Harry and Hermione froze, stunned, for a moment, and then the pair of them raced to the kitchen, to find a slightly embarrassed Mrs. Granger, picking up the pieces of what had been several cups of tea, as well as a jug of milk. With Hermione and Harry helping her, the three managed to clean up the mess fairly quickly, and Harry decided this would be a proper time to introduce himself.
"Hello. I'm Harry. Harry Potter, said he, offering his hand.
"Hello, Harry dear. It's so nice to finally meet you," she said, forgoing his hand and hugging him. Harry was less comfortable with this hug, but did his best to hide it, as he didn't want to offend Mrs. Granger. "If you'll follow Hermione, she can show you to your room so you can put you things away, and I will have another batch of tea made when you come back down.
With that, Hermione took Harry's hand and led him to a room near the back of the house, not very far from where hers was. Harry smiled when he looked into it, not at all surprised to find it full of books and various other things. Mr. Granger had apologized to Harry, and explained that the room Harry was to use was normally used as a study. He had seemed quite relieved when Harry explained that he didn't mind at all and that it was certain to be better then the cupboard Harry had been confined to for the first eleven years of his life.
With Hermione's help, Harry had his trunk unpacked, his clothes hung up, and various details of his living space straightened out in less then a quarter of an hour. After opening the window and letting Hedwig go on her own way, Harry and Hermione returned to the kitchen, to find Mr. and Mrs. Granger waiting for them, with a plate of biscuits and a fresh pot of tea. Once the tea and biscuits were served, Mrs. Granger proceeded to ask Harry many of the same questions Mr. Granger had during the ride over. This didn't bother Harry, and much of the afternoon was spent in companionable conversation, beginning with the questions about Harry and moving into questions about the Dursleys and Harry's home life.
The Grangers were understandably appalled to hear of the way Harry was treated by his relatives, and were more than willing to open their home to him for the summer holidays as well as the Christmas ones, just as the Weasleys had. Even so, it wasn't until later that night that any of the Grangers realized just how horrible Harry's home life had actually been.
Harry was preparing to sleep for the night, and had changed into a pair of shorts and a nightshirt. He was just about to settle down when there was a soft knock at his door. After Harry called out his assent, Hermione poked her head into the doorway to wish Harry a good night sleep…and gasped.
"Harry! What happened to you?" she asked.
"Er…what do you mean, Hermione?"
"Harry, why do you have so many bruises?!?" she yelled, loudly enough, it seemed to Harry, to wake half the neighborhood. Naturally, her outraged bellow instantly attracted the attention of Mr. and Mrs. Granger, who were at her side in an instant, gaping in obvious dismay at what they saw before them.
"Er…well, I…er…my uncle…" Harry trailed off, uncertainly.
"Harry," said Mr. Granger in a dangerous tone, "what did your uncle do and why did he do it?"
Harry sighed. He hadn't wanted to get into this with the Grangers. Inwardly, he cursed himself for being careless enough to allow Hermione to see his injuries. Surely Hermione already knew where his injuries had come from and why. Nevertheless, he began to explain.
"I told you earlier, a bit about my home life with the Dursleys. I didn't tell you why they act the way they do." He paused, and looked at Hermione. "You are very lucky Hermione, to have parents who believe magic is interesting and something to be proud of." Here, Harry turned back to Mr. and Mrs. Granger. "The Dursleys believe that being a wizard is an abnormality. For years, they told me my parents died in a car crash. This isn't the truth. What really happened, as I am sure Hermione has told you, is that a dark wizard named Voldemort killed my parents when I was a little over a year old.
Harry paused for a moment, as a brief flash of deep sorrow crossed his face.
"For some reason, which we later understood, the same curse that killed my parents and so many before them failed to harm me, and left me with only this." Harry said, brushing his scar. "I became Harry Potter, The Boy who Lived. Since then, there hasn't been a single child in the wizarding world who doesn't know who I am. Professor Dumbledore felt it would be best if I grew up away from that, and sent me to live with my aunt's family.
"As I said before, they believe that being magical is an abnormality, a condition to be shunned and hated. They hate me because of my magic, and all who are like me. Before Hagrid came with my acceptance letter to Hogwarts, they told me there was no such thing as magic. Every time I managed to do something ‘abnormal' I was punished. I remember one time I managed to turn my teachers wig blue…but that doesn't matter. After Hagrid came with my letter, and I went off to Hogwarts, I didn't see them except for during the summer. Nothing changed as far as they are concerned. They are convinced that a good cuff around the ears and hearty belting are all I need to be made normal. Sometimes, I wonder if they aren't right. After all, if I hadn't come to Hogwarts, maybe some of the others would still be alive. Cedric for example, or Cho, or Colin. Or--"
"HARRY JAMES POTTER THAT'S ENOUGH! YOU KNOW GOOD AND WELL THAT WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM WAS VOLDEMORT'S FAULT. NO ONE BLAMES YOU FOR WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM. THEY ALL KNEW THE RISKS. THEY WERE JUST AS CAPABLE AND RESPONSIBLE AS YOU. THIS CONSTANT BLAMING YOUSELF MAKES ME SICK!"
Here, Hermione paused to take a few calming breaths. Harry, having never seen Hermione this angry, simply gaped at her. Mr. Granger was looking past Harry with an angry look on his face. Mrs. Granger just stood next to her daughter, looking pale.
"Sorry, Hermione. You're right of course. I know no one blames me for their deaths who has any right to say anything, but sometimes…" Harry breathed a defeated sigh.
"Will you be alright, Harry dear? Shouldn't we get someone to look at you?" asked Mrs. Granger.
"No, thank you, Mrs. Granger, I will be fine for tonight," said Harry.
After a grudging nod, Mr. and Mrs. Granger retreated from the room, leaving Harry and Hermione alone. Hermione looked like she was on the verge of tears as her gaze once again traveled over Harry. For his part, Harry looked a bit haggard, and upset about the attention. Once Hermione's parents were gone, Harry relaxed, but still regarded Hermione with a look of sorrow, and defeat.
Choking back a sob at how the Dursleys had treated her friend, Hermione sat next to him and wrapped him in a gentle embrace, being careful not to hit any of his bruises and hurt him. For a while, she simply held him. She didn't know how long she sat there, trying not to cry, but eventually she felt Harry pull back, and in a thick husky voice he said, "Hermione?"
At this, Hermione finally lost what little control she had over her tears and began to cry softly. "Oh, Harry, I'm so s-sorry you have to go through the same hell, every summer, and I wish there was something I c-could do to help you."
At this, Harry pulled back, and held Hermione at arms length, so she could see his eyes. "Hermione, look at me."
Stifling her sobs a bit, Hermione raised her head and did so.
"You and Ron probably know more about what my life has been like then anyone, except maybe Dumbledore. You know how things were before Hogwarts. Do you remember first year, when Professor Quirrel let that troll in the dungeon? On Halloween?" Harry asked, and at Hermione's nod, continued, "Professor McGonagall asked Ron and I to explain ourselves once we had defeated the troll and she and the other teachers had arrived, remember that?" Again, Hermione nodded and Harry continued. "Ron and I weren't quite sure what to do or say, but something happened that neither of us expected. You told the professor it was your fault. You lied to a teacher. I couldn't believe it. We were so horrid to you, and yet you still took the blame. We had just saved your life, but that didn't matter to me at that point. Want to know what I was thinking at the time?
"Yes, Harry. What were you thinking?"
"I was thinking: wow, she did that for us. I couldn't believe it. After that, the three of us bonded. I guess taking on a fully-grown mountain troll is one of those things you can't live though and not feel close to someone afterward. I spent a lot of time thinking over the next few days, before the Quidditch match, about what had happened, and the fact that you and Ron and I now seemed to be getting on better. I was glad for it , Hermione. For the first time in my life, I had friends. People I felt were close to me. I thought about that again after third year, when you and Ron told Sirius he would have to kill all three of us if he wanted me.
I still think about that, and I guess I never really told you, or Ron, but I am glad for what we share Hermione. I am truly thankful that you are my friend. You don't have to worry about helping me more. Just being there is all you need to do."
Hermione's tears had stopped during Harry's explanation, but now her eyes were shining with unshed tears again. One last time, Hermione hugged Harry, before deciding that it was time to sleep. After asking him if he would be ok, she got up to leave, and was just about out the door when she turned back to Harry, and said, "Thank you for that Harry. I feel the same way about our friendship." And she quietly slipped out the door.