There was a certain book with an attractive bright green cover. It received accolades from the Prophet, garnered its author thousands of galleons, and brought entertainment to generations of young persons. But it was the bane of Madam Pince’s existence.
It was an American book; American witches and wizards loved self-help nonsense. And yet Brewing a Better You: Twenty Tonics of Kindness to Win You The Wizard of Your Dreams, by Philetus Reese Washington, seemed to captivate even British witches aged eleven through eighteen. Never had a book been returned late so many times! Never before had a tome been held hostage by the entire Hufflepuff dormitory, all consulting it in turns before the Yule Ball. Never before had Madam Pince opened to the table of contents and found entire headings circled in purple ink — defiled; not to mention the ripped pages when one got to Washington’s personality tests in the third chapter; not to mention the love notes on pages 134 through 176, penned by a pair of sixth year Ravenclaw girls who had read the thing from cover to cover and concluded that no wizards existed in their dreams.
The entire affair horrified Madam Pince. She took a tonic (a real one) to steady her nerves, and declared the thing confined to the library. None could check it out. It would remain on the shelf, to be consulted as a reference tool, never again floating from student to student and subjected to the most horrible abuses. Madam Pince ruled over her dominion like the tyrants of old, with absolute power, and so she planted the book firmly in a corridor leading the Restricted Section (fully visible from her desk), and Charmed it to that one location, and there it stayed. This did not dissuade those young witches and wizards who longed, as Celestina Warbeck did in most of her songs, for a dream wizard. They simply came to the corridor to read it, sharing furtive glances and even more furtive giggles, flouting their fancies before Madam Pince.
All but Hermione. Hermione despised wooly self-help nonsense more than Madam Pince did. And if perhaps she had gazed longingly at the thing in her fourth year before a strapping Bulgarian chanced to take her to the Yule Ball, she would never admit it. The truth was: much as she loved books, she couldn’t bear to be seen as the kind of person who would seriously and frequently consult a book like that. She’d read it once with Parvati and Lavender. But aside from that, she never touched it, except in her prefect years. Then, she would find it sitting abandoned after hours when she came to return her Restricted Section pass, and then she would pick it up and calmly put it back in its place, with perhaps a touch less aggression than beleaguered Madam Pince was wont to use. Once, while very tired, half-thinking, really not her most rational self at that hour, she told it: "It’s not your fault you’re such a silly book.”
But that was it. She had no further contact with the thing. And the years passed, and she muddled her way through romance using far more cleverness and self-righteous fury than feminine kindness, and before long she was a woman with the job of her dreams, visiting Tintagel’s magical library (four hundred floors of books in every language, magically defying the laws of space and time by overlapping with every other library in the world; basically the library of her dreams), and then she met him.
He was surely not the wizard of her dreams. American, with breezy good looks and a fondness for wooly American pseudo-science, he would pass by her very loudly and rudely while she was trying to read — he was shelving things, always shelving things — and somehow he would manage to keep her attention. He paid her endless compliments, and not the usual ones, which were all about a witch’s hair and eyes, but ones calculated to make bookworms wriggle: “Everyone just uses the books, really; but you, you love them, because you’re better than that,” and “You don’t pick up just any dumb series, do you? You really know what you’re looking for, and you go for it,” and “I’ve seen you traveling down library corridors, you know; I’ve noticed you, every time,” and “Oh, to be the page that your slim hand turns!”
It was silly, intellectually speaking. But it had an effect. Hermione — who had a wizard at home, though not really the sort of wizard that could be called a wizard of dreams — found her mind turning in all sorts of odd directions.
"He’s very sweet, but a nuisance," she confided in Ginny.
"Hex him," Ginny said decisively. Hermione tested the method and found that the hex had no effect, save to muss the fellow’s green jacket a bit, making him seem even more rakishly attractive.
"I can’t help but think he’s a bit familiar, that’s all," she told Harry.
"Dark magic?" Harry suggested. Harry was in the middle of Auror training and had Dark magic on the mind, though to be completely honest when Harry wasn’t thinking of Dark magic he was thinking of Quidditch, and this was preferable to that. And, to Harry’s credit, such an ardent romantic attraction as this fellow had formed couldn’t really be regular magic.
"He’s almost not a person at all," Hermione told Luna. "That’s how focused on me he is. It’s unnatural. Almost inhuman, like something out of a book."
Luna thought that was her answer, right there. Hermione agreed.
"Or he’s rude and horrible, like Ginny said," offered stout Neville, going on to second Ginny’s call to hexing.
But Hermione was not one repeat failed methods. She was very scientific about romance, when she wasn’t being furious about it, and so she retired to bed to think about the thing. She wrote Madam Pince a brief Owl. Madam Pince replied speedily and confirmed that certain shelves in the Hogwarts library were shared with Tintagel, yes. And that yes, this did happen sometimes with books. Books could be odd like that. Distracting them was the only answer, and this was largely a matter of proper shelving.
So then the only remaining step was to consult Ron.
"Wha…?" said Ron, turning over, half asleep.
“Twelve Fail-Safe Ways To Charm Witches,” Hermione repeated, “Do you still have it?”
Ron squinted at her. “No…?” he said. “Hang on, am I in trouble?”
"Just give it to me," Hermione said.
"You’re the only witch for me," Ron assured her. "Unless you like witches. I mean. Not that I would be upset! That’s fine. We can experiment, even! You know, I’ve always had my suspicions about Bill and Percy—”
"Give. Me. The. Book."
Ron surrendered it. It had a leggy blonde witch on the cover, the spitting image of Madam Rosmerta. She was lovingly caressing a broomstick. This made Hermione roll her eyes. Hermione took this book to Madam Pince the very next day. Madam Pince said, “Yes, that will do the trick.”
And when Hermione put it on the shelf, she tapped its fellow absentmindedly and said, “You two will be perfect together.”
When she next went to Tintagel, she experienced no trouble at all. She saw her American friend, of course. He was with another witch. She’d somehow conspired to smuggle a broomstick into the library. No one was making her leave; she was far too leggy and blonde to be thrown out of anywhere.
They waved at Hermione.
"You have bested the love experts," said the American in green, clasping his hands to his bosom. Then he departed with his newfound paramour.
"Hmm," Hermione said. She’d spent her life loving books. Ordinary Muggle books, even. Textbooks and everyday novels and long tracts on mathematics or burial customs or podiatry or the origins of mankind…
But only magical books decided they loved you back.