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His smile turned bashful. "I just got the simplest robes available. Poor Ron had to fiddle with all of those ruffles just to button everything. Maybe we should get him new dress robes for Christmas," he joked.
The bell interrupted their conversation, and Harry cursed it internally. It would be more class and then she'd be off to patrol again after dinner. Maybe he'd get his cloak and keep her company. While he knew she could take care of herself, he didn't like the idea of her having to be alone with someone who was basically a stranger. Harry didn't trust many people when it came to Hermione.
"Right. Best be off," he agreed reluctantly, taking his share of the book stack. "But just so you know, I'm more than happy to hang out in here with you any time you want. I just thought Ron and I would be too distracting for you, so we left you be."
Their next class was Herbology, so it was a welcomed break from the morning tension. Ron was already waiting for them, having snagged their usual place in the middle of the work bench. "Find what you were looking for?" He joked with a smirk towards the books in their arms.
"I don't know what you're laughing at," Harry replied. "You get to help us read them."
[b "Rita was hard to handle last year and was constantly after all of us...And it is really sweet that you thought about it that way, Harry.. but I could have handled her and the rumours that spread. The ball and dancing would have been a much better time had I spent it with you and not trying to constantly communicate with Viktor."] The girl was trying to get him to understand that she would have said yes. That she would have much rathered spent the night with him. Honestly she had found herself jealous and thinking that he was fawning over Cho or that he had asked one of the Patils because well he simply had not wanted to go with her. It in a way had made her feel better when he had explained it to her.
Her cheeks were still a dark pink when she looked up at him and gave a small smile. [b "That really is nice of you.. And honestly you had looked amazing in your dress robes."] Hermione attempted to return the complement to the boy, giving a small smile.
She couldn't help jumping as the bell signalling the end of the end of lunch rang. Quickly she closed the book she had been looking at and stood. [b "Erm...we should probably check these out and get to class? And Harry...thanks for coming to help. I've really liked having the company."] Why did she say that? And slowly she turned away from the boy and began to the librarian's desk to check the books out, but stayed close by after she had to wait for the boy.
Harry cleared his throat and fidgeted in his seat, still unable to meet her eyes. [b "I just...um..."] his brain was failing at making a coherent sentence.
He remembered the previous year that the jealousy had flared in him upon seeing Hermione dance with Krum. He let Ron believe that it was over not enjoying the dance, but he just couldn't stand watching Krum fawn over her all night. Harry had never felt jealousy like that before, he and didn't like how it felt.
[b "I would have asked,"] he clarified. [b "I wanted to. But with everything that had been going on with Rita insulting you in her articles, I didn't want to run the risk of you getting further press you didn't want. I thought you'd be better off not going with me. You don't need someone campaigning against you just because you went with me to the Ball."]
It was a partial truth. He had been more afraid that she would reject him on the basis that she would rather go with someone else. Harry wouldn't have blamed her. Being his friend was hard enough. Having to fight off romance rumors was something else entirely.
[b "You were still the best dressed person there,"] he attempted a compliment with a nervous smile.
[b "Lupin would be the best link to Kingsley...either him or Tonks. But she would as you pointed out somehow make a mess of things. Or more like be willing to try and get a revolution started. Though if it comes to it I know she would be more than willing to help us get the information."] Her words were thoughtful as she spoke. Her words also told the boy that she agreed that the Order did seem close knit but also as if they were at a loss as well and not much could be done.
Her nose was still in the book by the time Harry had mentioned the rule breaking and being back to it. There was still that eleven year old self to her that hated it and feared "getting killed or worse expelled" but there was also the fact that she was growing up. There was the fact that she realized if they were the good boys and girls everyone expected too many could be at risk. She was silent a moment before she looked up at her best friend and nodded. [b "It would appear we are. And IF this woman is as bad as we think...going to have to do our best to not get caught either. We've got to be the ones to do something."] Hermione found herself saying before she once more looked back to the book and the pair fell into a silence that was usual and comfoetable for them.
The girl was getting lost in the books she had taken to look through. And she was thoroughly focused as well. Only did she seem to lose her thought process for an instant each time her hair would fall into her face and she would swipe it away. It was Harry's blurted out words that had her breath catch and her eyes come up from the page she had been reading and rereading. Her cheeks held a pink in them and she quickly looked down as he was avoiding looking at her. [b "I wish I would have gone with you.. it would have truly been more fun."] Those were the only words she could say that would not, or she hoped would not give anything away.
Harry snorted with a grin. It wasn't often he got to hear Hermione openly criticize a professor. She was even willing to give Snape the benefit of the doubt half the time. Umbridge must have left quite the sour taste in her mouth. [b "I'll add Kingsley to the list of people to contact. Lupin might have a better shot at reaching him. The Order seems to be in permanent contact with each other."]
She was right about the monarchy of the Ministry. Everything he'd had to read about it proved that they were practically invincible. No one openly defied any decree legislated by the government, and there was little to be done in regards to breaching their laws.
He ran a hand through his hair, making it even more tousled and disheveled. Pretty soon he would be bald, given how often he found himself grabbing at the dark locks in frustration. [b "Looks like we're back to breaking rules,"] he tried to make light of the situation.
A comfortable silence fell over their table as they both dove into the books in front of them. Harry was not as devoted a reader and quickly became distracted by watching her. He could practically pinpoint every mannerism of hers by now. He found it especially endearing when Hermione would quickly swipe away locks of hair that fell in her eyes. She also had a small wrinkle in her forehead that would appear any time she was intensely focused, like she was at that moment.
[b "I should have asked you to the Yule Ball last year,"] he heard himself blurt out before his eyes flew wide and he looked everywhere but at her.
Hermione was thoughtful when he said he would be asking Sirius and Lupin about the situation and had to stop the small smile when Moody and Tonks was mentioned. But he had a point. Tonks and Moody were more than willing to get into trouble and to stand up against the Ministry. And then Sirius and Lupin would argue how best to get the information to them and what to do. It was interesting to say the least. But even she knew there were those they could not ask and in a sense that did sadden her. It saddened her because she felt they were going behind their backs in a sense. But they needed to know and couldn't afford to play the games.
[b "Kingsley might know....it would just be a chore to find a way of asking him. Because it is curious in how the other Professors avoid her like the plague. Though after today I can see why. The woman is a right gargoyle."]
When they got to the table, the girl was instantly sitting near one of the piles of books and shuffling through them. [b "You have to remember that while technically we are free...we are still in a different society than that of muggles, Harry. That we have a separate set of laws we follow being magical...even if some of us are originally from muggle society. They or rather the Ministry is like a monarchy in it's own way and is more powerful than we think. And in times like these they will exercise powers they don't usually... So yes they do have the power to censor our teachers."] Her nose had found its way into a book as she answered the question that had been asked. She didn't mean to sound like a little know -it-all but it was something she in a sense remembered after their second year and when Hagrid had been hauled off to Azkaban.
Harry held his arms out to take the books as she pulled them from the shelves. [b "Up until recently, I can't remember the Ministry ever taking such a defensive stance against threats. I don't recall any cover ups by them either. But, you're right. The book will tell us more."]
The books were heavy, but he stayed quiet as she piled them on. [b "I can try contacting Sirius later, and I'll get a letter out to Lupin. I'd suggest asking Moody as well, but he may just tell us to go ahead and start a revolution. And Tonks would be far too happy to back up that idea."]
It would be best to avoid speaking with select Order members regarding this new issue. Mr and Mrs Weasley would demand that they let it go and follow the rules, while the two remaining Marauders would bicker about how they should go about gathering information. [b "They must know about Umbridge, right? Especially if Kingsley works at the Ministry. She doesn't seem to have the best reputation, considering the other teachers are avoiding her like the plague."]
Once the books had been collected, he followed her to a table to place them down. The volumes varied in size, but most looked like they would take weeks to finish. [b "Does the Ministry really have the power to censor teachers? I heard a Hufflepuff mention that Umbridge sat in on their Herbology class first thing this morning, and took notes. He said that Sprout looked nervous,"] Harry mentioned as he skimmed through one of the history books.
The girl was skimming the titles on the shelf and pulling a big leather bound book down when Harry came up behind her. The girl held the book close ane couldn't help givint one of her looks that she was famous for giving either to him or to Ron. [b "Actually it's not. Without Divination I don't need my Time Turner anymore. I honestly wonder what the use to that class."] For a moment she couldn't help getting side-tracked.
Quickly the girl shook her head and a small smile was once more on her lips as the boy had moved closer. She knew it was so they could speak and not be shushed for it. Slowly she turned the book so he could see the title. [b "Wizarding Wars through the ages... I thought this might be useful to us...It may explain what happened before and previous Ministries and how things had been handled..."] She explained quickly in the event that someone be listening to theie conversation.
Almost as quickly as she had pulled the first book down, Hermione whirled around and was pulling more books from the shelves. [b "Sirius or Lupin may be good to ask about this...maybe they can tell us more too. I don't like that Umbridge woman and have the feeling she will ruin us all."]
Harry watched her go with a frown on his face. [b "It's Hermione. She's probably three steps ahead of us with whatever she's researching."]
He put down the half-eaten piece of toast he'd been snacking on and brushed crumbs off of his shirt. [b "I'm going to see if she needs any help. You okay for a bit?"]
Ron waved him off with a mouthful of chicken. [i "See you in class."]
She likely wasn't going to need his help at all, but knowing Hermione, she would lose track of time with her research. Better to stay with her and get them both to class on time. She hadn't left that long before he had, but she was already pulling something off the shelf when he found her.
[b "Please tell me this isn't another Time Turner situation where you have fifty classes at once? I don't think I can handle lecturing you on that one again,"] he leaned against a bookcase and grinned at her.
Seeing as it was only the first day, only a few other students hung around tables during their break from classes. [b "Anything I can help with?"] Harry stepped closer to her so they wouldn't be shushed by the librarian.
[b "Honestly if Fudge is as mad as what he has been allowing out in the Prophet then she is choosing to openly lie to students. You saw how she was teaching and heard what she said.. She is one of the Ministry and is highly against letting us learn the truth because then according to them we can rise against them. Most of us wouldn't dream of it and only want a way to protect ourselves and to know what is really out there. Some of us can't afford to just bury our heads in the sand. This is completely ludicris."] All of her words were said quickly and showed how she really felt. Perhaps it was not her place to be saying any of what she did, but Professor Umbridge had her on edge as well. And to her they would not be learning anything that they would be needing to know.
Hermione couldn't bring herself to really eat and just pushed her food back and forth. Her mind was still on their last class and all of what Harry had said about Umbridge and the Ministry. She finally put her fork down and gave the boys a weak smile. [b "I want to look up something in the library. If the two of you would like to join me before our next lesson that's fine..or if not that is too."] She said slowly as she took her bag and left the table.
[i "Spose she's wanting to look up now? Classes barely even started. She can't be already drowning in homework."] Ron said as he was shuffling bites of potato into his mouth. The food really did have the classes and the earlier events pushed out his head for the time being.
Both boys shuddered. [i "She's more unstable than You Know Who, if that's even possible,"] Ron answered.
[b "Let's get some food in you, and you'll forget all about it,"] Harry teased him.
Truth be told, the Potter boy was unnerved by the new professor. There were already families that doubted the truth about the threat of Voldemort, and with a Ministry employee preaching more false information to students, they were going to be even more unprepared in the event that Voldemort or Death Eaters decided to attack.
[b "She's either completely ignorant, or openly choosing to lie to students about last year. We know the truth, we saw what happened. We saw...Cedric,"] Harry paused. Giving his head a shake, he continued. [b "She's just trying to distract us from what's going on."]
The Great Hall was starting to fill with students for lunch. Harry found them seats, but couldn't bring himself to reach for any food. [b "I'm worried that this is just going to lower everyone's guard. The Ministry will have them eating out of their palm."]
The girl leaned her head on Harry's for a brief second when the boy dropped his head on her shoulder. A kind of awkward smile came to her lips and she shrugged a little. [b "Honestly no one would have. It usually would have beem one of ypu two and not me at all. So something definitely has gone loopey."] It was clear she was teasing the boys a bit and trying to play off her own regret in getting into trouble so early in the year. On their first day back to be exact.
[b "Best not get into trouble yet, Ron. Your mum will have a fit if she hears you did. Remember second year?"] She asked, giving a pointed look and began to walk with the boys. They still had to get to lunch and one more lesson before the day was done. Well before she and Harry had to serve their detentions with the wretched woman in pink.
Her cheeka flushed at Ron's words and she bumped the boy back. [b "She deserved it and was being totally unfair."] She huffed.
[i "So what do you guys make of Professor Umbridge?"] Neville asked as he soon walked over to them. It seemed he had been waiting for them.
Harry was more than ready to gather his things - even with the new textbook adding an obnoxious amount of weight. Umbridge's barked order stopped him in his tracks. [b "I already have a detention with Professor Snape tonight, Professor."]
[i "I will be sure to speak with Professor Snape. You can attend your detention with him after you've served with me. Is that clear?"] the teacher stared at him with that penetrating smile of hers.
Harry opened his mouth to argue but he bit it back and was quick to grumble an affirmation. Detention with Snape was bad enough. Double detention would be torturous on his first day back. [i "Come on mate, let's go,"] Ron nudged him towards the door.
When Hermione came into view, Harry groaned dramatically and dropped his head to her shoulder. [b "Who would have thought that Ron would be the only one out of the three of us not to get detention on the first day of school?"]
Their friend snorted. [i "It's still early. Don't count it out yet."]
Harry turned towards him and threw a playful punch. [b "Restrain that Weasley temper of yours, Ronald."]
The boys dropped the act and started walking forward with Hermione. [i "Let's not take it lightly that Hermione Prefect Granger got herself a detention by sassing a teacher. That deserves an award,"] Ron bumped her shoulder with his.
Hermione was embarrassed that she had spoken out as she had. The girl was aware of being a prefect and that it could be taken away, but at the same time this woman was calling those she cared about liars. She seemed to have her head buried so far in the sand that ir was ridiculous. It was only at Harry's gently squeezes to her knee did the girl come out of those fuming thoughts and give a small smile. [b "You're right. Compared to last year this should be easy if even if it is all rubbidh."] She whispered and then looked to Ron who looked indignant and like he wanted to speak out as well. And when Harry hit the boy and told him what he did, the bushy haired brunette nodded slowly.
[b "We just have to grin and bear it for now, Ron... I know that Harry and I both have spoken out but you don't need to be in trouble too."] She whispered as her attention was drawn back to the front of the room. She was truly trying not to speak again as the woman read from their new book as if it were the Holy Grail or the Bible for that matter. It was so utterly and completely sickening. And she was wanting to tune out to the nonesense though she forced herself to pay attention and to take the notes from their lecturer.
As soon as she felt the soft weight removed from her knee and heard Harry's words a blush crept into her cheeks and she quickly shook her head. [b "Don't worry about it."] The girl whispered, listening to the ticking of the clock.
Finally the bell rang but the professor in pink stopped her and Harry both. [i "Don't forget that the two of you will be reporting to my office after dinner. Now off you go."] And with that they were dismissed and Hermione quickly left the room to stand in the hall to wait on her friend.
If they didn't watch out, they would all be in detention for the rest of the term. Harry rested a hand on Hermione's knee and lightly squeezed twice to signal her to let it go. He was proud that she'd stood her ground against the pink professor, but he didn't want her getting into further trouble about it.
[b "Let's leave it. If we survived last year, we can survive her class,"] Harry whispered in her ear.
Ron was red in the face and looked like he wanted to be the next to speak out against the new teacher. Harry was quick to pinch his forearm. [b "You're a prefect. If you give her trouble, she can try to strip you of your badge."]
The redhead took the warning, and kept his mouth shut. Umbridge stared them down for another moment, waiting to see if they'd speak up again. Satisfied that she'd won, she moved on. [i "Now. As I was saying, this new curriculum is structured to build your confidence as you grow into young wizards and witches with responsibility. You will see that success is found following our Ministry's path, not worrying about false threats."]
Harry's eyes closed and his jaw clenched tightly. Hearing her dismiss everything that had happened last year and denying Voldemort's return was a slap in the face. [i "If you feel the need to question my curriculum, I would request that you raise your hand before speaking,"] she looked pointedly at the trio. [i "After all, you are nearly grown. Not disrespectful children."]
Umbridge dove in to the lesson, which was truly just her reading from the textbook as though it were the holy grail itself. Harry zoned out within the first few sentences, but came to his senses long enough to realize his hand was still on Hermione's leg. [b "I'm so sorry,"] he quickly apologized, pulling his hand away and clenching it into a fist on his own leg.
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