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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

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