Chapter 2 : The Vanishing Book
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“Sweetie, please put your book down and eat,” Mrs Granger asked calmly from across the kitchen table.
“Mum, but I’m reading,” Hermione pouted.
A frown crossed her mother’s face. “Dear I understand that but it is quite rude to read at the supper table.”
After a round of “yes” and “nos” and Mr Granger attempting to calm his two arguing girls, the blue china vase broke with a resounding pop! and water and flower steams streamed over the table. The plates of beef, potatoes, and green beans were instantly in their own shallow swimming pool.
Hermione was not just upset that her mother requested that she stop reading, however. It was what she was reading that she didn’t want to pry her eyes away from. The book she had been attached to for the last few days was A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, and Pagans by Jeffrey Burton Russell. She was convinced that she wasn’t like everyone else. None of the other children at school could make things move or change colors when they were emotional. Her parents, however, never seemed to act as though her bouts were extraordinary. Though, they did not encourage her to tell others that she had changed a rabbit in the front yard from brown to chartreuse at the age of five.
“Hermione, dear, will you please clean up the table,” her mother commented as she began to pick up the swimming plates.
Hermione did always feel awful after an event this disastrous, but she really couldn’t help herself. She was hoping that the book would give her some information on why she was so unusual. After all, her parents could do any of the things she did – they just cleaned teeth. She wondered if there was some long lost relative in her family who had been a magician. “I’m sorry, Mum, Dad,” she mumbled as she swept water off the table into a cooking pot. And she was sorry.
The window seat in Hermione’s room was the best place for reading. Warm, summer light flooded in and she could sit on the seat and read for hours… which she did often. Hermione glanced out the window and saw a blue car whizz down the road, a woman with a flowery umbrella, and a young boy walking a dog. “How normal all of those people are,” Hermione sighed, “and how odd and abnormal I am.”
A History of Witchcraft was opened in her lap and Hermione thumbed back to the section she had been reading about the ancient wizard Merlin. The author described him simply as a legend, Hermione had gathered, but something in her gut suggested that there was much more to be discovered about a man who was rumored to change his appearance, see the future, and make objects disappear. Making a note to herself on a small pad she wrote go to library for Merlin. Hermione was very determined to figure this whole mess out.
Turning the page, there was a large illustration of The Beguiling of Merlin showing a scene from Arthurian legend, the infatuation of Merlin with the Lady of the Lake, Nimue. Merlin was trapped, helpless in a hawthorn bush as Nimue reads from a book of spells. Hermione rather liked the idea of a girl who was magical – strong enough to confuse a great wizard such as Merlin. She smiled at the picture and touched the faces of Merlin and Nimue. Taking a closer look at the image she added to her paper look for book of spells.
As Hermione turned back to her book, there were a few soft taps on her door. “Come in,” she called. The door opened slowly and the face of her mother materialized behind it.
“Can I come in?”
Closing her book and shoving it under the seat cushion, Hermione nodded her mother inside. “Of course, Mum.”
“Honey, I know you get upset when your father or I ask you to do something, but you must really be more careful about how you let out your feelings. Making things break is not a healthy way to deal with your problems… you know what happened when you got angry with Mrs Fitzherbert across the street, her parrot grew to the size of her cat!” Mrs Granger exasperated.
Hermione smiled at the image. Mrs Fitzherbert had taken her little green parrot out onto the front stoop with her one morning while Hermione was also outside water her mother’s azaleas. She had waved across the street at the woman who was sitting in an aluminum lawn chair with rollers in her hair and a yellow bathrobe. At the time Hermione considered it rather ridiculous that a fully grown woman would be outside in her water closet clothes. In fact she still thought it was silly but maybe when you’re sixty years old you have the right to go about like that.
Now, the parrot had come into play just as she had turned back to watering the flowers. Hermione simultaneously heard a flutter of wings and felt nails scratch her scalp as Mrs Fitzherbert shouted, “Petunia! Petunia you wretched bird get back here!” Subsequently, Hermione desperately tried to catch at the bird but it became more and more tangled in her hair. Mrs Fitzherbert shuffled across the street in bright pink slippers to try to untangle her parrot. By this time Mr and Mrs Granger had heard the commotion and had also come out to help.
Imagining the scene from the point of view of a bystander, they must have looked quite awful. Her parents finally got the parrot disentangled from her hair and returned to Mrs Fitzherbert. As Mrs Fitzherbert made her way back across the street, she seemed to have her own set of problems holding on to Petunia. Hermione watched at the yellow robe and rollers suddenly began to wrestle with the parrot and a few green feathers flew out from beneath her arms. Mrs Granger called to Mrs Fitzherbert to ask if she needed help but before she could finish her sentence Petunia escaped her arms but was not the normal parrot size, Petunia was not the size of a large tabby cat! The giant green beast shot straight into the sky and was headed for the country side. Hermione looked at her parents and rushed back inside.
“I know it’s not right, Mum, but I do have a hard time controlling it. But, I promise I’ll work on it,” Hermione said, smiling.
Mrs Granger put her hand to her daughter’s face and stroked her cheek. “That’s all I want,” Mrs Granger smiled back, “And dear we really should talk about braces soon.” She left then, closing the door behind her.
Hermione sighed as the door closed and pulled out her book again.
The next morning was Saturday. Hermione rolled out of bed and immediately had a plan. She was going to go to the library and do as much research as she could on Merlin, magic, and spells. Pulling on a t-shirt, jeans, and trainers, Hermione rushed downstairs where her parents were at the breakfast table. Mrs Granger was eating a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar while Mr Granger was munching on a slice of toast with jam.
“Morning, sweetheart,” Mr Granger said as he caught sight of his daughter over the local paper.
“Hello, Dad!” Hermione sat down at the table where her mother had laid out a spoon, bowl, and box of cereal.
Mr Granger folded his paper and set it on the table. “What are your plans for today?”
“Well…” Hermione said as she poured cereal into her bowl, “I was wondering if you or Mum could take me down to the Woodingdean Library?”
Taking another bite of his toast, Mr Granger considered, “Well, I was going to head over to the autoservice shop in Woodingdean and the library is on my way.”
“Thank you, Dad!” Hermione jumped up from her chair, nearly upsetting her cereal bowl, to hug her father.
Mr Granger chuckled. “Of course, just make sure that you don’t get lost in there!” he tapped his daughter on the nose and returned to his paper.
Hermione was excited. And because of this excitement it seemed that her cereal bowl had a never-ending bottom. She ate slowly, trying to wait out how long it would take her father to finish his toast and the paper. It was almost painful watching him from the corner of her eye and counting off the minutes on the nearby kitchen clock. Still, Hermione was convinced that today she would be able to find some answers.
At quarter to ten, her father finished his breakfast and Hermione flew past him out the front door. “She really does like the library, doesn’t she, dear?” Mr Granger asked his wife as he shook his head and followed his eager daughter out the door.
The drive to the Woodingdean Library was short, as it was just down the road, but Hermione seemed to be as impatient as if she had been on a journey to Ireland and back. Hermione tapped her fingers on the door and giggled her foot all the way to the library. Mr Granger glanced over at his daughter and smiled, “Are you meeting a cute boy here or something?”
“Oh, Dad!” Hermione scoffed and turned bright red as she crossed her arms. “I’m just looking for some new books.”
Mr Granger chuckled, “If you say so!” He pulled the car into the library parking lot and let his daughter out. Before she could close the door he said, “Now, I will be back at half past twelve so we can catch lunch.”
“I’ll be ready,” Hermione smiled, slammed the car door to which she apologized as she ran inside the library.
The Woodingdean Library was impressive for its small size. When one entered through its doors, what appeared to be a small house was a cavernous maze of maps, tomes, dictionaries, atlases, and tall tales. Hermione passed under the whitewashed archway and approached the librarian at the circulation desk. The librarian was a tiny woman (Hermione had seen her shuffling around the library once before) with curly white hair and spectacles that reminded Hermione of half-moons.
“Excuse me, Mrs Betwixt?” Hermione asked.
The librarian pushed her spectacles up onto her nose, as she had been peering into a book on her desk. “Yes, darling, what can I do for you?”
Hermione placed the book she had been so carefully pouring over last night onto the desk and showed Mrs Betwixt the picture of the Beguilement of Merlin. “What do you know about Merlin?” As Hermione glanced up after she had asked her question, she would have sworn she saw a mischevious light flash over the librarian’s eyes.
“Merlin? Well, I know lots of things about Merlin,” Mrs Betwixt said and pulled a piece of paper from a pile. She scribbled three lines of text on the paper before handing it back to Hermione. “Now, child, go to the non-fiction section and look for these books – they should be quite helpful,” Mrs Betwixt smiled at Hermione and shooed her away from the desk calling after her that she would be around to check on her in an hour or so.
“How strange,” Hermione thought, “that she would know exactly which books I needed without checking the shelves.” Walking down rows and rows of books, Hermione passed under the doorway to the non-fiction section. “I suppose when you have been a librarian for so long you get to know the books,” she decided. Finding the first two books Mrs Betwixt has written down was quite easy, as they were situated nearby one another on the selves. The first one was The Quest for Merlin and the second titled Wizardology: The Book of the Secrets of Merlin. The third book was much more difficult to find, in fact, Hermione searched for an hour and could not find it. The call number that Mrs Betwixt had written down didn’t seem to exist. Every time Hermione went down the shelves to the place the book should be in it simply wasn’t there – surely Mrs Betwixt wouldn’t have suggested it to her if she knew it had been checked out.
On her last pass through the section before stoutly giving up, Mrs Betwixt appeared. “Dear, you look a bit frustrated! Having trouble finding what you’re looking for?”
With her furrowed brow, Hermione explained, “I’ve been looking for this book,” she pointed to the last call number on the list, “for almost an hour and still haven’t found it!”
A soft smile curled Mrs Betwixt’s lips around her cheeks. “Oh honey I’m sorry I forgot I kept this one in my private collection… come with me!” she insisted and hobbled off to her circulation desk.
When they arrive, Mrs Betwixt pushed aside the resident library cat and bent down to a hidden cabinet with a lattice front and a small brass lock. She lifted a small key, which hung around her next, and inserted it into the lock in the cabinet. Hermione watched with interest – she didn’t know librarians kept PRIVATE collections. Mrs. Betwixt slid the cabinet open and touched the spines of a few thick books before stopping at a small, thin book covered in orange leather. “Here it is!” she squawked and stood up (which appeared to be a painful task as she winced and placed a hand on her back).
As she handed the book to Hermione, Mrs. Betwixt said, “Now girl, this book is very important to me, so you must be careful with it. Do not show it to your parents.” The old librarian winked at Hermione as she let go of the book and sat down in her chair.
“Yes, ma’am.” Hermione took the book and held it tight to her chest. She turned away and walked down the hall toward a private reading room. Closing the door behind her, Hermione set the three books on the table. She was most interested in the small orange book which seemed so mysterious. Hermione sat in the soft chair behind the only table in the room and picked the special book up. Burnt into the orange leather was the title Salem St. Seminary for Witches: Beginner Spells (Teaching fine witches since 1692). “This is precisely what I have been looking for!” Hermione exclaimed. Checking her watch, Hermione found that she still had an hour to look through the book before her father would arrive.
With careful fingers, Hermione opened the book. She feared it would be extremely delicate, but it was surprisingly stable. The first page was similar to the cover with the addition of the publisher’s name Salem Institute Press. Hermione turned the page to find the table of contents which read:
1. Spells for the home
2. Spells for the job
3. Spells for your friends
4. Spells for your enemies
Hermione continued through the book turning to the first chapter with wonder at what kinds of spells she might find and if it was going to help her figure out why she could do such abnormal things. The first spell in the book was a cleaning spell. It showed the reader how to make a broom sweep on its own! Hermione was shocked at first. Was this real? Could someone bewitch a household object to move about? She continued reading and found a spelling to encourage a spoon to mix on its own; a spell to wash the windows, and a spell to hang to wash on the clothesline. “Perhaps this is true,” Hermione whispered to no one in particular. She was confused, though, that many of the spells were accompanied by a sketch of a person waving a piece of wood that was labeled as a “wand.”
Flipping through to the last page, Hermione found a note to the reader:
The publishers of this book hope that you have found your beginning education in spells exceedingly helpful and hope that you will continue on to their Advanced Spells book. If any accidents occurred while reading this book or preforming any of the spells hereto it is not the fault of the publishers. They thank you kindly for purchasing their materials and wish you and yours a good day.
When Hermione finished the last word, she sighed almost more confused than ever and closed the book. As the pages of the book met a crack! sounded and sparks flew up followed by a puff of purple smoke. In the place the book had been moments before suddenly was nothing.
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by Miss Haggan