Harry was sure to keep a low profile as him, the Dursleys, and Dudley’s friend Piers made their way around the zoo. This was his chance to relax for once, and he wasn’t going to spoil it. He made sure to stay quiet and polite, not wanting to anger his relatives with anything.
His relatives were even generous enough to get him a popsicle. Harry licked the treat greedily, never before being able to have one while Dudley and Piers got more extravagant ice cream desserts. If the ice cream vendor saw the difference in the way Harry and the two other boys were being treated, he didn’t show it. He jovially waved the family goodbye as the Dursleys, Piers, and Harry journeyed to the reptile house.
Dudley and Piers wasted no time in trying to find the biggest and most dangerous reptile to ogle. They came upon a brown boa constrictor who was lazily snoozing away. That seemed to anger Dudley, as he pounded on the glass while him and Piers yelled at the snake to move. Harry resisted the urge to sigh, knowing Uncle Vernon was keeping an eye on him.
“He’s so excited!” Aunt Petunia said adoringly, watching her son. Harry wondered when the zoo staff would come to reprimand Dudley and Piers as the snake continued to ignore them. Harry felt pity for the snake, as it reminded him of himself when he was locked in his cupboard. He couldn’t imagine it was very fun for the snake to have people tapping on the glass at it all day.
It seemed someone else shared his sentiments that Dudley and Piers were torturing the poor snake for a girl Harry’s age with brown bushy hair wearing khaki shorts and a jade green polo approached Dudley and Piers, sternly telling them off for disturbing the snake. Dudley and Piers gave her glares, and looked like they were going to push her, but the girl stood firm despite her small size, hands on her hips, tapping her foot. She huffed and showed a badge, saying something and it seemed to have gotten the boys to back off. They left the boa and went to go find Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, no doubt trying to get the girl in trouble.
Harry watched as the bushy-haired girl turned to the glass, laying a hand against it and whispering to the snake. It appeared as if she was trying to apologize for its torment, despite it not being able to understand her. He looked around, seeing that all the Dursleys and Piers were busy, and made his way over to the glass where the girl was. He’s never seen someone stand up to Dudley before, and it made him curious.
“Oh, hello!” the girl noticed him, giving him a sunny smile, and Harry felt very shy. What does one say to a girl? He’s seen girls at his school, and they were usually too afraid to talk to him due to Dudley. “Do you want to see our boa? He’s sleeping right now due to just being fed, but he’s still pretty cool!” she told him.
“Err yeah. Sorry about my cousin earlier.” Harry murmured shyly but the girl heard him. She frowned at the mention of Dudley, and Harry cursed himself—why couldn’t he ever talk to people?
“No, I’m sorry you’re related to a horrid person. Some people don’t know how to act.” The girl said simply. Harry gaped at her, shocked someone else besides him said it. The girl mistook his expression as offense and blushed, trying to mend the situation. Of course, she is still terrible at talking to people!
“Sorry! I didn’t mean to sound rude! It’s just that the animals don’t enjoy being treated like that. I’ve been volunteering here for three months now, so I’ve started observing how the animals react to certain situations.” She said flustered.
“Erm no, it’s fine, really.” Harry said just as flustered, worried Uncle Vernon would come down on him any second with his blasphemous words about Dudley. “He is a terror.”
“Oh thank goodness!” the girl looked relieved, making Harry feel better he soothed her. He’s never seen someone being comforted by his words, and it made him feel happy. “I thought for a second I made a faux pau!” she held out her hand to shake, and Harry was stunned at her smile. “I’m Hermione Granger, by the way!”
Harry shakily reached out his hand, wary that any second she’d take it back and laugh at him, but she didn’t. She waited patiently as he made his hand touch hers. Her grip was soft but firm, and Harry found himself relishing in positive human contact for the first time in forever.
“I’m Harry. Harry Potter.” He introduced himself. “You said you volunteer here, Hermione?” he was curious. Hermione was ecstatic at the question.
“Yes! I went on a school trip here four months ago and unfortunately we didn’t really get to see any behind-the-scenes stuff or get to learn lots of knowledge so I decided to volunteer here to learn more and partake in the occasional research with the zoologists! It’s really fascinating! I’ve never thought I’d learn so much—for instance leopards hunt from the trees, jaguars love the water, an elephant actually can’t jump, and rhinoceros’ horns are actually made of hair!” Hermione blabbed on about animal facts. Harry contently listened, finding himself interested. He liked the way she was so animated when she talked about all she learned.
Nevertheless, Hermione seemed to have realized something for she stopped talking, looking embarrassed. She fidgeted, toeing the floor with one of her sneakers.
“What’s wrong?” Harry asked, wondering why she stopped talking. Hermione blushed, fiddling with her fingers.
“Errr it’s just, I realized I was rambling about stuff again. I tend to do that a lot—it makes my classmates really annoyed.” She admitted shyly. Harry sympathized—his relatives got annoyed with him a lot.
“It’s okay. I like the way you talk. It’s very expressive.” He told her sincerely. He wished more people would talk to him like that—like he was worth talking to. Hermione appeared unsure.
“You’re sure it’s okay?” she asked, afraid he’d turn around and say he was tricking her. Nonetheless, Harry proved her wrong.
“Yeah! Tell me about this snake, please.” Harry smiled. It was positively wonderful to have someone who wanted to talk to him. Hermione didn’t disappoint, immediately launching into facts about their boa constrictor.
“He’s native from Brazil, but he’s been bred in captivity.” Hermione told him, gazing at the brown boa. Harry felt sad at that. Hermione noticed. “What’s wrong, Harry?”
“It’s just… it has to be boring being in this cage for all your life and your only entertainment is people poking their ugly faces in at you.” Harry mourned. Hermione surprised him then, taking his hand. The contact was heavenly, and Harry’s entire face erupted into a blush.
“I see what you mean, but he’s very well taken care of, Harry. Though I imagine I guess even our snakes would wanna stretch their wings once in a while…” Hermione replied empathizing.
“You’re telling me. This place ssssssssucksssss.”
Harry jumped, whipping his head towards the glass where the boa constrictor was staring straight at him. Hermione glanced towards the boa as well, shocked it was paying them so much attention.
“I’ve never seen him so interested before…” Hermione murmured. Meanwhile Harry continued to watch the snake.
“Erm… Hello.” Harry greeted the snake.
“Bout time you noticed me. To busssssssy flirting.” The snake hissed. Harry’s face erupted into a red flush. He couldn’t look Hermione in the eye. Hermione grasped his hand tighter, wondering what he was so flustered about.
“Are you all right, Harry?” Hermione was concerned. Harry was too embarrassed to bask in her worry for him.
“The snake… he’s talking to me.” Harry whispered, afraid she would think he was crazy. However, Hermione gave him a curious look.
“What’s he saying?” she whispered, excitement laced into her words.
“Hey. Tell her to get me out and have her take me to Brazil! I like her voice when sssssssshe talkssss to me.” Harry was so embarrassed. Did the snake want to take a vacation with Hermione?
“Errr he likes your voice.” Harry said softly, too mortified. Hermione brightened. She turned towards the snake.
“Oh you’re so precious! I’ll be sure to sneak you extra food!” Hermione promised.
“No. I wanna go to Brazil with her.” The snake affirmed. Harry’s grip on Hermione’s hand tightened more. He didn’t want her to go far away to Brazil. She was so nice.
Before Harry could say anything, he was shoved out of the way, taking Hermione with him. He wrapped his arms around her to keep her from getting hurt, but they still ended up on the floor. Harry glared at Dudley and Piers, the culprits of the shoving.
“Move out of the way! I wanna see the snake!” Dudley cried. He pressed his chubby face against the glass, eyeing the snake like it was a circus. Harry’s eyes narrowed. He was used to being shoved, but shoving Hermione, the first person who was actually kind to him, was a great offense.
Suddenly, the glass vanished, and Dudley fell forward into tank. He was screaming as the snake slithered out onto the floor. The snake stared at Hermione and Harry, and Harry pulled her snuggly close to him, afraid the snake was going to abduct her. The snake huffed.
“Fine. Ssssssssshe’ssssss yourssssss ssssssince you freed me. Brazil, here I come. Thankssssss, amigo!” and like that the snake was off, snapping at people’s feet to get them to move. Everyone was in a panic that a snake was free. Hermione just blinked.
“Oh no, did I do it again?” she whispered fretting. Harry stared at her. Did she do weird things too?
“Does weird stuff happen to you too?” Harry also whispered. They stared at each other, not knowing how to proceed.
Loud banging on the glass startled them both from their moment and they turned to see Dudley screeching to be let out of the tank. Petunia and Vernon came over, panicked that their son was in the snake’s cage. Piers appeared freaked out as well. Meanwhile, Harry helped Hermione off the floor and got up himself.
“Mummy!” Dudley wailed. Harry snickered. Now who was the one locked up! Let’s see how he liked it!
Unfortunately, Vernon heard it and went straight towards him, intending to hit him. Nevertheless, Hermione surprised Harry yet again when she went in front of him, shielding him from Vernon.
“Move out of the way, young lady! That boy’s a freak!” Vernon demanded. Hermione refused to back down. She wouldn’t let Harry get punished for something she did!
“Harry did nothing wrong! And he’s not a freak! He’s the nicest boy I’ve ever met!” Harry was grinning ear to ear, blushing bright, at Hermione’s compliments and her defense at him. He didn’t think she could’ve been more perfect, but she proved him wrong.
“He locked my son in there!” Vernon snared. Hermione huffed.
“No! I did it. Your son and his friend were banging on the glass and distressing our snake, so I loosened the lock and it swung him in and swung shut!” Hermione lied. She couldn’t very well tell them the glass disappeared unfortunately. Vernon waved a finger at her threateningly.
“I will have your job for this! Where is your supervisor? I’m filing a complaint!” he promised. Harry’s hand grasped Hermione’s. He didn’t want her to lose her job when she enjoyed it so much. Guilt bubbled in his stomach. Regardless, Hermione didn’t stand down.
“Go right ahead, sir. I will also be sure to report of your ill treatment of Harry here as well. Are you his relative perhaps? I wonder what police will think if they heard you were trying to hurt a little boy.” Hermione said calmly. Vernon’s face turned purple while Petunia’s paled.
“Vernon, our reputation…” Petunia whispered in horror. Vernon’s vein throbbed at his temple before he made angry noises and turned away.
“Come along, boy! Piers, go get a staff member to get Dudley out!” Vernon ordered. Harry was reluctant to let Hermione go, afraid his uncle would ruin her, but Hermione stroked his hand with her thumb in reassurance.
“It’s okay, Harry. I’ll be all right.” Hermione gave him a gentle smile, and Harry believed her. He sighed in relief, sad to part from her, but knew he’d get in trouble again if he didn’t hurry to his aunt and uncle.
“Boy! Come!” Vernon bellowed.
“Bye Hermione!” Harry told her, rushing after his relatives. He would never forget her. She was the first person to show him kindness and treat him normally. She was the first to ever protect him.
She was his angel.