She's spending the summer in New York.
It's always been a dream of hers, before the letter and the train and the castle and the Two-Idiot-Boys-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. Back when she was still a Muggle. (Well, she was never a Muggle, but you get the point.)
Before there was The Daily Prophet and Hogwarts: A History and Bernard Humpkins' Latent Magic: African Tribes with Wizarding Skills, there was television, and on television they would sometimes play old black and white films, which were almost always set in New York. For example, when Hermione was nine she gave her parents quite a fright when she informed them that when she grew up she intended to have an affair to remember. Her father replied, "Why don't you have a marriage to remember instead, 'Mione," to which she exasperatedly responded, "If it's a marriage I'm having, Daddy, then I won't need to remember it, would I," to which her father acquiesced, "Oh... well no, I suppose not, no."
And besides that, there was Breakfast at Tiffany's, of course, and while Hermione prides herself on not falling prey to the same media traps that other girls her age so often do, she'd be lying if she said she wouldn't kill to be Holly Golightly. (Minus the call girl thing.) She was just so glamorous, with those long black gloves and that cigarette holder and the sparkling tiara and everything. Not to mention the lovestruck writer boy who wants to belong to her. It's all so romantic.
(Ron's writing skills are less than perfect, need she remind you.)
And so this summer she is flying to New York - and when she says flying, she means on an actual airplane, with seats and blankets and cranky stewardesses who want to be called flight attendants and all - where she will wear equestrian boots instead of sneakers and drink coffee instead of tea and read novels instead of histories and do all of it in hip little coffeeshops in - in Brooklyn, or something. And it will be lovely. It has to be, it's New York.
So Hermione's been in town a week, and who would've thought this city was not exactly as it's portrayed in Annie Hall? There are some extraordinarily not-friendly people, and the taxi cabs are dirty and in fact rather dangerous, considering the average cabbie's less-than-satisfactory driving skills, and anyway she's forgotten what a bother it is not to simply turn on her ankle and appear where she wants to be. It's - well, a bother.
She's just gotten out of the tube - or the subway, as they call it here, a name which is heteronymous with a sandwich chain that isn't very good - and is feeling a bit frazzled, so she ducks into the nearest bookshop because bookshops are always like a home away from home.
Inside, it smells like crisp new pages, apples, autumn, clean wood tables and soft green chairs. Hermione sits down, sighing and heaving her bag onto the armrest. Reaching inside (and attempting not to let on that she's a virtual Mary Poppins), she wraps her hand around a dusty old volume, yanks it out with some difficulty, and begins to read. It's like losing herself in another world, different with every book but always the same haven.
"Excuse me," says a voice, and Hermione jumps, a hand flying to her heart as a reflex. She looks up to find a boy with unfortunate hair standing before her, a book under one arm and a magazine in the other. Subtract the hair and he's not too terrible-looking. Take into account the fact that he's got zero freckles, olive skin and muscles for arms instead of noodles and he's the ultimate catch.
"Yes, what is it," Hermione snaps, because no matter how not-terrible-looking one is, one does not interrupt someone while she is reading. It doesn't work like that.
"Hi, um, hello," he begins, off to a great start, "it's just - I noticed that book you've got there is pretty much the thickest one I've ever seen, and I mean, I've seen a lot of thick books - not that I'm, like, Mister Good Reader or anything, but um - I was just wondering where you might've found that? Because, seriously, never seen anything like it."
Hermione snaps the book shut with a thud, surreptitiously turning it over so the title, Worldly Wizardry: Tales of Magical Feats from Around the Globe, is hidden. She knew she should've gone for Lord of the Rings instead.
"It's not from here," she replies in a rush, and later she'll realize that her next sentence could quite possibly be construed as obvious romantic interest, but mostly she says it just to divert his attention, "I'm Hermione, and what's your name?"
"Hermione? That's - wow. Dan, nice to meet you," and he extends a hand, which she firmly shakes.
"Do you want to - "
"I think we should - "
The boy freezes, looking to her. "Oh, were you gonna - "
"I was just saying - "
And now he laughs, and it's a pleasant sound, light and infectious, so Hermione laughs too, if only because this whole situation is slightly bizarre. "I was just going to ask, do you want to get coffee?"
"Oh, um, I have a - " Hermione starts, but then she realizes that she doesn't have a, and if she did have a she would be at his house right now, eating his mother's delicious food and complaining about him and his best friend with his sister, instead of here, alone and sweaty in New York City. Hermione stands up suddenly, an act of womanly independence that doesn't go over quite as well as she'd planned because it forces Dan to take a step back and bump his knee against the coffee table.
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"Are you quite sure? I could - "
"Actually I -"
Another warm chuckle, and Hermione clutches her book to her chest, watching the way he tilts his head back while he laughs, his chin raising and his brown eyes sparkling. All right, then. All right.
"I was just going to say that actually I would love to go for coffee with you." She grimaces a little. "Although I have to admit - I do miss tea."
He laughs again, and Hermione's careful to avoid the table's sharp edge on their way out the door.
"...and so then he said, 'I love you, Hermione,' and I said, 'Don't let Lavender hear you saying that,' because he was still with her, Dan, the little scaredy-cat was still with her! God... I cannot believe the things you males do sometimes."
"We're pretty awful," Dan concedes. "Awful enough that I'm surprised you're capable of restraining your language to, um, 'scaredy-cat.' Instead of, you know, p - "
"I don't swear," Hermione interrupts tastefully, bringing the teacup to her lips. She's realized in the last half an hour that just because she'd found somewhere that actually sold tea in America didn't mean it was any good. "I find it unnecessary."
Dan smiles, gesturing with both hands in front of him. "Fine by me. Believe it or not, it's actually a nice change."
"From my friends."
"Do your friends swear?"
Dan barks out a laugh, but it's not like before. It's harsh, clipped. He reaches for his coffee. "That's the least of what they do, Hermione."
Hermione shifts in her seat, curling her hands around her cup. She's becoming dimly aware of the fact that she's spent the last thirty minutes whinging tragically about the Idiot-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (the one with freckles), all because Dan asked her something politely vague like So are you with anyone? Maybe she ought to press him for more details. He seems interesting enough.
"What do your friends do?"
He breathes in deep, puffs out his cheeks on the exhalation. "I think the better question is what don't they do," he answers. "Lie. Cheat. Steal. Drink. Threaten to jump off buildings. Sleep with each other's moms. Manipulate. Connive. Punch holes into glass by their ex-girlfriends' faces."
Hermione is aghast. "And these people are your friends?" The worst thing Ron has ever done is put off his entire Transfigurations essay until an hour before it was due. But he hadn't slept with her mom, good heavens! (Though, true, when Molly baked her homemade brownies she'd been tempted to sleep with his.)
"Well, yeah. Sort of. It's complicated," Dan clarifies, starting to shift in his seat as he gets more and more worked up. "And the worst of the worst is Blair Waldorf, this - shallow, scheming, manipulative, maddening - "
"You're in love with her, aren't you," Hermione cuts in knowingly, tipping back her teacup and nodding.
Dan looks slightly pained. "Well. Yeah. Like I said, it's complicated."
"Indeed," Hermione muses wisely, setting down her teacup with a plink. There's a companionable pause, wherein Hermione dwells on just how infuriating the Freckled-Idiot-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is, and Dan dwells on just how frustrating the 95-pound, doe-eyed, bon mot tossing, label-whoring package of girly evil is, and both of them are hopelessly, staggeringly in love.
"You know what might aid this situation?" Hermione poses suddenly, resting her chin between her hands.
"What's that?" Dan wonders.
"A good old-fashioned snog," she declares, quite pleased with herself.
"A - a what?"
Hermione rolls her eyes. "Let's make out," she clarifies in her best oafish American impression, and then Dan's eyes widen and he says, "Oh! Oh," and then bumps his knee against the table hurrying to clear their plates.
Blair comes stomping into Dan's bedroom.
"Humphrey!" she barks. "What is this!"
Dan immediately leaps off of Hermione, who immediately leaps away from Dan, which is rather hard to do on a horizontal bed. At least without magic. God, she misses magic.
"What - what - what's what?" Dan stutters, his voice breathless and low.
Blair (who has yet to acknowledge Hermione's presence, thank you very much) thrusts her mobile into Dan's face. "This!" she shrieks. "This gossip girl blast about you!"
"Gossip - who?" Hermione breathes, and Blair tosses her a scathing glance. Hermione's starting to see why Dan doesn't like her. Or, well. Sort of.
" 'Lonely Boy spotted leaving Root Hill Cafe with a bookish Brit! Looks like he's taking a big-haired beauty to his tiny loft,' " she reads aloud, practically peeling with rage. "What the hell is this! You don't call me for days and now you're off canoodling with some book-girl whose hair looks like it could house half the rats in Dorota's apartment? This is unacceptable!"
"Who's Lonely Boy?"
Dan and Blair look over at her, and the response is simultaneous: "Don't worry about it."
"First off, Blair," Dan starts in, as Hermione sits up in bed and huffs with her arms across her (still-clothed - it was just a snog) chest, "I stopped calling because you weren't answering."
"Oh, and you were going to let a little thing like that get in the way of our friendship?"
"Last I checked this wasn't a friendship."
"You're right, it isn't. Friends don't stop calling other friends when the other friends don't answer."
"No, actually I meant the fact that you and I - "
" - that you and I - "
" - that you and I kissed a week ago, Blair. So... yeah."
Blair sighs, blatantly exasperated, and slaps both hands on her hips (Hermione thinks she herself has actually donned that pose somewhere before, and by 'somewhere before' she means 'when the Two-Idiots-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named skipped Charms to play hide and seek with poor confused Fang in the forest). "Well if you were going to go all sexually frustrated, why didn't you do it at me instead of with some British bookworm! I mean, have you even seen her teeth? They're probably awful."
"Actually, I've felt her teeth with my tongue, they seem all right," Dan returns.
"Da-an!" Blair whines, and Hermione's lips twitch up at the sides when she notices that Blair has just barely concealed a half-executed foot-stamp.
Dan's head shoots up. "What did you - "
"Nothing," Blair immediately answers, face going pale white and back stiffening.
"Did you just - "
"You just - you just called me Dan."
This is apparently a revelation, as Blair shifts on her feet, her indignant expression slipping away. "I mean... yeah, I guess so."
Dan grins. "Come here," he says.
Blair stills a moment, seemingly torn, before tearing off her six-inch heels and racing into Dan's arms, literally tackling him onto the bed.
They're snogging now. Quite loudly.
"I'm just going to go, then," Hermione offers, standing up. "It was lovely meeting you, Dan. And... less so you, Blair."
Blair waves a hand behind her, too disoriented to flip her the bird.
Hermione smiles. "Have a nice weekend," she supplies, and before she leaves she steals Blair's Manolo Blahniks. She's always wanted a pair.
"Hermione? Is that you?"
"Yes, it's - "
"I can't hear you! Are you there?"
"Yes, I'm - I'm here, you just have to stop yelling."
"I'm on Harry's portable telephone thingy, it's too small!"
"It's called a mobile, Ron, and it's fine, now would you just shut up?" Silence. For once. "Now listen. I was thinking... you wouldn't happen to be the best friend of my ex-girlfriend-slash-stepsister and the ex-girlfriend of my best friend's psychotic best friend?"
Hermione grins into the phone, tugs it close against her ear in the phone booth. It's all so New York, and very romantic. "Good. Then I think we can work this out."
"We can - Hermione, are you still in New York? You should - " he stammers, clears his throat. His ears must be turning very red. "You should come to the Burrow now."
"Hang on," Hermione says, looking around at the passersby. They're too busy with their own lives to notice a disappearing stranger, anyway. "I'll be right there," and she turns on her heel and is home.