Disclaimer: The characters and setting within are not of my own creation, and I take no credit for them. No copyright breach has been intended.

Chapter 1 – the Mysterious Book

Hermione was walking down the aisles of her usual haunt – the library – looking for a book on expert potions. More specifically, she was in the restricted section, as all the books she'd found elsewhere had been pretty tame. She wanted a real challenge.

With her reputation she'd had little trouble getting into the restricted section; the problem was she didn't know what she was looking for. She had walked halfway down the aisle when something behind her went THUNK. Hermione spun around, fully expecting to face one of Lord Voldemort's cronies. Her heart was racing! She pulled out her wand and opened her mouth…

And nothing was there.

The aisle was just as dark and deserted as before, and the air contained only the musty smell of old books and magic.

Well, that's not entirely accurate. There was a book on the ground that hadn't been there before. Evidently it had fallen from its shelf when she'd walked by. Embarrassed she put her wand back and looked around guiltily to see if anyone had seen her. Fortunately no-one was there, and it seemed that her nervous reaction had gone unnoticed. "Get a grip!" she told herself. Adrenaline was still coursing through her blood and her heart was beating faster than usual. Her various encounters with danger and the upcoming exams had certainly taken their toll on her nerves, even more so because she never took time to relax.

Anyway, pondering this she picked up the suicidal book and went to put it back on its shelf. But as she did, she noticed its title – "A History and How-To of the Dark Arts." She was intrigued. She checked that no one was watching, and then opened it.

A heady scent of herbs and leather hit her in the face. It was strong at first, but soon faded and was pleasant. She read the first paragraph.

For a long time now the darker side of magic has been shunned and

deemed too dangerous for study. However its history is both rich and

fascinating, and vital to a well-rounded, balanced understanding of

magic. It should not be shunned, but understood. The history of the dark

arts stems from early Egyptian times with Set, a famous animagus…

Hermione's curiosity grew as she flicked through the book, entranced by various detailed diagrams and latin phrases. It looked fascinating – not because it was concerned with the dark arts, but because it analysed the topic in such a detailed and academic way. It certainly appealed to her intellect, and she was dying to read it! But it was hardly the sort of thing she could just go to the front desk and borrow. Questions would be asked. People would wonder just how "good" she really was. She didn't want those kinds of rumours starting up, life was difficult enough already, thank you very much.

Her mind could see only one solution, and as much as it offended her sense of justice she hid the book in her robes and quickly exited the library.

It was none too soon, as lunch finished just as she entered the common room. She ran up to her dorm and hid the book under her pillow, hoping it would remain unnoticed as she went to the last two lessons. Hermione grabbed her books for class and headed downstairs, literally running into Harry and Ron.

"Ow!" said Ron.

"Oh, sorry Ron," she flustered.

"What's the big rush anyway?" he asked, rubbing his nose indignantly.

Thinking quickly she replied, "Umm… lessons… they just started."

"Oh, relax Hermione," said Harry, "we're not that late!"

"Yeah, well, we will be if we don't hurry."

"Okay, wait here and we'll go get our books."

Harry and Ron went up to their dorms to get their books, while Hermione waited nervously. She felt bad for lying to her friends, but she didn't want them to know about the book. Somehow she didn't think they'd understand.

Harry and Ron came downstairs with their book.

"All set," Harry said to Hermione, "let's go."

Charms passed uneventfully, but towards the end of potions, things took a mild turn for the worse…

"Granger!" Professor Snape snapped.

"Yeah, Professor?"

"You will not use that tone with me, five points from Gryffindor. And your cauldron is still dirty."

"Well, I've cleaned it already."

"Obviously not well enough. It's still filthy. How can you expect to make decent potions if your equipment is contaminated? Now – you know what to do with your cauldron."

Hermione opened her mouth to say "shove it up your arse!" but said instead, "Sho, uh, sorry sir. I'll, uh, clean it."

Snape nodded curtly and walked away.

All in all, quite a typical day.

After dinner Hermione did about five minutes of homework and then played wizard chess with Ron and Harry, both of whom seemed quite surprised by her relaxed attitude. She couldn't wait until night-time, when she could start reading her book. She'd decided to wait until everyone was asleep so no-one would see her.

The hours past slowly like thick dripping honey, until it was 12:30 and Ron announced with a yawn that he was going to bed. They said their good-nights and went their separate ways.

"Finally," sighed Hermione, and she crept up to her dorm to retrieve the book. She tiptoed so as not to wake anyone, and was shortly alone, back in the empty common room.

She "Lumos"'ed up a lamp with her wand, keeping the room light enough to read in, but still quite dark. And with that she smiled, curled up on an armchair, and became absorbed in the book.

A/N

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