Harry grabbed his snack and looked around for a place to sit. There were a few options, but the farther away he was from Dudley the better. He took the widest path away from Dudley and his friends’ table, hoping to keep from being noticed. Other kids looked away as he passed. They usually did.
He was about to sit at his usual table and eat his snack alone when he realized there was a girl there, reading a book as she ate. He winced, not recognizing her. She hadn’t been in any of his earlier classes. She was wearing very nice clothes and her hair was a halo of dark curls around her head, secured out of her face with a satin ribbon. Taking a chance, he approached the table and hoped he wouldn’t have to eat sitting on the floor again.
She looked up from her book. Her gaze seemed wary and far more intelligent, more intense, than any of the other kids, and he rather liked her freckles. Her gaze made his face heat. He felt awkward and a little foolish. His heart was racing.
“I-Is the seat taken?” He shuffled his feet, “No one else will let me sit with them.”
Her eyes widened for a moment before she closed her book, “You can sit with me… No one wants to sit with me either.”
He flashed her a winning grin and climbed into the seat across from her. It was a bit strange to have someone to sit with. She smiled at him, all teeth and cheer. Her front two teeth were a bit bigger than the rest, but he found her happiness infectious and warm.
“It’s very nice to meet you. I’m Harry. Harry Potter.”
He offered his hand.
“I’m Hermione Granger.”
She shook his hand and felt a jolt of something like static electricity zip up his arm, straight to his chest where his heart was beating out of control. For a moment, he couldn’t breathe. Her eyes widened, and he had a feeling that she felt it too. Was it related to all the strange things that seemed to happen around him? Did strange things happen around her too?
“What was that?”
Hermione shook her head, looking at her palm with a frown, “I don’t know, but are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” he nodded. “Just fine.”
They ate their snacks comfortably. Hermione had just transferred to his school but didn’t think she would be there long. Melinda, her mother, told her she was looking for a boarding school fitting of Hermione’s intellectual talents. He wondered why she called her mother by name.
Harry eyed the book beside her. It was much thicker than any book he’d read, even his textbooks weren’t that thick.
“Well… however long you’re here, I hope you enjoy it.”
Hermione nodded, “I’m sure I will.”
When they headed outside to playtime. Rather than running off, Hermione stuck by him and followed him to the swings. She had just settled into one and he was climbing into the other when Dudley spoke to them.
“Got a girlfriend now, freak?”
Harry flinched as Dudley and his friends approached. If there was ever a time he was grateful that Dudley would be going off to a different school soon, it was now. He hoped Dudley left before Hermione did so he would have a bit of time to know what having a friend was like.
“What did you call him?” Hermione asked.
Her voice was tense. Harry glanced at her and swore her hair was getting bigger.
“Get off the swings. I want to ride.”
Harry sighed and shifted his weight to slide out.
“How rude. You can wait your turn.” Harry looked at Hermione. “We were here first, and you’d better apologize for calling him such a foul thing.”
Dudley scoffed and nodded at his friend who drew closer. Harry tried to dodge out of the way, but Hermione had already appeared in front of him, pointing a menacing finger at Dudley’s friend.
“You leave Harry alone, you wretched bully! You’re only picking on him because he’s smaller than you.”
“He’s a freak.”
“Don’t,” she growled. “Call him that!”
Her hair grew wilder and he could almost see the air heating around her as she drew her shoulders up and curled her fists at her side.
“And what are you going to do about it?” Dudley’s friend sneered. “You’re just a girl!”
He tried to shove Hermione, but before Harry could stop him, she had already grabbed his hand and bent it at a terrible angle. A loud crack resounded across the area. The boy went down with a wail of agony before Hermione threw his hand into his face and turned on Dudley.
He flinched and the fat around his chin wobbled.
“I’ve heard about you, Dudley. If you ever put your hands on Harry again, you’ll have a lot more to deal with than your friend crying like a baby!”
Dudley flinched as Hermione pointed back at him.
“Apologize to Harry, right now, for calling him out of his name.”
Harry looked between the two, shocked. It was a nice gesture, but he knew it wouldn’t happen.
“I-I’m s-sorry, Harry.”
Harry’s jaw dropped open. Hermione turned to Harry and took his hand, “Let’s go, Harry. We are far too intelligent to deal with bullies a moment longer.”
Harry, for lack of a better response, followed her as she walked away from the group towards the benches. They sat down, and he watched her trying to calm down.
“Bullies are always going to get their way if you give it to them,” Hermione said, her jaw clenched and her body vibrating with tension.
Harry winced, “He’s… my cousin. His parents are never going to care.”
Hermione looked at him and her eyes narrowed as she squeezed his hand.
“Well, Harry, I care… So now you’re stuck with me.”
Harry grinned. He didn’t think he could find a problem with that for however long it lasted.
Hermione Granger was his very first friend and they were in the same school for a full week. The last day she was there, she gave him a letter with her name and her address on it, saying that he should write to her if he could.
Harry took it, but she wasn’t confident that he could. She hugged him goodbye at the end of the day and he was almost certain, he would never see her again.
He had never expected to go to sleep hungry and wake up in a large field of glass grass, sparkling like green diamonds and the strangest clouds, and Hermione sitting beside him with a full picnic spread looking just as puzzled.
“Where are we?” Harry asked. “How… How did I get here?”
She shook her head. A wind blew, making her gauzy white dress billow.
“I have no idea… but it beats writing doesn’t it?”
Harry smiled, his eyes burning and he nodded.
“Tell me where you’re going.”