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Harry let his eyes drift closed and imagine the beach she described. He'd never been anywhere warm in his life. England was perpetually raining, and Scotland always seemed to carry a sharp chill in the air. Half the students at Hogwarts were rarely without a sweater in an attempt to stay warm.
[b "Doesn't sound silly at all. We might even get a tan,"] he joked, looking at his hands. [b "We're quite pale, aren't we?"]
If he imagined hard enough, he could feel hot sand beneath his feet. [b "Somewhere warm sounds perfect. A resort with unlimited food. Cozy hammock to nap in. I'm definitely stealing your vacation idea and making it mine, too. We don't even have to come back."]
An ideal world indeed. Never having to experience people staring at him for his fame, which had been ninety percent of his wizarding world experience the past few years. A warm beach where he could disappear and be Just Harry for the rest of his life? He'd leave tomorrow.
[b "I'd say Australia, too, but I've had just about enough of everything trying to kill me. Last thing I need is to be hiking and a giant spider falls on me from a tree. It might be the most dangerous place in the world, outside of Hogwarts,"] he joked.
Try as hard as he might, he couldn't picture a world without her in it. She was the only constant in his life. If she let him, he'd follow her to the ends of the earth. [b "If things work out and I get to live with Sirius next year, maybe we could spend more time together over the summer, instead of just the last few weeks. Enjoy some of the Muggle world together while we're free."]
He was right in his words. Harry almost NEVER said no to an adventure or sneaking about the halls at night. At least once every year since they had started the boy was in trouble or caught wandering. A laugh slipped from her and she nodded. [b "Almost never. Which is why I think I had asked if we could."] Hermione said and smiled as she heard what it could be like. Again so enchanting and calming. A beauty she was sure not many had taken the chance to really connect. The girl almost bet that Harry did because it was his own way of escape. Where she had her books, her best friend had his knack for adventure and enjoying the small joys in life when he was able.
It was at the bump to her shoulder did the girl give a faint pout. [b "I know..I know. But you know what my mind is like when it gets stuck on something."] She whispered and then gave a thoughtful look. His question had been an interesting one and was something she used to think about. But since coming to school and knowing Voldemort was a threat to her best friend that kind of became more her focus. Usually she was thinking on classes or ways to help Harry that she did not ever really think much on what she wanted anymore.
Lightly she leaned against the boy, brown eyes once more on the window as she watched the rays of sun glisten on grounds. [b "I'd like to think maybe in America...Hawaii. Perhaps a beach at sunset and just watching the boats sail on the horizon...listen to the soft calls of the seagulls and the water lapping at the shore...to feel the warmth of the sun and the breeze. Or maybe just doing touristy things. Shops, musuems..." She said, her cheeks colouring as she spoke her words. It probably wasn't what her friend would expect from her. [b "I'm sorry...that sounded so silly. What about you? If you could what would you do?"]
Harry smiled softly at her. [b "When have I ever said 'no' to sneaking out?"] he joked. [b "You'll love it. The owls get quiet, and all you can hear is the pouring rain and the thunder. It gets a bit cold, but I'll have a blanket for us."]
Leaning slightly towards her, he bumped her shoulder with his. [b "Now, I believe we came up here for some peace and quiet. No dwelling on the nightmare outside of this tower. Time for relaxation."]
Harry stretched his legs out and ignored Hedwig's hoot of disapproval. [b "Tell me what your ideal vacation would be. At the end of the school year, and you have the chance to go anywhere in the world, and do anything you wanted. What would you do?"]
It was something he'd considered himself many times. His curse of having an evil wizard after him had prevented him from imagining much of a future for himself. He'd tried to come up with plans for the future, but he rarely saw himself living long enough to get one. Travel never seemed possible.
[b "Even if it's just relaxing on a beach with a book in your hand,"] he teased. [b "Whatever you can think of that would make you the happiest away from here."]
[b "I think it is a pet thing honestly. But we can't help but to love them because they love us even when we are at our lowest moments."] Her words were quiet and thoughtful as she spoke them. The girl was thinking to the many nights she had near cried herself to sleep after arguments with Ron amd even the last couple of days back at school. Though her cat wasn't always around, he always did try to comfort her when she needed him the most.
Brown eyes were on the parchment she was scrawling away on as she listened to Harry's playful banter of his owl. And a couple times she let out soft giggles at how much it sounded like a parent gently scolding a child. Well it did until the "tempermental bird" comment. But it was still enough to send her mind into thinking about him being a father in the future. As soon as she realized where her mind had gone, Hermione had to reign it back in and began writing again.
[b "Tonks, Mister Wessley, and Kingsley all are getting as much information as they can from the inside...it's not been much. Kingsley being higher up has the best bet and can help clue us all in here...But as you said him finding out the details of that Gargoyle's antics here at Hogwarts may help him even more...Though you and I may end up getting a 'slap on the wrist' for this."] The girl said softly as her eyes finally moved up from the parchment and followed Harry's gaze.
There were now some students wandering and the faint laughter could be heard. And at his spoken words, a hand slowly moved over his without her notice. [b "Perhaps one night we can sneak up here during a storm and watch it? I don't spend much time up here...but it really did help, thanks..."] She whispered and looked to her best friend.
Harry fights back a smirk to try and remain straight-faced. [b "Typical boys. Only around when they want something. Crookshanks is lucky you love him so much,"] he sighed dramatically and slumped into the spot next to her.
Hedwig came to rest on his elevated knee, silently demanding more pets with her piercing golden stare. [b "As if you're any better, Miss!"] Harry playfully scolded his beloved owl. [b "Nipping at me all the time when my attention is elsewhere. It's not all about you."]
She screamed at him, flapping her wings at his face. [b "Temperamental bird,"] he stuck his tongue out.
Glancing over at his human companion, he stretched his neck slightly to see what she was writing. [b "At least we know Kingsley is working for the Order from the inside of the Ministry. Hearing what's going on here might give him clues on what to look for at work. Especially with these new decrees Umbridge has started nailing up on the walls."]
The wide open arches gave them the perfect view of the grounds. Small specks of students strolled through the grass, faint laughs rising up to the tower. It was the most peaceful Harry had ever felt at school. [b "This is the best place to watch storms,"] he spoke quietly, almost just to himself. [b "Everything feels more alive from up here."]
It was the times like these she loved to be around her friend. Well she always did, but it was nice to see him relax and to seem more his age. And it was a breath of fresh air to the both of them. Something they both truly needed. Harry of course had been quick to ditch the tie and robe, but she only took off her robe, leaving the tie. If he needed help with his tie, the girl would end up redoing it for him when they were done in the owlery.
[b "Well hello there pretty girl. Has the mean boy been leaving you on your own?"] She cooed softly to snowey white owl who had abandoned her owner to rest upon her shoulder. Of course she didn't mean her words to be serious but was only saying them as she was giving attention to the indignant white owl who felt she was deprived.
[b "She really is calm and helpful. I see why it is you come up here to get away when you've the chance. Truly the view is amazing...stunning even."] The girl commented as her eyes were on one of the windows. It was when Harry had gotten closer so he could pet Hegwig and asked about her cat did her attention come back to him and she offered a small smile. [b "Honestly I don't know where he's been or what he's been up to. He only.comes to see me for food or to comfort me late at night.] She admitted as ahe sat on the ground and pulled out a piece of parchmet and quill, beginning to write.
He grinned. [b "Come on, then. Let's go find some solitude away from the chaos that is our school,"] he announced dramatically.
It was more than a rush of freedom. Harry loosened his tie and tucked his robes away in his bag. The higher they rose, the fresher the air seemed. Even with the occasional shriek of an owl, the tower was more peaceful than anywhere else in the castle. [b "Hedwig!"] he called through the open arch.
Always obedient, his snowy owl came soaring from the highest peak, coming to rest on his outstretched forearm. [b "Sorry I haven't visited sooner. But look, we have a guest,"] he shifted slightly so Hedwig could see Hermione.
Also ever the traitor when attention-deprived, Hedwig soared the few feet to rest on the girl's shoulder. [b "I try to come here whenever I'm stressed. Being around her helps. She's so calm,"] he stepped into her space to stroke his fingers through Hedwig's chest feathers.
[b "Where's Crookshanks been? I've barely seen him since we got back to school,"] he tried to broach a subject that might bring her a bit of joy to talk about. [b "Causing trouble, I'm sure,"] he tried to smile and catch her eye.
Her cheeks became a bright pink at the praise from both their professor and from her best friend. But she didn't say anything and gave a nod and smile. As much as she hated herself for it, the praise ALWAYS made her feel good and clever.
When they two were in the deserted corridors, the girl stretched. Never was it so quiet and empty and she honestly couldn't be any more grateful. Hermione didn't feel like being around anyone but Harry. But then he was in just as much trouble as she was and knew exactly what was going on. [b "Oh..we'll be getting the cold shoulder from him for the nexr few days easily..this is how it went at Grimauld Place really..I'm still sorry he is being such a prat.."] She said, turning to give the boy a sad smile.
Hermione's hand was still in his from when they had left McGonagall's office. Usually she was more aware but the contact was nice. And it comforted her. [b "Actually, that sounds like a really good idea. We'll be away from everyone and can relax. Even send a letter to the others."] The girl said, brown eyes looking up at him.
It was comfortable to have at least one professor on their side. Granted, most of the teachers were against Umbridge and her tactics, but few were willing to boldly stand against her and the Ministry, lest they lose their careers. Harry didn't blame them. Hogwarts was everyone's home, and they weren't about to risk it.
[b "We'll try, Professor,"] Harry promised, taking the notes from her.
He held his hand for Hermione to take, pulling her towards the door. [i "And Miss Granger,"] McGonnagal called out, stopping them in their tracks. [i "Excellent work with the observation device,"] she smirked proudly.
Harry smiled softly. [b "Told you that you're amazing,"] he murmured to his best friend as he led her out to the hall and down the spiral staircase.
With class in session, the corridors were empty. [b "Well, I doubt that Ron is going to want us at the Quidditch pitch to watch them practice. And,"] he waved the excuse notes in front of her. [b "We now have a double free period. What do you say we go up to the owl observatory to see Hedwig. Sit on the balcony and take in the fresh air with some peace and quiet?"]
When Harry didn't budge when she tried to tug on him for them to go, the girl was a bit nervous. She almost thougt that he wanted to be on his own and she too had gotten under his skin like Ron had. But when she was pulled into the tight hug, Hermione was shocked. Usually they were both more careful about their amount of contact and it quite literally had her at a loss as she did hide her face against him with a few tears slipping down her cheeks.
[b "He does need to learn...and we had a right.. But it's just we were told to stick together and well..."] Usually she was much better in means of having her thoughts in order. Usually she could at least speak coherently, but she was still trying to regain heraelf. And instead listened to Harry's words as her hand was in his. [b "I'm always on your side too...and that's true...Only Umbridge seems to like to cross...maybe we can even go for that walk we wanted?"] Silly of her to ask, but Hermione figured it woulr at least give them a chance to clear their heads and relax a bit.
It was a shock to see their head of house standinf before her desk and waiting for them. And when Harry took the seat before the woman, the brown eyed girl too sat but her eyes were on her lap. Even in all that was said and being told they weren't in trouble, she was still inwardly shaking and feeling as if they were. Only when the letter had been mentioned did her gaze come up and her mouth was opened in shock. [b "Professor?"] The girl whispered but it was all she could get out.
Her hand that was still in Harry's gave it a small squeeze. She was going to tell the woman what they had done. After all, it seemed she was trying to find out more on Umbridge and would need the help. [b "There is a cat plate in her office hidden among the others...It's of two orange tabbied playing with a red ball...That plate should also have some answers for you.."]
The woman looked at the two, the faintest hin of a smirk on her lips. [i "I'll look into it. But for now I suggest the two of you get going. These are for you and do try and stay out of trouble for the rest of the day."] McGonagall said as she handed them both excemption letters for potions, dimissing them.
Harry's feet stayed firmly planted on the floor when she tried to tug him in the direction of McGonnagal's office. Instead, he pulled her back to him and wrapped her in a tight hug. [b "Don't apologize for him. He has to learn to grow up and not be so selfish. We aren't wrong for defending ourselves. We didn't start this, remember that."]
Pulling away slightly, he reached up to brush a few tears from falling on her cheeks. [b "I'm on your side, always."]
In any other circumstance, Harry would be hyper-aware of their contact. At this moment, however, his only concern was comforting his best friend, who was facing far more pressure than she should be. [b "Come on. We'll get this out of the way and skip Potions. I'm sure Professor McGonnagal will have no problem writing us an exemption note for class. Snape won't cross her. Even he knows better."]
To their surprise, McGonnagal was waiting for them at her desk when they arrived. [i "She's already been here, so why don't the two of you give me your side of the story so I can at least appear unbiased."]
Harry slunk into his usual chair, posture straight and confident. [b "She tried to accuse Hermione of holding an interest in criminal activities, just because she's studied the case of Grindelwald. And then she instigated an argument with me by going after my family and Sirius. We were only defending ourselves."]
He still held Hermione's hand tightly in his, trying to offer some sort of comfort, knowing that she wasn't fond of being under scrutiny. [b "Professor, you know us. When have we ever been trouble in classes?"] he sighed.
Minerva raised an eyebrow. [i "Potter, I've known you to be quite the troublemaker in the five years that you've been my student. However, your trouble was always out of good intentions. Miss Granger, I'd like you to take a breath. Neither of you are in trouble with me. The fact that Dolores has singled the two of you out for the third day in a row has only cemented my belief that she is searching for any reason to hand out punishments. Especially with the Ministry's desire to silence any rumors of You Know Who from last year."]
She rose from her desk and grabbed a letter from the mantle above the fireplace. [i "This is a letter from Kingsley Shacklebolt. I have been in correspondence with him regarding this Ministry infestation. He has assured me that he will be gathering any information that will be to our advantage against Professor Umbridge."]
It was Harry's turn to raise an eyebrow. [b "Professor, are you leading a rebellion?"] he said in disbelief.
[i "Mr Potter, I am an authority figure of this school, and I will not stand to see my students maimed in any way. I swore an oath to protect the children of this school, and I intend to uphold it in any way possible. If that means building evidence against a fellow teacher, then so be it,"] she was wholeheartedly unapologetic.
Brown eyes looked into blue. The girl was not watching her temper and it seemed she and Ron were about to get into another of their famous bouts. Harry actually had pulled her back to make sure she kept herself out of trouble. Tears were starting to burn her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. [b "No, we've not. But we're not better than the others either. Position and power means nothing, Ronald. Think about it."] The girl said, her tone still proving she was very much on the defensive.
When Harry stepped in and got Ron's attention on him rather than her, Hermione hated that she was grateful to him. He was saving her from snapping off completely and from a trip to the girl's bathroom to hide and cry. It was getting to be too much and she was close to crying again.
As much as she wanted to speak again, the girl learned to keep out of it when Ron amd Harry got into it. Besides, everything "the boy who lived" said was true. Ron was constantly letting his pride get in the way and the first to crumble under pressure. It had happened the year before and seemed very much like it was now. As soon as Harry spoke up and Ron's face turned the four shades of purple, the girl was slowly inching closer and around Harry in case Ron did go to punch him, her hand on her wand.
[b "Harry...I am so sorry..."] Hermione whispered as Ron snapped at the pair of them and walked off in the opposite direction.The girl stared after Ron, with her slhoulders slumped, feeling all of this was her fault. After a couple seconds, her hand had moved into his and she gave a gentle tug. They still had to face McGongall.
Harry was beyond furious that Ron had decided to lecture them the minute they were in the hallway. He protectively grabbed Hermione's arms and pulled her back carefully, not wanting her to get herself into bigger trouble. Ron, however, took a step forward with his chest puffed out. [i "Excuse me for wanting to take some pride in my position. We haven't always been perfect little goodie-goodies,"] he snapped.
[b "Wouldn't be the first time your attitude got the best of you,"] Harry intervened.
[i "What the hell does that mean?"] Ron crossed his arms over his chest.
[b "It means that you're the first one to let your pride get in the way and throw your friends to the wolves when you're feeling like a self-righteous brat,"] Harry yelled back. [b "Just like last year, you can't handle not being the center of attention. We didn't ask for the Ministry dog to be ready to jump on us every chance she gets!"]
[i "Well you're certainly not helping matters by opening your mouths every time she pokes at you!"] Ron threw his hands in the air.
[b "Tell you what, go sit in her office and let her insult your damn family and see how calmly you sit there. I've seen you get angry over a chess game, so I'm not that confident you'd be able to shut up either,"] Harry stood defensively between Ron and Hermione.
Ron grew four shades of purple and for a moment, Harry thought he was about to be punched. [i "Do what you want, I have prefect matters to attend to. As do you,"] he snapped to Hermione over Harry's shoulder before stomping off in the opposite direction.
It took everything that the girl had to not go off on Ron. He wasn't even sticking up for his best friend and was scolding them for what the gargoyle had said and done. Her hand was still in Harry's and she gave him a weak smile. It was more one that said she was sorry, but also let him know that they were in this together and she had meant it when she said so.
Brown eyes went to the desk and the book lying open before her. [b "She will find out either way.. But she told us if this happened again to come to her.. So yes, we'll have to be the ones to tell her."] The girl said quietly as she was cursing Umbridge in her thoughts. She was paying attention but only enough to write down what she had to for their upcoming test.
When the class ended, Ron walked out of the class slightly ahead of her and Harry. [i "What the bloody hell is wrong with the two of you? You're meant to stay out of trouble and to make this EASIER on the others. NOT this!"] He was shouting at the two of them.
[b "Maybe we wouldn't have to get into so much trouble if you would help us here, Ronald! She is a terror and is TRYING to ruin us all. But since you've gotten that badge it is like you care only about that and not YOUR friends who have been by your side the whole time."] Hermione snapped at him. She didn't have the patience to keep calm and try not to snap. He had REALLY been a prat and struck a nerve.
[i So much for us keeping out of trouble], he thought to himself. Still, his blood pressure was raging and he was not about to be spoken to as though his godfather was a worthless criminal. Harry squeezed Hermione's hand back, grateful for her support.
Ron, on the other hand, looked annoyed at the two of them. His playful manner from earlier that morning had soured with their outbursts. [i "Can we go one day without you two getting into trouble?"] he hissed under his breath.
[b "You get a badge and suddenly you're a model student?"] Harry snapped back at him.
Ron flushed red and turned back towards the front of the classroom, jaw clenched tightly. Harry sighed and rubbed at his temple with his free hand, not even having the energy to pretend to pay attention. [b "Should we tell McGonnagal we have another detention?"] he murmured to Hermione quietly.
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