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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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