It Was Like a Bang (or, for the stranger minds, She Makes Him Go Boom)

"Did you hear? The teachers are choosing a group of students to go to the U.S. for the summer holidays!"

"What?" asked Ron, frowning. "Why would the teachers choose?"

"They're going with us," Hermione explained. "Parents don't come."

"When are they choosing?" questioned Harry, hoping. Perhaps he could actually have a whole summer away from the Dursleys.

"They've just put the list up," Hermione answered, her eyes dancing with excitement.

"So who made it?" Ron asked.

"I don't know. I was too nervous to look!"

"I'll never understand you," Ron said, exasperated, as he got up and walked over to the Gryffindor Tower bulletin board. Sure enough, there was a new sheet of parchment there. He came running back a few moments later.

"We made it!" he cried. "All three of us!"

"Wonderful!" Hermione gushed. "They're supposedly taking us to this wizarding village in Maine or one of those New England states. Maybe I'm thinking of Maryland...No, Massachusetts! Salem, of course."

"What on Earth are you going on about?"

"U.S. states, Ron. There are fifty of them, you know."

"Weird," Ron mumbled.

"This is going to be the best summer," Hermione went on. "I've always wanted to visit the States, especially the magical areas. And there's so much history involved in Salem; we can see where the witch burnings were held --"

"Oh, yes, what a wonderful summer it will be," Ron said sarcastically. "I hope we don't have too much fun, studying history and all."

"Get off her back, Ron," Harry said, grinning. "If she finds learning fun, leave her to it."

"Thank you, Harry," Hermione said, feeling a slight blush rise in her cheeks. She had no idea what his words really meant, but he had certainly never said anything like that before.

"When are we going?" Harry asked.

"On the last day of school, of course," Hermione said. "Instead of getting on the train, we'll be going on an airplane --"

"An airplane?" Ron repeated.

"Yes. They're Muggle machines that fly --"

"I know what airplanes are," Ron snapped. "Fred almost flew into one the first time we took out the car. I just don't understand why we're going by airplane."

"Well, it's too far to Floo, and going that far with a Portkey tends to hurt. We can't Apparate, and we can't fly over the ocean by broom; we're not all the greatest fliers, you know."

"So we're all just going to go to a Muggle airport and get on a Muggle plane with a bunch of Muggles?"

Hermione laughed slightly. "Nice bit of Muggle paranoia, there, Ron. Don't be silly; Dumbledore hired a private jet for the occasion. It will be us students and a few Professors, plus the pilot, but he's supposedly a wizard who got a Muggle flying license."

"Which Professors are going with us?"

"The Heads of Houses - McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout, and Snape."

"Eurgh," Harry groaned. "Snape's going?"

"Oh, don't worry about it," Hermione said. "It's not as if he can give us detention during the summer holidays."

"I wouldn't bet on that."

"There's no sense worrying about Snape now. The trip's still a month away."

*****

July 2, 1997 (One month later)

"Here we are," Hermione said, nearly trembling with excitement. "Where should we go first? The witch trials were held down that way, but the burnings were held over there - ooh, and we can see where Wendelin the Weird lived!"

"Hold your excitement for a bit, can you?" said Harry, smirking at her. "We have a month to see everything."

"I'm sorry - it's just so amazing. Oh, and on the fourth, they celebrate Independence Day -"

"Ah, yes. The day on which they declared independence from our dear country, which they thought was ruled by tyrants, correct?"

"Oh, come on, Harry. It was two hundred years ago, you shouldn't still be bitter about it," Hermione replied, grinning.

"Did I miss something?" Ron asked, staring at the two in obvious puzzlement.

"Honestly, you should have listened to me when I told you to take Muggle Studies!" Hermione exclaimed in a tone of blatant annoyance.

They spent the day strolling through the city, Hermione constantly pointing things out and explaining them to Harry and Ron. Eventually, they all got tired of sightseeing and headed back for the four small cottages the students were staying in.

The teachers had chosen four students from each house (two boys and two girls) to go on the trip, and only students going into their seventh year were allowed to come. From Gryffindor, Harry, Ron, Parvati Patil, and Hermione had been chosen. The four stayed in one of the tiny cottages with McGonagall. Luckily, each cottage had three separate bedrooms.

That evening, Hermione sat down by the fire to read a book she had bought earlier that day. Sensing someone behind her, she looked out of the corner of her eye and saw that it was Harry behind her.

"What are you reading?" he asked, peering over her shoulder. Hermione began to blush. It was a romance novel; she read them occasionally, to pass the time. There was nothing wrong with a good love story, she figured. Unfortunately, however, Harry had caught her with one of the trashier varieties of romance. He plucked the book out of her hand and read a few sentences. He raised an eyebrow at her.

"Merlin's beard, can you even do that in that particular position?"

"I've never tried," Hermione said, feeling her cheeks burn. "May I have my book back?"

Harry looked at the cover, ignoring her question. "'Summer Heat'?" He chuckled. "This seems very unlike you; you never seemed like the type to read these things."

"Most people who actually read them seem like the most unlikely to do so, you know."

"Yes, well, you'd think the people to read them would be middle-aged women who are either single and very lonely or very sex starved."

"Well, I'm neither of those things."

"Oh really?" Harry said, raising his eyebrows even higher.

Hermione was sure she was crimson by now. "That came out wrong."

Harry laughed. "So you aren't lonely and sex starved?"

"I can't think of a safe way to answer that."

"But really, you're not lonely?"

Hermione looked at him thoughtfully. The expression on his face was hard to read. He seemed serious enough.

"I guess I'm lonely sometimes. I mean, it would be nice to have someone..."

Harry smiled somewhat sadly. "It would be nice to have someone who actually cared. Someone who didn't want to date the rich and famous Harry Potter."

Hermione smiled sympathetically. It was easy to forget that her Harry was the person everyone else saw as the Boy Who Lived. He was just Harry to her, the kind, adventurous boy who seemed to be followed by trouble and had to be reminded to do his homework. The amount of money he had or the way his fame haunted him didn't often cross her mind. But of course, she could understand. She had been involved in some of his less flattering times as the star of the Daily Prophet, first as a sad hero who cried over his parents still, then as the victim of a broken heart - thanks to her, no less, and then as the disturbed and dangerous boy who had terrible headaches in the middle of class.

"I'm sure you'll find someone," Hermione said. "Any girl would be lucky to have you."

Harry looked down, and Hermione thought she saw his cheeks go red. "The problem is," he began, "Every time I like a girl, she never seems to want me."

"You would be surprised how many girls want to date you," Hermione said, wondering what the odd sensation in her stomach was for.

"Hermione -" Harry broke off, looking hesitant.

"Yes?"

"I - never mind. I've forgotten what I was about to say."

Hermione wasn't fooled. The look on his face said that he clearly had not forgotten and that the thought was torturing him.

"You know you can tell me anything, right?" she said as he was turning to go back into his and Ron's room.

"I know," Harry whispered, avoiding her eyes.

"I wish you would tell me, if something's wrong --"

"I will. But there's nothing wrong."

"Then why do you look so sad?"

"Eh, probably seasonal depression or something. Don't worry about me."

"I do worry, though."

Harry sighed and smiled in a peculiar way. "Well, you don't need to."

"If you say so," Hermione said, returning the smile.

"Good night."

"You too."

She watched him go back into his room, his head hanging as it always did when something was nagging him. She only wished she knew what it was.

*****

July 4, 1997

"Hurry up, Harry. They're going to start setting off the fireworks soon."

Hermione and Harry had made plans to sit outside and watch the fireworks; people would be setting them off all over the place, they figured. Ron would have come, but he had gone off somewhere with Parvati, much to their amusement.

"Have some patience," Harry said, though he smiled as he walked out of his room.

"Harry, this is something we'll only experience once -"

"Hermione, why does it mean so much to you?" he asked as they left the cottage. "It's not as though we celebrate the holiday."

"That makes it even more important! It's a chance to experience another culture firsthand --"

"Hermione, what culture? They speak the same language, have the same religions. Just add cheeseburgers and loud music and you'll be done."

Hermione sighed. "Could you at least try to appreciate my enthusiasm?"

"I appreciate it. I just like to argue."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Just shut up and watch the sparks fly."

"All right," Harry chuckled.

They sat down together on a blanket laid out in the grass. Hearing the telltale bang, she looked up at the sky. Red, green, and gold sparks shot across the sky.

"Hermione – you know how you were saying that I could tell you anything?"

Surprised, Hermione glanced over at him. "Yes. What about it?"

"Could I really? Tell you anything? I mean, would things still be okay with us, no matter what I told you?"

"Well, I can't make any promises – is it something horrible?"

"I don't think it's so horrible. You might."

"How about you just tell me and we work from there?"

"I – I don't know – you might not like what you hear."

"Harry, I can promise you, I won't throw away years of friendship just because you tell me your dirty little secret."

Harry paled slightly. "It's not that dirty."

Somberly, Hermione said, "Tell me before I tickle you."

"Tickle me? Why would you tickle it out of me?"

"Well, you make cute little sounds when someone tickles you," Hermione answered, shrugging with a small smile.

Harry frowned for a moment. "As appealing as the tickling is, I suppose I had better tell you. I guess…this is so hard to say. I don't know how to put it."

"Just think about it for awhile, then," Hermione said. Hesitantly, she took his hand in hers, just as the fluttery feeling in her stomach returned.

A few silent moments later, Harry spoke. "Could I show you instead?"

"Show me?" Hermione repeated, puzzled. How could he possibly show her something he planned to tell her?

"Yes. It would be easier for me to show you than to tell you."

"A-all right."

Hermione waited but Harry didn't make any move to show her anything. He just stared at her, looking a bit lost.

"Are you going to show me or not?"

Harry blinked. "Yes."

In one fluid and sudden movement, Harry leaned forward, pulled her closer, and sealed his lips over hers.

Startled, she froze. The fluttery feeling was at full force. As another bang of a rocket sounded, she realized what that feeling really meant.

In a way, it was just like the bang of fireworks when he kissed her. It was a mental and very emotional bang for her. As she realized what her true feelings were for Harry, she also began to comprehend that Harry had kissed her, and that she, without any thought, had begun to kiss back.

It was a shock when he pulled away. At the same time, she was so dazed and confused at the rush of emotions and thoughts that she couldn't quite react to the absence of his lips.

He was staring at her intently, biting his lip and breathing heavily from their long kiss. She didn't know what to do or what to say. Hermione merely sat and stared at him, lost for any kind of response.

"Hermione, say something," he whispered, and his voice sounded shaky.

"Kiss me again."

Harry gaped. "What?"

"I think, Harry, based on what you've, er, shown me, that I feel the same way you do. So stop staring and kiss me again."

Harry smiled. "Is that what you really want?"

"Yes. Now kiss me or I'll tickle you."

"Can I have both?"

"Sure. Cute giggling sounds are always fun."

"I don't giggle."

"No. No, you don't giggle."

"You're lying, aren't you?"

"Through my teeth."

"I don't giggle."

"Kiss me. Tickling is for later."

Harry did what he was told, and this time she could concentrate on the little details. Fireworks cracked all around, and light flickered over them, making them look pale and eerie. He was warm and so were his lips. Harry tasted sweet, and a bit like mint, along with an unidentifiable taste that was entirely unique to Harry. And the most surprising fact was that she had managed to live without it for so long.

*****

July 5, 1997

"Well, you two look happier than you did yesterday," Ron announced.

"Yeah, and you look like you got snogged last night," Hermione replied, though she couldn't suppress a giggle.

"Don't dance around the subject. Justin Finch-Fletchley told me he saw you two sitting outside last night, joined at the lips like Siamese twins."

"Speaking of last night," Hermione said, "There's something I still need to do."

Harry and Ron stared at her questioningly. Hermione picked up a book and tossed it into the small fire that was kept burning all day, even though it was unbearably warm.

Harry frowned and Ron gasped. "Hermione!" he cried in mock surprise, "You just burned a book!"

Hermione smiled. "I never want to see it again."

"Was that your romance novel?" Harry asked, his mouth slowly turning up to form a grin.

"Yes, it was."

Ron frowned. "A romance novel. Why did you have one, and why are you burning it now?"

"Loneliness. I believe in it now."