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[b "Aw!"] Harry cooed. [b "The family is all back together,"] he stepped forward and wrapped them both in a bear hug.
He released them and backed towards the door, taking one last look around before opening it and gesturing for them to get inside. [b "Meet our home away from home, Ron,"] he made a dramatic show of sweeping his arm in presentation.
[i "You promised no bookwork!"] Ron playfully scolded them.
[b "I solemnly swear that we are up to no good,"] Harry swore. [b "And that means no books involved. This is where we're going to practice, before we find something bigger."]
Ron frowned in confusion. [i "Practice for what? And why would we need a bigger space? This room is bigger than half of our classrooms."]
Harry traded a last glance with Hermione. No going back now. [b "Hermione and I - actually, mostly Hermione - had an idea regarding our Defense Against the Dark Arts class."]
[i "What about it?"]
[b "The fact this it's utter shit, and we need real practice. So, we thought it would be a good idea to train ourselves in here. Make sure we're up to par with where we should be,"] Harry explained.
[i "And...the bigger space?"] Ron waited.
[b "We're going to train other students how to properly defend themselves,"] Harry answered confidently, standing next to Hermione as Ron took it all in.
Their friend looked rather stunned. [i "And you agreed to this?"] he looked to Hermione, as though surprised she'd think of something so against the rules.
The girl turned as soon as she felt the hand on her shoulder. Honestly she had wondered how long it would take their words to get through to the third of their group. And a small smile tugged at the corner of her lips as she took a step back and watched the boys. It was always easier for them to sort things than it was initially for her and Ron. But hearing that Ron was willing to help and didn't want to be "Percy" was a relief. She couldn't really handle Umbridge and trying to help Harry organise what they had in mind while fighting with Ron.
[b "I shouldn't have gone off on you either...just...I'm sorry too."] Hermione whispered. Honestly it did surprise her that their friend had apologised and sounded as genuine while doing so as he did. The girl's eyes did catch Harry's just the briefest. She knew he was wanting them to sort things out.
At Harry's words, a small smile tugged at her lips. [b "Of course.."] The girl said after a moment and did hug the boy. After a moment, she stepped back again.
[i "So what have the two of you got in mind?"] Ron asked the two of them. It was more than obvious he was eager to get things started.
Harry turned around to meet their friend's eye, though Ron was still having trouble maintaining eye contact with them. [b "We never wanted you gone, Ron. We're the trio, and we always wanted it that way. You're always welcomed back."]
He let Hermione's hand go to step forward and reach it out to Ron. [b "We could really use your help, if you're willing to have us."]
There was barely a pause before Ron shook his hand. [i "I'm ready to help."]
Harry was relieved that he was coming around. He could barely stand to see Hermione so stressed, and he knew that fighting with the third member of their group was causing her more anxiety. Working together again would alleviate some of her stress.
[b "I will warn you. It's going to involve some shenanigans. Prefect Granger is up for it. What about you, Prefect Weasley? Ready to harness whatever mischief the twins have taught you?"] Harry offered a grin.
Ron rolled his eyes, but a smile tugged at the corner of his lips. [i "I wouldn't be a proper Weasley if I didn't. It's exhausting trying to be Percy all the time. I think George and Fred are more fun to look up to."]
Harry watched as Ron hesitantly stepped towards Hermione. [i "I really am sorry. I didn't mean to fight with you. I didn't give you a chance to defend yourself, and you didn't deserve it.] He opened his arms. [i "Can I hug you?"]
Over his shoulder, Harry tried to catch her eye with a smile. [b "If she doesn't hug you, I will. We missed you."]
[b "We actually need his help with this one. So when he's ready he knows he can join us."] Hermione was also trying to quiet the anger that Seamus had been trying to stir up in Ron. She knew that the Finnigan girl got bored but intentionally starting more trouble for a show really had her fathers ruffles. But she could not and would not say anymore as she was pulled off by Harry.
A sigh eacaped from her and she nodded slowly. [b "It would appear that's the case as usual. All he has to do is talk to us camly...it's not like we have been excluding him on purpose."] The girl said quietly as they walked.
It was seconds later that a hand had come to rest on both Harry and Hermione's shoulders. [i "Do you really mean it? That this time I can help without there being any bookwork involved?"] Ron asked from behind them. The words spoken were quiet and laced with the shame he felt. But this was the closest that his pride would let him get to apologising to the two of them.
[b "Save us a couple of seats, yeah?"] Harry gave a friendly smile to Neville before he walked off.
Taking Hermione's hand he began to pull her in the opposite direction, only to be met with resistance as she stayed rooted to the spot. [b "What's wrong?"] he asked before he caught sight of why she didn't finish her sentence.
[i "Left out again, eh Ron?"] Seamus nudged the Weasley boy. [i "Seems like they're getting cozy without you around."]
Harry could see Ron's jaw tense. [b "Shove off, Seamus. Don't instigate him,"] he tried to quell the situation before Ron could blow up. [b "Ron knows he's more than welcome to come with us. He's made the decision not to."]
At this, at least, Ron's eyes dropped. He knew Harry was right. No one was excluding him other than his own pride. Maybe they'd get through to him after all. [b "We're ready when you are, Ron."]
Leaving them with that, Harry pulled her back with him to disappear around the corner. [b "It might just be me, but I don't think Ron is still angry with us about the Umbridge stuff. I think he's feeling left out but is too stubborn to ask if he can come back to us."]
Hermione did not look at Ron, Seamus, or Dean as they passed the three boys. All of them she knew would be very vocal and so Neville was right when he said they would know soon enough what had happened. Her eyes stayed on the floor but she could tell that those around them were dispersing and heading off to their next classes as not to be late.
[b "Can actually go now and check the classroom. It's on the way to our next class and should be easy for us to say we stopped off at the bathroom first. Besides, Professor Binns doesn't much oay attention to who is in class or not."] The girl said as she drew her attention to Harry as he had spoken.
The girl was getting more and more anxious to get things started. It meant that she could work with the boy whom she had a crush on and not have EVERYONE watching them and starting rumours. But more than that, they needed to fight back. Umbridge was taking the one place that was like home to so many and she was making it hell. [b "Neville...do you think you can cover for Harry and me?"] Hermione asked the boy who was still with them.
He looked between the other boy and the girl and nodded. [i "Yeah, I can do that. Just don't take too long."] And with that, the Longbottom boy turned down the hall and began his way towards the History of Magic classroom.
[b "We best get moving before..."] But she froze as Ron, Dean and Seamus walked out of the Charms class.
Harry's attention was drawn to the small explosion. From the looks of it, the three boys mostly had singed eyebrows and some soot on their faces. [b "Shame. Ron could have used a makeover,"] Harry muttered to Neville, who looked unimpressed at his joke. [b "For his attitude. A makeover for his attitude."]
He gathered his things and followed Hermione from the room, trying not to show that he had any interest in what Ron and the others were getting scolded for. [i "We'll hear all about it, I'm sure. They aren't known for being quiet,"] Neville walked beside them.
Students began dispersing in all directions, headed to their next destination. Harry considered their options. [b "When should we go check the classroom to make sure that it's still empty? If it isn't, we'll have to keep looking around and cross that one off the list."]
He was eager to get started. Firstly, because it meant private practices with her gave him more time to spend with Hermione without prying eyes. Secondly, because she had lit a fire under him and he was now anxious to get started training the other students behind Umbridge's back.
[b "Actually that would be the perfect place for us to start. I'm surprised that I had forgotten about it."] Hermione said with a sheepish smile. Usually she was good about details and being highly logical. But the classroom Harry had mentioned had slipped through the cracks in her thinking up what they could do. To be fair though, she and Harry did have a fair few things and people to worry about and she had been going through and trying to see if she could find more out.
Neville's words caught her attention and the girl lifted brown eyes to look at the usually timid boy who was apparently still listening to them. He did have a point. Umbridge for some god forsaken reason had it out for the pair of them and would jump at an opportunity to give them another of her detentions, which had her instinctively rub over her scared hand. Both she and Harry did have another detention with the devil woman as it was. [b "Thanks, Neville. We could use all the help we can get. And I know you'll find the perfect place."] The girl encouraged with a small smile.
She then began to let her mind wander as she took the notes, letting out a gasp as an explosion was heard at the front of the room. It seemed that Seamus had been a little too eager to try out their new charm.
[i "Alright everyone, that's enough for today. You may all gather your things and go. We'll continue on this lesson next class."] Professor Flitwick was saying. The little professor then pulled Ron, Seamus and Dean aside to make sure they were okay as everyone else was free to leave.
The perfect thing about Hogwarts was that there were plenty of empty spaces available. They just needed to find one private enough, and abandoned enough, that no one would think to go looking for them there. [b "For now, you and I can use the old classroom on the fourth floor that we practiced in last year for the Tournament. It's unused, and far enough away from other classes that we won't draw any wandering eyes. For the actual training group though,"] he paused. [b "I have no idea where to even begin."]
Neville leaned towards them, seemingly still listening despite rigorously taking notes. [i "I'll help look. I'm on no one's radar and often by myself. No one will be suspicious of me wandering the castle on my own."]
It was a good point. Harry and Hermione were both on Umbridge's most wanted list, and if they were caught in unused parts of the castle it was bound to draw attention that they didn't want if they were going ahead with their plan.
[b "Never hurts to have a third pair of eyes,"] Harry agreed, not bothering to broach the fact that their regular third pair of eyes was being a complete brat and ignoring them.
There had been whispers around them about what a "show off" she had been. And some had even spoken loud enough, saying that she could have failed to not make the rest of them look bad. But she was trying to ignore them, a smile coming to her lips when Harry had welcomed her back with the soft words of praise. As always, his thoughts and words meant the most to her and she could not help that sense of pride she felt from his words.
[b "Thanks, Neville. We'll definitely give the fight that Hogwarts and our fellow students deserve."] The girl said with a smile to the timid boy. It was amazing how quick he was to jump on board even in them not fully knowing what they were truly going to do.
Her attention was soon drawn back to Harry when he spoke. For a moment she was silent and took in his words. He was absolutely right. They did NEED to know what they were doing and to have a handle on things before they even thought about teaching others. [b "First thing's first though..we need to find a place to practice and to see if we can get help from Lupin or one of the others.."] Those words were spoken very quietly ro make sure no one other than "The boy who lived" heard her.
Harry welcomed her back to her seat with a proud smile. [b "Well done, Miss Granger,"] he praised her, once more standing to pull her seat out.
Neville was quick to give them his show of support, and Harry had to admit that he was surprised to see the timid boy actively wanting to defy Ministry authority. [b "You know it's not going to be easy. I don't want you to feel obligated or anything just because we're friends,"] Harry wanted to give him a chance to back out.
Neville shook his head and sat up straighter. [i "Can't stand in the shadows forever, can I? Hogwarts is supposed to be a safe haven for us. If someone threatens that peace, we should fight for it. Right?"]
Harry grinned back. [b "We'll give her that fight. I promise."]
He turned to Hermione. [b "We can talk about the next steps later. Figure out how we want to go about this. If we're going to teach other students, we want to be sure of ourselves and what our goal is. It wouldn't hurt for you and I to practice ourselves, before we start whatever this is going to be. Make sure we've got a handle on everything."]
Brown eyes had been drawn to their redheaded friend for a moment, but only because he was sat in front. But as soon as the boy had crossed his arms and looked at the desk, the girl's attention was back on their professor. She couldn't lie, Ron's immediate reaction did sting. The girl had tried her best to help both him amd Harry over the years and he couldn't even pretend to have any kind of encouragement or care. He had to instead play the victim and a spoiled child. But she was quick to draw her attention back to Professor Flitwick and his instructions. And she had found that they were not that difficult nor was the charm.
It did take her a moment to fully regain her focus and confidence but one look to Harry and a small smile did come slowly to her lips. Of everyone, his opinion was the one that she was going to hold any sort of attention to. It was the only one that mattered as he was always there for her. Letting out the breath she had been holding, Hermione whispered the charm she had been told and even flicked her wrist as she had been shown. And of course she had been able to get it, Flitwick saying how well she had done and then instructing the others through the charm as she made her way back to her seat.
[i "If the two of you have something in mind.. I want to help too. I see what Umbridge does...and after your explanations I really don't think she has a right."] Neville said, giving both the boy and girl a hopeful look.
Hermione gave a small smile. [b "We're still trying to fully figure it out...there are a couple of people we have to talk to first.."] The girl said as she bit on her lips, eyes going to Harry as she wanted his thoughts. Besides she also knew that after the last couple of days he was going to be more watchful of her and make sure she didn't exhaust herself.
He offered Hermione a grateful smile, only to be interrupted by their professor calling on her. [b "Show them how it's done, Prefect Granger,"] he teased, nudging her chair with his foot.
[i "Come forward, dear!"] Flitwick stood waiting with a beaming smile. [i "Don't be shy. I have complete confidence in you."]
Harry saw Ron cross his arms over his chest, eyes falling to the desk in front of him. The dark haired boy frowned. Ron couldn't even pretend to be supportive of her. After all the help Hermione had given them over the years, Ron would rather sulk than let go of his pride.
[i "You glare any harder and his hair really will be on fire,"] Neville said quietly.
[b "He's so caught up in himself that he probably wouldn't even notice,"] he responded.
[i "Probably not. But I'm sure Hermione wouldn't like it either way."]
Harry focused his eyes back on the brunette, smiling at her in encouragement. Flitwick was none the wiser, focused instead on carefully instructing Hermione through the spell. [b "She's my priority,"] Harry assured Neville. [b "Ron can act out all he wants. We're doing what we know is right."]
Hermione visibly stiffened when she caught Ron's eyes, her own gaze had become almost as cold as his own. He was being a child and was REALLY getting on her nerves. She would expect this soreness and sort of display from Malfoy, but he was meant to be their friend. How they managed to keep him round at times, Hermione often did wonder. Though even she could admit when not being a spoiled prat the Weasley boy could be fiercely loyal and a good friend.
[b [i 'Umbridge seems to be singling me and Harry out particularly. When we get into it with her...it is usually because she has overstepped boundaries very similar to ones Snape tends to...Snape we are used to and can handle..but this woman is a pink devil and a literal 'Ministry Hound'.. she is out to make sure no one believes us or Dumbledore...a buffer for Fudge if you will...Partly why we have not told Ron much on this is because of becoming a prefect. He wants to be better than Percy and now the power and title is going to his head. And he believes he deserves all this respect and thinks Harry would do anything to get attention. He is reverting very much back to how he had been last year..']] Hermione wrote the note out and passed it to the rather shy and quiet boy who had asked Harry what had been going on between them and Ron.
Her hand moved to Harry's under the table when he slouched and began to grumble. A weak smile traced her lips. [b "Remember we're in this together.."] She whispered and sighed, letting his hand go. The girl had been called on by Professor Flitwick to demonstrate the charm he had just been explaining because he "wanted it done properly".
Harry didn't miss Ron's constantly scowling towards them. Neither did most of Gryffindor house. Their classmates kept darting their eyes back and forth, as if expecting a showdown to break out in the middle of Professor Flitwick's lesson. Finally growing tired of it, Harry caught Ron's eye and waved enthusiastically. The redhead's eyes narrowed and the boy huffed.
Harry barely heard Neville's question, prompting him to ask again. [i "Did you?"] the perpetually frightened boy asked.
[b "Did we what?"] Harry frowned, unclear of the question.
Neville looked around and leaned closer. [b "Did the two of you really argue with Professor Umbridge in front of everyone? Ron's livid. Won't stop going on about it, really. And I've never seen him this mad before."]
Harry fought the urge to roll his eyes. [b "It was less of an argument and more defending ourselves. We were wrongfully accused and had McGonnagal's approval to miss Potions. We're not in the wrong at all."]
[i "The way Ron's telling it is that you keep challenging her to get more attention. If you ask me, he's a bit sore about you two excluding him,"] Neville continued.
[b "We're not!"] Harry hissed. [b "He's being his usual pigheaded self when he thinks he's not getting enough attention. He got that badge and now he wants everyone to praise him constantly and tell him what a good boy he is."]
He slouched in his seat and aggressively dragged his quill along the parchment to take notes. [b "Prat,"] he grumbled under his breath.
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