It had been several minutes since Hermione had dragged Harry and Neville to the back corner of their classroom, away from their class’ end-of-year party, with tears in her eyes. Now, the tears were flowing freely, with no sign of slowing, but she had yet to offer a word of explanation.
Neville draped an arm around her heaving shoulders “Yeah, what did you want to tell us?” he asked, “You know that you can tell us anything.”
“My pa-parents –” she began, but that was as far as she got, before erupting into fresh sobs.
Harry added his arm on top of Neville’s. “Whatever is wrong, we’ll get through it.”
Hermione’s sobs got worse, instead of better. “No, we c-can’t...”
Above her head, Harry and Neville shared a look. Should they go get the teacher? Considering how long and loud Hermione had been crying, it was actually surprising that she hadn’t come over yet.
Finally, just as Harry was about to give up and go get Miss Karen, Hermione’s sobs slowed enough for her to attempt speech. She shrugged Neville and Harry’s arms off her shoulders.
“My pa-parents,” she began, voice shaking.
She took a deep breath, and tried again, “My parents say that we have to move.”
Neville took a step back as several pieces of a puzzle, brewing in his subconscious, clicked into place: Mrs Granger’s phone-call, the maps on Mr Granger’s desk, the way both Hermione’s parents had been so busy all year...
“You’re moving!?” exclaimed Harry. “Why!?”
Hermione shook her head in frustration. It just wasn’t fair. She didn’t want to move. But the confused indignation in Harry’s voice helped to ground her, to calm her tears. Her parents might be uprooting her entire life, for their own benefit, and with no thought for her happiness, but at least –for now– she wasn’t in this alone.
Taking a deep breath to clear the last of the sobs from her voice, she managed to answer their questions, without her voice breaking, “They want to set up their own practice in the city, so we’re moving.”
“They want to go to the city to practice?” asked Harry, straight-out confusion replacing his indignation, “What do they need to practice, anyway? Football? Rugby?”
“And why can’t they practice here?” asked Neville.
Hermione couldn’t help it; she burst out laughing, her tears temporarily forgotten. “No, silly-willies, they don’t want to practice something. They want to open up a practice.”
The boys continued to stare at her with perplexed looks on their faces.
“They want to open up a dentist’s surgery in the city,” she clarified.
“Oh!” exclaimed Harry, with a flash of understanding. “We go to the dentist here, though. Why can’t they work here?”
“I don’t know!” Hermione stomped her foot. “It’s not fair! I told them I’d hate them forever if they forced me to move, but they said we’re moving, and ‘it’s not up for negotiation,’ and I have to go…”
“Ne-goat-sation?” asked Harry.
Hermione giggled, his mispronunciation of the word distracting her from the tears that were threatening to erupt once more. “Negotiation,” she corrected, “It means no arguing. Honestly, don’t the two of you ever read the dictionary?”
“Ummm…” Harry hesitated. She was joking, right?
“No,” Neville answered for them both. “Please, please don’t tell me that you actually read the dictionary...”
Hermione blushed. “Ummm...Sometimes...” she admitted, not bothering to try explaining the thrill of discovering so many new words, all in one place. There were some things that the boys would never understand, no matter how much she explained.
They sat in awkward silence for a moment after that, none of the three willing to bring the conversation back to the huge elephant that Hermione had let into the room.
Finally, Harry bit the bullet and asked, “So... when are you leaving?”
“Next week,” answered Hermione, eyes glistening, as she fought back the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. “It only just became official, yesterday. My parents are hiring a company to pack up all our belongings, after we leave, and move them all to our new place near the city.”
“You’re moving without your stuff!? Without Annie!?” asked Neville, more than a little outraged on her behalf. It was bad enough that Hermione’s parents were dragging her away from him and Harry –her best friends –but they were making her leave her stuff behind too? That was beyond unfair!
“No, no,” Hermione shook her head. Touched by his outburst, a half-smile formed at the corner of her mouth. “We’re packing a few suitcases and boxes with things we’ll need right away, and the moving company will be bringing the rest later. But...”
She trailed off as she noticed Miss Karen approaching, three thin packages tucked under her arm.
“I know the three of you probably have a lot to talk about.” Miss Karen halted several paces from the huddled group of friends, diplomatically refraining from mentioning Hermione’s puffy eyes or the tear streaks on her cheeks. “So, I thought I’d bring your end-of-year gifts over here, instead of forcing you to move, in case you’re not feeling up for joining the group...”
“Gifts!?” Harry seized at the distraction, eying the packages.
“Yes, I like to get a little something for each of my students, at the end of the school year, only...” She smiled conspiratorially. “You mustn’t tell my next batch of students. It’s a secret.”
Harry and Neville giggled, and even Hermione’s lips upturned into a half-smile.
“What is it?” asked Neville.
Instead of answering, Miss Karen handed them each of them one of the brightly coloured packages, and said, “Go on, open them. See for yourself.”
Neville and Harry tore at the wrapping with no further prompting, but Hermione hesitated, even as Harry and Neville both pulled brand new picture books from the remains of their wrapping paper. It wasn’t that she didn’t want the gift, but it didn’t seem right, getting a gift right now. She was feeling sad, and a part of her –a really small part –wasn’t ready to get cheered up.
“Go on,” Miss Karen prompted, smiling encouragingly, “Open it. I know you can’t resist a new book...”
Gingerly, Hermione pulled at the edges of the tape holding the paper together. If there really was a book inside, she didn’t want to risk ripping any of the pages. She gently unfolded the paper, revealing a brand new picture book of her own, with two boys swinging on the front cover, and the title ‘We Are Best Friends.’
Hermione almost burst into tears, at the reminder that she’d soon be leaving her best friends. But, Miss Karen was right; she couldn’t resist a new book –even something as childish as a picture book. Without conscious thought, she found herself opening the book to a random page, “But Peter moved away. There was nothing to do without Peter. There was no one to play with.”
Unable to hold her emotions in check any longer, Hermione burst into tears once more.
“Your parents let the Headmaster know that you wouldn’t be coming back next year.” Miss Karen was speaking and Hermione, looking up at her through glistening eyes, tried to focus on what she was saying. “I thought you might find this book helpful, a little something to help you deal with everything that’s coming. It’s a little above your grade-level, but you’ve been reading above your grade-level for a while now, haven’t you?”
“Thank you, Miss Karen. It’s perfect!” Despite her tears, Hermione managed a half-smile. Even though it would likely make her cry even more to read the book all the way through, it really was the perfect gift.
“You’re welcome, dear,” Miss Karen smiled at her, then turned to walk away, “I’ll leave you to it, then.” She took a few steps then paused, looking back at them over her shoulder, “I’ll be cutting the cake in a couple of minutes, if you’re feeling up to joining us.”
But Hermione wasn’t feeling ready to rejoin the group just yet. Instead, she dragged her friends over to the soft cushions that the class used for story-time, and settled herself comfortably with her legs crossed, and a friend on either side. Then, turning the book to the very first page, she started to read aloud, “Peter came to tell Robert the news…”
All three of them were crying by the time she reached the end of the tale of Robert and Peter, who were best friends, even after Peter moved away, and they both made new friends. But despite the tears, Hermione felt better after reading it.
It gave her hope for her friendship, and it made her grief and frustration just a little bit easier to bear...
A/N: “We Are Best Friends” first published in 1982, is property of AlikiBradenberg and various publishers, no copy write infringement intended. Many thanks to my beta, Arnel, for her help on this chapter.