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~Side By Side Always

By LooneyMoony

Replies: 682 / 6 years ago

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Honestly, Hermione had not expected for Ron to be the one to suggest the research or using the Restricted section to do it. They were polar opposites as things stood. She with her love of books and learning and his want to typically avoid them like the plague and to run. But she also knew that when it counted Ron would do anything to help them. He had proved as much the year before once he and Harry were back to being best friends and he actually believed that Harry had NO part in becoming one of the competitors in the Triwizard Tournament.

And faint laugh did slip from her and she nodded. [b "I'm still having a hard time believing all of this isn't a dream."] She was teasing Ron too. And soon, they were off the topic of Malfoy and the other "hounds" who would be after them. They were back on track and figuring out how they would make things work. This was a normal year for them. Though it was a bit harder since now it was not just their own necks on the line but essentially that of all their classmates as well.

[b "Actually Harry...you're right. Ron and I will need for you to play lookout with the cloak. If he and I are seen in the Restricted Section...particularly me.. Umbridge will not hesitate in revoking our privileges or limiting them where we have to go through her to even get in. She won't stop at anything to ruin us and to make sure Ministry policy is followed.."] The girl muttered, brushing some of her hair back behind her ear as it fell forward.

And then she fell silent to listen to the boys as they began to talk about the year before. And also naming what a normal year might have been. The truth was... they had never had a normal year. And Ron was even more right when he named Fudge as a reason for this year being ESPECAILLY bad for them. [b "You know he has always had issue with Dumbledore and the fact that he is so much more respected..."] The words slipped from her lips before she had been able to stop them. But then she shook her head and brown eyes went to Harry when his head had lolled to the side and he looked to her.

For a moment, the girl was thoughtful and a faint smile did trace her lips. [b "I think it could have been almost normal. But as Ron pointed out, Fudge and his paranoia.. So there is no telling. We've not had a normal year since we've been at Hogwarts...but I wouldn't trade any of it."] At her last words, her hand reached across and her fingers laced with Harry's so that he knew she meant what she said.
If someone would have told him a week ago that his two best friends would be excitedly discussing research in a library, Harry would have called them crazy. Hermione's love of books was one of her endearing qualities but Ron would rather be chained the in the dungeon than spend more than a minute under Madam Pince's watchful eye. [b "Are you kidding? If I don't see it with my own eyes, I'll never believe Ron actually went into the library on his own free will,"] Harry grinned.

A pebble was chucked his way. The knot in his stomach was lessening as they put the interaction with Malfoy behind them. Back on track now, they could refocus their energy on more important matters than being stalked by the prince of Slytherin. If they had to delve into the restricted section and take matters into their own hands regarding their education, then so be it. Whatever they found useful would be spread like wildfire among their fellow students during training sessions. If the Ministry wanted to crush their determination they were going to have to try a hell of a lot harder than sending Dolores Umbridge.

[b "I won't be able to follow you into the restricted section without risking Madam Pince getting upset but I'll stay close by to keep an eye out. Wouldn't want any of Umbridge's scouts noticing you in there,"] Harry said. [b "They'd report back to her in a heartbeat.]

[i "I'm sure she wouldn't hesitate to limit prefect authorizations if we're caught either,"] Ron rolled his eyes. [i "Even though what we're doing is permitted, there's no question that she'd make a loophole that deems it a danger and anti-Ministry propaganda."]

How was it only late September and the school year was already more stressful than the year before? Dragons, mermaids, and a deadly maze was far more appealing than having to take on the responsibility of properly training their classmates against dark magic. [b "Why is it too much to ask for a normal school term?"] Harry dropped beside Hermione. [b "Just once, I want to know what its like to be bogged down with homework and [i not] be on high alert for danger."]

[i "It would be nice to have a quiet year,"] Ron nodded. [i "If Fudge wasn't so paranoid, we could have had that this year."]

[b "What do you think?"] Harry's head lolled to the side to look at Hermione. [b "Would this year have been crazy even without Umbridge being around? I can't even tell any more. I think I'm destined for disaster and you two are caught in the crossfire."]
Harry Potter / Kooza / 10d ago
Hermione was pacing back and forth as they had gotten to the Shrieking Shack and slipped in. The place looked even scarier than it had their third year when Sirius had brought them there when he had kidnapped Ron. It was kind of odd to think that it had only been two years since that had happened and she shook her head, brown eyes going to the Weasley boy. The brunette was taking in his question of Dumbledore. That had been enough to throw her as she knew that the Weasley children (minus Percy) were just as devout to the headmaster as their parents. And her own glance met Harry's as she gave a quick nod which meant that he could take that one.

[b "Actually...Harry is right. Dumbledore can't do much once the Ministry delegates power as it has to Umbridge. Under the law...she is untouchable for the most part because she has the say so of the Ministry... And as to your other question.. If they were there is a real state of emergency, they can take complete control and crack down on everyone. It is their means of 'protection' and keeping our world safe... If I remember...they used such measures back in the 1920s and 1930s with Grindlewald before Dumbledore helped capture him."] Her words were soft as she spoke them. And soon, she too let herself drop down into one of the less dusty and moth eaten chairs and fell into conversation with Ron as Harry seemed deep in thought.

And both she and Ron both stopped talking when Harry rejoined them in conversation. A small smile came to her lips. [b "And the more annoyed Malfoy is, the more safe we know we are."] She finished and then turned to Ron, nodding slowly. Just like Harry, the girl had NO idea where their friend was going with his words.

When he finished, Hermione clapped. Her hands and let out a squeal. [b "That's brilliant! We can check out the books and bring them to meetings. So we can still teach and help the others with no books!"] She was probably more excited than she should have been, but that was one thing she had actually not thought of.

[b "Are you up to going with Ron and me to the library later?"] She asked. The girl was wanting to try and get an idea of which books would be good to start with. But she also wanted to get a few more books on Ministry law as well. It looked like they would have A LOT of studying ahead of them if they wanted all this to work.
The Shack had only grown more destitute in the two years since they'd discovered Sirius hiding out after kidnapping Ron, albeit that had been accidental in his rush to get Pettigrew. Cobwebs covered almost every inch of the corners, moth-eaten furniture remained untouched as ever, and there was a slight whistling noise as the wind broke through a crack in one - or many - of the windows.

Ron thoroughly checked that his chosen chair was spider-free before slumping down. [i "I just don't get why he doesn't say anything though,"] he fiddled with a loose thread on his sweater. [i "She's treating us all like criminals and we haven't even done anything. Surely Dumbledore could say something? It doesn't even have to be an argument, just a simple request to not terrorize his students."]

Hearing any of the Weasleys question Albus Dumbledore was something Harry never thought he'd hear. Umbridge was truly an ongoing issue for Ron if he was willing to voice criticism about the headmaster's lack of control. Harry exchanged a worried glance with Hermione. [b "She's right, Ron,"] he tried to pacify the situation. [b "Dumbledore has his hands full. Besides I doubt even he could rein Umbridge in now that she's got all the power she needs from the Ministry. She'll just make another decree and nail it up with the others."]

[i "Hermione, you've read books on the Ministry and magical law,"] Ron turned to her. [i "They can't just demand complete control, can they? Don't they need some justifiable reason before they come and take over like this?"]

It wouldn't take much for Fudge or any other high ranking Ministry official to come up with some bogus rationality for their activities. [i Hogwarts was a crime scene last year] or [i Staff wouldn't maintain civility and order among their students.] After Cedric's death the year before and Harry's insistence that Voldemort was behind it, Fudge was likely afraid that what he deemed as 'fear-mongering' would spread like wildfire through the school. It was a cowardly way of keeping his head buried in the sand instead of acknowledging the danger of Voldemort's return.

Harry observed his friends quietly as they went back and forth in discussion. Five years at this school and not one of them had left them unscathed by some sort of danger. This time around, he couldn't be sure if the real danger was Voldermort and his followers, or the governing authority. Seeing Ron's eyebrows furrow and Hermione's intense determination, his stomach clenched at the fear of either of them being in harm's way. He'd die for them without hesitation but for the first time he can remember, Harry realized that they would do the same for him.

[b "We need to keep playing it smart,"] he rejoined the conversation. [b "Hermione, you've said it yourself. We can't get careless or they'll sniff us out quickly. Umbridge will look for any opportunity to silence us. Ron, you and I need to keep our heads clear. We can't go around fighting or feeding into Malfoy's taunts. The less reactions we give them, the more it'll get to them that they have no dirt on us."]

The redhead wasn't pleased about the decision but he also didn't argue it. Ron was a hothead by nature, particularly when the situation involved a bleach blond douchebag who harassed them every chance he got. [i "Hermione, we're prefects."]

[b "Odd segue, but go on,"] Harry looked to him in confusion.

[i "That means we can access the restricted section of the library!"]

Harry exchanged another glance with Hermione. In a million years he could never have guessed Ronald Bilius Weasley would look excited about the prospect of entering a library. [b "You feeling okay, mate?"]

Ron just beamed at Hermione. [i "We wouldn't even have to sneak in! We can literally just walk right into the restricted section and find books that'll help us with the classes. Spell books that have more curses and whatnot that aren't in our textbooks. Umbridge is trying to minimize our grasp of magic by stripping our textbooks of everything useful. We don't need the textbooks with all of those volumes a few floors away!"]
Harry Potter / Kooza / 20d ago
A smirk crossed Draco's lips as he had gotten the rise out of Harry and Ron. That was exactly what the Malfoy had wanted and he had not been disappointed. He had known that their little mudblood friend would stop them before they got the chance to throw punches. [i "I thought you were braver than that. Afraid of a fight are you Potter?"] He taunted, smug look still upon his face. Or it was until the Shreiking Shack had been mentioned. After third year, he would NOT be caught dead going near it.

[i "Better be careful Weasel and show some respect."] That was the last jab he had been able to give before Hermione had pushed past them and Harry was soon after her with the still fuming Weasley boy.

When Harry and Ron joined her outside, brown eyes met green and she laced their fingers. She had been trying to rein them in but clearly had not been quick enough. ESPECIALLY since Ron had thought a threat was a good idea. [b "Ronald...I know that Malfoy gets under your skin...but that was too far. He will definitely report to Umbridge and we will be called to her over this... At least it was just three of us..."] She muttered with a sigh. Now she really did have a headache, knowing that they would REALLY have to watch themselves further.

In her silence, the two boys went on talking. And she did listen, taking in their words. [b "Because he is too busy with...I can't tell you right now while we are still out in the open. But it's not that he letting all this go lightly, surely. You know Dumbledore loves Hogwarts as much as we do."] She said softly as she motioned to take the turn that would lead them outside the village and towards the shack.
[i "Maybe not yet,"] Malfoy growled. [i "But soon enough everyone is going to see what happens when Muggleborns are allowed to tarnish the magic world for too long."]

[b "Are you threatening her?"] Harry and Ron both took a step forward, eager for a real reason to throw a punch.

She was wise to rein them in with a diversion to the Shrieking Shack. Malfoy and his idiots were too cowardly to follow them there after the 'paranormal' activity they'd encountered in third year. Harry still hadn't come clean that it was him all along. [b "You're right,"] he pulled his eyes off Malfoy to nod at her. [b "A walk sounds nice. Ron, let's go, we don't need to lose Hogsmead privileges over petty Slytherins."]

The Weasley boy wasn't as willing to walk away. Raising a warning finger, he aimed it towards each boy. [i "If I catch you anywhere near us, you won't have to worry about making it back to Umbridge. I'll make sure you don't even get back to the school."]

Alright, that was about enough. Defending themselves was one thing but blatantly threatening violence against a known informer for the Ministry's guard dog was flirting with the line of inter-house warfare. [b "Don't get us banned from the pub,"] Harry put his hands on Ron's shoulders to steer him around the group so they could follow Hermione out the door.

[i "Five minutes with him and I swear, I'd rearrange his stupid face,"] Ron shoved his hands in his pockets.

Harry caught her eye and slid his hand into hers. While he wasn't totally comfortable that Malfoy had walked in on a confidential conversation, there was a slight comfort to him that it was only the trio that remained at the table. It was infinitely less damning evidence than if the entire group had still been huddled around during the meeting. The three of them having drinks alone wasn't going to be enough to raise suspicion seeing as they were almost always in each other's company to begin with.

[i "Last I checked, this wasn't Azkaban! They can't keep tabs on us like prisoners,"] Ron continued his tirade.

[b "Unfortunately threatening to murder her favourite lackey isn't going to make Umbridge any less likely to watch our every move,"] Harry sighed.

[i "But what about Dumbledore?"] Ron came to a halt.

Harry's brow furrowed but he remained silent. What was he getting at? It was true that they all wished the headmaster would take a more clear stance against the Ministry invasion but against his better judgment, Harry understood that Dumbledore's hands were just as tied as theirs were. [i "Why doesn't he intervene?"] Ron voiced the very thing Harry was thinking. [i "She's a tyrant!"]

[b "Let's wait until we get to the Shack, yeah?"] Harry looked around anxiously like more of Umbridge's spies were lurking around every bin and shop corner. [b "We can't afford to have this discussion in front of everyone."]
Harry Potter / Kooza / 21d ago
[b "I know some of the others won't want to keep it up if things start off too hard. So we best try and find middle ground. Of course the three of us will be first and help instruct them and show them...But it would be easiest to maybe start with at least third year stuff."] Her words were soft and JUST out of her mouth when a voice that sounded like nails on a chalkboard could be heard. And with it, her blood ran cold and the hair on her arms and the back of her neck stood. They had been caught by Malfoy and his little goons it seemed.

Brown eyes shot up to the Slytherin three just as Harry began to speak. And she kept her mouth shut while listening too. Her hand moved into Harry's again to try and get him to sit back down and she also gave Ron a pleading look too. If this kept up, there would be questions asked and she was somehow sure that Umbridge would get word too.

[b "You have a knack for following orders Malfoy. Especially from anyone who gives you attention...So I would have to agree with Harry and Ron there... But you're wrong about the Muggleborn bit. As long as there is magic in the blood, they are able to learn magic. There are families like yours who do not approve...but they don't just hunt down witches and wizards like that.."] Her words were soft as she was trying to get all of them off the topic of Voldemort as that seemed to get everyone's attention and eyes turned to the six.

Slowly, Hermione stood and looked to the two Gryffindor boys. [b "I fancy a walk.. maybe up to the Shrieking Shack? I know it will help cool us down."] She said, now ignoring the blonde slime ball and his goons as she kept her gaze on Harry and Ron. They needed t find Neville and warn him that Malfoy might have heard something and would be poking around A LOT more.
[b "I like that idea a lot,"] Harry nodded in agreement. [b "It'll give us a chance to figure out a median place to start so no one is overwhelmed or ill-prepared. Can't throw them off the deep end or they're unlikely to come back to the next lesson."]

[i "What lesson would that be, Potter?"]

Jumping in the Black Lake in the dead of winter would be less icy than the shiver that ran down Harry's spine. Malfoy stood an arm's length away, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle. All three looked properly smug though Harry doubted they knew exactly what it was they thought they had discovered. Ron's shoulders tensed and his jaw twitched, glaring down the Slytherin boys. [i "Eavesdropping for Umbridge off of school property, Malfoy? You're a loyal little dog aren't you?"]

It never took much for the youngest Weasley son to get under Draco's skin. Almost immediately his pale skin flushed an angry red at the insult. [i "I wasn't aware Ministry regulations had boundary lines, Weasel."]

[b "I'm sure there's a lot you're unaware of,"] Harry rose from his chair though he didn't move from Hermione's side. [b "Umbridge gives you the attention that Daddy and Mommy don't, doesn't she? Is that why you're at her beck and call? I bet you get a lot of pats on the head and 'good boy' praise and it just warms you up."]

As expected, Crabbe and Goyle stood there looking every bit as useless as normal. Malfoy's grimace turned to a smirk, trying to brush off the heckling. [i "I could say the same for you lot. The 'Golden Trio'. Dumbledore's little soldiers, ready to fall in line. I'll admit Granger here is a surprise. I figured a good little mudblood would want to toe Ministry guidelines instead of risking exile from the magic world."]

[b "'Exiled'? What the hell are you talking about?"] Harry glanced to his fellow Gryffindors. [b "No one is exiled for doubting the Ministry."]

Malfoy seemed proud to have gotten an upper hand in the conversation. With a nonchalant shrug, he gestured for Crabbe and Goyle to head for the door. [i "Believe it or not Potter but the Ministry is taking this quite seriously. Mudbloods have already tainted our community. Granger, you should consider yourself lucky that you haven't already been ousted to make way for more purebloods, the way Hogwarts should be. Umbridge is doing what Dumbledore is too cowardly to do."]

[b "Does your precious Umbridge know that your daddy is in league with Voldemort?"]

Harry's raised voice caused a hush to fall over the room. Eyes were now aimed at the teenagers, on edge at the sound of the Dark Lord's name. Malfoy's jaw would stick if he ground it down any harder. [i "You don't know what the hell you're talking about, Potter. I'd keep my mouth shut if I were you."]

[i "That's what you're good at, isn't it?"] Ron now stood as well. [i "Keep quiet and do as Daddy or Snape or Umbridge says. Harry's right, you're a loyal little lap dog. Does she put a bell on you too?"]
Harry Potter / Kooza / 28d ago
The brunette girl was more than amused when Harry helped her to turn the teasing back on their easily flustered friend. And she couldn't help her soft laugh when he mentioned the Patils. Though admittedly she could not help feeling a little sorry for the twins because the Yule Ball had been a low for the both of them. But she was quick to let that go.

[b "Maybe we wouldn't have to give you such a hard time if you wouldn't give us one. Besides, you know we do it in good fun. And Harry is right. It is fail classes and be dead, hang out with us, or the risk of being set on fire or waking to explosions."] Hermione couldn't help but add her own input, watching as Ron only opened and closed his mouth being content to lose this round of the heckling.

The quiet, or mostly quiet along with the fire, butterbeers, and her two best friends was all she could ask for. Well she was even more happy with the fact that Harry and she were actually dating AND they didn't have to deal with the stress of the meeting hanging over their heads anymore.

Brown eyes had been on the fire and watching the flames dance as she was content to the calm. It was only the soft nudge that got her attention and had her pulling her eyes from the flames and looking to Harry with a smile. [b "If only it were this easy to get you doing your homework."] The girl teased lightly.

And then she turned her attention to Ron with his question and made a face. He had a point that they could not make things too complicated. ESPECIALLY after what Harry pointed out with their first year and how long the levitation spell had taken. [b "We would be best teaching them to properly use Expelliarmus or how to block... Maybe even review some of the spells over our last few years? Or even better than that.. See what they know and what they need help with...assess everyone's skills...?"] She asked as she tilted her head, eyes never leaving the two boys.
He wasn't even embarrassed enough to blush. Harry was too stupidly happy about the change in relationship with Hermione to be annoyed by Ron's heckling. But, he was more than happy to turn the taunting around on the easily flustered redhead.

[b "I think we can scratch the Patil sisters off of that potential list,"] Harry teased. [b "After last year's ball, I don't think they'd give either of us a date if we were the last guys on Earth. If Ron asked one of them out, they'd probably hit him."]

[i "The two of you have an odd way of bolstering a bloke's spirits, you know that?"] Ron gulped his drink. [i "Remind me why I stick around?"]

Harry counted off his fingers. [b "You sat with me on the train first year so technically you made the first move in this friendship. If it weren't for Hermione, we'd both fail every class we've ever taken, and most likely be dead on top of that. And three; your next options would be Seamus and Dean, and do you really want to wake up every day with the risk of being set on fire?"]

Ron's mouth opened and closed. With a shrug, he accepted the loss of the banter. It was a relaxing atmosphere, now that they didn't have the weight of the meeting resting on their shoulders. The butterbeer, roasting fire, and easy company of his best friends lulled Harry into a level of contentment he hadn't felt in years. Bumping his arm against Hermione's, he smiled. [b "You must be rubbing off on me. I'm eager to get started with planning out our lessons."]

[i "What do you think you'll start off with?"] Ron asked. [i "Not the patronus right off the start, right?"]

Harry laughed. [b "Can you imagine? Half of them took an entire semester to learn Wingardium Leviosa. If we give them anything more challenging than Expelliarmus to start with, we may end up destroying the classroom. What do you think?"] he turned back to Hermione. [b "You managed to teach me pretty quickly last year. What should we give them to start off on?"]
Harry Potter / Kooza / 33d ago
Somehow, Hermione had believed Neville when he had said there were others out there who would believe Harry and was a chance to do what was right. And she also knew that they were not the only ones who were more than disappointed in having the pink nightmare as a professor. So either way she in her own mind had some form of faith that things would work out in one way or another.

Her mind was beginning to wander over some of what they could do to get things started with the "club" they had just started. So she had to REALLY drag herself from her thoughts when Harry had said that the next round was on him. [b "Thanks Harry."] The girl managed with a smile and then turned her attention back to Ron when their nerve energy filled friend. She hated to see it, but knew that it was just how he was. And it would not be getting easier until everything was up and running. [b "This might actually be harder. We have never done teaching and we don't know everyone's level of skill."] Her words were soft as she admitted it. But she knew to answer as honestly as she could and that it would be something else they would need to consider while training their classmates.

She had to remind herself that Ron did not start helping her and Harry until the second task. Honestly, with how everything had gone last year, Hermione almost thought the two boys would never make-up. But they did and things were almost back to normal. Well aside from Harry and her dating. She didn't speak much more and nodded to Harry when he had answered the tail question Ron had asked. [b "That was kind of what I had told him. But I think we'll be up to it. This can't be any harder than third year or our first year."] And she knew both boys would know EXACTLY where she had been going with those comments.

Even Hermione was able to laugh when Harry chose their toast. [b "Or how about to taking back our school?"] She added as she clanked her glass with the glasses of the two boys. And when her foot felt the gentle nudge under the table, she gentle nudged Harry's back. It would have been nice to be able to be a little more affectionate, but she was sure PDA would definitely get them into more trouble.

[b "Did you have to bring that woman up? I mean I could always turn her back into a beetle again."] Those words were thoughtful as her eyes twinkled with mischief at the idea. Both Harry and Ron knew that she had transfigured the woman for all the headlines and kept her in a jar. [b "Anyway Ronald, you'll find someone I'm sure and they you too can share the 'young love'.."] She said as her hand had moved back into Harry's on the table.
She was right, it hadn't been the total failure he'd been worried about. If anything, his spirits felt a little bolstered from the turn out and eagerness of the other students. It was a long way from last year when they'd stood against him compared to their worship of Cedric. [i I owe it to him to do what I can to fight back], Cho had said.

[b "Next round is on me,"] he rose once more to go to the bar.

Ron shrugged at Hermione, not about to turn down a free drink. Harry was notorious for nervous energy and it was seeming like they were going to get to witness more of it first-hand. [i "What do you think is going to be more stressful for the two of you: teaching everyone defense spells or all the research and training you did to help him get through the Tournament last year."]

There had been countless nights where Harry and Hermione had disappeared to empty classrooms to train, specifically during the first task. Ron had only come to learn about their training practices after they had made up from their near semester-long fight, and that Harry hadn't come up with the accio spell idea on his own. After that he gladly joined in with the researching for the second task with them though it often ended with him falling asleep at the library table.

[b "While this wasn't as bad as expected, I'll hold off judgment until after the first practice meeting,"] Harry rejoined them, catching the tail end of the question.

He passed out the drinks, holding his up for a clunky toast. [b "To undermining the pink nightmare?"] he suggested, causing Ron to bark out a laugh as he clinked his glass back.

Harry slumped back in his seat as the weight lifted from his shoulders. He let his attention drift to Hermione, sliding his foot along until it bumped hers under the table. More than anything he wanted to just throw his arm around her and kiss her, but Ron would never let them live it down, nor did he think the rest of the bar patrons would appreciate the PDA. [i Oi,"] Ron chucked a mint candy at his head. [i "No googly eyes while it's the three of us, I don't need any reminders that I'm painfully single. Plus you don't want any potential Rita Skeeter insiders getting back to her that she was right about you two last year."]

Harry groaned. [b "Oh god, do not bring that woman up now. You'll ruin my good mood."]

[i "What was it she said? [b Young love!]"] Ron cackled in falsetto, throwing the back of his hand to his forehead dramatically. [i "Imagine the headlines she'd get now."]
Harry Potter / Kooza / 48d ago
Hermione was only faintly amused with the idea of Harry having to get used to public speaking. To be quite honest, though she was as clever as she was and one of the top of their class that didn't mean public speaking was something she was comfortable with. She just enjoyed answering questions and earning their house points for it. It also in a way assured her that she was on par with their other schoolmates. [b "You will, but you know Ron and I will help you with that. You did amazing for the first time."] The girl said with a smile to Harry as student after student waited in line to be motioned forward by Neville to sign their name upon the parchment.

It was by the end when everyone had signed their names, Hermione was looking through the list as Harry explained the gold coins to them. It was very smart on Neville's part to have added a column for houses so they would be able to track them down AND know who was close to Malfoy and others who were Umbridges' pets. She was just looking up when Seamus had said that this was like being spies and quite literally had to bite down on her bottom lip to stop herself from laughing. This was like that by all accounts, but she would have never placed it in that category either. The things that their classmates could come up with sometimes did astound her.

When Neville had come up to them, Hermione handed the list over to him and he assured them that he would check and make sure no one was close to Malfoy. Which she was more than thankful for because she really wanted this to work. They needed it to if the students would have ANY form of a fighting chance.

[b "At least now we know others feel the same way and want to actually learn something."] Hermione said as she took her seat again and reached for her drink that had not been finished. She was about to take a sip from it when Cho came up and asked for Harry to speak with her. There was no alone there, but it had been heavily implied. [b "No..she doesn't know yet. Mostly just our house does and those who watch us closely."] Came soft words as cheeks became a dark pink.

To Ron's teasing of Harry when he came back, Hermione did shoot the Weasley boy a glare and even give him a kick under the table. But then she looked to Harry. Before she could speak, Ron regained himself from the kick and was smiling to him. [i "We will keep letting you talk to people alone. Never going to get better at it mate if you don't do it."] But then Ron went on. [i "I don't think it went bad at all. Haven't seen the others so excited since the hag began taking over the school. Though looks like you and Hermione have your work cut out for you and have to start getting lessons ready."] With that, Ron took a swig of his drink.

Hermione shook her head at the red haired boy. [b "I think it went really well Harry. And don't worry. We've got this."]
[b "I'd better learn to get comfortable with public speaking,"] Harry chuckled in disbelief as the students signed their names, one after another. [b "My heart's hammering like I'm going to face the Hungarian Horntail again."]

It was unreal that it didn't take more to convince everyone. The points made by Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were crucial and important but after being called a liar for most of their fourth year, Harry had anticipated much more of a struggle to get anyone on their side. Yet here they were, waiting eagerly for Neville to motion them forward to add their name to the growing list, now almost two pages full. [b "This is fantastic,"] he breathed, eyes scanning down the line.

Neville had the foresight to add a column for everyone to put their Hogwarts house beside their names, making it easier to know where to find the students when the time came to give them their gold coins. Harry quickly explained how the galleons would work, noticing Seamus's lips pull back in a grin. [b "What?"]

[i "It's like we're spies!"] the boy looked more excited than Harry could recall ever seeing him.

[b "Just as secretive as spies, I guess, yeah,"] Harry scratched at his neck, not sure how to handle the newfound eagerness in the students.

The meeting adjourned with little to no fuss. Neville kept the list with him, assuring Harry that he would go through everyone to make sure there was no one on the list who was close with Malfoy. A mole to report back to Umbridge was the last thing they needed. The students left in clusters, leaving the trio to their table still half-full with untouched butterbeers. [i "Well this seems like the perfect way to celebrate,"] Ron helped himself to the nearest mug.

[i "Harry?"]

The boy looked up, surprised to see Cho standing nervously by herself. [i "Can I talk to you for a moment?"]

The [i alone] was unsaid, but very much implied. Harry lightly squeezed Hermione's hand under the table. [b "Be right back, guys."]

Ron's eyes flickered between his two friends as Harry was led away from the table. [i "Does Cho know? That you two are...you know?"]

There was truly no private space left in the pub for them to talk quietly, but the far corner seemed to be the best choice. [b "Is everything okay?"] Harry's brows furrowed.

[i "I wanted to thank you,"] she blurted out before his question was even finished. [i "What you're doing here. I just - thank you."]

Where was this coming from? [b "You don't have to thank me,"] Harry assured her.

[i "After what happened with Cedric last year, I've been absolutely terrified. He didn't deserve what happened to him,"] her eyes welled. [i "I owe it to him to do what I can to fight back, and this is giving me that chance. That's why I'm thanking you."]

Never one to be comfortable with compliments, Harry flushed. [b "Hermione was really the brains behind it all,"] he boasted, casting a proud smile towards the table. [b "She's been amazingly supportive about this all. Without her, I wouldn't be able to do this."]

Cho followed his eyes and something seemed to click behind her own. [i "Oh! I see,"] she stammered. [i "That's wonderful I guess. She's quite smart, isn't she?"]

Harry was even more confused by the sudden bashfulness. [i "I've got to go but I'll see you around,"] she excused herself, moving quickly past him towards the door.

Ron snorted into his mug. [i "If she didn't before, she certainly does now. Last year you couldn't get a date and now you've got two girls fawning over you, mate,"] he teased Harry as he rejoined them.

[b "Please never let me talk to people alone ever again,"] Harry slumped in his seat. [b "How do the two of you think the meeting went? Not bad, right?"]
Harry Potter / Kooza / 64d ago