It was a Saturday, which was usually a good day, what with the lack of school. But it had been raining for weeks, and they’d exhausted all their rainy-day activities, including board games that he’d usually refuse to touch, and several rounds of House with all the bells and whistles.
Had they been at home, he and Harry would probably have managed to convince Lily to let them play out in the rain by now, but they weren’t at home. Lily and James had shipped Heather off to Remus, and Neville and Harry off to the Grangers, so that the two of them could have ‘a couple’s day.’ And, Neville seriously doubted he’d have as much success convincing Hermione’s mum to let them trail mud into her immaculate house.
Harry threw himself backward onto Hermione’s bed. “Me, too! I wish it would stop raining so that we could go out.”
“That’s it!” Hermione jumped up from her place, cross-legged on the floor, so quickly that she dropped Annie, whose hair she’d been brushing.
Neville started, accidently hitting his head on the bookshelf behind him, in his surprise. “You actually think your mum will let us play outside in the rain!?” he asked. He hadn’t bothered suggesting it, because he hadn’t considered it even a remote possibility.
“No, of course not.” Hermione frowned. Why did the boys have to be so simple sometimes? “We’ll get all wet, and you didn’t bring a change of clothes, and the floor will get all muddy... What I meant is that it’s been raining so long that I’m sure that we could convince Mother or Father to take us out somewhere.”
“Where?” asked Harry, confused, “It’s raining everywhere in town...”
Hermione giggled. He was joking right? She didn’t seriously have to spell it out for them, did she? She waited patiently for either boy to laugh back, admit the question was a joke. But they didn’t. Harry just continued to look at her with that perplexed look on his face, and the expression on Neville’s face wasn’t much better.
“Everywhere outside, yes,” she explained, finally, “but not inside. We can ask her to take us somewhere indoors.”
“But indoors is boring,” complained Neville, thumping his head against the bookshelf in frustration, “We’ve been playing indoors for ages.”
Hermione was not so easily discouraged. She had an idea and she wasn’t going to back down until the boys agreed with her –or suggested something better, which wasn’t likely. “We can go to the library. It’s my favourite building in the whole town, and I haven’t been in ages.”
Neville’s jaw dropped, and though he opened and closed it a few times, no sound emerged.
Harry frowned at her, incredulously. “You want to spend a Saturday at the library?”
“Yes, why not?” answered Hermione, struggling not to let the boys’ reactions stifle her enthusiasm, “I’m sure Mother will bring us, if we ask. She’s usually willing to take a break from paperwork, in exchange for a visit to the library. If not, we can probably convince Father. He’s been working really hard these last few months, and a good book would be the perfect distraction. In fact, let’s ask Father first.”
Neither boy moved from their position.
“Aww come on...” she repeated, tugging on each of their hands in turn, but they were both dead-weight –worse than dead-weight. “You know, they even have picture books, and I bet we can convince Father to read to you. He has the best reading voice, even better than Mother.”
“Fine!” Harry pushed himself up, not bothering to smooth the mark he’d left behind on Hermione’s bed covers.
Sensing the battle lost, but still unhappy with the prospect, Neville reluctantly climbed to his feet; he supposed having a new story read to him was no worse than sitting around Hermione’s room doing nothing. He’d just have to be sure to pick a really good one.
It felt strange following Hermione into her father’s office, after having been reminded during more than one game of hide-and-seek that to do so was forbidden. It didn’t help that, in all the time they’d known Hermione, they’d seen even less of the man than the little they’d seen of her mother. Mrs Granger, at least, cooked for them sometimes, when they were over all day...
To distract himself from his discomfort, Neville allowed his eyes to wander, while Hermione explained why they’d come in. Mr Granger’s office was a lot messier than the one glimpse that Neville had seen of Mrs Granger’s office. His desk was piled with undecipherable papers, and at least a couple of maps...
Are the Grangers planning a trip for their summer holidays? Neville wondered. Hermione hadn’t mentioned anything...
“So you see, Father,” Hermione concluded, “we’ve already exhausted all other options, and we were hoping you would agree to accompany us to the library.”
Neville turned a hopeful gaze towards Hermione’s father. Would the severe-looking man agree to bring them to the library, or anywhere else for that matter? At this point, Neville would be content with a visit to the grocer’s, if it meant leaving the house... Or were they back to square one, staring at the four walls of Hermione’s room closing in on them?
He sighed in relief, as Mr Granger’s severe expression melted into a smile, “That sounds like an excellent idea, children. I’ve been meaning to get my hands on Robin Cook’s latest novel...”
By the time they pulled to a stop in the library’s car park, Neville’s relief at leaving the house had worn off. All through their drive, images of libraries he’d seen on the telly had played in his mind, images of uninviting high ceilinged rooms with row upon row of bookshelves as far as the eye could see… Was going to the library really better than hanging out in Hermione’s room?
Try as he might, he couldn’t match Hermione’s enthusiasm for the outing, and if Harry’s expression was anything to go by, neither could his brother.
By the time Neville and Harry pulled themselves out of the car, Hermione, who had jumped out the moment the car pulled to a stop, stood at the top of the stairs of the short squat building, arms crossed and feet shuffling impatiently from side to side.
Mr Granger pulled open the building’s heavy front door and, the minute the gap was sufficient for her to squeeze through, Hermione darted off.
Neville barely noticed. He was too surprised by the sight in front of him. Where were the overly bright fluorescent lights? The high ceilings and shelves? The creepy librarian? The town library was warm and cozy, with comfy seats, almost identical to their schoolhouse library–only bigger.
If he noticed the sudden change in Neville’s demeanour, Mr Granger didn’t comment. He didn’t even seem concerned that they’d lost Hermione the minute they’d crossed the threshold. Instead, he placed a hand on each boy’s shoulder and gave them each a little shove forward. “The children’s section is right over there. Why don’t you boys go pick something out while I go find that novel I was looking for? I’ll be over in a few minutes.”
“What about Hermione?” asked Harry.
Mr Granger laughed, “She’ll turn up eventually; usually about ten minutes after they announce closing time.”
Harry couldn’t help it, Mr Granger’s laugh, so much like his own father’s, was infectious; he laughed too. Even Neville was grinning. If the last few months had taught them something about Hermione, it was that there were not many forces in the universe capable of separating her from a book.
Mr Granger gave them a final gentle shove, and they stumbled towards the inviting shelves of picture books. There were so many to choose from –far more than they had at home, and at least twice as many as they had at school. By the time Mr Granger returned, Harry and Neville had picked out what they both considered the perfect book…
Hermione was right about Mr Granger’s reading voice, too. Maybe he wasn’t so scary, after all.... And maybe –just maybe –the library wasn’t such a bad place to spend a rainy Saturday …
A/N: Many thanks to my beta, Arnel, for the incredibly quick turnaround on this chapter.