You are viewing a story from harrypotterfanfiction.com


Boy Meets Girl by rj_sunshine

Format: Novella
Chapters: 6
Word Count: 23,274
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: General, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Arthur, Molly, Cho, Neville, Draco, Ginny, OtherCanon
Pairings: Harry/Hermione, Harry/Cho, Harry/Ginny, Hermione/Krum, Ron/Hermione

First Published: 01/09/2012
Last Chapter: 03/04/2013
Last Updated: 03/04/2013

Summary:




Accidental and very much unexpected, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger find each other.
Then a year later, the Hogwarts acceptance letter arrives, along with magic, fame and Ronald Weasley ...
 

banner by GinnyPotter25 @TDA


Chapter 1: Granger & Granger's Private Dental Surgery
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


A/N: For those of you who do not know the area named Woking (in Surrey)  is pronounced 'woah-king' and the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) is a registered charity as well as Childline being a great phoneline generally for the same thing.

That being said, do enjoy my story - rated 15+ for later chapters :)


 

  “I didn’t do anything!” A ten year old Harry Potter yelled from the living room doorway as his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia rushed to their son’s side. Dudley was clutching his mouth and yelling like the spoilt brat he was while blood dripped from his mouth onto the cream carpet. Aunt Petunia’s face turned from horror to shock and back again as she looked between her son’s face and the state of the carpet. As she was just figuring out the best way to clean the bloodstains, her husband shook her out of her deliberation between baking soda and standard carpet cleaner:

“COME HERE, BOY!” Uncle Vernon yelled at Harry.

   Harry stayed put as Uncle Vernon dragged himself from the ground. Aunt Petunia held Dudley in her lap, trying to look inside his mouth.

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM?!” Uncle Vernon’s purple face spluttered angrily.

Nothing,” Harry insisted, feeling a tiny bit guilty even though it wasn’t his fault. “Dudley chased me down the stairs and he fell.”

“Fell?” Uncle Vernon said, not believing a word. “He wasn’t pushed?”

“No,” Harry told him. “I was at the bottom and he came after me.”
 

“And what reason would he have to chase you?” Harry’s uncle pried as he looked down at his skinny bespectacled nephew.

“He hates me,” Harry muttered.

“What?”

“I don’t know,” Harry said instead. “I wasn’t doing anything.”

   He had in fact been telling his cousin that Harry was treated well by his parents in secret. Harry told Dudley that he got three course meals from his Aunt and Uncle while Dudley was asleep so that he wouldn’t find out and that their poor treatment of him was just a front. Dudley went crazy and vaulted down the flight of stairs, arms out to grab Harry, but he was too fast. Harry dodged him and Dudley fell face first into the bottom step, knocking his mouth as he went. As he screamed the house down, Aunt Petunia appeared from the kitchen and Uncle Vernon ran in from the front garden, abandoning his cleaning of the car.

“Vernon,” Petunia muttered over Dudley’s wailing. She opened her hand and showed him one of Dudley’s front teeth in her palm.

“Get his coat, we’re going to the dentist right now.” Uncle Vernon yanked open the front door and cleared away the buckets of water, vacuum cleaner and other things he had been cleaning the car with.

   Trying to be helpful, Harry passed his Aunt Dudley’s overcoat, but in return got a very sharp look from her as she covered up the blood on her son’s shirt.

  Uncle Vernon came back into the house. “Car’s ready.” He helped Dudley up as Aunt Petunia grabbed a tea towel for his bleeding mouth. Her entire chest covered in blood, Aunt Petunia pulled on a jacket and helped settle Dudley into the back seat of their hatchback.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Uncle Vernon said to Harry. He had been standing still in the same place, watching the entire scene.

“I’m -”

“Get your jacket.” Vernon ordered.

“I’m coming to the dentist too?”

“Well, I’m not leaving you here alone to destroy the place. Hurry up.”

   Harry dragged on his oversized, second-hand jacket and sat nervously beside his cousin. Dudley had no time to spout vicious comments at Harry, he was in too much pain. Instead of looking at him, Harry stared out of the window as the car rolled down the quiet streets that Monday afternoon.

   The sun was shining that afternoon, revived from the survival of torrential rain that previous week. It was the summer holidays and Harry had six weeks of the Dursleys to contend with until he returned to primary school for his final year. He did not particularly like school, he simply preferred learning his times tables to spending twenty-four hours a day with his so-called family. They were the most rotten, uncaring bunch of people Harry knew - mainly because he didn’t know many people. Besides Mrs Figg, Harry didn’t ever speak to anyone else. He barely spoke to the Dursleys. Sometimes he would spend whole mornings not speaking. Who knew that at times you might forget the sound of your own voice? Harry just occupied himself in his cupboard, mostly daydreaming about his parents and what it would have been like if they were alive.

   Harry could see it now … trips to the park, picnics, hugs, conversations … He sighed - sometimes even cried - about what he was missing out on. The worst of it was not that he lived with his Aunt and Uncle but because they acted as though he were something they found on the bottom of their shoe. If they loved him like they loved Dudley (maybe even less) then Harry wouldn’t mind. Maybe if they bought him new school clothes, served him filling meals, told him they wanted him in their house … He didn’t want to think about it most days. Instead, he would take himself eight years into the future when he would turn eighteen and leave forever. With luck, he would leave when he was sixteen, maybe earlier. Harry knew he had a purpose in life. He wasn’t just the Dursleys’ slave. He must be needed or wanted somewhere …

“Aren’t we going to -?” Aunt Petunia began at the front of the car as she scrubbed at her fingernails.

“No,” Vernon replied. “Damn NHS surgeries take too long. My boy needs expert help. We’re going into Woking. There’s a private dentist surgery over there. As long as we pay up front, he should be seen right away.”

  Harry smiled to himself. He had never been to Woking. He didn’t know how long it was going to take nor what it was like. To him, it was a little holiday, another accidental trip that he was bound to remember for life. These were his guilty pleasures; whenever the Dursleys thought he’d hate being somewhere and he loved it, Harry would smile. Even something as simple as going to another dentist made Harry glad that Dudley had his accident. Was that a crime? Harry did not think so. He was glad that the Dursleys didn’t trust him to stay in Privet Drive alone, otherwise he wouldn’t be where he was now, on a busy main road beside the motorway in traffic while Dudley moaned beside him.

“Mommy … it HURTS!” Dudley yelled as he held the blood-soaked towel aside.

  Aunt Petunia leaned back and pushed the sodden rag back to his mouth. “It’ll be all right soon, sweetheart,” she told him. “We’ll go and buy you something nice when we’re done at the dentist.”

   Sure that Dudley would smile or boast if he could, Harry rolled his eyes as the car sped off the motorway and onto the quiet country streets - possibly above the speed limit. There were country cottages beside contemporary flats, lakes within green parks and lots of green trees in Woking; it was everything suburban Surrey was not. There was plenty of space to breathe here and Harry took in a big gulp of the air as they all stepped out of the car.

   The car park for the dentist surgery was quite full.

“Must be fully booked,” Aunt Petunia muttered with her arm around her son.

“No matter,” Uncle Vernon said as he marched to the front door.

   Beside it, there was a large print blue sign, reading: “Granger & Granger’s Private Dental Surgery; Check-ups, Emergencies and Orthodontic Care; Dr .K. Granger, Dr .E. Granger.

   Deciding not to say one word to his family for the whole afternoon (in order to soak in the experience), Harry followed them into the waiting area, where nearly all of the seats were taken by silent members of the community reading magazines or chatting quietly. Yes, it was the same as the dentist in Little Whinging, but Harry stared intently at the scene with fresh eyes.

“We need to see somebody now,” Uncle Vernon said in his sternest voice. “My son’s had an accident.”

  The blonde receptionist looked over at Dudley’s bleeding mouth. “I’m sorry, Sir, we’re all booked today.”

  Uncle Vernon was slowly turning red. “I thought this place handled emergencies!”
“We do,” the receptionist replied.

“So handle this one!”

   The people sitting on the soft lime green chairs around them looked over curiously and Harry was starting to feel uncomfortable.

   Aunt Petunia opened her hand and showed the receptionist one of Dudley’s teeth as if this explained everything.

“You’re new to this surgery?”

“Yes,” Aunt Petunia replied while Uncle Vernon cooled down.

“Just fill out this form and take a seat.” She handed Aunt Petunia a clipboard. “We may be able to fit you in. A couple of hours maybe?”

“A couple of -?!” Uncle Vernon began.

“It’s the best I can do, I’m afraid,” the woman said turning to the old desktop computer. “I’ll go and tell Dr Granger now.”

   The woman disappeared as Aunt Petunia and Dudley took the two remaining seats in the corner of the room. Uncle Vernon stood beside them by the window and Harry followed.

“The play area is that way,” Uncle Vernon told Harry, pointing to a small table and box of books and toys on the other side of the room.

   Silently, Harry walked over and sat down, watching the other younger children amuse themselves with the building blocks and picture books. He was glad to be away from his family anyway. Beside him, a toddler began to cry louder than he had ever heard - nearly everyone in the room glanced over in shock. The child’s mother picked her up and took her through an open door just left of the welcome desk. Harry peered out curiously. Although it was tiny, there was a patio area with a couple of benches and rows of short daisies beside a medium brick wall and a patch of green grass. This was a different kind of dentist, Harry thought. He had never seen one with a nice outdoor area where the sunlight hit in just the right way. As the irritated woman and her sniffing child came back in, Harry noticed a girl with bushy brown hair and rather large front teeth sitting reading a large book on the bench. Her feet swayed as her eyes skipped from left to right and her fingers flipped the pages. And oddly, there was something about her that screamed out at him. She looked … nice. This was strange because he was only ten years old and all of the other girls he had met at school were just not nice. That was mainly because they were scared of getting on the wrong side of Dudley, but no one had ever caused him to stare as much as he was doing right now. Closing his gawping mouth, he looked around. No one noticed. Phew. He continued; her eyes were a honey brown, her hair almost the same - he had never seen hair so thick. Harry chuckled to himself. Her fingernails were neat, everything about her was neat and tidy down to her very shiny shoes. It didn’t help that the sun was glowing over her face. Harry felt a bit hot.

   He glanced over at his Aunt, Uncle and cousin, checked that they were occupied (Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were looking over the clipboard while Dudley sniffled) and then stepped outside into a light breeze. The little garden was a perfect addition to the surgery, especially when it was so warm outside. And she was a nice addition to the garden.

   Still quite hot, Harry removed his jacket and placed it on the bench opposite the girl. She was wearing a blue skirt and a white patterned blouse. She was dressed so nicely and Harry looked down at his own attire and grimaced. Hopefully, she did not notice the fading colour, the rips and the stains.

   The girl looked up at him as he sat down nervously.

  Harry smiled at her and she gave one back. Okay, she was polite. That was good. She looked around his age. Harry gazed down and noticed that the book she was reading was an encyclopaedia named, ‘Biology, Chemistry and Physics: the basics.’ She must have been smart too.

  The girl noticed him looking at it and said, “I got it as a gift last week for doing well in school. I just had to have it.”

“You’ve nearly finished it!” Harry said, astounded because it looked as though it had at least six hundred pages. He was also glad that she spoke first, as he was getting to the point where he was going to break the ice with a weather comment.

“I’m a fast reader,” she replied lightly. “And science is fascinating.”

  Harry shrugged. “I suppose.” He gazed up at the sun until it hurt his eyes. “Are you waiting for your appointment?” Harry asked.

  She shook her head; she looked slightly annoyed at being disturbed while reading. “My parents own the surgery.” She paused. “They’re dentists.”

“Oh. My cousin’s tooth came out after he chased me down the stairs.” Harry let out a chuckle.

“That doesn’t seem funny to me,” the girl replied stiffly.

  Harry went a little red. “I-it’s not funny, really. But if you knew how horrible he was to me …”

  The girl continued to read and smiled. “It can’t be that bad.” She put the book down onto her lap and met his eye. Harry gulped nervously. “Did you know that Jupiter has at least 64 moons?”

“Erm … no, I didn’t,” Harry said.

   She beckoned him over with her hand and he sat beside her while she ran through the page on the largest planet.

“It has 64 confirmed moons and the biggest are called Galilean moons discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. Their names are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto and they …”

   She seemed to go on forever and Harry simply nodded and said ‘yes’ where appropriate as she ran through the other planets and their orbits.

  Just as she was about to go onto the chemistry part of the book (which Harry was dreading), he quickly said, “I’m Harry, by the way. Harry Potter.”

  Mid-sentence, the girl stopped, breathed and then smiled. “I’m Hermione Granger.”

“Do you usually stay here all day while your parents work?” Harry asked, trying to distract her from the book; her intelligence astounded him and did give him quite a headache.

“Most days. They don’t want to hire a babysitter and they won’t leave me home alone.”

“Me too. My Aunt and Uncle don’t trust me.”

“And my other family members are either working or on holiday, so I stay here. That’s why they paid for this little garden to be built for me to sit in. Here, Claire can see me -” She pointed at the blonde receptionist from where they sat. “ - and my mum sometimes sits with me for lunch.”

“Oh. Sounds a bit boring,” Harry said honestly.

“It is. I just read mostly.”

“What about when it rains?”

“I go inside and sit with the patients in the waiting room. My six-week holiday never is very interesting.”

“Mine neither.”

“We do have a holiday planned when my parents get some other dentists to work next week. We’re going to Canada.”

  Harry bit his lip and said, “I’ve never been on holiday. My Aunt and Uncle usually leave me with a neighbour.”

  His jealously and sadness must have show because Hermione put her hands over her mouth in horror. “That’s terrible!” Harry shrugged. “What about your parents?”

  He looked at the ground. “Dead. Car accident. I was one.”

“Oh no, I’m so sorry,” Hermione muttered. Her eyes floated to his scar.

“I got it in the crash,” Harry said while pressing his black hair over it tenderly. He was sensitive about his scar. He already got so much attention because of it’s ability to never heal. People at school often called him weird or a freak, as though his immune system meant he would pass germs onto every other student; he was the object of many jokes whenever the annual flu virus came around school.

  Hermione put her hand on his shoulder and said nothing for a while until - “Would you like a turkey sandwich?”

   Harry nodded and Hermione opened up her purple lunchbox and gave him half. He didn’t realise how hungry he was until he took a bite. They discussed school for a while - they were in the same year - and although Harry felt really inferior compared to Hermione, he rather enjoyed having a friend. She laughed with him - which was something extremely new to him - and he actually found out he was quite good at telling jokes. He saw her teeth a lot; they were very white.

“Do you go to school in the area?” she asked him as she drank a carton of apple juice - which they shared.

“No,” he replied. “I got to school on the other side of Surrey. Little Whinging. That’s where we live.”

“Little Whinging!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

“My uncle wanted to come to this dentist, so we drove.”

“That’s so far away,” Hermione said, overestimating the distance as children did. She shrugged. “It would have been nice if you lived nearby.”

“Yeah,” Harry said. “So you don’t have brothers and sisters?”

  She shook her head.” You?”

“Just my cousin, Dudley.”

“You grew up together like siblings though,” Hermione said.

“No,” Harry said. He decided that he was comfortable with Hermione so he explained everything to her; from his clothing, his chores around the house, the bullying and where he slept. All the while, he could see her face falling and he tried to tell her it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.

“You sleep where?” Hermione asked.

“In the -”

“I heard what you said, Harry, and it’s just despicable. You have to do something. Call the police or … or Childline. Or the NSPCC!”

“I like my cupboard,” Harry said defensively. Indeed he did; it was his escape from his terrible family. And it was very warm in the winter. Subconsciously, it may have been very womb-like; Harry often thought of his mother when he was alone in there, he even talked to her.

“Only because they’ve brainwashed you into thinking it’s a suitable place to sleep,” she said, looking genuinely upset.

“It’s okay, Hermione,” Harry insisted. “I’m fine with it.”
“Well, you shouldn’t be,” she muttered finally, her eyes getting a little watery.

  Harry waited for her to collect herself while watching Aunt Petunia and Dudley stand. “They’re going in now.”

“Is that them?” Hermione asked after a small sniff.

  Harry nodded as the three Dursleys went into a room with a sandy-haired man. “Your dad?”

“Yes.” Mr Granger waved at Hermione and she waved back. She turned to the wall clock. “Only a couple more hours until we all go home. And then the same again tomorrow.” She stared at the ground sadly.

“I could ask my Aunt and Uncle if I could come back,” Harry told her.

“You would?” she asked brightly.

“But they’ll say no. It’s too far to drive.”

“Oh.” Hermione’s shoulders sagged. The pair sat in silence for a while and Harry even resorted to looking in her book; he skipped the chemistry and took a look at the human body.

  Looking in the corner of his eye, Harry noticed Hermione peering at the book over his shoulder. Knowing that she couldn’t help herself, he said, “I don’t really understand any of this.”

“Well,” Hermione began, taking the book from him and flicking her hair back. “It’s simple really …”

   She had been going on in such great detail that Harry’s head was spinning. He had learnt more from Hermione and her book than he had in school because of two reasons; one, he was always too bored to pay attention and two, this book was way too advanced for ten year olds.

“I’m going to be eleven in September,” Hermione said, trying to cram as many questions in before he left. “When’s your birthday?”

“Thirty-first of July,” Harry said.

“You have to come to my party,” she said. “I wanted to have it in the summer this year because I want to focus on my schoolwork in September. It’s in a couple of weeks. We are going to the Sea Life Centre, bowling and then having cake at home.”

“What about when it’s your real birthday?” Harry wondered.

“We’ll just have another cake,” Hermione said smiling. Harry thought so. “A small one.” She could tell that he was very jealous of her and she stopped smiling.

“I’ll ask my Aunt and Uncle,” Harry said, not feeling very optimistic, his thoughts still on cake.

“Great, I’ll have to send you an invitation and -”

“Come on then, boy, time to go,” came Uncle Vernon’s voice as he stood in the doorway. Behind him, Dudley was clutching a wad of cotton wool to his face and Aunt Petunia was watching the other patients (she was probably trying to see who ironed their clothes, Harry thought).

“Okay … bye, Hermione.”

   Uncle Vernon looked at the little girl on the bench with scrutiny and she tried not to look him in the eye.

“Bye, Harry.” She stood up and gave him a brief hug, which the Dursleys audibly sighed. Even Harry was shocked so he stayed quite still.

“Bye,” he said again, this time higher-pitched.

“See you,” she said laughing. Hermione waved as they shuffled away out of the front doors and into the car park.

“Is Dudley okay now?” Harry asked quietly as he put on his seatbelt. He was just so overwhelmed by the entire day. This morning he was just Harry, parentless, friendless, joyless. And now … well, two out of three wasn’t bad, was it?

“He’ll have another dentist appointment to go to, but he’ll live - not that you care,” Aunt Petunia added bitterly.

   Harry did care. In fact, he cared a lot. Although nobody fussed over his wellbeing, he certainly cared about Dudley’s - because of him, he may be visiting Granger & Granger’s Dentist Surgery again soon.



A/N: I hope you liked it. I'm not sure how long to keep them as children, but it shouldn't be for long as it will get much more interesting once they go to Hogwarts. Thanks for reading and please leave a review - they let me know if I'm going in the right direction x
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Chapter 2: The Invitation
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


 
   Dudley seemed to be acting more spoilt than usual since the teeth incident. He somehow managed to get his mother to feed him all of his meals and he got extra helpings of ice cream because he said it helped his mouth feel better. It was all a lie of course; Harry saw it, but everybody else lapped it up.

   Dudley was bought a new bike after they had finished up at the dentist. It was shiny and midnight blue and Harry wanted it more than Dudley ever could. Harry had only learnt to ride a bike on Dudley’s old ones before they were thrown into the refuse skip outside their house. He watched Dudley play on his new blue bike once in the garden and then leave it; it had been lying against the fence for two weeks.

   Harry woke up thinking about the nice bike and how unappreciated it was. He sat up in his dark cupboard and stretched out, realising that it wasn’t as nice as he liked to think. It was restricted instead of cosy, stuffy instead of warm and Harry knew he was lying to Hermione and to himself. Maybe she was right, maybe he should tell somebody …

   He pushed open his cupboard door and went into the kitchen. He sat at the table silently.

“You took your time,” Uncle Vernon hissed. “We wanted you up an hour ago.”
 
“Why?” he asked.

“We’re going to the dentist for Dudley’s check-up.”

  Harry eyes brightened as Aunt Petunia placed two slices of buttered toast in front of him and a glass of water. “Hurry up,” she muttered.

   He didn’t need telling twice. Harry tore through his breakfast and prepared to leave. Within fifteen minutes Harry was standing by the front door in his clothes waiting on the Dursleys.

“Someone’s eager,” Aunt Petunia muttered quietly. She opened the door and unlocked the car and Harry sat in the back quickly.

  His Aunt and Uncle looked at each other, but didn’t say a word.

   Harry sat patiently and ignored Dudley’s complaints about missing a television programme as they drove out of Privet Drive and into town.

  Harry frowned. “Why aren’t we going on the motorway?”

  Uncle Vernon looked at him through the rear view mirror. “We don’t need to be on the motorway.”
 
“So we aren’t going to Woking?” Harry said in a strained voice.

“No,” Vernon said as he turned left. Harry knew this route; it was their usual dentist in Little Whinging they were going to.

“But what about the NHS surgeries?” Harry said, trying to change his Uncle’s mind. “You hate them.”

“And you want me to pay the extortionate prices they charged me in Woking? I don’t think so.”

“But you’ll be seen quicker,” Harry said.

“This time we have an appointment.”
 
“But -”

“I’m tired of you questioning me, boy. We’re going to our old dentist and that’s that!”

   Harry shrunk back in the car and automatically fell into a bad mood. He folded his arms tightly as they sat in the waiting room and he didn’t speak for the whole day. Not while they were in the car back home, not while they ate dinner and not even in his cupboard - which he went to early.

   All he could think about was missing the birthday party. And Hermione. For once in his life, he was wanted somewhere by somebody and now he had missed out. He hadn’t told Hermione where he lived, so there was no way that she would know where to send his invitation. Harry resorted to playing with his small action figures that night, trying to find a way to keep busy - as he would have to all summer.

 
   The letterbox flapped the next morning as they were sat at the dining table and nobody flinched. Harry continued to nibble his toast sadly, still in a terrible mood with his family.

Uncle Vernon sipped his tea. “Get the post, Harry.”

  He stomped out and scooped up the letters, throwing them down in front of his Uncle.

  After a minute or so of ripping open the envelopes, Uncle Vernon said, “Who is Hermione Granger?”

  Harry looked up in shock; Uncle Vernon was holding a spotty card and a blue envelope.

“The girl I met at the dentists,” Harry said.

“Ooooh, Harry’s got a girlfriend,” Dudley sang while Uncle Vernon cast his mind back a fortnight.

“No, I haven’t,” Harry spat at him.

“No one would want to be your girlfriend anyway,” Dudley retorted, bacon flying from his mouth.

“And the girls are queuing up for you, aren’t they?” Harry whispered sarcastically.

   Uncle Vernon put the card back in the envelope and tossed it at Harry, who caught it swiftly.

“You’re not going,” was all Uncle Vernon said as Harry passed him on the way to his cupboard.

   Harry locked the door behind him and switched the light on as he sat on his bed. The blue envelope had a piece of card and paper inside. The card had multicoloured spots on it and read:

You are invited to Hermione’s Eleventh Birthday Party. The celebrations begin on 20 August at the National Sea Life Centre, Woking, then continue at the Bowling Arena and finally end in the Granger Household.” (The address and number came after this.) “Please call the number to confirm your attendance. We hope to see you very soon.

   Sighing, Harry turned to the piece of yellow paper accompanying it, which turned out to be a letter in Hermione’s very neat handwriting:


 Hi Harry,

   You’re probably wondering how it is I knew where to send your invitation. Well, you left your jacket on the bench in the surgery and I found your cousin’s name written on the tag. I asked my parents to find your address on the computer.

   I really hope you can come to my party. I’m back from Canada on the 16th 
(which was yesterday) and will be preparing for my guests. It’s going to be really good. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give your jacket back then - Mum said it would be too much money to post it.

 See you soon,

Hermione

   Harry read over it again and then somehow gathered the courage to step out of his cupboard and approach Uncle Vernon in the living room before he went to work.

“Uncle Vernon,” Harry began.

“What?” he replied as he did up his tie.

“I was wondering if you’d let me go to Hermione’s birthday party.”
 
“I already said no. I’m not driving all the way past Woking for a silly birthday party.”

“It’s not that far,” Harry said quietly. And it’s not silly, he thought.

“No,” Vernon said.

“I could take the train,” Harry suggested.

“On your own?” Uncle Vernon laughed. “You’d never come back.”
 
  It was a stupid idea, but he had to try. “Uncle Vernon, please -”

  He stood up with his briefcase. “I said no, Harry.”

  He let his head fall down and he looked at his shoes. “Can I at least call to say I can’t go?” Harry tried.

“Make it fast.” Vernon watched Harry copy the number and dial it on the house phone.

   Harry held it to his ear and waited for an answer.

“Hello?” A female voice said.

“Hello, this is Harry … P-Potter. Can I speak to Hermione please?”

“One moment.”
 
   Harry sat down on an armchair and waited. Uncle Vernon tapped his foot, but ended up leaving through the front door because he would be late for work. As soon as he did this, Harry dragged the telephone wire along the floor with him and he sat in his cupboard in the dark.

“Hello?” came Hermione’s voice.

“Hi,” he replied.

“Harry!” she squealed. “I wondered when you were going to call.” He was silent. “Harry?”

“I’m not allowed to come,” he muttered sadly.

“Oh no!” Hermione said. “Why not?”

“My uncle said he won’t drive me.”

“That’s okay, my mum will pick you up.”
 
 Harry’s heart leapt. “Really?”

“Yes, I’ll ask.” Harry heard her say: “Mum, would we be able to get Harry at his house and drive him to the party?”

  And then her mum said, “Yes, as long as it’s alright with Harry’s parents.”
 
  Hermione said: “He lives with his aunt and uncle, remember?”

“Oh right,” Mrs Granger said. “He’ll have to ask them if it’s okay for us to pop in.”

  Hermione spoke directly into the phone this time. “My mum said yes! Do you think your uncle will mind?”

“Probably,” Harry said. “But he’ll be okay after five minutes.”

  Hermione finalised the plans, telling Harry all about which cake she chose in the bakery that day. “I hope you like triple chocolate fudge cake,” she finished.

“Love it,” Harry replied. “Not as much as my cousin though. He had a whole one to himself last week.”

“Really? That is …” While Hermione tried to contain her queasiness and dislike for Dudley, Harry heard his Aunt on the other side of the door.

“What on earth is the phone doing out here?” she muttered.

   The next thing Harry knew the door to his cupboard was open and the phone was being dragged from his hands.

“Who have you been calling?!” she yelled at him.

“My friend,” Harry whispered.

“You don’t have any friends,” Aunt Petunia replied. She lifted the phone to her lips. “Hello?” The line was dead so she put the phone back in the living room. She went back to Harry and said, “You’re to stay in your cupboard until tomorrow.”

   Harry was so embarrassed. Had Hermione heard his Aunt say he had no friends and hung up?

   She left him alone in the darkness and that was when he decided not to tell his Aunt and Uncle about his attendance at Hermione’s party until she and her parents arrived on the doormat.

 
   On the morning of the twentieth of August, Harry woke up feeling ill. He had still had the dreaded phone call in his mind, wondering what Hermione thought of him. Was she even going to turn up? He bet that Hermione was the smart popular girl at her school. She wouldn’t want him to be at her party with all of her friends after what his aunt said.

   Harry suddenly shook with fright at the prospect of the new people he would meet today. He was not socially awkward, but the thought of it was still quite daunting. He had never had a group of people who wanted him around and he was so nervous that he could not even smile about it. Instead, he fell out of his cupboard and marched upstairs to the bathroom.

   As the water from the shower pipe ran over him, the doorbell rang.

  He froze.

“I’ll get it,” Harry heard Dudley say. His pounding footsteps went across the hall as Harry fell out of the shower and pulled all of his clothes on.

  Dripping wet, he rushed out of the bathroom and tumbled down the stairs, heart pumping harshly in his chest.

“Harry?” Hermione frowned at him. There she was standing in the doorway in a pretty pink and white dress. There was a matching hair band in her long brown hair and she grinned at him after looking at her small silver wristwatch.

“Erm … hi,” he said. She looked so lovely, whereas he looked like a mess; he flushed pink.

“I hope it’s okay that we’ve come at this time,” Mrs Granger said to Harry and then to Dudley. Dudley simply looked at her shyly and then yelled, “MUM! DAD!”

   Harry reluctantly led the way into the living room. Hermione and her mother sat on the peach two-seater opposite the fireplace and he stood beside them waiting for the thunder from Uncle Vernon. The man in question entered in his green tartan pyjamas and Aunt Petunia followed in her usual frilly apron and yellow rubber gloves.

“Hello, I’m Emily Granger,” Mrs Granger said, holding out her hand.

“Hullo,” Petunia muttered, looking at it as though it were dripping with mud.

“Who are you?” Uncle Vernon said, trying not to sound rude but failing.

“I’m Hermione’s mum,” Mrs Granger said. “Harry mentioned that he’ll be coming with us to her party?”

“No, he didn’t,” Petunia said. She stared down at Harry. “Why are you all wet?”

“I’ll just … go and get ready.” He ran from the room and dived into his cupboard while the adults chatted. He shoved his arms into an oversized blue shirt and flung on some dark trousers and his shoes; he had meticulously planned his outfit the night before from the ten items of clothing he currently owned. He patted down his damp hair, pulled on his broken glasses and open the cupboard door.

  Hermione was standing outside of it waiting for him with her arms folded.

“You scared me,” Harry muttered nervously. He knew what was coming.

“Is this it then?” she said in a bossy tone, as Harry climbed out.

   Before he could close the door, she held it open and peered in.

“This is wrong,” she said after a while.

   Harry said nothing. All he saw was a single bed shoved neatly into the cupboard. No, there wasn’t any space to walk, but there were three wooden shelves and a few coat hangers which Harry’s shirts hung from.

“I should tell my mum,” Hermione said.
 
“Don’t. Please.”

“Hermione, are you ready to go?” Mrs Granger was approaching them and Harry closed his cupboard door.

“Yes,” Hermione smiled. “Harry was just showing me something in his - this cupboard.”

  Mrs Granger smiled. “Let’s get going.”

“So I can still come?” Harry asked brightly.

“Of course. Your aunt and uncle have agreed. I should have you back by tomorrow afternoon.”
 
“Tomorrow?” Harry gawped.

“Yes. They’re going out tonight and won’t be back until later so I offered to keep you for the night.”

“Great,” Harry beamed. “I’ll just get some things.”
 
   Harry turned to his cupboard and Hermione, panicking, ushered her mother to the car to wait for him there, diverting away from Harry’s ‘bedroom’. He grabbed his pyjamas and ran up to the bathroom for the rest of his toiletries. Before he could leave, he was stopped at the door by Uncle Vernon.

“You better behave yourself, boy.”
 
“I will.”

“And don’t go getting too comfortable with these people. I doubt they’ll have you back again.” Harry nodded. “And if I find out that anything odd went on, you will be punished.”

“Yes, Uncle Vernon,” Harry said looking at the ground.

   When Harry had climbed into the back of Mrs Granger’s silver car, Hermione asked him what his uncle was talking to him about.

  Harry said, “Just the usual teary goodbyes. Said he’d missed me.”
 
  Harry grinned as Hermione saw through his lie and shook her head, while Mrs Granger said, “That’s lovely.”

   The drive to Woking went much faster than Harry remembered. He and Hermione were deeply engaged in a conversation over sports and games they like to play. While Hermione obviously favoured a simple game of skipping rope or hopscotch, Harry enjoyed climbing frames and running. They then moved onto more personal details, like family and friends.

“I don’t have many friends,” Harry muttered vaguely after Hermione asked him about them. He changed the subject hoping not to trigger any memory of Aunt Petunia’s comment. “How many people will be coming to your party?”

“Not many,” she copied with a grin. “Two of my cousins and two friends.”

“Oh,” Harry said, looking over the field he was sure he remembered on his first journey to Woking. He felt a little more at ease knowing that there would only be a few other people.

“Nearly there, Harry,” Mrs Granger called.

  Harry laughed. He was very excited about this and Hermione could tell by just looking at him. She stared inquisitively at him as he looked out of the window. His carefree smile made her smile. She was in awe of how easily he was made happy - a side effect of living with the Dursleys.

“What?” Harry asked her.

  She jumped as he looked at her. “Nothing.” Blushing, she turned to her side and picked up his jacket which was beside her on the seat. “Here you go.” Harry said thank you and took it. “Why does it have your cousin’s name in it?”

“Because it was his,” Harry replied.

“It’s far too large for you,” she whispered. “Don’t they -?”

   He shook his head. His aunt and uncle never bought him new clothes. Not even when he was a baby. Harry was sure that he wore Dudley’s baby clothes. He supposed that that was the best he was ever treated by the Dursleys - after all, how badly could you treat a baby without people noticing? He bet by the time he turned five or six, the bad treatment really set in. He never did remember a time where they treated him well. They always got him to do the chores and he always got last pickings of everything, hand-me-downs and poor quality food lacking in much nutritional value. Apparently, poor treatment was meant to make you stronger, but for what? What could possibly happen to Harry that could be worse than the Dursleys?

“Harry! Time to go,” Hermione called. She and her mother where out of the car waiting for him; he hadn’t noticed the car stop.

   Quickly unbuckling his seatbelt, he joined them in the car park of the Sea Life Centre. Mrs Granger locked the car and led the way inside.

“Excited, Hermione?” she asked her daughter.

“So much. I’ve been waiting weeks for this,” she told Harry.

“You’re going to love my present, Hermione,” Mrs Granger said.

Harry stopped walking and Grangers looked at him. “I didn’t get you a present.”
 
“That’s alright,” Hermione said genuinely.

“I - I didn’t know I was coming - and - and even if I did, I don’t have any money to -”
“Harry, dear, it’s alright,” Mrs Granger reassured.

“But, Hermione …”

“It’s okay,” she said. Hermione walked beside him, took his hand and tugged on it. “Now, come on.”

   His hands were getting a little sweaty, he must admit, but simply having someone beside him despite his lack of money, clothing or family, was what really counted. Holding his breath, Harry walked beside Hermione, body shaking with elation that a girl had held his hand.

All he could do was smile.


Chapter 3: A Light In The Dark
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N: The chapter is finally up after many edits! I wasn't really feeling the first draft so it took a little longer than I thought. Enjoy!!

 

   Harry was not one to complain, but some things were just unfair. He certainly was thankful that for once he was out of Privet Drive and with his only friend, but when that friend paid absolutely no attention to him, he were licensed to be in a bad mood.

   Viewing all of the different tropical fish was an experience Harry enjoyed very much. The entire place was filled with a blue light from the water as it cast itself over the people in the tunnels. The fishes all around them swam about peacefully as Harry had gazed up at them. There were turtles (or tortoise), goldfish, some others that he had never seen before. Every so often, Harry would glance to his left at Hermione. Occassionally she would look back, but she mostly paid attention to a boy named William Henry Underwood-Brooker.

   William was the fourteen year old big brother of Hermione’s school friend, Dahlia Nuélla Underwood-Brooker. Both with blonde hair and startling blue eyes, apparently they were some very distant relation of some Lord or whatever (not that Harry cared) and Dahlia had been friends with Hermione for four years. They did not seem very close, and so that led Harry to bet that Hermione only invited her so that her brother could attend. After brief introductions upon arrival (there was Hermione’s younger cousins Ingrid and Fiona), they slowly took part in a tour of the Centre, while Mrs Granger and her brother, Mr Newell, spoke quietly. All throughout, Harry watched Hermione smile and laugh at William’s poor jokes and comments. It was very annoying. Even Hermione’s cousins noticed and kept to themselves.

  Just before they were about to sit down for lunch to eat, William walked by Harry and said, “So, how long have you known Hermione?”

  Harry began walking over to the tables. “Not long. You?”

“Four years, but not very well. She came to our house a lot to see Dahlia. She’s obsessed with me.” William laughed but Harry just frowned at him. “What?”

   Harry shrugged.

   Did she really want him there at all? Did she simply pity him? All the way through their trip, Hermione had not said a word to Harry and he couldn’t help but feel let down; why invite him if she didn’t want to talk?

   After they had finished the tour, they went to the Bowling Arena, where Hermione’s team (Hermione, Dahlia and Fiona) won. They all had a little something to eat and drink and then Mrs Granger led everyone back out to the car park where they would all go to her house.

   Harry, grumpy, slid into the back of the car and waited for Hermione to get in after she finished talking to her friends.

 She grinned at Harry as she put her seatbelt on. “That was great, wasn’t it?”

   Harry nodded vaguely as she tossed her hair over her shoulder.

  Hermione frowned. “Are you okay?”

“Yep.” Harry pressed his forehead onto the cool window as the car began to drive down the street. He didn’t want to talk right now, so the car was in an awkward silence until they pulled up on the driveway of number one hundred and twelve Winslow Avenue.

   There was another car on the drive and so Mrs Granger drove in beside it.

“Your father’s back from work,” she said to Hermione.

  Hermione pelted from the car and ran into her father’s arms as he met her by the door. He picked her up and swung her around saying, “How’s your day been, Angel?”

   As Harry got out of the car, he felt that colossal thump he usually felt in his stomach whenever he saw other children with their parents. He was just about to imagine a life where he had the same thing when William got out of his parents’ car with his sister, reminding Harry that he was angry with him.

  Immediately Harry went inside behind Mrs Granger with his bag over his shoulder.

   The Grangers home was a much-more-expensive-than-average, semi-detached house with large Georgian windows, high ceilings and intricate neutral decorations. The large hallway boasted a light staircase on the right hand side, two sitting rooms on the left and the kitchen and dining room to the back of the house, where large glass doors led out to the large green garden. It was the perfect family home; the Grangers certainly earned more money than the Dursleys and it showed.

   While everyone was marvelling at the pink balloons and decorations Mr Granger had put up, Harry went into the large modern kitchen after Mrs Granger. She was taking a circular pink cake out of its box and setting it on a large tray.

“Do you need some help, Mrs Granger?” he asked sadly.

“Oh no - actually, sure. Why not?” She smiled at him. “Could you pass me those candles?”

   Harry crossed the room to grab the pack of pink and yellow candles from the worktop. As she lit them, Harry watched carefully as each wick came alight and did not even notice when she began watching him.

“You’ve been very quiet today,” she said.

“I have been enjoying it, Mrs Granger,” he reassured. “I’m really glad you invited me.”

“I didn’t.” She lit the last candle. “Hermione did.”

“She’s more interested in William,” Harry said bitterly. His face went red once he had realised what he said and how embarrassing it was for Mrs Granger to hear it.

  Emily put her hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Harry.” That was all she said until she carefully carried the cake into the living room. Harry rushed out to close the curtains and switch off the lights for her as the Happy Birthday Song began to ring out of everyone’s mouths. Hermione stood, bashful, in the middle of the room looking around gratefully at her friends and family.

… Happy early Birthday, Hermione, Happy Birthday to you.” There was laughter and then Hermione closed her eyes and made a wish. Harry hoped it was about him, but then thought that was stupid as she blew out each of the eleven candles.

“Thanks everyone,” Hermione said brightly.

   Mr Granger assisted her in cutting the cake and a piece was given to everyone while the latest song from a boy band played in the background. Harry sat by the window while Hermione told a story - a thrilling tale he was sure! - about something that had occurred at her school. Dahlia filled in here and there, and as she did so, Hermione finally caught Harry’s gaze. As soon as she did, he looked away at the curtains.

   She walked over to him, a small slice of cake in her hand.

“Are you okay?”

  Harry said, “Oh, I’m excellent. Have you been having fun?” Somehow that came out with a sarcastic edge and Hermione was slightly taken aback. “Seriously, this is better than being with the Dursleys. I promise.”

“I’m glad I could help.” She sat down next to him and nibbled on the pink icing.

  Harry shuffled aside and said, “What about your friends?”

  She chuckled lightly. “You’re my friend too, Harry.” She quickly changed the subject. “Looking forward to the last year of school? I am.”

“Sure,” Harry replied. “Then again, I can’t wait until I’m sixteen so I can leave home.”

  Hermione sighed and took his arm. “Let’s go and sit in the garden.”

   Cake aside, she dragged Harry out into the sunshine, where they played innocently and ran around until their lungs burnt. Minutes later, Mr Granger gave them a two minute notice until Hermione would be opening her gifts.

“Shall we go inside?” Harry asked as they lay together looking up at the sky until their eyes hurt.

  Hermione acquiesced and then sat up. “What school do you think you’ll go to?”

“Huh?” Harry said as he tried to get grass off his clothes.

“Secondary school,” she said. “My parents applied for me to go to the local Grammar School. It’s mixed, so …” she said vaguely.

  Harry knew he was not smart enough for a Grammar School. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dursleys made me stay at home and not get an education,” Harry said with a laugh. His aunt and uncle stooped to new lows every day.

“Oh …” Hermione slipped her shoes back on and strolled up to the house behind Harry.

“What have you two been doing? You look a mess!”

“William!” Hermione’s face went red. Harry turned behind him and rolled his eyes. He continued on into the house while she and William chatted by the door.

   Harry sat beside six year old Ingrid in his filthy clothes. Everyone looked good compared to him. Even Hermione’s cousin was dressed in fine materials. Was that it? William and Dahlia were practically royalty and were bound to be handsomely rich while Harry was the poorest person he knew. There he was, skinny-legged, knock-kneed, messy-haired, glasses-wearing and orphaned with no friends. Why did he even expect anyone to look at him twice? And why was he even thinking this way about girls at this age? He shook his head confusedly and sighed.

   Nevertheless, he pressed his black hair down as best as he could when Hermione re-entered the room. She sat quietly beside the pile of neatly-wrapped gifts. William entered moments later.

“That one is from your Aunt and Uncle in France,” Mr Granger said as he held out a large purple box.

   Hermione opened it and held up a new lime and cream dress that had apparently spotted at a boutique when they visited last summer.

“Wow,” she said unenthusiastically. She threw it back into the box. “Next.”

“Hermione …” Mrs Granger said.

   Stonily, she ignored her mother and went onto the next one.

“Erm … that’s from your mother and I,” Mr Granger said.

   Hermione plucked the white box open. Harry couldn’t see what it was because, the next instant, she closed it again and left the room in tears.

“What just happened?” Dahlia said.

“I’ll go and check on her,” Mrs Granger said. Moments later, she was back and said to the room, “She wants her father.”

Surprised, Mr Granger went up to Hermione’s room. Meanwhile, Mrs Granger began to clean up the mess that had accumulated.

“What did you say to her?” Dahlia asked her brother.

“Nothing … much,” was his reply.

“If you upset her then -”

   All of a sudden, William’s full cup of juice, swelled up and went all over his face and clothes. His sister laughed like a maniac while he yelled out. And yet Harry couldn’t help but feel like this was his fault. He had been staring at William angrily, the inherent rage he felt for him building and building until the cup spilt over him …

  Mr Granger tumbled down the stairs and said, “I’m afraid the party’s over. Dahlia, William, Ingrid and Fiona, come with me. I’m taking you home.”

  William tried his best to wipe himself down with a dishcloth that Mrs Granger offered.

“No, Uncle Kyle,” Fiona yelled. “I want to stay.”

“Well you can’t, darling. But, I’ll tell you what? I’ll wrap up a huge slice of cake for you all to take with you. Yeah?”

  Ingrid and Fiona went into the kitchen after him while Dahlia and William put on their coats.

“So he gets to stay?” Dahlia asked suspiciously.

“Yes, “Mrs Granger said. “His Aunt and Uncle are out late tonight and we offered to keep him.”

“Where is it you met Hermione?” Dahlia asked.

“The dentist,” Harry replied. “Her parents’ dentist.”

“Oh yes, I remember. She called me when she got home that day. Said you were nice.” Dahlia looked down at his clothes and raised an eyebrow.

“And I am,” he said defensively. The thing with some posh girls is that they pick up their parents’ habits of looking down at other people.

“Bye, Harry,” she said stiffly.

   Knowing that neither brother or sister wished to ever see him and his scruffy clothes again, Harry permitted them a friendly goodbye upon their parting and then continued to keep himself busy by cleaning the house with Mrs Granger. Cleaning was so much better when it wasn’t a chore. He actually enjoyed it.

“Is Hermione okay?” he asked when they sat on the settee later that evening.

“I think so. Her father always seems to cheer her up. She’s getting ready for bed right now. You can go up and ask her in a little while.” Mrs Granger had a look on her face like she was planning something.

“Are you sure?” Harry asked.

“Come on,” she said. “I’ll show you the bathroom and where you’ll be sleeping.”
With a little excitement, Mrs Granger switched off the television and led Harry up the staircase to the upper floor of the Granger household.

“The bathroom is on the left, Hermione’s room is the farthest on the right and the spare room is opposite.”
 
“Thanks, Mrs Granger,” Harry said.

“Because you’re both not at school and it’s Hermione’s party, you can stay up until ten.” She checked her watch. “So you have two and a half hours to talk. I’ll be going to work early in the morning, but my husband will be here all day to keep you both company and then he’ll take you home.”

  He nodded. “And Hermione’s okay?” Harry asked as he looked at her door.
 
“Trust me Harry, she’s more angry than upset.”

   Eyes wide and feeling apprehensive, Harry prepared for bed. When he had finished, he changed into his huge blue pyjamas and left his clothes in the neat guest bedroom.

   Holding his breath, he tapped Hermione’s bedroom door.

“I don’t want to talk right now, Mum,” Hermione called out.

“No - erm - it’s Harry.”

  He heard footsteps and within a second Hermione was at the door, beckoning him inside. She was wearing a white nightdress and blue slippers with her thick brown hair tied back. They sat down on her lavender bed. It was a nice room. The walls were a pale pink and she had a dressing table, huge wardrobes and shoes lined against the wall. More prominent were her piles of books that were stacked on shelves, on the window sill and on the floor.

  Harry noticed her trying to wipe her eyes and asked, “What happened?”

“Nothing …”
 
“I know William said something to you. It’s obvious.”

“I’m just being stupid. I’m a ten year old girl for goodness sake …”

“You’re not stupid.” Harry said. “And ten or not, you still have feelings.”

“You’re right … well, William was just telling me how much fun he was having, when I thought - stupidly - that he was going to tell me that he likes me, so I told him that I liked him, but then he said he didn’t … and that … he has no time for little girls …” She threw her head into her hands.

  Harry sighed. “Well he is really old …” He grinned.

“William’s fourteen!” Hermione said, appalled.

“Like I said - old.”
 
“Shut up, Harry,” Hermione said with a laugh.

“I don’t know, Hermione, don’t you sometimes think that life gets too complicated when you grow up?”

“I know it does,” she said. “My parents are always stressed out about money, their marriage, me …”

  And there it was again. “What’s it like?” Harry whispered.

“What?” Hermione rolled over to look into his eyes.

“Having parents …”

“It’s like being on a really bouncy Bouncing Castle,” she said honestly. “One where you can bounce and bounce and know that you won’t get hurt every time you fall down.”

  Harry smiled. “I sometimes feel like I’m on a swing at the park. And then when I fall there’s only the hard grey pavement to make me hurt even more.”

“Don’t say that.” She put one arm over him.

“It’s okay,” Harry said. “I have my Aunt and Uncle … and Dudley.”
 
  Hermione chuckled. “I’m sure nothing compares to them … But I don’t see how you stand them, if I’m being completely honest.”

“I just stay in my cupboard most of the time.” Harry paused. “Hey, do you have a torch?”

   By the time Hermione came back from her parents room with a high-powered torch under her arm, Harry had make a makeshift fort out of her bed sheets, having thrown them over her furniture and put pillows on the ground of their new den.

“Do you like it?” he asked as she turned her bedroom light off and crawled in.

   She sat beside him and switched on the torch. It hit the jewel on her silver necklace and illuminated the tent-like structure with small sparkling dots. “It’s beautiful.”
 
“This is what my cupboard is like, except the draughty door and no fresh air.”

“I understand now, Harry,” Hermione said in earnest. “It makes you feel safe …”

“I suppose it does. Hermione, why is it you wanted your dad and not your mum earlier?”

“Oh, well … William’s a boy, so I wanted to ask my dad why he was being so horrible. I wanted another male perspective rather than my mum telling me that he said those things because he liked me. I know he doesn’t.”
“And what did he say?”

“My dad told me that there was plenty more fish in the sea.”
 
  Harry smiled. “That’s all he came up with?”

  Hermione giggled. “Give him some credit, he probably thought long and hard about it. That’s the thing about my dad. He won’t lie or pretend to make me feel better.” She said this proudly while gazing at the carpet.

  Harry nodded. “What’s that?” he said, pointing to the necklace.

“Oh, this was the gift from my mum and dad.” She turned over the heart-shaped pendant. “On the other side it has a ‘H’ engraved into it.”
 
“It’s really nice.”

“Thanks.”

   They looked at each other for a moment and then laughed, cheeks going red.

“I’ll see what my uncle says,” Harry said.
 
“About?”

“Where I’ll be going for school next year. It can’t hurt to ask.” Applications were being made now, so there may be a chance to change their minds.

“Thank you, Harry.” Hermione threw her arms around him and squeezed.

“I c-can’t breathe …”
 
“You’re the best friend ever.”

“I thought that was Dahlia. And you’ve only known me for a couple of weeks.”

  Hermione leaned away from him. “Dahlia is only my friend because I help her with homework. Her parents have very high expectations for her. And, well, we won’t see much of each other when school finishes because she’s off to a boarding school in Hertfordshire next September. And then I’ll only really have you. And you were my friend because you actually wanted to be.”

“Let’s just hope neither of us go to boarding school,” Harry said cheerfully.

  Harry never did make it to the spare bedroom that night. They had both stayed up until midnight discussing all of the things they had not talked about when they first met. Hermione told Harry about her family and her longing for a sibling, Harry spoke about his parents and his longing for a family. Then they discussed more trivial things, such as what they wanted to do when they grew up; Harry wasn’t sure yet, but Hermione wanted to go to University and be either a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or an aid worker in third world countries - she wasn’t sure yet.

   They eventually fell asleep while they talked about meeting up again for Hermione’s actual birthday in September. Mr and Mrs Granger peeked into the bedroom to find the two children fast asleep, Mrs Granger looking rather triumphant.

   The next morning, Harry awoke to a soft touch to his face.

“Sorry,” Hermione said as he opened his eyes. “I was trying to get your glasses off. You slept with them on.”

   She sat back and pushed her out-of-control hair from of her face.

“Oh.” He sat up and took them off, rubbing the side of his face where an imprint had been left in his skin.

“They’re not very nice,” Hermione said, looking at the tape across the bridge.

“You noticed?!”

  Hermione laughed and then said quietly, “They’re not very nice, but … they suit you.”

“Thanks. Can’t see a thing without them.” He blinked at the blur that was Hermione as she stood up.

“Help me clean up?” she asked him with a pillow in hand.

“Okay.” He put his glasses back on and they tidied up her room quickly before they were ordered to. After showering, they ate breakfast, where Harry got to know Mr Granger better. Harry looked up to him, in a way. He was successful and happy with his wife and daughter - nothing like Uncle Vernon who complained about everything and everyone. Plans were made for Harry to visit again before they went into the car and drove him back to Privet Drive.

“Bye, Harry,” Hermione said, hugging him on the doorstep while Aunt Petunia pursed her lips. “I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”

“Yeah.” Harry went inside and fell into his cupboard without saying a word to his family.

   No matter how many times Dudley pestered him, Harry would not reveal a word of his trip. He knew it would annoy Dudley. Clearly, he was just jealous and Harry was happy that he was. When Hermione called him the next day, Dudley sat in the living room watching him suspiciously while they chatted and arranged another meeting.
 

   He saw Hermione again the week after when she persuaded her mother to drop her off at the park by his house. Mrs Granger bought a picnic basket filled with sandwiches and soft drinks and spent most of her time on the bench a few metres away from them on her mobile phone. Mrs Granger left the children to talk and run and play. The next time after that, Harry saw Hermione the day after her birthday in September. Both had started school again and it was the first time he had seen her in her school uniform. The Grangers had picked him up from the Dursleys wearing his grey school trousers and white shirt. Hermione had on a grey pleated skirt, long socks, a blue shirt, black tie and navy cardigan. She had saved him another slice of cake which they ate in the garden. They spent the rest of the afternoon with a pack of cards learning how to play various games and trying magic tricks.

   The rest of the year was spent almost the same way; a solid friendship had grown between the two. From Harry teaching Hermione how to climb trees, to Hermione lecturing Harry on saving the environment and the benefits of recycling. Swimming trips came next, then camping, then trips into town to buy things and another few sleepovers. To be quite honest, Uncle Vernon was not happy at all that Harry was having a good time. In fact, he had an argument with Mr Granger when he had brought Harry a new jacket for Christmas, claiming that he was trying to make the Dursleys seem poor. Then he went into a long explanation of how well his job at Grunnings paid. While Mr Granger made no objections, he kindly asked Uncle Vernon his permission to have Harry over for the New Year, which he rudely declined. Although Harry was upset, he went through weeks without seeing Hermione only for them to bump into each other in London when Aunt Petunia and Dudley were shopping for new toys. Mrs Granger and Hermione walked with them for a while until Aunt Petunia began to get uncomfortable and Dudley started to yell that he never was allowed to have friends come shopping with him (which was an absolute lie). Harry and Hermione parted ways and did not see each other again for weeks. And then it turned to months. Hermione warned that it would when school got busy. It got to June and Harry had to call her to see if she was alright. She was, thank goodness, she was simply preparing for school. She had been accepted to her Grammar school, the best in the area. Harry didn’t know where his uncle was sending him, but he knew it wasn’t there. Every time Harry asked him, he would not answer or say something mysterious like “You’re going where you deserve to go.” She was disheartened obviously, but promised that she would see him soon.

   School was finished, June passed and July came when Hermione called him. She said that her father was on the way to Surrey and to meet her in the park. Immediately, Harry put on his shoes and walked down the street, excited to see her again, it had been weeks and he had hoped to buy her an ice cream from the ice cream van.

   The sun shone bright when he sat down on the swings and waited for her. He swung lightly backwards and forwards, his hands heated by the warm chains.

“Hi, Harry.”

“Hi.” He stood up. She looked pretty today as usual. She was in a purple printed top and jeans with her hair in two plaits.

   Hermione sat on the swing and he continued to swing gently on the one beside her.

“How was school?”

“Good, thanks. Have you had a good summer?” she asked.

  Harry shrugged. “It was okay. I was so bored that I practically ran here when you called.” Hermione began to sniff. “Are you crying?”

“Not really,” she played down. “It’s just, I don’t want you to be mad at me.”
 
“Why would I be …?”

“I’m going away, Harry.”

“What?” He stopped swinging.

“For school. I would have seen you every weekend, or every day after school if I could. If I was going to school in Woking …”
 
“But you’re not?” Harry felt like someone had punched him in his stomach. He was losing the one true friend that he had and he knew it.

  She shook her head. “I’ll be going to boarding school, Harry, our worst fear. Not even Hertfordshire, further than that. We’ll be apart for months at a time. I’ll only be back for Christmas and maybe Easter and then summer. I really didn’t want to go when I found out I had a place, but then I thought … well, maybe … it’s a good school that will show my talents …”

“It makes sense …”
 
“Please don’t be upset …”

“No, I’m not. I’m really happy for you, honestly. You’re the smartest person I know.”

  She hugged him with tears in her eyes. “I knew you’d understand … this isn’t really goodbye, Harry …”

Wasn’t it? Harry thought. Everybody knew that once you went to secondary school that you never stayed friends with your old friends - especially if you lived far away from one another.

“When do you leave?”

“September,” she said while looking at her shoes. “We’ve got time yet,” she promised.

“Hmmm …”

“You’ll still be my best friend,” she told him.

“You too, Hermione.” Harry gazed over at the other children playing on the grass.
 
“Listen, I’ve got to go.” She pointed to the car. “My dad’s waiting.”

“Bye, Hermione,” Harry said sadly.

“Goodbye, Harry.”

   And then he wondered whether he would ever see her again. Hermione Granger came into his life so unexpectedly. He supposed that it only made sense that she left it as swiftly. Boys like Harry never found happiness. Why would he after the crap life he had lived so far?

   He started to swing. Up then back and then up again. Higher and higher he went, wondering if he could touch the sky. Hermione was long gone now and he just had himself and today to life for. Harry wanted to know what it would be like if he fell because right now he could feel it in his heart. Would he bounce back or would it hurt like a sore cut or a bruise?

   The higher you swing, the further you have to fall and Harry told himself that he wasn’t afraid of heights. But that didn’t matter when you lose your balance; your heart still quivers and you’re vulnerable to fear.


A/N: Hope this is okay. Some may think it was rushed, but I think I showed enough to give a general background to their friendship before Hogwarts. Let me know what you think below :D


Chapter 4: The Letter
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   Petunia watched her nephew with intensity over the next few weeks. Her small hawk-like eyes ran over him with curiosity and amazement; he hardly ever complained, he did as he was told without much persuasion, spent time alone and barely spoke when spoken to. It was very … odd. She had wanted to ask him what was wrong like a mother figure would, advise him, help him feel better, but she couldn’t surely show the softer side of her nature after all of these years, because then she would have to keep it up and Vernon would not allow her to be nice to ‘his kind’ even if he was her flesh and blood. It was her own fault really, and, now, if it were possible, she felt bad for dragging her unnecessary dislike and jealousy of her dead sister onto her only nephew.

   She continued on, scrubbing at the oven that Tuesday morning with large yellow gloves pulled up to her elbows. It was awfully filthy, congealed with residue from last week’s roast, so she made a third attempt at making it spotless.

   Dudley was upstairs watching television in his second bedroom, enjoying his summer, while Vernon was at work. At the table, Harry was sitting finishing his toast with little enthusiasm, his teeth ripping the edge of the bread in tiny bites.

“Hurry up and eat that before it gets cold,” she barked over her shoulder, trying to keep her voice as strong and as bitter as usual.

“Not hungry,” he mumbled as he left the table. His toast was thrown into the bin and he began to wash the plate in the sink as the phone rang.

  Petunia yanked off one glove and rushed to the phone in the hallway.

“Hello,” she said in her polite voice, staring randomly at the bottom step of the staircase.

“Hello, this is Hermione.” Petunia said nothing as she eyed a splatter of mud on the step. “Hermione Granger, Harry’s friend.”

“Oh yes,” she replied while she watched her nephew in the kitchen. “How can I help you?”

“May I speak with him please, Mrs Dursley?”

  The girl asked so politely, how could she not agree? She was in fact covertly happy that he had a friend - and a normal one at that.

“Harry, phone,” she told him.

  Harry put down the plate he had finished cleaning and wiped his hands on a dishcloth. His eyes went to the ground as he approached his aunt. “Is it Hermione?”

“Yes,” Petunia replied.

“Erm … I don’t really want to talk to her, Aunt Petunia.”

   She raised an eyebrow and, in her ear, heard Hermione gasp. Poor girl.

“He’s busy at the moment,” Petunia said stiffly as Harry slammed the door of his cupboard behind him. “Try again tomorrow.”

"I heard what he said,” the girl replied clearly. “But this is important. I have to speak with him.”

“Well, I’m afraid he doesn’t want to talk to you. Do you want to leave a message? I’m sure he’ll be in the mood to visit soon.”
 
“It’s not that!” Hermione practically yelled down Petunia’s ear. “I was reading a book this morning and I saw his name in there about -”

“What kind of a book would have his -?”

   The phone fell from her grasp and dangled from the coiled wire, hitting the wall several times. It was her. Lily. It must have been. But how would this girl - this normal girl know about them? How did she simply come across it in book? She wouldn’t … unless she was one too. Were her parents like her, like Harry too? They were dentists! Even if they weren’t, it was still possible; Lily was the only one in the Evans family … Oh no … what would Vernon say if he knew that Harry had had contact with one of them? He must never know …

   Petunia picked up the phone by the wire and put it back to her ear.

“Don’t ever call back here again,” she muttered fiercely to the little girl, forceful enough to get her point across.

“But, Mrs Dursley, Harry’s a -”
 
   The phone was back on the hook before she finished her sentence. Petunia knew what Harry was, always had and he wasn’t about to find out. He was going to Stonewall High this September, not … not there

   Harry rolled out of his cupboard timidly and looked up at his aunt.

“What did she say?” he asked, hoping she would reply (after all, they had few conversations).

  Nothing. She could have said nothing.

“She said she didn’t want to speak with you any more. Ever.” Harry looked at her in horror. “She doesn’t want you to be friends any more.” Hopefully that would sink in, Petunia thought, hopefully then he would let it alone, never speak to her and never find out who he truly was.
 

    Harry was on his back in the dark, staring above him as if he could see the underside of the staircase. He couldn’t, not at this time.

   This was it. All he had to look forward to was going to school in Little Whinging, to a place where Hermione wasn’t, where he had no friends, where he would have to start afresh. The only saving grace was that Dudley would not be there to make sure he stayed lonely, although, he would have felt a little more optimistic if his aunt and uncle had paid for proper school uniform instead of dying old clothes grey in the kitchen sink. Maybe a new start was good for him, he convinced himself. Maybe it would be best to move on. He was growing up now, why not embrace a new situation and new people? Hopefully they would not notice the poverty he lived in, the broken glasses, messy hair, skinny stature …

  Hermione said she didn’t care that he was poor. She said his glasses suited him, those ugly things …

   He rolled over and put them on his face after pulling the cord beside him, turning the light on. He looked at a rectangular piece of shiny paper on a shelf. It was facedown. It was facedown and it was a photo of himself and Hermione from her pre-birthday party months ago that her mother had given him weeks after. He could remember it exactly without having to look at it; Hermione was wearing her pink and white dress, matching hair band, had a smile on her face, hair floating around her face. It was a sneaky shot; someone must have taken it while they were playing in the garden because they were both mid-run, arms up, bodies frozen in motion. Harry was slightly behind her, smiling too. But the weirdest thing, the most memorable, the craziest, more beautiful thing was that they were looking directly into each other’s eyes.

   Harry left the picture facedown, switched the light off, took off his glasses, rolled over and fell asleep.
 

   The phone seemed to ring more than often, Harry thought. At least once a day it would sound, while they were eating, while he was in his cupboard, while he was sitting just outside the back door … Uncle Vernon moaned every time. ‘That blasted phone!’ he would yell out, but Aunt Petunia rushed for it after only few rings, claiming it was a wrong number, Dudley’s new school or some other excuse.

   Harry was still quiet, acquiescent, sad. Life passed him by without many interruptions, day and night. Until the phone rang.

   It went again in the middle of the night. His eyes flew straight open and he laid in silence until someone answered it, but it continued. Then nothing.

   It rang again.

  Forgetting his glasses, he rolled out of bed to pick up the phone.

“Hello,” he drawled tiredly, rubbing his face.

“Harry!”

“Hermione?” His body turned stiff and his voice distant. “I thought you didn’t want to talk to me.”
 
“What? You’re the one who said that. I heard you.”

“Well, I didn’t mean it,” he said defensively. He lowered his volume and listened carefully to whether his aunt, uncle or cousin were woken. “What are you doing calling me in the middle of the night, Hermione?”

“It’s a state of emergency, Harry. Every time I called your aunt would tell me to go away or that you didn’t want to hear from me.”
 
“She never told me you called …”

“Every day, Harry.”

   He breathed, hard, mind scrambled with this information. Why would she be so desperate to talk to him?

“My aunt said -”
 
“I think we’ve established that your aunt lied,” Hermione said. Harry could tell that she had a smile on her face.

“Okay,” he whispered. “She lied.”

“But you did say you didn’t want to speak to me. I won’t forget that.”

“What did you expect? You told me that you were going to boarding school! That meant we weren’t really going to be friends any more. I was angry at you.”
 
“About that, Harry … I have news. It’s why I’ve been calling. I was reading a book that I had bought for school a week ago, trying to get a head start on the syllabus. It was only the first chapter of the third book on History. Well, this one wasn’t on the book list, but I bought it anyway because it looked fascinating -”
 
 Yawning, Harry said, “Are you going to get to the point, Hermione? I’m tired.” She was speaking in her fast, excited voice and all Harry had in mind was sleep.

“Right, well it was a fascinating book and what made it more fascinating was you.”
 

“Come again?”

“You were in the book, Harry.”

“And why would I be in a history book?” This was a bit ridiculous, but he was willing to humour her for the time being. He was too tired to think about how stupid she sounded at the moment.

“Because you’re Harry James Potter, born 31st July 1980, son of James Potter and Lily Potter née Evans, who died on the 31st October 1981 in Godric’s Hollow!”

   All he could hear was her breathing hard down the phone.

 Inhale … exhale … inhale …

  Harry did not even know all of that information himself. “I never told you when they -”

“Exactly! You never told me the date or that it was Halloween or their names or where you lived so this book must be right. Your aunt and uncle mustn’t have told you everything, those cruel people. How could they do that to you? You have no idea about, well, about anything …!”

   She was speaking too fast again.

  He didn’t understand …

“What are you talking about? How do you know about my parents?”

 She was silent for a moment. “Oh Harry, I don’t know how to say this but … oh no … how do I say this …?”

“Just say it.”
 
“But Harry, it’s really bad … I don’t want -”

“Say it,” he said impatiently.

“Your parents were … they were … murdered.”

  The hollow void in his stomach was suddenly filled with something even more empty and nameless. He could not fathom why someone would do that to his parents. What about the car accident? Suddenly their deaths became more real to him than it ever had.

“Harry …”
 
  Were they bad people? Had they done something wrong? Were they criminals? So many questions bounced around his head as he held his stomach with one hand. He was going to throw up …

“Harry?”

  He closed his eyes. “I’m still here,” he whispered.

  Leaning against the wall, he waited for her to talk. “I’m sorry that I had to tell you,” she said quietly. “Your aunt and uncle … well, Harry, please, I didn’t call to make you sad …”
 
“So why did you?” he forced out.

“Your parents weren’t ordinary people. And neither are you. Me neither.” What does that mean? he asked himself. What does that mean? “Harry, this is going to sound weird, and trust me, my parents and I were sceptic too, but just listen. I’m a witch. I got a letter saying that I get to go to a school to learn about it and there’s hundreds, thousands of us out there in hiding all over the world according to these books I got from a magical street in London and from what I read, you are magical too and this means we can go to school together and everything so we won’t have to split up -”

   Harry lowered the phone to see the unclear shape of Aunt Petunia at the top of the stairs. All talk of witches and schools and books was gone.

“Who is that on the phone?” she asked her nephew monotonously.

   Harry opened his mouth, but eventually said nothing, placing the phone back on the hook and rushing to his bed, his aunt’s angry face stinging into his mind.
 

“Were my parents murdered?”

   Uncle Vernon’s tea sprayed from his mouth over Dudley’s face and breakfast while Aunt Petunia’s glass of juice fell to the ground and smashed into tiny pieces.

  Dudley moaned that his breakfast was ruined.

   Uncle Vernon turned purple.

   Aunt Petunia ignored the mess on the floor. That was weird.

 Dudley moaned some more.

   Uncle Vernon told him to get his own breakfast. Harry was shocked at that.

  No one moved.

   Aunt Petunia sent Dudley up to his room. Harry was shocked at that too.

  And the fact that Dudley actually went was more surprising still.

   His aunt and uncle stared down at him sternly.

“Where did you hear that?” Uncle Vernon demanded.

“Hermione mentioned something …”

“I thought you weren’t going to speak with her any more,” Aunt Petunia said.

“You would have liked that, wouldn’t you?” Harry said with conviction.

“What did you just say to your aunt?” Uncle Vernon shouted nearly standing from his chair. Petunia put a hand on her husband’s shoulder.

“I’m just saying, there was a reason why Aunt Petunia didn’t want me to talk to her.”
 
“She’s not to be your friend any more,” his aunt said. “She’s not someone I want you be associated with.”

   Vernon looked at his wife and she stared back with strength and fear.

   Somehow, he understood.

“Get to your cupboard,” Uncle Vernon said.

“What? I still have questions! I want to know what happened to my parents and why -”
“Get to your cupboard!” Vernon stood from his chair.

  Harry stood up too to equal his uncle. “I’m not going!”

“GET TO YOUR CUPBOARD - NOW!”

“WHAT HAPPENED TO MY PARENTS?!”

“DON’T YOU -” Vernon took a swipe at Harry, but he dodged and jumped over the dining table. “ - ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT -” Harry ran under his arm. “ - THINGS THAT DON’T CONCERN YOU!”

   Harry stepped backwards into the hallway as his uncle came towards him. Walking backwards slowly, footstep by footstep, his attention went from his uncle, to the chair beside him leaning against the wall. Uncle, chair, uncle, chair, chair, uncle, chair uncle chair uncle, anger.

   The chair fell sideways and Uncle Vernon tripped and fell over the faded wooden legs, Aunt Petunia going after him to help his lumpy body stand.

   The letterbox flapped behind him and Harry noticed a brownish envelope with his name and his cupboard printed on its face.

   His uncle grabbed him with one hand, the letter with the other and threw him into his cupboard, locking it after him.

   Were his parents murdered? Did they live in a place named Godric’s Hollow? Was Hermione a witch? Was he like her? Did magic exist? Were his parents evil? Were they murdered? If so, why? Were his parents murdered? Was he going to boarding school? Would he be with Hermione? Was he going to Stonewall High? Why would someone write him a letter? What did it say? Was it from the school? Was he going crazy? Was Hermione crazy? Was any of this the truth? Had his aunt and uncle been lying to him for all of these years?

  Were his parents murdered?
 

   For weeks, the letters came and went and came and went and came and were thrown away, ripped, shredded, burnt, destroyed so long as Harry did not see them. There was silence in the house and sometimes whispers. Harry bet that his aunt and uncle were wondering what else Hermione had told him. This gave Harry the impression that she may have been right; he had not seen his family this much on edge ever. Ever. He desperately wanted to call Hermione but he was being watched carefully. She hadn’t dared to call him back since that night. And so the questions pelted round his head again, shoving and squeezing everything else out of his mind, demanding his attention. How did none of this concern him? That was nonsense …

   Harry waited and waited, but there was no post on Sundays.


Chapter 5: Introducing Ron Weasley
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   Just a glimpse would be enough to set his mind at ease. A head of thick brown hair, light brown eyes, any of the features belonging to Hermione Granger would calm Harry down as he stood on the Hogwarts Express, gazing out of the window. His eyes went from the crowds to the platform gate to the clock as it ticked closer to eleven. Standing with feet apart and fingers twitching, Harry considering searching the train because, knowing Hermione, she would have been at the platform early in order to make sure she definitely got to Hogwarts.

   The idea of being magical was ludicrous to Harry, unthinkable. Some moments, he would just grasp his wand or look at Hedwig to remind himself of what had happened in the Hut On The Rock and of Diagon Alley. Even when Hagrid told him of his heritage, he was not thoroughly convinced, but Hermione’s heads-up paved a route of belief in his heart, and so he took in every word Hagrid said, including the details about his parents …

   It made Harry sick to his stomach to think that one man, one being could be so evil to spread his tyranny, to target his young parents and himself, as a baby, as if they were threats. Harry missed them dearly, although he did not know them; yet even he knew that everyone had to die and he was eleven years old. Sure, he preferred not to think about death usually, but ever since he found out how and why his parents died, death was all that he could think about. He couldn’t even get excited about the fact that he was a wizard and was going off to a school on the other side of the country. This He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, this Voldemort did not necessarily scare him; Harry hated him, pitied him, wished death upon him but did not fear him. Besides, Harry had only seen him when he was an infant and because he could not remember that, he hoped that he never would have to again.

   Ahead of him, the remaining students piled onto the train and a few minutes later, the clock struck eleven. Feeling the ground beneath him tremble, Harry turned away from the window, away from the waving parents and families and off to sit in the empty compartment behind him that he had been keeping an eye on.

   He sat quietly, wondering how many others knew about his past. If the information was freely available in a history book, it must be all over the school that he would be attending this year. Silently, Harry hoped that they didn’t expect anything from him. He was raised by the Dursleys, wasn’t he? And they were the most anti-magical family there was …

   Harry pulled his legs up to his chest, his dirty shoes on the edge of the chair and placed his head on those tired aching knees, hoping to relieve some pressure from his pounding headache.

   Suddenly, the door beside him opened. His feet fell to the ground with a thud as some skinny freckled ginger boy asked if he could join him.
 

    Sweets spread around them, Harry’s gaze followed the small chocolate frog as it attempted to escape the two eleven year old boys. After Ron had clued him in on Hogwarts, he was trying to figure out how much money he had spent on all of these treats. Yes, he had piles of gold in Gringotts but growing up poor made him extremely cautious with what, if any, money he spent.

“What’s up?” Ron asked him cautiously. He had only known Harry Potter for ten minutes, told him his whole life story and already thought that he was getting tired of him.

“Nothing, Ron,” Harry muttered. “Bit full,” he lied, holding his stomach. Unable to figure out exactly how many Sickles there were to a Galleon, Harry gave up and sat back, afraid to ask his new friend in case he looked stupid.

  Ron shrugged and checked the packaging on a pack of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. “Ewww,” he muttered. “It says here it could be anything from pumpkin pasty to bodily fluids, some not even human! Never read that before …”

  Harry laughed as Ron’s turned pale and pulled a face. “Have another one. You’ve already started now.”
 
“Yeah and the first one was cherry pie. Don’t want to take any more chances. Always approach Bertie Bott’s Beans with caution. I told you about the dodgy flavours I’ve had in the past.”

“Well, what’s the point?” Harry asked, smiling.

“You have one, then.”
 
   Ron held the box out to Harry and he put his hand in, randomly picking out a red jelly bean. Popping in straight into his mouth, he chewed, albeit gagging slightly on the bitter taste.

“Well?” Ron asked.

“Chilli,” Harry said smiling, despite his eyes beginning to water uncontrollably. Ron laughed at him and moved onto eating a half-finished chocolate bar.

   Occasionally, Harry saw Ron’s eyes travel up to his scar, but this he expected. Apparently, Harry was a wonder among wizarding kind, a miracle child. He didn’t care much that Ron looked, especially because he genuinely wanted to be his friend, telling Harry all about his home in Devon, about his five brothers and sister, parents and however many other family members he had. Harry was extremely envious of him, but never said so because it was blatant enough when he made a sad face after Ron told him about his last birthday party.

“Muggles are odd, aren’t they?” Ron said absently.

“What - oh right, muggles …” Harry almost forgot what he meant. “Well, not to me …”

“You’re going to have to do a lot of adjusting at Hogwarts,” Ron said. “There aren’t many people from muggle backgrounds there I don’t think. Some halfbloods. But I’ll help you out.”

“Thanks.” Harry wiped his watering eyes and his mind floated away just for a moment as he stared at the ground. “There was this girl,” he started quietly.

“Oh, here we go …” Ron leaned forward and began to grin.

“What?”

“We’re not even in our teens yet and already you’re talking about girls! Fred did say that at Hogwarts things are different. I’ve never seen so many girls before I got to the platform. They were everywhere! What was it he said? Enchanting, that was the word. Listen, Harry you’re going to have to control yourself because, honestly, I can’t handle -”
 
“No, it’s not that.” Harry had been frowning at him as he muttered the words to him torn between humour and confusion. He had been thinking about Hermione and thought Ron deserved to know about his life seeing as he had told him practically everything about his.

“Oh,” Ron said, blushing.

   Harry sat back on the chair and looked out of the window as they passed a remote village of small cottages and houses.

“I had this friend at home in Surrey. I’ve known her for about a year. We met at the dentist.” Ron frowned at him. “Never mind. I’ll explain later. Anyway, her parents aren’t magical but she sort of told me that she was coming here too.”

“Have you seen her?” he asked. Harry shook his head. “Well, if anything, we’ll see at the Sorting if she’s here. Oh God, I hope I’m not in Slytherin. Even Ravenclaw wouldn’t be bad and that House is full of -”
 
   Harry had been looking at his Albus Dumbledore chocolate frog card when the door to the compartment slid open. Somewhere in the process of reading about his famous battle with Grindelwald in 1945 and looking up, Harry smelt something familiar. It smelt like something that reminded him of the dentists and that was when he realised that there was a possibility that his favourite person was standing in the doorway.

   And she was.

“You’re here!” Harry stood up. “Hermione, I thought that … you …” The words seemed to disappear from his lips as he stared at her frowning face and crossed arms. Hermione was standing in her school robes, looking livid, eyes glaring right at him, lips pressed firmly together.

“Erm, why do you look -?” Harry began.

“Shall I leave you two alone?” Ron said with a slight grin on his face.

“No, that’s fine,” Hermione said, holding her hand out to Ron as if he was about to stand.

“What’s wrong with you?” Harry finally asked.

“What’s wrong with me?” she asked, sliding the door shut behind her with unnecessary force. “You disappeared on me, Harry.” Her face did not change but her eyes softened. “I called you and called you and I got no reply. I knew your aunt and uncle must have stopped you, but I at least thought that they would have had the heart to let you pick up the phone on your birthday …”
 
“I don’t know why you would have thought that,” Harry muttered.

   Ron stifled a laugh; despite not knowing what a phone was, he generally grasped the emotionless nature of Harry’s family. Hermione glared at Ron, probably wondering who on earth he was.

   Turning back to Harry, she continued and her voice got higher and more desperate. “So then I got really worried. My dad noticed and he asked my mum to take me to your house. He was absolutely appalled at your aunt and uncle’s behaviour, by the way, even threatened to go and get you and let you stay at my house until we went to Hogwarts.” Harry raised his eyebrows. “Anyway, my mum took me to Privet Drive just to check up on you but there was nothing. The car was gone so we assumed you were out but a neighbour of yours was tending to her roses and told us that you had all packed up and left in a hurry a week or so before and I was upset, Harry …”
 
   He shrugged, looking at the ground, embarrassed that Ron had to hear this.

“It’s fine, they didn’t kidnap me or anything.”

“That is exactly what I thought! I was going out of my mind and I -” Hermione stopped speaking, looking to her right at the ginger boy listening intently to their conversation. Instead of expressing how relieved she was that Harry was alright, she forced a smile and sat down. Harry did so also, glad that she wasn’t angry any more.

“Hello,” she said politely. “I’m Hermione Granger.”
 
“Ron Weasley,” Ron replied. He held out the box of beans and shook it enticingly. “Want one?”

“No thanks,” she replied. Her gaze steadily went to Harry’s, silently demanding for them to go to a place where they could talk but Harry shrugged and motioned to Ron, gently declining to step into the corridor to chat. He could tell that she was disappointed but decided to talk to her later about it instead.
 

   Sat at the Gryffindor table with her eyes closed and fingers crossed, Hermione imagined the Sorting Hat calling out “GRYFFINDOR!” until it eventually did and Harry sat at her side. She shuffled over excitedly as he smiled, shaking hands with nearly everyone on their table while Ron’s twin brothers shouted about ‘getting Potter’ to students of the other Houses.

“That took a while,” she said to him, grinning ear to ear. She would have quite possibly died - or otherwise would have been sorely disappointed - if he was put in another House because he was the only guaranteed friend she would have.

   Harry shrugged as he continued to shake people’s hands and say thank you to their congratulations, many of whom were not even in his House and had travelled over from the other tables.

  Taken aback by his vague reply, Hermione whispered, “Would you listen to me if I tried to shake your hand?”

  Hearing her clearly, Harry said, “What?”

   Hermione shrugged with a look on her face that told him it would have served him better to reply to her first invitation of speech. But that wasn’t the point. He would rather not talk about that fact that he might be evil in the middle of the Great Hall if that suited her.

   Trying hard not to roll his eyes at her irreverent need to know everything, Harry instead took his arm from the strangers’ and focused on filling his stomach with the many and varied foods presented by Professor Dumbledore on the table.

   That night in Gryffindor Tower, after getting to know Neville, Seamus and Dean, Harry and Ron sat in their new dormitory while the others were in the common room, marvelling about the entire castle, ecstatic that they had actually made it.

“This time last year, I would never have imagined that I would be here,” Harry said smiling while bouncing slightly on his four poster bed and glancing at the stone walls, floors and large windows.

“Yeah, well I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I knew what ‘Hogwarts’ meant,” Ron said. “I dunno if I’ll be any good at it though.”
 
“At what?”

“Being a student here,” Ron admitted. “There’s a tad bit of pressure growing up in the shadow of my brothers. Star Quidditch players, Prefects, Head Boy and great grades, remember?”

“Who cares if you’re rubbish?” Harry said comfortingly. “Not me. Besides, I need someone else in the club.”

   Ron chuckled and threw himself on his bed after pulling on his pyjamas. Hedwig chirped in the corner of the room and Harry stared at her silently.

“Your friend Hermione seems nice,” Ron said, vague.

“Yeah,” Harry said.

  Ron paused as he watched Scabbers fall off his trunk at the foot of his bed. “Big hair.”

   They both started laughing, swiftly moving onto what subjects they would be taught, talking all the way until three in the morning with their roommates, until each of them drifted off to sleep one by one.
 

   In all honesty, Harry did not imagine that he would be late to his first ever lesson, but it happened anyway. They ended up telling Professor McGonagall that they got lost, finding it would be wiser than admitting that they had overslept and could not get into the bathrooms after groups of sixth years with free periods were hogging them.

   Generally, all subjects were rather enjoyable considering Harry was a novice, not one teacher caring about his lack of ability or knowledge. Every subject except Potions.

   Thankful that his first day was over, Harry joined Ron, Neville, Dean and Seamus at the Gryffindor Table for dinner, tucking into some roast lamb immediately.

“Oh, Harry,” Dean said, “a girl was looking for you.”

  He looked up from his plate and Neville and Seamus looked over inquisitively.

“Let me guess,” Ron said, closing his eyes, pressing two fingers of each hand to his temple as though he possessed the Sight. “Big teeth, big hair, goes by the name of Granger?”

   The boys laughed.

“I don’t know her name but the rest was pretty accurate,” Dean said. “She was quite irritated with the fact that you hadn’t come to dinner yet and went upstairs.”

  Harry sighed. “She’s always a little on edge.”

“A little?” Seamus said. “Parvati Patil told me she had already spent the night in the library. If that’s not on edge, I don’t know what is.”

   The four boys opposite Harry looked at him as if demanding an explanation for such outrageous behaviour.

“Look, don’t ask me,” he replied. “I’ll talk to her later.”
 
“I dunno, it seemed urgent,” Dean said smiling as the puddings and desserts appeared.

“She probably wants to test me on everything we learnt today,” he joked without thinking. Despite how poor he thought it sounded, his roommates laughed and so he reluctantly joined in.
 

  Hermione had been cross-legged on her bed, in her pyjamas, re-reading a tiny passage in Hogwarts: A History for the past half an hour, not realising that she was doing so because something in the back of her mind was bothering her. The passage stated:


   Among many of the famous students and alumni, Hogwarts welcomed onto its grounds both James Potter and Lily Potter (née Evans) in the September of 1971. Their school history was the same as any student’s, passing both their O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts, however, this pair are notably famous for their deaths on Halloween three years after leaving school and being the parents of young Harry James Potter (born 31st July 1980). Harry, also known as The Boy Who Lived, disappeared from the magical radar once evading He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in Godric’s Hollow, creating yet another famous name to grace the halls of Hogwarts come 1991.


    Of all of the books Hermione liked to read, this was by far her favourite. It was good at displaying the facts of the castle as they were (for instance the magical protection, the secret passageways and the village of Hogsmeade) but it was quite passive in terms of human emotion. Although historical books are not written primarily to provoke heartstring-pulling feelings, Hermione could not help but hate the way it described Harry as if he were not an orphan who had lost everything a child should have. For goodness sake, he wasn’t just a famous name, he was just a boy, a boy who really had no idea how serious this was; his parents had not just died, they were murdered - the book failed to mention this. Hermione had read what she could on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and she did not like it. Even Hogwarts: A History had little to say:

   He-Who Must-Not-Be-Named is the world’s most dark wizard since the 1950s, attacking both wizarding kind and the muggle world in order to invoke terror upon all beings. He and his followers played a large part in the start of the Wizarding War. No one knows his ultimate goals, but He has been the cause of many deaths and catastrophes since a very early age.

    It seemed that what was already known about him was in the minds of the people who had lived through the past few decades and the War. For a moment, Hermione wished that her parents were magical so that she could grill them for information on him, but then stopped herself; she was glad that they were protected and also had the feeling that she would not like what she found out about this wizard anyway.

“… saw him on the platform first. And I saw his scar,” Lavender squealed excitedly. She and Parvati were sitting on her bed with the curtains half-closed.

   Hermione slowly looked up from her book, careful not to move too much in case they noticed her eavesdropping. They had been discussing Harry’s arrival since last night and Hermione had been itching to tell them to shut it, but instead migrated to the library to study up on the Levitation Charm.

“Woah,” Parvati said, impressed. “But to be honest, he didn’t seem that special to me. People say he’s really powerful. Well, a boy called Lee Jordan said he knew lots of magic.”

“I doubt it,” Lavender corrected. “Lee was probably joking. I feel sorry for him living with muggles. Snape really laid into him. And that Hermione Granger didn’t help. She just drew attention to the fact that he didn’t know anything.” Hermione’s insides jerked.

“I thought that,” Parvati agreed quietly. “My twin sister, Padma, said she really wants to be Harry’s friend. Said so as soon as she realised we would be in the same school year as him. We were six when we figured it out.”

  Hermione rolled her eyes.

“She’’ll have to get in line behind everyone else. Even the older kids are trying to have a go at -”

   Hermione had shuffled off her bed and her feet hit the floor with a thud, rendering Lavender silent as she glared out of the gap in the curtains to see Hermione holding her book, looking at them.

   Parvati peered out but neither her nor her friend moved. The three of them just stared at each other for a moment.

“Hermione …” Parvati muttered. “Hi.”

“Harry is not just something to stare at or a friend to be won,” Hermione stated firmly.

“We never said that,” Parvati said quietly.

“Harry’s really famous, really admirable,” Lavender replied boldly. “All I’m saying is that we’re never going to have a chance at being his friend even if we’re in the same House and share classes.”
 
“Not that we need to,” Parvati threw in quickly at the angry look on Hermione’s face.

   Lavender frowned at Parvati.

“For your information,” Hermione began, “Harry and I have been friends for just over a year.” The girls opposite Hermione looked at each other and didn’t even have to say that they didn’t believe her for Hermione to know it. “He and I are actually quite close … and he - I … oh forget it …”

   Hermione and Harry had not even said more than a few words to one another since their arrival at school, had only spoken lightly in class, so why on earth would they believe they were friends? They certainly hadn’t acted like it.

   She grasped her book, shoved on her slippers and stormed out of the dormitory, hearing the disbelieving sniggers of her roommates as she exited. Hermione was not there to convince people that she knew Harry more than they could ever imagine and she certainly wasn’t going to waste her time doing so. She would just like for Harry to acknowledge her existence once in a while. She knew that he was finding his feet being a young wizard with the help of his new friend Ron Weasley, but she couldn’t help feeling completely rotten as she spent her evening in the library, falling asleep with her face stuck to the page which mentioned the Potters.
 

   As the rays of the bright sun threw itself over her face, Hermione awoke beside a window in the corner of the library. She shot straight up, her bottom lip and dry saliva was stuck to the pages of Hogwarts: A History.

   Hermione checked the huge wall clock above her.

“Six-thirty …” she muttered quietly.

   Closing her book, Hermione made her way out of the library and up to Gryffindor Tower to sleep for half an hour, shower and prepare for the new day by reading through a few texts before class.

   Telling the Fat Lady the password, Hermione fell through the portrait hole and had full intentions of going straight up to her empty bed but was interrupted by the crouching figure of her friend.

    Harry had been up all night, tossing and turning, turning and tossing, worried. All he could think about was what the Sorting Hat had told him. He had this intense feeling that there was something wrong with him and that maybe everyone had gotten it all wrong, maybe he did not deserve to be at Hogwarts, or worse, deserved to be a Slytherin; it was unnerving.

   Remembering that he had left a textbook beside the fireplace yesterday afternoon, he had gone to retrieve it seeing as he could not go back to sleep.

   Hermione had entered the common room in her pyjamas, a yellow top and pink trousers with white slippers, clutching a huge book to her chest. Upon seeing him, she took one glance and then continued over to the door to her dorm.

“Hermione,” Harry called.

  She stopped walking. “Yes, Harry?”

  He put his book down onto the armchair and walked over to her stubborn form. “Where’ve you been?”

“Library,” she uttered. “Where have you been?”

“I’ve been here - I -”
 
“No, Harry,” she said, this time staring at him intensely. “Where have you been? Do you realise that we haven’t really talked since the Feast?”

“Oh - I - I didn’t know -”
 
“Shows how much you pay attention. Listen, I’m just going to go to -”

“I didn’t do it on purpose, you know. I’ve just been … busy … you know, getting used to everything …”

“Harry, I really do understand that you’re building new friendships but -”

“You mean Ron?”

   Hermione blushed and Harry smirked to cover his own embarrassment as she looked away from him.

“No … Of course not …”

“You do …” Harry frowned. “You’re jealous, aren’t you?”

   He laughed.

“No, I … Well alright, maybe. But do you blame me? We’ve been friends for over a year and now all of a sudden y-you’ve deserted me …”

  Harry put his hand on her shoulder as her head lowered.

“I haven’t deserted you. I just -”
 
   A male student entered the common room, half-asleep and yawning, making for the closest chair. He collapsed into it, then finally noticed Harry and Hermione, staring at them curiously.

  Harry dropped his arm and his voice went to a whisper.

“I just - I’ve got a few things that I need time to deal with.”
 
“And you can’t talk to me?” Hermione said quietly back to him.

“No, not yet,” he rushed.

“Fine. But you could at least say hello to me once in a while. We were supposed to talk properly once we arrived.”
 
“I’m sorry, I’ve been distracted by -”

  Hermione shrugged. “It’s okay. I’ll just leave you to your thoughts until you decide to be my friend again.”

     She began to walk away from him as the boy in the corner of the room raised an eyebrow and pretended not to listen to their conversation innocently.

  Harry went after her and held her arm so that she would not go. “We’ll talk later. Is that okay?”

    Hermione said nothing and looked sadly at him. He hadn’t made much time for her since they arrived so who knew whether he would make time later that day?

“We’ll see,” she said as she opened the door to the staircase.

“What does that mean?” Harry questioned as he followed her. “Hermione, I really do want to talk to you, it’s just -”

    As Harry began to walk up the steps to follow her, each step became more difficult as it melted beneath him into a neat stone slope. He tried to take one more step, but fell down and slid back down to the doors. Hermione gave a little squeal and slid down after him. The book hit Harry first in his middle and then Hermione crashed into his legs despite the fact that she tried not to harm him by curling up her body.

    The first thing Harry noticed after he rubbed his sore middle was the fact that Hermione was laughing, at him he assumed.

   From simply looking at her, Harry couldn’t help but smile.

“What are you laughing at?” he asked.

  Hermione chuckled as she sat up. “I-I forgot that …. that the staircase did that … I just wasn’t expecting it.”
 
“And what exactly happened?”

“Oh, the stairs are enchanted so that boys can’t get into the girls’ dorms. I read that just last night in Hogwarts: A History.”
 
“Thanks for the warning,” Harry muttered.

  Hermione’s smile soon vanished as more silence hung between them. “So … I’ll speak to you later?” she asked timidly.

“Only if you want,” Harry said.

“Of course I do, Harry.”

“Okay. Well, I’ll speak to you at breakfast,” Harry suggested. “Or in Potions.”
 
“We can’t talk in Potions,” Hermione said promptly.

“Or lunch or something. We’ll find the time.”

“We better.”

   A door at the top of the staircase opened and from the corridor came a girl named Alicia Spinnet, dressed in her school uniform with her bag over her shoulder, clearly an early bird.

“What are you two doing on the floor?” She smiled and slid down to them. Alicia laughed and looked at Harry. “Tried to go up?” Harry nodded. “Most first year boys try at least once. The older you get the more persistent you are. A sixth year boy got half way up all on his own last year, I heard. Ravenclaw.”

  Alicia held out a hand to each of them and they stood, thanking her. “It’s okay. See you later Harry.”

“Erm - bye.”

   Harry looked to Hermione, who, clearly upset at being ignored, picked up her fallen book and walked up to her dormitory as the stone steps reformed.


Chapter 6: The Phase
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      When Hermione came into the Great Hall the next morning, Harry’s breath caught in his chest. There she was, bouncing happily as she walked towards him that sunny day. It played in Harry’s mind like slow motion as she took each step. Her hair was brushed down by her shoulders although still bushy, her school robes were neat and clean, but the most noteworthy things about her were her bright eyes, light from the window pouring into them, and her wide smile, teeth showing, cheeks high and skin glowing. Harry had no idea why all of a sudden Hermione looked nice today, but he certainly liked it. He felt a sharp pain in his ribs, but ignored it, instead glaring at Hermione as she waved at Susan Bones on the Hufflepuff table.

    There was another sharp poke in Harry’s ribs. “Ouch.” He rubbed it and realised that Ron had been elbowing him for a while.

“Huh?” Harry replied clumsily. “What?”

   Ron laughed. “You were staring. At -”

“No … no I wasn’t.” Harry turned away from her and got back to his cereal, his nose in his bowl.

“You were,” Ron said. “Is she -?”

     Harry’s head snapped up. “No,” he said, firmly. “She’s just my friend and that’s it.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Hermione sat down next to Harry and poured juice into a goblet.

“Nothing.”

    Ron smiled and got back to his breakfast as the three of them sat in silence.

    Hermione sipped her drink and then turned to Harry. “Are we going to … talk now … or …?”

    Harry looked into her eyes, which were full of determination and then looked around, making sure that there was not many people around. “Erm … we could try.”

“In private?” She looked at Ron.

“Ron doesn’t have to leave,” Harry told her. “He’s my friend too.”

“Erm, okay,” Hermione said, unsure. “How are you, Harry?”

“I’m f-fine. I’m okay. You?”

“I was upset before yesterday, but now that we’re speaking again, I’m happy, I suppose.” She glanced at Ron as he ate. “Anyway, what happened with your aunt and uncle? Where did they take you?”

    Harry told her the story of what had gone on, about Hagrid and visiting London, Ron listening in beside them, no details spared about how the world of magic was revealed to him.

“They are absolutely terrible,” Hermione digressed.

“I know,” Harry said. “I’m not looking forward to going back this summer.”

“Maybe you won’t have to,” Hermione said mysteriously. Harry looked at her curiously until she said quietly, “Why were you ignoring me?”

“Honestly, it wasn’t on purpose. And it was only a few days, Hermione.”

“A few days of lost time. I’ve had so much to tell you, Harry.”

“So tell me.”

“It …” She glanced at Ron. “It isn’t important.”

“Hermione …” Harry said.

“No. It’s fine. It can wait.” Hermione stood up. “I’ve, erm, got to get ready for class.”

“You’re already dressed,” Ron pointed out.

“Well, then, I have to - I don’t have to explain myself to you,” she said, flustered.

“You haven’t eaten,” Harry said.

     Hermione hesitated … then grabbed two slices of toast before storming out of the hall.

    All Ron did was shake his head, confused with her behaviour and Harry chuckled.

     The pair of them did not see Hermione until their first class that day, Potions, where Harry cautiously sat beside her at a bench, with a friendly smile on his face.

“Hi,” he said, setting his bag down.

“Who are you smiling at?” Hermione asked Harry, stubborn.

    Ron followed and sat with them.

    Harry laughed. “Listen, we’re in Potions. I said we could talk in Potions.”

“I’d rather not,” Hermione said. “Professor Snape doesn’t look like he’s in a good mood.”

“He’s never in a good mood,” Ron said. Hermione noticed that she was not talking to him.

     Snape was his usual dreary self, dark eyes watching the students ominously as they got out their books and quills. Harry, Ron and Hermione watched him conspicuously for a moment.

“True,” Harry said. “All the more reason to find a way to get through this class.”

“Well, I plan to learn,” Hermione replied opening up her textbook to the page that Snape had specified on the blackboard behind his desk. “I advise the both of you to do the same. How else will we pass the end of year exams?”

     Ron gawped at Harry and then said to Hermione, “A little hint: they’re at the end of the year, Hermione. We’ve only just started.”

“Well, I’ve been going over the set texts since I bought them.”

“Why?” Ron asked, astounded.

“Because I don’t plan to fall behind.”

“Her parents are dentists, remember?” Harry reminded Ron.

“That’s right, Harry, just tell everyone,” Hermione said, exaggerating. “And I suppose your family have generations and generations of witches and wizards?” she said to Ron.

“Yes, actually.”

“Well, then, you should be all sorted,” Hermione said.

    Ron looked at Harry, nervous.

     The class commenced with Snape poking fun at Harry whenever he could, Hermione answering all of the questions that Snape permitted. A number of cauldrons had been lit up as they began to brew a potion that Harry wasn’t really concerned about; he was so angry at Snape that he couldn’t pay attention to detail, which was probably why his potion didn’t turn out well.

     After Snape got rid of Harry’s and Ron’s abysmal potions, the two of them leaned on the desk, watching Hermione stir her perfect one with bitter faces.

“I hate Potions anyway,” Ron said under his breath.

“Well, it serves you right,” Hermione told him. “You did add the liverwort before the -”

“Oh be quiet,” he replied.

“Charming,” Hermione said, thoroughly unimpressed. “Harry?”

   He stopped watching Snape vehemently and turned to Hermione, clearly distracted. “What?”

“Ronald just told me to shut up.”

“And?”

    Hermione dropped the stirrer she was holding and it clanked against the side of the pewter cauldron. “And I would have expected you to back me up.”

    Harry began watching Snape again, wondering why he was so horrible to him. “Ron, stop telling Hermione to shut up.” Ron was just about to retaliate when Harry continued and said, “Hermione, stop being rude to Ron.”

     She began to stir her potion again and, when it was time, poured the finished product into a phial. When the lesson had ended, the three of them walked back to the Common Room together.

“I can’t believe I have to spend my entire Hogwarts life being taught Potions by Snape,” Harry complained.

“I hear you,” Ron agreed.

“I mean, it may actually be a decent subject if he wasn’t teaching it,” Harry said.

“No matter how cruel he is, Professor Snape is very skilled at what he does. Apparently, he was a top student himself,” Hermione informed the boys.

“Doesn’t surprise me,” Ron said as they went through the portrait hole. “What do we have next?” he asked.

“Transfiguration and then Herbology,” Hermione said as they crossed the Common Room. “We have ten minutes.”

“I need to grab my books,” Harry said. They began to ascend the staircase.

“Oh, Harry,” Ron said. “I might be able to get us into Quidditch Practice this weekend. Fred and George said that they’d ask Oliver Wood if we can watch.”

“Oh, that sounds good. I’ve never seen a Quidditch match before,” Harry said.

“And we have Flying lessons tomorrow. Can’t wait for that,” Ron said as he dropped onto his bed. Harry began to search through his trunk.

“Don’t make fun of me when I fall flat on my face,” Harry warned.

“You’ll have Draco Malfoy around for that. You know, sometimes, I just want to punch him.”

“Sometimes?” Harry exclaimed.

“I want him to say something else about my family so I can just -” Ron began.

“You know,” Hermione said behind them. Ron jumped. “Violence will solve nothing.”

“Are you still here?!” Ron asked holding his heart.

“I’m waiting for Harry,” she replied.

“I didn’t know girls were allowed in the boys’ dorm,” Ron said.

“Well, here I am,” Hermione said. “Now, hurry up!”

     No more talk of pummelling Draco Malfoy, the three of them walked down to Transfiguration and endured a pleasant session of wandwork with Professor McGonagall, where Hermione earned their House twenty points.

    When the bell rang, they noted down their homework (reading a few chapters in their textbook) and made their way to Herbology in Greenhouse One. Hermione walked behind Harry, Ron, Seamus and Dean as they chatted.

“Where’s Neville?” Harry asked.

“Still in the Hospital Wing. Had an accident in the Potions lab,” Dean told him.

“I didn’t know,” Harry said. He was too busy hating Snape.

“He’s always having accidents. He’s the luckiest boy I know,” Ron said.

“How?” Seamus replied. “It’s bad luck that gets him into all this trouble.”

“And good luck makes sure he survives it all,” Ron countered. “Trust me, he’s destined for greatness. Otherwise he would have died by now.”

    The boys laughed raucously as they reached the large oak doors and stepped out into the warm September breeze.

“That’s not funny,” Hermione said.

   Ron turned to Hermione, causing her to stop walking. “I was joking,” he said. “Lighten up.”

    Harry watched her as she looked at Ron with annoyance. And then her brown eyes looked to him. Harry knew that he would have to spend the next seven years of his school life being the mediator between the two of them and it had started today.

“Okay, you two, back to your corners,” Dean said, laughing.

    Harry followed Hermione as she walked ahead of the group. “Are you okay?” he asked, opening the door of the greenhouse for her.

“I’m fine,” she replied. Hermione took the seat between Hannah Abbott and Parvati Patil, leaving Harry wondering why she had chosen to do so. Sighing, he went and sat with Ron, Dean and Seamus on the other side of the Greenhouse.
 

      Their Flying Lesson came and went, and still, Harry and Hermione had not had a real conversation. That was for a number of reasons; Harry was busy trying to avoid all of the students ogling at him and there never a good time to sit down and chat about their summer with him trying to find his footing in the castle and with his new friends. It wasn’t as though he was blowing her off, for he felt incredibly bad for letting her down. He had noticed that she didn’t have many friends. She would spend most of her time alone, studying in the library or sitting in the Common Room reading or in her dorm doing pretty much the same thing.

      People had been congratulating Harry all week about getting onto the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. The whole team were ecstatic that they had a new Seeker and Oliver had already given him a tutorial before their Practice on Saturday, following various celebrations in the Common Room that Professor McGonagall had to put a stop to three times. Harry had not seen Hermione during any of this and was wondering whether she was avoiding him.

     At dinner on Saturday evening, Harry saw Hermione enter the Great Hall and sit at the end of the table by the doors. Harry was not sure if she noticed him sitting further up with Ron, Fred and George, so he got up and went over to her.

     She was eating quietly while a group of loud fifth years laughed around her, ignoring her presence.

“Hermione,” Harry began.

“Oh, well done for making the team,” one of the fifth years said. And then they all, in turn, shook his hand while Harry’s face turned red. Hermione had not even looked at him.

“Erm, thanks. Thank you.” Harry sat down next to Hermione, who was still looking at her plate.

“Are you joining us?” one of the boys asked.

“No, I, er, I’m here to see my friend.” Harry pointed to Hermione and waited for them to get back to their own conversation before starting. “Sorry about that,” Harry apologised.

    Hermione nodded, chewing.

“I was sitting further down the table with Ron and Fred and George. You should join us.”

“I’m okay here,” she said.

“I haven’t heard from you in days, Hermione.”

    She said nothing for a while until, “Congratulations, by the way.”

“Oh, come on, Hermione, you don’t have to -”

“I do. It is amazing. It really is. I’m very happy for you.”

“Thanks,” he said smiling. “How have you been?”

“I’m fine.”

“No, I mean, how were you in the summer?” Harry asked. “Since the phone call, I always wondered how you were coping.”

“Me?” she said, finally allowing herself to smile.

“Yes, you,” he said grinning.

“Well, at first, when the letter came, my parents and I thought it was a hoax, but there was a very long, very detailed second letter along with my acceptance papers, explaining some things about magic, the basics I guess for my parents to explain to me. I suppose that’s what they do with muggleborn students. My parents looked over it a hundred times and they were convinced. We had instructions, so we went out to Diagon Alley the day after we sent the owl back with the reply and well, it was beautiful. I feel so lucky be chosen to be a part of this world. But I guess that’s not the case for you.” The soft happiness in her smile fell as she looked upon her friend.

“Not quite. Fame isn’t exactly how you would imagine it.”

“I suppose it’s harder for you because you don’t even know what happened. No one does. I did read about your parents, Harry, and they seemed like wonderful people.” Harry said nothing. “You can borrow my books, if you like. They’re mentioned in about three. Not in much detail, but …”

“Thanks, Hermione.”

   She smiled. “I missed you terribly. I thought that we’d never be real friends again after I found out about coming here. But then I found out about your history … As terrible as it is, I was glad that I wouldn’t be alone and that we could face it together. And then you were gone with your aunt and uncle and cousin, so I didn’t know what to think … And as soon as we get here, we barely see each other. I thought we were best friends.”

“We are, Hermione. But Ron is too. I just have more friends now, that is all.”

“I’m glad, but -”

“It’s not just that,” Harry admitted. “I don’t want to admit it but … sometimes being here is scary and I want to go back. All of these people have these opinions of me and these expectations. I’m just a boy from Surrey, not this powerful wizard people think I am. I’ve been thrown into all of this alone.”

“I’m here,” she said.

“I am alone. It’s me with the scar, Hermione, not you or anyone else. You know, the Sorting Hat nearly put me in Slytherin,” Harry said at a whisper, looking at the chipped wooden table.

“Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“That’s why I’ve avoided talking about this. I don’t want to think about the fact that I could be evil.”

“You know, not all Slytherins are evil,” Hermione said.

“But nine out of ten of them probably end up in prison, or are murderers or something.”

“They are characterised by cunning and logic. There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose. I’d still be your friend if you were a Slytherin.”

“Really?” Harry asked, surprised.

“You’d have to pry me away with a crowbar,” Hermione said, smiling.

“That’s a relief.” Harry sighed.

    Hermione glanced down the table at Ron. “I can see why you’re friends with him. He seems funny. Sometimes.”

“He’s hilarious,” Harry said. “You just don’t get his humour.”

“I suppose I’ll have to try,” she said painfully. “As long as he tries to be my friend too.”

“He has been. You were the one shooting him down all of the time.”

“I was not!”

“You barely talk in front of him!”

“Because what we talk about isn’t his business.”

“It is now,” Harry said. “We’re going to be the best of friends soon, I can see it.” Hermione laughed, shaking her head. “The three of us will be inseparable.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Hermione said.

“Listen, I’m supposed to go and see Hagrid soon, before curfew. Want to come?”

“Okay. I’ve finished eating anyway.”

“We can go now if you like.” Just as Harry and Hermione stood, Ron approached them.

“Where are we going?” Ron asked.

   Harry looked at Hermione. “Actually, Ron, we were going to see Hagrid.”

“I’m sure Ron wouldn’t mind joining us,” Hermione said boldly.

    Ron smiled at her and it was possibly that he was genuinely appreciative of his inclusion. “I’m up for that. Let’s go.”

    Harry, Ron and Hermione left the Great Hall together and although Hermione was uncomfortable in Ron’s presence and he in hers, they spoke amicably with Harry, forming a bond on the way down to Hagrid’s hut. It continued as the weeks went on and grew stronger as they spent more time together. Hermione realised that Ron wasn’t as bad as she thought and that it was nice to have someone to talk to about their magical life; she was quite intrigued by his family. She still refused to appreciate or understand his humour and he refused to listen to her ramble on about examinations that were months away. Harry could not deny that he was happy that his best friends were getting along despite their differences. Hermione even included Ron on her birthday, where they all spent the weekend having picnics and roaming the grounds. It was such a sight that Harry was shocked that it had managed to occur; perhaps he didn’t have to worry about Ron and Hermione after all.

     The three of them were sitting at a sheltered spot beneath some trees, legs stretched as the sky became overcast. It was a Friday and all classes were over so they had decided to talk and relax outside as a change of scene from the mundane day-to-day, bringing with them a cup of juice each, cake and other snacks. Hermione was sitting next to Ron practising wand movements while he laid, looking at the sky. Harry, opposite, sat cross-legged, eating a jam tart, surprised yet happy that they were conversing.

   Ron closed his eyes. “It’s gonna rain.”

“It’s not going to rain,” Hermione said, waving her wand in the air precisely.

“It’s gonna rain.”

“It won’t.”

“It will, Hermione, I’m sure,” Ron said.

    She looked up at the sky. “The clouds do look grey. Maybe we should go inside.”

“No, it’s your birthday,” Ron said. “Calm down. Relax … And eat your cake,” he ordered.

    Ron was referring to the chocolate cupcake he had saved for her from dessert last night. That was his gift to her. Harry had swapped a brand new textbook of his for her older copy, which seemed to make her happy and also gave her rights to use Hedwig whenever she wanted to write to her parents. Again, she was very happy.

    Doing as he asked, Hermione put down her wand and began to nibble on the cake.

“How does it feel being twelve?” Ron asked her. Harry waited, eager for her reply.

“Same really,” she said.

“Just another reason for you to say you’re better than us,” Ron said smiling.

“No! I would never say -” Hermione laughed and gently hit Ron on his arm. “Shut up. That isn’t funny.”

   The three of them sat quietly.

“But being twelve is better than eleven,” Hermione added.

  Harry chuckled. “I bet.”

“What can you do, now that you’re twelve?” Ron asked, holding back laughter. “You know, when you’re seventeen, you can take your Apparition test, leave home, do magic away from school … Surely, the world is your oyster!”

“Oh, ha ha, Ronald,” she replied. “You know, I’m going to make up some rules. A list. ‘Things Hermione Can Do Or Say To Harry And Ron Now That She’s Twelve.’”

“And that would include …?” Ron asked.

“That would include … Number one, tell them to do homework …”

“Oh no,” Ron muttered.

“On time. Number two, I can force you to prioritise over Quidditch …”

“Wait, now you take things too far.” Ron sat up.

“Ron, flying lessons are bad enough, but just sitting with you two talking about it is ridiculous. Time wasted, if you think about it. Number three -”

“But Harry’s on the team,” Ron said, frowning. “I don’t like this list.”

“It’s not real,” Harry reminded him.

“Ooh, you two can be my study buddies!” Hermione said, excited.

“Oh yeah,” Ron said, catching on. He turned to Hermione. “This list isn’t real. You get no special treatment because you’re old.”

“Well, what about because I’m a girl?” she asked.

“Since when did that matter? It’s not like I open doors for you or anything,” Ron said, honest. “And I’m sure you don’t want us to treat you any differently.”

“Maybe not any other day, but today maybe?” Hermione asked.

“Suppose,” Ron said, pulling grass out of the mud vacantly.

“Yay,” Hermione exclaimed, excited.

“But only if you don’t do any schoolwork,” Ron negotiated.

“Why not?”

“It’s your birthday, you can’t do schoolwork,” he said. “Don’t make me take your wand because I will if I have to.”

“Alright,” Hermione agreed. “Okay.”

     Harry became distracted from the conversation when he felt a few raindrops fall onto his hair, slowly and then progressively faster.

“Oh no!” Hermione squealed.

“I told you,” Ron said.

“The food!” Hermione shooed the boys from the tiny picnic blanket and began to scoop up the food. “Get the drinks,” she told Ron.

    As he picked them up, he said, “It is September. What did you expect? That’s Autumn for you.”

     The rain fell like pebbles and they scrambled onto their feet; Harry took the food-filled picket blanket from Hermione and carried it as they all ran inside behind other students, getting completely soaked in the process.
 

      Harry, Ron and Hermione were sitting in front of the fireplace that evening, clad in pyjamas still shivering. Hermione was sitting in the middle. They all stared into the glowing flames in near silence, as other Gryffindor students carried on around them, some sitting on the sofas behind them or chatting and laughing around the room.

   Ron sighed.

“Yeah …” Harry said.

“Are you two still cold?” Hermione said, shaking. “I am.”

   Harry and Ron shuffled closer to Hermione as she put her arms around her knees and placed her chin on it.

“Oh,” Ron said to Harry, “My sister asked how you are.” He smiled.

“Really?” he said, surprised.

“Yeah, she’s in love with you,” Ron said matter-of-factly.

   Hermione’s head rose.

“No, she isn’t,” Harry said quietly.

“She kind of is,” Ron said. “It’s weird.”

“She’s seen me once.”

“That’s why it’s weird,” Ron replied. “She liked you before, or the idea of you. Then when she saw you at King’s Cross - wham! Mum wrote to me and apparently she can’t stop talking about you.”

“I’m sure she’ll get over it,” Harry said.

“I’m not so sure,” Ron said, sceptic.

“She will,” Hermione interrupted. “It’s just a crush. Girl’s get them all of the time.”

“How would you know?” Ron asked.

“I’m a girl.”

“No, I mean it might last forever. And she’s my sister. I know her. She can get obsessed.”

“I’m just saying that it’ll pass,” Hermione said. “Probably a phase.”

“You wish,” Ron muttered under his breath.

“What?” she said, outraged.

“What did he say?” Harry asked.

“I said -” Ron began.

“Never mind what he said,” Hermione screeched. “Take it back!”

    Ron gave in. “I was joking, Hermione, there’s no need to get angry.”

  She turned back to the fireplace. “I’m not …”

“Could have fooled me,” Ron said. “You need to relax.”

“Maybe I’d be more relaxed if you weren’t around,” Hermione whispered.

“Hermione,” Harry said. “That was horrible.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” she said. She was torn, between some uncertain emotion building inside.

“No, I understand,” Ron said. “You don’t like me.”

    Hermione said nothing. Like she said, it was probably a phase.

“She does,” Harry said. “Just not as much as me.”

“And what does that mean?” Hermione asked.

“Erm -” Harry started.

“Because you’re famous?” Hermione asked, confused.

“No, because we’ve been best friends for a year,” he said, frowning. It was self-explanatory.

“It’s fine, I’ll go,” Ron said, getting up.

“Don’t bother,” Hermione said. “I’m going to bed.”

    Ron ignored her and went up to his dormitory in silence. Harry stared at Hermione.

    She shrugged. Disappointed, Harry decided to follow Ron’s lead, to leave Hermione and sleep.



 

A/N: So sorry that this chapter took so long! I promise they won't all come at eight month intervals. I am finally happy with this chapter and I hope you guys are too. Let me know what you think about this friendship and leave a comment below :)


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