Hermione left the tube station and started walking towards the park. She had spent the two days between when Harry and her talked and when they were suppose to meet to go through her notebook and categorize the Odd Moments as much as possible. It took a surprising amount of time. She first separated the instances by if what occurred had something in common. The color changing moments where put with color changing moments, floating objects put with floating objects and so on. Then she recategorized by emotion. Was she feeling happy in this moment, surprised, angry? Next, she categorized by how tired she felt afterward. Then she made a list of Odd Moments, by date, and which categorizes applied to each. She hoped that all this would be helpful, maybe they could find a pattern when matched with Harry's moments.
As she approached the opening of the park, she started to get nervous. What if he wasn't there? He had taken his time to call her. She suddenly imagined Harry and some faceless mates all laughing at her over some drinks. Harry telling them what she had said, how he had played along with it, calling her a crazy bint as his friends and cruelly laugh. She slowed her pace, frowning. No, Harry didn't seem the type to say things like that. She had no reason to think he would say something like that, plus she was the one who saw him do something odd, not the other way around. Hermione took a breath and started forward again, her heart still pounding with anxiety.
She turned to the corner and faced the entrance of the park. It was a little cooler today. It had rained earlier, and she had carried a small umbrella, the handle hooked over her arm as she walked. The park was surrounded by a stone wall, an open wrought iron gate showing a path lined by gently swaying trees, their colors changing earnestly now, looking like flecks of paint scattered over a green canvas. Harry was already there, standing with his back against the stone wall, near the gate. He looked a little hunched, his hands in his pockets, his face somber. Hermione was struck suddenly with an image of a brooding Darcy standing beneath a tree.
A gust of wind picked up, blowing at Hermione's back as she walked closer. Harry made eye contact with her, just as the wind blew past him, shifting his messy locks up, revealing a strange scar on his forehead she never really noticed before. It was almost like a lightning bolt in shape. Her eyes moved down to his, which seemed in this moment so serious, she felt her anxiety slip away, slowly being replaced by a different swelling emotion. This emotion rose higher, feeling like it was coming from her toes until it pushed at her throat. It made it both harder to look at him standing there, with his wind shaped hair, bottle green eyes, and serious face, and impossible to look away.
"Hello. Seems today's weather isn't great for a walk in the park, but at least it's stopped raining. And I see you at least thought to bring an umbrella." Harry moved started moving towards the gate, Hermione falling into step.
"The weather forecast says it's suppose to be done for the day, but you know how accurate those are."
There was an awkward silence. It had seemed easier over the phone. They walked for a while, with only the sound of the breeze through leaves and the distant laughter of children breaking the silence.
"I have a notebook," Hermione started abruptly. "I mentioned it before. I have been keeping track of my Odd Moments for years. This last couple of days I have tried organizing them into different categories. Perhaps we could go over some of my notes together, see if anything matches with your experiences?"
Harry looked down at her with a small smile, and Hermione, for all of her initial staring, just noticed a bruise on the underside of his jaw.
"What happened there?" Hermione said, pointing. Harry glanced away, shrugging.
"Nothing interesting. So, you categorized all of your notes? Years of notes? That must have taken some time. I'm sorry, I didn't come nearly as prepared. I see how you got into Cambridge, though." His tone was light, only a little teasing. Hermione felt herself relax a little.
"I didn't expect you to have anything prepared, don't worry. It's just in my nature to approach things this way. Maybe we could find a dry bench, you could look over some stuff, tell me what you think?"
Harry nodded, leading them down a small side path towards a gazebo without much attention, giving the impression he had walked this path many times. They sat down at a picnic table, Hermione pulling out her notebook and note cards from her bag and giving them to Harry. Hermione bit her lip, watching him look through her notes, feeling very exposed. She never had shown these to anyone before, and some of the stories where an Odd Moment happened were truly embarrassing. She had thought about censoring the notebook, but decided against it. What if a story she left out turned out to be important?
She watched his face for a smirk or for laughter in his eyes, but his face never broke out of his look of concentration.
About a half hour later, Harry sighed and looked intently at her. "I think some part of me believed that you were pulling a prank of some sort on me. That you would show up at the park and talk to me, and your friends would pop out of the bushes and have a good laugh at what a freak I am. But I think it's starting to sink in that you aren't joking." Harry thumbed her notebook, looking at it almost tenderly.
"It seems to me that me and you haven't ever done exactly the same thing, but many similar things. I have also made people trip in the hall, and have changed the color of things in the way you have. The most common thing, though, I think, is that every time these Odd Moments happen, they seem to be driven by emotion. Like, wanting, or willing something to happen, but not consciously, just desperately wishing that it would happen. Or sometimes it seems just from raw emotion, without much thinking involved at all."
"So you always had strong emotion attached to your moments, too? I'm not sure how we can recreate that though. I mean, it isn't like every time I get upset I have an Odd Moment. I think the feelings have to be pretty strong." Hermione thought to all her unnessarily carefully organized notes, sitting neglected next to Harry.
Harry nodded, looking thoughtful. "Maybe if we concentrate enough,knowing what we know, knowing that something might happen, it will." Harry stood up and pulled off a leaf from a nearby tree. "Let's try to change this, I guess, to a bright red color?"
Hermione nodded, feeling doubtful, but not having any better ideas. She and Harry stared at the leaf uncomfortably for a few minutes, sometimes glancing at each other and smiling a little. Hermione opened her mouth to suggest that touching the leaf might help when she heard snickering behind her. She turned in her seat, her mouth falling open further to see Emma Smith and her friends standing at the lip of the path leading into the gazebo clearing.
"Will if it isn't Granger. Are you on a date? Did you bring a book on your date, God, Granger, really?" She and her friends laughed, looking at the notebook spread on the table. "No, no, this is my mistake. Of course this isn't a date. Who would date you? No, are you helping him study?" She looked over Hermione's shoulder to Harry, adding, "Sorry, didn't mean to insult your tastes there."
Hermione could only stare in disbelief. She had to show up now? She thought that she'd seen the last of her, mercifully, finally, only for her to show up now, in front of Harry of all people. The injustice of it made her throat close and angry tears form in her eyes. And what Harry must think of this, her becoming frozen because of witless comments from silly girls. Hermione's hands clenched into fists.
"Of course we're on a date. The real question is why are you interrupting it? Another important on is, would you kindly stop?" Harry snapped from behind her, his voice low and angry. The girl's smiles dropped. A girl to Emma's left scoffed and moved forward, but Emma threw out an arm, stopping her.
"Terribly sorry, I suppose I do mean to insult your tastes then. Have just tons of fun on your thrilling date." Emma turned around, moving her friends back down the path, saying something that made them laugh as they left, glancing over their shoulders.
Hermione watched them go, then turned back around towards Harry, who looked a bit more pink in the face than the chilly air warranted. Hermione, not once in her whole life, had someone stand up for her. Relief, a happy kind of disbelief, painful in its fragility, filled her chest was was now rising, past her throat, to her eyes, feeling like it went down the the last curls of her hair, to the tips of her fingers. She reached out, almost unthinkingly, and touched the leaf on the table, which changed like watching a time-lapse of a blooming flower, into a single large bright red azalea.
Harry had work the next day, but they could meet the day after, Sunday night. They left the park as nightfall was encroaching, Harry staring at Hermione as they walked. Hermione kept glancing at him, wishing he would stop staring at her like that. She held the azalea between her hands, protecting it from the wind, which had started to pick up more. They walked to the mouth of the tube station entrance, Harry slowing down and stopping, his hands once again in his pockets. "I have to take the bus back to Surrey. Will you be alright, getting home?"
"Yes, my parent's house is close to the underground. Um, here, this is for you, really." Hermione held out her hands, still cupping the azalea, feeling very awkward. But she had to give it to him, she had made it for him in the first place, from pure feeling. It seemed wrong to take it herself.
"Uh, thank you." Harry took it very carefully from her hands, cupping the flower in between his. He looked down at the flower for a long moment and then back up at Hermione, his eyes somber once more, trailing around her face, searching. Looking into her eyes, he said softly, once again, "Thank you, truly." There's a long moment, neither looking away, neither wanting to leave. Hermione felt the sudden urge to move toward him. She snapped out of it.
"So, see you Sunday Harry. Get home safely." Hermione took a step back, waving. Harry glanced down at his watch, frowning.
"See you, Hermione. You too, get back safely."
Hermione nodded, finally, reluctantly turning her body and walking down the stairs to the tube, wanting more time with him, and suddenly, sadly, realizing that it will be more difficult when she heads off to school, which was coming rapidly closer.
Hermione had gotten home from the park after nightfall, her parents were setting up for dinner. They heard her come in, Hermione knew, because the sounds of her mother's voice and her father's occasional, minimal input and the clatter of plates and utensils stopped. Her mother burst through the kitchen door, her eyes already wide with curiosity as she bustled down the hallway.
"Well? How was it?" Hermione hadn't even gotten her coat all the way off. She wondered how she should respond. Her mother was expecting one of three responses, it was bad and he was a berk, it was really awkward, or a girly giggle and blushing. But Hermione felt none of those or anything close to it. She felt more like crying, or sitting down on the floor where she stood and laughing, so intense were her feelings of relief. Instead she finished hanging up her coat and gave her mother a smile that felt like it came from the tip of her toes.
"It went very well. We're seeing each other again Sunday."
Her mother clapped her hands together once, her expression startled, her eyes wide, but a split second later covered it with a happy smile.
"Ohhh, that's good. You will have to tell us all the details, dinner's almost ready." Her mother clasped her arm and pulled her towards the kitchen, where her father was stirring curry.
"Charles, she said it went well." Her mother sent her father a look only people that have been together a long time can give, saying much with little.
"Very well," Hermione added, sliding into her chair at their small wooden table, a little worn from years and years of use.
Her father groaned, taking the curry from the burner and bringing it to the center of the table. "Very well? That definitely involves kissing then."
"Do tell all the details Hermione." Her mother put food on Hermione's plate, smiling.
"No, no don't tell us all the details, Hermione." Her father said, poking her mother.
"What Charles? It isn't unusual for a mother to wonder how her daughter's first date has gone." Her mother poked him back.
Her father poked her mother in the ribs saying, "No it's not, but I don't want a blow by blow of how good of a kisser he is, Liza." He feigned a shiver.
Her mother poked him twice in the shoulders, leaning out of her chair to get him harder. "Of course I don't want a blow by blow either, Char, but I still want to know what happened, Hermione looks really happy."
Charles poked Elizabeth in the stomach, and Elizabeth retaliated, their family dinner turning into Hermione watching her parents laughing as they stood up, trying to dodge each other's fingers.
Hermione slammed her spoon down, gaining her parent's attention. "You two are doctors! And ask yourself, is it more traumatising for parents to hear about their daughter kissing a boy, or for a daughter to witness her parents turning into flirting children?"
Her parents sighed and sat back down.
"What a wet blanket." Her father stage whispered to her mother, who nodded in wide eyed agreement. Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Besides, Harry and I didn't kiss."
"Oh, then what was so nice about it?" Her mother asked, glancing at her father with one of those mysterious looks.
"It's hard to explain, but I just feel like we understand each other. We have something in common that I didn't think I had in common with anyone else. It's just...it's nice to know he's there." Hermione played with her food, her face a little pink, not looking directly at her parents.
"What is it that you have in common, sweetheart?" Her mother asked, carefully.
"Oh you know, just, um, just … you know, personality quirks and interests and things. I always find it difficult to get along with people my own age, but not Harry." Hermione glanced up at them from her food, her face pinker now. She hated lying to her parents. And while she wasn't technically lying, she was making a fairly large omission. Her Odd Moments, for all her closeness to her parents, weren't something she ever tried to share with them.
"Well, I must say, that sounds much nicer than a kiss, puppet."
"Yes, Hermione, friends are always a wonderful thing, kisses or no."
She saw him sitting at the back of the casual dining restaurant, the kind of place where you order food first and then sit down and have them bring it to you. Hermione picked it because she loved the pasta there, and it wasn't too formal or expensive. She noticed him right away, as if she knew where he would be sitting. He was slumped forward a little, elbows on the table, a dark look on his face as Hermione walked over after ordering. He didn't notice her until she reached the table.
"Hi Harry," Hermione said cheerfully as she pulled out her chair. He twitched a small smile, looking a little blank, his shoulders tense. There was a moment of silence, just as awkward as the last time they met.
"Um so, how…"
"Hermione, have you, have you…" Harry sighed, dropping his head in his hands, pulling his fingers through his hair. There was a grimace on his face.
"Ugh, god, Hermione have you ever had, uh, visions before?" The waiter came just at that moment, giving Harry a strange glance as she dropped off their food. Harry watched her go, tense and flushed.
"I don't fully understand. Like, priminations?" Hermione said softly, becoming concerned at how almost in pain Harry looked.
"No, I mean, just of other people, flashing lights? Sometimes it looks like people are making light with sticks, I don't understand them. I use to just see it when I fell asleep. I had a lot of nightmares when I was, I dunno, five or six? It was of a snake-like-man, I was the snake like man, and I, he, kept hurting people. Around seven or so, I mostly stopped having them. Just every once and awhile. My scar," Harry gestured towards his forehead, his voice become lower and quicker as he talked. "My scar hurts when I wake up. But ever since I turned seventeen, this last July, I started to see what he was doing while I was awake. This morning, I saw him enter a person's home, I saw him bring people forward. I don't know who they are, they were watching television, and he made them stand in front of him, he looked at their faces, he said, 'Where is Harry Potter?' The family, they looked confused and, and blank. They said they didn't know and he, I don't know what he said, but something, and a green light left his stick and I snapped out of it, Hermione, but I know that they were dead. And on the telly, they were watching the news. Hermione, they were watching the same news that my family downstairs were watching. I think, I think that it might be real. My scar hurt so much I thought I was going to throw up." Harry grimaced again, clapping his hands over his scar, letting out a hissing breath.
Hermione stared at him alarmed, a sinking feeling in her stomach. "Are you... seeing him now?" Hermione asked, her voice barely over a whisper.
Harry slowly pulled his hands away from his forehead, shaking his a head like he was trying to shake off water. "No, just flashes of things, flashes of feelings. He feels frustrated. I swear it looks like he is wondering around Surrey, but it could be anywhere, really. I think he just left." Harry glanced up at her, licking his lips, shifting in his seat. "Have you ever had something like this?"
Hermione stared at him in silence, her mind racing. Had she not seen him have an Odd Moment with her very own eyes, she might have thought that he was crazy. Maybe he still was, Hermione couldn't be sure.
But despite everything in front of her saying otherwise, she decided to believe him. After all, just the other day she turned a leaf into a flower, and most people would think that she was crazy if she told them that.
"No, I can't say that I have experienced anything like that, Harry."
Harry slumped even more, his eyes pleading."No? Nothing at all?"
Hermione shook her head.
"I had hoped...you changed the leaf and… but even then, even you...Maybe I am just really crazy. Maybe I really, truly am just the biggest freak to have ever lived. My family will feel vindicated, at least." Harry moved to get out of his seat.
"Wh...where are you going?" Hermione asked, worried.
Harry looked at her, his eyebrows raised. "I thought it best to leave, considering I just apparently had some sort of fit."
Hermione considered him for a moment, then surprised herself and him but barking out, "Oh, just sit down, would you?" Harry sat back down, his eyebrows raising further.
"You don't have to get all dramatic about it. Sure, head pains and hallucinations about a bad man who kills people to try and find you sounds fully loony. I mean, like full stop mad. But me and you, we know better. We know that there is something else at play here too. So don't march off to brood in the night, or what have you." Hermione took a bite of her cooled pasta, raising her eyebrows back at him.
Harry's face relaxed after a moment. He gave her a small smile, something opening in his expression that made Hermione's stomach flutter. "So, you think it might be related to the Odd Moments still?"
"Sure. After all, from our stories we know that me and you haven't done exactly the same things. So this is just something that you can do that I can't. Is there anything else like this?"
Harry looked uncomfortable once again, but not nearly as much as before. "Ah yes, and this is going to sound crazy too, but at least this time I can prove it to you."
Hermione and Harry were standing shoulder to shoulder in the middle of a pet store a few blocks away from the restaurant. Hermione noticed how pale he looked under the bald fluorescent lighting, the bruise on his jaw darker than the last time she saw him. There was an edge of a bruise visible by his collar bone as well, like an ink smudge of a thumb print.
"Can you see the red snake?" Harry was peering into the glass cage on the top shelf.
Harry glanced down at her chuckling. "I guess I never noticed how short you are."
Hermione scoffed, "What, because you're so tall?" She nudged him with her shoulder, smiling.
Harry snorted. "No, I'm not. But pointing out that I'm not very tall, and me still being much taller than you just makes you very short and me average."
"Whatever, you aren't that much taller."
Harry grinned and shifted closer, his chest touching her arms, which were crossed over her own chest. "See, I'm nearly a head taller than you. 'You aren't much taller', you are stubborn, aren't you? It's like that time at the Winchester when you wouldn't admit to your dad that the soup was too spicy, even though you were red and sweaty."
Hermione opened her mouth to retort, looking up into his face, he staring down at her. Hermione was suddenly aware of how close he was standing, her retort forgotten, as they stared at each other.
Hermione coughed and asked, "Yes, well, about the snakes?" Harry froze a split second and then took a step backward, looking into the cages on the second shelf.
"R-right. Come look at this brown snake. Assuming you can see?" Harry asked, smirking.
Hermione nudged him with her shoulder again, looking into the cage. She started when she heard a strange hissing sound coming from Harry, his mouth moving minimally, his eyes unfocused, like he was in a trance. The sound he was making brought to mind something like scales sliding over cold grass in the dark. Hermione looked from Harry to the cage again, to see a snake staring back at him, focused.
"I'm going to tell him make a circle and nod his head three times. Watch to see if he does it." Again Harry made the sound, making Hermione shiver. Blinking away the strong image of the color green from her mind, she watched as the snake slowly, graceful, moved its body into position, and nodded it three times, it's eyes still focused on Harry, who was now silent.
Harry looked at her, his eyes once again hesitatingly open, captivating. Hermione smiled, her expression bright. "Wicked."