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[b "I think Snape, and then Umbridge. Looks like a morning of double suffering for us,"] Harry recalled their timetable in his head.
[i Oh god, Quidditch!] Harry groaned and dropped his head to the table. [b "I hadn't even thought about tryouts."]
Truth be told, he hadn't given much thought of his captaincy at all since he'd pulled the badge halfheartedly from the envelope back at Sirius' house. He had still be numb from being passed over for prefect. It should have felt like an honor, but it was feeling more like another burden.
[b "What a great captain I'm turning out to be. First day of school and I'm already slacking on my duties,"] he lifted his head and ran a hand threw his hair.
He closed his eyes and quickly tried to think of his upcoming schedule of classes. [b "Okay, uh...I'll book it for next week. That way everyone can get a few days of practice in before the actual tryouts. Work out any rust they've accumulated over the summer. Sound okay?"]
Harry looked to Ron, hoping for the approval. The redhead nodded with a smile. [i "Sounds good to me, Captain."]
He stuffed a few more strips of bacon in to his mouth and stood up. [i "I'm off to patrol before classes. Just a quick one, thankfully. Save me a seat."]
Ron bid them farewell and took off to join his Hufflepuff partner. [b "At least he seems motivated for patrol. I wasn't expecting him to look so...excited?"] Harry looked to Hermione. [b "He even only grumbled a little when getting ready for bed last night."]
[b "I think we keep our partners until the beginning of November. They think it will help the houses get on better. And I know you wouldn't last with Malfoy or want to all year. Looking at the list of prefects it is actually understandable why they paired me with him."] The girl said as she gave a quick pointed look in Ron's direction before she took another sip from her coffee.
As she watched Harry, something didn't sit well with her. Just the look in his eyes had told her that the boy was up to something. Almost did she want to tell the boy to leave it alone or that whatever he had in mind would not be worth it. But before she could, a still tired Ron spoke up about how he was paired with a Hufflepuff. She couldn't help her smile or laugh. Ron really was a Gryffindor and it was shown. Mostly the redhead was good with all other houses but Slytherin.
[b "I'm glad you slept well. Seeing how tired you were yesterday was a bit alarming. Promise you won't let yourself get that exhausted again?"] The girl questioned, quickly looking down. Her cheeks stung with the heat rising in them and she knew a blush was on the way. [b "Oh...I slept okay while I did. It was a long night."] She did not want to admit that she had only had about three hours at best.
[i "Wait, we have Snape after McGonagall don't we? Or was it that Umbridge woman?"] Ron asked, not even noticing the exchange had by his best friends yet again. He was still so very out of it. [i "And mate, when do you plan on holding Quidditch tryouts? You're the captain this year right?"]
Harry wanted to grumble about Malfoy being her patrol partner, but he knew it wasn't her fault. She was a victim of circumstance when it came to patrol assignments. [b "I hope they'll switch the partners around for you. I would not want to be stuck patrolling with Malfoy all year."]
He didn't bother informing her of his plan to use his cloak the next time she's with Malfoy. He hated the idea of her being alone with the slick little ferret. Even though he was fully aware that Hermione could take care of herself, the protective streak in him refused to let it be.
[i "I'm scheduled with Hufflepuff's prefect today. Nothing like inter-house bonding to start the year off,"] Ron was still groggy.
Harry snorted a laugh. It was no secret that Ron was a Gryffindor through and through. Hufflepuff wouldn't be so bad to partner with. For the most part, they were cheery and friendly. Ravenclaws tended to be the quiet ones. Anything was better than pairing up with a Slytherin.
Hermione's question was a welcomed change in subject. [b "I slept like a log, to be honest. I don't even remember putting pajamas on to get in to bed,"] Harry answered. [b "First night that I can remember I didn't have any dream."]
[i "Must have been a deep sleep because you didn't even flinch when Seamus and Dean started yelling about which candy was better. Poor Neville probably didn't get any sleep,"] Ron chimed in.
[b "What about you? You must have been up late,"] Harry asked her.
Was it an hour or was it three that she had managed to sleep? Honestly she couldn't remember or keep track because when she woke it was to the other girls giggling and squealing. Why did they have to be so loud? But then when brown eyes opened and settled on the sun's early light slipping through the thick velevty curtains she knew why. It was the first day of classes and nearly EVERYONE was awake nice and early in order to dress and/or find missing attire and materials that would be needed for class.
With her thoughts slowly becoming more focused, Hermione pushed herself to get out from under her nice warm duvet and to get dressed into her uniform and robes. She even decided to use a glamour charm that morning so her hair was easy to brush and wasn't a bushy mane. Once she had, the girl packed her school bag which like always turned out to be heavy and left the common room to find both Harry and Ron.
When she got to the table, the brunette wasn't surprised to hear Ron's comment to answer Harry and couldn't help a soft giggle. Brown eyes then slowly were drawn to Harry and then went down to the coffee that had been nudged her way. Honestly the girl had never been so thankful for coffee as she was that morning or momenet. Slowly she took a sip as to help her wake up a little more and to get her thoughts in order.
[b "It wasn't terrible. Mostly wandering the corridors and making sure other students who weren't meant to be out of bed weren't. Though it was sad that I had to give a couple seventh years detention because I caught them in an empty classroom snogging. And then I had to argue with Peeves because he thought it was funny to take the arms from half the suits of amour. Draco was practically no help and left most of it to me because...well you know."] The girl's last words were quiet and quick. She honestly hoped both Ron and Harry were too tired to have paid them mind.
[b "Did you both sleep well? You look mostly rested."] Hermione said, trying to avoid what she had said and turn the topic to the boys.
Harry's exhaustion was at the level that he was asleep before his head hit the pillow. He didn't even wake to the sound of the four other boys chatting in the beds across from him. And for one night, he managed a full rest without nightmares.
The next morning found him awake nearly an hour before the other boys. He dressed in his uniform and wandered down to the empty common room. Figuring he had time before the others were awake, he left to the Astronomy Tower. He grown to love the view of the grounds from the high perch of the tower. The air seemed crisper, and it was peaceful.
As he looked over the rolling hills of Hogwarts, he relaxed back against the stone wall. Everything was perfectly maintained. It was as if the disaster of last year hadn't happened. In his quiet reflection, he prays to any gods out there to let them have one normal year.
Harry beat them to the Great Hall and poured him and Ron a glass of juice, but fills a mug with coffee for Hermione, figuring she'd be tired from her late patrol. He attempted to wait as long as he could before eating the breakfast on his plate, but his growling stomach made him start picking away at his toast.
He spotted Ron first, yawning and stretching with his hair a mess of tangles. [b "Don't you look bright and cheery for your first day of school,"] Harry teased.
[i "I'd answer you but I'm not awake yet,"] he sat himself down across from Harry and dug in to the food.
[b "Full report, Prefect Granger?"] Harry turned to Hermione, nudging her coffee towards her.
[b "Glorified babysitting at the moment. But it isn't quite as bad as he makes it sound. Honestly it made me remember how lost and scared we had been in the beginning...And I felt sorry for them."] Hermione admitted and blushed at the look that was shot her way. It was one of wonder and she had to quickly looked to the clock just to see what Harry had meant in how late it truly was.
Vaguely could she hear through her own sleepiness that was starting to kick in from the long day and the warmth of the fire. She had to focus and bring herself back to attention when she heard the words uttered by the two boys. How could she have spaced so badly to where they and a few stragglers were all that remained? But she could not dwell on that too long before Ron had left her and Harry so he could get to bed.
The faintest of smiles came to her lips as a hand came up and brushed her hair back behind her ear. [b "Have a good night and sleep as well as you can. And I'll make sure to let you know how the night goes. Hopefully won't scare them like Percy did us."] The girl said with a small laugh before she gave her friend the gentlest of nudges in the direction of the boy's dormitories. [b "See you in the morning."] Hermione whispered before she backed away and turned on her heel to meet her patrolling partner, which to her dismay would be Malfoy for that first night.
Harry stirred at the gentle shake, before leaning in to her touch and promptly rolling off the chair. He grunted as he hit the floor, waking with a snort. [b "What? Oh,"] he blinked up at them. [b "I was trying to wait up for you guys. Wanted to see how your first day as prefects went."]
Ron reached a hand down and hauled Harry to his feet. [i "I don't love it as much as Percy did, but it seems like an alright job. Tonight was just glorified babysitting."]
Harry let out a laugh. [b "I'm sure it'll get more exciting."] He turned to Hermione. [b "And you, Prefect Granger? Anything to report?"]
The fire was warm and keeping him sleepy, but he truly wanted to hear how they enjoyed it. After being alone all summer, it was nice to have communication with them. [b "In time they'll come to fear the Gryffindor prefects. Just like I have,"] he joked, stepping aside to avoid a swat from Ron.
The common room had emptied out and aside from a few stragglers, it was quiet. [b "We have McGonnagal first thing tomorrow. I think you're right, sleep is a good idea,"] he fought back a yawn as he looked at the clock above the fireplace.
[b "See you in the morning?"] he flashed a sleepy smile at her.
[i "Yeah, goodnight Hermione,"] Ron stretched, heading towards the boys dormitory.
[b "I expect a fully detailed report tomorrow of your first patrol. Try not to scare too many first years,"] he teased her.
Through dinner she had tried to follow the conversation that Harry, Ron and the otjer boys from their house began to have. Bit when it turned to Quidditch she had to pull back from it. The sport bored her, but only did she care about it because her best friend and the twins happened to be a part of their house team. Otherwise she honestly couldn't care less about the sport. So again she went back to pushing her food back and forth as she tried to block out the surrounding comments and conversations. She was still trying to focus on what Umbridge was really doing at Hogwarts and what intentions Fudge had in mind.
Vaguely was she aware of them being dismissed until she watched the other prefects were getting to their feet and so where the Professors. She and Ron had moved to Harry's side and she asked him her questions, anxiety not at all hidden as well as she had meant to. [b "Thanks...and Harry be careful.."] Hermione whispered before she turned and made her way over to Ron, her being the one to call out to the first years to get their attention.
[i "What's going on between the two of you? Normally you two are close, but this?"] Ron asked as his eyes were locked on her. He was clearly wanting an answer from her as he felt that she and Harry were keeping him in the dark.
[b "Honestly Ronald, there is nothing! Besides now is not the time, we've the first years to worry about. You take the front because you are taller and easier to see.. I'll take the rear and keep and stragglers in line."] The brunette girl said as she quickly moved to the back, getting first years into line as she went.
Blue eyes were on the bushy haired brunette as she left him standing at the front. But then Ron shook his head and waved his hand to make sure everyone could see him. [i "Alright, first years this way! Keep close and keep up! It is easy to get lost if not careful.."] And with those words, the boy began his way through the familiar halls of Hogwarts with the crowd of first years and Hermione following behind him.
When they got to the common room, Hermione pushed her way to the front. She could see from the confused look on her friend's face that he forgot the password to enter. The girl cleared her throat and spoke the password, letting the first years in. [b "Boys' domitories are up the stairs to the left...and girls are the same but to the right."] She repeated, remembering back to their first year and Percy's telling them which way to go.
As soon as the last first year was gone, the girl moved over to where Harry was asleep by the fire and touched his arm. [b "Harry? Perhaps going up to your dormitory would be better?"] She asked gently, a faint smile coming to her lips as Ron joined them. Again he was looking between the two of them confused. And it was with his look did her hand fall and she move away, eyes finding their way to the fire.
Ron shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. [i "You do look tired, mate. So what do you say that we head up? Hermione's got one of the first patrols and so we won't get much time with her. Besides it's been a long day and night and classes start in the morning."]
Harry groaned, not wanting to think about how much worse Fudge can make things for them. The more he ignored the situation, the less of a headache he'd have. So, he buried himself in conversation with Dean and Seamus about whatever Quidditch he'd missed over the summer. This was ultimately a terrible idea, as the two boys erupted into an argument over teams, leaving Harry to watch them like a ping pong match.
[b "At least some things don't change, eh?"] he looked to Hermione and Ron.
The redhead however, had joined the debate and was arguing his case for the Chudley Cannons. [b "I've started a war."] He paused. [b "Well, another war,"] he added with dry humor.
As they were dismissed for bed, Harry stood awkwardly as Hermione and Ron readied themselves to guide the first years. Waving off their concern, he tried not to look pathetic. [b "No, you guys go. I'll be okay. I'll just go with Neville,"] he gestured to the lanky boy nearby. [b "I'll meet you guys in the Common Room. You can tell me how it feels to be all-powerful."]
With a parting smile and a murmured, [b "Good luck,"] to Hermione, Harry left with the other boys in their year.
Neville walked beside him the entire way, hands rubbing nervously together in his usual anxiety. [i "You don't think that Umbridge woman is here because of You-Know-Who, do you?"]
Harry thought back to the denial of the Ministry over the previous year's events. [b "Honestly Neville, that's the most likely scenario. They've never interfered here before. It's more than a little suspicious."] He noted the other boy's concern. [b "But I wouldn't worry about it. As long as Dumbledore is here, I'm sure the Ministry will keep to themselves for the most part."]
Inside the Common Room, the fire is already toasting the couches and armchairs. As the other fifth years stumble up the stairs, Harry takes a place in one of the chairs, throwing his legs over the arm and letting his head fall back to close his eyes. They would wake him when they got there. Until then, another nap couldn't hurt.
Hermione couldn't help a small laugh and shake of her head at both Harry and Ron. She knew Harry had only been trying to lighten the mood and poking fun at Ron usually was a good way. But it didn't seem to help all that much as brown eyes kept getting drawn back to the ponk toad of a woman who at at the teacher's table. She couldn't help the bad feeling she got just from a simple glance. There was definitely something wrong with the woman if even all the professors seemed even more tense than was normal.
[b "It's like a dark cloud hovers around that woman....She...just something about her seems very off. With her being sent as a Ministry watch dog we all have to be careful. No doubt she'll report back what she wants and throw Fudge into even more madness."] The bushy haired brunette whispered as she finally was able to draw her gaze away from the teacher's table, pushing her food back and forth on her plate. Just the way the night had been going, the new prefect girl of Gryffindor House found that she wasn't really hungry.
For a while she ate a little here and there as she listened to the talk around them. Mostly it consisted of both Ron and her giving looks to those who would whisper and give Harry strange looks. She was about to tell Parvati and Lavendar to shut up, but before she could, Professor Dumbledore was back on his feet. The old man's twinkling eyes once more scanned over the faces looking up at him. [i "Not that I am sure we all have full bellies, I think heading to common rooms is in order. After all, classes start bright and early tomorrow. Have a good night everyone and sleep well."] And as he said those words, the man nodded meaning they were all dismissed from the hall.
Hermione gave Harry a weak smile. [b "Will you be okay? I mean one of us can go with you and the other can round up the firsr years."] She couldn't keep her voice normal or the anxiety from it as she spoke.
It was hard to say just how much worse this woman could make things, but Harry could tell that it wasn't going to be any easier. [b "Look at the other teachers,"] he whispered to them. [b "McGonnagal looks like she's ready to hex her."]
It was true. The Head of Gryffindor stared at Umbridge like she could make her disappear with a glare. Her lips were pursed even more tensely than usual, and her arms crossed over her chest. [b "None of them seem pleased,"] Harry noted.
The rest of the professors looked wary and suspicious. They murmured among each other though their eyes never leave their new colleague. Even Dumbledore appeared slightly agitated by her presence. [i "Well,"] he resumed his speech. [i "thank you Professor Umbridge for that introduction. I'm sure everything will run smoothly under your authority."]
The rules were recited and with the new students sorted, the feast began. Harry piled his plate high as his hunger from skipping lunch kicked in. [b "Best grab some chicken before Ron eats it all,"] he handed the plate to Hermione with a grin, speaking loud enough for their friend to hear.
[i "Keep it up and I won't save you any potatoes!"]
[i "How is it possible that she's more frightening than Snape?"] Neville looked towards the teacher's table, where Umbridge was trying to engage a few professors in conversation.
[b "Something about her doesn't sit right with me. She's too..."] Harry paused, trying to think of the right word. [b "Obnoxious. And I don't trust that the Ministry has sent her here. Not after the gimmicks they've pulled trying to disprove everything from last year."]
Hermione had been silent as she listened to the words spoken by Dolores Umbridge and her face scrunched slightly as she took it all in. The woman was going to be an issue and just from what she said it was apparent that A LOT was about to be changing. Also the looks of the woman in pink almost had Hermione thinking of a pink devil. The girl knew she should not be judging too harshly or overthinking what was said, but after their fourth year she was more careful.
[b "She sounds worse than Medusa... She's part of the Ministry and it seems they will be taking over here at Hogwarts... I had heard Fudge was going mental...but never did I think he stoop to this level."] Hermione whispered to both Harry and Ron as she didn't want anyone else to overhear her words.
Slowly the girl looked around and could see others squirming in their seats. It appeared many were disturbed by their new professor. [b "Do you think that she will make things worse..?"] Hermione whispered as she was still trying to take everything said in. IF she was right, this school year would not be any better than others had been for them.
Harry sighed jokingly. [b "Fine, I solemnly swear that I will be up to no good, but not enough to get caught by Malfoy. Better?"]
By the time they join their friends, there was just enough room for Harry and Hermione to squeeze in at the Gryffindor table. [b "Just in time,"] he said, watching as Dumbledor started the welcoming speech.
He heard Hermione behind him, but couldn't understand what she meant. The portly woman in obnoxious pink was certainly new, but how would Hermione know her? And why did she continue to interrupt the headmaster? [b "Who's that?"]
Almost as if answering his question directly, Dumbledore clapped his hands together to get everyone's attention. [i "What better opportunity to welcome our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher? Please welcome Dolores Umbridge, who will be taking over for Professor Moody."] He turned and looked at the woman. [i "Would you like to introduce yourself?"]
Harry could see her sourpuss expression from his seat. Everything about her tight-lipped smile oozed fake pleasantness. [i "He can't be serious,"] Ron muttered under his breath, catching Harry's eye.
The dark haired boy didn't have time to ask what was so bad about her before the woman in question opened her mouth and the shrillest voice he'd ever heard spewed from her. [i "I believe you'll find that I teach differently than previous professors. But, I trust there will be no questioning of my rules during this transition. The Ministry has been quite concerned with the recent events of Hogwarts, and we will be working towards remedying the curriculum to an appropriate format. I'm sure we will all get along famously,"] her cement smile was still in place as her eyes scoured for any disagreement.
[b "She's like a pink Medusa,"] Harry murmured to Hermione and Ron.
Though she knew her friend were joking, it was sad in a way. Their years as she looked back at them had never been normal or even safe. In their first year Voldemort had been a parasite to their first Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and had tried to kill Harry. In their second Lucius Malfoy had slipped Tom Riddle's diary into Ginny's cauldron and the Chamber of Secrets had been opened. In their third year they had a werewolf teacher and had to save an innocent man from a terrible fate. And just last year there had been the tournament which got Cedric killed, nearly killed her best friend, and brought Voldemort back. So they were right, they really had no chance at normal. But it wasn't like things could get worse, right?
Hermione was pulled from her thoughts when Ginny mentioned making bets and then had scoldee the twins on how they still owed her money. [b "You know you're m wouldn't approve of the betting. Especially about Harry or Ron in the hospital wing."] The girl said, though couldn't hide her small smile. Even she had to bet that five times would be the least amount of times as their little group was always in trouble. But aftee she spoke, the others began to head up the steps leaving her standing at Harry's side.
[b "You know..I almost don't doubt it. Just promise you won't let Malfoy carch you. Ron and I can cover if we do..but he'll make your life as hellish as he can."] She said with a small smile, blushimg a little when she was nudged. And as they walked into the Great Hall and to their house table, Hermione took her usual seat between Harrt and Ron. But her eyes were on the row of Professors and one, a woman in pink caught her eyes. And for some reason, the toad of a woman gave her a bad feeling. [b "You don't think...."] However, Dumbledore quieted them all before the girl could finish and began his speech, only to be interrupted by their newest professor.
Harry laughed quietly. [b "I think Buckbeak would be offended if I didn't say that he's pretty."]
The carriage came to a slow halt and Harry stepped down first to give everyone space to get out. He felt that sense of home he'd had in his chest every time he looked at Hogwarts. Despite the slightly terrible memories, it was the only place that had ever made him feel like he belonged.
[i "When have we ever been lucky enough to have a normal year? Between Dementors and dragons, I'd say we've surpassed any level of normalcy around here,"] Ron joked.
It was true. Every year they'd managed to find some kind of trouble to get in to, even if it wasn't their fault most of the time. [b "Let's at least hope for no Hospital Wing visits, then,"] Harry remarked.
Ginny snorted. [i "With you two running around? I'm betting on at least five this year."]
[i "What's this we hear about bets?"] the twins appear beside them, looking mischievous as always.
[i "You two aren't allowed to play. After last year, you still owe me money!"] Ginny scolded them as they walked up to the castle.
Harry made his way to stand beside Hermione, looking up at their school. [b "Here's to the start of another absurd year at Hogwarts."] Catching her eye, he winked. [b "I solemnly swear that I'll be up to no good,"] he altered the Marauders' words to get a smirk out of her.
[b "Come on then, don't want to be left behind,"] he nudged her and started walking towards the castle doors.
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