[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.
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?"]