearly everything. She supposed there were still things that you couldn't learn from a book. Like that house elves weren't fond of Gryffindor witches hiding socks under the cushions in Gryffindor Tower. She really did stop hiding clothes after Professor McGonagall started noticing a particular trend related to the cleanliness of Gryffindor Tower compared to the other common rooms. She really does know better now. Although she doesn't agree with it, she must admit that it's clear the majority of house elves want nothing more than to serve.

Hermione pulled her sleeves back, sniffed and opened the library door. At the front desk sat Professor Sprout, which was a shock in itself; Professor Sprout rarely left the greenhouse and Madam Pince had an obsessive relationship with the Library books.

"Miss Granger, I should have known. There's not another soul here. The first time this week it hasn't been raining Crups and Kneazles and-" she stopped mid sentence to take in Hermione's red, blotchy face and dazed appearance. "Oh dear me, what's happened?" she asked softly, puttering around the desk to embrace Hermione.

Just as quickly as her anger came, it fled her. Instantly forgetting the pep talk she gave herself over being indignant at Ron, she allowed herself to be encased in the chubby, motherly arms.

"Nothing," sniffed Hermione, yet, after realising that 'nothing' wasn't going to slide for an acceptable excuse in her current state, corrected herself. "I just needed some time to myself for a while. What with exams and everything- I'm a bit overwhelmed." Hermione knew she wasn't a particularly good liar. Her suspicion was confirmed when Professor Sprout gave her a searching look.

Professor Sprout let go of her, patting her on the arm. "Well, if you ever need to talk dear, you know where to find me." She gave her a meaningful glance before returning back to the desk and settling back down. She picked up her quill in her worn, grubby hands and began to silently scribble on what looked to be a students essay.

Hermione rubbed her face on her sleeve before walking past the desks and into her current favourite aisle. She should work on her homework, like she previously planned, but it wasn't stimulating enough to distract her. She needed something that would require more of her attention. Something onerous. She scanned the shelves, running her fingers along the spines. Plucking out the book she was looking for, she sank into her favourite chair. The one that had a nice mahogany desk and an outlook of the lake.

She ran her hands over the cover of Advanced Transfiguration, feeling the long dent in the spine before opening the book to the repeatedly dog eared chapter she had been reading. The pages were not dogeared by her, mind; damaging books was within Hermione's own personal version of the seven deadly sins. Other careless students had obviously had the chapter assigned and couldn't give a rats about books, regardless. Terrible, really.

Work was as good as anything to distract her. She understood it wasn't a particularly healthy form of therapy, but she decided it was more useful than wallowing in self pity.

Transfiguration was one of her favourite subjects. It's a difficult, intricate subject that requires absolute concentration and understanding. One could draw parallels between Arithmancy and Transfiguration, if the same perspective was drawn upon. Recently, she had been systematically investigating the branches of Transfiguration— particularly human Transfiguration, if she were to be exact. She had been using previous works borne of either one - or both - subjects to further an idea that came to her after a particularly bad row with Ron. It was just one of the lengthy factors that had kept her busy the past few weeks, incidentally. Her ideas consist of jumbled musings, thus far. Is there a way to manipulate the process of Human Transfiguration by first exploring the necessities of changing form? What magical reaction actually takes place under Animagus transformation? If such reactions are identifiable, is it possible to manipulate the possible outcome with Arithmetic contributions? And can the process be simplified this way? Admittedly, the latter is what caught her attention in the first place; it separated regular, passing musings into applicable ideas.

She was already well acquainted with the process of Animagus training. She had actually been planning on becoming an Animagus, but had been putting it off. Hermione had not planned on becoming an Animagus for wholly industrious purposes, surprisingly. It first caught her attention as it seemed difficult, but as she read more, she realised she didn't place her interest solely on the fact it was educational, but that she genuinely enjoyed it. Curiosity helped too, she supposed.

That was up until she read up on it more extensively. It wasn't the arduous hours that bothered her, but the consummation process that required the participant to complete a lengthy, complicated ritual. Flipping to the page in which she was referencing, Hermione reread the extract.

"Part of the process by which one becomes an Animagus is holding the leaf of a mandrake in their mouth for an entire month, using the leaf for the creation of a potion, reciting an incantation (Amato Animo Animato Animagus) on a daily basis[2], and drinking the Animagus potion during a lightning storm. Once the initial training is over, an Animagus can then change at will, with or without the use of a wand."*

It is, after all, the reason why Animagus' were so rare. Besides, would it really be worth it? The Ministry would know what you were, and what if you happened to get stuck with some animal that proves wholly impractical? Professor McGonagall mentioned that everyone had an inner Animagus. It often took the form of your Patronus, and if that were the case, she really didn't see what use an Otter would be. Oh, she loved her Patronus, yes; the little critter never failed to bring a smile to her face, with its boundless energy and joie de vivre. But even she had to agree that an aquatic weasel wasn't particularly helpful. Regardless, she would look into it. She wasn't that dim-witted to put theory into practise without thorough research, but the prospect was enthralling.

Hermione rubbed her eyes. It had been a few hours since she first ran here in near-hysterics. Another hour until curfew, if the window near where she was sitting was anything to go by. Stretching, she leaned back in her chair and reached above her head. Her chair clicked and the chair leg gave out.

THWUMP

"Can't they stabilise these chairs?! Honestly, you'd think a magical school could manage that at least!" Luckily Madam Pince wasn't here for once in her career; she surely would've been kicked out for the fuss.

"Miss Granger, are you alright?" Professor Sprout asked rather loudly. She hadn't moved from her spot but had swivelled around to make sure Hermione wasn't hurt. If she heard her unsavoury comments, which she no doubt did, judging by the faint glimmer of amusement in her eyes, she chose to ignore it.

"I'm fine." Hermione patted herself, making sure nothing was hurt. "Just slipped, is all. Don't worry, Professor."

Hermione made to sit up and right herself, but saw something glimmering in her peripheral vision. She turned herself towards it and squinted. There was a hole in the corner of the adjacent shelf and wall. Hermione felt for her wand before pulling it out of her pocket.

"Lumos," Hermione whispered. She pointed her wand at the hole and inched closer. She could make out something in a rectangular shape. Hermione cast a few detection spells but could detect no dark curses, so she carefully peered into the hole. A book was sitting in there. It looked like it hadn't been touched in centuries. Hermione turned around and peered through the bookshelves at Professor Sprout. It wouldn't be too bad if she were to use a severing charm on the crumbling rock, would it? Sure, it was school property and severing charms weren't ideal for slashing stone, but she'd done much worse to school property before, and the crumbling rock didn't need much encouragement to disintegrate. Besides, a blasting charm would just be idiotic; too loud, too unreliable and far too risky.

"Diffindo," Hermione murmured, making a controlled slashing swoop with her wand. The rock gave way enough for her to reach in and grab it. She pulled it out and turned it over in her hands.

The book was cad in black leather and was covered in a thick layer of dust. She brushed her fingers across the surface, feeling a slight tickling that spoke of particularly strong magic. Words on the front of the book slowly booted themselves into existence until a title became visible.

Hermione almost dropped the book. Occlumency and Legilimency: An Ancient Craft of Mind. Hermione knew of Harry and Professor Snape's disastrous Occlumency lessons. Professor Snape was cruel to Harry. Although, she will admit that Harry didn't really try nearly as hard as what he should have. Their enmity and shared contemptment was a recipe for disaster. Their lessons came to a sudden halt one day— the cause of which Harry refused to divest. Because of this, she has a basic understanding of what Occlumency is. After all, she had to listen to Harry constantly complain about it for nearly all of the fifth year.

Carefully, Hermione cast a Reparo on the wall and chair, then stood up. She looked around before spotting a random book sitting abandoned on the table. Picking it up, Hermione cast a charm to duplicate the cover of the book. She slipped it over the top of the Occlumency Book. Hermione also cast a charm that filled the pages with the contents of the other book to anyone who got their hands on it. To open it so it showed the actual pages, they needed her wand, which Hermione decided was a safer course of action; it was much easier to decode a password than steal a wand. It isn't a complicated charm by any means, but the simplicity of the charm is what makes it quite effective. It would give off a weaker aura, making it significantly less detectable.

Seemingly finished with her investigation, Hermione put the Transfiguration book back before ungraciously shoving the book under her robes.

It was too close to curfew to get a proper look at it here, so she might as well get a head start and sneak it out while Professor Sprout was preoccupied. She was quite certain she wouldn't be detected by the anti-stealing charms, as it wasn't even technically a Library book. From what little tests she'd done so far, she could tell the book had no hexes imbedded within the pages - whether it be dark curses or Madam Pinces restrictions. (Was there really that much of a difference?)

Merlin, Harry and Ron really pulled out the rule-breaker in her. With both comments in mind, Hermione made her way to the front of the Library.

"Miss Granger, I'm surprised. You're on your way out with a whole ten minutes to spare before the eight o'clock curfew- with no books to boot!" Professor Sprout exclaimed, raising her eyebrows and looking inquiringly at Hermione. "That reminds me: are you feeling any better now, dear?"

To be truthful, she had nearly forgotten altogether. Nearly. She could still feel a slight twisting feeling in her gut and the worn out feeling that came from emotional exhaustion. But aside from that she was feeling significantly better than before.

"Much." Hermione smiled her first genuine smile all day. "I just did some personal research on something and I feel much, much better."

"That's a relief." Professor Pomfrey swished at the air with her quill and went back to marking, adjusting her plant based hat and giving her a parting nod. "Goodnight, Miss Granger."

"Goodnight, Professor." She slipped out of the door.

She didn't really feel like returning to Gryffindor Tower just yet. All her friends would be there, wondering where she was, and as bad as it may seem to leave them hanging, she just wasn't ready to face Ron yet. Perhaps she should go to the Kitchens? She missed dinner and wouldn't mind getting something to eat or having someplace private to read before the big confrontation. Hermione didn't feel very Gryffindor brave — avoiding the situation. She supposed it was a good thing that being Head Girl gave her the benefit of having her own room. Hermione couldn't imagine what it would be like to still be sharing a room with Lavender and Parvati after seeing what she saw mere hours ago.

Hermione shook her head as if clearing the unappealing thought. Well, no time like the present. As long as she got back at an explainable time with the pretence of patrolling the halls, she should be fine.


*Quote extracted from the Harry Potter Wiki article Animagus. wiki/Animagus

[Hey! Don't boo and hiss, I know how some feel about the Wiki, but the reference felt appropriate.]

A/N
Thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to check out my story :)! Again, I'm a bit of a review enthusiast, so I'd appreciate reviews- even critical ones. All criticism is good criticism, as long as it's nice, helpful or/and appropriate. Mwah! xx