Disclaimer: I so don't own Harry Potter and company...

Hermione Granger frowned, staring down at the chemistry essay she had just completed. Was it good enough? It was two pages longer than what was required, but she wanted it to be perfect and wasn't sure if it was. She glanced through her notes again, and found nothing she could add. Sighing, she tidied the papers and filed them away in her notebook. She stood up and stretched, pushing futilely at her bushy hair, before wandering downstairs to fix herself a sandwich.

In the kitchen, she sat down at a stool by the counter and ate slowly, mind wandering. Hermione was not popular—far from it, in fact. Boys and girls alike avoided her, intimidated by her intelligence and involvement in school. She knew she would never be beautiful, perhaps not even pretty, and the thought haunted her constantly. Her hair was a dull brown, fluffy and always tangled; her eyes were likewise brown and timid, and her teeth were too big for her mouth. She had given up on her appearance years ago, and dressed in non-descript clothes that helped her blend into the crowd and didn't define her body. She wished that just once—just once—someone would look beyond her appearance and see her for who she really was.

Hermione was brought out of her musings by the shout that drifted through the open kitchen window.

"Boy! Come unload this luggage! We're going out, and it had bloody well better be done by the time we get back! You have three hours!"

Curious, Hermione got up and looked out the window. Next door, a beefy, red-faced blonde man sporting a thick mustache was just climbing into a white sedan. There was a thin woman in the passenger seat and what appeared to be a small whale of a boy in the back. The car pulled out and disappeared down the street. A moment later, the front door of the house opened and a head emerged cautiously, quickly followed by a body. Hermione's eyes widened and her mouth parted in surprise.

The boy was quite unlike anything she'd ever seen in the small town of Pettigrew. His hair was semi-long and shaggy in a cute just-woke-up sort of way, pitch-black with vibrant green tips. It obscured most of his face, but Hermione could have sworn she saw the glint of piercings in the afternoon sunlight. He was slender, but well-muscled, which was made obvious by his tight black t-shirt and slim hip-huggers. He clumped down the driveway in heavy combat boots that cinched just below his knees. Brightly colored bracelets and gleaming spikes decorated both arms. Hermione watched, fascinated, as he trotted up to the moving van parked on the side of the street and climbed in.

He appeared again a few seconds later, laden with suitcases, and disappeared into the house.

This process repeated itself several times for nearly an hour. She watched the whole time, and felt the foolish hope she always felt when a new kid moved into the neighborhood: Would this boy be her friend? Her boyfriend? Would he look at her and see a sweet, shy girl that needed just a little push to become open and talkative? Scowling, she shook her head, willing her loneliness down. It never happened, no matter how many times someone new came around. The other kids always got to them first, became friends with them, and left her to herself. It would always be the same.

Just as she was about to move away from the window—perhaps she would go upstairs and look over that chemistry essay, one more time—the boy came outside again. Despite herself, she watched again as he went to the moving van and looked in. Shaking his head with what looked like relief, he turned to go inside; but suddenly, his head turned to the side, and he was looking directly at her. He grinned and gave her a cheery wave.

Gasping, mortified, Hermione jerked away, out of view. She leaned against the counter and put her face in her hands, blushing hotly. He had seen her, staring out at him like some sort of pervert! Irrationally, she felt like crying. Why did she always have to ruin everything? He was probably freaked out and had only waved to be polite, and when school came around on Monday, the new kid would tell everyone how he had caught the quiet, bookish loser ogling him like a piece of meat. Hermione groaned.

She nearly shrieked when the doorbell rang. Shaking a little and feeling impossibly foolish, she went to answer it, taking a moment to compose herself before opening the door, ready to tell the solicitor that she didn't want to buy whatever it was.

The boy was standing there, smiling a little, hands in his pockets. "Hallo," he said in a strong English accent. "I'm Harry Potter, your new neighbor."

Hermione gaped stupidly at him.

The silence stretched out and grew awkward. Harry's smile began to fade, and he shifted uncomfortably. "Errm…well, then. Yes. I'll be seeing you around, I suppose," he fumbled, and turned sharply to leave.

"No!" Hermione cried, louder than she'd intended. She felt the blush rise in her face again as he turned to her, surprised. "I mean, I-I'm sorry. Please, I don't mean to be rude. M-my name's Hermione, Hermione Granger. Pleased to meet you…Harry." Uncertainly, Hermione offered her hand. The boy named Harry grinned again and shook it firmly.

Up close, he was even more alluring than he'd been at a distance. She'd been right about the piercings. One entire ear was crowded with silver loops from top to bottom, and his full bottom lip had a small ring through the center of it the same color as the tips of his hair. Metal also glinted at his right eyebrow. His eyes were the most beautiful thing she had ever seen—an emerald brighter than even his hair, almost unnaturally. She wondered if they were contacts. The bones of his face were delicate, almost feminine, and very attractive. She tried not to stare and had the feeling she was failing miserably.

"I-uhh-so…" Hermione gave up, face flaming, and looked down at her feet.

Luckily, Harry took up the slack quickly. "Do you go to the school around here? Stonewall, isn't it? I'll be starting Monday, going into eleventh grade."

"Me, too!" she replied eagerly. "I-I mean, yeah, I'm in eleventh at Stonewall. Are…are you looking forward to it? Going to a new school and all, I mean? You're from England, I take it? Your…your accent, I just assumed…" Shut up, shut up, shut UP, you idiot! She couldn't seem to stop acting like a bumbling fool.

Harry didn't seem to notice. "My relatives and I come from Surrey. My uncle's company transferred him to America, and to be honest, I'm not too happy about it. I had a lot of friends in England, you know? People who…people who looked like me. I get the feeling I'm going to stick out quite badly here."

"Oh, no, I'm sure you'll be fine!" she assured him. He grinned, and she blushed again.

"Hey, I was wondering—you wanna show me around? If it's not any trouble," he added quickly. "It's just my relatives won't be back for another two hours or so, and if you're not doing anything…"

Hermione reeled with shock. Someone was asking her…to go somewhere public with them? To…to hang out with them? Without thinking about it, she opened her mouth and heard herself say, "I'd love to."

Harry gave a delighted whoop and did something with his mouth that made him click. Seeing Hermione's curious look, he stuck out his tongue and she saw the stud that pierced it. She had thought it wasn't possible to blush any harder than she had been already—she was wrong.

"Do you want to take my car?" she asked, trying to cover up her embarrassment. It worked, as Harry looked at her in surprise.

"You have a car? Your own car? Well, bloody hell, let's take the car!" He laughed at his own enthusiasm. "I have to use my skateboard to get everywhere, and though I love it, it gets kinda old sometimes, you know?" Hermione nodded, though she didn't know; her parents had bought her a brand-new Jeep Wrangler for her fifteenth birthday, long before she could even drive, as a reward for continuously wonderful grades.

"Well, come on then!" Harry urged, dancing from foot to foot. Hermione giggled, and the sound was foreign in her mouth; it had been so long since she'd genuinely laughed.

"Alright, let me get my purse," she agreed. "Come in for a moment?" More foreign syllables had issued from her mouth. She'd never had friends to invite in. Harry thought nothing of it, however, and bounded inside. The boy was a bundle of energy.

She showed him to the living room and practically ran to her room, giddy and nervous and feeling absolutely wonderful. She got her purse. When she returned, she found Harry looking with interest at a recent photo of her mother and father. He turned to face her when she entered the room. "This is your mum?" he asked, replacing the picture. Hermione nodded, and Harry smiled—he seemed to do that quite a lot, and he had an infectious smile. "I can see where you get your beauty," he told her.

Hermione was speechless. Beauty? Her? She opened her mouth, unsure of what to say, but Harry was already at the door, urging her to come along.

Still helplessly silent, she followed him out to the Jeep. When she started the car, he immediately began fiddling with the radio controls, and found a hard rock station he seemed to adore. "I love American music!" he howled over the bass.

Hermione grinned and pulled out of the driveway, unable to believe how the day was turning out.

A/N: I know this sounds like some sort of sappy Harry/Hermione hetero fic, but I promise you, it's NOT. I think Draco will be making an appearance next chapter, in town, and Hermione will find out that Harry is quite flaming ...please review, even though I seem to be having a little trouble figuring this whole updating and editing thing out...email me if you don't hear more in the coming days and give me a little help, FanFic veterans! Please...