Glancing up from The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 3, Hermione rubbed her eyes and took a break from her revision. Despite what Harry and Ron might think, schoolwork and study were important. The OWL exam was only four years away, and Hermione was determined to be excellent in her every subject.
There was a knock at the door and in walked Ginny. “Hi! Do you remember that we agreed to meet now?”
“Of course,” Hermione said, averting her eyes as she had completely forgotten about that.
Ginny sighed. “I knew that you would be studying overtime again. What’re you studying?”
Her eyes widened at the height of the stack of textbooks on Hermione’s desk. “Have you read everything?”
“Not yet,” Hermione said. “I still haven’t checked up the footnotes of—”
“I knew you would say something like that. At this rate, you'll have finished everything we need to learn in school by next month,” Ginny interrupted. “By the way, do you remember you saying you wanted some light reading? I think I've found the right book for you.”
Ginny showed her a book with a fiery red dragon on the cover, facing off against a short-haired witch who was raising her wand, probably about to fire some sort of spell. With a better look, Hermione thought the wand was an acacia wand—an unconventional choice, although she couldn't identify the broomstick. “It’s a new novel by my favourite author. I found it quite a fun read. Would you like to try it?”
Hermione hesitated for a moment — she really should be preparing for her final exam, even though her teachers hadn't yet covered half of the — but truth be told some light reading wouldn’t go amiss.
‘Thanks,” Hermione said, taking the book with a smile.
Ginny smiled back. “Take your time. Just remember to return it to me when you finish it.”
“When do I forget to return anything?”
“That’s why I trust you with it,” Ginny laughed. “Do you want to go out now? The weather’s beautiful today.” She took a look at Hermione’s conflicted face and asked, “Do you still want to revise your textbook?”
“Sorry, I still haven’t figured out how the formula of Angel Trumpet’s Draught is supposed to work. Would you mind giving me fifteen minutes more?” Hermione asked.
“Sure,” Ginny said. “I’ll hang around and see you then.”
Hermione set aside the novel and started reviewing another textbook. Now what are the ingredients for Angel Trumpet’s Draught again?
That night Hermione remembered the book Ginny had loaned her. She tugged the book from her stack of her textbooks to see what it was about. Judging from the cover, Hermione thought that it was either a biography or an adventure novel, but she soon caught on that it was a romance novel. A witch and her auror partner were caught up in a dangerous mission, but seemed to spend as much time battling their passions for each other as they spent battling magical creatures. She read on with interest when the witch found out her partner’s new pet in the novel.
Vera froze when she saw Jack brushing a beast with a human head, a lion's body and a scorpion’s tail. Merlin, hadn't Jack ever learnt a lesson since their last incident with the Chinese Fireball? Vera still had nightmares in which it scorched both Jack and her to ashes.
“Tell me you aren't keeping a manticore as a pet in our room,” Vera said, rubbing her hand through her long red hair.
“All right, I won't tell you I found and kept a manticore in our room,” Jack said, feigning innocence with his crystal blue puppy eyes.
Vera refused to let herself be swayed by his long eyelashes. This was a life and death matter. A manticore was bad news, and she shivered to imagine what the boss would say when she found it out. “Get rid of it. Immediately.”
“But it's just a baby. It's so harmless.” Jack winked at her, even though said poor baby seemed about to bite off his hand.
“Harmless? Are you kidding me? Do you remember the Chinese Fireball? We’re still paying the bill for the places it scorched down.”Vera breathed deeply and slowly. “Give it to me.”
“You're making a rash decision,” Jack said. “Everything deserves a second chance—”
The manticore took advantage of the distraction to pounce on Vera. Vera tried to dodge, but she knew there was no way she'd be able to get out of the way in time. As the creature closed in, Jack jumped forward and tapped it thrice with his wand. “Vera Verto!” With a whooshing sound, the manticore turned into a goblet.
“Thanks,” Vera said, her heart still pounding from the near miss.
“You're my partner. I’ll never let you be harmed if I can do anything to prevent it.”
Jack’s blue eyes were so intense that Vera’s heart skipped a beat. For a moment she was under their spell.
Then Jack cooed over the goblet again. “I should change it back soon. Poor baby—”
“Shut up,” Vera said. She must have been crazy to think they had been having a moment.
This Jack would be Hagrid’s best friend in no time, Hermione thought.
With the extra lessons and workload she took in her third year, Hermione was tired enough that sometimes she wished she could spend an entire day in bed. However, the stress of classes and the news of Sirius Black at large gave her severe insomnia. Rather than staring at the ceiling or going over the nineteen steps for making a Dreamless Sleep Potion again, she read romance novels on those night because they provided an escape from her life.
Ginny was happy to foster a fellow romance reader and introduced her to more authors. It was interesting how similar they were to romance novels from back home. Handsome billionaires were widely popular as heroes in wizards’ romance, only these billionaires could fly chariots as large as houses pulled by winged horses across the sky. There were many more love potions and magic spells, but the same archetypes and themes enchanted readers here as they did in the muggle world. Somehow it was a relief to know that.
The following week Hermione noticed her roommates giggling together over a book, but when she asked about it, they refused to show it to her. With some detective skills, Hermione managed to get a copy of the book to read. The book cover was illustrated with a witch whose hands were bound up by ropes in an elaborate pattern, and the dust jacket promised a daring, secretive and rebellious romance. She almost choked when she read the book summary:
Pureblood witch Rose is in over her head when her chase of an ancient artefact finds her stranded in the muggle world, facing a man who tempts her to risk everything she treasures…
So people like my parents are the equivalents of vampires or werewolves here. Hermione wasn't sure whether she should be amused, outraged or worried.
The book’s description of muggles’ lives reflected that the author had not bothered to do any research (their ideas about cars were just wrong), and was unintentionally hilarious. Hermione couldn't keep from laughing no matter how many times she read the part where the hero was revealed to carry gasoline pellets (yes, pellets) in his pockets just in case his car were to run out of gas.
Or this paragraph:
“I have a friend there,” Mark said. “For the right price, she can tell you everything.”
Mark put the letter in an envelope and stamped his name on it. Then he threw it out of the window. A flying plate caught the letter and disappeared into the distance .
“Are these plates reliable?” Rose asked.“What do we do now?”
“They carry thousands of letter across the world every year, and they get the job done. Now we wait.”
Hermione knew she had better things to do, but sometimes when she was exhausted from her workload or worry about her friends, she would flip open the book and laugh at the absurd description inside.
When the battle with Voldemort became more open, Hermione worked hard to make herself stronger, and to help the others prepare for the upcoming battle. Sometimes she wondered at how far she had changed, from a newcomer to this world who thought she had all the answers to a soldier in a life-and-death battle.
Once, Lavender sat by her side, biting her lips. “I don't know if I’m up to this.” She still had trouble with her Patronus spell.
“You can do it,” Hermione said, trying to boost her confidence.
“Just have to work more, right?” Lavender said. “What do you think about My Greek Wizard?”
“What?” Hermione asked, not following Lavender’s sudden change of topic.
“The month's book for our book club, remember?”
“I haven’t finished it yet.” Even if—or perhaps because—a war was ongoing, life still needed to go on. Hermione and several fellow members of the Dumbledore's Army had formed an impromptu book club, reading the most lightweight mindless books they could find.
“Then I’m ahead of you. MerIin knows I want some Greek sun and beach right now, and a tall, dark and gorgeous guy won't hurt either.”
“We should go to Greece for a vacation after graduation. We’ve earned it.”
During the book club meeting, Hermione tore down the plot of My Greek Wizard. “I don’t get why the heroine falls in love with this awful guy. He should be arrested for hexing the waiter whose only fault was not magically reading his mind. Even the heroine’s cat would be a better companion than this guy.”
Lavender laughed. “I love your way with words, but hey, if you have such strong opinion about romances, why don't you write one?”
"Writing one?” Hermione raised an eyebrow. “I have never thought of being a writer.”
“No one is born a writer,” Lavender said. “Why don’t we try to write a romance?”
“What’s the point?”
“For fun. Something to do when we’re stuck doing nothing. Why don’t we make it a competition? We should base our heroine on each other, and if we get it published one day, we’ll dedicate the book to the other too.”
Hermione’s competitive spirit was ignited. “Why not?”
“It’s a deal!” Lavender said.
Lavender never finished her draft. She never went to Greece. She would never have any more sun in her life, but Hermione did after graduation. Lying on the beach, she remembered her conversation with Lavender and pulled out the dusty My Greek Wizard:
“Accio!” Aeson said with a lazy smile. Margaret's heart pounded. Aeson might be a jerk, but his smile made her body ache .
An orchestra of instruments descended from the sky and with another charm they started playing songs of such rich emotion that she blinked rapidly to drive away her tears.
Then he sang.
Margaret gasped. His deep and smooth voice floated toward her, his smokey eyes burning their way into her heart.
If he touches me, I’ll be a goner, Margaret thought.
It was as frivolous as Hermione remembered, but she also felt nostalgia when she remembered her enjoyment of the many romances she had read.
Do you still remember our deal? Lavender’s voice asked in Hermione’s mind.
Suddenly Hermione got an inspiration. She broke out a notebook and wrote: ‘My novel’.
Hermione quickly realized just putting words on paper wasn't enough and turned to what she knew best: research. She read a number of books about writing, which all pointed to the need to research the target market. She turned to the romance novels on her shelf and to her fellow readers, now with an added drive of analysis.
Ginny, Mrs Weasley and Hermione’s other friends answered her discreet enquiries as helpfully as they could, and Hermione made notes about her competitors’ works. She also researched the wizard publishing industry to improve her chance of being accepted.
Muggles featured prominently in more risque romances for their exoticism, and Hermione guessed they were witches’ substitute for vampires. However, she was reluctant to write her book about them. No way would she eroticize muggles as if they were something to ogle, but she had spent far too long in the world of wizard and witches to write about them authentically.
She could set her novel at Hogwarts, a popular romance setting, but after all she'd experienced at Hogwarts: life-and-death battles with Voldemort, loss of friends and teachers, and parting of her family for their protection, worries about who to invite to Yule Ball felt too distant to her. She scrapped several ideas, but finally she settled on a premise.
Hermione's day job as an auror was demanding, but she was used to doing three things at the same time. She finished the manuscript of her first novel in barely less than nine months.
Hermione sent it under a pseudonym to every romance publisher she had heard of. After dozens of owls carrying polite rejection letters, she got a break with a small name publisher that was willing to work with her.
Hermione’s editor suggested significant changes to her book. The proposed edits lit up her manuscript and it took her weeks to make all the changes they wanted. When the book was finally sent to the press, Hermione felt that it was the most difficult thing she had ever written.
For a debut author's first book, the novel sold decently. Hermione sent a review copy of her novel to Daily Prophet and The Quibbler, and impatiently checked every issue to see if they'd reviewed it. Finally she found a review of the book in The Quibbler:
“Patience Parker’s Love Unexpected has an interesting premise. Sarah is a cynical veteran of the First Wizarding War with zero motherly instinct who reluctantly takes her recently deceased friend’s daughter under her wing. Clueless about children, she clashes with the girl's uncle Mark, a soft-spoken private tutor with a secret: he’s a squib despite his pure blood heritage. They have wildly varying philosophies about education, but gradually bond over raising the girl together. Readers seeking an obvious happy ending may be disappointed, because not all the protagonists’ problems are resolved at the end, but people who want a role reversal of the usual cynical stoic hero and kind heroine may find it appealing. The writing is decent for a new author, but Miss Parker seems to love obscure trivia and spells a bit too much.”
Hermione cut the article out to save it in a folder. She was happy that the reviewer had praised her writing, and hadn't found anything major to criticize. Personally, she found their complaints about her inclusion of trivia rather ridiculous; she thought it was probably referring to the bit where Mark referred to the three types of house-elves and their different magical abilities. and that was something most people ought to know more about. Regardless, her editor had just written back accepting her second book, and a review would be good publicity.
She stretched and looked out the window, contemplating possible premises for future books. While she had begun to write romance in memory of her friends, she knew she just had to continue. She rolled her pen in her hands and an idea came to her. What about a romance between a scholar of dragon and an Animagus whose inner form was a dragon? She jotted it down in her notebook, already pondering the things she would need to research for her next project.